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I support your right to look good

I walked into my apartment the other week and found my younger brother using my computer. He turned around and looked at my lavender collared shirt, black blazer and black pinstripe pants and paused for a moment. Then he said, “Woah, I didn’t recognize you.”

“It’s great to know that you would let strangers into my apartment,” I said.

“No, I just mean, if I had gone into a coma three years ago and just woken up, I would never have recognized you. You look like a totally different person these days.”

“It’s the makeup.”

Of course, it’s not all Cover Girl concealer and foundation (though that goop really does help). I look like a different person these days because I’m no longer carrying around an extra person. When I was at my older brother’s wedding in August, a couple of my aunts walked into the church lobby and looked somewhat surprised as they said, “Wow! You look great.” I guess I clean up good.

It’s something I’ve noticed in conversations with new acquaintances too. They’ll applaud me for my weight loss and tell me how great I look, and then 30-seconds into the conversation will remember to say, “And you must feel a lot better too?” like it’s an afterthought or just a follow-up to make sure I don’t think they’re shallow. It’s as if vanity is considered the worst possible reason to lose weight, but it’s the first quality fed by complimentary remarks.

I’d like to go on the record right now and say I fully support vanity as a reason to lose weight. No, it’s not the best reason to take off the pounds, but it gets a bad rep. Doesn’t everyone like to feel pretty? What’s so wrong with that? I like feeling pretty. It makes me feel special and powerful. It makes me want to smile and skip and break into song. You don’t have to be thin to feel pretty either. I felt damn cute when I weighed 230-something pounds and could wear my brown corduroys again. And in college I wore a hand-me-down hoodie over my chubby body even though I didn’t think it was that cute simply because I got two compliments on it. There were times I felt pretty when I was fat, but I feel prettier being thin. I just do. It would be a lie to say otherwise, no matter how much my former fat self might have liked it to be otherwise. I feel pretty when I dance around my apartment and bounce around on my tippy toes like the fat girl never could.

There’s nothing wrong with not being pretty either. In August I wrote about how I was never a pretty girl growing up. The comments on that entry were fascinating because several people jumped to the defense of the fat picture of myself, as if they were shouting, “No! No! Of course you were pretty back then. Don’t say you weren’t pretty!” as if it were the worst thing in the world to say I wasn’t attractive. One person even said “I hope you will decide to love yourself and find beauty in yourself no matter what your size is” which left me wrinkling my forehead in confusion (which can’t be good for my looks) since I never said I didn’t love myself. I just said I wasn’t pretty. It’s okay. You don’t have to be pretty. Ugly people get to love themselves too.

But you can pursue pretty if you want to, and as long as you aren’t harming your body with unhealthy weight-loss habits and you aren’t harming any bunny rabbits with cosmetics testing, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Do you comb your hair before you leave the house? Do you wear clean clothing? Congratulations! You care about how you look. You’re already going to hell, so you may as well look good for the devil. As long as you aren’t controlled by your need to look pretty, as long as you aren’t living in fear of being spotted without rouge in the produce section, I say go for it. Curl your hair, paint your nails and wave your mascara brush all around like a magic wand. Lose fifty pounds if you think it makes you look cuter. It’s okay.

Hopefully you will still love yourself and like yourself even if you are fat. But I support every woman’s right to a cute butt. Everyone gets to dress up their body up like they choose and there’s nothing wrong with liking it better thin than fat. There’s nothing wrong with liking it better fat than thin either. It’s your body. It’s the coolest thing you’ll ever own. Do with it as you please. Just treat it with respect, feed it well, and exercise it as needed – like a pet! Like a bunny! (Without the mascara.)

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44 Comments

Amy • January 29, 2008 at 7:50 am

I like the idea of thinking of your body as something you own. Like, would you put a donut in your dvd player? No, so why would you eat one?

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Sarah • January 29, 2008 at 8:25 am

I am in complete agreement. I grew up KNOWING I was chubby and unattractive. However, I also grew up knowing I was smart, funny, a nice person and that I would be successful. I always loved myself.

