On Friday a train in Queens derailed. Thankfully no one was seriously injured. Unfortunately I needed that train to get to Big Fat Flea on Sunday.
That wasn't about to stop me.
I hate shopping in most stores. I procrastinate because I don't want to deal with tiny racks or trying on the small selections to maybe get two things that still didn't seem to fit right. I'd come home disappointed and frustrated because I didn't get what I needed.
I didn’t procrastinate when I came to the flea. The night before I plotted the best way to get there. Looking over subways lines, MTA advisories and even considered driving in (that was nixed due to the Five Boro Bike tour.) I wasn't about to miss the biggest fat shopping experience of the year.
I got there at about 10:20, checked in as a VIP (If you can afford it for $27 you can come in a half hour early. It's worth it to get your hands on the better selection and to avoid the lines.)
I gave myself 15 minutes to shop, 15 minutes to try on and then I would look at accessories and shoes. Something I could do while the big crowds swelled around the clothes.
Within fifteen minutes, my bag overflowed with dresses, tops and pants. Many of which still had tags on it and I headed into the fitting area.
At one point the temporary wall marking off the fitting room collapsed and many of us stood there wearing just our undergarments (I had just tried on a top) but everyone took that in good humor. The whole atmosphere was lively. The dressing room filled with loving women who would try on clothes, get honest advice, and pass around clothes that didn't fit them.
I tried on everything and put less back than I ever had at any department store. With the amazing selection, I didn't have to settle, there was plenty to choose from.
When I finally paid, my total was $61 for
1 dress with tags (originally marked as $56) Every year at the flea, I have something I call my ultimate find. This was it.
1 swim bottom
1 pair of shorts
Remember I wrote that two weeks ago I spent $60 in Marshalls for two pairs of pants because out of the six I tried, these two looked "okay".
I had made a mental list of what to look for: Pants for work, shirts for different seasons, bike shorts.
Except for the bike shorts (#5 was regular shorts), I walked out with everything I wanted. The Flea gave me something other stores never could, not just selection and sizes but a big dose of self-esteem.
I exercise every day. Biking, walking, yoga, swimming, and/or stretching. If I don't exercise I get tired, depressed, and feel worn out. I feel that I owe my body movement and the endorphins that come from it. I understand that some days my body is more open where I can bike 30 minutes, moderately walk for an hour, do yoga, and a sprint. Other days I'm lucky to get in my bike. Exercise instructor (and all around cool fat chick) Jeanette DePatie understands we need to do exercise but as much as our bodies can do and as we have to listen when it comes to intuitive eating, we have to do the same thing with exercise. We have to listen to the signals our body gives us duing exercise.
This sign to me represents a culture where we learn to ignore the signals our bodies send as we work out. This is about a culture of masochism, where the more pain and agony you endure during a workout, the closer you bring your body to the edge of absolute destruction during a workout, the better. And as an exercise teacher this makes me absolutely crazy. Because, the messages you receive from your body are the most important line of defense, the most important tool you could possibly use to keep yourself safe as you work out.
We live in a culture of all or nothing. Where you either do hardbody exercise or none at all. Consider what I wrote about a few weeks ago about a study that was picked up by the media that fat women don't exercise but neglected to mention that we still moderately exercise. Not everyone (Not just fat people but thin ones too) can do a few hours of exercise a day.
The New York Timeslooked at a study that showed exercise was a key to longevity, regardless of weight.
Over all, people in the lowest exercise category had about twice the risk of dying from heart disease as those in the middle group and six times the risk of those in the group who exercised the most often and vigorously.
Meanwhile Atchka of Fierce Freethinking Fatties did an amazing run down of the Kramer study was picked up by the media as the reason you can't be fat and fit (I wrote about it in December 2013. Which he tracked down the author who even said the study showed that if you are fat, the best thing for you was to get fit.
These are different things. For example, if you are obese, it’s best if you are fit. Let’s say you exercise three times a week or four times a week, it has a protection compared to people that are obese and do not exercise.
The important issue here is to listen to your body. Take it for lovely walks, runs, swim whatever you and it enjoy. Do it as much as you can while listening to what your body says.
On Saturday morning, I decided to go shopping for pants. Being 10 am the morning before Easter, I figured I'd avoid the lines and the crowds at Marshalls, a close-out department store.
I've a hard body to buy for: a rectangle with an apple belly and large boobs, I usually have to try on many things before I can find maybe one item that fits me nicely. Most of the times pants that fit my waist make my legs look like tree trunks and pants that fit my legs make my stomach look like a giant sack. Tops are worse: clothes that fit my chest make me look pregnant or else I'm popping out of my shirt (Something my husband doesn't mind but work might.)
