Shape Magazine and the Secret to Skinny

After three years in the dorms, and one and a half years of almost-worse-than-the-dorms-apartment-dwelling, at graduation I had finally earned my best living situation of my single life to that point.  At one time, five girls had been living in this fabulous, two-story, four-bedroom, three-bathroom, town-home and all but one moved out just before I moved in.  The place not only remained fully furnished for my ridiculously low sub-letter’s rent, but the fridge, pantry, and laundry room were left fully stocked.  Whatever clothes, shoes, books, or anything else you can imagine needing in college that didn’t fit into one of their four-door cars the night they left town, also remained at my disposal.  At least two of these girls were my exact same size and shoe size.  Bonus.  And, three of them had worked for Starbucks in Waco which meant the freezer held a Spring’s supply of free coffee and the kitchen, a plethora of to-go mugs to choose from.  Bonus.

And because every girl in the entire house had been in the same sorority (as each other, not me, I wasn’t in a sorority) there were several dozen Greek-lettered t-shirts left in every closet.  I put one on without thinking one afternoon to go work out on campus.  I couldn’t figure out why so many young undergraduate boys were checking me out and so many little undergraduate girls smiling at me timidly.  At some point, when someone who actually knew me approached to comment that I was committing heresy, I realized, a little late, that all the rumors were true: being in a sorority does make a girl pretty.  And popular.  (NOTE: I never worked out on campus again without wearing one of those magic t-shirts.)

In addition to the free food, coffee, vitamins, and popularity living in this place was affording me (the best 4 months of my life, by the way) these girls also left behind two magazine subscriptions.  One was to Shape, the other to Fitness. I learned within 3 issues that it probably isn’t healthy to actually subscribe to one of these magazines (and its advice) as a method of actually maintaining one’s shape and fitness.  Here’s the thing.  First, both of these magazines might as well be the SAME magazine.  Second, every single issue of one of these magazines might as well be the same issue.  Every successive cover boasts that the secret to a tiny tummy, thin thighs, flat abs, running a 5K, attaining a rock hard stomach, losing that last 5lbs, or losing the muffin top lies within.  What actually lies within is the exact same article: here’s a quick routine to do within the comfort of your own home where you substitute random heavy household objects for whatever gym paraphernalia you cannot afford for about 5 days a week.  Combine this with a healthy diet and consistency and all your dreams come true.

How in the world do they expect anyone to be consistent when next month will introduce a completely new routine?

Anyway, I was waiting in line at the grocery store yesterday (a new checker’s line and a lady with about 5,000 coupons at 5pm) when I noticed that Shape magazine has not changed in the last 7 years.  I imagine they are just recirculating the same 36 issues and hoping their readers have forgotten what they read 3 years ago (and are still struggling with maintaining fitness due to the monthly changes in routine).  But I noticed something else as well.  I am positively baffled by the fact that there are women in the world who are still asking, “How do I lose weight?”  As if that question hasn’t been answered five-hundred million times (a hundred million by Oprah alone) and as if the answer has suddenly changed.

I read the answers and I think, “Maybe that would work.  But probably not.  Tune in next month to see if you get an answer that better suits you.”  Mind you, no one is asking ME how to lose weight.  This is one thing I am not complaining about because it is secretly a conversation I fear, even among friends.  (When it does come up in conversation, I always quickly mumble something about lucky genetics and an abundance of fiber in my diet.)

If Shape or Fitness would hire me to be the correspondence expert I’d answer every weight-loss strategy question with this: first, make about three major life changes all at the same time.  Then, start packing your breakfast and lunch in a paper sack and carry it with you every day into the Amazon (or another environment with similar weather patterns).  Only drive your car two days a week, if you can help it.  Do not step inside a clothing store or on a scale for at least three months, shower in the dark, and get one of those belts that has a cinch chord instead of the holes.  When the headaches begin, ignore them, or blame them on your stress.  When your joints start to ache, complain about lack of sleep and increase your hydration.

But truthfully, about 3 months before John and I got married (and mind you, this is still 2 months before we were engaged) I was moved from my high functioning group at the wilderness camp – the group I had created – to the worst group on property.  I don’t remember a lot of details about that summer except that it was ridiculously hot and humid (and I lived outside), my group was so bad we rarely made it inside to eat our meals, and I walked around all day in what I thought was a lack-of-sleep induced migraine and overall lethargy.  It wasn’t until I went shopping for my wedding dress that I realized I had lost 20% of my body weight and dropped 4 sizes.  And I haven’t gained the weight back since.  Not even at the peak of my pregnancies.

It turns out that anxiety causes me to lose weight (well, that combined with the general lack of appetite produced by eating spaghetti and garlic bread in 100 degree weather).  And not working out (even a little bit) allows me to maintain that weight.  Because for me, no working out = no muscles, which = no weight gain, which = all of my damn Express jeans are sagging in the butt within four months of purchase, which = I look like I have the body of a tall 12 year old boy.

Don’t hate me.  I’m not complaining.  But I am saying this.  Insecurity is insecurity, whether a woman feels too fat or too skinny.  I think Elizabeth Taylor gets the credit for saying that the secret to looking beautiful at any age is “wearing clothes that fit.”  It is true.  Another secret is this: getting over it.  (John informs me that self-loathing is actually unattractive.)  So I’m getting over it.  Thank you Mom, for the new pants.  But, uh, when I’m completely done having babies, can I get some new boobs?

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2 comments on “Shape Magazine and the Secret to Skinny
  1. John says:

    I don’t think it will be your mom buying your new boobs…

  2. Claire, you are one of the most beautiful people I have ever met in real life.

    p.s. I really wish you wouldn’t have come back to camp for those fantastic boots.

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