Tag Archive | "body image"

How do you talk to your kids about weight?

How do you talk to your kids about weight?

The Today Show did a segment on how parents should talk to their children about their weight. In all, it’s not a bad segment, with the chief recommendations being:

  • frame discussions of health/weight in terms of fueling the body & the child feeling good
  • show your kids good eating habits, from the top down (ie: parents have to buy in)
  • don’t single out a single child for a weight problem
  • understand that it may not be the foods your child eats but a number of factors (ie: may not be worth talking about)

Here is the segment:

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Personally, while I agree with the sentiments, I know that the above clip and its recommendations aren’t a fix-all solution. I grew up in a home with good, home-cooked food; we ate together as a family and junk food was limited. My mother never told me I was fat, though I know that, regardless, I got that message — from school, TV, and even just from hearing my mom’s stories of her own weight struggles as a child. All the good examples and positive reinforcement didn’t stop me from developing odd food behaviors and a skewed self-image — what great society says to our kids about weight (directly and indirectly) matters, too.

What do you think? Do you remember The Talk? Are you a parent afraid of giving The Talk?

Posted in Fat Identity, Fat in the MediaComments (2)

How I stopped consuming (as much) media, and started loving myself

How I stopped consuming (as much) media, and started loving myself

Total honesty: I really like myself. Like, really! Just as I am. (cue Mr. Darcy moment, only by myself) I have some more weight to lose, but it’s becoming less and less important as I gain a better perspective on weight, health, fitness and my body, and just plain learn to love myself physically. I always had high self-esteem in all other arenas, but like many a young girl, just never liked my external appearance much (it’s hard when you don’t match beauty ideals). This, I believe, is not uncommon, though I do think plenty of women allow doubts about their external appearance and body mess with other aspects of esteem, as well. It’s a shame.

Having reached a place where I’m really happy, almost to the point of being defiant against anyone who would dare indicate I should feel otherwise, I feel it’s apt to reflect on how the heck I got here, and how others might make small shifts in their own thinking. It’s easy to say we should love ourselves. It’s another thing altogether to actually get there.

I’ve been asked several times how I developed the delicate balance between positive body image, high self esteem and realism about the  media culture in which we live. It took some time to noodle on it, deconstructing the last fifteen years of my life, trying to figure out when the heck I unstuck my head from the sand and how on earth I did it. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, though I was always a little bit Grr, Argh Angry Feminist about my body, looks and society. But I was just like everyone else, for a long time — I bought into the fashion & beauty mags, make-up, clothes, dieting, the notion of beauty, celebrity, etc. I faced those pressures, and I gave in.

The beautiful irony, being a person who is trained in media and works in media, is that a key to learning to genuinely like myself — and rejig my brain when it comes to body & beauty ideals — was I stopped consuming as much media. And I got the heck out of the United States. That helped enormously. But short of living in a foreign country for a year (preferably Europe!), what real, concrete advice can I give?

Stop reading magazines.

I was like every other teenage girl. I read YM, Sassy, Seventeen, Teen People, Glamour. The usual suspects for pre-teen and later teen girls who want to be Cool and Fashionable. I learned make-up tips that I use to this day, from Glamour. I found my celebrity role models (and dream boats) in Teen People & Seventeen. I saw all the fashions and styles that I couldn’t dream of fitting into because I was a chunky size 14-16.

When I went to college, my magazines didn’t follow. I canceled my last remaining subscription to Glamour, and haven’t gone back. I never particularly liked Cosmo, thank Christ, but I know that’s a “usual suspect” for many women. The amazing thing? It was so much easier to feel good about myself when I wasn’t reading fix-it articles, make-up tips, articles on how to please a man (helloooo misogyny!) and seeing editorials and  advertisements featuring unreal women who look nothing like me, nor anything like how I want to actually look.

Experiment with not reading any mainstream fashion/beauty magazines. If you must read Vogue, fine, but do please ditch all the other vapid market offerings. Even the best among them work hard to make women feel less than, often under the guise of empowering us! But mostly — get away from the advertisements. They’re the real killer.

Stop watching television (on TV).

Another unintentional side effect of going to college? I stopped watching TV. On TV, that is. We couldn’t have cable in our dorms, and the terrestrial signal was bunk, so I went three years without a television (then had one senior year, but barely watched it). Now, don’t think I stopped watching my beloved telly. I didn’t. Long before streaming became the norm, I watched TV on my computer… sans commercials.

