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?

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:

On diet books for children & solving the “obesity epidemic”

Every so often, you get a comment that incenses. I am… concisely challenged, so no surprise when a passionate response balloons into monster of a comment.

Yes, this is about Maggie Goes On A Diet… again. Dead horse, I AM BEATING YOU. It’s no longer truly about Maggie Goes on a Diet, but about the various reactions to it — especially those in favor — and what that says about the United States, our young girls and how we view fat people.  This individual took exception to this particular point from my original Maggie post:

“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.”

Now, I think that is my salient point! A happy fat kid who can be Healthy At Every Size — as a soccer star! How can anyone disagree with that?


This is the comment that I received this morning (emphasis mine):

How about we appreciate the book as it is written as it has a lot of important points that young girls (and boys)can undoubtedly relate to. And for you, why don’t you start working on your own book so you can choose your own message. Everybody needs to stop acting so outraged for someone addressing a very real and very large (no pun intended) problem in our country-obesity! Focus your energy on ways to help not hinder. Our young need motivation to get into healthier lifestyles and this book sounds like a great example of how they can improve their lives and their health!

Here is what I wrote, then felt like a Crazy Person to post in response – I like to rebut idiocy, but don’t want an individual to feel attacked. I am turning it into a post, because what this commenter said is reflective of views I’ve seen on Tumblr, Huffington Post, Gawker and dozens of other places. And my response is for MORE than just this one commenter:

Here’s the thing. You seem to be as brainwashed as everyone else about the “obesity epidemic” and the common steps that people take to “solve it.” Namely: fat shaming, and telling girls that the only thing that matters about them is how they look. The book “as it is written” tells young girls that no one will like them if they’re fat, that you can’t be healthy fat (a lie, especially at age 14!) and that the only way to be active and have people like you is to conform and get skinny.


I was actually a fat kid, so let me tell you what fat boys and girls can relate to. Yes, we can relate to bullying. But you know what I could have related to when I was a fat little 8-year-old? A character in the media who was fat and HAPPY. Instead, I saw happy thin people and miserable, lazy, unattractive fat people — I got the message that I was Not OK and I should Do Something About It. Enter a compulsive eating disorder, and a lifetime of yo-yo dieting. I am 27, and only just learned to unconditionally love myself this year! Books like this promote eating disorders, as well as girls seeing themselves as objects, because the most important thing about us is our body. I went in the opposite direction, rebelling against thin standards (subconsciously). So many girls will see a book like this and develop orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, compulsive exercising disorder — you name it.


This book is NOT about a “healthy lifestyle.” You can have a healthy lifestyle and be overweight. This book is about a sad fat girl who gets thin and happy. Obesity is a problem in this country, but not because girls aren’t “trying hard enough.” Look at the advertising industry. Images on TV, film, magazines. The way that we talk about fat people — like lazy, slovenly lepers. How the cheapest, most readily available food to 90% of society is absolute crap. These are problems that contribute to obesity. NOT little girls not trying hard enough. If little girls (and boys) learned to love themselves and knew that you can be healthy — yes, totally healthy! — and not have to be a size two, then maybe they wouldn’t enter the destructive cycle of dieting, which actually contributes to obesity.


I am not a children’s book author — it is actually one of the most competitive fields of publishing, which is why this author self-published. I am working on other creative material and you know what I write? Happy fat characters. I am trying to do something about it, including but not limited to this blog. And that includes calling out ridiculous examples of middle-aged fat men writing books for 6-year-olds that tell them how to diet.


And it’s true, lovely blog readers – my not-quite-formed novel features — gasp! — and Not Thin main character. She’s not a Big Girl, as it is not a Big Girl Does Stuff kind of book, but she is, incidentally, Not Thin and is — shockingly! — happy and loved and interesting and Does Stuff that has nothing to do with her body.

