Tag Archives: Marilyn Wann

Body Love is not a Pant Size

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

 

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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)

Thanking Those Who Fight for Rights

I love labor day.  It’s a last breath at the end of summer.  It’s the break that makes the beginning of the school year a tiny bit more bearable for the kids who are regretfully leaving summer break behind them.  It’s a time when Americans gather and drink beer and eat barbeque and enjoy a 3-day weekend.  It’s the morning after the glorious Sunday night, I don’t have to get up in the morning revelry.

But I also think it’s important to remember what labor day is really about.  Labor Day was developed by the American Labor Movement as a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.  Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City  in 1882 with local parades and speeches.  Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887.   Following the deaths of several workers at the hands of US military and US Marshals during the Pullman strike, legislation was rushed through and Congress unanimously voted to make Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.

The same labor organizations and activists who organized and pushed for Labor Day also fought for important rights for American workers.  Before the efforts of these labor groups, the typical American work week was 60 hours spread over about 6 days.  And while one might argue that in many ways the American work week is once again headed  in that direction, it’s clear that our current situation would be much different if it hadn’t been for those dedicating and sometimes even sacrificing their lives to make things better for American workers.

All of this has made me think how important it is to remember and thank all people everywhere who fight for our rights.  And I’d like to expand that thinking towards those who have fought for our rights to exist, work, get decent medical care, equal pay and be treated with dignity in bodies of all sizes.  I can’t begin to claim that I know who all of the important players are.  But I can name a few that I have known personally.  Marilyn Wann has spoken and shimmied and marched and chanted at so many amazing, ground-breaking fat positive events.  And her amazing book “Fat, So?” was important for so many of us tentatively beginning to move towards body acceptance.  Lynn Macafee is a fierce freedom fighter who has worked tirelessly with so many size acceptance organizations to get rid of prescription diet drugs that have unpublished and deadly side effects, fight for the rights of fat parents and so much more.  Bill Fabray who founded NAAFA in response to the horrible experience faced by his wife simply because of her size.  Katherine Flegal who’s work with the CDC debunked a lot of the common thinking about the health effects of obesity and faced intense scrutiny and harassment by many of her colleagues.  Other important writers and researchers on the connection between obesity and health include Glen Gasser, Paul Ernsberger and the Cooper Institute.  There are the lawyers, Paul Campos and especially Sandra Solovay who have written and spoken in so many important forums about the rights of fat people.  There are so many of brothers and sisters  in NAAFA and ASDAH and so many other important size acceptance organizations who have done so much to make things better.

While I’m pretty none of us feel that we are truly where we need to be in terms of universal size acceptance, it’s important to remember that so many of us have done so much to make life better for everybody.  That’s why I think it’s important to look at histories like the one created by Barbara Altman Bruno for the ASDAH blog.

And that is why I am so very excited about the project my good friend and colleague Ragen Chastain is working on called In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History.  Ragen is  recording interviews with many of these people who have been so important to the movement.  She’s funding the project herself, so don’t be afraid to throw a few dollars and send a little love her way!

So by all means, enjoy your day off (if you have today off).  Eat hot dogs.  Go to the beach.  Play all day on your Xbox.   Whatever makes you happy.  But remember to take just a few seconds to send a little thanks to those who have worked so hard to make your life just a little bit better.

Love,

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!

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California Gov. Health Organization “Photoshops” Kids Picture to Fight Childhood Obesity

blog1

Good job California.  So you passed Proposition 10 to collect a fifty-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes.  You’ve used that money to create First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission which is:

dedicated to improving the lives of California’s young children and their families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other crucial programs.

And the commission you created with this money, chooses to use those resources to drastically retouch a picture of a little girl to make her look fat for an ad campaign designed to scare parents into limiting the amount of sugar they feed their kids.

Awesome!

Here’s the original photo, next to the retouched version:

First of all, whatever amount of state tax money that was used to do that image retouching is waaaay too much.  I could get far better design work than that done on fiverr.com for $5 USD.

Next, I have to ask, why would we spend any amount of state tax money on shaming fat parents and fat kids in the face of the fact it just doesn’t work?  In fact  study after study shows that stigmatizing and bullying kids about their weight not only fails to create thinner kids, but also tends to trigger more participation in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, substance abuse, binge eating and other forms of disordered eating.

So why exactly are we spending state tax money to create ads aimed at preventing childhood obesity that are actually more likely to increase levels of childhood obesity while at the same time encouraging our kids to engage in higher levels of destructive behavior?

I’m sure that some of the fear-mongering, hand-wringing, head-shaking folks that created this glorious ad campaign will ask you to “think about the children”.   They will cite statistics about childhood obesity and suggest that something must be done to protect the health of these poor kids.

To which I would reply, “Yes.  All kids deserve to be healthy.  So let’s focus on stuff that does that.”  Shaming kids does not make them thinner or healthier.  But there are some things we can do.  In fact, in honor of First 5, I’ll give you five suggestions:

1.  How about making sure kids have a safe place to play?

2.  How about reinstating some of the physical education programs that have been cut from schools for lack of budget?

3.  How about making sure that kids of all sizes have access to a variety of high-quality, nutritionally dense foods?

4.  How about we help fat kids learn to accept and love themselves so that they are more likely to exercise and treat themselves well?

5.  How about we add “body size” as a category for school anti-bullying programs.

Sure, these programs would be more difficult than cranking out a basic bus shelter advertisement.  And undoubtedly some of these programs would cost more than hiring the world’s worst graphic designer to “fatten up” the image of an innocent kid.  But given the fact that some of these programs might, I don’t know, help some kids live healthier lives, maybe we should just fund those instead.

