Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index

I Love Bacon

You always suspected, right? But actually, I'm not talking about tasty, crispy pieces of pork. Rather, I'm referring to the work of Linda Bacon, Health at Every Size (HAES) researcher and advocate extraordinaire. She's a professor in the Biology Department of City College of San Francisco and an Associate Nutritionist at the University of California, Davis.

HAES is the idea that a non-weight centered approach to health is more effective and sustainable than a weight centered approach. In other words, the best way to promote good health and a long life is to focus on habits rather than on trying to become thin. With HAES, weight changes may or may not occur and are considered side effects rather than results.

Dr. Bacon is perhaps best known for "Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight," a very readable book laying out the principles of HAES and discussing the research that supports it. She is also interested in sustainable farming, and that comes across in the book; it contains nutritional advice that readers may or may not find valuable. Dr. Bacon has also performed and published research comparing the health effects of HAES to dieting.

Recently, Living ~400 pounds posted a link to an interview with Linda Bacon on the Weightless Blog at PsychCentral: "Why Health Matters and Size Shouldn't." The interview is well worth reading. Part one is here and part two is here. The Weightless Blog itself has a lot of good posts on body image (it also focuses on eating disorder recovery) and is worth a look.

Also recently, an FA friend passed on a link to one of Dr. Bacon's FAQs. This led me to read both of them, and they're great examples of how to respond to people with common questions about HAES. One is on orthopedic concerns, and the other is on calorie monitoring.

Dr. Bacon's excellent HAES resource page is here, and it includes her full publication list. If you're interested in reading her academic papers and don't have free access to an university library system, then you can usually buy the pdf - or you can ask a friend or family member who works at or attends a university to download the article you're interested in.

Enjoy the Bacon!

HAES disclaimer: HAES is an approach to health management that's compatible with fat acceptance. However fat acceptance is primarily a social justice movement. Not everyone involved in fat acceptance is interested in HAES.

Everyday Activism

This was originally posted in the BFB forums, but it's a great example of everyday activism and it deserves a wider audience. Rather than just accepting a culture of body negativity, we can and should speak out against it and help to educate the people who are perpetuating it. Thanks, Pocomommy!

What a discouraging way to start my day, with an email in my Inbox cheerily announcing a free weight loss group at a local yarn store. Group support and guest speakers to help you "lose a few" before the holidays because, as they point out in their email, "You cannot have a knitting needle or crochet hook in your hand while eating a potato chip."

I sent this response:

"Wow. How incredibly offensive and disheartening to find an email about weight loss from a trusted lys this morning. How discouraging it will be for myself and other women to know that, when we walk into the lys, our bodies are possibly being judged/scanned/evaluated as "not ok" (i.e., needing to lose weight). If you are promoting looksism (even self-generated by those folks who say "I hate my thighs" etc.), shame on you for making the lys an unsafe place. If you are "concerned" about health issues, as the OoooggaaaBoooooogahObesityCrisis Media Scare tactics continue to overwhelm us with messages that our bodies are all about to spectacularly fail us, then perhaps you could have looked into some of the wonderful literature on Health At Every Size (HAES). HAES is possible, you know, and far less shaming than "lose that ugly fat."

As a former psychologist and eating disorders specialist, and a current yarn fiend and knitting knut, I am angry and disappointed that your attempt at creating "sisterhood through body dissatisfaction" is just another way to tell women that their bodies are unacceptable as they are. No matter how cheerily you say it, no matter how much you protest that this is only for those who want to lose weight and you are not forcing this on anyone, I will never be able to walk into your shop again without feeling like my body is being judged and falling short.

Please think about the message you are sending and whether there is a mentally healthier way to connect women and their bodies."

Pocomommy

Stayin Strong on Saturday: Smart Things Friends Say

I thought I would share with you all some wise words our own CarrieP bestowed on me this week, which have really helped me as I've been struggling with the fat oppression in my life.



"You are neither responsible for or able to control how people in any circumstance will perceive you so you might as well be a badass."



Is that not the most simple and awesome advice? I will be carrying it with me.

Memories and Thoughts of Judy Freespirit


Max Airborne has been so kind as to set up a Memorial Website for Judy, so please also check it out!!
Such touching words and inspiring memories.



Judy Freespirit, fat warrior, passed away yesterday morning. Thoughts and memories were aflutter on Facebook yesterday, so I thought I would collect some and repost them here in her honor, and in the spirit of preserving our fat history...something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

 Carol Squires just posted that Judy Freespirit passed away. my first introduction to a different way to think about my fat body came when I read "The Fat Liberation Manifesto" in a women's studies class in 1994. Her work definitely changed my life for the better as it did countless others. I feel the loss and celebrate a life well lived. --Pattie Thomas

The Fat Liberation Manifesto, which Judy Freespirit wrote with Aldebaran in 1973, was by far the most posted link among my fat activist friends yesterday. This revolutionary manifesto is at the core of our fat lib history, and if you have not already read it, you really should.

