Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t (Eating in public)

Ugh, I hate how much subtext being fat (or is that “living in a fat-phobic world”?) has attached to eating in public. I feel like I’m caught in a dichotomy where no version of eating in public leaves me free to just enjoy the food and/or company I’m in (let alone not eating at all).
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Paging Dr. Dolgoff

Fierce Freethinking Fatties has put out a call for all bloggers available to post about Dr. Dolgoff. So who is she? She’s not only the author of a children’s diet book, Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right (which no, I’m not going to link to), but she’s the paediatrician assigned to look after the kid’s on The Biggest Losers. What’s that? You didn’t even realize there were kids on The Biggest Loser? Oh ho! You’re in for a treat (by which I mean a major mind fuck)! So The Biggest Loser has decided that it can’t get by with humiliating and abusing fat adults any more. It need a new schtick. And what better prop than children? Three contestants, aged 13-16 years old, will be participating in Dr Dolgoff’s diet program, but not weigh ins. And don’t worry, the trainers promised not to yell at the kids… for realz.

Dolgoff’s diet program contains a hell of a lot of recipes for Splenda for which she’s a spokeswoman for. Now, that’s not bad in and of itself.. until you start talking about someone who’s looking after the health of our kids. Splenda is questionable at best as a health food and everyone knows the way to maximize health is to consume whole foods, not processed crap.. like splenda.

But of course their goal is not to increase health, as they claim, it’s to make the kids thin. Not only do they cite bullshit statistics about 75% of parents not knowing their kid is ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ (can we see that study please? No? I didn’t think so), but they continually talk about a childhood obesity epidemic when obesity rates have been level for the past decade. Sure the number of ‘overweight’ kids doubled in 2007, but only because they lowered the BMI standards so that ‘normal’ weight kids became ‘overweight’ overnight. Dolgoff says the kids won’t be counting calories, presumingly to stave off obsession with numbers and thus not be accused of promoting eating disorders (in which 2700 in 100,000 kids have, compared to 12 in 100,000 kids with diabetes by the way).

What bullshit. Apparently they think teenagers are fucking idiots. The fact is that the message they’re receiving from society, from this TV show and, most fucked up, from their parents, is that they’re not good enough until they’re thin enough. This is straight up child abuse and child exploitation whether anyone in our fucked up society wants to say so or not. As a queer woman the only thing I can think of as similar would be conversion therapy when people still thought being LGBT was a disease. Now we think being fat is a disease and we’re putting people through fat to thin conversion therapy, and we’re doing it with children. We’re waging an all out social war on children. Everyone wants to scream “what about the children”? well what about the children? How can we think that involving them in anything deemed “a war” is appropriate? A war against what? A war against them. And again, kids aren’t stupid, they know the war isn’t just on their fat, the war is against them as human beings. Dr. Dolgoff should damn well be ashamed of what she’s doing.


The Obesity Paradox

Shortly after my last post, highlighting the cracks appearing in the research regarding the role of dietary fat and heart disease, a friend posted an article even more damning to the status quo in the medical and research fraternity regarding size, weight and disease (which I at the time failed completely to make the time to write about – sorry!).

In this article from the NY Times, Harriet Brown reports how several studies have shown that not only does obesity not put people with certain diseases at greater risk of death, but seems to actually lower this risk. Diseases like heart failure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure and – most recently – diabetes. Yup, that darling of fat shaming scare tactics and overly-concerned-about-our-health commentators everywhere.

  • “Diabetes patients of normal weight are twice as likely to die as those who are overweight or obese”
  • “In study after study, overweight and moderately obese patients with certain chronic diseases often live longer and fare better than normal-weight patients with the same ailments.”
  • “One study found that heavier dialysis patients had a lower chance of dying than those whose were of normal weight or underweight.”
  • “Overweight patients with coronary disease fared better than those who were thinner in another study”
  •  ”In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.”

