Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index

Abundia 2008

In case you haven't heard, Abundia is a weekend retreat for fat women that takes place annually in the Chicago suburbs. The retreat features a number of size-positive workshops and events - including a keynote from Marilyn Wann this year.

While I obviously haven't gone to Abundia, I know people who have and I've always seen a positive change in people who have gone. I think that removing all of the stereotypes and limitations around size, and just letting people be as they are, really goes a long way towards liberation.

This year's event is from November 7-9 in Zion, Illinois (far north suburb.) Registration for Abundia closes next Wednesday, and you can sign up today via PayPal. If you're in the area, I highly suggest you check it out.

Latest Thing That Makes You Fat: Thinking. Well, Sorta.

Urgh, for both the photo and the article. Of course, the headline - which is sensationalist - isn't really what the study actually claims.

The research team, supervised by Dr Angelo Tremblay, measured the spontaneous food intake of 14 students after each of three tasks.

The first was relaxing in a sitting position, the second reading and summarizing a text, and finally completing a series of memory, attention, and vigilance tests on the computer.

After 45 minutes at each activity, participants were invited to eat as much as they wanted from a buffet. The researchers had already calculated that each session of intellectual work requires only three calories more than the rest period.

However, despite the low energy cost of mental work, the students spontaneously consumed 203 more calories after summarizing a text and 253 more calories after the computer tests.

This could be causing the so-called epidemic, but then again there are about 5,000 other things that could be. Just another oddball study that got press and gave someone an excuse to use a dehumanizing photo of a fat person's belly. [Thanks, M. Varner]

Hard Drive Dead - Back Soon! Really!

All: my hard drive died and went to hard drive heaven (or started its next life as a lemur, your choice) and thus I'm offline for the time being. More updates as soon as I have something to boot from!

Alton Brown: "Be Ashamed" of Your Fat Body

We've talked about Alton Brown before. The bespectacled host of Food Network's Good Eats has had his ups and downs with his own weight and feelings on fat people. On that BFB post, he spoke incredibly ill of his own body. And if you saw one of his previous Feasting on... specials you may recall his OMG I NEED TO DO SITUPS NOW BECAUSE OF ALL THIS HIGH-CAL HIGH-FAT FOOD routine which became truly old, sad, and upsetting.

Unfortunately, Brown has come out of the fat-hating closet for good in a recent interview that got picked up at Ecorazzi. His words:

”I've struggled with weight all my life, and probably always will. But I was on my most recent book tour I was shocked by the number of overweight families,” he says. “People would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, we love the Food Network.’ Well, no (expletive); did you eat the TV? There’s only four of you and you can’t ride in an elevator together. I’ll probably make fat people angry, but we need, as a culture, to be ashamed. It’s not “… healthy.”

Angry? Check.

I'm angry because it's another case of a food celebrity (Jamie Oliver) trying to shame all of the fat people away. And on top of it, it really seems to be a situation where Brown has had negative body images ("all [his] life" mind you) and when he sees fat people, he's reminded of what he could be... maybe, if his set point is higher than its current spot... and he's afraid of that. So I really do think this comes from a place of fear and ignorance ultimately.

Brown unfortunately makes the foolish mistake of wrapping fat people up with the issue of sustainability, because clearly fat people don't eat local foods ever, don't cook for themselves (HELLO YOU ARE ON A COOKING SHOW, TELLING PEOPLE HOW TO COOK) and eat crap all the time. And man, it's another instance - another! - of someone using fat people as scapegoats for everything that she/he sees as wrong with the world. Does Brown honestly, truly think that if everyone was thin, everything would be better? That McDonald's would go away? That our food and eating patterns would change? If he does, boy, that speaks volumes.

In the end, though, anyone who decides to consciously say, "You know what? Screw you - you all should be ashamed of yourselves and your bodies" is someone who doesn't deserve any more of my time, attention, nor money. Alton, you're damn right I'm angry. I'm ashamed of you and your childish, ignorant attitude. [Thanks, Dreama.]

Boing Boing's Continuing Fat Hatred... ugh.

