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Mid-Week Music to Lift my Spirit

I spent today “enjoying” time at home while my digestion waged war with my menstrual cycle over who would reign supreme over my lower body.  I’m still not sure what’s “winning”…

With THAT lovely image in mind, I did find some comfort today as I was browsing the Internet between costume designing, laundry washing and watching some channel’s marathon of self-purported “Movies That Don’t Suck”.

One bit of fun was this little stop-motion animation of books doing the jig to a song that I’ve recently danced in a huge skirt:

The same folks also did a bit longer and more elaborate animation that was cute as well. Then, I found myself falling into… not so much a “melancholy” so much as a mood wherein I really appreciate a good somber bit of video set to a good swelling of emotional music.  It led me to this fantastic piece with a Cello, a Piano, and a Drum that really makes me want to be the sort who creates emotional videos with scenes from a show because I think it would PERFECTLY work with a series of scenes taken from the Dr. Who universe:

I liked it so much I found the song on Amazon so I could purchase the mp3!  Not only is that music beautiful to me, it is a very creative embellishment on classical works; a taking of something “original” and “classic” to make it one’s own; to give it a new and broader life. The height of creativity to my thoughts today.

In a more FA-related finding I came across this fake advertisement for a new beauty product called “Fotoshop by Adobé”:

It is, for the most part, a rather clever put-together of many of the ideas that many have already discovered about today’s media images: that they are all creations manipulated from reality in such a way that no one can actually approach the goals of “beauty” they uphold.  My slight “beef” with it is a line about “why eat right or exercise when you can just LOOK like you do” for the, hopefully obvious reason (among others) that it fully endorses the conflation of visual appearance with internal health. Otherwise it is at least a bit encouraging to me to see something of this nature making the usual Facebook rounds.  There is room for improvement but I still hold out hope!

Thought that in 2012 I might give readers a taste of some small measure of what else makes April D “tick”.  This is today’s “entry”.  What’s making YOU tick on this early January day?

But, isn’t “Mental Health” also a vital, important part of “Health”?

As many, if not all, of us know: January (aka Dieting Frenzy Re-boot Month) is here. The holidays of last year have passed and commitments to a “New You” are promoted everywhere.  Largely this translates, often-times not even subtly, to “The THINNER You”.  There are many things to hate about this month of resurgent interest in Whipping Off the Pounds that the hopefully restful holidays may have Put Upon You.  One happening that ends up making my very sad and wistful however is hearing/seeing people say/post things which reference actions they are doing or foods they are eating that they don’t LIKE (or even actively HATE) but which they follow-up with “but I suppose it is good for me”.

That’s just so sad to me.  Not only does it immediately buy into this idea that obviously what is “Good” for you is either Not Easy or is going to be something you’ll HATE; it also sets people up for a cycle of failure. How can you possibly want to continue behaviors that you’ve decided are “The Good Ones” if you’re already firmly set against them: because what you’ve chosen as Good is so despicable to you?

I’m firmly against the idea that anything (and everything) Good for you is difficult and undesirable; and that anything Bad for you is easy and the path to true darkness.  This isn’t the Force folks.  Foods and activities aren’t a cut and dry metric by which your moral values could (or should) be measured.

I understand that, especially after a few weeks of a tacitly “allowed” festive mentality that there is this incredible pressure to feel guilt and “pay” for such sinfully decadent behavior.  I can understand how much easier it is to give in to the pressures and put your body and mind on a diet of what is perceived as Good as a sort of punishment for allowing yourself to feel good for any length of time.  I don’t support it; but I sure as heck understand it; having fallen prey to these exact ideas many times myself over the years.

However, if having one fat woman declare it gives you the peace of mind to even consider an alternative, think on this:  your Mental Health is just as important as your physical health.  Even if you refuse to believe me when I assert that physical health and fatness are not intrinsically linked in an inverse relationship; please allow that there is a direct correlation between your mental well-being and your overall wellness.  If you are already mentally trudging at the idea of the behaviors and foods you’ve put in front of yourself as the Grail to Thinness, then the increasingly bitter resentment you will feel towards these actions and nutrients will only serve to reinforce your hatred of them and make Being Good seem like an even more distant possibility that ever before.

