Mixed Messages

So, today I went to a thing on my campus. It was a beauty contest of sorts, though there was no beauty aspect involved. There were four parts, an intro, a values, a talent and a Q&A. It was a heritage thing and the values and intro were about their countries of origin. It was also a small thing. All four contestants wore pretty dresses and high heels and had hair and makeup done up. There were skits in the middle done by people that seemed to be about feminism. Kind of. It was a little iffy, but hey, college kids in a cultural club get points for trying in my book. Oh, and full disclosure, I am not part of the club, I was working the event for another group. There were also dance groups that were pretty awesome. I’d love to be able to dance like that, and honestly, I wasn’t discouraged at all since these dance groups had dancers with a variety of body shapes. In fact, there was body diversity everywhere, dressed in cocktail dresses since it was some sort of banquet. And these women knew that they were beautiful. All the dresses* were as short and sparkly and strapless as the next woman’s. Getting to see that kind of confidence was really refreshing. Since offline in my daily life outside, I tend to start believing that body confidence doesn’t come in my size.

And then the Q&A happened.

And the last girl got asked about the obesity epidemic. And her answer was that people didn’t know that eating a lot of food was wrong and will give them diabetes. And that we should teach them that. And encourage people to exercise. And I don’t know why, but that question and that answer made me want to run out of the room and cry. Maybe it was because I was eating my first meal of the day** as she was answering that question and it made me want to stop. Maybe because I hadn’t eaten I wasn’t thinking as clearly. Maybe it was that question and that answer combined with all the women (and men) in that room who are obese and who were hearing that they could be “fixed” if they just ate right and exercised, and that they were too stupid or ignorant or whatever to know that. Or possibly because some dancers were on stage only minutes ago proving that health and size are different. Maybe it was just because I’m used to seeing questions framed like that on the internet and it was hard to see it spear its way into my outside world. I don’t know but it hurt.

And then they crowned the winner. She was the “fat chick” of the bunch and if I were to guess, she was probably obese. It wasn’t pity votes, she rocked that show. And I felt a lot better.

*There were also skirts and pants worn, but mostly sparkly, short, strapless cocktail dresses.
**I’m guilty of being a breakfast skipper.

February 26, 2011. Tags: , , . Current. Leave a comment.

Eating And Health

New post for the new year. This was originally going to be a comment on The Rotund‘s post on mindful/comfort eating but then the comment just kept getting longer.

Society views health as something visible. Anyone who has been “invisibly” sick and disbelieved knows this. Just as people have been “invisibly” (e.g. fat) and healthy and disbelieved know this. If you look good, then you must feel good, amirite? Everyone else is lying or faking or doesn’t know what’s good for them.

And that’s where all sorts of eating issues come in. I’ve mentioned before that I find emotional eating perfectly fine. There are two aspects of health. The physical and the mental, and we ignore the mental. It’s not uncommon for us to ignore the mental to the point of damaging it. It is not unhealthy to eat if eating helps. If eating something comforting on a bad day improves someone’s mental health, then actually, it’s healthy. Becoming dependant on it to feel better is not, but same goes for anything else.

I’m not saying that exercise can’t help someone’s mental state. But it doesn’t help everyone’s all the time. Sometimes, if there is an answer, food can be it. Or food can help be it. We look at cute videos of small animals to make us happy. We listen to up beat music to make us smile. We take a warm bath to relax. We step outside in the summer and take a whiff of freshly cut grass and feel at peace. We use all our other senses to aid ourselves in feeling positive. Only taste has this added layer of guilt or shame. And that’s not going to help anyone who wants to feel better. The shame about playing music too loud and damaging our ears or taking too hot showers can cause dry skin is barely there. But it is for taste because taste has to do with weight, and well, all that.

I was thinking about this yesterday. I woke up late and rushed through everything skipping breakfast and missing lunch. By the time dinner came around, I had zero interest in anything in the kitchen besides some ice cream. But I couldn’t just eat ice cream. So I left it alone and continued to be hungry. Until a few hours later, it hit me. Yes, I could just eat ice cream. Because, get this, eating ice cream was healthier than not eating it, in that context. It’s true that eating a lot of other things in my kitchen would have been healthier than the ice cream. Maybe a salad or some oatmeal or . . . really just about anything. But the thing is, those weren’t options because I wasn’t going to eat them. I just wasn’t. My relationship with food, my relationship with motivation eliminated these things as being options.

