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02 January
taking up space
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I've been meaning for awhile to sit down and write a review of Pattie Thomas's new book, Taking up Space. It actually came out in October, and I wrote a little bit on my livejournal at the time (here), but here's a full review...

This book rocked.

End of review!

Really. It is, I hope, seminal in the way that Paul Campos's 'Obesity Myth' (or should I say 'Diet Myth') has turned out to be. If you go to Amazon these days and look up his book, there are at least 20 others related to it, telling essentially the same story with a different angle or newer facts. I want Pattie's book to do the same thing, because it's the sort of book I've been waiting for. It's an Official Fat Chick Book that has something serious and smart to say - equal parts memoir and sociological study, as promised, but also a guide to living in and changing a world that really hates fat people.

That last bit is what makes it extraordinary and rocksome. I wouldn't argue that we don't need Paul Campos and others writing all those other books critiquing the 'science' behind the Obesity Crisis! Egads! - because we undoubtedly do need that kind of writing to debunk all the ridiculous legend-making about fat done by much of the mainstream media and the diet industry. Someone's got to point out that there's a problem with what we're hearing - and probably a lot of someones, if we're going to get anywhere near balanced, rational thinking on the subject.

But. Equally necessary are the people living fat and speaking out about it, particularly the folk like Pattie who can help connect both other fat and non-fat people to their experience. It's a weapon against hearts, not just against minds and science. It's a weapon for hearts, too - fat people's stories get told so rarely, except as the 'success story' of not being fat anymore. Those stories make it sound like the real person was the Skinny Chick Inside, and not the fat one afterall.

Pattie's story is absolutely nothing like that.

Read the book. I truly enjoyed it, and not just for what it represents - the writing is frank and thought-provoking, too.

 

06 April
fat girl store
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And this Salon article about Torrid (whether it 'promotes obesity', I kid you not - someone actually went to the trouble of writing about this topic) was going so well. It was tracking nicely towards the conclusion that its own premise was absurd - which, well, it is.

Until the last page.

On the other hand, there's only so much that cool plus-size clothing can do. After all, it's not as if a teen who scores a killer corset is going to forget -- or not care -- that she's fat. "It's very painful to be an overweight teen, and clothes do not change that," says Janet R. Laubgross, a clinical psychologist in Fairfax, Va., who specializes in weight management. To some degree, no matter what they're wearing -- and no matter what "I'm big and beautiful!" banners they're waving -- they're still suffering. "I think they're trying to convince themselves," Laubgross says of some teens who say they feel 150 percent fine about how they look. "I'm glad they're being acknowledged as real people who deserve to dress nicely, that they're feeling like they do matter. And it's great that they can say, 'Well, this looks nice.' But it's still 'nice' from the fat-girl store."

Once, just once, I would have liked the article to mention that it's entirely possible that fat people are hot. Even hotter than not-fat people. Particularly when you consider that Torrid's line starts with average-ish women's sizes [12 aka "0" - reimagining the world into a place where 0 is the baseline and everything above or below is counted forward or back from average, I guess], and average-ish women, their fat and thin counterparts are all getting some. Clearly actual human beings think actual human beings of a wide range of sizes are hot.

I mean. This is not the cause of fat activism. The cause of fat activism is, among other things, that you have to go to a Fat Girl Store in the first place (although, if every store had a specific size range, that might uncomplicate things nicely). This is simple reality talking. Beauty standards are bollocks when you look at what real people are attracted to, and it is not - I repeat NOT - inherently less-good to be fat.

Honestly, given some recent LJ conversations, I think it may be more-good to be fat [I don't know why I'm suddenly all 1984 with my adjectives here.], as fat people sometimes seem to have a better or at least more visceral grasp on the gaping chasm between "beauty standard" and reality.

Of course, the woman in that quote is a "weight management" expert, who counsels people into feeling like shit and losing weight. In other words, she makes a living on the false promise that it is in fact ungood to be fat, no matter what. And hey, it might work for the people who come to her. Maybe their lives are better after losing weight, or maybe their lives would have been just fine if they'd seen a plain old therapist. I don't know.

But.

I'd just like it mentioned ONCE. I'd like such articles to accept the possibility for even a milisecond that fat teenage girls might have no worse self-image than teenage girls who aren't fat. It could even be dismissed, if it were just said. Even said really apologetically, like the "being fat might not be unhealthy" comment the author snuck in:

To be sure, weight itself is not universally toxic; many plus sizers are quite healthy -- possibly more so, in fact, than the skinnies who live on Whoppers "because they can." But being overweight has been linked to all manner of serious problems...

I'd like a media outlet to briefly stop delegitimizing girls' [and women's and everyone's] experiences in general, honestly. It drives me insane that media coverage of such things never gets the reality or breadthof people's experience. Cause the more we saw that some folks' experience of being [insert "other"-branded trait here], the more that would spread. It would just take an effing sentence.

 

17 March
disturbingly enough, i think "puke bucket" is the best title for this post.
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Everyone knows I didn't care for Supersize Me and its general wrongheadedness (and if you don't, by all means go back to last fall's blog and read up). But as I was reading some random other thing on the admittedly quite biased consumerfreedom.com, I came across this:

MTV viewers may remember Spurlock's short-lived show ''I Bet You Will,'' whose motto was ''stupidity pays.'' With cameras rolling, Spurlock paid a man to gulp down an entire 24-ounce jar of mayonnaise... Not surprisingly, the show featured an ''Official Puke Bucket.''
from ''Super Size Me' Is Just Another Sick Reality Show' - which, well, it kinda is

The op-ed piece is obviously not a factual circus of fun, but I at least assume it wouldn't use totally made up information. I didn't know that (about the bucket of puke show). And it explains so much about the presentation of that movie: it's all geared to the shocktainment of the "money shot" of some dude puking in a bucket (or, you know, on the street - the location is immaterial).

Sorry for making you read the word "puke" so many times there, kids. But it intrigues me that, as I was going back through some of my fat/health posts to bring you my scintillating commentary on Super Size Me, the image of people vomiting is a big part of the media representation of fat. I think it's not-so-subliminal messaging. Every kid knows vomit is gross, right? And fat people are gross, too! So bring on the puke bucket!

What I was originally reading, by the way, is a news bit on that largely unsupportable theory that kids getting fat means they're going to die younger than their parents. The truth? No, they're not. Even the CDC says kids born last year can expect to live longer than mom and dad. But you'd be better off reading Paul's summary of the whole thing than bothering with the Consumer Freedom peeps. They're entertaining, but well, it's a little "pot? this is kettle... you're black!" when they call the Everyone's Dying! study peeps scare mongerers.

 

04 January
this, my friends, is progress
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On the Today Show this morning and on MSNBC, there's coverage of recent studies that question whether dieting is any good or not: they basically say Weight Watchers is the only viable plan, but the NY Times article on essentially the same topic comes pretty close to condemning dieting as a practice and goes a little further into examining the reasons people diet - like the fact that just going on a weightloss diet often makes people instantly feel like happier, better people, without any results at all.

I started watching the Today Show three years ago after the whole terrorism thing shocked me out of my liberal news-bubble of NPR and into watching CNN, which totally disabused me of the idea that the media is liberal. Cause, whoa. It's not. I don't know if it's me too far to the left or the conservative talk radio phenomenon being too far to the right, but CNN? Disturbingly hawkish, in my view. NBC's morning news is much lighter fare, and widely watched in a way that makes me feel I'm Being America by tuning in.

I'm sure y'all don't care what morning television I watch and why, but seeing this covered by the Today Show felt pretty significant to me - as if America in a large, capital-lettery way were finally starting to get the message about fat. Just barely, but starting. That's something! The Times article, even though it was more thought-provoking, feels less significant because the Times has already covered some kinda radical perspectives on fat and food and stuff. To hear "well, maybe diet programs aren't the swellest; we don't know" from Today, bastion of weight loss surgery (if you don't know the show, the weatherdude's WLS was very highly publicized and praised), feels like major progress - even if it is heavily qualified as "commercial" programs "other than Weight Watchers".

 

27 December
junk science killed my dog, and i don't think it's fair
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Oh, joy! Another pat solution to the Crisis of Obesity, Egads! You just need to sleep more! [I apologize in advance for the oversimplifications and impossibly immature language that appears throughout this post. I'm rubber, and you're glue. Also, bonus points for those who recognize the title's origin.]

This is actually a month old, but it's been re-circulating via email and various websites for whatever reason. The study itself isn't compelling (really, couldn't people whose whole job is to study fat find ANYTHING else to talk about?), but I find the language used in reporting it just plain stupid.

For example:

The study, presented at the meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, analyzed data from 18,000 adults and found that those who slept less than the recommended seven hours a night had an increased risk of obesity. People who slept for less than four hours per night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who slept for seven to nine hours. Getting five hours of sleep or less decreased that risk to 50 percent, and getting six hours or less decreased it even more to 23 percent. ---from the text of the study, as quoted in nearly every press-release spouting article that covered it

I may be cynical here, but I expect the story would have read quite the opposite if the study had found a connection between more sleep and fatness. That story, I imagine, would have run something like: "Proven: fat ass fatty fatpantses really are lazy snoozebutts" - or possibly something ever so slightly more mature-sounding.

But the language must still be all about causation, don't you know!

The language turns it into "if you only sleep 5 hours, you are going to be fat, Mr. Fatty Fatpants!", doesn't it? It seems like 73 percent more likely to be obese is likely to be read by the average layperson (i.e. me) as 73 percent more likely to get fat and dieeeeeeee. Why can't the reporting spell out what they found more clearly? As in, "We looked at a big old data dump [They used one of the NHANES data sets] and found that being fat and not sleeping very much seem to be related. We don't know why, because we never know why." - okay, maybe leaving off that last snarky bit for serious new venues.

I joked a while back that I'd like to have my very own huge set of data that I could manipulate and infer from, and it turns out that I could probably do that with a combination of the NHANES stuff and census data. But I was joking, people. I don't expect serious science to be all about the data dredge. The Obesity Crisis, Egads!, however is all about the data dredge. There's a good article at Tech Central Station about why the data dredge is totally uncool - if, you know, a good time - which you should read if you're intrigued by the Obesity Crisis, Egads!'s scientific backup.

I look at this stuff as progress, though. The more useless the science gets, the less the average person's going to pay attention to it. Right?

Right?

 

13 December
fat = gay?
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Last week a story about taking diet pills being linked to having gay kids circulated around the net quite a bit. The articles annoyingly never seem to highlight any biological reason why the study's hypothesis would even be considered [Presumably there must have been some - was it just too complex for the press to grasp?], which leaves you with just a vague idea that not having "control" over your weight might be somehow linked to not having "control" over your kids' queerness.

Sigh.

But improved by Ampersand's couple of posts relating the bias against fatness to the bias against gayness (though I would substitute "queerness", as the same questions apply to bisexual and genderqueer folk). It's not a new comparison to make - both are characteristics for which a person may face discrimination; both are also subject to a lot of inconclusive research as to their cause. But Amp starts by presenting research showing why fat isn't as simple as calories in/calories out (a good summary of the research, and important, given that his audience seems to be completely unfamiliar with the subject) and continues on to analogize fat and gay (intriguingly, he doesn't have to present research about the "why" of gay - which implies that his more "mainstream", largely liberal, audience is much more familiar with the debate over the root of homosexuality than with the debate over what makes a person fat).

It's clear when I read these discussions elsewhere that I am shockingly radical. Much more radical than I ever think of myself as being.

So, Amp's presentation of the research is - as always - tremendously useful. But he wades too far into the idea that one's discrimination-inducing characteristics must be unchallengeable and inalienable in order to be defended against discrimination. Not true! I believe the queer community made a pretty stupid political mistake when it took the route of saying gayness is something one is born to (although this remains a key point in individual queer identities - it's not a useless idea, just a bad political gambit). What if it isn't? What if gayness is as much about behavior as identity? What if identity is mutable? What if one can choose to be queer?

Does that make it okay to hate queer folk? The people who answer "yes" to my rhetorical question are going to think that way no matter what the community argues about the cause(s) of queerness. Positioning gay as the new black (racially) made the debate less about civil rights and more about whether a group deserves civil rights on the same grounds as racial identity.

What the fat movement could bring to this debate is to fight from a whole different angle. Prove that simply being fat doesn't make you a drag on the economy, maybe - because that undermines the favorite argument for anti-fat politics. But don't get bogged down in the "how did we get here?" science. It doesn't matter. If people get fat by choice, and being fat doesn't hurt others (and maybe even if it does - asshats of any size still get rights, and they hurt everyone), then there is no reason to discriminate against fat folk.

Really, the most effective argument in favor of any minority group's rights is more analogous to the right to religious freedom than anything else - one chooses one's religion, and that's a defended choice. Period. No "are people born Catholic, or do they choose it?" debate needed.

