Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why Fat?

Some lovely ladies at my favorite forum, Frugal Living, said I was being too hard on myself in my blog. After thinking on it a bit I think it may have a lot to do with using the fat word. For most of my life I have used euphemisms like Rubenesque, voluptuous, or pleasantly plump. My favorite description ever used for me is in my medical file from my OB/GYN with my second child. It describes me as "a fully developed, well-nourished women". That's beautiful! And hilarious! How I miss that doctor, he retired several years ago.

I use to go out of my way to avoid using the fat word to describe myself or anyone else, ever. Once when in a dressing room with my little niece she asked my why I wasn't getting a shirt I just tried on. Trying to shield her from the critical comments about weight I had received while growing up I said, "Oh, I'm too cushy for it." After all, to a four year little girl cushy is good. It's only after reading more about the size acceptance movement have I determined to get comfortable the fat word.

I'm sure like many others I have to get over the emotional load that comes with the word fat. For many of us it comes with a lot of baggage. We may been taunted with it on the school playground, we may have accused ourselves with it in the mirror, excused ourselves from leading a full life because of it, or even been disgustedly hurled with it by a parent or loved one.

I do see the point in trying to dismantle it's power. It's an adjective like any other, it's not a measure of my worth, just a physical description. Besides, I'm sure the men involved in the size acceptance movement generally wouldn't appreciate being called Rubenesque or voluptuous. Nor does voluptuous acceptance conjure up the same ideal as fat acceptance.

After all, outside of referring to a person's size fat is generally a good thing. Who doesn't want a fat wallet? Fat, ripe berry? Fat, juicy steak?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Feeling Fat

I finished Fat Politics by J. Eric Oliver while I was away on vacation. It was informative and an interesting read by not nearly as enlightening as The Obesity Myth. Since Mr. Oliver is a political scientist it understandably written more as policy proposal. It definitely had more of his personal opinions and theories on America's growing weight in recent years than Paul Campos had. However it did give me a greater understanding of how the "obesity epidemic" became a governmental issue. After I finished it I was still left feeling a bit depressed with my position as a fat American.

Thankfully the next book on my roster is Bountiful Women by Bonnie Bernell. It's the perfect lift. It's inspiring, affirming, and encouraging. Of course I deserve to be treated with respect, be comfortable, loved, and lead a fulfilling life. I'm only half way through the book and I know part of me will mourn it's warm embrace after I turn the last page.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fat White Woman

I'm about halfway through Fat Politics by J. Eric Oliver. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it when I finish but it the first three chapters weren't an easy read for me. To learn just how statistically despised and disgusting I am as an obese white women did get to me for a day or so. Why do people even care, it's not like I'm going to infect them with my fatness. I think it's that I don't subscribe to the status quo. I do think it gives me a glimpse into what it might be like to be a minority. It's terrible to be judged on something so superficial.

I'm mostly over it now. Really, who gives a rat's rear what they think? If they don't like it, too bad, don't look. It helped looking over The Illustrated BMI Categories . It just reiterated to me that people are beautiful at a variety of sizes. I can be beautiful at "morbidly obese" as well. Who wouldn't hate being referred to as that? It even sounds ugly, nothing with the word morbid in it is going to conjure up positive thoughts. (I totally understand why Kate Harding used the term though, her project shows you how ridiculous and arbitrary the BMI categories are.)

Lush is a much better word. It sounds like what it is and it's all good. I'm going with it.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Pop-Tarts and Bubble Gum

Tonight I went to Big Lots to get some Christmas shopping in without the kids. When I was checking out I put a pile together on the counter and (nicely) asked the cashier to bag them together as they were stocking stuffers that needed to be hidden. She tartly said, "That's fine," giving me the impression I was putting her out. While scanning them she snottily says, "Who give Pop-Tarts as a stocking stuffer?" Well, apparently I do.
When I told my husband about it he said she probably thought since I was fat I was planning on hiding the bag from my family for my own consumption. That is too funny to me, if I'm going to be hiding something away I would pick something WAY better than Pop-Tarts and bubble gum tape (blech, blech). Like CHOCOLATE! What's even funnier is my stash actually consists of those 100 calorie packs of the little cookies and popcorn, sugar free Life Savers, 90 calorie Special K bars, and 50 calorie packs of Goobers and Raisinets. They aren't even hidden away, just in a less convenient cupboard. If I put them in the cupboard with the rest of the food the kids will eat like four packages at a time just because they're easy and in plain sight.

