size acceptance

All posts in the size acceptance category

What is Fat Heffalump All About?

Published June 25, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Well… how do I follow on from that last post?  It is the most viewed, most commented on and most widely shared post I’ve written in the history of Fat Heffalump.  I’m both gobsmacked and thrilled.

Firstly, let me welcome all of the new readers who have come along thanks to that post.  Just a little bit of housekeeping – there is a comments policy, probably a good idea to go take a look at it, just so we’re all clear.  It’s there to protect you as much as it is to protect me.  But I am thrilled to see so many new faces popping up here, and for those of you lurking, please feel safe to comment and say hello.

I think I’m going to give you a few resources today, because I know quite a few of the new folks who have popped up here since my last post are new to fat acceptance (also known as size or body acceptance, because it really does encompass all body sizes – I simply focus on fat acceptance because I am fat myself.)  I would also like to invite the more seasoned Fat Heffalump readers to leave their favourite resources (and their own blogs in fact) in the comments for our new readers too.

Where shall we start?  I guess the basic premise of fat acceptance is that all bodies, be they fat, thin or in between, deserve to be able to live their lives with dignity and respect, and without being singled out as “abnormal”.  Even the “unhealthy” ones, I use quotation marks because really, health is totally subjective and can’t really be measured by anyone but the individual themselves.  To share a lovely quote I saw on Hanne Blank’s post about “real” women today, from the fabulous Mr. Glenn Marla:

There is no wrong way to have a body.

That’s what it boils down to at it’s very core.  Of course there are a lot of other complex subjects within that, and fat acceptance does intersect with all other social justice movements.  That’s a really important thing to understand – that when we talk about our own rights, and the marginalisation of ourselves as people with fat bodies, that it intersects with all other marginalised people and their rights.  Marianne from The Rotund has a very good post about intersectionality that also explains why we don’t go down the road of saying “Fat hatred is the last acceptable prejudice.”  Cos you know, it’s not.

There is a lot of work around basic human rights, and taking it up in one place does benefit all, so long as you acknowledge and work with that intersectionality.  As well as benefiting oneself, it benefits the world.

For me personally, the reason that fat acceptance is so important to me is about self esteem.  I come from a place where I had absolutely no self esteem.  I thought I was the most worthless human being on the planet simply because I was fat.  Then I found fat acceptance, and a world opened right up for me.  I started to believe that I was worthy of simple things, like adequate medical care and help for my depression and non-existent self esteem.  I started to believe that I had a right to live my life happy and abundant, and without being discriminated against or vilified for my body.  I began to believe that I was worth taking care of myself.  From there, I’ve grown so much and my life has opened up in so many ways.

I really do believe, that with strong self esteem, a person’s world is always made better, no matter their circumstances.  It’s such a difficult thing to cultivate, but the benefits of it are incredible.

So I want to give back where I benefited from.  I want to help other people find strong sense of self esteem, to find their confidence and point them in the direction of  all the amazing things I found through fat acceptance.

And what resources did I find that brought me to the world of fat acceptance?

Well, I think the first was the very Awesome Frances of Hey Fat Chick!/Corpulent.  Hey Fat Chick! was so revolutionary to me, to see bodies that looked like mine portrayed as beautiful and happy and strong.  There was the aforementioned Marianne Kirby with her blog The Rotund and the book she co-wrote with Kate Harding, Screw Inner Beauty (known as Lessons from the Fatosphere in other parts of the world).  There was the most wonderful Marilyn Wann and her book Fat! So?

Close to home, there is Bri King from Fat Lot of Good and Elizabeth from Spilt Milk.

Some of my current favourites that regularly get me thinking, blow my world open and inspire me are Lesley Kinzel from Two Whole Cakes, Ragen Chastain from Dances with Fat, Sarah from Not Blue at All and Elizabeth Tamny from The Extender.

Another aspect of fat acceptance you might like to get into is fatshion.  That’s fat fashion!  My lovely friends Nicole of A Well Rounded Venture and Anna of Bargain Fatshionista are a good place to start.  But others I love are Cupcakes Clothing, Pocket Rocket Fashion and we can’t forget the fabulous Bloomie of 30 Dresses in 30 Days.

Oh, and if you want to hear from the fellas, you can’t go past Brian at Red No. 3 and the amazing big dude fashion resource, Chubstr.

