Tag Archives: vanity

It’s really ok to want to look good

Recently I met some old friends. At a kid’s birthday party. At a society AGM (oops, haven’t attended one for years).

On both occasions, I received certain remarks.

Me: “Hey man, you look good!”

Friend: “Thanks! But, surely, not as fit as you.”

And just yesterday, the one I got was, “I also want” as my friend cast his eyes on my torso.

Now I’m not here to boast. I’m here to say that, it’s perfectly acceptable to want to look good. I think many people, who feel they do not look good enough, whether it is because of having a bad shape or having bad fashion sense, feel they don’t have the capacity to look good.

When I was fat, I would look at myself, pinch the fat around my tummy and then have vague feelings of resignation and acceptance. Then it’s forgotten. Until the next time I do it again, be it in the shower or while snacking on something.  Every day or so that we do this, we slowly, gradually accept that this is it. It’s noorr-merl.

It’s normal that other people are slim(mer), that there will always be others who look better.  I’m “ok” with that. It’s a thought that lasts maybe a second. Then it’s back to normerl life.

But you still want to look good.  And, as I said, that’s perfectly acceptable. There’s nothing wrong with vanity.  Vanity is not a crime. It may not be something you want to brag or talk about, you may even think you don’t need it, or deserve it. But you can have it, really.

I can tell you, getting rid of that vague feeling of normerl life takes only about 6-12 months of committing to a exercise-and-diet regime. After that, you can look good. Really good, and be the target of envy. It is possible. It is entirely doable.

Changing your body this way is like walking into a portal into another world – you are surprised that this other, more beautiful world actually exists. You always thought it was just the stuff of fantasy. And when you are there, you don’t want to go back to the normerl world. You’d rather be ab-normerl in a world where being fat used to be the norm.

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What would it take to persuade you to exercise?

“What would it take to persuade you to exercise?” asks this article, Changing Our Tune on Exercise, at the NY Times (27 Aug 2012).

It’s something that I think is very important. For years and years, I’ve always been too lazy to exercise. I still am.

“For decades, people have been bombarded with messages that regular exercise is necessary to lose weight, prevent serious disease and foster healthy aging. And yes, most people say they value these goals. Yet a vast majority of Americans — two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese — have thus far failed to swallow the “exercise pill.”

Exactly! Humans aren’t logical. We know exercise is good, but that’s no guarantee we’ll do it. No pain, no gain, right? Yes we know, but it seems our desire for the gain isn’t as strong as our desire to avoid the pain.

According to the article, researchers now say we should not be offering the prospect of “future health, weight loss and body image” as incentives to exercise. Instead we should “portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness.” It seems, people won’t bite if they see the benefits of exercise as distant or theoretical. The benefits must be reaped in the short term, immediately.

Well, so much for long term investment! We are still hedonistic, materialistic creatures of short term gains. But there is a point.

Essentially, Dr Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan, says we should stop positioning exercise as punishment for being fat and unhealthy. We should instead advertize exercise as a means of gaining daily, palpable benefits. She adds,

“Physical activity is an elixir of life, but we’re not teaching people that. We’re telling them it’s a pill to take or a punishment for bad numbers on the scale. Sustaining physical activity is a motivational and emotional issue, not a medical one.”

They say that different people have different motivations for keeping fit. Many do so for the classic reasons – to lose weight. But for some, such as the elderly, it is the conversations and companionship at gyms that are a bigger draw. For the younger ones, the need to look good is an important motivator.

I started out knowing that I needed a trainer to exercise. I never and still don’t have the will to exercise voluntarily. For more than two decades I knew I had to exercise, but I’d only succeeded in doing so by myself, maybe twice, and obviously my success was limited.

As my children grew, I began to feel that I owed it to them to live longer. I was tired of being fat. I was also motivated by appearance, except I didn’t realize it when I started. It was the sight of an ex-colleague who appeared at a reunion dinner missing practically half of her original mass, that really inspired me. I would go on to train under her trainer. And only the day(s) I found myself fitting into “slim fit”, size S and 29″ pants did I began to realize that, hey, the appearance factor is a BIG, AWESOME thing. It thrilled the hell out of me that I could finally look good. And it didn’t matter that I am age 39 – hey I look even better, I think, than some 20-somethings.

So, regardless of your motivation (or lack of), nowadays whenever someone asks me why I did this, among the words I use will always be something they may not have expected. Vanity.

Making yourself fit the cut of clothes

The cut of a piece of clothing, I’ve always known even before losing weight, is important for getting the right shape out of your clothes. The cut, as I understand it, refers to the way a piece of garment hangs on the body based on the shape and dimensions of the various parts/pieces it is made of.

You may fit into a certain size, but the cut may not fit you – look nice on you, flatter you. Perhaps the upper part of a pair of jeans looks out of shape, or a shirt seems  too round and puffy around the torso, or the sleeves are too big/long.

I realize now that, with a better body shape, clothes are going to do more for you. This may seem like the most obvious thing to say in the world, but I think for someone like me who has been fat/overweight/unshapely for so long, to finally see oneself fit a cut nicely, is a revelation.

Office-clothes_ill-fitting
And this is important, because in the consumer world of fashion, we are used to (1) perfectly shaped models pulling off all kinds of clothes with nonchalant ease in their immaculately photoshoped magazine pages, (2) we know it’s because they have far superior body shapes from us ordinary mortals, and (3) we’ve resigned to being fat and shapeless.

This combination of mental acceptances creates in us a complacency that we can never look like that. We all go into shops, pick out clothes that look great on the hangar, try it on ourselves only to have them betray us in the mirror.  Slowly, we accept that the model adverts are just a lie – or rather, it’s not for you, not for your “shape”.

My point is that, if you feel that clothes never seem to look good on you, it may simply be due to your shape + the cuts you choose. While the latter is something you can hunt down and choose, the former is something you have to commit hard work to turn into reality.

It is not impossible to find clothes with cuts that fits you, even if you’re overweight.  It’s just harder. In my experience, it is also annoying – it’s just so hard to find new clothes. I know this because of the many years of buying new clothes for Chinese New Year. My experience for this year has been the easiest. Two of my favourite pieces this year came from clearance bins. They were relatively small in size – and surprisingly they fit. I’ve never had it this easy before. Just about the only thing hampering me were stock and price.

The lesson is that vanity is not just about having the right figure, it is about the satisfaction that clothes fit you nicely.