Archive for the ‘body image’ Category

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t (Eating in public)

Ugh, I hate how much subtext being fat (or is that “living in a fat-phobic world”?) has attached to eating in public. I feel like I’m caught in a dichotomy where no version of eating in public leaves me free to just enjoy the food and/or company I’m in (let alone not eating at all).
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Paging Dr. Dolgoff

Fierce Freethinking Fatties has put out a call for all bloggers available to post about Dr. Dolgoff. So who is she? She’s not only the author of a children’s diet book, Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right (which no, I’m not going to link to), but she’s the paediatrician assigned to look after the kid’s on The Biggest Losers. What’s that? You didn’t even realize there were kids on The Biggest Loser? Oh ho! You’re in for a treat (by which I mean a major mind fuck)! So The Biggest Loser has decided that it can’t get by with humiliating and abusing fat adults any more. It need a new schtick. And what better prop than children? Three contestants, aged 13-16 years old, will be participating in Dr Dolgoff’s diet program, but not weigh ins. And don’t worry, the trainers promised not to yell at the kids… for realz.

Dolgoff’s diet program contains a hell of a lot of recipes for Splenda for which she’s a spokeswoman for. Now, that’s not bad in and of itself.. until you start talking about someone who’s looking after the health of our kids. Splenda is questionable at best as a health food and everyone knows the way to maximize health is to consume whole foods, not processed crap.. like splenda.

But of course their goal is not to increase health, as they claim, it’s to make the kids thin. Not only do they cite bullshit statistics about 75% of parents not knowing their kid is ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ (can we see that study please? No? I didn’t think so), but they continually talk about a childhood obesity epidemic when obesity rates have been level for the past decade. Sure the number of ‘overweight’ kids doubled in 2007, but only because they lowered the BMI standards so that ‘normal’ weight kids became ‘overweight’ overnight. Dolgoff says the kids won’t be counting calories, presumingly to stave off obsession with numbers and thus not be accused of promoting eating disorders (in which 2700 in 100,000 kids have, compared to 12 in 100,000 kids with diabetes by the way).

What bullshit. Apparently they think teenagers are fucking idiots. The fact is that the message they’re receiving from society, from this TV show and, most fucked up, from their parents, is that they’re not good enough until they’re thin enough. This is straight up child abuse and child exploitation whether anyone in our fucked up society wants to say so or not. As a queer woman the only thing I can think of as similar would be conversion therapy when people still thought being LGBT was a disease. Now we think being fat is a disease and we’re putting people through fat to thin conversion therapy, and we’re doing it with children. We’re waging an all out social war on children. Everyone wants to scream “what about the children”? well what about the children? How can we think that involving them in anything deemed “a war” is appropriate? A war against what? A war against them. And again, kids aren’t stupid, they know the war isn’t just on their fat, the war is against them as human beings. Dr. Dolgoff should damn well be ashamed of what she’s doing.


Old Timey Photos Are The Best

It’s been a busy holiday season and I know I haven’t posted much. However I was doing some housekeeping stuff on my computer today and found this picture. I have no idea where I found it so I can’t acknowledge the source, but just look it! I know it makes me smile.

 

Hope everyone is getting along okay. If not, treat yourself to some tea (breast shelf optional).


A Break From Regularly Scheduled Programming

I’ve been meaning to post for a little while (and have had a few ideas floating around in my head) but for now I just wanted to quickly share this poem I came across at my Chinese Doctor’s practise today:

Parra says in the poem “Inflación” (Inflation):

Inside the cage there is food.
Not much, but some.
Outside there are only vast stretches of
liberty.


The Unhealthy Fatty

I get a lot of mail from fans and haters alike. I get trolls, I get my images stolen, I get mail praising me or chastising me, and it’s all in the name of art and fat acceptance. Lately I’ve gotten quite a few about how unhealthy my images are with one person saying that “a little bit of weight is fine, but” and another saying “aren’t you glorifying obesity?” I already wrote a post on my own blog about glorifying obesity, but I also wanted to address the “but health!” argument. Now, I could go into a whole rant on why fat isn’t unhealthy. I could post statistics and studies and links  on research and then I could try to justify my fatness by talking about how healthy my lifestyle is… and I’d just be playing right into the troll’s hands. You see, because they don’t care about health and, even if they did, my health is none of their business.

