Tag Archives: family

5-year-olds on a Diet

Sometimes people ask me why I do this.  I work in Hollywood.  Writing a blog doesn’t really pay all that well.  And it can be a solitary process at times without a lot of feedback.

But sometimes I come across something that reminds me why.  Like this study which talks about “dietary restraint” (the cognitive restriction of food intake for the purpose of controlling weight) among 5-year-old girls. Five. Years. Old.

At five kids should be coloring and tormenting their older siblings and screaming and playing and dressing up.  They should not be worrying about the size of their thighs.  They should not be counting carbs.  They should not be worrying about fitting into their skinny jeans.

But according to the study, nearly 35 percent of the 5-yr-old girls were displaying “dietary restraint”.  The study points out not only is dieting at age 5 distressing, it is also an important precursor or marker for eating disorders in the future.  And that future might not be very far away for a number of these girls.  The study states:

Despite eating disorders typically emerging during adolescence, cases have been reported in early elementary school children.

The study reviewed the influences that caused these girls to restrict their food intake.  While most of the girls were pretty happy with their body at the moment, over 50 percent showed some evidence that they had taken the “thin ideal” to heart.  And the girls who had clearly taken the thin ideal to heart, that had experienced more media that represented the thin ideal and had more discussions about appearance with their peers, were the girls more likely to be restricting their food intake.

Which leads me to ask some questions.  If we know that BMI report cards are ineffective, and we know that kids are learning behaviors that lead to eating disorders as early as age 5, why don’t we work harder to include body image education into the curriculum–the earlier the better?  Anorexia is deadly and notoriously difficult to treat.  Why don’t we put some real, sensible, research-based curriculum in place at the earliest possible age to help these kids not develop this problem?  And since adults who hate their bodies are fairly likely to project these feelings onto impressionable children, why don’t we require training for teachers and strongly encourage training for all adults who deal with kids?

We have an opportunity to make a world where girls don’t grow up hating their bodies and hating themselves.  That’s why I write this blog.  That’s what I do what I do.  I add my tiny voice to the growing chorus singing the song stating that we are beautiful, we are worthy of love, we are okay just the way we are.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me talk about body positive at your school?  Click HERE.

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Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones But Words Can Hurt You Forever

I was recently having lunch with a beautiful and talented young woman, one who was enrolled in a good school getting a professional degree at a good school, who had a wonderful boyfriend who adored her, who was working at a decent job to help pay her school bills and is kind.  I was somewhat surprised when I heard this woman say that she had seen a television commercial showing a lazy chubby young boy, calling his grandma on the phone to ask her to bring something to him from the other room.  Not surprised that she had something to say.  But rather surprised that she had something so vicious to say about that pudgy, fat kid.  That if she was that fatty’s parent, she would smack him.  I was surprised not only because this seemed a little out of character for her, but also because she knew very well about my work as The Fat Chick and my views on this subject.  She went on to say, she used to be thin but then this happened (pointing to her stomach) and this happened (pointing to her butt).  I told her that she was of course beautiful, and further more, she was under no obligation to look any particular way for anybody’s approval.  Then she burst into tears.  At a recent family gathering, a close family member of hers had commented about whether or not she should wear a bikini and whether or not she would keep her boyfriend in light of her current weight.  She was devastated.  She didn’t eat for the rest of the day until her worried boyfriend brought her some food and asked her please to eat something.  Apparently this same family member had given her grief some time before for not eating, for being too skinny and suspecting she had an eating disorder.

As I talked her through the pain and drama, my heart was in my throat.  It brought me right back.  I was 15 again and listening to haranguing by family friends and family members about my weight.  About how I would never find a man, or if I found one, he would cheat on me and ultimately leave me because who wants to be with a fatty.  I was listening to people constantly asking if I “needed to eat that?” if I was sure I “should wear that?” and if I knew “what I looked like?”.  I was there with the constant self doubt, the devastating and crippling crash in self confidence, the firm desire to wait until I looked the right way to pursue the life I wanted.  I remembered how many years I wasted, obsessed about the size of my weight.  And I got monumentally pissed off.

