If I’ve learned anything this week it’s this. Ask for help. Ask for it sooner rather than later. Do NOT spend time exhausting every other option on the planet first. Just ask for help.
I think a lot of my identity is tied up with the notion that I am self sufficient. I can handle anything. Like I’m some sort of hybrid of Bear Grylls and Macgyver. Just set me down with a laptop, a sharp object and a roll of duct tape and I can HANDLE it. But this self view sometimes really gets in my way.
This week I’ve had two moments where I finally broke down (often sobbing) and asked for help about technical stuff I just didn’t understand. And both times, the person I asked was able to help me. And both times the helper asked me, “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?” This is a really good question. My stubbornness. My need to be smart and independent and RIGHT cost me untold hours of frustration that could have been avoided.
And I think this is part of the reason why Ragen and I have created the Body Love Obstacle Course. I mean of course, many of us can get to a place of loving our bodies on our own. In many ways Ragen and I did just that. But why go it alone when you don’t have to? Why suffer untold hours of frustration? Why not ask for help a little sooner?
I’m proud to say we’ve released the second of our free BLOC videos here:
I hope you’ll take a minute, click the button and take a look. It’s all about being grateful for the body you have right now. You might have to opt in. But I hope you will. Because we’ll all get by with a little less stubbornness and a little help from our friends.
There’s no question, I’ve been away for a while. As this video demonstrates, I’m still spending plenty of time talking about Health At Every Size and loving the skin you’re in. And now I am BACK baby, and I am super excited to tell you what my dear friend and business partner Ragen Chastain and I have been cooking up while I’ve been gone. It’s called the Body Love Obstacle Course or BLOC. We’ve been working on it for a while now, and I think you’re going to love it. It’s designed to help you over around and through the body love obstacles that keep you from the life of your dreams.
And we’re super excited to be kicking it off with a brand spanking new FREE video. I think this might be the best video we’ve ever shot….
(There’s only one catch – you *might* have to renew your email subscription in order to see this video.)
Ragen and I had a blast shooting this one – even though we live less than an hour apart, we don’t get to see each as often as we’d like, so before we shot the video we rehearsed over
a delicious dumpling lunch, and got super psyched to shoot the video! So we got to eat fabulous dumplings AND we get to share some of our most powerful ideas about overcoming body hatred, kicking butt and taking names. Talk about a WIN/WIN situation. I hope you’ll take a moment to hop on over to look at our first free BLOC video. And looking forward to talking to you soon!
(AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. This video will only be up for a few days…
go check it out right now:
Ragen Chastain and I are so very pleased to release our first video on our brand new YouTube Channel: Fitness for All of Us. We’ve released our fight song to announce our intention to create a safe space where bodies of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities can rejoice in joyful movement. Here’s our first video:
For far too long, fitness has been a space relegated to those who have a certain body type or begrudgingly to those who are actively and seeking that body type. Some have said that “Fit is the New Skinny!” without understanding that “fit” as defined by most is predominantly skinny. It may include an extra pert rear and muscular legs. It may include a six pack (or eight pack) and carefully-chiseled Michelle Obama biceps. But the fit often referred to in the “fit is the new skinny” or even “strong is the new skinny” memes bounce right out of fitspiration with rock hard, totally toned, glistening, fitness model bodies.
But what about the rest of us? Those of us who have bits that jiggle and flow? Those of us with rolls and cellulite? Those of us with big, bountiful bellies and big hips? Those of us who are not exactly the slightly-upsized Barbie ideal of big boobs, tiny waist, swelling hips and tiny, pointed feet? That is who this channel is for, it’s for ALL OF US who are interested in fitness in any capacity and at any level.
Because this is so much of what my work is and has always been about. Fitness should be fun and encouraging and welcoming and physically and emotionally safe for all of us. Fat and skinny, young and old, high powered athlete and folks who just want to walk their dogs. Runners and walkers and boaters and swimmers and yogis and dancers and kickboxers and cyclers and multisport mavens. Seasoned experts and frightened beginners. Fitness should be for every BODY!
