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How to Give a Compliment Without Being Douchey

Published April 15, 2013 by sleepydumpling

Following on from my previous post – on how to lose the body judgement for your own sake as well as others, it seems I need to write another… how to give a compliment without loading it with body judgement.

It’s not easy navigating in this world where the dominant paradigm is to critique appearances.  We are conditioned from the minute we are born that appearances are what we should judge others on and that we owe the world some kind of standard when it comes to our own appearance.  One of the most liberating things I have learnt is to be able to let go of that conditioning, and start to think of the world in a different way to that dominant rhetoric.  But it occurs to me that there is little to no help on HOW to unlearn all of that stuff, and what is the non-judgemental way to compliment people.  In fact, many of us can’t even see when we’re loading a compliment with body/appearance judgement, and so often we are hurt when someone says “Hey, don’t be a douche!”.  We respond “But I was complimenting you!”

So maybe I should start with a few examples of how not to pay a compliment someone?

I have someone in my life who does this EXTREMELY annoying thing.  She looks me up and down and then indicates my outfit and says “I approve” in a slightly patronising tone.  This one boils my blood!  I don’t wear outfits for other people to deem that they approve, I wear them because I like them and/or feel comfortable in them.   I have noticed that I get the “I approve” on days that I am wearing all dark colours, have most of my body covered or am wearing loose, flowing garments.  It’s particularly pointed on the days where she looks me up and down and doesn’t give the “I approve”.  I got one of those today.  Clearly my outfit (which I think is fabulous) doesn’t meet the standard.  See how “I approve” is not actually a compliment but a judgement?

Another is the “that is so flattering” faux-compliment.  It’s not a compliment to tell someone you like their outfit because it hides/disguises/minimises their body.  You are telling them that their body is something that should be hidden, disguised or minimised.

Add to the list the “you look great today”.  What did I look like yesterday, shithouse?  There’s no need to tack the “today” on to the compliment.  The same goes for “in that dress/colour/when you wear your *** like that” or any other  qualifier.

One that I get a lot is “Look at your legs, they’re amazing!”  I get this all the time, and it’s because on my body, thanks to the fact that I don’t drive which means I walk or cycle most places, my legs are considerably thinner than the rest of me.  What it does is highlight that the “acceptable” part of me is the thinnest bit of me.  I know it’s supposed to be a compliment, but just because my legs are the thinnest bit of me, doesn’t mean they need to be pointed out to all and sundry because they’re the least fat bit.  The rest of me, even my enormous belly, is pretty bloody fabulous thank you!

Some of you may have your own faux-compliments that you’d like to add to the list and you’re welcome to do so in the comments.

So… how do you compliment someone without accidentally putting body judgement on there?  Well… it’s actually pretty easy!  The best way is to keep it simple.

  • DO compliments on people’s skills.  A talent in styling an outfit or choosing fabulous colours or accessorising is a fabulous thing to have.  “I love the way you’ve styled that outfit!” or “You have accessorised fabulously!” are great compliments that don’t load body judgement in there.  You can even say “You have fabulous style!”
  • DO say you like an outfit, garment or accessory.  “I love your shoes!” or “Great dress!”  “Those earrings are awesome!”  Keep it simple.
  • DO use “I like” or “I love” statements.  I like your shoes.  I love your outfit.
  • DO tell people when they wear something well.  “I like the way you wear coloured tights.”  “You always make long dresses look so elegant.”  “Your outfits are so bright and fun.”
  • DO relate the compliment back to the person.  “Blue looks wonderful on you.”
  • DON’T mention people’s bodies.  Unless you are engaging in sexy-times with them, it’s not really anyone’s place to comment other people’s bodies.  Don’t say “That dress makes your waist look small/legs look long.” etc, instead just say “I love that dress on you.”
  • DON’T state your “approval”.  Whether you approve of someone’s outfit or appearance is irrelevant.
  • DON’T put a qualifier of time on a compliment.  You can just say “You look great!” rather than “You look great today.”
  • DON’T use the “I wish I could wear… like you.” line.  Drawing comparisons between bodies is pointless.
  • DON’T compare the outfit someone is wearing today to one they wore another time.  Perhaps they didn’t have the energy to put into an outfit at the other time.  Perhaps they like the other outfit better.  There’s really no need to point out that one outfit is better than another, unless someone directly asks you to compare them.  Just say you like what they have on.
  • DON’T use words like “slimming” or refer to the persons shape.  Again, a simple “You look lovely.” will do the job.
  • DON’T assume that an hourglass shape is superior to any other shaped body.  Firstly it’s not and while maybe the outfit they are wearing does give them an hourglass shape, they can look just as fabulous in an outfit that highlights any other shape they happen to appear.

