awareness

All posts in the awareness category

Accepting The Reality of Fat

Published September 26, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I just have to share this.  I was just reading a bunch of posts and links that I’d saved for later, and found this piece on thin privilege.  It’s a list of things that people who are not fat experience every day, and many take for granted:

Everyday as an average sized person …

I can be sure that people aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me because of the size of my body.

If I pick up a magazine or watch T.V. I will see bodies that look like mine that aren’t being lampooned, desexualized, or used to signify laziness, ignorance, or lack of self-control.

When I talk about the size of my body I can be certain that few other people will hope they are never the same size.

I do not have to be afraid that when I talk to my friends or family they will mention the size of my body in a critical manner, or suggest unsolicited diet products and exercise programs.

I will not be accused of being emotionally troubled or in psychological denial because of the size of my body.

I can go home from meetings, classes, and conversations and not feel excluded, fearful, attacked, isolated, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped, or feared because of the size of my body.

I never have to speak for size acceptance as a movement. My thoughts about my body can be my own with no need for political alliance relative to size.

I can be sure that when I go to a class, or movie, or restaurant that I will find a place to sit in which I am relatively comfortable.

I don’t have to worry that if I am talking about feeling of sexual attraction people are repelled or disgusted by the size of my body. People can imagine me in sexual circumstances.

People won’t ask me why I don’t change the size of my body.

My masculinity or femininity will not be challenged because of the size of my body.

I can be sure that if I need medical or legal help my size will not work against me.

I am not identified by the size of my body.

I can walk in public with my significant other and not have people double take or stare.

I can go for months without thinking about or being spoken to about the size of my body.

I am not grouped because of the size of my body.

I will never have to sit quietly and listen while other people talk about the ways in which they avoid being my size.

I don’t have to worry that won’t be hired for a job that I can do because of the size of my body.

It really resonated with me because every single one of those list items are things that I’ve never experienced.  As a woman who is deathfat (yeah, morbidly obese by the redundant BMI scale), every single one of those items on the list above would be an absolute luxury for me, and a totally new experience.

When those who are not fat say they don’t understand what we Fat Acceptance activists are “going on about” and suggest that we should just “move on”, they’re ignoring the fact that we cannot ignore our fatness and move on, because every day we’re reminded by the behaviour of others towards us.  We don’t imagine this, this is our reality.  Those with thin privilege need to accept that this is the reality that fat people have, and acknowledge it.

Until all bodies can experience the above items, whether they are fat, thin or somewhere inbetween, I can’t just move on.  I have to keep doing what I do.

Guest Post 2 – Enough is Enough by Dr Samantha Thomas

Published July 11, 2010 by sleepydumpling

I am more than thrilled to share with you the news that Dr Samantha Thomas, sociologist specialising in weight and body image issues, is back with another guest post here on Fat Heffalump.

I talk of the inflaters of the world, those people who raise people around them up rather than crushing them down, and for me, Samantha is one of the inflaters I have in my life, and I believe she inflates people all around her.

She joins us today to talk further on the double standards of several “Body Image Advocates” here in Australia, and to issue a call to arms for all who wish to change the climate of body shame not just here in Australia, but around the world.  Over to our guest:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Enough is Enough

I don’t often get away with my dudes to a place where I have total isolation from the media. The last 4 days have been a media free zone for us – no phones, no computers, no newspapers. It was HEAVEN.

Well you can run, but you can’t hide. And it was slightly amusing that literally a couple of minutes after arriving back home and picking up the Saturday paper I came across this article in the Courier Mail. Australia’s Next Top Model (ANTM) banned a 16 year old from the catwalk because, at a size 8, she was too fat. Now look, I don’t really have any opinions about ANTM. Sorry! I’ve never watched the Ozzie version, and I’m a bit smitten with Miss Jay and the dude with the white hair on the American version. So I’m declaring my conflict of interest and not commenting on the show.