The big thing I wanted to talk about today is ableism. As it sounds, ableism is the intolerance and/or discrimination of people who are less able bodied than the social ideal. I myself see the fallout of ableism as I have bipolar disorder, hypothyroidism, chronic tendonitis, and plica syndrome (and a few other things). All of that means that I’m often in pain, tired, moody, and/or unable to perform normal daily activities. My spoons get used up fairly quickly. It’s even worse for fat people in general because our bodies are touted as diseased and flawed in and of themselves. Even worse are illnesses that people think of when they think of fat like heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, etc. Because even though thin people can and do have all of those same problems, fat people get double the dose of ableism because they’ve already had their humanity stripped away by fatphobes who see their bodies as an illness and nothing more.

What’s my point? My point is that it doesn’t matter how unhealthy a person is. They’re still human beings. They still deserve to be treated with human dignity, compassion, and fairness. This is why I don’t need to justify my health to  anyone- because I’m a human being regardless. Because you being an ableist fatphobic dick isn’t on me- it’s on you. Someone being in poor health isn’t a reason to discriminate against people or to hate them or loathe them… I mean really, what’s wrong with these people who think they can take a person with diabetes and treat them as sub human just because their health status is different, not worse, just different, from their own? The solution to discrimination and bigotry isn’t unhealthy people getting healthier, it’s ending the discrimination and bigotry.

I’m sorry and I don’t mean to step on your childish little toes, but there is no such thing as perfect health. People are different, not superior or inferior to each other. I’m not inferior to someone who doesn’t have hypothyroidism and I’m not superior to someone who has diabetes. We’re not playing the good fatty/ bad fatty game and we’re not playing the healthism game anymore. You can complain about it draining your tax dollars, but you could say the same about children with disabilities or people who do sports or kids who jump out of trees. Their health, their business. Back off.


Diet Talk

[TW: Dieting]

I recently became employed full time again, and that means I sit in a cubicle surrounded by other cubicles for a large portion of my work day. Overheard conversations often waft my way, particularly from the two rows of women who sit behind me. I’ve noticed some trends in the discussions so far: job duties, complaints, family/friends/pets, jokes, politics, health care (they are nurses), and dieting/weight loss. Because they are nurses, many of them have a pretty good idea of health in that they want people to care for their bodies, but it seems even nurses try fad diets; one nurse talked about South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, and something about eating nothing but cabbage.

In all the quiet corners of office talk, I hear women talking about diets and weight loss, if only for a minute or so, but only when the men have gone. Women only seem to be comfortable talking about their bodies to each other–understandably so. Men habitually and often agressively comment on women’s bodies even when those comments are unwanted (see: street harassment), so it’s no surprise that diet talk is often a conversation women will only have with each other. In the break room during lunch, women chat about eating habits, exercise regimens, weight loss, weight gain, and diets. It seems many women bond over diet talk:

Coworker #1: “You look like you’ve lost some more weight.”

Coworker #2: “Yea, another two pounds.” [smiles]

Coworker #1: [Puts down fork in shock] “Good for you!”

Coworker #2: “Yea, look: this dress is loose on me.” [Sits up straight and pulls the fabric around her waist]

Coworker: #1 “Sweet! You can give me all your old clothes.” [laughs]

Coworker #2: “I will! Some of the stuff is brand new, tags on still and everything.”

These two women exemplify the bond between women over weight loss and gain because Coworker #2 is beyond willing to donate the clothes that no longer fit her to Coworker #1 all because Coworker #1 showed support. This a bond over bodies, and in a way, it’s excellent that women can form such bonds with each other over their bodies; I especially like how encouraging they were to one another. However, the context of the discussions women have about their bodies hinges on gains and losses (or victories and defeats) rather than the way we show our bodies kindness and respect, how we care for our bodies by responding to their needs, and how to show our bodies love and appreciation. We are always discussing our bodies as something that needs to be fixed, tweaked, lessened, or manipulated.

I’m not saying it’s wrong or bad to discuss the triumphs and challenges women share about their bodies, but wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to be part of discussion about women’s bodies that doesn’t dissect and measure them? Wouldn’t it be inspiring to instead share techniques for self love and acceptance? I think that the conversation could go in this direction if just one woman in each diet discussion could bring up modes of self love and acceptance.

Of course, we don’t hear those types of conversations coming from the body-hating media and advertisers; we see conversations about how to get the flattest stomach, reduce thigh size, and lose “winter weight.” Again, it’s all about “fixing” broken bodies. Because body hate is all we really see and hear from the media, family, and friends, it’s difficult to be the one voice of body love and acceptance in a world full of people having a different conversation. But starting that conversation is an act of rebellion; it is active dissent against beauty standards, fat shame, pro-anna, self hate, and girl hate. Instead of sharing trends for fixing bodies with diets, let’s share the trend of body acceptance.