In reality I don't even look at Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Its, or boxed mac and cheese as food. It's stuff my kids eat occasionally but I'd need to be on Survivor to actually want to eat it. I would much rather eat a salad, carrots, fruit, or yogurt any day. Just another one of those misperceptions about fat people.

My husband also said this kind of thinking made him furious. We might have a "normal" BMI fat activist on our hands.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Caring for Obese Patients

It would be a great start if more doctors actually read and implemented these guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Granted there are still some major flaws (including the BMI chart) but it would be a monumental improvement compared to what is happening to fat people in medical offices everyday.
Weighing patients privately and only when necessary may help them overcome their reluctance to seek medical services.
Yes! Why do any of us, fat or not, get weighed if we're being seen for pneumonia, don't we feel crappy enough? I know I dread getting the potential lecture or comment every time I go to the doctor. I can pretty much guarantee I have a better idea of the calories in most foods than the average physician. An OB/GYN once started to tell me, "You know it's not just how much fat you eat but overall calories." Really? I never went back to her. To be fair not only for that but she started to write me a prescription for birth control pills after I explicitly told her my dermatologist said I should never take them following a rare rash I got after my second pregnancy (that the OB/GYN had never heard of). Wonder she got through med school.


Finally, providers should encourage healthy behaviors and self acceptance even in the absence of weight loss.
Wouldn't that be nice! How sad is it that it's hard for me to even imagine such an experience with a doctor. To be truthful I have had some very good doctors but I still can't imagine them being that encouraging.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wake Up, I'm Fat!

The first definitive step I took toward fat acceptance was reading Camryn Manheim's book Wake Up, I'm Fat!. It was compelling, I was cried and rejoiced along with her. Although some of the details are becoming a bit dated the message is still timely.

One of the things she wrote about that spoke to me was how much of her life she had spent waiting for her life to really begin, including losing weight. I have been guilty of these thoughts in the past. It reiterated to me that right now is all we are guaranteed. Her robust appetite for a life that includes tiramisu is infectious. I need to do a better job of embracing the present.

The second lesson I took away from the book was not to let others make me feel less than. If they try to the shame is theirs, not mine. Many of her bold comebacks just might come in handy at some point.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Exercise I Love

Family lore has it that I could swim before I could walk. I never remember learning how to swim, I just always could so I'm guessing it's true. My dad had been a lifeguard and a swim instructor plus I grew up on a lake so being able to swim was a safety issue.

My childhood summers were long, hazy days of everyone at the beach. To me swimming has always had connotations of those days. I never swam on a swim team, where we lived they didn't have those yet, but I'm sure I would have if it had been available.

Most of my adult life didn't include much swimming,mostly just recreational opportunities . Then about three and a half years ago I took the kids to an open swim and I fell back in love. I needed to take a hiatus from it during the end of my last pregnancy as I was put on bed rest and it took until he was about ten months for me to get back to it. I love it, some days I can't wait to get there.

I generally swim laps for 45-60 minutes three times a week. I'm not fast and can usually be found in the slow lane but I can keep going and going. Not only is it exercise it's therapeutic. I love the feel of the water running up my arms, over my shoulders, and rushing between my fingers. I drink in the serene feeling I get as my head glides under the water while doing the breast stroke. The best is when I have the lane all to myself and I can do an angel wing backstroke.

One of the bonuses to me is in the pool I'm just another bobbing, swim capped, goggled head. My size matters not a wit. In fact many of the people who work at the pool are fat, even the aqua aerobics instructor likely wears a size 20. Unlike a gym I rarely feel judged for my size there.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Exercise I Tolerate


I bought a little stair climber machine at Goodwill for $7.99 a couple of weeks ago. I have a Gazelle machine but it's just too big to have in our living room all the time. So I bought the stair climber to do while I watch TV after I get the kids down to bed for the night. Bloody, diabolical machine! I'm not really unfit and I could barely do a minute without resting for a small bit at first. I managed to huff and puff through ten minutes but kept resting for a few seconds every minute. Two weeks later I'm now able to do the ten minutes with one rest. Progress.

