See Fatty Run, Can Fat People Run Safely?

halfinish2I am frequently asked both on Facebook and in the Fit Fatties Forum, “I am fat.  Is it still safe for me to run?”  So I thought I’d take up this question in today’s blog post.

The short answer is that most people, given proper form, equipment, time and training can learn to jog or run safely, but not all.  There is little evidence that it is inherently unsafe for people of size to jog or run.  Plenty of fluffy folks finish 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon races every day.  There is little to no evidence that running causes pain or loss of cartilage in the knees–no matter what your size.  However, if you already have problems in knees, hips, ankles, back or feet, you should proceed with extreme caution as running can make these problems a lot worse.

BadKnees

If you have “bad knees” you should get cleared by a doctor before you start running.

Frankly, fat folk should approach running in the same way that thin people do.  You should probably start by being checked out by your doctor.  If you are coping with joint pain or back pain of any sort, you should probably also see a joint or sports medicine specialist and get cleared for exercise before you begin.  Once you get the all clear from your doctor(s), then it’s time to gear up.  Start by getting yourself a great pair of shoes.  The best way to find those great shoes is to go to a running store, and get fitted by a professional.  This is not the time to choose shoes because they are your favorite color or because they are on sale.  Good shoes that fit properly and meet the special needs of your particular tootsies are critical for safe walking and running.

Choose function over fashion for your fitness footwear.

Choose function over fashion for your fitness footwear.

Once you’ve got the all-clear and are geared up, you need to start SLOWLY.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  If you are not already walking regularly, you should start with a walking program.  There are lots of different schools of thought about how to move from walking to running.  I am personally very partial to Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run approach.  I started by walking 10 minutes and running for 30 seconds.  I ran from telephone pole to telephone pole.  I eventually trained to the point I could do a marathon.  I know lots of people who have safely used this approach.  Going all out each workout as hard and as fast as you can is not noble.  It is not bad-assed.  It is a recipe for disaster.  There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about having to quit your running program after 4 days because you hurt yourself.

Once you’ve been running for a while, it is also important to PROCEED SLOWLY.  Most sports programs recommend that you ramp no more than 10 percent per week.  That means if you are running one mile per session this week, you can run 1.1 miles per session next week.  Note that this progression is much, MUCH slower than many of the published and printed running programs out there.  While many of the programs that train you for your first 5K or marathon are great, I find that many bodies are simply not designed to ramp up that quickly.  That’s why I took my first marathon program, cut it in half, and trained for a half marathon instead.  That’s why, when I do 5K or 10 K training programs now, I tend to spend two or even three weeks at each level before I move on.  If you’re doing a total of 3 miles of training this week, it’s probably not cool to do 6 miles of training next week.  It might work for you.  It might leave you a total wreak.  Learn to learn from and listen to YOUR body.

There are lots of other things you can do to help keep yourself safe.  Make sure you stretch.  Do a proper warm up.  Add cross training to give some of your running muscles a break.  Add strength training to build up the muscles and ligaments around your joints and help to stabilize them.  Make sure to work on your form.  Proper running form–including how and where you place your feet, stride, and even arm placement, are very important.  Running is a repetitive motion.  Very small problems in your form can lead to very big pain down the road.

Be sure to address back and other joint pains early and often.

When it comes to running, pain is a very important teacher.  Some people can run without experiencing any significant pain.  For some people, pain happens a whole lot.  In any case, pain is not to be ignored.  It can tell you when you need to adjust your form.  It can tell you when you need to add more cross training or strength training.  It can tell you that the purple tennis shoes you bought because they were on sale were a bad idea.  It can tell you that you need to stop running for a while so you can address a problem in your back or your joints.  It can tell you that running just isn’t for you right now.  DO NOT IGNORE PAIN.  Listen to it.  Learn from it.

Happy trails to you!

Happy trails to you!

