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‘Real Women’ and Weight Loss: My Story

By: Holly

Last week, I put on my favorite Claudette bra and realized that I was absolutely swimming in it. I thought the back must have stretched, but a tape measure confirmed it: I’m now a 32 band. Still not convinced, I went to the scale. I’ve lost five pounds. For the first time in years, I’m solidly under 180 pounds.

If you chat with me on Twitter, it’s hard to miss that I’ve been on a serious weight loss campaign. It started after the holidays, like most do, and I’ve continued it in various ways throughout this month. For one week I did serious calorie counting, and couldn’t do it. I finally came to the decision that I was going to eat better and exercise more and see what happened. Apparently, minus five pounds is what happens.

There’s been a lot of talk about this whole “real women” debate, so I guess this is my chance to weigh in. Mostly, I believe that discussions of weight and body size are far more complicated than people make them out to be.

Like many women, I was a skinny teenager. I was about 15 when I hit 125 pounds and my parents started telling me to watch my weight. At the time I was a serious dancer and didn’t take much notice. I eventually quit dancing, but the weight pressure didn’t let up from my family. Every time I ate something, I felt guilty. Mostly, I rebelled and ate it anyway.

At 26 years old, I’m 177 pounds. I know exactly where this puts me on the BMI scale, and I want to get down to a clinically healthy weight. I’m not a comfort eater, and I eat a reasonably healthy diet. I also feel like I look pretty nice at this weight, and I truly can’t imagine myself at anything the BMI calculator shows as a healthy weight. Whenever I do, everything from my teenage years comes back and I want to crawl into a hole. And then there are the days when the major doubts set in. What if I’ve just convinced myself that I look good at this weight because I’m lazy? What if I’ve just talked myself into feeling confident? If I really got to 125, would I be a slave to calorie counting for the rest of my life?

I know that this is all compounded by the fact that I haven’t had a single conversation with either one of my parents in ten years that didn’t involve my weight. And the teenager in me feels like losing the weight will make them right about my morbid obeseness all these years.

Working and blogging in the lingerie world means that you’re constantly confronted with your own body. I spend hours each day staring at pictures of all sorts of body types and comparing them to mine. It means confronting your stereotypes about what is beautiful, and generally expanding them. You’d think that would have helped me see where I fit in on the scale, but it hasn’t.

Here are the reasons I want to lose weight:
-I want to be at a healthy weight for my height.
-I want to be able to fit into more clothes and lingerie.

Notice that “because I hate my body” isn’t on this list. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think lots of women feel pressured to be a different body type, no matter what weight they are.

When you talk about “Real Women” (which is a silly term in itself), I think this is what unites us. We’re all struggling to accept ourselves and reconcile all things people tell us about weight and size. To really discover our ideal body, we have to put aside everything else we’ve heard about what a “Real Woman” looks like and figure out what is right for each of us.

Holly Jackson

The Full Figured Chest provides creative and elegant copywriting for the high end lingerie industry.

32 Comments on this post

  1. Uhura says:

    I find it strange that everyone commented on how controversial the BMI is as an indicator of health, but not that the overall message of this post is “plus size size lingerie fan realizes she needs to lose weight to wear the lingerie and clothes she wants”.

    I have this crazy idea that you should be able to have access fashionable, well-made clothes and lingerie regardless of your weight, size, or shape. Being focused on changing your body to fit more clothes is not necessarily healthy *or* indicative of a healthy body image. It’s just another form of buying into and promoting societal trends and pressures with regard to looks. (And yes, I saw that she put “I want to be a healthy weight for my height” as the first option, but I doubt it was the primary reason based on the overall theme of the piece: looks and acceptance.)

    It’s great that you want to be healthier. But what I’d really like to see on this site is someone who doesn’t automatically assume that “smaller and thinner” always equals healthier. I’d like to hear from a plus sized woman who is more comfortable with herself and promotes increasing the availability & manufacturing of lingerie in more sizes – instead of telling the lingerie world “It’s okay. You don’t have to change a thing. I’ll continue to change my body to fit what you tell me I need to be”.

    • Holly says:

      Uhara –

      I actually think this is a great subject to bring up, and it is one that doesn’t get enough discussion. There absolutely should be more lingerie brands and clothing retailers that cater to plus size/full busted women, and even the ones that are out there have issues. The issue is that, put quite frankly, they’re all pretty expensive and they’re all online. That means that women without a fair amount of disposable income (and women on a full time freelance writer’s budget) don’t have as many options. Women also have to find them, which can be tough if you’re not clued into the lingerie/clothing community online. It’s interesting to put your response and June’s side by side, because I believe that it doesn’t get easier as you get slimmer if you’re full-busted. I buy made to measure when I can for this very reason, and luckily there are some awesome indie designers out there helping that community flourish.

