fat acceptance

All posts in the fat acceptance category

The Power of Community

Published October 3, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Yesterday, I found myself having a moment where it was keenly identifiable to me why the Fatosphere is so awesome.  Now when I say the Fatosphere, I don’t just mean active bloggers and activists, but to me it generally encompasses Fat Acceptance/Activism/Liberation bloggers and campaigners, as well as the readers, cheer squads, sharers of articles and photographs, allies, followers on Twitter and Tumblr… basically, anyone who believes in and supports the rights of fat people to live their lives with respect, dignity and without discrimination or vilification.  So by that definition, you dear readers, are to me what encompass the Fatosphere.

So yeah, yesterday.  I went to the home of the lovely Jen, aka Ilaeria, for a Thermomix demo with my friend Kerri.  Kez and I were driving down and I just had this moment when the awesomeness of the Fatosphere hit home for me.

I met Jen through the Fatosphere.  I think she started following me on Twitter first, is where I first “found” her.  It’s hard to remember, it seems like ages ago but it isn’t really.  Jen says she was my fan-girl at first though!  We met in real life (so to speak, I don’t believe that the internet is any less real life than in person) one day when she came to Brisbane with some friends, and we had lunch then went to see the Valentino Retrospective exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art.   I was delighted to meet another Fatosphere friend in person, and knew that I’d encountered someone really amazing when back in January and Brisbane was suffering the devastation of the floods,  Jen and her husband Dave came up to Brisbane bring me some home baked goodies after I’d been without electricity for almost a week.  Since then I have come to consider Jen as a friend, not just a fellow fab fatty.

Here we are together, I got Kez to take a photo of us yesterday just for this blog post:

Jen’s so lovely, I’ll even forgive the jersey she’s wearing.

Since I found the Fatosphere, and have become conscious of just how many ways fat people (in general, where I once believed it was just me) are bullied, disrespected, ridiculed and vilified in our culture, I’ve also come to realise that our power is in our community.  Unlike many of the very people who feel it is acceptable to hate on someone simply for their body size (and/or appearance), we Fab Fatties have an incredible community to belong to, with so much talent, kindness, humour, wisdom, style, compassion, support, intelligence… the list goes on… right around us.  Just by opting out of the mainstream attitude about fatness, health and human worth.  The more we explore this alternative paradigm, the more fabulous, interesting, wonderful people we are exposed to.

Of course, one doesn’t necessarily connect with every single person one encounters in the Fatosphere – we’re all as individual and varied as anyone else, so there will always be people who disagree with, don’t connect with or simply dislike.  Don’t feel like a failure if you find that happening.  However you will find lots of other fab folk that you do connect with and it’s AWESOME when that happens.

I’ve found that no matter what is going on, at any time of day, there’s always someone to celebrate with, vent to, discuss things with, lend support when you need it, listen, cheer you on and inspire you.  When we need to gather our forces to take on some fat hate somewhere, there’s always a FA community on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, you name it to send out the #fatsignal to. (Don’t you love that hashtag?  David of Axis of Fat coined it the other day on Twitter – make sure you use it Tweeps).  But best of all, being around people who are working on their self esteem, and who are finding their confidence rubs off on you.  Want to feel awesome?  Spend time with other people who are unapologetic about their bodies and their size.  It’s like an intense self esteem treatement.  And the amazing thing is that you’re giving the same back without even realising it.

And if you can, get along to any fat positive events you can.  Keep your eye on social media, follow locals, Google for events… you won’t regret it.  I find fat positive events give me such a boost and there’s always someone new to meet as well as those you already know to catch up with.

We are so lucky to have such a strong community.  You’re all fabulous, for whatever reason you’re here, part of the Fatosphere, and I thank you.

Keep Telling Your Story Until Someone Listens

Published September 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Let’s get something REALLY clear.

When someone says they “respect your choices” as a fat person, but continues to publicly vilify fat people in general… they actually DO NOT respect anything about you.

I know!  It’s a bit of a bombshell, isn’t it?

