quality of life

All posts in the quality of life category

You Cannot Help Those You Loathe

Published January 3, 2014 by Fat Heffalump

I just had one of those lightbulb moments.  I was reading this excellent piece on domestic violence on Big Blue Dot Y’all and while talking about leaving counselling, the author used this sentence:

“You cannot help those you loathe.”

And something went “click” in my head.  All those weight loss surgeons, those “obesity” experts, the weight loss industry, bullying personal trainers, all those people who claim they want to “help” fat people… they loathe us.  If it’s not us they loathe, it’s our fat.  And by hating fat, and failing to see that our fatness is part of who we are – not a growth or some kind of removable shell, they are therefore by default loathing us.

And you cannot help those you loathe.

You cannot help those you loathe.

Think of the language they use around supposedly “helping” us.   It’s all violent, aggressive and full of hate.

  • Fighting fat
  • War on obesity
  • Fat busters/blasters
  • Eradicate fat
  • Fat is “killing” you
  • Obesity epidemic

These are just a few of the terms they use in the rhetoric of weight loss and anti-“obesity” campaigns.  Everything is framed around sickness and disease, war, violence, anger.  This is not the language of helping fat people, it’s the language of waging battle on them.  And as Marilyn Wann says – you cannot have a war on fat without having a war on fat people.  The two are not separate entities – our fat is part of us, part of our bodies, part of who we are.  Bodies are not disposable shells made for modification , they are an integral part of the human being.

This is why so much damage is being done to fat people.  Because of this loathing of fat.  Instead of working with us to make our lives as full and as rich as they should be, society wages war on our bodies and therefore ourselves.   In fact, more often than not, we are enlisted as soldiers in that war, in a kind of twisted friendly fire.  It’s as though in the “war on obesity”, the people who are fat are considered “collateral damage”.  Some of us will die, many of us will be physically scarred forever, almost all of us will have emotional and psychological trauma that we will never lose in the vain hope that they win the war.  What it does to those who are on the front lines matters not to those waging war.  We’re the cannon fodder.  Those in power are safe back in the war room, viewing it as a series of strategical moves and sending forth more and more troops to get bloody on the ground.

Anyone who truly cares about the wellbeing of fat people cannot possibly feel the need to wage war on fat.  That level of aggression and loathing negates any care that may have once been there.  There is never any care or compassion from someone who enacts violence on another.  It is no different in its effect on us than the open hate and bigotry we receive from the likes of bullies and trolls.  It is all trauma enacted on us.

Look at what happens to fat people when they are given compassion, care and support by those who truly want to help in our wellbeing.  When we are taught to value our bodies, and treat them with kindness and compassion, suddenly our quality of life gets vastly better.  When we find supportive doctors, our health gets better.  If we need help with eating and nutrition, those in the field who genuinely care help us heal the damage done by diet culture and fat loathing.  When we find an environment that we can enjoy physical activity without shaming or stigma, we learn to enjoy things like dancing, swimming and other activities.  When our families and friends love us and support us as we are – we are able to heal from the trauma of shame and stigma.

When we are treated with respect and dignity, our wellbeing and quality of life improves.  Regardless of what weight we happen to be.

Because hate does not help.  Hate does not heal.

I Am NOT a Disease

Published June 19, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

One of the things about being a highly visible, deeply combative fat activist is that everyone seems to think you’re made of steel.  That you are so strong and confident, that nothing ever hurts you or makes you feel bad.  Nobody believes that you have bad days, that there are times where the fight just goes out of you and you can’t face another moment of trying to claw your way out of the hatred and stigma that surrounds fat people.

But that’s not true.  It’s not true in the slightest.  Even the most radical fatty, the most sartorially brave, the fiercest fighter, the strongest critic of the dominant paradigm around fatness struggles.  Every single one of us have those times where we just run out of oomph.

I am having one of those days today, and have been really struggling all afternoon.  You see, the American Medical Association today declared obesity as a disease despite a report from their own council on science and public health urging them not to.  According to the AMA, we fat people are no longer just people, we are diseased, defective, damaged, broken.  We are officially diseases to be cured, prevented, eradicated.  And this news has shaken me to the core.  I simply feel so defeated right now, like all the work that I and many other fat activists have done, and are doing to claw back our rights and improve our quality of life has just been taken away from us.