This is just a small selection of the amazing work that is being done out there by some really incredible people.  But it will get you started and I’m sure bring you some amazing information, ideas and perspectives.

I regularly post links on my @fatheffalump twitter and the Fat Heffalump Facebook page to articles and information that interests me as well, so feel free to follow there!

Again, welcome to all of the new people who have popped up as readers here at Fat Heffalump recently, and if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.

It’s Not The End of the Road: Or Why I Still Promote Fat Talk Free Week Among My Friends

Published October 22, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Yes, I know Fat Talk Free week is problematic.  Yes I know that it’s really aimed at and practiced by thin, affluent, young, white women and that it’s likely that it often leads to the suppression of real talk about fatness, fat acceptance and body positivity.  But I still promote it amongst my general circle.

Why?  Because not everyone is on the same page of the body acceptance book.  It would be fan-bloody-tastic if everyone was well entrenched and able to recognise that while it has useful elements, it also has problematic ones, and we need to keep those in check and question them as we go along.  But people are not like that, generally speaking.  Every day, I hear, read and see people around me who loathe their own bodies or those of others, are afraid of bodies that are different to theirs, who indulge in diet talk and fat talk, that are so deeply entrenched in the cultural norm of body loathing and fear that the concepts of acceptance and positivity that are so important to me, sound so radical, so unheard of, so “out there” to them.

I want them to leave that place of body loathing and fear, but as much as I push, and push, and push, they have to want to move to that way of thinking.  I can’t force other people to change, but I can encourage them to think.

Just as an example, I have a much beloved friend, who, no matter how many times I tell him that it is perfectly acceptable to refer to me as fat, can’t, or won’t, do so without following it through with “blow softening” superlatives.  Fat is just such a dirty word in our culture that so many people are deeply, deeply resistant to ever seeing it as anything other than a vicious insult.  It would be fantastic to wave a magic wand and change that, but it doesn’t work like that.

So while I do endeavour to introduce the people around me to as many clear messages about fat acceptance and body positivity, sometimes it’s just not getting through at full blast, and instead, I have to think of other ways to present the message.

Since I started practicing fat acceptance, I’ve watched the people around me slowly change their thinking around the word fat.  I’ve seen people who were very judgemental about other people’s bodies, their taste or dress sense, and their looks re-think their attitudes towards the judgement of others.  Admittedly, not everyone around me is doing so, some are absolutely resistant to the idea, but most of the people who care about me truly are listening to what I have to say and thinking about how their attitudes, words and deeds affect others.

Fat Talk Free week isn’t what I would recommend to most people who are open to learning about fat acceptance.  But to those people who are outside of the fatosphere, even that is a radical concept.  If I can get them thinking twice about that comment about the size of their butt, or calling some fat person on the telly “gross”, or judging others about what they wear, then I’ve achieved something.  If I can get folks changing the subject away from diet talk at the work lunch table, or think twice about a comment that they might pass on someone’s body in front of their children, then there has been some value to making them aware of Fat Talk Free week.

I consider it a stepping stone on the journey to body positivity.  Never the destination, but a step closer to where we need to go.

It Works Both Ways

Published July 20, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

This morning while reading tweets on the bus on the way to work, I spotted this tweet from the @PostSecret, which led me to this article from the Huffington Post.

One thing I think we have a bit of a duty to do as Fat Acceptance activists is challenge when negative language and connotations are put on to thin bodies as well as fat ones.  In the case of both the tweet from @PostSecret, and the article from the Huffington Post, while I agree we need to be questioning the body image messages sent out by these very thin mannequins, I don’t think it’s fair to refer to them as either anorexic or emaciated.  Both words imply that being very thin is by default unhealthy – and as voices calling out for positive body image for ALL bodies, I feel it’s important that we challenge these implications as well as those that suggest fat bodies are unhealthy.

In the long run, it benefits all of us, regardless of what size or shape we are.

It is important that people know that very thin does not by default equal either anorexic or emaciated.  The definition of anorexic is a person who suffers anorexia nervosa.  Not all thin people suffer anorexia nervosa.  Not all people who suffer anorexia nervos are in fact, very thin.  Likewise, the definition of emaciated is “wasted away”.  Again, not all very thin people are wasted away – or in any way unhealthy.  Instead, people who are on the extreme end of thinness can have many reasons for being so. Yes, from ill health or eating disorder, but also because they are just naturally built that way.  Like fat people, thin people have many factors in determining the shape and size of their body, from genetics, environment, to diet and activity levels.  That’s the thing about bodies, you cannot tell very much about them at all just by looking at them.