On a personal level, I almost can't handle reading the damned comments on posts like this. When people argue that I'm flat-out lying about how much I eat and exercise (and that any fat person who stays fat is doing the same), the urge to verbally gouge out their eyes is too great. But it would accomplish nothing - these are people who wouldn't believe me if they lived in my house for a month; they'd assume I was bingeing undercover or something, because they mysteriously have some part of their identities caught up in the idea that fat people are morally inferior. Arghhhhhhhhh.

 

01 December
cognitive dissonance, indeed!
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Reading the Tech Central article on Ancel Keys actually made me laugh, aloud, at work. It's not so much funny ha-ha as funny strange, or even maybe funny sad.

Keys, you see, did the Minnesota Starvation Study during WWII [He's also the k-rations dude, if you're interested.]. That study continues to stand as evidence of what semi-starvation (dieting) does to the body, basically turning you into a food-obsessed binger who regains weight and loses strength with each starvation (diet) episode. Which any lifetime dieter could tell you about, anyhow. And you become completely uninterested in pretty much anything else, which any actual starving person - and, you know, Maslow - could probably tell you. If they were interested in being that political, which they probably wouldn't be. And you end up with physical problems that you never fully recover from.

So far, you're just seeing the sad and not the funny, right?

The funny is that Keys, whose research condemns dieting, still thought fat people were disgusting and lacked willpower. So, he figures out that dieting is bad and makes you fatter and that fat had no independent health effects, but he still attributes fatness exclusively to overeating and finds it very, very icky. What's not funny about that? And, you know - sad.

It's basically our cultural concept of fat. Despite whatever evidence may exist to the contrary, we want to believe that fatness deserves punishment and is unhealthy and that we can buy our way out of it with diets. Because it's just so much eeeeasier if that's true.

And it's just so perfect that an article on Keys, of all people, should point that out so clearly.

 

27 October
REVOLTING
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I usually don't (won't) watch any reality television. Television is better if it either collects something, information or art or whatever, or just appeals to my fantasy.

But last week I watched the "Loser" weightloss show (and blogged it), and this week I found myself watching it again.

I want to draw some connection between this show and Kathleen LeBesco's latest. I was disappointed in the book a bit - it doesn't have a lot that seems new and drastic to say, and I loved the transgressiveness and inversion of Bodies out of Bounds. And really, how much did I need to re-hear the point that Judith Butler's insights on queerness and gender apply to fat, too? Seems obvious.

But LeBesco's perspective on fat "apologism" is a good one. It doesn't matter politically if you contextualize it as a genetic fact or a choice, as long as you step away from thinking of fat as a disease and a debilitation in and of itself. I said that a couple of years ago, and I'm pretty sure the others I've learned from have been saying it for much longer. Some things bear repeating.

This television show is strangely compelling. I think anyone who can watch it without revulsion is hoping for a transformation. Probably most people aren't thinking of the transformation I'm thinking of, though.

Last night, everyone lost a lot less weight than the first week. Yeah, I've seen that cycle before. I bet all the fat people on the show did. They voted off a woman who weighed maybe 175 lbs (pretty tall, too) and didn't lose weight; they decided that small people had less weight to lose. That's the barometer they go with when they vote off team members, who they think has the most capability to lose more, based entirely on what they weigh. They cry a lot, which makes sense - they're in the worst sort of boot camp, and it's not like they can really rely on their team members for support. I suppose the show is aiming for sniping and such. It's pretty revolting. It intentionally plays the emotions. It wants to be revolting.

So, the first week they leech all the water out of their bodies, and the second week they lose a little weight. Exercising most of each day, eating a lot less than normal, basically giving up all sense of normal routine and their own community; it's no surprise that they're pissed they don't lose more. It doesn't seem like anyone notices that these results say a lot about the complexities of people's response to food reduction and exercise. We're not calorie-processing machines. That's what I would want people to take away. It's more complicated than that. People build muscle, too. Muscle is heavier. I wanted to grab and shake someone and say "IF YOU FEEL HEALTHIER, MAYBE YOU ARE" when she started crying about how she felt so good but she was just bad because she wasn't losing 20lbs every week.

The women they voted off this week and last get shown at the end of the episode with how much weight they lost or kept off. I wonder if they think 10 lbs is failure or success, you know? If they think that 10 lbs is worth handing weeks of your life over to someone else?

We must feel so badly about the body. As a culture, I mean, we must feel terrible and hateful things to want so badly to change this little quantifiable number. To make it smaller; to make making it smaller this overarching focus. It seems like something's fundamentally broken.

I don't think that combatting the science of the Obesity Crisis! Egads! is really about apologism. I think Kathleen's wrong about that one. The audience is different. The science is our olive branch to the people on the "Loser" show and the people who are thinking the same things but not on television. People who haven't had the realization that weight gain or loss isn't all about willpower, but might be happier if they did. Maybe you need to have that before you can start to wonder whether fat is really all that bad or not.

I started to care about these people, about the things they represent in the rest of us. That's why I keep watching this show. I want them to feel better. I want to understand better how they came to conclude that this was the thing to do.

I want - I want more people to look up and look around them and wonder why they have to waste all this time and maybe, well - revolt. And I kinda want the big quiet black man to win or to stand up and walk out.

 

20 October
i can't believe i watched the whole thing
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Where is that from? "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" - that's from something, right? Maybe a commercial from the eighties. But - for what?

In all seriousness, I can't believe I watched the entirety of NBC's deeply pointless Biggest Loser last night. My excuse is that I was also doing my clubbells, which took me a lot longer than the 40 minutes it was supposed to, but still not nearly an hour and a half (the length of this show). The workout is mentally involving, and while I like having something to look at, I don't pay a lot of attention. Yeah.

Trust me, I paid enough attention to this show, though. It was about as contrived and ridiculous as the average "reality" show, with the added bonus of spreading some misinformation about fat and weight and such. It's essentially one of those "people live in a house and vote each other off" shows mixed with the most aggressive fat camp ever mixed with that show where people eat bugs and stuff (lots of shots of giant piles of donuts and fried chicken looking really icky). They fat camp it up, they get weighed, the team who loses less votes someone off. They cry and vomit, often at the same time.

I started out thinking it wasn't that bad, silly but not stupid - that is, that the concept was overworked, but the essential message was okay. Because they did start off talking about living more healthily (a self-involved fixation for a lot of us, self included, but one with a positive intent). For instance, the players were all greated with all the food each of them had eaten for the prior week, laid out on a table. There were a lot of donuts and cheeseburgers. And sure, eating a dozen donuts over a week, not so good for you (particularly not so good for your energy) no matter what you weigh.

From there, though, it became more and more apparent that, whatever "healthy" meant to these folks (both those producing and those participating), that was ultimately much less important than the appearance of "healthy", aka THIN(ner). Very Darcy/Mr. Wickham of them.

One of the most telling moments in the show involved one of the women breaking down because she DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO EAT (her caps, not mine). And we were just talking in the body_positive community about the possibility that America has collectively dieted itself out of touch with real eating. Fascinating - there it was on screen. The bummer, though, is that the approach being taken on this show (layering on rules) is exactly why people have a hard time knowing how to eat in the first place. It doesn't seem to me (from years of dieting and watching others do it) that dieting rules only beget more dieting rules and rule-breakers.

But the approach, despite trainers' assertion to the contrary, is clearly not centered on giving people a new approach to life - dude, they work out basically 8 hours a day. Which could be a new approach - essentially making exercise and food-counting the only things you have time to do - but is really just an intense diet program, one so intense that most people couldn't maintain it as a lifestyle (and therefore, presumably, these people will go back to being their old fat selves - possibly ditching the whole thing the first time they gain a pound). This is only emphasized by the insane weightloss people experienced the first week - some of them lost as much as 5% of their body mass, indicating they could have lost muscle as well as fat. Ick. The shows powers that be took measurements and body fat percentages and such, but the participants were only accountable for the pounds, thus reinforcing the idea that a scale number is a good measure of your health and value. See? Not just silly, stupid, too!

I wonder what would have happened if a size acceptance advocate had snuck on to the show as a participant. I guess they would have been voted off, whether they also lost weight or not - because a key part of the show seems to be the participants' willingness to humiliate themselves. Seriously. The trainers think of exercising until you vomit as a good thing. If a thin unfit person did this shit, we'd think (quite rightly) s/he was bulimic. But if a fat person does it, I think we're supposed to assume they're being served appropriately.

Sigh. Not watching THAT again. I will say, other than the panicked attitude towards their size evinced by the participants, the show is no worse a blow to good health and reasonable thinking than anything on the morning news. And it's probably no worse at trading on humiliation that any other "reality" show for trading on humiliation.

Why do we like this stuff? I have to find someone who watches such things and ask. I don't get it.

 

14 October
supersize this.
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This past weekend I rented Supersize Me on a whim. Thanks to the invention of the "movie pass" at the video store, I now feel I can watch even movies I know I'll hate bits of, and actually get more value for my dollar (if, perhaps, less value for my time).

It was not as bad as I had expected.

but wait! there's more »


 

11 October
long drawn-out body image history
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Last entry I mentioned wanting to write down all the steps I'd taken where my body imagey stuff was concerned, for posterity or for the curious or whatever. I tried not to draw too many conclusions as I wrote it (to just let events stand for themselves), but that didn't work out so well. Really, when you're talking about memory, how do you go about distancing what happened from what you think about what happened?

So, here goes. I've tackled it as a complete history, cause that was interesting to me. If you're looking for advice on living, I would skip way past college if I were you.

but wait! there's more »


 

26 July
whose fault is it?
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Over at Volokh Conspiracy, a guest blogger is bringing up all the same well-intentioned ideas about the Crisis of Fat (Egads!) that everyone trots out. [link via Crooked Timber and BFB]

Now, it turns out that:

Feminists and liberals have transformed a legitimate medical issue of the poor into identity politics for the affluent,” [author and friend Greg Christer] told me, “which I find the worst kind of narcissistic behavior.

Greg Crister, by the way, wrote a pretty good book (Fatland) that is in part an indictment of food industry and diet culture and economics, but instead chooses to focus on the lack of "personal responsibility" that fat symbolizes and the pathologization of fat as the disease (not the symptom). I think he ought to consider using some of that money from his book to travel from place to place re-educating the people who made fun of him (Jay and Silent Bob style); it might make him feel better.

But then, I think the binge and purge ethic that dominates our culture, part of the generally pornographic sale of the body, is in fact the worst kind of narcissm.

On to the problems implicit in the posts and associated comments, all of which were at least politely worded, if offbase (a vast improvement over, say, MetaFilter).

Well intentioned but misguided idea number one: fat is a disease. Fat in and of itself is not a medical issue for most people (even for some who think their fatness causes their other health problems, the causes are more complex than that). It isn't an accurate predictor of any individual's health. Are there unhealthy fat people? Sure. Are there healthy ones, too? You bet.

Treating fat itself as a disease misses the essential physical activity and nutritional issues that lead to ill health in both fat and thin folk (and sure, there's correlation between those issues and becoming fat). As Eileen touched on earlier in the comment thread, we're basically thinking of a symptom as the disease itself. That's a fundamentally flawed approach. It leads us to prescribe weightloss dieting (which for many people is a sure way to gain weight) and treat gastric bypass as a medical necessity - because we think FATNESS, not the host of things that might have led to it, is the cause of unhealth. Treating the root symptoms is something Medicare/Medicaid could and should cover (if you believe there should be government subsidies for medical care at all, as any contracted illness or injury could be considered a "lifestyle choice"). Weight loss surgery? I have a problem with that - not because of my latent libertarianism, but because it seems like stupid medicine.

Well intentioned but misguided idea number two: fat means we're a wildly out of control culture where people - particularly the middle class - won't take personal responsibility for anything. This just doesn't fit with the number of people on diets, the number of people selling diets, the number of people with gym memberships, etc. - the shear volume of things we buy to make us less fat seems to say that at least we'll take responsibility for becoming unfat (no matter the cost, and in the easiest, fastest way possible, please).

But this one is also true, just not in the way it sometimes gets interpreted. As Crister's book points out, we are pretty wild with the consumption. Ironically, though, we're wild in part for things that alleviate our embarassment about our symbolic overconsumption, those Last Ten Pounds.

Well intentioned but misguided idea number three: fat will melt away if you become physically active and eat less/better. For some people, it will. For some, it won't. For most of us, better health will result no matter what. The body is not a simple calorie machine, so healthier habits don't necessarily have any impact on weight whatsoever.

The thing is, fat hate is so engrained for many of us that we want to see body size as somehow moral, or at least indicative of health. If you're going to spend so much time and energy on what you eat, how you move, what you wear, it ought to have some greater value, right?