The article goes on to speculate about possible explanations for what the researchers have dubbed the Obesity Paradox. A lot of the possible theories put forth sound to me like people desperately trying to make the data fit into their narrow world view (such as “maybe thin people who get these diseases have a genetic disposition making them more likely to get the disease and to then die from it” – the unspoken flip side being that fat people who get it are just getting their just desserts). However, one of the possibilities brought up is the failings of the BMI scale.

As anyone who’s read up even a little about the fat acceptance movement knows*, BMI should stand for Bullshit Made Insidious. It’s a useless metric used to fat shame and scare across the world and, more worryingly, across the medical profession. The article points out how it doesn’t take into account fat to muscle ratios, metabolic abnormalities and “other nuances of physical composition” (if diversity of gender, build and age can be called nuances).

Lastly the article focuses on fitness versus weight, and points out how fitness seems to have a much bigger impact on health than size or weight alone. Its nice to see some mention of Health At Every Size, as well.

I am greatly encouraged by the data coming out and although there is a reluctance to accept and sometimes even publish the findings, and although it will probably take a very long time for attitudes to change and for new ways of thinking to filter down to the point where they affect our everyday lives and help address the stigma associated with being fat, I for one remain optimistic.

And, in searching for what I was sure was Kate Harding debunking the BMI* for linking above, I discovered that most of this isn’t even new news, as she links to or mentions this stuff here. From 2006. Oh, well, the diabetes thing is fairly new, and I’m still glad the science is continuing to strengthen the case and that it puts the whole issue back in the public focus.

 

* I wanted to link to a debunking I’d read when just starting on my fat acceptace journey, but the link provided on Shapely Prose is now broken. However, you literally just have to Google “bmi flaw”. You’ll find a lot of mention of the practical flaws of using the BMI; some advanced reading might be to try and learn more about it’s origin (hint: it had nothing to do with determining “correct” weight for height).


5 Fat Acceptance Myths Debunked

As of late, I’ve noticed that some folks in and outside of the fat accpetance movement have some misconceptions about what the movement encourages. Here are some of the myths I’ve come across debunked.

5. Fat acceptance says don’t exercise.

Fat acceptance doesn’t want to control your behavior. It doesn’t want to tell you what to eat, how to eat, what to wear, how to wear it, or what your body should/shouldn’t be doing. Whatever you choose to do with your body is what you choose to do with your body. If you like to exercise, great; do it. If you don’t, great; don’t do it! Your body is yours, and no one should be able to tell you what to do or what not to do. Personally, I exercise. I do for mental health reasons; it gives me a boost of the good chemicals I feel are essential for my mental stability. When I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I worked with my behavioral therapist to look at options other than medication. She suggested exercise because I had mentioned that doing yoga helped me relax and gave me a positive boost. Since then, I have been exercising because I like it. However, any reason is a good reason to do what you want with your body. If you just like it, then you just like. If you don’t like, then you just don’t like it. Fat acceptance wants you to have complete ownership of your body, and whatever that means to you is whatever it means to you.

4. Fat acceptance is a “women only” movement.

It may seem like the conversation is dominated by women, but fat acceptance isn’t trying to keep men out of a women’s only conversation. Men face an increasingly rigid standard of beauty that is being marketed through the media. We have only begun to see the repercussions of a male beauty standard, as it’s something that folks are just starting to research. Women are usually the ones writing about fat acceptance because there has been a lot of in depth research into the harm female beauty standards cause to women and girls. However, men are encouraged to participate in the discussion. If you are interested in reading fat acceptance writings from men, here are a few to blogs with male/gender neutral FA bloggers:

http://red3.blogspot.com
http://fattiesunited.wordpress.com/
http://unapologeticallyfat.blogspot.com/ (Edit: gender neutral blog)
http://fiercefatties.com/

Fat acceptance also seems to be cis centered, meaning it tends to focus on cisgendered bodies. It’s imperative that trans* individuals are part of the discussion about body image. My one big criticism of the fat acceptance movement is its lack of trans* visibility. I suggest that the fat acceptance community involve trans* bodies in their campaigns because, if we don’t, we are guilty of maintaining a power structure that would like to erase trans* individuals.

