What is Plus Size Anyway?
Back in 2015 I put a question on various social media platforms and asked” at what size do you consider plus size to start?”
Back in 2015 I put a question on various social media platforms and asked” at what size do you consider plus size to start?” My question was for market research purposes, not to be controversial or start a debate – which it did.
At the time someone I was working with had suggested I ought to use the term in my marketing (kind of cashing in on my own plus size status and being ‘inspirational') and was curious to see what people thought. I got quite a few responses and it seemed to be a subject that ruffles feathers and divides opinion. Some people found the term offensive, mean and rude, others see it as an alternative term for unhealthy.
I posted the same question again yesterday, five years on and with a different audience of connections yet the comments provided similar results.
Is it a classification or an insult?
I personally don’t like it, but it seems to be the recognised term within the fashion industry. If I’m looking for clothes online I Google ‘plus size’.
The answers from my social media connections ranged from size 14 upwards but most people thought size 20 was the starting point.
Some of the people who responded were apologetic, as if they were worried about offending people. Others thought it might be better to use terms that seem less derogatory. So, can it just be seen as a term to describe a body shape or is it as most people think (who commented across my social media) derogatory? Like short, tall, athletic, curvy etc?
Which then makes me wonder why it is seen as a negative term? If you look for the dictionary definition of the word “plus” it has quite positive connotations… Advantage, asset, higher end of the scale, extra, a perk, prerequisite.
It does also say it can refer to larger than normal size in women’s clothing. (Back in the day I remember the term ‘outsize’ being used – which I think is worse.)
So, then you have to ask what’s normal? Is it the same as average? Because the average woman in the UK is a size 16, 5ft 3″ and weighs 11 stone apparently. Which gives you a BMI of 27.3 if you are a 50-year-old woman who is moderately active and classed as overweight.
To not be overweight your BMI should under 25, once you get a BMI reading of over 30 you are in the obese range, then 40+ we get to severely obese according to the NHS website, they used to call it morbidly obese - scary term! They now say that BMI is not used to diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular can have a high BMI without much fat.
But for most people, BMI is a useful indication of whether they're a healthy weight.
A better measure of excess fat is waist size, which can be used as an additional measure in people who are overweight (with a BMI of 25 to 29.9) or moderately obese (with a BMI of 30 to 34.9).
Generally, men with a waist size of 94cm or more and women with a waist size of 80cm or more are more likely to develop obesity-related health problems.
According to research conducted by the World Health Organisation 59% of women in the UK were overweight in 2010. They have projected this figure to rise to 64% by 2030 (by the way it’s even higher for men at a prediction of 75%).
I’m kind of conflicted by the whole weight thing.
On the one hand I know it can be unhealthy to be overweight, being overweight causes many medical and mobility problems, but then you can also be overweight and fit and healthy too. And of course, slimmer yet unhealthy.
On the other hand, I strongly believe we should embrace our figures and we can all feel beautiful irrespective of shape or size, my business is all about helping women feel good regardless of what the scales say. I’ve never personally been one of those people who can say they are fat and happy though.
I’ve never been of slight proportions, always a bit on the ‘bonny’ side as they’d say where I was brought up in the north west, but I was within the normal range. Give me back that 18-year-old body that I thought was fat now and I’d be delighted. I only got to be actually (what I consider to be) plus size after my son was born.
I put a lot of weight on during pregnancy and up until now have never really lost it (and kept it off long term) since. I’ve tried ALL the diets over the years, Weightwatchers, Slimming World, The F Plan, cabbage soup, Dukan, Rosemary Conley, blue fat rejecting tablets from the doctor, had my thyroid tested (borderline) I’ve even tried CBT and counselling. I’ve lost weight several times but then gradually it’s crept back on because I’ve never really made permanent changes to my way of eating. I’ve been ‘on’ a diet then ‘off’ the diet.
In the past my weight has affected how I’ve felt about myself, I’ve suffered from low self-esteem and it’s not nice, it can affect your whole life, your performance at work, relationships, you name it. At one point I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror from the neck down…and thought everything would be different if I was thinner.
Thankfully I got through that phase of depression where I felt fat, fed up and frumpy. I still have the lumps and bumps but I’m in a better place mentally and relationship wise and my weight doesn’t determine my happiness or inner peace.
I’ve learned that as a member of the chub club you limit your options in terms of clothing retailers, as many shops stop at a size 16. In the consumer culture plus size outlets tend to start at size 14. In the modelling world you are plus size above a size 10!! My respondents on social media ranged from size 14 up to 20 in their definitions of where plus size starts. There is confusion around the term.
And then there’s the whole thing about being a ‘real woman’. That’s a term I find annoying. I detest the term ‘real women’ in the context of body positivity and see it as skinny shaming.
We are all real women regardless of size, is there such a thing as an unreal woman?
There are so many terms to describe being plus size and overweight…. What do you prefer if you are on the ‘wrong side’ of the BMI chart?
Horizontally tall, voluptuous, curvaceous, curvy, chubby, cuddly, big boned, fuller figured, chunky, buxom, plentiful, ample, well built, rotund, round, portly, outsize or thick, as they use in the USA?
I use the term fat, as in my body is carrying too much fat. That is a fact.
I’m trying not to say I am fat because my weight doesn’t define who I am. It is work in progress for me as my goal is to be more compassionate with myself regarding my body weight. I’m choosing to focus on eating food that nourishes and heals my body. The side effect of that is that I am releasing weight and have shed 30lbs since January. I am about halfway to where I want to be to reach my goal. I’m stable at the moment and acknowledging that I’ve got years of conditioning and diet mentality to unpick plus a real sweet tooth that I know does not serve me. So, I’m celebrating my success rather than beating myself up if I make a poor choice that isn’t the best in terms of self-love.
However, despite being on my own journey I truly believe that you can still look good, be inspirational and aspirational even if you are in the Chub Club. And, if you want to lose some weight, when the time is right and you’re in the right head space then you will. We all know that deep down where there’s a will there’s a way, if you want it enough, you’ll do it. The motivator has to be strong.
You know my passion is to help women feel good about themselves, using colour and clothes to boost confidence. You don’t have to wait until you’ve lost weight to look and feel fab. It saddens me when women say they’ll work with me when they’ve lost weight. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation… I reckon that if you’re feeling good about yourself because you look good (despite the extra weight) it’s easier to love yourself and then maybe you stop reaching for the biscuit barrel; stop worrying about what people think if you go swimming or for a run….who knows?
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