But I WILL comment on the fact that once again a member of Australia’s National Body Image Advisory Group has been caught in another dodgy set of circumstances around the promotion of fat hate. Most of you will know that Mia Freedman, the Chair of the committee has also been criticized for the inconsistency between her role on the committee and the material she promotes on her website. This time it is Sarah Murdoch. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sarah Murdoch she is a former model and host of ANTM. According to Minister Kate Ellis she chose Murdoch and Freedman, “for their work in their industry, not for their looks”.

And so I landed with a thud back from my holiday bliss. And you know what.

I’ve had enough of these inconsistencies.

I’ve had enough of people who are supposed to be advocating for body image declaring “it’s not like I hate fat people”. There is a reason you would have to declare that out loud at a press conference.

I’ve had enough of the confusing messages that are sent when our National Body Image Advisory Committee includes some high profile individuals who then actively promote that certain types of bodies are the beautiful ideal.

I’ve had enough of the new saviour that is obesity surgery. Because when you get an email from a 17 year old who tells you that her obesity surgeon told her to turn the heater off in the winter so that she would shiver and burn more energy thus losing more weight, you realize that this is a profit driven industry out to exploit, not care for people.

I’ve had enough of articles that say that fat stigma will be reduced if we find a cure for obesity. Or that we should tackle fat stigma because it will make it easier for people to engage in healthy activity – oh and lose weight.

I’ve had enough of the emails from people who have asked me if I have any ‘miracles’ because they have been told by their doctors that they have got themselves so fat that they should just give up and wait to die.

I’ve had enough of people being paid lots of money to promote the diet industry, which promises everything, and only delivers physical and emotional pain.

I’ve had enough of the stupidity that somehow has us believe that we will protect young people from eating disorders if we give a magazine a ‘tick’ for declaring its airbrushing practices, but that we still allow that same magazine to run ‘diet’ articles, and advertisements for the weight loss industry.

Most of all, I’ve had enough of the hypocrisy that surrounds the body image/obesity/health debate in this country. And that includes everyone being allowed to be an expert on fat… oh except fat people.

I don’t think there is one person that is reading this that at one time or another hasn’t disliked what they saw in the mirror (or on the scales). I also don’t think that there is one person who is reading this that hasn’t been made to feel bad about their body by someone else. Some of you reading this will encounter this much more than others. And I am standing up and applauding you for the amazing strength and resilience that you show in the face of such a negative public gaze for what your bodies look like, and how they got to be how they are. I honestly don’t know how you do it.

But I do want to let you know that I am with you.  Standing side by side until we sort out this ridiculous situation that we have gotten ourselves into with ‘weight’.

And I will continue to advocate with you for change.  Because when we stand together, we are a very powerful voice indeed.

A voice that is getting stronger.

A voice that is becoming an amazing tool for highlighting the hypocrisy that exists around body acceptance, weight and health in Australia.

Let me give you a great example of the power of that voice in action.

Last week Herald Sun columnist Susie O’Brien weighed in (again) on the obesity debate. But before I write about that, lets have a little recap of some of the things Susie O’Brien has written about body image in the past. First up, in January, when supermodel Jen Hawkins bared all for body image acceptance, Susie wrote:

“I have written so many articles about body image… I have told women to be proud of themselves and told men to adore the flaws.”

She goes on to write.

“We are never going to have genuine body acceptance until people start getting used to seeing real, average, beautiful bodies.”

Now obviously I have issues with these statements. But I could see where she was coming from.  Not helpful, but a little bit heading in the right direction (even in the lets all strip off and show each other we don’t look like Jen Hawkins love fest that we all seemed to be going through at the beginning of the year).

So how then, just a few months later, can Susie O’Brien write this?

“Yes, it’s important that young people feel good about themselves. But it’s also important that young people have the best chance of living a long, healthy life without the serious life-threatening illnesses that come with obesity. Not to mention the teasing and bullying and low self-esteem that many fat kids face. So I want to know what’s being done to help young people who need to lose weight, and who need to get motivated to change their unhealthy bodies, rather than accept them as they are.”

