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?

Your fetus, your diet, and you

I’ve been quietly (or not so quietly as my husband who has to listen to my various outbursts and scornful scoffs as I read) taking in the latest news on the dieting front.  Mainly the news of a new trial study to put overweight pregnant women on a drug intended to prevent their fetus from gaining too much weight.

I think Dances with Fat really did a fabulous look into the many reasons that this entire concept is just entirely disturbing.  A bit of that post which really keeps resonating for me is this:

Weight and Health are two different things and cannot be freely substituted for one another.  Health is multi-dimensional and includes things in our control and things out of our control such as genetics, environment, access, stress and behaviors, and being healthy is not the same as being thin. There are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size. (emphasis is mine)

I think that in all the fervor to ensure that our children and our general population masses stay healthy; we’re really focused on weight because it is perceived as far easier than focusing on the multi-dimensional reality of health. If you prepare a program intended to create weight-loss; that is far more easily measured than, say, determining all of the many variant factors tied into the concept of Good Health. Yet, as Dances with Fat and many others have pointed out time and again, Thin(ner) is NOT, nor should it be, a synonym for Healthy.

So much gets missed when size is  pushed forward as the best, nay the ONLY metric for measuring a body’s health.  My fear is that in this zeal and zest (and other “z” words) to Think About The Children, we’ve actually gone and forgotten all about them.  Children are merely another pawn in this War on Fat being waged.  Like the rest of us; they only stand to lose from such a position.

I don’t see how this sort of fetus-dieting study can possibly benefit anyone; let alone our children. These initiatives to drastically attack a body’s fat (or in this case a fetus’ potential to gain fat) can only serve to further reinforce already damaging stereotypes about  fatness, health and worth.

Michelle Obama’s “Fight the Fatties” mentality in addressing the United State’s “Obesity Problem” via the Let’s Move campaign seems ripe to instead (or additionally?) help INCREASE bullying and increase the prevalence of destructive behaviors (such as disordered eating); all in the name of fixing a purportedly drastically growing problem that DOESN’T REALLY EXIST!!!

In case you don’t click that last link, it leads to the CDC’s own admission that childhood obesity levels have LEVELED OFF. Since 1999! “Between 1999–2000 and 2007–2008, there was no significant trend in obesity prevalence for any age group”  Despite a recently released letter from the same CDC advising immediate actions to fight this disastrous scourge on our nation that is a fat body, there is NO EPIDEMIC of an increasingly fat nation. (PS: this rate has also been level for adults for a while now.)

Lifespan is at an all-time high in the US, and is increasing. Has been for nearly a decade.  Yet, why use such a silly measure of health as Life Expectancy?  That’s not a quick and dirty way to quantify an individual’s unique health profile! Weight is by FAR easier to track. Less work, easier to assign blame on the individual when efforts fail rather than on the initiative itself.  Hmm.  Some might think researchers and obesity experts were lazy or something?  Nah.  Only us fatties get that moniker: Lazy.

Deaths associated with fatness are being revealed to have less direct one-to-one Fat-to-Death correlation than assumed: “Overweight was not associated with excess mortality. The relative risks of mortality associated with obesity were lower.” Yet, despite studies cropping up with these and similar findings about the intricate (at the least) relationship between body size and health; initiatives continue to crop up destined to give us all the quick-fix marketers seem to feel we crave: that Get Thin Quick scam that we all know deep down (skin deep at least) is based upon shallow measures of appearance; not true measures of health.

Children, like adults, are not just bodies to be measured and judged.  They are people.  We are people. People  should not be judged Healthy or Not based upon the size of the bodily container they inhabit. Health should not be a metric by which a person’s worth is measured.

Int’l No Diet Day was May 6th

I’m sure anyone reading the Fat Feeds got the news bulletin as I did that the 19th celebration of Non-Dieting was to be celebrated.  I merely point it out today for two reasons: 1. I’m finally done with classes and have that final grade in-hand so aside from walking in the ceremony on the 20th, I’m DONE! 2. There were some great posts on the topic that I wanted to point out here.

Fat Chicks Rule marked what changes have occurred since 1992 with a post reciting words from Mary Evans Young (founder of the famous day).  How are we doing since 19 years of this day of international non-dieting? “But, the pressure is still on us all to be other than we are…Whether child or geriatric. There’s far too many people ever ready with their knives. And quacks peddling magic drugs and potions. Fat remains an easy and socially acceptable target and a useful vehicle for others to project their self hate.”