Break free of the chains of This Is Good For Me Even If I Hate It.  If you MUST attempt a Change of Lifestyle; I’d personally suggest Health At Every Size: where internal hunger cues are rediscovered and our own bodies become the competent devices they were created to be from the start.  Where “Good” depends on what works for YOU; where mental health his JUST as vital as the perceived “good” value of what you next hope to eat.  Don’t do what you SUPPOSE is good for you (especially if it is distasteful or even hateful to you).  Do what feels right; what you learn means your body is happy.  Yes, it IS a scary proposition to trust your own body and learn to listen.  To me, though, it is a far better venture than to select purported Good Foods and Good Activities to punish yourself for daring to have enjoyed the recent holiday season.

Happy New Year and Happy Same Awesome You!!

PS: Those who read on the site may have noticed the updated look.  Just playing with themes and running with a pink theme that tickled my fancy.

“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”

It’s the small snowflake-y Fat Hate references that add up to the full Fat Hate blizzard

I haven’t posted in a while because sometimes the feeling that “I’ve said this already.  100 different ways.  1,000 different times.  Yet, the Fat-Hate continues” gets overwhelming.  That makes it a bit difficult to want to dredge up the same arguments, yet again, to point out the disturbing news on Fat Children being pulled from loving homes or more Fat Actresses joining the Jenny Craig / Weight Watchers band wagons or more studies on HAES being brushed under the media rug in favor of highlighting older and less well-done studies claiming to prove that the Calories In/Out crap really works.  Even the more positive bits on HAES joining the ADA panels or Fatshion making waves elicits at times no more than a shrug and apathetic acknowledgment that “Yay.  We’ve made another wee baby step.  Now what sort of huge leap backwards remains to come next?”

That whiny bit of pessimism is my way of explaining the two weeks sans-posting.  Now that THAT is out-of-the-way, here’s the good news and insight into why I’m AM posting now.

I’ve found myself doing 3 belly dance classes a week now and have been working nightly on increasing my flexibility (with the aim of at least improving if not accomplishing a full kneeling lay-back).  This has improved my sense of calm and serenity quite a bit lately.  That, and getting used to the CPAP machine I’m now using for a mild case of sleep apnea and we have a much more grounded, centered and, in general, happier April D.  In fact, here’s a pic of said happy woman all dressed up for a tribal dance performance this past weekend:

All Autumn-Themed and Ready to Dance

All Autumn-Themed and Ready to Dance

With this better mind-set of late I’ve found myself more willing to write again and after reading this book I found myself wanting to address the ways that small references that perpetuate Fat Hatred in favor of Thin Reverence (in the guise of Hating the Unhealthy/Loving the Healthy (which is its own problem for another post) serve only to reinforce a culture wherein the ideas of Fat Shaming for Your Own Good can be so blithely proposed.  These small “snowflakes” that crop up in not only the mainstream media but EVERYWHERE are how we create a “blizzard” that surrounds us daily; constantly pushing against us to coldly inform us (over and over) that Fat is Bad. Things like this are why such concepts are so deeply ingrained (or, perhaps, a reflection of just how ingrained they are with the added benefit of perpetuation and reinforcing this concept at the same time by its very existence).

This is a Kinda Book Review/Mostly Rant (Why does Fat (sorry, “Unhealthy”) Hate/Thin (sorry, “Healthy”) Reverence  need to find its way into every book?!):

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: It is the future.  OASIS is the virtual reality whose details at time surpass the real world; so much so that many people find themselves choosing to spend more and more of their lives living through their online avatars.  You access this OASIS by means of a visual device and gloves/keyboard at minimum; but to get really fancy you can get an entire suit/chair set up.  That’s where our character finds himself making the following statements:

“I spent the vast majority of my time sitting in my haptic chair, getting almost no exercise at all. I also had a habit of overeating when I was depressed or frustrated, which was most of the time. As a result, I’d gradually started to put on some extra pounds. I wasn’t in the best of shape to begin with, so I quickly reached a point where I could no longer fit comfortably in my haptic chair or squeeze in to my XL haptic suit. Soon, I would need to buy a new rig, with components from the Husky line.