Commercials are evil. Body image aside, the absolutely worst are food adverts. Do you know what happened to some of my cravings when I stopped watching commercial television? They went away.

Now advertisers will still be able to get to you, even if you don’t read fashion magazines or watch commercial television, via billboards, the Internet, product placement in movies and TV, etc. But being exposed to substantially fewer images of airbrushed women in nailpolish, lipstick, clothing, perfume, car and alcohol adverts and the messages that come with them (you are an object, you are to be looked at, there’s something wrong with you only our product can fix, men will like you if you use our product) is enormously helpful. For me, going cold turkey on many of these campaigns was the vital first step to deprogramming.

And you WILL crave less processed junk food when you’re not being bombarded with commercials. Bonus.

Start reading feminist media theory (reading my blog can count, kind of XD).

Being aware of the messages you’re taking in and why is incredibly important. Learning about the Male Gaze, and especially how it relates to advertising, changed my life. It’s a bit old school, but I highly recommend watching Killing Us Softly on YouTube (the old ones are up for free; the newest one isn’t).

An oldie but goodie is Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose. She no longer updates, but the archive is fantastic. One of my favorite posts is a guest blog called Schroedinger’s Rapist.

Mainstream blogs to follow include Jezebel and the Hairpin, as well as BITCH magazine. One of my favorite, new blog projects is Beauty Redefined, which has some particularly good posts on The Photoshop Effect.

There’s more. So much more. I’ll probably update this section later, especially as people remind me of other good sources/tell me knew ones. Drop suggestions in the comments!

Watch plastic surgery procedures

Plastic surgery has always weirded me out, and has generally been something I’ve always been and have remained against. However, throughout my teen years and into my twenties, like seemingly all women, I had that “one thing” about myself that I “hated” and wished I could change. My nose. I mean, I really hated my nose. I still am not particularly happy with it — I have monster nostrils of DOOM — but let me tell you what really killed any notion of ever “fixing” that body part: watching a rhinoplasty surgery. Seriously — it is one of the most brutal, disgusting things I have ever seen in  my life. They take a CHISEL to your NOSE and they TAP-TAP-TAP until it BREAKS. No thank you.

I think we forget what plastic surgery is — taking extreme measures to alter our bodies. Intentionally breaking your nose? That’s INSANE. Suck fat out of your stomach, thighs, butt, calves, back with a metal hose? Ew. Shoving bags full of liquid into our chests? Crazy. Once I realized how disgusting the one procedure I would actually consider was… God dammit, I learned to love  my freaking nose. I’m stuck with it, in all it’s evil-nostrils of doom, average glory.

It’s gross, but really: watch plastic surgery procedures.

Play around in Photoshop… or just study before & after images

Starting in college, due to being a  massive web geek, I started playing around with Photoshop, and how I could manipulate images. I’m no expert, so you’ll hardly see me gluing one person’s head onto another person’s body, but you get a handle on the tools — and vanish a blemish or two in a person photo (I’ve also digitally whitened my teeth!) — and it becomes clear what digital retouching can do.

Nowadays, ALL COMMERCIAL IMAGES ARE RETOUCHED. You cannot trust images of celebrities and models, not even in movies and TV. Retouching is used to brighten skin tone, get rid of blemishes and wrinkles, shrink body parts and even give a “bigger” (big = NOT BIG) celebrity a tight and trim body (yes, they really do switch heads onto different bodies).

I recommend reading this post by Beauty Redefined, and also check out Photoshop Disasters (partly for LULZ) and Jezebel’s Photoshop of Horrors tag.

*****

These are the things that I, completely incidentally, did or stopped doing that helped develop my positive body image and self-esteem. I wish I’d had these resources available to me as a young woman; heck — as a young girl. As bad as things seem to have gotten for women when it comes to beauty standards, I also think there is more hope than ever when it comes to counter-culture. Young women are able to pick up alternative magazines, see some (not enough!) role models in TV and media who don’t conform, and there are organizations and blogs dedicated to building up young women and educating them on the media.

I love myself, and so should you. It may not be easy, but the least we can do is try. And if anyone tries to tell you that you’re not good enough, thin enough, “womanly” enough, pretty enough? Tell them to SHOVE IT. You define what makes you beautiful, and what makes you OK.

I will close with the image of a billboard that Beauty Redefined put up in their home state of Utah. It sums things up pretty nicely:

Posted in Body Issues, Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, FeaturedComments (2)

Real women, real numbers: My Body Gallery

Real women, real numbers: My Body Gallery

Have you wondered if your body is “normal,” for your height? Or just generally been curious about what about women who are your height/weight look like? What you might look like at your goal weight?