Fat activists and feminists who engage in discussion of body politics aren't doing so to distract from the very real problems of inactivity and bad food consumption or from the drastic socioeconomic inequality that attends those problems; what we're trying to do is dispel the notion that a judgement of someone's personal worth (including health) can be easily made based on appearance.

If a social program is to solve the Crisis of Fat (Egads!), it can't just be a promise to surgically defattify individuals - it needs to address the problems - from low wages to long work weeks to poor education to lack of parks and sidewalks and low-cost fitness facilities and a general failure to take time to play and enjoy life (including our food) - that are the joint causes of ill health (the real problem) and the phantom fat crisis.

 

07 July
poor people don't diet?
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I've been reading to find more information on who diets, partly because I've seen a lot of people imply recently that poor people are fatter because they don't diet and exercise (which wildly contradicts my own experience as a former poor person) and partly because I just wonder about things.

Something interesting from my first round of research:

Dieters segmented by HOUSEHOLD INCOME

less than or equal to 130% of poverty
Percent of total: 16.2
Percent dieting: 15.2
Estimated total dieters at or below 130% of poverty (based on US census data): 5.07 million

more than 130% of poverty
Percent of total: 83.8
Percent dieting: 16.7
Estimated total dieters above 130% of poverty (based on US census data): 28.8 million

[from: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Sept 2002 v102 i9
p1247(5)
Americans on diet: results from the 1994-1996 Continuing Survey of
Food Intakes by Individuals. (Research). Sahasporn Paeratakul; Emily
E. York-Crowe; Donald A. Williamson; Donna H. Ryan; George A. Bray. Calculations based on the study excerpted from Google Answers.]

So, as of 1996 at least, poor people were only a tiny bit less likely to be on a diet than non-poor people.

Interesting, huh? Of course, we still don't know what those diets are specifically (and I haven't located the full text of that study for free yet), and it's still clear that poor people seem to be fatter.

So why is that? More to come as I find it.

 

28 June
the worst article ever written
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If you're on any size acceptance lists or boards (on a side note, it's remarkable how all these sites focus their discussion on more or less the same things, and just have different approaches to the same issues), you've probably seen the worst article ever written.

The author says a lot of unfounded, rather mean things about fat people. And poor people. And southerners. It would be funny if it weren't clear she thought these things were true.

I think the point she started out wanting to make was this: poorer folk really are getting fatter and possibly less healthy, and we fail to recognize the class issues in this; also, the people who are most concerned with dieting these days seem to be wealthier people who have been duped into believing they're fat when they're not. I think she's actually wrong on the latter point, but if she'd actually written an article about these two competing trends instead of trying to be as clever as possible in her "editorializing", it might have been an interesting read.

And yet, what is the point she actually makes? That poor people are icky and slaggardly, and fat people don't read.

I find this interesting, because the source is a Charleston, WVA resident. Charleston is a coal town, a town with an overwhelming feeling of industry and poverty and at least one giant Wal-Mart. Experientially, it seems like the people of Charleston are fatter than average. It also feels like they're a lot poorer than average, and that the rest of the world ought to be paying attention to this.

Maybe we should be doing some more research.

Like, what are the statistics on people in industrial towns getting on weight loss drugs like Metabolife and such? It seems like my midwestern fat relatives have done that, and weightloss surgery and fad diets a hundred times. The influx of the South Beach and Atkins diets into my "higher class" professional workplace is relatively recent, but my aunts were on Scarsdale decades ago. Is it possible that diet marketing has a class consciousness? I don't know, because I tend to tune it out. But I wouldn't be surprised.

Like, how much do wages affect health or weight gain? I don't know how many of the fat folk in Charleston work more than one job, or weird hours, or whatever. I don't know how changes in the energy market around America impact their coal and manufacturing jobs and pensions and the care they get to give their kids. And I don't know if they're just fat, or if they're also unhealthy.

I don't know if it even matters that poor people are getting fat and rich people are getting more diet-obsessed (if that's even true). But if you're going to talk about it, you ought to present some information or at least ask some questions.

Cause otherwise, you're just rewriting the worst article ever written.

 

10 June
fun is good for you
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I wrote a little in my LJ about watching other bellydance/raqs sharqi/whatever students perform and how much the experience of dance training has distanced me from external body projects. That is, I do not think of my body as fat, or at least not of fat as problematic, in the context of training.

It's not an experience of being totally divorced from appearance [it's not that noble], but of recognizing exactly what you are as attractive in movement. Most belly dancers are beautiful. Except that they're not, as far as predominant cultural norms are concerned.

When you think about it, though, how much of your personal feelings about what is and isn't attractive matches perfectly to what you've been told? Not much in my case; I don't know about you. It's no big shock that people can be beautiful and not meet whatever the norm or ideal of your culture may be.

Most of the belly dancers I know are at least in their thirties, and many of them are quite a bit older. And size-wise, they're all over the place. The only common physical characteristic I can see is that even us beginners pretty quickly develop more prominent bellies than other folk. One of my friends has a particular fondness for belly dancers, a fondness that verges on pervy, really. Whatever.

As I thought about the belly dance thing, I assumed that the supportive, all-female environment was a key component of this "yay! my body!" thing. I don't doubt that the environment helps, but I realize that I also have this attitude in the context of all my other physical training, and in play or art - which constitutes the vast majority of the "exercise" I get.

[A total side note, but I've noticed recently that I use "the ______ thing" a lot. Sorry about that, lovely reader. Think of it as an homage to the use of "the ______ question" freaking everywhere in early 20th century political writing, and not in fact a sign of my own sloppy articulation.]

I remember, dimly, times in the past when I treated exercise as a punishment and kinda sought out the worst, most suffering-inducing, ways to exercise (not intentionally). And those are the times when my thinking most aligned to "ew, I'm fat and gross and bad" where things bodily were concerned. Which makes me wonder if the gym isn't hazardous to your mental health. Movement is undoubtedly good, but if you're moving and hating it, maybe you end up hating your body. And conversely, if movement is pleasing, maybe your body seems more attractive for its physical talent.

Not to mention all the other cool stuff that fun movement does for you.

You should read Go Animal, which is all about being healthy by having more fun.

 

20 May
directions to the fight
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I've seen this happen in movements and groups since I've belonged to either. Everyone would like for the group they belong to to perfectly represent them. So we fight over representation, over the simple fact that a group can't (and shouldn't) have one homogenous opinion. Everyone gets upset. Some people bail. Things change.

People and democracy are imperfect. I don't think I've ever been part of anything where this didn't happen.

I wonder if this is a uniquely Western problem. That is, if the problem is trying to coalesce a group out of people who place a premium on individuality and individual contributions. I find the frustration of group participation less... well, frustrating, when I think there might be a global explanation for why people act in mode X when mode Q would be so much more effective. [In a completely unrelated vein, it just hit me that a coalition is what you get when people coalesce. Which is obvious, I suppose. They're good words.]

Direct democracy is problematic.

I say this because leaderless groups I've belonged to seem to suffer this problem of coalescence pretty much constantly, while groups with recognized leadership seem to not suffer so much (unless the leadership is contested). It's nice to be able to look up from the group and see someone pointing: This is the direction we're taking. This is what's next.

This is all by way of introduction. I commented on Tish's entry about the problems of coalescence on BFB that other social movements aren't any more in agreement, even on essentials, than we are.

What other movements have is action, organizations that will point you to the problem and the action you could take to solve it. It's a form of leadership and direction. It's the fight. Whether that fight be for overtime pay protection, reproductive rights, marriage rights, equal pay, accessibility to buildings. Someone has a list of demands. It's not a list approved by everyone in the movement, but at least there's something to fight for.

There is an aspect of any fight that should be education and conversion of people. That's the glacial current of social change. But education is really the recruitment arm of any movement. You change attitudes so people demand and make changes to the How Things Are.

The problem with fat activism is that there's no easily followed map to the fight. Sometimes it feels like there is no fight, nothing to be demanded. Just talking and educating people for the fight that isn't.

How does a movement get out of recruitment and into the fight? Kell had an idea. What are our demands? What is our plan of action? Who is pointing the way to the fight?

 

11 May
your problem or ours?
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I've been meaning to expand on something I posted awhile ago in response to Steph's social vs. individual responsibility piece. She was, essentially, wondering how we manage to see some problems as social and others as exclusively a matter of individual incapacity. I haven't built much of what she said into this, so you should read her stuff first for this to make any real sense.

I'd theorize that we're at different points in our understanding of difference based on race (or gender, even) than we are with addiction or size. So, all these social questions might follow the same path ultimately. We think of them first as pathological, then as individual, and finally as global/systemic issues.

My theory assumes that a wide range of social issues follow very similar patterns. Because this pattern moves at the pace of social change, it's not something we actually experience happening, which is why I sometimes feel so surprised that we're where we are with reference to equal pay vs. say, fat acceptance.

The cycle is essentially this, with the phases overlapping:
1. Demonize the "other"/minority group upon which the issue centers as a biologically/scientifically inferior class. Investigate with mad science that people will make fun of in 100 years. Create panic about "other" condition and treat as illness.
2. Recognize individual members of the "other" as more-or-less equally human as the majority. Attempt to address their issues while keeping them clearly distinct from the majority, mostly by "taking care of them".
3. Stereotypes of the "other" are idealized in popular culture. Declare victory.
4. Individual representatives of the "other" form coalitions and demand actual parity of rights.
5. The "other" voice becomes visible in mainstream culture, particularly popular culture. Some essential equal rights are granted. Declare victory.
6. The "other" coalitions realize they're still shafted and insist on true equality. This gradually seeps into mainstream culture, where the problem is recognized as bigger than ever suspected.
7. Insist that victory has already been declared, ergo the war is over. Backlash against the "excessive" rights granted the "other" ensues.
8. Actual change does, in fact, continue - at a geologic pace.
9. Create new "other" group and start over.

Where race was concerned, we had to start by arguing ourselves out of the idea that people who weren't "white" were a subhuman species first, then "take care of them", then defend essential civil rights, and as a result of that come to see racism as a systemic issue (for the most part), which we are still dealing with. Gender issues parallel this; no surprise considering the parallel time tables of civil/women's rights in modern Western culture.

With addiction, we first transitioned away from blaming/hiding the issue with individuals to an attitude of "taking care of them" and are still, I think, adjusting to that. We're a long way from adjusting beyond step 2 with reference to addiction, mental illness, and disability - and progress is complicated by the individual nature of those conditions.

With fat, we are still at the point of trying to talk our way out of thinking fat is something akin to subhuman. And, as much as #1 sounds like I wrote it just about fat, if you look at the "woman condition" or the "mind of the Negro" arguments from the 19th century, they are freakishly parallel. Gayness as an identity started as a pathology, too. You could argue the same of reproduction, particularly where the teen mom is concerned. There's a remarkable strain of concern with "clean living" and "health" in Western culture starting with the Enlightenment at least, if not earlier.

This is, of course, wildly theoretical and in no way backed up by any serious history. But it does provide an explanation of sorts for the way we get from thinking of a problem as just about you to thinking of it as a question of rights/equality.

 

28 April
paul campos rocks, and so do you
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As a token of thanks to the five (yes, count them, FIVE, y'all know me so well) people who have independently sent me a link to the Guardian's publication of parts of Paul Campos's new book, I bring you...

Pattie Thomas's excellent interview with Paul as published on Big Fat Blog this week. Better even than the excerpts I've seen of his book so far (which I will absolutely be buying ASAP), the interview does a really nice job of placing the fat panic in its appropriate political context. And of beginning to lay out some solutions to the political problem of fat hate.

Purely as a blogger, I often hate when Campos has something new to say. I always end up just chiming in with something like "Rock on, Paul Campos!" and "Way to go Mr. Smarty Smart!" - not exactly scintillating stuff.

To the five people who sent me this article, I apologize for not thanking you individually and recommend you buy his book. Paul's book, by the way, is The Obesity Myth. And, if your bookstores are anything like mine (giant chains and locally owned used book shops), you may not be able to find it there. I suggest demanding to see the store manager, personally. ;)

 

12 March
join the bfb virtual book club
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I've been reading Glenn Gaesser's Big Fat Lies (see link and picture on right), which is kinda pissing me off. But it has a lot of very important information in it that I think any of you who aren't already part of the size acceptance movement need to read.

Yeah. So, read it.

When you're done, pop over to the Big Fat Blog bookclub discussion on it and talk about what you learned. Or didn't learn. Or, as in my case, what made you angry.

 

04 March
am i fat?
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This is why I don't feel fat: fat people cannot love themselves, so we are told; fat people cannot love their bodies. But I do.
(Genius Toiling In Obscurity on her image of her body)

Someone told me that this is supposed to be healthy for fat people, to see themselves in their minds as less fat than they are. Because fat is so evil? It is, we seem to think. Fat is all these other things, this judgement on a person. I don't even mean just the weight the word carries - the very act of carrying so-called extra fat on your body is evil, whether you call it fat, curvy, of size, whatever. You can't euphemize away the existence of fat and the badness it implies.

