I once wrote a piece about how I lost a load of weight and finally fitted into a pair of size 32 jeans. Later, those jeans became so big I’d wear them just so I could be simultaneously irritated and smug when I had to constantly pull them up as they perilously dangled off my down-sized bum. I lost weight by culling my diet to protein, vodka and coffee, which I complemented with fervent cigarette smoking. It worked like a charm. For a while, I was not thin exactly, but a lot less than now. When I squeezed into size 30 jeans, I danced around the changing room and then cried with relief.
That original pair of size 32 jeans is now too small for me to squeeze my re-upsized rear into, so I’m back on the merry-go-round of no carbs and no sugar until they do (I’ve since given up smoking which means it’s going to be a lot harder this time. I’d love to say it hasn’t crossed my mind to start again).
I’ve always been a bit chubby, overweight, fat, large... At ten-years-old I knew I was fat and unattractive because that’s what the boys in my class (and ones in my family sometimes, too) reliably, frequently, mockingly, callously told me. I heard these things before it had occurred to me that my body and my looks could be something I was judged on and castigated for. I remember feeling confused when I looked back, aged 16, at pictures of myself when I was younger, and thinking, ‘but I wasn’t even fat’. I had become so, though. Fuelled by a complete lack of self- confidence and cake, I ballooned. There are hardly any photographs of me as a teenager because, disgusted by my appearance, I destroyed them all. When I hear the word ‘fat’, I still flinch, as only someone at whom that term has been directed as a bitter insult can.
Last year, I interviewed the size 16 model Candice Huffine. I’ve never thought a lot about how models affect me personally. I’ve been watching their lithe bodies traipse down catwalks for years. It is true, however, that when I evaluate a show, it is on the ‘collection’ – on the ideas, on how something will look when shot in a magazine. I’ve never looked at a model on a catwalk and seen anything of myself reflected. Candice Huffine is beautiful. She is also around a similar size to me. Her arms wobbled a bit like mine, her tummy edged a little over her waist band. And I’m sure she doesn’t fit into every pair of jeans that she tries on, either. For the first time, I related to a model. I was surprised at how much of a comfort and relief I found this.
I’ve spent years ignoring the world’s – and my own – issues with weight. When offered help while out jeans shopping I’ve been embarrassed to have to say, ‘I’m a 32, that’s the biggest size you do, so if I can’t wrench my thighs into them, then there’s not much help you can give.’ And when the smiling sales girl holds up a pair of boyfriend jeans and tells me that ‘they come up large, you should probably go down a size’ – I smile and take them, knowing that this will not be true. If anything, they have little stretch in them, so little chance of doing up (the irony is that if you’re bigger, it’s easier to get a pair of skinny jeans on than ‘oversize’ ones). Of course, if the vile Katie Hopkins or pop stars like Jamelia got their way, I’d just shuffle off to a specialist shop to buy something to cover my enormous arse, with the requisite amount of shame for women like myself who struggle saying no to a salted caramel brownie (something that young women such as Eloise Parry, who died taking diet pills, might still like the chance to do).
I want to get back into those jeans because I won’t have anything to wear otherwise. I have a room full of beautiful clothes that I love. But I don’t want to feel ashamed about my size. I don’t want to feel inadequate because I don’t meet Protein World’s expectations of a beach-ready body. It shouldn’t matter if I was a size 2 or 22. We shouldn’t still need to have this conversation. We should be better than that. And fashion should reflect all of its fans.
Follow Victoria on Twitter at @missvmoss