What Losing 35 Pounds Taught Me - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


What Losing 35 Pounds Taught Me

Losing the weight was the easy part. Dealing with the billion-dollar brainwash is what really blew my mind.


Everyone plays the weight game. There are hundreds of articles on everything from the tendency towards obesity to weight-loss tips, eating disorders, how to dress to look thinner, and so on and so on. The weight issue is a big one in our society and just about everyone can relate.

What Losing 35 Pounds Taught Me

I can remember when I was maybe ten, that age when how you look starts to matter, and I couldn’t wear leggings because my legs were too skinny. Yes too skinny. I was at the other end of the weight spectrum. I was embarrassingly thin. That became my identity: I was the skinny girl. But it wasn’t easy. I couldn’t find clothes that fit and I had to get everything tailored because even a size zero was too big sometimes. I never thought much of it. It was just the way I was. I ate what I wanted but I was just built smaller.

As I entered high school I soon realized that my thinness was a commodity, and for the first time I became aware of the reality of weight: size matters and the thinner the better. Rather than reveling in my thinness, in an attempt to not be left out of the weight game, I joined my friends and declared that I was fat. I didn’t actually believe it, but I knew that if I told people that I liked the way I looked I would be an instant outcast.

Fast-forward to college and things began to change. I gained the freshman 15 and the sophomore 10, followed by the junior 5, and the senior 5. Grad school proved to be more fattening, so much so that when it was all said and done, I was 35 pounds heavier than when I was 17. I had “ballooned” to a size 10. But just like before, I liked the way I looked. I actually liked being a bit bigger. I liked the way clothes looked on me, even though I was now a size large in many of my favorite stores. But I soon realized, again, that what I thought had nothing to do with it.

People began asking me “what happened,” and “oh you better be careful, once you go down that road there’s no turning back” and of course, my grandmother’s: “Oh no, you’ve let yourself go”. I was suddenly the social outcast again, and just like when I was ten and had to avoid leggings, now, bright prints and horizontal stripes were my enemy, or so the magazines told me.

I never fully understood the absurdity of it all until I lost just ten pounds – after having my wisdom teeth removed. Suddenly everyone noticed and praised me for the weight loss, as if I’d just achieved something monumental. No one mentioned anything about my new job, or having undergone major dental surgery, it was all about those 10 pounds.

I didn’t care, I was just living my life, like I had been since I was a child. Sometimes thin, sometimes a bit bigger, but I was still the same person. Why couldn’t anyone else see this?

Shortly after, I was commissioned by a well-known women’s magazine to lose 35 pounds and document my weight loss. I managed to lose the weight in six months (thanks to a low-sugar vegan diet) but gained it all back (I couldn’t stay away from the cheese!) only to realize that the problem was much bigger than me. While researching for my article, which was meant to be about my experience as a heavier person in a thin-obsessed society, I came to the conclusion that what was actually going on was a “billion-dollar brainwash”. Corporations gain from making women think they are too heavy and set unreasonable standards for them to aim for and fail.

What Losing 35 Pounds Taught Me

Twiggy. I don’t get it either.

The starting point of this mass market strategy can be traced back to a 92 pound model named Twiggy. Since her debut in 1967, when she became the darling of the fashion world and the incongruous ideal of nearly everyone else, her image (and that of her latter-day clones like Kate Moss) has been milked for billions. During the first decade after Twiggy’s debut, the annual take from the labyrinthine American anti-fat industry soared to $10 billion, 95% of which was spent by women. And in the following decades, that total has quintupled.

Could it be that all that dieting, guilt, constant worrying, strategic dressing, and money spent has nothing to do with “health” and “beauty” at all, and instead is all about big corporations making a buck, or billion? Yes! And to prove it, we just need to look at examples of beauty ideals pre-Twiggy.

What Losing 35 Pounds Taught Me

Arguably one of the most desirable women of all time, and a beauty icon still, Marilyn Monroe was a size 12 (in today’s American ‘vanity’ sizing, she’d probably be a size 8). Even before her, the beauties of the late 1800’s like actress Lillian Russell, who was the most desirable woman of her time, weighed nearly 200 pounds.

What Losing 35 Pounds Taught Me

Clearly if these heavier women were beautiful then, women like them can’t possibly all of sudden be considered abhorred, and be discriminated against, without some catalyst to have changed our views. That catalyst is big-business. It’s a simple formula: the more insecure women are, the more products they buy in an attempt to make themselves feel better.