So can fatties run?  Can running be safe and enjoyable for people of size?  Of course!  People of all sizes simply need to approach running with caution, gear up, start slowly, ramp slowly, and listen carefully to their bodies.  Here’s wishing you happy trails!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to learn more about exercise at every size and GET FREE STUFF?  Don’t forget to join my list right here.

Fat Chick Rages: Don’t Teach Exercisers to Ignore Body Signals!

My dear friend Ragen Chastain mentioned on Facebook that she had gone to an enjoyable Zumba class the night before, but was dismayed the next day when she checked out the Zumba studio’s facebook page.  Apparently they posted an image stating: “Are You Feeling Dizzy, Sweating, Tired, Breathless? …  Good, Great Workout!!!”  I’ve posted my modified version below:

Not even going to take a chance this will get reposted without a little alteration on my part...

Not even going to take a chance this will get reposted without a little alteration on my part…

Okay, so let’s get started on how wrong this is.  Not a little bit wrong.  Not even a medium amount of wrong.  A Carl Sagan, galaxy-filled COSMOS of wrong.  This is not inspiring.  This is not cool.  This is irresponsible and dangerous.

This sign to me represents a culture where we learn to ignore the signals our bodies send as we work out.  This is about a culture of masochism, where the more pain and agony you endure during a workout, the closer you bring your body to the edge of absolute destruction during a workout, the better.  And as an exercise teacher this makes me absolutely crazy.  Because, the messages you receive from your body are the most important line of defense, the most important tool you could possibly use to keep yourself safe as you work out.

I don’t want to scare you.  Most people work out safely most of the time.  But there ARE risks associated with exercise.  If you have an underlying heart condition,  you are more likely to face a heart attack while working out than you are in your bed.  If you have issues with low blood sugar, they are more likely to surface when you are strenuously exercising.  If you are at risk for stroke, this is more likely to be an issue when you are taking an exercise class than when you are reading a book.  Again, the vast majority of the time, the vast majority of people exercise safely.  But when things do go wrong, they are often preceded by warning signs like excess sweating and severe exhaustion and shortness of breath and dizziness.  These are not indicators of a great workout.  These are indicators of a problem.  Exercisers ignore these symptoms at their own peril.

fatchickchirps.002-002As a fitness instructor, I remind my students over and over and over again that they must learn to listen to their own bodies.  I do everything I can to watch for visible warning signs and symptoms among my students.  But the first and most important line of defense is for them to recognize warning signs in themselves.  They will probably feel dizzy long before I sense that they look dizzy.  Therefore, it’s my job to create an environment where they feel safe caring for themselves.  Every time a new person comes to my class we have a ritual.  I ask my long standing students to help me.  I shout out, “What happens if you get the choreography wrong?”  My students reply, “Nothing!  It doesn’t matter!”  I shout out, “What if it hurts when I do this?”  They answer, “Stop doing it!”  I ask, “Who’s class is this?”  My students answer, “MY Class!”

I then remind the students that it is okay for them to modify any move that isn’t working for them and to ask for help if they need it.  I give them a “safety move” like gently marching in place they should feel free to do when they get stuck.  And I remind them that they can feel free to use any of the sturdy chairs located throughout the room to do a movement or even just rest in a chair whenever they feel they need to.  I work VERY hard to create an exercise space where my students feel emotionally safe doing whatever they need to do to take care of themselves.

fatchickchirps.004-002Although creating this emotionally safe space helps my students feel good about themselves, I don’t do it for that reason alone.  I do it to keep them physically safe as well.  A class culture based on “no pain no gain”, where students are discouraged to tough it out and not take care of themselves is risky and can be downright dangerous.  Teaching students to ignore the messages their bodies are sending is the absolute LAST thing we should do.

fatchickchirps.003-002I want students in my class to look different from one another.  A class where students are modifying moves and resting from time to time and approaching the movement in different ways is good and healthy.  It means the class is challenging enough for the more advanced students to get something out of it while being a safe place for less advanced students to increase strength, stamina and agility–gently and gradually.  It means everybody is working at their own pace and having a good time.  Which is as it should be.  When students come to me and tell me that they are in pain, that is a signal for me to make some changes to my class.  How can I teach that move differently?  How can I make sure everybody is working at their own pace?  How can I remind the students about body alignment and positioning to make them less likely to get hurt?  How can I make my class better?

