Health at Every Size

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Interview: Rene Rice of Flying Pig Apparel

Published June 3, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Recently I was contacted by Rene Rice of Flying Pig Apparel, a startup plus-size activewear business, and I got excited.  Really excited.  Because I’m incredibly frustrated at the dearth of activewear available for fat women.  Especially since there is an assumption that we’re all sedentary and lazy, and the constant calls of “Just move your arse fatty!”  I’ve really struggled to find suitable clothing to ride my bike in, and even worse to find clothes to do yoga in. 

I asked Rene if I could interview her for Fat Heffalump, as I think it’s really important to support a business that is finally going to start catering to all fat bodies, and particularly one that is run by people who know what it’s like to live in a fat body.  I know I’m going to be supporting this project, and I hope you all will too.

For starters, will you introduce yourself Rene?

Rene Rice is a 20-something from Albany, Oregon.  She’s been sewing for herself and others since the age of 5, and has made things as diverse as a corduroy couch cover to a fuchsia wedding dress.  Short, wide and voluptuous, Rene has had a love/hate relationship with all things active.  She loves being outside, camping, hiking, and even horseback riding.  She hated P.E. and still isn’t a huge fan of competitive sports.  Right now she’s obsessed with her latest project, Flying Pig Apparel, a small line of active wear for plus size women.  She’s more than happy to talk to anyone about it, it’s getting her to shut up that’s the trick.  🙂

What made you decide to go into business producing activewear for plus-sizes?

It actually happened kind of spontaneously.  I began my self-acceptance and Health at Every Size journey late in 2011, and joined my local YMCA at the beginning of 2012.  I rapidly realized that I didn’t have anything appropriate to work out in that wasn’t stained or worn to bits.  I tried searching for active wear to fit me online (because I knew full well that my local stores didn’t have anything) and was shocked and annoyed that I could only find ONE company that made work out pants large enough to fit me.  And despite hearing several glowing reviews of the quality of their products, I was simply unable to pay their high prices.

Thankfully I’m a skilled seamstress, so in place of spending $80 for a single pair of yoga-type pants, I purchased some fabric and made my own.  I also bought some fabric to make a few cute work out tops after seeing another plus size woman rocking hot pink leopard print top in a zumba class at the gym.  Bobby, Barb, and Audre had all seen me in one of the tops, and we got to talking about our frustrations with clothing in general.  Someone made an offhand comment that we should just take over the world and I replied, “Well, maybe not the whole world, but we could probably manage the fashion world.”  I spent about two weeks feverishly doing research on the plus size active wear situation and also searching for wholesale suppliers of fabric and notions.  I also randomly heard about Kickstarter during that time.

From there, things have just fallen into place in really amazing ways.  I was given a serger, which made producing our sample garments much easier than it was for me to make those original pieces.  Then one of us had a bit of a windfall, which allowed us to purchase the fabric, and a few parts for the free serger.  And it seemed like every time one of us turned around, we’d end up in a conversation with a friend, a neighbor, or a random person on the street who expressed how much they loved our ideas.

What size ranges are you planning on offering with Flying Pig Apparel?

Want to know something wonderful?  All of our garments will be available in any size, no limits.  Two of the things we’re purchasing with our start up funds are pattern drafting and grading software and a large format printer.  Basically that will allow us to take any customer’s measurements, plug them in, and within a matter of minutes have a pattern that will fit them, regardless of whether they have a 27 inch waist or a 72 inch waist or larger.

I can’t even describe how discouraging it was for me, back in January, to be searching for active wear.  Each time I’d check the size chart, regardless of whether their top size was a 2X or a 6X, the largest hip measurement was in the 55-60 inch range which put me a little bit over.  It sends a strong message that larger people should not exercise.  We don’t want lack of adequate clothing to be a barrier for anyone trying to get active.

Where did you come up with the name?

We were all brainstorming ideas for a name for the business.  I knew I wanted to play with words.  I played with acronyms of fat for a while, but I heard someone use the phrase “when pigs fly” and it just clicked.  And just to be clear, we’re not calling ourselves or our customers pigs, not even cute flying pigs.  We’re saying the proverbial pigs are flying, so now what?  We’re giving ourselves permission to go out and do all of those ‘impossible’ things we’ve always wanted to do.  Starting a business is one of them for us.

