Tag Archives: body acceptance

Tuesday Reviewsday–Harriet Brown’s Body of Truth

For today’s Tuesday Reviewsday, I am pleased to discuss Harriet Brown’s recently released book “Body of Truth”.  Harriet Brown is already well known for her previous book, “Brave Girl Eating” about her experiences with her daughter who suffered from Anorexia.  “Body of Truth” uncovers Harriet’s epiphany regarding her own weight obsessed life within a society who complemented her daughter’s svelte figure even when they knew she was recovering from anorexia.

Like many of us, Harriet’s weight obsession and body hatred started early in life and lasted through most of middle age.  It wasn’t until she saw the devastating effects of anorexia that she even began to question society’s readiness to conflate thinness and health and began to question her seeming moral obligation to have thin thighs.  Harriet describes her own struggle in the midst of her Jewish family and describes the dichotomy of being in a culture that loves food and values hostesses who provide abundance at the dinner table while being terrified of fat.

Throughout the book, Harriet’s journalistic roots shine through clearly.  She provides a wealth of current information and facts to back up her assertion that we as a culture are a bit off the rails when it comes to body image and weight.  Much of the ground covered here will be familiar to those of us who have studied this area for some time.  There are the statistics about the failure of dieting.  There is an in-depth discussion of the “obesity paradox”.  And she covers Flegal’s research and the ensuing shameful medical backlash.  She follows the money and describes the intense conflicts of interest displayed by so many who serve on boards and are paid to do research to support the “war on obesity”.  However, there is much recent research covered in the book, and a significant portion of the anecdotal materials (for example on Professor Miller) are new and fresh.

Above all, I feel Harriet does a terrific job of weaving her personal narrative with a tight journalistic style that presents facts and evidence in a way that makes for a fast and enjoyable read.  I really  enjoyed the book and I think it may especially resonate with middle-aged readers who are just coming to HAES at this point in their lives.  I strongly recommend this powerful and enjoyable book.

Now, before I close, on to a bit of business.  Have you heard about our new Fit Fatties Virtual Events?  Have you signed up yet?  It’s super cool and you don’t want to miss it.  This time around the events feature a quintathlon option as well as Fit Fatties Flair.  Learn more HERE!

Also, this year I am seeking to earn a new fitness certification and so I am offering special discounts off of my regular speaking fees.  To learn more, send me an email describing your speaking request to jeanette at the fat chick dot com.  Learn more about my speaking HERE!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Body Love is not a Pant Size

Let me be clear.  I think people should learn to love their bodies, full stop.  I don’t think they have to wait until they lose ten pounds to love their bodies.  And I CERTAINLY don’t think they should “love their bodies enough” to lose ten pounds.  If you want to lose ten pounds and you can safely lose ten pounds and it makes you happy then you should go for it.  I mean, it’s your body and you should do whatever you think is best.  But let me be clear.  I don’t think body love means fixing up your body in a way that is more socially acceptable and then grudgingly deciding it’s okay.  And I don’t think insisting that other women do to their bodies exactly what you chose to do to your body in order to learn to love their bodies is okay either.  I think body love means being grateful and happy for your body the way it is right now.

Let me be clear about another thing.  Loving your body isn’t always easy.  We are surrounded by images and toys and directives and advertising that convinces us that we can only love our bodies after certain conditions are met.  We are told we can love our bodies after we get rid of stretch marks and cellulite and age spots and wrinkles and back fat and rolls and achieve a perfect thigh gap.  In fact we are encouraged to love our bodies ENOUGH to spend the gobs of money and time purchasing creams and potions and pills and exercise torture devices and DVDs and costly and painful medical procedures to ensure that our body no longer has cellulite or wrinkles or stretch marks or age marks or chubby thighs and is finally, eventually (for the moment) acceptable.

