Tag Archives: body diversity

Paris Cracks Down on Super Skinny Models

French MPs have voted to make it illegal to put models who are too thin on the catwalk.  Modeling agencies who put models on the catwalk who are deemed too thin face significant fines (up to $75,000) and even more astonishingly up to six months in prison.

The MPs are engaging in this crackdown in an attempt to help curb anorexia and other eating disorders in France.  The fashion industry, especially in Paris, has a very important cultural effect on young women.  And there is no question that the average Paris fashion model is startlingly thin.  According to the WHO, a BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight.  18 is considered malnourished and 17 is considered severely malnourished.  The average fashion model is 5ft. 9in. and weighs in at just over 110 pounds.  This makes the average BMI in the fashion industry a 16.  The French MPs have thus far failed to determine what BMI will be considered too low for the fashion industry.

The lower house of Parliament also voted recently to mark all photos of models that have been retouched to change body size or shape and to make promotion of anorexia on the Internet.  One supposes that it is fairly easy to legislate the first of these ideas, but I admit, I’m not sure how they will enforce the latter.

While we all know that BMI is an unreliable indicator of health, nevertheless extremely low weights (along with extremely high weights) are associated with health risks.  In particular, extremely low weights are sometimes indicative of Anorexia–a serious eating disorder which has proven the most deadly of all forms of mental illness.  While one could imagine that some of these women are simply naturally very thin, it is unlikely that all or even most of them have a natural BMI that low.  And first hand accounts from many models who speak of living on diet coke and cotton balls, and who pass out at photo shoots from lack of nutrition, lead us to believe that achieving a weight this low for many models requires extreme measures.

Naturally the fashion industry is fighting back.  They state that just because their models are thin, does not mean they are anorexic.  And there is a certain amount of truth to that.  If we are going to argue for body diversity, we must accept that some people are naturally very thin, just as some people are naturally very fat. And if we ban very thin models, shouldn’t we ban very fat ones too?

Personally, I think it’s important to recognize that the Paris fashion industry is not representing body diversity on the catwalk.  The average Paris fashion model’s body size is far, FAR below the national average for BMI.  And there is virtually no representation of even averaged sized women on the catwalk.  By focusing the fashion shows on body sizes that are way below average, the modeling industry creates a “new normal”.  As people come to see a body type that is not healthy or normal for the vast majority of the population as the right and most desired one.

So what say you?  Do you think these proposed French measures go too far?  Or not far enough?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Dancing with Body Diversity

I ran across a video in my feed yesterday and I have to admit made me smile.  It’s not perfect.  The song lyrics  have some problematic phrases.  And I wish the leadership of the dance was a little bit different.  But with all of that said, this dance held at a technical high school had some promising elements.  One element is the diversity of body sizes and types found in the dance.  This wasn’t 50 typical, thin, blond professional dancers and one or two token fatties.  This was a cross section of a school with single digit and decidedly double digit dancers collectively shaking their groove thing.  And some of those folks could really move!  I find the whole thing pretty exciting!  Here it is if you’d like to take a look:

Body diversity is so important for so many reasons.  When I was in high school, I didn’t really have role models that showed me that fat people could be happy or dance or be sexy or have sex.  I didn’t really have anything to counteract the dominant message that the ONLY way to have these things was to get and stay socially, acceptably skinny first.  That’s why I love this video.  There are people of all kinds of sizes and all kinds of SHAPE gettin’ down.  The bigger students aren’t all modified hourglass plus-sized models.  Not that there is anything wrong with being a modified-hourglass, size 12 plus-sized model.  It’s just refreshing to see that people come in all DIFFERENT shapes.  Some have a lot up top.  Some have relatively small bust and a lot of booty.  We’re looking at round, square, apple, hourglass, pear and every other shape and fruit you care to name.  So we get to see that bodies don’t just have to be one size to be awesome.  Bodies don’t need to be just one shape to be awesome.  Bodies don’t have to be one height to be awesome.  Bodies don’t have to come in one color to be awesome.  Bodies don’t even need to all work the same way to be awesome.  Bodies of all different kinds can just rock the house together.