When we challenge people about the language around fat bodies, we also need to be mindful of our own language when referring to thin bodies, especially those on the very thin end of the spectrum.  For example, that old chestnut “real women have curves”.  As I’ve said before on this blog, all women are real, unless they are robots created by an evil genius, or perhaps figments of our imagination.  A woman who is thin and angular is just as much a woman as one who is fat and curvaceous.  Plus, who’s to say that fat bodies are necessarily “curvy”.  I have curvy bits on my very fat body, but some parts are pretty damn boxy too!

It’s important that we do not define womanhood by any one type of body, any one shape or size or set of measurements.  Womanhood is inclusive of all of us, not exclusive to some.

There are of course plenty of other examples.  We can’t suggest that thin people “eat a sandwich” any more than thin folk can suggest we “put down the cheeseburger”.  We can’t assume that thin people don’t have body issues because they don’t have the pressure to lose weight like we do.  We can’t assume that thin bodies are thin because they are physically active and eat less than those of us with fat bodies.

This doesn’t mean that the privilege of thinness goes unacknowledged, we all know that there are plenty of things that people with thin bodies can take for granted that those of us with fat bodies do not have the luxury of, but it does acknowledge that nobody should be judged because of their body size and shape, even those with bodies that are considered the social “norm”.

What I guess is the important message is, that if we want the world to change their attitude towards fat bodies, we need to lead by example when talking about any bodies, and squash any generalisations and negative judgements on bodies when talking about ANY bodies.
Besides, as I think it was Lesley over at Fatshionista recently said – all living things have curves, that’s what distinguishes the animal and plant from the mineral.

One type of body is not better than the other.

It’s not either/or in this situation.

It is ALL.

My Letter to Mia Freedman

Published May 10, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well, it has happened again, Mia Freedman has posted yet another entry to her blog that is pointing out the extremes of body behaviour, in this case extreme eating/weight and erroneously suggests that it is “encouraging obesity”.

It deeply concerns me that Mia, as a representative of The Butterfly Foundation, an eating disorder support foundation, seems to think it’s ok to post these kind of pieces, from what I see as an “OMG LOOK WHAT THE FATTY MCFATTERSONS ARE DOING NOW!” when it is merely an example of the most extreme, unusual behaviour around fatness and extreme eating.

This one was one I needed to comment on, so I left her a letter in her comments, which I will share for you here:

Mia it’s interesting that you keep saying that you only post what you find interesting. Because I keep noticing a trend of posting the very extreme stories around fat bodies, or people punishing/shaming fat folks, or thinly veiled “advice” on how you think “the war on obesity” should be fought.

Are you or are you not involved with The Butterfly Foundation? Do you not have a responsibility to take a moderate, balanced, understanding view of body image? Do you not have a duty of care thanks to your involvement with The Butterfly Foundation to present a body positive perspective?

Every time you make a post regarding body image about the fat end of the scale, it looks very much a “Point and stare” kind of OMG LOOK AT WHAT THE FATTY MCFATTERSONS ARE DOING! post.

You suggest that the feeders (a very rare breed of fat person indeed) “encourage obesity”, but how many people read about say the woman above, and actually want to rush out and get fat? How is someone with either a very rare fetish or a serious eating disorder encouraging others to follow her example? I haven’t seen anywhere that she talks about anyone else getting extremely fat other than herself… so why the “encouraging obesity” tack?

Why? Perhaps because you want to skew the public view to think that anyone who is fat and doesn’t diet or is about fat acceptance is trying to convert the whole world to fat. Or at least cast a very negative light on fat people.

You are in a highly visible position and are a representative of an organisation that is about positive body image. In fact on it’s website front page there is a headline “Your Beauty and Worth Cannot Be Measured”. Therefore you have a responsibility to share a balanced, moderate, positive approach to body image, and not just highlight the very extremes of behaviours around body shape and size. Dieting yourself fatter, skinny girls are liars, plastic surgery to prevent eating disorders, weigh ins for kids… all such extreme examples of bad body image that you seem to love to highlight.

Instead of marginalising bodies that our outside of the “normal” range, how about posting some interesting pieces on encouraging activity because it is fun, or positive stories about women who have achieved something amazing despite the shape and size of their body, or their eating disorders.