I don't really like to shop at Department stores. I prefer stores that stock only larger sizes (my issues with them are another story). No offense against thin folks, but at least I know the entire store is catered to large bodies including my size. However, I usually can get one or two things at Marshalls if I hunt. My local venue has gotten worse as far as plus sizes go. They used to have a large section in the middle of the floor. Now they are pushed over to the side and are limited to two large racks, and a few smaller ones. Dresses are the only sizes that are integrated.
Some days I go there and find some good pieces. Other days I don't know why I bother.
I was semi-successful on Saturday as I managed to snag Lauren pants that fit me nicely, and a pair of loose yoga pants that for $20 were good enough. Together they were $60.
Remember this is the “discount” store.
On May 4th is the Big Fat Flea in NYC. Last year I spent about the same amount at Marshalls and bought home a much cheaper and better selection. This is a flea market. Selection is based on donation, not a department store which is theory should be serving their customer’s needs. And knowing that two-thirds of the population need plus sizes, I’m surprised that Marshall’s plus size selection has shrunk.
Marshalls was a hunt. A hope that a wild pair of pants would appear and fit me properly. My hunting ground was only a few feet but still not a lot wild pants to be found.
At the Flea, it's a gather. I go through stacks and stacks of pants, dresses, shirts, jackets and miscellaneous. My size is located all in the same place, often towering because there is so much selection. I stuff things to try on in my bag which becomes heavy in my arms while my follow shoppers dig around with me, being friendly, giving advice. No one seems upset when someone grabs an Igigi dress before you can. You feel great when a person tells you, “This doesn’t look good on me, maybe it will look good on you.”
I come home exhausted but in a good way. My spirits are high as I check out my new clothes (and some are brand new with tags). And as I model my new clothes, I feel confident and happy.
More holidays are upon us, where there is ham, peeps, matzo ball soup, chocolate bunnies, and gefilte fish.
Life is too short, families are fleeting and if you like your grandmother's gefilte fish, you should eat it without worry of the calories or fat content because one day that recipe as your grandmother made it will be no more.
I never liked gefilte fish, but I'll take my late grandmother's matzo soup or my grandpa, who died too young, hiding the matzo in an easy to find spot and giving my cousins, brother, and me dollar bills for being so good at finding things.
Food isn’t trouble, it’s holidays, it’s funny stories, it’s seasons. Clams and beach plums are summer; turkey and crispy, lace-edged latkes mean fall; gefilte fish tells us it’s springtime again. Maybe my daughters won’t eat more than the single bite that I’ll insist on, but the finished dish is only part of the point.
A recent study has said people considered “underweight” have a death rate 1.8 times higher than “normal” weight people. Us fatties were only 1.2-1.3 times higher (yippie?)
After reviewing more than 50 previous researches, researchers of a new study have found that excessive thinness is also not good for health. Clinically underweight people have a higher risk of death than obese individuals.
Are we going to break out the term: morbidly thin? Are there going to be Diet programs to help the poor, unfortunate, and stupid thin people, who can't help but not eat?
Are we going to have a national program to help the morbidly thin somehow get to magic BMI number 18.5?
No-- because a campaign like that would be ridiculous.
Or would it?
Recently, Yale student Frances Chan was forced to gain weight because the university health center Yale Health deemed her as having an eating disorder as her BMI wasn’t past the magical number of 18.5. (Yale later dropped it, I assume because they realized how ridiculous it was.) I’m not quite sure what Yale’s obsession with weight is but apparently Chan wasn’t the only student forced to gain weight or leave school. I just know when I went to college the school seemed to care about our academic achievement rather than our personal lives.
Even if she had anorexia (which she doesn’t, she’s naturally slender), forcing an anorexic to gain weight doesn’t cure the eating disorder.In order to get Yale Health off her back, she ignored her natural hunger cues, overate, and didn’t exercise.
If someone goes to the doctor, they should not get a weight lecture, especially if they aren't there to talk about weight (in Chan’s case she was having a lump checked). The only time a doctor should talk about your weight is if you lose or gain it rapidly. While Yale and other schools need to have outreach to students because eating disorders tends to hit college age women, there is outreach and then over reach. Like with many fat people, Frances Chan’s health was judged solely on her BMI.
People have different body types and BMI says nothing about their health. Being as healthy as you can trumps weight loss/gain.
...but for the people who have been losing the battle of the weight, if they can at least become fit, then they can have a very good prognosis and good overall health.
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.
Living in New York City, I climb stairs. In my house, in the subway, at my job, and in random places you wouldn’t think would have stairs. Two months ago I climbed the Manitou incline which was like a giant staircase. I admit when I sometimes climb to the subway (I often take an elevated train), I get winded and going up the incline I thought my heart was going to explode.