I think the point is kind of lost in there. My point is sometimes re-framing is in order. In that situation, I wasn’t choosing what to eat, I was choosing to eat. In a comfort eating situation, it isn’t choosing to indulge in something unhealthy, it’s improving one’s immediate well-being. The morality of food is another issue, but even saying “brownies are bad for your body” does not make eating one for comfort morally wrong or overall unhealthy. Because while bodies are awesome, we are more than our bodies. We are also more than our minds. We are a unit of both and that means understanding balancing the health of both is important.

Yeah. That. Mental health. It’s ignored. Combined with the Big Bad of eating for something other than sustenance makes people fail to see comfort eating as a tool rather than a Terrible Idea. I guess I could have just written that comment without the ramble. But it’s the journey and all that. . . I need to get used to this blogging thing again.

January 19, 2011. Tags: , , . Current. Leave a comment.

I Did Need to Eat That

Dances with Fat is one of the many FA centred blogs I read. And her most recent entry (Do You Need to Eat That) reminded me of a story I want to tell. Which is good because I’ve been lacking in the update ideas department as of late.

I’ve mentioned my disordered eating before, and how sometimes it’s a response to stressors, but sometimes it isn’t. In the past, I experimented with eating as little as possible for no other reason than I thought it felt good and I wanted beyond any hope or reason to be skinny.

The first time I started doing this was in high school. Breakfast would be one packet of instant oatmeal, and lunch would be half an apple, dinner would sometimes be a binge, but also sometimes be a frozen Weight Watcher’s dinner (which, are pretty good as far as frozen dinners go, surprisingly). One of these nights, I was going to sleep early due to a new sleep schedule I had imposed on myself. My dinner was going to be guacamole and chips, since my father had made guacamole for the family dinner I would be skipping that night.

He saw me eating the chips with guac and on the third one, he asked “Do you really need to eat that?” Since the chip was already loaded, I ate it, but then said something like “I guess you’re right, I should stop now.” and did.

But the thing is, I did really need to eat that. And a lot more food, at that. But I knew and he knew he wasn’t asking that question, he was telling me to stop. I remember only one or two other instances of being asked that by someone. All I can remember about those times is being pissed off and ashamed. This culture sucks sometimes.

November 20, 2010. Tags: , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

Men and Their Diets

People in my life like to not conform to gender standards. I like this, but sometimes it presents interesting challenges.

Today, I had three conversations with male-folk. One was about Halo Reach and the other two were about how they want to lose weight. Now, as awesome as Halo Reach looks, I’m the high end of bad or the low end of mediocre at FPSes and this blog is about my path to body acceptance, so sadly that’s not going to be the subject (though if you like that kind of thing, the extended trailer for that game is just breath-taking).

I’m getting better at being anti-diet pro-body love when it comes to talking with the people who normally talk about these things AKA women. I can say “Check out these great FA bloggers!” though I usually don’t. But I could. Interestingly, I have not had a conversation about weightloss with any of my female friends recently. But if I were to point them in the direction of any of the FA bloggers that I know about or even read, those friends will be the target audience.

But that’s not the case with my guy friends. It’s not that I don’t think they should be exposed to feminism, but FA is baby steps. Feminism brought me to FA so seeing all this feminist rhetoric mixed in isn’t something that strikes me as at all weird. But anyone coming at FA without feminism (without even being female) is now approaching two concepts. I don’t mean to say that men cannot be feminists, but often their feminism isn’t as active. I know at least one of the friends I mentioned tends to agree with my feminist ideals, but sometimes the idea is new to him. So it isn’t that they now have to both accept gender equality and body acceptance, but they have to actively participate in the dialogue of these ideas, even if it is just by reading.

Not only that, but anyone who hates their body, is dieting, whatever is probably going to be touchy on the subject of their body. And when you mix new concepts with even more new concepts going back to the status quo has a lot of comfort to it. And then there’s seeing a post called “Vagina Friendly; Make Friends With Your Area“. This makes it clear who the target of these entries are, but weight loss commercials often have at least one token man, so they get to be all inclusive! And commercials for muscle building equipment are not only targeted at men, but almost always mention weight loss (and they don’t always pair that voice over with the token woman).