My goal is to slowly get to 20 minutes, 5-7 nights a week. This is also progress for me. In the past my goal would have been to get to 45-60 minutes. It would have then got overwhelming and difficult to manage in the responsibilities of my daily life. I have perfectionist tendencies and sometimes I need to learn to say, "Good enough." Twenty minutes is manageable and good enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Book That Changed My Life

I have a new hero, Paul Campos, author of The Obesity Myth. The logical arguments and unbiased look at what the "research" regarding the topic actually said was right up my alley. I could really read all the pro fat acceptance, feel good as your are books on the market and they wouldn't have done what this one book did for me. Actually reading what the science was saying freed me. As I read about how all the misconstrued data, the weight loss industry's tactics, the relentless demands of our society's cult of thinness I felt like I was slowly getting unchained from years of bondage.

I feel free to finally enjoy my life, unburned from some mystical guilt that I'm being a selfish, reckless parent by being fat. Freed from the notion that I can't be healthy and fat.

For those of that have spent been in the trenches of fat acceptance they have known about much of this for some time but I'm glad the message is still getting out there. Funny how almost every new diet book gets tons of press but a book like the The Obesity Myth seems to get lost in comparison. For anyone that might be new to Paul Campos' revolutionary ideas Truth-Driven Thinking has a good transcript on an interview with him.

The only really sad part to me is thinking about how all that wasted time, expense, and energy on trying to lose weight only succeeded in likely making me fatter than I would have been otherwise.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Just a Number

I weighed myself this morning. I had been thinking about it doing it for a few days. I wonder, do only fat people have that much aversion to the scale? For much of my life that little machine has wielded so much power over me, instantly ruining a otherwise pleasant day or on rarer occasions caused cheers when it read as little as half a pound less than the day before. I finally figured I should at least know what I'm dealing with. The number appears on the digital display, it was about what I expected but I couldn't help having a still somewhat emotional reaction to it. Most of us who have struggled with our weight know it well: a little shock, disappointment, and perhaps even a twinge of fear. So, how can just a number get such an emotionally charged reaction, even when it's within the realm of expectation? Why is so much value placed on it? It certainly isn't a measure of our worth, ability, intelligence, or anything else that should matter. In this journey of fat acceptance does that little number on digital display above my toes ever become a number just as emotionally inconsequential as any other?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Not This Fat Girl's Life

I just finished The Fat Girl's Guide to Life by Wendy Shanker. I expected to love it, to be inspired by it. Sadly, I just wasn't. I give Ms. Shanker props for her encouraging us to exercise, eat well, be our own advocate, and claim our power. On those matters I agree with her. Most of the rest didn't resonate with me.

I think a more accurate title would have been The Big City, Single, Fat Girl's Guide to a Pre-Middle Age Life. It has very Sex in the City flavor to me (a show I don't like). It was too much out of sync with my reality. I'm far from a sleek, hip, and savvy New Yorker. The thought of buying something "cheap" at H&M, wearing it twice, and throwing it out is absurd to me. In fact, I'm not a retail therapy type of girl as the author says she is. Just schlepping around stores, spending time and money to try to boost my mood or ego isn't something I get. Don't get me wrong, I like dressing well but I don't love the whole shopping thing. I generally prefer to order things online when possible.

Then there was the two chapters on dating and casual sex. I've been very blessed with a husband who loves and delights in me regardless of my size. I've been with him since we were both nineteen. I just can't relate to being in bed with a man I just met, looking forward to the morning so I can get him out of my house. And then the abundance of swearing in the book. In my opinion only Chris Rock does swearing well, with everyone else it just diminishes what they are trying to say.

Ms. Shanker seemed to insinuate most fat people engage or have engaged in binge eating. I have no idea what everyone else does, and my guess is it would be difficult to get reliable stats on that. However, I really never have engaged in any binge eating as an adult, especially when I haven't been on a diet. There may have been a couple of weak, starving moments on a diet I ate more than a "normal" amount when I gave in to temptation. Even then it wasn't anything too crazy.

She also seems to think most of us were carrying around our fat as some sort of barrier, a buffer. Again, I can't vouch for all of us but I'm just not. I don't fear attention or intimacy, I'm not recovering from or stuffing a deep pain. I'm just fat, no major baggage to check.