Enter My Body Gallery, a site where women upload pictures of their body, labeled with their real height and weight. Then users can search for users photos based on: height, weight, pants size, shirt size or even body shape (pear, apple, hourglass, etc.), to see photos of women who match those requirements. I, for one, am a huge fan.

Imagine if you’d been able to see a gallery of bodies that were your exact height and weight, when you were younger. I meet so many women, and can include myself as well, that thought they were “fat” in high school. When your body is developing faster than everyone else’s, or you’re built bigger (shout out to my tall girls), or even if you are a bit overweight, it’s easy to feel like a giant, fat nothing. Even as an adult, it can be difficult to gain perspective on our bodies. Sometimes, we can’t be objective about our own bodies — but seeing someone else’s can set off a lightbulb.

Of course, for some, a website like this could be triggering. For those who are prone to eating disorders, seeing “numbers” can be dangerous, especially when one searches the lower end and returns photos of quite thin women. (the 5’10″ and 120lbs group is slightly disheartening — and those photos weren’t there a month ago)

However, I believe whole-heartedly that for many of us, seeing REAL numbers on REAL bodies can help to circumvent mental trauma in the long run. If I’d been able to see women who were 5 foot 10 and 180 pounds when I was 16, I probably wouldn’t have thought I was fat. Compared to the girls I was surrounded by? Sure, I was “fat.” I mean, GUYS. 180. That number is HUGE. That’s, like, close to 200. TWO HUNDRED! That’s gi-normous. Models and actresses are 120, don’t you know. Now that’s a “normal” number.

Crazy, right? As an adult, and having met plenty of other women with “high” numbers, I realize that holding myself — a 5 foot 10 woman who hit puberty at age 8 and developed hips, butt and boobs — 120 is INSANE. But those numbers seem to be the only ones we ever hear, for women — 110, 115, 120, 125… these are acceptable weights for women. Anything higher than 150 is taboo. Anything higher than 200 is SCANDALOUS.

This is why something like My Body Gallery is necessary. Women need to talk about their numbers. Their REAL numbers. Tall, short, fat, thin — girls and women need to know that that chick with the banging body and rocking self-confidence is 200 lbs. Or that a 250lbs woman can have an athletic build and be healthy. Or the 300 lbs woman who looks fantastic – not miserable – in a fabulous dress.

It’s refreshing to see photos of women who are my current size, as well as my goal weight (which is what I weighed in high school – sad, right?). I’m feeling really good about my body and my health, despite a relatively small/slow weight loss. Now I can look at other women who are the same height/weight and see that, yes! There’s really nothing wrong with my current size, either. You can be healthy, happy and look absolutely rocking… even if your “number” is large and “scary.”

My Body Gallery. Check it out. What do you think?

Posted in Body Issues, Fat IdentityComments (8)

Maggie Goes On A Diet author mansplains on GMA [Trigger Warning]

Maggie Goes On A Diet author mansplains on GMA [Trigger Warning]

As if I weren’t already angry enough about the children’s book Maggie Goes On A Diet, about a 14-year-old girl who is bullied for being overweight and hates herself, goes on a diet, loses weight and becomes popular, sporty and happy. We already knew that Some Dude wrote the book. I was picturing some tall, reedy doctor type with glasses who would talk about nutritional studies and the like.

Nope. Paul Kramer is a fat guy who, I’m gonna be honest, is kinda creepy looking. Like, might have a white van/ill-advised porn on his computer creepy.  That he wrote a diet book for girls and doesn’t get the big deal makes the whole thing even worse. Behold!

So, his points:

  • He wants to “encourage” kids to make “healthy choices”
  • People aren’t going to identify with “Maggie Gets Healthy” because they can’t relate! They need to know that Maggie is fat! MAGGIE IS FAT AND CAN’T DO THINGS, Y’ALL.
  • Diet is a word describing what you eat! It’s not bad! (counter point: GOING on a diet? Totally only has one meaning, bub)
  • When kids are mean, if we change ourselves to fit society’s standards, they won’t be mean anymore!
  • You can’t just a book by its cover (Um, yes, you really can. Especially when the cover features a young girl fantasizing about being thin and the title “Maggie Goes On A Diet.” )

We also get a closer look inside the actual book. And it’s even worse than we thought!