To be fair, The Rotund also has her most recent post (as I’m typing this) titled “What about the Mens; Gender, Gender All the Way Home”, but even that is seeped in feminist ideals. It’s not just Marianne, either. Fatshionista and Kate Harding also mix and alternate between FA and feminism.

I don’t think it’s wrong that FA is mostly targeted at women. I think a lot of points about space and women and feminism and society are all very important ideas to get across to the dieting women out there. And maybe there isn’t as much feminism as I think, after all, that’s who I am and so that’s what I’m gong to find. However, the size issue is not an approach that is even relevant to men. They’re allowed to big, they’re even supposed to be big, they’re just not allowed to be “sideways” as one friend put it.

This post is both an observation and a call for help. I know I mentioned something about not responding to comments at some point way earlier in this blog, but I would really love some now. Word Press is still insisting I get a few hits. Who and/or where can I point my friends the next time they talk about how they feel fat and how they want to lose weight and how eating is totally ruining their diet?

One last thing. I know there are a lot of FA blogs that focus on a lot of feel good self esteem exercises. This is not what I’m looking for. My generation grew up on self esteem building and being special snowflakes and how everyone is wonderful and deserves to be loved. I cannot speak for everyone else, but I know I have witnessed too much disconnect between this kind of discourse and the “real world” to do anything but roll my eyes at these ideas. I know my peer friends have expressed similar sentiments when this kind of topic comes up. Blogs that like statistics are preferable.

Note: I’m at that awkward age where people are no longer “girls and boys” and while technically “men and women” identifying as such is uncomfortable and not quite fitting. So any odd gender nouns in this entry is due to that.

September 14, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Class

There are a lot of things I would like to write about right now, but I think the most prominent has to do with my identification as fat. Anyone who has been paying attention to FA or even just the obesity epidemic (the wording of which I’m going to ignore) is that fat is a class issue. Basically the argument is that poor people are fat because they do not have the time, money and/or access to gym memberships and fresh, healthy food. I’m not arguing that this isn’t true. It probably is, but I have no experience and haven’t done the research to really argue that.

See, there’s another side to this. I grew up in a pretty well-off area. While I was relatively poor compared to some of my classmates, they had the kind of houses that rival those on cribs and would be allowed to bring a few friends for a week in Paris for their birthday. So, relative is the key word there. I have access to good, fresh food. I have a gym membership (or maybe two). Thing is, I’m still fat. Or at least, I’m still what I would consider fat.

I’ve mentioned before, when I was in high school, playing fattest person in the room would generally mean me or a handful of other people. I went to a large high school. I can think of about four other fat girls out of my graduating class of hundreds. My idea of fat is different than a lot of people’s idea of fat. The problem is, all but a few media images reaffirmed the idea that the average woman was tall, blonde and thin. I had some sort of idea that the rest of the world wasn’t as blonde as I was experiencing but not about how they weren’t as tall or as thin.

When I got to college I noticed that while I did have a lot of friends who were taller and thinner than me and a few who were fairer there were large masses of short, dark, fat girls running around. I’d sit and people watch and marvel at the body type that represented the average sorority girl. Most were thinner than me, but I didn’t count a lot of them as thin. Maybe the freshman five/ten/fifteen (take your pick) played into this, but I think that wasn’t the case. I think I didn’t make the best social impression because the first two years were spent trying to figure out where my body fell on this spectrum. I’m still not sure, but I care less now.

When I hear things about my size being a small fat or an in-between, I don’t see it that way. I grew up being on the end of a spectrum, not the middle, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to deprogram myself from that. I was able to readjust my mental classification of others when I’m in that environment but put me back where I spent the first seventeen years of my life or ask me to evaluate myself and I’m still going to see things the way I was taught to see them by my environment that was then reinforced by the media. (The media is its whole separate rant.) Further when the idea of people getting fatter is framed in as a socio-economic argument, I’ve found that it is presented that the fat rich person is clearly an inferior human being because (s)he has no excuse.

