A Real Fat Intervention

The stress from constant stigma heaped upon us by society is correlated to the same diseases that obesity it.  So for our best chance at health, in addition to eating well and moving our bodies, we must also find a way to counteract the 386,170 negative messages that we are getting about our bodies each year.

I thought I would make some suggestions for ways to do just that.  Remember, it’s not just fun, it’s for our health!  (Thanks to reader Rebecca for the suggestion. Fyi, I’m not paid for any of the things I mention below, I just like them bunches.)

Put it in Perspective

They can’t stop telling us that 60% of us are fat  It that’s true then we’re the majority.  So there are a whole bunch of people working fat, dating fat, playing sports fat, kissing fat, driving fat, doing dishes fat, having sex fat, shopping fat etc.  There’s nothing wrong with your body and people of your size are already doing whatever you want to do so just do it!

Seek out pictures of people who look like you.

Again, we get completely bombarded with images that aren’t even representative of the people in the pictures let alone of us.  I have a friend who was a bikini model who looked at a magazine and thought that they gave her bikini to someone else.  One of her friends had to tell her that the picture was of her – she didn’t even recognize herself because of the photoshopping!  With a little bit of effort you can look at amazing, beautiful people who look like you every day.

Flickr Athletes of Every Size Photo Group

The Adipositivity Project (NSFW unless your W is super cool)

Corvetta Curves Photo Pages  (Again with the NSFW)

When you listen to songs, or read books picture them being about fat people

Since we don’t really see ourselves represented very much in television or movies, it can be easy to picture everyone else in the world being thin. If you’re one of those people who picture song lyrics, picture the people fat.  I’m pretty sure that Eric Clapton’s Layla was fat.   Delilah from the Plain White T’s song – fatty.  Jessie’s Girl shopped at Lane Bryant. You get the idea, same thing with books that you read, picture main characters fat.

Surround Yourself with Art that Makes You Feel Good About Yourself

There’s a fantastic list of fat positive art and artists here (I love it when someone’s already done the research!)

Leonard Nimoy did an AMAZING group of photographs called The Full Body Project.

I have personally bought a bunch of stuff from VoluptuArt  I just love having cute dancing fat girls all over my house.

My best friend got me the most amazing fat figurines, one is lounging in a bathing suit and one is lifting weights and they make me happy every day.

Get Involved on the Fatosphere

Check out the Blogs I Love page to get you started.

I read a ton of blogs every day and it’s time well spent earning the Sanity Watchers Points that I so desperately need to deal with the rest of the world!

Go Back To Basics

Read Linda Bacon’s Book – Health at Every Size, The Surprising Truth About Your Weight

Read Marilyn Wann’s Book – Fat!So?

Movement for us by Us

Heavyweight Yoga by Abby Lentz

Curvy Yoga by Anna Guest-Jelley

The Fat Chick Works Out by Jeanette DePatie

Get Involved with Activism

Not only can we create change, but we are already doing it.  The more time you spend on the blogosphere, the more likely you are to have chances to get involved with campaigns, petitions, fundraising etc. I believe that we can make change and I think that it’s more possible when more of us are involved.  If you’re looking for a way to get involved may I suggest signing the petition to ask the National Eating Disorders Association to end its ties with an organization funded by pharmaceutical companies that seeks to get obesity treated as a disease.  We’ve surpassed our original goal of 500, let’s see if we can get 1,000.  Some people posted their reasons for signing, some of my favorite are:

Just like body & scale obsession is unhealthy regardless of size, healthy behaviors are important at any size.  Focusing on my weight, rather than my actual health & my abilities, puts the priority on the wrong end.  This can lead to some very unhealthy behaviors, which I would think an organization like NEDA would already be aware of.  Don’t encourage the stigmatization of fat people by the very messages you fight against for the skinny people.

I am an eating disorder survivor, and I survived because I finally found a way to focus on my health and not my weight.  The perpetuation of the idea that weight is an indicator of health only feeds eating disorders.  Please stop the myth.