We should be able to get help when we ask for it and be left ALONE when we don’t. We should be encouraged the same way as everyone else. We should get a quiet thumbs up or even a shout of welcome for joining the posse for being part of the fitness community, not because somebody imagines that exercise is particularly difficult for us, or that we serve as some sort of weird inspiration for them and especially not because people imagine that we are forcing our bodies to comply to some ideal of shape, size, weight, or any other parameter.
Let us move. Let us breathe. Let us enjoy fitness on our own terms. Above all, let us be.
Hope you like it!
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
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At this time of year it’s natural for us to be thankful. And there are so many things to be thankful for. I have a wonderful husband and family who are all doing pretty well (including my geriatric doggy who is still begging for walks and treats.) I have a roof over my head and good food to eat. I have access to medical care and a car to drive. And by and large, I have my health.
But at this moment, I would also like to say a special thank you to my online sisters. Some of whom I know well in real life (like Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann) and others that I know mostly from my internet connection like Golda Poretsky, and Virgie Tovar and the militant baker and Hanne Blank. Some of these women, like Marilyn Wann, I’ve known for decades. Other online friends are brand new. For example, I just met Elly Kellner online last night. She wrote in to More Of Me To Love last night to tell us about an incident where some folks confronted her after a musical performance to let them know that they loved her music but were deeply concerned and distracted by the clothes she chose to wear.
Two strangers told me they were very distracted by my dress, was the back of the dress longer than the front!? And what sort of a legging was that!? And those shoes!? They assured me they only bothered to tell me all this because they thought my music was really good. But if only I wore a small heel, spike heels weren’t necessary, but a small heel and a sleeve then I would have been so much bigger in music already. The way I was dressed now distracted them too much from my music. I could take Ella Fitzgerald as an example. She was a big lady too and she wore beautiful garments!
In the finest tradition of concern trolling, these strangers assured Elly that they had her best interest at heart, and they just wanted others to not be distracted from her music. Well Elly’s response was simply EPIC. She created this music video to document her reaction:
I am continually encouraged and inspired by so, so, so many people who are doing amazing work to help make acceptance of body diversity more real in our culture. From all of the powerful and wonderful speakers we had in our Fat Activism Conference, to the thousands of people who support each other daily on the Fit Fatties Forum, to the thousands of people who read this blog, I am thankful for you. I am thankful for ALL OF YOU. I am thankful for the way you make the world a better place for EVERY body.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want to join my mailing list and get free stuff? Click HERE.
P.S.S. Want to book me to speak at your event? Click HERE.
Plus-size model? Most of the world doesn’t seem to think so.
I was reviewing my email when this article from Digiday entitled “For brands, marketing ‘plus-size’ is a tricky line to walk” showed up. The article talked about the recent uproar about Calvin Klein model Myla Dalbesio’s interview in Elle Magazine where she referred to herself as a ‘Plus Sized Model’. Social media outlets erupted in anger as many people rightly pointed out that as a very tall woman who is size 10 at most, she is considerably thinner than the average American woman. And while she might qualify as “plus-sized” in modeling terminology (which can apply to any woman over size 6 according to the article in Elle) she certainly doesn’t qualify as plus-sized in the way that most of us understand it. To be fair, I think it’s important to note that Calvin Klein did not label her as plus-sized. It simply put her in a group of models of varying sizes to promote their new Perfectly Fit line of underwear. Myla described herself as plus-sized.
But this pesky question of labeling has come up since the early days of the “husky” department and most retailers still don’t seem to get it right. We had the kerfluffle earlier this year when some online catalog pages identified Wal-mart Halloween Costumes “Fat Girl Costumes”. Many people took exception to this labeling as extremely rude, while at the same time, many people in the Fat Acceptance community who identify themselves with the word “Fat” thought it was just fine. As a woman who calls herself “The Fat Chick” I wasn’t offended. But many people were.
Walmart’s Halloween section before the site got changed and the company apologized.
Add to this, Dillard’s debacle which Ragen Chastain blogged about today and you have to wonder, who the hell is doing this marketing stuff anyways? Who at Dillard’s thought it would be okay to put a sign that says “Dear Santa, This year give me a fat bank account and a slim body. Please don’t mix them up like you did last year.” Do they do any market research? Do they understand how this will be perceived in the marketplace? Or do they see it as clickbait with the idea that all attention is good attention as long as they get the URL right?
