Archive for the ‘body image’ Tag

Body Image

I’ve been battling with my weight all my adult life. Over the last 20 years, I’ve been varying from size 12 to size 18. It goes round in a cycle. I put on weight, I go on a diet, I lose the weight and feel good, but the weight always finds me again.

However, over the last couple of years I’ve come to terms with my body and all of its imperfections. Confidence has made a huge difference to my life recently. I believe confidence comes through maturity and wisdom, and there’s no short cut to finding it.

This picture was taken by my dad on the day before my 41st birthday, and I am including it because I think it’s a good contrast to the picture in my last post. There’s over 35 years between this picture and the previous one. When I think about that, it makes me realise just what a long journey it’s been between my being the little girl in that picture and the woman in this one.

The skirt in this picture is a recent purchase. I used to have several similar ones in my wardrobe, that my stylist made me get rid of during my wardrobe detox. So I know that she wouldn’t approve, but I bought it anyway. Part of this confidence in the contemporary me is the conviction that if I like the way something looks, that’s a good enough reason to wear it.

It’s been over 18 months now since I had my styling session, and I’m a size larger now than I was then. So much of what the stylist picked out for me no longer fits. But I am comfortable with who I am, and I can say with confidence that right now, in my 40s, I’m at a good place in my life. I can probably count myself lucky because not everyone gets this far.

Life is short. You have to make what you can of it, and in the grand scheme of things, many of the trivialities we worry about – like putting on a few pounds – are really not important. The recent natural catastrophes in various parts of the world over the last few months have made me think about this quite a lot of late. None of us knows how many tomorrows we have left – so why waste today worrying about them?

Fashion Fix – One Year On

It’s now been a year since my fashion fix. If you haven’t been following this blog for that long, click here to gain an understanding of what I’m on about. I thought it might be a good time to revisit this subject (well, it works for Gok Wan).

I’m not the kind of girl who buys a new wardrobe every season. I think I’ve probably mentioned this before. I wear clothes until they fall to bits – literally, in many cases.

So, I am still wearing the clothes Joy picked out for me last year. I didn’t have an option to lapse back to my old wardrobe – it all went. I do, however, occasionally wear other things to work these days – things I suspect Joy would consider to be a bit too casual for the office. I’m not really a high maintenance kind of girl. Some days I really can’t be arsed faffing around with make-up, hair and jewellery – I just want to brush my teeth and go.

When I shop for clothes, I try to remember the lessons I learned about the colours and styles that suit me. Immediately after my style session I was afraid to go shopping, because I had no idea what to look for. But I now have more confidence, because I’ve got a little more rebellious. I will buy things because I like them – not necessarily because they are things the stylist would approve of.

With regards to accessories, well it was fairly obvious that wasn’t going to last. I don’t wear the chunky jewellery much these days. Big beads click together and bang against my chest in a way I find really annoying. I still prefer my own jewellery, unstylish though it may be. I’ve stopped using the ‘stylish’ handbag, and gone back to the old faithful brown shoulder bag that I can sling over my head to keep it secure on my daily commute. The ‘stylish’ bag doesn’t hold everything I need to take to work with me, and it keeps sliding down my arm in a most annoying way.

I didn’t get rid of any of my shoes, in spite of them all receiving a ‘thumbs down’ from the stylist. I keep the ‘work’ shoes she picked out at the office, but I hate wearing them. I just can’t walk in them. I do wear the ballet pumps, however. A year on they have now sufficiently softened up to not rub my feet.

It’s safe to say that I have lapsed somewhat. I think there’s an irony in the lesson I did take away from my style session – the most important thing about your clothing is that you feel good in it. It doesn’t matter how you look to everyone else. If you look in the mirror after getting dressed in the morning and think you look good , hold your head high and step out, and ignore what everyone else thinks.

And this, for me, reinforces the most important lesson in life. Be true to yourself.

