Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Answering Annie

One of my college roommates started a blog early this year. To my shame, I didn't see this post until just now. I know the topic has been done to death, but I thought she deserved an answer. Here's the original post, and my response follows. Beating a dead horse is still good exercise, right?

Annie says:

There are many topics that I wonder why Christians don't talk about such as homosexuality, mental illness and so on. But the topic that has been on my mind and heart lately has been food. Issues with food is a subject that many of us here in America deal with. But my issue right now I want to talk about is women's relationship with food. I know it sounds funny to say that but think about it we tend to be emotional eaters. We eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad, when we are bored, to celebrate, when we are upset and so on. Because of my sister and because of some of my own medical issues( there are certain foods I cannot have.) Which sounds like it could be horrible but I have learned to appreciate my food more. I now savor cookies.

I don't say that to say "Look at me - I have it all together," because I still struggle with it. My big question is why do we let food control us? And why can't we talk about emotional eating as Christians? We can talk about things such as eating disorders and I am so thankful there are places like Remuda Ranch in AZ that is an Christian-based organization that helps especially women deal with their eating disorders. But in a church group of women called UFO (unfinished projects) that I go to the topic is always food. Two women there decided to have surgery to help them lose weight. I'm not commenting on my opinion of their decision to have the surgery. But all these women talk about it is food what they can have and what they can't have. And as they lose weight they expect people to constantly be commenting on how good they look. Why do we constantly want compliments about the way we look? Is it cause we as women are vain? Or eating and food is our way of control? Just because we say, "Oh you look soo good!" when you lose weight does that mean that other days, especially when you feel "fat," you don't look good? Why are our compliments so based on our appearances? Our self worth has nothing to do with how we look. So I challenge you all to think about whether food is controlling you or do you have control over food? And what would a healthy relationship with food look like in your own life? Let's start the discussion as Christians and live in the freedom that Christ has given us.

Anna responds:

Just off the top of my head, there's a few things going on here.

1. Women are constantly judged on their appearances in a way that men are not. Feminism and the sexual revolution had unintended consequences in this area. Now modern women have to be sexy all the time, always performing all the time to prove we're equal to men both in the boardroom and the bedroom. Our grandmothers never worried about this, and they had plenty of suitors--and most modern Christian women don't. Toss in the rampancy of porn addiction among men creating further unrealistic standards, and women are really painted into a corner. This is a nasty problem our (within the general Western culture) liberal mothers and grandmothers created and then handed down to us. They can decry it all they like now, but they helped screw us over back in the day. Women can have it all-yeah, right! You want that in a size 6, too?

2. Modern Western food is literally addictive. If you don't cook from scratch according to your personal dietary needs, you're probably poisoning yourself. I work full time. I do what I can to combat processed food, but I recognize after a certain point, I'm SOL (S---omething Outta Luck). The more the government gets involved in what we eat, the fatter we all get. I'm beginning to be convinced that corn subsidies are at the root of the American obesity problem. Practically everything you buy in a package is loaded with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soy fillers, or both. Tons of people are allergic to either, or both. (I have a mild fructose intolerance) The human body can respond to allergens by storing it in fat. A lotta potential histamines = a lotta potential thunder thighs, beer guts, and triple chins. In addition, soy is naturally loaded with estrogen. Too much affects male fertility! Eating it in the occasional edamame or tofu dish is one thing; eating hidden soy in practically everything is a yikes!

Eat for your individual health. If you're self-aware, you know what foods make you feel bad, and what foods you need to pick yourself up again. See Fat Nutritionist for a healthy perspective. Michelle's fairly anti-weight loss, which I disagree with, but I like her focus on figuring out what you individually need to eat for your best health, and being unapologetic about getting it.

3. Yes, food is often a means of control in a stressful, hard-charging world. Children compensate for lack of control and stress overload by becoming super picky. Adult men turn to sports, hobbies, work, and porn to get lost in. Women tend to overeat and overspend. Overeating isn't particularly a personal fault of mine; I'm a stress shopper instead. We all have coping mechanisms that are unhealthy. Overeating is a particularly emotionally fraught habit to break because eating is not something we can just stop doing.