Tell us about the Flying Pig team?  Is it just you or do you have others you work with?

Oh, if it were just me, rest assured that Flying Pig Apparel would have never come to be.  I’m incredibly thankful to be surrounded by a group of friends whose strengths compliment my own.  I don’t have much business sense, but thankfully Bobby knows all about running a business and has done it before.  I’m a reluctant newcomer to social media, but thankfully Audre has stepped into that role beautifully.  And thankfully Barb is here to take on the marketing and shipping duties… silly me, I was pricing boxes for shipping things in!  *chuckles*  I get to be the spokesperson right now, but as soon as I’ve got some sewing to do I’ll happily go back and hide in my sewing room and let one of the others do the talking. 🙂

You have a basic range – do you plan to expand that in the future?

Absolutely!  We’re starting with this basic range of active wear for two reasons: we felt it was the biggest gap in the things available to plus size women right now, and the logistics of manufacturing them was the easiest to arrange.  We’ve got a lot of ideas of things we’d like to develop, and we’re still working out a strategic plan for when and how to introduce those items.  I can tell you that we’ll be working on expanding our active wear line first, bringing some more sport-specific and high performance options.  For example, we’ll be working on bicycle shorts/leggings as soon as I get my hands on the pattern drafting software.  I’d also like to offer a complete men’s line as well.  Oh, and sports bras!  I think we can make better sports bras, and I think we can make the high quality ones more affordable for lower income women.

But we’re not stopping at active wear.  I’m also passionate about ensuring that all women have access to the wardrobe basics that can be so difficult to find.  I’ve worked in retail and restaurants for 10 years, and there’s never been a year that I have not struggled to find a pair of basic black slacks.  I’ll admit, I’m picky, but I know what looks good on my figure.  I don’t want an elastic waistband.  I don’t want pleats.  I NEED pockets.  Other things like basic white or black button down shirts or polo shirts are important too.  And they need to be high quality but affordable.  After that, the sky is the limit.  We’ve got ideas crowding our brains across all categories of clothing, from undies to formals.

When do you plan to have your store open for business?

We hope to have our retail website up and running by mid-August, September at the latest.

Are you only marketing to HAES practitioners or size acceptance peeps?

No, we’re welcoming of all women of size (and men too, though we don’t have any men’s products just yet) and so we’re taking a diet-neutral stance.  We won’t accept any body shaming or diet talk on our blog, but on the other hand we’re not going to engage in bashing dieters either.  I don’t personally agree with dieting, but I still think those who have chosen that route are deserve the option of nice looking active wear.  On the blog, I talk about the four healthy habits that are proven to lower the risk of mortality across all weight ranges: avoiding smoking, moderate drinking, eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and getting exercise 3 days a week.  Regardless of what your goals are, those are healthy choices to make, and we’ll encourage those habits in our readers and customers.

How can people support you in your startup of Flying Pig Apparel?

First check us out at flyingpigapparel.wordpress.com.  We have photos of our samples posted and more information about our vision and values there.  We’ll be running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds we need to start the business as well as make the first 250-ish items.  As soon as the Kickstarter campaign starts, we’ll post a link on our blog as well as on Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you’re connected with us.  I won’t go through all the rewards, but if you contribute at the $50 level you get your choice of one of the tops, and if you contribute at the $100 level you’ll get a full outfit.  Shipping is included in that amount.  So think of it as pre-ordering.  Can’t afford that much right now?  You can back us for as little as $1, and every dollar counts. (Note: The Kickstarter page is up!  Click here!)

Can’t pledge your support?  You can still help us out.  Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or follow our blog and share it with your family and friends.  The more people that hear about us, the better our chances of meeting our goals.  Kickstarter works on an all-or-nothing principal, so if we don’t receive enough pledges we don’t receive any of the money.

Guest Post: Sarah – Getting to the Point

Published April 18, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I’d like to introduce you to the lovely Sarah, a fab fatty I was fortunate enough to meet in Sydney in 2010 at the Australian Fat Studies Conference.  She was wearing the CUTEST dress (she wore cute outfits the whole conference) and Bri from Fat Lot of Good and I contemplated raiding her suitcases while she was busy at the conference.