Judy Freespirit was so great to me everytime I was around her. She wrote a beautiful poem about a peach that's stayed with me. She was one of my early models for a fat writer (wish I could still find that great picture of her dancing with her troupe in the seventies -- they had swings!). She made things happened. She gave speeches about fat to gatherings of dieticians. She showed up in FaT GiRL. She showed up. --Susan Stinson

In addition, you can go to Susan Stinson's blog and read her lovely and moving tribute to Judy.

Susan was also gracious to post a link to a photo of the Fat Chance Performance Group that Judy helped to found, which was published in "Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the women's liberation movement" along with the manifesto.

Judy Freespirit, a pioneer of fat activism, has died. I knew Judy in the mid-90s as the person who ran the Fat Feminist Caucus of NAAFA. The fat women's gathering she organized in fall of 1994 was my first experience of fat pride community. I respected and learned from her vision of feminism, disability rights, fat activism, and much more. --Marilyn Wann
 

Today it was my intention to dedicate my keynote [at the Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue Conference in Australia] to Judy Freespirit. I wrote to her a few weeks ago to say as much. I just heard that she died. So so sorry that she's gone, and so so glad that I got a chance to meet her. I'm not a hero worshipper but she was my hero. Tears later, gotta hold it together now. Love to Judy and her people. --Charlotte Cooper

I hear that the Fat Liberation Manifesto was read yesterday at the conference in her memory.

 Also, from Marilyn Wann:

Here's a quote from Judy from a Radiance magazine article written by Sara Golda Bracha Fishman (who went by Aldebaran during Fat Underground days). She asks founding members of the Fat Underground, "What did we accomplish?" Judy said, "In the beginning, people giggled when we talked about Fat Liberation. Now . . . there are hundreds of thousands of fat activists and allies all over the world."
http://www.radiancemagazine.com/issues/1998/winter_98/fat_underground.html



Judy stood in front a room full of women in 1978 and challenged us to see her as powerful and beautiful and broke open those stereotypes we had held moments before and my life was forever changed. --Lynn Ellen Marcus

Fat & Health Rebuttal on Feministe

You might wanna check out this fantastic post on Feministe, which basically covers almost everything I say ever (when arguing about fat & health), including institutional and structural arguments.


And while you're at it, check out this one too!

Et Tu, BBC?

Yesterday, the BBC woke me up with this news: Only a tiny fraction of the people who could "benefit" from lapbands are having them installed by Britain's National Health Service (NHS). Apparently, it would save the government billions of pounds if everyone in a particular BMI range (not specified) would do their patriotic duty and get their digestive systems butchered in order to look more acceptable put themselves into a lower risk category for some diseases of old age. Did I mention that this was reported on the BBC with no critical analysis whatsoever?



I heard this on the radio and I thought "does anyone take this shit seriously?" Then I read the related article on the BBC website (thanks Charlotte) and noticed that this study was funded by "two firms involved in making equipment used in obesity surgery" and performed by the Office of Health Economics (?!). A privately funded study performed by a government agency? I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but this appears to be it.



There's precious little information in the article about the study itself; its methodology, its assumptions... However, the article does hint at some things:

  • First, it seems very likely that the study assumed obesity is always the cause of (not a side effect of) disability. In reality, that is not necessarily the case.
  • Secondly, it hints that obese people are automatically unable to work. We all know that most obese people are able and willing to work, and that most work full time and pay taxes. Most people who are eligible for the surgery are already fully productive citizens.
  • Third, it assumes that obese people always cost the health system extra money. In reality, we do not necessarily cost the health service more than other people do. In fact, we're probably less likely to overuse healthcare, since we tend to have unpleasant experiences with it.
  • Finally, and most strikingly, it appears to neglect the costs associated with weight loss surgery, other than the cost of the surgery itself. This is an elective surgery with a considerable risk of death that often has chronic, serious side effects that are expensive to treat. Even the "successful" surgeries almost always result in nutritional deficiencies that require regular doctor's visits to treat with injections; frankly, a similar level of care to insulin dependent diabetes. In more extreme cases, this surgery can take a healthy, productive person and give them health problems that make them unable to work. The study evidently assumes that the opposite is always the case.

