The Real Biggest Loser

Here are just a few reasons I think this show is a travesty.

  • They haven’t proven that this extreme behavior is necessary.  The Biggest Loser contestants admit that they haven’t been practicing healthy habits.  I wonder what would happen if they just made a few healthy changes to their lives – ate in a nutritious way that supported their bodies about 80-90% of the time, did some kind of enjoyable movement 30 minutes about 5 days a week.  What would their health look like at the end of 16 weeks?  Until that show is on the air I fail to be impressed with a show that tortures people in the name of better health.
  • Time and again I see people encouraged by “health professionals” to ignore their bodies signals on the show – signals like pain, injury, exhaustion, and hunger.  I’ve written about this before and I’ll say it again – think about treating your body like a partner and friend instead of like a limitation to be overcome.  Our bodies give us feedback for a reason and I’m guessing that we’ll be in much better health if we work with our bodies  and listen to what they have to stay instead of just treating them like a nuisance.
  • The contestants spend 16 weeks eating extremely restrictive diets and exercising 5 or more hours a day.  Contestants have lost 100 pounds in seven weeks and 34 pounds in a single week.  There was a time in my life that I behaved in exactly that same way.  I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and given the opportunity to rethink my diet and exercise plan in the hospital.  Not only didn’t I win $250,000, I had to go to meetings.  Twelve step meetings.  Now we glorify and reward behavior that can set these people up for a lifetime of disordered eating and a severely dysfunctional relationship with food and their bodies.
  • Because it’s a game and there is a ton of money on the line, people do things that are really unhealthy and are often considered signs of disordered eating to win:  Dehydrating to lose extra weight.  Over-hydrating because they have immunity and they want to “save their weight loss” for the next week.  Binge eating donuts are part of a challenge and then trying to burn all of those calories with compulsive exercise.  The famous “last chance workout” where people push beyond all reasonable boundaries to lose that last bit of weight.  Abusing gum in lieu of eating etc.
  • The show perpetuates the idea that your self-esteem should come from fitting into the cultural idea of beauty.  It seems to me to be unacceptable on the show for someone to like their body and just be on the show for health reasons.  The end of my watching came when trainer (and self-proclaimed “life coach”)  Jillian Michaels told a contestant that his weight made him miserable.  He disagreed, telling her that he was happy, had a great wife, great kids and a great life and just wanted to be healthier.  Jillian would not let that go, she started to berate him, telling him that he was killing his children, insisting that he was miserable, until he finally said that he was.  Jillian was triumphant.  Is this show about making people healthy or satisfying Jillian’s ego? She had an opportunity to leverage his already high self-esteem to help him through a difficult process and instead felt the need to try to break him down so that she could build him back up in her image.  This behavior is utterly unacceptable for someone who claims to be a health professional and life coach.
  • These people are being set up for a self-esteem crash.  They are taught by the trainers that their self-esteem is contingent and not intrinsic.  They are encouraged to believe that nobody will want to date them unless they are thin.  They aren’t even encouraged to derive self-esteem from the accomplishment of finishing the program.   They are taught that they should have self-esteem and that they are  deserving of love only because they have become thin.   What happens if they gain back their weight (as statistically a vast majority of them are likely to do)? Why can’t we tell people the truth – that they are inherently, intrinsically, worthy.  That they should have high self-esteem because they are just awesome, without having to try at all.
  • Hypocrisy.  Ms. Michaels is the subject of at least three lawsuits for diet pills called “Jillian Michael’s Maximum Strength Calorie Control”  The advertisement for the pills claims “”Two Capsules Before Main Meals and You Lose Weight. That’s It.”.  If that’s the case, why not just put the contestants on your pills Jillian?

In fact, there are so many people who lose on this show, it’s hard to choose the biggest.

Is it the trainers who become egomaniacal trying to justify their existence through their clients suffering rather than nurture and assist them?

The contestants who put themselves through a human experiment the likes of which a researcher could NEVER get approval for?

The viewers who watch the show and buy into the idea that they can only have self-esteem and be worthy of love when they are thin?

The people who try to mimic the show and become frustrated when they don’t lose 100lbs in 7 weeks, or trigger an eating disorder trying?

