I weigh one hundred, ninety-eight pounds; but that does not tell you much, certainly not enough about why I want to lose weight, until you also know that I stand five feet seven inches tall. Would it help to tell you my size? Well, those would be large, extra-large, 1X, sixteen, eighteen and twenty in ready to wear; while in sewing patterns I can fit into eighteens and twenties, although my measurements put me into size twenty-two (which is too revolting to contemplate).
When I got married my mother made my wedding dress a size ten, which usually fit me perfectly, except in this case the waist was too large so she took it in an inch on both sides so the dress fit exactly. I believe my waist measured twenty-three inches at the time.
So perhaps weight, height and even size are still not enough information about my body. Numbers, whether weight or size, are only relevant in relation to the total picture. Typical before pictures are captions with a weight and after pictures with a size. She lost 50 pounds and now is a size two. What does that mean? Weight is meaningless without a corresponding height and skeletal size, or body measurements.
In the interest of being excruciating in my detail I will share my current body measurements.
Starting at the top (all measurements in inches):
Neck: 16 ¼
Bicep: 14 ¾
Abdomen: 46 ½
Hips (9” below waist): 46 ¾
Calf: 16 ½
Ankle: 9 ½
Wrist: 6 ¾
These measurements put me in a size 22 Vogue Pattern. Alternately an extra-large, 18-20 at L.L. Bean. My wedding measurements put me in a size 10 pattern, and size 0-2 at L.L. Bean. Such is the range of numbers one can be slotted into.
I’ve long wished for, and advocated for a change in women’s sizing to reflect actual body measurements so that sizes between manufacturers and designers would be consistent. A thirty-two inch bust is just that, whether a pattern or ready to wear. A 35 inch waist is what you’d look for in skirts or slacks whether off the rack or in the pattern book.
Susan Powter, author of Stop the Insanity, wrote of trying on swim suits after losing a significant amount of weight and finding that a size ten slid off her body completely. The size she wore before her weight gain no longer fit, not because she was smaller than she was before but that manufacturers had changed the sizes to vanity sizing so that we think we’re smaller. Sizes based on actual body measurements would be consistent over time.
Of course, my before picture would not be complete without a description of the effects of gravity on my aging body. I now have saggy fat on top of flabby muscles which produces unattractive rolls down my back, and sides. I not only need to lose the excess fat, I need to tighten and tone the underlying muscles so my body will look and feel fit and attractive.
The only time in my life when I’ve lost a significant amount of weight was in 1999-2000 and I didn’t do anything to affect the change. It just happened as a result of peace after a period of intense stress. I am a stress eater and turn to food when under stress; or angry, or down, or anxious or any other negative emotion. At that time, however, I was still nursing a child and the weight magically melted off.
Helena Bonham Carter said it best, “People say, ‘You’re still breastfeeding, that’s so generous.’ Generous, no! It gives me boobs and it takes my thighs away! It’s sort of like natural liposuction. I’d carry on breast-feeding for the rest of my life if I could.”