Then I dropped 70lbs, and all of the sudden, I’m pretty!! I don’t love myself any more or less, but wow do I have fun dressing up now! Having pride in your appearance is nothing to me ashamed of.

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Melsky • January 29, 2008 at 8:40 am

I think you’re right that vanity is a great motivator. It is for me anyway. Plus I feel better to not be carrying around the extra weight. I’m happy to be pretty again. If people think they are pretty when they are fat, I have no problem with that. It’s just that to me I can see myself at this weight and at 70 pounds heavier and I know darn well that I look better now. I would like to go down another 30 pounds or so. I don’t ever want to be thin, I just want to be a muscular and curvy size 12 like I used to be.

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Lora Ramirez • January 29, 2008 at 10:00 am

I think one of the main reasons why I wanted to lose weight is to look sexy with little effort. When I was heavier I wound up buying more clothes, cosmetics, and shoes to balance it off.

I like myself more when I’m taking care of myself and believe me people are noticing! Especially, from people I hardly know!

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Jill • January 29, 2008 at 10:13 am

Thanks God someone has the guts to say what you just said. Thanks for making me see that it’s okay that I want to lose 40 pounds so I can see my awesome cheekbones again – I miss them!

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Losing 1/3 of Me Guy • January 29, 2008 at 10:31 am

“It’s something I’ve noticed in conversations with new acquaintances too. They’ll applaud me for my weight loss and tell me how great I look, and then 30-seconds into the conversation will remember to say, “And you must feel a lot better too?””

hahahahaha I’ve heard this SO many times too! I try not to laugh when I hear it. I felt FINE when I was fatter! I felt FINE downing whole frozen pizzas! Now I’m cold all the time and eat brussell sprouts without butter! But I don’t say that out loud…

Thank you for yet another candid and spot on post PQ!

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Jenn1701 • January 29, 2008 at 10:37 am

For me it was always about FEELING strong and BEING strong, physically and emotionally. I gained a lot of weight because I was depressed and once it started coming off I felt happier and stronger which motivated me to continue on my journey to be healthy. I was always a tomboy so “pretty” for me was my softball uniform being clean =) I was always told by my parents that I was beautiful but never really thought about it. Once I started eating healthy and exercising and taking care of my body I felt strong and healthy and only then did I really think of myself as beautiful.

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BrightAngel • January 29, 2008 at 10:44 am

Great Advice.

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Ali • January 29, 2008 at 11:12 am

Very nicely and honestly written! I know when I started losing weight a few years ago, I insisted it was for “health” reasons and refused to admit to myself that there could be even a smidgen of vanity involved…

I’m now trying to lose the last few stubborn pounds, and freely admit that it’s for purely vain reasons rather than because I need to, health-wise. ;-)

Ali

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firewings • January 29, 2008 at 11:32 am

Great post. It’s very “the body is your temple”, but reminding us that landscaping counts too.

Now I have to go remind my roommate that showers every couple of days is a nicely spiritual landscaping idea. He will not understand.

*sigh*

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firewings • January 29, 2008 at 11:32 am

Great post. It’s very “the body is your temple”, but reminding us that landscaping counts too.

Now I have to go remind my roommate that showers every couple of days is a nicely spiritual landscaping idea. He will not understand.

*sigh*

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G.G. • January 29, 2008 at 11:34 am

Great post.

I had a very difficult time, when I first lost the weight I would eventually regain, with the fact that I was not then, nor will I ever be conventionally pretty. Had a hard time coming to terms with that. Now, though (a decade older and smarter), I can see that there’s enough value in just taking care of myself and making an effort to look professional, at the very least. Is it taking pride in myself, or vanity? Is there a difference?

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Laura • January 29, 2008 at 11:44 am

Nice post, PQ.

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Happy • January 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm

AMEN!