Rationally, I know why the AMA has made this ruling.  They’ve done so because big pharmaceutical companies, the weight loss industry and big health insurance companies, have lobbied, threatened, bullied and bribed them to do so.   Rationally I know that the reason these big corporations have done this is because it’s in their best interest financially to do so.  After all, they’re raking in HUGE amounts of money by convincing society in general that appearance = health, and that if you don’t meet the arbitrary levels of appearance that you must be sick, and surprise surprise, they have a drug, or a surgery, or a device, or a diet plan or an extra expensive health insurance plan to sell you to fix it.  The weight loss industry alone was worth almost $800 million just here in Australia.  Can you imagine what could be done for $800 million per year in this country?  We could all have completely free health care for every Australian, more than we would ever need.  People with disabilities could have all of the equipment that they would ever need, and any support and care they would ever need.  No human being in Australia would go without food, water or housing.  Education would be free for our whole lives, from kindergarten through any university studies that we would care to take on.   Medical research into every known actual disease, from the common cold to cancer could be funded fully.

All this just from the money that the diet and weight loss industry is worth in a single year, and there would be change.  In fact, if we only took their profit margin for ONE year, approximately $63 million dollars, and applied that to public funding annually – we could fund a lot of the things I’ve listed above.  And that’s just here in Australia, a country of only about 22 million people.  In the US, the weight loss industry is worth 66 BILLION DOLLARS.  Let alone the cumulative value of the rest of the world’s weight loss industries.

There is NO WAY ON EARTH that the weight loss industry is not behind this ruling from the AMA.  They have $66 billion dollars worth of power per annum in the US alone.  $66 billion dollars they can spend on lobbying, propaganda, graft, legal threats to anyone who opposes them, you name it to make sure the ruling falls the way they want it to.

Rationally I know this.  I know the facts.  I’ve done years of my own research into this because what I was being told about my fat body wasn’t matching up to reality.

But despite that knowledge… I feel so defeated today.  I feel so disheartened.  I feel so cheated.  I feel like I’m being marked as inferior, defective, broken.  Simply because my body happens to fall on the far end of a bell curve of diverse human bodies.  Simply because my body doesn’t fall in the small peak of the bell curve, the median of human bodies, a tiny arbitrary band of people who are granted the “normal” status just because they’re in the middle statistically.

But being at one end of the statistics doesn’t reflect who I am.  It doesn’t reflect how I feel.  It doesn’t reflect what my body can do.  It doesn’t reflect my value as a human being.  The AMA doesn’t know what it feels like to exist in my fat body.  They don’t know what it’s like in my body to wake up after a deep sleep, stretch and feel that stretch go down to my toes and up to my outstretched fingertips.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to go swimming, feeling the cool water soft and cocooning around my body, and the wonderful sleepy feeling I get afterwards.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to walk along the waterfront near my house on a windy but crystal clear winters day, with the sun warming my back as the wind nips my nose and fingertips.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to laugh with my friends, my belly rocking, tears rolling down my face and my ribs hurting from giggling so hard.  They don’t know anything about what it feels like in my body.  All they know is that I am at the far end of a bell curve, and that someone out there can make money from making me hate myself and by encouraging society to hate me, and to repeatedly attempt to move myself to another point on the statistical bell curve, something we scientifically know fails for 95% of all attempts.  And with that they have marked me, and people like me, as diseased, defective, broken.

The only time I feel diseased, defective, broken is when society repeatedly pushes me down because of how I look and what numbers show up on a scale when I step on it.  I don’t feel those things unless I am taught to feel them.  Not even when I actually suffer illness or injury.

How is simply declaring me as diseased based on statistics, and despite how I feel or the quality of my life, good for my health?

How is that good for anyone’s health?

The inimitable Marilyn Wann has started a petition against this AMA ruling here.  Please sign.

*Edited because the figures I got from a study were incorrect – not that they change anything.  Let’s try to not kick me while I’m fucking down, OK?

We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Published November 28, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here.  There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky.  I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.

It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.  In those years, my life has radically changed.  I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago.  I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”.  I no longer apologise for being the size I am.  I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat.  And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.

I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather.  That astonished me.  Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered?  There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup.  Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door.  If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free.  On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.

As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in.  No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water.  Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.

I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour.  I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen.  I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement.  Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.

Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt.  From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours.  I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly.  I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses.  I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it.  Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses.  When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs.  Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.

In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear.  Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.  I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating.  Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake.  I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate.  I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy.  I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.

When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body.  My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall.  The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body.  Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life.  I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life.  I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits.  They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body.  Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples.  I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.

This is the first phase of fat liberation for me.  I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave.  My choices are mine.  My body is mine.  My life is mine.  I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

I wish that for each and every one of you.

