Say What?

I just came across thisand feel it deserves some attention.

So this fellow posts his picture (above) and says

“I’m fat,” reads the title of the photo. And the photo description says: “I’m terrified. Putting up this image is the single most horrible thing I’ve done to myself … but it’s for a purpose. I’m fat. I’ve been fat for a while. I have a belly and manboobs. I have a 38″ waist. Starting today, I’m making a change. It’s time to hit the gym. Maybe telling the world that I’m doing it will force me to keep going.”

Let’s break it down, because something isn’t registering. Terrified? Of what? Does that picture terrify you? Because, if it does, I’m not feeling it. You know what I’m feeling? A huge surge of pity. Because anyone who is terrified of a little pot belly is being fed a huge line of bullshit from the media, and is doing their health far more disservice with their terror than they are with their body types or their diets.

I agree it’s a horrible thing to do to oneself – not posting a picture of a little potbelly, mind you, but hating yourself that much. I’m not a big preacher of self-love but that doesn’t mean self-loathing should take its place! How about thinking of other people for a little while? Sometimes that takes your mind off irrational fears, like how much your waist measures.

Speaking of which, 38 inches? THIRTY-EIGHT INCHES? Pshaw – meet my left thigh, suckers!

Haha. I don’t really know what my thighs measure, I’ve got better things to do with my time. But honestly, 38 inches is “terrifying”? Are you joking? Does he think they’re going to have to cut a hole in the wall and hoist him out with cranes or something? (Not that that would make him a bad person.)

The link above posts the picture and the caption/info, and then some pearls of “widsom” about it.

1. Fat is serious business and calls for serious measures.

Does it indeed? I’ll keep that in mind.

2. Sometimes you’ve got to bare your bulge to realize you need a change.


A little public humiliation can help in the accountability department.

Humiliation? Terror? Can help? With accountability? Would it help you be “accountable” or would it “motivate” you to anything? Because I find those methods a bit less than helpful.

3. Support can be a powerful motivator — even when it comes from strangers on the Internet.

If you were talking about something else, I guess that would be true, but what does he need support for? I don’t see how people supporting your erroneous terror and self-loathing is a positive thing. Enlighten me.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s fat is another’s cuddly bear.

True, but this positive message is buried under 20 layers of terror, loathing, humiliation and despair. Had they instead put up his message and picture, stated the bit about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and built from there a positive way for this man to start looking at himself, to stop being terrified (possibly by bringing up some good solid information as to why he’s not doomed to die tomorrow because of his little paunch, this could have been a wonderful message.

4. Photographing yourself through the weight loss process is not a bad idea.

Well, I really don’t know what to say about that. The weight loss process generally consists of week after week, month after month of deprivation, weigh-ins, lamentations at the piddling 2 ounces that came off one week and gnashing of teeth the week you *gained* two pounds, followed by redoubling of gym efforts, slashing calories far below any recommended healthy levels, cutting all the joy out of the process of cooking and eating, making disgusting substitutions for things you like and crave in favor of cardboard rice cakes until you can’t take it anymore and go on a binge because you’ve been starving for the last 8 weeks; followed by a shame spiral and a redoubling of starvation efforts, starting the vicious circle all over again. End result? Fatter than ever. And a much harder time losing any weight or inches next time you make the attempt – you’ve fucked up your metabolism now.

What do you think about this shot? And what are the chances you’d publish your own gut for the whole world to see?

I think I’ll leave that one open-ended. While I don’t particularly want to post my face online, I don’t think I would mind posting a picture of my belly. I know Melissa of Shakesville posts pictures of hers and to hell with any negative opinion, rightly so. Maybe we all ought to do it to help this fellow realize there is nothing weird or terrifying or disgusting about him, and to tell these fitness people that there is nothing at all positive about humiliation and terror as a “support” mechanism. If anyone can think of a way to gather such pictures and send get the message through to this man, who looks perfectly normal to me, I’m all ears.

Congrats, Whitney, for Consistent Showmanship

I want to congratulate Whitney, the winner of America’s Next Top Model, for consistent showmanship, poise, stating a plus-size-positive message whenever she had the opportunity. Here’s a YouTube of her interview on the Regis and Kelly show:

I watched a few of the old episodes from YouTube, and I was impressed by how consistently Whitney projected a size-positive message, and had no fear of speaking out about the unhealthy, abusive expectations the modeling industry places on the majority of its “normal-sized” (!!) clients.

One of her lines during the morning show interview was: “Do you know the majority of nine years olds are dieting? And I have a 13 year-old cousin who thinks she’s fat! Can you believe that?”

Gorgeous and wonderful. I know many people here object to the fact that they don’t consider her truly “plus-sized” since she’s a size 10 and most plus sizes start at 12, but remember, this is “plus-size” as defined by the 0-2 obsessed high-fashion industry. What Whitney consistently projected throughout the show was that she was a normal girl who ate normally.

And, by the way, can I say right now that I heart The Deep South for apparently being more fat positive than the rest of the country?