3. Fat acceptance wants to reverse the power dynamic between thin and fat.

If you belong to the blogging community–hell, if you’ve logged into Facebook lately–you might I have seen images like this:

These message, in effect, undermines the struggle for fat acceptance. Fat acceptance is not about when thin became hotter than curvy women, what straight cis men find attractive, or the policing of bodies. This type of argument only seeks to reverse the power structure of thin/fat so that fat (or curvy) is favored, and therefore privileged, over thin. Regardless of what the beauty standard is, it’s still oppressive in that one must adhere to it, be shamed if one doesn’t adhere to it, and bodies that don’t fit said standard are seen as not real, good, or worthy. True fat acceptance wants to smash the power structure that says one body is “better” than another. Fat acceptance is about people loving their bodies without having to fit into a standard of beauty: it says that all bodies are real bodies; all bodies are good bodies. Pitting bodies against each other should never be the focus fat acceptance activism.

2. Fat acceptance glorifies obesity.

To me, this myth is nearly laughable. The idea that loving your body regardless of who says you are beautiful glorifies obesity really just translates to “but isn’t being fat bad for you??” The short answer is No, being fat is not bad for you. In fact, fat acceptance is linked to better health outcomes. The fact of the matter is that no one should be shamed about their body. No standard of beauty can tell you whether someone is healthy. Most importantly, shaming someone into being who you want to see is not going to help them feel good about themselves. If one doesn’t feel good about one’s self, one is less likely to care for one’s body and mind. It’s important to understand that the only things being glorified by fat acceptance are self care and self love

1. Fat acceptance demands complete confidence and self-love at all times.

Some mornings I wake up and I can’t look at my body in the mirror. Some mornings I wake up and feel fabulously fat and fierce. Some mornings I wake I and don’t feel anything about my body at all. How we feel and what we think about our bodies fluctuates as often as our moods. No one is asking for complete and total self love, no exceptions, no excuses. Self acceptance is a process; there are challenges we face in that process. Most of the challenges come in the form of self-doubt, insecurity, self-hate, and feelings or inferiority/invisibility. The reason why fat acceptance activists are constantly shouting from roof tops, “Love Your Body!” is because we struggle with loving our bodies on a daily basis. When I say Love your body it’s more like a reminder to myself: Hey, you, don’t be so hard on yourself; see your body for what it is; care for it and love it and treat it with kindness and respect. 

In addition, self love and acceptance is more difficult for some than others. No one is giving you a time frame to work in; no one expects you to wake up tomorrow from the slumber of self-hate, bursting with a passionate love for your body. Loving any aspect of yourself is a day to day challenge that requires a plethora of strategies to overcome said challenges. Fat acceptance simply asks you to work on undoing years of shame and self hate through compassion, care, and love. Some folks my not be ready to establish that relationship to their bodies yet. Perhaps there are other things a person needs/wants to accept about themselves before they can begin work on fat acceptance. That is great. Work on whatever aspects of self that will challenge how you see yourself and what you can do. Again, there is no timeline, and there is no one cracking a self-love whip. However you experience your journey of fat acceptance is right.


Weight Stigma Awareness Week

If you’re not already aware that this week is weight stigma awareness week then  you’d better hurry up and jump on the wagon! Especially since the organization, BEDA (the binge eating disorder association), sponsoring this week has suggestions on how you spend each day. Yesterday was to make art that helps you in your body acceptance journey. Me, I made a painting (primitive, but nice, yes?) According to BEDA, their goal is “to bring awareness to a common and entrenched social injustice that often results in serious physical and mental health consequences for those affected”.