Or is that not “interesting” enough for you?

*Update* I do need to correct something I misunderstood. Mia is not a direct representative of The Butterfly Foundation but she is Chair of the National Body Image Taskforce convened by Minister Kate Ellis (on which Butterfly sit too). But my point is still the same.

Coming Out of the Fat Acceptance Closet

Published May 8, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well, it’s been an interesting week.  The big news of course for me is that my submission for the Australian Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue conference has been accepted and I’ve been invited to give a presentation at the conference in Sydney in September.  Not only am I honoured to be invited, but I’m also thrilled that as far as I know, this is the first time that fat people have been asked to participate in the discussion with academia.  Normally folks talk about us, not with us, you know?

One of the things I’m having to come to terms with is coming out of the closet so to speak as a fat acceptance blogger/activist in my day to day life.  Mostly at work I don’t talk about fat acceptance or the stuff that I do as an activist in the cause.  This isn’t because I’m ashamed of it or embarrassed by it – but simply because I’m mostly too busy at, and there is an element of “this is my workplace, I can’t piss people off here”.  And I know that my passion for fat acceptance over-rides my tact sometimes, so I kind of just take that hat off at work a wee bit.

However, with my absolute beside myself excitement over the Fat Studies conference, and a few other things lately, I’ve found myself quite proudly wearing that fat acceptance hat all the time.  It’s such a fabulous hat, you know?  I don’t want to leave it at home.

In response to my talking about fat acceptance amongst friends and colleagues, a few times someone has said to me “You are so brave to put yourself out there.”  I’ve felt a little uncomfortable with that, because I don’t feel brave or anything.  But then I was listening to the Two Whole Cakes Fatcasts that Marianne Kirby and Leslie Kinzel are doing at the moment, and I found myself thinking “They’re so brave.”

And they are.  So am I for that matter.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there on the subject of fat, simply because there is so much loathing, fear and hostility around it.  But I don’t do it to be brave, and while I can’t speak for Marianne and Leslie, it seems neither do they.  I think we do it because it’s the right thing to do, and because we want to make a difference.  Ladies, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Something Leslie said in the first fatcast really stuck with me.  Forgive me as I’ve paraphrased it, but basically “every time a fat woman gets out of bed, gets dressed and leaves the house she’s being an activist”.  It’s bloody true!!

Fat women are supposed to be apologetic for existing.  We’re supposed to be invisible, demure, quiet, ashamed and embarrassed.  We’re supposed to dress in shapeless, dark colours, apologise for taking up space in the world, shrink down (both figuratively and literally), pay more for everything (clothes, seats on airplanes, underwear, health care, you name it), to make excuses for ourselves, to be invisible.

So when we’re not invisible, when we talk about being fat, when we accept ourselves for who we are, as we are, when we live life to the full, bold and brilliant, when we are outspoken or confident, when we choose to clothe ourselves in things that make ourselves noticeable, we’re even more of an activist than just existing.

It isn’t easy.  Not only are you dealing with your own demons, a lifetime of fat hate heaped on you that you have to battle to re-claim your self esteem and confidence, but you’re scrutinised and inspected to the nth degree, just in case you make a mistake, or have an error in something you say, or are misinformed.

You’re also dealing with a whole lot of hatred in the form of the trolls you get on your blogs and anywhere else you’re active.  Some fatosphere bloggers don’t have much problem with it, but some of us get hammered every day by some douchebag who posts comments spewing their narrow minded hate.  Even when you have a good platform to deal with them, and get rid of them individually pretty quickly, there is another to take their place.  Why on earth anyone would want to waste their time on trolling blogs I’ve never understood, but one has to have a strong self esteem to deal with these morons.

But we keep going.  We keep blogging, talking about fat acceptance, feminism and body politics.  We keep doing it because it’s important to us.  A quote I love (and that I can’t work out who said it originally, sometimes the internets make it harder to find information than easier) and that sums up the whole shebang for me:

Courage is not the absence of fear but the awareness that something else is more important than fear.

I’ll talk more about the results of my coming out of the fat acceptance closet as time goes by and I find out how more and more people in my life react to it.

Are you active about fat acceptance in your day to day life?  How do your family, colleagues, friends etc respond to your fat acceptance activisim/beliefs?

Just a Quickie: Two Whole Cakes Fatcast

Published May 4, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Haven’t got a lot of blog time tonight, but I really, really wanted to share something with you all.

