Tag Archives: fat and happy

Study Proves “Not all Fat People are Unhappy”–Follow up to indicate Papal Affiliation With Catholicism

PopeCatholicSo I got a notice in my inbox this week that a study has been announced that indicates “Not All Fat People are Unhappy.”  And honestly, my first thought was, “Duh.”  I mean it seems quite obvious to me that not all Fat people are miserable, much as it seems obvious that the Pope is Catholic.  But apparently the notion that not all fat people are sick, miserable, about to die and ready to throw in the towel is something we need to prove again and again.

But you know, before I cast to many aspersions on the study, I think maybe we really just need to look at the headline drawn from the study results.  Because there are actually quite a few interesting things indicated by this piece of research.  Let’s look at a few:

1.  Your happiness seems to have a lot more to do with homogeneity than body size.  If you are a fat person who lives in a town with lots of other fat people, you tend to be more happy than if you live somewhere with no other fatties.

2.  The study creators speculate that being fat does not in itself make people unhappy.  In the accompanying press release, study co-author Philip M. Pendergast states:

“In that light, obesity in and of itself, does not appear to be the main reason obese individuals tend to be less satisfied with their lives than their non-obese peers. Instead, it appears to be society’s response to or stigmatization of those that are different from what is seen as ‘normal’ that drives this relationship.”

3.  Women tend to pay a higher emotional price for being fat than men do.  The study creators speculate that this is because women face more social stigma based on body size then men do.  In the press release Pendergast also says,

“Think about the advertising we see on television or in magazines—we are bombarded by images of thin women, and we are told that is the ideal,”

So here is yet another study that seems to indicate that how we feel about our size may have a lot more to do with our actual health and wellness outcomes than what we weigh.  It follows on the heels of many other studies we’ve talked about on this blog regarding stigma and health outcomes like this one or this one.  And all of these studies lead me to ask one very important question.

Even if we knew how to make people permanently thin (which we do not) should we ask them to change their body size to fit in?  If being different leads to social stigma, and social stigma leads to poor health outcomes, should we encourage everybody to be the same for the sake of their health?

Even if we knew how to make people all be the same size (which we categorically do not) it seems to me that the answer is to deal with stigma rather than to make a completely homogeneous society to reduce stress on everyone involved.  What if we actively worked to fight stigma based on body size?  What if we actively worked to help people accept their own differences?  What if we could feel better about our bodies?  Might we be singing a song like this magnificent lady right here?

I mean just check these fabulous lyrics:

I looked in the mirror
What did I see a brand new image
Of the same old me ohhhh
But now I wonder why should I be surprised
I like the things about me that I once despised

There was a time
When I wished my hair was fine
And I can remember when
I wished my lips were thin

Makes no difference now y’all
How you may feel
I’ve done reached the point
Where I wanna be real
I’m tired of living living in disguise
I like the things about me that I once despised

Let’s face it, Mavis Staples has got it going ON!  But she leads me back to my original question.  Why can’t we take some of this time, money and energy that we are currently spending on stigma-inducing ineffective advertising that convinces people that they not only must be thin, but may easily obtain this state of grace by eating yogurt, and spend it on something that might actually help people feel better?  It will help them feel better emotionally, and it will help them feel better physically.  Why can’t we take some of the time, energy and money we are spending driving wedges into our society, by creating classes of otherness which we can blame for all our problems from the high cost of airplane tickets to soaring healthcare prices and spend it on something that teaches us to celebrate our differences.  It will bring us together.  It will help us live and breathe as a community rather than a simple pile of competitors in a winner-take-all, Victoria’s Secret model competition.  When will we reach the obvious conclusions?  Bears poo in the woods, stigma doesn’t help people, and yes, the Pope is indeed Catholic.

Call me captain obvious if you like.  I’ve stopped spending on diets and weight loss schemes and self hatred because I like the things about me that I once despised.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Join my mailing list and get free stuff!  Get a boost!  Have a Laugh!  ;o)

Advertisements

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.

The Tyrrany of Jolly

Canadian doc crew interviews the Size Diversity Task Force

Canadian doc crew interviews the Size Diversity Task Force

Recently, I hosted a Size Diversity Task Force meeting and a Canadian documentary film crew at our house.  They were interviewing us regarding our Paper Mache in a Big, Big Way project and also about size stigma in general.  One of the questions that came up really struck me.  The question was, “Do you also feel pressure to fulfill what some might consider to be a “positive” association with being fat.  For example, do you feel pressure to be jolly?  And if so, is this a bad thing?”

I’ve given a lot of thought to this question over the years.  And at least for me, the answers in order are, “Yes, yes and often times.”  I would say that over the years, I have felt pressure to present myself as a “good fatty”.  This means presenting myself as somebody who exercises and eats well.  This means presenting myself as somebody who is happy and well dressed and tastefully accessorized, and frankly, not too much trouble to anyone.

And yes, I’ve felt pressured to present myself as jolly.  In the past this meant carefully avoiding the expression of anger and the assiduous avoidance of the “angry fat woman” stereotype.  It also meant feeling the need to be entertaining.  If you look at the few fat people on TV and on the stage, if  you look for the role that the world asks us to play, you will see many of us in the role of comic relief.  It seems that we are allowed a small toe-hold, a small part to play as long as we are funny–as long as we are entertaining.