Sarah posted a version of this post on her Facebook page as a status update a few days ago and I punched the air and yelled “YES!!” several times in response to it, because I think she really hits the nail on the head.  So I asked her to put it together as a post and if I could host it here on Fat Heffalump as a guest post.

So without further ado, here is Sarah’s post:

Getting to the Point

The point is not whether or not fat people can “help” being fat. There are some fat people who are lettuce-eating gym junkies and some fat people who sit in bed eating nothing but donuts all day. The point is that fat people are human beings who should not be vilified regardless of “why” they are fat, or how much control they have over their fatness, or whatever other excuse people are giving for insulting and dehumanising fat people these days. The point is that even if you think what other people eat is your business, and even if the fat person you’re looking at *might* sit in bed eating nothing but donuts all day, you can’t possibly know that by looking at them.

I approve of public health campaigns and preventative measures when it comes to disease. I just think they should be focusing on things – like eating as healthily as possible and being active in enjoyable ways when and how you can – that everyone can work towards to improve their health, regardless of whether they are poor or have a disability or are genetically predisposed to be fat or *whatever*. I believe they should support people in doing these things by helping poorer people get access to fresh food and helping stigmatised people be active without shame. But most of all I believe you can’t hate someone for their own good, and you most certainly can’t shame someone healthy. If “a healthy lifestyle” (whatever that may mean) is not an individual’s personal priority, or prioritising it in the way you would like isn’t possible for them for whatever reason, be it disability or finances or mental health triggers or anything, then it’s actually none of your business.

Yes, even if they get medicare rebates for treating ailments that you think are “caused” by their choices. All women *could* lessen their
chances of breast cancer by having radical mastectomies as soon as they hit puberty. But whether they do or not is not your decision to
make, just as whether or not a person tries to lose weight or adopts “healthy lifestyle changes” is not your decision to make. For some it
might be easy. For you it might have been easy. For me, losing a significant amount of weight means being constantly obsessed with my
weight, with everything I eat, with everything I do with my body or food. I know, I’ve done it. And if I don’t think being thinner is worth dedicating my *entire existence* to weight loss and weight maintenance – regardless of what health benefits it may or may not entail – then that is up to me, and I don’t deserve to be hated for it.

Bio: Sarah is a 20-something feminist fatshionista with a degree in sociology and a background in fashion design.  She has been a sad fat
kid and an eating disordered fat teenager and young adult, and now she is a happy fat grown up and her blossoming self respect is all Fat
Acceptance’s fault.  Nowadays she likes cupcakes, clothes and talking your ear off about social justice, and every now and then she enjoys sitting in bed all day eating nothing but donuts.  She doesn’t have a blog yet, but she’s working on it.

Feelin’ Good

Published November 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I have the most delicious feeling of weariness tonight.  Not so much tired, but the feeling of having spent some time this afternoon moving my body in a way that I enjoy, and getting delicious fresh air into my lungs and bloodstream.  I know that when I go to bed tonight, I’m going to sleep well, in a strong, deep sleep that refreshes me beautifully for the day tomorrow.  I’ve come home hungry for a good meal (I’ve got some beautiful home-made chilli con carne I whipped up in my Thermomix last night) and to stretch a little before quietly winding down for the night.

It’s a good feeling, one that I really relish.  And it comes from being physically active.  I won’t use the term “exercise”, because I think exercise is what people do as either punishment or penance.  Or because they feel they are supposed to.  To me, exercise is not something you do because it makes you feel good and because you enjoy it.

Enjoyable physical activity is routinely denied to fat people.  We’re told that we must exercise or we will die.  We’re told that we have to exercise to atone for our fatness.  We’re told that we’re only worthwhile if we exercise to diminish our bodies, to make them smaller.  We’re told it’s simply not possible, and it’s often disbelieved if we say we do it.  Physical activity becomes exercise which then becomes punishment or a chore.  Yet if we do find physical activity we enjoy, we are not given access to suitable equipment or clothing to fit our bodies, we are often patronised as if we are children “well done, keep it up”, (I’m surprised we don’t get a pat on the head) and on top of that we are regularly shamed if we dare to engage in physical activity in public.  The cowcalls and things thrown at us from passing cars, the sniggers over the clothing we wear to engage in that activity, the calls of “Keep going fat arse!”