Here’s another telling line from the interview:

“At the Versace show none of the other girls were eating, and I brought a regular Italian lunch — you know, pasta and everything — and you should have seen them look at me.” [she said this in a very size-positive way, not a guilty way] “You know, you need brain-energy to walk and have a presence on the runway.” [So true! Earlier in the show a girl actually *collapsed and had to be put on oxygen* because I believe she wasn’t eating]

Congrats, Whitney, again. And I can’t wait to see your spreads, and I can’t wait to see you dumbfound the industry and the current media as you go on their shows and make them look so, so tiny. The news anchorwoman who introduced Whitney’s segment actually said, “So maybe I should eat something.” !! I know that was probably facetious, but I bet a part of her was thinking, Man, this girl won a beauty contest and she gets to eat…what the hell, my producers would *kill* me if I just gained five pounds!

Here’s to snapping this toxic culture’s spine in two. 🙂

Never good enough.

I know that my fiance will always want a woman who is thinner than me, with bigger breasts, and that he’s less attracted to me than to women like that.

It makes me feel horrible. Not because he’s a bad man, but because he’s a really, really, really good man.

The culture he grew up in made him one way, and it’s damned me to only ever second-best.

Does that make sense?

BeingGirl: For girls, by liars

This morning, Harriet Brown had a wonderful post to which I felt compelled to respond upon a bit more digging.

“BeingGirl: For girls, by girls,” a site hosted by Proctor & Gamble, is one of those places that draws in teenage girls with cutesy graphics and shitty writing (by the staff), and better writing which populates the rest of the site (posts by the girls themselves). Some of the posts are heartbreaking, and the articles themselves (esp. the ones concerning weight) are filled with virulent lies, and ‘methods’ of weight-reduction which read like a pro-ana site.

What dangerous nonsense…I hope my teenage, computer-literate, soon-to-be step-daughters haven’t ever stumbled into that den of lies.

Here’s a quote from the “Express Yourself — Creative Expressions” part of the site:

All that I can think about are the calories in that food

All that I can think about are the calories in that food Constantly counting and adding to make sure I don’t eat too much I know that it is bad to diet, but being thin makes me feel good That feeling of the fat on my stomach is annoying to touch So 900 calories a day is all that I can allow People tell me how much weight I’ve lost, but I just don’t see it I’m scared to eat more than that I don’t want the weight, not now People saying “Eat more, eat more” makes me just stare at it and sit Yes, food, food, everywhere, but I’m scared to eat it up You want to help me Well, I’m way beyond help I’m lost…

It was given 1046 positive “votes,” which means that resonates with at least that many girls on the site (the ones that bother to vote, anyway). It looks like the average number of positive votes is about 1000, from what I can see.This one, lower on the list, makes me feel very good, however:

Being Me

I have always struggled with weight issues and until recently I have
never really accepted myself. I always had self esteem issues and
would hide behind a facade of friendly compliments to other people and
big clothes. I figured out that I really needed to accept myself, so I
really stepped back and looked at my choices. Not just my eating and
exercising habits, but also my dressing and grooming habits. Going out
and buying that dress that I have always wanted but never felt I could
pull off.

I found that by stepping outside my safety zone I found more
confidence in myself and began to accept me for who and what I am.
I have found myself actually pursuing romantic endeavors I had never even dreamed of before.

I just wanted to let anyone who is having self esteem issues know that if you can step outside of your safety zone, as hard as it can be, you can
truly make a difference in your life. It has in mine.

But this post only got 422 positive votes, compared to the negative body image’s post of 1024. 😦

These article writers (not the open-forum posts by regular girls like the ones quoted above) seem like they’re ALL nasty liars. Here’s another quote, from “Teenage Girls Fear of Fatness”

You would think from the words Carrie uses…guilty, bad, cheating, hate…that she was talking about something more immoral or harmful than snacking on potato chips. You would think she was worried about the osteoporosis, anemia, obesity and cardiovascular disease that might be made worse by eating certain foods [emphasis mine]

Anemia? Christ, that’s a new one. Where the hell are they getting this garbage, anyway? Or is it just “known” that OMG FOOD!1! is a toxic substance that causes diseases, and we need to try so hard to find the ‘wisdom’ to abstain from it?

The rest of the article is filled with confused contradictions, at one moment claiming rightly that body image is horribly skewed in the teenage girl population, then wondering “what causes” this when their own site is replete with panic-mongering bullshit, ending with :

Learn to see yourself through your grandma’s eyes not that distorted mirror you rely on. There’s no need to eliminate any food you enjoy from your diet. Just learn to make trade offs and balance unhealthy foods with healthy ones. And keep on the move. The safest and most appropriate obesity prevention strategy is to get rid of those “automobile feet” and exercise.

And when they don’t “prevent obesity” that way (exercise has been shown to be a largely ineffective way to lose weight, though it’s very effective in increasing health), what then? How are they going to feel? Like they need to start ritualizing food, just like they thought? That they aren’t good enough, and the answer is just to exercise ‘more’?

