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What’s your glimmer of joy?

There has been…well things have been quite horrific in the news of late.  Slaughtered children, bombings, fiscal cliffs, pending laws to remove rights.  It’s enough to make anyone pull at their hair in frustration at the world and the lack of effect one simple person can have upon it.

However, there are always those small glimmers of light and hope that shine through.  A teacher who, though herself slain in the process, saved the lives of many children. Heroes who bring food, water, help and hope to those in dire situations. Simple words of kindness or explanation to make sense of the horrible on a dark and dreary day.  Encouragement from people you didn’t even realize you HAD in your corner. Small victories, shards of brilliance, folks always striving to fight on and make this world a better, more respectful, more diversity-appreciative place.

Something I’ve found lately that allows my mind to travel thoughtful paths (aside from those of the pressing and important but, at times, overwhelming ones fronted by the media right now) is a set of videos by Mike Rugnetta seeking to explore various aspects of culture and entertainment.  He delves into some fascinating questions that have given my husband and I lots to discuss.  We especially found fun Rugnetta’s quick insight into how “Bronies” are changing our definitions of masculinity:

With the stress of holidays compounded with stressful national and world-wide events, I ask for YOUR shining moments.  What inspires you lately?  What gets YOU through the pressing S.A.D that the grey and dreary weather tends to bring to many of us?  What keeps YOUR head calm in the midst of the horror?

Also, otters. Otters make me grin and give me hope.

Awesome Olympians

I’m probably behind the ball by a lot on this but in case you haven’t seen it and still happen to be checking this lagging blog beastie for good news tidbits: check out Holley Mangold and her response to Conan’s rather crude and rude comments about this amazing weightlifter.

This woman is confident, amazing, strong, fat and completely fabulous.  One of her quotes that I loved:

“My parents just always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be,” she says, “and, silly me, I believed them.”

Swoon!  So read up if you need an uplifting moment for body positivity this week as the Olympics get under way!

When is a calorie: not?

Apparently when Harvard puts the time and energy into “discovering” that a “study” (which used ‘state of the art measures’) of a whopping 21 people for a few WEEKS shows that diets concentrated on fats versus carbs versus glycemic index are not all created equal! The human body apparently processes fats, carbs, proteins, etc DIFFERENTLY. At least, this obviously meaningful and rigorous study seems to think so.

In other “news”, the human body is not a bunsen burner. But, perhaps, I digress.

I think one of the most “amusing” parts of this is how they take this quote in the beginning (emphasis is mine):

Weight re-gain is often attributed to a decline in motivation or adherence to diet and exercise, but biology also plays an important role.

and yet go on to detail the virtues of non-biological means of making fatty people better able to STICK with those pesky diets. *eyeroll* It’s like they’re ALMOST there, ALMOST at the logical mind-step of realizing all this dieting crap is NOT a matter of simply willfully unmotivated people giving up…and then shake their heads against the logic anyway and go “Well, we’ll just have to try more ways to get those lazy bastards to keep on dieting”.

*le sigh*

OH: by the way: I’m back! :) Happy Summer/Winter y’all!

And then they’ll come for you…

Fierce Freethinking Fatties posted on a rather worrisome article in the Daily Nightly.  Not surprising, but worrisome if anyone is actually reading the subtext contained within.  The basic boil-down, as FFF deftly unwraps, is that all this hand-wringing over Fatness has made people In Charge even more inclined to move the goalposts of fitness so that even FEWER people qualify as Not Fatties.

The entire article is full of actual quote-gems along the lines of “without knowing how much fat you have, you can’t really save people from illness. It is the number one predictor of who’s going to live or die.” and is certainly far from one of the more encouraging small-steps towards sanity that I hunt for so desperately amongst the chaff of shitty articles like this.

The part that really pulled at me and makes me want to shake my head and poke those who continue to think bullying Fatties is a good idea with a gentle: “Uh…they’re coming for YOU next!*” reminder:

Of the 1,393 people studied, 26 percent were classified as obese when body fat was measured with BMI, whereas 64 percent of them were considered obese when measured with DXA. The misclassification was observed more often in women and increased with advancing age: 48 percent more women between the ages of 50 to 59 were classified as obese when measured with DXA instead of BMI, and among women ages 70 and above, 59 percent more were considered obese after getting a DXA scan. (Emphasis is mine)