Addressing the vanity question: I see a lot of confusion in the world between the definitions of self worth and self esteem. Self worth is your humanity, your inalienable rights, your eternal soul before God. Self esteem is how you feel about the above.

Women who have lost a ton of weight and need constant reassurance are really asking, "Am I worth something? Do you love me the same even though I'm more attractive now? Does my personhood matter to you, or is it just my outer shell?" It's a constant minute re-calibration of insecurity. I can't claim I'm above this one.

For example, let's take the "Do these pants make me look fat?" question our menfolk always dread. We all know its a trap-there's no way they can answer truthfully and spare your feelings, and even if they give a "correct" answer, the female insecurity we all harbor will probably make us change clothes anyway. The problem is that the "fat pants" question is a red herring. The real question is, "Do you still love me even though I feel ugly today?" But we can't ask the real question, because we're always afraid that the answer might be no.

Annie, you and I both know that ultimately, we find our worth and dignity in being made in the image of God. Goodness knows that's the focus of every. single. women's. study. But God made us to relate both to Him and to other human beings. We're also fallen creatures, and as such, we put unhealthy weight on the opinions of other fallen people. We know it's wrong, and stupid, and we just can't help it!

I wish I had a magic pill, and if I did, I'd be living in ... well, probably some expensive, romantic, bohemian city. But until I make my fortune figuring out how to cure all female neuroses, the best answer I can give you is to acknowledge that yes, it's hard; yes, circumstances and people can suck - both singly and simultaneously! Yes, knowing God made you and loves you is cold comfort when your favorite flattering sweater has mysteriously shrunk, and you never put it in the dryer...When your best guy cheats on you, when your dog pees on your new rug (how do animals always know???), when your best friend doesn't have time to see you, and your parents unfairly criticize you....Okay, I'm all depressed now.

It's going to sound crazy, but acknowledging how much the world can suck is a big help. We cry out against all the wrongness because it was never meant to be this way. But as long as mankind was given free will, sin was inevitable - I truly believe that. If Adam and Eve hadn't done it; their kids would have, or somebody down the line. That's the discouraging part. But it helps to remember that we still have free will. We can choose not to keep eating when we're actually full. We can choose to trot around the block after work instead of immediately sinking into the couch for the night. We can choose to fix ourselves up nicely even when we feel like it's no use. We're not helpless. We have the freedom of personal responsibility, and we have the Holy Spirit's guidance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Busty Woman's Fashion Primer

I've been hearing little bleats of insecurity from some of my more endowed friends and coworkers about dressing their busty figures fashionably. There's a lot of body insecurity and plain old confusion about what to wear. I can certainly relate. I matured early and have spent a lot of time in pursuit of that female Grail: not looking fat. A large chest makes it harder, but there are still plenty of things out there. With apologies to What Not to Wear, here are my tips:

1. Get fitted for a supportive bra. Unsupported breasts can visually become just another roll in your midsection-YIKES! You’ll need to get fitted about once a year. If there’s no change, congratulations, but small (and large, but we’re pretending those don’t happen) weight and hormone fluctuations can cause you to need different sizes over time. There are plenty of online guides for measuring yourself. Doing this before you go to the store is a good idea-the person measuring you may not really know what they’re doing. A good rule of thumb for getting your band size right is taking your rib measurement and rounding up or down to the nearest whole number. You’ll need about three plain bras for work and everyday life. Two should be beige/nude if you’re white or brown if you’re black. The third should probably be black. White bras show through even white t-shirts. Don’t recommend them at all. Your go-to bra should be the one closest to your skin color. The balconette cut is the most useful to the busty woman. I recommend saving the lower-cut demi for fancy occasions when cleavage is appropriate. Lace is pretty, but it always manages to lumpily show through tops. Again, save the lace and embroidery for times when your bra needs to show. *wink*

Try not to be too chagrined about your cup size. Getting the right bra size, no matter how appalling the numbers on the tag, is the best thing you can do for yourself. There is nothing more distracting to the rest of the world than you walking around looking like you had a falling out with your bra. (Pun definitely intended.) The best way to hide is…don’t hide. Stand straight, and if you don’t make a big deal out of your mountainous outcroppings, nobody else will, either. In fact, most people won’t notice. Remind yourself that people pay for what you may consider a nuisance. When my mom went gray, she was thinking about coloring her hair until her friends started asking where she got her hair done because the frosting was so pretty. Big boobs are another thing people pay for. Yours came free.