I knew that if I didn’t get my weight under control, I would probably die of sloth before I found the egg.  I couldn’t let that happen. So I made a snap decision and enabled the voluntary OASIS fitness lockout software on my rig. I’d regretted it almost immediately…”

From this point the text briefly talks about how this computerized system of virtual reality, within which the character needs access in order to function (his job is there, his friends, everything) becomes a dedicated and brutal calorie counter which denies access to the virtual world unless its demands are met.  Like an electronic WW counselor tied-to-your-daily-life/nanny-cam device which didn’t let you work or play until the right caloric balance of in and out has been achieved.  And then….

“This was some sadistic software.  But it worked.  The pounds began to melt off, and after a few months, I was in near-perfect health. For the first time in my life I had a flat stomach, and muscles. I also had twice the energy, and I got sick a lot less frequently.  When the two months ended and I was finally given the option to disable the fitness lockout, I decided to keep it in place. Now, exercising was a part of my daily ritual.”

Um…can anyone else say: “Fantasy of Being Thin”?  In a VERY stereotypical, oft-wished-for but never lasting Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers-esque new Host of the Month excited little bundle the author of this book has managed to slot into the story a needless and yet fully complete weight-loss dream fantasy.

You’ve got the whole story arc there. How Fatness (or Fatter-ness) is acquired simply by not moving and overeating (because we’re emotional wrecks, of course).  How then with simply the right (harsh-mistress of) motivation we’re able to snap into Healthy Habits that make us Thin, Beautiful, Lean, Muscular and…uh…Healthier too.  How, we then come to realize that we come to LIKE these things and thus the activities that led to them too.  Ahhh, magical transformation complete!

Can’t you just hear that montage music as the character works off all those “excess pounds” thanks to the “motivation” of the allure of the virtual world.  This is “Hate Them for their Own Good” wrapped in one tidy package: if we TRICKED fatties into HAVING to work out/eat less/better than OF COURSE they’d be slim/trim/HAPPY from it!  We must SAVE THEM FROM THEMSELVES!

I mean…come ON!  Why does any book, certainly a sci-fi one that actually allows for an overweight main character to exist in the first place, feel they HAVE to cram this shit in there?  WHY?!  The need to include this small and yet direct jab at how fatties would be thin if we just had the right motivation is just juvenile and insulting.  Also, talk about a trope played to death (and yet STILL not proven to be at all effective in creating the sort of long-term body-shape changes that are so glowingly advertised.)

What is the point of such an addition to an otherwise decent story? Yes.  You’ve succinctly boiled down the world’s fantasy scheme for making the entire human race thin.  It doesn’t work that way, but huzzah and congrats.  Here’s your confetti and cookie: you’ve latched onto the entire Fat-to-Thin story-arc trope and found a way to stuff it into your book.  I’m sure you feel rather proud of how you solved global obesity with two short pages of science fiction.  Thanks for your stunning contribution to humanity.

Yet, without giving away the entire plot or the key twists, there are also some neutral/positive body moments in there as well where a fat character is a sympathetic good guy and appreciated for contributions made, rather than seen as solely a body.  Well, mostly.

At any rate.  This was a book that I’d probably give a solid 3.5.  Unnecessary fat-bashing and trope-inclusion; complete disregard (even in passing mention) for how anyone could access this OASIS if they were not able to see  (not sure why this bothered me so much but it felt like a glaring omission after a while that there was so much focus on the visual stimulus… yet no mention at ALL of how those who were not sighted could fit into this world.  Not even a token line to the effect that sightedness was a privileged class or anything); over-indulgence of the 80’s theme in some rather long sections that could, quite honestly, be largely skipped.  But it has a cast of characters who do grow a bit and a fairly interesting plot concept; albeit a rather predictable outcome.