This commenter is right — we have to Do Something! But not because there is an “obesity epidemic.” Yes, we have a problem with obesity, but one of the problems is that we only accept a narrow, incredibly thin standard as beautiful, likeable and acceptable.  I’ve lived in countries that don’t worship the alter of size zero, and you know what? Their average size is smaller than ours. They don’t have as much shit food being shoved down people’s throats by the media. They don’t have as many morbidly obese people as we do. The “solution” to the “problem” is to reframe our thinking about bodies and food. NOT teach girls how to diet.

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 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.

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

Childhood, control & weight issues

This season, an episode of Addicted to Food showed the participants engaged in group therapy, to get in touch with their inner child and get to the bottom of how their childhoods correlate to their food addictions. There are some horror stories – verbally and physically abusive parents, alcoholics, suicidal parents, feeling like a mistake. The show and Shades of Hope seems to be going for the message that people with the “disease” of food addiction have dark, horrible childhoods.

I’m not quite sure where this leaves me. I had a happy childhood. I had a good mother. Really! I was never pressured, abused, or exposed to stressful or bad situations. Honestly, one of the more difficult aspects of trying to pinpoint where my disordered thinking about food comes from is that I didn’t have an unhappy childhood. That’s such an easy answer for many — compulsive eating and lack of care for one’s body as a reaction to extreme emotional stress.

Things I have come up with that might account for my issues:

  • media saturation of unrealistic body standards/bombardment of food p*rn/adverts
  • control issues manifesting themselves in eating habits
  • observing disordered eating habits in my family (primarily food guilt & binge eating)
  • lack of comfort with my maturing body at a young age (puberty onset at age eight)

Am I the only one? Those reading this blog who also struggle with food, eating and weight — did you have happy childhoods? Can you pinpoint your problems to something specific in childhood?

Re: my body. I believe unwanted sexual attention may have lead to my keeping myself fat (subconsciously). I wasn’t abused or assaulted, but from an early age faced sexual attention from men that made me incredibly uncomfortable. From the time I hit puberty when I was 8, along with hormonal weight gain came breasts, hips and a growth spurt. I looked much older than I was — at about age nine, men at a birthday party of a classmate remarked that they thought I was 13. As in — they were hitting on me because they thought I was 13. (incidentally, this same friend was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend — her family environment was a bad one, and after that, my mom didn’t let me go to her house or parties – or maybe I stopped wanting to go. I can’t remember.)

It’s theoretical and abstract — it’s a maybe. It also was hardly a defining thing in my childhood — just something that, in hindsight, may have contributed. Of course, by time I was like YAY BODY, my behavior patterns were pretty locked in, and reversing my weight became and uphill and lifelong battle.

Something more concrete that I know to be true — I’m a control freak. I think I always was — as a child, it manifested as being a bossy pants, not working well in groups/teams, and being perfectionist about my school work. It also meant that I didn’t do anything that I wasn’t sure I’d be good at — my fear of failure and need to stay in control meant I didn’t try sports or activities that were new to me. A common thread of those with eating disorders is that desperate need for control. Anorexics are well known for using food (and not eating it) as a way to exercise control over the one thing they have complete autonomy over — their body. For me, with overeating and my overweight body, it is the same thing but with a twist — I was so carefully in control of all things in my life, that eating was the one opportunity I had to let go completely. Of course, it was ultimately self-destructive.

Oddly, it’s been through getting older and growing more mellow that I’ve been able to reverse things, or start to: let go of control over things like schedules and outings and work and regain control over eating. I find following a program and having control over food mentally and emotionally fulfilling. That said, I’m highly aware of the dangerous reverse: being so rigid and in control of food that it’s an obsessive focal point (and a gateway to disordered under-eating).

Everyone has a different reason for food and weight issues. I just don’t think I can root mine in a bad childhood. It’s a process to try and figure out where I may have picked up some of my disordered thinking. This is just a start.

Not the only fat girl at the gym!

Hark, for I am NOT the only fat girl at the gym!