This is a hard post to write because I do acknowledge that I have a privilege that comes with my family’s socio-economic status. Even in being fat. But the privilege doesn’t extend far enough to make me immune. I don’t want this to sound to FA like the “what about the menz” argument is to feminism. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but this is my experience.

July 15, 2010. Tags: , , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

They’re Saying It’s Okay to Be Fat

So, I watched Huge I think this show is going to be good for me. It’s certainly a way to reflect on my transformation as an outsider. When I watched it, the smaller fat Amber* has a lot of problematic views and habits. Problematic as in indicative of an eating disorder. She chews her food 30 times, she has thinspiration. I’ve visited pro-anorexic communities in the past. I didn’t like their thinspiration, but I did pay attention to their advice. I followed some of their advice. I still want to try some of the things they suggested. So I found myself relating to Amber. A lot and not just with her potential eating disorder. But I also found myself rooting for Will. Even and especially when Will was facing off against Amber.

But that’s not the point of this ramble. The point of this is that I was listening to the latest Fatcast, a review of the show. Also, a review of the show’s reviews. I know words have power, but something they said really struck me. I’m down with fat acceptance and body acceptance and size acceptance and the word fat and the obesity! crisis!, but when they said reviewers were saying “This show is saying it’s okay to be fat!” as if it were a bad thing, I found myself agreeing with the reviewer and then going “Wait! No, no, it is okay to be fat!”

I can’t figure out why I am fine with someone calling me fat (as an insult) but not if they were to ask me “So you’re saying it’s okay to be fat?” (in disdain, not interest). I don’t know where this little voice comes from in my head saying “How could you possibly think it’s okay to be fat?” I’m not sure where that breakdown in logic is, but I want to find it.

*Go watch the show, this whole thing might not make that much sense if you don’t.

July 2, 2010. Tags: , , , . Current. Leave a comment.

Bad Day

I’m reluctant to write about today, but I keep reminding myself that the whole point of this blog is to publicly (and I use that term loosly) reconstruct my ideas about weight and body image etc.

Today was the first time I stepped on a scale in five months. It didn’t suck. Five months ago, I weighed less, but six months ago I weighed a lot more. I’m pretty much where I always am, and I’m fine with that.

The problem came when my mother was like “But you’re going to lose weight this summer right?” When I offered her a skirt that didn’t fit me and I don’t particularly like anyway. I said “No.” She said “Why not?” I said “Because I haven’t lost any the last four summers.” And then she offered to take me to an endocrinologist because clearly that means something is wrong with my thyroid*.

She also told me I had gained weight since the last time I was home (not true). To me that “No” was hugely emotionally … something. I’m still not over it and it was an hour ago and she apologised for hurting my feelings. I then did 50 crunches. I don’t know if I’m going to eat dinner tonight. I’m going to start jogging tomorrow with my mother since her apology was “I’m sorry but it isn’t like you can’t fix it with exercise.” Since I’m doing it with her, I want to get it over with ASAP. She might be thin, but she’s not in very good shape.

I’ve done this before. Being the friend someone chooses to go running with because they assume since I’m fatter than they are, I’m in worse shape. At the very least they assume I’m not in better shape. It doesn’t make people feel very good when I am. I wanted to play that time. This time I just want to get this over with. I’ll play your game, I’ll play by your rules, but don’t blame me when you quit because I’m winning.

I know I’m being irrational because I was thinking of doing this anyway (without my mother), but the way this came about does not make me happy.

I don’t know if the “No” is a small step, or a step forward accompanied by several steps back.

*Granted, thyroid problems are not unheard of in my family.

June 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Current. 1 comment.

Brainwashed

As I mentioned in the previous post, I did a lot of walking this past week. And my feet were killing me. Hours of walking and my feet were screaming to the point where I had to sit down every 20 minutes or so even if my legs felt fine, I just could not handle the pain. And I thought to myself “You need to lose weight. Your feet cannot handle the pressure you’re putting on them. You need to carry a lighter bag. It’s all this weight.” And similar scoldings.

One of the many “fat issues” that constantly comes up a lot is the fact that our bodies aren’t meant to handle the fat we’ve accumulated. And therefore all fatties will end up with joint issues and foot issues and bone issues and various other issues due to the overwhelming medical problem that is fat on our bodies. And I must have taken this to heart.