Has anyone else read this and have thoughts to add?  Was this section on Solving Fatness meant to be a throw-away bit to draw readers into the fantasy-style of the world the author was hoping to create (thus becoming just a passage included because of the immersion of such ideas in our very culture, serving to reinforce them)?  Was it just another way to make sure fat-bashing didn’t go unheard for even the short length of one 300 page novel (an intended inclusion meant to remind the readers (who may, themselves, be fat) that with hard work and the right motivation Fatness should not exist)? What is your take on it?

We need to stop hiding!

I make a habit of checking out the cards posted each week at PostSecret.  This week there was one that definitely made me choke up a bit; both from sadness in being able to relate to this person’s secret actions and also from anger that people still feel the need to hide themselves in so many ways, small and large, every day.  Even when on vacation.

It just makes me want to take the world and be able to gently shake it by the shoulders and firmly say: “Stop hiding your body everyone.  There is no shame in existing.  Period.  No, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your body or their willingness to fuck it.  Other people’s thoughts on your body have no bearing on your undeniable right to EXIST.  In PUBLIC.  AS YOU ARE. Even in a *gasp* Bathing Suit! Human beings are diverse.  The idea that we should all strive for a narrow visual representation of what current society deems “acceptably normal”, to the point that we’re re-arranging our laundry to make it appear that the owner is differently sized,  is ludicrous and incredibly damaging to all of us.”

The fact that so many of us likely still can relate to the sort of guilty embarrassment that makes this postcard submitter attempt to hide the size of their body by this tiny action with a swimsuit should be a huge red flag to us that there is a glaring lack of self-acceptance in this world.

This is likely not surprising when immersed in a world which delights in telling us all of the many various and sundry ways that our bodies do not measure up to ever-changing and ever narrowing standards of “acceptable”.  Still, it never fails to make me heavy-hearted to see such examples of this culture of oppressive self-hatred messages borne out.

To counter-balance this sort of thing I do have the pleasure of seeing folks who are trying to get the message out there that there is no shame in being visible.  Swimsuit Confidence, Rad Fatties Project, Perspective on Swimsuit Season, Every Body is a Bikini Body. You all rock!

I know there are there other heart-warming and/or powerful bloggers out there sharing their thoughts and/or image without shame that I’ve missed; please add them in comments!

Fat Art in History: Part the 1st

Since I don’t have a culinary creation post to share today (I need to do more cooking and picture-snapping!) I wanted to share a few pictures and paintings that I’ve come across in my work when I have to flip through various art journals and magazines on various and sundry topics.  Feast your eyes on a bit of what I’d certainly call non-standard bodies in today’s age; painted, sculpted or photographed back years or decades or eons ago.

As I stockpile these finds I’ll add more such posts to stimulate your eye-candy pleasure! Your reminder today? Beauty is a cultural ideal.  It changes.  It is not static.  It is never more “right” at one point in time than in another.  There’s a reason the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” continues to be such a powerful one. Diversity is not a four letter word.  Embrace it for a few moments here:

Albrecht Durer’s “Four Witches”

a 1497 engraving by the German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer

a 1497 engraving by the German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer

Hans Baldung Grien’s “The drunken Bacchus with putti playing”

The drunken Bacchus with putti playing

Hans Baldung Grien/Grün (c. 1484–1545) was a German Renaissance artist in painting and printmaking in woodcut. He was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer

Elizabeth Catlett’s “Pensive Figure”

pensive figure

Elizabeth Catlett Mora (born April 15, 1915) is an African-American sculptor and printmaker. Catlett is best known for the black, expressionistic sculptures and prints she produced during the 1960s and 1970s,

 

Lucien Freud’s “Naked Man, Back View”

 

1993. Freud was a British painter. One of Freud's favorite models was Leigh Bowery. Inspired by what he called Bowery's "wonderfully buoyant bulk and those extraordinary dancer's legs"

Madge Tennent’s “Lei Queen Victoria”