Part of fat activism for me is engaging in the radical act of living my life to suit me, not because others say I should or must.  I reclaimed my right to engage in physical activity because it’s fun, it makes me feel good and helps me relax and sleep.  Because riding my bike by the sea, or walking through the shops for the afternoon, or going to the beach with a friend is something I love to do, not something I feel I should I must do.  It doesn’t make me a better person than those who don’t engage in physical activity, it doesn’t make me more worthy of respect and dignity, and it doesn’t act as penance or an excuse for my fat body.  Fuck that, who wants to carry that crap around.  It makes me feel good inside and out.  It makes me feel good.  When something makes me feel good, I want to do more of it.

But there’s a little bonus.  It really pisses off fat haters.  It really sticks in their craw to see a happy, positive fat person doing something and having fun at it and feeling good.  It messes with their imagined world where fat people just stay at home and sit.

And anything that messes with a fat hater’s world is something I want to be doing.

Dear Medical Professionals

Published November 9, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Well, yet again the amazing Marilyn Wann has inspired me.  She shared this article on her Facebook page and of course I popped over to read it.  It’s an excellent piece on the damage caused by fat stigma and the responsibility the medical profession has towards it’s patients.  I was reading the comments and I was just struck with the desire to tell my story as a fat T2 diabetic to members of the medical profession.  I started to type a comment to the article, and what happened is I found myself writing a letter to medical professionals in general.  I have submitted it as a comment on the site (it’s awaiting moderation over there), but I decided I wanted to copy it and share it with you here.

It is of course nothing we haven’t all been saying in the Fatosphere over and over again, and it’s nothing I personally haven’t said before (repeatedly!), but I believe that we really do need to be telling our stories over and over and over, we do need to be addressing all kinds of different audiences about our experiences and perspectives, if we’re ever going to get real change in our culture towards fat stigmatisation.

So, without rambling on any more, here is my letter to medical professionals (any that care to listen).

Dear Medical Professionals

My name is Kath and I am fat (by the pointless BMI standards, I am morbidly obese at around 300lbs, but I prefer the term fat) AND I have Type 2 diabetes.  I am the one so many in the medical profession use as a cautionary tale against what happens to “bad/lazy/greedy” people who don’t live a “healthy” lifestyle.  Until I found my current doctor, not one health care professional would believe that I was not a sedentary glutton, and as a consequence I developed an eating disorder from about 13 years of age until my early 30’s, and was suicidal during that time as well.  I was starving myself and abusing both prescription weight loss drugs and other substances to try to lose weight.  Medical professionals I went to praised me if I lost weight, but chastised and even bullied me if I gained.  I always gained eventually, always what I had lost, and always some more.  When I confessed disordered behaviour, several health care professionals actually sanctioned it, and encouraged me to continue, since it was “working” (albeit temporarily).   I was rarely asked as to what I was actually eating and what exercise I was doing, but if I was, it was met with disbelief.   After all, calories in, calories out right?  How can one be fat if they are consuming less than they are expending?

In my mid-30’s, I decided that if nobody would believe me, and I couldn’t be thin and therefore worthy of space in this world, I would end it all and relieve myself and the world of suffering.  Thanks to the love of a good friend, I didn’t succeed.  But it was at that moment I opted out.  Opted out of the constant barrage of hatred that is poured towards fat people.  Opted out of dieting and employing any other methods of attempting weight loss.  I didn’t know where I was going at first, I just knew I couldn’t live that way any more, and I wanted to live, but not like I was.

Eventually, I stumbled across the concept of Health at Every Size (HaES) and my world was changed.  First step, find a doctor who listened to me and treated me as a human being, not an amorphous blob of fat to be eradicated, cured, prevented.  Second step, find a decent psychologist to help me heal the trauma of the stigmatisation I lived all my life just for existing in a fat body.  Third step, learn to eat again.  And when I say learn to eat, that means both for nutrition of my body AND for the pleasure food can give.  It means listening to hunger and satiety cues.  It means feeding myself what I need, and what fits within the life I live.  I still struggle with some disordered thinking and behaviour, but I will keep working at it until I have it beaten.  I also reclaimed my right to appear in public as a fat person, which has enabled me to do things like swimming at the beach and riding my bicycle, despite the fact that I am still ridiculed and shamed for daring to be a fat person who is active in public.