And  loving our bodies isn’t always easy, because as we age, our bodies change.  We sag in places we didn’t.  Strange marks appear on our skin.  Our bodies are sometimes less able to do things they could before.  We have to pee all. the. time.  And sometimes we get sick.  And if we get sick, there are plenty of people including medical professionals, large multinational companies, friends, families and complete strangers eager to tell us that if we had only tried their procedure or exercise or potion or pill or program or cleanse we wouldn’t have gotten sick in the first place.  They tell us if we had loved our bodies enough to fix our bodies the way they said we should, everything would have been okay.   So sometimes it’s hard to love our bodies.

Body love can be a rewarding but often frustrating and deeply confusing process.  That’s why I get so angry about companies and experts that are taking the “body love” theme and turning it into a tool to sell their “body improvement” messages, products and other crap.  Because that ish is NOT OKAY.  If you want to sell body improvement.  Sell that.  Sell the heck out of it.  But don’t make body acceptance conditional on the thing or the process or the potion or pill or exercise torture device or major surgery you are selling and then call it body love.

There have been some striking examples of this in the past.  One that immediately comes to mind is Kellogg’s and Marilyn Wann.  You see, my dear friend Marilyn Wann came up with this amazing idea.  She makes bathroom scales that say positive words like “sexy” or “beautiful” instead of numbers.  Go to about 1 minute in to the video below to see what I mean.

Now a while after Marilyn’s wonderful Yay! Scale was released for sale, Kellogg’s released a scale that looked pretty darn similar.  What’s wrong with that?  Well aside from the fact they seem to have “borrowed” an idea from an inventor without giving credit or compensation, they were using their scale to promote the idea that you should replace meals with cereal in order to lose weight.  And the promotion around the new scales had the tagline, “What will you gain when you lose?”.  Check it out in the video below:

This strongly implies that those words on the scale will apply to your body only after you lose weight using their products.  You see the difference between the two messages?

Look, I don’t think loving your body means that you stop doing things to care for your body.  I don’t think loving your body means you can’t change anything about your body.  But I don’t think body acceptance should be conditional on those things.  It’s the difference between “I’ll love my body after I”, or “I love my body enough to change it” and “I love my body.  Oh and I’ll do this too.”  It’s subtle, but it’s important.

It’s important because we are seeing other companies and special interest groups using the power of the body love movement to dress up body improvement products and schemes.  And that’s not only confusing, but dishonest and wrong.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

 

All the Comebacks We’ll Never Say

TRIGGER WARNING: I’m going to talk about verbal abuse.

So I don’t know if you got a chance to see this, but it’s pretty awesome. Chelsea Handler lays a stupid kind of mean spirited fat joke on Andy Richter and BOOM, he comes back with an amazing zinger that not only puts Chelsea in her place, but gets Conan laughing his fool head off. If you haven’t clicked on the video click at the top of the page yet, go click it. I’ll wait.

See??? BOOM! I mean, don’t you wish you could come back like this when somebody says something mean or stupid or obliquely snide to you about the size of your body? I wish I could. Usually I do, in my head, 20 minutes later. In the moment however, I don’t often come up with something wonderful and witty to say. I guess now, even after it’s happened to me and all my friends and colleagues so many times, I am still surprised. Afterwards I’m not surprised at all. But in the moment, especially when a complete stranger decides to comment on my body, there’s often that moment of shock. I’m not talking about when people make rude comments to each other about me so I can hear them, or make obnoxious mooing sounds, or shout things across the street. I’m talking about when people confront me directly and say mean, stupid or downright horrible things. There is still a moment of shock. Still a feeling of violation. I feel it in my body like a punch to the gut. And often I’m standing there, mouth flapping open and closed like a recently caught fish wondering WHY a person who doesn’t know me, who has no reason to hate me just threw verbal poo at my head. Sometimes I am able to recover sufficiently to say something reasonably intelligent, and sometimes I just walk away shaking my head. But it’s safe to say, I’m almost never as quick on my feet as good old Andy Richter up there.

