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Categories are great for some things: biology, herbs, and spices, for example.

Image via

But bodies? Well, putting bodies into categories just gets weird. There are around 300 million people in America, but only 12 or so standard sizes for clothing: extra-extra-small through 5x.


That's why designer Mallorie Dunn is onto something with her belief — people have different bodies and sizing isn't catching up.

Dunn has found that the majority of clothing sizes stop at an extra-large, yet the majority of women in America are over that. "And that just doesn't make sense," she says.

All images via Smart Glamor, used with permission.

Human spice rack, only, a LOT more variations of flava. ;)



That's why she started a project around her clothing label, Smart Glamour, to document the bodies of models according to their sizes — and to show how one size can look very different on different bodies.

In pursuit of creating a fashion environment that's kinder to all bodies, Dunn has dedicated herself to educating consumers about sizing.

First, she found 60 people of 12 different sizes and took their pictures.

Then, she put five women at a time in the same size of skirt and shirt to show how diversely beautiful human bodies are and to prove that everyone looks different in clothes no matter what size they have on.

She hoped to show people that 12 sizes don't even come close to capturing the beauty of the human form.

All these models are wearing the same size ... but do they look the same?

"No matter what size you are that's not what dictates your worth or your beauty."

"I had a convo with a friend of mine who was like 'Yeah, if I went from a medium to a large, I'd be fine with it, but if I went from a large to an extra-large, that wouldn't be OK' and I was like, 'Why???' And she had no rational reason behind that," Dunn said, describing a conversation we've all either had, started, or heard. "We've been taught forever that the bigger something sounds, the worse that it is."

Dunn's project also shows just how arbitrary and narrow-minded clothing sizes are.

Sizes really are just numbers.

Unlike the images we are presented both in clothing ads and in entertainment and media, human beings aren't, as Dunn remarked, "robots who come out on a conveyor belt ... we're all shaped differently."

The pressure to look one way is obnoxious. And kinda dangerous.

"We've been taught forever that the bigger something sounds, the worse that it is."

There's so much weight — no pun intended — on being the "right" size.

"You put an 'extra' on top of a 'large,' and suddenly it's the end of the world," Dunn said of her experience in fashion sizing. "... And it really doesn't mean anything, it really only means that there's an extra inch of fabric."

One extra inch of fabric.

3 in 4 girls report feeling depressed, guilty, or shameful after just three minutes of leafing through a fashion mag.

But I'd like to imagine a world where everyone can try on clothes and leave the emotional burden of worrying about fit to the clothes.

Instead, let's focus on what looks good on our bodies. Let the clothes handle the emotional roller coaster of not fitting, and you just live your life in the body you've been given.

Dunn, who has worked for fashion houses for her whole career, puts it bluntly: "Clothes are not made for all bodies. ... We shouldn't then think when something doesn't fit us that it's somehow our fault."

Dunn's models also have a group on Facebook where they support each other, compliment each other, and generally lift each other up. Model Stephanie describes it this way: "We see the beauty in one another and help each other to recognize our own beauty at the same time." Fashion leading to body optimism and confidence? Yes, please.

And Dunn herself drives a hard line when it comes to feeling good in the skin you've been given. Her philosophy is this: No matter what size you are, that's not what dictates your worth or your beauty.

Self-worth not based on appearances. That's a category we can all aspire to "fit" into!


This article originally appeared on 07.27.16

Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

Returning to school after summer break meant the return of classes and new lockers, but for me it also meant heading back to basketball practice. I can't say I remember most games or practices, but certain memories still stick in my mind — and some don't even have to do with basketball at all. Like the time I was sitting on the gym floor one day before practice, lacing up my shoes, when an assistant coach on the boy's team came over to me. "Did you lose weight this summer?" he asked. "Were you trying to?" I was 15.

My teenage years, like many people's, were a time when my appearance occupied my thoughts more than almost anything else. The idea of being thinner or smaller was always appealing to me then, no matter what size I was. Given this, the idea of someone — anyone — thinking I looked smaller should have been appealing to me, but when this coach asked me that question, I remember feeling hot with an immediate wave of embarrassment. "How big had I been last year? Did I not look OK then? Maybe I should have worked out more."

The real answer to his question was that I had spent most of the summer playing competitive basketball, working out for three or four hours a day, four days a week. I hadn't really had time to focus on weight loss at all, but I guess it had happened. Suddenly, though, I was feeling like maybe I should have been more focused on it. If this person, a grown adult, had recognized that I was smaller, then obviously he recognized I was bigger before. I had room to improve, clearly, and I still had room to improve. It would be another decade before I finally learned to be content as is.