Big Liberty compiled some of the many ways that, on a holiday a mere 3 days after International No Diet Day, mothers are told “If you’re fat, we hate you”.

Zaftig Zeitgeist offers up two options for the sorts of eating advice you might consider healthier: the rather obvious malarkey offered up by a thin nutritionist, for whom nearly 1/3rd of her daily intake involves a box of macaroons late at night after a day of semi-starvation, or the more even-keeled advice of the Fat Nutritionist who supports “All food contains nutrients” and a balanced approach to eating habits.

Dances with Fat has a few videos up of their wonderful burlesque dancing that really made me cheer.  I LOVE watching these folks in action and feel that their energy and enthusiasm for the dance (as well as their grace and beauty of dance) is one more reminder that you should NEVER be waiting until a certain body size or shape to dance if you want to dance; to live the way you want to live!

Communications of a Fat Waitress has a great rumination on how, upon giving up on the FoBT, a person can go about loving their body. “I love my body every year that I fight back against the standards which dictate that my body is inherently bad, I love my body every month that I eat foods without fear of the choices I make, I love my body every week I make time to find joy in movement, I love my body every day that I look in the mirror and only love what is reflected at me, and I love my body every second that I don’t allow my mind to be filled with hatred and shame.”

Big Fat Blog did a round-up of some other great posts on the topic.

So, I’m back in the swing of a life, lived roundly, with no more late-night homework sessions to fill my weeks, and lots of wonderful thoughts to get down on electronic paper!  There are many book reviews and recipes still to come that I look forward to getting up on here as well as dancing videos, thoughts on fat and eating and movement, who knows what else.

Sometimes… it IS just As Simple As That

Today I had a follow-up with my Gastroenterologist just to renew prescriptions and touch base.  Everything she’s been doing to manage my IBS is working well and I feel wonderful most days.  I’ve been reflecting the past week since the reminder about the appointment today that I’ve definitely even solidly stabilized my weight and so that’s not even a concern.  If the weather would warm up for more than one day I could even really get to digging out the shorts from last year, into which I still comfortably fit (for the second summer in a ROW!  Something that has NEVER happened in my dieting roller-coaster years).

This is the second time I went into the office and when told “if you’ll just step over here so I can get your most recent weight” I calmly replied “No thank you.  I don’t do scales.”  The only response was an equally calm and, dare I say, respectful, “Okay.”

How easy!  It was again a simple reminder that taking care of your health by means of doctor visits does not have involve a struggle each time*.  The doctor, who did not note anything about weight last visit, did not even bring the topic up.  Instead we were able to happily discuss what options I had if the hubby and I did decide to try to have children in the near future.  It was a pleasure.  It was simple.  It was what I imagine regular check-ups must be like for people who go to the doctors and fall into the “Normal” BMI range: a routine visit with no lingering issues being dredged up or nutritionist plans being promoted, etc (even though this appointment DID take place down in what is the Nutritionists’ area today).

I love those moments when being Fat is just a component of Being Me, and not a or even THE defining factor.  These are moments I feel like rejoicing, like there is hope that at some point the world will “Get It” and look back and marvel that everyone ever treated people differently simply BECAUSE they were different instead of acknowledging (celebrating even?) diversity for the wonderful and natural trait it is.

*Bearing in mind, of course, that I am very lucky to have some amazing care-providers and that I fully understand that not everyone is so lucky.

My FA suggestions for this Lenten Season

I am reflecting this Ash Wednesday on the season of “Lent”.  Today starts those 40 (or 46 if you count the Sundays) days that are so often considered a re-boot of flagging or failed attempts to kick-start new “healthy habits” (aka: Diets Lifestyle Changes intended to garner lost weight) that were resolutely announced for New Years Resolutions.

However, rather than take this ancient season of fasting and spiritual reflection as another call to shrink your body; I’d offer up a few other suggestions. This Lenten season why not consider giving up The Fantasy of Being Thin? Make a pledge to lessen your Carbon Footprint? INCREASE the time/money/energy you commit to helping others? Feel free to share in comments alternate ideas might you have for things/actions to “give up” (or, in what I think is a more encouraging phrasing: “to give of”).

