BY Sadie Brown
Skinny jeans are not the easiest purchase to make, especially in the recent London heat wave (yes, it can happen) in a TopShop fitting room, with brilliant light bouncing off white plastic walls and feeling 10 kilos too heavy. It wasn’t a pretty sight, kind of like squeezing reluctant sausage meat into a skin, bits everywhere, and just as I managed to pull them over my butt, I did the ultimate move – I couldn’t resist. I did an NYPD cop request “Put your hands on the wall and spread em!” turning my head only to see my love handles in their full glory and my butt, well, it was there.
But you know what? I laughed! Laughed in the face of my caterpillar like body and purchased a lovely pair of Chelsea boots instead. I laughed because over 20 years ago I was heavily anorexic: so to be heavy with no hints of visible hipbone and genuinely not stress about it or punish want to myself, is a massive achievement to me, with a pay-off way more valuable than the size of my jeans.
My illness was pretty text book. Too many Belgians buns mixed with family genes and as I hit 15, I suddenly became aware that my three chins and landside style stomach was not like the other girls. I started out as an innocent vegetarian, then cutting out sweets, but before I knew it I was throwing away my lunches, hiding dinner from my parents and living on an apple and slice of cheese, sometimes for three days. This continued off and on until my early twenties, but I was a master of disguise consumed by my powerful control over mind and body. It was very toxic and oddly fulfilling to win a battle of wills with myself each day. And if I did eat, the feeling of disgust and disappointment was unforgivable.
My illness was very private though, and I do not ever recall looking at media figures and thinking: I must look like them. For me it was a battle with myself alone. I remember the image of Kate Moss on the front cover of every newspaper strutting down the runway for Bella Freud in 1994 wearing only a black and pink fringe bikini, I though she looked fantastic. The media at the time were still shocked at the new ‘heroine chic’ look, and with Moss the poster girl for this, she took the brunt of the blame. But Kate is naturally slim, that is her body type. As much as I starved myself, I didn’t think I would look like Kate because my body shape is naturally curvy, and when I was ill I just looked wrong with my curves absent. You have to love your body shape.
I adore all things fashion, and I have a few highly successful model girlfriends who are all healthy with limbs longer than mine, not a hint of love handle, and glorious necks. In turn they love my Marilyn Monroe style curves and squeeze my boobs, they love my bits they don’t have, and since beating my illness at 23 I do too. Models are pretty much viewed as human hangers. Choosen for their slim physic as this allows the garments to move as if dancing down the catwalk; this is their job, to make the clothes look a certain way. The models I know adore curves and real women, but they are built with naturally giraffe like limbs and striking beauty which is ideal for their job, women do compare; but it’s not if as being slim means all their worries are answered, far from it in many cases. Making a judgment on someone else’s happiness based on their appearance is ridiculous and a very modern distortion. And even the beautiful need help – we know this! So to compare yourself to a manipulated image presented to you? Come on now, we’re smarter than that!
I understand the temptation of trying to be something you’re physically not, but you have to accept who you are and kiss every inch of yourself. The models in Vogue are not you, the actress on the red carpet are not you, so stop comparing yourself and God damn get selfish! Focus on yourself, what do you like about yourself? I promise as you look at yourself positively with all thoughts of comparison out of your mind, the good points will flow out! Lose yourself in a world of the styles you like, embrace your favorite colors, and feel good. There is nothing more attractive about a woman than confidence, nothing: not a dress size or a firm butt can hold a candle to a happy strong lady walking into a room.
Really get to know your body – it is the only one you’ll ever have so embrace it! Every mole, curve, fold of skin, once you know yourself inch by inch you will no longer wish to wage war on your parts that aren’t like Gisele’s – because that’s disliking yourself, no NO. I really find comfort in my rounded tummy; knowing that I am happy and healthy is a way bigger kick than feeling weak and lifeless – You have got to love yourself, and really mean it, only then will you shine for all to see, whatever your shape – it will look perfect on you.
(In recent years the media’s focus has thankfully shifted away from skinny is cool; to healthy is cool. We see celebrities exiting the yoga studio then grabbing a green juice, not only can we all do the same, but all of these media figures look healthy – being unnaturally skinny and going against your natural body shape is not the answer. Individuality is also being celebrated more than ever as wonderful talented women continue to break the frankly outdated media ideals. Hollywood has a lot to answer to, but that’s a whole other piece.)