Main points:

  • Maggie is teased “every day” and called cruel names
  • Maggie is shown night-eating, and specifically eats a lot of “bread and cheese” (God forbid you eat carbs!)
  • Maggie is shown eating oatmeal and LITERALLY dreaming of skinny jeans
  • Skinny!Maggie “instantly” makes new friends and becomes popular
  • Skinny!Maggie becomes a soccer star
  • Also, everyone in the book is thin, except for Maggie.

So basically – if you are fat, life is miserable and everyone hates you. If you are thin, everyone is your best friend and you are awesome at things. Nice life lesson there.

What do you think? Are people over reacting? Is Paul Kramer creepy? An idiot?

If you could write a children’s book that portrayed all the right ideas & values, what would you call it? What would it be about?

Posted in Books, Fat in the Media, Fat ShamingComments (13)

A children’s book that teaches girls how to diet [Trigger Warning!]

A children’s book that teaches girls how to diet [Trigger Warning!]

[Trigger warning: includes body shaming images, fat stigma, etc.]

You know what’s missing in contemporary society? Media aimed towards young girls that makes them feel ashamed of their body and tells them how to diet.

Just kidding! We have SHIT TONS OF THAT. But that didn’t stop Some Dude from writing a children’s book called Maggie Goes On A Diet, which comes out in October. It’s about a 14-year-old girl who goes from being a Fatty Mcfatterson to star of the soccer team! Wow, guys! She’s so amazing! And she gets skinny!

Here is the full book description:

This book is about a 14 year old girl who goes on a diet and is transformed from being extremely overweight and insecure to a normal sized girl who becomes the school soccer star. Through time, exercise and hard work, Maggie becomes more and more confident and develops a positive self image.

To wit:

  • it’s a book about a teenage girl who goes on a diet, but it’s targeted to ages 6 and up.
  • the cover features fat!Maggie gazing in a mirror, holding up a sexy pink dress, and seeing thin!Maggie with same dress.
  • fat!Maggie is “extremely overweight and insecure.” Because fat girls feel so confident, so we’re going to try something NEW here.
  • Maggie WORKS HARD, guys! SHEER WILLPOWER, Y’ALL.
  • Maggie develops a positive self-image when she loses weight, because there’s no WAY you can have that when you’re fat!

Needless to say: ANGRY FACE. Can you imagine a 6-year-old reading this? She doesn’t want to get fat like Maggie, so she’d better WORK HARD and EXERCISE! Though, hell, she doesn’t even need to read a book. I met a woman at a business lunch the other week whose FIVE-YEAR-OLD is taunted at school for being “fat” and she is worried about her weight. Best part: she’s NOT FAT. She has a 100% normal body weight for her age.

You know what would be nice? A children’s book about a fat girl who LIKES HERSELF and people are NICE TO HER. And she can EAT HEALTHY and, hell!, still be STAR OF THE SOCCER TEAM, but doesn’t lose any weight. Because she’s healthy and happy wherever her body decides to sit, weight and size-wise. THAT WOULD BE NICE.

The Some Dude who wrote this book I presume is concerned with the “obesity epidemic” in children. OK. Fine. Here’s what I want to hear from anyone reading this who was a fat kid or fat teenager:

What would YOU have liked your parents and/or the media to have told you when you were a kid? Would it have been a positive kid’s book, a pep talk, fat girl fashion mag — what?

Personally? I would have liked to hear honest “numbers” from full grown women, so back when I was 145, then 160, then 180 I wouldn’t have thought I was freakishly fat, and instead might have been happy with myself and calmed the eff down on the dieting.

Posted in Books, Fat in the MediaComments (18)

Fat people can have eating disorders, too

Fat people can have eating disorders, too

An additional, key takeaway from the recent article I posted about, which examines the morality assigned to certain body types & disorders, was that the media, and society at large, don’t believe that overweight/obese people can have eating disorders. This is due, in large part, to it being ingrained in our culture, via the “pulling ones self up from one’s bootstraps” mentality and other factors, that being fat is a CHOICE, and that with WILLPOWER any fat person can, you know, NOT be fat.

Let’s talk about what is being called binge eating disorder, also known as food addiction. Binging disorder is essentially like bulimia but without purging — an individual is compelled, beyond reasons many can understand, to binge on massive quantities of food. Unlike bulimics, they don’t purge that food (vomit or take laxatives). Here is the Mayo Clinic definition of binge eating disorder:

Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food. Almost everyone overeats on occasion, such as having seconds or thirds of a holiday meal. But for some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, shrouded in secrecy.

