size discrimination

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An Open Letter to Professionals

Published July 16, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Dear journalists and other media agents, medical and health professionals, government organisations, researchers, academics and other relevant professionals,

I am writing to you to request politely but firmly, for the last time, for you to cease referring to fat people as “the obese”.

“The obese” that you refer to are not alien beings sent down from the planet Lardo.  They are not animals that have tried to assimilate with humanity.  They are not creatures from the black lagoon, nor are they any other kind of hideous monster you can dream up.  They are also not in any way less, sub, below, beneath or beyond yourself or any other human being.

“The obese” that you refer to, are people.  They are human beings who simply have more fat on their bodies than other human beings.

They are people with lives, families, jobs, responsibilities, intellect, humour, worries, friends, problems and feelings just like any other people.

When you refer to them, no us, as “the obese”, you dehumanise us.  You reduce us to some kind of “other” that isn’t of equal value to the rest of humanity.  You reduce us to a thing, rather than a person.

You don’t refer to thin people as “the thin”.  You don’t refer to tall people as “the tall”.  It is only those you wish to look down upon that are reduced to a “the”.  You know you’re not allowed to do it to people of colour any more, or people with disabilities, or people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  You all pretty much stopped doing that in your newspaper articles and medical papers and such some time ago.  At least publicly anyway, because you know there will be trouble if you do.

Now I know you need to have some kind of official term to use in your work.  The word obese is problematic, but if you really must use it, then how about referring to us as “obese people” or if you want to see obesity as a health condition, you could even use “people who suffer obesity”.  Neither of which really sit well with me personally, but at least those terms don’t dehumanise us.

However, you may call us fat people.  Because, well, that’s what we are.  We are people who are fat.  Like referring to young people or tall people or Australian people – fat people is just a factually descriptive term.

But hear me now.  You must stop referring to us as “the obese”.  Stop reducing us to our body type, and start remembering that we do have power and influence.  We have money to spend, votes to cast, voices to speak, brains to think and plenty of friends and family influence.

You could have access to all of this if you only remembered that we do have it.  Some of your colleagues are, and they’re already reaping the rewards.

Yours sincerely

A fat person.

Guest Post 2 – Enough is Enough by Dr Samantha Thomas

Published July 11, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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

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

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


Enough is Enough

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

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

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

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

I’ve had enough of these inconsistencies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A voice that is getting stronger.

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

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

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

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

She goes on to write.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Speaking out also brings emails like this.

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

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

So who is in? !!!!

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

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

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.

On Childhood Obesity and Healthy Kids

Published April 14, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

There’s a lot of talk these days on “childhood obesity” and what we need to be doing about it as a culture.  It’s getting some very high profile names and faces attached to it, and appearing regularly in mainstream media.  In the US, first lady Michelle Obama has taken up the “cause”.  As has Jamie Oliver again, after his campaign in the UK, he’s headed over to the US to teach folks over there a lesson.  Even here in Australia, names like Mia Freedman are weighing in (ok, yes, I did intend that pun, shut up) on the subject.

In my opinion, there’s are two very vital points these famous folk are missing.

Firstly, by demonising obesity in children, they are creating a “class” of children to be bullied, ridiculed, harassed and discriminated against.

Secondly, by focusing on fat kids, they’re totally ignoring the rest of the kids out there who are eating just as shitty food and living sedentary lives but are normal or thin bodied.

There is an assumption oft made about the fat acceptance movement that we are against healthy eating and exercise.  This is not true.  Many of us are against dieting and weight loss, but this does not mean that we are suggesting that healthy living is a bad thing.  We believe that diet and weight loss ARE NOT conducive to healthy living.

As an adult who was not a fat child, but became a fat teenager, I can remember a lot of the messages I got both in my childhood before I really did become fat, and as a teenager when I was.