Last week I declared I had found the Fat Girl Magic Hour at my gym — post-8:30 p.m., to have any hope of a) getting on a machine and b) not be surrounded on all sides by RIDICULOUS beautiful/thin people. Last night, not only did I get a machine  right away, THERE WAS ANOTHER BIG GIRL AT THE GYM.

This is the FIRST TIME since — what? November? — that I’ve gone to my gym and seen a woman (or any person, really) to whom I could relate. It gave me an extra boost of confidence, rocking out on the treadmill with another woman also busting her butt beside me. (this is not to say that all the thin Beautiful People aren’t busting their butts… but they just don’t look quite as sweaty or taxed as I usually do LOL)

SO! Overweight ladies of Hollywood who need a cheap gym and fear the Gym Rats and Beautiful People! L.A. Fitness, Hollywood Blvd, post-8:30 p.m. on week days. SEE YOU THERE XD

Holy Bad Photo, Batman!

You know that thing where you see a picture of yourself and can’t help but exclaim HOLY HELL, BATMAN, DO I LOOK FAT! Yeah. That happened to me this week. Same week, I also saw a photo that made me go “Yayes, I look awesomesauce.”

Oh, what a difference a) angles and b) a positive attitude can make! Let me share the TERRIFYING picture, taken in March, wherein I learn the lesson “srsly don’t bend over at an angle and take a photo”:

In my defense, it was FREEZING, and the three of us were attempting to pool body heat, but STILL. OMG FAT ROLLS. Also, because I am leaning into my lovely friend Emily, you can’t tell where my body starts/ends, plus I’m holding something in my hand which makes it even more confusing. I am nothing but AWKWARD SHAPES.

Here’s what’s nice, though. Because I am feeling confident that I am Doing What I Am Supposed To Be Doing, and that photo was taken 5 lbs ago, I can take an unflattering photo (neck down!) like this in stride. No fat person likes to see a picture of themselves where they look, well, fat.

More recently, I posed for a shot with Heidi and Kenlie, of Finishing the Hat and All The Weigh, respectively. MUCH better angle… plus you can’t see below my chest. WIN!

So, yeah! I am actually sharing a TERRIBLE photo of me, and unlike in the past, I am totally ok with it! Progress :)

Dear friends: it’s ok to say I’m fat

Last month, a comment thread on a Jezebel post struck me, and has niggled at my brain since then.  The article itself was about a brawl that broke out when one woman likened another to the lead character from Precious; ie: the “fat is an insult” construct. It’s true — fat is considered an ugly word, a besmirching character attribute, akin to calling someone lazy, ugly and gross. The comment that stuck me was from a young woman who relayed a recent conversation she’d had with a close, overweight friend. Her friend called herself fat, and the commenter remarked “no, you’re beautiful! You’re a beautiful person!” The fat friend asked the commenter: Be honest – would you trade bodies with me? And the commenter answered: No. I know society treats fat people poorly and I don’t want that.  The fat friend pushed further: “Would you feel beautiful at my weight?” The commenter answered: No. The fat friend cried, and thanked the commenter for being the only person in her life who was honest with her, and not patronizing about her weight.

I call myself fat. My friends tell me I’m not fat. I’m awesome, smart and beautiful. I’m a great person, they tell me. Well, I agree. I am an awesome person! But I’m also fat. And that’s ok.

Just because YOU (my friends) don’t see my weight (or pretend not to), doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I think that often the people in fat people’s lives do this — they don’t see your physicality, they see you as a person.You — or others — call you fat, and they jump to your defense — you’re not fat! You’re beautiful! Fat as a descriptor in our society is pejorative, and associated with a number of negative and undesireable character traits — laziness, gluttony, being undesireable or repulsive. The people in our lives don’t want to call us fat because they liken it to calling us these other, negative things. You can’t be fat! You’re a good person! When I hear this, I think to myself: “Thank you for being a good friend. But if you let me own my fat, it would be better for me.” I also wonder if they honestly don’t think I’m fat, or if what they’re really saying is: “I know you’re kind of overweight, but I like you anyway.” Um… thanks? It’s kind of like a back-handed compliment (from some people).

