Tag Archives: community

Why self esteem isn’t just about you.

I talk a lot about self esteem and self efficacy in this blog, because I think both of those things are very, very important. I think the way we see ourselves and the way we approach the world helps to shape our world.  On the other hand, I think it’s important to recognize that the world we live in shapes us in turn.  Both self esteem and self efficacy involve more than just self.  Because as John Donne said all those years ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main…

John Donne

We all function as part of the world.  Our self esteem is deeply influenced by the opinions of those around us.  And frankly, right now, the world is none too kind to people of size.  Feeling good about yourself is really tough in an world containing people who after one look at you consider themselves justified in considering you less than human.  Even when you approach the world in your best dress and your prettiest smile and your very most positive of positive thoughts, it’s tough going when what the world reflects back to you is pity, disgust, shame, disdain and yes, even fear.

And it’s also important to recognize that the tremendous amount of prejudice experienced by people of size in our culture is constantly reenforced by various factors.  The diet and weight loss industry is worth more than 60 Billion dollars in the U.S. alone.  And desire for a piece of the grant/research money pie has fueled a desperate fight against fat people also known as the “War on Obesity”.  A need to find a scapegoat in our difficult economic times and even more difficult health care landscape has led to the fat person as social pariah–blamed for everything from the high costs of health insurance to global warming.

I’m not telling you this because I want you to be depressed.  Far from it.  But I also want to pay homage to the fact that feeling good as a less than skinny person in our culture can be really, really difficult.  This is reality.  And any work that we try to do to feel good about ourselves needs to be seen in the context of this reality.

This is why I think it is so very important to build community to support one another.  I am by no means perfect in my self esteem.  But a great deal of any of the strength I do possess in this regard comes directly from my participation in the size acceptance community.  I am deeply indebted to those who have come before.  That’s why I think it is so important to honor others who are building a better and safer world for people of all sizes.  This year, we honored some of those trail blazers this year in the Shadow on a Tightrope anniversary.  And my dear friend and business collaborator Ragen Chastain is doing very important work in her documentary film project honoring the history of the heroes and heroines of the size acceptance movement.

And beyond just recognizing those who have gone before, there is a veritable army of people out there right now, working to make the world better for people of all shapes and sizes.  People like Marilyn Wann and Ragen Chastain.  Organizations like the Size Diversity Task Force and ASDAH and NAAFA.

So in your look to bolster your self-esteem, I’d like to encourage you to think beyond yourself.  First, I’d like to suggest that you take a look at some of the forces outside of yourself that may be dragging on you.  Learning to recognize these voices that send you negative and shaming messages is an important first step towards choosing what to take on board and what to throw away.

Next, I’d like to suggest that you find community.  Get together in the real world or the virtual one, with like-minded people who allow you to feel supported and safe at any size.  I can’t emphasize enough how much community has helped me and supported me and strengthened me.

Finally, I’d like to ask you to consider how you might help others feel good about themselves.  It’s not enough to simply take.  Community implies a sharing of talents and resources and our very selves.  That’s not to say that we all need to help in the same way.  Some of us will march in protests.  Some of us will send scathing letters.  Some of us will simply support one another with a quick hug or a kind word in the comments section.

None of us is an island.  We are all a piece of the continent, a citizen of the world, a member of the universe.  It’s up to all of us to make that universe a better place for ALL of us.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Up Hill Both Ways: 30th Anniversary of Shadow on a Tightrope

A new generation is introduced to Shadow on a Tightrope.  Photo Credit: Substantia Jones

A new generation is introduced to Shadow on a Tightrope. Photo Credit: Substantia Jones

I have to confess.  I recently re-read Shadow on a Tightrope in honor of this blog carnival.  I tore through the book at warp speed, reveling in the sheer, unadulterated, radical awesomeness of it.  I was moved by the rawness and honesty found in so much of the writing.  And I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the women who came before me in this amazing movement of size acceptance.

I felt all of these things, but more than any of these things, I felt a sense of awe.  These women blazed a trail across this far-flung land.  They build a bridge to one another through their written words.  And they did it with pencils and typewriters.

Now I understand that there’s a real danger here that I will tell the activism equivalent of walking to school and back, in the snow, and that it was uphill both ways.  But isn’t that sort of what we are talking about here?

In reading these stories, I was struck by how hard it was for size activists simply to find one another.  I was fascinated by the level of manual work they did, collecting checks to cover the costs of photocopying medical journal articles and studies, copying them and mailing them out to one another.

I was also struck by how often a writer in the anthology refers to years or even decades in isolation–believing they were the only one to feel the way they did.  And I was moved by the joy expressed in finding even one like-minded soul with whom to have dinner, swap letters or share late-night phone calls.