      I do feel some pressure to just get thinner to fit in. I feel like if I was thinner I might fit in better with the lingerie community as a whole (through no fault of anyone’s), and I know if I was thinner I would have a better relationship with my parents, at least on the surface. It’s easy to say that all of that is shallow and doesn’t matter, but the truth is that it does. I think lots of women deep down feel these pressures. While it’s wrong, they’re also definitely real.

      That said, I don’t think that thinner is always healthier. The issues I see with my body are more related to fat versus muscle. I know lots of size 22’s who are toned and look awesome, and they’re definitely healthy. I know lots of size 14 women with rock hard abs who look great. I am very much not in either of these categories, and I’d like to be in the toned and fit bunch.

      I hope this helps clarify, because I’m all for body acceptance, and I know gorgeous women of all shapes and sizes.

      • spoyltone says:

        Holly, I really appreciate your frank discussion of this topic! Dealing with changing body sizes is something that all of us deal with as women, especially as we go through puberty/young adulthood/parenthood/menopause and the parts that relate to lingerie change and mature. I really really appreciate finding this topic addressed here, since lingerie, like any other garment, is marketed to a certain fairly narrow body ideal, and the pressures to conform comes in many other forms as well. And I too hope that we can all have access to better, more affordable styles and choices for all sizes and shapes, without having to bend over backwards to find them.

  2. Nikki says:

    Now this is the bit that always gets me: BMI is NOT GOSPEL! It is a basic guide, and does not take into account peoples’ natural body types.

    My Father’s family have a larger body type. My Uncle once decided to get down to a ‘healthy’ weight… by the time he had lost enough weight that he had a BMI of 26, he was barely more than skin and bone. According to the BMI scale, he was still slightly overweight, but to look at him… he was drastically underweight.

    BMI also does not take into account the amount of fat an muscle. I had a friend recently who was trying to lose weight, and getting frustrated that no matter how much she worked out (an how well she ate) her weight was really not changing much. She was doing a lot of weights and pole dancing, and the thing about those activities, is that they build muscle. Now we all know that muscle is more dense than fat, and so while she was losing fat, she was also gaining muscle, so her weight really wasn’t changing much.

    What constitutes a ‘healthy’ weight varies from person to person, and if you are serious about losing weight for your health, go see a doctor. That way, they can take into account things like your body fat percentage, and your diet, and all those things that make a whole lot more difference than the number displayed on your scales.

    • Holly says:

      Nikki –
      I absolutely agree, numbers are not important, and overall health is. I think numbers are easier for people (I know I would feel better if I had one in mind as a goal), because concrete goals are always easier than non-specific ones.

      SparkPeople (which I don’t do, but is a great site for this stuff) asks you a bunch of questions at the beginning related to health and weight. You’re encouraged to set goals like, “I would like to look better naked”, or “I would like to see this happen with X part of my body”, but they’re less numerically based. I’m taking this approach mentally, I think. I’d like to be healthier, get rid of all the fat that has piled onto my stomach, and have a nice toned body. For that, numbers don’t matter.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Oh my. I’m the same way as you. I weigh far too much right now, and I’m trying to lose it myself. However, the BMI is being sacked. Doctors have admitted that the system does not work. There cannot be a standard because of how different people bodies are. Don’t let it get to you. You ARE a healthy weight for your height if you’re eating healthy, if you’re fit and taking care of yourself. All women need to realize this.

    Good luck though, reaching your goal.

    • Holly says:

      I agree! I tried the waist/hip ratio calculator, and got what I feel was a much more accurate result. Part of it for me was realizing that as long as I was getting healthier and making gradual progress than that was enough. It’s all about baby steps, and not beating yourself up mentally in the process.

      Thanks for commenting, Gabrielle!

  4. bybabysrules says:

    Thanks for sharing your wants/struggles/ideals with us. There are so many sides to the body image issue, and really when it comes down to it we all have them. I think that working toward your goals is a great idea, because you are doing it in a healthy way and for your health. Really that is what we should be taking from this. You are working to be healthy for your body and for you mind, what ever your ideal may be. And I find that admirable!

    And as far as bra size goes, things definitely get harder in the 28-30 range, especially above a G cup. I find myself reading reviews, ordering the same bra, and ending up with a different product because the design changes above a G cup. I’m a 28H (should be a 26) and I couldn’t imagine looking for a 28K. I’m already incredibly jealous of your Claudette bras.

    • Holly says:

      Have you tried Ewa Michalak? She’s my go to bra designer now that I’m out of the G range, and her stuff is awesome and well priced. I’m trying to hold off until my bra size stabilizes some, but I pretty much wear entirely her bras now.