I am a fat person. I am also a person who is recovering from eating disorders. My journey to recovery was delayed for many years, my disordered and destructive behaviors were even encouraged encouraged, because I did not meet weight and BMI based diagnostic criteria for Anorexia, which later developed into Bulimia before I was able to obtain treatment.

Gang Up

So far, on my world tour stops, I’ve been doing a Fatty Meet-up and it has been amazing to be around people who are like minded and having amazing conversations about Health at Every Size and everything else.  If you can’t find them in person, find them online but find a group of people who support you with your goals.

I think there’s a reason that “happy and healthy” are so often uttered in the same breath but we don’t hear “miserable and healthy” very often at all.  If we want happiness then let’s go after it!

Published in: on November 11, 2011 at 7:57 am  Comments (37)  

37 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d also suggest stop watching TV. My partner and I don’t have cable, and we watch dvd’s or VOD, or do other things like reading and art to entertain ourselves. When I go to my parent’s house in NH, I watch TV with my parents because, well, bless them, they have it on most of the day. Anyway, I find that when I come back to cable-free home, My self-hatred has increased, and I end up obsessing about my body for a week or so…it was weird, but I don’t regret not having commercial tv in my house!

    • This is great advice! After watching “killing me softly” and “american the beautiful” I can’t help but notice all the negative images coming through TV and other mass media.

      Raegan, do you have any advice on how to get moving? I find myself not enjoying and then not doing… Any ideas? Is yoga “enough”?

      • Hi Zoe,

        My advice on getting moving would be to try stuff until you find something that you like. I know that’s really vague and probably mostly unhelpful but that’s what I’ve got. You might check out http://www.thefatchick.com, she takes on movement from a Health at Every Size perspective.

        Also, make sure that you start at your own pace so that you don’t end up with an injury out of the gate and that you have realistic goals for what you want the movement to do (ie: I want to be able to walk/jog/run an extra block in two weeks is realistic, I want to run 5 miles more in two weeks is probably not). As far as yoga being “enough” I think that yoga (and any flexibility work) is awesome and based on my research some cardiovascular activity is also really good for your body. I was speaking with someone from The Cooper Institute (they study aerobic health) and he said 18 minutes three times a week of exercise that elevates your heart rate is the minimum which seems pretty doable I think I hope that helps, let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you :)

        ~Ragen

      • Is yoga “enough”?

        It’s probably also worth pointing out that there’s a lot of variation in terms of yoga schools and styles. Some practices are more restorative and incorporate gentler poses and slower paces. Others, however, use a faster pace and/or more vigorous poses — which can definitely = cardio workout.

        And the different types of practices are part of a continuum, so it’s totally possible to start with a type of practice you like and then (if this is what you’re looking to do) gradually pick up the intensity from there.

        • Tori,

          Thanks so much for this, I’m definitely not a yoga expert, now I’ll know better :)

          ~Ragen

    • I will second that, absolutely. I have a co-worker who has exactly this set-up, and she has a first-grade daughter, and that little girl is one of the happiest, sanest, most creative kids I’ve met. Not a pesterer for the ‘hot’ toys (she likes Dora but she doesn’t go crazy about having all the ‘stuff’), and thinks of her body in terms of the cool things it can do (OK, sometimes the cool gross things it can do, because her mom and I work in a pathology lab, and she finds all the icky body parts stuff totally fascinating, but a possible future female scientist can’t be a bad thing!) rather than what it looks like.

      I definitely think steering clear of advertising, as far as is possible, is one of the keys to body acceptance, and to resolving lots of other personal and social issues in our culture. I’d like to see the Occupy movement giving a little more attention to this. (I saw the slogan ‘Riots Not Diets!’ written on a board at our local Occupy camp last week, so maybe there’s hope…)

  2. I think you are right Regan. I think you have hit the nail on the head with all of this.

    Thank you for this post, because just tonight I was asking my brother and some other friends to accompany me to my local gym where I work out. Just because, yes, I do get tired of the crazy looks I get when I go in there by myself and people are like “Gawd. Look at her. Just look at her on that treadmill. Just look at her doing strength training. Who does she think she is?”