It’s hard to speak of size acceptance today, even with the myriad of online research resources and the powerful forums and channels that bring like minded activists to the distance of just one click from one another.  While it’s true that modern life brings a different set of headaches (like moderating yet another absolutely vile YouTube comment) it also brings us comfort and tremendous support.  Often, within seconds of writing a blog post or sharing a thought on Facebook, I’ll have a word or two of support or encouragement.  I can debate difficult questions about the nature of size acceptance in real time, with scholars throughout the world.  But even so, it can be hard to stand aside from the mainstream on notions of weight, weight loss, fat acceptance, and Health At Every Size.

But how much more difficult was it back in 1983 or even earlier? Shadow on a Tightrope, was created in a time when writers put their stake in the sand, said their piece and then waited weeks or months or even years to see what the world had to say about it.  Yet it’s astonishing, how many stakes were planted, and just how much ground was covered by this early work.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these early pioneers.   That’s why I am so excited to see projects like this one, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of a seminal work in the Size Acceptance cannon, or the history project initiated by Barbara Altman Bruno on behalf of ASDAH, and the tremendous work being done by Ragen Chastain to document the stories of the founders of this movement in their own wordsl

I am proud and honored to share in some small way, my heartfelt thanks to those who not only added to the scholarship side of the size acceptance movement, but also paved the way for me to step off the diet/body hatred merry-go-round and learn to love my body far, far earlier than I would have done without their guidance.  For helping me reclaim weeks, months, years and even decades for body love, self acceptance and even joy, I’m very, very grateful.

Perhaps 30 years from now, the young upstarts will be rolling their eyes and wondering how we old farts ever built a movement without transporter beams and holographic recording.  If at that point we are able to leave behind even a small fraction of work on par with that found in Shadow on a Tightrope, I will count us successful indeed!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

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First Interplanetary “Photobomb”–Geeks Celebrate Globally

Mr and Ms. Geek Wave at Saturn during NASA's World's Largest Photobomb

Mr and Ms. Geek Celebrate NASA’s World’s Largest Photobomb

Last week Friday, my hubby and I confirmed our card-carrying geek status by participating in the first interplanetary photobomb.  On Friday, July 19 between 14:27 and 14:42 PST, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took aim from its perch in the Saturn system and started taking pictures of our fair planet.  Earthlings were given fair warning that the photos were to take place.  We were encouraged to go outside during that magic fifteen minutes, look east and “wave at Saturn”.  And when NASA calls, my husband and I are not about to shirk our duties.  I put on some lipstick, we went outside, and we waved like mad people.  We participated in the event that NASA has dubbed, the first interplanetary photobomb and “the day the earth smiled”.

Yup, I went and got the certificate...

Yup, I went and got the certificate…

Now given the fact the photo was taken from over 900 million miles away, I’m not sure the lipstick was strictly necessary.  It will take a little bit longer for NASA to process the photos, but we’re told the Earth will likely only appear as small blue dot–probably one or two pixels wide.  All of this got me to thinking about you my dear readers and how the world’s first interplanetary photobomb might be relevant to the size acceptance movement.

Simulated view of NASA photo. As you can see, I probably didn’t need to get a manicure first…

1. It’s more fun to do crazy things with other people Yes, my neighbors thought we were crazy.  But at least with my husband by my side I felt less likely to get hauled away to a rubber room.  Heck at JPL hundreds of people gathered to wave at the ringed planet.  (I think those with hula hoops were particularly inspired.)  But I think that’s an important lesson for our size acceptance community.  Whether it’s doing a flesh mob in bikinis at the beach, staging a “kiss-in” on the steps of a major New York publication, or exercising on the street to protest a 24-Hour Fitness billboard we can do amazing, powerful, fun and crazy things as long as we do them together.

Hundreds of folks gathered at the JPL mall to “wave at Saturn”

2.  There’s a lot of perspective to be had out there.  Of course we all have problems.  And of course they seem like the biggest thing in the world out there.  But it pays to look at the bigger picture.  (And as big pictures go, the “Wave at Saturn” one is likely to be pretty darn huge.)  It’s easier to cope with the next stupid pseudo-science death fat article and the next Joan Rivers celebrity fat bashing gaffe if we can take it into perspective.

3. Framing is important.  It is unclear at this point how many people participated in the first “interplanetary photo bomb”.  However, I think it’s fair to say that more people participated in “Wave at Saturn” or “The World’s Largest Photo Bomb” than would have participated in the “wave at the sky and look like an idiot” project.  That’s not to say that every aspect of what we do needs to be reduced to a sound byte or a photo opp or a social networking stunt.  But I do think it’s important to use all of those tools from time to time to create connection points for our community.  I think it is important to think about how we can be welcoming, how we can create on-ramps for people to find size acceptance and how we can create opportunities for people to feel how great it is to be part of our group.  And I think what we name these things and how we present them are important as well.

So what do you think?  I’m looking forward to seeing our “solar system group portrait” when it comes out.  But in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about some other fun things we can do to connect our size diversity community to the wider universe.  Just hit me in the comments section below.

Love,

The Fat Chick

UPDATE: Somebody has created a RAD FATTY MAP.  Go here to enter your deets!