Once again, the same old rhetoric emerges. Lets accept everyone’s real, beautiful bodies, flaws and all.

UNLESS YOU ARE FAT.

But what’s worse is that somehow it’s okay to then invite a bunch of people to participate in a live hate fest on fatties. That fat individuals are lazy. That fat parents were in essence abusing their children. That we should all aspire to be like Susie because her kids ask for broccoli when they get home from daycare.

Now every cloud has a silver lining. And the day that Susie chose to have that live blog was one of the most silver lined clouds I have seen for a while. Because not just one, or two, or three but at least TEN of us joined that live blog to SMASH HOLES in Susie’s arguments. We very clearly and rationally outlined our arguments, and in the process absolutely discredited what she and a bunch of others had to say. We all brought a slightly different perspective to the table, and I know I felt a whole lot better about being in the discussion because I knew others were there with me.

It’s not easy to be a lone voice. I have learnt that the hard way. And I guess that is the point of this post. If we want change, we have to start acting together. There is no doubt that the critics are there. I was on Catalyst about obesity surgery for kids a couple of weeks back and ABC journalist Melanie Tait (who has had a lapband) took it upon herself to very publically try to discredit me. And so many of you jumped in and supported me. And I cannot tell you what a difference that made.

Speaking out also brings emails like this.

“We’ve never met but I recently read your piece ‘Mama Mia and Body Image’ and it was a lifesaver. A total no holds barred lifesaver. Finally someone clearly explaining that I shouldn’t have to hide my body to make it acceptable to others. And that while there is nothing wrong with promoting physical health in the right context, mental health is equally important, and the guilt and shame brought about by being told in a /body image/ setting that you are freaky and need fixing (read here 5 foot 1 and size 20) is incredibly damaging. You have helped me reframe my thinking about this and regain some much needed sanity and perspective. I have sent copies of your piece to my women friends who are all shapes and sizes.”

This is why we do what we do. And why we need to work together. All of us will be able to contribute in different ways. Some of us will want to be on the front line. Others will want to join the discussion in safer spaces. Some might just want to listen and perhaps share pieces with their friends and family members. Some might want to offer a shoulder to lean on (or some much needed spell check skills!!). Everyone has a role to play in creating change.

So who is in? !!!!

By the way. Keep your emails coming. I love them really.  Or follow me on Twitter @samanthastweets

Oh and I reckon Susie is a shoe in for the next vacancy on the National Body Image Advisory Committee! What do you think?

A Note of Clarification

Published May 13, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It was stated on Today Tonight last night that there were Fat Acceptance activists calling for the sacking of Mia Freedman as Chair of the National Body Image Advisory Group.

I would just like to make it clear that I do not, and have not ever, called for Mia to be sacked/removed from this position or any other.

What I am asking for is for Mia to re-think her tone and method of reporting on extreme body sizes, be they they very fat or very thin.  I am asking for her to be mindful of the power of her words, the position she holds in the public eye and the responsibility she has in her position as Chair of the National Body Image Advisory Group.

Ultimately I would like to see Mia as a spokeswoman for all women on the subject of body image, and to show compassion, respect, inclusion and understanding towards every person who has body image issues, regardless of their size and/shape, even when she finds their behaviour shocking or disturbing.

I am disappointed that it has been suggested that I or any of my fellow Fat Acceptance bloggers have at any point called for Mia to be sacked, or suggested that she be removed from any position, as this is simply not true.

I am proud of my work as a fat acceptance activist and still stand by everything that I have actually said about this issue.

I am also so proud of my fellow fat acceptance activists Elizabeth from Spilt Milk, Bri from Fat Lot of Good, as well as Dr Samantha Thomas who appeared in the Today Tonight and Herald Sun pieces today.  What gracious, articulate, intelligent, inspirational, wonderful women I have to learn from.