Forget making this time before Easter yet another reminder of the ways in which you consider your body to be a failure by taking on yet another calorie-restriction or food-denial or body-shrinking initiative.  Talk a breath, reflect on how God created you in hir image, and find another option waiting there for you this season.

I have a distinct impression that God cares less about you pledging to refrain from eating chocolate than you’d like to think. You are free to disagree, of course, and may even now be saying “But April D! This is a season of Fasting!  I’m SUPPOSED to diet!”  I firmly argue that fasting, the restriction from meat and all the spirituality in the world don’t mean much if it is simply done with an eye towards a smaller body.

In a time when “46 days to Get That Bikini Body in Time for Summer” are gleefully encouraged, and that temptation to make Lent yet another kick-start of dieting habits revs up, I can’t help but think of this humble line: “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19.

Your body is the wondrous shell in which your spirituality is contained. But that is all. No more, no less. It does not define who you are or the relationship you have with any higher beings you worship or wonder about.  Don’t lose sight of that in the hustle and bustle of Lenten Dieting Initiatives.

Dieting Habit Holdovers

I’ve noticed, after 2+ years of non-dieting, that the habits I practiced for so much of my life, still can come back with haunting clarity at the oddest moments.  This is a collection of a few of the bizarre ways that my near decade of dieting practices have left a mark upon my life. Since I’ve done many different dieting/lifestyle changes in my life, many of them for years, the effects were bound to be long-lasting.  I guess sometimes I forget just HOW long-lasting.  I am reminded though when moments such as these come upon me.

I’m not sure what counts as “triggering” for folks but thought that since these reflect years of dieting rhetoric that have ingrained themselves into my mind I’d put the warning out there: Some of these might be triggering.

  • When I prepare my morning toast; almost EVERY time I find myself thinking “Was that more than a tablespoon of Mayo?  Don’t you realize that has 100 calories?! Oh my gods I think that might be 1.5; maybe even 2 whole tablespoons!!”
  • Pasta usually makes me ponder how many cups I could get for the fewest points depending on the size of the pasta shape.
  • Sometimes while swimming laps I’ll find myself debating doing “just one more” because that would mean more Points to spend later.  I still have to shake that one away before I’m able to really analyze if I WANT to go a bit longer or should stop.

So, how do I move past such moments?  Usually I can laugh them away with a head shake at my past obsessions; much in the same way I will point at and scoff at the commercials promoting the newest pill/machine/mechanism touted for weight loss online or on tv.  Sometimes I have to close my eyes and remind myself that those behaviors and thoughts are no longer a part of my life and I’m happier for it.  Still, sometimes they just linger there, little demons of a past destructive life, waiting in the recesses of my mind, waiting for me to succumb again to their siren-song of empty weight-loss promises.  I guess that just means that healing a body and mind which has spent so many years fighting against itself is a really long process.

What sort of diet behavior/thought holdovers do you still struggle with?  What mechanisms do you use to cope/push away such destructive thoughts and behaviors?

Fatty Quickie: Heartbreaking Comment

Just a comment I saw today on the Facebook wall of my friend who went through weight loss surgery relatively recently. I’ve been following her reported ups and downs, noting the preponderance of comments to her posts which all focused on “But you look GREAT!” (Even if the post was about how awful she was feeling).  For the most part I’ve stayed back, giving sympathy when required, and congrats when she feels great (hey, we all like to know our friends are happy for us when WE’RE happy, right?).  But her post today about broke my heart:

thinks I was happier as a fat kid. Actually, I know I was…losing all this weight took all my happy away…

My response, which I don’t think helped anything except to maybe let her know that her friends do love her no matter what and DO wish for her happiness was:

*hugs* The outside can’t change the inside. If cultural pressures to always appear outwardly thin weren’t so opressive then maybe when bodies went through such a change the mind wouldn’t get so disconnected. Bit of ramble but regardless, I hope you find the happy again at any size

I may not think that WLS is something I’d want to pursue for myself but that doesn’t mean I feel any vindication to hear that anyone who DOES select this process becomes unhappy.  It does make me angry at a society who feels that such measures are not only a valid but a needed means of making a person healthier and happier, when clearly that is not always the case (though, hey, you’ll look great!).  I don’t know if there’s a better response, what would you say to a good friend?