FUCK FLATTERING!  Seriously, just fuck it.  Don’t use it, it’s shitty.

Flaunting Our Fat

Published October 30, 2011 by sleepydumpling

So this post went around Tumblr through the week.  The original poster has since deleted the offending post, but like an elephant, the internet never forgets.  It’s basically some young guy saying that all fat people should stay at home so that he doesn’t have to see them while he’s trying to pick up women.

Charming huh?

The sad thing is that he’s not alone in his douchebag attitude.  There are plenty of them around. People who think that fat people should stay at home, not be seen anywhere in public (or in the media, unless we have our heads cut off and are being shamed) and should never do or be anything positive.  The very people who suggest that anything that isn’t actively shaming fatness is “promoting obesity”.  You know those folks, we’ve all encountered them.

But I have a proposal for you all.

Let’s be all obese at them.  Let’s flaunt our fat selves.  Now each of us do that is up to each of us individually.  For me, it’s about living my life to the fullest and refusing to wear the shame that people try to hand us as fat people.  Here are some suggestions, some of which I do, some of which I admire others doing.

  • Go sleeveless.  Let the world see those fat arms, get a little sun and fresh air on them, and feel cool on a hot day.
  • Spend time with your friends (and if you have fat friends, form a posse of fat flaunters!) having fun in public.  Laugh.  Talk.  Party.
  • Take up a sport or some other physical activity that you enjoy.  Have fun doing it.  Practice getting really good at it.
  • Be unashamedly affectionate with your loved ones.  Hug your friends, kiss your lovers, hold hands, put your arm around someone.
  • Go out to a nightclub, dance your arse off.
  • Wear something that makes you feel fabulous.
  • Get up on stage if you want to.  Sing, act, dance, perform.
  • Flirt.  But only with people who deserve your time and attention.
  • Go to sporting events and holler until you’re hoarse.
  • Eat ice-cream in public.  Or a burger.  Chips.  Brownie.  Something tasty that is deemed “bad”.  Enjoy it.  Give anyone who throws judgement at you the finger.
  • Wear body-hugging clothes.  Spandex, Lycra, Elastane etc.  Rock the shit out of them.
  • Dye your hair your favourite colour.
  • Get your belly button pierced.
  • Buy a swimsuit, a bikini if you want, and wear it at the beach or the pool.
  • Go on a date with a lovely person.
  • Ride a bike.  Or a horse.  Or a motorcycle.  Or a camel if you prefer.
  • Go shopping (but remember – if you can’t find clothes to fit you, that’s not because of your body, but because manufacturers and retailers are slack and are not catering to you.)
  • Go to your school reunion.  Party and have a great time.  It’s not a competition, it’s a night out.
  • Go to concerts and plays and other performances.  If you are so moved, stand up and applaud, dance or sing along.
  • Appear in public without apologising for your size.

So how is that to get you started?  You’re welcome to add your own in the comments if you like.

Believe me, according to douchebags like the one I linked to above, all of these are “offensive” behaviours from fat people.  Which makes them radical acts, though they seem simple on the surface.

I propose we get out there and just fat all over the place.  Fat to the left, fat to the right, fat in the day, fat in the night.

Every one of us has as much right to exist in this world as anyone else.  Let’s take it up.

My Gift To You

Published October 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’m going to give you all a gift tonight.  A gift that was given to me not that long ago, but one of the most valuable I’ve ever received.  One that has changed my life and made how I approach the world and everything in it very differently.  Best of all, this gift is absolutely, 100% free.  It costs me nothing to give to you, but I hope you get as much value from it as I have.

It is a bit of a multi faceted gift, which has several parts you can put together and use as you need them.  Are you ready?

Your life is yours.

Yep.  That’s the gift I’m giving you.  The knowledge that your life is your own.  It doesn’t belong to anyone but you.  Not your parents, not your boss, not your partner, not your kids, not your doctors.  It’s yours.  It doesn’t belong to “experts”.  Because the only expert on your life is YOU.  You get to choose what you eat, what you wear, what you do to your hair and your skin, what medical treatment you have, what you do with your body, who you have sex with (and don’t have sex with), who you talk to, what you read and what you feel.  Those are yours to choose.