I wish I had this to look at when I was a teenager.  I’m really glad that teenagers get to look at it now.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Want to book me to come talk to YOUR teenagers about body diversity?  I’m booking talks right now for spring.  Send me an email at jeanette@thefatchick.com to make sure you get the date you want!  I can work within most schedules and budgets!  You can learn more about me here.

P.S.S. Want to get a book about how to move your body joyfully and safely at any size or shape?  Buy my book here.

Thankful for my Online Sisters

At this time of year it’s natural for us to be thankful.  And there are so many things to be thankful for.  I have a wonderful husband and family who are all doing pretty well (including my geriatric doggy who is still begging for walks and treats.) I have a roof over my head and good food to eat.  I have access to medical care and a car to drive.  And by and large, I have my health.

But at this moment, I would also like to say a special thank you to my online sisters.  Some of whom I know well in real life (like Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann) and others that I know mostly from my internet connection like Golda Poretsky, and Virgie Tovar and the militant baker and Hanne Blank.  Some of these women, like Marilyn Wann, I’ve known for decades.  Other online friends are brand new.  For example, I just met Elly Kellner online last night.  She wrote in to More Of Me To Love last night to tell us about an incident where some folks confronted her after a musical performance to let them know that they loved her music but were deeply concerned and distracted by the clothes she chose to wear.

Two strangers told me they were very distracted by my dress, was the back of the dress longer than the front!? And what sort of a legging was that!? And those shoes!? They assured me they only bothered to tell me all this because they thought my music was really good. But if only I wore a small heel, spike heels weren’t necessary, but a small heel and a sleeve then I would have been so much bigger in music already. The way I was dressed now distracted them too much from my music. I could take Ella Fitzgerald as an example. She was a big lady too and she wore beautiful garments!

In the finest tradition of concern trolling, these strangers assured Elly that they had her best interest at heart, and they just wanted others to not be distracted from her music.  Well Elly’s response was simply EPIC.  She created this music video to document her reaction:

I am continually encouraged and inspired by so, so, so many people who are doing amazing work to help make acceptance of body diversity more real in our culture.  From all of the powerful and wonderful speakers we had in our Fat Activism Conference, to the thousands of people who support each other daily on the Fit Fatties Forum, to the thousands of people who read this blog, I am thankful for you.  I am thankful for ALL OF YOU.  I am thankful for the way you make the world a better place for EVERY body.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to join my mailing list and get free stuff?  Click HERE.

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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.

Frank Sinatra as Exercise Inspiration

In case you’re noodling over my semi-bizarre title, let me just say this.  Frank “did it his way”.  And when it comes to exercise, I’d like to invite you to do it your way.

I was inspired to write this after reading a great post by a young exercise guru named Ryan DeBell.  In his post, he talks about some of the anatomical differences in the hip region that can have a dramatic difference in the way we squat.  If you aren’t too squeamish when it comes to looking at human bones, I’d like to encourage you to hop on over to the article.  Because those pictures of bones tell a story that is very interesting.

The pictures feature the bones of the hip, showing us the socket part of the joint on the pelvis (called the acetabulum) and the ball part of the joint on the head of the long bone of the leg (called the femur).  When the pictures are compared, side by side, it is clear that there is a LOT of anatomical variety.  The angle of the ball part of the joint differs widely from one person to another.  The length of the ball part of the joint is different.  The position of the socket part of the pelvis is very different from one picture to another.

From this picture, Ryan extrapolates that these bodies would perform the “squat” in ways that are very different from one another.  He posits that one person would be more comfortable in a wide stance and another would be more comfortable in a narrow stance.  And he suggests that this difference is likely to continue expressing itself, even after a fair amount of exercise in both strengthening and increasing range of motion in the hip joint.

It’s also fascinating to me that Ryan followed up his blog post with a brief video. Here it is:


Basically what the video says is (and I’m paraphrasing): “Yeah helpful commenters, I didn’t say that because hips are different people should stop working on their hips.  And no I don’t have reams of incontrovertible evidence detailing the exact range of human hip diversity.  But what I am saying is that even if you exercise a lot, people are still going to be different. ”

And the end of the video is so awesome, I’ll quote it here:

“Keep doing it so you can be the best version of you in your movement.”