There may only be one “biggest loser”, but in the end everybody loses with this show.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

Here’s more cool stuff:

Buy my book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

 

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 6:02 am  Comments (23)  

Bad Fatty’s Not-Lament

Sometimes, I just get in the mood to write silly poetry that would break the “Pritchard Scale” (plus 20 awesome points if you get the movie reference).  Enjoy:

There she is, across the floor
Eating salad and nothing more

Just some lemon to dress
You see I’m trying to eat less

Please don’t shame me, I’m being a good fatty

She says she’s embarrassed
Shakes her head, I’m a slob

I eat too much, don’t exercise
I’m just a big lazy blob

But I’m in the gym at eight
You see, I’m trying to lose the weight

Please believe me, I’m being a good fatty

Across the restaurant I sit
Enjoying salsa and some chips

Enduring the waitresses raised brow
Her expression screaming God, what a cow

Then she says there on page two
Are salads, they’ll be good for you

I know, I know… I’m obviously a bad fatty

I see frustration through strained civility
Why won’t I take responsibility

I’m obviously a drain on healthcare
I take up too much space and it’s unfair

Everyone knows I must be sick
Because my middle is just too thick

See that girl with the salad… now THAT’S a good fatty

I’m a bad fatty, I’ll admit it
I don’t have time for all this bullshit

Won’t hate myself and live in constant shame
Won’t play your crazy yo-yo diet game

Won’t buy your shakes and soups and bars
Won’t let you leave emotional scars

I think I’ll like myself, and you can call me Bad Fatty

In perfect health my doctors say
I thank my body every day

I love body and how it’s built
So you can keep your good fatty guilt

Health at Every Size is my cry
The root word of diet is DIE

You say I should hate myself but why
The good fatty price is just too high

So back on up, I’m proud to be a Bad Fatty

Want some poetry that doesn’t suck? Check this out, from the fabulous Pearlsong Press (no affiliation, I just happen to like it!)

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm  Comments (5)  

Oprah You Are Killing Me

So I heard that adding to your list of yo-yo dieting, waffling between yelling “DON’T SPEND ANOTHER SUMMER FAT” and sheepishly admitting “I guess I was talking the talk but not walking the walk”, and creating fad diets out of materials that are meant to be health at every size, you and your television network are now planning a reality show in which you’ll go inside an eating disorder treatment facility.

Lady, you have got to be kidding me.

First let’s talk about the show:

I have some perspective here, as I have been in eating disorder rehab and I now teach Body Positive Dance at several rehab facilities.  I cannot for the life of me imagine why a rehab facility would consent to this.  I can only guess that you gave the participants free admission to the facility (which is a huge deal since lots of times insurance won’t cover it – or will throw people out before their treatment is over against the advice of mental health professionals but don’t get me started on that).  If you want to help people get treatment, use some of your money to lobby the government on behalf of patients, or just help send people to eating disorder clinics without an opportunity to make a profit.  I just can’t fathom who thought that this was a good idea.  These people are mentally ill and in a fight for their lives and you’re going to make TV out of it?  And please, don’t give me any “this will bring an important issue to light” bullshit.  There are lots of ways to bring this important issue to light without showing mentally ill people struggling to recover.  To the best of our knowledge about eating disorders, genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.  Is there anything that could be more triggering to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder (and pretty likely to watch this show)  than watching people who go into recovery gain weight?  What about these patients whose before and after bodies will be on display and accessible, possibly forever?  I heard from several sources that there is going to be a “vote for your favorite patient” segment.  I have to believe that it’s an untrue rumor because I can’t imagine that anybody could be so unbelievably stupid as to pit people with eating disorders – who are struggling with self-hatred, often feel unworthy of love, and who are often naturally competitive type A personalities-into a contest for people’s approval.

Now let’s talk about you. You could do amazing things as a role model for health if you could just get past this obsession with weight.  We know that yo-you dieting is much worse for your body than simply being overweight but there you are, up and down like the yo-yo I used to get in my stocking every Christmas.  Did you know that when I give talks to young girls they point at you as a role model for the yo-yo dieting that they are doing?  “Oprah does it”. Did you know that when I got into eating disorder facilities your magazine is almost always banned because its contents are so triggering?  Is that really who you want to be?

Oprah, don’t think that I don’t feel any sympathy for your plight, I do .  In fact,  I was talking about this with the brilliant CJ Legare (a plus-sized model, business owner, writer, speaker, and and all-around amazing woman whose website you should check out if you haven’t already:  www.powerpinc.com) and she said “If Oprah, with all of her money and power isn’t immune to the ridiculousness of the diet industry, who among us can be?”. CJ makes an excellent point, but then again  I know people who have used some common sense to get out of the dieting cycle and  I would love to see you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and become a successful role model for health instead of a failed role model for thinness.