When you have binge-eating disorder, you may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop. But you feel such a compulsion that you can’t resist the urges and continue binge eating.

Although binge-eating disorder is the most common of all eating disorders, it’s still not considered a distinct psychiatric condition. But if you have binge-eating disorder symptoms, treatment can help you.

How sad is that? It’s one of the MOST COMMON eating disorders (hello “obesity epidemic”), yet is not considered a distinct psychiatric condition, like anorexia nervosa.

I would reckon that binge eating disorder sounds familiar to a lot of you. It does to me. While I don’t see myself as a comic picture of a woman sitting on the couch shoveling ice cream, chips and candy into her mouth, I know I have an inappropriate relationship with food, and eat for the wrong reasons. I definitely eat when I’m full and/or not hungry — two of the many symptoms. And I can PUT AWAY massive quantities of food in a relatively short period, for no reason. The only difference between me and the “average” obese American is that I’ve been binging on “healthy” things for the last ten years. This is why we can’t assign moral values to food — it’s not about WHAT you are eating. It’s WHY and HOW. Any unhealthy relationship with food is concerning — not just those who eat “bad” foods.

In the Saguy/Gruys study, finding articles that talked about binge eating disorder was difficult, and in fact articles from the main analysis time frame didn’t exist. Two articles from 2007-on were found, but even those refused to believe that obese/overweight people could have a legitimate disorder, like an anorexic or bulimic.

This, I find, is ridiculous. These eating/food/body disorders are all related, but I believe they manifest in people differently. We always read stories of the high-flying, popular, pretty (middle class white) girl who suffers from anorexia — how could she she is so successful and has it all? Cue (very accurate) discussion of how the individual is so desperate for control over the one thing they have complete autonomy over — their body. I think it’s the same in people with binging disorder — I know it is for me. I was that high-flying (middle class white) girl who had all my shit together — but instead of seeking to control my body by restricting food and striving for a super idealized body type, I rebelled against it — food and eating (and binging) was the one area of my life where I could LOSE control without it having what I saw as “real” consequences (ie: grades wouldn’t drop, etc.). I also think some part of me wanted to rebel against body standards — to my own detriment. (does that give me more feminist street cred, or is it just kind of sad?)

People need to break away from the idea that fat people are to blame for their problems. Do individuals make choices? OF COURSE. But you know what? Someone who is anorexic or bulimic makes a choice not to eat, or to eat and then purge. We examine WHY they make those choices. And we recognize that there are complex, underlying reasons for these compulsions, generally beyond individual control and most often times requiring professional, long term help. Yet we deny this same reasoning and help for the chronically overweight/obese – who quite likely have an eating disorder equally as insidious. The difference is that society heralds thinness, but reviles fat. And the chronic fat hate and negative, critical talk that obese individuals face make their disorder worse, never better. (shaming never works!)

This is why I advocate dropping food guilt. It’s why I don’t believe in the SHEER WILLPOWER diet. It’s why I embrace body positivity and community support. There are dozens of complex factors at play with weight struggles and food addiction. Everyone is already telling you you don’t have “real” problem, and that you just have to be stronger, better, faster, thinner.  STOP saying that shit to yourself — someone needs to stand up for fat people with real, clinically diagnosable problems.  I’m afraid, at this juncture, that it needs to be YOU (and me).

What do you think? Do you think you have a problem with food addiction and/or binge eating disorder?

Posted in Body Issues, Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Fat Shaming, FeaturedComments (14)

Life fail: “Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat”

Life fail: “Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat”

So AskMen.com, in an effort to aid men in Being Awesome and Having Hot Girlfriends, has published an interesting top ten list. Top 10: Subtle Ways To Tell Her She’s Getting Fat.”

Amazingly, unlike with most journalism nowadays, this isn’t just the case of an incendiary headline + mundane article. AskMen.com reaches truly new levels of disgusting misogyny with this one. Fellow blogger Jillian wrote her own pointed commentary on the piece and pointed me towards it (please read!).

Let me share some of these gems:

No.1 Take her to places where she has to wear a swimsuit

If she seems content staying at home eating donuts in her track pants, why not start taking her to places where she has no choice but to wear a swimsuit? As she awkwardly looks around at all the slender bodies having a great time, she’ll more than likely vow to do something about her recent weight gain, especially if she knows she’ll be back there in the not-so-distant future.