And then we have Old Navy, catching online flak for making their plus-sized clothing more expensive than the exact same garment in a smaller size. There is now a national petition circulating on Change.org asking Old Navy to unify pricing for women’s clothing of all sizes.
What in the name of all that is retail is going on here? How can these companies with so much money and such big advertising budgets and so much access to sophisticated market research continue to get this so wrong? I don’t claim to have all the answers, but it seems to me that a few simple tips are in order:
1. Lose the labels.
Why do you have to call these clothes anything at all? Why do you need a plus-size department? Or a women’s department? That label always made no sense to me anyway. Does that mean that all the other smaller dresses in the store are not for women? Are they for dancing poodles or space aliens? Why can’t we just say that we have clothing sizes 00-30 and call it a day? If you are talking about tags for a search engine, then fine. Tag away. But you don’t need to call these clothes out in a special heading. Because you are also following step two which is:
2. Have more than a few token items in a variety of sizes.
The sad truth is that larger sizes are often relegated to their own department because such a small percentage of the store’s stock comes in any thing over a size 12. Larger people get really tired of flipping through cute and gorgeous things that don’t come in their size. If most things on the rack had a size 14 through a size 30 or 32 or 40 on them, we wouldn’t need to go to the “plus-sized” department or the “women’s department” we would go to the clothes department. The special sizes departments are just to keep us from hanging ourselves with a pair of stripy tights because we’ve looked at 85 fabulous things that only come in a size 4.
3. Don’t charge a premium for larger sizes
You don’t charge more for a size 10 than a size 0. So there is no reason to charge more for a size 16 than a size 10. Just average the prices down the line and charge accordingly. See? That was easy!
4. Treat all of your customers with respect
Treat your customers of all sizes, just the way you would like to be treated. Do you want to see a sign suggesting that Santa bring you better judgement, more kindness and some freaking common sense? No? Then don’t put out a sign suggesting that Santa bring your women customers or your young girl customers a new body. There! Done!
I think everybody should be able to approach the holidays in some fabulous clothing that makes them feel comfortable and happy. So retailers, listen up! There are lots of people who aren’t size 4 or even 14 and have lots of money. So if you really want to start the day after Thanksgiving “in the black”, get it together. I think that is something for which we could all feel truly grateful.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want me to come talk to your organization about “plus-sized” clothing and fashion for folks of all sizes? Click HERE to see some video, learn about my speeches and book me!
P.S.S. Want to connect in and get free stuff? Join my mailing list HERE.
I hope you’ll forgive me for being a bit tardy. You see, yesterday, October 14 was National Love Your Body day. It was also the 19th anniversary of my marriage to the absolute best guy on the planet. So it was a day with a whole lot of love in it. And as I contemplated my lucky, love-filled life, I had some thoughts about marriage and loving and loving your body.
I think my husband would be one of the first to say, that learning to love my body proved to be a very important turning point in our marriage. While I hated my body, I was unable to believe that anybody else could love me or my body. Before I learned to love my body, I felt lucky that anybody would even profess to love me. And when my husband told me he loved me and thought I was beautiful, I thought he was lying–either to me or to himself. But as I learned to love my body, I came to accept that my husband was telling the truth–both to himself and to me. And I still count myself lucky. But now I feel that I’m lucky to love and be loved by somebody wonderful and kind and special. I no longer feel like he is with me out of pity or sympathy. I no longer believe he is with me despite my body. I now accept that he loves ALL of me. So of course, I feel very, very blessed.
And as I thought over our years together before we were married as well as the nearly two decades we’ve been married, I thought about the things that make a marriage work. And I thought about how we are in many ways married to our bodies as well. We can’t really leave our bodies (more than temporarily) while we are alive on this earth. And while many of us live in a state of being disconnected from or even divorced from our bodies, we really only get one. So it’s a good idea to learn how to reconnect with and even love the skin we’re in.
So with that in mind, I thought I would have a little marriage ceremony for me and my body. Since I’ve already learned to love my body (most of the time) it’s more of a restatement of my vows, but here goes.
I Jeanette DePatie do take my body
From this day forward.