    Well, I know now, I’m me. I’m pretty. I like my body ((yes, I am working to add more exercise and less stress into my life)), but I am comfortable in my body.

    I have invited my fat friends to go with me to work out where I go. I will do cardio with them and we will laugh and talk from one treadmill to the other. And, we will have a blast.

    Like I always say in a comment, you are great. You are awesome, and you are an inspiration. I WILL be looking into Fat Yoga cos I think yoga is interesting and I want to be flexible and find the peace that comes with it.

  3. I also HIGHLY recommend the book “Zaftig: The Case for Curves.” It’s a coffee table art book filled with gorgeous representations of fat women, from in-betweenie to dethfatz.

    Here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Zaftig-Curves-Edward-St-Paige/dp/1883211174

  4. The best revenge is living well. Live life and enjoy it, and make the fat hater jealous :) Best way to show them that being fat can be healthy and happy :)

  5. I like how you suggest additional things to *do* instead of stop looking at magazines, stop this, stop that, etc. I know a fat girl who is very insecure with herself. I was talking about an episode of America’s Next Top Model and she suddenly became angry, defensive, and bitter. She declared how she refrains from watching that show because everyone is so skinny and is makes her uncomfortable. Ok, that’s understandable. But it wasn’t just that. She also refrains from being on the internet, reading magazine, watching tv, because of all the skinniness. Basically, she’s living in denial and under a rock because she refuses to see thin people which triggers negative thoughts about herself. It’s really sad. I think it would be nice if she learned to love her body and realize that she can coexist with thin people and still be her happy, healthy self instead of pushing them away or withdrawing herself activities she would normally enjoy.

    • I know what you mean but it is hard sometimes when we are always bombarded with the message that thin = beautiful and fat equals not only ugly but lazy, unmotivated, and a whole host of other bad things.
      I remember going to the gym after my son was born and they had “motivational” pictures of celebrities with messages like “so and so weighed a WHOPPING 132 POUNDS before she started eating only lettuce. Now she’s down to a SVELTE AND SEXY 110! Way to go!
      I’m not exaggerating that much either.
      Imagine how it felt for me to hear that 132 pounds was considered “whopping” when I was well over that.
      That’s why sometimes us larger folk feel like just saying “fuck it” and hiding ourselves away. Sometimes it’s hard to be attacked day in and day out.

      • You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like to be fat and I don’t want to claim that it’s easy. I know it wouldn’t be easy for me if I lived in a world where I was blasted with messages saying my body was wrong.

    • I don’t think that’s necessarily bad- she’s right.. fat hate and thin privilege is *everywhere* and if she feels she needs to avoid it for her mental well being then so be it. that doesn’t mean she’s living in denial- denial would mean denying it exists to begin with.. she knows it’s there- that’s why she’s staying away from it! Of course she needs to accept and love her own body as well- and maybe this is her way of beginning that process.

      • I hope she does become happier with herself. She’s a joy to be around, but her mood significantly changes when the issue of weight and appearance comes up.

    • The fact is, the range of bodies presented in the media is not reflective of the normal range of bodies in reality. For some people, seeing the way the media presents bodies leads to hatred of their own for not fitting into that paradigm, so it’s healthier for them to avoid media altogether.

      Thanks for bringing the “What about the thins?” perspective though.

      • That is true. I think it is just kind of hard for me to imagine myself trying to avoid the media, but then again, I work around a lot of media outlets so that is a big part of my daily life. Was the last part sarcastic or am I just misunderstanding something?

    • She also refrains from being on the internet, reading magazine, watching tv, because of all the skinniness.

      You know, I refrain from watching TV and reading magazines — and I self-select a lot of what I see on the Internet and avoid most mainstream beauty/fashion/diet/etc. spaces.

      If there ever was a time I was living under a rock, it was when I believed the messages coming from most of these outlets.

    • I can’t speak for the person you know, but I don’t think that watching your media consumption is the same thing as living in denial and under a rock. (Although this lady may very well have taken it that far.)