I’ll admit that I’m not an adamant watcher of the show, so maybe I’m just missing something, but I can’t find a single example where you talked about your true health markers (blood pressure, triglycerides, glucose etc.).  I just see you talk about your weight.   I did see you talk about how you had hyperthyroidism and even though most people lose weight with this condition you didn’t.  That didn’t give you a clue that maybe your natural size is bigger than you think it should be?  How many diet books have you made best-sellers even though you didn’t achieve long term results?  With access to any eating plan, any doctor, any private chef, any fitness coach, you have not been able to attain long-term thinness.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result and your behavior when it comes to your weight is insane. And unfortunately because of who you are in the world, you are becoming a role-model of insanity for the men, women, girls and boys who are your fans.  You, and they, deserve better.

I understand the pressure to be a “good fatty”.  I know that people treat you better if you say that you are on a diet, talk about your weight as a “struggle”,  berate your own body, self-deprecate, say that you lack willpower and self-control,  dare not be seen eating in public unless it’s a small salad with fat free creamy bacon dressing. (How is ‘creamy bacon dressing’ fat free? What the crap is in there?), act like you don’t deserve respect because of your lack of responsibility, and say that nobody will find you attractive until you’re thin.   I know the difficult life of a bad fatty.  I know how poorly you get treated when you dare to make healthy choices, have high self-esteem, insist upon being treated with respect, and reject the utterly broken system of dieting, but I think that you have the strength to be a bad fatty.  Would you please consider making healthy behaviors your goal instead of weight loss, even if it means that you don’t get the sympathy vote from people who want you to believe that your health is determined based on your size and that you aren’t a good person unless you’re thin or trying to be?

We all feel the pressure to attain our cultural “ideal body” and be thin (especially when it’s wrapped up, however falsely, in the guise of health).  I’m sure that you feel it more than most because of your stardom,  but sometime, some of us have to stand up and say “No.  No more.”

That could be you. It would be such an incredibly powerful statement if you stood up in front of the world and said “I’m going to pursue healthy habits as a goal and my weight will be what it is”.  Can you imagine how many people could be liberated from their obsession with their weight and unhealthy yo-yo dieting.  It would be an act of extraordinary courage from an extraordinary woman.  You can do it, we all believe in you.

There is a Facebook community dedicated to helping stop the Reality show from happening.  You can check it out here:

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 11:05 pm  Comments (11)  

How Not to Obsess About Looking Fat in a Swimsuit and F-ing Enjoy Yourself!

Do you know Golda Poretsky?  You should.  She is a very cool woman doing great work in the Body Positive Community. Her site is Body Love Wellness and I highly recommend it.

Yesterday she tweeted;  “Rec’d a link to “How Not To Look Fat In A Swimsuit”. Wld ♥ to see “How Not To Obsess Abt Looking Fat In A Swimsuit & F-ing Enjoy Yourself”

Well Golda, your wish is my command!

Seriously, let’s talk about this.  It seems that almost every woman I know, of any size, starts to have panic attacks the first time she sees swimsuits out on the floor of her favorite store;  their pesky cheerfulness belying their greater purpose of  prodding us into going on insane cabbage soup diets and considering a move to Alaska.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t personally spend much time at lakes, rivers, oceans, pools or water parks.  It has nothing to do with my size or how I feel about wearing a bathing suit.  I am half Irish and half German so my skin can only achieve two colors:  translucent and lobster.  I’ve tried every sunscreen in the world and nothing works.  But don’t cry for me Argentina, I don’t really enjoy being in the sun so it all works out.  I’m a chlorinated, heated water, ambient temperature controlled, indoor pool kind of girl – I’m not high maintenance, I’m highly maintained.

That being said, I will strut around my gym in a bathing suit with no worries.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  It’s my BODY.  I live with it 100% of the time.  It does awesome things for me like breathing, and walking, and swimming and I decided long ago that I am not going to allow anyone to convince me to hate or be ashamed of  something that I am with 100% of the time for the rest of my life.  I get to choose how I feel about my body – nobody else can make me feel good or bad, it’s on me.

2.  Because it’s a pool and when you go to the pool, you wear a swimsuit. It’s not for vanity – it’s practical.  The last time I was at the gym ready to make use of the pool there was a “thin to average size” (probably a size 8 or 10)  woman in a large t-shirt with a towel wrapped around her legs and all the way to her ankles.  She scooted to the edge of the pool and, in a move that I can only describe as ninja-esque, threw the towel behind her as she jumped into the water as fast as she could whilst grabbing a kickboard off the side.  But her Crouching Tiger Hidden Swimwear moves could not mask the fact that she was wearing control top pantyhose under her suit.  She looked at me and said “Nobody should have to see these legs without hose on”.  Before I could reply, she realized that her shirt was caught on the side railing, then her pantyhose got caught on her kickboard.  While I swam laps she spent most of the time dealing with being in the water with a giant shirt and pantyhose.  I am simply not willing to put up with that kind of inconvenience, or  have my technique interrupted by a ginormous swatch of cloth which, when it is wet, hides nothing anyway; and pantyhose which I will not wear under any circumstances in the world, ever.