To have and to hold,
To love and to cherish,
For better or for worse,
For richer for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
Until death us do part,
So please accept my somewhat belated wish that you had a happy Love Your Body Day. And let me humbly suggest that you do a little restatement of vows of commitment to loving your own body–to love and cherish all the days of your life. And let me also suggest that one of the best ways to love and cherish your body is to commit acts of radical self acceptance and love like the over 100 acts of love outlined in the new RASCAL program created by Ragen Chastain and I. It’s a great way to spend the rest of the year loving and being kind to yourself. We’re only accepting sign ups through THIS SUNDAY so, REGISTER HERE RIGHT NOW!
Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick
P.S. Want me to speak to your group on Love Your Body Day or Any Day? Click HERE to book me!
P.S.S. Want to get free stuff? Join my mailing list RIGHT HERE!
Okay, so we have a few things to talk about today. One is to share with you my latest entry to stuff that weighs more than me. In the above photo, I am posing next to the world’s largest chess piece. I encountered it completely by chance in the Central West End of St. Louis today. I stopped for lunch and there it was, in all it’s geeky glory–a really, really giant chess piece. I looked at my husband and he grinned as he said, “Do you want a photo for your blog?” “Heck yeah,” I replied. “I’m quite sure THAT weighs more than me.”
Indeed it does. As the above photo indicates, the chess piece is as tall as a giraffe. And were it used in an actual game of chess, it would require a chess board measuring over 70 feet per side–large enough to park 12 school buses. Here’s the stats:
Height: 14ft. 7in.
Width: 6 ft. at the base
Material: 3/4″ plywood
Weight: 2,280 pounds
Conclusion: whether king or pawn, the world’s largest chess piece weighs more than me.
A friend forwarded me a link to an interesting article in the Guardian about how female athletes fear that how they look may outrank how well they perform in terms of their careers as sportswomen. The article chronicles the results of a major study commissioned by BT Sport. The study was commissioned after the 2012 Olympics partly in response to Olympic Gold Medalist Rebecca Adlington’s very public admissions about body insecurity after the games. The study included over 100 elite female British athletes.
To those of us who study body image questions, it’s probably not that surprising that 89 percent of the athletes polled felt that they could relate to insecurity about body image. 67 percent felt that the public and the media valued their personal physical appearance over their athletic prowess, and over 70 percent said that it affected their diet and training regimes. Let’s take a moment to ponder here. We are talking about professional athletes who make their living from the capabilities of their bodies who are making training decisions based at least in part on how they will look in their singlet. It makes you wonder if their performance might have been even better if they could allow their training and nutrition to be focused exclusively on what pushes their bodies to their best performance.
I have written before about the fact that I love the Olympics with a big old passion. I have also expressed before, my deep disappointment over how we could spend time skewering the very best Olympic gymnast for the quality of her hairdo, or why we need to make Olympic uniforms look like outfits for cheerleaders. (Another group of highly trained athletes that are hypersexualized to the point of ridiculousness.) And don’t even get me started on Olympics advertising that looks like softcore porn.
And we’re not just talking about Olympians here. Anyone from tennis stars to golfers are expected to look runway perfect these days. Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about our Fit Fatty Virtual Events this year. It allows you to complete all kinds of fabulous physical activities wearing what you want, wherever you want and on your terms. We have had several incredibly inspired entrants who have completed significant tasks wearing pajamas. We have had entrants complete events and perform community service simultaneously. We have met Santa Claus on a 5K and performed epic, family-style, living room dance parties with kids of all ages.
Because Ragen and I are crazy enough to believe that physical activities should be about moving your body and having fun.
In case you’re noodling over my semi-bizarre title, let me just say this. Frank “did it his way”. And when it comes to exercise, I’d like to invite you to do it your way.
I was inspired to write this after reading a great post by a young exercise guru named Ryan DeBell. In his post, he talks about some of the anatomical differences in the hip region that can have a dramatic difference in the way we squat. If you aren’t too squeamish when it comes to looking at human bones, I’d like to encourage you to hop on over to the article. Because those pictures of bones tell a story that is very interesting.
