Stop Calling Yourself Fat

This one is wistful, like she is waiting for something that isn't going to happen. Also, purple is my favorite color.

So my mother sees me in my new jeans (finally got some clothes that fit) and says, “You have to stop calling yourself fat.”

I’m not going to do that for three reasons:

One, I am fat. This is scientific truth. Perhaps compared to my former size (i.e. this time last year) I appear fitter and thinner, but objectively, I still have enough fat on me to comfortably say I’m fat.

Now, I personally think BMI is just about the worst way to evaluate someone’s body, but let’s just use it since that is what practically every doctor and health organizations use. (Even though they are all wrong!). According to BMI, I’m in the “Overweight”category, but only barely. I would have to lose 30 lbs to make it into the “normal” category. (Want to personally dispute BMI? Check out the Photographic Height/Weight Chart. It’s pretty cool)

Want more proof, I wear “plus” sizes. I don’t have to shop in the plus size store anymore, but according to industry standards plus size is size 12 and up. I just barely squeeze into those 12 Old Navy pants, and on top I’m much bigger (always will be). (Brand by brand there is a lot of discrepancy, so I may be anywhere from a 12 to a 16 in pants.) The dress I wore this weekend was an 18 and fit just perfectly.  It is just how I’m put together.

Anyway, that isn’t the main thing I was going to write about.

Two, I will always be fat. Regardless of my size, my weight, my waist circumference, I will always be fat. It is actually dangerous for me to think of myself as anything but fat.

This is something I decided about a year ago when I started this whole lifestyle change. My best example to explain my thinking is this: If someone is an alcoholic, they are always an alcoholic, even if they don’t drink. Even after they haven’t had a single drink in 25 years, they will still describe themselves as an alcoholic, because  to do otherwise is dangerous for their sobriety.  Now you can argue that I’m using the wrong word, but for me the word fat describes my essential, internal being-ness. And to start to describe myself (or even think of myself) as anything other than fat is a danger to my health.

I’m not focused on how many pounds I lose each week, I focus on how many miles I can walk or run. I don’t care about what size I fit into (unless the clothes are actually falling off my body) but rather that I’m fueling my body enough to be strong, healthy, and productive. I need to keep doing that, regardless of my size.

Finally, one other thought.

JKRowling-560x375Three, what’s so bad about fat anyway?

I want to reclaim the word fat. I’ve been following a lot of body love and fat activist bloggers, and listening to what they say. One of the big take-aways is that fat has become this terrible thing, the worst thing someone can say about you. Also, fat shaming and denying people rights based on weight is still considered okay. There is something really wrong with society that they needed

to do a study to prove that shaming people about their weight is harmful.

I was recently reading a FB thread about the Megan Trainor song. Someone wrote “I want to like the song, but I don’t think it we should send the message to young girls that it is ok to be overweight.” We are making a little headway, but this is the prevailing opinion in society. So, for the record:

  1. Being fat doesn’t mean you are unhealthy. Not being fat doesn’t mean you are healthy.
  2. Even if being fat did mean you are unhealthy (which it doesn’t, see #1) that is no one else’s business.
  3. Telling people they are fat doesn’t make them less fat. In fact, it probably makes them fatter. (see link to study, above)

If you want more, Ragan Chastain at Dances with Fat says it better than I do, and in much better depth.

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The Shame Game

First, read this lovely blog post:

Unashamedly, Unapologetically FAT – a response to Linda Kelsey.

If you want more on this topic, read Dances with Fat: Unapologetically Fat

selfloveBoth authors do a great job at refuting an utterly shamefully article written by Linda Kelsey. I’m not linking to the original article, because I don’t promote hate. If you choose to read the original, be warned. It is ghastly and upsetting.

Linda’s original article is  so out of touch with reality that at first I thought it was satire. Her shock that three women would have the nerve to share a bag of crisps was so outrageous that I laughed before realizing she wasn’t kidding.  The biggest crock is that she thinks shaming fat people will make them not want to be fat any more and that she is being brave to say what no one wants to say. Sorry, Linda. Everyone says what you say. They are just wrong.

There is so much evidence that diets don’t work and that yo-yo dieting is more harmful to health than fat. There is no evidence that says making people feel bad about themselves improves their quality of life.

 

The Empty Seat

Today I took my first Southwest flight since posting Flying While Fat. I took the window seat, as usual. Coincidently, a lovely woman who did not quite fit in the narrow airplane seat took the aisle seat. The inevitable announcement came on that the plane was nearly fully and almost every middle seat would be taken.  Guiltily she looked around. “I hope someone very thin chooses this seat,” she confessed.  “I can’t help it. I spill over a bit.” My heart ached for her.