In primary school (let’s call it BF – before fat), I was never very good at speed or agility when it came to sports.  When we had things like races or anything that required me to move quickly and deftly, I was always at the back of the pack.  However, in life BF, and AF (after fat) as well, I have always had strength and endurance that far outstrips my peers, and in many cases, a lot of men.

In primary school, I can remember at the beginning of every physical education class, we were told to do a lap of the oval.  The kids that came first, were always picked for teams by the teacher, or asked to “demonstrate how things are done”.  Those of us who didn’t do so well, or in my case, came last, were ignored, or told “You will have to do better if you don’t want to be fat.”

I can remember trying and trying to be faster, be more agile and athletic, but for some reason I just couldn’t do it.  So consequently I missed out on being on sports teams and was usually told to run more laps, or do some other kind of boring, repetitive activity, while the other kids “played games” on teams of soccer, softball, volleyball, cricket, you name it.

The irony is, in later years when I had a go at things myself, I found that I have a soccer kick like a cannon, can spike a volleyball with force and deadly accuracy, and am able to hit a ball with such force that I can break it.  Yes, I can split a golf ball with a single hit, the same for a tennis ball.  My mother has the same force when it comes to playing golf, I’ve seen her hit off the men’s tee and send a ball considerably farther than any of the men can.

As a child I also loved riding my bike, and could do so for hours, yet couldn’t win a race on the damn thing, and from about 12, discovered that I had a slow but powerful and enduring swimming stroke that I could plough away at for hours.

Yet I was never given the opportunity to exhibit these in PE classes as a child.  Instead I was shamed and told that I was slow and lazy.

I also got the same messages at home.  I remember being told by my parents that I was lazy and that I had “lead in my arse” because I was slow.  I can remember being told that I was fat from a very early age (kindergarten is the first I can consciously remember) when I now know that I was a normal size and shape kid.  I have blogged on this before.

Then of course, puberty hit and so did the fat.  So I went from slow and poor agility to fat with slow and poor agility.  PE classes in late primary school and then high school included lessons on losing weight, nutrition lessons, in which I and other fat kids were made examples of when talking about “bad” food choices and aerobics classes (it was the 80’s remember) for any kids that were considered fat because they needed the extra “help.  Of course, that meant I was ridiculed, bullied and humiliated by the other kids because I was a Fatty McFattersons and they weren’t.

So you can see why it didn’t take me long to shun PE classes, can’t you?

However, I also remember kids who were not fat coming to school with copious amounts of tuckshop money, buying chips, ice-creams, pies, pizza, lollies and soft drinks and digging in happily.  We rarely got tuckshop because we were always broke, and almost all of my high school life I just didn’t eat lunch.  Nobody rode those kids who weren’t fat to diet and exercise did they?  Nope, they were just left to their own devices.

What happened is it created two unhealthy groups.  Those kids who were fat, learned to obsess about food and weight, many developed eating disorders and distorted views of their bodies, and had their self esteem and confidence trampled into the ground.  Those kids who were not fat, were taught that it’s ok to eat crap and sit around so long as you’re thin.  They were not taught healthy eating and movement, and were abusing their bodies through the neglect they had been taught was acceptable, so long as they were thin.  Many of those became fat at a later date, or are still living sedentary, poor nutrition lifestyles that are making them sick.

Instead of focusing on “childhood obesity” how about we focus on positive health for all kids.

Teach them that their bodies will tell them when they are truly hungry and about good natural foods and how to prepare and cook them deliciously (this is one part of Jamie Oliver’s campaign that I actually think is bang on).

Encourage them to be active in whatever activity they enjoy.  I recently read about a school that has a “play before you eat” policy for lunch times, where the kids go out and play for half an hour, in any way they like, in the school playground, before they have their lunch.  This helps them build up an appetite so that they actually eat their lunch and burns off some of the energy stored up from sitting around in a classroom all morning, while also getting them active.  Work towards their strengths – if they’re fast and high energy, get them out there burning that off.  If they’re strong and have endurance, encourage that instead.