Marianne Kirby of The Rotund and Leslie Kinzel of Fatshionista have got together and started podcasting with Two Whole Cakes: Fatcast.

I have listened to the first two so far and can highly recommend them for those of you within the fatosphere and those of you who want to know more about the fatosphere and fat acceptance, be you a Fatty McFatterson yourself or not.

Marianne and Leslie get right down into it quick sticks, and talk about the politics of fat acceptance, their experiences and their thoughts on where the movement is going and in fact has been.  But they do so with bucketloads of fun, good grace and humour.  I have discovered that I can’t listen to the podcasts on the bus because people stare at the giggling fat lady!  Yet I also found myself nodding along in agreement and a few lightbulbs going off as the ladies articulate things I have been unable to.

If you follow this link, you will be able to download the podcasts or subscribe via iTunes, and can see the notes and links the ladies have mentioned in the podcasts as well.

Well, what are you waiting for?

Fuck You

Published February 23, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I was just going to post a quick video tonight because I’ve not been well for a couple of days (just a stupid head cold, somebody breathed their germs on me) but I came across this little bit of insanity and just had to share it.

It’s a blog post on a website called Pure Fashion for Plus SizeWomen

Let’s hit you up with the link so you can go and have a look:

Non Slimming Fashion: Bold but not so Beautiful

Ok, now you can take a few deep breaths, pick your jaw up off the ground and give yourself a good mental shake.

Can you believe it?

This is a blog that is supposed to be body positive, and all it does is post a whole pile of fat hatred, spouting how fatties should be dressing “slimming” and “flattering” and actually shames a whole bunch if innocent fatshionistas that they actually STOLE the photographs from.  You heard it right – none of the women in the photographs listed as what fatties shouldn’t do in the name of fashion were asked permission to publish their photographs.  Well, none that have come forward anyway, but I’m pretty sure it’s a safe bet.  Not to mention that they’ve used photographs from various other catalogues and sites and there seems to be no permission on those either.

Yeah – fat women should be in black or navy shapeless sacks, hiding ourselves from the world because you don’t like seeing fat bodies.  Fuck you, I say.

It would be good if you all left a comment over there stating just how wrong this kind of post is, and if any of your photos are on there, demand that they take them down and publish an apology (and know that you look fabulous, no matter what those douchebags say).

Hiding My Sins

Published February 3, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’m wearing a new dress today.  It’s a really lovely maxi dress in a black and white print that I picked up on mega special (80% off original price I think) at Big W last Friday.  I’m also wearing a little black crochet shrug/bolero thing over it, just because the dress is a little cleavagey, and that wouldn’t be very appropriate for my workplace.

This morning, a colleague complimented me on my dress, and then said “Good idea wearing the shrug over your arms, they hide a multitude of sins.”  Now I don’t know about you, but I felt that the compliment was nice until that moment.  Because I wasn’t wearing the shrug to hide my arms or my sins.  I have no problem baring my arms, even though they are yes, shock, horror… fat.  Very fat.

Why is it that fat people, in particular, fat women, are supposed to hide their bodies away, or obey long lists of rules about how they dress?  And furthermore, why is it acceptable for people to hand fat people a compliment, and then take it away by suggesting that their outfit makes them look slimmer than they are, or hides their “sins”?  Why does “flattering” always mean “slimming”?

You know all the rules.  Fat people:

  • Shouldn’t wear stripes, especially horizontal ones.
  • Should cover their bodies.
  • Shouldn’t wear skinny jeans.
  • Should cover their arms.
  • Shouldn’t wear anything too fitting.
  • Shouldn’t wear anything too loose.
  • Shouldn’t show their tummies.
  • Should wear muted colours.
  • Should NEVER wear bright colours.
  • Should wear big prints.
  • Should wear small prints.
  • Shouldn’t wear ruffles.
  • Shouldn’t wear pastels.
  • Shouldn’t wear different colours on the top and bottom of their bodies.
  • Should flatten their tummies, thighs and butts with control top tights or spanx or some other kind of heavily elasticated undergarment.
  • Shouldn’t be tanned.
  • Shouldn’t be pale.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, BLAH!!

Notice how many contradictions are up there in that list?  Yes, for every time you’re told one thing to do as a fat person when it comes to dressing, someone else is lining up to tell you the exact opposite.