2. Make friends with the closely fitted, solid (or subtly patterned) t-shirt or sweater. It should be as snug as you can get away with based on your age and level of physical fitness. Obviously, you don’t want to look ridiculous, but you also don’t want to obscure your shape in any way. Adding fabric bulk is suicidal to your waistline if you have a large chest.

3. Re: patterns, you can scale up with physical size. If you’re a large woman, wear a big print. If you’re petite, look for something more delicate. Beware of florals. If they aren’t abstract enough, it’s practically a guarantee that you’ll have a gigantic cabbage rose blooming on your boobs.

4. Your shirt neckline should at least show your collarbones. Do not wear anything higher than that. Avoid the classic turtleneck at all costs–if you’re cold, wear a scarf. You want to make it clear that you’re accessorizing, not being swallowed body-first by a snake. A loose and floppy cowl neck is fine. Collared shirts are fine. V-necks and scoop necks are ideal. A wide boat neck or ballet neck can be okay; it depends on the overall cut of the shirt. Split necks also fall into this category. For formal occasions, off-the shoulder can be lovely. Strapless is also fine, as long as it fits well.

5. Knits-go as fine gauge as you can. Ribbing and cable knits can be dicey because a large bust can distort the lines of the knit into something that would make an epileptic seize. Chunky knits have to be approached with caution, but can work with care. If you wear a bulkier top, compensate elsewhere with skinnier pants or a slim pencil skirt.

6. Skirts- Your skirt should hit at the skinniest parts of your leg. For most people, this is immediately above or below the kneecap. The longer the skirt, the higher the heel you need to compensate, unless you’re just having an “I need comfy shoes and don’t bother me about it today,” day, or your podiatrist has banned heels. If you’re insecure about your legs, wear opaque tights or solid leggings tucked into boots. White tights are for old ladies, toddlers and nurses. Dark, solid colors or subtle patterns are great. If the weather is warming up, but it’s not quite bare leg weather, turn to nude hose (but not with boots.). If you are quite petite, stick to skirts above the knee almost exclusively.

The two best skirts for the busty lady are the A-line and the Pencil. Bonus points if the pencil skirt has a built-in high waistband. Both types of skirts are fitted in the waist and hip. A pencil skirt goes straight down from the hip and looks straight or narrow at the hemline. An A-line skirt has a slight flare at the hemline.

Also worthy of mention is the gored/fishtail/mermaid/trumpet skirt. This skirt is again fitted in the waist and hip, but has many more seams. It nips in, then flairs out dramatically to give an exaggerated feminine shape. The fishtail skirt is a variation on this, but has a longer hem in back than in front.

Very full skirts and dirndls can be worn, but carefully. They are more useful for the busty woman who is also blessed in rumpage. I personally do not prefer them because adding bulk, even to my lower half, makes me look fatter all over. Your mileage may vary. If you do wear a very full skirt, make sure your top is just shy of painted on. A waist-defining belt may also be a good idea.

7. At all costs, define your waist. You have one. But probably only you, God, and your husband if married know about it right now. Getting your boobs up where they belong will help. A belt will help more. Cincher belts and skinny belts are very trendy right now, and are appropriate for any age, shape, or fitness level. If you don’t feel like accessorizing, a severely tailored blouse or fitted top is enough. Try belts, though. They can help you get away with an unstructured top or cardigan that you just love, but may not be that flattering on its own.

8. Jewelry-Shine by your face can help draw attention upward, away from your chest. Earrings are great. Necklaces are good too, if you pay attention to their length. A good rule is that your necklace should lie within the neckline of your top, no longer. Sadly, we gifted gals can’t really pull off the super long chains that are trendy right now. You don’t want people to think of a waterfall when they see a long necklace drape smoothly down your chest, and then abruptly assume a 90 degree freefall.

I didn’t mention colors, because busty women come in all complexions. The final piece of looking your best is figuring out the best colors for your skin tone and sticking to them. Next time you shop, remember these three rules: Good Bra, Good Fit, and Good Colors. Eventually, you will assemble a wardrobe where most things match, and dressing yourself will become effortless.