If you are reading this, I hope you will consider asking your friends–especially those who engage in diet talk–how they show their bodies love, kindness, and respect. Mostly likely no one has asked them before, and it could open up an entirely new line of thinking about bodies. This kind of conversation could deepen our bonds to each other by letting others become intimate with the love and acceptance we give ourselves. They could deepen our bonds to our own bodies as we stop hating, dieting, and obsessing and start loving, valuing, and accepting. Let’s start a new conversation, right here, right now: one in which we discuss love and respect instead of loss and gain.


Going out in public can be hard

“I was aware, the entire time, that the people around me … were very likely judging me. Or at least, some of them were. Maybe some of them pitied me, maybe some of them thought I was “inspiring” for being a fat lady exercising in public (maybe I was on a Weight Loss Journey ™ !) Probably some of them just thought I was gross, disliked having to see my fat body in tight swimwear, and wished I had stayed at home under a blanket. Such is life.”
The Fat Nutrionist

While I don’t think Michelle (quoted), or me, or any one person can speak for all {insert subset of people here}, including fat people, I think this is pretty commonly what it’s like to be a fat person in the world, all the time. Welcome to my head-space, every time I choose an outfit. Every time I go outside into the world. Every time I meet my skinny and/or pretty friends. Every time someone mentions swimming in public. Every time I sit down so my muffintop rolls over my pants. Every time I am handed a menu in public, or asked if I want one of the snacks provided.

Yes, I literally mean Every. Time.

That doesn’t mean those thoughts always have to have the last say in the way you live your life. Sometimes I think I look ok. Sometimes I sit down without putting my handbag in my lap to obscure my stomach. Sometimes I will have that cupcake, thank you very much. The fat acceptance community has played a big role in that.

I realise these thoughts and insecurities aren’t exclusive to fat people. But if you’ve managed to avoid most of the crippling self doubt our culture tries to heap on us, you may not realise what it’s like to be a fat person in our world. This is what it’s like, every day.


5 Fat Acceptance Myths Debunked

As of late, I’ve noticed that some folks in and outside of the fat accpetance movement have some misconceptions about what the movement encourages. Here are some of the myths I’ve come across debunked.

5. Fat acceptance says don’t exercise.

Fat acceptance doesn’t want to control your behavior. It doesn’t want to tell you what to eat, how to eat, what to wear, how to wear it, or what your body should/shouldn’t be doing. Whatever you choose to do with your body is what you choose to do with your body. If you like to exercise, great; do it. If you don’t, great; don’t do it! Your body is yours, and no one should be able to tell you what to do or what not to do. Personally, I exercise. I do for mental health reasons; it gives me a boost of the good chemicals I feel are essential for my mental stability. When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I worked with my behavioral therapist to look at options other than medication. She suggested exercise because I had mentioned that doing yoga helped me relax and gave me a positive boost. Since then, I have been exercising because I like it. However, any reason is a good reason to do what you want with your body. If you just like it, then you just like. If you don’t like, then you just don’t like it. Fat acceptance wants you to have complete ownership of your body, and whatever that means to you is whatever it means to you.

4. Fat acceptance is a “women only” movement.

It may seem like the conversation is dominated by women, but fat acceptance isn’t trying to keep men out of a women’s only conversation. Men face an increasingly rigid standard of beauty that is being marketed through the media. We have only begun to see the repercussions of a male beauty standard, as it’s something that folks are just starting to research. Women are usually the ones writing about fat acceptance because there has been a lot of in depth research into the harm female beauty standards cause to women and girls. However, men are encouraged to participate in the discussion. If you are interested in reading fat acceptance writings from men, here are a few to blogs with male/gender neutral FA bloggers:

http://red3.blogspot.com
http://fattiesunited.wordpress.com/
http://unapologeticallyfat.blogspot.com/ (Edit: gender neutral blog)
http://fiercefatties.com/

Fat acceptance also seems to be cis centered, meaning it tends to focus on cisgendered bodies. It’s imperative that trans* individuals are part of the discussion about body image. My one big criticism of the fat acceptance movement is its lack of trans* visibility. I suggest that the fat acceptance community involve trans* bodies in their campaigns because, if we don’t, we are guilty of maintaining a power structure that would like to erase trans* individuals.