Busting Myths About Fat Bodies

Published September 17, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve been thinking a lot about the assumptions people make about living in a fat body.  It’s important to say living IN a fat body and not living WITH a fat body, because we don’t cohabit with our fat bodies, we inhabit them.  These thoughts have been spurred on by repeated statements I’ve read from people decrying how we must be so miserable, uncomfortable and in pain simply because we have fat bodies, that we are so unhealthy simply by having fat bodies, that our quality of life must be just terrible.

I want to break some of those erroneous assumptions about living in a fat body down.  I want to talk about how it feels to live in a fat body.  Of course, there will always be a certain subset of the population who will tell us that we are in denial, that we are lying or that we have no idea what it feels like to live in our own bodies.  They’re dickheads, and I don’t care what they think.  But I want to talk to you, fellow fats, about thinking about how you feel in your fat body,

Now I can only talk about how it feels in MY fat body, because this is the only body I have lived in.  How I feel in my fat body is influenced by my being a woman, by my whiteness, my cis-genderedness, my able-bodiedness, my heterosexualness and so on.  I don’t speak for anyone else’s body, but if I talk about how I feel in mine, I’m sure it will ring true for many other fatties and then you are all welcome to share your own perspectives in the comments (remembering the golden rules of this blog – no promoting weight loss, no general negativities about fat bodies and check your privilege).

So, what are a few of the commonly held assumptions about living in a fat body?  I’ll come up with the ones I can think of, and you’re welcome to add more in the comments for me to touch on in another post.  So here we go:

  1. In every fat body, there is a thin person trying to get out.

    No, no there’s not.  In every fat body there is a human being trying to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.  Many fat people will confuse this with a thin person, because thin people are usually awarded the privilege to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.  So they try to become thin to get that respect, dignity and peace, rather than demanding something that is already theirs as a human right.  Mostly because we’re led to believe that thinness is something that can be achieved, that it’s something within our control.  Attempting to become thin won’t solve the problem of fat stigma, but ending fat stigma certainly will.

  2. Having a fat body is like carrying around a 2o/50/100/whatever lb/kg sack of potatoes/dirt/lard whatever.

    Wait, the average adult skeletal structure weighs about 20lbs right?  So is having a skeleton like carrying around a 2olb weight?  No it’s not.  Fat bodies are not attached to us, like some kind of extra luggage – they ARE us.  Our whole bodies hold ourselves up – bones, muscle, organs, skin, fat, everything – it’s all part of a complex machine that propels us around our lives.  If you hand me 50lbs, I’m going to feel it’s weight, because it is not part of me.  But 50lbs of my own body weight (or whatever number you choose) is part of me, and it has it’s own function in my body.  The only time I’ve felt like I’m carrying a burden is when I believed I was worthless because I was fat.  That wasn’t the physical weight of my body, it was the weight of stigma.

  3. Fat bodies feel sloppy and gross.

    My fat body is soft and warm, thick and both firm and pliant.  There is a full firmness to my body, but at the same time, it gives and moves as I move and people or objects move against me.  To hug my body is to receive a hug of substance, or as a friend of mine’s toddler calls it, snugglehugs.  My ex used to refer to cuddling me as being “bosomy”.   My body is pleasant and anything but “gross”.

  4. Fat bodies are “weighed down” by gravity and it makes them unable to move properly.

    If this were true, none of us would be able to stand upright or move.  If there was some kind of pound by pound ratio to how gravity pulls a creature down… how do you explain elephants being able to walk and run?  Or something heavy but thin, like… a giraffe!  Giraffes weigh over 3000lbs.   Maybe it IS true and fat people have super-human strength.  I can jump, ride a bike, climb a ladder… I must be Super Fatty.

  5. Fat bodies are always in pain from carrying around extra weight.

    No.  I am very fat and I feel no pain except when I do something stupid, like lifting stuff at work with my back and not my legs, or kicking at a ball of paper and missing, giving myself that awful over-extended kneecap pain thing. (Yeah I know, I’ll cop to being fairly unco-ordinated!)  I don’t suffer back pain, but I have a friend who is half my weight and he has suffered back pain since his mid-20’s.  Fat people who are in pain usually suffer pain because they have an illness or an injury, just like thin people who suffer pain.  Nobody bats an eye at some thin guy with a bad back, he’s just unfortunate, but if a fatty complains of any type of ache, oh it’s because you’re a big fat lardy arse.  All of us will suffer illness or injury at some point in our lives, it’s part of living, and part of getting older.  People of all sizes deal with back pain, sore hips, knees and ankles.  (Another friend of mine is TINY and has the dodgiest hips I’ve ever encountered – she’s always sore.)  As I get older, I am less flexible and take a bit longer to heal an injury than I did in my youth, but who doesn’t?