MY most memorable doctor experience: ReVolution

In lieu of a cooking post, which is almost ready and lacking only pictures, I wanted to reminisce a bit about what I consider to be the most memorable bad experience I had with a doctor in my youth.  This is in the spirit of ReVolution; it is a memory which sparks, even now, my urge to push the fat-friendly message of loving your body As It Is Right Now. And, all considered, it isn’t that horrible a memory.  But is HAS stuck with me a long time…

Flash back with me now…further and further, further and further…. I am young.  Very young.  Perhaps 7 or 8.  I am sitting on the crinkly paper of the exam table. The dressing gown covering me is, of course, not quite able to fully close in the back.  My mother is dressed in street cloths and hovering beside me, awaiting the doctor’s feedback. I am pretty sure this was a normal physical exam, routine.

The doctor enters.  Her body fills the room.  I remember distinctly, even now more than 25 years later, how she sat on the short black-plastic-covered stool and her butt-checks seemed to ooze over the sides.  My doctor was a large woman, but more importantly,  she had my file in hand.

She asked a few questions, got my nervous answers; and then she said to my mother the words that my young and already self-conscious mind dreaded, “Well, she could stand to lose some weight.”

I was baffled.  I mean, I already felt uncomfortable in my body at this young age, knew I was a huge encumbrance and awkward, but here was this huge woman, spilling over her seat, and looking me in my little 7 or 8 year old eyes and telling ME that I needed to work on shrinking myself.  I was aghast, devastated, and PISSED.

I don’t even know what else she might have said at that point because I was fuming and internally fighting the tears burning at my eyes for the indignity of it all. The minute the doctor left the room I turned to my mother and with a hiccup that proceeded my shame and anger I said, “That fat COW tells me *I* need to lose weight?!?”  I still remember it.  I don’t remember my mom’s exact reaction; perhaps a shocked giggle and admonishment, who knows.  But I will for some reason always remember the unfairness of a woman who was clearly already HERSELF a very large body; telling my much smaller body to shrink.  It felt…awful honestly.

I railed and ranted and raged against the doctor to my mother on the drive home, calling her all sorts of names and bemoaning that here was a woman proscribing a “treatment” which had so obviously failed even her to a girl who DIDN’T eat Twinkies and sit around all day. It felt like the most cruel injustice in the world to my 7 or 8 year old mind.  It was like my first ever trollish encounter: someone filled with self-hate, pinning all their own failings onto me instead (though at the time I would not think of it as anything other than a jerk telling me to do what she couldn’t even manage).

Through my life that label of “Medically Fat” has followed me and resulted in what have been sometimes tearful, sometimes hopeful, sometimes frustrating, sometimes encouraging medical appointments.  One other, more recent, doctor experience was at the gyno.  I was getting chatted up by the nurse as she got my information, etc.  She was all friendly and happy-go-lucky; until she saw my weight number.  Then the tone became less happy and friendly and seemed to take on that of a friend calling on a sick or dying loved one; concern and anxiety.  All due to the way that those damn weight numbers affect our perceptions of a person’s health.  (PS: Yes, I was fine at the appointment and have been since too; no need to speak as though I am at death’s door, okay?)

So, anyways, where does that bring me today?  Aside from the twinge of shame that I STILL get from this memory for the name-calling I did for this doctor, there is a bit of instruction in it for me.  Mainly it reinforces to me the reality that even people who have been continually failed by diets; will dutifully proscribe them as a cure-all.  Maybe my former doctor from my youth truly believed in her hearts of hearts that a simple “Eat Less, Move More” mantra was only failing her because she was somehow doing it wrong; not because Diets Don’t Work.

Sadly, this continues even today.  It wasn’t a fluke of medicine that this woman would proscribe for others a failing prospect with little to no success rate to speak of.  Everyone just “KNOWS” that in order to not be fat, in order to prevent diabetes and all sorts of horrible fates, one MUST diet and be shamed into doing so; because the only way to GET Fat, of course, is by a lack of self-control leading to sloth and gluttony.  No.  And you know what, even if that IS the manner in which a person went about “Getting Fat”; it all boils down to what I consider one of the few universal truths: “It is none of anyone else’s business”.  Got that? HOW or WHY a person is fat, or otherwise does not fit your narrow perception of Ideal Health and Beauty, is irrelevant: no one is beholden to you to look the way you think they should.  No one.  Every person’s body is their own.  Bodies are personal, got it?  Your own judgments on it or suggestions for it are worthless in the face of that one solid grain of truth: it is not your business.