Well here’s the thing.  This is my body.  My body isn’t slim, or the same shape as everyone else’s body.  It’s big and fat and lumpy and has a HUGE tummy that I couldn’t hide even if I parked myself behind a screen all day.  But it’s a healthy body that works and is beautiful in it’s own unique way, and that I have to clothe in a way that is a) appropriate for the venue that I am in and b) a way that makes me feel good and expresses my personality.  I DO NOT have to hide it, apologise for it, atone for it’s “sins”, disguise it, or be ashamed of it.  My body is not sinful because it is fat.  Fat does not have any connections to morals.  It’s just fat, not Satan.

I wear clothes that I like, that when I put them on, make me feel good, and express the mood I’m in and my personality.  I love bold prints and bright, rich colours, bare arms, dipping cleavage, soft, drapey fabrics that slide over my skin, prints that are feminine and prints that are cheeky and fun, styles that are comfortable for my busy day to day lifestyle and that are durable enough to last more than one or two wearings.

Of course, I do have a responsibility to wear clothing that is appropriate for the place I am wearing it.  A bathing suit is not the right outfit for my workplace, nor is a cocktail dress the right outfit for going to the dog park.  In my workplace I have to be groomed, clean and professional.  Being fat is not unkempt, dirty or unprofessional.  It’s just the shape of my body.  It’s not ok for me to be too cleavagey or show too much leg in the workplace, that goes for everybody regardless of their body shape/size, but it IS ok for me to bare my fat arms or wear horizontal bloody stripes!

If a fat body offends someone, it is THEM that has the problem, not the owner of the fat body.  If someone is upset at a fat person wearing something that they’re perfectly ok with a slim person wearing, then yes, it is THEM that has the problem, not the people wearing the outfit.  Bodies are not public property, nor are they bound by any rules as to what shape or size they have to be or even appear to be. Yes, that means that a fat body doesn’t have to wear “slimming” or “flattering” clothes.  They can break any and all of those “rules”, because they’re rules imposed ONLY on fat people, never on slim people.

Nor do fat people have to suffer in silence over those false compliments about how clothes “make you look thin/like you’ve lost weight” or “hide your sins”.  What’s wrong with just complimenting someone with “You look great today, that’s a beautiful dress.”  I’m far more likely to wear the dress that gets that compliment again and again than one that I’m told hides my fat away.  I think next time someone tells me that an outfit I am wearing hides my sins, I’ll suggest I should take it off because “If I’m gonna sin, I want to wear it like a badge of honour!”

But I know not everyone has the ability to be as cheeky and loud-mouthed as I am.  I know it really, deeply hurts a lot of my fellow fatties out there when people say these sorts of things, and I know a lot of you agonise over what you wear because you want to avoid people saying such things.  I used to as well.  Then I realised how bloody stupid all the rules were and that I couldn’t make everyone happy no matter what I did (unless I could miraculously become thin – but even then people would talk behind my back and say I was thinking too much of myself since I lost weight and blah blah blah).  So I decided to make ME happy.  And I found my cheeky, loud-mouthed attitude, screw what anyone else thought.

Wear what you want to wear my lovelies.  Wear what makes you feel good, what you like on yourself, what expresses how you really feel.  Wear it proudly and screw what anyone else says about your bodies.  When you feel good, you look good, and you show your beauty.  Every single human being has beauty, they just need to find the right way to show it, and I believe that is by being happy, proud of yourself and holding your head high.  YOU are worth it.  Every single one of you.

Why I Blog About Being Fat

Published January 26, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I wanted to talk a little bit about why I created this blog and why I am so passionate about this subject.  Just lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is I really believe and where I fit in the whole scheme of things fat acceptance/body image wise.  Reading debates/discussions/arguments out there on other blogs has got me asking myself what is important and why I do what I do here.

Brace yourself, this might be a long one!

Just in case you haven’t read my older posts, a little background.  I was a normal sized kid, though taller than my peers, until I was 11.  However, despite my normal range weight for my height, I was always told I was fat by my family.  When puberty hit at about 11 or 12, I totally ballooned in weight.  I have been obese ever since.

I am a “superfat”.  By the old redundant BMI crap, the term is “morbidly obese”.  I’m on the larger end of the spectrum.  So I’m not just chubby or curvy or a bit plump.  I’m a big old fatty fat fat fat.