In the end, it was a non-issue because “nearly full” isn’t the same as full. The last passenger to be seated chose the empty seat behind us, next to a woman with a baby on her lap. You could see him debate which was worse, and while I felt bad for the woman with the baby, I was glad to have a little extra wiggle room myself.

Once the seating drama was settled, I debated mentioning Southwest’s policy to my seatmate. Would I embarrass her? I didn’t want that. But at the same time, if I could help her avoid embarrassment on future flights, wouldn’t it be worth it? In the end, I pulled the website up on my phone and showed her, outing myself as a fellow fat person. I wanted her to know how many flights I had worried if the seatbelt would fit or if I would be “called out” in front of everyone as being too fat to fly.

She said she was grateful for the information, and would use it for her return flight. We chatted a bit and I even shared my blog address with her (J., if you’re reading this Hi!) Then we morphed into normal air-travel manners (she with her book, me with my headphones and laptop.) End of story.

Did I do right? When is it ok to intrude on someone else’s story? I never know. It worked out this time, I think, but I don’t even know if I would do it again.

Health Care Fat Shaming

Dear Blue Cross-Blue Shield,

While I’m very grateful to finally have decent health insurance (thanks to my awesome new job), I found the “online health assessment” that is required to be (1) absurd, (2) a waste of my time, and (3) just more fat shaming by the medical community.

I answered all of your 10,000 (or so it seemed) invasive questions as honestly and purposefully as I could. And then you gave me these recommendations:

What do you mean "pick a date to start..." What do you think I've been doing?

What do you mean “pick a date to start…” What do you think I’ve been doing?

Here’s the thing. I told you that I have a healthy diet. You asked me about 20 questions about what I do and do not eat. I eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and no processed foods. I told you that I have an active lifestyle. I told you I do moderate activity almost daily and intense activity multiple times per week. I told you that I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and haven’t missed work for health reasons in the last 12 months. (I’m glad they didn’t ask me about the last 14 months, but they didn’t.) I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. In fact, the only thing you could find wrong with me was that I am obese.

This is my "duh" face.

Romeow’s face expresses exactly how I feel right now. 

And here’s another thing: Based on all this extensive information you decided that what I need to do is buying healthier foods and starting an exercise routine.   I know it is just a website, but I’m really pissed off. This is yet another example of knee-jerk reactionary thinking from the medical community. If I am fat it must be because I eat poorly and don’t exercise. End of discussion.

And here’s the one more thing: In the absence of any medical issues (other than fat) why do I have to lose weight anyway? What, in my answers, gives you the idea that I need to lose weight. You know, other than I’m fat. Which is apparently  a devastating medical condition that needs to take up all my time and energy.

Okay. Rant over. You may resume your regularly scheduled blog reading.

 

Love Your Body – The Art Movement

Unfettered joy and body love in this one. I feel so strongly attached that I'm ordering a print.

Unfettered joy and body love in this one. I feel so strongly attached that I’m ordering a print.

 

If you aren’t following “Daily Creativity” on Nimlas.org, you should stop reading right now and add this blog to your stream. Not only is this blog the creative corner of @nuchtchas (the artist who made my rocking new logo/avatar), but she has this wonderful art series called Love Your Body which celebrates bodies of all shapes and sizes.

Some of the pieces are quick drawings or sketches made in a few minutes. Others are more time intensive. (Despite the name “Daily Creativity” some actually might take more than a day, I’m sure.) Many created using an art app on her iPad, but there are also lots of old-school drawings using charcoal, pastels, and other media.

What the Love Your Body series does consistently is provide a context of joy. Every picture evokes an emotion that celebrates living in our own skin: fat, scars, wrinkles, skin flaps, and all.  Click below to see a little gallery with my comments. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Fat Acceptance is Important To Me

 

You can be attracted to anyone you like. I recommend you start with yourself.

Why Fat Acceptance is Important To Me

You may think that since I’m exercising and changing my eating habits (please don’t call it a diet) and weighing myself and losing weight, that I must not be part of the fat acceptance movement. You would be wrong.

The Militant Baker, a wonderful writer and activist, has written many of the reasons why in her post: 6 Things That I Understand About The Fat Acceptance Movement. For me, the most important step of this journey I’m on is that I had to stop shaming myself. I had to be able to expand my definition of beauty. I had to look at my scars and see survival. I had to learn to value strength and power. In essence, I had to learn to love myself. I’m still struggling and there are days I beat myself up, but I wouldn’t have gotten here without the Body Positive movement.

Love Your Body More

I firmly believe that you can make the changes you want until you come to terms with the person you are. This isn’t just about health and weight. Any change for self-improvement has to come from a place of self-love or it is doomed to fail. I have seen myself self-sabotage over and over and it is usually because I’m attacking the part of me that I hate. It just doesn’t work.

I wasn’t able to write on this blog, change my eating habits, join a gym, or even wear a tank-top until I learned to like who I am, until I was able to look at myself in the mirror with an accepting, non-critical eye.