Serious physical and mental health consequences. Let’s get serious for a moment.  Teens who even think they’re fat are more likely to attempt suicide and, let’s face it, the fat  hate starts early  and children as young as three years old show weight bias against heavier people, attributing things such as being ugly, lazy, and stupid. By three years old, people. That’s some seriously early weight hate indoctrination. One study shows that children 5-11 prefer underweight friends and react more positively to underweight stimuli than overweight stimuli (which they, of course, reacted negatively to).

So today is “reclaim” day. Reclaim your body image, reclaim your mental health. Reclaim yourself. Post sticky notes on your bathroom mirror. Make a pin board as BEDA suggests, lf body love quotes and images. Surround yourself with fat art, with fat blogs, with fat people, whatever! Just remember that today is a day for loving yourself absolutely and unconditionally. And don’t forget to look at the upcoming days: recommit and celebrate! Recommitting means committing to take care of yourself, to challenge thin privilege and the weight based industry, to challenge negative thoughts about yourself and others and to recommit to being a fat acceptance activist and participant. And, finally, end the week by celebrating you. Simply you and how wonderful and amazing you are. Get your spouses and friends and family and children involved! Make a list of all the great things about yourselves and pin it to the fridge or in your office. Or just take a you day and relax with some hot tea.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to tell people about weight stigma awareness week- that’s where the awareness part comes in!


Heart disease not linked to fat -SA scientist

The theory that blood cholesterol and a high-fat diet are the causes of heart disease will be one of the greatest errors in the history of medicine, according to Prof Tim Noakes.

Noakes, who holds doctorates in science and medicine, is the co-founder of the Sports Science Institute of South Africa and has published numerous scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals.

“It is time to admit that the theory has failed. We need to adopt an open mind if we are ever to discover the real cause [or causes] of the current global epidemic of obesity, diabetes and coronary heart disease”.

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A Final Response to Orbach’s “Fat is a Feminist Issue”

As many of you know, I have been documenting my journey through Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach on Axis of Fat. Some of my previous posts have been in direct response to Orbach’s book, and this will be my final post about book one of FIAFI. (Although, I will probably refer to from time to time.)

Fat is a Feminist Issue has a mostly clear main idea: women become fat due to compulsive eating, which is a response to systemic sexism. This position has many determinants, the first of which begins with the relationship between mother and daughter, or as Orbach puts it, feeder and fed:

“I suggest that one of the reasons we find so many women suffering from eating disorders is because the social relationship between feeder and fed, between mother and daughter, fraught as it is with ambivalence and hostility, becomes a sustainable mechanism for distortion or rebellion.” (Orbach, 34)

This is not to say that all mothers are responsible for their daughters’ eating disorders, but that the relationship between mother and daughter is where the daughter learns what eating and feeding means for a woman. This relationship could be the beginnings of distortion or rebellion as the mother introduces the girl child to “what is means to be female;” that is, mother is the one who introduces the girl child to her gender role.

Gender roles prescribe many different “requirements” for womanhood, as many of us know. These include but are not limited to: thinness, passivity, purity, and self-sacrifice. As girls become women, a distortion or rebellion begins because these requirements do not validate the many experiences of being a person. Sexism requires that women fulfill these social obligations, lest a woman risks being ostracized. As a response, some women begin to compulsively eat as a means to rebel against or skirt these requirements.

The reasons why a woman turns to compulsive eating could range from desexualizing herself  to societal invalidation of women’s anger. Each meaning given to compulsive eating is documented via Orbach’s group work with compulsive eaters. You may remember my last post, “Fat as Rebellion: My Fat Says ‘Fuck You,’” in which I determine that one of the meanings I give my fat is one of rebellion against the norms of femininity, specifically the denial of female rage. Reading Orbach’s book will give you a list of possible meanings in which you may or may not see your fat.