I have dieted.  Every kind you can imagine.  I have starved myself.  I have binge exercised.  I had an eating disorder for many years (swinging between starvation and purging).  I have tried every single prescription treatment that doctors could throw at me.  I have been to dietitians galore.  I have joined gyms, weight loss programmes and boot camps.  I’ve done all the commercial things like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and Lite n’ Easy.  I’ve tried substituting with shakes and soups and powders and drinks and crackers.

And after 25+ years of doing all of that, I’m still fat.  Doctors and dietitians have called me a liar, saying that I was eating more than I was telling them, and exercising less.  The truth is that I did lie to them, but to tell them I was eating ANYTHING and that I was only exercising 4 hours per day (my peak was 8 hours per day).  They wouldn’t believe that I was eating and exercising in a normal range, why would they have believed that I was starving myself and exercise bingeing?

I have been told for over 25 years that I “just need willpower”.  I’ve got willpower that could rival Jean Grey.  If willpower was all was needed, I’d be thin, as well as be able to lift cars, bend metal and make Hugh Jackman in love with me.  I’m a natural obsessive.  When I get something in my mind that I’m going to do, I’m like a fox terrier with a rat – not gonna let it go.  My willpower is so strong that I’ve been able to starve myself, make myself vomit, eat nothing but green vegetables for 4 months, exercise for up to 8 hours per day and follow every single diet I’ve ever been presented.  Don’t be talking to me about no willpower.

So I’m well versed in the whole dieting and exercise and trying to lose weight/be thin shit.  I’ve been doing it for a lifetime.  The only thing I haven’t done is the surgery route, and that’s because I’ve come to my senses BEFORE I went that way.  It was bloody close though.

The smallest I ever got as an adult, with all of that dieting and exercise and everything, was 103kg.  To keep anything more than about 10kg off my current weight (which is about my biggest), I have to go back into the starvation and exercise bingeing, and the minute I get sick (which is pretty quick, cos my poor body is battered into illness) I go back to the same zone.

There came a point in my life, after 25+ years of trying everything, of hating myself because I can’t do what everyone tells me I should do, and that’s “Not be fat.”  It cannot be done.  It’s just not possible for this body ever to be anything but fat.

What it is possible for this body to be is healthy.  That’s what I want and need from my body, and what my body needs from me.  Therefore, I am focusing on my body being healthy, not being “less”.  I am moving my body in ways that I enjoy and listening to what it needs by way of nourishment.  I have let go of the guilt and emotion around food, and am listening to it.  When it tells me it needs green vegetables, I give them to it.  When it tells me it needs meat, I comply.  When it tells me it needs some chocolate, I also comply.  There is no need for me to starve, or purge, or eat weird combinations or quantities of strange things (Ten grapefruit per day diet anyone?  My pee burns!!)  My body tells me what it needs.  If I just stop torturing it and listen.

Which leads me to why I write this blog.  I write this blog to help people like me.  People who’ve lived most of their lives in pain, depression, self loathing, obsession, anger, guilt, shame, heartbreak.  People who put their lives on hold for decades “until I lose weight”.  People who are tired of being sold the same old “It’s your fault, you fat, disgusting pig!” line when they have done everything they possibly, humanly can to comply.

This is not a political blog, though sometimes politics ties into it.  This is not even a feminist blog, though it has feminist foundations, and sometimes it needs to have a good table thump on feminist issues.  This blog is as much for any men who have lived this as it is for my fellow ladies.  Of course I have a female perspective, but I’m sure we have a lot of universal truths, we fatties.

I am vehemently anti-diet/weight loss.  I’ve poisoned, tortured and battered my poor body for long enough.  It’s time I love it, fat and all.  It’s time I loved my enormous belly, my back fat, my giant tits, my roly-poly arms, my chubby hands, the hairy bits and pigmented bits and the dimply bits.  All those things that I’ve loathed for the past 30+ years.  As well as the bits I find beautiful, like my firm arse, my pretty feet, my shapely legs, my full lips, my crazy wild head of hair, my soft hands, my curved upper back, my good skin.

I want to bring other people the peace that I have found with fat acceptance and positive body image.  I want other people to not feel the self loathing and pain anymore, just like I no longer feel them (most of the time!)  I want people like me to know they are not alone, and people who’ve battered themselves physically and emotionally for their whole lives to find the calm and peace I am finding.