But this is the same thing I come up against every time I or anyone else in the Fatosphere (or our allies) challenge someone who speaks publicly about the fat stigma they are spreading.  It almost always goes like this:

  1. Public persona is published in the media talking about how unhealthy/sedentary/uncontrollable/irresponsible/costing the taxpayer fat people are and how society needs to take control/shame/tax fat people to make them “wise up” to the ZOMGBESITY CRISIS!
  2. Fatosphere says “Other people’s bodies are none of your business, and what you are saying stigmatises fat people.”
  3. Public persona (and their fan club) says “But everyone knows fat = unhealthy!”
  4. Fatosphere says “Health is not a moral imperative, and you cannot judge someone’s health by their size.  Shaming or hating someone for their own good doesn’t help.”
  5. Public persona (and their fan club) says “But I don’t hate fat people, I want to HELP them!”
  6. Fatosphere says “Help them by reducing fat stigma, and allowing them to advocate for themselves.”
  7. Public persona says “But I respect your choices!  I just wanna help those who need help!”
  8. Fatosphere says “By vilifying fat people in the media, you are not helping them, you are shaming them.”
  9. Public persona says “But I don’t hate fat people, I want to HELP them!  I respect their choices!”

See where I’m going with this?

I’ve said before, the problem we have here is that these people are not listening to us.  Oh they might be hearing the words, but they are not actually listening to what we are saying.  They’re not hearing that their words and actions are harming people.  They’re not hearing that they are hindering us, not helping us.  Whether this is because they don’t want to hear these things, or that they just cannot fathom that there is a disconnect between what they are pushing and reality or it is because they’re too horrified at the thought that they might have to be responsible for the things they say that harm people, I don’t know.  But I do know that when we see this pattern over and over and over, it is because we are not being listened to.

It makes me think of a friend of mine who is a school teacher, and she would say to her very small students “Now, do we all have our listening ears on?”

Just this week I’ve been reading the most beautiful book, Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill.  It is peppered with the most wonderful quotes about oppression, justice and personal experience.  I particularly fell in love with this quote, that just fits perfectly with the post I am writing tonight:

The abolitionists may well call me their equal, but their lips do not yet say my name, and their ears do not yet hear my story. Not the way I want to tell it. But I have long loved the written word, and come to see in it the power of the sleeping lion. This is my name. This is who I am. This is how I got here. In the absence of an audience, I will write down my story so that it waits like a restful beast with lungs breathing and heart beating.

Is that not the most beautiful paragraph?

I am struck with the thought that despite this being the words of an African woman sold into slavery over 200 years ago, it rings true for many marginalised people even today.  How many people SAY that they consider us their equal, be we women, fat people, people of colour, people with disabilities, queer people or any other marginalised people, but  yet they do not hear what we are saying, and cannot even identify us individually?  To how many people are we still the obese, the disabled, the homosexual, the blacks, etc, rather than people, their true equals?

While I would never compare my life to that of the character of Aminata Diallo from Someone Knows My Name, I too have long loved the written word, and understand it’s power.  I too believe that while people are not listening to us now, we can write our stories, share our experiences and talk about how we are affected by the behaviour of those who see us as “other”.  The more of us who do so, who put down our stories somewhere for others to read it, those stories accumulate and grow in power.  And they will also provide a record in later times, when people start to understand the damage being done now.  That while there may be many who do not listen to us now, we are reaching those who do, and by telling our stories we reach even more, and leave a legacy to those who follow us.

After all, marginalised people have spent their whole lives listening to those who oppress them.  We’ve had no choice but to do so.

We’ve Done Our Time

Published September 19, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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 Fat Heffalump

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!!

Weight Loss Surgery: Jan’s Story

Published September 4, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I’m very happy with how the last guest post on the topic of Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) by Becky was received here on Fat Heffalump, and how respectfully people responded to it.  It goes to show that even though we might have had different pathways in life, and we might have some differences of opinion on fatness, that the crux of what we need to work on is the simple fact that fat people are marginalised and neglected when it comes to health care and support for our quality of life.

I am honoured to share with you all another guest post from a WLS recipient, this time from Jan of Outside the Lines, who is incredibly brave to share her story here.  I’m amazed at the strength Jan has had to show, as evidenced by her story below.

Again, please remember that this is a safe, respectful forum to discuss the topic of WLS, and while we may have differences of opinion on the matter of fatness, it’s important that we talk openly about the issues around WLS, especially the experiences and perspectives of those who have had the surgery and been dissatisfied with the result.  And in Jan’s case, she has some questions she would like to invite people to answer.

Without any further ado, here is Jan’s story:

As far back as I can remember I have had size issues. As a young girl, whilst not fat, I was always the biggest and tallest girl in my class. I didn’t like this at all, as like most kids I wanted to blend into the crowd. I had black curly hair which I didn’t like either. Actually there wasn’t anything I did like. I grew up in a family of 8 siblings all similar size. My mother was short and cuddly, my dad very tall and well fat.