Taking Care of Emotional Health

Published April 24, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yah I know, I’ve been quiet this week.  Between buying a new computer (I got a big mo-fo of an iMac!) and working my arse off, I’ve not had a real lot of time to myself this week, and sadly that means this poor blog has to take a back seat for a bit.

Mostly at the moment I am dealing with a high stress time at work, what with trying to juggle multiple projects to be finished by the end of the financial year (June 30th in Australia) and a colleague turned food-stalker who will not leave me alone about what I am having for lunch and how delicious it looks compared to her diet shakes and Chinese herbal weight loss “remedies.”

Of course, with rising stress levels, comes higher anxiety levels, but lower self esteem.  I am lucky these days that after years of working on my self esteem, depression and anxiety issues that I can recognise them for what they almost always are – symptoms of overwork, not enough sleep and un-resolved problems.  I am far more resilient to these down times than I have ever been.

But they are still there and take some work to sort out and get back on track with my emotional health.  Where normally I have confidence in myself, during the down times I tend to second guess things, or be very harsh on myself again.

I have learned that those times are not the time to cast judgement on myself, or the world around me.  That I need to just settle back and let myself get out of that frame of mind before I make any decisions on how I feel about people and situations and myself.  There are a few things I can do that are immensely healing and are part of taking care of myself in those times.

Music really means a lot to me.  I have a folder in iTunes of music that I know makes me feel good.  I have a list of videos on YouTube that do the same thing, most of them Craig Ferguson dancing around like an idiot to some cheery tune.  It’s what Craig does best.

I know being around water helps me.  I am lucky, I live in a river city, and within 10 minutes walk of the river itself.  Or I can travel for about 45 minutes and be by the bayside.

Sleep is important too.  If I can catch up on decent sleep (more than the 4 or 5 hours per night I have been getting on average), I know it works a lot towards undoing all the negativity, anxiety and stress.

Self esteem and a positive outlook are not things that you just get and never have to worry about struggling with again for the rest of your life.  It takes a lot of work to build them up, to work through depression, bad self image and anxiety, and then you constantly have to be topping up that work, honing it, working on keeping it alive.  But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you do slip up from time to time.  You WILL slip up from time to time.  You WILL have times that the black dog of depression gets you in his teeth, and that circumstances lead you down the path of feeling bad about yourself.  But with work and support, you become far more resilient and conscious, and able to pull yourself up or find help to do so, back into positive, confident, happy you again.

Do you struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, poor self esteem?  How do you work through it to get yourself in a better place?  Do you recognise it when it sneaks up on you?

Let’s talk about it in the comments – knowing you’re not alone is one of the best tools you can have in your good emotional health toolkit!

Men Who Make a Difference

Published April 18, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It’s not secret that I love Craig Ferguson.  Not only is he cute and funny, I love how intelligent, opinionated, passionate and articulate he is.  I bookmark a stack of videos, pics, quotes and things about him each week and usually Sunday is my internet catch up day, where I go back and take a look at all the bits and bobs I’ve saved for later.

I found this video via Tumblr.  Take a look, especially for the bit at the end, from around the 7:11 mark:

I knew what the subject matter was in that bit, in fact I’d seen a transcript of his comments on the Rhianna/Chris Brown thing, but what I didn’t expect was my reaction.

I fully expected to cheer a bit, say “YES!” and basically be impressed that Craig has had the guts to say something about it.

What I didn’t expect, was to quietly start crying.

Even though I have been safely removed from my abuser for over 15 years, there is still pain.  Even though I know now that the abuse wasn’t my fault, it still hits somewhere deeply when I think of what I and other women have suffered and are suffering.

A lot of good men say it doesn’t matter if they say anything against domestic violence.  They think that their voice against such abuse is pointless and doesn’t change anything.  I know it feels that way, in the face of “smack the bitch around” jokes and comments about how women just get to men so much that there is nothing they can do in retaliation but become abusive.  I know that it feels like it makes a man powerless to speak up, or that it’s pointless.