3. Fat acceptance wants to reverse the power dynamic between thin and fat.

If you belong to the blogging community–hell, if you’ve logged into Facebook lately–you might I have seen images like this:

These message, in effect, undermines the struggle for fat acceptance. Fat acceptance is not about when thin became hotter than curvy women, what straight cis men find attractive, or the policing of bodies. This type of argument only seeks to reverse the power structure of thin/fat so that fat (or curvy) is favored, and therefore privileged, over thin. Regardless of what the beauty standard is, it’s still oppressive in that one must adhere to it, be shamed if one doesn’t adhere to it, and bodies that don’t fit said standard are seen as not real, good, or worthy. True fat acceptance wants to smash the power structure that says one body is “better” than another. Fat acceptance is about people loving their bodies without having to fit into a standard of beauty: it says that all bodies are real bodies; all bodies are good bodies. Pitting bodies against each other should never be the focus fat acceptance activism.

2. Fat acceptance glorifies obesity.

To me, this myth is nearly laughable. The idea that loving your body regardless of who says you are beautiful glorifies obesity really just translates to “but isn’t being fat bad for you??” The short answer is No, being fat is not bad for you. In fact, fat acceptance is linked to better health outcomes. The fact of the matter is that no one should be shamed about their body. No standard of beauty can tell you whether someone is healthy. Most importantly, shaming someone into being who you want to see is not going to help them feel good about themselves. If one doesn’t feel good about one’s self, one is less likely to care for one’s body and mind. It’s important to understand that the only things being glorified by fat acceptance are self care and self love

1. Fat acceptance demands complete confidence and self-love at all times.

Some mornings I wake up and I can’t look at my body in the mirror. Some mornings I wake up and feel fabulously fat and fierce. Some mornings I wake I and don’t feel anything about my body at all. How we feel and what we think about our bodies fluctuates as often as our moods. No one is asking for complete and total self love, no exceptions, no excuses. Self acceptance is a process; there are challenges we face in that process. Most of the challenges come in the form of self-doubt, insecurity, self-hate, and feelings or inferiority/invisibility. The reason why fat acceptance activists are constantly shouting from roof tops, “Love Your Body!” is because we struggle with loving our bodies on a daily basis. When I say Love your body it’s more like a reminder to myself: Hey, you, don’t be so hard on yourself; see your body for what it is; care for it and love it and treat it with kindness and respect. 

In addition, self love and acceptance is more difficult for some than others. No one is giving you a time frame to work in; no one expects you to wake up tomorrow from the slumber of self-hate, bursting with a passionate love for your body. Loving any aspect of yourself is a day to day challenge that requires a plethora of strategies to overcome said challenges. Fat acceptance simply asks you to work on undoing years of shame and self hate through compassion, care, and love. Some folks my not be ready to establish that relationship to their bodies yet. Perhaps there are other things a person needs/wants to accept about themselves before they can begin work on fat acceptance. That is great. Work on whatever aspects of self that will challenge how you see yourself and what you can do. Again, there is no timeline, and there is no one cracking a self-love whip. However you experience your journey of fat acceptance is right.


Have you ever wished you lived in a place where fat didn’t automatically equal ugly?

Hi! I’m a new blogger. Let’s jump right in.

So last year I was lucky enough to be offered an opportunity to live and work in Fiji for a year. Naturally I jumped at the chance, but now after returning home I have the time and the inclination to start stepping up more in my social justice involvement. I specifically wanted to share some of my Fijian experiences because so many of the issues faced by Western fat people come from the culture that we’re steeped in, and it was a really interesting time to go and live in another culture that has some different nuances to weight.

But first some stuff about me. Aside from being the sort of person who jumps at a chance to move to a third world country (when I’m feeling cynical I think they refer to these countries as ‘developing’ because of all the stomach bugs, skin infections and other health problems I ‘developed’ while I was there, but that’s a topic for another post). I’m a cissexual heterosexual late-twenties woman, classically educated, fat, and extremely white. As in hey-I-wonder-if-any-of-these-freckles-will-turn-cancerous, reflective WHITE. And of course my attractiveness in the Pacific was entwined with my whiteness from a colonialist fair-is-good and white-people-have-money sort of thing. But what I really want to talk about today is the experience of fatness.

First of all: DO NOT MOVE TO FIJI UNLESS TALKING ABOUT WEIGHT IS DESCRIPTIVE FOR YOU, NOT OFFENSIVE.