Of course, there’s also the issue of relative fat. I am not obese. I am not *as* fat as the token examples of fat in media — characters on shows, good and bad, such as Huge, Glee, Mike & Molly; contestants on The Biggest Loser and Heavy; the people we see on the news and outrageous talk shows who are so fat they have to be lifted from their beds/houses with a forklift. No, I am not any of these extreme examples of weight, so I suppose I can see where my friends would not identify me as the media token of “fat”/obese. Valid point. However, I am undeniably NOT thin, nor am I at an optimal weight for my height and age. I’m “average,” though, people tell me (and I’ve told myself) because the average American is a size 14 (and creeping up) so I can’t be fat if everyone else is like me!

But I *am*. I have been between 60 and 80lbs overweight for the last ten years (and prior to that, 30-50lbs overweight from the age of 8). I’m not griping about a little flab around my stomach — 10, 20 lbs — I’m talking about a significant percentage of my total body weight (30-35% of it), and a number out of whack with my height and age. If I’m “average,” then that means that a LOT of people out there are just like me, and probably also feel uncomfortable a lot of the time (back fat and thigh chafing!). Carrying this much extra weight doesn’t feel good, and despite allegedly being “average,” society at large still treats people like me poorly.

To my friends: don’t worry about making me “feel bad” about myself. I don’t have body dysmorphic disorder or an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. By discouraging me from saying I’m fat and telling me that you think I’m perfect the way I am, and beautiful, you’re not saving me from disordered thinking about my body. You’re not going to trigger me or make me want to starve myself. I am able to accept the reality of my body, and own the word fat. Please allow me to own it.

Sadly, it sometimes feels like a thin vs. fat divide. When my overweight friends do this, especially those who are larger than me, I totally get it. Fat isn’t something that everyone wants to talk about, and when one person makes bold statements about their body, it tends to cast aspersions – usually unintentionally – on anybody who is larger. When a fellow overweight friend tells me I’m not fat, it’s an opportunity to check myself – did I offend them? And if so, apologize. After all, I know what it feels like when someone I see as “thin” calls themselves fat. It makes me feel even worse. Every day I learn to be a little less “tunnel vision” when it comes to body issues and weight, and try and see things from other people’s perspectives. I still make mistakes. But at least I know my overweight friends know how I feel.

When my thin friends do this, it just augments for me that fact that they don’t understand what it’s like to be fat. It’s really easy to think that being a good person, smart, funny and “beautiful on the inside” is enough when your outside package is generally acceptable to society at large. It’s not enough. My weight has been and is a major handicap – my romantic life has never been and still isn’t normal (as previously discussed on this blog, it’s complicated), I frakking HATE shopping (and sometimes wearing clothes at all) and I often feel (sometimes legitimately) that people are judging me because of my weight. Plus a whole other slew of issues that I’ve blogged about. Coming to terms with this and doing something to change it is important to me. Part of that is calling myself fat, and having the people who are important to me recognize it, too.

As I mentioned, I was/am guilty of this, as well. During my quasi helpful/self-destructive “fat acceptance”/self-delusion phase (read: college and shortly thereafter), I was also “that friend.” Specifically, I would tell my tall, beautiful friend Emily that she was NOT FAT! Emily was, at the time, a little bigger than me (mostly because she’s taller – we were close in clothing size) and, like me, was carrying a lot of weight on a large (tall) frame. In the past four years, my friend has lost 80lbs, run a marathon, and is fit, healthy and happy. I look back at photos of her and marvel at the difference. Emily spearheaded the joking “fat kid” moniker back in college, which at the time I thought was Not Good, so I gave her the patronizing affirmations. Inspired by her journey, now I turn that around on myself, as she has. It feels good to just accept who I am and deal with it — but I need my friends and loved ones to accept it, too.