3.  I do not care if people are offended by my body.  People are allowed to be offended by whatever they want and it’s really none of my business.  I’m offended by people who I perceive to be too easily offended, but it turns out nobody gives a damn which is as it should be.  It is my BODY, if we all treated each other with basic human respect it would be impossible to be offended by someone else’s body.  The very idea is ludicrous to me. Regardless, it is not my job to protect people’s delicate sensibilities – there are at least three alternate cardinal directions in which they can look if they don’t want to look at me, they are free to choose one.

4.  Hypocrisy is an ugly thing.  It always seems like the same group of people who are  telling me that I should lose weight and are subsequently  offended by my body in a swimsuit.  While I would prefer that they just shut up, I insist that they choose – you can’t complain about my weight and then complain about what I do to stay fit.

5. It is maddening to me that the diet industry makes 40 BILLION dollars (UPDATE:  as of 6/15/14 this number is now over 60 BILLION dollars) a year convincing women to hate themselves.  They create fear and uncertainty by saying things like “Swimsuit season is just around the corner, are you ready to wear a swimsuit?”  Well, let’s see here…  Swimsuit?  Check.  Body to put it on?  Check.  Yup, I’m all set thanks.  Plus I think I’ll keep my money you bloodsucking leeches.

6.  People can see me.  So they know how big I am whether I’m in a swimsuit, or jeans and a t-shirt.  If they are shocked at my size in a swimsuit, they should have been paying better attention.  That’s just a big sack of not-my-problem.

I realize that my swimsuit preferences are not everyone’s which is awesome.  Not everyone, regardless of size, is comfortable with how much skin a swimsuit shows.  Here are some more ideas  to help you stop obsessing and start having fun in the sun (or the oh-so-flattering incandescent glow of the overhead lights at the gym).

1. Alternative Swimsuits.  These are often created for women who want to keep to specific religious clothing guidelines or who just want a more modest look.  I did a quick Google search and found http://www.modestkini.com/.  I’m not affiliated with them at all so I make no guarantees, but it will give you an idea of what’s out there (and some of their plus size swimwear is actually modeled by plus-sized women.  Woot!)

2.  Fabulous Cover ups:  If there’s a particular part of your body that you prefer to keep covered for whatever reason, an (aptly-named) cover-up might be just the thing.  Here are some examples (again, no affiliation, check out the vendors before you buy!)

3.  Safety in numbers.  Go with a group of people who make you feel good about yourself and focus on the fun and not on any body insecurities you might have.  Think about how fantastic your body feels when you are swimming, or going down a water slide, or splashing in the waves.

4.  Reality check.  One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain “I’ve had thousands of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened”  When I’m worrying about something I try to remember that I am wasting energy on something that is not actually part of reality.  So instead I…

5.  …Expect the best, plan for the worst.  Think about what your true fears are about going out in a swimsuit.  Write them down and then create a plan to deal with each of them.  Are you afraid people will say something mean to you?  Create some scripting and practice it until you feel comfortable (you might check out my “How Dare You” post). Afraid of chaffing?  Hie thee to Google and read up on the various lotions, powders etc. that can help with that, or look into swimsuits that can help. Worried people will talk about you behind your back?  Maybe get over that – I actually think that’s the best possible outcome because frankly I don’t want to hear it anyway.

In the end of course it’s your choice.  For my part,  I’m not willing to allow my options for fun, activity, movement etc. to be controlled by what other people might think or say.  If my own fears or insecurities are getting in the way I try to find a way over (modest swimsuit), under (cover up), or through (F this, I’m wearing a two-piece) the fear and insecurity because I’ve found that very often the pure joy lies just on the other side.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

My Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for detail

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post

 

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 7:32 am  Comments (47)  

How Dare You?

I was (belatedly) catching up on replying to comments (I always read them right away but sometimes it takes me a while to reply) when I came across a comment by Alterations Needed who said “how dare any one of us think we know who is healthy or attractive.”  The comment reminded me of one of my favorite phrases.