You do have responsibilities of course, we all do, but that doesn’t make your life any less yours.  When you say or do something, you have to accept the consequences of your words and actions.  But those consequences are as much yours as your words and actions.  Yes, you might have to be responsible for your children, a job, a home, a business, all those things that we have in our lives, but that doesn’t make your life any less yours.  You get to work within the boundaries of your responsibilities and make the choices you need to make, with the information that you can source at any given time.  That’s the crucial bit – arming yourself with lots of information, so that you can make informed choices.  The more informed your choices, the less likely you will regret it later.

But what I really want to acknowledge is that when people try to take our lives away from us, to control us and oppress us, as they do to those of us who are marginalised in society, we don’t have to just tolerate it.  We don’t have to play nice, we don’t have to listen to their “opinions” and we certainly don’t have to modify our lives to suit them.  When people say fat people can’t/shouldn’t/don’t do or be something, they are defining our lives for us, not allowing us to define them ourselves.  We have every right to say “Enough!”  We have every right to tell them to piss off.  We have every right to completely ignore their “advice” or opinions.  You don’t have to respect someone who cannot respect your ownership of your own life.

The best thing is, when we stand up for our ourselves in the face of this kind of control, it has a cumulative effect.  It benefits other people like us, who are also pushed into doing or being something other than they want to.  And it benefits other marginalised people.  That’s the good bit about intersectionality.  Speaking up about equality and personal freedom benefits everyone.  The stronger we get about ourselves, the more energy we can devote to speaking up about the other wrongs in our world.

The next time someone randomly pushes their advice, opinions or assumptions about your life on you, remind yourself that your life is yours.  You can walk away from that person, not engage with them, or you can simply tell them to piss off, the choice is yours.

We’ve Done Our Time

Published September 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

A little questionnaire for you all:

  1. How many years of your life did you put into trying to be thin?
  2. How much of your life did you put on hold while you tried to be thin?
  3. How old were you when you first remember being told you were fat?
  4. How many diets have you been on?
  5. How many exercise “plans” have you been on?
  6. How many years of your life have been taken up with eating disorders?
  7. How many people have told you that you are fat?
  8. How many people have treated you badly because you are fat?
  9. How many years did you spend counting calories, watching the number on the scale or the size label on your clothes?

Now tally the sum of all those years, all that time, all those diets, all those times you made yourself sick in the effort to get thin, all the punishing exercise regimes, all the hurtful experiences add all those numbers together.

Take that number, write it down, look at it for a minute, and ask yourself…

Don’t you think the fat haters should invest the equivalent amount of time, the same number of years, in trying as hard to be a decent human being, as we fat people invested in trying to be thin?

Fat people are not the ones with the problem, or who are in denial.   Fat people are not in denial of being fat.  We know we are fat, and in choosing fat acceptance, we accept ourselves exactly as we are, and we accept others exactly as they are.

You can let go of all those numbers now.  Set yourself free of the pain that those numbers represent.  You’re off the hook – you’ve done your part.  Close your eyes and imagine that all those instances of trying to be thin, or being bullied and shamed for being fat are balloons, filled with helium.  Imagine them in your hand, bobbing above you, all different colours.  Now open your hand and let them all go.  You don’t have to carry them any more.

This isn’t giving up.  This is letting go and deciding that YOU control your life, not other people who feel they have the right to judge you.  This is about deciding to live your life to the fullest you can.

People who think that fat people are somehow worth less as human beings as thin people, that fat people deserve to be shamed, discredited, their experiences denied and generally just shamed and bullied for being fat are the ones who have the problem.  They just can’t get on with their lives and let people be who they are, as they are.

We are not the ones in denial, it is the fat haters that are in denial.

Denial that they are in fact… arseholes.

*Post inspired this post by Ragen of Dances with Fat.

 

Working Your Way Out of the Self-Loathing Land

Published September 12, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Recently I received an email from an anonymous reader of Fat Heffalump, that asked me how one could possibly engage in Fat Activism/Acceptance when they absolutely loathed everything about their body.  They made it clear that it’s not that they thought that other people should loathe being fat, they just couldn’t find a single thing to like about their own body, they found themselves just that repulsive.

