So, recently I read this fantastic book called The Fat Studies Reader, edited by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay. It's about fat and the politics of fat. I've touched on my feelings and my personal experiences a little in the past but I don't know if I ever really explained a lot about this. I think it will probably strike people as radical and I guess that's why I felt I needed to put it out there. There are several great blogs about fat, Health at Every Size, and most tend to be pretty convincing. If you're interested, I would start
here and it's likely preferable to my rambling. But these are some things that stood out to me:
“fat” as a preferred neutral adjective
I love identifying myself as fat. I was never shy of the word, even as an adolescent, but it started out as just me being frank about my shape. When 14 year old me described myself as fat, I simply wanted to acknowledge it and not sugar coat what I thought was my absolute worst quality. But taken on its own, fat is a purely descriptive word, and would be neutral without an effort to characterize it as negative. Fat is also easier to define than “obese” or “overweight” at least considering how fluid and, apparently, conveniently malleable those terms have been in recent history. The dominant view of fat that we all grew up with was that it's abhorrent or at least highly undesirable. When I realized how irrational a lot of those cultural beliefs were, not to mention how damaging they were to my self-esteem, I was still fat. I am fat. I am not any number of bullshit things that became attached to that word, e.g., a gluttonous, useless, non-sexual blob. The difference is that now I'm fat and happy to be. (I would be just as happy to be fatter or skinnier, assuming that my shape is natural for me; that's kind of the point of this whole deal, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)
“...every person who lives in a fat-hating culture inevitably absorbs anti-fat beliefs, assumptions and stereotypes”
So yes, I grew up in this culture too. I no longer buy into the traditional or, more accurately, current, standard of beauty and still on a bad day, I can look into the mirror and wish that I was a little smoother and a little smaller. Truthfully, the only time I regularly feel miserable about being fat is when I am trying to shop for clothes and basically have zero. fucking. options. Reading through this book brought up a lot of stuff for me. Being fat is inconvenient because not everything is “fat sized” and that's not just clothes but seats in restaurants, or worse, in schools, amusement park rides, jewelry, etc. I've always accepted that I'm outside of the average and so I just have to deal. The authors make a lot of different points criticizing that thinking and I realized I'm still kinda holding on to the belief that I deserve to be uncomfortable in some respects because of my size. Maybe I shouldn't expect that everything be accessible to fat people but when there is clearly a market for such things—like, it's not as though it's just fatties who prefer wider seats in the movie theater or, ahem, on an airplane—why is that demand not being met?
There's really no stigma attached to excluding someone on the basis of fat. Why should there be? Fat gets labeled as a health problem, but one that has a cure. Common knowledge is that fat people could be thin if they made the effort to eat less and exercise more. This I guess explains why, when I was in 7th grade and running to grab something of my dad's car, some male teenagers driving by yelled out the helpful advice of, “Keep running, fat ass!” (When, in fact, it just isn't that simple. All bodies weren't designed to be the same, why would we expect everybody to be average-weight when we recognize all other physical characteristics as variable?) It is essentially a moral imperative to mold yourself into an acceptable shape. If you aren't at least trying to get thin, ie, trying to be less gross and buying into the enormous weight-loss industry, why should your interests be considered? Corporations are glad to take your money and sell you the promise of being thin. It is not in society's interest to accommodate you, because that would be like saying it's ok to be an “unhealthy” size.
There are a lot of studies about fat discrimination in this book as well, including one that found “just being seen with a fat person can affect the social status of an average-weight person.” That same study found that fat people were even harsher than the average-weight in their judgments toward a couple made up of a fat person and thin partner. It struck me as a little extreme but, then, I'm not so surprised. Previously, I didn't expect anybody to be physically attracted to me unless they had some kind of perverse fat-accepting fetish. (Because you would have to be a sexual deviant to find a fat person hot, another common sense assumption.) Then on a date a few years ago, a man told me he preferred bigger women the way someone might prefer a brunette to a blond. That makes a crazy amount of sense, doesn't it? I think it's a little unfortunate that I learned to love my body through the eyes of men but it all became part of a broader understanding I developed, and the shocking realization that it was ok to be fat and sexy at the same time was pretty damn empowering.
