This summer I wore a bikini top. I was inspired by another fat woman who also wore one. I did it for a lot of reasons. Mostly to prove I wasn’t ashamed of my body. I didn’t wear it to be an object or to be sexualized. I often wonder where the line is between not being ashamed of your body and being sexualized.
I recently saw Darryl Roberts' third America the Beautiful movie, this one subtitled The Sexualization of Our Youth. In the movie Darryl explores many issues mostly turning people (mostly women) into sex objects. He covers different issues that might be to blame, child beauty pageants, advertisements, teen sex on television, porn, but the big issue really is women believe they have no self-worth unless they believe they can obtain what they see in a magazine. Being an object makes you a thing not a person.
Too many women (and we are now seeing it more and more in men) hate their bodies. They see them as too fat, too old, too flawed. They look at magazines, movies and ads that say they are gross. They are told they would only be better if they used this make up, this diet product, or these clothes. And then when they buy these products and they don’t make them look like a model, their self-esteem plummets and eating disorders skyrocket. A recent study has shown that eating disorders can start as early as elementary school.
To conduct their studies, Prof. Meilleur and colleagues studied the psychological, sociodemographic and physiological characteristics of 215 children between the ages of 8 and 12 with eating problems…
…The team found that 95% of the children had restrictive eating behaviors, 69.4% were afraid of putting on weight and 46.6% described themselves as "fat."
This is more than just trying to look nice, keeping yourself groomed, tossing on a bikini top because you think you look good in it. This is about trying to obtain something a marketer decided is sexy and pretty. Beauty isn’t what you see in on the fashion pages, beauty comes from within.
For 17 years I suffered from disordered eating. I wasn’t anorexic. The Diets I followed usually came to about 1200-1600 calories. Only on occasion did I starve myself but it never lasted. My body would rebel and bingeing would follow soon after. Bingeing wasn’t about eating crap food or enjoying rich food. (As I mentioned last week, fat people are allowed to have splurges). Binge eating is eating a lot of food with no enjoyment and ignoring hunger cues. No one told me any of these behaviors were bad or unhealthy. I was given kudos to any weight lost and I was chastised for my binges.
A study in Pediatrics discovered that even teenage girls with normal weight are showing signs of anorexia. Although the study was small, it found that these signs increased between 2005 and 2009.
In her study, which included 99 teens aged 12 to 19, Whitelaw found only 8 percent of the patients had EDNOS-Wt in 2005, but more than 47 percent of the patients had it in 2009.
The cause, they think, is an obsession with fatness.
The reasons for the apparent increase in these patients is less clear, but both Sim and Whitelaw said it is likely a combination of increased awareness of the problem and an increased focus on obesity.
This study was small but I bet if they looked at a larger amount of girls including girls of all sizes, they'd see the same behaviors. We’ve made obsession with fatness a national pastime and we push impossible ideals with rail thin airbrushed and photoshopped models. We tell fat kids they will die before they are 30, are diseased, and the worst thing in the world is to be fat. I’m not surprised that eating disorders are becoming more widespread.
I plan a careful diet (little d) because certain foods don’t agree with me, namely corn (especially corn syrup), gluten, cabbage, tomatoes, and some nuts. I do my best to eat whole foods in a well rounded variety. Trolls don’t believe me when I say most of my diet (again little d) contains fruits, vegetables, lean meats, beans and whole grains. I often get unwanted advice to lay off the chips, pizza, and ice cream.
You see, as a fat person, I’m never supposed to ever have dessert or snacks not deemed suitable by the Diet Police. Even one cookie is the reason I’m fat. Meanwhile a thin person could eat the same as me and not be chastised (except maybe being told they will become fat).
I happen to love chips, pizza, and ice cream. They don’t really love me. So I eat them in moderation. My husband makes me homemade pizza, with gluten free crust, and lots of veggies and pesto sauce.
Three days out of the year this goes out the window. It’s when my family and I got to Lancaster, PA, home to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, amazing buffets, and family style dinning (meaning you share the table with other people).
Here I splurge. Feasting on buttered noodles, Swedish meatballs, chicken pot pie, real mashed potatoes, roast beef and for dessert Baked apple ala mode and white chocolate covered strawberries. I paid for some of this later with bad indigestion.
The problem is that when I am indulgent, my quieter but still the diet voice chastises me. It's worse than any internet troll because it belongs to me. As I get more accepting of my body, and that food is food whether healthy or not, the voice isn't as loud but it is still there. Other former dieters may have this same voice because food was made to be either good or bad. Bad food or even eating “too much.”