But most of all, we need to get rid of the arbitrary judgement of kid’s health and abilities based on the size, shape and weight of their bodies.

Doctor Dilemma?

Published March 4, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I’ve not been well since my last post.  I plummeted into the depths of depression on Tuesday, almost within hours, to one of the lowest points I have ever been.  It was scary as well as incapacitating.   I’ve never had depression arrive so deeply with such swiftness.  Surprisingly it left pretty quick too – the next day I was a walking case of aches and pains, along with intense fatigue, and today I’ve started to come good.

I did what I have learnt is the wise thing to do when I am very, very depressed and my body isn’t feeling right, I took myself off to my awesome doctor.  Turns out I have a flu/virus and she believes depression is a symptom of viral infections.  I spent a lifetime in a quest for a decent doctor, and when I found the wonderful Doc Jo, I really hit the jackpot.

I’m not sure she quite realises it, but these days she is a Health at Every Size practitioner.  We went through our years of diets and stuff, but there came a point where I said “Enough!” and to her credit, she has supported me on that.  She never comments on my weight (except to mention how she worries a specialist might be prejudiced against me) and looks to my health in all aspects that give her real information.  So long as my bloodwork etc comes back good, she’s happy.  She always says “You know when you’re not right, don’t you sweetness?”

But I know how hard it is to find a decent doctor.  One that doesn’t judge you because of your weight, one who treats you without prejudice, one who treats you with respect.  I was 32 when I finally found Doc Jo.

I’ve had doctors turn me away as soon as they looked at me because I was fat.  I’ve had doctors prescribe diet and exercise for asthma.  I’ve had doctors tell me I was lying, that I was cheating, that I wasn’t taking my health seriously.  I’ve even had a doctor tell me at 19 years of age when I presented to him with chronic menstrual bleeding (heavy flow for 18 months solid) to “Go lose some weight, find yourself a fella and we’ll talk when you’re ready for babies.”

I wish I was joking.

Thing is, we pay these doctors to care for us.  To treat us.  Even if you’re using full health insurance or Medicare, YOU pay for that in your taxes and deductions.  You are employing your doctor.  So if they don’t treat you with dignity, respect and like a human being, withdraw your custom from them.  Just like any other business, stop being their customer.  Take your business elsewhere!

If you were in a shop or other business, and looking to buy something, and the salesperson was disrespectful, would you purchase from them anyway?

Yes, it’s hard to get past that thing where your self esteem takes a battering and you just go with the doctor anyway.  Or walk out and avoid going to ANY doctor.  But you deserve and need decent health care.  I found my Doc Jo through a recommendation from a friend.  Ask your friends who their doctor is.  Google doctors by their names.  I have googled Doc Jo and get glowing mentions about her (some of them now are mine).

There are fabulous doctors out there.  You don’t have to put up with the shitty ones.  If you’ve got a good one, give a holla in the comments hey?

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).

Not Beaten by the Blunt Instrument

Published February 16, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

Well!  What an afternoon.  Normally I don’t blog about other blogs, cos it’s kinda redundant usually, I think it’s better to just  not read them any more if they piss me off or I disagree.  But this one has mentioned me personally, and is about a conversation I have been having with it’s author, so I think I’m going to break tradition.

Now, let’s get one thing straight.  Author John Birmingham, who’s original tweet I challenged, and who is the author of the blog post I’m talking about here, has apologised for his original tweet, which I admire anyone who can apologise for something said hastily.  It takes a person with grace and dignity to do that.  I also admire JB as an writer (his books make me pee laughing) and quite often he hits the nail right on the head with a blog topic on his rather cool blog Blunt Instrument.  He has also been respectful and polite to me personally during this whole discussion/debate.

So I would like anyone reading this to take a moment before getting stuck into JB, remember, we’re all adults and can have a discussion without getting disrespectful or nasty.

Ok, so, what I’m going to talk about here is JB’s attitude (and many others with him) towards fat people.  In particular, a few quotes from his blog and response comments to me.  (Note: I haven’t read the blog comments on his post except those between him and myself, too high a risk of douchebaggery and I don’t need that shit.)