A renowned art educator as well as painter of modern figurative canvases of Hawaiian subjects, Madge Tennent was based primarily in Hawaii between 1930 and 1939. She was among the first artists to embrace native Hawaiians as a primary subject matter

“Venus of Dolni Vestonice”

This figurine, together with a few others from nearby locations, is the oldest known ceramic in the world, predating the use of fired clay to make pottery. The palaeolithic settlement of Dolní Věstonice in Moravia, a part of Czechoslovakia at the time organized excavation began, now located in the Czech Republic

That’s all for this bit of Fat Art in History.  Are there other artists you’ve heard of that you’d like to see here sometime?  Feel free to share in comments!

Balancing Points: On taking a rest

Balancing a Sword

Balancing Life

There are many things in life that we balance everyday: Checkbooks, jobs and homelife, kids and careers, housework and freetime, classes, love, money, time, life, food… they all take a part of our energy to consider and require finding a balance in order to get through from day-to-day without becoming overloaded.

When do you know when  you gone over your own personal threshold?  When do you feel that sword begin to sway and the point begin to drop?  Can you feel it even?  When life is rushing past is it sometimes just too much to even notice when things are no longer a balance of come and go and have just become go, go, GO?

I know that I often advocate that no matter what you look like or how undeserving society or your own mind might think you are: everyone needs a moment to be calm and un-stressed.

Perhaps that means taking a week away from the pressures of diet ads and fat-phobic messages on TV.  Or maybe you’d rather find something that truly riles you up* and takes your mind off of any of the mundane and/or inane bits of the regular routine by placing it in the realm of a fight for social justices. Maybe being “Stress Free” for you means simply not having to cook one night. Or getting a night away from regular duties with kids or spouses or friends or the job….maybe it means turning up the radio for that one great song and dancing like no one is watching; releasing all that tension with every frantic move of your body to the rhythm pulsing around you.

Whatever it takes I am here to post another reminder that it is never “not quite the right time” to get just a moment to yourself.  It isn’t being lazy to hold up that “STOP” hand on the pulse of what is rushing around you and, in whatever manner works for you, take a mental/physical/spiritual time-out. I feel that a large part of learning to love ourselves and accept who we are, is not only to accept that Yes Virginia, Humans DO have Limitations; but to recognize, acknowledge and work to take the appropriate rest that is required for any and all of the limitations we have.  Not every moment has to be “go”.  There can (and should) also be some down-time moments for “stop”ping.

On my “Go, Go, Go” list right now I have:

  • Last class for my MLIS
  • Swimming laps Tuesday
  • Practice for Belly Recital April 3rd
  • Fencing with Adam D Thursday
  • This blog (In a related note: I’ll apologize now that there will be no food post tomorrow, I need to cook more and take more pictures now!)
  • Trumpet practice for concert this coming weekend in CT (March 13th)
  • Full time job
  • Part time job

On my “Stop!” list I need to take a few moments of breather to catch up on:

  • Sleeping
  • Cooking long meals for the joy of creating
  • Crochet
  • Thoughtful blog posts related more directly to FA (Or is that more on the “go” list??)
  • More non-planned weekends with the Hubby to just relax, make love and be together

What falls on your own lists of Busy and Rest?  Do you find yourself neglecting the Rest in order to get more done on that Busy list?  Don’t forget that the body and mind both need time to recoup to function optimally.  It is something I myself often forget and need to be reminded of (hence this post!)

*On the riling up bit: I LOVED the Hunger Game books (well the first was a hit out of the park the second was good and the third a bit disappointing) so I am thrilled at the possibility of seeing this on the big screen. But seriously?? Why post a casting call asking for someone who looks “underfed but strong” to play the female lead? I GET that these kids were all nearly starving.  But that ISN’T what you need to ask for in your damn actresses. If you’re looking for a very lean athlete; SAY THAT!  But to suggest what you’re looking for is the breed of self-starving model that already dominates the acting playing field is really head-shakingly, eye-rollingly ill-considered.  Also?  Katniss was an olive-skinned young girl.  Not a white girl.  Just saying.