I am here to say that it is not pointless.  It does matter.  You are not powerless in speaking up against men who are abusive towards women and children.

It matters most to those of us who have suffered and are still suffering.  To hear a man say that hitting women is not acceptable means more than I can put into words.  It gives us heart that there are men out there who would never dream of hurting the people that they love.  Especially when being hurt by the person who is supposed to love you the most is all some women and children know.  It gives us hope that someone is speaking up with those of us who are victims and survivors.

Most importantly, it gives power to women and children who are being abused by the men in their lives to make a change and get out of that situation.

So the next time you hear of a case of domestic abuse dear good men, and I now know you are out there, in the past 15+ years I’ve been fortunate to have many of you come into my life as friends, colleagues, and even romantic interests, do speak up.  Say something.  Say something publicly.

Because you DO make a difference, it does matter.  I thank those of you who do.

The Easter Bunny Brings More Than Just Chocolate

Published April 4, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Happy Easter everyone, regardless of your spiritual beliefs.  Welcome to Spring in the Northern Hemsiphere, Autumn in the Southern.

This Easter has been a bit rough on me.  Oh don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good time and had some lovely celebrations with friends over the past few days.  But at a time when chocolate is so central to many celebrations, among other foods, I’m feeling a bit worn down by all the food is morality and disordered thinking/behaving that is swirling around me at the moment.

You see the Easter Bunny brings more than just chocolate.  He brings the all the strings that are attached to food.

It is no secret that I am recovering from eating disorders.  It’s taken me years to retrain my brain to think of food in a different way to how I have done over the first 30 something years of my life, and it’s hard work to keep thinking that way.  I have to keep very conscious of the thoughts around food I have and pull up those that are disordered very quickly, to prevent relapses into disordered behaviour.

So it’s very difficult for me to be around others who have disordered attitudes towards food and eating.

From the woman who sits near me almost every day at lunch time with her diet shake or “meal” (I hesitate to call those things food really), staring longingly at my lunch and going on and on about how good she is being to stick to her diet products.  Yet she is miserable and asks me things like “Is there chicken on that sandwich?” and when I say yes, sighs longingly “Oh I miss eating chicken, but I’m being good.”

Then there were those starving themselves and repeatedly justifying how they could go to an Easter chocolate buffet that was to be the celebration of a 50th birthday.  I sat amongst this for about two weeks, listening to how they wouldn’t eat anything in the lead up, or “I’ve been so good for weeks, I can go along.”

I went, though on looking at the menu beforehand noticed that there was NOTHING savoury, so I had my lunch beforehand and went to it as a dessert, as I can’t bear the thought of all that sweet stuff for a meal, my tummy protests just at the thought of it.

I probably shouldn’t have gone, not because of the food, but because of all of the disordered behaviour around me.  The hardest to deal with of those being the ones that starved themselves beforehand then binged when they got there.

I felt terrible all afternoon, despite  having a lovely lunch and then some nice dessert afterwards.  It wasn’t the food, it was having to deal with and process all the feelings that other people brought to the fore in my mind.  I had a whole mix of guilt, shame, anger, depression, anxiety and simple exhaustion swirling around in my mind all afternoon, that I am sure I would not have had if I hadn’t been in the company of some people who have really messed up attitudes about food.

It doesn’t help that these people are far less fat than I am either.  I can’t speak up because if I do, I know the thinking is “That’s why she’s so fat, she must be a pig, I don’t want to get like that.”  Some of them have even said so, in less harsh terms.

I was lucky however with Good Friday, I spent the day with friends by the bay, talking over a barbecue lunch and the day spent in good company.  Nobody had screwed up attitudes towards food, or none that were apparent anyway, and I could feel my soul floating back to where it should be, and my mind at ease and comfortable.  Being around people who do not beat themselves up about food was very healing.

However I will confess there was a hangover from the disordered talk of the day before.  The friends who I visited on Friday happened to have a set of scales in their bathroom… which, despite my promise to myself that I would never do so again unless it was medically vital, I weighed myself on.