How dare people do this to aspiring young women with so much to give in the world.  How DARE they pass off their insecurities and bullying as concern for a woman’s well being.  HOW DARE THEY?  Once my little PTSD moment passed, I told my friend in no uncertain terms that if people feel the need to spread their own insecurities around this way, it is her job to tell them to stuff it.  She is the gatekeeper for her own soul.  She gets to decide who she lets in.  And perhaps, if people are going to behave in such a toxic way, they don’t get to talk to her any more.  Not until they learn how to behave.

I honestly don’t know if she will find my comments helpful.  But I sincerely hope she does.  Because the world needs bright, young, talented, kind young people.  And it would be sad to think they won’t leave their house and make their way in the world because of how somebody feels about how they look in a bikini.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Can we get a little FREAKIN’ PEACE around here?

HolidaySwing

Here in Southern California, the holidays are a special kind of stressful.  People here just sort of just plum lose connection with any sort of common sense for a few weeks.  And in the week before Christmas, the whole area vibrates with a special sort of near-nervous-breakdown energy that makes me want to stay inside and pull the covers over my head.  In the last two days, I have seen some death-defying, I gotta get the eggnog before 7 PM maneuvers that left me screaming.  On Friday, I watched a van driver flick on his emergency lights and pull over the shoulder.  I had plenty of time to observe this as the freeway was in its usual “Friday Before a Holiday Parking Lot” mode.  I thought to myself, “oh, that poor van driver person.  What a yucky day to break down on the freeway.”  I then watched as said van driver BACKED UP OVER 1/2 A FREAKIN MILE ON THE FREAKIN FREEWAY.  Why?  The driver had missed the desired ramp.  After the backing maneuver, the van bumped up over a lane divider and pulled in front of exiting traffic to exit at the desired ramp.

“SERIOUSLY?  ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?” I shouted.

That is only one of many incidents of horrible driving, deeply problematic mall stampeding and grocery store aisle smackdowns I’ve witnessed in the past few days.  And I have to tell you, it’s made me slow down, stop, and think.

You know what I want for the holidays this year?  Just a little bit of peace.  Just a little bit of space to breathe and appreciate and enjoy.    And that’s my wish for you as well.  I hope this holiday season (or what’s left of it) allows you to find a little bit of peace.

I wish you peace on the road–free from people screaming, cutting you off or as my friend jokingly puts it, “using the fellowship finger”.

I wish you peace as you shop.  May the people around be considerate and kind. May they only have positive things to say about the way you act and the way you look and who you are.

I wish you peace as you eat.  May you enjoy every bite and allow it to nourish you both inside and out.  May you enjoy holiday gatherings free from food policing and body shame.

I wish you peace with your family.  May everybody around you be grateful for all you have done to make the holiday special, even if all you were able to do this year is to allow your beautiful self to take more breaths and exist on this amazing earth.

I wish you peace with your body.  May you declare a cease-fire in any war you may have waged against your good self.  May you appreciate the staggering awesomeness of the body you have right now.  May you pamper and find joy in the skin you are in.

IMG_2585

And I wish you a peaceful new year.  May you find a way to scoff at those in the world who believe the way to greet the new year is to change everything that makes you, well, YOU.  May you face the new year with courage and optimism.  May you choose for yourself a path that is strengthening, enriching, enlightening and encouraging.

Sleep in heavenly peace my friends.  Sleep in heavenly peace.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Kids, Bullying and Plastic Surgery

plasticsurgeryI was somewhat floored this weekend as I listened to a brief radio report on my local public radio station about kids and plastic surgery.  The story (which made reference in the intro to Renee Zellweger’s altered appearance at a recent awards show) talked about the number of kids having plastic surgery and the reasons behind it.  The report opens by talking about the number of teenagers who have had Botox (TM) in 2013.  According to the report, that number is 17,958.  Now the report was careful to state that most of these procedures were for medical reasons.  Botox is used to treat migraines, strabismus (cross eyed) and facial spasms.  Yet when all was said and done, over 1,000 of these Botox procedures were performed on kids in America for “purely cosmetic reasons”.