If the NHS encouraged everyone who is eligible for this surgery to have it, then I suspect that it would cost them millions of pounds in treating side effects, redoing and undoing failed surgeries, and treating nutritional deficiencies. I suspect that, on average, people who have had weight loss surgery cost more to treat than BMI-matched people who haven't and that doing more of these surgeries would increase demands on the NHS. I suspect if you looked at every recipient of the surgery ten years later, then for every person who became more productive because of the surgery, there'd by one who became less productive.



The article notes "the government says the treatment should always be a 'last resort'," implying that the government is mistaken. In fact, the government is right. Suggesting that productive people with high BMIs undertake risky surgery with dangerous side effects because it may lower their risk of diseases that are unlikely to affect their productivity before retirement age is absurd. It would injure and kill people needlessly, it would not save the NHS any money, and who would it benefit? Manufacturers of lap bands. Oh, and bariatric surgeons, who are probably nodding in agreement with the article as I type.



The fat people who would "benefit?" Unfortunately, they'd benefit mostly from an improvement in social standing. They'd suffer less weight-based discrimination, at least while the effects of the surgery lasted (assuming it resulted in weight loss in the first place). Even though they might not be able to eat normally and they might suffer from inconvenient, painful and even life-threatening side effects, they might be happy with the results. It makes me incredibly sad that we think it's okay to hurt people so that others will stop mistreating them. It's adding injury to insult.


I plan to read the study within the few days to see if any of the issues I raised above were adequately addressed. I'd invite other BFBers to do the same.

Ten years, baby!

Did you know Big Fat Blog has been in existence for ten YEARS? Isn't that incredible? I know we haven't solved all of the world's fat problems (yet), but just think for a second where fat acceptance and body equality were ten years ago. Or maybe it would be easier to think of where *you* were on the body love continuum ten years ago. I, for one, was just starting to really get fat acceptance. I was just beginning to decide that I was no longer willing to have conversations about weight loss with my parents. I was taking the tiniest baby steps towards not hating my body.

Big Fat Blog and Paul McAleer were a big part of that transformation for me and many others. Paul gave us all a place to discuss the challenges of living in a world that hates fat. His willingness to be visible and criticize our culture's destructive message fostered an environment that invited all of us to debate, think critically, and stop accepting everything we have been told at face value.



Sometimes I still can't believe that I get to comment on this site, much less write content. I want to thank all of you for the insightful discussions here that have expanded my mind and the minds of so many others. You really are an incredible community of people and you make me so proud to be a part of Big Fat Blog. Here's to another ten years of fighting discrimination, loving our bodies, and saying what needs to be said.



Much love,


Carrie



PS: Come join our Facebook page!

A Little Relief--Savannah Dooley on Camp Shane

When I saw the Camp Shane post on Facebook, I was irate, we'll say. Betrayed was an accurate word for what I felt. Now, some people thought that feeling betrayed didn't make a lot of sense, cuz, uh, the show is about a FAT CAMP. And I'll give them that. But you know, I had just really gotten a feeling from the show and from those involved that the show wasn't about weight loss or shame and that they were giving us a largely diverse representation which is well, FUCKING NEW FOR TV.



The lovely Lesley Kinzel pointed out that maybe the rage shouldn't be focused as much on Huge, that they weren't necessarily connected to Camp Shane or the scholarship.



Turns out I was right about the show not being a promotion for fat camp, and Lesley was right that the Camp Shane thing was not a Huge thing.



Savannah Dooley, co-creator of the show, wrote on Fatshionista:

I want to clear up that this scholarship isn’t a commercial tie-in with the show. We aren’t involved with Shane or any real life camp, which is why the show doesn’t seem like a commercial for weight loss camp. Camp Shane elaborates here on the differences between Camp Victory and their real camp: http://www.campshane.com/blog/index.php/tag/teen-weight-loss-camp/



A key difference seems to be that at the fictional TV camp, fucked up things sometimes happen (people sneaking in food, people being mean to each other, some people being there because of pressure from their parents, someone being asked to leave camp because of an eating disorder) but nothing like that ever happens at Camp Shane. Good to know! And fucked up and complicated things will continue to happen at Camp Victory because those of us working on this show have no desire or motive to portray weight-loss camp experience in a uniformly rosy glow.



Check out that link Savannah's posts. I LAUGHED so hard. Damn y'all, Camp Shane seemed to think that Huge was giving them a bad rap. Poor Camp Shane. Maybe how this whole Camp Shane/Nikki Blonsky thing got started, I don't know. But it amused me greatly.



Now, I still think it was a mistake for Huge PR to promote the scholarship by linking to it and that they should be careful to appear as though they are promoting a fat camp or are in any way connected to it. I am also still really disappointed that Nikki Blonsky would associate herself with a fat camp. I don't think that only bad things happen at fat camp, I just think the good things are despite the weight loss premise. And for her to promote such a camp gives me pause...lots of pause. And, frankly, it does make me mad. So perhaps that’s where my optimism and youth have led me astray; perhaps it makes a lot of sense that Blonsky, like some many other fat celebrities, would end up promoting weight loss.