Okay, I want to give this guy cyberhugs.  Seriously.  Because what he says makes so much sense not only in the context of exercise, but also in terms of body diversity in general.  It should be obvious, right?  We don’t all look the same.  Some of us are tall and some of us are short.  Some of us are designed to be weight lifters and some of us are designed to sprint and some of us are going to run long distances like marathons and ultramarathons like a freakin’ gazelle.  Some of us are designed with a great deal of musical talent.  Others of us can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  Does suggest that the sprinters can’t do marathons or that the non-singers should just mouth “Happy Birthday to You” at the next family gathering?  No it does not.  However it does suggest that the sprinter’s body is likely to respond to 26.2 miles in a way that is very different from the gazelle.  It means that the non-singer is going to have a much different experience learning to sing opera than the kid who rolled out of bed at age 18 with a high “C” and perfect pitch.

And speaking of singing, there is so much diversity in music, and in many ways it seems more accepted.  I am a soprano.  I can sing the same notes as many altos and even some tenors.  But no matter how much I train my voice to extend my range, I will not  be an alto or a tenor.  The quality of my voice will not match those voice types.  And the more I try to train my voice to artificially create a sound that is not right for me, the more fatigued and frustrated I will become.  And if I train against the natural tendencies of my voice long enough and hard enough, I am likely to experience pain, injury and possibly even permanent damage.  Does that mean I stop working to extend my range?  Of course not!  But it does mean that I need to progress in a way that is in harmony with my anatomy and my abilities.

You know, as I watched the Golden Globes last night, I found a number of things really striking.  One thing I noticed was how tall most of the women were.  And another thing I noticed was how similar all the women looked to one another.  There were a few striking and glorious examples of body diversity, but the vast majority of the women at that show could have easily swapped couture gowns with one another.  And I think this is one of the main dangers of consuming media in our culture.  It makes us lose touch with how much natural diversity there is in bodies.  It gives many of us the sense that our bodies are all wrong because everybody we see on TV and in the magazines either look the same naturally, or are photoshopped into uniformity.  But if we look outside of media, if we look in the real world, I think there is a beautiful and astonishing level of difference.

So how do we bring this back around to our title?  How do we relate this to Frank Sinatra?  My dear friend, I think it means you need to do exercise YOUR way.  By all means enlist the help of a personal trainer or exercise teacher.  By all means build your strength and extend your range of motion.  But while you are doing this, please listen to YOUR body.  Don’t assume that there is only one way to strengthen or increase flexibility in any part of your body.   Don’t even assume that there is only one right way to do a particular sort of exercise.  And when your body says, “OW it hurts when I do that in that way,” follow your Mom’s sage advice and don’t do that.  Just focus, as Ryan says, on being the best version of YOU.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. One of the things that is so exciting about the Fit Fatties Virtual Events project I co-created with Ragen Chastain (besides how cool it is to do anything with Ragen Chastain) is watching how different bodies respond to the very different challenges offered in the program.  Rather than asking everybody to do a 5K or a triathlon, we are encouraging people to explore a wide range of activities and pick a few  that feel great to them.  We are still offering early bird special pricing so I urge you to go check it out!

Coming Home to our Bodies

sepia_houseIf my blogging has been somewhat irregular this week, it’s because I’ve gone home.  I’ve gone to the house that my Mom and Dad and sister and I built with our own hands, stick by stick and brick by brick.  I’ve gone back to the deep green grass and country quiet of where i grew up in Wisconsin.  My sister moved into the house we built together and now lives there with her husband and two kids–my nieces.  The older of these just graduated from High School and I was there to celebrate with her and 50 other family members.  She’s headed off to college in the fall, and I’m so proud I could bust!

It was odd being back in our old family home, but deeply comforting as well.  I was surprised at how little had changed.  I have to admit I am feeling acutely aware of the passage of time.  I had a minor freak-out when I realized that my niece is now the same age as I was when I met my husband.  Yikes!

But on the second day of the trip, as I sat on the front porch and watched the sun go down over the pond, I had some time to think.  And one of the thoughts I thunked was about how wonderful it was to find a place of peace that is deeply connected with your roots and who you are.  And immediately following I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could feel that way about our bodies?  Wouldn’t it be great if getting in touch with our physical selves gave us a sense of “going home”.  If checking in with our limbs and our laughter and our breathing and the beating of our hearts could ground us, remind us of where we came from and who we are?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could return to our physical being, if we could rest in the core of ourselves and simply find peace?

frontporchviewI have to own up to a certain amount of family privilege here.  Sure, I’ve had disagreements with my family, but I’ve always known without a single doubt that in all important things, they had my back.  They are my posse.  I live in certainty that the strong family I have has allowed me to grow to who I’ve become.  And when it comes to family and being loved, I have enjoyed an embarrassment of riches.