Two of my older brothers used to tease me a fair bit telling me I had tree trunk legs, or piano legs. Funny thing is that looking back at my pictures I was not that big at all, so I am not sure what they were seeing. It probably started there. As I grew up it became quite obvious that I was always much bigger than the other girls and in some cases the boys too. The teasing was not that bad really. It was more that I felt so different. I was never picked for sports teams at school, that shame I remember well. Team captains would take it in turns to choose who they wanted on their team. I was never chosen, a team would get me as a default, as I was the only one left so someone had to take me. I sucked at sports, hated it with a passion. I was very conscious of the shorts or short skirts and felt awkward.
I was the tallest girl throughout school and so when we had to do dancing at school I was not chosen by a boy and had to either sit out or be made to partner up with a boy who didn’t want me as a partner cos I was too big. But really looking back I wasn’t fat, just larger than all the other girls. But I internalised all of this. Of course I did. My family did not support me, but then I don’t think they even thought there was an issue they just treated us all the same.

Of course being more developed than other girls I matured earlier having to wear a bra at age 10 or 11, then periods etc.

High school years were some of my worst. I think this is where the depression started really. I had always been anxious and shy as a small child and this continued throughout my life.

I really did not like myself but this stage. I wanted to be small and cute and pretty like the other girls. They were all getting boyfriends and going on dates, but not me. I was part of a strict family never allowed to go out.

As I approached my first working years I continued on feeling that I did not fit in. I entered the nursing profession but after only 9 months was forced to resign after failing exams. This set in place a huge amount of self hatred. My long held dream job and I had fucked up. Devastation was an understatement. Then at a young 20 I married and was pregnant and a mother before I was 21. At this age I weighed in at 101kg. The Dr’s told me to lose the excess weight. Then the next year another child and more weight loaded on. I went on to have 5 children and each time grew bigger and bigger. By the time the last one was born in 1992 I weighed approx 180kg.

Life for me was getting tough. Too big to run and play with the kids. I felt shit and a failure. Then in 1994 I had a friend who went and had WLS. She was much smaller than me, but anyway I went along to my doctor who thought it was a great idea. So I went through the process-endocrinologist, 3 sessions with a psychologist then proceed to surgeon, who I met the day before the surgery. I was so scared.

But dreamed of how beautiful I would look when I got slim. I was so scared that we bought a video camera and filmed me talking to the girls sharing memories just in case I didn’t survive the surgery!

Anyway I survived came home and was terrified. I could not eat normally. The first weeks its small bits of soup, jellies etc. I was 100% unhappy. Even though I thought I was prepared for this change I wasn’t. The medical and support staff had not focused on this part. I went into a fog, crying and raging that I was starving but could not eat. I panicked big time. My husband would shout at me to do the right thing and that I was fucking hopeless. Many other people who knew I had surgery were continually asking of my progress. It was the main topic of conversation. I was like a circus freak. I suffered mentally. I initially lost a few kilos, but it was slow going. However after about 6 months I had shed 30 kg’s and did start to feel good. People were noticing my weight loss and for the first time in my life I was receiving compliments. I actually though this is how life is meant to be. It slowly dawned on me that now I just might be acceptable to the public and more importantly myself.

However due to the nature of my WLS (stomach stapling) nutrients are prevented from being absorbed. You are meant to take multivitamins for the rest of your life. Well I didn’t.

It hadn’t been over emphasised so me being me didn’t do it.

After 12 months things slowed down and I wasn’t losing weight. I had managed to increase my eating amounts but eating little more often. I also found out that I could eat the so called empty calorie foods like chips, lollies and others such things with not too much discomfort. Then I added soft drinks like diet coke. By this stage I had a huge hanging amount of hanging belly fat reaching to my knees. So off I go to another surgeon to see if I could have it removed. He agreed to do it and in two weeks I was under the knife. Big mistake! I won’t go into the whole sorry saga but suffice to say I developed a huge wound infection and spent time in and out of hospital contracting a serious infection from the hospital. It eventually turned into gangrene and I needed blood transfusions and god knows what. After having the community nurse come to attend my wound daily for about a month or so it was decided to send me to a major city hospital. I spent a month undergoing repeated surgeries to remove dead flesh and rid me of the toxins in my body. I believe that I came very close to death. Luckily I survived and came home, but never returned to a healthy person. So time moves on and I gradually keep piling weight on and can eat just as much if not more than before. My body hungers for the food. For the comfort it gives me.