  6. Fat people just sit around eating all the time.

    God I wish!  I’d love to be able to stop still a bit more.  But between work, socialising, my activism, and generally just living my life, I’m on the go most of the time.  I’d love more time to sit and read, or catch up on the growing mountain of DVD’s beside my computer, or just snooze on my balcony.  I have lived in my new home for over 4 months and I’m yet to have spent time sitting on my balcony reading, something I LONG to do.  Most fatties I know (and I know a lot of fatties these days) are equally busy.  After all, try organising a get together for fatties – I can never get us all in the one place at the same time.  As for the eating all the time – it has been proven that fat people eat no more than thin people.  We are not just stomachs with mouths – despite the mass media portraying us that way.

  7. Fat must be burnt off the body.

    This one bothers me the most.  My fat flesh is not something to be burned or cut off of my body, as though it is a parasite or an infection.  It IS my body.  It is part of who I am.  It is as much part of me as my brain, my heart, my bones, my eyes.  It is not excess.  There is exactly as much of me as there needs to be.

These are just a few of the assumptions about fat people that I’ve been thinking about lately.  So what myth about fatness bothers you?  What myth are you carrying around that you could let go of?

2012: The Year of Living Fatly

Published January 2, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I see them as the perfect way to set oneself up for disappointment.  After all, if you really want to do something, setting a New Year’s resolution isn’t going to be enough to push you to do it.  When we really want to do something, like eat healthier or save money or quit smoking, we just up and do it.  Using the beginning of a new calendar year really doesn’t work.  Not to mention that New Year’s resolutions always seem to be about changing oneself to meet other people’s standards.  Whether it’s dieting or the gym or giving up something… seldom do people really make those resolutions for themselves.  They make them because they feel they should, or that they have to change themselves to conform to what other people want them to be.

However, after stumbling across some douchecanoe on Twitter whining about being offended by seeing “fat, lazy people”, I’ve decided that I have a goal for 2012.  Are you ready for it?

Here it is…

I am going to be willfully fat this year.  Offensively, obnoxiously fat.  All over the damn place.  In fact, I’m fatting at all of you right now.

I’m so fucking sick of people being all offended at fatness.  I am sick of people expecting fat people to hide themselves away out of public sight, never being seen at the shops, at the gym, in the workplace, on the street.  I’ve had enough of people complaining that they saw someone’s fat arse, arms, belly, thighs, whatever.  I’m tired of being told that fat people should cover our bodies, wear dark, minimising, flattering clothing.  That we shouldn’t be seen in leggings, tights, sleeveless tops, short shirts, tight jeans, swimsuits and short skirts.  I’m sick of fat people being told they should starve themselves, never eat.  I’m royally fucking fed up with being expected to hide myself away like I’m something to be ashamed of.  I’m over being hated simply because I exist in a fat body.

Yet of course, we’re also told that we don’t get out and exercise enough, that we don’t do anything but sit at home and eat.

What do you fucking want fat loathers?  Seriously, we’re either out in public being our fat selves, or we’re at home where you can’t see us.  You can’t have both!

So here’s my 12 step plan for my year of living fatly – it shouldn’t be too hard, I’ve been living fatly now for over 25 years.

  1. Be fat in public.
  2. Live while fat.
  3. Work while fat.
  4. Dress fashionably fat.
  5. Be fat in the company of my friends.
  6. Ride my bike while fat.
  7. Swim while fat – in a swimsuit, yikes!
  8. Expose my fat arms, fat thighs, fat belly and fat arse in public.
  9. Laugh and have fun while being fat.
  10. Celebrate other fab fatties.
  11. Eat in public while being fat.
  12. Unashamedly love myself while being unashamedly fat.

It’s so hard for society at large to believe that fat people have lives, loves, careers, hobbies, passions, style, intelligence, humour and value that I’m going to live my whole life doing all those things, having all those things, while being fat.  Not to prove to society at large that we do have those things, but to be someone that other fat people can see and hear.  To be a visible fat person breaking the mold.

But most of all, because none of us, not you, not me, not anyone, has to live their lives surreptitiously for fear of offending someone’s delicate sensibilities with our fatness.  No more furtiveness about living life.  It’s there to be lived, and I’m going to be fatting all over it.

Being Fat in an Ikea Show Room (yeah, I wear that top a lot!)