Also, I want to demand the respect I deserve as a human being.  Being fat does not make me inhuman, less deserving of respect, kindness, love, consideration.  My body should have no bearing on how people treat me.  It does, because there is so much hatred and fear for obesity, but I want to be a voice demanding that change.  Because I have found the confidence and self esteem and assertiveness to be able to do that.  Even if I have to get a bit feral with my language and table thumping to do so.

I want to tell people who’ve never lived this, who think they have the answers, the right to judge, who tell me and other men and women who have fat bodies that we are liars, lazy, disgusting, gluttonous, dirty, shameful to shut the fuck up.  I want to tell people who have never experienced what it is like to have an obese body that like to tell me what I am doing wrong that they have no fucking idea, that until they live this, they cannot judge or  lecture me and other fat people.  That their “concern” is unwelcome and useless.  And I want to talk to those good people who have never had to live this, but genuinely want to care and help, and show them how they can, without buying into the bullshit that we have been sold for generations about obesity, diet, body myths and body image.  How they can be loving and supportive of the fat people that they care about.

This is also where I have my voice.  This is where I process my thoughts, share my feelings and have a good old rant when I feel I need it.

But most of all, I want to see people that matter to me finding the light that I have found.  Because I love them and hate seeing them unhappy and hard on themselves.  I want them to love themselves as much as I love them.

If it helps ONE other person, one that I don’t know, find that light, it’s even more worth it.

Nurture or Nature

Published December 27, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

I had a pleasant surprise today.  A little moment of delight that gave me warm fuzzies, but also has me thinking.

I was sitting in a cafe, having a coffee before I went off to meet a friend for a lunch and movie date (we saw Avatar in 3D, it was AWESOME!) when I noticed this cute little boy of about 3 years old staring at me intently.

Fearing that I was going to have another one of those “Mummy, look at the fat lady!” moments, I mentally braced myself, only for the little monkey to pipe up very loudly:

“Mummy!  I LOVE pink hair!!”

Yes, I have hot pink hair at the moment.

It was such a delightful thing for the little guy to say, and he said it with such adoration and feeling, I knew he really did love my pink hair, and that’s all he was noticing about me.

What it got me thinking about, is how much of when children say things that are rude or hurtful, how much of it is nature and how much is nurture – that they have been taught.

I’m sure any and all fatties who are reading this, or friends of fatties, have heard that child’s voice pipe up somewhere really public and embarrassing with “Whoa!  Look at that FAT lady over there Mummy!”  Or been asked by a child “Why are you so fat?”  Then there is my “favourite” – “My Mummy says you need to go on a diet, you’re too fat!”

This little guy today was pretty small, about 3 years old, four at the absolute most.   I’d love to think he had awesome parents who were teaching him not to point people out in a negative way that are different, but that I don’t know.  Maybe  he was just too young to have got those messages from our culture that fat = bad.

Of course, kids don’t just pipe up with these things about fat people.  Recently I read a blog where a Mum talked about her young son coming home from school upset because the other kids had commented on his brown skin.  I’ve seen kids making fun of people who look different to them in a lot of ways.

But of course, for me, I’ve had the fat comments ever since I was a kid myself.  It used to bother me terribly, I would get very upset, but since I found fat acceptance and my self esteem and confidence, it’s a mere sting, rather than a deep seated pain like it used to be, when it happens.

So what do we do about it?  We start with our own kids and kids in our lives I guess.  Giving them positive body messages and teaching them to think about how others might feel about things they say.  Those close to us are the easy ones to work with.

When it does happen, don’t get angry at the child.  If they’re a big kid, or a teenager, fair enough.  But under 10… they are almost always parroting what they have heard from adults.  The little ones usually respond to warmth.  When I was working in child care, when kids would make comments about my being fat, I used to simply say “You know, fat gives the best cuddles.”  Most of the time that would change their tune.

However, if you can’t respond, and turn the situation, don’t wear it on your soul as pain.  I know it hurts – as I said, it still stings for me now.  Remember that the child is just parroting what they’ve heard elsewhere.  That most times, if the child really got the chance to interact with you, fat becomes invisible to them.  They don’t care about body shape until they’ve been bombarded with the body image messages for some time.  Usually they just care for approval, attention and love.

If you’ve got kids, especially if you’re not a fatty and you’re reading this, it’s important that you teach them that size is not reflective of who a person is.  After all, do you want your child growing up with bad body image?  Do you want your child facing hurt and heartbreak over the shape and size of their body?

Or you can do what I do.  Dye your hair hot pink.  Kids LOVE it!