I could go on and on with this site. Instead, I’m just going to end with a few gems that you can discuss (and, of course, feel free to go to the site as well):

The Runaway Eating Epidemic

A recent study by the National Longitudinal Study for Adolescent Health revealed that in the five years between 1996 and 2001, about two million teens joined the ranks of the clinically obese!

Uh, yes, revising standards downwards in order to label more people obese (in 1997 or 1998, I forget) is going to make the ‘ranks of the clinically obese’ go up (don’t you love how ‘clinically’ obese makes it sounds so uber-scary and real, even though it’s an arbitrary number based on the bullshit skewing and misemphasizing of the Nurse’s Study’s statistics?)

Dieting Myths

This article “debunks” dieting myths—and also let’s you know which ones are “true”! The poll questions are the standard stuff, but one of them asks:

To keep weight off, you should take off how much a week?
1. at most 5 pounds
2. at most 2 pounds
3. at most 6 pounds
4. at most 4 pounds

The real answer, of course, is “at most 0 pounds.” “Taking off” weight doesn’t work for the vast majority of dieters, and to expect that one can “take off” some magic perfect number a week and “keep” it off is dangerously fallacious. To suggest to teenage girls that permanent weight loss is achievable in any fashion as long as they do it the ‘right way’ is abominable, and goes against the preponderance of evidence.

Fitness and Diet

This one is confusing, filled with dangerous contradictions:

When Should You Diet?

Unfortunately, women today are often pressured to measure up to a certain body type so they “diet’ to achieve that goal. But there are many body types and some people might have bigger shapes just because they’re built that way.

Just think of it in nature. Some cats are naturally skinny, some are husky, and some are heavier. Different builds and body types in animal are natural. And it’s the same with people. Each person has an ideal, individual weight range where they are still healthy. That range could be higher or lower, depending on the person. So just because you don’t look like the skinny actress on the cover of an entertainment magazine, don’t worry. And don’t go crazy dieting.

Sometimes going on a diet can really help you — if you’re overweight and need to lose pounds, for example. More than 1 of every 3 American adults is considered to have an unhealthy weight. Because of these excess pounds, they are more susceptible to disease. So being very overweight can be unhealthy, and is a good reason to “diet.” [emphases mine]

Huh?? One moment we’re all “different,” the next minute overweight is unhealthy and should be dieted off??? I don’t have the energy for this last one. Please tear into it for me.

My to-be stepdaughters shall be warned away from this site.

Edited to correct typos and provide emphases.

Fat Wedding 6: “Bluff and Buff Your Way to a Better Bridal Body”

Here’s part 6 in the Fat Wedding series, an exposé of the stresses and pressures on a bride to “look her best” (read: be skinny/ier) for her “big day.”

You & Your Wedding – Mind & Body

The introduction to the “mind & body” articles is “Get body and beauty confident with our special section.”

Well hey, that’s great! I’m already body and beauty confident. I think I look great, I have wonderful hair I can’t wait to get styled, and great skin I can’t wait to beautify. However, I could always use more confidence, right? There may be some great tips in these articles on how to, say, get sleep the night before to improve wellness (body), make sure I eat energy-rich healthy foods to keep myself going through the “big day,” (body), how to destress the night before (mind), and how to keep my cool in front of so many people (mind), right?

Scanning…scanning…oh. Hmm. Well, there are a few of these articles. Wedding Hair Style Inspiration looks cool. I was thinking of going kinda nature-y with my ‘do – maybe flowers, or laurels, something like that. DIY Facials looks kind of neat. I probably can’t afford to get a facial, so some DIY tips are welcome. Fragrance Advice from Roja Dove might be an interesting read.

However, surprise surprise, what subject comprises the greatest majority of articles? Weight-loss. There are even articles on cosmetic surgery (and cosmetic dentistry).

Of the 38 articles listed on the page: 47% (18) are about losing weight or getting “in shape.”

Heh. I guess we know what pre-wedding “beauty & mind” is REALLY all about.

Bridal Boot-camp – How to lose weight before the big day – and avoid the ‘heavier ever after’

Fleming recommends starting a bridal “boot camp” at least six months before the wedding that includes a balance of cardiovascular and strength training for about an hour a day, three to four days per week. Procrastinating brides and grooms who have less than six months to work with should plan on spending more time in the gym.

“Boot camp” — thank you, thank you, thank you for finally just saying it! “Boot camp” – a time of personal suffering that will, on the other end, pop out a ‘better you.’ It’s understood that it will be torture, but hey, it’s worth it to have a thin(ner) bride in the pictures, and to finally wear that dress that shows off your shoulder bones, right?

Once future brides and grooms set their minds to a weight-loss and fitness plan, Fleming says, they are usually successful. Many pick up healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Oh hey, does that mean that:

1. These women have never dieted or heard of calorie-counting before, so the idea of “eat less move more” was completely foreign to them prior to their pre-wedding “boot camp” ritualistic starvation regime,

2. or that “many” never gain the weight back? If so, they’re defying the overwhelming evidence that virtually all people who diet gain the weight back. We need to find these people, and make sure they’re included in the next diet study, because obviously they were missed before! The studies must not have been on anyone who’d convinced themselves they needed to lose weight for a wedding, I guess. Perhaps it’s the whole idea that this is a “wedding,” and you’re now becoming a “bride,” that somehow keeps the weight off, eh?