It took my mother pointing out that my shoes were really, really old before it occurred to me that maybe there was another explanation. But I figured they were tennis shoes, how much pain could they cause? Then I thought, well, I bought them at least three years ago, and retired them from fencing at least a year and a half ago due to loss of grip*. And the sole’s heel was really worn. Half way through the week when I was putting them on and the heel split, did I finally concede my mother was right and it had nothing to do with my weight. And while I haven’t bought new shoes yet (I have a style I really like and two other pairs of shoes here that I should start wearing), I have added inserts, and the difference is notable.

Personally, I prefer running around barefoot, but I’m in a city and ew. Hopefully this has taught me that my weight might not be (and probably isn’t) the cause of any sort of body problem I’m having. Especially considering my thought last week where I realised I’m more of an inbetween, and if people much larger aren’t having this Obviously Caused by Fat problem, I should look for other explanations and it’s not as Really Common as the media wants me to think. I also need to stop convincing myself I’m diabetic and that my arteries are clogged and I’ll need some sort of heart surgery soon, which while related probably has to do with my tendency to worry over things that don’t matter and inability to apply logic to myself.

The Rotund’s post about stairs was something of an inspiration for me to post this as well as another good reminder about mental/physical disconnects.

*While this is important in any sport, it’s super important in fencing, as shoes that have no traction cause surprise splits.

May 3, 2010. Tags: , , , . Reflection. 3 comments.

Run, Fatty, Run.

It’s been said before but it needs repeating until it hits home. Fat shaming does not help the problem. There’s the problem of feeling bad and maybe emotionally eating to the reaction. But there’s also the fact that being fat in public is a shameful thing.

I’m a fairly active person when I’m emotionally healthy (or else I run the risk of not leaving my room/home except for the absolutely needed). I fence, when I’m not fencing, I run. I play DDR. I walk places. I don’t go to gyms. Gyms are scary, scary places. Playing Fattest Person in the Room is hopeless because if I am, oh shit. If I’m not, it doesn’t matter, because I’m sure not the skinniest. I’m in a public space and people judge. The last time I went to a gym, I made a beeline for the elliptical, spent a few minutes trying to figure it out, and then I felt shame. Every time another person got on one of the ellipticals near me I’d try and match their speed if not go faster even though none were on the machine as long as I was, but I had to prove I was better. I had to prove I wasn’t just that pathetic fatty at the gym. In shorts and an oversized t-shirt I was probably the most clothed woman there*, and that was shameful. I felt shame about sweating; I felt shame about being out of breath when I finally stepped off the elliptical one hour and a little over five miles later. I felt shame about never going back, like somehow the people there were going to remember me and think that they never saw me again because I was fat and couldn’t handle it.

I don’t own an elliptical, a treadmill or a stationary bike. So when I want to do cardio I can either DDR or run. Since DDR requires a TV and volume, when someone else might be disturbed by the noise or presence of me flailing in the space with the TV. So, that means running outside. I only run outside in the summer in my neighbourhood and even then I try and do it in the morning, when it’s raining or at night. Obviously there are practical reasons for this like heat. But it’s also because I see fewer people and therefore fewer people see me. I jog at a pretty slow pace. I tend to do about three miles in a half hour, which is about the pace of a powerwalk. To me this is laughably slow and my neighbours are going to look out their windows or pass me while walking their dogs and see me and thing “Run, fatty, run.” And this has stopped me from running (by myself) on my campus because the people who see me might actually interact with me beyond waving and asking how my mother is doing. I might see friends, classmates, TAs, professors and this scares me.

I like swimming too, but hello swimsuit. Enough said there.

This idea of being even more ashamed while exercising probably has something to do with the fact that exercise tends to involve clothes that aren’t always good at covering or flattering. But I think a big part has more to do with the fact that there’s so much pressure. In a public space, if I can’t run as fast or as far as another person, I feel like I just let down all the fit fat people by reaffirming someone else’s expectations. I also feel like people are judging me more. This might be because I’m already uncomfortable or the fact that I don’t make sense. I’m in “deceptively good shape” in that my shape is deceptive, in that I’m more fit than one would guess by looking. And maybe that unsettles people by bucking at things they thought they knew. I don’t know.