When I had that WLS I weighed 200kg and when I was weighed in May this year I clocked 301kg. I estimate that it is more now though. I am what they call a death fatty.

So there my shame is out there. I have been reading the FA blogs for some time. I started after contacting Dr Samantha Thomas, after seeing her on the telly one night. She is gorgeous and introduced me to some people like Kath. Finally I felt I was amongst people who could understand.

But here is my dilemma. I want to love myself 100%. I have progressed but how can I in all honesty do so when I am dealing with so many health issues due to it. I can’t kid myself. I currently have high blood pressure, arthritis, asthma, high cholesterol, swollen limbs, depression, and anxiety +++, I am housebound, can’t wear shoes due to swollen right foot. Can hardly find clothes to fit.

I read many blogs from FA members and I don’t see anyone who is as big as me, so I still feel outside the lines

I think this is sounding a bit woe is me now, and I admit that I do deign the cloak of victimhood. I am interested in receiving feedback on my particular situation. What do I do when it is clear that my excess weight it causing me poor health and may ultimately result in a shortened life span?

You Have No Power Over Me – The Futility of Trolling

Published September 1, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

The bulk of this post was written a week ago, and I had intended to publish it then.  However with my coming down with some kind of stomach bug at the end of last week, and then other topics coming up, it waited patiently in my queue, ready to be posted when I got a moment.

However, over the past 48 hours, I’ve been hit by a wall of trollery both here (mostly at people pissed off that I and others keep saying that no matter how fat someone is, they still deserve nice clothes) and on other social media sites of mine – particularly my Tumblr.  So this topic became all the more relevant for me.  I was also preparing to post it tonight when I read this beautifully honest and heartfelt piece from Gluten-free Girl, which I cannot resist linking back to here.

So, I’m going to talk about a subject that is often considered taboo in Fat Acceptance spaces.  It’s often taboo in many social justice spaces.  That is the subject of trolling.

I bring this up because of a comment on an earlier post about someone being attacked by trolls, and because I read this excellent piece by Melissa over at Shakesville about the level of hate that is aimed in her direction, and Ragen from Dances with Fat often mentions the same issue.

There is this unspoken (or rarely spoken) understanding that to talk about the amount of hate and trolling that we get, we are somehow feeding the trolls, that by acknowledging their presence, we’re encouraging them to continue their shitty behaviour.  However, what nobody acknowledges is that they troll anyway, whether you ignore them or out them, whether you keep silent about the hatred or you speak about it.

Just existing feeds the trolls.

To me, this results in a real feeling of solitude, as though we stand alone in dealing with this.  But the truth is, we don’t.  It happens to all of us in the Fatosphere at some point, and the more visible you are, and the more you stand up and speak out about the injustice of fat stigma, the more they do it.

The real irony to me is, it seems that the happier you are, the more comfortable you are in your skin and in your life, the more vicious and nasty the trolling gets to be.

That’s the bit that I don’t understand.  I actually have people, not just random anonymous trolls who pop up for a bit of “You suck, fatty boombaladah!”, but people who have met me somewhere (either through work, or through friends or other things I’m involved with, or they know who I am through someone else) and they are so angry that I’m happy, that I’m confident and have strong self esteem, that they have to troll my blog, and various other social media sites and try to tear me down.  They spend their precious time (and I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day!) watching my every move, keeping notes on what I say on Twitter, Tumblr, here on my blog and other places, and saving them up to try to use them against me to make me feel bad or something.

These people have so much time on their hands, and are so fascinated by me and my life, that they spend inordinate amounts of time following everything I do, trying to find a way to make me angry or feel bad or something.  Here are some examples of things I’ve discovered my own little posse of trolls doing.

  • They go through BOTH my entire Twitter streams (I have two Twitter accounts, I keep a separate one for work stuff) and catalogue every single time that I mention I’m tired and any other statements they can use to try to prove that I’m unhealthy, and tried to fling that back at me.
  • They spent several hours one evening signing me up to every weight loss clinic, gym, diabetes organisation, personal trainer and diet company they could find in Brisbane.  Those poor businesses had so much time wasted in contacting me back, but I was happy to hand the culprit’s IP address over to their internet service provider’s fraud investigation team, as I’m sure the businesses I gave that IP were too.
  • They spam my Tumblr and Formspring with the most boring, inane questions, like “How much do you weigh?” and “How much time do you spend on the computer?” (Zzzzzzzz)
  • They send childish, passive-aggressive notes, pretending to be my “friend”.  Bwahahahaa!
  • They Google my name and find out as much information about me as possible, and then they troll me saying they hate everything about me (and list it off, every bit of it!)
  • They search for where I have commented on other blogs or news articles, and leave personal comments hating on me.
  • They go through my Flickr stream and look at every photograph of me, leaving insults and bitchiness on my photographs.
  • They comment on Facebook pages for anything about obesity saying that there is this horrible blog called Fat Heffalump that is hating on thin people and “promoting obesity” and urge people over here to “Stand up against this bully!” and troll me further.
  • They are even stupid enough to log on using their work email or on their work internet access to leave nasty comments here on Fat Heffalump… where I can see their IP address, and can put in a formal complaint about them to their employers with concrete proof!  You can get fired for trolling people’s blogs and websites on your work internet.

