The Childhood Obesity Challenge

Uuuuugh!  Well we’re halfway through “Harass Kids About Their Weight Month” otherwise known as “Let’s Build Eating Disorders As Young As Possible Month” or “Childhood Obesity Awareness Month”.  I’ve mentioned before how I feel about this.  I can’t think of any adult or child in this country who is not aware that the dominant culture likes little kids to be thin.  I don’t know of any kids who aren’t aware, by age five or six, that thinner is better.  And this whole month seems designed to amp up the shame felt by larger kids and parents of larger kids to “11”.

This was brought home to me in a very visceral way today as I read a facebook post by a parent who had a negative reaction to being nominated for “The Childhood Obesity Challenge” on facebook.  I have no idea how widespread this “challenge” is.  Apparently a “friend” in this woman’s feed posted an apres workout “sweaty” (that’s a selfie where the folks are sweatin’ y’all) with the following text:

“Another sweaty for (fb friend)’s call to action for childhood obesity. Children learn from example. I will challenge some amazing parents I know to do the same. You all inspire me and make me better.”

Only problem, the parent with the negative reaction had been a fat kid.  She understood the real challenges of being an obese kid in a fat-hating world.  And her kid was also not as thin as some in society deemed acceptable.  And her kid was facing health challenges that made exercise difficult.  Yet there she was, nominated to post a picture of her sweating after a workout to prove to kids they shouldn’t be fat.

Seriously.

Yes, kids do learn by example.  And if we want our kids to be healthy, here are a few options of things we could model:

1.  Let’s choose not to judge by appearances.  You don’t know what is happening in another person’s life by looking at them.  You don’t know if they are healthy by looking at them.  Let’s not make snap decisions about a person’s health or moral worth because of how they look.

2.  Exercise can be fun!  Let’s not ruin exercise by making it about arbitrarily changing our body size.  Let’s make it about getting together and having a great time!  Because sometimes moving our bodies feels awesome!

3.  Exercise can be fun, but it’s not a moral obligation.  And exercise is a whole lot easier for some people than for others.  Let’s decide not to worry about how much exercise other people are doing.  And let’s decide on exercise for ourselves based on our own bodies and how we feel.

4.  Let’s not panic about our body size!  People come in all shapes and sizes.  There are greyhounds in this world and there are pit bulls.  Everybody looks a little different than everybody else and that’s okay.

5.  Let’s not boil down a very complex issue like childhood obesity into some silly facebook game, okay?  Let’s choose to accept that body size is influenced by a wide variety of factors–both inside and outside of our control–and learn to love our bodies as they are.  That way we won’t feel quite so much need to judge other people’s bodies, okay?  (See point #1).

And if modeling points 1 through 5 doesn’t work, we could always model how to fake a sweaty. (A little blush, a little water spritzed on the face and hair and TA DAAAA instant sweaty!)

Or if you want to be more professional about it:

I can’t help but be frustrated by the whole notion of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month as it currently stands.  It’s time for a Childhood Weight Stigma Awareness Month.  During this month we could talk about how to help kids avoid eating disorders, we could talk about how bullying based on size is at record levels, and we could talk about how social media is pressuring kids and parents more than ever to have “perfect bodies” at all times.  That’s a movement I could get behind.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Conducting Cloud Census, BRB

Hello dear readers,

Just wanted to let you know that I haven’t dropped off the earth and (hopefully) haven’t been eaten by a bear.  I’m just dropping you a brief note from a local gas station to let you know that I’m in the deep woods away from the internetz getting a much needed rest, counting clouds and visiting with the in-laws.  I will be back soon, rested, and ready to kick @ss.  In the meantime, here’s some great information about exercising with cats:

And here’s one for the yogis in the group:

oxoxoxoxo
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Talking to Kids About their Bodies

I am sad to say that September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  I cannot see the need for this particular marker.  I don’t know a single adult who isn’t aware that there are fat children in the world.  And the vast majority of them are wringing their hands and worrying about what we should do about it.  Schools are still sending kids home with BMI report cards despite significant evidence that this practice is not only not helpful but is often actively harmful.  And most doctors still tell parents to put kids on a diet when kids vary even slightly from the statistical norms.

Infographic.034-001

And it’s not as if kids are unaware of “the childhood obesity crisis”.  Hospitalizations for eating disorders are up 119 percent among children under 12 years of age.  80 percent of all 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and 42 percent of all 1st through third grade girls want to be thinner.  Just who is it that remains unaware of a societal desire for kids to be thin?  The whole thing is so deeply depressing I didn’t know how I was going to write about it.  That is until I came across an article somebody posted to Fit Fatties yesterday about a dance teacher working to change the language she uses to talk to kids about their bodies.

Worried about how her words as a dance teacher were affecting the body image of the girls taking ballet lessons, dance teacher Amanda Trusty took several weeks off to work on the language she used in her classes.  Trusty noted that many of the traditional commands from dance class like “tuck in” or “suck in your belly” or “pull in the butt” were not only imprecise, but tended to confirm a societal notion that kids bodies should be smaller and tummies and tushes should disappear.