As a final note, the folks at First  5 may find themselves facing some pretty well-organized and powerful opposition.  It’s already started in the form of an awesome homemade protest flyer at the site of one of the bus shelters:

Blog2But as some folks in Georgia found out, folks can get pretty riled up and do some pretty amazing things when you shame and frighten their children.

So maybe we should take a step back and a deep breath and try again.  I’m sure, upon some calm reflection, we can find better ways to promote good health for children of all sizes.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

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Prof with poor impulse control wishes he hadn’t tweeted about will power, part the second

Cat Pause, who recently created a new tumbler feed featuring fat PhD's. Nyah!

Cat Pause, who recently created a new tumbler feed featuring fat PhD’s. Nyah!

So, yeah.  I’ve been continuing to follow the saga of Dr. Geoffrey Miller and day two of what just might be his worst week ever.  In case you missed it, this whole thing started when Dr. Miller tweeted:

Dear obese PhD applicants: if you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth

Cue the poo storm of epic proportions. It’s enough to keep writers at Jezebel, HuffPo, Jane and Bitch magazines happily scribbling for weeks.  I mean we are talking about worldwide calls for Game of Thrones-style retribution here.  But amongst all the yelling, are some very interesting developments.

First, there’s this video response from Miller’s colleague and UNM Psychology Department Chairwoman, Prof. Jane Ellen Smith.

It is interesting to note that Professor Smith seems to take this whole tweeting business pretty darn seriously.  But right in the middle of the video, she reveals the third-act-dramatic-twist! Professor Smith says that Dr. Miller is now claiming that the whole tweeting business was part of an “research study” he was running.

Riiiiight.

So were his initial support  tweets of his original hate tweet followed by his hasty apology about his original hate tweet followed his frantic tweet declaring that of course neither he nor the university actually follow any practices that might be implied by his original hate tweet all part of the “social experiment” as well?  Was it part of his experiment to close down his twitter feed to all outside viewers who are not confirmed followers part of the experiment?   140 characters isn’t a lot to work with, but somehow I think this dude still doth protest too much. I am encouraged that Prof. Smith says she’s going to look into the validity of his claim.

It’s amazing just how much passion has been stirred up over this whole thing.  I am really, really excited to tell you about a new blog started by Dr. Cat Pausé called Fuck yeah! Fat PhDs all about being fatlicious in academia.  In this blog she is posting images of fat people in academia, many of whom somehow managed to get accepted into a program, complete coursework, finish their dissertations and walk up to the platform to receive their diplomas all while sporting bodies above a BMI of 25.  Imagine that!

Look, I don’t know Dr. Miller.  I can only comment on the things that I see.  And what I see is a guy that didn’t have enough will power to wait 30 seconds to consider his life, his career and his responsibilities as a human being before hitting the send button on a hateful one hundred odd characters all about, wait for it, will power.  His apologies and the subsequent “social experiment” defense, seem a little suspect to me.

So, if Dr. Miller wants me to believe in his sincerity, he’s going to have to put some actions behind those hundred character mea culpa statements.  Let me know that he’s read some of the brilliant writing about Fat Stigma from such visionary teachers, researchers and writers as:

Amy Erdman Farrell, Dickinson University, author of Fat Shame: Fat Stigma and the Body in American Culture

or

Abigail C. Saguy, UCLA, author of What’s Wrong with Fat?

or

Dr. Linda Bacon, UC Davis, author of Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About your Weight

of course, if he’s still confused about Health At Every Size or Fat Stigma, I would be happy to come and speak on the topic at any of the universities he’s affiliated with.  Or they could hire any of my many amazing colleagues like Ragen Chastain, Golda Poretsky or Marilyn Wann to speak.  If he actually makes some kind of attempt to learn from his mistake by spending just a little time listening to those of us who have spent decades doing actual, you know, science around this topic, I might be inclined to believe him.

Maybe.

Or maybe I’ll just tweet about it.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

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

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

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Plan Ahead to Deal With Holiday Stress

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and the holiday onslaught will be here in just minutes.  We’ve all heard of holiday stress.  But few of us are aware of how dangerous holiday stress can really be.  Studies have indicated that cardiac mortality increases by as much as a third between Thanksgiving and New Years Day–even in mild climates.  And scientists have surmised that this increase may be due to holiday stress.

One of the things you can do to help minimize holiday stress is to plan in advance.  Learn how to set spending limits.   Manage expectations and understand that no holiday is perfect.  Prioritize, divest and delegate tasks so you don’t feel completely overwhelmed.  Plan ahead for how you will deal with critical or unkind family members and friends who feel a need to try to “fix” you.  And maintain healthy habits during the holidays–especially exercise.

Lucky for you, the HAES Happy Holidays Workshop, arranged by the amazing Ragen Chastain, begins tonight.  The program is “name your own price” so you can stay within your holiday budget.  And a variety of awesome speakers like Ragen, Marilyn Wann, Golda Poretsky and I will be talking about managing family relationships, looking fabulous, and dealing  with holiday stress.  I’ll be speaking tonight at 4PM PST–7PM EST about maintaining an exercise program during the holidays and setting up a rational New Years Resolution exercise program that is safe and super fun!

Procrastination also increases holiday stress, so don’t wait another minute.  Go sign up for the program and dial on in.  And help make this the best holiday season EVAR!

Love,

The Fat Chick