Hey, if it’s vanity that motivates me to do something that is ultimately healthy, then hooray for vanity! If my desire to be in my skinny pants keeps me out of the doctor’s office, then two thumbs up for vanity! If my desire for hot-looking arms gives me the ability to lift and move your furniture, then yay for vanity!

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coraspartan • January 29, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Vanity is the only reason I work out–plain and simple. I hated how I looked when I put on some extra pounds and I like how I look now that those pounds are off. I hate working out, but it’s worth it to stay thin and look good.

Being healthy is just a bonus side effect of working out. Seriously!

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Comrade GoGo • January 29, 2008 at 12:31 pm

My motives have always been mixed; the latest cholesterol results I got back from the doctor may have been my tipping point this time for pursuing weight loss, and maybe that’s why I’m more motivated than ever before . . . but caring about what I see in the mirror does definitely play a part as well. And I love doing makeovers, playing with my ridiculously large cosmetics collection, and being girly for fun. I don’t want to feel bad about myself for enjoying those things. After all, many of us who have struggled with our weight have spent years feeling bad about ourselves as it is.

Thanks for this post, PQ!

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nancy • January 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm

like the last person, my motives were all different. I have found that being thinner doesn’t do anything more for me as much as my attitude. and lately, my attitude sucks. So, I guess I better get to it and snap out of it or else.

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JEM • January 29, 2008 at 12:51 pm

We all know vanity is 99% of it.

My (thin) friend Mandi started eating super healthy last year. We were all so impressed with her commitment. She traded her sub and chips for grilled chicken and veggies, she traded her peanut butter cups for almond butter and apples, and she stuck to it!

I talked to her about this last week and said “Wow Mandi! I am so impressed with how you have stuck to it for a full year, you must feel so healthy” (She was already thin anyway) Then she said “Oh? Yeah, I guess I am healthier, but I only did it because I was breaking out so badly. My skin cleared up once I started eating right, so I decided to keep it up. If it didn’t make me skin look so good I would care less….Good skin is way more important to me than good health” She laughed when she said it, but I knew she meant it too.

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MamaMaven • January 29, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Great post. I think it is all about making the most of what you have, if you’ve got a 200 lb+ body then you do what you can to best flatter it. Lose weight and you’ve got a different body to try and flatter. When I lost weight in the past I was always under the misimpression that being a smaller size was going to make finding flattering clothes easier to find, it wasn’t, there were just lots more choices of things that didn’t look great!

I’ve just stumbled across your blog and love it!

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bitchwhoblogs • January 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm

I have recently been embracing my vain self. I rocked my fatter self – felt cute, dressed up, etc. But I despite epic amounts of effort- I didn’t love my appearance deep down. Now, its funny — people who knew me then tell me they never suspected I was unhappy on any level with my appearance, but hey, I really was.

In my circles its “OK” to lose weight for health reasons, but to do so because of vanity is a big no-no. I have been in the closet about my vanity motivations until recently.

And sure, while the health benefits of losing 70 pounds are huge- so are the vanity benefits as well.

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Kery • January 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm

I get into confused discussions about that with my mother. Every time I say “I’m not pretty”, she immediately gets into frantic attempts about “it’s not true!!!”. I really don’t see what the problem is. “I’m not pretty” does NOT imply “I’m ugly”, right? A lot of people in the world are neither, after all–they’re just ‘average’, so to say. And acknowledging that I’m not pretty also doesn’t mean that I don’t like myself the way I am.

On the other hand, I do care about what I look like. I sure wouldn’t go out with disgusting clothes or smelling like I’ve been bathing in the sewers. LOL I just don’t wear make-up every day because it’s not always too convenient (why would I put on make-up right before hitting the weights room, hehe).

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Lindsey • January 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm

I’m in total agreement with one of the other posters—-thank god someone has the guts to say what you said and not apologize for it.