I have a friend who is a financial planner.  He once told me about how, when he attends business networking events,  he will introduce himself to someone and say what he does and they will immediately cut him off and say “I already have a financial planner”.  So he started answering them by saying “How dare you assume that I would want you to be my client.”.  Harsh?  Maybe.  Effective.  Abso-freaking-lutely.

I love the phrase how dare you. It’s not good for all occasions, but I think that when people say something so heinous that it should be a crime, ‘how dare you’ comes into play.

True life example:

Random person:  “Well, obviously at your weight if you don’t have health problems, you will.”

Me:  “How dare you make assumptions about my health?”

Random person:  “Oh…I…well,I mean,  I just meant…I was out of line, I’m sorry.”

There are lots of good reasons to say it out loud:

  1. It keeps me in control.  I’ve found that if someone says something grossly inappropriate and I am caught off-guard, getting emotional (crying, screaming etc. )  just ends up making me look like the “overemotional fat girl” and that doesn’t get me any traction at all.
  2. I think that it has a connotation of “stop and think about what you just did”.  In my experience using “how dare you”, it will very often stop people in their tracks.  It can be a game-changer when used correctly with the right audience.
  3. It is not over-used, so people aren’t ready for it and, in my experience they are not likely to snap back with something. Even if they are going to continue with their line of conversation, they typically have to think about it.
  4. If I say “What you said is completely out of line” people often come back with an “It’s a free country”- esque response. While that’s true, my argument is not against free speech, but rather for treating people with respect  “How dare you” really says “What you said is completely out of line with what constitutes basic human respect”.

Even if I don’t say it out loud, just saying it in my head can really help.  It reminds me that, just like my last break-up,  it’s not me – it’s them.  I deserve to be treated with respect by everyone I meet in every situation.  So do you.  That doesn’t mean that everyone will always treat us as we deserve, and that’s not important since we can’t control other people’s behavior.  What is important to me is that I remember that if I’m not treated well, that’s someone else behaving badly – it’s not about my personal worth or self-esteem.

What about you – what phrases make you feel empowered?

Published in: on May 18, 2010 at 5:23 am  Comments (17)  

Is It Cause I’m Fat?

I subscribe to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) It is a cool free e-mail that gets sent out three times a day that contains requests from reporters  looking for sources.  I’ve had the opportunity to be part of several news stories through HARO and I think it’s a fantastic resource and a brilliant idea.  It’s run by Peter Shankman

Every e-mail starts out with an advertisement.  Today is was from Peter himself talking about some triathlon training that he is doing.  It went  like this:

“So let’s face it – Anyone who keeps a Triathlon Training Blog called “Train Fatass, Train” – [trigger warning - fat shaming, confusing stereotypical beauty with actual beauty etc.] http://www.trainfatasstrain.com – obviously needs some help if he wants to complete an Ironman
Triathlon without, you know, dying. …I’m doing their “Tri2Lose” program, which also helps me drop weight so I don’t drown in the swim and miss the bike and run completely!”

First, let me be clear that I’m not mad at Peter for saying this.  He hasn’t made assumptions about anyone else’s physical fitness, health etc. based on their size; he is speaking strictly about himself here.  I completely respect his choice to lose weight, as I want my choices about my body respected.

So.  Maybe it’s true for Peter that weight loss will be the key to athletic performance.  But maybe, just maybe, it’s not.  Maybe it’s because he sees himself as a “fatass” who will drown if he tries to swim at his current weight.  I don’t know what’s true for Peter, but I know that there are amazing fat triathlete out there who get through events without drowning all the time.

It got me to thinking about how often I hear people say something similar:  I’m going to be able to run a mile once I drop 20lbs, I’ll be able to do those double spins once I drop these 10 lbs, I’ll be able to [insert physical achievement here] as soon as I lose [insert what is usually a completely random of pounds number here].

My question to people saying things like this is simple: Have you done everything that you can possibly do to achieve your physical goal at your current weight? If you want to run a 5k, have you found a program that starts at your current level of physical ability and actually tried to do it?  Or are you just using your “need to lose weight”  as a tool for procrastination, and as an excuse?  Weight loss is not magical, it just means that you weigh less.  It doesn’t  necessarily make you any stronger or faster or anything-er than you could be right now if you worked at it.   Do not let anyone tell you what is possible at your size – you don’t know until you’ve tried.  Of course if you’re new to exercise  (or returning after an extended break) please see a good size-positive doctor and find a program that is appropriate to your current fitness level (which is not about your weight, but rather about your actual level of physical fitness).