So, yeah. I can see why, knowing that you're not all the baaaaaaad things that fat is supposed to be, it would make sense to think you were physically smaller. It would, really, be a quite sane thing to do on the way from fat-hate to self-love.

When I think about it that way, it disturbs me less that I have this several-years-old idea of the size of my body. See, despite eating more and more healthily (though exercising inconsistently), over the past five? eight? years, I've just gotten steadily larger. My picture of myself in my mind hasn't grown at the same rate, so I'm surprised by photos and mirrors sometimes. Frequently. For a long time, years ago when I first started getting fat, I bought clothes I thought fit but were really too small. That, fortunately, stopped. Everyone should have clothes that fit them. [Could this shallow belief be the cornerstone of my politics? I mean, if you add up gender politics, fat politics, defense of workers and such, ultimately you could be talking about everyone having cute clothes that fit. Hee hee.]

Until recently, I still found my image surprising (and yes, sometimes unattractive, I'm sad to say). In photos more than mirrors. I think photos are more relatable to the bidimensional figures we see in various media.

I tend to think of it as unhealthy and dysmorphic, a sign that I didn't really own my body or something, but maybe it's not entirely. Maybe it's also the healthy view to take in a world suffering from a sort of mass body dysmorphia. I know I had more moments of thinking I was hot when I had less of a grasp on my size.

Since I launched the effort to change the way I eat and move (eating a bit less of better food, and making exercise a truly regular habit), I've come to have a different picture of my body. I'm a lot fatter than I thought. Now my mental picture and the mirror/photo are more in line. Well, huh.

Which makes me wonder - while I don't think I place any more or less negative judgement on my fatness than I did before, does everyone who shifts to a healthier lifestyle or (ick) goes on a diet start to see themselves as fatter than before? Or does exercise and treating yourself a bit better just resolve your mental picture to the one others see? If the former were true, it's no wonder people treat exercise as punishment and talk about themselves in terms of goodness and badness; the whole process of exercising might be bad for your self image, even if you approached it healthily & not from a "must lose 20 pounds" standpoint.

In any case, the trouble I find with seeing a fatter me is that sometimes I also feel "fatter" - that is, more of all the things we associate negatively with fat. While I feel better in every other way from the changes I've made (and I did make choices oriented around health, not weightloss), it's as if the improved health has opened up a little vein of self-directed fat-hate in me. Which in turn makes me feel and act a bit self-absorbed at times.

It's unsettling. I'm not even positive this causal relationship exists between the positive attention I've been giving my body and the negative attention that followed it, but I'm bothered by it.

 

03 March
good comments on the politics of dieting
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Livejournal is like this whole other world.

And, given that, I thought I'd point out a discussion that I spent really an embarrassing amount of time on today: feminism, fat acceptance & weight loss. You should read the comments on both the post on the feminist-rage community and my own post.

The comments say a lot about the politics of personal choices, a lot about the supposed conflict between healthy and fat and why fat is still a feminist issue.

I just find that I like to read what other people have to say on the subject, others who are at least enlightened enough to support either size acceptance or feminism, if not both.

 

04 February
replacing sex with food
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Not too many years ago, two women talking on Monday morning about how they had been bad over the weekend might have been referring to some sort of sexual escapade. Nowadays they would most likely be talking about going off their diet and eating something that wasn't on their good food list. From Tech Central Station - read the rest of the article.

This hypothetical situation represents a lot of the issue with the "obesity crisis" for me. It's not really about fat.

I know, I've said it before. And the likes of Jean Kilbourne (despite my annoyance with her doomsdayishness) have said it quite a bit. But I think I have some new insights now.

It comes back, in a way, to education. I'm coming to believe more and more that our current approach to education creates problems for a lot of people around acceptance and good/badness. Obviously, I'm not just talking about school systems, though they're a big part of this - parenting tendencies, media influences, all of these things have a tendency to divide people into gradations of fit with the norm or goodness - essentially, grades.

If you combine that predilection towards numerical indications of goodness of fit with a religious tradition that also focuses on sin and purity, I think you have the essence of Americans' twisted fixation on dieting.

It's all about sex, yo. But you know that. It's puritanical fear that indulging in what we like is so very very bad for us, which also abreacts into this need for distance. Sex is for procreation or it's dirty; fill up absurdly on fast food.

But it's better than sex, this food obsession. Because we can talk about it. It's considered perfectly work-appropriate; you can always talk about who has and hasn't lost weight and how much and how, in great detail, you did it. Diet talk is all about grades and numbers, and feels just nosy and prurient enough to satisfy our urges for naughtiness while reassuring us that we're fine and upstanding.

Plus, as I am constantly saying, it's the perfect distraction from anything else we think we can't help - crises personal and global alike.

 

30 January
ew. ick. magazine. ick.
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A survey from some people thinking about starting a plus-size magazine.

This is so the next to last straw. And people wonder why feminists talk like all guys are nasty uneducated skeezydaddies sometimes. They're not, generally speaking, but sometimes...

See the second question:

2. Do you consider men's magazines such as Maxim, Razor, and King exploitive to women?
- Yes, the women in these mags are sluts!
- I do not have a strong opinion
- No, there is nothing wrong with a little sexuality

Not only did they misspell "exploitative" and use it with incorrect grammar (one thing is never exploitative TO another but exploitative OF something), but the question betrays an appalling lack of understanding of objectification. Or perhaps, too strong an identification with the ideas that objectification sometimes produces. That a woman whose image is exploited sexually (by herself or someone else) is inherently a slut. Generally, when we say something/one is being exploited, we're talking about that thing/person as a victim or tool.

Exploitation turns people into objects that you can then ascribe your own fantasy traits to. And I assume these guys are doing exactly that - they sort of vaguely [mis]heard some feminist criticism of men's magazines, and then translated it to stupidguy-speak. The funny thing is, I'm not actually wildly opposed to the idea, though I do think it reflects what most of the men's magazines they mention are actually about - namely half-naked chicks, but the approach to asking me what I think is so icky I just want to respond back "You're nasty! Nasty! Go away!"

But then. My theory is that the survey is actually a joke, and the magazine doesn't and will never exist, because a real magazine would have editors who could actually, you know, edit copy.

On the other hand, there are people like Paul to make fun of half-naked chick magazines like this (make sure you take a look at the pictures).

[Something funky seems to happen with the link when you click instead of cutting & pasting. It's http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=63404369275.]

 

29 January
activist in one sphere doesn't mean activist in another
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One of the lists I belong to is DTMWSIB, which is essentially a size acceptance group with a focus on fashion. There is, however, a fair amount of self-congratulatory supportive posting going on at any time (basically, the "you go, girl!" think). It's generally sweet and positive and friendly and I can't really fault it, even if it talks a lot about boys and modelling and beauty - part of size acceptance is being able to see yourself as beautiful, which often means conventional means of gaining appearance-based approval.

However. Today I read this in one of the posts:

Eventually a guy will come along and make you feel so unbelievably beautiful...and by then, hopefully you'll know yourself that you are.

I think my boyfriend can attest to the fact that it's virtually impossible for someone else's attraction to you to make you believe yourself attractive. But that is not the source of my annoyance. My annoyance is that, once again, the size acceptance folk are showing that fat isn't actually a feminist issue. That is, you are assumed to be content with your size if and when a man loves you for and/or despite it. Sure, you might get there before you feel the love of a good man, but he'll cement it for you.

Ew. Part of my issue is the tone, too. Eh.

Maybe what I inferred from that clip isn't what was intended. And hey, I know that this particular group is diverse enough to include some people who just Do Not Think The Way I Do - I've talk about that before, actually. But it still disppoints me that all the things I believe are so closely aligned aren't connected in others' minds, too.

 

15 January
big girl's guide to life
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Maybe I've devolved into some sort of humorless drone, but I have to say I'm not as keen on this Big Girl's Guide to Life book as I might have guessed I'd be. The DTMWSIMB list sent out an article/interview with the author today. And, um, ew.

I think it absolutely rocks when people take independent routes to get something done, so I applaud the woman for getting her book published. But the things it laughs about are so sad. On one hand, it's funny and a smidge empowering, but on the other hand, it's not making things any better.

It's like the dumb-ass anti-feminists joke thing - laughing it off is sometimes okay, but it's ultimately complicit in the suckiness of The How Things Are.

Par example, selections from the "Ultimate Big Girl List of Fashion No-Nos", which snarkily but quite clearly reminds us that big folk need to be covered up:


  1. Anything featuring horizontal stripes. Double Wides R Us. Not.

  2. Red sequined hot pants with black fishnet hose. Steer clear of this wardrobe selection, please. Keywords to avoid are ‘hot’ and ‘fishnet.’

  3. Belly shirts. Big Girl bare navels are not the wildly exciting stimulus you believe them to be, ok?

Funny, okay. And there's some really absurd, hilarious diet advice. But we're so used to hearing this kind of shit as insults. Is voluntarily reading and writing jokes about your sub-class role in society useful? It is subversive, in a way - if you do something with that subversion.

Maybe my frustration is just, as the author says, that she "doesn't promote fat power"; she's all about finding ways to survive The How Things Are by laughing them off, not by changing things. What little I've seen of the book doesn't promote power or anger at all, but it seems to deal exclusively in things we ought to be really, really angry about. And, well, that's weird.

Then again, maybe there's more to it. I'll have to check it out at a bookstore some time soon.

 

12 January
join them and beat them
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This year I've decided to do something about the new year exercise and diet craze that everyone else seems to do around me every year.

I'm going to join in!

It's not what you're thinking. I'm going to join in, but in a subvert-from-within way. I'm a big fan of subversion from within.

I mentioned on the LJ that I've joined up with this office fitness competition. The jist of the competition is that you get points for the minutes you spend exercising each week. The team with the most points wins, and gets taken out for cheeseburgers (which I actually don't eat at lunch anymore - trying to avoid the dairy and red meat; they make too much phlegm).

See, I exercise quite a bit, or at least I do now. I've been following my semi-rigorous plan for a couple of months, so I'm not really changing anything by getting involved in this competition. Unlike some of the other people, I am not going on a fad diet (South Beach, this year) and I don't need to worry about cheating or failing because the exercise isn't a temporary thing for me.

While others are using the whole competition thing to motivate them to exercise where they don't already (which is great - or it would be, if they weren't so focused on short-term weight loss), I'm thinking more politically. I want them to know just how much I am fit and fat. That the two are not opposites, but quite often coexist happily.

This would be, despite the politics, a rather shallow goal. Except. Because I'm part of the "fitness challenge" thing, I end up taking part in a lot of fitness-oriented discussions, which give me more opportunities to talk about fat and health and to encourage others to like themselves just a bit more. And that's good for me.

Plus, I want to win.

 

05 January
"fattest" cities? as if.
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I figured a listing of "fit or fat" cities published by a "fitness" (read: weightloss) magazine like Men's Health would be based on some wildly false assumptions. You know, like "fat is the opposite of fit".

What I didn't figure is that the list would be based on such odd criteria. I guess I just assumed that there would be some measure of actual fatness and/or fitness taken. But no!

I haven't been able to find the full list of criteria used to assess each city online, but Paul pointed out some key flaws. It seems like a lot of inferences are made about how "fit" or "fat" a city's people are based on factors that only have the possibility to influence them one way or the other - air quality, climate, number of fast food restaurants, parks or gyms, commute time.

I don't doubt that easy access to the tools of a healthy lifestyle could encourage people to be healthier, but any rational person should question a study that relies on vaguely related factors to measure its object.

The sad thing is that this study could be useful - it could encourage cities to provide more resources like parks, playgrounds, free and cheap access to fitness and nutritional resources. Instead, by promoting fat as the opposite of fit (instead of, say, unfuckingfit as the opposite of fit) you get things like the mayor of Houston hiring a former body builder and shiller of nutritionally suspect supplements to promote a city-wide diet campaign. At least that's what we hear about - maybe Houston did actually improve the resources available - but that won't sell diet magazines and fuel the anti-obesity fears of Americans.

 

05 December
a sort of positive article about kids and dieting
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Big shocking news! Dieting is bad for kids. And, you know, everyone.

"I would argue that dieting is the primary cause of weight gain," says Waterhouse. "Let's be realistic. If diets worked, we'd all be thin instead of fatter than ever before."

While Debra Waterhouse, the woman who is interviewed in the MSN article, seems to be mostly a diet subscriber herself (see her list of diet books), she manages to dispense some pretty sane advice.

 

03 December
absurd diet talk
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So, awhile ago I subscribed one of my lesser email addresses to the South Beach diet list. The idea being that, while I have no interest in dieting per se, that particular diet book appeared to have some practical advice on eating well and interesting healthy recipes in it, and I figured the list would occasionally send me something of value.

