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Does sexy have a size?

By Karen Salmansohn, Oprah.com
Some people say bigger women look more real than the pouty models typically seen in fashion ads.
Some people say bigger women look more real than the pouty models typically seen in fashion ads.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Author says her husband, friends see bigger women as "real women"
  • Says "A girl isn't simply beautiful for how fabulous her boobs and thighs are"
  • Argues it's also how she looks at the world -- her beliefs, values, passions, insights.
  • Blogger: I've found there are distinct upsides to being a formerly hot woman
RELATED TOPICS

(OPRAH.com) -- If you missed the new Lane Bryant commercial with the full-figured lingerie model confidently strutting the pluses of her plus-sized figure, it's not your fault. Some networks decided the spot was too sexy to air.

In my opinion, the ban on this Lane Bryant spot is a big step forward for plus-sized women everywhere. The fact that a TV network would find this Lane Bryant spot far more sexually enticing than Victoria's Secret spots -- which air all the time -- simply shows they're acknowledging the extreme sexiness of voluptuous women!

Watch the conversation about the ad Video

Oh, and by the way, I'm not just saying all this right now because I'm 35 pounds heavier than I've ever been in my life, due to the fact I'm due to give birth to new life -- a baby boy in August. Although I must say it's been interesting to have this new life lens, living as a highly curvy pregnant woman and shopping in plus-size clothing stores, instead of the more petite clothing stores where I normally go.

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I must confess that at first it was a difficult transition, entering into a bulkier body. At the beginning of my weight gain, I'd experience many days of feeling oddly self-conscious-verging-on-insecure. In particular, I found myself worried my beau might start to find me less sexy. But I'm happy to report he finds me just as sexy -- even highly sexy -- as I sit here on my newly padded tushy writing this article.

Out of curiosity I showed him the Lane Bryant spot of the plus-size lingerie model to gauge his male-o-meter reaction about her sexiness. He enthusiastically complimented the model, explaining how her strong appeal had just as much to do with how confidently she carried herself as it did with the babe-alicious curves she was carrying. Basically, he felt this model looked like she was a "real woman" -- and highly happy about it.

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Interestingly enough, when I showed this Lane Bryant spot to friends here in New York and on my Facebook wall, comments like "real woman," "real beauty," "authenticity" and "self-love" kept popping up. Basically, most people, including myself, seem to agree -- a woman's sexiness has mostly to do with her realness, authenticity and demonstrated self-love...rather than her clothing size.

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Indeed, I believe a big reason the Victoria's Secret spots aren't as sexually threatening to the TV networks is that these waify women don't seem real or authentic. Instead, they're a more plastic representation of highly unattainable beauty. Even the models' pouty facial expressions are plastic. And I'm sure most people would agree: A woman's confident, sparkly smile is far sexier than lips pursed in a posed pout!

The good news: There's a growing trend these days for companies and magazines to embrace the authenticity of real women as the standard for beauty and sexiness, and even to hire nonmodels as models.

Here in New York City, a mecca for uber-skinny women, Donna Sonkin, a recognized holistic health expert, has created a new specialty of coaching. She's now helping women to embrace what she calls a pursuit of "healthful thinness" versus "brittle thinness," which she is seeing far too often on the streets of New York and in her practice.

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"Interestingly enough," Sonkin says, "the real beauty of healthful thinness comes from eating real foods like real organic butter, real whole milk and meat which comes from naturally raised grass-fed animals. If you try to diet with lots of diet soda, non-fat foods -- or foods with lots of chemicals -- you will ironically create extra beauty problems. You'll get digestion and skin problems and look bloated, less youthful, less glowing instead of looking vibrant, sexy and radiant, which is what real beauty is all about."

Alexis Wolfer, founder and editor-in-chief of The Beauty Bean, is also doing her part to encourage real beauty. Her Beauty Bean website features Makeup Free Mondays where she prompts women to proudly post photos of themselves cosmetic-free.

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"Real beauty is what we real women look like without professional fashion and hair stylists -- and certainly without the use of Photoshop," says Wolfer. "I want my beauty site to shed light on what defines this real beauty and promote self-confidence rather than unattainable standards of beauty that lead to low self-confidence, as well as eating disorders both of the restrictive and binge-eating kind."

Stephanie Dolgoff, author/blogger of Formerly Hot, is also doing her part to promote self- love for one's real beauty -- specifically to women in the post-40 set.

"I noticed when I entered my 40s, men would ask me if I 'had the time' -- and really just want to know the time," Dolgoff says.

"So I started to explore how I felt about my changing appearance in my site and book. Basically, Formerly Hot is about looking at the unvarnished truth about getting older -- the good, the bad and those unexpected bitch-slaps that still seem to come out of nowhere -- even if you're relatively well adjusted to the fact that you're not forever 21.

Personally I've found there are distinct upsides to being a formerly. For example, I used to feel like a composite of other people's opinions. Now, I'm comfortable with who I am, and that other people's opinions are, well, just their opinions. Here in my 40s, I'm happier than my younger self ever could have imagined."

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I totally relate to what Dolgoff shares. I have to say, I'm far happier now as a plus-sized, pregnant, over-40 gal than as the skinny 20-something me who was constantly weighing myself and then weighing in with a harsh opinion if I didn't like the numbers on the scale. From this distance of time and maternity, I can now see how the more I used to worry about my sexiness, the more I was creating a self-fulfilling less-sexy prophecy -- as well as a less-happy prophecy.

Together we need to do something more as a society to change unrealistic expectations for female thinness and beauty. And to do so, we need to start early on by telling young girls (and young boys!) that a girl is appealing and attractive not simply because of how she looks to the world, but how she looks at the world -- her beliefs, values, passions, insights.

A girl isn't simply beautiful for how fabulous her boobs and thighs are, but for all the fabulous things she does -- and who she is! I can tell you now, I'm going to raise my soon-to-be son to view girls that way. Happily, I know my beau is the type of man who will enthusiastically send the same message.

By Karen Salmansohn from Oprah.com © 2010

Karen Salmansohn is a best-selling author known for creating self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead reading self-help.

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