Every day I take some kind of stairs, an while the exercise has done wonders for my legs, it has not made me thin. Riding my exercise bike 15-30 minutes a day has not made me thin, walking at least a mile or more a day had not made me thin, my daily stretches, my yoga, my summer swimming, my walks around the office has not made me thin.
There is a slogan: "Nothing about us, without us." which is often used among marginalized groups. It essentially means one group decides the fate/treatment of a marginalized group without their input. Fat activists see this all the time. "Obesity" organizations which decide on policy on how to make fat people thin don't seek input from actual fat people.
I have mentioned before that there is a constant assumption that if you are fat because you stuff your face and sit on the couch all day. Some organizations try to be gentle by saying “It’s not your fault you stuff your face.” Every single treatment for fatness is always the same: eat less calories than your body needs (aka a diet). It is the same treatment used in the last forty years and still hasn’t been proved to work in the long run.
If the people running this International Congress of Obesity would talk to an actual fat person (and not just try to treat them), they might figure out that taking the stairs will not make us thin.
When organizations pull stunts like this, the only thing at which they can possibly succeed is creating an environment that prevents people from, and shames people for, navigating the world in the way that’s best for them and their situation.
And shame on this Amanda Sainsbury who decided fat people must become thin or they will die and Health at Every Size is bad for encourage people to stay fat. But what can you expect from a person who writes diet books? (Even worse this quack is the editor in chief of the Journal of Eating Disorders).
While I certainly agree that it is possible to have healthy behaviours that provide health benefits at a wide variety of body sizes, I disagree that it is possible to be or to stay truly healthy at every size.
This is the second time I've seen someone add a Y to the end of health when referring to Health at Every Size. This, to me, changes the meaning. Even though HAES is more geared to fat people because of the discrimination we face in health care, HAES is meant for all body types. Healthy is an abstraction. You can't really define it because everyone has different ranges. My husband can get to the top of a mountain but put him in a lake, and I’m going to zoom past him. Are we both “Healthy” or “Unhealthy”?
It is thus not surprising that people frequently put off doing anything about excess weight until better conditions arise (e.g. when the children start school or leave home, when a better financial position or home is attained, after retirement, etcetera). The health at every size concept implies putting off doing anything about excess weight indefinitely, instead accepting a higher BMI and focusing on healthy behaviours.
Ironically here she accidently points out how HAES is better than dieting. People put off Dieting. They wait until January or when they have money. HAES you do every day, no putting off. No need for money. It's learning to be as healthy as you can in the body you have whether it be too fat, too thin, disabled, or suffering from a disease. You can do HAES if you walk the stairs, take the escalator, or jump up and down.
When I gave up dieting, I wasn’t fully into size acceptance. I realized dieting didn’t work and if I continued, I would wreck my body even further.
At first I worried I would gain an enormous amount of weight (this turned out to only be about five pounds). As I got more into size acceptance and loving my body, I was able to accept the occasional weight gain and loss. (Neither were dramatic. I went from a size 20 to a 22, and then back to a 20.) You may find that some changes will affect your weight: medications, exercise, stress, hormones, or dietary changes (Not for weight loss).
How can you deal with these fluctuations? When I was a dieter, I had an easy formula:
Weight loss =love myslf Weight gain= hate myself.
The diet I was most "successful" on, I lost 40 pounds and kept it off for 2 years. I never got thin, but the day I fit into a size 14 (mind you, I couldn't breathe but they fit), I was excited and happy for the rest of the day, convinced that thinness was just around the corner (turns out it was just the same old story, weight regain and bingeing).
When I gave up dieting and started to learn to love my body, I felt I had the right to that self-love from getting into a size 14. But I also had to figure out how to make my life so as not to be defined by a number.
It was easy in the beginning because my weight stayed the same. But as the hormones of getting older kicked in, my pants got tighter. I bought new pants but I had to figure out a way to not hate myself.
The first thing I did was end negative fat talk. This is when you look in the mirror and tell yourself "OMG, I'M FAT” like it's a bad thing. You need to look at your reflection and tell yourself "OMG, I'M BEAUTIFUL!" “OMG, I LOVE YOU, BODY!”
If you catch yourself telling your body bad things, tell that voice to shut up. Loving yourself is the most important thing you can do.
It's important that if there is weight gain to not go back to any kind of dieting. HAES and Intitule eating means you listen to your body cues. Forcing your body to eat less than needs is devastating instead of nourishing it.
On the other side is weight loss. Maybe you got sick and now your pants are loose. You still love your body but you may feel a little extra self-esteem, especially when other people around you compliment it. I deal with that two ways: I hunch my shoulders like I don't care or I try humor: Thanks! It was a stomach virus/mono/tapeworm. The most important thing is to still love your body and not to feel like you betrayed it for feeling a surge of self-esteem that years of dieting probably programed into you.