No.2 Leave “now” and “then” photos lying around

This is a highly effective way to draw attention to the explicit changes to her body as you see them.

No.7 Serve her unsatisfactory portions

When dishing up meals for the two of you, try giving her smaller-than-usual amounts. By making her ask for more food, you might succeed in shaming her into an acknowledgment of her recent weight gain, and hopefully to instigate a conversation about what she’s going to do about it. If you feel as though you’re starving yourself in the process, remember you can always go back for more when she’s not looking.

No.10 Buy her clothes that are too small

If you buy her clothes that are obviously too small for her, not only will she finally have to admit that she’s putting on weight, but she can easily return them for her correct size. First, she’ll have to reveal to you that the clothes are too small. “Oh,” you might say, “I thought you were a size 8. Isn’t that what you were last summer?” The onus is now on her to do something about it.

Sadly, there are more, including number 3, which was so bad, they actually changed it — originally it was “sabotage her chair.” That’s right — they were advising men to go full Shallow Hal on their girlfriends. What. The. Fuck.

Aside from the very obvious problem of OMGWTF WHO WOULD DATE THESE DOUCHE BAGS, it’s shameful how smug and manipulative most of these tactics are. Shame her into losing weight by buying her too-small clothing? Taking her to the beach? FEEDING HER SMALLER PORTIONS SO IT WILL PROMPT A DISCUSSION OF HER WEIGHT?!

Congratulations, AskMen.com. You managed to squeeze more misogyny and fat hate into a single post than I think I have ever seen before. *slow clap*

THIS is why women have eating disorders. THIS is why women are in abusive relationships and hate themselves. THIS is why the diet industry thrives. THIS is why women are raped and sexually assaulted with sickening regularity (because, you see, we exist solely for the benefit of men). THIS is why fat people, especially women, hate themselves.

Posted in Dating, Fat Shaming, Featured, Gender Politics & FeminismComments (18)

The “fat girl’s” manifesto

The “fat girl’s” manifesto

Two events recently took place, concurrently, which begged for some personal reflection so far as it concerns this blog, my “weight loss” and this journey. One blogger (*waves hello*) called me out for dispensing advice when I have, essentially, “lost only 15 pounds in thirteen years.” Dodgy maths aside, there’s that. On the same day, a wonderful website that targets teenage girls (and boys, but primarily girls) trying to lose weight AND build positive body image, reached out to me about guest blogging. They liked the way I balance positive body talk with weight loss.

Being that both kind of touch on a similar theme and are so well-timed, I reckoned it was time for a Giant Post O’Navel Gazing Reflection.

The thing is, I didn’t always have the perspective on myself, my body and “weight loss” that I have now. It’s a perspective and self-esteem that I think is pretty healthy and positive. It was learning to love and like myself *regardless of size* that flipped the switch in my mind for lifestyle change and made true, gradual change possible. Numbers are becoming less important, as I focus less on what others tell me I should be, and more on what I want to be. I focus on how I feel — and on how fitness & muscle can transform my figure. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn if someone else thinks I haven’t lost enough weight. It’s really not about that any more.

So, yes: I failed, many times, over many years, to nip this weight thing in the bud. Like many a yo-yo dieter, I now weigh FAR more than I did when I started my weight loss efforts. I look back on my high school self and realize I wasn’t even fat! But my perception of myself — and the way others treated me — sent me another message, which I believed. That’s the delicious irony — if I had had a better self-image, and weren’t surrounded by family, peers and media that told me that I was fat — maybe I could have focused in on my behavioral & emotional issues as they related to food. Instead, embarrassment about my body coupled with a relentless guilt complex about food & “failing” lead to the same yo-yo dieting trend that most people struggle with (the success rates for “diets” = abysmal). I was so ashamed of my size, I was afraid to exercise! Talk about a negative feedback cycle.

But I forgive myself. I never saw myself as a failure, to be honest. Some would argue I need(ed) a little negative reinforcement – you’re too easy on yourself, fatty! But I think, deep down, I never hated myself fat – I was embarrassed and perhaps annoyed that I struggled where others didn’t. I never hated myself, period. But I didn’t truly love myself, either. I followed the fantasy of being thin and fabulous, convinced that I was awesome in every respect *but* my body, so I just had to fix that. Now I realize that was a damaging notion — maybe if I had accepted what I was, and WHY I was that way, I could have worked on the underlying issues a long time ago.