So for many years, I found myself playing the role of the funny fatty.  It was as if I was apologizing for not being pretty to look at and compensating by at least being fun to be around.  I learned to tell a good story.  I learned self-deprecating humor.  I learned to make people laugh.

And in many ways, this is a good thing.  It is a good thing to be entertaining.  It is good to laugh.  It is good to be able to make people laugh.

But it also became a way that I experienced oppression.  While it is wonderful to make people laugh, it is not so wonderful to feel like you must make people laugh.  I often found myself calculating my worth based on whether or not I was entertaining.  I felt like being funny was my job, my justification for being, the shield that would protect me, and the platform from which it was okay for my fat body to be in the world.

It was exhausting.

And this is why the expectation of jolliness is sometimes bad.  Sure it’s great to have the option to be jolly.  But once there is an obligation to be jolly there is a problem.  Because nobody feels jolly all the time.  And everybody should be allowed to express a full range of emotions including happy and sad and angry and tired and everything else.  Every BODY has a right to exist whether they are funny or not.  And I think sometimes, this pressure to be jolly is about not wanting to address the stigma and the pain fat people face in our society.  Because it’s difficult to express just how angry you are about being called names, or not getting good health care or not being able to find nice clothes or not getting a good job when you are under a societal mandate to be jolly.

So, my dear friends, if you feel jolly, by all means, be jolly.  If  you feel sad, feel sad.  If you’re mad as hell and don’t want to take it any more, then stand up sister, rise up brother, and be heard!  Because big, little, fat, skinny, tall or small, your feelings are important.  You are important.  So please feel free, to simply be…you.

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!

Thursday Theater: The Second Candy Crowley Debate about her Weight

I have to say that Candy Crowley did a pretty good job of being tough in the most recent presidential debate.  And it’s no surprise that some folks are pretty up in arms about the fact that she did her job and told the leader of the free world and the man who is competing for that position to sit down and be quiet at times.  And there is some concern that she added information to the debate when perhaps she should not have.

But most people seem to agree that she did a much better job of managing the dialog between two of the world’s most powerful men than had been seen in the first debate.  So are people on Facebook singing her praises?  Is the Twitterverse glowing with her awesomeness?  Well yes, and then again no.  Because what some people feel the need to talk about right now is Candy Crowley’s weight.

Here’s one post I ran across on Facebook:

Since it’s the 21st Century, why do we even need Moderators? Siri can ask the questions, refrain from interrupting, and 5 seconds after the red timer light goes on, cut off the speaker’s mike. Also, we can save the Rain Forest from devastation by not having to raise all the beef cattle necessary to feed Sliders in the hospitality tent to Candy Crowley.

 

I found this truly offensive, so I said “This is offensive”.  Here’s the response I got:

LOL!  I think the above two responses are even funnier than the original post (wink). Talk about what’s wrong with America! We need a tickle prison for people who live by strict PC rules; maybe enough laughter will lighten them up. And I’m not talking about their weight.

And this one:

She’s a big fatty, and she’s demonstrably biased towards Democrats, that’s enough for me.

Okay here’s the thing.  Declaring that a debate moderator is biased towards one political party may or may not be true in this case.  But at least the question is relevant to the discussion at hand.  What does the fact that she’s a big fatty have to do with the price of fish in Finland?  Nothing.  It’s just a form of hate speech against an extremely intelligent, successful and powerful woman that someone is pretty sure they will get away with.  It’s a cheap shot, and it’s lazy thinking.  But it’s so pervasive in our society that people are appalled when called out on it.

I don’t want to dwell a great deal more on this particular Facebook exchange.  What I really want to talk about is the idea that a woman can ever be powerful enough, successful enough, or strong enough in this world to avoid being called a “fatty, fatty 2×4”?  Is there ever a moment that she’s free from this sort of playground harassment?  Based on what I see coming through on my Facebook feed, I’d have to say no.

And I’m not saying this to depress you.  I’m saying this to make a different point.

For many years I lived under the delusion that if I were smart enough and funny enough and successful enough and dressed well enough, and so on, I would finally be free from childish taunting about my weight.  But at a certain point I realized that I won’t ever be “good enough” to avoid this kind of nonsense.  I had to learn to deal with it when it came at me.  And I have to work to change the world.  Because I’m unlikely to permanently change my size to a level that’s acceptable, and I can’t change the rest of me enough to make this kind of mindless, petty, playground nonsense not happen to me.

And you know what?   This afforded me a freedom of a sort.  I started focusing my energy on getting what I really wanted in life rather than avoiding pain.  I realized that I had no moral obligation to be jolly and I only needed to be funny when I really wanted to.

You don’t have to be nice all the time.  You don’t have to be funny or jolly.  You don’t have to be tame or quiet or good.  Pain will happen anyways.  People will say stupid things anyways.  So you might as well be the person you always wanted to be.  And join me and my colleagues in our quest to make the world a better place for people of all sizes.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S.  Why not start by joining The Fat Chick Clique?  It’s free and it’s liberating!