Cory, can you ever post anything related to food that doesn't include a jab at fat people? Ever? Come on. It makes you look ignorant.

Listen. I know that you went on a diet and lost weight - that's been mentioned in many of your posts in the past. Swell. Great. Whatever. I don't care. More importantly, what's it got to do with brownies? What - they have fat in them? And people may eat them?! So? What's it matter to you? Clearly you still like the Tetris Brownies (I do too!) but if you've got hangups over food because of your diet, you should consider having someone else write about food on Boing Boing. Just sayin'.

Commenting is Easy

I've always said that blogging about fat and commenting on fat blogs is a form of activism, and I stand by that statement. But offline activism is an important component of the movement and, frankly, we're collectively failing at it.

For years and years NAAFA was held up as The National Organization™ for fat people but a few years ago, the fatosphere effectively called NAAFA out for its baggage-laden past and present-day inaction, effectively neutralizing nearly all of its power (such as it was) in the fatosphere and, arguably, outside of NAAFA itself. ISAA has been invisible in recent years. The Coalition of Fat Rights Activists is just getting started, and it may be months before its efforts bear fruit.

But when things like the silly Alabama law break in the news, I don't turn to the site of any organization; I turn to the BFB Forums and other fat blogs. That's a good first step, but from what I saw there was very little asked about what we can do to change things - versus complaining about how things were awful. I agree! It does suck! Now what?

This is where the power of having an organization or organizations on our side comes in. Ideally, this is something that is pounced on by said organization and an action with a clear goal is defined. Individual letters and phone calls do count, but when one can write and say that an x,000 strong organization is backing that same notion... that's more powerful.

But for now we've got a few small and/or weak organizations that are ineffective in getting people excited about fat rights, and at least one that's in startup mode. I'm frankly unsure if old organizations will be tackling issues like this. Maybe. But who knows?

That said, when I use the term "activism" I'm thinking about organized campaigns to bring about change at a legal or social level. Combatting Alabama's law with facts about the flawed BMI, for instance, in a proper setting such as a city council meeting. But maybe I'm being too limiting.

About a month ago, Marilyn Wann sent an email out regarding her 1,000 Fat Cranes project. It was picked up by several blogs, but I didn't post it here. Initially I dismissed it because, well, it's sending paper cranes to Japan. I didn't think much of it, to be honest. Marilyn's email stated:

The 1,000 Fat Cranes project is a response to a new government policy in Japan that involves measuring people's waists and fining their employers if the tape reads more than about 34 inches. (Here's the New York Times report on this story.)

But in retrospect I was being too harsh. I understand why people may dismiss it or feel it's not doing much because the initial read is, "What? Paper cranes? How will that change anything?" But give Marilyn credit, as I now do: it's an offline action, it's something participatory, and it's better than the absolute nothingness NAAFA's been doing (at least in my preferred style of activism.) It's a symbolic action, one whose goal really is to show that we've got the numbers to back up our arguments.

And if you choose not to participate, well, I understand. I won't hold it against you. Not every offline action will be to everyone's liking. But let's take a moment to acknowledge and thank the people who are doing things offline, for they are working on filling a very very large void in our movement.

Help with Hurricane Gustav

Kate Harding has a post with resources on how to help those affected by Hurricane Gustav, which is aiming straight for New Orleans and is expected to make landfall tomorrow.

This is a powerful storm and as Kate points out, the city is essentially saying "to each her own" when it comes to shelter.

My thoughts go out to everyone affected.

Alabama

I have a lot to say about Alabama's decision to charge people with a BMI over 30 an additional $25 per month for health insurance. Some words are not printable.

For now I'll point you to April's post:

I almost exclusively use medical treatment for preventative care, and have no major health problems aside from chronic allergies. If I worked for the state of Alabama and did not adopt a weight loss plan, I would suddenly be paying more for insurance than a thin sick person.

Eric A. Finkelstein, author of The Fattening of America, had this to say:

I think the question that people need to ask is, Are we better off with a strategy that may discriminate against some subset of individuals but that, on net, may substantially improve the health and the financial health of the country. And I think that's really what this law boils down to.