It does. Um, occasionally.

Today it sent me what sure seems to be horrible misinformation.

The average American eats between 2,000 and 8,000 calories - just for Thanksgiving dinner. And it's filled with bad fats, bad carbs, and bad sugars.

Can someone who isn't starving or accustomed to training to bulk up actually eat 8000 calories in a sitting? Even at a major feast? That's like three heaping plates of everything one might traditionally eat at Thanksgiving, each of them drowned in fatty gravy.

That just seems absurd.

But not as absurd as the diet's other claim to fame: the promise of losing nearly 15 lbs in 1-2 weeks.

If, as the email claims...

Most American's [sic] will gain 5-10 lbs by New Year's Day

Then the assumption is that you can lose 1-3 times as much as other people will gain in one fifth the time. That just seems shaky to me.

Of course, if (as so many people do) you go on this diet and fail to meet its inflated claims of instant, permanent weight loss, you'll be buoyed up by the regular emails you'll receive explaining how the failure to lose weight is, in fact, your fault. You didn't really cut out the bad foods. You didn't exercise enough. You have some other sort of health problem and should see your doctor (perhaps for weight loss surgery?).

Absurd.

 

27 October
the "fat like me" show
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About a minute and a half into this show, I realized I couldn't turn away from it. It was pissing me off that much. And if I'm going to tolerate this much pissoffitude, you need to hear about it, too.

So, live from my bedroom, where I have a bit of a cold, my thoughts on this hour of television.

8:02. The Fat Like Me show is on. A fifteen year old girl apparently has it all - looks, weight, and something else. Meredith Viera is sort of mumbling.

She's (the girl, not Meredith) trying on a pair of foam pants that make her look like she's made of solid foam rubber. Can't anyone make a fat suit that looks like an actual fat person? She's supposed to weigh 200 pounds? How tall is she, three foot two?

Seriously, they have this girl in like 100 pounds of foam. If she were a real person with real bones, muscles and fat, she'd be a complete couch potato. Like no muscles, just fat. What the fuck?

Someone makes fun of her and she's about to cry in the car. She's fifteen. I don't think she's feeling the experience of being fat - she's just fifteen, and in a new freaky situation. I feel for her.

Oh. My. God. If you didn't see this show, you have to go find a picture of this girl in her fat suit. She is the most desperate, pathetic looking kid I've ever seen. Are those glasses from 1972? Oh, god, I can't imagine how hard it must be to be this dorky looking on your first day of school. Fat or thin wouldn't make much difference. The striped blouse? Even stereotypes of librarians haven't worn blouses like this since 1982.

8:12. Apparently Meredith Viera once was - gasp - 30 pounds overweight as a kid. She looks pretty cute in that little red coat. Am I supposed to care?

But hey, at least they're talking to actual fat kids now. This is better. They're talking about isolation and how crappily fat kids' parents talk to them and blame them. And they're interviewing a family who are becoming active and eating healthily in order to make their fat kid less fat (don't know if it'll work, but at least they're all living better).

8:25. I'd never believe a man who tells people how to eat and exercise was once a fat kid, apparently (that's what they tell me). His dad had a stroke (the trainer guy's dad, I mean). He wasn't really much of a fat kid - maybe a bit pudgy in these pictures, but not fat. So I'm not shocked he's found a way to lose and keep off weight.

Another family learning how to eat better. Parts of this show are remarkably positive. But no one's talking about what happens if the kids don't lose the weight on these new plans. Do the families stick to them? Or do we ship them off for bariatric surgery?

There's a woman talking about how kids have "what we call crossed wires" (meaning they don't express emotions). There's a twelve year old talking about how "nothing ever tastes as good as thin feels".

This show is officially depressing me.

Ah, VH1 is doing 1987 (Raising Arizona! Princess Bride!) again tonight. I liked that "Beauty and the Beast" show with Linda Hamilton. A few years ago, I kept trying to stay up late to watch it on Oxygen or Pax or something, but then they moved it from 11 to 1 in the morning. That's past my bedtime on school nights.

8:35. Back at it. More than halfway through it! Huzzah!

I have never seen so many creepy ass shots in one show, ever. I think they're trying to tell me that girl over there is fat. If her ass is any measure, she wears about a size 8 and is maybe 14. Is that fat? Hell, I don't even know.

They're talking about the BMI report card school district. This mom is cute as a button. Huge health risks my ass! Speaking of ass, here are more anonymous ass shots. Hey, where did that little fat butt get those cute corset-laced jeans?

The not-fat girl is babbling about taking it for granted and how horrible it is to be handicapped with fatness. She really wants everyone to know she's not really fat. She's wearing normal clothes, much better. But she's still wearing the horrid 1972 glasses; they have a camera in them.

She's upset that as a new kid, no one paid attention to her. She thinks it's because she's fat. Maybe, but she's also, you know, fifteen, and wearing the worst outfit ever. Kids are mean as hell, you remember. Not that they can't also be sweet, but they can be mean little buggers.

My partner thinks that fat fixation is emblematic of our culture of fear. Parents and teachers focus on childhood obesity because we all feel like we don't have any control over all these other factors in kids' lives.

8:45. Ali (fat suit girl) thinks that the reason people made fun of her or didn't talk to her is only that she was fat. She can't trust them. Welcome to high school, sweetheart. Am I being too cynical? Is she from some sort of crazy world? Maybe she's just really popular at her school. I don't understand how she can't have ever been picked on. The way she talks, though, it's very fifteen. I totally feel for her.

A fat girl (who is damn fine looking, by the way), is explaining that she couldn't stand up for the pathetic dork in the fat suit because, hello, high school. Good point.

A fat guy doesn't want to be reminded that he's fat. Everyone looks really silly in bright colored life vests. Meredith thinks that the fat suit girl lost her self esteem just cause she was in a fat suit. A random thin girl is crying about a fat girl's story. See, what I said about kids being sweet, it's true.

An ugly kid made fun of fat suit girl in the cafeteria. He's not ugly, really; he just looks like he belongs in some sort of British steel town, which makes him a freak in the southwestern US. He looks like he gets beaten up a lot. I bet the stories these fat kids are telling hit home for him.

8:55. How is the fact that fat kids get picked on supposed to teach me that obesity is a problem? What it teaches me is that fat is considered a difference and, like any difference, is something that gets kids picked on. And guess what happens when we talk about the "obesity epidemic"? That's right. Those kids are seen as even more different, even more to blame. And they get picked on more.

Would you tell a kid to just not be Jewish? Not be near-sighted? Not be gay? Well, you might tell a kid not to be gay, but that would make you an asswit.

So. To summarize.
The teasing and social interaction components of this show brought in an array of experts who apparently have never been or associated with fifteen year old kids. That was foolish.

I have to say, the healthy lifestyle stuff wasn't bad. It's not unreasonable advice - namely, get out and exercise and try to eat healthy food. But how do we as a culture deal with all the cases of people who do those things and don't become acceptably thin? Do we just ignore them? Blame them?

As a blow for the fat revolution, the show is neither here nor there. Even with its emphasis on understanding the fat is the last acceptable thing to make fun of, it still comes out on the side of the "obesity epidemic" that isn't.

Sigh. But at least you can say you got live reportage from the street.

 

24 October
bad to have fat friends, or bad to be goth?
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Today I saw some of the photos used in the Liverpool study that highlights cultural assumptions based on people having fat friends. To summarize, they showed 100 some people pictures of a guy with a fat woman, then the same guy, same pose, with a thin woman. And the study subjects (the ones seeing the pictures) were more likely to associate the man with the fat woman as "miserable, self-indulgent, passive, shapeless, likes food, depressed, weak, unattractive, insignificant and insecure".

I don't have any new news to report on this study, but I'm curious (as always) about the methodology. The BBC article makes it unclear whether the two photos they show are the only ones subjects saw - while I can't imagine that could be so, there are a number of other significant differences between those two women - see fat picture vs. thin picture. Did similar differences exist between all pairs of women in the photos? How do we know that those factors didn't influence subjects' assessment of the guys?

In this case, the fat woman looks to be leaving for a night at a moderate goth club, and the thin one looks like she's headed to the prom; the guy's attitude and outfit could be interpreted differently in either scenario. The thin woman is closer and looks at the camera, the fat one leans away. The women's body language could make the pictures tell very different stories. And hey, maybe Liverpudlians just hate goths and people who are distant. All the words associated more often with the man shown with a fatter woman are, after all, not dissimilar from the associations of mainstream folk with goth kids, though you could add a whole other subset of "dangerous, creepy, suicidal, needs therapy" if you so desired.

Admittedly, if the subjects saw a wide range of pictures that included more affectionately posed fat women and more counterculture-looking thin women, the sum total of those pictures might cancel out any differences between individual women, but I'm curious as to why those individual differences were included at all. I'm curious why this study wouldn't have used images that made the difference between the women other than fat v. thin less noticeable. Why not pose them the same way? Why not alter photos of the same woman to make her thin or fat?

Any thoughts? Anyone know more about this study? Maybe seeing some of the other pictures used (assuming there were other pictures) would help.

I'm not implying, by the way, that the bias found in this study doesn't exist. I have seen it in my own experiences; any 10 year old could tell you that having a friend who is "different" is the kiss of death when your goal is to fit in and be accepted (it becomes more clear the older I get that we still live by the social rules established in fifth grade). But that doesn't mean I don't want to understand the flaws in a study that may relate to me. We should hold supporting and detracting studies to the same standards of relevance and accuracy.

On that note, Paul posts a restaurant (and consumer) backed assessment that some of those "obesity crisis" statistics are flawed. I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you!

[Edited to add an amusing side note - I think I may be taken to task on the BFB comments for saying the fat woman looks goth. Apparently my assessment may have been off. Silliness.]

[Comments closed on this post due to the vast stupidity of most things people have posted. If you have an intelligent comment to add, please email me.]

 

23 October
i'm angry. and depressed.
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Things are making me angry today.

Some of the response to Tish's average-sized privilege list is very frustrating. Notably the conversation at Ampersand. It reminds me of something that happened on the DTMWSIB list awhile back. One of the members was upset that Queen Latifah's new Wal-Mart plus size undies line was donating a portion of proceeds to a fund to help black kids pay for college (I think; I don't recall what it was exactly). The rationale being - if you make something for fat people, the proceeds should go to a charitable organization that supports fat people. I disagree completely; if you have money to spend, you always have the option of not buying something if your money will go places you don't want it. And if you sell something, it's pretty much up to you what you do with the proceeds.

[Well, in theory. If your budget or town is such that Wal-Mart is really your only shopping option, and Queen Latifah's undies are the only ones that will fit you, then I guess your choice is to support her charity or go without panties - but it's still a choice.]

Anyhow - it's amazing how quickly this group of fat folk (who are well acquainted with the ways in which discrimination can happen) became rather divided over the question of whether black people were really discriminated against or not, since sometimes individual black people get advantages over individual white people. It is a privilege to be ignorant of the way you are privileged. It is a privilege to be able to think of yourself as an individual and not as part of the groups, to carry the weight of the normative prejudices against that group. And yet even people who recognize prejudice against themselves on one front can't see how that happens to someone else. This is so often the reaction of fairly liberal people to the assertion that fat people face prejudice and that's wrong. How can this be?

Everyone gets defensive when confronted with the idea that they might be receiving some privilege. I can understand that; being confronted by privilege makes it feel like you haven't earned what you have. But a reasonable person doesn't react to it by saying "see, look at those really fat people - they ARE unhealthy and they could be better" or "see, black men really do commit more crimes, and they could just stop living like that"; a reasonable person doesn't try to blow smoke around the real issue by bringing up some special case where, okay, maybe the things said about a particular group might be true.

And then the "partial birth" abortion ban gets passed. I don't even know what to say; I'm just so depressed by this.

It frustrates me, too, that groups like NARAL choose to talk about the procedure (which, let's face it, sounds more painful and generally icky than most abortions) in terms of rights, like it's an abstract. It reinforces this image of wild abortionists with no connection to reality and a need to hid our nasty procedures when you can't find a good explanation of what a D&E or D&X abortion even is on Planned Parenthood's website; only the NRLC will tell you in any detail, and they'll load their description with such bile you'll start wondering if you can dilate and evacuate their damned website.

See. It doesn't matter if the D&X reminds you of a baby being born. What matters is that that "baby" doesn't have a life unless the woman continues to bear it. And it is unconstitutional, has been found unconstitutional again and again, to deny a woman the right to a medical procedure that could protect her life (medically or otherwise).

We need to be angry about this.

Little George W. has now virtually guaranteed my vote, and the votes of all my formerly slacker non-voting friends (who mobilized so charmingly for Nader four years ago), for ANY democrat who makes it through the primaries. Screw the Greens! My vote is for anyone who could take Bush out of office! I hope we can count on the Court, but I want a president who reflects the true liberalism of America that Michael Moore keeps telling me about.