      I don’t read magazines and watch very little, carefully chosen TV. I didn’t do it on purpose; I have a full-time job and a small business and I’m BUSY. But I do notice that I feel better about myself since I got choosier about what I read and watch.

      Again, I can’t speak for the woman you mentioned, but for me, it’s not about seeing people who are thinner than I am. It’s about not immersing myself in a world where EVERYBODY is thinner than I am, and the few fat people are negative stereotypes.

      You see, when I see thin women in the real world, they’re mixed in with people of all shapes and sizes. In that context, I don’t get the same message of “normal = very thin, professionally styled, and always standing in just the right lighting. Anything else = abnormal and disgusting.”

      I do get that message from most magazines and lots of TV. So when I decide how to spend my little bit of entertainment time, I rarely choose programs that are selling a message that hurts me. (I do make exceptions, but only for a REALLY good show.) Again, I can only speak for myself, but I see that as the opposite of denial.

      I do, however, live under a rock. But that has always been true. :)

    • I’m hoping there are things you and your friend can discuss that aren’t in the “America’s Next Top Model” category. I notice, for instance, that you don’t say she’s refraining from reading books or looking at art. :-)

  6. I was thinking about this very thing this morning on the bus. I’ve started working skirts & dresses into my wardrobe and cutting back on pants/jeans. I just find it more comfortable and it’s been kind of fun building up my wardrobe since I needed to do that anyways after the last diet I was on (and it was the last cause I am SO done with that shit) left me with more weight than I was before (surprise…not).

    But I was thinking about this on the bus cause I had a skirt I wear high-waisted on and that requires me to tuck in my shirt which I almost never do. Partially because I normally don’t have to, but also because it doesn’t allow me to hide my belly/shape. And then I started thinking – why the fuck should I have to HIDE anything? I’m fat. You can clearly see that with or without the shirt tucked in. I ain’t fooling no one. Yes, I’m making my shape more visible, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I love my body. My body does awesome things and totally deserves to be seen and loved.

    For me getting involved on the blogsphere, putting more attention into my clothes and just flat out refusing that being fat is some kind of social death sentence has helped me a lot. I’m more likely to question someone’s statement of how s/he has to lose weight before he/r can go on a trip/wear a swimsuit/insert something here. I’m still working on questioning out loud, but internally I’m ain’t buying this clap-trap anymore.

    • PS – OH and whenever I hear or sing along to “Benny & the Jets,” I imagine Benny to be this awesome deathfat lady who just kicks ass and takes names (and breaks hearts) all day long :)

    • Good for you! I’m with you totally. I won’t buy the style of clothes that make the wearer look like they’re trying to hide the fact that they’re fat. Why should I hide it? I wear clothes that make me look good, fat or flowing, but not “hiding the fat”.

  7. Stress does tend to contribute to developing conditions such as hypertension. My father was always under a lot of stress and had undiagnosed hypertension and as I probably mentioned before, had a hemorrhagic stroke at 68. He died last year at 74 from congestive heart failure.
    I sometimes wonder if I would have developed hypertension had I not been under so much stress. I also think I would be more diligent about exercising if I had not had the message that it was for the purpose of weight loss drilled into my head and thus felt like a failure when I didn’t lose weight.

  8. As a librarian, I will offer one painless and fun activism step. Your local public library most likely takes suggestions from patrons on books they could purchase. When you know of good HAES or body-size-positive books, ask your library to purchase them. I just did that with Kim Brittingham’s “Read My Hips,” and I just returned the copy to the library. Your library buys every diet book known to man because there’s demand for them — let them know there’s a demand for an alternative viewpoint. You never know whose life you might affect when they’re browsing the shelves and come across a good title.

    A caveat: Use this power judiciously — if you recommend too many or books of poor quality, it gets obnoxious. :)

    • That is a fantastic idea! I think I’ll want to try that. Thanks!

    • Great suggestion. I was a library page in high school, and I ended up reading all kinds of random things that I ran across while shelving books.