I’m not for or against weight loss, I’m simply suggesting that we consider weight loss a possible (but not certain) side effect of our activity and eating.  What if you just start a training program to run a mile right now?  Maybe as part of the process you’ll lose weight.  Maybe you won’t.  But you’ll be in better physical health and able to run a mile at the end of it and why isn’t that the main goal? Why isn’t that the only goal?

I think that when we make weight loss our goal, we take our eye off the actual prize – which is our health.  While your health may steadily increase during your mile run training program, it’s possible that your weight will increase, decrease, plateau etc. and you are missing the point if you ignore your actual health gains because you are focused on the scale.

Plenty of healthy fathletes are living proof that weight and health are not the same thing.  I think that the difference between us and the people who are waiting to lose weight to be athletes might be in the way that we see ourselves.  I would never see myself as a fatass and I would never assume that I can’t do something because of my size.  I consider that  a huge factor in my success.  When you take away “because I’m fat” as an excuse you are forced to look at all of the other stuff that could be going wrong.  For example, I was struggling with a sequence in my cha cha that just wasn’t working – I was too slow which hardly ever happens to me.  I could easily have said “it’s because of my size”, but since I’m only willing to consider that my size might be the issue after exhausting all possible options, I looked at my technique.  Sure enough, I found the culprit was bad technique and fixed the problem – all without losing a pound.

I read Peter’s blog and I absolutely respect the work that he is doing to prepare for the Iron Man (plus, his use of Kenny Loggins “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” endears him to me forever).

He has a quote on his blog that says:  “If you can’t run, then walk.  And if you can’t walk, then crawl.  Do what you have to do.  Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up.” – Dean Karnazes, Ultra Marathon runner.

Notice Mr. Karnazes  doesn’t say, first lose 10 pounds then…  To borrow another phrase:   Just do it!

Keep your eye on what is important – are you eating foods that nourish your body and make you happy?  Are you doing movement that you enjoy?  Do you have a plan in action to meet your fitness goals (not weight loss goals, but actual fitness goals)?  Then pat yourself on the back for living a healthy lifestyle.  If not, why not make a few choices today in that direction and see how you feel?

Either way, might I suggest that you get the hell off of your scale and go for whatever it is that you want to do right now.

Published in: on May 14, 2010 at 6:08 am  Comments (7)  

Flattering? Maybe not…

I occasionally get e-mails from men who are Big Beautiful Women appreciators.  I got a particularly strange one today so I thought I’d share it with you:

“Hey Hottie,

I didn’t read your blog (not much interested in words) but I saw a video of you dancing.  You are so hot and sexy. Usually I only like girls who are 350lbs+ so you are smaller than what I normally like but I still think you are big and beautiful. Don’t worry,  a little of my cooking will put some meat on your bones!  See, it’s better than other guys, you could gain weight and that would be ok by me.  I have a house with a hot tub, and no one around so you don’t need a swimsuit.  Hit me back we could have an awesome first date, I’d appreciate every inch of you.  I just want you to know I like big girls, the bigger the better, I don’t care about race, height, hair color, brains or nothing as long as they’re big.”

Ok, let’s break it down:

“I didn’t read your blog.”

Points for honesty.

“You are smaller than what I normally like but I think you are still big and beautiful.”

I’m not sure I’d have lead with this dude.  I’m not getting that “I’m a lucky girl” feeling I think you’re going for because to you it seems like a plus that I’m not what you normally like but I still kind of make the cut.

“Don’t worry, a little of my cooking will put some meat on your bones!”

Points for originality.  Suffice to say that I do NOT hear this one everyday.  I’m feeling pretty good about my meatiness level, but thanks.

“See, it’s better than other guys, you could gain weight and that would be ok by me. “

Huh?  Way to make broad-based assumptions about other men.  Out of curiosity, what would happen if got sick and lost a bunch of weight?  I’m guessing the relationship prognosis would not be good.

“I have a house with a hot tub, and no one around so you don’t need a swimsuit.  Hit me back we could have an awesome first date, I’d appreciate every inch of you.”

Slow down there, Sparky.  I’m a “let’s go to a coffee shop on our first date so that if this is a disaster we can get the hell out”  kind of girl.  Not so much with the “Nice to meet you, let’s get naked” first date action.  It’s just a personal preference.

“I just want you to know I like big girls, the bigger the better, I don’t care about race, height, hair color, brains or nothing as long as they’re big.”