“It is amazing to me how focused and motivated they become during this frantic, crazy, panicked period in their lives, and it’s the one thing that they stick to,” says Fleming. “If you need to use the wedding day to get you started, that’s OK, but most people continue to work out, feel great, and look back at the pictures and say, ‘Wow, I can do this.'”

Once people start losing weight with the idea that it will improve their looks or self-esteem, it becomes obsessive? I’ve never heard of that phenomenon, before. 😛

Once a couple says their “I dos,” they may be at risk for a honeymoon holdover effect. Research shows that newlyweds gain weight at a faster rate then their single peers.

Oh hey, do you think that might have anything to do with the fact that they, yanno, crash dieted in the months preceding their wedding? Naw! It’s just some weird, coincidental magickry that makes you gain weight faster when you slip that wedding ring on your finger.

“Married people are heavier than people who have never been married,” says researcher Jeffery Sobal, PhD, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University. “They are also somewhat heavier than people who have been previously married, divorced, separated, and widowed.

“Recently married people eat about half or more of their meals together,” he says. “So marriage really is a huge influence on what you eat, its caloric value, nutrient composition, and all of those things.”

What seems to happen, Sobal says, is that newlyweds eat more regularly, and more formally, than they did in their single days.

Gasp! Eating more—hush—regularly! You mean, getting married makes you abandon your single-life, low self-esteem semi-starvation regime you succumbed to because you believed you’d never deserve love unless you strove towards some impossible, airbrushed ideal?

Sobal says his research has shown that when you control for other variables, like age and having children, the “marriage effect” seems to go away to some extent in women while it persists in men.

“It suggests that there is something about being married that makes men slightly, but not hugely, heavier,” says Sobal. He says more long-term studies will be needed to determine the exact nature of this marriage effect on weight.

I dunno, do you think it has anything to do with the fear of being labeled a “heavier ever after” wife? Or having your character and person constantly judged by your fat, because you’re a woman? Or having hate songs written about killing fat wives by popular bands for the crime of getting heavy while married?

Ugh, I’m done with the crap article. This pre-wedding “get in shape for your big day” bullshit is just a cultural ritualization to put the woman/bride in her ‘place,’ in that she has to ‘earn’ her big day by adhering, perhaps even for the first time in her life, to what this society currently deems is the woman’s highest value — her appearance being ‘acceptable’, i.e., thin enough.

The proof, besides the humble digging I do, when the fancy strikes? Check out this study, as reported on by the New York Times.

More than 70 percent of brides-to-be want to lose weight before their wedding day, according to a new study from Cornell University. To reach the perfect wedding-day weight, more than one-third of them use extreme dieting tactics such as diet pills and fasting. And while most of us buy clothes that fit, about one in seven brides-to-be buys a bridal gown that is one or more dress sizes smaller than she normally wears.

Which has been shown, over and over, by not only the brides-to-be I’ve quoted, but in the expectations of “body/beauty/fitness” sections of bridal sites.

Dr. Neighbors found that 91 percent of the women were worried about their weight, reporting that they wanted to lose weight or were actively trying to prevent weight gain. By comparison, national data show that about 62 percent of similarly aged women have the same concerns.

Among the 70 percent of women who were trying to lose weight, the average desired loss was about 21 pounds, not counting three women in the group who were trying to lose more than 100 pounds each.

I think those three women are very significant. Funny that they weren’t counted. Maybe they shouldn’t count the women who wanted to lose only a few pounds each, as well, since there are ways to weight every average. I don’t think they’re abnormal, by any means – on the discussion boards and so forth I’ve perused, I’ve come across more than one woman who wanted to lose more than 100 lbs.

Nearly half the brides-to-be were willing to adopt extreme dieting strategies to reach their goal weight by their wedding day. Among extreme dieters, skipping meals and taking unprescribed diet pills and supplements were reported most frequently. About 10 percent of the women used liquid diets, while a fraction of the women started smoking, took laxatives or induced vomiting in order to lose weight.

Huh. Think they’ll gain the weight back after the wedding, or just gain an ED? Or both?

Since it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, it’s important to note here that it’s very possible some ED’s have their root in this pre-wedding ritual.

This next paragraph, however, is extremely important: god bless the effing study authors. Nice example of highly educated biological scientists who can’t see the forest for the trees.

The prevalence of extreme dieting behavior among brides-to-be is important because rapid weight loss usually isn’t maintained. But the study authors note that because brides-to-be are highly motivated to lose weight, doctors should use an upcoming wedding as an opportunity to discuss more healthful weight loss and eating behaviors.

Yeah, capitalize on her fear, and her anxiety! Don’t let the ED start on its own, give it a little shove, too! Yeah, that’s exactly what I need when I go for my check-up in the fall. “Oh, lovely ring! You’re engaged?” “Yes, sir.” “Lovely. Then you’re going to be losing some weight, right?”

Ai yai yai.