But if you ever find yourself in a group of women, one of the things you might notice immediately is how quickly the conversation can turn from, well, just about anything to a full discussion on everyone's bodies. Comments like, "Oh my gosh, you look so tiny!" are peppered into conversation frequently, and the expected response is almost always, "Thank you." If you're like me, and being tiny is a physical impossibility, it's hard to interpret these kind of compliments as anything but a failure on your part. It's equally hard not to overanalyze body-focused comments — especially if you have a history of disordered eating, body dysmorphia, or a combination of all of the above.

RELATED: This guide to weight and body image from the Girl Scouts is freaking amazing

Dr. Kevin Gilliland is a licensed clinical psychologist and Executive Director of Innovation 360, an outpatient counseling service. Dr. Gilliland tells me that commenting on someone else's body is "more personal and private than most people imagine."

"Why take the risk of commenting on something that's incredibly personal and has a high likelihood of being taken the wrong way?" Dr. Gilliland says. "Whether it's height, weight, or some physical aspect, we humans often have strong thoughts (sometimes irrational) or insecurities that someone can't imagine."

In a society that praises thin bodies and often penalizes and demeans bigger bodies, the inherent assumption can sometimes be that if someone lost weight, it's because they wanted to. Even if they didn't aim to, the assumption is often that the weight loss is a pleasant surprise anyway. But the truth, as Dr. Gilliland tells me, is often much more complicated than that.

"What are some of the other reasons people lose weight? Cancer treatment, autoimmune disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, eating disorder, stressed due to working and caring for elderly parents, depression – to name a few," Dr. Gilliland says. "We don't know why people lose weight and assume it's for a good reason. It may be or it may not be. How can you tell? You can't."

I hadn't been trying to lose weight that summer when I was 15, but one comment spiraled me into thinking that even when I thought my body was OK, turns out it would still be better if I lost weight. That one comment also made me think long and hard before I commented on other people's bodies going forward, and made me hyperaware of body-focused compliments that people would make around me. When friends would compliment another friend in our group by saying something like, "Skinny mini!" I immediately thought about what it meant that I wasn't skinny. Because if being skinny is good, then logic follows that not being skinny is quite clearly bad. I don't blame people for these types of comments, though. It's ingrained in our culture that these types of compliments are, well, compliments. And it's a hard habit to break. Luckily, though, there are shifts happening.

RELATED: Team USA heptathlete Chari Hawkins on overcoming anxiety and making 'strong sexy' for women in sports

Nutrition exercise specialist, N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer, and author Liz Josefsberg tells me there are so many other things that you can compliment your friends on these days than weight — and that it's probably a good idea to stick to those.

"I advise people [to] stick to complimenting [others] for the things they do well, work well done, or things they have accomplished," Josefsberg, who is a nutrition expert for The Vitamin Shoppe, tells me. "Body image and the journey that each person is on with their own body is highly personal."

The assumption that every person, and especially every woman, simply wants to be skinny more than anything else is slowly dying out. And the less we all compliment and comment on other people's bodies, the faster that's going to go away. And the faster that goes away, the better we'll all feel about ourselves.

"... women don't lose weight for others opinions as much anymore," Josefsberg tells me. "They feel good at all different sizes as long as they are healthy. And I think that is exactly how it should be."

Most Shared

Finally, a plus-size character on TV whose story isn't about her weight.

'There has not been one line in this entire show for the entire season that addresses my weight.'

Plus-size representation on TV needs a lot of work.

It's rare to see characters who aren't thin in lead roles. But even when we do, those characters are often defined by their size, with stories revolving around weight loss struggles ("This Is Us") a continued barrage of fat jokes ("American Housewife"), or thin actors wearing fat suits in flashbacks ("Friends," "New Girl").

This is one reason why Paula Proctor is so damn awesome.


Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW.

If you missed the memo, Paula is the hilarious paralegal BFF to the series' star, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), on The CW's critically acclaimed musical romcom "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Every week, the character, portrayed by Broadway alum Donna Lynne Champlin, challenges a status quo that says plus-size characters aren't deserving of the same complex, nuanced storylines their slimmer counterparts receive.

In an interview with Bust magazine in 2016, Champlin opened up about why playing Paula has been so refreshing.