And I’m not discussing here that JB doesn’t believe in fat acceptance or Health at Every Size (HAES) – that’s for another blog post – and he’s entitled to disagree.  It’s a little deeper than that.

Let’s start with these comments in response to my asking him to keep the “fat hate” to himself regarding his comment on this tweet.

I have been morbidly obese. It nearly killed me.

my morbid obesity was entirely my own fault

Ok, so JB believes his obesity was his own fault, and he’s been able to lose weight so he is no longer morbidly obese.  That’s fair enough, and I believe he has been very fortunate to be able to do that.  When I challenged him that he would be in the vast minority of morbidly obese people (actually overweight and obese people too) who could actually achieve that, he responded with:

I’d dispute that 5% my understanding – & I did lots research b4 embarking on weight loss- is that 30% simply can’t lose weight…

So this is where I wasn’t happy.  Because he’s instantly assumed that because I haven’t been able to stop being morbidly obese, that I haven’t done lots of research.  Which kinda tells me that he assumes NO Fatty McFattersons have ever done lots of research either.

On the simple assumption, that because I am a fat person who is staying fat, and doesn’t believe that I can stop being fat, I must by default be lazy/unintelligent/uninspired and have never done any research of my own.  Let alone “lots”.

It really is falling into the whole Wooo!  I lost weight and you can too!!* malarkey.

*If you just stop being lazy and gluttonous.

Now to be honest, I don’t think JB is being blatantly discriminatory and prejudiced.  But it shows to me the deep seated belief in our culture that fat = bad, and that fat people are somehow less than non-fat people.  Subconsciously at least, JB believes this.  Because in his comments on his blog, he actually says:

You are not differently-abled when carrying around excess weight. You are disabled. I’ve carried enough to know.

Now I’m really getting offended.  You know MY body do you JB?  You  know how I live my life, how able I am in my life, and what my body can and can’t do?  You know what I could do with my body before I was fat, and what I can do with it now that I’m a very fat person do you?

See this is what drives me nuts and gets up my arse.  The assumption, on looking at a fat person, that you can sum them up and know what’s best for them, how they live and what is right and wrong for them.  The equation of not being fat to being morally superior.

He concludes his response to my comment with:

Kath, I am living a completely different life. A better life.

That’s bloody fabulous JB!  Good on you!  But you’re assuming that your life is somehow better than mine (and any other fatty boombahs) because you are not fat and I am fat.  You’re assuming that as a fat person, I’m living this horrible disabled, lazy, idle life of misery.

Well, contrary to what we’re sold in shitty TV reality series hauling out the crying fatties to compete, nay, perform like monkeys for money prizes, pap magazines full of celebrities announcing how miserable they were while they were fat (while accepting nice fat endorsement cheques from Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers and the like), and newspapers whoring themselves over “BOOGA-BOOGA-OBESITY-CRISIS!” and so on, fat people aren’t pathetic or miserable because of our fat.

Fat people suffer because of non-fat people.  Fat people suffer because of self-hating fat people.  Fat people suffer because our culture judges us on sight alone, without ever knowing anything about us.  And when we stop accepting the world treating us like that, when we stand up and say “I will not accept anything less than respect and dignity, and fair treatment.” then the suffering goes away.  The shit doesn’t stop from the outside world, but it does stop hurting.

When we stop hating ourselves, and start realising that perhaps the rest of the world is not the best authority on OUR bodies, but WE are, then the suffering eases.

I’d love to have a coffee with JB.  Skim latte please, full cream milk makes me fart.  I’d love him to meet me “in the flesh” (I’ve got lots of it!) and to just ask himself after meeting and talking to me if he still thinks of me as disabled or morbid or broken or in any way less than any other human being.