But wait, there’s more:

At the time of the study, the women were still about six months or more away from their big day. But the average weight loss achieved was already about eight pounds, although the numbers varied widely.

“If these losses were maintained after marriage, they would be significant weight management achievements,’’ the authors noted. “Given the pressures of the wedding and beginning a new life as a couple, engaged women should be encouraged to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle rather than striving for a fleeting number on a scale or a temporary dress size.’’

DESPITE the fact that the authors themselves noted that 50% of the women used “extreme measures” like pills, fasting, liquid diets, and vomiting to attain their “significant weight achievements”?

Funny, I feel a little like vomiting myself, now.

But mostly I feel royally pissed off at this ignorance, in the FACE of such horrifying results. I guess when doctors praise us for losing weight without asking how we did it, they’re just following suit of the biological scientists who write the papers they read. Weight loss at any cost. Let’s use the wedding as an excuse to get those fatty brides thin! And let’s drive them into a panic in order to make sure they don’t gain any weight when they get married, oh no! Vomiting before the wedding? Let’s make vomiting a lifestyle choice, instead of just a ‘temporary solution.’ Indeed! Argh.

Throwing Off the Diet Cross

Sparked by both red3’s terrific post Changing the Conversation, by an actual conversation I had with my stepmother last night, a life-time thin person.

Comparing Oppressions

I observe much apologizing to other oppressed groups whenever someone tries to analogize fat oppression in a way those who still don’t quite accept fat oppression can understand (there’s always the disclaimer: “I know this isn’t the same thing, etc”). To say that one group’s experience is invalidated because they didn’t suffer as much, or in the same ways, as another group is out-and-out fallacious, and is itself just reinforcing the oppression of the group that doesn’t meet some kind of ‘standard’ of oppression. No one will argue that blacks can’t objectively understand the oppression of Jews, or aren’t oppressed themselves, since they didn’t experience the Holocaust. No one will argue that women can’t objectively understand the oppression of blacks, since they didn’t experience slavery or Jim Crow.

Oppression is oppression. It is the categorization of a group based on arbitrary characteristics that don’t define the individual, and the unequal treatment of individuals based on sort of collective group characteristic. I.e., the assumption that one brown person’s life experience has been the same as another brown person’s life experience, is just as racist as calling them vile names. There’s the same dynamic at work: that the individual can be summed up or even in some part approximated based on group characteristics.

Positive and Negative Perpetuation

This dynamic is very active in our current day and age, and there are just as many apologists and Benedict Arnolds out there – what I call ‘positive’ perpetrators – as there are out-and-out haters – what I call ‘negative’ perpetrators. Both perpetuate classification based on group characteristics.

I’m aware the above is an extremely controversial view, and it’s a deep split between where I stand and where most liberal progressives stand. I think ‘positive’ perpetuation is as harmful as ‘negative.’ I think you cannot separate the two, as they’re married by an absolute (categorization based on group characteristics).

Many liberal progressives disagree with me. They claim that the way you ‘fix’ negative perpetuation is to throw positive perpetuation at it. If a bully steals your kid’s lunch money, you steal the bully’s, instead. But then, in order to do that, you have to define what it is to be a ‘bully,’ and that often require further grouping of individuals by group characteristics. “All bullies are X, and so if we see someone who is X it is okay to take his lunch money.”

It’s a simplistic view, and boils down to a knee-jerk, revenge action. What makes us better than the bullies, if we’re doing the same to them, but since we sport the label “righteousness” or “you started it,” it’s okay? Does that really change things, or does it just shift power to another group, since it’s now popular to pick on the bullies? Don’t we realize there is no absolute difference between what they did, and what we’re now doing?

In fat acceptance, one may think the active conflict is between fat and thin. That’s not true; thin people see the same media messages, they have friends or family members that are not-thin and they’re exposed to the pervasive diet-message just as we. The conflict is between the dieters, and the non-dieters. Though we’re categorized based on physical characteristics, there is a philosophical fight going on here that’s very important to grasp.

“You can change, hence, you must.”

People can lose weight. To a fat person this is a vile statement, filled with nuance and implication. But it’s true, we all know it: people can lose weight. It’s as simple as not eating. You won’t live forever, and you might be able to extend your life if you stop not-eating and start eating again, and then not-eat once you’ve gained back your strength; or you could semi-eat, constantly battling with balancing proportions. It’s no different from non-eating for a while and then eating again, you just mix it up a little and shorten the time span to a day, or a week where are certain times you non-eat when hungry, or abate hunger pains with Splenda-flavored air. You could also effectively non-eat by exercising to the point that whatever you did eat went solely to fuel your exercise regime, with nothing left over. There are lots of ways of doing it: they are all, in effect, non-eating.

It is understandable that our bodies cannot function fully under such regimes and, sometimes, are merely hanging onto a thin thread of life, those few calories doled grudgingly to it, the abatement of over-exercise in favor of rest, whatever the ‘compromise’ to non-eating might be in order to extend life, or to improve the quality of a life undergoing starvation.