It has been about 5 years since the moment I opted out, and in that time I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  I should have known, on my maternal side, my Grandmother is diabetic, on my paternal side, two aunts, an uncle and several of my older cousins (all T2).  I am built like my Grandma and my aunts, as are my female cousins, but the male relatives with diabetes are all tall and thin.  Nobody has ever shamed the men with T2 diabetes in my family, but all of we women have experienced shaming for it.

On diagnosis of T2 diabetes, I became even firmer in my resolve to practice HaES.  Since my diagnosis, my doctor and I have worked together and with HaES and appropriate medication, my blood sugar levels are in the normal range.  I am still fat, but all my vital measures are within the robustly healthy range.

I was far more a drain on society when I was trying to get thin than I am now that I live a HaES lifestyle.  I’ve gone from suicidal, frequently unemployed due to depression and the damage I did with my eating disorder, and constantly needing medical care.  Now I have a successful career in a field that I am passionate about and contributes to society.  I am a passionate campaigner for social justice and inclusion, and I contribute strongly to the public coffers via taxes, my private health care and the work I do in social justice and inclusion.

My point in telling my story here?  “The Obese” are not a disease to be eradicated, prevented, cured.  We are not some disgusting medical condition that is costing society millions.  We do not sit at home on the sofa eating cheeseburgers.  Nor are we stupid or liars.

We are people.  We are human beings with lives, loves, emotions, needs, aspirations and value in society like any other human being.  We deserve to be treated as such and allowed to advocate for ourselves.

Please remember that.

Thank you for your time in reading this.
Kath

Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Greed

Published September 6, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

You know, I think it’s time to address another topic in my series on fat stigma.  Today’s topic is going to be on something that is repeatedly placed on the shoulders of fat people, and that is greed and gluttony.

There is this perception, and usually we place it on ourselves as much as others place it on us, that fat people are greedy.  The haters are always going to use greed and gluttony to criticise fat people, so I think it’s best to ignore them and instead, focus on our self perception of being greedy.

It has become such a common trope in our culture that being hungry is equal to being greedy, that so many of us internalise that message until we are at a point that we feel ashamed and guilty for feeding our bodies.  However, all living creatures need to eat to survive.  We need sufficient nourishment to fuel our bodies, both immediately in the day to day functioning of our bodies, and long term, to keep our bodies running efficiently and effectively.  We don’t have to look far to find examples of what malnourishment does to the human body long term.

In my own experience, I spent over 20 years denying my hunger and starving my body to try to be thin, because I believed that because I am fat, I must be greedy.  All that did to me was make my body fight harder to hang on to what it did have, and screw up my body long term.  Thanks to all those years of restriction, starvation and purging, my metabolism is shot, I have damaged teeth (not enough calcium going in and purging makes them brittle and discoloured) and I’ve constantly got anaemia (my body struggles to absorb iron because of how little it got for so much of my life).  If I had been left to feed my body as it needed, I wouldn’t have to worry about these issues now.

We are taught that hunger and feeding ourselves is greedy.  But the human body has hunger for a reason.  It tells us when we need fuel to keep us alive.  It tells us when our bodies are lacking certain vitamins and minerals that it needs to heal, grow, strengthen and function.  Feeding ourselves is vital for us to survive.  Over and over we are told to “Just stop eating.” but no living creature can do that and survive.  We feed ourselves to provide the fuel and nutrients we need, and we also feed ourselves for pleasure.

There is much shame loaded on finding pleasure in food, however we are both hard wired and culturally conditioned to do so.  Eating releases pleasure chemicals in our brains, which rewards us for fueling our bodies.  It is the body’s way of getting us to eat to survive.  And we find pleasure in the ceremony of food, the sharing of food and the exploration of food.  We are culturally conditioned to do this to both bond with each other as a species, to provide sustenance to our families and other loved ones, and to try a wide variety of food so that we can get all of the nutrients we need.

The amount of food we need varies widely from person to person, depending on many factors.  Not only the size of our bodies and the activity we do, but also our genetics, environment, culture, and emotions influence what we eat and how much of it.  But one cannot judge by looking at someone’s body just how much they eat.  In fact, a recent study showed that in general fat people actually consume less calories than their leaner counterparts.  Besides, hands up who has a thin friend who eats constantly and never gains any weight!  I’ve got several, from a tall, lanky relative who seems to eat nothing but KFC and pizza and play video games, to a colleague who will eat anything in his path and spends all day crunching and munching away at his desk, but only needs to get a cold or other minor illness and drops weight until he’s gaunt.

