Musings on my self perception By Mwelwa Chungu, The AFRican Londoner

Musings on my self perception

By Mwelwa Chungu, The AFRican Londoner

Published on Thu, Mar 13 2008 by Mwelwa Chungu
Last week my partner, who is normally tact personified, made a schoolboy error. He remarked upon my weight, or rather he remarked upon an increase in it.
In terms of sensitivity I have generally veered between indifferent and neurotic when it comes to my weight. His timing was unfortunate as I am currently neurotic about it.
Let me explain. Having been the same weight for about eight years, four or five years ago I began to put on weight and I have been slowly expanding ever since. Although this state of affairs could probably be explained by the large creamy pasta dishes I eat, often washed down with copious amounts of red wine, I will not be denied my food. I have thus been going to the gym in an attempt to curb the enlargement. This has resulted in me getting more and more anxious as my weight either stays the same or increases. 
Usually I am resigned to my chubbiness. However, the situation has been highlighted by the fact that I have a wedding dress to fit into in a few weeks and I want to look like a blushing bride not a gorilla in drag. Hence my current neurosis.
My irrationality about my weight is, I realise, all about image rather than good health; after all I am not obese by any stretch of the imagination and my visits to the gym mean I am fitter than I have been for years. 
That is not the point; the point is I currently think I am a little fatty. And I am realising I am not alone in my irrational self perception. Every woman in my office, bar one, is on a diet, trying to melt away real or perceived fat. The one who is not has legs the size of two toothpicks bound together.   Among the others, we have weight watchers, lunchbox dieters and people who are just attempting to starve themselves thin.   So why are we so obsessed with our weight? 
Well a quick survey around the office seems to say that a lot of women are trying to be the weight they were in their teenage years. It seems that the majority of the women here believe this was when they looked their best, though I am sure they did not think so at the time. But why do they think this now?
Looking through magazines in the UK you are confronted with images of skinny women. Women who look as though they should be in school uniform rather than Carvalli dresses. People who admit to eating very little in order to stay looking the way they do. Women who go to restaurants, share a starter consisting of half a lettuce and a handful of cherry tomatoes between five of them and call this a meal.
These are the people that are presented as role models, the people we are told we should be looking like. And no matter how much we try to avoid it, we are bombarded with images of stick thin women. They are everywhere; they stare at us from our televisions. They are in our magazines, on billboards, even in the free daily newspapers that are handed out to us as we get on the tube or the train to and from work.
Everyday we are confronted with images of Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, Amy “I should have said yes to rehab” Winehouse or Nicole “I don’t invite anyone over 100lbs to my house parties” Ritchie. Despite their emaciated looks, these women are hailed as beautiful style icons in glossy magazines, Nicole being recently praised for losing all her baby fat (what baby fat?) in two weeks. In the nineties when real women, with real curves, were still in fashion they were called waifs and were condemned for glamorising “cocaine chic”, a phrase that paints a so much less than beautiful and decidedly unhealthy picture. 
In the name of research I have been looking around at women’s bodies and realise that generally the Kate Mosses and Nicole Ritchies of the world are few and far between. Yet, as unhealthy and unattainable as this look is for most of us, there are hordes of women trying to look this way. Fashion magazines and the industry behind them actively encourage this ludicrousness. 
Apart from the flood of images, women feel fat because it is no longer fashionable to have any curves at all. The fashion industry is no longer creating clothes for real women. Super skinny jeans that make anyone with even a hint of thigh look like a heifer, shorts that require no butt (otherwise someone might mistake you for a working girl), blouses that require a distinct lack of bosom to wear, dresses that would make anyone over 5 ½ stone look like a sack of potatoes, hang in many of the shops and are displayed in many a window. When it comes to looking for clothing, a woman with even a hint of hips, a behind and bosom has a hard and disheartening road ahead of her.
And the indoctrination is spreading; men are being sucked into the realms of skinnydom. As a result of rockers like Mick Jagger and Pete Doherty popularising the look, the shops are now stocking skinny jeans for men (I can not fit into these either). Confusion reigns supreme as many attempt to mix Hip Hop with Rock and wear skinny jeans pulled down below their bottoms, exposing their often less than fashionable underwear. It is enough to make a girl who likes men to look like men (as opposed to ten year old boys) weep tears of despair.
So where does this leave me? To be fair to myself I am not really trying to look like I am in need of good meal. That, thankfully is a thinness I couldn’t’ achieve even if I ate nothing for the next month and as such I have simply decided to forgive my Mister for pointing out where the doughnuts were going and do something different. So as well as going to the gym more I am (attempting to) eat a little less. Rocket science it ain’t!


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