And I survived.  I surprised myself by not hating myself for the number I saw on the scale.  I saw it, thought about it for a bit, and let go of it.  So I am getting better, I am recovering.

Of course Easter is still here, still happening.  On Twitter and Facebook I am seeing status update and tweet over and over again of messed up attitudes towards food.  People are “pigging out” and hating themselves for eating chocolate.  There are all kinds of crazy bargains being dealt, where one can have chocolate now if one does something later, or has “been good” up until now.  Then there is the remorse after eating the chocolate, or the hot cross buns, or whatever else they have deemed as “sinful”.  Talk about how they’ve been bad, how the chocolate was evil for tempting them.

I just want to scream “It’s just chocolate people!  It’s not the anti-Christ!!”

I have got a ton of chocolate in the house.  People have been so kind giving me Easter gifts.  I am being very conscious of reminding myself that it is not Kryptonite or nuclear waste, it’s just chocolate.  It won’t hurt me, and I am not a bad person if I eat some.  I can have some any time I want some.  Strangely enough I don’t want it much, I prefer cheese to chocolate any day.

How do you cope when the people around you are displaying disordered behaviours and attitudes?  Do you struggle with it?  What are your coping mechanisms?

Practice What We Preach

Published March 9, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yesterday was International Women’s Day in case you didn’t know.  If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know, I’m sure.  Because I didn’t shut up about it all day.  But this is because it’s really important to me.

Not just for the big, obvious reasons, like the fact that gendercide is still happening all around the world, and because women suffer 70% of the world’s extreme poverty.  But also for smaller, more personal reasons, reasons of body image.

I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a far higher expectation of women than men, as far as physical appearance is concerned.  Men are not under the massive level of body pressure that we women are.  Men do not have to alter their bodies to a shape that is almost totally unattainable by adults.  Men are not expected to starve, surgically alter and work their bodies to look like pre-teens with breasts.  Men do not have to remove every trace of body hair.   Men are valued for their brains, their ability, their personalities rather than how pleasing they are to the eye.

This isn’t just perpetrated BY men either.  As well as being International Women’s Day yesterday, the Oscars were on.  Everyone loves a good frock up, myself included.  But I couldn’t believe my eyes on Twitter, Facebook etc to see women who consider themselves feminists bitching and snarking about the actresses at the Oscars.

Critique of the clothes is of course what we’re watching for.  What a hideous dress.  What the hell is that suit *actor* is wearing?  For me it was the rosettes on Charlize Theron’s bustline that had me scratching my head this year.  Clothes at a big event like that are out there to be seen and talked about.

But the bitchiness I saw was about how skinny actresses are, how ugly their hair is, what shape their eyebrows are, how their boobs looked in a dress.

From women that were demanding that Mo’nique and Gabourey Sidibe be treated with respect and celebrated for the talented actresses they are, came the most venomous body criticism of them all, only for women that represent the opposite of Mo’nique and Gabby.  It was like these women that represent what the rest of us cannot be must not be “real” women.  It seems because the criticism was about THIN actresses, that it’s ok for women to join in to.

But I don’t believe that.  If we’re going to demand that the world treat fat women with respect, dignity and fairness, then we have to practice what we preach.  We can’t criticise other people’s physical appearance if we’re demanding that nobody criticises ours.

We need to live the message we’re putting across.  Feminism isn’t about  forgoing makeup and pretty clothes and sexy shoes and getting your nails and hair done.  It’s about treating women with respect, valuing them and not expecting them to live up to some impossible ideal, especially not with the goal of being pleasing to the eye.  Be that the male eye or those of our fellow females.

If we want our not-fat sisters to a) join us in the positive body image fight for all women and b) support us in our quest to be allowed to live happily as the fat women that nature has made us, then we have to live what we’re asking of others.

I know it’s not easy when we’ve been on the receiving end of a ton of hate and snark ourselves, but I very strongly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.

It just makes for hypocrisy.

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