“Weight is an inaccurate basis for predicting individual health or longevity.”
“The only thing that anyone can diagnose, with any certainty, by looking at a fat person, is their own level of stereotype and prejudice toward fat people.”
I know people find the above incredibly hard to believe but it's very true and it's just...wow. Three or four years ago I HAD NO IDEA. It's probably easier for one to assume that I am just deluding my fat self into thinking there's nothing wrong with being fat because I am fat and also, presumably, too lazy to do anything about it, so of course I would stumble upon this concept and embrace it. And hey, everybody knows that fat is unhealthy because fat is unhealthy. Seriously, science has been unable to demonstrate that fat alone causes health problems. That is the actual truth. Some choice factual bits:
91% of what accounts for a health outcome has nothing to do with BMI
We do not know that weight loss would improve long-term health, and we do not have a treatment to produce lasting weight loss for the vast majority of people.
Health improvements attributed to weight loss occur without any weight loss when research participants improve their health practices.
There are more facts and figures here. It should be shocking that we are told so consistently that fat will kill you with its fatty fatness and is inseparable from its friends, diabetes and heart disease, without valid scientific evidence behind it. Frankly though, it is not a shock to me, but another example of the uselessness of popular media. If only 9% of health outcome has anything to do with a person's weight, perhaps our focus should be on factors that make up the other 91%. At the very least, “health” has become grossly oversimplified and that doesn't come without cost. Oh yeah and as far as this country being the fattest in the world, which we are quite frequently told that it is, and the CRISIS of OBESITY, , “the World Health Organization data on 'obesity' in adults indicate that the United States ranks twentieth.”
To be clear, I do not eat as well as I should and I haven't exercised on a regular basis in the past. I'm trying to improve my lifestyle because good nutrition and exercise predict health in a way “losing weight” does not. I would not be surprised if this causes me to lose some weight, but whatever weight I become while engaging in healthy practices will be a healthy weight for me. I embrace whatever weight that may be and this mindset has done amazing things for me. Being ok with my fat changed the way that I looked at myself in so many ways. I always had self esteem but my positive self image was punctuated by buts. Eg, I'm smart, I'm funny, I have nice hair, I'm great at my job. But I'm fat. But I can't wear sleeveless clothes. But nobody is going to think I'm hot. But if anybody ever loves me it will be despite the way I look. Even if the world doesn't reject all the bullshit attitudes toward my body, I can. Meanwhile, I can put my energy into adopting healthy habits. TB and I both thought it necessary to put more effort into healthy eating and he's not fat. Health at Every Size is, truly, meant for people of every size and this quote sums it up best for me, “The task is to care for the body you have, and will continue to have, whether it gains or loses weight or ages or gets cancer or runs a marathon.”
Nobody has to take it from me or anyone I link to. I just encourage people, as usual, to question things, to seek out facts, research and better understanding of “common sense” issues. It's not that much to ask. Thus endeth my fat manifesto.
I love Jon Hamm more than I probably should.
expect a real entry very soon
Anyhow, work is good, different. The nature of my job is that some days I'm going to not be thrilled about going to work and some days I know it's going to be smooth sailing and some days my assignment changes at the last minute. I really don't mind the last minute schedule adjustments - especially when it's from a less fun assignment to one of the predictably easy ones. I'm still becoming familiar with things and it's going to take longer than I would probably like for me to be exposed to everything but so far, I'm happy.