Do you catch the significance there folks?  These people are advocating for new means of measuring for Fatness because now only 26% of us are counted as fat whereas this NEW method would show that nearly TWO THIRDS of us are all fat.  Anyone else feeling this is just a tad good for those folks in the business of selling weight-loss promises? Also of note?  The “misclassification” was more often found to be true for women.  Le Gasp!  You mean people want to make more people, more WOMEN, qualify as Fat And In Need Of Weight-Loss For Their Own Good? DOES NO ONE SEE THE PROBLEM HERE?!?  *headdesk repeatedly*

Instead of researching other factors related to the illnesses correlated with fatness (or, not if even the currently “normal” sized folks are still getting them, hence the hand-wringing about redefining who is “fat”) these people are more interested in just taking a big old brush to repaint the image of What Is Fat.  How about, instead, you look into actual measures of HEALTH?  Consider that Fats and Non-Fats alike get these diseases and figure out what ELSE is correlated. Perhaps the reason that fatness as it is defined now isn’t showing who is going to be ill because that is a PISS POOR WAY TO DETERMINE FITNESS!!  By basing everything on a simplistic calculation of Fat you do ALL of us a disservice. As so well put by FFF:

This really was the perfect opportunity for Dr. Braverman and Dr. Shah to make a dramatic u-turn and say “Hey, instead of focusing on fat and weight as a predictor of health, because let’s face it, those are pretty bad predictors, let’s work on this cool idea we heard about called Health at Every Size. Instead of stigmatizing certain numbers as good or bad, we focus on overall behaviours and attitudes towards food and health. Yeah! Great idea!”

But no.  Seems that lowing limits of what is an acceptable weight in a human body (no diversity allowed!) is so much more logical.  And if you can’t make your body fit the ever-narrowing image of healthy perfection?  Then why it is our right to bully humanity and its individuals to the point where they magically become thinner!  Yay! *sarcasm*

I came across an article in an older issue of the journal Science (Feb 10, 2006, page 759) in the course of my normal working day.  The article is about mice and bullying. The results of the observations described indicate that:

after being bullied by a bigger mouse, mice experience brain changes that increase their fear of unfamiliar mice. Unlike typical mice, the cowed mice act frightened even when  caged with an unfamiliar, non-bully mouse. The changes were long-lasting: the ‘defeated’ mice maintained their phobic reactions even 4 weeks after exposure to the aggressors.”

It got me thinking about how much people seem eager to increase the pressure to bully fatties “for our own good”.  If the observations of bullied mice is at all translatable to humans (which these scientists seem to think it is in some way as they are excited about the potential for certain brain chemistry of these mice to help research new drugs for treating mood disorders), then as in bullied mice, so too in bullied humans: you remain feeling “defeated” and worthless long after the initial bullying event has passed.

Being bullied for your weight will certainly help if the end-goal is to make nearly 2/3rds of the population (with emphasis on us women) completely defeated, mentally paralyzed with fear of being seen in public, ashamed of existing and even more depression and illness-prone.  But as a means of actually increasing the health of our world’s citizens these folks are definitely barking up the WRONG tree.  Honestly, between things like this and the many ways that politicians are doing their darndest to remove rights from the female half of the population, I feel like I’m living in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and it is really making me fearful for our future as a nation and a planet.

 

*First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

Short, Fat, Female and In Power

I have started getting the NAAFA Newsletter via email and the most recent update has an brief snippet about a woman from Ancient Egypt who has long fascinated me:  Hatshepsut. As I have of late been rather burnt out trying to maintain a constant level of rage against the many atrocities against fatness in daily life, not to mention those being even more forcibly and dangerously foisted upon the rights of women of all sizes, I found this brief mention of an amazing woman from the past to be a breath of fresh air. Not least of which because researching it lead me to the discovering of ANOTHER amazing woman…

Hatshepsut: Woman Ruler of Egypt (First of the few female rules to actually take the title of Pharaoh) for 20+ years (around the 1500s BC), established trade networks to rebuild the wealth of the 18th dynasty, commissioned the first recorded attempt to procure and transplant foreign trees (Myrrh), one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt with hundreds of works commissioned who was not shy about self-promotion of her amazing feats.

In short, she was powerful, intelligent, rich, important and knew her own value.  She was unafraid to not only use her connections and monies to the benefit of herself and her nation’s glory but she was out there for all to see: proud and fierce and female. Now, while researching the claims that she was also fat and short I was coming up…short.  Most representations of Hatshepsut in images or text refer to her beauty and blooming youth, etc.  I was happy to read that she ran the Pharaoh’s circuit in her 40s (go older woman!) but failed to find clear references to the woman actually being short and fat.