I do know that when I’m confident, I don’t mind the stares as much. When I fence and I beat someone and they’re surprised, I feel more triumphant. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m confident in fencing that I’m able to do it so boldly in public. I have had this body since I’ve started fencing (give or take) and I wasn’t always confident. I think part of it has to do with the fact that to me it’s not exercise. It’s not something I do because I feel like I have to. It’s something I want to do. I have to think on this more.

*There was a girl who later came in wearing a t-shirt and capri-cut yoga pants. She was heavier than me.

April 6, 2010. Tags: , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.

By the way. . .

Once upon a time, not too long ago*, my flatmate had a birthday and invitations included those of us who lived in said apartment, as well as some people we didn’t know. We went to a restaurant. I wasn’t enchanted with the menu and ended up ordering an appetiser for dinner. I do that a lot, I’m pickier than I’d like to admit, but that’s okay. I also had water to drink. I wish I were one of those people who were concerned about her weight and drinks soda, but I’m not, so I have nothing so simple to cut out.

The birthday girl and her out-of-town friends split a giant appetiser platter four ways plus one more appetiser. They also ordered a main course. I have no issue with any of this. Instead of getting dessert there, we went to Cold Stone.

At Cold Stone I decided that, you know what, I’m going to go for a small with one mix-in and a dipped waffle bowl ’cause I never do the waffle bowl (and when I do, I remember that it’s because I need to do a mix-in OR a waffle bowl or it’s too much). Other, non-birthday flatmate decided to down like, six lactaids** and get a medium signature. Two of the out-of-town friends split a small with one mix-in.

Now, I know probably no one cares exactly what I or anyone else ate that night, but this is where it starts to matter. One of the skinny, out of town, ice cream-splitting friends comes over to me and other flatmate and says something like “Wow,you guys are so brave, I could never eat that much ice cream.” But everything but the words themselves said “No wonder you guys are so fat.” I want to make it clear that other flatmate has a really good shape, but still the kind a bitchy, very slim person can feel smug about not being.

Other flatmate laughed it off and said something like “I figured if I was going to take a lactaide anyway I might as well make it worth it.” I don’t know if she heard the translation. I think she must have, but I hope she didn’t. And she handled it without blinking. I, on the other hand smiled fakely and said in the same tone of voice “Well, it’s not like I do this often.” As a retort it wasn’t much, but I didn’t want to offend birthday flatmate and I wanted skinny, out of town, ice cream splitting girl to know, yes, I heard what she said.

Now, normally I’d be mildly off-put about something like this because bitch, you can’t tell me why I’m fat just from one ice cream outing. And no selective evidence by ignoring what I ate at dinner. And I wonder why I usually don’t eat in front of people I barely know. But this bothered me for a whole lot more reasons. First of all, other flatmate. She’s awesome and she doesn’t have a body worth fat shaming. Genetics also dealt her a terrible hand; if anyone can say “back off, you don’t know what you’re talking about” it’s her. Secondly, birthday flatmate. Birthday flatmate also struggles with her weight. Now, there’s been psych (anthro?) studies that say groups of friends have a very narrow range of attractiveness. I feel like this sometimes applies to weight as well and in my head I call it “fat flocking”. But I feel like skinny-bitch’s remarks was based on at least one of the following 1. She couldn’t put down birthday flatmate because it being her birthday 2. She was indirectly putting down birthday flatmate by calling us, her friends, fat overeaters or 3. She is so insecure about her own (slim and pretty) body that she needs to assert she’s in fact better than someone. It could have been all three. I have a hard time accepting meanness as a cover for insecurity though, without any other signs. Mean is easy and mean can be powerful. I know mean is not always a cover.

So basically, I’m retroactively saying “Bitch, shut up and mind your own business.” I’m also saying that simple comments like that aren’t always simple. They stick. And it hurts. Not just the judgement but the fact that she’s probably forgotten by now and I will carry it with me for a long time.

*It took a lot of will power not to bust out into “99 Problems”
**I have no idea how to spell the lactose-intolerant helper pills.

February 23, 2010. Tags: , . Reflection. Leave a comment.