Approaching Forty

I now have less than three weeks left as a 30-something. On the whole, I feel comfortable with turning 40. When I look back on pictures of me from 20 years ago, I think actually I probably look better now than I did then. Part of that is down to confidence, which affects the way you carry yourself and the way you come across to others. I feel very comfortable with myself now, and as a teenager I had no confidence whatsoever

The other reason I might look better now than then has to do with my dreadful fashion sense in the 80s. If my stylist thinks I don’t have much of a sense of style now, she would have had heart failure if she’d have known me then because there has actually been a great deal of improvement!

I find myself in a philosophical mood as I approach the 40th anniversary of my birth, and have been reflecting on the life lessons I have learned in my years on this planet.

1. The most important lesson is that it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. I have my dad to thank for teaching me this one.

2. Closely related to 1, never be afraid to be yourself.

3. Own up to any mistakes you make and take the consequences for them. Then learn from them.

4. You can’t change the world single-handedly. However, if you can do one small thing to change someone else’s life for the better, in some tiny way, then it’s probably worth doing.

5. Life is too short to waste on reality TV.

6. Reading is never a waste of time.

7. Everyone’s body is beautiful, and no one’s is perfect. Learn to love yourself, including your imperfections.

8. Try not to worry about things you have no control over (I still struggle with this one).

9. Let go of the past. It does no one any good to hold grudges.

I’m sure there are more. These are the things that have been in my mind of late. I find myself more reflective as I get older.

And although I wouldn’t go back to being 20, and am embracing being 40, there are still times when I am reminded that I am getting old. Like the fact it takes me longer to recover from a few glasses of wine these days, for instance. But if age is the price we have to pay for wisdom, then I can accept that. I guess that’s another life lesson right there.

Fashion Fix

This post has nothing to do with writing or books, but let me tell you what I did this weekend.

I have mentioned previously that this year I hit the Big 4-0. I have also previously mentioned that I possess no sense of style, and I have been wondering for a long time whether or not this can be addressed, especially since I have lost quite a lot of weight this year and gone down a dress size. I have expressed a desire to find a style to reflect the confidence I possess now, that I did not possess 20 years ago.

Consequently, my mother and my sisters in Canada clubbed together and bought me an appointment with a personal stylist as a 40th birthday present, which has happened early (my birthday’s not until October) because of aforementioned weight loss and the need to clear my wardrobe of everything that’s now a size too big.

My husband also decided to extend my time with the stylist to a personal shopping appointment the day after the wardrobe detox, as his present to me. So I was able to have a wardrobe detox followed by a wardrobe replenishing. Sounded good to me.

So I had Friday afternoon off work for the stylist’s appointment. I had invited a friend to come along for moral support and she arrived first – armed with bottle of wine, which consequently proved to be a good idea as I will go into later. The stylist – Joy – arrived at my house at the appointed time. By this point I was feeling strangely nervous – I had visions of her leaving me with about three things in my wardrobe. Joy is a wonderful advertisement for her business (Potential U), as she looks amazing. Thus encouraged, I led her to the black hole that is my wardrobe.

It all started very well. Joy explained what colours work best for me, with pieces of fabric in various colours to hold up next to my face to demonstrate which colours were best for my skin tone and hair colour, etc, and which did not work.

Having established colours, and then what styles best suit my body shape, we then went on to the ‘wardrobe culling’. I had been clear about the budget I was prepared to spend on my new wardrobe, and as we worked through my existing clothes, Joy clearly became very concerned that it was in such a bad state the budget would not nearly begin to cover what was required to give me a halfway decent wardrobe. I think the moment she began to despair was when she asked me whether I wanted to shop for a summer or a winter wardrobe, and I asked, “What’s the difference?”

I also started to get more and more defensive. As the pile of ‘for charity shop’ clothes grew ever higher, I swept items off it and shrieked, “What’s wrong with this? I like this!”

Joy said, “It’s not stylish. it’s old-fashioned and frumpy, it’s the wrong colour and it’s a size too big for you.”

“But I like it,” I insisted. “I’m not getting rid of this.”