[Edited to add after the fact to point out Ampersand's explanation of the abortion issue over several posts. Because you can't expect me to cite a lot of research or facts, but you can trust Ampersand to do so.]

 

21 October
studying your zagat's
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I have to say this is one of the more clever ways to approach comparative studies of portion size: some guy compares the Boston Zagat's guide to the Parisian one. And, shock, restaurants in Paris are described as serving much smaller dishes than restaurants in Boston.

Is anyone else thinking "well, DUH" here?

It seems obvious to anyone who eats out that not only are restaurants in American serving huge amounts of food, but the amounts have been steadily increasing over time. You can't even get a small french fry order at McDonald's without ordering a Happy Meal anymore (and McDonald's is no worse an offendor than anyone else). It's been years since I could successfully consume more than half of my food at dinner out, and I've established elsewhere that I still believe I eat (ate) too much.

Would limiting portion sizes prevent people from getting fat? Well, maybe and maybe not. It could keep some people from getting fatter by adopting the wildly vacillating dietary and exercise habits that are so popular. But then, I'm sure many of those people would still go on their starvation diets, though they might get accustomed to less of a wild swing if they ate less in general. Would they still get fat? Maybe more slowly, but yes. Would there still be fat people who actually ate perfectly reasonable amounts of food and were otherwise quite healthy? Or thin people who ate too much? Of course.

Fat or unfat aside, the whole portion size thing is emblematic of American culture - generous, unrestrained, free, and further evidence of our consumption of more than we need. And our guilt over overeating is all about our fear and awe that we consume too much overall - it is no coincidence that dieters reward themselves with new clothes, new cars, new whatevers. Which brings me back, as so many things do, to the fact that what we audibly worry about is just disguising the deeper concern - we worry about portion sizes instead of the things we think we can't control, like oil consumption, the rest of the world, etc.

 

16 October
love your body?
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Yesterday was Love Your Body Day. While I posted something on WHB, I didn't actually do anything about it.

Slacker.

But something Kim said about weddings awhile ago ought to be taken as a life lesson for everyone: have pretty pony princess day every day. [Editor's Note: What she said was actually not that at all, but it was a reasonable facsimile.] Which should be interpreted to mean that whatever you think is good enough to embrace for a day ought to be embraceable for 365.

So I'm working on the other days.

Tish is composing a list of things an average-sized person can expect that a fat person can't. You should read it. I'm not average-sized, but I'm not that far off, you know? And there are privileges I enjoy even as someone who is obviously fat but who can still fit (literally) in.

Like.

I don't have to worry when travelling (by car, bus, plane, whatever) that I will be stopped from doing so by the size constraints of my mode of transit.

The same clothing other people wear is, more often than not, available for me, even if it is inexplicably more expensive.

I am not assumed by others to be unhealthy - mentally or physically - based on my appearance.

I can expect people to flirt with me. And those people aren't thought perverse or fetishists.

I'm not expected to defend my size, or to speak for fat people in general or the fat revolution in specific.

Wherever I go, I can be assured that, if I sit down, I will not have to worry about fitting in my seat.

My partner and I can go out together without being laughed or stared at. Well, at least we can be sure they're staring at our shoes or our indiscreet conversation and not my ass.

People won't always even recognize me as fat, which they take to mean lazy, unstylish, and prone to overeating.

I'm sure there are more. And I owe all of this to the fat and feminist revolutions. Because ten years ago, being as fat as I am would have meant none of these things would be possible, I wouldn't be just above average, I'd be obese. While BMI standards might still call me obese, I'm privileged to be able to blend into the "average sized" world sometimes (even if I can't shop there), because these movements have been pushing the message that average is a lot bigger than what we see in the media.

There's still more road. Even the average-sized still believe themselves fat (meaning unhealthy, lazy, bad), and there are so many ways the treatment of even the slightly fat continues to be appalling and horrid.

But even the fact of Love Your Body Day is an improvement. It's better. It's getting better.

 

09 October
testing for fat bias
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Can someone explain to me the research premise behind the shifting word associations in this test?

What test, you may ask? Why this here weight-bias association test. I went through the test quickly like it asked, and then it told me I like fat people.

I just get a little stuck on those rapid-association tests. I guess it's hard to develop a methodology that effectively reveals people's bias when they know the purpose of your study in advance, but I wonder how this one is really intended to work.

So.

The test in question is sponsored by an organization with a clear "public health" perspective, so I shouldn't be at all surprised or annoyed to at some of the associated information about obesity elsewhere on the site.

But things like this just kind of rankle. I suppose this style of language bothers me no matter what the subject. The intention is good, the ideas in the background of the language are good. I can't complain too much.

For instance, speaking of a person in absentia or by terms the people themselves might not use:

Let us consider the perspective of the overweight person. They experience discrimination, but rather than feel angered or outraged by it, they may accept the notion that they deserve it.

And the wacky slogan: "See the person, not the pounds". No one is a person inside and apart from pounds. The goal of this project is to get physicians to think about the whole body, not just a number, and I get that. I'm with that. But this slogan is oversimplified. (Yeah, it's a slogan, that's what they're supposed to do, I know)

But most irksome is that there's surprisingly little challenge (though there is some) to the idea that fat is unhealthy in and of itself. It's not that simple. I'll return to the thing I say all the time - if fat is unhealthy, so is being male. The correlations to disease are similar.

Still, I can't complain too much. And I still want to know the rationale behind the test method.

 

22 August
liberation!
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I love love love love love what Tish says in her Big Fat Blog introduction.

A radical fat liberation movement does not accept. We assert. We assert the right to make our own choices about how to experience our bodies. Some of us like being fat. Some of us celebrate our bodies. And some of us still struggle but we know that our bodies are not inherently wrong.

Beautiful.

And yet there's more. I want more.

I'm looking for a revolution that covers all bodies. It isn't enough to have a revolution of fat bodies queer bodies women's bodies trans bodies. It isn't the revolution we need.

Because the revolution we need is about liberation from the duality of bodies entirely. We think that to have beautiful must also mean to have non-beautiful, just as to have woman is to have man, fat thin black white queer straight rich poor.

We like pairs, don't we?

I'm coming around a corner on the intersection of all the movements I belong in. This is the intersection, the body. The lines drawn upon it to mark acceptable and not. To differentiate.

The pairs assume the existence of A and B where key parts of the definition of each is the opposite. To be A is to be A, but most importantly, to be A is to be not-B. It makes sense psychologically, that there's this desire to define oneself as something and not something else, but I think there's also a cultural component to that psychology.

It's like survey methodologies. People respond to the choices put before them. If I'm two and I'm wondering what I am [Is that when you're two, or later? I'm not sure.], it makes sense to define myself as girl, as not-boy, because no other alternative is present.

I must be A or not-A. I cannot be AB, or BA or ABBA. Why not?

Perhaps it would lead to too many options. There are so many possible combinations already that it would be virtually impossible to define people as anything but themselves if every individual had some uniquely AB sexual preference, some uniquely BA gender, color, size, perspective. The usefulness of definition is that it creates a certain predictability, through the implications of the behaviors associated with each binary body. Simply, a woman is and looks certain ways, does certain things.

An element of predictability seems essential to societal interaction. But what if it weren't?

I've read two books lately that have given me the push more and more to the fringe, farther from binary. Genderqueer (which Ms. 9 generously leant me). And The End of Gay. While one is playing very much in the transgender space and the other very much in the queer one, they're both playing with me in the space where definitions are and should be blurring.

We are. I believe. About to be - if we aren't already - in the midst of the great fucking radical body liberation.

The great fucking radical body liberation will widen the definitions of A and B so much that ultimately, they'll just be one big bubble of difference. In the meantime, though, I'm glad of the fat and queer and gender and race activists who keep their individual revolutions growing and growing and growing. Until, eventually, they jut right up against each other.

And pop.

 

14 August
(mis)information proliferation
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I've taken to writing letters to people more and more these days. I figure, if you're going to act like an idiot, the least I can do is try to educate you.

Part of the problem is the proliferation of opinions on the internet. Things get passed around and occasionally misread, then the misreadings get interpreted as fact. I used to ignore these misread "facts", but then I started seeing the same numbers cited in different places. It turns into things like the legendary feminist bra-burnings that never quite happened, or even simple things like the notion that a woman who weighs 100 pounds and is 5'8" might be curvaceous.

So, yeah. Now I write letters the first time I see these odd little things cropping up. I stand in front of what could turn out to be media tanks.

At least I can say I did something.

Case in point. Guy takes a scientific article about a possible new thyroid medication (thyroid meds help burn calories more quickly, among other things, but they also speed up the heart rate). Guy turns article into a lambast about fat people and their inability to control their appetite.

One thing in particular intrigues: he talks about fat people eating these ungodly numbers of calories per day. And maybe some do, but I doubt 6-10K calories a day is even sustainable by most people. That's like sumo calories, yo. You have to work hard to convince yourself to eat that much.

So, I suspect that this might be the next randomly stupid "fact" that enters circulation.

but wait! there's more »


 

proof we're all still insane about fat
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One thing the fat movement has going both for and against it is this: when you look at people's responses to the idea of fat, particularly the new "obesity epidemic", you can't help but realise it. These people hate us.

Is that hate is a result of misinformation or just plain meanness? Hard to say. But it's clear there's a problem out there for the fat movement to solve. A more obvious problem than those that face, say, feminists or queer activists. It makes for a depressing and exciting challenge.

Case in point - the (selected by Time staff) reader responses to the Time question of the week: How can America end its obesity epidemic?

Now, one can expect two things from these responses given the survey method. One. The implication of the problem - how can we end it, not is it a problem. Two. Given the implication of the question, the likelihood that the Time staff are selecting responses to publish based on their own bias that obesity is, in fact, an epidemic of health. Compare that to the more balanced (widely varying, but balanced) published responses to the gay marriage question from last week. The question no doubt prompts a different sort of discussion when it doesn't also leverage its own judgement.

Duh. Any half-decent survey developer knows that.

But enough of surveying methods. Let's pick on some of the respondents, shall we? Nothing is more fun than casting aspersions at your unwitting detractors when they can't respond.

Suzanne, for instance, is just plain creepy. Is she being ironic?

The way to reduce obesity is this: Mandatory running period for the last hour of every school day... The government wants tough soldiers, and the media craves superstar athletes and hot bodies, correct? Reform physical education class. Start training them early. [italics mine]

That's right, Suzanne. Train up them good little soldiers for the gub'ment. I am well and thoroughly creeped by that concept.

Then there's Gregory's otherwise semi-reasoned post that misses the whole Clinton-era governmental war on tobacco:

Simple: [Society] can't. Individuals can certainly change their lives... Think of the smoking epidemic. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that smoking negatively affects your health. And what has been done, on a national scale? Nothing.

Apparently nothing is a synonym for "tax the hell out of it, and while you're at it, pursue civil action from all sides". What's his idea of "something", I wonder?

Wait. This is my favorite. It's a brilliant mix of libertarianism and bleeding heart socialism (with a solid economic point thrown in).

The poor and the uneducated are the predisposed targets and ultimate victims of greedy corporations who exploit their weak predicament in the name of capitalism. Government should regulate the activities of these corporate predators in order to harmonize nutritional choice irrespective of economic status. Only then will the responsibility rest with the individual.

Our pal Yervant (above quote) must have had his Adbusters magazine open for that one. Corporate predators! Victimization by greedy corporations deliberately targeting the poor! It's hard to take that seriously, yet he has a good point - poor people are vastly more impacted by the societal shifts that result in less healthy lifestyles.

And there's Pat, whose take on the way the world works is beautifully simple. What if we all did get exactly what we deserved? But what do we deserve, anyhow?

The way to reduce obesity is to stop blaming our genes and seeing ourselves as the victims. The way to health is through eating good food, getting off your ass and doing some exercise. Simple. We all end up with what we deserve regarding our weight.

Unfortunately, when it comes to weight and size, I think Pat's viewpoint represents that of too many others. It's not your genes, it's your unwillingness to starve yourself to fit someone else's idea of health! That, my friends, is bunk. Nothing is as simple as that.

That seems to be a trend - the answer everyone gives is simple - if we'd just do this one thing, no one would be fat, ever.

And yet. Every "one thing" we try seems to just make people fatter and fatter. Maybe the answer is that there is no answer.

Maybe. The answer is that there is no problem. Or rather, only a problem that we've created through paranoia that there was a problem.

 

02 July
i think i'm onto something here
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I posted this theory of mine about what fat means what seems like a really long time ago, but is actually what most of you guys read last time you were here. I'm sure it sounded like a clever theory, but a theory, speculation rather than the way things actually are.

But no.