But I also think there is a converse to this, as that’s more what I’m dealing with. I, too, grew up not being pretty–I never thought of myself as pretty girl and learned to define my identity based on other things (smart, funny, etc.). But I guess I was more of an ugly duckling and things that weren’t attractive as a child ended up being fairly attractive as an adult. In fact, I actually put on weight in part to not be pretty as I got a lot more attention thinner and that scared me. The weight was a shield, which I now realize is a lot more common than I ever would have imagined—after all, who doesn’t want to be pretty? Apparently, I didn’t want to be. And having to confront that and the deeper issues behind that are what finally has allowed me to shed the weight permanently. I’m right about your proportions and taking the slim down slowly so I don’t freak myself out too much—but I’m aiming for 160 too (though 168 will put me in the “normal” BMI range and will be a triumph in itself).

I just wanted to say thanks for your honesty. I greatly, greatly appreciate it!

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E • January 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm

You said it well!

And also, can I add that when I say to someone, “You look amazing!” after they’ve lost weight, I am not implying that they didn’t look amazing before. It’s possible to look amazing then and now. I wish people would stop putting word into my mouth. So I think that’s where the “And don’t you feel healthier?” kind of comment comes from–people don’t want you to think they’re saying you looked bad before.

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CdR • January 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm

One of my favorite posts of yours. For reals.

This hit me the most when I was trying on wedding dresses. I’m happy that I’m going to be a slim bride. I’m happy that my friends will get to see how much weight I’ve lost. I’m happy that I’ll get to look back on my wedding pictures and not be embarrassed by my body. One of the ladies at the dress store suggested I buy a too small dress and just lose 5 pounds, and I was so grateful to be at the place where a comment like that makes me laugh, not cry.

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yummers • January 29, 2008 at 3:18 pm

I’m very against vanity when it hurts yourself or someone else–plastic surgery, spending hours on makeup, valueing it above all else.

But otherwise–so what, it often overlaps with taking care of yourself. It’s nice to appreciate yourself.

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chanda • January 29, 2008 at 3:42 pm

AMEN! I say whatever works – work it! My recent run in with high blood pressure was definitely a wake up call, but even after filling the perscription for medication, my prime motivation for losing weight is vanity. But hey, if it works, I’ll take it!

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Oceanstorm • January 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Thank you! This is how I’ve felt for so long. It’s NOT terrible to acknowledge that you weren’t good looking at some point. That’s great if someone else thinks I was, but it’s also fine if I think I wasn’t. It’s also fine to know you would’ve been better looking if you were thin all along. I know this is true about myself and it doesn’t hurt me to say it. Why is it such a faux pas to say you might have a problem being attracted to someone if they gained 50, 100, 150 lbs? It’s honest and how human beings are. The more we hide this, the more obesity becomes an unspeakable problem. If you’re someone who’s happy being overweight, fine. If you want to lose weight because you think you’ll feel more attractive, fine. Why can’t it all be fine? Your post says it can and I agree.

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Lulu • January 29, 2008 at 4:16 pm

I’m an almost half-of-me myself (formerly 270 lbs., now 137 lbs), and like you, I did it through diet and exercise. Last Halloween, I was regretting that I wouldn’t be enjoying any candy. Then I looked down at the “trick-or-treat bag” of new trendy, small-size clothes I was carrying and was happy to make the trade-off. With so much emphasis placed on how women look, it’s not surprising that vanity is a great motivator.

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MM • January 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm

It’s funny, because as weight loss surgery patients we’re looked down upon for admitting that the procedure would EVER be done for vanity.

*shrug*

PQ – That’s an interesting point. I hadn’t thought about it for the WLS perspective.

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cathy • January 29, 2008 at 8:28 pm

you’re my hero. seriously. thank you.

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Stephanie Quilao • January 29, 2008 at 8:30 pm

well written. I agree with you vanity is not all bad, and to say that you want to drop pounds to look prettier is not a bad thing. Sometimes it almost feels like we are supposed to feel guilty or ashamed for wanting something “shallow” like good looks. But, who doesn’t want to look pretty? There are just so many definitions. Where it gets funky (to me) is the reasons behind why one wants to look prettier. Pretty has to start inside and then radiate outward.