There are ways to silence this voice. First off you can tell it to shut up when it rears its ugly head. Do not feel guilty about splurging or eating the “wrong thing” Learn the difference between enjoying good cooking and a great meal and binge eating. (Binge eating is eating passed the point of fullness with no enjoyment.)
Just because you're fat, it doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to enjoy food.
Due to life, I was unable to respond to directly to this letter by Carol Weston which talks about how horrible the childhood obesity epidemic is. Apparently It wouldn't have mattered because the New York Times printed no rebuttals from the fat community.
Dear Ms. Weston,
Can I call you Carol?
Like my peers, when I was a kid, I ate a lot of junk and highly processed food. The 1980’s was a big time to eat out of boxes, and soda, pizza, and candy were plentiful. In school every time there was a birthday, each kid would get one cupcake. I wasn’t into pizza until I was nine and then I couldn't get enough. For lunch, I usually went home to a sandwich or a can of soup, but once a week, for $2 I was able to get a slice, a small soda, and four things of candy (The candy lasted me most of the week). My peers were also stuffing themselves with pizza, candy, and soda. When I was nine something else happened, I started to get chubby (Maybe you're right, maybe it was the pizza) but I suppose I was still safe in your book, Carol, as I was still XL but not XXXL (Because after XL you cease to be human.)
However in the 80’s, there wasn’t any concern about the self-esteem of kids and teens. I was fat and told to diet. No one mentioned dieting didn't work. And when I started, it took 17 years to stop. Meanwhile my thinner peers were ignored, weren’t told to skip pizza and the soda. We were told the basics of good nutrition, but the fat kids were singled out to change the way they eat.
A lot has changed since the 80s. It is not acceptable to put a child on a diet. And the general consensus is that dieting doesn’t work. It is also became less acceptable to call your child fat. Even if they are fat.
However there is still a massive push to be thin or else. Like me, fat kids are still singled out for their weight where thin kids aren’t. (Or told that if they eat that way they’ll get fat.) Fat kids are the reason schools don’t have cupcakes, pizza or soda (Please keep in mind, I’m pro healthy foods in school and regular gym, but I think an occasional cupcake, pizza or soda is not a big deal.)
You say you’re against dieting but you pressure kids to lose weight. What do you think a fat girl will do with your information? What do you think happens when she see signs like this?
Do you think she’ll laugh as she eats her pizza and gulp down her soda? You tell kids to lose weight but every way to do it doesn’t work for most people. You single out fat girls for eating pizza and not walking. They are the ones that are going to diet, they are the ones who are going to go on the binge/dieting cycle.
Instead let’s have healthy nutritious food and fun exercise for all children, not just fat ones. Let’s teach them to love their bodies whether it be XS or XXXL.
Last week I wrote about two stories where "Obesity experts" just don’t get it. This week I'm writing about a doctor who tries but fails to get it. Dr. Edward Thompson writes about treating a 600 pound man and seems to not realize how much he marginalizes his patient.
The patient lies trapped in his own body, like a prisoner in an enormous, fleshy castle. And though he must feel wounded by the ER personnel’s remarks, he seems to find succor in knowing that there’s no comment so cutting that it can’t be soothed by the balm of 8,000 calories per day.
I've mentioned before that fat people fear going to the doctor. I know that I hate going to a new specialist because I hate to have yet another fat talk.
In this man’s case, the ER doctors couldn’t handle his size and looked at him as if it’s his fault rather than the hospital’s lack of equipment. I don’t believe the doctor went out of his way to marginalize him but fat equaling bad, lazy, a slob, and stupid is so ingrained, he might not have realized he was making his patient less than a person.
Even though dieting does not work in the long run, because weight is fluid and can be artificially changed, doctors assume that it's either the patients fault for being lazy or society's fault for making food so accessibility to people too stupid to know better.
I know why my colleagues and I are so glad to have this patient out of the ER and stowed away upstairs: he’s an oversize mirror, reminding us of our own excesses. It’s easier to look away and joke at his expense than it is to peer into his eyes and see our own appetites staring back.
I have mentioned before that fat people frequently change doctors. Or don't go at all because we fear the doctor will treat our size rather than the problem.
A few months later the doctor's patient died.
Though I have no way of knowing it, within a few months a crane will hoist the patient’s body through a hole cut in the side of his house, a hole that allowed EMS personnel to lower the body onto their new ultra-wide, ultra-sturdy gurney.