So that’s what I get from this memory.  A reminder that even 25 plus years ago people were failing at the very “cures” they would continue to proscribe to me throughout my life for “fixing” a body that was actually working very nicely to do all the things it needed to do, thank you very much.  But doesn’t it sting, even just a bit, to realize just how many people get through all day without once thinking of how amazing it is to have The Body They Have Right Now?  Take a moment now, reflect upon the fact that, no matter your issues with it, chances are your body still does some pretty amazing things on a very regular basis: and it is all your own.  Doesn’t that make it worth loving and treating well?  And not hating and trying to force it to look different?

On being a skinny…food?

Okay so I’ve been watching some of the kerfuffle via Sociological Images and Jezebel regarding the Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps ads appearing around New York City. My take? The folks at the pretzel company are being willfully dense about the entire thing, even though they ARE taking steps that MIGHT (I hope) lead to reconsidering not just one ad but the entire campaign.

To sum up, in case you haven’t been watching or just haven’t caught wind of it yet, apparently the company began posting this ad around NYC (Via Sociological Images):

Pretzel Add "You can never be too thin"

Oh really?

A bunch of twitter-pating and such later and the company begrudgingly removed this ad.  However it turns out this was just one in a set of four; of which this second is still being promoted (Via Jezebel):

Pretzel Ad "Tastes as good as skinny feels"

Again...oh really? This isn't striking the same tone as the FIRST disputed ad?!?

According to the twittering pretzel folks “We’re a thin pretzel cracker… ‘Thin’ just happens to be a good word to describe the shape of our product.”  Well you know what else might work?  How about I find you a few words to replace “thin” and “skinny”, words so intrinsically tied to body image no matter what you are trying to willfully claim here?

I mean, come on, really?  Just because you don’t follow PETA standards or high fashion protocol by having bikini-clad normatively beautiful women draped over your damn product doesn’t mean you aren’t fully aware of EXACTLY the social meme you were hoping to capitalize upon with these very precisely worded ads.

Words MEAN things people.  Either you’re willfully ignoring this in communicating to those objecting to these ads or you’re living in some sort of beautiful fairy world where “thinspiration” and the Fantasy of Being Thin  is not a way of life. I mean, really, I’d like to live in the imagination world these folks inhabit where such phrases can possibly be interpreted in a non-weight-loss-inspired (even pro-ana) way.

So how about I give you a few other words you could have used, eh?  I mean how about one of these instead:

bony, cadaverous, emaciated, fragile, gangling, gangly, gaunt, haggard, meager, narrow, peaked, pinched, puny, scrawny, shriveled, skeletal, skinny, spindly, starved, undernourished, underweight, wan, wasted, wizened

Huh?  Not quite the image you were going for?  Oh.  Okay  Well, sorry, but looking up “skinny” brings up pretty much the same list as for “thin”.  So does “thin” really describe what you’re going for here? A nice emaciated pretzel?  Very taste-inspiring, no?

Okay, no, you’re right.  I should be fully honest; that wasn’t the full list of possible words. I could have chosen (*cough*justlikeyoucouldhave*cough*) some of the OTHER, less obviously part-of-a-negative-body-image-discourse, sorts of synonyms for “thin” or “skinny”.  How about one of these?

delicate, ethereal, featherweight, fine, light, narrow, slight, small

How about “So light and airy, we think the feather might fall faster”.  “Just a slight reminder of how tasty we can be”. “Delicately delicious”.

See what I did there?  I’m not even IN marketing and yet I managed to quickly choose a few words (and even come up with slogans, you’re welcome) which don’t necessarily bring immediately to mind the half-naked, weight obsessed women you’re so proud you didn’t drape around your ads (at least in images)  like so many others blatantly do.

So while the company has taken the first step by agreeing to remove the first objected-to ad because they “didn’t intend to advocate unhealthy weight loss”, there is still this lingering wonder I have if the entire campaign will be rethought or if this one action was taken as a token gesture of “See, we capitulated to the masses.  Now hush-up and leave our remaining pro-ana-inspired ads alone you meanies!”

Come on Pretzel Crisps; prove me wrong for worrying. You claim to understand that images of women as objects and props used to sell food is tacky.  You also took down one offensive ad clearly promoting the ideal that a person (or pretzel?) can NEVER be too thin. Brava! Now take that one small step past this and realize that it isn’t just that one ad; that words can do just as much harm as pictures, and remove those equally damning slogans as well.