The pictures feature the bones of the hip, showing us the socket part of the joint on the pelvis (called the acetabulum) and the ball part of the joint on the head of the long bone of the leg (called the femur). When the pictures are compared, side by side, it is clear that there is a LOT of anatomical variety. The angle of the ball part of the joint differs widely from one person to another. The length of the ball part of the joint is different. The position of the socket part of the pelvis is very different from one picture to another.
From this picture, Ryan extrapolates that these bodies would perform the “squat” in ways that are very different from one another. He posits that one person would be more comfortable in a wide stance and another would be more comfortable in a narrow stance. And he suggests that this difference is likely to continue expressing itself, even after a fair amount of exercise in both strengthening and increasing range of motion in the hip joint.
It’s also fascinating to me that Ryan followed up his blog post with a brief video. Here it is:
Basically what the video says is (and I’m paraphrasing): “Yeah helpful commenters, I didn’t say that because hips are different people should stop working on their hips. And no I don’t have reams of incontrovertible evidence detailing the exact range of human hip diversity. But what I am saying is that even if you exercise a lot, people are still going to be different. ”
And the end of the video is so awesome, I’ll quote it here:
“Keep doing it so you can be the best version of you in your movement.”
Okay, I want to give this guy cyberhugs. Seriously. Because what he says makes so much sense not only in the context of exercise, but also in terms of body diversity in general. It should be obvious, right? We don’t all look the same. Some of us are tall and some of us are short. Some of us are designed to be weight lifters and some of us are designed to sprint and some of us are going to run long distances like marathons and ultramarathons like a freakin’ gazelle. Some of us are designed with a great deal of musical talent. Others of us can’t carry a tune in a barrel. Does suggest that the sprinters can’t do marathons or that the non-singers should just mouth “Happy Birthday to You” at the next family gathering? No it does not. However it does suggest that the sprinter’s body is likely to respond to 26.2 miles in a way that is very different from the gazelle. It means that the non-singer is going to have a much different experience learning to sing opera than the kid who rolled out of bed at age 18 with a high “C” and perfect pitch.
And speaking of singing, there is so much diversity in music, and in many ways it seems more accepted. I am a soprano. I can sing the same notes as many altos and even some tenors. But no matter how much I train my voice to extend my range, I will not be an alto or a tenor. The quality of my voice will not match those voice types. And the more I try to train my voice to artificially create a sound that is not right for me, the more fatigued and frustrated I will become. And if I train against the natural tendencies of my voice long enough and hard enough, I am likely to experience pain, injury and possibly even permanent damage. Does that mean I stop working to extend my range? Of course not! But it does mean that I need to progress in a way that is in harmony with my anatomy and my abilities.
You know, as I watched the Golden Globes last night, I found a number of things really striking. One thing I noticed was how tall most of the women were. And another thing I noticed was how similar all the women looked to one another. There were a few striking and glorious examples of body diversity, but the vast majority of the women at that show could have easily swapped couture gowns with one another. And I think this is one of the main dangers of consuming media in our culture. It makes us lose touch with how much natural diversity there is in bodies. It gives many of us the sense that our bodies are all wrong because everybody we see on TV and in the magazines either look the same naturally, or are photoshopped into uniformity. But if we look outside of media, if we look in the real world, I think there is a beautiful and astonishing level of difference.
So how do we bring this back around to our title? How do we relate this to Frank Sinatra? My dear friend, I think it means you need to do exercise YOUR way. By all means enlist the help of a personal trainer or exercise teacher. By all means build your strength and extend your range of motion. But while you are doing this, please listen to YOUR body. Don’t assume that there is only one way to strengthen or increase flexibility in any part of your body. Don’t even assume that there is only one right way to do a particular sort of exercise. And when your body says, “OW it hurts when I do that in that way,” follow your Mom’s sage advice and don’t do that. Just focus, as Ryan says, on being the best version of YOU.
Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. One of the things that is so exciting about the Fit Fatties Virtual Events project I co-created with Ragen Chastain (besides how cool it is to do anything with Ragen Chastain) is watching how different bodies respond to the very different challenges offered in the program. Rather than asking everybody to do a 5K or a triathlon, we are encouraging people to explore a wide range of activities and pick a few that feel great to them. We are still offering early bird special pricing so I urge you to go check it out!
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…
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.
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.