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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?