I think that is a bloody good question and one we should talk about.

Let me just say, there was once a time when I felt that way myself.  Even after years of being steeped in fat acceptance, I still have times where I get caught up in that kind of thinking.  I want to make it clear that there isn’t some kind of magical transformation that converts you to some kind of magnificent 100% self-loving fatty.  It just doesn’t work that way.  All of us have to work on it and practice and hone our skills.  I think the difference is that once you’ve been practicing this stuff for awhile and get better at it, you’re conscious of what it really is.  You’re aware that it’s not about your body being repulsive, but it’s about carrying the emotional baggage of a world that fears, loathes and stigmatises fat bodies.

We also have the benefit of community.  If you have a shitty day and you feel bad, having the community of the fatosphere to turn to is definitely beneficial.  When you have someone else to talk to, even online, who understands how you feel, and/or has had similar experiences, it is so much easier to deal with.

But also, it takes work.  We don’t just miraculously start loving our bodies overnight.  It takes work and practice.  Things like doing lots of reading of fat positive material.  Cutting out body snark of others.  Critical thinking about popular media and culture.  Surrounding yourself with fat positive people.  And taking the time to work on seeing yourself from a different perspective.

The thing that I think started to tip my thinking out of constant self-loathing was learning to be gentle with myself and actually entertain the thought that it wasn’t always going to be that way.  Just allowing yourself to think that there is an alternative way to feel is very powerful, even if you don’t feel that way right now.

So to start you all off, I’m going to share a little exercise that helped me to change my thinking about my body, and if you like you can share it in the comments below.

Think about your body and pick one thing that you like about yourself physically.  It can be anything, from the colour of your eyes, to your hair, your boobs, your hands, your elbows, the backs of your knees… anything on your whole body.  Just find ONE little thing that you like about your body, and think about it.  Think about that body part, you might like to close your eyes for a minute if you can.  Just think about it, the shape, the colour, the texture of the hair/skin/nails, all the different features of that one particular body part.  The only rule is no negative thoughts – you have to let those go.

If you can, take a photograph of that body part, or find one you already have that you like.  Think about what it is you like about that body part.  Think about how that part of your body serves you in your life, in it’s function in your body.

Hold on to those thoughts.  When you feel down about how you look, when you feel like you can’t love your body, go back to those thoughts and embrace them.  Remind yourself over and over about that one feature that you really like.  When you feel ready, have a go at finding another one.  And over time, you will find it easier to find things that you like about your body, adding more and more to your arsenal against self-loathing.

It sounds kind of silly, but it has really helped me in those very tough times.

Just to quickly share mine, I have always loved my feet.  They’re big but they’re a lovely shape. and they get me around everywhere I need to go.  I have funny wee toenails that I can paint cute colours, and I LOVE shoes, so my feet get to be decorated with something I love.  I also have both of my feet tattooed, which is another thing I love about them.  They also served me for many years with my dancing and I’m still very light on them.  Plus my feet never smell bad.  I just don’t get stinky feet, no matter what kind of shoes or socks or tights I wear.

Here’s a photo of my left foot before I got a real tattoo on it, back when I first started doing this exercise:

I’ve almost forgotten what my feet looked like without tattoos!  No matter how much I get caught up in the crappy messages society pushes at me about fat bodies, I only have to remember my feet, and how good they’ve been to me.

Your turn!!

Your Body is not Voldemort

Published July 28, 2011 by sleepydumpling

One of the lovely, but slightly scary, things about blogging and having your blog audience grow to a fair size is that people start asking your advice about all kinds of things.  It’s lovely and awesome, to be seen as some kind of fairy fat-mother, but in the same time, it’s kind of scary.  I mean, I’m not an expert on anything by any stretch of the imagination, and in my day job, I’m an IT librarian.  I want to get things right for you guys when you ask my advice, I want to help.  But I am a human being and I can only give my own thoughts/opinions and hopefully that helps.

I get a lot of questions from people who hate their bodies.  Or they hate something about their body or appearance.  I get a lot of questions about people (usually young cis-women) who are ashamed of something about their bodies/appearance, and don’t know how to change that.  Or want to know how to hide the thing they’re ashamed of, or who to talk to about that shame.  Sometimes it’s about being too embarrassed or ashamed to go to the doctor to talk about something that worries them.