Now I am a professional speaker. I have had extensive training in speaking off the cuff. I’ve studied improvisational theater. So I often feel I should have been come up with something witty to say. And so the verbal beating I have taken from a complete stranger is often followed by me beating myself up for not handling the situation better. I find myself, after the fact, reliving the confrontation, calculating and discarding dozens of “comebacks” or “burns” I should have used and feeling battered and miserable.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know. I want to share that even though I’ve been in the space of body love and size acceptance for decades, and even though I’ve been in public debates and had speech training and have given literally hundreds of public talks, I don’t always have a witty comeback when somebody publicly attacks me. I’m telling you this because I am trying to learn to focus my anger where it belongs–not at myself for failing to “burn” somebody who is mean to me, but at the person who was being mean to me! I tell you this, because you may be one of the millions of other people in this world who do not have a witty comeback ready when somebody is mean to you. And I want you to know that’s okay. We all love the fact that Andy Richter can come back at Chelsea that way. We cheer because he does something we all wish we could do in the moment that somebody is mean to us–execute the perfect, 10-point, sustained audience laughter burn. But I want to suggest that we can appreciate Andy’s talent while at the same time relieving ourselves of the responsibility to be him.  And I want to suggest that maybe instead of beating ourselves up for not being funny in the face of cruelty, we should focus our anger outwards and self care and love inwards.  Just a thought.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Want to hire me to speak to your group and maybe (or maybe not) throw some zingers at the haters?  Click HERE!

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Oh the Places You’ll Go (with fitness)

Yesterday we officially launched our Fit Fatties Virtual Vacations with a virtual sunset cruise in Paris.  And it really got me thinking.  Of all the super wonderful and awesome things about exercise, I think one of the things I love most is how exercise can be and can fuel adventures in our lives.  Whether it’s just walking a little further down the path just to see what’s there, or getting on an airplane and exploring the world, I love how fitness can open new worlds for folks.

One of the most fun parts of the whole Fit Fatties Virtual Decathlon project was checking out the photos of the fun adventures people had while finishing their virtual events.  Some folks did a 5K or 10K or marathon for the first time.  Some people tried belly dancing lessons or hula hooping or tap dancing for the first time.  Folks went to museums, climbed mountains, toured college campuses and sports stadiums.  Some people exercised by themselves.  Some created spontaneous dance parties and even met Santa Claus on the beach with their kids.

Another thing that was super cool about the virtual events is the way that people started to see adventure in everyday activity.  Some people got badges for epic snow shoveling (and shoveling and shoveling), massive lawn mowing and wood splitting.  Folks even found adventure in having a temper tantrum and smashing stuff the ex left behind.  Clearly there was some catharsis going on.

I know that as my fitness level increases, my sense of adventure also tends to increase.  I’m more brave.  I’m more ready to try new things–whether it be hula hooping or trying just one more yard sale in search of the find of the century.  None of this takes me away from listening to my body.   However fit I may be, I always allow myself the right to try something and then say, “No, thank you.  This isn’t for me.”  One of my extremely talented students described this as her 10 minute rule.  “I try to be adventurous,” she says.  “But I always give myself an out.  If after 10 minutes, I don’t like it, love it or feel like I’m having fun, I give myself unabashed permission to simply walk away–no guilt and no strings attached.”

How about you.  As we move into summer vacation time (at  least in my part of the world) are you ready to try something new?  How about a water aerobics class, or some gardening, or riding a bike or surfing?  And how about instead of thinking of fitness as a guilt-laden obligation, we start thinking of it as an open-ended ticket to new adventures?

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. It’s not too late to join our Fit Fatties Virtual Vacations!  Just click here!