At the same time, however, come on! I was a KID! I had the same awkward, low-self esteem that many an early-blooming chubby girl has in this sex conscious, body-focused society. Through hormone addled middle school & high school, living abroad at 16, stressful (and buffet filled) college, post-college unemployment, first job stress + quarter life crisis, psychotic second job stress (with floor to ceiling snack closet & catered meals!), sexual assault stress (did you know that 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? Many multiple times?), becoming a self-sufficient adult stress. I don’t blame any of these things for my food addiction or yo-yoing, but do you really expect the average young person to clue out the complex emotional issues of binge eating & weight gain, by themselves? Not in this diet & media culture, thanks.

I’ve been GROWING UP this whole time, struggling with self-esteem and establishing myself as an “imperfect” woman in a world that demands a lot of women’s bodies. It wasn’t until after my 25th birthday that things slowly started to click into place. I learned to like myself – fat (OMG, can you believe it?). I started seeing through the media and its bullshit — and gradually over time let go of a lot of that pressure (David Brudnoy, may he rest in peace, thank you for your Media Criticism class; also thanks to my Women’s Studies professor).

And I finally admitted to myself that I have an eating disorder. The media only really talks about “starvation” disorders — anorexia, bulimia. I told myself I would never have to worry about those because I love food too much (and loathe vomiting). I was blind to the fact that food addiction IS an eating disorder, and just as anorexic and bulimia sufferers have a warped perception of body image & want to control their food/bodies… so do I. It was just harder to see because I was used to everyone treating fat people like Terrible, Alien People who are to blame for being fat. I only started to work on the incredibly complex, nuanced issues I have with food and my body recently. It’s a process — you think you can give up a lifetime of food guilt & assigning moral values to food, over night? I may never become a “normal” person, but I can sure as hell strive to take on more normative approaches to food, including eating in moderation… and no “bad” foods.

You can call me a failure, if you want. I see my past experiences, however, as feedback. Previously, I lacked the tools — and the support — to reform my mentality, emotions & behaviors when it comes to food and my body. Now, I believe I have them. You can take what I write as advice, or bullshit, or just something funny to read. But I do hope to reach people and make connections, in the same way that reading other blogs has helped me realize I am not alone. I am not a Terrible, Alien person. Many, if not most, of my experiences as a fat person — and as a woman — are shared experiences.

I am done with misogyny. I am done with hating myself and my body. I am done with food guilt. I am DONE with diets.

I am ready for lifestyle change. I am ready for unconditional love (of myself and others). I am ready for health at any size. And I get to decide when I’m done, and what’s OK.

** yes, the title of this post is meant to be ironic XD

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In the news: what really happens to your fat (and fat cells) when you lose weight

CNN has posted a thought-provoking article on misleading “spot fat treatment” claims, and what really happens to our bodies and shape when we lose weight.

The article’s main contention is, essentially, that we retain the same body shape we had BEFORE we lost weight, after we’ve lost weight. Yet, many diets claim to help “bust that belly fat” or “slim those hips” — they really can’t make those claims if it’s not organic to your body. If you start out a pear, you’re going to end up a pear. Same goes for apple. Top heavy, bottom heavy, whatever.

Why I find this interesting: because how many of us (especially women) beat ourselves up because we “can’t get rid of our hips” or lament that, even though we’ve lost weight, we don’t look like “–insert hot celebrity here –.”  I think it’s an excellent point that weight loss isn’t a miracle cure for a body shape you don’t like – you’re going to be more or less the same, just smaller.

Big shout-out to an expert from my alma mater for delivering some really depressing news!:

Humans carry about 10 billion to 30 billion fat cells. People who are obese can have up to 100 billion.

“If anyone of us overeats long and hard enough, we can increase the number of fat cells in our body,” Fried said. “When we lose weight, we don’t lose the number of fat cells.”

The size of the cells shrinks, but the capacity to expand is always there.

Liposuction can remove fat cells, but this procedure is ideally for people who are not obese.

“The fat cells are actually being removed,” said Tony Youn, a plastic surgeon who performs liposuctions. “It doesn’t mean that fat cells that remain can’t get bigger.”

Basically: UGH. You never lose those fat cells! They’re always there. I really had never thought about this in-depth, and to hear that an obese person might have three times the number of fat cells as an average person? WOW.

I wonder how much long-term damage I’ve done to my body with my yo-yoing — how many excess fat cells do I have that may get smaller, but never go away?

And also: yay shape! I’ve always liked mine, and it’s nice to hear that I’m always going to have those birthing hips!