I am waiting for my health insurance to kick in. One would think that I could easily go 90 days with no worries after being without insurance for a few years as an adult but no. I guess it was bad timing. I'm in need of a root canal but one side of my mouth seems to be holding up ok, so that hasn't been as much of an issue anymore but my back is another story. I had finished physical therapy sometime around Christmas, had a few good back weeks, but then it went and sucked some more. Basically, for an extended period of time, if I sit down for five minutes or more, it gets stiff when I need to move again. Oh, and standing and walking are both uncomfortable. I have very little flexibility. I can't find a good way to get socks or shoes on anymore and I shuffle around like an old lady. A fat, old and hairy-legged lady. I actually went to the doctor a few weeks ago, despite no insurance - now I can pay for that and an x-ray, which is awesome - and the solution for now is to take my muscle relaxer and an anti-inflammatory until I can go back in June. I thought I was much improved about two weeks ago, went to the gym, and apparently did something horrible. Now the back issues are the same and something new and differently-painful occurred that has yet to go away. Ok, so that's not fun, but the worst thing is, I am starting to get used to it.
More than being physically uncomfortable, it's been bothering me to feel so unhealthy and blobby. Like... I now have a chronic back problem and I also happen to be at my highest weight ever and I have so much trouble with mobility and it just feels wrong. I have never liked being sick or what have you because it makes me feel kind of helpless and now it's unfortunately making me feel less attractive. I'm looking at and feeling differently about myself and it's just not good. So TB and I are both starting to make an effort to eat healthier and I got the Planet Fitness membership, which I really wish I could use right now. I just want to feel better. Part of that will be feeling more healthy and physically capable. I would not be shocked if I drop some pounds but that's secondary. Seriously. At the moment, there's this holding pattern and I'm just hoping my back improves sooner rather than over a month from now, when I can do more about it. I don't like being down on myself and that's hard to avoid because my back is part of me and it is a fucking douche bag. It's not all bad by any means, it just happens that there is this stupid back cloud over things a lot of the time.
TB and I are celebrating two years this weekend, which is fricking sweet. My birthday is also coming up and it's Spring! I'm driving a reliable car. I like my life and in most ways, I feel incredibly lucky. THAT is new.
PS, I faithfully watched this last season of Project Runway, though it did not deserve me. And I'm not the only one in this household:
And I need to clean up those shelves.
What is your occupation right now? Residential Counselor,
What is your occupation beginning February 15, 2010? (I made that one up) Direct Support Associate, somewhere new. (WOO!)
What color are your socks right now? Blue.
What are you listening to right now? An Office re-run. But this is a list of new albums that I've procured in the last month and not yet listened to:
Wicked, Original Broadway Cast
Picaresque, The Decemberists
The Hazards of Love, The Decemberists
The Golden Hum, Remy Zero
Almost Home, Evergreen Terrace
Absolute Garbage, Garbage
Glee: The Music, Volume 1
Demon Days, Gorillaz
Origin of Symmetry, Muse
Come Away With Me, Norah Jones
Hairspray, Original Broadway Cast
The Fantastiks, Original Off-Broadway Cast
Chicago: Music from the Motion Picture
Greatest Hits, Pat Benatar
The Sufferer & The Witness, Rise Against
Dressed Up as Life, Sick Puppies
Takk..., Sigur Ros
My brother's band has some music: and because I'm a horrible person™ , I have not listened to their music yet either.
What was the last thing that you ate? I can't be sure - hot dog, hot dog bun, or potato chip.
Can you drive a stick shift? No! I know it would be useful but, alas, I tried to learn once at age 17 and it seemed to require too much effort.
Last person you spoke to on the phone? TB, before he came home from work.
Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yes, wouldn't want to get written out of the will. Hi, mom!
How old are you today? 23.
What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Whatever. Project Runway.
What is your favorite drink? Caramel Macchiato, soy extra caramel if you must know or are stopping by Starbucks anytime soon.
Have you ever dyed your hair? A few times.
Favorite food? Pasta aglio olio/steak/pizza/ice cream/mashed potatoes.
What is the last movie you watched in a theater? The Princess and the Frog on January 7. (I liked it but ironically cried for about half of it because it was the day before I attended a wake.)
Favorite day of the year? Christmas.
How do you vent anger? Mostly cry.
What was your favorite toy as a child? Probably my Cabbage Patch Doll, Holly Something Cutesy.