Mostly, it’s a whole lot of shame and fear about their appearance.

Every time I get a question like this, there are two things I want to do.  Firstly, I want to hug that person and tell them that they’re perfectly ok as they are.  But I also want to give them something to set them free of that shame and fear.  I don’t quite know what that is yet though!

One thing I do know, is that fear and shame often make the issue seem a whole lot bigger than it is.  That’s the nature of fear and shame – it festers away in our heads growing bigger and bigger and bigger by feeding off itself and each other.  Think about when you were a kid, and someone told you a scary story, or you watched a scary movie.  It was terrifying, wasn’t it?  But then when you go back and watch it as an adult, often it looks silly and cheesy, rather than scary.

Fear makes the wolf look bigger.

Source unknown*

Well it’s the same with our bodies and our appearance.  That scar we obsess over, those stretchmarks, the wobbly arms we hide away, the round bellies, the hairy legs… whatever it is we attach shame and fear to.  We stare at them in the mirror, or poke and prod at them as we get dressed or bathe… and we look at them in every minute detail.  You’ll never know a body as intimately as you know your own.  We practically go over ourselves with a magnifying glass, looking so closely at our supposed flaws that we are afraid other people will see, that we usually fear those flaws far bigger, far uglier and far more dramatic than they actually are.

Sometimes douchey people pick up on those things, and they use our fears and shame against us.  They are perceptive of our vulnerabilities, so they will hone in on that and ridicule or point out those things because they know they can hurt us with  it.  Thus the person who has that ridiculous habit of bellowing “You’re so fat!” or something else about our appearance, or in my case, posting troll comments about how I’m fat, hairy or ugly.

I do understand those fears and the shame though.  I lived with them my whole life until just a few years ago.  I’m fat and hairy.  I’m kind of a tall hobbit really.  I tried EVERYTHING to hide my fat, hairy self.  I avoided those topics in conversation.  I wore clothes that I thought disguised me.  And worst of all, for many years I let so many people hurt me so deeply by pointing out how fat and hairy I am.  Sometimes the barbs still sting for a second, but not like they used to, and it’s rare that it does actually sting any more.  Because it’s a pretty sad person that has to highlight other people’s supposed faults or belittle someone because of their appearance to make themselves feel better.  Seriously… it’s a bit hard to give them any power to hurt you when you stop and think just how pathetic that is!

What we do, is turn our flaws into Voldemort.  Yes, I am a Potterfile, stick with me here.  Through most of the Harry Potter series, everyone is SO afraid to even think about “The Dark Lord”, they can’t even name him.  He is You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  Even the name Lord Voldemort isn’t really his name, it’s the name he’s given himself to appear even more frightening, because he knows that not speaking the real name of something you fear, keeps the fear growing.

J.K. Rowling actually said it in the first Harry Potter book:

Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 1997.

We do that.  We speak of fatness in hushed tones.  We don’t mention being hairy, or having acne, or stretchmarks, or skin problems, for fear of uttering those names will conjure them up in front of us, or put a huge neon sign over those “flaws” we have.

When really, most of the time these things aren’t Lord Voldemort, they’re just boring old Tom Riddle, and can be defeated, or at least reduced to something so much easier to deal with, simply by not fearing them any more.

Letting go of that fear and shame is not easy.  But that’s the hardest bit – letting go.  Taking that first step.  Opening the door.  Once you take that step, and set off, it really does get a whole lot easier.  That doesn’t mean you never stumble, or you never have the overwhelming urge to run back in and slam the door shut behind you.  That still happens.  But I think once you’ve taken that first big step, you can often recognise the fear and shame for what it is.  You’ve given it it’s real name, rather than hiding away and never mentioning it.

So… how do you feel about fear and shame in the context of your body and/or appearance?  Is there something you think you could let go of to make the wolf look smaller?  To lessen the grip that fear and shame have on you?

Or have you been able to give something it’s real name and chase that fear and shame away?

*I’m unable to find a source/credit for this awesome grafitti/photo – if you can provide one please let me know and I’ll update with full credit.

The Right of Self Advocacy

Published July 13, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’m going to talk about another recurring theme of the kind of comments we see on (and in) articles about fatness (whether they be in the mainstream media as “obesity” articles or  here in the fatosphere ), and that is the theme that fat people should not, or cannot advocate for themselves.  That somehow, by measure of our fatness, we render ourselves incapable of making decisions as an adult about our own lives.

There is a common sentiment that fat people need intervention in their lives.  Be it from those in the medical profession, our families and friends, or complete strangers, either on the internet or in public.  Entire conferences are held by medical professionals into “obesity interventions and prevention”, without any input from actual fat people.  Doctors prescribe restrictive diets, food substitutes, weight loss therapy and at the most extreme, surgical gastric mutilation, without any further investigation than measuring a patients BMI, which in itself is a flawed system of measurement.  Our friends, families and even colleagues feel it is acceptable to “let us know” that we are fat and that we should “do something about it”.  And strangers, be they on the street or online, feel free to advise us, without invitation, without knowing anything about us, and often despite our protests, on what we should be doing with our bodies and our lives.

This of course is presented to fat people as “concern for your health“, but what it really is, at it’s core, is the infantilisation of fat people and stripping of the basic adult right to make ones own decisions.

It reduces fat people to a child-like state of requiring management to function in the basics like eating and physical activity.  It says “You’re not capable of taking care of yourself, so we need to step in and do it for you.”  Usually, it is done without any consultation at all with the fat person in question, and even if the fat person does attempt to explain that they do not require management or intervention, they are often dismissed as being overly emotional or in denial.  No matter what argument a fat person presents to advocate for themselves, the response is dismissive and patronising.

The other main outcome of this kind of behaviour is the othering of fat people.  It reduces fat people to sub-normal beings, as less-than-human others, as though they are animals that require husbandry, a kind of domestic management.  It strips fat people of the fundamental human right to advocate for themselves and make their own life decisions.  This is the kind of personal reduction that we have seen with other marginalised people throughout history and in our current time.  It is the act of reducing fat people (and other marginalised people) as somehow less than the normative.

One of the first things I think we need to be focusing on as a movement is the basic right to advocate for ourselves as adults.  It’s not easy, I know all too well.  Even now I still have trouble standing up for myself, particularly to medical professionals and saying “This is not what I want.” or “That is not my experience.” or even “You are not listening to me.”  Even now, as I get more and more bolshy about my fat activism, I still find myself daunted in the face of the kind of dismissive responses we often get.  Mostly it is born of frustration for me, that even at almost 38 years of age, I am unable to be heard as the capable adult that I am while people only focus on my fatness, rather than the facts, my experiences and my own wishes.

That’s it really.  The problem does not lie with our communication of these things, but with other people hearing them.

But that said, I know I have to keep doing it.  I have to keep pushing, keep challenging, keep demanding.  Because, like any other human being, we have the right to advocate for ourselves as adults.

No matter what size our bodies are, no matter what status our health is.

Dear You, Volume 2.

Published May 29, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Dear You,

Hello again.  It’s a little while since I wrote to you last, isn’t it?  I was just thinking about you.  Yes, you!  And you.  You too, over there in the corner.  I’ve been thinking about you a lot.

I want you to know something.  You’re ok, you are.  Oh I know, you’re not perfect and sometimes you feel fraudulent, like you’re only pretending to be ok, but the truth is, imperfection and “faking it” are ok too.

I want you to know, you don’t have to feel invincible all the time to be ok.  You don’t have to be permanently fabulous to make a difference to the world.  Nor do you have to be completely loving of yourself, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be ok.  It’s ok to feel afraid, to have doubts, to be a little less than your shiny self from time to time.  It happens to all of us, and that’s ok.  The key thing is to acknowledge it, feel it and allow it to pass.  Or if you need it, it’s totally ok to ask for help.  You don’t have to change the world all on your own.

Also, don’t feel you have to perform all the time either.  There will be times where you just need to step back and BE without worrying about what you have to DO.  Anyone who expects you to be perfectly “on” all the time doesn’t really care about you – they’re caring more about themselves and their own expectations than your needs or feelings.

The thing is, self love is about so much more than just declaring “I am awesome!” and believing it.  You are awesome.  But you are also human, and part of caring for yourself is acknowledging that all humans are flawed, and cutting yourself some slack.  Forgiving yourself.  You will make mistakes, and you will be flawed, but that’s fine.  We are all flawed, we all make mistakes.  What matters is how you work through those mistakes and flaws.  The most perfect thing you can do is acknowledge them and learn from them.  But most importantly, be responsible for your mistakes.  That’s the thing that will make a difference.

Because really, it’s all about doing the best you can within whatever circumstances you’ve got in your life at any given time.  So what if someone else is able to do more, give more, be more.  That’s them, in their lives.  You have yourself, in your life, so that’s what you’ve got to work with.

But there is something I REALLY want you to know.  You are a perfectly acceptable human being right now, this minute.  You are just as valid as any other human being, without changing a single thing about yourself.  That doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to want to grow, evolve or improve yourself, or you can’t do better sometimes, it just means right now this instant, you are worthy of your own self love.  Even if it is hard to love yourself sometimes (and boy, is it!), or you’re struggling with some really difficult stuff in your life, you still deserve it.

So dearest you, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and give the best version of you that you can give, but know that even in the tough times, you are still valid, worthy and deserving of your own self love.

I love you.

Kath

“Bad Foods” – Control, Punishment and Singling out the Fat Folk

Published May 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

I’ve been thinking about the number of very public “health experts” that have been advocating total elimination of certain foods or food groups from the diet, either from the diets of children, or from those of fat adults.

There have been plenty over the years, but we’re seeing a rash of them here in Australia at the moment.  The most recent of which was Dr Kerryn Phelps, via her Twitter account.  Dr Samantha Thomas opened up a conversation about it on her blog, The Discourse, over the weekend.

I have also seen it from Michelle Bridges, physical trainer with The Australian Biggest Loser, who talks of guilt over eating “one or two chips”, and decries the consumption of white bread, a sentiment echoed by “non profit organisation” Obesity Prevention Australia.  Not that long ago I heard nutritionist Rosemary Stanton on the radio criticising the companies who make packet cake mixes for having photographs of children on the box, because she believes it sends the message to children that it’s OK to eat cake.  Uh-huh, you read correctly.

There have been others as well.

I want to talk about this method of “healthy eating” that advocates the complete elimination of foods because they are considered “junk”.  Junk food seems to be a fairly fuzzy concept in a lot of these cases, and can mean anything from highly processed foods with lots of added artificial ingredients, to anything containing sugar or fat, anything purchased from take-away vendors (prepared, cooked and/or served for you) to any kind of “bad” foodstuffs of the moment – these days, mostly carbohydrates.

These total elimination methods of supposed healthy eating seem to always be aimed at either children or fat adults.  It is rare to seem them recommended for all of society to practice.

It deeply concerns me to see these kinds of diets advocated for children and fat people, for anyone really.

The first thing that disturbs me is how disordered a behaviour it seems.  The connotations of fear, guilt, sin, bad behaviour, evil etc are all methods I know I employed myself while deeply entrenched in an eating disorder.  The idea that certain foods should never be eaten because they are fattening really bothers me.  Of course there will always be things like allergies and intolerances that will mean someone is unable to eat certain foods, not to mention simple dislikes, but the idea that a foodstuff should never pass someone’s lips because it is bad/junk/unhealthy is worrying, and particularly in children where variety is often an issue, and growing bodies have much broader nutritional needs.

Not to mention that it is simply impractical in our lives today to be hyper vigilant and attempt to completely eliminate the foods considered junk from most people’s eating.  The people like Phelps/Bridges/Stanton et al are proposing that children/fat people never be allowed to eat any of these foods.  That is certainly what is implied at least.

I was thinking about our eating history as a culture (and I’m speaking very generally as a white western person, as that is my personal experience – and most likely that of Phelps/Bridges/Stanton etc) and the social implications of total elimination of these foods.  Are these supposed health experts suggesting that a) children and fat people should never eat and b) that they themselves never eat or feed/have fed their children, any of the following:

  • Birthday cake, wedding cake, Christmas cake, or any other celebratory cake.
  • If they are Christians – no fish and chips on Fridays.
  • No birthday parties for children.  Either home catered or those hosted by fast food restaurants.
  • No cakes, biscuits or sweets made by their Mum, Gran, or any other loving family member (none for lunch boxes, none for special occasions, none for visitors)
  • No teenage parties or hanging out.  No pizza, chips, lollies, soft drinks, burgers etc EVER.
  • No food at the cinema.  No choc tops or popcorn.
  • No chocolate, hot cross buns or marshmallows at Easter.
  • No school dances (soft drink usually, sometimes snacks like chips)
  • No pie or hot-dog at the football/cricket/other sporting event.
  • No convenience food (pre or partially-pre made, or frozen, or take-away) for busy times.

These are just a few that have popped into my mind as I write this.  So if these supposed health experts are advocating that parents of children and fat people eliminate these things from their diet, can they say they’ve practiced what they preached themselves?  Particularly those that pride themselves on being thin, or having thin children?  Did they eliminate those things from their children’s diet?  What about when they were children themselves – did their parents eliminate those things from their diet?  Or are they only proposing that other people, particularly fat people and the parents of fat children, operate under such a strict regime?

But what really bothers me about this approach to “healthy eating” is that it is so steeped in control and punishment.  Particularly when it is solely applied to children and fat adults.  There is a sense of belief that every single morsel consumed by children and fat people should be controlled, sanctioned or approved.  It’s someowhat understandable to want to apply this thinking to children, because it is perceived that left to their own devices, children don’t have the skills to make reasonable eating choices yet.  I would dispute this however, most kids, when TRULY left to their own devices, tend to balance choices out if given plenty of options.  But it is particularly insulting to fat people.  It infantilises us, reduces us to being incompetent in making our own decisions in eating and food.

Fat people are seen as so incapable of making responsible food/eating choices that someone needs to intervene.  That we require policing in our food choices.  It also has an element of punishment.  “You have let yourself get so fat, you don’t deserve treats like everyone else.”  That fat people are bad/naughty/sinful so they don’t deserve anything “good”.

This moralising of fatness and food suggests to me that fat adults do not have the right or indeed capability of making decisions as to what they eat.  It makes our bodies and our lives public – when they are indeed private.  What an adult eats or does with their body is their own business and nobody else’s.

All in all, I think it’s high time that supposed health experts like the aforementioned stopped meddling directly in people’s lives and started focusing on real health issues, like adequate and affordable fresh foods for ALL, not just those of higher incomes, as well as safe and encouraging environments for physical activity for ALL, not just those who have the money or who look thin enough to be seen being active in public without offending bigoted people’s eyes.

Perhaps if they focused on these issues, they might actually make some real difference in public health, instead of simply moralising other people’s bodies.

Advice for Alexandra

Published February 19, 2011 by sleepydumpling

Well, let’s talk about something else besides the bigots out there huh?

I got a message on the Facebook page for Fat Heffalump from Alexandra, and on thinking about it, I really wanted to give her more space and time than responding to it on Facebook.  She has given me permission to post my response to her question here and I’d also like to throw open the floor to all of you for advice.

So, to Alexandra’s question:

I just got dumped (on Valentine’s Day no less) via text message, the douche citing he ‘finally woke up and realised I couldn’t date a fat girl anymore’ …and that he didn’t want to spend another day with someone below his level. Not to Agony Aunt you, but I feel as though the world is telling me to lower my expectations (not physical necessarily) when it comes to finding a partner. That because I’m fat, I should accept anyone that shows the slightest interest in me.

Well firstly, let me say that any man who dumps you like that is actually below YOUR level.  But I know it hurts and I am really sorry that someone would treat you this way.

Secondly, I am single, but I’ve been around the sun 38 times, and had my fair share of experiences.  Perhaps those in relationships will have a different perspective.

I’m pretty sure most of us have struggled with this situation at some point.  With so many messages pushed at us that fat women are unloveable, it’s hard to shrug that shit off.  I’ve certainly had experience with it in my romantic history, that’s for sure.  Some of it has even come from friends and family.

The thing is, that there is no such thing as unloveable.  Even the most reprehensible human beings have people who love them.  So strike the idea of being unloveable off your list of woes.

The next thing I believe is that no-one should ever settle for less than someone who makes them truly happy.  Now that doesn’t mean that you should expect a relationship to be all perfect, but it does mean that a healthy relationship is all about working together to make each other happy, and if that’s not happening… well then you have to ask why you’re in that relationship.

As for lowering your expectations when it comes to finding a partner, I don’t believe ones expectations are too high to expect a person to treat you with respect, which this dude clearly did not do for you.

I guess the things I have learnt in my 38 years on this earth are that it is better to be a single person than be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you and make you feel loved, deserving and happy.

So, I’m throwing it open to you, dear readers.  What advice/support do you have for Alexandra?  For those of you who are in relationships, share your stories about being fat and finding love.

Over to you troops!

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