However, Savannah Dooley’s comment—and her awareness of the Facebook debacle and the hatred that reared its ugly head there, which is what (I think) led her to Lesley and Lesley’s post—restores some of my faith in the show. And many of you would still be weary of this faith. Your skepticism is not unreasonable.



But, in my little optimistic head, this means we carry weight. If the creators are aware of us*, aware of the crazy world they have entered by creating such a show, and if they care enough to come on a fat acceptance blog and try to clear some things up…I think that means something. I could ask for more, but I like what I think is a positive outcome of all this. Now there is no question they are aware and that they are aware of our engagement with the show and support of the lack of weight loss focus. When the creators, producers, writers, actors, and anyone else receives pressure to promote weight loss or play to the weight loss crowd, we might give them extra reason to resist. Given that they seem to have a bit of a predisposition to resist, we might have a goddamned chance here. Now, weight loss companies are powerful, but we are powerful too.**



So, this is me, unjerking my knee…at least a little bit.



*I always thought they were hip and aware—of FA and of body liberation in feminism. I still can’t look at Nikki Blonsky as Wil and not think of Marianne, aka The Rotund.

**Which reminds me I need to step away from pop culture and report on a recent success in this area.

Here it is, the HUGE stab in the back.

I had illusions, friends, illusions that this time would not come. I have been enjoying Huge, a show I really relate to...a show I felt was one of the best portrayals of fat people I've seen, a show that has given much-needed representation and complexity. But alas....



From the Huge Facebook account:

Hey Huge fans! Do you want to go to weight loss camp next summer? Win a full summer scholarship at Camp Shane. Write an essay for The Camp Shane Nikki Blonsky Scholarship and you just might be the deserving winner! Click here for details on how to enter: http://www.campshane.com/nikki_blonsky_scholarship1.htm


 

That's right, A SCHOLARSHIP TO FAT CAMP. NAMED AFTER NIKKI BLONSKY.



I'm not even sure how to react at this point. This is not acceptable. This is a stab in the back, a mocking of the support, attention, and airtime we've given the show. Kind of seems like a twisted joke, if you ask me.



Reactions from fans on their Facebook were initially pretty negative, but now if you go there you'll see the fat haters and "it's for your health" evangalists are coming out of the woodwork.



I recommend you go to their Facebook page and leave your negative feedback. Actually, I no longer recommend you go to that threat because it's comments as usual there.



Then, tweet your thoughts to @ABCFhuge and include the tag #HUGEmistake. Tweet the hell out of them and tell your friends to tweet it too. @NikkiBlonsky isn't a verified account, but seems legit, so tweet her too!



Then, go 'Ask Katherine' why Huge would do such a thing?




And if anyone knows where to write the corporate address, let me know and we'll post it so you can send your angry letters.

Surprise, I don't hate you!

There's a big secret I need to reveal and I know it will be shocking...maybe even disappointing.




PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET WORLD (and others, just in case):



- If you hate your body, I do NOT think you're a terrible person.



- If you want to lose weight, I do NOT think you should burn in Hell (if I believed in Hell).



- If you can't look in a mirror without judging yourself harshly--or simply can't look in the mirror, I don't think you should be shamed and put to death. I don't even think you should be shamed. *gasp* Truly, I'm kind of anti-shame.



- If you're on a diet, it's okay. You're not the anti-Christ (again, if I believed).



- If your body is giving you lots of trouble or you are in a lot of pain, believe it or not, I don't think you have to LIKE those things. (Just know that treating your body poorly doesn't make things better.)



- If you identify as transgender and don't identify with the body you've got, even if you feel like your fat prevents you from achieving the sort of gender presentation you'd like, I don't snub my nose at you or spit on your grandmother's grave.





But...if I could make arbitrary, oppressive societal imperatives burn in Hell, I sure would.



Do I want to listen to your diet talk? No way. I don't like that there's an assumption that everyone should be supportive of diets, weight loss goals, and diet talk. But I'm not gonna make a voodoo doll and stab it because you're a dieter. (Do I think BFB is a proper place for diet talk? No.)



If you feel bad about your body--or you just don't feel like celebrating it lately--it's okay, everyone does, some of us more than others. I don't speak for all fat activists--surely--but if you are feeling bad about your body, I'm okay with hearing that as long as you aren't expecting me to reciprocate the same feelings about my body as an exercise in bonding. ("Yeah, my problem is my love handles.")* Though, since I have struggled with my body, I can absolutely empathize. Fat activists, I think, want to reach people who feel bad about their bodies, so they can reveal the big secret that you aren't required to hate your body, even a little bit.