I’m hoping myself that the company will choose to take a fresh eye to these sorts of slogans and recognize just how harmful a mentality they come from and end up promoting.

Again, one more time (sing it with me if you’d like), in closing, I would like to remind Pretzel Crisps and everyone else: Words MEAN things.  They don’t exist in a vacuum. Words are informed by the culture in which were are seeped and it is blatant ostrich-head-in-sand behavior to just ignore this when crafting ads.

Words.  They mean things.

When your friend jumps on the WLS bandwagon

The last while I’ve been struggling with my own indecision in how to support a former high school classmate and good friend in her recent decision to get weight loss surgery.  I’ve been wanting to post about it for a while now but having read this post over at BFB I finally feel that I don’t even have to question or bandy back and forth how I feel about the situation and my friend and my responses.  I know how I feel:

  • a bit saddened that a friend feels inadequate about her body
  • happy that her surgery yesterday went off smoothly
  • excited that she’s looking forward to a new chapter in her life
  • hopeful that things DO work out the way she envisions
  • concerned about what might happen if they don’t

No where in my thoughts is any sort of hatred for my friend or her thoughts or actions.  Do I support the idea of mutilating one’s digestive system for any reason?  Not really, no.  Does the mean I won’t fully support my friend in her decision to do with her own body as she pleases? Hell no!  Friends don’t stop being your friends just because they have thoughts or do actions you don’t fully agree with.  Diversity of belief and action is part of what makes friendships so dynamic and wonderful.

One of the lines from that BFB post which really struck me and spurred this posting is a strong reminder of what I first started blogging for in the first place:

Fat activists, I think, want to reach people who feel bad about their bodies, so they can reveal the big secret that you aren’t required to hate your body, even a little bit.

As a fat activist I do want people do love their bodies, but I don’t think loving your body is an all or nothing moral quest. And as a fat person, I know a little something about moral imperatives. (From BFB)

This is what I started blogging to promote!  This whole “I AM in shape, ROUND is a shape” venture was begun as my own chance to show the world that hating your body is NOT some sort of life imperative, but neither is it some cut and dry “You are Here! Welcome to Self-Acceptance Land! Never again will you ever feel inadequate or unpopular or self conscious!” sort of mental destination. Loving the body we live in takes many forms; comes in many ranges and will never be the same from one person to the next.

As this reminder came across my Google Reader list this morning I realized that one of the reasons I’ve had even a bit of trouble figuring out how to support my friend is the fear that by supporting her as a friend I was somehow supporting the concept of WLS.  When, in fact, what I do by being there for her and remaining a good friend and supporter is further reinforce the idea of body autonomy.  That is to say, I may not agree with a decision to take on WLS and I may fear that things will not turn out as wonderfully as hoped but I still fully support anyone’s right, certainly my friend’s right, to MAKE that decision for themselves.

Perhaps the hardest part, for me, of being a fat/body activist is knowing that not everyone will end up making the same decisions I would.  However, they (we!) all still maintain the right to do exactly that. THAT is the sort of freedom I’m seeking to promote.

I do still wish diets and WLS were not pushed as a panacea for all that ails (or doesn’t even ail) the growing range of human bodies for which it is prescribed.  Perhaps one day that time will come when doctors offer such options as last resorts done only for personal aesthetic desires and undertaken with the understanding that “success” is limited and poorly defined.

Until such a time, however, the message I wish to give my friend and all others out there struggling along with me (us!) to travel the spectrum of love/acceptance/tolerance/not open revulsion for our own bodies, is that while I might condemn certain options for what they are; I do not and will never condemn those who choose such options.

So if you are dieting or considering/actively taking on WLS I sincerely wish you the best of luck.  Perhaps along the way you will find the path towards the very same self acceptance all of us strive to obtain/maintain. Maybe everything will work out the way you dream and honestly I hope it does and you aren’t disappointed. But it is your choice to make and I support your right.  I will not be joining you in your diet or WLS or even your cheer-leading of “Getting Thinner! For Health!”.  That is MY choice to make.

So, in the end, I think it comes down to this: I may not want to hear about how many calories you ate today and how “good” that makes you; but that is a far cry from not wanting to remain your supportive and loving friend.  It just means we need to find something else to talk about around the water cooler is all.