And these are just some of the examples of just how much time and energy these people put into directing their hate at me.

Here you go darlings.  You don’t have to pour over my Flickr or Tumblr or Twitter, here’s a photo JUST for you:

Check out my big fat middle finger Trolly McTrollerson!

My experience with being trolled is by no means isolated.  Many in the Fatosphere experience all of this and more.

However, do you know what I think?  When people do this kind of stuff at us, they don’t hate us at all.  I know I don’t actually hate anyone (nobody is worth that kind of passion if I don’t like them) but I can’t imagine spending hours and hours examining someone online, looking for any little thing you can pick at them on, reading everything they write and share and looking at every photograph of that person in detail when I don’t like them.  The first thing I do if someone gives me the shits is block them, wipe them totally from my view and move on with my life to all those awesome people I do really love and enjoy.  I don’t have enough time in the day to keep up with all the awesome people and stuff out there, let alone waste it on those I don’t like.

But these trolls, they spend hours pouring over every thing they can find, compulsively checking every single iota of online presence.

I think they actually admire us, but they’re too scared to admit that they’re not happy and wish they could be like us.  I think they fear us, and worry that somehow, by our being happy and confident, they are missing out on something in life.   I think they are jealous of us, because they see our happiness and joy, our successes, the praise we receive, the community we hold and the fact that we simply refuse to hate ourselves because of what other people say about us and they want that.  I think they wish they could be as outspoken, passionate, funny, intelligent, respected, honest, confident and bold as we are.

I think they are sad, frightened, angry, lonely and envious.

That must be the case, because I can’t for the life of me think of any other feasible reason why someone would devote so much time and energy to reading, viewing and interacting with someone they actually didn’t like, let alone supposedly hated.  I’ve said it before, but people with full, happy lives don’t need to hate on others.  They are too busy, too otherwise engaged to do that.  They don’t feel hate in their hearts, or feel the need to make others feel bad.

We fascinate them, we fatty unicorns.  That’s what we are, those of us who refuse to buy into the fat loathing and hate ourselves for being fat, those of us who stand up and say “I won’t apologise for my size, and I deserve the same rights as every other human being.”  We’re fat unicorns.  There aren’t that many of us in comparison yet (though we’re breeding rapidly, which must be a mix of terrifying and fascinating to these people) and we have special powers.  We have the power of confidence and self esteem.  We have the power of the Fatosphere, our very own community of fatty unicorns around us.  We have the power of self respect.

I know, that it gets hard dealing with these people sometimes.  In the past it used to hurt me terribly when I got that kind of crap turning up on my blog or social media pages.  Nowdays I mostly find it funny, or just ludicrous that someone would spend so much time watching me so closely.  But the thing that really twigged in my head a while back was that these people have no power over me.  For all they think that they’re going to bully me into hating myself, or shut me up from talking here on my blog or any of my social media accounts, or change who I am or what I do, they have a snowball’s chance in hell of actually doing any of that.

Because they are completely powerless.  That’s why they do it – they know they have no power in their everyday lives, so they try to exert power over us online.  But it’s completely redundant.

The only person who has the power to make us change anything about ourselves, is ourselves.  Promise me you will never forget that lovelies.

On Making Diabetics the Demons

Published August 13, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Well the Fatosphere has been alive this week with discussion on the rather awful piece by Jess Weiner in Glamour magazine where she claims that body acceptance (not quite sure why she chooses the word “body” when we all know she means the word “fat”) almost killed her.

I’m not really going to talk about why her article and attitudes towards FA, not when so many other people have done it already and probably better than I could.  Check out these pieces by Ragen of Dances with Fat, Golda at Body Love Wellness, Marianne at The Rotund and on the Health at Every Size blog.