As a fat activist I do want people do love their bodies, but I don't think loving your body is an all or nothing moral quest. And as a fat person, I know a little something about moral imperatives.





*Anyone else think it's weird that love handles is used as a negative notion?

Two Links: Fat & Disability Discrimination US/AU

Earlier this week it was reported that a highway foreman in Ohio died from complications of a weight loss surgery. The man was suspended because he fell asleep on the job, though he had sleep apnea and worked long hours. He felt as though the county was treating him unfairly.

"Your decision arises out of your bias against me because of my disability," Huneck wrote in an April 20 note obtained by The Enquirer from the Clermont County township.




And the bias probably also had to do with his weight, given his lawyer's comment below:

He "was subject to some bullying - significant bullying - in his workplace as a result of his physical comportment, his stature," Thompson told The Enquirer. "He was trying to resolve those through this surgery..."


If I read this article correctly, it seems as though the weight loss surgery--WHICH HE DIED FROM--was not only to resolve sleep apnea. Huneck, who was very emotionally hurt by the suspension, also wanted to change his body so that he, a grown man, would not be bullied, ridiculed, harassed, AND PUNISHED by his colleagues. Who can blame him for not wanting to be treated so poorly? But now he's dead... It's sad to me that these kinds of things undoubtedly take place all the time.




There is also a story out of Australia to report. Feminists With Disabilities for a way forward reports:

Maz Smyth was rolling along one day in her manual wheelchair, as one does, when her front wheel got caught in a pothole and snapped off. Understandably annoyed by this turn of events, she approached the Toowoomba Regional Council to ask them to fix the pothole and pay the costs associated with fixing her chair.



Ms. Smyth kept going to the council and they kept telling her to go away, until they finally told her she could file a report though nothing would ever come of it.   "Perhaps it was your weight that caused the wheelchair to break," a council staff member then told her. She was rebuffed until the Mayor saw The Chronicle covering the story and getting a photoshoot outside City Hall. As s.e. smith aptly writes over at FWD:


A thousand tiny cuts like this happen all over the world every day and we never find out about them, because a single person usually cannot raise enough of a ruckus. It isn’t until a larger entity like the media, a disability rights organisation, or a famous person steps in that action is taken. Even here, the Mayor didn’t acknowledge her humanity or her right to access. He made it seem like she was getting a favour by having her chair fixed.
[...]
The problem here is being treated as individual, rather than structural, and people will continue to experience accessibility problems as a result.




h/t to sexgenderbody

Fat News Roundup

So how fat is your state? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health released another pointless report this week ranking the fifty states by fatness. The article points to an overabundance of food, aggressive food marketing, poverty, and low levels of education as significant causes, which I suppose is a slight step up from the usual disgust and personal blame. The education thing sticks in my craw though, because it implies that if we fatties only knew better, we just wouldn't be fat. Please, thin Americans, TEACH us to overcome our body's genetic tendencies. For the love of god, won't someone tell the fatties about calories in vs. calories out?? They just don't know!




Then we have this gem, about how, chemically, being fat means that you can't resist cupcakes as well as thin people do. Again, thanks, but your study involving ten whole fat people isn't really enough to convince me that the entire fat population's brains work this way, not to mention that you don't even really know what these results mean. My favorite part of the article is as follows:

Some of the most intriguing imaging studies have peered into the brains of people who have lost significant weight and kept it off through diet and exercise alone—although researchers say they're hard to find.

"They are very controlled individuals, and they are very rare. We had to fly some in from Alaska," says Angelo Del Parigi, a neuroimaging scientists who finally located 11 "post-obese" subjects who had dieted down to the lean range.

You don't say? People who have lost weight and kept it off aren't just coming out of the woodwork? Can we not maybe draw a conclusion here?



Finally, I'm sure you've seen some of the hullabaloo about the new diet drugs being tested and submitted for FDA approval. It looks like as of this morning the FDA has rejected Qnexa, which is shocking news in and of itself. Could it be that someone over there finally cares about side effects? Did they actually learn something from the whole Fen/Phen tragedy? If so, it's not stopping pharmaceutical manufacturers from trying again. Arena Pharmaceuticals is working on a drug called lorcaserin which, according to MSNBC shows "promise" and "little risk". It also shows little effectiveness, as study participants only lost an average of five percent of their body weight. That's about twenty pounds for a 375 lb gal like me. Given the risk for side effects, especially the ones they don't know about yet, I wouldn't say lorcaserin is a worthwhile bet. Seems to me that maybe we should divert those pharmaceutical resources to working on cancer or AIDS instead of trying to make the population slightly less fat and potentially harming them in the process.