      Also, Claudette says they’ll be making larger cup sizes next year, so hopefully they’ll do an H or larger! I know there’s a big audience for them there, and I also know how committed they are to expanding their range of sizes.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. David says:

    A mans point of view: What the beauty industry never seems to understand us that (in my experience) many many men prefer ladies who are not stick thin like the models used. The most attractive thing in any woman is confidence in herself and happiness in her own skin, whatever her size, little or large.

    • Holly says:

      Thank you David! It’s wonderful hearing things like this from a male commentator, although my experience in life also says that this is true. Confidence is always sexy!

  6. Lady Le says:

    I was just listening to Regina Spektor yesterday, and a song lyric hit me with its truth: “I’ve got a perfect body, but sometimes I forget”
    I think it’s really easy to get caught up in wanting to look like x person in x magazine or fashion spread, etc. But often when I find myself actually imagining looking like these women, it just seems… not right. Not me. I can’t look like that, because that wouldn’t be me anymore. It wouldn’t look good.
    This reminded me that you know, maybe my body isn’t as awful as I think it is. There’s always room for improvement but often we are looking to drastically change ourselves – or literally be someone else – and it’s no surprise many women are left feeling inferior to what they’re aspiring to be.
    Judging from the pic, I would have to agree I can’t see you being too much thinner than you appear — like if 125 is what you’re “supposed” to be, then screw that! You look great!

    • Holly says:

      Thanks Lady Le! I can’t picture myself as 125 either. I worry that I might look like some kind of cartoon character. I love what you said about the fear of not looking “like you”. That’s a wonderful way to describe part of my anxieties about this whole thing: at the end, will I still be me, or some weird version of me that isn’t right?

      Thanks for the compliments, and thanks for commenting!

  7. spoyltone says:


    This is a great blog post! I think you are in a good place and everything you said is correct. Only one thing to add:

    BMI is a flawed concept that only works for certain body types. It does not take into account the distribution of body mass, which can make a big difference in your overall health. For many of us (i.e. non-ectomorphs, many non-white people, all of us large breasted or “pear-shaped” women), the waist-to-hip ratio may be a better indicator of healthy weight distribution.

    BMI also fails to distinguish between lean and fatty body mass. If you start lifting weights and building muscle, for example, your overall weight may increase, yet you will lose inches in certain areas, and you will be healthier overall. Unfortunately, your BMI will just continue to say that you are “overweight.” This is ridiculous. Any measure of healthy weight should take into consideration your body fat percentage as well as your water and muscle mass percentages. Please keep this in mind as you continue to chart a course of exercise – even if you aren’t losing weight, you might be a lot healthier than your BMI would indicate.

    Here is some more information on the subject:

    I really think Western medical science has screwed us all over with this crazy, antiquated “BMI” nonsense.

  8. Aline says:

    Hi Holly! I think you’re doing amazingly well and are on the right path with your mind set setting up your weight goals based on your uniquely beautiful self. The formula is quite simple, eat with moderation and exercise more. Our health is precious and living a healthy lifestyle is a must for all of us. I’m very proud of you. xx

    • Holly says:

      Thanks Aline! I think remembering that the basic weight loss formula is really simple is key to the whole thing. I’m more concerned with being a healthy person than a super skinny person, and I think that helps. I’d like to be active and eat well, and I hope everything else will come in time.

      Thanks for commenting! :-)

  9. June says:

    I can relate to a lot of what you said. Both with dealing with parents who have always made weight a topic of discussion and not being able to deal with calorie counting. I made small changes and have been doing it for over 1.5 years now (and have lost 67lbs in that time period). Small changes CAN make a difference long run as long as you stick to it and it doesn’t have to mean calorie counting and being obsessive. It’s sounds like what you’re doing works for you and that’s the bottom line here. :)

    I was definitely nodding with your last line there. We have to decide what’s right for our body and whatever someone else does with their body is NOT a reflection on us. It’s hard when you’re bombarded with so many images through the media to understand that at times, though.

    Just to give you a heads up about lingerie and weight loss. Sometimes weight loss can make lingerie buying much harder! I’ve gone from being able to wear 36/38 bands at my highest (pretty easy to find) to now wearing a 28HH. I keep losing in my underbust too so I really might run into some issues here eventually…

    • Holly says:

      Hi June!

      I read your blog, and I’m in awe of how you’ve clearly stuck with it. I think my biggest problem is that I can’t picture myself at some smaller weight, so I don’t feel like I can make goals. I guess I’m hoping that once I fall into the perfect weight for me that I’ll just have some magic moment and know. This may be the fairy tale romance theory of weight loss, and therefore not very accurate. :-) Do you have a target weight? How did you decide on it?