So Joy made me try on the offending item and stand in front of the mirror. “Do you really think that suits you? Do you really think that makes you look stylish?”

“Yes, actually, I do,” I said defensively. Joy just shook her head sadly. And my friend filled up my glass and said, “Have some more wine, Sara”.

Whenever I used to watch Trinny and Susannah do their style makeover shows, I would end up shouting at the television at the women who were getting defensive about having to get rid of their wardrobe mistakes. “They’re right, you know. You look terrible in that! Let it go!” And there I was, doing exactly the same thing. I guess it’s always easier to see other people’s mistakes than it is to see your own.

I had to face up to several facts on Friday. The first is that my sense of style really is abysmal. The second is I am a dreadful hoarder – I had no idea how many clothes I actually owned until they were all piled up on the bed. Many of them were way past their sell-by date. I also learned that I am unjustly self-conscious about my own body shape. I have spent years hiding in baggy tops because I was convinced my stomach sticks out. I am a perfect hourglass, Joy says, with everything in proportion and this is the shape that most women aspire to, so I should make the most of this. I suppose ultimately most women have body image issues, which is such a complex subject I’m really not going to go into it now.

At the end of the session, I had a very big pile of things in the ‘give to charity’ pile. To be fair there was more in the ‘keep’ pile than I was anticipating, but all the clothes there were things that other people had picked out for me. And with the exception of two pairs of trousers, all the clothes I wear to work were in the ‘charity’ pile (in fact Joy looked faintly horrified at some of the outfits I have been wearing to work).

It’s fair to say I felt quite traumatised by the time Joy left. It’s one thing to suspect that you don’t have a very good sense of style. It’s quite another to have it confirmed, beyond reasonable doubt, that your dress sense is so appalling you should not be allowed out shopping on your own.

New outfit 1...this secretary means business

New outfit 1...this secretary means business

The following morning, I met Joy again for the shopping trip. Having had the night to reflect on the situation (and after several more glasses of wine), I had accepted that I evidently was in need of a great deal of help when it comes to picking clothes, and was ready for her guidance to acquire my stylish new work wardrobe.

I had booked a half days’ shopping trip with Joy, which she felt wasn’t going to be enough to get everything I needed, but my budget also wasn’t enough to get everything I needed. So we agreed to focus on a work wardrobe and if I could get some advice on the other pieces, I would get those at a later date – though I think she still doesn’t trust me to go shopping on my own, possibly with good reason.

As I had vouchers for Marks & Spencer, I told her that if we shopped there I would be able to stretch my budget a bit further. So that’s where we started. She told me to pick things I liked, while she went through the shop picking things out for me. About 15 minutes later she came to find me, her arms laden with clothes. I was admiring a floral print skirt. “Look at this model,” Joy said gently, pointing out the woman in the picture introducing that particular section of the shop. “She looks great but she’s about 60. This section is meant to attract older women. You shouldn’t be anywhere near these clothes; they’re too old for you.”

New Outfit 2...the corporate look

New Outfit 2...the corporate look

Thus sums up my problem. The clothes I am attracted to are 20 years too old for me, and I suspect this has always been the case. I’ve often wondered where I get this appalling lack of interest in fashion from (I suspect it’s something else I inherited from my dad, as he’s never been remotely interested in clothes either)

I was able to collect a complete work wardrobe in Marks & Spencer, which is just as well because after that the budget was gone (and that includes the vouchers). My casual wardrobe still leaves a lot to be desired – though I was allowed to keep a few casual skirts, all the tops I used to wear with them are gone. But at least I’m going to look fab at work. In fact, I now have the potential to be one of the best-dressed people in the office. I’m rather looking forward to going to work tomorrow, just to see what the reaction’s going to be!

I’m also ready to embrace the fact I’m a size 12, with curves to be proud of. And when my first book gets published and I’m about to go to my book launch, I hope Joy will be on hand to pick my outfit for me!

Possibly my favourite new outfit

Possibly my favourite new outfit