This brings me to my response: although I found the book to be very enlightening and helpful to my particular body and mind, my biggest contention is that Orbach’s thesis demands that every fat woman has some “meaning” behind her fat. That is to say, every woman gives attributes to her fat that she unconsciously believes aid her in navigating a sexist world, and I don’t agree with that. While this is true for me, it is not true for every woman.

Another contention I have with the book is that, overall, Orbach does advocate for weight loss. Although it is advocating for weight loss without diets and is more a reframing of food, eating, and fat than a slimming of the body, the book still says that most, if not all, of the women who went through Orbach’s compulsive eating group did stabilize at a “normal” weight. Keep in mind that this book was written in the 70s, but this is still the main attitude about fatness and fat people: if they change some key aspect of their lives–whether food intake, exercise, or reshaping the way they think about fat and food–they can “stabilize” at a “normal weight.”

To be fair, I am simplifying Orbach’s arguments to only a few paragraphs; therefore, I am not really doing it complete justice. The ways in which Orbach suggests women get comfortable with their bodies as is (instead of imagining that one’s life will better or more fulfilling once one is thin) are some of the basic practices of body acceptance. The first suggestion offered is Mirror Work. Women, alone or in groups, use a full length mirror to look at their bodies without judging what they see. First, they look at themselves standing, then sitting, and finally from a side view. This practice can be done clothed or naked. “Start with what feels most comfortable and stay with that until [you] can have the experience of looking in the mirror [without] flashing to feelings of disgust” (Orbach, 75). The second portion of Mirror Work is about breathing through your body and feeling yourself in your fat thus excepting fat as your body. “Many women experience their fat as something that surrounds them with their true selves inside or, alternatively, that their fat trails them, taking up more room than it really does” (Orbach, 75). When one becomes aware of each part of the body, how its connected, and what it does for a person, it “provides a holistic view of [the] body,” which aids in the process of acceptance (Orbach, 75).

Practices like those mentioned above actually can undo years of self-hate and shame, and this is where Orbach’s book succeeds; however, it still seems as though the practices are used as a means to an end. There are, however, a few desired outcomes: acceptance of the body “as is,” discontinuing compulsive eating behaviors, and weight loss. I recall a few posts back that one reader commented that it would be interesting to see what I thought about whether Orbach’s book advocates for weight loss once I’d finished the book, and after reading it, I think it does advocate for weight loss. I don’t think, however, that is a reason to stay away from Fat is a Feminist Issue as a resource for overcoming fat shame and fat stigma. Most of Orbach’s work is insightful, meaningful, and well delivered; it provided me with vast insights into my own views on fat, fatness, eating, and food. The best conclusion one can draw from FIAFI is that dieting is not the answer to fat shame. Orbach throroughly examines the diet industry and the effects of dieting on the compulsive eater, finding conclusive evidence that dieting does not work, and 100% of diet industry clients return to diets.

Through Fat is a Feminist Issue, I discovered that I am a compulsive eater. Many, if not all, of the descriptions and practices of the compulsive eater that Orbach writes about have resonance in my life, and because of it I have suffered physically and mentally. The emotional struggle of living with fat shame day after day made me reclusive, depressed, anxious, and inhibited. In addition, I cause my body physical pain through compulsive eating because I suffer from IBS. After reading Orbach’s book, I realized the source of my IBS is compulsive eating. I want to alleviate my mental and physical aliments, so I am going to read Orbach’s subsequent book, Fat is a Feminist Issue II: A Program to Conquer Compulsive Eating. My hope is not that I will lose weight, but that I will stop compulsively eating, as it seems to be the source of physical and emotional pain I’ve been trying to stop for years via dieting and food restriction.

I recommend Fat is a Feminist Issue to any woman who feels that what I’ve written over the past few entries rings true. It’s ripe with insights for the compulsive eater; however, if you do not feel like you fit the descriptions offered of the compulsive eater in this post or my previous posts, FIAFI might not be right for you. There are plenty of blogs and books that can help a woman accept her body as it is without discussion of weight loss. If I could alter this book in any way, I would prefer that the weight loss outcomes of Orbach’s group session patients were left out or were an afterthought rather than a selling point of body acceptance. As it is with most feminist texts, Fat is a Feminist Issue isn’t a sacrilege or a holy text for the fat feminist.