Of course, I’m not advocating we go around calling fat people fat! Fat shaming is just as bad as ignoring and patronizing fat, and it’s not like I want my friends to introduce me as “This is Alexa. She’s fat!” For me, it’s important that I own my own perception of my fat and empower myself to do something about it. My friends trying to make me feel better, feel normative and “not fat,” for many years fueled a self-delusion that I didn’t need to change. Would it be lovely if people could accept me for “who I am,” the men I’m attracted to liked me back  and I didn’t wonder if I didn’t get something or didn’t do something because I’m fat? Well, yes. But that isn’t the reality in which I live. I’m thankful to have friends who don’t think I’m fat, and read my blog and give me words of encouragement… but they still tell me I’m not fat. I’m like: “are you listening?”

I don’t wish to come off as a self-hating fat person, which I realize is a valid interpretation of some of these assertions. The problem is, following the “fat acceptance” mentality did nothing but lead to a certain complacency about my very real food issues and behaviors, and fueled the delusion of being “not fat,” which made me FATTER. I’m over it.

Let’s call a spade a spade. I’m fat, I accept it, now I’m changing. It’s ok to agree with me!

In the news: Schools including BMI on report cards?

The Huffington Post has published an article that discusses the trend of schools sending students home with report cards that feature their BMI. Plus nutritional and exercise tips.

All I gotta say is: WOAH.

First of all, BMI is problematic, for a number of reasons that we’ve previously discussed. It is NOT the ideal measure of health, though I suppose in children it’s better than nothing. But what will a school’s telling parents that their child is underweight, “normal,” overweight or obese actually *do*?

Apparently, American parents don’t realize their kids are fat. Quote:

…A 2010 survey from Trust for America’s Health found that 84 percent of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight, even though almost one third of kids are actually overweight or obese.

Well, for one — you can be overweight and be healthy. I was a fat kid. Like, 125lbs at age 8 (and maybe 5 foot 4). I know this because I remember this one awful day when they weighed us at school and I was the second heaviest, after the “fat kid” in our class (the one who got picked on a lot — generally, I was spared). I will always remember how the dial stopped at 125, and my embarrassment.

But I wasn’t unhealthy. I know that sounds CRAY-ZEE since obviously I was stuffing Doritos and Oreos into my mouth (um, sometimes), but the food that I was being given by my mother was, by and large, healthy — lots of salad, grilled chicken, fish, fruits & vegetables and very limited processed snacks. (I got my processed snacks elsewhere, thanks!) I wasn’t a sporty kid, but I was moderately active (walked to and from school, games of tag, hop skotch, etc). I count myself pretty lucky, especially compared to all the poor kids I knew (and know) who weren’t getting nutritionally sound food. I was — but I was also fat. (this said: portion control wasn’t my strong suit. It’s not like I got fat by magic)

My point is, parents with little fatties might respond to a survey and say their child was a healthy weight — especially if they have a bit of kid-pudge or puberty weight — and it’s not the end of the world. But of course, we’re not talking about these parents. BMIs on report cards are meant to reach the parents who, fairly, are probably massively overweight (or obese) themselves and have no perspective on what is a healthy weight for kids. People have no proper concept of what’s a healthy weight for their DOGS & CATS… so that they don’t get it with kids is no surprise. (srsly people: fat dogs & cats = NOT FUNNY OR CUTE).

Here’s the thing: BMIs, nutritional and exercise tips going out to parents of kids in impoverished, or even just lower middle class areas isn’t going to do any good. Nutritional tips are fine and dandy, but I’d reckon a lot of the parents of these obese kids are not financially or logistically able to implement them. And exercise tips? Um, school, how about you use that government mandated P.E. time that fat kids like me hate with a passion to, I don’t know, actually exercise children. Or give them proper recess time so they can run around like mad-men & women.

So I’m healthily skeptical of this. If I got a BMI on my kid’s report card, I’d roll my eyes and tell the school to stop parenting my bloody children. But that’s just me. Maybe it’ll reach some parents…

But can you imagine being that kid? I know we played games where we’d peek at others’ report cards to see who got what — I would DIE if kids saw my BMI. Especially if it said I was obese.