Human bodies are complex and individually unique – we simply cannot judge anyone for their size or what they eat.

Sometimes human beings do overeat and do so for several reasons.  Sometimes it is disordered behaviour, such as binge eating.  Sometimes it is eating to feed emotions rather than the body.  Sometimes it’s overeating after a period of restriction or starvation.  Whatever reason it is, it doesn’t make the person greedy or gluttonous.  Instead of passing judgement towards those who overeat (and as I said above, it’s not always fat people who overeat, though it’s only fat people who are considered greedy if they do), we need to realise that it’s none of our business what someone else eats or does with their own bodies.

If you’re an overeater yourself, the only person’s business it is, is yours.  Yes, overeating can make you sick, but moralising and shaming about health and food is not going to make you well.  What is going to make you well is to learn why you are overeating and to deal with that problem at it’s root source.  To learn what habits and foods make your body sick and what make them well.  You are entitled to feel well, worthy of feeling well, and if you feel you need help to do so, then you have every right to have that help without judgement.  A decent doctor, therapist or any other health professional worth their salt will help you compassionately and empathetically.

It’s really daunting to give yourself permission to eat.  As a very fat person myself, when I started to get help for my crippling lack of self esteem and eating disorder, I was terrified to eat.  I still have trouble sometimes when I’m stressed or very tired, not falling into that pattern of restriction.  My doctor and I are constantly working on getting me to eat enough, particularly to keep my blood sugar levels in check.

But when I first started changing my thinking around food and weight and body image, there was this perception that because I’m fat, if I didn’t restrict myself, that I would EAT THE WHOLE WORLD!!  That lurking beneath my long term dieter’s facade was a horrible, greedy person, because after all, I was fat.  I must be horrible and greedy right?

Wrong.  Firstly, one cannot eat the whole world.  In fact one would be unable to eat the whole town, let alone the whole state or country or world.  One cannot even eat ALL THE FOOD.  Because even if one was to just eat and eat heaps of food, before one got very far, one would feel sick.  You’re not taking food out of anyone’s mouth, it’s not your fault that there are starving children in the third world and you’re not going to explode like Mr Creosote.

Secondly, when you let go of judging yourself (and others) for what you eat, and listen to your body, you start to know when you are full.  Your hunger cues stop, and you start to feel the sensations of being full, before you get uncomfortable or ill.

When I was first taking steps to get into normal eating, or intuitive eating (I’ve seen it called both around the HaES resources), I did have trouble getting the swing right.  Because I was trying not to restrict or diet, I would make these meals and then think I had to eat all of it.  Or I’d go out to dinner with people and think that I had to finish everything on my plate.  Which resulted in several occasions that I felt sick from eating more than I really wanted.  But the more I stopped thinking and stressing about it, the better I got at listening to a) what I wanted to eat and b) how much I needed to eat.  Slowly but surely I started to see changes in how I felt about food, and slowly but surely I started to be able to feed myself without emotional issues… and most importantly, to really enjoy food again.  Without beating myself up about eating something or making myself sick with guilt later.  Best of all, I have SO much more energy now than I have probably ever had.  I’m not thin, but I’m never going to be.  Instead I’m strong, energetic, robust and happy.

The thing is, when you truly let go of all of that baggage, and remove that idea from your mind that you are greedy or gluttonous, your body is able to regulate itself.  You might have a period where you swing wildly a bit, but instead of beating yourself up about it, you listen to how your body feels, take note of what makes you feel good and what makes you feel ick, and learn from it for next time.  Eventually you start to settle and gradually you notice that you’re feeling better, more energetic.  You might get less colds, or if you do, you recover quicker than you used to.  You have fewer digestive issues.  You go to the bathroom more comfortably and/or don’t get reflux as often.  You start to crave different things, and you don’t feel the need to medicate your emotions with food.

But most of all, you let go of that feeling of being a greedy/gluttonous person because you’re hungry.  No matter what your shape or size, you have the right to eat, and you have the right to feel hunger.  Anyone else can just mind their own damn business.

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?