 


Obesity and Smoking

I’ve seen it way too often among both fatphobes and fat activists. Comparing being fat to smoking. From the fatphobes it’s a clear public health threat and personal health threat that they must educate us on for our own good. From the fat activist point of view it doesn’t matter what the health implications are because it’s our body, our choice, and our health is none of their fucking business. I’ll add that I agree with the fat activists on that point of view. But not when it comes to smoking.

Obesity is not comparable to smoking. Stop it. You see, no one ever got sick from second hand fatness. No one ever had to walk through a cloud of fatness when they wanted a drink at their local bar or on their way into the grocery store. No one ever got a migraine from sitting too close to a fat person. Fat never aggravated a person’s asthma. Pregnant women don’t have to worry about the effects that fat people might have on their unborn child. You see because smoking actually is bad for you… but it’s bad for everyone else too. And when you say that we should treat fat people the same way we treat smokers (presumably by leaving them alone with their personal choices) everyone who gets sick from second hand smoke can take offense to that.

More so, when fat activists compare smoking to being fat it undermines the idea of Health at Every Size by saying “yes, both of these things are horribly unhealthy”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe a person should be allowed to make whatever choices they want to including ones that adversely effect their health whether in a socially acceptable way or not, but if we want people to stop equating fat to health we should probably stop equating it to something like smoking which is not only a choice, and fatness is not for the majority of people, but it’s a choice which hurts others and oneself.

So please, stop comparing smoking to obesity. They’re not even in the same league and, worse, it only reinforces fat stereotypes- the very thing you’re working so very hard to counter.


Is fat acceptance an excuse to pig out?

I was telling Hubby how excited I was that I’d done my first post on the Axis, and the more I enthused about Fat Acceptance, the more I could see his face cloud over. After a while it was hard to keep up the enthusiasm.

Then it struck me: “Do you think me getting more involved in body acceptance is just an excuse for me to pig out?”.

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This Week in Fatness I

Hello and welcome to the first of what will hopefully be many installments of This Week In Fatness.

The fatosphere can seem like a big place* and – especially if you’re a bit short on time – it’s possible that you’re not able to keep up with all the great things that are being posted by fat activists and their supporters.

That’s where This Week in Fatness comes in!

The idea of this digest is to provide you with a collection of links to materials that I believe are stand-out examples of what’s happening in online fat activism from week to week. There’ll be a particular focus on blog posts, but it’s my hope that the content – and the format – will be shaped with your feedback in mind. So, please make sure you use the email at the bottom of these posts to share your links, events, websites and ideas.

Without further ado, let’s get into this, the first installment, of…

THIS WEEK IN FATNESS…

…In Blogs

 

…On Tumblr

 

NOTE: I’m not on Tumblr. I don’t really get Tumblr. So this is an area where I am particularly relying on you all to let me know about relevant materials.

 

…In Action

  • The Well-Rounded Mama highlighted this survey being conducted about plus size women’s experiences with maternity care providers.
  • Ragen is preparing a slideshow for iVillage called “Pictures of Health – Diet Quitters” and she wants you to get involved. She’s also calling for submissions for a “The Moment I Knew I HAD to Stop Dieting” video project (check the bottom of each post for details)

 

…In the News

 

…In the Spotlight

This week I want to highlight The Adiopositivity Project, which is an ongoing photography project that “aims to promote size acceptance, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather, through a visual display of fat physicality.” Check it out. [Possibly NSFW]

 

AAAAAAND that’s it for the first installment of This Week in Fatness. I hope you find this to be a useful and educational project and that it continues to grow from here.

 

Please, email us your links, suggestions and feedback!

* Pun completely unintended, but clearly appropriate.


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