The only way to fight back is for women to accept their bodies as they are. Now, I’m not endorsing a life of obesity. I’m just bringing attention to the fact that women, thus far, have been driven less by their own concerns over health and more by their roles as consumers.

In an age of personal responsibility and a “no victims wanted” mentality, this theory of mass conspiracy isn’t an easy one to accept. But the facts are undeniable:

  • 53% of American girls age 13 are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen.
  • Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.
  • In the largest such survey to date, nearly 30,000 women stated that they’d rather lose weight than achieve ANY other goal, despite the fact that only 25% were overweight and 25% were actually underweight.
  • 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25% of girls with high self-esteem.
  • 7 out of 10 girls in grades 5-12 said they get their idea of a “perfect body” from models in magazines.
  • There are now 50 times more women suffering from anorexia and bulimia than are living with AIDS.
  • 98% of girls feel there is an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way.
  • 92% of teen girls would like to change something about the way they look, with body weight ranking the highest.
  • 90% of eating disorders are found in girls.

The bottom line? Women need to break free from what they are told they should look like. They need to only be concerned with what they know is best for them, based on their genes, health concerns, body type and lifestyle. It sounds easy, but it’s a challenge in a society that has one image and one image only to sell.

Originally from Denver and now living in NYC, Angie has been writing since she was small. She lives in the Flatiron district with her partner Tanya and their mutt Sparky (always adopt!) In her spare time she loves to paint (mostly abstract) and talk to random people on the street to find out what's interesting to them.

Reader Discussion: 137 Comments

  1. Teri Bennett

    If you’re fat, you get shamed. If you’re too thin, you get shamed. I don’t understand how people are anymore. It’s like every normal thing is shamed just because you’re being who you are. That’s why at the end of the day, you should just accept yourself and all your flaws. In the end it’s always the way you think about yourself that matters. In the end it will always be your choice to feel better or feel bad about it all. The world is wired to be unfair to almost anything and anyone. Deal with it.

    • I think being healthy is the most important, no matter if your fat or thin, if you are healthy non of this matters. The marketing world should focus on healthy in all sizes!

  2. Helen Griffith

    The media has so many faults for a lot of issues going on with society. Whoever started this trend is just plain annoying.

  3. Cheryl Curry

    There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are. People say it’s narcissistic but it’s just what people need nowadays. To love themselves rather than hate who they are!!

    • Meredith Boyd

      I agree, there’s so much hate going on with almost everything and a little self-appreciation wouldn’t harm anyone.

  4. Faye Phillips

    The results of people who have eating disorder are very alarming. I’ve watched this Netflix movie To The Bone and while it didn’t exactly enlighten me on why people feel this way, I know that it’s a serious issue. I hate that it’s becoming more of a trend that other people think is cool, instead of treating it like a real illness that gets in the way of life of a lot of people. It’s a real issue. It’s not a fad that’s going to go away the moment we open our eyes. It needs real solutions and answers.

  5. Bobbie Gilbert

    I’m a healthy young woman but I’m not the thinnest. I’m okay with how my body looks and I do take the time to exercise. Regardless of how healthy I eat and how my lifestyle is, I was never thin. The bone structure has always been on the bigger side, I’m not petite either. That’s how my body is eversince and I would never want it any other way.

  6. Sheryl Martinez

    When you’re trying to lose weight, please make sure that the reason why you’re doing it is not because you want to be accepted by the society, but because you want it for yourself and not for others.

  7. Josephine Murphy

    Everyone always has something to say about other people. That’s unavoidable and completely normal. But the way we voice out those opinions that matter the most. The way sometimes it would be a lot more polite to keep mean opinions to yourself. Everyone is entitled to all their opinions, but it doesn’t always mean that you have to spit the wrong words out. There’s even no need to lie or be sarcastic about it. Some words are just better left unsaid so they don’t hurt other people.

    • Gretchen Evans

      True, just because people are entitled to their opinion it doesn’t mean they could belittle other people.

  8. Verna Clarke

    Normally, I would try not to mind body shamers. But even if you try your best not to, it still affects you. You just simply become more aware about how your body does not meet society’s standards, even if you learn how to love your body, it could only help you to an extent.

  9. Renee Bryan

    Everyone is a victim of this. It’s not just normal people, but also celebrities and models.

  10. Freda Spencer

    The media would always mess up our self-esteem. It could always make us feel crap about ourselves but once you really think of it, they don’t even mean anything to us. I mean, they’re of no significance in our lives. We don’t need their opinion.

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