Fijians are the world’s best observational comedians in training. If they’ve observed something, they want to tell you about it. Not necessarily with any commentary, just that they’ve noticed it. I’ve had people approach me to tell me their cousin saw me in the street wearing a red shirt and talking to a guy drinking a coke. No judgement, no story, just the observation. But when it comes to observing weight, Fijians are on it faster than your Aunt Francis. “Hello, you’ve put on weight/lost weight!”

It’s kind of strange, because Fiji has over recent years absorbed a lot of the health messages around weight (there is a lot of diabetes there) as well as cultural messages from the West – so comments on weight loss are often quite complimentary. But then again, comments on weight gain are often quite complimentary too, as I’ve been told gaining weight is a sign that you are happy. At least this is what I was told when my boss was confused about how his “compliment” of weight gain to my thin Australian co-worker didn’t go down as planned. I’m not sure whether a Fijian would mean it in a complimentary for me, seeing how I’m already fat. But it is refreshing to have gaining weight not be completely stigmatised, just as an observational point.

But even if someone only meets you once and therefore can make no comment on any weight change, commenting on your weight is pretty normal. I’ve had a lot of taxi drivers comment on my weight when I got in the cab – and then about half of them would go on to hit on me, so they can’t mean it too insultingly – and one masseuse who slapped me on the thigh as soon as she saw me and exclaimed “You are big! Like Fijian girl!”

(She also went on to tell me how I could seduce boys by telling them “Try me: we won’t need a mattress.” I haven’t tried that out yet but I’ll be sure to let you know if it works).

There is this strange inverted privilege that goes on about being objectified. Understandably (and rightly so!) many people don’t enjoy having all their wonderful human complexity squished down into existing simply for someone else’s sexual pleasure. However for those of us who live on the edges of the Attractiveness Spectrum, I know there have been times when I’ve wanted to get eye-stabby on friends or acquaintances who complained of being objectified whilst I’ve been struggling with sexual invisibility.

Do we all remember Gwyneth Paltrow’s comments on her experiences wearing a fat suit for her role in ‘Shallow Hal’? “People wouldn’t even look at me, wouldn’t make eye contact with me at all. I felt no sexual energy from men [on the set]. Normally, in the film, I have all these tiny little clothes on, but when I come to the set with the suit on and feel none of that, it is palpable.” Swinging between two extremes is definitely a strange experience.

Having an actual lived experience of being in a country with different definitions of beauty hasn’t been dizzying or ego-inflating (I usually have a very healthy ego: any difficulty fitting through doors is fully attributable to the size of my head, not the size of my butt). What it has been is a very refreshing reminder of how culturally constructed beauty is. I got hit on there about 400% more than I do at home, without changing anything about myself. I’m sure it’ll be a good thing to remember once I start hitting the Australian dance floor again.


Weight Stigma Awareness Week

If you’re not already aware that this week is weight stigma awareness week then  you’d better hurry up and jump on the wagon! Especially since the organization, BEDA (the binge eating disorder association), sponsoring this week has suggestions on how you spend each day. Yesterday was to make art that helps you in your body acceptance journey. Me, I made a painting (primitive, but nice, yes?) According to BEDA, their goal is “to bring awareness to a common and entrenched social injustice that often results in serious physical and mental health consequences for those affected”.

Serious physical and mental health consequences. Let’s get serious for a moment.  Teens who even think they’re fat are more likely to attempt suicide and, let’s face it, the fat  hate starts early  and children as young as three years old show weight bias against heavier people, attributing things such as being ugly, lazy, and stupid. By three years old, people. That’s some seriously early weight hate indoctrination. One study shows that children 5-11 prefer underweight friends and react more positively to underweight stimuli than overweight stimuli (which they, of course, reacted negatively to).

So today is “reclaim” day. Reclaim your body image, reclaim your mental health. Reclaim yourself. Post sticky notes on your bathroom mirror. Make a pin board as BEDA suggests, lf body love quotes and images. Surround yourself with fat art, with fat blogs, with fat people, whatever! Just remember that today is a day for loving yourself absolutely and unconditionally. And don’t forget to look at the upcoming days: recommit and celebrate! Recommitting means committing to take care of yourself, to challenge thin privilege and the weight based industry, to challenge negative thoughts about yourself and others and to recommit to being a fat acceptance activist and participant. And, finally, end the week by celebrating you. Simply you and how wonderful and amazing you are. Get your spouses and friends and family and children involved! Make a list of all the great things about yourselves and pin it to the fridge or in your office. Or just take a you day and relax with some hot tea.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to tell people about weight stigma awareness week- that’s where the awareness part comes in!


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