Favorite season? Spring.
Cherries or Blueberries? Blueberries, but those artificialish dehydrated sugar-coated ones found in blueberry muffin mix.
When was the last time you cried? Not sure, not more than a few days ago.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? I definitely went into hysterics with TB last night but I can't remember what it was about. It kind of happens daily.
What is on the floor of your closet? Lint, possibly a monster. I don't use it that much.
What did you do last night? Worked until 11, then went out and had a drink.
Favorite dog breed? I want a dog again. TB is wary but it needs to happen eventually because two cats, one dog has long been my pet plan.
How many states have you lived in? Two.
What is your favorite flower? Lilacs.
Diamonds or pearls? Ok see, this brings up a recent a dilemma. It's in the cards for me to be engaged soon (no pressure, boyfriend!) and that's pretty nice, I just don't have a clue what to do about a ring. I want one for sure, I just really don't want one that looks like every other one or costs any great amount of money. If it has a diamond/diamonds, I would like some color in there, but maybe that's more of a wedding band style anyway. Simple is nice but then I want it to still be an engagement ring. It would almost be easier to just do it myself but I am waiting to be proposed to because, having been ready and comfortable with the idea myself for some time, I want the timing and planning completely right for TB. Plus, I am not going to dictate my own damn engagement ring. It's hardly the point, frankly, and I would be happy with a twist tie on my finger. I'm jewelry indecisive, I suppose is the point of this rambling.
With any luck I will be reporting Christmas from TB's family headquarters. It will give me something to do if I need some alone time. Until then, FAT POWER!
But here I am, having updated my resume, considering other options. Some of what is that I'm unhappy with can/will probably be resolved but the major issue is that I don't feel appreciated and I think that a lot of my value as an employee hasn't been recognized. Funny because I never even thought of that as something vitally important to me until now when, for the first time, I don't think I've had it. Maybe I'm too used to people telling me how awesome I am at work. Whether I get the warm and fuzzy feelings or not, I've become really concerned recently that I'm not going to have any opportunity to advance and, honestly, I get the feeling that some of my superiors don't think that much of me. I know what I'm capable of and how much I contribute and until now I thought that everyone else did too. It's been a little bit of a roller coaster the last few months dealing with cutbacks and such forced by the economy and I've considered leaving before but it always came back to feeling good about who I work with and the job that I do on a daily basis. Now, I think what it might come down to is that I could make more money and have better benefits starting somewhere else. It just makes me kind of sad, because I could give a shit about making a few more dollars an hour.
Nothing is really decided yet but I made a phone call yesterday and I'm pretty confident that I can snag a particular new job rather easily. Still...sad. So I don't know exactly what I'm going to do.
(For the record, I feel that it is rather douchey to complain about job issues when I have a job, possibly even job options.)
I did, however, enter into counseling for mild depression/anxiety, which was about as surprising to myself as pretty much anyone else. It was not a dramatic breakdown or emergency mental intervention by any means, but I took an honest look at myself and my feelings and found that something was not right. Basically, I took preventative measures to avoid going to a darker place and camping out there. It's been a learning experience really, which is funny because in the beginning I suspected that no one was going to tell me anything that I didn't already know, because I am sometimes a pompous ass. Three months later, I feel really good about the place I'm in.
And naturally, TB has been there. We are in a good place, too. I've been reflecting a lot on us (and everything really, which is kind of the natural benefit of therapy) and I still feel incredibly lucky. Not because he is so damn amazing or anything, um...not that he isn't but you know...it's because I can't believe how, after every experience I had with men before him, it all just fell together so easily. I still don't really get it and it's been a year and a half. It's just right. And thank god because raising two incredibly whiny furry bastards is really a two person job. (See, cats.) This is why conservatives insist that people should not raise offspring alone. Although...pretty sure from my experience that two gay men or women could take care of a couple of animals without corrupting their moral fabric. But what do I know.
Well, stay tuned...
- Current Music:i never, rilo kiley