I have to wonder if the patient thought about seeking medical care, remembered being made fun of and marginalized, and decided against seeking treatment.
Another doctor Sayantani DasGupta, criticizes the metaphors used describe the man: infantile, slovenly, lazy, and grotesque.
Not only were they a study in the power of negative metaphors, but as a fellow physician, they felt all-too familiar. They were the way I had, on many an occasion, heard patients’ bodies talked about; ways that I, during my training, had perhaps referred to patients’ bodies. The simple words felt so easy, so unexamined, and in that very ease was embedded their violence.
All patients of all sizes need to be able to get the medical care they need, including equipment that fits and compassion from doctors, who treat the medical issue, not the size.
Every once in a while, I get an email asking if I would host a guest blogger or if I would be interested in this infographic. Usually the blogger or infographic is completely inappropriate for my blog such as the evils of obesity, or has nothing to do with fatness at all. Depending on mood I will ignore or engage. When I engage, my response is usually "Have you even read my blog?" or "Why would I want your fat hating infographic?" Usually I never hear anything again and I assume this was spam. A mass email hoping that a few bloggers will post whatever product they are selling. When I got the last one (from a plastic surgeon service no less) I wrote back "Are you a spammer or an idiot?" expecting not to hear anything back.
I got a message not three hours later.
I am a spammer nor an idiot… (I think this was a Freudian slip.)
Obviously you are bitter though and not as optimistic about your disease as your blog leaves one to believe.
Best of luck with that shining attitude in the future.
The issue here is not this idiot or spammer (or both). But this damage the AMA just did to fat people by labeling all fatness as a disease. Even this moron thinks I have a disease. There is nothing wrong with getting help to fat people with diseases, but to just tell someone they have a disease when they are perfectly healthy is ridiculous.
The New York Times seems to think this is a good idea because it "supposedly" reduces body shame.
On the positive side, we found that the obesity-as-disease message increased body satisfaction among obese individuals, probably because it removed the shame of obesity as a moral failing.
Suggesting that one’s weight is a fixed state — like a long-term disease — made attempts at weight management seem futile, and thus undermined the importance that obese individuals placed on health-focused dieting and concern for weight.
The gist is, calling fatness a disease meant that people felt less ashamed because they had a disease rather than a moral failing. However since the cure for this disease is the same shit they've been touting for 50 years, people give up on any kind of weight management.
I don't mean to be a conspiracy theorist but since "Obesity experts" use correlation with causality, let's try it with the diet industry. Even though the diet industry still makes a good 20 billion, that shift is moving away from commercial dieting to Do it Yourself. DIY breaks up that massive pie in to tiny pieces. Meaning the big companies are not getting the money they once did. Weight Loss Drugs have been failing miserably for the last 10 years. Weight Loss Surgery is making a lot of doctors wealthy. So calling Fatness a disease means new money comes into these "Cures". Cures that I might add don't work for most people in the long wrong and can cause more harm than good.
Health at Every Size has no real profit margin and helped try to improve quality of life. It works to help people of all sizes enjoy eating, moving, and loving their body again. Nothing in HAES calls you a disease or says you have a moral failing if you didn't get a chance to exercise.
The best thing I ever did to reduce body shame and to work on my health was to stop trying to be thin.
And if any young fat activist wants to do a guest blog, I’m okay with that. If you want to sell your “Fat is bad product”. Go fuck yourself.
Market Watch has a top ten list of what the Diet Industry won't tell you.
#2 is dieting makes you fat.
While the point of a diet is to lose weight, often the reverse happens: We end up fatter than when we started. “Diets don’t work long-term,” says psychotherapist and eating coach Karen R. Koenig...
I have been blogging for almost 10 years where I have repeatedly said dieting makes you fat. I have always believed that if I had HAES instead of a diet, right now I would weigh less and love my fat body more.
The constant pressure to diet does nothing, and can even makes things worse. The only purpose of dieting is to lose weight. People don't go to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, do the Paleo diet or Atkins because they want to stay the same weight. They go to lose and when the weight loss stops, so does the diet.
Meanwhile Health at Every Size removes the weight loss component and focuses on health. Health can't fully be identified. As ASDAH defines:
The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) affirms a holistic definition of health, which cannot be characterized as simply the absence of physical or mental illness, limitation, or disease. Rather, health exists on a continuum that varies with time and circumstance for each individual. Health should be conceived as a resource or capacity available to all regardless of health condition or ability level, and not as an outcome or objective of living. Pursuing health is neither a moral imperative nor an individual obligation, and health status should never be used to judge, oppress, or determine the value of an individual.
