That person was a well meaning relative trying to put a positive spin on the fact that at the time I looked more than a little like a walking stick figure. When Crystal Renn was 14, someone told her she could be a supermodel one day. That person was a scout for a modeling agency and he explained that all she had to do was lose a bit of weight. Renn had the height, lost 42 percent of her body weight to get the shape, and went to New York City at 16 to begin her career as a straight size model. Two years later she put all the weight back on, went into plus size modeling, and became the supermodel she had been told she could become.
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As someone who has often struggled with personal body image and self-loathing, it was a poignant book for me to read. To read how Crystal starved and exercised herself to skeletal results, and later embraced health and happiness by accepting her body was an eye-opener. I could eat anything I wanted to. I was running so much mileage and burning so many calories, a plate full of spaghetti or an extra helping of dessert never bothered me. I hovered around lbs. As a runner, all my friends were stick figures.
Pretty stick figures that I wanted to emulate. But I never had a problem with my weight, I was happy with how I looked, and I never felt fat. In college, the Freshman Fifteen arrived, and stuck around.
I was suddenly miserable; my metabolism had finally caught up to me. Been doing the math? My wedding dress was a problem. I left the dress in Indiana, refusing to try it on again, in denial of the added pounds.
A month before the wedding, my mother insisted that I try on the dress, and I did, though I could barely breathe in it. When she expressed concern, I shrugged it off, chalking it up to being bloated and saying I had a month to get slimmed down. The weight loss never happened. Two days before my wedding, my mother again made me try on the dress again. Bursting into tears, I left the dress in a pile on the floor. Mom has always been conscious of my weight, but not in any way that is intentionally cruel.
She does not want me to be unhealthy, and she wants me to be confident and happy with the way I look. That day, however, I felt I had failed her, and everyone else who was arriving for my wedding day. The hero of that day was my father. Dad has struggled with his weight for years, and seeing his daughter so distraught sent him into action. He started calling any tailor in town who could alter wedding dresses, and one of them said they could fix my dress that same day, with an extra fee for express alterations, of course.
Thankfully, the dress I had picked was not ornate, lacking lace and beading that would make any alterations difficult. Margaret was so kind, seeing how upset I was, and I left my dress in her hands. A few hours later, it was ready. Less than an inch. In my head, I was imagining yards of fabric bridging the gap to cover my fatness.
My wedding dress aside, I deployed to Iraq in December weighing more than I ever had before. I ate anything put in front of me. The first time I had to buy a dress or jeans in the double-digit sizes, I almost cried. How had I let it get this far?
Was I FAT? To me, "ballooning" to a size 8 had been distressing enough. Double-digits made me think I was plus-size. Crystal Renn fluctuates between a size 10 and 12, and is considered to be a plus-size model, despite being the same size as most "normal" women. Always a compulsive and perfectionistic person, she was a textbook case for anorexia. Now, she realizes so much of it was about control. Body dysmorphia and the pressure to be a stick-thin model took over her life, and she literally starving.
Renn does not believe we should all be overweight; she wants us to be healthy and have a more realistic perception of what healthy and beautiful look like. Some people are meant to be skinny, others find their equilibrium at a higher weight.
Change your mind to appreciate your real body. For anyone who has ever struggled with weight, body dysmorphia, or even considered disordered eating behavior, this book is worth a look. It definitely gave me a reality check.
Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves
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Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves