Category Archives: fat

Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts (Boobs, Bellies and Butts)

beautiful woman gets a tattoo

Over the past week or so, a number of things have floated across my path about the objectification of fat bodies.  Whether meant for good or for ill, the objectification of any body is not good.  Whether fat or thin, we are not simply boobs and butts and bellies that happen to be floating around in space.  We are people–whole and complete.

While both fat and thin people suffer from objectification, it seems there are some sorts that are more common for fat people than thin.  One is the “headless fatty syndrome”.  Anybody who has ever read or watched anything about fat people in the news ever has encountered the headless fatty syndrome.

Headless fatty is a term coined by activist Charlotte Cooper which refers to photographs or video of anonymous fat people used in news media stories about obesity. The term was created in 2007 when Cooper first noticed the trend in anxiety-laden news coverage of the Global Obesity Epidemic and the War on Obesity.[1] A “headless fatty” photograph features one or more fat person, usually in a public place and unaware of being photographed, with his or her head cropped out of the image. Cooper argues that this representation of fat people is dehumanizing, decontextualizing, and results in the continued disenfranchisement of fat people.

As Charlotte notes in the above definition, showing a fat person in this way treats them as somehow less than human.  It characterizes them as bellies or butts walking around and not as unique people with needs and wants and talents and personalities.

One of my famous friends also went off on a journalist who recently interviewed her for a piece festooned with decapitated and chubby torsos.  While she admits that the journalist may have not been responsible for choosing these images (often the publisher adds them after the story has been written), she says the journalist should have insisted that respectful images be used.

The reality is that using “headless fatty shots” in the media is currently completely unnecessary.  There are several stock libraries available which include whole fat people doing a variety of amazing things like cycling and dancing and eating vegetables and going to the doctor.  Two notable libraries are available at stockybodies.com or the Rudd Center.

The Rudd Center claims that they created their stock image library after an analysis showed that over 65 percent of overweight/obese adults and over 77 percent of overweight/obese young people were portrayed in a negative light.  Images in both stockybodies and the Rudd Center library may be used by the media free of charge.  So there really is no excuse for using the headless fatty shot.  It costs less than many of the stock images media outlets are already using.  The only reasons for still using these shots are prejudice and/or laziness.

But quite aside from the headless fatty trope, I came across another fascinating video this week (CAUTION NSFW):

This video is interesting to me for so many reasons.  First of all, I want to give a shout out to button poetry.  They are posting some righteously awesome stuff.  And a shout out to Samantha Peterson, one amazingly talented woman.  But this poem really made me think of how we so often use inanimate objects as references for a large woman’s body.  How we talk about the landscape and the rolling hills of her.  And the problematic nature of so many of the euphemisms we use to talk about fat women.  What does curvy mean?  Does it refer only to model bodies that are amped up hourglasses with nipped in waists and swelling hips?  Are bodies only curvy if they come with large breasts?  Do curvy bodies include round tummies and flattish bums?  And really, aren’t all bodies curvy in some places?  What is the definition of pleasingly plump?  Who is is pleased?  How do we know?  And who the heck really understands what zaftig really means?  And don’t even get me started on how the comments section of virtually any of my carefully moderated social media outlets define me as an animal–rhino, hippo, elephant, land whale.

In the end, I think it all comes down to seeing fat people as people.  We have to move beyond our deconstruction.  We must insist that we are seen as more than a collection of boobs and bellies and butts and seen in our rich, beautiful, sophisticated, personal entirety.  We must be allowed to inhabit the media and the world in all of our glorious, individual richness.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Don’t forget about the Fat Activism Conference coming up soon. Click here to register for the Fat Activism Conference!

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Spring Cleaning: Wiping out Negative Body Talk

Let's do some "spring cleaning"!

In honor of spring, I’m initiating a little spring cleaning.  But instead of cleaning closets and windows and cars, this year I’m going to try clean up some of my habits, and assumptions and attitudes.  When cleaning closets or the garage, I’m pretty brutal about tossing out things that I no longer need or want.  So this year, I’m going to throw away a few habits and attitudes that just aren’t working for me any more.  I’m going to pull out the big trash can, and I’m going to start with negative body talk.

Does this sound familiar?

“I hate my thighs!”

“Does my butt look big in this?”

“I can’t believe she’s wearing that.”

“Why can’t I have hair like hers?  Mine is too flat.”

Yup, those phrases represent negative body talk–those little phrases we say inside our heads or share with friends in conversation that put down that most magnificent and beautiful and personal gift, our bodies.  Negative body talk is everywhere.  Our friends do it.  Our families do it.  And most of us do it from time to time.

So what’s wrong with it?  Plenty.  Negative body talk has an immediately detrimental effect on our physical and mental health.  A recent article highlights some studies that indicate that “fat talk predicts changes in depression, body satisfaction, and perceived pressure to be thin across time.”  According to one study, the more fat talk a person talked, the worse they felt–resulting in lower body satisfaction and increased depression after 3 weeks.

Negative body talk is bad for us, and it’s everywhere.  So why do we do it?  I imagine sometimes it’s to fit in and sometimes it’s because we feel bad.  But a lot of times, I think we do it because we don’t even recognize we’re doing it.  You see, negative body talk can be kind of sneaky.  Sure, we recognize a phrase like “I hate my butt” as negative body talk.  But negative body talk can also be much more subtle:

“I’m exercising so I can tone up and look good in a swimsuit.”

“I can show my arms because they look okay, but not my thighs.”

“That dress just doesn’t look good on certain body types.”

“I don’t need to look like a supermodel.  I just want to look good in shorts.”

This kind of negative body talk can be harder to recognize, but it’s negative body talk all the same.  It’s still damaging.  It’s something that “doesn’t work for me any more.”  And this spring I’m working to throw it all out.

So my little chicklettes, how about you?  Ready for some spring cleaning?  Let’s get out some big cardboard boxes and the super big industrial-sized trash bags and get ready to clean house!

Love,

The Fat Chick

Surviving the Holidays: Making a List

So, I was making a list and checking it twice.  Wanted to find out if there’s a Psychiatrist willing to prescribe emergency Xanax and trying not to hyperventilate.  Seriously at this time of the year the list gets a little long and out of control, right?  Last time I sat down to do my holiday to-do list, I got to page 3.5 and burst out into tears.

But after I blew my nose and medicated myself with a small amount of premium dark chocolate, I was able to address the list again.  And I realized something.  I really didn’t NEED to do everything on the list.  The list was more a wish list than a highly prioritized, realistic list of the most important stuff I absolutely needed to get done.  So I took my list and put it through triage.  I sorted out the stuff that MUST get done, from the stuff that I really WANTED to get done and the stuff that would be NICE to get done.  And here’s the thing about triage, you have to be brutal.  You have to make tough choices.  The stuff that MUST get done is the things that would result in severe consequences if you don’t do them.  On my list this included: get medications refilled, get gas in the car, deposit check into the bank, pay bills that are due, get the food I promised to bring to Christmas dinner, find somebody to care for our dog while we’re out of town and keep up with my client demands enough to keep my clients.  Then there are the things I really wanted to get done: send presents to out of town friends and family, do laundry, pack clean clothes for the trip, bake some cookies to bring to the party.  Then there was a long, long list of things that would be nice to get done: decorate the tree, clean the house, wash the car, look for new clients, find a new outfit to wear for Christmas, sort the garage, clean out the closets, send Holiday cards to acquaintances, and on and on and on.

The result of my holiday triage, is that less than 1/4 of my list counted as stuff I MUST get done.  Another 1/4 was things that I really wanted to get done, and half the list was in the would be nice category.  So I told myself: okay get through the must, then see how much time you have for the want and if you don’t have time for the would be nice, then just don’t sweat it.   I got through everything on the list that was absolutely necessary.  My suitcases were packed and near the door.  The food was organized and the cooler washed and standing by the door.  The car was gassed and ready to go.  Dog sitter standing by all before bedtime.  All I had to do was get up in the morning, put the stuff in the car, post this blog and GO. What a relief!  I went to bed with a smile on my face.

And then both me and my husband got violently ill with the flu.  At that point, I had to just throw the entire list out and start over.  I couldn’t go to my parents on Friday or even Saturday.  Christmas Eve dinner was a few saltines and some ginger ale.  The food I assembled to bring to my family had to be stored in the freezer.  We finally managed to zip our suitcases and stagger to the car on Christmas Day. 

This is really an extension of the previous post about setting holiday expectations.  Our lists are so long because we are trying to be perfect or achieve a holiday story that is just not realistic.  What if we could stop spending so much time worrying about what other people will think about us at the holidays, and spend more time just being with them?  How many wonderful opportunities for love and communications have I missed because I was in the kitchen just whipping up one more thing or washing another dish or cleaning the house?  And here’s the thing, the dirt always comes back, but sadly, our friends and family are only with us a limited amount of time.  And that’s why I decided to focus on getting to my family on Christmas, and didn’t sweat it that this blog post is about 2 weeks late.

Since then, we passed one of the great list making holidays of the year, New Years.  That’s when we move away from our holiday lists and towards lists of resolutions for the whole freaking YEAR!  That’s when we decide we’re going to reorganize the house and only eat organic foods and run a marathon and run for Congress and heaven only knows what else.  And here again, I think a little list triage is in order.  In fact, let’s not make a list.  Want a New Year’s Resolution?  Okay, pick ONE.  Not 5, not 20, don’t make a list.  Just pick one thing.  Close your eyes, listen to your heart and choose one thing that you think will make you happier and make your life better this year.  Got it?  Good!

And since it’s technically not too late to say it: Happy New Years my little chickadees!

Love,
The Fat Chick

Tubby Bunnies, Moral Panic and A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Let’s truss up Santa!  (Photo provided by Coley Chen under Creative Commons License.)

 

        
Over the past few months, few things have driven home the overblown panic surrounding fat people than this recent article on the Hopper Home Bunny Blog declaring an “obesity emergency” among pet rabbits.  That’s right.  Although rabbits consume the lowest amount of “junk food” among household pets at 26%, they are BLOWING UP at an alarming rate.  26% of British Bunnies apparently equates to over 430,000 rotund rabbits!  These thousands of rabbits are “at risk of developing obesity related and certainly life-threatening disease if their diets don’t improve.”  Lock up your children!  Stay indoors!  Somebody better develop Lapin Band surgery for these corpulent cottontails.
One week later, this statement came out demonstrating the moralistic food police in a total tizzy over trick or treating.  UPI hosted a statement that pointed out that kids gather between 3,500 and 7,000 calories during trick or treating.  Oh the horrors!  They even noted that (gasp) the U.S. President and First Lady handed out CANDY to trick or treaters at the White House.  Donna Arnett, head of the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health suggests that people give kids money instead of candy (because kids love money), and that parents hand out pedometers to their kids and give a prize (non-food of course) to the kids with the most steps.  Okaaaaay.
Well we’re smack dab in the middle of this holiday season, and I wonder, who else is going to be implicated in this obesity epidemic?  Will we truss up St. Nick next to the holiday turkey and serve him up as a bad role model?  I mean, that guy could stand to lose a few, right?  Are we going to put Baby New Year on a diet?  Maybe that kid could live longer than a year if he ate a little broccoli, right?  And the prescription for the Easter Bunny goes without saying (see above).
I’d like to suggest that we all take a holiday from weight obsession.  Can we take a few weeks to work on managing our stress and getting a little bit of good sleep?  Can we choose to enjoy holiday treats openly and while we’re hungry for them, rather than denying ourselves, and then closet eating all the Christmas cookies?  Can we engage in regular, rational and pleasurable physical activity, rather than doing nothing until New Years and then weekend warrioring ourselves right into an injury?  Can we all just take a deep breath and calm down?  That’s my plan and my holiday gift to you.  Sleep in heavenly peace my friends.
Love,
The Fat Chick.