As I have stated before, this is why it is often best to just watch the first time you encounter a new class.  Don’t wait until after you are in the middle of a testosterone-fueled judgement festival to determine that a class might not be for you.  Don’t put yourself in a situation where you might let embarrassment push you into hurting yourself–perhaps permanently.  Watch and learn.  If your gut tells you that this is a judgement zone that is not emotionally safe–then walk away.  If the class isn’t emotionally safe for you, it’s not safe.  Period.

We tell people that exercise should hurt and feel awful.  We tell them that listening to their own bodies is wrong and that they should push it until they puke.  We tell them that getting injured is a sign of their own weakness and that real exercisers don’t let sprains or stress fractures stop them.  THEN we wonder why half the world doesn’t exercise.

Fugeddabout it!

Find a way that your body loves to move and do that.  When it stops feeling good, and it starts to hurt, then stop.  Forever and ever, Amen.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Stuff That Weighs More Than Me: Russian MiG

Jeanette rocks out in a Russian Mig

Jeanette rocks out in a Russian MiG

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I just CAN’T resist.  I am speaking at the National Association of Broadcasters Event in Las Vegas this week, and while there I got a chance to sit my rump into a genuine Russian MiG.  How cool is that!?  I spotted this beautiful blue baby from across the lot and thought?  How much does that plane weigh?  I’ll bet it weighs more than me!  The lady was kind enough to take my picture.  And I got back to the convention center and did a leetle bit o’ research.  Here’s the stats:

MiG 15 bis

  • Crew: 1 or 2
  • Length: 10.08 m (33 ft 1 in)
  • Wingspan: 10.08 m (33 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 3.7 m (12 ft 2 in)
  • Wing area: 20.6 m2 (222 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: TsAGI S-10 / TsAGI SR-3
  • Empty weight: 3,630 kg (8,003 lb)
  • Gross weight: 5,000 kg (11,023 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,105 kg (13,459 lb)

And even though the cockpit was teeny tiny, any way you measure it–full, empty or at maximum takeoff weight, this Russian MiG weighs more than me.

mig2Love,

Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick

Tutus, Wonder Women and Haters

Look at that fabulous picture up there.  Does it make you smile?  Think it’s a story about motivation and joy and taking back your own power?

Sorry.  It’s a story about a “self help” magazine asking a woman if they could use her photo in their magazine and then pulling a total hater move and making fun of her in the captions.

Apparently Self magazine contacted San Diego runner Monika Allen seeking permission to use her photo in the April issue of the magazine.  Monika said yes, and was understandably excited to see her picture in the magazine.  The  online version of the magazine is already out.  And she’s excited all right, but not in a good way.

The  photo appeared in a section of the magazine called the BS Meter.  Next to the photo was this copy:

“A racing tutu epidemic has struck New York’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster.  Now if you told us they made people run from you faster maybe we would believe it.”

Cue rimshot.  Slow hand clap.  You see what they did there?  Run from you faster.  Makes you wonder why magazine circulation numbers are crashing, right?

Now I’m sure the writer from Self was feeling pretty proud for their little moment, except maybe there’s a little research this writer failed to do.  Like the research that indicated this was Monika’s first run since being diagnosed with brain cancer.  And she was wearing this costume to help her feel motivated to keep running while she was undergoing chemotherapy.  And she makes and sells the skirts to raise money for Girls on the Run, a charity that sponsors exercise and confidence-building programs for young girls.

Whoops.

Not surprisingly the backlash online has been sort of epic.  This is what we in the biz refer to as a public relations nightmare of epic proportions.  This is a “hey kid, you’re fired” kind of maneuver.  Monika sent an email to Self saying how upset she was for the way the picture was used.  And she took to traditional and social media to tell the world how upset she was as well.