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

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Our Big Fat Community

Working out at the ASDAH conference

Working out at the ASDAH conference

Over the past week, just after my return from ASDAH’s very successful conference,  I have seen a number of additional examples of our Amazing Big Fat Community in action.  One event that drifts up to the top of the list is the Big Fat Flea Market hosted by the Size Diversity Task Force this past Saturday.  I mean HOLY COW!  We had tables upon tables of rad plus-sized clothing, we had 74 gorgeous, brand new corsets donated by Hips and Curves and over 1,000 of donated raffle prizes by size positive businesses including Amplestuff, The Butterfly Lounge, Club Bounce, Chair Dancing, Dances With Fat, Elle Hill, The Fat Chick, Hips and Curves, Igigi by Yuliya Raquel, Kiyonna, JW Assists, More of Me to Love, Size Queen Clothing and more…

It was a lot of work, but it was also an awesome opportunity to get together and support one another.  And via facebook, twitter and live streaming we were also able to virtually shop for people who lived too far away or weren’t able to make it to the sale in person.  We packed several boxes of fabulous finds for our remote buyers.

And by the way, if you are anywhere near the Pasadena area, I happen to know a LARGE influx of plus-sized clothing just landed at the Goodwill at Hastings Ranch at 3801 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, California 91107.

Ragen Chastain has also started raising funds for a very exciting documentary project called In Our Own Words,  A Fat Activist History.  This is an unprecedented opportunity to help preserve the history of the size acceptance movement and understand those who have paved the way for the current activists like Ragen and I to do our work.

I was also overjoyed this past week that ALL OF YOU helped to put my book, The Fat Chick Works Out!, on Amazon’s best-seller list.  I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of you for helping to make my work more visible and more accessible to everyone who might need it.

Bestseller4I’m not listing all these things to brag.  (Well I am bragging, but that’s not the only reason).  I’m listing these things to remind you that there is a community of people out there who are actively trying to make the world a better place for people of all sizes.  This community does its work in a variety of ways.  From media interviews to fund-raising to helping somebody in a remote town find some gently-used, gorgeous clothing that they can afford.  Which leads me to this important point: this movement needs you.

Not everybody can devote their entire life to the size diversity movement, but we can all give something.  Even if it’s simply donating a few dollars to the Size Diversity Task Force for their upcoming build of the world’s largest paper mache sculpture composed entirely of recycled diet books.  Maybe it’s simply joining the Size Diversity Task Force or ASDAH or the Fit Fatties Forum or The Fat Chick Clique.  Even if you can’t donate cash, can you spend a few seconds each day sharing important size-positive posts on Facebook?  Can you reach out and leave a few encouraging words in the comments section of a size-positive blog?  Can you suggest resources or lend support to somebody who is being flamed online for daring to post or share size-positive viewpoints?

Which leads me to another important point: you need this movement.  Whether you are fat or thin, tall or small, size discrimination and fat shaming hurts all of us.  It can be really tough out there in the world and we all need friendship and support.  And even if you live somewhere remote, where you may have trouble finding a way to physically meet with some of these groups, most of them have digital counterparts where you can connect via the computer, your phone or even good old snail mail.

So I’d like to encourage you to spend just a few moments thinking about a way that you personally, yes you, can reach out to the size acceptance community.   Join ASDAH, or the Size Diversity Task Force or The Fat Fatties Forum or The Fat Chick Clique.  Connect with one of these organizations via Facebook or Twitter.  Donate to Ragen’s documentary project. You make the world a better place for other people of all sizes and you make the world a better place for you.  And you’ll look fabulous while you’re doing it.  That’s what we call a win-win-win situation!

Love,

The Fat Chick.

 

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

Buy my DVD: The Fat Chick Works Out! (A Safe, Easy and Fun Workout for Klutzes, Wimps and Absolute Beginners!)

Buy a book or a DVD for a friend and save $5!  Just enter FRIENDBLFT in the discount code box!

Check out my Training Programs–both in person and via Skype (Starting at just $25!)

or

Book me to speak at your special event!

The Hot Flash Mob is Comin’ to Town!

Well we’ve been working feverishly behind the scenes and I’m so excited to reveal our new Hot Flash Mob Movement, a worldwide, synchronized dance flash mob movement held to honor perimenopausal and menopausal women everywhere.  We’ll be kicking things off in the month of September in honor of Menopause Awareness Month.

This movement was the brainchild of  me: (certified fitness professional, Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick) and menopause expert dear friend Dr. Eve Agee.

Frustrated by the negative and fear-mongering approach to menopause in our society we asked this question:

“What if instead of fearing menopause, we threw a great big party to celebrate it?”

That’s why we dreamed up the notion of The Hot Flash Mob Movement, a series of spontaneous, hot, group dance experiences allowing women from around the world to get together, have a big laugh and shake their collective groove things.  Our first annual Hot Flash Mobs will be starting very soon.  So hop on over to the website to learn all about it.

Love,

The Fat Chick