      • June says:

        Thanks! I also have the same problem even though I’ve been at smaller weights before (but it has been over 8 years so my brain is pretty foggy and I’ve had my daughter in between there too). All we can do is take one step at a time and go from there. ;)

        I’m also hoping to just find my perfect weight. I list 140lbs because that’s the weight I was in high school but that was pre-kid and before weight lifting so I have no clue if I want to go down that low or not. I figure once I hit a healthy BMI I’m just going to take one day at a time and keep reevaluating until I’m happy.

        Good luck with your journey and if you ever need anyone to commiserate with you know where to find me. :)

  10. Panda says:

    Its good to hear from someone else who doesn’t feel like they’d look appropriate according to what their weight should be on the BMI. I am 5’4 and weigh in at just under 160, I should only be 125 according to the BMI. I’ve put on a bit of weight through the last year but before that I was only at 145.

    I am rather busty (32 DDD/E) and I think this is part of the reason that I am constantly above the BMI. My body is considered obese, but the excess weight that I carry is not overly visible, my ribs and hip bones stick out at my current weight and even more so when I’m at my usual 145. While the BMI is a standardization meant to keep people on track, it’s not for everyone, weight gathers in peculiar ways.

    • Holly says:

      I’m 5’4″ as well, Panda! I do think that being busty can make it hard to picture yourself at some BMI standardized weight. I know I have a fair amount of weight in my breasts, and I suspect it isn’t going anywhere no matter how much weight I lose. And I can’t really picture myself at 125 as a 28K cup or something, which is what I suspect would be the outcome of that. It’s nice to hear from other people who feel the same way, and have found a weight that works for them.

      • DeAnna Sims says:

        For all of the girls out there that are very busty and worried about their place on the BMI. Did you know that just a D cup alone are 10 pounds each. This has to be factored into your count so those of you that are bigger think about this if my BMI for 5″ 4′ is 125 and you add those 20 to 30 pounds depending on size. You are closer to your healthy weight than you think. And remember the BMI is not an actual science it is a guide. So worry not ladies especially those with a bust bigger than a D you are not obese you are just carrying an extra 20 to 30 pounds in the girls.

        • Holly says:

          DeAnna –
          This is great information to have! I’ve always wondered about this, and how it factors into things like BMI.

        • Zoggi says:

          Erm… I wear an E cup and mine weigh about half a pound each.

          • Lenora Jane says:

            How do you know that? Not a challenge, I’m just wondering…how do you weight your breasts? I mean, since they’re attached to you…huh. Do you just, like, put the scale on the counter so it’s high enough? Or…I feel silly asking this but I’m curious.

        • Casey says:

          This is certainly something useful to know, but you must be aware that blanket statements about any cup size are inaccurate. The volume and weight of a 28D and a 42D must be quite different.
          Is it even possible to accurately measure the weight of a single breast?!

  11. Krystyna says:

    There is a lot that goes into healthy weight loss. You have to eat right and it’s best to avoid most white foods. Try to have one vegetarian day a week. Don’t skip breakfast. Build an eating routine and plan your meals in advance.

    Working out is the most important. You need to use work out routines and perform cardio. I recommend doing routines (with weights if possible) 3 times a week (follow each routine with a protein shake.) Also try to do 30 minutes of cardio at least 2 times a week (not on the same day as other work outs. No protein shakes needed.)

    Having a support system is the best way to maintain your work out routine. It also helps if you are doing something you enjoy like biking, swimming, yoga or a dance class. I joined fitocracy.com and not only does it let me track my work out results but it is an entire group of people with similar goals. I started at 150 pounds and am already down to 143. My goal weight is 135. It took awhile for me to get into the swing of things but I have never felt better. Personal life, professional life and sex life all included. It just feels good to devote time to yourself.

    • Holly says:

      Krystyna –
      Thanks for the tips! I eat veggie a fair amount (although I still eat way too much cheese), and I almost always skip breakfast. I don’t think I’ve eaten a proper breakfast since I was about 12. I generally eat whole wheat everything anyway, thankfully. I’m also drinking almost entirely green tea and water instead of juice and milk.

      I definitely agree on finding an exercise routine that works for you. I do ballet conditioning tapes right now, and I’ve been loving them. It’s still hard to make the time, but once I get into it I really enjoy it.

      Thanks for your tips, and congratulations on your weight loss! That’s a big achievement.

  12. denocte says:

    Love the last few sentences!
    I know this is a sensitive topic but I really like your approach.
    All the best :)

    • Holly says:

      Thanks so much! I really wanted to write something about it, as I know my feelings and position on it aren’t unique.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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