Since the story originally aired and went viral, the Editor in Chief of Self magazine “apologized” on her twitter account and sent an email apology to the local news station with this little gem:

“in our attempt to be humorous, we were inadvertently insensitive.”

“I have sincerely apologized both directly to Monika and her supporters online. At SELF we support women such as Monika; she is an inspiration and embodies the qualities we admire. We have donated to her charity and would like to cover her good work in a future issue,” the statement reads. “We wish her all the best in her road to good health.”

Let’s deconstruct, shall we?  “We thought we were being funny but we didn’t know that she would have a disease that people don’t think is funny.  Had we known that this woman had the “Big C” we would have written a tear-jerker style exploitative piece instead of a snark piece.  I mean come on!  How were we supposed to know she had cancer.  If we had known, that would have meant we were overtly insensitive, but since we didn’t know, we were inadvertently sensitive.  We have sincerely apologized in public because the public is mad and it hurts when people write mean things online.  (Although when people are mad they do comment more and our engagement numbers are up, but you can’t have everything.)  At our publication we support women like Monika when it suits us and humiliate women like Monika when we feel like it.  We have donated to her charity because hey money makes everything better and we’re kinda terrified that we will get sued.  We’d like to cover her in a future issue because usually promising “exposure” to people gets them to accept just about anything.  We wish her all the best in her recovery, because frankly, if this broad kicks the bucket, a few of us are going back to copy editing at Pennysaver.”

Speaking of being sued, please note that the above paragraph is not actually quoted from anybody at Self magazine.  I made it up.  And if it’s insensitive, I did it very much on purpose.

I wish Monika the best.  I think she is frankly going to sell a LOT more tutus after this.  And I think she is a woman we can all admire.  But I think this is an indicator.  It is really, really bad out there.  When a newsstand publication thinks that they can get permission to use a photo depicting a conventionally beautiful woman and shame her in front of the world, it’s pretty bad out there.  And for those of us who don’t meet the conventional standards of beauty, it’s a field day.  If you are a fat, gorgeous, tattooed woman who dares to post a picture of yourself in a fabulous polka dot bikini, you just might find your picture used without your permission to sell diet ads.  And when you go after the company, they will just make some excuse about how it’s the fault of their affiliates.  Because they feel pretty confident that they can do whatever they want to you.  Because if you are not conventionally beautiful, you are fair game.

 

Weak!

In fact, no one is safe from being abused online.  Nobody.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this amazing Ted Talk from the gorgeous and talented Maysoon Zayid, “I have 99 Problems…Palsy is Just One.”  When you have a minute, I encourage you to watch the whole thing.  It is well worth your time. It was especially touching to me to hear her say, at about 12 minutes in to her presentation:

“The doctor said I would never walk.  Yet here I am in front of you.  But I grew up with social media, I don’t think I would be.  I hope that together, we can create more positive images of disability in the media and in every day life. Perhaps if there were more positive images, it would foster less hate on the internet.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it still takes a village to teach our children well.”

I wonder.  I wonder how many powerful and world-changing people are being crushed under the need for some hater to get their three seconds of fame in the comments section.  I wonder how the search for snark is helping to foster the utter disregard for people’s lives and their well-being.  I wonder how many of our generation’s revolutionary leaders are smashed when their photos are misappropriated and tagged in an amusing meme.  I wonder how much more I could accomplish if I didn’t get nasty comments and hate mail every freaking day of my life.

Here’s hoping we can be part of the village that helps to lift one another out of the battle ground of the comments section and fight the good fight of making the world a better place.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to join my list, get free stuff and be sure not to miss out on a single bit of the awesomeness?  Click here to join.

Want to learn to face the spring holidays with more joy and less trauma?  My dear friend and colleague Golda Poretsky is offering a HAES for the Holidays course just for spring.  I am an affiliate, so if you join her class, you can support me at the same time.  Win, win WIN!