New sports store billboard (spotted in LA by a DTMWSIMB listmember):

Running sucks...being a fat slob sucks more!

At first glance, this appears to be an insult of the highest order. All fat people should be royally pissed. Either that, or they're just being cheeky (like with their sweatshop workers!), and anyone who says otherwise is just a cranky spoilsport with no sense of fun or irony.

But wait.

They're not actually talking about being fat, per se. They're talking about being "fat", meaning "bad". Meaning dissipated failure and all those other lovely implications I talked about before.

These marketing geniuses aren't asses. They're just like everyone else.

 

17 June
i'm not fat?
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Cz, who really ought to get a blog of his own (Revo talks about him enough that he really deserves a link), told me some time ago that he didn't think of me as fat.

He wasn't being brilliantly enlightened, either. He wasn't saying that his concept of normal size is so broad that I, of course, am simply normal.

Nope.

What he actually meant (and I'm not picking on you here, Cz, really) is that the word "fat" so clearly involves things like "lazy" and "stodgy" and "jolly" and "unfashionable" and "unkempt" and, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm not any of those things that "fat" means. So I'm not fat. And Trish isn't fat. And none of the other fat activists on my blog roll are fat.

There's a woman who sits near me and slacks off all day at work. Maybe she's fat. Eh, but she's neither jolly nor lacking in style (nor, um, fat).

This isn't just about Cz. Because he's right, strange as it may sound. And he was only the first of three people to say that to me that week. We've done fat to death in the US. To be fat is to be a failure at self-discipline and self-love, so an actual fat person who succeeds at either is *poof* no longer fat. No matter what a scale may say about them. Why?

I think we have the diet industry to thank for this one. We've made people so conscious of fat as all of those negative connotations that the word is completely separated from its original meaning in the average mainstream mind. It's clear from the discrimination that fat people receive that we can still associate the fact of fat with this notion of badness, but for the most part, "fat" is about failure, not about weight.

And maybe the new feminine tradition of "you're not fat, I'm fat" contributes a little. If I care about you, you aren't really "fat". Maybe you're chubby. Or overweight. Or I'm afraid to reference your size at all, because to call you "fat" would be to call you a pathetic slime of a nothing evil bad badness.

Fat is something at a distance. It's a particular challenge to fat activists, because the people who encounter you being none of the things "fat" is supposed to mean on a daily basis won't change their ideas about fat if they don't think of you as fat to begin with.

Fat. Doesn't exist. Except in abstract.

How weird is that?

There's a new discussion on Big Fat Blog today about why women's clothes in large sizes continue to be hard to find. A lot of good, solid answers. A lot of frustration.

I think, as someone who commented about the connection between ugly clothes for fat people and ugly clothes for poor people came close to saying, that it's about disappearance. Not about entitlement, but about designers failing to see that which is outside of their market as a potential market. Fat people, poor people, "not our market" people are assumed not to want the things others want. Fat people, who exist only in theory, want clothes to hide in.

And presumably, fat people want to be thin. So why make clothes for people who aren't worthy of buying them? No, seriously, I think this has been a real concern in the past. I think anyone who got fat was presumed to be there temporarily. And what good is a quality suit, a well-made formal dress, if you won't be that size later? Of course, diet culture creates a whole load of people who won't be one size for long, fat or otherwise.

Probably the main reason many companies don't produce clothes for fat people is laziness (or should I say "fatness"?). It takes effort to risk catering to a market that, while growing, isn't as large (Ha! But I mean in terms of sales, silly.) and as profitable. If you then persist in assuming things about that market based on its invisibility, well...

But what do I care? I'm not fat.

 

30 May
mainstream?
link : thoughts (0) (user/password is 'redpolka') : track it (0) : in books & tv & internet stuff

There was this brilliant rant I wrote, but then I clicked on some link and stupidly lost what I typed in the MT window. Will I ever learn to type elsewhere first?

So. Tish linked one of the very cute postcards from Fatcities.com earlier this week and was rebuffed for her relatively balanced treatment of the site. I’m glad she posted what essentially served as a disclaimer, because otherwise the site would have been too disappointing.

One of the site’s main functions seems to be hooking up the “undateable” with each other. I’m fine with that. So, the pictures and such get a little slutty, but I’m not as averse to random porn as others are. I would like a little warning that material might be “adult”, but I’d deal if the rest of the site were compelling.

It’s clear that Fatcities’s goal is to be a “mainstream” sales- and advertising-oriented site, much like Yahoo or its ilk. And okay, I accept that. What I don’t accept is its definition of mainstream fat acceptance as non-existent (that is, the mainstream interpretation of fat acceptance, if you follow the subtext, is that fat people are kinda sad victims who need to be helped out of their fatness).

Here are some of the news items cited as “Fat Issues & Fat Acceptance” on the site:

Could you be thinner if you moved to another city?
Too Heavy, Too Young -what parents can do for fat children (it’s all about how to make them un-fat)
Fattest US Cities 2003
Are your height & weight proportionate? Find out here! (BMI calculator)

When you say you want to balance “mainstream” with fat-friendly and you proceed to fixate on dieting and talk about the reasons for obesity, you don’t challenge anyone’s perception. Any of those articles in the right context could be a call to arms, but instead they just spread the message that fat people aren’t okay. Aren’t, to be blunt, mainstream.

I get a little squirrelly about taking women stuff and fat stuff and movement stuff and placing it in an environment that’s about selling stuff. Take the message, water it down a little, add some sugar – and you have messageade! Now with 10% real message!

And you have to wonder: is 10% message worth it? If 80% of the people get 10% of the message, is that progress? In theory, I believe it is. I believe little girls in twenty-dollar t-shirts (now in size XXXL) that read “gurls rawk!” in pink glitter glue are advancing appreciation of feminism. It might not be real political action, but it is, at least, taking that action to the mall – to the mainstream.

It’s just. When I actually see this in practice, it’s a little creepy.

Dru is talking a bit about the mainstream today, and pointed out Pink Prickly Pear’s brilliant rant on the same.

I don’t, as many liberals seem to, think that mainstream American/Western culture is completely banal. There is depth everywhere, and in everyone. So there’s a place for messageade – the place where you introduce the concept in a safe, no-one’s-skin’s-in-this way, the place where the real message trickles down through what we buy because yo, that’s what capitalism is all about.

But. That’s the mainstream co-opting a small part of radicalism. That’s people selling things using what they hear the kids are buying these days.

I think the right way changes when the seller belongs, or at least claims to belong, to the radicalized group.

When you’re part of something that isn’t considered mainstream, you risk not making any progress when you try to package your thing as Yahoo, or as Barbie. You risk “fat acceptance” meaning “feel bad for fat people but don’t hurt them”, you risk “gurls rawk” t-shirts becoming yet another thing girls must have to be pretty, popular, normal.

Do you risk more by not doing anything? Probably. I guess I just want more.

 

27 May
for yourself
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Fat & Feisty made a great post last weekend about the notion of acceptable size, and how much cultural norms influence even what we think we're doing for ourselves.

Where do you think you got your standard from??? Were you born knowing that size 10 (or 4, or 20) was ok but size 14 (or 6 or 26) wasn't? If any of us grew up in a bubble, or on a deserted island, or in a world where size was not a measure of worth, do you really think we'd all come to these precise conclusions on our own? I don't think we would.

I know, for instance, a woman who feels "healthier" on a carb-free diet that leaves her so de-energized she no longer works out. She's losing weight at the cost of hours of varied, exciting exercise each week. I don't think this is a sign that she's listening carefully to her body's feeling of health; I think it's a sign that she bought someone else's definition of "healthy" as "thin", and I hate that I can't talk her out of it.

I find myself doing the same thing, wondering if it might be easier if I just got the fat sucked out of me with a magic vacuum like all those sad people on that Extreme Makeovers show who are so convinced there's a beautiful, living person inside their shells. Then I think - how sad is it that we live in a world that could cause someone to believe a different-looking shell was reason enough to avoid living the life he wanted?

And then this, from the comments on F&F's post, made me want to fly out to Tish's or Paul's or somewhere for a good cry and some cheering up:

Well, it is one thing to not like your size because you are comparing it to an image of ideal beauty your are indoctrinated to hold as truth, and another thing to not like your size because you choose to fit into clothes/chairs/theatre seats/those tight fast food booths better.

Granted, these things are all made in those sizes because of the same "average" or "ideal' size image which may or may not be a good thing, but since you or I are not going to change the way the powers that be build these things in our lifetime, the options are either to stop going to the theatre, shopping in "regular" stores, and so on, or to compromise by losing some weight.

As if losing weight is a compromise with a world that says you're the wrong size. I don't have a deep empathy for this idea, but I understand. Even as fat as I am (the fitting in theater seats and planes and such sort of fat), I feel constantly radicalized by my difference from the norm. Simply having to consider whether a store is worth bothering with, worth looking for a few clothes your size, makes you painfully aware that you don't fit. To encounter this sort of thing with every little daily act has to wear down your sould.

But I don't think the answer is to fold. Quite the contrary. The answer is to stand up, march your folding stool into the movie theater, and get comfy. To demand that the powers that be (who are all ultimately accountable to you via your dollar or your vote) change the way they build things. Not just in our lifetime - tomorrow.

This is what keeps me fat - beyond the simple fact that I won't allow even my own brainwashed ideals of size to prevent me from living - this need to expand normal, to call the world on its bullshit, basically.

What that means is this - because I am in many respects, one self-righteous crazed person, I'm not just refusing to lose weight for myself. I'm doing it for you.

 

20 May
weight distortion
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I'm watching "America's Sweethearts", a movie that created some controversy awhile ago among size acceptance folk. With some reason - the plot doesn't sound good: Catherine Zeta Jones and John Cusack are a famous soon-to-be-divorced couple forced to promote a movie together, Cusack falls for her sister, Julia Roberts, who has recently removed a fat suit. Many fat cracks, of course.

However. It's interesting to note several positive sidebars in the weightloss story. One - Cusack's character already has a tentative history with the fat sister, whom he claims he always found attractive. Two - the fat sister doesn't have horrid frumpy fashion sense. Three - you see that her fat-removing diet was actually starvation-ish. So, it's three good points in a slew of bad ones, but at least there's something.

What it actually brought to mind, though, was this - there's a joke about her losing 60 pounds. Billy Crystal says "Sixty pounds? That's a Backstreet Boy."

Now, that's interesting. Sixty pounds is nothing like a Backstreet Boy. They're young and slim, yes. But they're also like six feet tall and dance for a living. These boys actually probably weigh in a lot closer to 200 pounds than to 60.

Sure, this is a complete hyperbole. But. It also points to something that disturbs me. We're all so used to lying about our weight (women particularly) that few of us have a good grasp on the weight vs. size relationship anymore. We think, as most men-written novels will tell you, that a healthy-looking woman over 5'5" might reasonably weight no more than 100 pounds.

I imagine that most people who read what I write (all five of you, I adore you) probably don't make a practice of lying about or disguising their weight. But if you do, I hope you'll stop.

See, what happens when we mistakenly assume all women weight 100 pounds (some do, of course) is this: those of us who don't assume we're fucked up. We see ourselves as even further from normal. Disguising your size ultimately makes you believe your size is less and less acceptable.

And that's just silly.

 

06 May
junk science ate my baby
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Is the science promoted in popular media getting more absurd?

It might be. Take, for example, the background on the latest "Fat causes cancer! story. It sounds scary. More people die of cancer because they're fat! Well, maybe. And maybe not. What's more shocking is that the study seems based on little actual science.

The ACS collected the data in 1982 by soliciting 70,000 volunteers to interview 2 million friends and family about their health and lifestyle characteristics.

That's right, the data is collected by people who interviewed their friends and family. Not appalling, if done by people trained to give the same message, ask the same questions, and investigate well. But how well can 70,000 untrained amateurs do when asking people they know invasive questions?

Anyone who did a school science project that expected you to ask the same questions of several of your close friends and family knows the temptation to just guess, rather than bothering these people, is pretty great. So, not only are questions not consistently posed, there's a decent chance they weren't always asked at all.

Add this to it, and it becomes absurd that we even bothered reporting on this data:

None of the health and lifestyle data were verified for accuracy. The researchers don't really know what or how much the study subjects ate, smoked, drank or exercised, for example. Not even the study subjects' height and weight was verified.

Stupid science. Or stupid public?

If we're actually paying attention to this drivel and taking it seriously, we are indeed pretty stupid. At times I think most people have long since completely tuned out discussion of things that might give them cancer. And yet - it's clear that people are quick to hop on the latest "scientific" diet or medical treatment to make them younger, thinner, "healthier". So maybe the junk science is just what we asked for. Maybe we're not interested in real research at all.

The people who fund these studies certainly aren't. How many studies do you see about the effects of dieting? Not many.