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Bella • January 29, 2008 at 8:53 pm

I’ve heard, “you’re so pretty, you just need to lose weight” and “you put yourself together so well” (for a fat girl – this is implied by never spoken).

Not to sound conceited, but I know I’m pretty now, fat, needing to lose 100 pounds. I love myself as I am, but I want to improve myself (my health) and I can’t wait to lose all this weight.

Looking better; wearing cute, smaller clothes; attracting more male attention. All could be considered vain, and all things I look forward to as I lose weight.

My vanity is a big motivator for me, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Awesome post!!

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Gecko Rock • January 29, 2008 at 10:01 pm

You especially look better in the pictures in which you are smiling. I’m just saying.

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Cindy • January 30, 2008 at 6:39 am

Hi PQ,

This is a tricky one… yes, I love being able to buy new, cute clothes in “regular” stores. I have more of a bounce in my step when I feel pretty in an outfit. I feel awkward using the word “outfit,” but that is a different story! I have come late to this game, being a girl, but a lot of the time I am having fun with it. I even got a manicure recently. I think I draw the line at make-up, though. There are some things a girl should learn at 13, not 46, and how to put on make-up seems to be one of them. I am afraid I’d put an eye out with a mascara wand. And, as one poster said, there has been a safe, insulating factor being obese all my life. It is a great way to hide from the challenges of the world and a great way to stay safe from unwanted attention from men. Wearing make up might just cross that safety line for me. Cute clothes are fun…for me… As long as what I am doing is for me, I feel okay about it. If I start doing things to look good for others, then I am not okay with it. And make-up just seems like an itchy, sticky bother (and more money that I don’t need to spend!). Thanks for the opportunity to think about these things ~ your posts are often great conversation-starters!

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jenny • January 30, 2008 at 8:59 am

I love this post because its so honest. It says what so many people are thinking but what no one wants to admit. Being thinner and being prettier give us more confidence. I think thats my goal in this. Yes, I want to feel pretty because I want to feel good about myself on the outside. I want to be able to stand up in front of a group and not worry about what they are thinking about the “fat girl.” I want them to focus on what I’m saying… and maybe at the same time think “wow, I wish I looked like her.” Like someone else said, I spent a lot of years putting on weight in order to not get that attention, especially as a teen and young adult. I’ve always recognized myself as intelligent and thoughtful etc etc etc but never pretty. Now that I’ve reached a point in my life where confidence matters, like my career (!), I want the confidence to speak up, to say whats on my mind and to contribute. If feeling better about myself physically, being completely vain, accomplishes that, then I’m okay with that.

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Ali2 • January 30, 2008 at 9:43 am

I am quite torn with this one.

I have lost about 70 pounds so far and it’s a huge difference in my life style. I am 270 pounds now but am very active, so I am assuming (and hoping) that some of my weight is muscle (also because I am actually small enough to shop at GAP and Old Navy (and not online) which is pretty awesome.

The biggest difference is not living in fear anymore. I was afraid of so many things. When going out (and I went out a lot, even though I was constantly was afraid of the hurdles that would come my way because of my weight. Would I fit in the chair? Would the bouncers let me in? Will I get up that bar stool?)

And not only that, it influenced so many parts of my life.

I did always feel pretty though. People told me I am pretty all the time (even without the “but you could be so much prettier if you lost weight”), so that wasn’t so difficult for me.

However, now that I am thinner, I still do feel much prettier than before. I love that I can wear dresses and I love that I can show part of my upper arm (even though I am still not comfortable showing my whole upper arm). When I see pictures of my old self I do not think I was pretty. I think I was fat. My face was round like an apple, now my face has a shape and I have *gasp* cheek bones and clavicles!

Now that I feel so much prettier and sexier, I wonder if I ever was that pretty. I think a lot of people compliment people who they notice have low self esteem and I sure as hell had really low self-esteem. And I am also starting to realise that I probably am not as sexy and pretty as I feel now. I also realised that maybe not everyone finds it as hot as my boyfriend that I am wearing tight clothes most of the time (to show off my new but still bumpy body).