Gosh, I don’t know what to say.  No, seriously, I don’t.  Wait…it’s coming to me…

WHAT.  THE.  HELL?  I will never understand this.  It seems like whenever I get an e-mail like this they take great pains to say that nothing else about me matters, as long as I’m big.  How is that a plus? It feels a little manipulative, as if maybe he assumes that I don’t like anything about myself and I’ll just be overjoyed that someone is interested in me at all?

I’ve had people say that I would be the perfect girlfriend except that they aren’t attracted to big bodies.  While that’s frustrating,  I find it WAY less creepy than someone who is only attracted to me because of the current size of my body.

Dude, don’t feel bad that I’m going to reply with a “no thanks”, I’m actually saving you from a heaping helping of heart-ache.  You may think that you want me based on my body, but trust me when I tell you that you are wholly unprepared for the onslaught of  personality oddities that this body contains.  Let me state for the record that I have many qualities that make me an excellent girlfriend,  but only if you also find my “chock full o’ quirkiness” personality endearing. A few examples:

  • I leave cupboard drawers open.  Sometimes I walk into my kitchen and every drawer is open and I have no idea how long it’s been like that.
  • I sing.  Badly.  All the time.
  • If I hear a song that I like, I will get up and dance to it..not dance…perform! As if there are people watching.  I might back up the track to get that choreography just right.  If you’re lucky my dance will be accompanied by the aforementioned bad singing.

The list goes on.  I’ve dated and been friends with lots of people who found my quirky awkwardness an endearing addition to the qualities that they appreciate.  It’s all part of my “charm” as it where.  But if you’re just here for my body, I think you’re probably going to head for the hills when I’m dancing and singing along to “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in the kitchen with every cupboard door open.

And that brings me to my point.  Physicality is fleeting and we all deserve better than someone who only loves us for what they can see in a picture.  Embrace the quirky awesomeness that is you and find someone else who does the same.

Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 4:46 am  Comments (9)  

Moms!

My Mom sent me this e-mail yesterday:

“I just read the blogs from Jezebel – Imagine all the women out there that you made feel good today ~  I am Sooooooo proud to be your Mom, you’re an amazing woman and I just love your positive attitude to all people, with all the negativity in the world I’m sure glad you’re in it~Love you to the Nth degree times infintity to the power of eternity and LOTS more”

My Mom has always been this awesome.

And trust me when I tell you that it wasn’t easy.  I was a “highly intelligent but difficult” child per my school records.   As she has told me any number of times I was born 4o years old,  a combination of Lisa Simpson, Stewie Griffin, Hermione Granger, and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.   It seems that the same independence, veracity, and outspokenness that we admire in adults is somewhat less endearing in children.

I can’t even count the number of times my Mom went to bat for me when I was a kid – teacher’s who didn’t know how to handle me, a bitter band director who tried to hold me down, people telling me that something I was doing  was impossible and I should quit.  My mom is a natural peace keeper but you could not mess with her children without having to deal with her. I remember standing in the principal’s office while Mrs. Goggins said “Your daughter insists on correcting me in front of the class.”  Mom looked at her completely deadpan and said “Are you wrong?”.  Mrs. Goggins exasperatedly replied “That’s NOT the point.”  My Mom turned to the principal and said “This is a school, right?  Isn’t learning the correct information exactly the point?”

My Mom is just amazing and I know how lucky I am to have her.  She is the reason that I’m able to do the self-esteem and body image work that I do, she’s the reason why I’ve always been certain that I can succeed at anything I want to do, she is the (not so) secret of my success.

So, if you are a Mom, today might be a good day to really think about the lessons that you are teaching your kids about their self-esteem and their bodies.  Lessons that you teach directly, indirectly (How do you talk about your body?  What magazines do you have laying around the house?) and that you allow others to teach them all count. This is a huge thanks to all of the Mothers out there who are trying hard to raise children with high self-esteem and good body image in a culture that tries hard to make that impossible.

Since I know that she reads this blog I just want to say Happy Mother’s Day to the Best Mom in the Whole World.  I love you to infinity to the power of infinity and LOTS more!

Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 5:58 pm  Comments (5)  

The Road to Self-Esteem is Probably Not Paved with Hypocrisy

Jezebel.com picked up my blog “Things I’ve heard about thin women”  http://jezebel.com/5531846/things-ive-heard-about-thin-women.  There are almost 500 comments.

I felt the need to blog more about this because I was so surprised by some of the comments.  Several  comments assert that, while bashing thin people probably isn’t ok, it’s not something worth talking about because thin people are protected by the tremendous privilege that the receive in our society and it’s distracting from the battle that fat people face.   Some of the commenters (Is that a word?  It is now…) complain that talking about this takes attention away from the fat community and the horrible treatment to which we are subjected.  Some even seem to think that it’s ok to bash thin people because of the privilege they have in our society, saying “they’ll get over it, I promise you”.