We are not the hapless pawns of marketing and alarmism, however much we might blame things on the media. Media are crafted to sell what we want, based on what we've already bought. Advertising, particularly, is a reactive medium. It doesn't shape, it responds - and now, I'm afraid, that's just what scientific research is becoming.

On another, cheerier, note. Happy No Diet Day. In theory, at least - there doesn't seem to be as much press about it this year, which makes me wonder whether it's actually an annual event or not (it is, really it is).

 

04 May
fitting
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Tish was talking a little last week about the chair problem. Specifically, that - even in Tish's world, which seems friendlier and more accepting of difference that many - there aren't always enough chairs for fat people.

It's a minor annoyance when looked at as simply not being able to find a comfortable - or even sittable - chair. But the fact that reasonable chairs are often not provided in places from doctors' offices to airplanes to amusement parks isn't just an annoyance; it's also a symbolic representation of our cultural assumption of normal. A normal that fat people aren't.

Take away any feelings of whether fat people can be healthy or not (they can), whether dieting is any good (it's not), whatever value judgement one might make about fat or thin, and you still have this - you, the fat person, are not normal enough to go to the doctor, to the movies, anywhere you might want to fly.

I got a laptop recently that came with a case. The shoulder strap on my case, like the shoulder strap on the seatbelt in my car, is too long. My seatbelt at best cuts across the base of my neck. My laptop case bangs my knees if I don't carry it by the short little hand-handles. These things aren't a sign of a larger cultural bias against short people; they're minor inconveniences. But they're also daily reminders that I'm not average, not normal. The irony of this is that I'm actually only 2 inches shy of "average" height for a women, which means my car and my laptop were probably tested only with men as users.

Eris had a signature on a (now defunct) messageboard about the impact of design on our everyday lives (something about walls around urinals saying urination is shameful). It's quite true. The way ordinary things are designed reinforces cultural ideas, the idea of normal size, normal things we do. Everything from the height of shelves to the width of office chairs to the sizes of clothing in stores points to one thing as normal and average and something else as not.

So I suppose it's no surprise that so many people think they're the wrong size, the wrong something else - there are so many indirect messages that they're right.

 

03 May
paul campos on the fat-cancer link
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Paul Campos wrote a great, to-the-point article debunking the fat-cancer link from the latest study. Read it.

[Link from Big Fat Blog. Thanks, Paul. And, um - Paul.]

 

13 April
fat kids can dance
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There's a commonly held misconception that fat people are less graceful, that the bulk of our bodies makes it more difficult to move around. This misconception has been spread very nicely by folk who try on fat suits.

Empirically, it's just not true.

My partner teaches theatre to wee small children. And regular kids, too. Today I went to see his kids, and some older ones, perform. The performance content was - eh, okay [I'll get to that in a later post, as I have a lot to say re: our lack of respect for children's capacity to grasp art.] - but it served to point out something really interesting. About 30-50% of the kids were what you'd call fat, and those kids were invariably the best dancers and most interesting actors.

He thinks it's because they're more self-aware, that fatness might make them more skillful, rather than less so, at managing their bodies. So they're graceful, and can do things like make a dance movement seem emotional - in ways that not as many of the thin kids can.

I don't know if this is true or not, but it did make me think. Could being fat, contrary to most expectations, actually make you more physically skilled?

 

19 March
i started a webring
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I started another webring (something I haven't done in ages). What happened was this: I went looking for webrings that represented some of the things I am.

And there weren't really any that expressed my attitude towards size and substance. This strikes me as really rather odd - I mean, there's this whole fat activist movement out there and only a handful of rings for them. Most of the rings that do exist seem to be "chubby chaser" sorts of things. Fine for you, but not really what I'm about.

So, I started this ring. It's called "person of size", and it's for people of any size who are active proponents of size acceptance. You should join it. [And you can find it here: person of size.]

 

04 February
fat people are dangerous
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Oh, come on. You know you already knew it. Taking up space is a threat to others (a threat to national security, even, as one would presume based on our being as dangerous as Iraq - of course, while I personally do suspect Iraq of being dangerous, this whole idea could be quite true with a different spin).

Tish pointed out something I find disturbing: fat people cause planes to crash! Or at least, there's enough danger of that happening to merit weighing some people and preventing them from boarding certain planes. Paul has also blogged it, though not to the outrage and annoyance that I would have expected.

This is one of the things that makes me wonder whether radicalism isn't, in fact, the answer. It's not that the idea of weighing people is inherently bad, or that fat activists are humiliated by their weight. It's the obvious intention to apply (should it be enacted) that sort of policy on a discriminatory basis. Uncool.

And, more importantly in my mind, the whole thing points back to the gradual reduction of airline seat sizes and flight frequencies with the end result of overcrowding plans - which is all, of course, ultimately a response to the demand from stockholders for constantly increasing profits combined with consumer demand for constantly decreasing prices. Sometimes, in short - sometimes, capitalism is just plain silly.

 

21 January
healthy weight week
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I didn't know it was Healthy Weight Week until I read it on Tish's blog. But there it is!

It turns out I'm already quite well prepared for the week. We just bought a load of healthy groceries to get us through next week (admittedly less because we were thinking "healthy" than because we were thinking "too poor to eat out" - probably from the sushi we ate last week). And I'm registering for some dance classes via the local parks and recreation service.

I'm also doing some other things on a mental health note that aren't quite worth mentioning, but are helping me get motivated to get over a sticky spot (it's semi-work-related, thus exclusion from blog).

In any case, I urge you all to go out and do something good for yourself this week. Something as simple as walking around the mall.

 

08 December
shelley bovey
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I've been stewing over this comment from Shelley Bovey (a prominent fat activist known for writing "Being Fat is Not a Sin"). Bovey said, in a Herald article

I actually know from within the movement that most people who are overweight are really unhappy. I think there must be a sense of envy. I know these women. They are intelligent. But I don't know a single one of them who is happy.

She also said that she lost weight because she finally had a good life. The implication of those two statements combined is very similar to the undercurrent of self-loathing in Oprah's diet discussions [Oprah's other contributions to popular culture aside]; that fat is a protective outer coating for the pain we feel deep inside.

I understand Bovey has to be feeling pretty defensive about her demotion (from prominent to "former" size acceptance champion), but if she honestly felt that people who were fat were that unhappy, I have to question why she bothered to support size acceptance in the first place. Maybe her energies for those years would have been better spent in some quality time with her therapist making her life happy.

I guess that also calls into question the motivation of many activists. Must one be leading an exemplary life, or at least abiding by the principals of one's movement, in order to effectively advocate change? Perhaps not. But I do think as a leader of that movement, Bovey was basically cheating for years by feeling the way she did about fat. Promoting acceptance of size while saying "fat people are fat because they're unhappy" is just wrong. It's equivalent to saying "well, those Jews are stingy and unwashed, but hey, they should still be allowed to have jobs".

So of course, fat people felt betrayed when she lost weight. The reason fat people feel abandoned by her isn't that she lost weight - it's that she insulted them, while also spreading the misinformation that anti-fat people were already too willing to spread [Fat is unhappy. Fat comes from overeating.]. The weightloss is just a symptom of the deeper insult and betrayal.

That doesn't mean that it isn't and could never be okay for a fat activist to lose weight (or to start out thin), for a man to be a feminist, for a queer activist to be straight, for someone who hates racism to be white. Not being part of a minority group and still championing the rights of that group is a challenge, but also a necessity - the inherent nature of minorities requires recruitment of the majority in order to make the changes you need. The problem is - you cannot support what you actually revile, and that's a problem we've seen in all too many former fat activists recently.

 

06 December
gluttony
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I almost didn't notice this recent explosion of discussion around fat acceptance. See, a while ago Big Fat Blog posted a bit about Anita Roddick's stint in a fat suit. And then interviewed her. And since then, I've seen references to fat and size acceptance all over the place.

People are puzzling it out. That's exciting. Exciting.

I say I didn't notice. By that, I do not mean I didn't notice the discussion. Rather, I chimed in so early in it that it didn't occur to me to see the reoccurrence of the discussion as unusual. And it's not, exactly (unusual).

On a slightly related note, Hypocrisy started talking about fat in terms of gluttony (or rather, gluttony in terms of not-fat). And this made me think about what gluttony really is in a cardinal sin sense.

What is it?

As with all sins, it can have a literal or a spiritual implication and can be an action or merely a thought. Literally, gluttony is consuming, or wishing to consume, more than one needs. It can also be consuming (literally or spiritually) that which is empty. It can be - and this is the fun part - dieting, because dieting implies a fixation on food beyond an appreciation of and sharing the bounty of God. If you believe gluttony is a sin, then disrespecting what God provides for you (spiritually or in the form of food) by hoarding or discarding it is wrong. You could argue that the proscriptions against gluttony are, in fact, a command to obey your body's natural needs.

That's right. Even making more food than you can eat, then throwing it away, is gluttony.

Given that, it's pretty obvious that gluttony is not the domain of the fat. Oh, no. It's the domain of America. Maybe the domain of industrialized nations, period. We throw so much away. Even the way we eat in common restaurants (calories filled with fat but empty, portions too big for us to consume) is, in essence, sin. Of course, you don't have to be Christian, or even religious at all, to recognize our societal sickness.

Perhaps the reason we fear fat so much is that we've demonized it by association with what we know is a failing of our society.

And with that, I end tonight's preaching. If you'd like to know more of what I think on the Roddick fat-suit issue, read the rest of this entry below.

but wait! there's more »


 

30 August
back to the regular people fashion zine
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I've semi-started pulling this fashion zine thing together. It will be my winter project, but in order for me to have this winter project, I need to collect things now.


I started something on nervousness.org to open up the idea to an audience slightly broader than people I know. I suppose I should also send out the request to the zine's membership.


One key point: this isn't a chick-only project. I mean, I'm not sure there are any two non-anatomical words besides "fashion" and "feminist" that more obviously shout You're not invited to men. And I'm just saying, here and now. Not true.


You're all totally invited.

but wait! there's more »


 

08 July
low-fat equals good?
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If you ever needed proof that there's no such thing as Science (the homogenous entity that always, ultimately, agrees on the best rational idea), read the latest NY Times diet article [you may need to register to read it, but it's worthwhile].


Yes, scientists have disagreed with the whole "low-fat equals good" notion for years. Yes, the research that turned fat into an American national enemy was - well, spurious. But the important thing to note is this: Americans got exponentially fatter in the generation most focused on dieting. And not from a lack of will, activity or self-control [Gasp! Fatties aren't all lonely sluggards who can't keep their fingers out of the ice cream!].


Which leads to my ultimate conclusion: dieting is bad; balanced diets are good. Period. Unless you're allergic to some part of your balanced diet, of course. The article ends up glossing over the balanced-diet theory and focusing on Atkins, but it's still full of useful information.

 

27 June
in my continuing quest...
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To dig into the interesting lives of fat people who aren't consumed by dieting [but rather consume their diets, ha!], here is: Leigh is fat.


It's packed full of tasty fat links.

 

24 June
squishy!
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I can't believe I've never found this before. It's so fabulous.


Actually, I can. It's been buried in search results by blogs about how bad it is to be fat. Fie on search results (I suppose that's really a "fie on everyone", since all of us contribute to search rankings).


Blathering aside, I bring you: Born Squishy. Yum!

 

21 June
fat people on planes
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I've seen and heard three separate news articles over the past two days that target Southwest Airlines for its fat-unfriendliness.


Ironically, Southwest has a longstanding reputation for treating fat people poorly. They're now coming under fire for enforcing a policy that appears to have been on the books for over twenty years. Fat people have complained in the past of being boarded on one Southwest flight without incident, only to be forced into buying another seat for a connecting flight.


In short, Southwest is a bad place for fat people. Don't fly Southwest. Fly a fat-friendly (or fat-friendlier; it seems none of them give a damn that their customers rears are getting bigger as their seats get smaller) airline instead. There's a nice list (republished from a slightly older Consumer Reports article) at grandstyle.com.


Big Fat Blog also has contact information for Southwest, so you can call them on their record of fat harrassment.

 

09 April
fat and happy
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I started a blog a little while ago that was meant to keep me exercising like I should. And I suppose it motivated me somewhat, but it was mostly boring.


I've been thinking about converting it into some sort of group blog for happy fat people to talk about health and life and all that. I tend to wander around thinking my experiences are unique to me, and I'm not so sure that's true. In other words, I think we fat people need to band together. We need things to remind us that being fat doesn't equal being miserable, because there are way too many things telling us the opposite.


So I searched on google for things about happy fat people, and all I found were diet journals of people who aren't happy (and often aren't even fat). Until I found the Big Fat Blog and catay.com. They're not journals per se, but both are gloriously full of interesting news bits and stories.


In other body-related news, my dress for the party has arrived. It's strangely a bit too big, despite being made to my measurements. It works with the black hair, too.

 

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