What I want to talk about in this context is Ms Weiner’s demonisation of diabetes, especially as using it as a death threat.  In her article, she quotes her blood sugar levels pre-epiphany as 99 (and states that between 100 and 125 is pre-diabetic – which would make her 99 reading PRE-prediabetic – go figure!) and also quotes her doctor as saying:

“Jess,” she said, “your blood sugar numbers show me that you are almost in the prediabetic range. If you don’t lose some weight and watch your sugar intake, you will get diabetes.”

I have to say… this is a pretty bloody alarmist statement.  Yes, Ms Weiner’s blood sugar levels were on the high side… OF NORMAL.  We also don’t know if her doctor made a prognosis on anything more than Ms Weiner’s weight and current blood sugar levels.  There’s no mention of Ms Weiner’s pre-epiphany eating habits or activity levels, but from the article one can surmise that she has been living a fairly active lifestyle already, and it is known she has a history of eating disorders.  Is  none of that a contributor to someone’s health?

This is all a prime example of just how easily fat people are given the prognosis of future diabetes, even when their blood sugar levels are in the normal range or they are active and eat well.

But let’s just say that Ms Weiner was on her way to diabetes, perhaps because she has a family history of type 2 diabetes, or for some other reason.  The reason doesn’t matter.  Let’s just say that diabetes was a known likely issue for her.

Why is body acceptance a threat to her life?  Does body acceptance (let’s go back to calling it fat acceptance) encourage people to be sedentary in their lives?  No.  In fact quite the opposite, it urges people to live their lives to the full, to find activities and pursuits that they enjoy and make them feel good.  Does fat acceptance encourage people to eat extreme levels of food with the purpose of gaining weight so that everyone is fat like us?  Not at all, fat acceptance is all about loving the body you are in, and treating it well, while nourishing it with the food it needs.  Most fat acceptance activists do not believe in changing ones body to change ones life, which includes gaining weight as much as it does losing it.  Does fat acceptance discourage people from obtaining medical care from health professionals?  Absolutely not!  Again, quite the opposite.  It encourages people to demand respectful, dignified health care that listens to the patient and works with the patient to find the best methods to encourage wellbeing in the patient, no matter what the circumstances of the patients life.

Something wants me to say to Jess Weiner – Fat/Body Acceptance… You’re doin’ it wrong!

And finally, as a diabetic myself, I get so royally fucking fed up with type 2 diabetes being used as some kind of moral measure of the population.  The minute the word diabetes comes up in a conversation about bodies, people start gasping and clutching their pearls, and screaming “Won’t somebody think of the children!!??”  While there are lots of us out there in the world who actually have type 2 diabetes, who are fed up with being used as some kind of cautionary tale for “bad” people who “let themselves get fat/unhealthy”.

The reality is, diabetes exists.  It’s not fun, it is an illness that people suffer and if not managed, it can make your health decline rapidly and irreversibly.  However, diabetes is not a death sentence.  It’s not an indication that your life is over and that you have “failed”.  Like any other chronic illness, it requires managing and some changes to your life to mitigate any problems that may arise.  It is not an indicator of who is a lazy glutton (after all, lots of thin people and active people get Type 2 diabetes as well – I have several in my family alone) or who has “failed” to take care of their health.

Unlike Jess Weiner, I am not pre-pre-prediabetic, I actually HAVE been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and I’m fat.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want to optimise my health as best I can within the circumstances of my life, nor does it mean that I have got myself this way by “loving my body”.  It also doesn’t mean that I deserve to be demonised as what happens to lazy gluttons who are “bad people”.

It’s a complete “othering” of people who have a chronic illness and it’s disgusting that people do this.

To Ms Weiner and anyone else who wants to use diabetes to frighten people into dieting and following their “campaigns”, I send a hearty FUCK YOU!

Why I Don’t Diet

Published August 7, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Reading this post over on Fatties United!, inspired by the call from Dr Pattie Thomas to do video blogs on why we don’t diet as a response to the Fat Poz ReVolution apparently being stolen by a weight loss reality show.  Like Whaliam over on Fatties United!, I’m not one for video blogging, but thought it would be a really good topic to write about here on Fat Heffalump.

There are actually lots of reasons I don’t diet.  But the main one is very clear.  Dieting makes me gain weight.

I dieted from when I was a very, very young age.  Pre-puberty.  And every time I dieted, I just got fatter in the long term.  Every time I lost weight, I would get to a certain point and then no matter how much I restricted and exercised for punishment/bargaining purposes, my body would fight and fight and eventually, the weight would creep back.  In my darkest days, I was exercising between 6 and 8 hours per day (and the haters say that fatties have no willpower!) and eating almost nothing as well as being on prescription “appetite suppressant” amphetamines… and I was gaining weight.