In her article Amanda says,

I realize now where all my insecurities started. They started in first position at age seven at the barre.

 

And now here I am, 20 years later, catching myself doing the same things to my own seven year old students.

 

Oh, but I refuse. Nuh-uh. No way. I’m a body love advocate. How can I tell my ballerinas to suck it in and tuck it under, knowing how much that shaped my childhood?

So Amanda consciously and thoughtfully worked to change the language with her students.  The new language was not only more imaginative and precise, but also managed to remove body judgement from the equation.  Now rather than telling them to tuck the butt under, she asks the students to imagine they have beautiful tail feathers.  And she asks the students to send their tail feathers down rather than out.  Instead of asking kids to lift their chins, she tells them to imagine they are wearing a beautiful necklace and she asks them to display the necklace to everyone else.

Kids are perfectly well aware that many, many grownups are freaked out beyond all reason that their bodies are not thin enough.  We don’t need a month dedicated to getting adults more freaked out about childhood obesity.  And we don’t need a month dedicated to convincing fat kids that they should not exist, that there is a worldwide movement to eradicate them from the planet.  What we need is a month dedicated to thinking about how we talk to kids about their bodies.  We all need to take a time out like Amanda did, to figure out ways to communicate health and wellness to kids in a way that isn’t damaging to their body image and doesn’t send them charging down the road towards a life of eating disorders.  Now that’s a month I could get behind.

 

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Don’t Slim me Down! Wooooo!

A very good friend of mine turned me on to the story of model Meaghan Kausman’s very public outcry over recently released images that have made heavy use of Photoshop to slim down her physique.  The notion of models having their images retouched with Photoshop is certainly not new.  Slimmed down hips and arms are fairly common.  And some infamous images have been retouched with such a lack grace that some models have found themselves missing very important body parts.

What is unusual in this case is that the model is speaking out very publicly against the retouching of her image.  She posted the original image versus the retouched on her Instagram account.  And she was quick to point out that the image below is how she really looks.  This may have something to do with the way she was raised.  You see Meaghan’s father is one of my colleagues.  Dr. Rick Kausman is one of Australia’s leading advocates of Health At Every Size and one of its most outspoken opponents of body shaming and diet culture.  Maybe this important grounding in body love is one of the reasons that Meaghan spoke out about the situation.  “They had drastically altered my body, thinning out my stomach and thighs in an attempt to box me into the cultural ideal of beauty,” continued Kausman. “Above is their version, below is the real version. My body is a size 8, not a size 4. That’s my body!”  You can take a look at an interview with Dr. Kausman, Meaghan, and the photographer on the Australian version of “Today” HERE.

So naturally, given the way my brain works, I woke up with the ELO classic “Don’t Bring Me Down” running through my head.  Except the lyrics were now magically changed to “Don’t Slim Me Down” in honor of this story.  In fact, I’ve come up with a whole new set of lyrics:

You gave me thin thighs and a really big head
You made me look like I’ve never been fed

Don’t slim me down, no no no no no
Don’t change my weight
I already look great
Don’t slim me down

Removed a rib and my arms are too long
Lifted my booty and now I just look wrong

Don’t slim me down, no no no no no
Believe it or not
I already look hot
Don’t bring me down

Don’t bring me down, Grroosss
Don’t bring me down, Grroosss
Don’t bring me down, Grroosss
Don’t bring me down

Here’s the original music video so you can sing along: (P.S. note amazing drum majorette neon animation!)

All kidding aside, I am so inspired by this model and her amazing dad.  And I am so inspired by all the models, actresses and others who have spoken out about having their bodies publicly “shopped” against their will.  Because for every one of these iother-worldly, weirdly-elongated, hyper-skinny, totally fabricated model images, there are hundreds and thousands and even millions of young girls trying to mold their bodies into shapes like these pictures.  They are trying to mold their bodies into shapes that are completely make-believe and don’t exist in nature.  Which sets them up for a lifetime of frustration, weight cycling and in thousands of cases, for a lifetime of eating disorders.

So hurrah for Meaghan who took a stand and said, “Don’t Slim Me Down!”

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Magic Beans

It all started this week with dimples.  This week I came across these photos demonstrating an early invention for creating dimples on the cheeks.  I had a fleeting moment where I thought, “well we’ve come a long way since then.”  After a little searching around, I realized that women used to even undergo surgery to create dimples on the face.  Later the same day, I came across somebody in a popular exercise forum asking if there were specific exercises she could do to make dimples appear on her butt.  After calculating the millions I could make for a chair-based device for creating back dimples (or butt dimples) I realized that we haven’t come that far at all.   And after just a little research I realized that many plastic surgeons offer dimple-making procedures.  They can offer dimples for your face and as an add on to a “Brazilian Butt Lift” procedure, they can highlight those tiny little spots over your posterior.

Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t get plastic surgery.  It’s your body and your life, and I am not the boss of you.  And I am not claiming to be completely natural.  I wear some makeup, I get highlights put in my hair.  But this business about dimples got me thinking about what possesses us to go through this sort of pain to have dimples in the right spots.  And just as I was thinking this, I came across this video in my feed talking about “super foods”.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think good nutrition is very important, and I believe that the nutrients we put into our bodies make a big difference in how we function and how we feel.  But this discussion about super foods is important because it reminds me how often we take something natural and good in this world and then endow that thing with magical powers.

Dimples are good.  On some people they look cute.  Therefore, if I get dimples on my face or on my posterior as part of my butt lift, I will be adorable and irresistible.  Wealthy, attractive, celebrity men will whisk me off on their yachts.  I will become famous.  Everyone will envy me because, you know, dimples!

Gogi berries are good.  They are mysterious.  They have antioxidents.  If I eat them, I will be endowed with the mystical natural powers of the Amazon.   (NOT the one that delivers books to your house with drones.)  I will never get sick.  I will never get tired.  I will live forever.  I will be invincible.

Yup, you see?  Magic beans.  Why is it in this day and age, when we can put a machine on Mars to take pictures and prove there are no martians running around, we still fall prey to this notion that there are magic solutions, magic pills, magic surgeries, magic foods or magic anything that is  going to make everything in our lives perfect.  If only I could get 6-pack abs (sigh…) everything would be perfect:

Or not.  I am afraid there are no such things as magic beans.  There’s just beans.  Beans that are high in nutrition and can taste good and can fill you up and keep you going.  But beans, by and large don’t have magical properties.  Except maybe for these:

Okay maybe beans are just a little bit magic after all!

Love,
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Time for a Little Self Care

Coming off a very busy week after an incredibly busy weekend hosting the first annual Fat Activism Conference.  Over 30 hours of content with over 40 speakers in 3 days!  Followed by two days this week of meetings and proposals and general running around regarding the next projects to come down the pike.  I’m so excited!  But…

But I’m continually surprised by how long I really need to recover from some of these things.  Sure, I took a day off after a very intense weekend like I had.  I knew I’d be tired for at least a day.  But after age 40 after going like crazy for a week and not really getting any good sleep, I kinda have to remember that one day of resting up just might not do the trick.

At the end of yesterday’s meetings and running around, I found myself spent.  Like eat a PB&J for supper and sleep in my clothes spent.  And I’ve decided that today, I would finally listen to the messages my body is screaming at me and take a little break.

Maybe I will get a massage.  Maybe I’ll fit in some time for meditation or maybe just a nap.  For sure I’m going to take time to find myself something wonderful to eat–something that nourishes my body and my soul.  Because helping to change the world, even a little tiny bit, is a whole lot of work.  And we have to remember that caring for others requires that we have energy.  And having energy means that we have to have time and space for self care.

It’s like the old adage about the airplane oxygen mask.  Make sure your mask is secure before you start helping other people with them.  It’s not about being selfish.  It’s about understanding that your effectiveness to help may be severely diminished if you are flopped over on the seat, gasping for air like a fish.

I am incredibly inspired by the speakers I heard this past weekend.  I feel more motivated than ever to do the work that needs to be done to make the world a safer and better place for people of all races, ages, shapes, sizes, types and abilities.  But this work will not be done in a day or a week.  It won’t even be done in a year or a decade.  So I’m going to stare at puppies and take a long nap.  I’m going to eat something fabulous and listen to awesome music and dance in my undies.  I am going to do what I need to do to rebuild my energy and gird my loins.  So I am once again ready to fight the good fight.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Dance Break at the Ball Park!

We just finished the First Annual Fat Activism Conference and I am still a bit giddy. Of course there’s plenty of stuff we can do better next time. And of course it was far from perfect. But WE. DID. IT. I’m talking about 3 days, over 40 speakers and over 30 hours of live content.

And while I am proud of the accomplishments of myself and the very best producing partner in the whole entire world Ragen Chastain, I am even more proud of our movement. Of the over 40 men and women of many sizes, races, sexual orientations, abilities, ages and attitudes who so generously shared the wisdom they have accrued over years and decades. Of the people who texted and tweeted and prodded and questioned and asked for more. Of those people new to the movement taking their very first fledgling steps by sending in a comment or asking a question. Of the many people who shared their thoughts for making this conference better next year and volunteered to help make it so!

And when I feel this level of happy, I have to dance. Well today at least I can dance again. Yesterday I mostly slept. And I mean like A LOT. But today I am dancing and sharing a happy video of other folks dancing as well. I mean how cool are the Durham Diamond cutters. They certainly don’t look like stereotypical dancers. But there they are, running the bases and tearing up the field with their fun moves!

And if you are feeling sad. If you are not dancing because you fear that you missed out on all the awesomeness of the Fat Activism Conference this past weekend, I have some news that will just get you right on up outa your seat. You can still register for the conference and listen to the recordings, but you have to hurry.

Tomorrow is absolutely the LAST DAY to register for the conference and get access to the recordings. So get up offa that thing and run to register today. Seriously, you don’t want to miss this:
Fat Activsm Conference Registration Page

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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