But anyway...Happy Friday!

Exploiting Fat Kids -or- Style Network is Despicable.

In the wake of my hopeful optimism about Huge comes a link in my e-mail that counters all of that joy.



But it wasn't some let down about Huge. Instead, it was a link to the site for the new show on the Style Network called Too Fat for Fifteen: Fighting Back, a reality show about teenagers trying to lose weight at a fat camp called Wellspring Academy (a giant, international weight loss school chain, apparently). The video posted in the blog doesn't seem to be working, but I can imagine how it's going to go based on the tagline, "Being fifteen is hard enough. It shouldn't be life and death," which is placed over the shoulder of a faceless fat girl viewed from the back. It's next to a picture put in for flare, good measure, or simplistic illustration, since there's no link or text attached, of fat kids' legs. Naturally, they have centered the darker-skinned kid who is seemingly bustin out his/her crapily made shoes. Y'all didn't know it was a shoe-bustin epidemic, did you? Fear, my friends, the busting of the shoes. Too fat for footwear????  Or maybe it's supposed to illustrate the unbearable, ankle-busting weight of obesity.  Anyway, we get the point.



The website resources include a "Teen BMI Calculator," an article entitled "Effects of Childhood Obesity," and another called, "Think YOU are ready to get fit?" The show debuts August 9th.



From a minor Google search, this seems to be based on a New Zealand documentary about a fat girl at a similar Wellspring Academy.



I am pretty sure I remember a few people being confused and thinking Huge was a reality show; and I was relieved to think/say, "No, no, no it's not that"--in the back of my mind thinking, "Who would do that?!?" Style network, my friends, and Wellspring Academy, would exploit kids in such a way...you know, for fun and profit!



Just what we need, a Biggest Loser for kids. My optimism for this week is officially blown.




PS--What are they "fighting back"? Love how they make it sound empowering.

Go see this!

The movie A Matter of Size, which is about four fat Israelis who set out to become sumo wrestlers, has been playing in Boston for some time now and I hear it's about to start a run in Washington D.C. on July 2nd. Lesley at Fatshionista gave it a glowing review and I must admit, the trailer has piqued my interest. So if you live near either of those two cities, go check it out and tell us what you think!



HUGE Misrepresentation

I'm going to start with a quote from Ginia Bellafante's New York Times review of the new ABC show "Huge," starring Nikki Blonsky. First, she describes a "gainer" who writes a blog, and then she says:

...Gainer blogs are an offshoot of a fat-pride movement that has bubbled up in response to what its proponents consider to be a pointless and hysterical national fuss over obesity. In this view fat is a form of social protest, an outcry against the manipulations of a diet-industrial complex. Fringe movements don’t often find an arm in the form of hourlong dramatic television, but “Huge,” beginning Monday on ABC Family, stands in some sympathy with a rebellion mounted against so many hours of “The Biggest Loser.”

I don't know who she thinks represents the "fat-pride" movement. Since she's talking about blogs, maybe she means the fatosphere. There are many fine, fine blogs on the fatosphere. They represent a range of opinions and experiences. But one opinion I've never seen expressed on the fatosphere - on Shapely Prose, on Big Fat Blog, or on any other blog - is that feederism and deliberate weight gain are a good idea or are acceptable in the context of fat acceptance. NEVER.

Fat acceptance is not about trying to change your body. It's about taking joy in the body you already have. Fat acceptance isn't a rebellion against "The Biggest Loser." The movement has been around for forty years, and it's about social justice and about valuing human diversity. Fat acceptance is not about trying to be fat. It's about not hating our already fat bodies, and about fighting anti-fat stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination.

Of course our bodies change when we age, when our lives and our habits change, and for other reasons, and that's fine. It's fine when we get smaller and it's fine when we get bigger. But, we don't try to get smaller or bigger. If there's only one thing that everyone in the fat acceptance movement agrees on, it's social justice. If there are two things, the second is that deliberately trying to lose or gain weight is contrary to size acceptance principles. Gainer blogs are not an offshoot of this movement; in fact, most of us would agree that they're in direct opposition.

I've been involved in the fat acceptance movement since the early nineties. If someone said to me that there is a "pointless and hysterical national fuss over obesity," then I would nod my head in agreement.

However, it's my understanding that most deliberate weight gain takes place within the context of feederism, I am not down with feederism. Feederism is a sexual fetish. Normally, my feeling about sexual fetishes is "live and let live; do it if it works for you." However, feeders apparently get off at least partly on the helplessness of the feedees. Given that many people gain weight easily and find it next to impossible to keep weight off once they've gained it, this can amount to trapping someone in a dependent situation, which is typical of abusive relationships.