I was really happy to see this article on the Huffington Post:

Looking at These 6 Things Will Help You Love Your Body More

Some of the “6 Things” I had already heard of. For example, I read The Militant Baker on FB and I recently found A Fat Girl Dancing, which is just awesome!!! Others were new to me. I’m now following Weirdly Shaped and Well Photographed.  All of the links are really great.

What makes it special, is that this wasn’t on a “Fat Acceptance” blog, but something intended for the general audience. Of course there is the requisite hate in the comments section, and even a “Coty Lost 80 pounds” add in the sidebar, but it is nice to see such positive examples getting widespread recognition.

I leave you with my favorite “new find;” 10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy:

 

I Am Fat. Hear Me Roar…

First, there’s a story to this post. (There’s always a story) Yesterday, my daughter and I were having one of our endless discussions. If you don’t know, she is autistic, so an endless discussion is one in which I try to explain to her how so-called neuro-typical people think, and she endlessly argues how stupid our approach to life and the world is until I want to bash my head into a wall. You can tell it is an endless discussion when you hear her say, multiple times, “That doesn’t make sense….”

So I was trying to explain how her penchant for jumping into relationships (romantic or otherwise) can often scare people away, to which she responded, “I’m just a Speedy Gonzalez. It’s just who I am.” And I knew we were about to start another endless discussion.

Since she likes analogies, I tried to come up with one that would help her make sense of this.  Here is what I came up with:

“I am fat. That’s what I am. I can work at changing the shape of my body, through diet and exercise, but if I stop working at it, even for a while, my body will automatically revert to fat. Because that is what I am.”

There was a lot of follow-up discussion to this revelation. We found that, regardless if you were talking about weight, social awkwardness, or even left-handedness, the big issues were the same. Here are some highlights:

  • You can’t just decide to change, make that decision, and then it is over. When you are changing something fundamental about yourself, you have to constantly work on it and pay it attention. Over time you might develop some new habits, that help you, and some coping strategies, but if you stop paying attention and stop working, you will eventually revert to your primary state.
  • You have to decide if it is worth it. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. If the psychic and physical energy expended to overcome your natural state is more effort than the rewards, then don’t bother changing. Just stay how you are.
  • You can make different decisions about how much energy you are willing to expend on changing yourself at different times in your life. When life is good, you have a job, people that love you, a strong support system, and good mental health, you have more energy to work on change. When your world is collapsing around you, you have less energy. It doesn’t mean you can’t change. It just means you need to be aware that there is more effort required.
  • One of the most important elements to personal change is having people to support you. People to cheer you when you do well and commiserate when you struggle; people who understand why you are doing what you are doing and how hard it is for you; people who can give advice when you need it, but don’t try to boss or bully you into changing.

There was more, but these are the things I took from the conversation. I felt that, as New Year’s Day (with its requisite resolution-making) approaches, the discussion was well-timed. I’m resolved this year to keep working on my personal change. I’m eating healthy, and toying with the idea of adding some exercise this year. It will take me at least a year to get to my personal goal, which isn’t a skinny-skinny, but livable goal.

But there was one more thing I’m taking away from this conversation.
I am fat. That’s what I am.

No matter what shape my body is, I am a fat person. The last time I lost a lot of weight (over 100 lbs) I thought that this had changed me somehow. That I transformed from being a fat person to a thin person, but now I don’t think so. Now I think that it is something I am inside. I might change the shape of my body from time to time, sometimes even resembling a thin (or at least normal) person, but it doesn’t change me, who I am inside, and it doesn’t change my life. I still have to live with me.

Putting on a diamond tiara doesn’t make you a princess anymore than going into a garage makes you a car. You are who you are. You can change what you do, you can change what you say, and you can even change what you look like, but you can’t change who you are. Does this sound depressing? I don’t mean it to be depressing, but rather I hope this understanding helps me deal with the long-term component of my journey. An alcoholic who hasn’t had a drop of liquor in 30 years, still identifies herself as an “alcoholic;” it is who she is.

I am fat. I hope I never forget or pretend to deny that. If I do, please remind me to read this post. Thank you.

Read This!

First, read this article. I’ll wait:
Fat? Who Cares!

 

 

No, go back and read the whole thing. It’s worth it!

 

 

Can you believe she wrote, “people who are heavier tend to survive longer than thinner people with the same disease.” Also, “it’s much more likely that being sedentary, not being fat, is the real problem.” I’m no medical expert, but there does seem to be a logic to this.

But here’s the thing: I agree with everything in this article. And yet, I’m still going to try to lose weight. I have my reasons and a big one is I don’t want to be sedentary. At this weight, even walking is tough. My ankle is always hurting and it makes not want to move. But I think I’m going to read this article a lot more times until I start to believe it.