Now I’m not going to tell any parent or kid what they should do with their own bodies.  It’s their body and their choice.  I don’t think I would let me kid have Botox treatments (if I had one).  But you know what, I think it’s a lot easier to judge if you are not in the situation.  In fact the report went on to state that cosmetic procedures are on the rise among young people, and experts suggest that the reasons for that rise probably include social media culture and the rise of the “selfie” as well as a rise in bullying in our schools.

My knee jerk reaction at the time was, why aren’t they fixing the BULLYING?  Why are kids undergoing the risks and rigors of plastic surgery all because kids can’t stop being mean?  And then I remembered my own school days.  There was a period in my school life, after I had moved to a new school where I was bullied relentlessly.  I was verbally abused and physically abused.  I had my property repeatedly stolen or damaged.  It was so bad, that I often got physically sick from the stress of it all.  My parents were extremely worried, but I felt that their involvement would  only make it much, much worse.  There was no surgery that could have fixed my situation.  And even if there were, I doubt we could have afforded it.  But I wonder, if there were a medical fix, that we could afford if we would have used it.  I was miserable.  My parents were deeply concerned.  Would we have undergone a medical risk if it meant that the problem would go away?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that not all people who are bullied can have that problem fixed by surgery.  The reasons for the bullying are not always physical or may not be easily physically corrected.  And even for surgery that is readily available, a whole lot of people cannot afford it.  And this lack of access to procedures that can make our social media selfie red carpet ready is just another gaping chasm between the haves and the have nots in our world.  So on the one hand I sort of feel like the families that are “opting out” of bullying by changing their physical appearance are making things even harder for the families that do not have that privilege.

It’s easy to heap scorn on the families who seem to take the whole notion of cosmetic surgery very lightly.  The report stated that husband/wife cosmetic surgeries are followed only by mommy/daughter plastic surgeries in popularity.  It’s easy to heap scorn on the privileged families who hand out boob jobs as high school graduation presents.

But I’d like to suggest that not all cases of kids and families choosing plastic surgery over bullying are quite that simple.  If I could have had a surgery to make the bullying stop, might I have done that?  I honestly don’t know.  And if I had done it, how would my life have turned out differently?  Would I be as strong?  Maybe not?  Would I be less fearful now?  Would I take greater emotional risks at this point because I spent less time as a target–less time being wounded?  And if my parents had chosen that route would they be wrong for perpetuating the need for perfection just because they wanted me to live my best life, be less in pain?

I don’t really know all the answers here, and I think that’s a good thing.  In my mind this is not a simple or black and white thing.  I sincerely believe that we need to change the culture of perfectionism, social media shallowness and cruel bullying among young people.  And I think that erasing differences by changing whatever faults the bullies choose to target in their victims ultimately make things worse for all of us.  But I think it’s important to view this subject through the lens of compassion.  Because if back then, when I was a kid, I would have been able to undergo a brief medical procedure that would make the bullying stop, even for a minute, I don’t know that I wouldn’t have done just that.

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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Do I owe it to anybody to lose weight?

Ahhh, the holidays!  It’s a time for sharing food, family, friendship and GUILT.  I recently shared some thoughts about setting boundaries for the holidays here.  (And of course, there’s always this video.)  For the most part, I find people can learn to respect the boundaries we set about talking about (or choosing not to talk about) our weight.  After all, our bodies are our business, and not anyone else’s.  But there are always those few people who find it their “moral obligation” to police our bodies.  And those people will usually use one of the following arguments to keep talking about our weight and our bodies even when we ask them to desist:

1.  What about your children?  Don’t you want to be around to see them grow up, get married, have children of their own, and retire?  First of all, let me remind you that you won’t be there to care for your children if you spend the rest of your life in prison.  So, put down the butter knife and back away slowly.  Seriously, this is like DEFCON 5 in the guilt wars over your body, so I can see how it might make you very upset to hear this, but let’s talk it through, okay?  First of all, please remember that weight and health are not the same thing.  Most people only have a limited amount of control over how much they weigh.  And while there are some things we can do to help increase our odds of having a healthy life, none of us knows how many days we have left on this earth.  One of the things that you can do to increase your odds for a long, healthy life is to manage stress.  So as much as you want to strangle Aunt Thelma for asking this question over the holiday ham, please remember to take a moment and just breathe. Some other things you may be able to do to increase your odds are to exercise regularly, sleep well, eat a wide variety of healthy foods (especially fruits and vegetables), and engage in some regular activity to help manage stress.  Note I said that these are things you may be able to do.  Obviously, if you’re working two full-time jobs and taking care of a few children, stuff like stress management classes, regular exercise, or getting any sleep may not be possible for you right now.  Not everybody has access to the same opportunities for healthy stuff (more on that in a minute).  And maybe if Aunt Thelma is so concerned about your health, maybe she can babysit your little darlings three times per week while you take an exercise class, meditate, or just have fifteen minutes to go to the bathroom all by yourself.

2.  But my health insurance rates are higher because of fat people like you.  Oh dear.  First of all, I strongly recommend assiduously avoiding any discussion of health insurance during holiday gatherings this year.  Put it on the list with climate change and which direction the toilet paper roll should go into the holder as points not to be discussed during the holidays.  But if your gentle attempts to deflect a discussion about how the size of your hips affects your Cousin Tony’s insurance premiums fall on deaf ears, here’s a few things you should know.  First and foremost, there is only a narrow window of things that we have any control over when it comes to health.  Fall Ferguson discusses this in a great post on the ASDAH blog here.  In particular, she mentions the CDC’s discussion of Social Determinants of Health and references this diagram:

As you can see, health behaviors only account for a relatively small section of the overall determinants regarding whether or not a person is healthy.  And notice it says health behaviors.  To be very, very clear here, body weight is not a behavior.  You cannot tell how healthy somebody is or whether or not they engage in healthy behaviors by looking at them.

Now, back to your Cousin Tony.  He seems to think that if you would just lose weight, you would suddenly cost the health insurance companies less and somehow his premiums would magically go down.  Well to start with, as a fat person you may be denied access to health insurance altogether.  I have a number of fat friends for whom this is the case.  So you may not be affecting his premiums at all.  Also, if Tony wants to keep his insurance premiums down, then perhaps he can help raise your “social/societal” characteristics or socioeconomic status.  After all, that has nearly twice as much effect as the whole healthy behaviors category.  All he has to do is, pay you enough money to move you into a different economic bracket.  No?  Well maybe Tony can pay for child care so you can go to the gym more often, or pay you enough so you can quit your day job and get eight full hours of sleep for once?  What’s that you say?  Tony isn’t interested in paying for any of this stuff?  Well maybe at least Tony can commit to fighting for social justice.  Tony can take his pick.  He could find for bias free healthcare or reasonable working hours or access to healthy foods or good preventative medicine.  No?  Well then maybe Tony just needs to shut up.  Oh and let me remind you just one more time; Tony cannot tell whether you engage in healthy behaviors just by looking at you.  Speaking of which:

3.  I don’t like having to look at you because your fat body hurts my delicate aesthetic sensibilities.  Most of the time, the answer to this statement is simple.  Just. Don’t. Look.  If your Dad’s friend Jim finds it uncomfortable to look at your fabulously fleshy frame, he can just look the heck away.  You are under no obligation whatsoever to be attractive to anybody’s gaze or be considered as an object of lust. This situation is far less simple however, when you are talking about your spouse or your kids.  I am unbelievably privileged to have a husband who thinks my fat body absolutely rocks his stripy socks.  But I understand that not all women (or men) have a spouse that thinks this way.  I have seen marriages get hopelessly tangled around one spouse helping another to lose weight “for their health” all the while not discussing the real issues around body size and sexual attraction.  I have seen kids use weight as a tool to hurt their parents (and vice versa).  I have seen kids who ask that the “thin parent” be the one to appear at school functions and do public things with the child in order to “escape embarrassment”.  First, let me say that if this is happening to you, I’m sorry.  You absolutely do not deserve this, and my heart hurts for you.  Second, let me tell you that this situation is far beyond what I can cover in my humble little blog.  There are no funny or glib comments that I can make here that will make this problem just go away.  Let me suggest that you do whatever is in your power to find help.  Maybe you can get some family counseling.  A lot of counseling is available on a sliding fee scale based on your income.  Perhaps a clergy person can help.  If your family is not willing to go to counseling with you, maybe you can at  least find some counseling for just yourself.  And let me also offer some hope here.  I have known people in this situation that were able to find help.  And I have known marriages and families that have come through this with relationships intact and stronger than ever.  Find some help, and hang in there.

Summary  There is so much more I could say about this topic.  In terms of my own health practice, I’d really like to get a little bit more sleep.  So let me wrap this thing up.  Regardless of what you decide to say to your Cousin Tony and your Aunt Thelma, please remember this: you do not owe it to anybody to lose weight.  You don’t owe it to yourself, and you certainly don’t owe it to anybody else.  Your body is your business.  If Aunt Thelma and Cousin Tony are actually concerned about the state of your life and the state of your health, I’ve already suggested some things you can request.  They can pay for your meditation classes or do a little free child care (as long as they aren’t expecting weight loss, or any other specific outcome in return).  However if Tony and Thelma are just trying to pass a little holiday guilt and judgement along with the gravy boat, they can just step the heck off.

Ho, ho, freaking, ho.

Here’s wishing you a holiday that is peaceful–or at least calm enough to avoid homicide.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

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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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Mindful Eating

mindfuleatingA friend of mine had the above picture in her facebook feed this morning and it got me thinking about mindful eating.  I gave it some thought, and I guess I’m of two minds when it comes to mindful eating.  There are many different definitions of eating mindfully.  From making sure that what you put on your plate is exactly what you crave, to setting the table with candles and linens and enjoying every bite, to eating alone and in silence to tune in to every morsel to putting your fork down between every bite to slow down the eating process.

On the one hand, I think there are some good ideas here.  I think it’s important to eat food that tastes delicious to you.  I think it’s a great idea to focus on enjoyment when you are eating and allow your body to extract pleasure from your food as well as nutrients.  I think I enjoy my food more when I am not eating in front of the television.  And I think I deserve wonderful meals with candlelight and tablecloths and even fresh flowers. In general, I think food tastes better when I am hungry and less wonderful when I am already full.

But I think mindful eating can taste a little bit like dieting when the rules become too rigid.  I think food tastes better when every bite is savored, but putting the fork down between each bite or chewing a prescribed number of times feels like restriction to me.  And sometimes I want to get together with my husband or my extended family or a group of friends and enjoy a meal together.  I think it’s important to enjoy not only the food I’m eating, but also the company I’m with.  And sometimes, I just want to eat a hotdog at a ball game or eat pizza in front of the TV.  And I think in a healthy food life, all of these things should be allowed and savored.

I think I am most in tune with those mindful eating experts who recommend spending some time learning to get in touch with your body if your relationship with food and eating has gotten really out of whack.  If you’ve never really learned to distinguish between when you are starving and stuffed, it makes sense to take some quiet time eating alone to sort that stuff out.  And there’s been a fair amount of work done that points out that distracted eating can often mean that you don’t get as much enjoyment out of food and feel less satisfied.  I believe this is true.  But I also believe that hot dogs taste better at the ball park and chips and salsa taste best at a restaurant with a few great friends and a lot of laughter.

In other words, I think mindful eating is wonderful, helpful and beautiful–in moderation.

I’d love to hear what you think!  Just drop me a note in the comments box.

Love,

The Fat Chick