What's weight got to do with it?

Hey Ladies,

Hope you're well and coping with whatever form of lockdown you find yourself in. 

When I created a blog on Otto + Ivy, it was partly to have a space beyond Instagram to expand on the important subjects that affect tall women. It's the baby daughter of my first blog, All the Tall things; one that sought to have a positive but realistic conversation about both the ruddy lovely, and slightly more challenging aspects of being tall. 

Recently I've felt compelled to talk about something that I touched on previously there. It's not a fun subject, so I've hesitated because I'm not sure whether this is the correct outlet for it or not. But sod it. I'm going to talk about weight. And disordered eating. Or more specifically, the relationship between weight and women over 5'10. 

I need to talk about it because; as 2020 has dragged mercilessly on, I've heard the squeaky little voice of my former body-bashing self trying to seep into my brain again. And I know I'm not alone; thousands of instagram users have been sharing the guilt of comfort-munching and gin-guzzling their way through furlough, WFH or plain old unemployment. 

In many ways it's an absurd time to start worrying about weight; there are people dying the world over from a global pandemic, and there are people working their butts off on the frontline. But we're also surrounded by images of "body transformations", hearing about people on journeys of self-improvement, and in a heightened state of anxiety, so it's not entirely unthinkable that we might get a bit miffed when our jeans don't fit. 

When I was 19, at Exeter university, and supposedly having the time of my life, I became obsessed with my weight. I would write down every calorie consumed and chastise myself if I ever had a binge. I became dangerously thin. My skin went grey, my eyes went hollow and my periods were erratic. I would go out to a nightclub and be so cold that I'd go and sit in the toilets for half the night under the hand dryers. I would lie awake, starving, counting down the hours until I could have the handful of sultana bran I'd allow myself to eat for breakfast. I'd have huge highs of emotion followed by crashing lows. I was a dull, miserable and freezing cold shadow of my former self.

Why did it happen? Lots of reasons, some too cliched to even mention. But I can't help thinking that my height may have given me a skewed idea of my own body image. The number on my scales seemed unthinkable when all my shorter friends were 8 or 9 stone. I'd look at photos of me next to a 5'6 size 8 girl and feel huge. Most of the men I dated were shorter than me, and I wondered if I'd feel daintier and more feminine if I was thinner.

Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones and came out the other side of it within a couple of years. I dread to think what would have happened if I hadn't. A lot of people say that once you've had an eating disorder, you're always susceptible to it again. But I know my triggers and how to avoid them; I recognise when that whiney little voice seeps in again and I tell her where to shove it (she's called Petunia by the way). I never read magazines about dieting, I literally walk away when my friends talk about their weight, and most importantly, I threw out the scales and am pleased to say that this new year marked fifteen years since the last time I weighed myself. I refused to let the midwives tell me what I weighed during pregnancy, and it was so liberating. I'm slim now because I exercise (not obsessively -- I am a basic lockdown bitch and do 20 minutes of Joe Wicks three times a week), and try to eat healthily (sort of... because...pizza), but I'll never be much thinner again because I know how miserable I was in reality.

But now being a mother, it terrifies me that my children will one day see images of 'thigh-gaps' (not even a concept that existed when I was a teenager), and glossy, filtered-to-f*ck images of instagrammers, and see those as #goals. It's made me even more determined to stay on track with my idea of a healthy body image, and banish weighing scales from the house forever. And it worries me that young women (or any women for that matter) reading this might be going through a similar thing that I went through.

So here are some myths that need debunking.

1) Tall women are naturally skinny.

Nooooooooo. 
Most of us know that this is bullsh*t. Not everyone has hollow legs. I know petite women who can do three rounds at the Carvery. I know tall women who sniff a cheesecake and get instant fat face. Give yourself a break. It's fine for a 5'1 woman to be bigger than a size 14, and it's fine for a 6'1 woman to be bigger than a size 14 as well. 

2) 'Weight' matters.