 

The Red Handle, The Hot Button and Other Hair Triggers

hotbutton_intro

Recently I came across this article about Chris Christie and pulling the “red handle”.  I remember clicking on it because I didn’t know what the “red handle” was.  As I read the article, I immediately understood, in a very visceral way about the red handle and connected it to a number of recent conversations I have had with friends, family and coaching clients.

The article describes the “red handle” this way:

A lot of people have a red handle installed deep in their person, where if somebody yanks on it, it hurts.  For some people, it’s some terrible mistake they regret, and for some people, it’s something they’re always trying to get better at that hasn’t worked, or a relationship they can’t repair, or a weakness that makes them self-conscious, or a memory that’s sort of awful. I’m not any better or worse off than anybody else in having something like this in my nature/history; the only difference between mine and anybody else’s is that mine is on the outside.

I get the concept of the red handle.  Oh yes.  In my life, I always referred to it as my hot button, but I understand the idea.  The notion that, regardless of how well somebody does or doesn’t know you, they may freely assume that there is this one thing about you that is “up for grabs”.  They see a target at which they can aim.  And regardless of whether or not this is a deeply sensitive subject for you, they feel a sense of glee at being able to push your hot button or pull your red handle.

In a society that constantly hounds, harasses, embarrasses, traumatizes, cajoles and bullies people who don’t conform to an extremely narrow vision of acceptably attractive, it’s not hard to imagine body size as the red handle or hot button for many, many people.  I’m sure that’s what was behind the “attack at the Mexican restaurant” I told you about, or the many, many hateful email messages and comments I filter out of my blog, YouTube channel, website, and facebook profiles on a daily basis.  Because people are pretty sure this is my hot button/red handle.  And even though I’ve become much tougher and it doesn’t affect me nearly as much as it once did, for much of my life their guess about my hot button, my red handle would have been pretty much true.

And that sucks.  Because most of us have the ability to choose when we share our hot button with other people.  Feel insecure about your education level?  You don’t necessarily have a sign on you that says ,”I flunked calculus” that everybody in the world, including complete strangers can see.  People actually need to get to know you, get to know a little bit about you before they discover that hot button.  Your “I have abandonment issues” might not become apparent to even your closest friends or lover until your relationship deepens and becomes more meaningful.  I have often reflected on the power inherent in exposing our hot buttons, our red handles, our soft underbellies to those who love us the most.  The power that knowledge gives our loved ones to strengthen or destroy us.  To build us up and gird our loins or to wound us deeply and permanently.

But fat people don’t always get this chance.  Many of us have been bullied our entire lives about the size of our bodies and for many of us this is our hot button/red handle/soft underbelly issue.  And that means that complete strangers, can yell at us across a crowded room and wound us deeply and even permanently without having to know anything about us or even give it a second thought.

Add to this, the notion that lots and lots of people still suffer under the delusion that wounding us this way will somehow help us.  That it will shame us into “doing something about our bodies” as if we didn’t have piles and piles of proof that shaming people does not make them healthier, happier or thinner.  And what you get is fat marathoners getting eggs thrown at them, cowardly people offering unsolicited advice before they scoot off subway trains, and a whole lot of nasty aimed at our soft underbellies from people we don’t even know.

I can say that this is no longer a primary hot button or red handle for me.  And I’m not super eager to tell everybody in the world what the newer versions of those hot buttons are.  I think I’ll ask you to know me a little better before I tell you–or at least buy me a drink first.  I feel very privileged to have come to the point in my life that somebody calling me a fat cow is more likely to leave me annoyed, angry or even amused than devastated.

But it has made me more dedicated than ever to work with my amazing colleagues like Ragen Chastain and Golda Poretsky to help fat folks understand that they do not deserve to have their hot buttons pushed and their red levers pulled–and to help the world at large to understand that pushing this hot button, that pulling this red lever without permission in a complete stranger or even a friend is a form of psychological rape.   It is not justified under any circumstances, and it is never, ever okay.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to join my list, get free stuff and be sure not to miss out on a single bit of the awesomeness?  Click here to join.