So when I found Fat Acceptance, I decided I’d try to give up dieting and see how I go.  I was reading the work of The Fat Nutritionist who makes a LOT of sense to me, so for the past 2 years, maybe 2 and a half, I’ve been trying intuitive eating.  I found Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon PhD a bit after and that reaffirmed a lot of the thinking I’d been having about intuitive eating and activity for enjoyment rather than punishment or bargaining.

Surprise, surprise, for the first time in my life, I have maintained the same weight for two years.  Within a few kilos, but it’s been stable for the first time in my entire life (considering I’ve been dieting since before I hit my teens).

Another reason I don’t diet is because it makes me sick.  When I am dieting my hormones go all weird and my body tries to regulate those and I get all kinds of issues.  My depression and anxiety get worse.  My skin gets bad.  I get chronic reflux and gut issues.  My menstrual cycle disappears.  I’m always exhausted and cranky.

Yet since giving up dieting, my wellbeing has been so much better.  I get a fraction of the depression and anxiety that I used to get, my skin is clearer than it ever was, and for the first time since I hit puberty I have a regular menstrual cycle.  But best of all, I have more energy and am far happier.

There are dozens of other reasons I don’t diet, but these two are the most important to me.

So for those of you who don’t diet… would you share with us in the comments why you don’t diet?

Who Really Needs to Hear This?

Published July 15, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

A comment that was left on my last post has got me thinking.  ako says:

“Sadly, I suspect most of the people who need to hear this think “If you were capable of taking care of yourself, you wouldn’t be fat!” is an effective refutation.”

And ako is right that the majority of the anti-fat brigade will think that.  The more I do this fat activism stuff, the more I realise that fat haters and those who are set in the “But fat is unhealthy!” are not going to be persuaded by anything I say.  Because I am a fat person, and to them, fat is bad.  Plus I’m really, really tired of having to “prove” everything about myself to these people.  To be honest, I don’t care what they think.

But there is something I want to clarify in response to ako’s comment.

I don’t believe they are the people who need to hear what I have to say.  What many of us have to say in the fatosphere.

I believe the people who need to hear these things are you my dear readers.  But not just you, me as well.  I realised on thinking abou this for awhile, is that I want to talk to all of you out there, who feel like I felt (and still do feel sometimes).  I want to reach those of you who struggle with your self esteem.  I want to reach those of you who have bodies that the mainstream doesn’t approve of.  I want to reach those of you who feel like you are worthless because you are fat.  I want to reach those of you who have loved ones who are fat that you genuinely want to support without judgement based on their bodies.

I want to reach those of you who have felt desperate, worthless, alone, scared, worried, vulnerable, bullied, ashamed, depressed, frustrated, angry, hurt and suicidal because your bodies don’t meet some arbitrary standard of “normal”.

You matter to me.

I have felt all of those things at some point in my life because my body doesn’t meet that arbitrary standard, and I want you to know someone understands.  Someone else has felt what you are feeling.  Someone cares that you are feeling these things and wants to help you feel better about yourself.  Someone wants to help you find your voice.

That someone is me.

Because it wasn’t that long ago I was lost in a world that hates fat people and I found the fatosphere, and it saved my life.  A few years ago, the fatosphere* gave me an alternative perspective to consider.  They gave me the tools to understand what was happening around me.  They gave me evidence, language and information that I could use to think about how I felt and what I needed to do to bring myself out of that dark place of self loathing and worthlessness.  But most importantly, they helped me find my voice.  They helped me realise that I actually have a voice and helped me find ways to use it.  I cannot tell you how empowering that is.

Finding that voice is what has improved my life far beyond anything else.  It is what guided me to find the confidence and self esteem I have today.  And I believe that with confidence and self esteem, one can face everything that life throws at them with a whole lot more resilience than without.  That doesn’t mean everything becomes wine and roses, it just means that you’re able to stand up for yourself, you’re able to let go of other people’s negativity and problems and focus on your own needs and growth.

I want all of you to have it too.  

I believe the real beauty of a strong self esteem – the more you have, the more you want to give to others.  But even better still, the stronger someone’s self esteem is, and I mean real self esteem, not self importance, the less judgmental they are about the arbitrary things in world around them.  The stronger the self esteem, the less likely one is to judge others for their bodies, appearance, gender, race, faith, age, sexuality, physical ability, health and so on.  All those things cease to be so important when you feel strong and confident in yourself.  What becomes important are things like respect, equality, humour, intelligence, fun, balance and creativity.