Still go to your mirror and tell yourself. I love my body no matter what!
Fatness among 3-5 years old has dropped 43% and fat adults and kids over 5 and adults have stayed the same and have been for the past decade. Not just in the US but the world.
Paul Campos writes: As Michael Gard notes in his recent book The End of the Obesity Epidemic, data from all over the world indicate that, over the past ten to 15 years, obesity rates have leveled off or declined among adults and children.
Does this mean the epidemic is over? No, because the epidemic of fat hatred isn’t over. A few years ago I breathed a sigh of relief when multiple studies came out showing that overweight people lived the longest (longevity didn't decrease until your BMI reached 37 and even then it wasn't that bad) and the 400,000 people who died of fatness was revised to 25,814 http://www.obesitymyths.com/myth2.2.htm . For a minute I thought that we finally won. We finally proved that fat does not equal death and making fat people thin was not a cure. Maybe it was time to move to HAES(tm) and that instead of focusing on large bodies, we could focus on getting all people to eat right and find enjoyable movement.
Then the diet/medical/drug industry reared its ugly heads. We were bombarded with “studies” proving WLS cured everything; more infective diet drugs hit the market; the American Medical Association called us a disease; we are penalized for not joining “volunteer” workplace wellness. And anytime an actual study came out saying fatness is not in fact unhealthy, those studies were raked over the coals (Any study claiming fatness is bad is never questioned.) When the study came out claiming fatness among young children dropped 43% Forbes was quick to point out it went up first before going down a mere 14% (Although Paul Campos agrees with their assessment.)
Regardless of the drop, this fake war on children needs to end. There is nothing wrong with children enjoying movement and eating delicious and nutritious foods, but when you single out the fat kids, you cause eating disorders, low self-esteem and bullying. According to School obesity programs may promote worrisome eating behaviors and physical activity in kids Report:
30% of parents of children age 6-14 report worrisome eating behaviors and physical activity in their children.
7% of parents say that their children have been made to feel bad at school about what or how much they were eating.
A study in the Mayo Clinic indicated that fat women only do about an hour of exercise every year. This was the headline at Time:
Obese Women Get Only One Hour Of Exercise in a Whole Year
That isn't true. The hour was only for vigorous exercise. All the headlines, in the rush to make fun of fat neglected to mention this is vigorous exercise. CBS News was the only one who remembered to add vigorous.
Activities that fall under this category include jogging, running, swimming laps, riding a bike fast on hills, playing singles tennis or playing basketball. People can also opt to participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly in lieu of the more vigorous activities, per the recommendations. Those activities include walking fast, doing water aerobics, riding a bike on flat ground, playing doubles tennis or pushing a lawn mower.
(Not sure why water aerobics is here. I found it harder to do than swimming laps.)
First off the data is from eight years ago. Trends change. Deb Burgard of ASDAH (Her quotes in italics) mentioned on the ASDAH email list some issues she with the study.
1. How it was measured. They used accelerometers which only can detect a subset of human body movements (and the body movements accelerometers measure are most accessible to lower-weight, younger and less disabled people)
2. People of other weights didn't get that much exercise either. It's true that fat women did 11-36 seconds of vigorous exercise per day compared to "normal" women who got 108 seconds which means that normal women did something like 3-10 times as much. Which means that at most normal weight women got 10 hours of vigorous exercise a year. Which is less than what I do (I'm on an exercise bike everyday 10-30 minutes and swim 30 - 60 minutes a day 5x a week in the summer). And I don't consider myself as active as I want. I think this study shows that we all need to exercise more. But of all the headlines about this study, only the Huffington Post pointed out that we all needed to exercise more, not just thin people (This goes back to the discrimination where it’s okay for a thin person not to eat right or exercise).
So using the same logic as the headlines, people in the "normal weight" category who are not being mentioned in this discussion would have accumulated 11 hours of vigorous activity in a year. Running half an hour a day, that would be two weeks of running. Is anyone seriously proposing that running for two weeks is what determines whether a person is in the "normal" weight category or the "obese" category? 3. Once moderate exercise was put in the mix, each body type was about equal.
However the lower amount of vigorous exercise among fat women does perhaps proves something. I have mentioned on this blog the stigma of being fat and getting exercise. We’re made fun of when we exercise and even rental bikes can’t support our weight. Not to mention that a lot of fat people have a lower socioeconomic status and tend to have less time for movement. (I’ve written before that I do more exercise when I have more free time.) Instead of the news media chastising fat women for not exercising enough, perhaps they should do their job and found out why they don’t.