Tonight, I shall be featuring on the Radio 5 Live Midnight debate, tackling this very question, on behalf of my campaign Body Gossip.
I’m fairly certain that, in the eyes of the dear old Beeb, I’m fighting the fat corner. As a ‘plus size model’, the expectation of the media is invariably that I’ll launch into any weight related debate enthusiastically denying any potential benefits to being thin and maintaining that curviness is the way forward.
I’m sorry to disappoint in this regard. I have never, ever in my lifetime been heard to utter the phrase “real woman”, in relation to myself or, indeed, anyone else. After all, last time I checked, slender women weren’t a figment of my imagination.
I’m a little bit chubby (and not afraid to say it). Not fat, but definitely not thin either. I’m fortunate enough to be an hourglass shape and a couple of excess pounds therefore flatter my frame. I’m under no illusions that by BMI standards (and what a load of bollocks that is, incidentally) I am overweight. But the pace of my hectic life and my propensity towards walking absolutely everywhere, dancing vigorously and often and….erm….other physically strenuous activities means that I’m in tip top condition.
This wasn’t always the case, as we know. I don’t wish to harp on incessantly about my eating disorder a) because it’s been firmly relegated to my past and b) because it’s boring and self-indulgent but, lest we forget, I have been considerably thinner and momentously more miserable.
Neither am I going to attempt to pretend that settling into my natural and healthy body shape required no effort whatsoever. The path to self-acceptance was paved with obstacles. But, eventually, I concluded that endless analysis of perceived flaws was a ginormic waste of my time. After all, there is Body Gossip to run and life to be lived. And, all things considered, I haven’t done too badly in the lottery of looks. Perhaps in an ideal world I’d have a slightly flatter stomach, slightly slimmer thighs and fuller, more lustrous locks (like in a shampoo advert….where the effect is created using hair extension….oh, wait), but I could look like Les Dawson in a bad wig so I’d rather count my numerous physical blessings instead.
Frankly, I applaud anyone who is content with their body in today’s madly over-critical social climate. The question, in reality, should be “Can you be happy at any size?”. Plastic surgery is readily available and socially acceptable. Gym memberships are practically mandatory. Billion dollar industries subsist entirely on our body dissatisfaction and desire to sculpt our physical selves to some imagined will.
And how do we define happiness in the first place? After months of the tiredness, lack of concentration, constant hunger pangs and feelings of misery/vague obsessiveness which invariably accompany a strict diet, we might claim to be ‘happy’ that we’ve dropped a dress size – but at what cost to our more general happiness?
The issue has made headlines because of the reported stories of Pauline Quirk and Body Gossip ambassador Natalie Cassidy, both of whom have lost weight recently and are claiming to be happier as a result.
I do not know Pauline. All I will say in regard to her is that I have lain awake at night imagining all her loose skin.
Natalie, however, has worked with Body Gossip since it’s inception in 2006. I have spent time with her at a size 10,a size 16 and at every size in between and I can honestly say it makes very little difference to the overall impression one has of her as a person. Natalie is ferociously bright, infectiously bubbly, immediately warm and likeable and extremely pretty. The existence or not of a stone here or there is of no consequence whatsoever to these attributes.
However, I’m prepared to concede that she may be happier. And that’s wonderful. For her. But why is this news? Why do we think that Natalie’s weight loss journey has any bearing on our own lives and bodies?
Everyone has a natural weight at which they feel and look ‘right’. It took me ages to work out that mine was somewhere between a size 14 and 16. Surely, that couldn’t be the case, I told myself, when every magazine, billboard, television programme, advertisement and, crucially, OTHER WOMAN I encountered was telling me I should strive for the elusive size 8?
Of course, size 8, healthy people do exist. My Body Gossip Co-Captain Ruth Rogers is one of them. She eats when she is hungry. She stops when she is full. She exercises, in moderation, every day. And she looks bloody gorgeous.
So, yep, you guessed it, I’m going to whop out that persistently used phrase ‘spectrum of beauty' AGAIN Make it your mantra, blog devotees.
Is it possible to be fat and happy? Yes, of course it is, if that is your natural body shape and you have accepted that to be the case. Is it possible to be thin and happy? Ditto.
One thing is for certain – Being healthy in body and mind is the most stress-free path to genuine happiness.
Tune in to Radio 5 Live tonight at Midnight to hear me talking about these issues, using my mouth.