Queen of Punt

Source: Wikipedia images

However, I *DID* find references to the wife of Parihou/Perehu: Ati/Eti, the Queen of Punt (where Hatshepsut got her Myrrh trees to transplant).  This is where the true awesome rests.  The queen of punt, you see, was described as “short, fat, long-armed, and with a prominent behind”.  Rock on, Fatty Queen!

There is really not much written on the queen (or even her King for that matter) as records are more concerned with the goodies that Hatshepsut brought back from her expedition abroad to the still disputed location of the  Land of Punt than with the fat queen from the land they visited. However, she was certainly NOT the general image of a queen, so much so that artists depicted her vastly differently from other generic people images of the day.  Her non-thin appearance in such images is, to this day, discussed amongst those destined to find out, fromQueen of Punt in her Yellow Dress such depictions alone, what was “wrong” with her body.  Me?  I’m just happily enjoying the idea that a woman was queen of a land abroad and left such an impression that artists felt the need to capture her image.

Perhaps they were doing what amounted to mockery at the time, you suggest?  I feel that would have been a waste of time and talents when crafting a relief for the queen’s huge temple of Deir el-Bahri.  To me, these images are a representation of a woman that people were impressed with, enough so that they refused to carve her as yet another generically similar body-shapes but felt compelled to portray her as she was.

I say: Rock on you fabulous women of ancient days!  You RULED!

Things to get excited about

I’m not talking arousal here, though who knows this might tickle that fancy for some.  I’m talking about some really good and promising news on the FA front as well as some great rebuttals going around that bash some Fat Tropes with an Awesome-sized Science & Common-Sense Hammer.  Let’s see what’s in our bag of goodies, shall we?

First:

Obesity Timebomb notes that a new journal (Fat StudiesAn Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society ) has been published! While not the first journal to approach these issues from the more radical side of current thoughts on fatness, it is a solid peer-reviewed academic journal its potential is seen in its ability to, as Charlotte so aptly puts it:

“shift critical and scholarly discussions of fatness out of health or ‘Obesity Epidemic’ and into a much broader arena where things like culture, community, rights, embodiment can be addressed. “

Kudos to the editor (Esther Rothblum) and also to Charlotte (whose article “A queer and transfat activist timeline” appears in the first issue!

Second:

Ragen over at Dances with Fat does a fabulous take-down of the recent furor over Paula Deen’s announcement that she has Type 2 Diabetes. Not surprising to me is the finding that people love to get themselves whipped into a good self-righteous rant over how obvious it is that a fatty would catch the fatness disease. However, Ragen touches nicely on the myth of diabetes (particularly Type 2); the rampant erroneous assumption that weight loss, should it even be achievable long-term, is desirable; the body as public property; and the meme of Public Health as Public Thinness. One of my favorite (of many) great quotes:

“Being for public health means that you are for people having access to the foods that they choose to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy,  and affordable evidence-based medical care. If public health is important to you then you fight like hell for people to have access of these things, then you butt out and let people make their own choices.”

Really well done and worth reading in its entirety.

Third:

Big Fat Blog clued me into NPR’s recent acceptance of something we’ve known since at least 2003: Obesity rates have already “peaked”.  Otherwise known as “all you proponents of fat-shaming who keep asserting that Obesity Rates Are Rising are not only wrong but HAVE BEEN WRONG for many years now”.   Still, NPR’s admission is more cued as a “hmm, rates MAY have peaked! And it must be linked to all these awful behavior strategies in schools and such that studies have yet to show do anything other than increase the likelihood of persons feeling smug for hating on fatties”; especially given the lovely headless fatties gracing the article with a caption filled with scare figures of the “jump” in fatness since 1995.  (You know, before they changed the BMI limits on what is considered “fat”?).  A really interesting quote from the article:

“”Obesity prevalence can’t keep going up year after year indefinitely. Ultimately we’ll reach a state where those individuals who are susceptible to becoming obese for genetic reasons have already developed obesity,” Ludwig says.”

I love looking at quotes like the one above and replacing the word “Obesity” with “Fatness”.  Just try it.  Doesn’t it sound as ridiculous? However, while there is the usual fat-hand-wringing in the middle, the article ends with this rather awesome nod to body and size and perhaps even FAT acceptance:

“Others say the whole idea of an “obesity epidemic” has been overblown and that more emphasis should be put on getting more Americans to become fit rather than fixate on losing weight.

“Most people who lose weight will ultimately regain it. If you do this do over and over and over again you develop a nation of weight-cyclers, a yo-yo-dieting society and there are risks associated with yo-yo dieting that are every bit as hazardous as the risks associated with just being fat,” Glenn Gaesser of Arizona State University.