Do your clothes fit? Can you climb the stairs without fainting? Yes? Chuck the scales out then. And NEVER compare your weight with a person of 'normal' height. Your skeleton is twice as long for a start. Your head is bigger. Your feet are bigger. YOU WILL NOT WEIGH WHAT A 5'2 INFLUENCER ON LOVE ISLAND WEIGHS. 

3) Your hubby/boyfriend/one-night-stand should be bigger and taller than you.

Unless you're particularly fussy or use the Dutch version of Tinder, your other half could well be about a foot shorter than you. He might even -- GASP -- be thinner than you too. But if he really bloody loves you, then LET HIM. And remember that kindness, good humour and excellent manners are much more important than the ability to make you feel tiny. 

I'm really interested to know your thoughts on weight as a tall woman. Do you think your height has had a negative or positive affect on your attitude towards your weight and frame? If you've also suffered from an eating disorder, do you feel like your height was a factor?

We're never going to feel 'little'. We might rarely be described as 'cute'. But we can be glamorous, statuesque, feminine, commanding and strong. Once we accept the fact that we'll never have the build of our smaller mates, we can start loving everything we do have. Remember, life is short. Even if you're not.

Laura xx

@ottoandivyshoes
www.ottoandivy.com

P.S. Thought I'd leave you with this little gem from @meandmyed.art

8 comments

  • Thank you for writing this. Being 6ft and a size 18-20 l love my height and body. I go to the gym, spin and circuit classes and boxing training with my boxing coach three times a week. Its not about being skinny its about being strong! And healthy.

    I never get on scales or enter into conversations about weight. I dont buy fashion magazines because I dont see myself represented in them. I have worked in fashion and been involved managing production in fashion shows for London Fashion week.

    Being tall l embrace my height and make 95% of my own clothes. The slight problem was buying shoes. I used to go to the U.S.A and buy in at least 6 pairs each trip. Now there are independent shoes stores like yours here in the UK which I love.

    Vee
  • Your message is one that needs to be shared wide and far. Being a curvy 6ft2 woman has always made be feel big. During my younger years, I wished to be petite and cute but over time I’m slowly coming round to the idea that that’s not me. I’m tall and proud and I just hope that our children can build up the tools to ignore the social media norm and embrace who they are with pride.
    Keep sharing your message far and wide 😊

    Rebecca
  • Hi Ladies,

    Can’t seem to reply individually… so apologies for the disjointed responses!

    @Leslie So brave to share something that you feel a bit ashamed about. The reaction you have had to “fatness” is down to social conditioning, and recognising those assumptions is the first step to making change and being kinder. And you are always amongst friends here xxx

    @Lorna… it’s so tricky not to be envious of other women, but I’m sure you have so many things they envy too. We definitely all feel a pang of jealousy sometimes (often!) xxx

    @Larissa I totally agree. The couples’ height thing is an annoying vestige of the patriarchy and it needs to be quashed immediately! Well done for being an exception to the “rule” , and contributing to a change in attitude.

    @Mel… bloody nicknames! I always have to keep reminding people that I’m “tall” not “big”! So glad that your come from a supportive family, sounds like they’ve kept your head screwed on :) xxx

    Laura xx

    Laura (Otto + Ivy)
  • Hi there – I’m 6 foot and decided very early on that my weight had nothing to do with it. I will always be 6 foot and I will always get unkind comments from people with very small minds. This no doubt saved me from an eating disorder. But I’m a bit ashamed (but hey, I’m among friends right?) to admit that this insight made me fattist for a while. Because whatever I do I will always be 6 foot, but fat people have a choice – they can eat less and be thinner. So I haven’t always had much sympathy for their difficulties. I did get through that, and I hope I’m a better person now.

    Lesley Hudswell
  • Yes!! This!! I spend so much time and energy comparing my body to my much shorter friends and then some! I’m 6ft tall and have never felt “little”-even when I try to! I’m bigger than a 14 and feel particularly envious when I see a slim woman the same height or taller but…everyone is different. It’s a struggle, but I am working on changing my mindset and not focussing so much on body image and hating myself, it’s definitely good to know there are others out there who feel the same and that we are so much more than a number on a scales or a clothes tag!

    Lorna

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