      In fact, I stumbled into fat acceptance and HAES because “Rethinking Thin” showed up in my Amazon recommendations while I was looking for a diet book. Random books can absolutely save lives.

      p.s. Yay, librarians! If you haven’t already seen it, you should check out the documentary The Hollywood Librarian
      http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=140

  9. *love* adipositivity project! people can also look at my photos ;-) (some NSFW) shameless plug- sorry :P

    http://fatgirlposing.blogspot.com
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/heatherkolaya/

    i’d also recommend Lessons From the Fat O Sphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby and I hear The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos is good (it’s next on my list)

  10. More Fat Yoga resources:

    TORONTO, ON, Canada: Yoga for Round Bodies with Tiina (that’s me!), plus comprehensive trainings for yoga teachers in Yoga for Round Bodies

    Teachers I’ve trained in Yoga for Round Bodies:
    Bev Bayley (Barrie, ON, Canada); Colleen Collins (St. Catharines, ON, Canada); Heather Wigney (Kemptville, ON, Canada); Tara Lazanis (Montreal, QC, Canada)

    SASKATOON, SK, Canada Gentle Path Yoga with Jean Short

    MONCTON, NB, Canada Mahaa Yoga with Courtney Amo

    NASHVILLE, TN: Curvy Yoga with Anna Guest-Jelley (Anna’s website is also a great online resource plus she’s also offering private sessions now by Skype if you’re not in Nashville!)

    NEW YORK, NY: Buddha Body Yoga with Michael Hayes

    NEW YORK, NY: MegaYoga with Megan Garcia (Megan has also published a book called MegaYoga)

    HARLEM, NY Tricia Townes at Harlem Yoga Studio

    ST CLAIR SHORES, MI: Fully-figured Yoga with Jean Charette

    SOUTH HAVEN, MI: Big Yoga with Patricia Kerr (Patricia also published a book, called Big Yoga)

    For more teachers and locations, see the Resources page at Anna Guest-Jelley’s website, http://www.curvyyoga.com.

    Join the revolution, curvy sistahs!

  11. Yay, thank you so much Ragen for taking my suggestion! I love it when other people have done the footwork finding body positive resources for me =) I really like your suggestion about imagining different ideals for songs and stories. (And even though I think the suggestion not to watch television made above and in Lessons of the Fatosphere is probably helpful, television is one of the things I’m not willing to give up no matter how bad it is for me. But since I usually have it playing while I do other things, I can try the imagining trick with that, too!)

  12. Absolutely awesome post. Great links. Totally brightened my day and inspired me to get on that list of artists! Thanks again

  13. Nothing substantive to add, just wanted to say, thank you for this post with all the awesome links. I tucked this post into my “In Case of Emergency” bookmarks folder, under the “self-hate/body image problems” section. ^_^

  14. Whenever I read something, I already picture the characters are fat, and if the main characters are male, then fat AND female. It is extremely therapeutic then to envision fat female characters written with nuance. It’s what makes me all the more critical with the less-than stellar writing of actual fat and/or female characters.

  15. From when I was a little girl I always imagined the main character of a book as a fat person unless it was a major part of their character to be skinny. I always wondered about that. I guess it was because wherever possible I was putting myself in the story.

  16. Thank you so much for recommended Adipositivity. It really gave me a much needed lift, to see those women that I could see as beautiful, and that I’m really not so different. Thank you

  17. I’ve just been bouncing around your blog and feel like I’ve discovered a secret world (that I hope soon becomes VERY ubiquitous).

    And I think something just clicked:

    Whenever we try to make a change in our lives, it more than likely starts, ends or depends on weight loss. No matter what we say, if we are bigger than what is acceptable, EVERYTHING we want to do somehow really is meant to transform us into svelte models.

    Part of this psychosis is due to the incessant marketing of a false and unattainable “reality”.

    Anyway.

    So, as we attempt to “improve”, we hit the Weight Wall, which is – “Unless I’m losing weight, NOTHING will get better.”

    This is an exhausting, hopeless, depleting and demoralizing vicious circle.

