I Have No Clue How To Classify My Body Type

I'm not fat and I'm not skinny. So what am I?
Publish date:
December 1, 2013
h&m, plus size, body issues, clothing sizes

I don't know how to classify my body type, so I can't accept my body.

It started with a Buzzfeed list titled “America Thinks These Women Are ‘Plus Size’.” I clicked on it because I was feeling pretty body-negative, and I was like "yay, looking at a diverse range of bodies has been shown to be good for my brain, which has been contaminated by a media saturated with very thin bodies!”

Looking at photos of these very, very beautiful plus-size models (which, for the record, simply means that they aren’t “straight” size models, i.e., anyone a size 6 or over), I saw bodies that looked like mine. I saw some of the same things I see when I look in the mirror.

That never happens.

“Wait...am I plus-sized?” I thought, “and if so, what does that mean?”

A few days later, someone tagged me in a photo on Facebook, which I immediately untagged because -- surprise! -- I thought I looked fat.

BUT I DIDN’T ACTUALLY LOOK FAT. I actually looked pretty OK. I just didn’t look thin.

At which point it occurred to me that my perception of my own body is so warped I have legitimately been unable define it, and that has made it very difficult to accept.

I should mention here that for more than a year, I was the associate editor of a website specifically focused on health, fitness, and body positivity. I’m also a runner, and I do ballet once a week (usually).

I know body acceptance. I know that health is a greater metric than weight or size. I know that slogans like “real women have curves” do damage, too, because all women are "real" women. I know that plus-sized is only a size, not a measurement of health or fitness or attractiveness and all of the negative connotations that have

I know all these things.

But I also know that I spent years battling a pretty serious eating disorder. And I know that I have, like, a fairly substantial way to go. Because buzzwords like “healthy” and “curvy” and “outside-size” and “alternative” and every other variation we use to separate and categorize bodies that aren’t thin bodies are words that I had been pathologically terrified to have applied to my body.

It’s not an “ewwww fatties” thing -- it’s an “ewwww me” / “yay everyone else!” thing.

But maybe, I’ve been thinking, it’s OK for it to be a “yay me,” thing, too.

Maybe it’s all right for me to not be a thin person trapped under the literal weight of many Saturdays spent not on the treadmill, but a person who is busy and human and has a body with a shape that is different from the shape of other bodies. And maybe the only reason it isn’t all right is because, at least when it comes to my perception of my own body, I have bought into the straight-up othering, body-shaming, pejorative-label-giving bullshit that I’ve been writing against for so long.

For years, I have needed a box for my body. And it is entirely possible that I have been checking the wrong box.

I guess I could ask around to see how other people would classify me, but that seems REALLY unhealthy. Because shouldn’t the way I feel about my body be the way I feel, and not dependant on the way other people see it? And if realizing that maybe I’m just a “curvy” (or whatever) woman makes me feel better when nothing else ever has, then ... does it matter?

I started writing about body positivity largely as a therapeutic exercise, to combat the years in which the only goal I had was to be thinner. And when I was at my thinnest? I didn’t look like the long-limbed models in every commercial and television show. I looked like an unhealthy, sallow, depressed shell of a short-statured human.

This realization and process, is, I think, symptomatic of something bigger. That women who are shaped more like me are being praised and admired is a reaction to decades of privileging very thin bodies.

Which is, I think, definitely due to the work of the body positivity movement, because even having these images out there at all is a step toward body acceptance on a larger scale. Remember how berzerk everyone went when H&M finally used a plus-sized model LIKE IT WAS NO BIG DEAL? That shit seems trivial, but it’s not.

Like I said, I’m still working through it -- and I know a lot of it is the aforementioned othering bullshit that I’ve silently, stealthily accepted. But understanding that the need to categorize myself as “thin” or “plus” was what has been getting in the way of my just being OK with having a body? It's done more than I could have imagined.