Here is the thing though.  The fat community is extremely disenfranchised.  Many of the people of size who I talk to have internalized the oppressive messages that they get from society (you’re lazy, unhealthy, a drain on society, unattractive , etc.) to the point that it has become an identity for them.  That’s not a foundation upon which you can build a civil rights movement.  It’s hard to demand respect when there are a chorus of your community members who are still convinced that they don’t deserve to be treated well.

So where can we start?

How about with our own actions?   This isn’t the Oppression Olympics – there’s no medal for being the group who has it worst.  I think that the most important thing I can do when I am looking for respect and equality is be an example of what that means in my day to day life.

Even if thin women’s privilege protected them from the pain of comments like “eat a sandwich”, “you’re anorexic”, “real women have curves” and other such bs (and I don’t think that it does protect them) I think it would still be an astoundingly bad idea.

Because even if it doesn’t hurt them, it hurts me.  When I  do to others what I don’t want done to me, justifying it because it doesn’t happen to them very often, I think I become a bunch of things that aren’t good:

  • hypocritical
  • out of integrity
  • part of a system I claim I want to end
  • just as bad as everyone who has ever said anything to me about my size

This is not about someone else’s privilege.

This is about my integrity.

Am I or am I not someone who believes that everyone, and their body, deserves to be treated with respect?  Are my actions consistent with who I say I am? If not then what the hell am I doing?

I know that fat people are hurting in our culture, and we absolutely deserve to be treated better.  But I’m here to suggest that the only way out is up – you can’t get out of a hole by digging, and I don’t believe that we will ever get respect for our bodies by disparaging someone else’s.  Perhaps it’s a cliche but as I’ve said before I truly believe that you have to start by being the change that you want to see in the world.

While that may mean different things to different people I hope we can all get on the same page that it definitely includes not doing to others the exact thing I am asking people to stop doing to me.

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Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 4:25 am  Comments (15)  

Accepting “Fat Acceptance”?

Let me start out by saying that I’m not trying to harsh anyone else’s fat acceptance vibe, this is just about how I feel.  Plus, I’ll own up to being a bit of a word nerd so I may be splitting hairs, but hear me out on this and then tell me what you think.

Every time I hear (or try to use) the term “fat acceptance”, it gives me a moment of pause.  In my mind, the idea of accepting something comes with at best a little, and at worst a lot, of compromise.  For example:  My favorite thing about owning my own business is not that I sometimes work 20 hour days.  It turns out that I actually like to sleep (at least I have a vague recollection that I do).  But I accept working 20 hour days because I love what I do and  it’s worth it to me.   My mom is really unhappy that I choose to live so far away, but she accepts it because she loves me.

To me Fat Acceptance feels more like resignation…  “Well, I’ll accept it but I don’t have to like it.”

That just doesn’t make me feel all fat pride empowered and ready to face the world with high self-esteem and healthy body image.  But maybe that’s just my own sense of the word…

Next stop the dictionary (because, as previously mentioned, I’m a big nerd), where I found:

ac·cept·ance

1.  the act of taking or receiving something offered
2.  favorable reception; approval; favor

Wow, that didn’t make me feel better about this at all.  The idea that I would sit around and hope someone would choose to offer acceptance of my body is abhorrent to me, and the thought that I should hope to receive  “approval” or “favor” from others to feel good about myself is antithetical to everything I believe about self-esteem.

Being a good former spelling bee nerd, I clicked the button that said  “use ‘acceptance’ in a sentence” and got:  “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”

Yikes, this is getting murkier all the time.  Does that mean I just “accept” my body in the same way that I “accept” rejection – that doesn’t seem like the best call.  I get the idea of rejecting acceptance I guess, but there again is the idea that acceptance is something that is offered to you by someone else at their discretion.  I’m not putting my body up for evaluation and an acceptance decision – I’m not applying to college and hoping for the thick letter.  My body is. Others can think whatever they want about my body but I’m certainly not going to base my self-esteem or the way I feel about my body on what someone else thinks.

At the end of the day, I feel that asking for fat acceptance is giving other people power that shouldn’t belong to them.

As for me, I choose to do more than just accept my body. I choose to love and celebrate it.

When it comes to others I’m not asking for acceptance.  I’m expecting, and if necessary demanding,  respect.

Published in: on May 6, 2010 at 5:14 am  Comments (1)