Tag Archives: Ragen Chastain

The Unwritten Sports Stat: Female Athletes Must Be Gorgeous

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.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

Advertisements

Frank Sinatra as Exercise Inspiration

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!

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to get access to FREE STUFF?  Just opt in RIGHT HERE!

Skin

Well a few weeks back, I issued a nudity challenge to y’all and I thought I’d check back with you to see the results.  As promised, I spent 15 minutes per day in the buff, and I’d have to say, after getting over the initial discomfort, I enjoyed it!  It proved a challenge at times.  I had to really do some careful scheduling when we headed out for the Church Choir summit for 2 days.  I also had to learn to keep a robe near by as my nakee time was when the front doorbell inevitably rang.  Mailmen, neighbors, telephone book delivery people–you name it, they knocked.  I was starting to suspect a conspiracy y’all.

Initially this was a challenge for me as I am still learning to love my body and also come from a Catholic, Midwestern upbringing which tends to discourage nudity for any reason.  But after a while, I learned to enjoy the experience of feeling the air conditioning on my skin as my body dried from the bath.  And for the last two weeks with temperatures soaring well over 100 degrees, it was a time of welcome relief.  I got to think of my body not as a sex object or a reason to be shamed, but simply a part of what made me, well, me.  How about you?  Did you try it?  What did you learn about yourself?

You know, if you are in any way interested in skin, I would like to invite you to the More Cabaret Gimme More! Show this Sunday.   Ragen Chastain and the More Cabaret girls will be showing some skin and performing a whole lot of hip shaking, toe tapping fun!  They will be accompanied by a whole host of other performers.  I’ll be singing a few songs.   And guess what?!  You can see it all online with our live streamed version.  We’ll be live right HERE starting at about 6 PM PST tomorrow night.

Can’t wait to see 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!

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

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!

First Interplanetary “Photobomb”–Geeks Celebrate Globally

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

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

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

Yup, I went and got the certificate...

Yup, I went and got the certificate…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

The Fat Chick

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

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

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

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!firs