A Different Sort of Tennis Star

You’d think since being rated the top Junior player in the United States, tennis phenom Taylor Townsend would be best known for her prowess on the court.  However, aside from Townsend’s legendary on-court tennis battles, are plenty of battles of a different sort.  Two years ago, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) asked Taylor to sit out of the 2012 Open Junior Tournament due to concerns about her “conditioning”.   And by conditioning, they meant body shape.  And by body shape they meant how Townsend looked in a dress.  According to Tom Perotta of the Wall St. Journal:

Her coaches declined to pay her travel expenses to attend the Open and told her this summer that they wouldn’t finance any tournament appearances until she makes sufficient progress in one area: slimming down and getting into better shape.

“Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player,” said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA’s player development program. “We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in [Arthur Ashe Stadium] in the main draw and competing for major titles when it’s time. That’s how we make every decision, based on that.”

But it doesn’t just stop at funding. According to Perrotta, the USTA actually requested that Townsend skip the U.S. Open, denying both her petitions for wild cards into either the U.S. Open main draw or the qualifying tournament. In the end, Townsend’s family decided to pay out of their own pockets for Taylor to compete in the U.S. Open Junior Tournament.  She was ultimately defeated in the quarterfinals by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

It’s clear that Taylor knows on which side her baguette is buttered.  In 2012 Townsend said:  “I’ve gotten a lot of great opportunities, great fitness, great coaching,” she said. “I’m doing everything that they ask me to do and being professional about everything.”

Nevertheless, Townsend has to be feeling more than a little gratified over Tuesday’s French Open results.  The match had some moments that seemed straight out of a movie script.  In the first set of her first match, Taylor got behind 1-5.  She then won12 of the following 13 games to win over her U.S. opponent Vania King 7-5, 6-1. Today (Wednesday, May 28) Townsend (ranked 205th) is scheduled to battle top-ranked Frenchwoman Alize Cornet (ranked 21st) at the 10,000-seat Suzanne Lenglen Court. So surely at this point we’re focusing on her playing prowess, right?  Right?

Well, today’s New York Times article on Townsend is titled “Questioned About Body, Townsend Rises and Inspires”.  Now the article goes on to say that Taylor is playing amazing tennis, and that Wednesday’s matchup promises to be very exciting.  The article contains quotes from Taylor’s new coach (Zina Garrison) talking about how Townsend is “fine”, and how she doesn’t wish her young tennis protege to suffer over criticism or worry about her weight.  So I’ll offer some slight props to the Times for inserting some body positivity into the article.  But let’s not forget that the first three words of the headline are not “Powerful Tennis Star” or “Young Tennis Phenom”.  The first three words of this headline are “Questioned About Body”.

I guess it’s not surprising.  As I’ve reported before, even winning Wimbledon does not protect you from the need to be attractive to men.  The top title in tennis does not forgive you for being less than supermodel gorgeous.

I hope that Taylor kicks some serious butt on the court tomorrow.  I hope she plays really well and ultimately triumphs.  I have to admit that I don’t hold out a lot of hope however, that Taylor Townsend will ever win victory over a public that is most interested in how she looks in her little tennis skirt.

Le sigh.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to take a virtual journey to France and work out with your friends?  Check out our Fit Fatties Virtual Vacations!

And don’t forget to join my mailing list to get access to cool free stuff!

Red Carpet Walk–No Diet, No Girdle, No Regrets

PGA_AwardsYou know what I did last night?  I went to a the Producers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills.  You know what I didn’t do?  Give even one hoot about whether or not I was thin enough to be there.  I wore something I had saved up in my closet.  I didn’t have on sky-high heels or even a foundation garment.  No Spanx.  No control-top pantyhose.  (Hell this is LA, who wears pantyhose?)  I sat at my table in the Beverly Hilton–right where, just one week ago the Golden Globes were held.  I was in the same room (separated by literally miles of tables of course and more handlers than you could shake a stick at) with Ron Howard and Brad Pitt and ate as much as my stomach could comfortably hold, because it looked good and I was hungry.  I went to an awards show and had fun and felt good and was comfortable as can be.  And it was awesome.