ASDAH has updated the definition of HAES to further remove healthism (Healthism is the bias against a person because they don't fit the "picture of health". For fat people, a fat person who eats right and exercise is defined as morally superior to a fat person who doesn't).
The Health At Every Size® Principles are:
Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.
As I mentioned last week (And many other times), the stigma fat people get just trying to exercise. Making fun of someone who is slow or can only manage a walk around the block does nothing to help them by healthy.
I have written multiple times about the stigma fat people face when they try to exercise. They feel uncomfortable with stares and ridicule. Recently dancer Ragen Chastain completed a 26 mile marathon because she was slower than the rest, she was ridiculed. Including a comment such as this:
This is ridiculous. The author wasn't trained to do a marathon and wallowed through the course at 28min/mile pace. How is doing any physical activity at barely over TWO MILES PER HOUR anything other than just sad?
I recently came back from Colorado. On vacation I'm often move more because I have the time. On the second day I was there we went to the hot springs where I swam as much as possible in bath-like water.
The next day we did the Mantiou Incline. The incline is a railroad track with the steel beams removed and the wooden tracks used as steps. There are three points up. The half-way point (More like 60%), the false summit, and the actual summit. I knew we were planning to do it and even though I'd rather swim three miles than walk up one, I had planned to at least do it part of the way. Because it was later in the day, we planned to just go to the halfway point.
It was extremely difficult. About half-way there, I thought my heart was going to fall out of my chest. I had my friend screaming at me to get moving because the sun was going down and we were all going to freeze to death (we weren't) while I had my husband quietly assuring me I could make it because I was the strongest woman he knew.
This was my response to my friend.
Feeling bad about my body has always lowered my self-esteem and made me think I was incapable of finishing anything that meant success for me. I wasn't surprised as I got closer to the end, I stopped more and more frequently. A fat person was not allowed to make this feat. After all, fat people aren't supposed to be athletic, they are supposed to be lazy slobs.
Coming down off the mountain, I got a lot of kudos from people who passed me as I huffed and puffed up the mountain. Part of me felt this was condescention, that yes a fat person made it to the halfway point, but instead I thought they were just being supportive and didn't want me to give up.
The point here is not that you have to make it up the Manitou incline but that fat people not only deserve movement without stigma and that we cannot allow stigma to block our way to the top.
Pick up almost any book by a fat person about their diet history, it will be almost the same story. Even books like Diary of a Fat Housewife where the author was "victorious over fat" has the same story of the diet cycle. This cycle involved going on a diet, losing weight, feeling "great" and then slowly the diet would fail. The person would regain the weight plus more and feel terrible about themselves. Every time I read these stories, I saw my own. I found I had higher self-esteem the more weight I lost. When the loss would stop, I would become depress and hate myself.
I'm always annoyed that studies showing fatness being worse than Hitler don't include a dieting history. Maybe they might find chronic dieting to be the culprit of many "obesity-related diseases." My own diet history had almost everything I read in other books, except I never got prescription diet pills or had WLS. Perhaps it was because at the time I was under the glass ceiling of size 16. Size 16 and under meant you should continue dieting, but it's not as serious because you don't have death fat. Death fat is where fat because unacceptable and dangerous, whether it is or not. I was fat but not death fat and doctors didn't push pills on me (instead I used OTC ones). Their treatment was often lectures on going on diets with no real practical advice on getting healthy. The stories I read about fatties with the dreaded death fat were similar to mine but the dieting was often more extreme. For example this woman who had "Death fat." Her story is similar to mine as we both hated our bodies. But she never accepted herself and did anything she could to lose weight including surgery that nearly killed her (Warning it is graphic).
I weigh 165 now, and that's still too much for me. I have become much more comfortable with my personality and just being me, but I only really feel at home behind a computer, where I can hide my body. I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable in my own skin. I still hate my body, every day. I still have all the internal demons of 28 years of everyone telling me I was wrong for looking the way I looked, and that I was less of a woman, and worthless as a person, because of how I looked. The sad part is her story it is remarkably similar to one written at least 30 years ago in Shadows on a Tightrope about a woman who got WLS not for her health but because she couldn't live in a fat hating world anymore.
Everyone have a lovely holiday and a Merry Christmas or just a nice day. Remember the best present you can give yourself is loving your body!