Want to learn to face the spring holidays with more joy and less trauma?  My dear friend and colleague Golda Poretsky is offering a HAES for the Holidays course just for spring.  I am an affiliate, so if you join her class, you can support me at the same time.  Win, win WIN!

 

In EPIC Wardrobe Malfunction, Target Creates Thigh Gap by Removing Young Woman’s Lady Bits

Close up of gruesome wardrobe malfunction. EEEK!

In it’s quest to ensure that all its models are sporting an appropriate thigh-gap,  Target PhotoShop artists appear to have removed a junior model’s vagina altogether.  The image was pointed out by several watchdog groups and blogs not only for it’s garish wardrobe malfunction, but also for the fact that it appears the junior model in question may have also been mutated into an alien creature with a very long torso and very long arms, best seen in the larger version of the photo here:

The photographic evidence of Target’s tampering have since gone viral and Target has issued an “apology” stating:

“In response to your query about the swimsuit image on Target.com, this was an unfortunate error on our part and we apologize. We have removed the image from our Web site,” a company spokesman said. Asked how the mistake occurred, “It was the result of a photo editing error on our part.”

Which leaves me with a few things to say to our friends at Target.  First of all, in your “apology” I have to say that I don’t think that word means what you think it means.  Sure, your PhotoShop guy or gal messed up.  I can certainly understand how that happened.  I doubt that it’s some sort of malicious protest on the part of the graphic designer as some have suggested.  I really don’t imagine that some designer wanted to point out the brutality inherent in the system of PhotoShopping images by blatantly messing up and releasing a picture.  I’ve produced websites and games and DVDs.  I understand that stuff slips through the cracks.  That poor graphic artist is probably not being paid less per hour than your minimum wage checkers and is probably working 80 hours per week on “salary” in a web sweat shop somewhere.  And the junior manager or producer doing Quality Control on those images is probably working just as hard and not getting paid very well either.  And if anybody gets fired over this whole mess, it will probably be them.

Apology? Hmmm. Maybe not.

But I’m sorry to say Target, that you apologized for the wrong thing.  Don’t apologize to me that a graphic artist messed up and released a photo that makes it blatantly obvious that you drastically altered a young woman’s body to convince 12-year old girls that they need to be seven feet-tall, size 00 and have a thigh gap that could hold a soccer ball.  Don’t apologize to me that you got caught.  Apologize to me for feeling the need to PhotoShop these images this way in the first place.  Apologize to me for altering photos to create impossible beauty ideals to products aimed at 12-year-old girls in an environment where hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119% (see Pinhas et. al.)  Apologize to me for being so certain that your model needs to sport a thigh gap, a trendy body trait that is nearly impossible to maintain for all but a microscopic percentage of the human race, that you were willing to graphically stretch her on the rack and excise critical bits of her anatomy to accomplish it.  (You could consider the techniques shown in the video below.  These are kinda cool actually.)

Target, you make me sad.  I adore your wide, bright aisles and fun POP displays.  I love your colorful and fun, yet generally affordable housewares, camping gear and sporting goods.  But this has GOT to stop.  It’s time for you to retract your fake apology and give us a real one.  Then tell us how you are going to stop digitally dissecting the already beautiful bodies of your models to sell us a dose of unreality we just shouldn’t have to swallow.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Don’t miss out on another day of body loving, booty shaking fun!  Join me here.

Because I’m Happy…

I think one of the most difficult barriers I’ve encountered on my journey towards self acceptance is the constant barrage of input telling me that people in larger bodies can’t really be “happy”.  In stark contrast to the “fat and jolly” stereotype is the notion that all fat people are unhappy deep down.  And this information is everywhere.  From our television and magazine advertising to barroom pop psychology to well meaning friends and relatives, it seems like a lot of people are pretty sure I would be a lot happier if I would just lose weight.