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What’s up with Kate Middleton’s weight loss?

What’s up with Kate Middleton’s weight loss?

*Warning: this piece may be triggering to those recovering or suffering from an eating disorder*

When the press was going after Kate Middleton’s weight loss in March, outlets like Jezebel called out the tabloids for obsessing over her body and sensationalizing something that wasn’t that bad. However, her weight loss appears to have kept going, and now I can’t believe outlets like Jezebel *aren’t* talking about it, and its implications for women and body image.

It is difficult and conflicting to discuss a public figure’s (specifically a woman) body without feeling like one is body snarking. So I will head up this post by saying: I KNOW I’m concern trolling a bit, I feel slightly terrible doing it, but other than worrying about Kate Middleton’s stress levels, I will not cast aspersions on her eating habits (even if others do).

But, I have to share that I experienced genuine shock and awe upon seeing photos of Kate Middleton last week (below). Where I feel I have some authority of some kind to have certain feelings about Kate’s figure is that we are the same height. I’m not used to seeing public figures, other than Supermodels, who share my height. It hits home with Kate because, though our bits and pieces may line up slightly differently, looking at her, I KNOW where she is right now, and I know it’s not right.

This is the image I saw on Jezebel that stopped me in my tracks

Kate Middleton, as we knew her previously, was probably on the low but healthy end for her height. I would speculate she weighed 135-ish (possibly 140), which is very small for 5 foot 10, but still considered OK in terms of BMI. She was beautiful (still is), and appeared to be healthy and fit. I assumed she had great body image because she didn’t starve herself down to some ridiculous size. She was tall and fit, with a pleasant shape.

Then came the engagement and wedding. There were many stories about Kate slimming down for the wedding, and, yes, she looked great on her wedding day. (though I would beg the question of why she or anyone else felt she “needed” to lose weight for her wedding day!) But whether it’s due to stress (likely) or a conscious decision to continue with her regime, the weight appears to have continued to come off.

For some context, I am 5 foot 10 and weigh 218 pounds. I am overweight but not huge (thanks ridiculous, date-busting height!), and if you want, you can see pictures here. At my thinnest, I was 160 pounds and a size ten. The lowest I would conceive of going is 145, and that is a stretch at my height. Better context: Supermodel Gisele is 5 foot 11 (one inch taller than Kate and I) and weighs 130 pounds.  I throw out these numbers only to give context — when you’re this tall, what are “big scary numbers” to other women are NOT to you. 130 might be average to chubby (w/o toning and depending on diet) for someone 5 foot 2. 180 would be obese. But for someone 5 foot 10, 130 is THIN and 180 is a HEALTHY GOAL WEIGHT. Food for thought.

Add to that that now I’ve had the scary privilege of seeing an actress both on screen and off, and I can confirm that the camera DOES add ten pounds. So if you think someone looks sickly in a PHOTO, they are TERRIBLE in person. I’ve seen rib cages that I can’t unsee. Look at pictures of Kate and imagine she looks thinner in person.

Based on my best estimates, Kate is hovering around 120 lbs, at 5 foot 10.  That’s ONE HUNDRED POUNDS less than I weigh, and we are the same height, and I’m  a size 14. She’s thinner than a Supermodel. Can you imagine if I told you I was trying to lose 100 pounds? You’d recommend therapy! But because Kate started out thin and “dieted for the wedding” and is a pretty, pretty princess, few are questioning her new body. And I imagine girls are looking up to her and have cottoned on to the messaging, as well.

This is where I worry, and started to worry as soon as the wedding slim down started: Kate is a role-model, whether she likes it or not. And the message she’s communicating is that a Princess must be super thin and pretty, even if she was already thin, HEALTHY and pretty to begin with. Maybe it’s just stress and once she’s adjusted she’ll put the weight back on. But right now, she is scary skinny — and I know there are women out there who see her as a role model.

In fact, it’s been reported in several media outlets that Kate is now a “success story” in the pro-ana community. While this doesn’t mean Kate Middleton *has* an eating disorder, it does mean that those who *do* look up to her. Hell, I’d bet some members of the weight loss blogging community look up to her too — body dimorphism all around!

Here is a small gallery of photos of Kate BEFORE (with some comparison shots). She was svelte, but NOT scary skinny. Oh, what a difference 15 pounds makes on a tall girl…

What do you think about Kate’s recent photos? Am I imagining things?

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Posted in Fat in the Media, Gender Politics & FeminismComments (24)


Before & During

Weight & Inches