The Gift of Our Stories

Published December 14, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Up until a few years ago, I thought I was the most worthless creature on the planet.

I believed that I had no right to speak, have an opinion, share my beliefs, ask questions, or  talk to people without a being prompted directly.  Even then, I often held back, or made jokes about the situation, rather than actually sharing my thoughts or feelings.  I was full of guilt and shame.

But then I found fat acceptance.

I don’t remember exactly where I first encountered the concept, but I guess someone shared a link on Twitter or Facebook, and something piqued my interest, and I had a look.

Fat acceptance opened up a whole new world for me.  It changed my life so much that I can’t express fully just where I was and where I am now.

Where I am now, literally now, as I type this, is sitting in one of my favourite blogging spots, a little tabled area not far from my office, writing this blog post on a laptop as I’m photographed and filmed by a couple of academics as part of a documentation project about fat embodiment and activism.

When I look up, this is what I see. Lauren and Isaac.

Me.  Being photographed.  There are moments that I still can’t believe that I’m allowing the above to happen, not just allowing it but feel relaxed about it and even enjoying it.  I have a gap of about 20 – 25 years where there are only a handful photographs of me in existence.  More years I think, I’m not really sure.  I destroyed most of the photographs that were taken, simply out of self loathing.  I’ve had more photographs taken of me in the last 25 minutes than I did in that 25 years.  In the past few months, literally hundreds of photographs.

We found some photographs at work recently from 2003, and many people wouldn’t believe that the woman in those photos was me.  My self loathing is actually visible in most of them, even if I’m smiling on the surface.

It’s a massive shift in my paradigm.  To just allow someone to photograph me and relax (well mostly!) while they do so is so radically different to where I was years ago.

That’s fat acceptance and fat activism that has led me to that place.

An aside… it’s weird.  Every now and then a giant lens appears over my shoulder like a shark swimming into view.  I keep expecting to hear that music from Jaws, you know the bit with the cello?  It’s also kind of funny to have someone seeing my writing as I do it – normally it’s only seen by someone else when I have given it a tidy up and clicked on “publish”, not while it’s flowing out of my brain, through my fingers and onto the screen.  It’s a challenging exercise in the writing process.

Giving Isaac a taste of his own medicine!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand, fat activism has brought so much to my life and radically change how I think about myself.  From a girl/young woman who received the dual message of “It’s lucky you’re smart, cos you’re not much to look at.” and “You shouldn’t get too big for your boots girlie.” to a 39 year old woman who has the confidence to allow people to document her life, and to share it with the world.

Telling my story is really important to me.  I think the most powerful thing about fat activism is the empowerment it gives to people to tell their stories.  Not to mention to hear stories of other fat people, which we simply don’t get in the mainstream.  Fat people in the mainstream are  one dimensional parodies – the sassy fat sidekick, the angry fat bully, the sad fat loner sitting at home in front of the television shoving food in their face.  We’re not seen in the mainstream as everyday people, with multi-faceted personalities.  We’re not seen as having jobs and careers, families and friends, hobbies and interests, passions and convictions.  Part of the power of being a fat activist is putting a representation of a real person, with all of those things, out in the world for other people to witness.  Both our fellow fatties, who often feel alone and isolated by the mainstream representation of fatness, and to non-fat people, who are sold this view of us that is not real.

Storytelling is a powerful, powerful thing.  Religions grow from it.  History is determined by who gets to tell their story and which of those stories is documented – which is how privilege is born.  That’s what marginalisation is – the silencing of people’s stories.

Fat activism not only allows me to tell my story and document my own history, but it also allows me to create a place for you to tell your stories, and to encourage you to create your own spaces to tell your stories.

And sometimes, if you’re really, really lucky like I am, you get other people who want to tell your story as well.

I’m having a lot of lightbulb moments while I work on this project.  I’m thinking about a lot of new things and learning a lot about myself.  From personal stuff – my own identity and embodiment – to the broader perspective of what it means to be telling the stories of fat people in general.  It’s become this strange meta process – the more immersed I get into a project about fat embodiment, the more I find myself defining my own identity and what I embody.

As I just said to Lauren, one of the best things about the internet is that we all have the power to document our stories and share them with the world, and to possibly have those stories heard by others, who then weave them into their own stories.  My story becomes entangled with yours, which then becomes entangled with the people in your life, and so on.

So thank you, dear Heffalumpies, for entangling your stories with mine.  That enriches my life far more than you can know.

Flaunting Our Fat

Published October 30, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

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

Charming huh?

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

But I have a proposal for you all.

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

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

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

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

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

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