“But I am pretty happy,” I tell folks. Their reply, “Not really.  If you were really happy you wouldn’t be fat.”  Sigh…  One of the pieces of prejudice I find most daunting is the notion that all people who are fat are eating to compensate for some life deficiency.  Either we were sexually abused as children, or didn’t get enough love at some stage or are facing some buried psychological trauma.  “It’s not your fault you’re fat,” they state, while patting you on the head.  “We just need to fix what is broken with you emotionally, and the weight will just flow off your body.”

Think I’m making this up?  No lie, when I was getting one of my fitness certifications, one of the teachers pulled out a magic marker and headed towards the big paper pad she was using to sketch out the “fitness wisdom” she had to impart.  She drew a picture of a fat person (small oval over big round body–it was no Monet).  Then she drew another circle inside the fat tummy circle.  “Fat people have a hole in their lives,” she stated.  “There is something missing inside them that they attempt to stuff full with food.”

hollowfatpersonI was mortified.  And I was pissed.  This clearly wasn’t in any of the written materials that she or we had received with the course.  This teacher was just making this stuff up and stating it as fact in a training course that is designed to train people to teach exercise to other people.

But most of the extremely thin people in the room simply nodded their heads knowingly and accepted it as fat fact.  Along with this notion is the notion that if we lose weight, if we become visibly and socially acceptably skinny, all our problems will melt away and we will finally be happy.  This idea is so pervasive that people spend billions of dollars in pursuit of the happiness level of thinness.  I believed it.  I got thin.  For a little while after a ridiculous diet that made me very sick, I was thin.  And I waited for the happy.  And waited.  And waited…

There was some euphoria over increased clothes shopping opportunities.  There was some afterglow from the constant validation and encouragement I got about how much better I looked.  (Although there was also frankly a lot of pissed off wondering what people thought about how I looked before.)  But did I experience magical, mystical happy–smiling while eating a salad, orgasmic swooning over eating yogurt happy?  I’d have to say that never arrived.

Oh God, I think I’m… AHHHHHHH!

And now that I’ve lived and loved in a fat body for a while, I can say I’ve found a modicum of relatively reliable happy.  Am I happy all the time?  Nope.  Do I swoon over yogurt?  What, are you kidding?  But I’m pretty happy most of the time.

That is why I was so very, VERY excited to see this music video by Pharrell Williams and what seems to be half the population of Los Angeles.  Take a look. I’ll wait…

Honestly, this music video is what got me on this whole subject with you in the first place.  First of all, I have to apologize.  This great song is likely to leave you with an earworm that lasts for days.  Sorry about that.  But on the upside here we have a video with lots and lots of people who are boogying down and singing about being happy.  And remarkably none of these people look the same.  There are kids, young people, middle aged people and old people.  There are men and women.  There are single people and families.  There are people who are extremely mobile and some who are less mobile.  There are people of all different colors.  There are thin people, fat people and in-betweenies.  They all look happy as hell, and there is not one single carton of yogurt or salad in the entire music video!

Happy2

The video is actually compiled from a much bigger project called 24 Hours of Happy.  Go check out the website.  It’s the coolest!  I’ll wait.  The website contains a 24-hour long music video to this song compiled by Pharrell and his team. I have absolutely no idea how much raw footage they shot, but I imagine it must have been epic.  The net result is a web-based clock.  At any given moment, you can click in and watch Angelinos of all stripes shaking their thing.

Aside from being a super cool project, the thing I love about this is that it helps demonstrate an idea.  Happy doesn’t look the same on everybody.  You don’t have to be a particular color or size or shape to be happy.  You don’t have to be young.  You don’t have to be thin.  You don’t have to eat dairy products of any kind.  But it is still possible for you to be happy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Privilege and wealth and security and a lot of other things can certainly make happy easier.  And there is absolutely no doubt that the rampant discrimination that accompany fat stigma can make it much harder to find happy.  But I do know that I found it extremely helpful on my journey to learn that happy was at least possible at any size.  It made it much easier for me to fight for happy for myself and for all my fat brothers and sisters.

So I will continue to blog, because, I’m happy…

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. If you like, you can join in the happy RIGHT HERE.