Now we can put these methods together and give all non-eating regimes another name: dieting. And now we have a launch-point:

The true conflict ravaging the fat community is this idea that since most fat people can temporarily or under great physical and psychological duress, lose weight, then, henceforth, they must, regardless of the consequences.

And, to put it simply, we don’t want to starve anymore. We want what we believe is afforded by birth to thin people: a life free of weight-related self-flagellation. In other words, a normal existence where we can pick the fruits of knowledge, love, beauty, family like anyone else. Where we can turn our minds away from the exhaustion, obsession, stress, and anxiety surrounding the psychological effects of weight discrimination and the physical and psychological effects of non-eating regimes.

This is a conflict between those who believe some are born with a scarlet letter signifying a life-sentence of non-eating regimes, and those who bear no such letter.

To be anti-diet is the very core of the movement. The diet is our cross to bear for the sin of being non-thin. In order to “change the conversation,” we must refuse to carry the diet cross any longer.

Fat people are in a semi-unique situation, when one undergoes the study of historically oppressed groups. No matter how ‘hard’ he works, a black cannot become non-black, a Jew not a non-Jew, a gay not a non-gay, a woman not a non-woman (all of these have qualifying arguments that I’d be happy to supply at request, but I’m not going to do it in-essay since it would derail the focus).

So we’re facing an opposition that claims if we don’t bear our cross-by-birth, dieting, we are bad, ugly, and immoral. The scarlet letter is bright, and apparent to all: they know us for who we are. How we got there is irrelevant, whether it is pushing ourself to the top of our setpoint range, gain-back + 10% after crash dieting any number of times, PCOS or other weight-gain related conditions, just being at a higher setpoint range than is socially acceptable, metabolic syndrome, and so forth. I’m not going to stoop to apologizing by constructing a: “But some of us are good fatties!!!” argument, which is ultimately destructive to the core message of the movement. The science of weight concludes, ultimately, that body size is most largely determined by genetics, and that we each have differing setpoint ranges that can be screwed with environmentally, but only in a small manner with respect to our genetic predispositions (it may indeed be possible that the worst way we screw with our metabolisms is by engaging in non-eating regimes).

And there are some out there who are more honest about it than most. Instead of insidiously suggesting that we should just cut out the soda and get out butts off the couches for a 10-minute daily walk, they say things like, “Yeah, we should just ship all the fatties to a concentration camp,” or “I/he/she could use a little anorexia.” We should listen very carefully to these people, because they’re merely the extreme product of a culture which shoulders some of us with a diet cross, and not others. They completely accept that we have to starve away the pounds, and they want to ensure that it’s done, at all costs.

Isn’t that what everyone is saying, really? Recently, it was found that Florida schools were underfeeding their students in an attempt to ‘reduce childhood obesity.’ When they were criticized for it? The Broward County administrators responded:

“We always worry when we have a review. If you bake a chicken, it’s much less calories than if you fry it,” said Penny Parham, who oversees school meals in Dade. “Let’s hope the USDA can help us out and revise some of those guidelines.”…

In other words, in response to the criticism that they were underfeeding children by up to 200 calories, they pointed the finger at the USDA and claimed that, in fact, the USDA’s guidelines were too high, and should be “revised” to make them more stringent — because the kids in the county schools hadn’t lost any weight, regardless of the underfeeding during school hours.

So the answer: starve them more. Lower the federal requirements so journalists and parents stop knocking on our doors, and we’ll get those fat fatties nice and trim for you.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Even now, the WW campaign “Diets Don’t Work” is a sign of, not victory for FA, but rather a deeper plunge into what will one day be out-and-out encouragement of adopting life-long non-eating, semi-starvation regimes for those who are born with the scarlet three letters: FAT.

In conclusion: whatever the name, whether it be “diet,” or “lifestyle change,” it is the same animal: a cross of starvation imposed by the ‘privileged’ on the ‘non-privileged.’ That is why any acceptance of/apologizing for dieting on a personal level is in opposition to true fat acceptance. And, until we throw off our own diet crosses, we cannot hope to dislodge the great weight made to bear by fat people as a group.

The diet is our cage, our cross, our scarlet letter for the original sin of being fat. It is the tool of our oppressors; we must rip that tool from their hands. We must rip it from their hands to save ourselves, our family, our friends, our children. Without that tool, without us believing in our original sin, believing in repentance under the cross, they cannot harm us any longer.

The Good Ones…not so hard to find

Yesterday I had a long conversation with my to-be stepdaughter about FA. Being a rail-thin girl her whole life, some of the things I said she couldn’t relate to (like being taunted about one’s weight, or told to lose weight, and so forth). However, she was surprisingly “in” the conversation: when I cited the statistic that 40% of teenage girls claim to have had an eating disorder at some point during their teenage years, she exclaimed, “You know, somehow I think it’s higher than that. When I go to the bathroom, you wouldn’t believe it—I can actually hear girls BARFING. It’s GROSS.”

I, of course, silently thanked my lucky stars she wasn’t one of them! Not because she is naturally thin since, as we all know, eating disorders strike at all weights. Having had a little bit of training in nursing and nutrition, she caught on to many of the points I was making. At the end of the long discussion, she said, “Wow, thanks so much for talking to me. It totally gives me a lot to think about.”