Today, for Healthy Weight Week, the question was asked, “How might life be different for someone who decided to stop hating their body.”  And I’d humbly like to suggest, that this, THIS is how life is different.  I didn’t even think about going on a diet to get ready for this event.  I pulled something beautiful out of the closet that I knew would fit, because I’m no longer weight cycling.  I had very fancy clothing in my closet that didn’t require me to put on a girdle or a corset or even stomach-punishing pantyhose to fit.  When I was standing in line to have my picture taken at the step and repeat, my friends talked about their January juice fasts and cleanses and body programs.  I then outlined my program: I find exercise that I really love and do it as much as I can because it’s fun.  Then I eat whatever the F*$! I want as long as it tastes good and feels good in my body.  I think they are more than a little bit jealous.

And when my beautiful salad arrived and the waiter asked if I wanted dressing, I said yes please, and a little bit more please because, hell yes I wanted dressing.  When he asked if I wanted bread, I took without apology, the big, yummy parmesan triangle thing right on the top, large enough to sail a small boat, and I enjoyed the heck out of it too.  When the inevitable chicken composed with 4 grilled baby vegetables arrived, I devoured most of it.  When dessert showed up, I devoured that too–ice cream and all.  Not because I might not get to eat naughty food tomorrow.  Or because I knew I wasn’t planning on allowing myself ice cream ever again.  Just because it tasted good and I was hungry.

And yes, I definitely went to the after party in the penthouse and shook hands with Morgan Freeman (who by the way, is just as nice as you’ve heard).  And I didn’t worry even a little bit about if he thought I was fat.

Despite what you may think, not everybody in LA goes to these celebrity shindigs.  I am very, very grateful to be on the national board of the Producers Guild of America and get to go to this type of event from time to time.  But I’m even more grateful to my sisters and brothers in  acceptance for teaching me to go and feel completely at home in my body and completely unconcerned about looking very, very different from the vast majority of those treading the red carpet.

I am so grateful.

And that is why I post my glittery picture.  Partly because I’m excited to show you a picture of me all dressed up.  But also to let you know that this fat girl is here and she is representin’!  In sparkly, but comfortable shoes.  With a full tummy and an even fuller heart.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

Arriving

I had a chance to put some of my steps technique into practice yesterday as I jetted off on a last minute jaunt to New York City.  I’m going to be interviewed on the Katie Couric show today and it’s due to air tomorrow (Thursday) on ABC.  To say I’m excited, is an understatement.  Thrilled, terrified, hopping up and down with adrenal glands working mega overtime, that’s just the half of it.  But I have to tell you a little secret.  One of the most exciting things so far was arriving at the airport yesterday.  The show sent a driver to pick me up at the airport.  And as I descended the escalator to baggage claim there he was: a very nice, well-dressed man holding up a sign with my name on it.  It may seem like a little thing, but to me it really wasn’t.  I have been flying for over 25 years, and I have always wondered whether one of those well-dressed guys at the airport would hold a sign up with MY name on it.  Yesterday it happened.  I, well I “arrived”.

I wonder sometimes about the life that led me to this point.  I wonder about the hard work and the sacrifices I have made.  I wonder about the many, many sacrifices my parents and my husband have made.  I wonder at the support of my dear friends and the multitudes of blessings I have received, and I guess my feelings all boil down to one thing.  I feel grateful–deeply and humbly grateful for this moment.  As my dear friend Kate advised, I’m breathing deeply and joyfully.  And I’m trying to savor every dang moment of this victory.

I don’t know how the taping will go.  I’m praying that it will go well.  But whatever happens, I’m grateful for this little moment.  For Rocky who drove me to the fancy hotel next to the studio and for that tiny little sign with my name on it.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. The episode is due to air on ABC tomorrow.  So tune in and see how I did.

oxoxoxo