    And it’s perpetuated by the “health” community and the diet industry.

    We are actually told to lose weight in order to get healthy, instead of being told to just, you know GET HEALTHY!!!

    If we try to lose weight, and don’t/can’t or it slows down, we are failures.

    If we can’t even get started on it, we are failures.

    If we lose weight, but gain some or all of it back, we are failures.

    And if we gain a lot more weight than we tried to lose, we are going way too far in the wrong direction and will probably explode from a heart attack when our blood sugar reaches 1,000 and our abdomens will hang down into eternity…

    Remember, women lose and gain weight ALL THE TIME. We bloat, we get pregnant, we age, we get PMS, we take hormones and medications, we get sick, etc. Sure, men do some of those things, but we deal with it constantly, and it’s quite a bit harder for us to lose weight, what with the lower muscle to fat ratio and hormone shifts and whatnot.

    So, on a weekly, no, daily basis, we are FAILURES. Especially those of us who are obsessive, chronic dieters, long-term big girls or have eating disorders.

    We are not only FAILURES, but we are probably DYING FROM ALL THE WEIGHT-RELATED CONDITIONS!!! Hardened arteries! Strokes! Shot knees! High blood pressure! Diabetes! Treats reserved only for the fat ones, of course, at least according to every doctor.

    (BTW: Dr. Oz can suck it. His fear tactics and public shaming are atrocious.)

    Anyway – what happens is, we fail before we even begin. So, our motivation is immediately crushed. Our only evidence of “success” is the numbers – the pounds and inches and clothing sizes lost.

    Nothing else matters to ANYONE.

    Sometimes, our doctors or naturopaths are excited if our cholesterol or glucose levels improve. But usually only in conjunction with weight loss.

    Great labs alonw are never enough. Decent blood pressure and stamina mean nothing. Incredible flexibility and endurance are pointless. Energy, vitality and a successful rounded (PUN FULLY INTENDED) life seem to vanish in most people’s eyes…if one is heavy and not losing weight steadily and without a hiccup.

    And they try to make us feel ashamed if we refuse to feel ashamed.

    SO.

    In order to bring the sanity back, I thank Ragen, HAES, and all of you who are generating a new perspective.

    Basically, we should be thrilled every time we take a step towards our HEALTH, SANITY, HAPPINESS, WELL-BEING and VITALITY.

    Every single thing you do to feel better, stronger, more capable and vivacious and treat yourself well is LOADS more valuable than 16 ounces or a few inches.

    The new numbers should be:

    How many times did I smile or did someone else smile at me today?
    How many minutes did I spend getting centered and calm this morning?
    How many nourishing foods was i blessed with throughout the day?
    How many gorgeous outfits can I create out of my wardrobe?
    How many of my favorite people did I interact with?
    How many thumping beats did I dance to last night?
    How many times did I or my partner and I (!)
    How many beautiful cells of mine received oxygen through the fresh air I breathed today?
    How many times did I say and think encouraging thoughts just now?

    Without Health, Bliss and Acceptance, weight loss is just a serious of hard-earned tally marks on a prison wall.

    • Welcome to the blog and thanks for this comment, it’s beautifully said! (Also, I think that there should be “Dr. Oz can Suck It!” bumper stickers but that’s a whole other thing). I think that when we aim for weight loss we are aiming for the wrong target so even if we hit it we don’t necessarily get what we were hoping for (ie: people’s problems- that they are sold will magically disappear with weight loss) have a nasty habit of following them down the scale).

      ~Ragen

    • Thank you so much for this — I so needed to hear someone else express what I only wished I could speak up and say my entire life. I am 32 and have been “too heavy” since I was 3 or so; no one in my family would leave my weight alone, which created nothing but heartbreak and paranoia for me. I have hopelessly pursued all things thin and, of course, have “failed” repeatedly. I’ve been pursuing eating disorder recovery the past 2+ years, therapy the past 3.5. I am considering sharing your comment with my therapy group tonight. Thank you again, and thanks to Regan for an incredible blog.


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