Fourth:

This is my favorite bit of activism in a while.  Ragen over at Dances with Fat (thanks to Unapologetically Fat for redirecting me to this post I missed!) has initiated something called “Rolls, not Trolls” a self-proclaimed Ninja Commenting venture designed to spread a bit of FA love into comment threads usually filled with hatred and shaming.  I love this not only because it has a Facebook group (which it now does) where folks can share ideas of things to post, not only because Ragen so nicely asserts that this is something to be used NOT for diet-centric spaces (because I wouldn’t want to see such messages in my Diet-Zone anymore than I want to hear their diet tips in my Diet-FREE-Zone), but because the passing of POSITIVE voices into what are usually negative threads online fills me with a fat, fluttery, hopeful feeling of warmth. THIS is one of the small moments of activism which will begin to creep in to tear down the walls of shaming and hatred. I love it!

As the Queen in Alice in Wonderland is known for saying, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  I’ve got 4 here already; what else have you heard this week?

*ETA: This is, apparently, my 400th post!  So; maybe that’s a 5th great thing!

“Best Way for Girls to Lose Weight”

Above is a commercial which has been making the rounds on Facebook the last day or so. In case you’re not able to watch it; we see a line of electric bikes set up in a line (all colored pink you’ll notice). Slowly, people (mostly women) approach the bikes and start using them.  Doing so activates a digital pink line powered by the movement of all the bikes which shows a dancing man doing a “strip dance”.  At the end, the man “goes around a corner” to pull off those digital undies and comes back with a sign in front of his bits which says, in French: “Bravo!  You’ve burned 2000 calories! “.  The tag-line for this commercial at the end is  (loosely translated*, again in French):  “Losing weight would be easier if it was more fun”.  The ad seems to be for a water company “Contrex” which wants to be known as “your slimming partner”.

Okay.  First off, let me say that I LOVE the idea of making exercising, moving around, FUN again instead of a drudgery intended to bore and yet be endured for the sake of “less fatness”.  What I DON’T like and wish we could really REALLY move away from as a world; is the idea that even after making movement fun and a group activity that folks seemed to enjoy, the punchline is still:  Hah!  See, we made you (girls) work out and now you’ve burned such and such calories so forget all the fun, etc; it’s the CALORIE BURN that made it all worthwhile, amiright?  *sigh*  NO!  Just make moving FUN.  Period.  The end.

Also very problematic is the way this is STILL marketed as a way for “girls” (yeah, not even women though you’ll notice that most of the folks using the machines are far from “girl”-aged) to lose weight.  There is one older gentleman who climbs up on a pink bike at one point but overall the message is STILL that women, sorry “girls” will NEVER be accepted unless they lose weight.  No.  Never.  What’s that adage?  You can always still lose another 10% and be “healthier”?  Yeah.  Talk about setting the bar to “infinitely impossible”.

My thought? Set up video games that run on treadmill or bicycle power similar to this electronic dancing man.  I know there are already such devices out there.  Bring them to the limelight!  Also? Remind folks that all that work they do standing and moving about in their daily lives is ALREADY a great bunch of exercise.  Promote forms of movement that cater to people’s vastly different desires: group activities for those socialites, individual sports or games for those who would rather work on challenging themselves alone, different skill levels for varying levels of ability.  Fight for government subsidies to create safe spaces around each nation to DO these sorts of activities.

But, above all, STOP equating movement with a Smaller Body.  You set people up to ultimately fail and stop WANTING to move when the only goal is a smaller body which does not occur or does not last.  Make the goal: Have Fun, Get Your Heart Rate Up, Enjoy the Movements Your Body is Capable of Making.

When you REMOVE the conflation between health and weight; you end up with people interested in, instead, working towards fitness goals that don’t involve smaller pant sizes or tighter dresses (you know, since we’re all worried about these “girls” you know).  Fatness isn’t killing us sooner, isn’t taxing the healthcare systems more than actual illnesses, and is really only a measure (consistently and erroneously measured and analyzed) of how large your body is; NOT what it is capable of.  Weight is not a proxy for behaviors.  All bodies benefit from movement.  As the awesome Dances with Fat writer Ragen so aptly points out:

There are exactly two things that you can tell by looking at someone’s size:

  1. What size they are
  2. What your personal preconceived notions and prejudices about that particular body size are

That is just perfectly put.  Visual cues on fatness need to be disassociated from all the baggage we’ve attached to it.

We need to put our energies into efforts to spread the word that movement IS fun.  It isn’t a payment you make to the gods of thinness.  It is energizing and fulfilling and good for you body.  No matter WHAT size that body may be.

*Literally: “One would lose weight better if it was more fun”