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.

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

Fat Camp and the Fantasy of Being Thin.

First of all, I would like to say that my normal computer is in the shop right now, and I’m on my backup (yes, I know I’m lucky and I’m grateful) but my backup is old for a computer and doesn’t do all the things I like computers to do, so I’ve been cutting down computer time in all areas of my internet life. Not just here, though if I keep composing these blog posts in my head, this place will be flooded when I finally get my beloved back.

Today, I was thinking about how awesome Huge might be. The new show on ABC Family about a fat camp. See, the one thing I always wanted as a kid was to go to a fat camp. I never expressed this desire because I thought it was a shameful one, though not for the reasons I can think of now.

This is tied in with my version of the FoBT because I don’t think I’ve limited my life because of my weight. I think the only notable exceptions would be clothing (even when things do fit, there’s the idea of “flattering” and “appropriate” that further limits selection, of course) and a few dance classes that just had very unwelcoming atmospheres. I’ve never really had a strong if/when I’m thin I can/will do X idea in my head. I think this is because the focus and goals in my life have been pretty strongly based in mental feats. Or possibly because (undiagnosed) depression has kept me from doing a lot of things and I have a much stronger Fantasy of Being Happy.

I have had one form of the FoBT that has had a pretty strong hold on me. The reason I wanted to go to fat camp was because when summer was over and I went back to school, I would be thin. And then, all those classmates who made fun of me would see. I still have that goal, except without a fat camp. The goal of losing weight while I’m invisible and then coming back as this new magical thin person. I’ve always had this idea that being thin would “show them”. But I’ve never really thought about what I would be showing them until today. And that is, apparently, my ability to conform to societal beauty standards.

And to me, this is kind of a really strange revelation. I was always the kind of person who wanted to stand out rather than conform, but at the same time, this idea makes so much sense to me. It feels really good to conform. When I was eleven, people started making fun of my eyebrow a lot. A year later, with a bit of hesitation, I agreed to let my mother make me an appointment to get it waxed. I still remember the day when someone shouted in the hall “HEY UNIBROW! UNIBROW, WHY AREN’T YOU ANSWERING?”. I turned around with my two freshly waxed brows and the look on his face was just so wonderful. I still relish that memory.

But I think the most shocking revelation this whole body acceptance thing has made me face is this. The fact that I want to become thin so that I can prove to a society I dislike (and find problematic at best) that I can conform to its standards.

Of course, even after figuring this out and writing it down I still want to show ’em, but I also want to fix that.

By the way, in college, I met someone who was a vegan and studying for a health and nutrition degree. She worked at a fat camp over her summers and to hear what she had to say about the camp (especially the meals) made me realise that if I had ever gone to a fat camp (or at least that one) when I was younger I probably wouldn’t have lost weight anyway, or if I had, I would have just regained it.

June 25, 2010. Tags: . Current, Reflection. 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.

Apology #3

Dear Skinny Friends,

I don’t think you should have been expressing a desire to lose weight, but I do understand that you were uncomfortable with your bodies when you said that. And I should not have said “If anything, you should gain a few pounds”. I was out of line. I just hope you understand that you made me uncomfortable. The time that comes to mind, you probably weighed thirty pounds less than I do, and the comment about needing to lose the five or seven pounds you had gained lately felt like a dig at my body, even though I know you didn’t mean it that way.

I hope you’re comfortable with your body however it is now. You don’t need to change one bit, I promise.

May 13, 2010. Tags: , , . Apologies, Uncategorized. 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.

Walking Doesn’t Burn Calories

My mother came to visit me last week and we did the touristy thing. The touristy thing here involves an insane amount of walking (Her: “Do you want to take a cab? Are you sure you don’t want to take a cab?”) and lots of stairs (Her: “So this country doesn’t believe in elevators?”). Also, eating delicious food. Which prompted the following conversation*.