I have some seriously gorgeous, skinny, supermodel lookalike friends and always just wanted to get as much attention as they do (which is stupid because I am engaged to a wonderful man but if you have been attention deprived all your life you really crave it).

So, now that I am at a weight that is still considered (just) morbidly obese (which I find ridiculous – I can work out double as long and hard as most of the people in my gym) I feel very healthy and not like I am seriously impaired by my weight but I want to lose the rest for vanity reasons. Because it feels pretty awesome to be desired.

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america • January 30, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Rock on.

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K • January 30, 2008 at 3:41 pm

You are so wise, you.

I wouldn’t call myself particularly vain (I have little patience with beauty rituals more complicated than “wash face, plait hair”) but I started losing weight so I would look better in my wedding dress. Later on, other things became a lot more important – I have got much more pleasure, over the years since, from being able to run around without being breathless – but that was what got me started and I’m not knocking it.

You’re absolutely right, too, that Not Being Pretty is not the worst thing that could happen to you. It’s not as though it’s an indicator of inner worth. Or even a predictor of romantic success, necessarily.

I don’t know if you saw this at the time? It’s one of my favourite pieces on this issue.

PQ – I did read that Dress a Day entry! It’s stuck with me ever since and at least partially inspired my entry.

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Sally Parrott Ashbrook • January 30, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Right on, sistah!

And Cindy, if you ever want to try out makeup for a night with no commitment, I recommend the Clinique counter (when they aren’t super-busy). A good Clinique worker is always able to help me pick out makeup, and you can even get your whole faced made up for a night out while you debate whether to buy the related makeup. Having makeup on for major events or times photos will be taken can be a major bonus, because your features stand out in the photos.

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Migraineur • February 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I remember Lemony Snicket saying something like, “Grownups tell you that appearance doesn’t count, it’s what’s inside that matters. If that were true, people who were good on the inside wouldn’t have to comb their hair or wash their face.”

I am about to give away a black blazer that fit me about 20 lbs ago – because I noticed yesterday it makes me look fat! No, not really, but it makes me look like I did about 20 lbs ago. This gave me a little moment of joy – I’ve been dropping a pants size a month, but this is the first time I noticed anything for my upper half was too big. Vanity? Maybe. But it pleased me. I’m also pleased that my knees don’t hurt and I have more energy.

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Crystal • May 27, 2008 at 9:06 am

This was the best thing that I had read in a long time.

Amen, sister. Amen.

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Mary • July 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

I agree with this post so much! I am in the process of trying to lose over 100lbs and what is keeping me motivated so far is I want to look good. I am vain I want to be pretty and I was ashamed of that because we are only supposed to lose weight for our health which I am also but being pretty is at the top of my list. Thank you for the post now I don’t feel like the only one.

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Alecia • August 19, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I whole-heartedly agree with vanity being a wonderful purpose to lose weight. It’s one of my reasons. I want to stand in front of my mirror naked and like what I see. But hey, what woman doesn’t want to look sexy naked? Makes walking around in lingerie easier. ;)

Just found your blog and am loving it!

Alecia

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Maya • October 17, 2008 at 2:52 am

OMG! Why is this one of the realest and funniest posts I have ever read! You are a trip but you are so geniune and real. I LOVE IT. Now I must say, I have been large and down right HUGE since I was a kid, but I was CUTE… again, it could be that I am in denial… kinda like when you are fat and you think you are smaller than what you are, but regardless, I dressed well and was fairly popular. I am down -81 lbs and I don’t celebrate too much because I am self aware… I am still obese technically, but its okay… i’ll get to overweight, then a healthy weight soon enough… then this potential state of delusion will become a reality and I will be SO FINE! LOL… Watch out world… @ 135 5’7″ I don’t know how you all will handle it! This was great! Thanks for keeping it real!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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