On the show, viewers have watched Paula struggle to balance family commitments with law school, iron out relationship woes with friends, and get swept off her feet by a man that's (gasp!) not her husband. She's also one of few characters on TV to have had an abortion and not be punished or shamed for it. A storyline we haven't seen unfold, however, is one involving Paula's weight.

As Champlin explained to Bust:

"There has not been one line in this entire show for the entire season that addresses my weight. And we're always eating real food — donuts, burritos. We're always drinking. That's a huge thing for us that we're really eating. We're not sipping [cups] of shit that have nothing in them."

Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW.

"My type is middle-aged woman, not thin," Champlin said. "I look like the average American middle-aged woman. The only TV roles I've ever had were for the secretary, the cop, the nurse. The acceptable nonsexual place for a middle-aged woman to be on TV. They would be 1-2 lines and that was it, and never be a series regular. That was unheard of."

Thanks to actors like Champlin and roles like Paula, we've seen progress on plus-size representation on TV. But we have a long way to go.

Actors like Champlin or Melissa McCarthy — now a true, money-making Hollywood star — have certainly helped open doors for other women who aren't a size 2 or 4 or 6 or even an 8. The average American woman is a size 16.

Even when those doors are open to plus-size actors, however, we still "treat them like crap," Jezebel pointed out. Comedian Rebel Wilson's career has taken off in recent years, for instance — but her weight is often the butt of her jokes. Chrissy Metz worked her way into the hearts of millions starring in NBC's "This Is Us," but her character's opening scene was her staring quietly at a sweet treat in the refrigerator, fighting the temptation to take a bite.

That's why Paula's presence on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is truly making a difference to viewers of all sizes.

Photo by Scott Everett White/The CW.

When Paula donned a fitted, red dress in one musical number, the power of representation spoke loud and clear.

"The internet exploded with plus-size women saying, 'Where the fuck did you get that dress? It’s amazing,'" Champlin told Bust.

GIF via "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend."

"What I loved about it, is it was tight. There was no apologizing me and hiding me. The boobs were up, and the dress was tight, and that thing sold out online in a matter of minutes."

If TV writers are smart, they'll not only include more plus-size characters in their shows, but they'll also swap those tired fat-shaming, weight-centric storylines for more powerful, fearless, red dress scenes like Paula's.

Family

Gabourey Sidibe lost weight. Then she was criticized. It says a lot about our world.

'It's been a 30-year thing of other people putting their own stuff on my body. But it's mine, so I will police it, thank you.'

In May 2016, actor Gabourey Sidibe had weight loss surgery.

As Sidibe explained to People magazine, the decision to go through with the procedure was both difficult and personal.

Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Hulu.


Now, a year after the surgery, Sidibe is opening up about the reactions she's gotten for her visibly smaller size.

While you might think that losing weight would earn her nothing but praise from the thin-obsessed world we live in, it turns out people's reactions haven't been too great.

As Sidibe explained to NPR, before the surgery, people liked to tell her that she needed to lose weight. Now that she's had the surgery, people have felt compelled to warn her not to lose too much. It's literally a lose-lose.

No matter what her body looks like, she's noticed, people feel they have a right to tell her what to do with it.

As the actor explained:

"It's important because I don't happen to have the kind of body that we usually see on television and in films. I am plus-size, I have dark skin, and I am 100% beautiful, but I get a lot of flak. 'Oh, you should lose weight.' And now that I have lost weight — I lost weight for health reasons — I get, 'You look good, but don't lose too much weight because your face is starting to sink in.'"

Sidibe also noted the awkward comments she'll get from others celebrating her weight loss for the wrong reasons:

"Literally someone said, 'Congratulations, I see you lost weight. Congratulations.' And I say, 'That's a weird thing to congratulate me on because this is my body.'"

Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

Sidibe's experiences exemplify the impossible beauty standards women face and why — when it comes to weight — you really should "mind your own body."

All of us (but particularly women) are relentlessly pressured to adhere to absurd standards when it comes to appearance. These expectations are ridiculous when it comes to defining "real" beauty, of course, but they're also ridiculous when it comes to defining our health.

A person's weight, generally speaking, really doesn't tell you all that much about their health, many experts say. And even if it could, what someone else does with their body is their business and their business alone. A person's weight, in and of itself, is not something to be congratulated for.

Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP.

Every body looks differently, works differently, and serves the person who inhabits it differently. And that's important to remember if we're considering the size or shape of someone else — or ourselves.

Sidibe gets it.

"This has been my body since I was 5-ish, you know?" she told NPR. "It's been a 30-year thing of other people putting their own stuff on my body. But it's mine, so I will police it, thank you."