Disarming Questions

My upper arm, circa 2001.

A big obstacle to fully expressing myself in my fashion has been my dislike of my upper arms. For as long as I can remember, I've been ashamed of them. When I look back at what they were like at a younger age I don't understand why I felt that way at the time. They were just big, that's all. When I look at my arms now I fully understand why I feel this way. Years of yo-yo dieting and an eventual significant weight loss has left the skin stretched beyond its limits, just hanging there like it's given up hope. A cautionary tale for those striving to lose weight: it doesn't necessarily make you feel any better about yourself. I liked my arms better when I was 80 lbs heavier.

But enough arm bashing. Fat women and their fear of showing their arms has started a cottage industry. Who else props up the “shrug” manufacturers of the world? There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the topic. I desperately want to be one of those fabulous fatshionistas who wears sleeveless dresses and strapless bra tops. I don’t know if I’m not seeing arms like mine on other women because I don’t view other women’s arms in the same harsh light as I do mine, or if other women who have arms like mine are also reticent to show them. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve realized that it’s pointless to try to conceal them totally, so now I wear short sleeved dresses and tops — but not too short sleeved. Cap sleeves are a no can do for me. I’m sorry, I’m just not there yet. I feel like it’s a part of my body that I still, after 20+ years of being fat, haven’t come to terms with. They’re kind of a map of my history. Each stretch mark denotes another failed extreme diet, another rebound weight gain. Maybe I’m not so much ashamed of my arms as I am ashamed of what abuses brought them to the point they’re at now. Thinking about this now, I’m asking myself if I’m so self-conscious of them because they’re a “tell” for the shape I really am, the body that is hidden under these stylish clothes.

I’m old enough to know I’m probably not going to get over this in a hurry. Even after writing this, I’m not going to go out and buy a strapless dress. I’m just not. But I do need to stop being so damn conscious of what my upper arms look like all the time. I also need to accept the mental state I’m at now and stop hating on myself for not being able to process my body in spaghetti straps. I feel somewhat exposed because saying this is not marching lockstep with the fat-positive band, I’m admitting that hey, I’m fat and proud but I still have issues and I still need to talk about them sometimes just to deal. I’m not leaving the party, I’m just going to the bathroom to check my makeup. I’ll be back dancing in a minute.

Want hot sex delivered to your e-mail?

Subscribe to get updates of Sex and The Fat Girl as soon as they pop out!

, ,

  • Angela

    I had to deal with my upper arms this morning. I'm not a fan of mine either, and usually wear sleeves with volume to camo them. However, today I decided to wear a shirt I haven't worn in awhile than happens to have fitted sleeves. I looked at my arms, knowing that I probably shouldn't wear the shirt because of them, but then I looked again and saw that the world wouldn't end because people could see them. They probably won't even notice them, because of the print on the shirt and the cleavage I'm rocking.

  • nikki

    you're the only one who notices! i have to keep convincing myself of this as well, as i'm in the middle of losing a pretty significant amount of weight too. i started doing some small arm exercises but i don't think i'm doing enough of them.

  • rexybird

    I have big arms. Like big ones. With stretch marks, sagging and such. I hated them for years and would never wear anything that came above my elbow.
    Last year I was shopping and came upon a sales associate trying to convince another shopper to try a tank with her outfit. The shopper responded with a comment on how she didn't like to show her arms. The sales associate, noticing that I was eavesdropping asks me how I deal with the arm thing. She knew me as a regular in the store so I wasn't offended at all. I say to her, "You just wear them." Which kind of surprised me. It just came out. And really that's all I learned to do. I just started wearing my arms, forgot about them and so did everyone else. Confidence and style will soon eclipse them and they will just be there like the rest of your body.

  • Nomie

    I am in the other other group propping up the shrug industry, I guess: I have a bunch of shrugs because I have cute sleeveless tops and sundresses that are okay except for bra strap exposure, and that does not fly at my job. But when I'm out of work and I don't care if my strap wanders out from under my dress? My arms are freeeeee. Because some days it is just too damn hot for sleeves.