But what about the guy that Ms. Bellafante describes in her first paragraph? I looked at his blog, and it appears that the idea of becoming fat turns him on primarily, although his partner is fine with it. He’s gone from 180 to 250 pounds in three years, and it appears that he’s not going to gain much more weight. In addition, he’s staying reasonably fit. He’s hardly helpless, and for him, being strong is an important part of being big. In his case, the weight gain attempt does not appear to be abusive, but it still has nothing to do with fat acceptance, as the blogger himself points out. It's still primarily a sexual kink.

So, Ms. Bellafante, gainer blogs have nothing to do with fat pride. The New York Times has misrepresented our views, and they should print a retraction.

Added...

Brian of Red No. 3 has really nailed this issue here and here.

(please send us other good links on this topic, and we'll add them)

HUGE Mistake

So, I kept hearing about Huge. A friend told me about it, and I saw it mentioned around the internets. But I ignored it or shrugged it off.

Why? Because I totally had it CONFUSED with that other fat comedy coming out, Mike & Molly, which I won't even bother linking. I had seen a preview for Mike & Molly, and it made roll my eyes so far back in my head that I could see my brain explode. It also made me want to cry, especially since Melissa McCarthy is involved. But I forgot the name, thought that was the show people were talking about (you gotta admit two shows about fat people is rare), and therefore I never actually read anything about Huge.

Then I was reading Lesley's shift in attitude about it over at Fatshionista, along with bits of an interview with Nicci Blonsky, and I was all, "Wait, this can't be the same show. Nicci Blonski? Fat camp? What happened to Melissa McCarthy?"

And that's when I decided I HADN'T seen previews for it and that what my friend said about the mention of fat-acceptance in a preview for HUGE could be, like, not a joke. Then off I went to see what all this was about.

Fat-related shows go in one of two three four boxes for me---1) You've got to be kidding me, so much fat hate...headxplosion (think Biggest Loser). 2) Errr, fatpos fail (think More to Love). 3) Mmmhmm, okay, there's something to this but it's also problematic and will probably irritate the piss out of me (think Drop Dead Diva). Or 4) Wow, this is kind of impressive, possibly radical enough for my tastes. I'm very fucking interested.

Let's be real, a TV show has never fallen in the 4th category. Not ever. Until now. Nicci Blonsky had me with her bad attitude, her purple blue-striped-hair and her generally rebelious temperment. The deal was sealed when they said it comes from the creators of My So-Called Life. A fat show in the vein of MSCL? I am THERE. I am also intrigued the an almost-all-fat cast.

Go here or here to watch the previews/videos, read the interview with Nicci Blonsky, and then tell me what you think.


PS--"I feel like inside me there's an even fatter person just trying to get out," may be one of my favorite lines ever. It also makes me think someone up in there might have a clue. I'm also interested in the gender/sexual orientation issues they are going to address, but admit I'm a little cynical about how that will turn out.

Help wanted

After a year of running BFB (can you believe it's been that long? Me neither!) I have decided it's time to face up to the fact that I just don't have the time to review applications or get into the forums as often as I'd like, so I'm looking for someone to fill that gap. Please read below and email me at carrie at fatrights dot org if you want to be considered!

Are you a longtime BFB reader and commenter who frequents the forums? Do you feel strongly about allowing conflicting opinions while also keeping this as a safe space? If so, then you might be the perfect person to fill the role of BFB gatekeeper!

Potential Gatekeeper duties:
Regularly review requests for new accounts and allow/deny
Monitor forums and comments for troll-like behavior and eject said trolls

Sounds easy, yes? There's no actual compensation involved, but it is kind of fun to play account god. We get some very interesting account requests...

Thanks!
Carrie

* Just an FYI, this is not me quitting. I'll still be here for the site, I'm just trying to build up the team that does the admin side so everything gets done and there's not too much on any one person's shoulders.

Response to Attack on Fat Mothers

Thanks to Carla for writing this incredible Op-Ed, which unfortunately NYT chose not to publish.




On June 06, 2010, The New York Times published Anemona Hartocollis’ article, “Growing Obesity Increases Perils of Childbearing.” The article received Sunday, front-page coverage in the continuing trend toward anti-fat panic and “obesity epidemic” hysteria in our country. In the typical tradition of this genre, the article featured sensationalistic, pitying, and shaming portrayals to supposedly illustrate the personal, social, and material high “costs” of fatness. Indeed, a byline proclaims: “Obese Mothers a Burden on Hospital Resources.” In what has become the most predictable and problematic aspect of this oeuvre, at least from a scientific perspective, the article also uncritically uses fatness as a proxy for illness and draws clear causal arrows pointing directly from fatness (always transformed into the supposed medical crisis of “obesity”) to a “constellation” of illness and disease, medical complications and accommodations, effects on society and others, and death.