She’s a popular, pretty, thin seventeen year-old. I hope she looks upon her fatter friends and acquaintances with a bit more compassion and understanding, and when people she knows start making fat jokes stands up for what she agrees, “is the last form of acceptable discrimination.”

Thank goodness for some kids; thank goodness for their father (my fiancee), who loved them so much and always made them feel like they were wonderful people with a lot to offer. Thank goodness for the progression of generations…even though my seventeen year-old to-be stepdaughter is only eight years younger than I am (eek! lol, don’t judge me 😉 ), when I told her I’d avoided going into the sciences at first because I thought “girls aren’t good at science and math,” she laughed and said, “Don’t tell me THAT. I just got an A+ on my Astronomy exam.” You fucking GO, girl.

The Cycle of Life, or The Ones that Came Before Me

My grandmother sent me a thirty-page family history she’d written a few years ago. It had been created for her children, she summarized, “So that you will know your story.” It delves two to three generations before her birth, explicating the lives of her mothers’ and fathers’ family.

Many of the people in her story I’d heard of; I’d even heard some of the unsavory bits, like my great-grandfather’s drinking problem, and my great-grandmother’s Victorian bigotry. I though perhaps the story would be dry, or my interest confined to the family member whom I’d grown up with and loved.

Not so. I was sucked into a fascinating journey, starting in England and Germany, and ending up in the same (then bustling, now depressed) mill town in central Massachusetts. Gentlepeople, peasants, upper-middle class merchants, lower-class workers, converged to form what would be my father’s side of the family. They lived in colorful, descriptive neighborhoods called German Town and Devon (for Devonshire, England); they went to the Whalom ballroom to dance to the big bands of the day (like Count Basie); the women were warned against driving (not a proper woman’s activity), and being seven months pregnant meant being confined to house and home.

The years of the Depression were hard on my grandmother’s family, looking forward to their Christmas present of woolen slippers crafted by their grandfather (“They were the warmest slippers I ever owned,” reminisced my grandmother), a pound of butter a week from City Hall, and a five pound bag of sugar or flour obtained for free every Friday at the local movie theater (you had to buy a ten cent ticket: “We almost never saw the movie,” my grandmother explained, the primary purpose acquiring the flour or sugar).

Then came World War II, and my grandmother’s brother entered the Air Force in order to become a pilot. Her to-be husband joined the Navy as a Pharmicist’s mate, serving in New Zealand and Brooklyn, NY. She (and most of her friends) married soon after the war ended, producing my parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers. Apartments were at a premium, since everyone was getting married and starting families, so when my great-grandmother became extremely ill due to complications arising from diabetes, they moved in with her and my great-grandfather, giving their apartment to couple who were close friends, the woman living with her parents and the man at the YMCA. They were ecstatic to get the apartment, since that meant they could finally get married.

My great-grandmother died at a young age, but not until she got to meet her first granddaughter, my aunt. My grandmother and my grandfather moved into their first house, and supplemented their full-time jobs with money from singing (soloists at Churches got paid $3 each Sunday, a good bit of extra money back in the forties). Soon my grandmother was pregnant again (with my uncle), and they moved to the 23-acre farm they were to occupy until my grandfather’s death in 1992. They had many wonderful years there, and I was fortunate to know the farm well myself as a small child rambling in the back woods.

My grandmother is still alive and doing very well; at 80, the favored phrase to describe her is “outliving us all.” She shovels her own driveway, mows her own lawn, and still cooks Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and birthday dinners for her family and friends. At 4’11” and the same weight for the past forty years, she claims the secret to her excellent health is, “Sleeping soundly. I’ve always slept like a rock, for at least eight hours a night. I also have chronic low blood pressure, which has helped!” (on a side-note, I inherited her low blood-pressure, but not her height – I’m 6’0″)

My grandmother never wrote any books (though she confessed to me recently that she’s been writing stories for years, letting her best friend read them, and then throwing them away – which to me, was blasphemy. What I’d give for those stories, now! I’m sure they were wonderful. Girls, let this be another lesson in self-esteem: you are what you deem yourself to be, and by saving yourself potential embarrassment, you are destroying what could be a tremendous gift), nor did she earn a college degree. She wasn’t an outspoken feminist, though she had firm opinions and crystal-clear morals. She didn’t create any great works of art, though she can knit an entire afghan in ten days flat. She volunteers for Meals on Wheels, is active in her church, and is a fiercely loyal and protective friend. She lives alone but isn’t lonely too often; she is still deeply in love with my grandfather, fifteen years since his death.

I have held myself to the highest standards since I can remember. A lawyer, a physicist, an economist, a philosopher, a mathematician, an opera singer, a film maker, a writer, a director, a composer — each of these at one point was a pinnacle, a goal to be reached. The perfect girlfriend/wife/lover/mother/daughter/sister/woman, the perfect citizen, the perfect financial being, a possessor of a perfect body – also each, at times (and some still), goals.