I’ll leave you with my final comment to JB in his blog comments:

My life completely changed too. A far better life, a far happier life, a far healthier life, a far, far more productive life. It changed when I stopped accepting the bullshit that my body is “disabled” or less worthy than someone who is not fat.

*Please note: I am deleting any comments from those who clearly didn’t read what I have said in this post and are pulling the old “But you Fatty McFattersons are in DENIAL!” and “But I’m fat and I’m going to get thin because I might die!”   Please go back and read this post and what I have said again carefully, and then you’re welcome to comment on that.

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!

But I Wanna be Healthy…

Published October 24, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

“But you’re suggesting we all get fat and disgusting!”

How many times have you heard this one?  I know I’ve heard it a whole lot of times, and not only by trolls on my blog.  Family, friends, acquaintances, you name it like to pull this one out when anyone talks about fat acceptance.

There seems to be a perception that those of us who are advocating fat acceptance just want the world to be fat like we are.

This is not so.  What I want as a fat activist is for the world to accept ME as I AM.  To respect my right to a happy, safe, confident life without discrimination, ridicule, censure or harassment.  And I want people like me to accept their bodies and live their lives to the full, regardless of what size they are.

Fat acceptance does  not automatically mean living a sedentary life, however if someone chooses to do that, then that is their choice and they should not be treated as less for doing so.

For me, fat acceptance means freeing myself from the self loathing and getting out and doing all the active things I was always too ashamed to do, because I am fat.  Accepting my body as fat makes me more likely to be active and healthy, because I’m not shutting myself at home in shame any more.  But I’m not doing it to lose weight, I’m doing it because it makes me feel good, because I enjoy it and because it makes my body feel good.

The same goes for eating.  I am learning that food does not equal morality.  There are no good foods or bad foods.  Well, except for peas, those are bad.

I eat when I am hungry, or when I have a craving.  I do not feel the need to starve myself, or purge when I do eat any more.  When I am sad or frightened or hurt, I do not starve myself as punishment.  I listen to what my body asks for, and when it wants chicken I give it chicken, when it wants beetroot, I give it beetroot.  When it wants ice-cream, I give it ice-cream.

Thankfully it never wants peas.

Fat acceptance is not about encouraging people to gain weight.  It’s about acceptance of our bodies at any size and shape, and the demand that others accept them as that too.  It’s also about the understanding that health and fat are not mutually exclusive.

I know when I am at my healthiest.  It’s certainly not when I’m thin.  My body tells me when I’m not healthy, when I need to make a shift in my activity or eating.

Just as an example, when I was travelling through the US a couple of years ago, I was really active at the time, walking most days for the whole day, but I was also eating out at everyone’s favourite restaurants, takeaways and cafes because all of the people I visited really wanted to share their favourite treats with me.  It was delicious, but after about 2 weeks, my body was SCREAMING at me.  “Please!  Just give me some broccoli!”  I can remember begging my friend Missy to take me somewhere vegetarian or health food based because I really just wanted to eat everything green.  She took me to a Panera (lovely chain of sandwich, salad, soup plus bakery kind of restaurants in the US) and I almost cried over the first mouthful of a vegan garden vegetable soup.  It was so good, and after that I realised that as much as it was lovely to be eating “party food” with folks as their guest, I had to make sure that I politely pointed myself in the direction of foods that my body was telling me I needed.  Because while I was visiting them for a few days or a week, I was on to the next lovely host who wanted to show me more party food from there.  I knew I had three months of this, so I knew to take care of myself.

I will never forget how good steamed Chinese broccoli with soy sauce tasted in Chinatown in San Francisco.  It was like an injection of energy too.

The perception that self acceptance is either being vain and saying “I’m perfect.” or being lazy is an erroneous one.  Self acceptance is about loving oneself as you are, and any changes you decide to make to yourself are FOR yourself.  I believe that as a human being I’m in constant need of improvement, challenge and polish.  But that is for me, not because other people tell me I should, or tell me that I’m less than they or others are.

I know the things that I want to improve in myself.  They are my business and nobody else’s.