It is never considered that, perhaps, some of the “burden”some accommodations being made for fat people in medical settings (such as sturdier examination tables, development of alternate examination methods, procurement of sophisticated medical technologies, and enhanced sensitivity training for medical professionals) might not only be a matter of social justice in medical care for fat people, but shifts that might ultimately benefit all patients. Instead, Hartocollis’ article centers on the vignette of “Ms. Garcia,” an “obese,” diabetic woman who gave birth, via Caesarean section, to an underweight and premature baby. It does not go unremarked that this was a costly delivery--more than fifteen times the cost of a “normal” delivery. From this vignette, we might come to believe that fat women and their glut of underweight, prematurely-delivered babies are jeopardizing the entire healthcare system. Are we to believe that Garcia’s situation is emblematic, even typical, of most fat women having children today?



Oddly, Hartocollis makes no mention of Ms. Garcia’s relatively advanced maternal age (38 years), her socioeconomic status (whether or not she had access to adequate prenatal care), or the fact that she is “Ms. Garcia” rather than “Ms. Smith.” Apparently, none of that might matter. This rabid focus on fatness obscures complicated intersections between many risk factors associated with health and illness--age, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and access to non-stigmatizing and comprehensive medical care, to name but a few. Further, it never seems to warrant mention that the Garcia case study actually presents a scenario that is statistically less likely among fat mothers than thinner mothers-delivery of an underweight, premature fetus. Indeed, most articles seeking to link fatness with poor fetal outcomes warn about the tendency for fatter mothers to deliver fatter babies.



Some of the medical professionals contributing their perspectives on the issue of fat mothers describe being “anatomically… turned off” by them. They recount instances of becoming “angry” with them, “complain[ing]” about them, being “worried” that tables will collapse under their weight, counseling them to have medically-risky bariatric surgeries before becoming pregnant, and intoning “demand[s] and siren song[s]” that BMI be calculated for all patients since “eyeballing” them is insufficient surveillance for fatness, pitying and feeling “sympathetic” toward them, and being “stuck between Scylla and Charybdis” when it comes to their presumably-annoying and personally-inconveniencing
medical care. None of this is scrutinized as ethically problematic, insensitive, unprofessional, misinformed, or even plainly cruel.



Indeed, it does seem that we are met with a Scylla and Charybdis situation when it comes to fatness at this point in our own cultural mythos; but it is fat people who are truly “stuck” in this dilemma. No matter what the outcome, it seems that fatness, per se, will be resolutely assigned as the independent source of each and every social and medical problem. And our society’s (and medical professionals’) problematic, over-simplistic, and stigmatizing portrayal of fatness as the greatest public health plague of our time is subjected to little reasoned public critique. In this social context, it is actual fat people, like Ms. Garcia, who will continue to personally bear the blame and shame imposed upon their socially-unruly bodies, “promising” to go on “a strict, strict, strict diet” to placate the resounding, authoritative, and punitive clucks of social disapproval and disgust. I would suggest that it may not be only "water retention" that leaves fat people, like Ms. Garcia, “too numb… to feel anything.”



--Carla A. Pfeffer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Sociology

Department of Social Sciences

Purdue University (North Central campus)


Damned if you do...

By now you might have heard of the study where data analysis found that, no matter what your starting BMI, losing a certain amount of weight (in some cases as little as 5%) can increase your risk of mortality. That's a grim result in a culture where we're all told repeatedly that fat can't possibly be healthy and that losing weight is the only way to save ourselves. In her Huffington Post article, Harriet Brown aptly calls this situation "The Obesity Paradox" because really,what's a fat person to do? Either we're killing ourselves by quietly remaining fat or we're killing ourselves by going all good fattie and attempting to lose weight.

I feel like we need more information here than is being given in the study. For one, what methods did these people employ to lose weight? Were they doing it on purpose or did they just discover a previously unnurtured love for vegetables or pilates? Because I've experienced Health At Every Size-related weight loss and I'd really hate to think that some incidental weight loss that happens because of an adoption of healthier habits could be affecting my body as negatively as weight lost doing Jenny Craig or juice fasting.

Maybe the answer is to just ignore ALL of the studies -- the ones that tell us to lose weight and the ones that tell us to never lose weight -- and focus on enjoying whatever life we doomed fatties have left. Isn't that what HAES is about anyway?

Consequences of Bariatric Surgery

Sure, death is an easily predicted outcome of what some people are calling 'the new lobotomy', but it still saddens me to read about it nonetheless.

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