I’m acutely aware that not everyone has this “home” to go back to.

But it is this idealized version of this moment of coming home that I wish for all of us.  That we find in ourselves the love we may not have always had, but have always, always craved.  That we find in the cradle of our bellies and the length of our arms the embrace we deeply desire for ourselves, rocking us and assuring us that we’re okay, we’re okay, we’re okay.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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Fun with Dick and Jane (and Why Tim doesn’t Exercise)

See Tim develop an eating disorder...

See Tim develop an eating disorder…

Oh my God.  Where do I even start with this monstrosity?  I was going along, minding my own business, eating my breakfast and checking out this wonderful post on Adios Barbie when I ran into this picture linked to by Allison Epstein.  And I nearly choked on my Cheerios.(R) Seriously? SERIOUSLY?  Look! It’s Fat Shaming with Dick and Jane:

See Dick and Jane and Pat.  She Dick and Jane and Pat fat shaming Tim.  See Tim.  See Tim embody negative fat stereotypes.  See Dick and Jane and Pat revel in their thin privilege.  See Tim go on a diet.  See Tim get slimmer.  See Tim get fatter.  See Tim get even fatter.  See Mom and Dad panic.  Panic parents panic!  See Tim get a gastric sleeve.  See Tim learn about dumping syndrome.  See Mom and Dad buy Tim dark colored pants.  Dump Tim dump!  Oh No!  Now Tim smells funny.  Isn’t he funny?  See Dick and Jane and Pat laugh.  See Tim want to die.  Die Tim, die…

The thing that really scares me, I mean full-out, ooga-booga, petrifies me, is that there are three organizations that have signed on to this ad.  That means at least three, purportedly professional people (and probably more) not only signed off on, but actually paid somebody to create this crap.  But that’s okay (they reason) because kids need to get out and play more, right?  And research shows, the way to get kids to go outside and play is to shame them, right? Right?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no and how about, no!

Despite the ongoing research that indicates that fat shame does not lead to permanent weight loss, and that fat stigma leads to even less healthy behaviors among kids like disordered eating, binge drinking, and more smoking, various white-coat-wearing idiots feel the need to create ads like this one.  Why?  Are they trying to create the medical equivalent of this exercise video “accidentally” catching a pooping man on camera?  (Is it an accident, or an all-new, low-bar in publicity stunts? Either way, it’s a hits bonanza!)  Do they not care that they are harming families and especially children with their stupid ads as long as they fuel parental panic and get lots of clicky poos for their hit counts?  Or have they really just not bothered to check any of the literature that shows that fat stigma harms people?  Hmmm, evil or simply, criminally irresponsible?  Hard to imagine that either are qualities I look for in a medical professional.

What is so sad, is that this ad is likely to make Tim less interested in exercise.  And this ambivalence towards exercise may last a lifetime.

But for those of you out there who are still twisting a hankie in your sweaty fingers or running around in circles yelling, “But what do we do?”  I have this advice.  If you want Tim to exercise:

1.  Create emotionally safe places for Tim to play–free from bullying or shaming.

2.  Create physically safe places for Tim to play–safe from assault and other crimes.

3.  Help Tim reconnect with and feel pride in the body he has right now.

4.  Provide safe, well-planned and excellently-executed physical education classes, and

5.  Surround Tim with role models for physical fitness that embody all shapes and sizes and abilities–like the amazing Ragen Chastain in this recent video interview from Huffington Post Live.

Seriously people.  If you want kids to exercise, give them physically and emotionally safe places to do it, give them proper instruction, provide them with great role models and teach them that exercise is something that we do because we love our bodies.

Then Dick and Jane and Pat and Tim and Sally and everybody can live happily ever after.  That is all.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Want help getting started with exercise?  My book and DVD are designed to help beginners to safely and joyfully integrate physical activities into their lives.  Enter the code DickAndJane in the discount code box to save $5 off the cover price!