I’m here doing this for you.  You deserve it.

*And to share the tools that helped me, I’m building on my blog-roll over there on the right.  I’ll be adding more as time progresses, so keep your eye on it!

Fat Activism In the Library

Published July 4, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

It has been with some considerable delight that I have been following Cat Pausé posting a lovely long list of fat studies book titles to her Tumblr over the past few weeks.  I knew about a few titles, but at last count Cat was up to 30 titles.  Which, needless to say, has created a very long “to read” list for me.

Cat and I got talking about just how many titles there are and what their availability is like, when it dawned on me – “You’re a librarian Kath!  You know how to access books!”

Let’s face it, books are expensive to buy.  Plus they take up space, have environmental impact and it’s not always necessary to keep them or read them again.  So being able to borrow them from the library is a fantastic exercise in accessibility.  Now I don’t know about your local library, but mine is free to join, you can borrow up to 20 items at any given time, can request books from other branches of our library service for a small fee, can have most items for four weeks AND has over 3 million items in the collection.  Not to mention that there are multiple languages available, resources for people with disabilities and a whole bunch of other services you can take up.  That does vary from library service to library service, but whichever way you go, it’s still a budget way to read all these great titles.

One of the things Cat and I have been talking about is the concept of having fat studies titles in a library collection as an alternative voice to the usual diet books and “you can lose weight too” pop psychology/self help books.

Now I know we have Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon PhD in our collection.  If I take the Dweey number (Dewey is the classification by subject matter) of just that title alone, 613.25, and search our catalogue, I come up with 256 titles.  All of them, except Health at Every Size, are diet books.  So to one fat-friendly title, I get 255 weight loss/diet books, just in our collection alone.

When I search the Dewey of Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby’s book Screw Inner Beauty (US title: Lessons from the Fatosphere), 616.398, I bring up 19 titles, 17 of those are weight loss/diet help guides or titles about the “obesity epidemic”.  The other fat-friendly title is Prof. Paul Campos’ The Obesity Myth.

The next search I ran was a subject search for “eating disorders”.  I got 279 hits, only one of which could be considered fat-friendly, and that is Harriet Brown’s Brave Girl Eating.  A search on “body image” brings up 64 titles, almost all of these focus on “looking good” or “you’re not as fat as you think you are” subjects (which excludes anyone who actually is fat).  There is a very high focus under this subject heading on “flattering” clothing and “what not to wear”.

Next I decided to search the term “fat”.  Over 450 titles came up, and most of these were diet books, low-fat cookbooks and “weight loss journey” stories.  No fat acceptance/fat-friendly titles came up under “fat” at all.  And don’t get me started on what comes up under “obesity” as a subject search.  Aye! Aye! Aye!

So it goes to show that the prevailing message being sent is fat = bad/unhealthy.

But!  Just by having these titles by Linda Bacon, Paul Campos, Harriet Brown, Marianne Kirby and Kate Harding, there is at least some alternative perspective available in the public library.  Of course, read one and they refer you on to other titles.

The real magic though is these titles sitting on the shelves of libraries, quietly lurking in amongst the fat loathing titles.  Along comes the humble borrower, hunting that “Lose the Fat and be Rich for Life”* title, and there it is.  Health at Every Size.  Or The Obesity Myth, or any of the other titles.  So innocent looking but inside those covers… RADICAL AWESOMENESS!

If one person picks one of those titles up instead of the “Purple Food to Skinny Jeans!”** book, imagine the difference that could be made to their lives!

So, if you want to read any of the awesome books Cat has compiled in her list, get thee to your local library!  If they don’t have it, request it.  Many public libraries rely on customer requests to drive their collections.  Plus every one they add, thanks to your suggestion, gets borrowed by other people to discover the fat acceptance message too.  The same goes for fat positive fiction.  It doesn’t just have to be non-fiction.

You can also ask your library about Inter-Library Loans as well.  Many library services share their collections amongst each other, quite often for free, sometimes for a small fee.  Plus if you’re a member of a public library, you can often get access to academic papers and journals as well through the library’s subscription.

Besides, libraries are definitely fat friendly spaces.  Librarians care about your reading, not your body size.  And libraries are accessible, have comfortable, solid furniture and are free!

What are you waiting for?

*Yes, I made this book title up.
**Ok I made this one up too.