Still, next to my grandmother’s colorful life, mine is a dull sepia. Reading her history, and mine, has given me a weighty sense of perspective that makes the small irritations less so, yet at the same time has left me profoundly depressed. Perhaps it is because I never got a chance to meet many of those interesting characters; perhaps it is because I miss my grandmother, and want to tell her how much the story of her life has impacted my own. Perhaps it is because I feel like I don’t have the opportunities she had–strange thing to say, given the trials of her life.

Maybe I don’t need to know why I feel what I feel, and just let it take me for a while, and grieve silently, respectfully, for the ones that came before me.

What the Hell?? Fat Quiz

Go to the place easiest for, say, a twelve-year-old girl to find:

Description of the fat quiz: Are You Fat?

Here’s the text:

Am I Fat? Is that something that you ask yourself? If so, it’s probably because you are fat, or you have an eating disorder. If you feel fat and you look fat you likely are overweight, obese or very out of shape. The only way to stop asking yourself if you are fat is to get psychological help for your eating disorder or start exercising and eating right. There is no secret quick fix to your fatness.

The best way to truly determine if you are fat is to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI will tell you your body fat percentage. This is the amount of you body that is made up of fat. A high percentage of fat indicates a fatty body and a lower percentage indicates a less fatty body.

Why do I get the sinking, ugly sensation that this is the kind of thing middle-school catty cliques force their members to take, posting their results on their MySpace and Facebook pages?

Ugh. What lies. Parents, please tell your daughters they’re beautiful and that if they think they’re fat, it’s much more likely they have a disordered body image, regardless of ‘being fat’ (which, in this day and age, means that you have any adipose tissue on your body whatsoever) or no.

Where do I start? I think the “start exercising and eating right.” directly before “There is no secret quick fix to your fatness.” is indicative of the mental age of whomever created and/or promotes this site.

The quiz itself isn’t any better. I see some standard “GROSS FAT PPL OMG YUK” pictures; they start with “When you look down, what do you see? a) A big fat gut, b) a front bottom, c) my toes…” and in the middle pretty much just asks you for your height and weight, which means it’s a really, really cruel (bullshit) BMI calculator. One of the questions even asks if your build is “big boned, skinny, large…” etc! Wow, that’s real scientific. I guess one is ‘fat’ if one thinks she’s fat? Ah, the circle of self-loathing is complete.

Wow, at the end they want all my personal information! Huh, let me make something up…hmm, doesn’t look like I can (they want my email address, fuck that!). Ah, well. I’m sure they were going to say something brilliant about how I was Fatty McFattie Jr, Esquire McFat III.

By the way, in the privacy policy:

The may sell any information supplied by a visitor, and it may in conjunction with other businesses (including providers of direct marketing services and applications, including lookup and reference, data enhancement, suppression and validation) use that information to bring you selected retail opportunities. The may also disclose information provided by a visitor where has reason to suspect that its website or services are being used in a manner which may contravene local laws, or which in the opinion of the is inappropriate.

This place looks like bad news all around. ::Shudder::

For those who want to complain, please send an indignant letter/email to:

The Are You Fat Quiz
210-852 Fort St.
Victoria BC

Congratulations to Joanne Borgella…don’t EVER give up on your singing…

joanne borgella

…because you’re afraid of size discrimination.

Girl, I gave up my dream of singing because I didn’t think anyone would cast a 6′ 0″, 220 lb girl in a main singing part of, well, anything. I didn’t think I would have a chance to be a soloist, since even most classical singers aren’t supposed to be fat.

You give the rest of us hope, and other girls of size who are budding singers the dream back of one day being up on the stage, in the spotlight.

Joanne Borgella is, of course, the plus-sized model who has made it into the Top 24 of this season’s American Idol. She mentioned to the judges, while sitting ‘upstairs’ next to another contestant and waiting to hear her results, that she gave up singing for a while since she’d been consistently told by people in the media that she had to lose weight to have a serious chance at getting famous.

The judges seemed stunned to hear this. Was it just me, or did they look like deer in headlights? Was it that they were ashamed, because they knew, for the most part, what the industry professionals has told Joanne was correct, or because they were amazed a beautiful girl who was obviously extremely talented would be written off so completely because of her weight?

Being in the American Idol Top 24, she went on, would give her a reason to continue with her singing. They told her that she had made it.

Joanne, you are beautiful, and my fiancee and I are going to be cheering you on the whole way. We love you Joanne, and we love your voice. Don’t let the neurotic, panicked, ignorant fattists EVER say you shouldn’t be up there, that somehow being plus-sized means you’re too ‘big’ for the spotlight. Because, like with everyone else, they’re DEAD WRONG.

Joanne’s professional site

Joanne’s initial Idol audition

EDIT: Please ignore the hateful “Related searches” on this tag. It’s likely they’re coming from the YouTube sites, which is notorious for fattist comments. They’re insulting, but I’m going to keep the link up as an illustration of what kind of fattist hate is acceptable and even encouraged in this day and age, especially amongst the younger generation, who has heard about the “Obesity Epidemic” nearly their whole lives.