Lies and the lying liars who tell them

They tell you that if you're not as thin as a supermodel or as glamourous as a Hollywood star, well, you can be - if you just buy into this new diet regime or pick up the latest fashion item or wear this new makeup. Just being you, with all your vulnerabilities and flaws and humanity, isn't good enough, and it never will be. Go on. Just try being someone else for a while. It's not so bad when everyone loves the mask you wear, even when you hate yourself for wearing it.

I don't think women can ever really get away from this enormous disconnect between what the mass media constantly tells us we should be versus what we actually are. Men can sympathise, after a fashion, but they don't get it at the same level; there's a reason why most of the top-earning actresses in Hollywood are tall, thin, white, and beautiful, whereas the top earning men are more variable. (The point there is simply that it's largely acceptable for George Clooney to have wrinkles, but not Cameron Diaz. And anyone who argues that Adam Sandler is attractive needs to have their eyes tested.)

Anyway... ad campaigns are the same, more or less - especially on the weight front. It's just not acceptable for female models in adverts to be anything but attractive and thin. Here's an extreme example:

Kate Moss is naturally very thin. If you're one of the 99% of women who are not, then there's a lot of mental damage being inflicted on you all the damn time by the mass media in order to sell you things. And they lie, because like I said before - you will never, ever be that thin and you will never, ever have their glamour, because you are not a clone of a supermodel or a Hollywood actress.

Hit that realisation, and suddenly all the lies turn to dust. Take off the mask and you emerge into a brave new world, where you don't feel guilty about the food you eat and you're not afraid to look at your own face in the mirror. That's the truth that they'd like to keep you from, and it is terrifying when you think about it. What would happen tomorrow if all women, all over the world, suddenly decided that they didn't need makeup or hair dye to feel like they're worth something? What if they all decided that weight loss is a sham, and the real deal is living as healthily as possible - regardless of their shape or size?

Yeah. 90% of advertising would implode, and the fashion and makeup industries would have a revolution overnight. And we'd see Satan skating to work in a bobble hat and scarf, and scientists would unveil a new species of pig with wings.

I guess I'm talking about this because I did something unexpected today. I've been a European size 16-18 for about, oh, seven or eight years now. And today I wore a pair of size 14 hipster jeans to work.

I didn't diet. I had chocolate cake and never once felt guilty. I look at myself in the mirror all the time, and I don't wear makeup. I also avoid mass media like the plague, which means I'm pretty mentally resilient too. All I did, in fact, was change how I ate from day to day because I needed to save money on the grocery bill.

  • My breakfast - a cereal bar and tea. I just can't eat in the morning. I have tea with two sugars and whole milk; another thing that I have never once felt guilty about, despite my mother's best efforts.
  • My lunch - a little instant Knorr Quick Lunch thing, the kind where you just add water and wait a few minutes. I like the curry rice one. And another cup of tea.
  • My dinner - whatever my better half cooks while I work for an hour or two at home. It can be anything from pasta to fajitas to sweet 'n' sour chicken. We have orange juice to drink, and another cup of tea at some point before we go to bed.

This isn't any kind of special diet, apart from the excessive amount of tea drinking - but I was doing that anyway, because this is Ireland and the country is powered by tea. My best guess is that I started eating smaller portions overall by cooking at home and staying in for lunch, and once you get into a routine, it becomes easy. I lost weight, yes - but I didn't do it because it's expected of a woman with any extra body fat. I did it for me, because I wanted to be thrifty.

That, I think, is the second half of the truth. Yes, I lost weight, but I'm more pleased about not having to buy new jeans rather than weighting less. I can take in my old jeans by an inch or two, or wear belts or something. I can pull out some old clothes and wear them rather than spending needed cash on new stuff. I'm saving more money, which is good and what I was aiming for to begin with.

Getting and doing what we want should be the most important thing when it comes to our own bodies. I wake up in the morning, and I know I'll never be as thin as Kate Moss, and that's fine because I'm not aiming for that. I like to imagine that she wakes up and thinks, "Well, I'll never be as broad as Claire, but that's ok - I've got charity work to do." Different people, living different lives.

It all works when you live for your own goals and needs, and not for the image that gets pushed on you by the lying liars who have a vested interest in keeping you insecure.