Mother: If I lived here, I would be so fat.
Me: But think of all the walking we’ve done.
Mother: Well, walking doesn’t do anything for me. I mean, I can walk and not burn any calories.

Now, I’m not sure if I managed, but I certainly tried to convince her that walking does actually burn calories. Just like being alive does. Really, everyone needs calories so that our bodies can do their things. I know that I have, in the past, fallen into the train of thought where in order for me to burn more calories than I consume, I need to burn them with exercise. As in, if I decide to DDR for a half hour and burn 300 kcal** and then assume that a relatively inactive day added onto that would only burn 100 additional kcals so I would have to eat under 400 kcals to lose any weight.*** That was just wrong on so many levels. I’ve heard that the old diet advice “If you want to be 120 pounds eat 1200 kcals” is more like “If you are 120 pounds, you need 1200 kcals to function on the most minimal level, and then eat more if you actually plan on moving.”

And I didn’t come up with these ideas in a vacuum. My mother was a large contributor (she’s really a great mother, but still human, which is where this comes in) and she had to have heard these ideas somewhere as well. I’ve heard a lot of what she’s said about weight said elsewhere. So I’m going to try and unpack some of what she said to me this week. This time without any of the quotes.

1. Exercise is not magic. Someone who goes from being fairly sedentary to any level of activity is not going to magically drop the weight s/he always wanted to lose. Especially if this exercise is something like “walking a mile a day”. While the increase in activity will probably**** be beneficial to this person’s health this benefit will not always show up as a lower number on the scale or even a smaller pants size. This goes doubly so for anyone who assumes that an increase in activity is permission to eat what they want. Sure, you don’t need permission to eat what you want. No one does, but if the goal is to be healthy (and/or lose weight*****) exercise is only one component.

2. Eating like a normal person. My mother said something like that and I had no idea what she meant. I don’t even know if she knew what she meant. I don’t know if I know a “normal person”. I certainly couldn’t tell you what s/he eats. There are people of varying heights, weights, metabolic rates, food allergies/intolerances, able-bodyness and activity levels. Probably other things I forgot. Someone who has IBS can’t eat like someone who has no colon who can’t eat like a lactose intolerant athlete who can’t eat like a cubical worker with really fast metabolism who chooses not to eat like a vegan. Any and all of those people can be fat. Or skinny. Or somewhere in the middle. And I still can’t figure out who a normal person.

3. Gaining a pound. Anyone who has ever had an obsession with their scale can tell you that they weigh differently in the morning when they first wake up than they do before they go to bed. Before and after they go to the bathroom. Depending on how much water they drink and food they’ve eaten. If and what clothes they’re wearing. Even the spot in their cycle if they’re female. Or at least I can tell you that due to my few month obsession with a scale (I no longer own). I can also say that my pants size and my weight don’t always correlate as nicely as scale numbers gaining means pants tightening. Sometimes it can mean pants falling off. So I can’t understand why people flip out over a single pound, especially after they mention how much better their clothes are fitting. The disconnect astounds me.

The crazy thing about these three things is that while I can sit here and type the “right answers”, it doesn’t mean that I won’t say, increase my exercise when I get back to my home country and then wonder why I can’t eat like a normal person and freak out about a pound I’ve gained. The disconnect is just as strong in me as it seems to be in the people I talk to. Hopefully just being able to return to here and see that no, I’m not being logical, will be enough. It’s harder to argue with yourself than it is with someone else, I’ve found.

*My memory recall is not so great as for this to be word for word, obviously.
**I’m really good at DDR. Not like, those crazy kids at the arcade good, but good enough not to be totally embarrassed doing DDR in public.
***Pre FA days when I was “dieting”
****I’m not a doctor, I can’t say for sure. And people are individuals and who knows what which exercises might trigger especially if someone’s doing something incorrectly, etc. etc.
*****I like asterisks way too much. Also I know FA is not an advocate of dieting but I’m not going to judge. Also, in the context of my mother, this is her goal.

May 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , . Reflection. Leave a comment.