  • Penny

    Hi, I just wanted to say that this particular post was very brave of you to do, and I applaud you for it. I try to hide my upper arms as best as I can. They, along with other parts of my body, have been covered by stretch marks since I was in middle school. Hot summer months are often a nightmare!! If I have to go sleeveless, or wear something with a shorter than 3/4 sleeve, I use a shawl or pashmina to cover up my shoulders because I'm so unsatisfied with the designs/material/fit of most affordable shrugs out there. It's come to the point that I'm rarely seen without a shawl,even in the winter months but for (perhaps?) different reasons, without it I would feel naked..and exposed to (silent) ridicule. I guess I have negative experiences of exposing my arms. But looking back I'm not sure what I'm afraid of. People in changing rooms are curious…friends may fix their eyes on my stretchmarks/size of my arms at certain times, and I may catch a boyfriend looking at them in fascination…but its not like they are recoiling with horror, it's just plain animalistic curiosity. I admire people who expose their stretchmarks, and, like a tiny bruise on a knee, do not find that it detracts from a person's beauty. But like you I am still not there yet personally. But I do not find arms like ours that unattractive. Or at least, that is what I try to tell myself when I'm faced with exposing my arms at a gym (on extremely rare occasions, the last time I wore a t-shirt to the gym the attention given to my upper arms induced a paranoia that made me cut my exercise class short, and turn my back on the gym forever.)
    Keep up the great posts, you're very talented.

  • http://fatwithpcos.blogspot.com Rachel

    I just wanted to say how incredibly brave you are for posting up a pic of your upper arm and also how much I appreciate it. I too always see fat girls walking around with sleeveless tops and it just fills me with envy and sorrow.

    More than my very jiggly upper thighs, the two massive rolls on my belly, the cottage cheese butt or the fat calves that can't seem to fit into even Evan boots… I hate my "bingo wings" … I HATE THEM. I'm confident naked with my boyfriend, no body hang ups there whatsoever… until it comes to the arms.

    I've contemplated having surgery on them. Surely the scar along the inside of my arm will be more bearable?? But then, will they do elective plastic surgery like that on fat girl. I can't even get an operation I need for my fertility because of my weight.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you so much for putting these words out there. Now I know I'm not the only one.

  • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

    I've been at the really hardcore hating spot that you seem to be in right now in regards to my arms. I wouldn't wear anything shorter than 3/4 sleeve. (I kind of measure my tolerance of my arms by my comfort with shorter and shorter sleeve lengths.) Recently, like in maybe the past couple years, I've definitely grown more tolerant of them. But I would feel really ballsy just walking out in public in a sleeveless dress, and for some reason I'm too scared and uncertain in my life to be that ballsy right now. I'm working on it. But yeah I do think about surgery and honestly I would love to get it done, but I don't have the money. I don't want like, a weird skinny arm. I'm fat, I should have fat arms, that's fine. it's the fact that it's so much loose skin. The picture I used is from 2001, they are way saggier now. I'd be ok with how they were in 2001. But I was like, 21. I was still yo-yo dieting, and then I lost a bunch of weight due to changes in medication I take.

    Don't ever feel bad because you're not as accepting of your body as another fat girl, though. Personally, I think it's really hard to deprogram from the constant body hate programming we're given every day and some people are farther along than others at different points in their life. Insisting that everyone have an immediate blanket acceptance of their body when they realize that they're being programmed is unrealistic.

    Anyway, good luck to you. I'm glad I could help you in some way. <3

  • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

    I'm actually cool with my arms in fitted sleeves, because the fabric holds the hang up and makes it look more like I want it to look. It's just that I don't like the "falling off the bone" look they have when bare.

  • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

    Man, I seriously don't think it matters how many exercises you do, there's always going to be loose skin if you've been fat for as long as we have. I mean there will be less volume and less hang if you lose all the fat, so exercise helps there, but the collagen and elastin bonds in our skin are just busted from being stretched past their limit, or stretched and shrunk too many times. But you can't spot reduce, so to lose most of the fat in your arms you'd probably have to get down to a really skinny weight.

    I can't even fathom people not noticing. It's so pronounced.

  • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

    That's a great story and it's really awesome that you got to that point. I'm still working on it. Gradually my sleeves get shorter and shorter.

  • http://www.ritabee.com Rita

    My mom and I were talking last night about how much of an impact it makes on us when people are honest about their feelings about their bodies in public (in the context of conversations in groups). You're an excellent dame, Tasha.

    And talkin' about short sleeves just in time for SPRING! I am supporting the summer shrug industry by working at a place where my giant upper arm tattoo is not really able to party around visibly at the reception desk.

  • http://www.redvinylshoes.com Tasha Fierce

    Thanks, Rita! I forgot the other group propping up the shrug industry, the tattooed office worker folks.