I call BS on that.

And mind you, we're just talking about people with a BMI over 30 - that doesn't equal fat, and in fact a fucking Mayo Clinic study found it unreliable. Good thing the state of Alabama decided to, you know, not assume anything. Because that would make them look incompetent.

Oh, and the lobbying group representing Alabama's state workers headed by Mac McArthur had this to say:

"It's a positive."

GO LOBBYING GROUP!

Why Aren't You Angry About WLS?

Here in the US, the Department of Health and Human Resources made news last week for proposing a new law that would give any medical professional the ability to refuse participation in abortion-related surgeries solely due to morality. As an example, if a woman wanting an abortion went to a doctor whose personal beliefs were anti-abortion, that doctor could say no and walk away with the full backing of the US Government.

Understandably this is a controversial proposal. I found that interesting as there has been similar controversy surrounding pharmacists and birth control; some states and big chains support pharmacists' personal beliefs over patients' needs and wants, and it appears this legislation could be interpreted to support those beliefs due to its ambiguity.

I see both of these instances as examples of how abortion - a surgical procedure - is intertwined with morals and beliefs. It's a big vote of confidence by the Bush administration in the beliefs of individuals.

Upon hearing this news, one of the first things I considered was the morality of weight loss surgery (WLS). In very basic medical terms one form of WLS can involve a doctor removing part of a person's stomach and intestines; it's not trivial. WLS has received more attention over the past few years as something risky and dangerous; nevertheless it's still considered a viable option by many doctors for many patients.

And yet I rarely see or hear news stories about the morality of this decision; I'm wondering why this is. WLS is a surgery with long lasting physical and emotional consequences. It can kill. It can shorten one's life. It can reinforce negative psychological behaviors. It's a money-maker. It can be prescribed by over-eager doctors. And yet, there's no debate I'm seeing in a public space about this procedure.

That's not to say it's not happening of course. If you've seen it on the web, TV, radio, or elsewhere please feel free to link it up.

My concern stems from the lack of apparent discourse and more importantly the lack of outrage about WLS outside of the fat rights movement. Could it be that the assumption out there that fat people eat too much (or exercise too little - whichever misconception you choose) trumps any argument of morality? Has the mortality of the decision been moved to any point prior to the surgery? Does the outrage need to come from a more established place (ie, not the fat rights movement) in order to gain a foothold? I'd like to discuss this.

(And I feel the need to add a disclaimer: yes, some may interpret my post to be a comparison of abortion and WLS. It's not intended that way - I'm more interested in a comparison of the moral question. We do our movement and any form of civilized discussion an enormous disservice if we decide to disallow or censor comparisons.)

Publicly Fat in Australia - Part 3

The following story was submitted by BFB member rainalee.

Continued from part 2.

You read to gain knowledge and maybe even understanding of the other. In return you can ask what you always wanted to know. But beware that the book is reading you as much as you are reading the book...

-- Living Library on "readers"

I was 'borrowed' almost straight away by a petite, beautiful woman from Indonesia, who wanted to know what it was like being me. She assumed I wouldn't be able to do most things (go to the cinema, fly on planes, go swimming) and was surprised to hear I had done/was doing all those things. After asking me quite a lot of questions, she shared with me her childhood when she was ten kg lighter than her current weight, and how her parents wouldn't let her eat dinner because she would 'get fat'. Instead she watched everyone else eat and was given a half glass of milk. She was very open to understanding that our notions of 'normal' and 'average' were not probably correct, and that people came in all shapes and sizes.

The 'librarian' actually had to stop our conversation as I was 'booked' for my next session! And so it went - I was busy for the whole time!

I had a wide variety of people 'read' me - from a woman who was quite tall/thin and said she varied in weight up and down ten kg, but how she hated herself when she was at the high end and didn't know how to stop wasting the energy on it -- she wanted to know how I had moved from being focused on body size to just getting on with life -- to a self-confessed exercise fanatic who at first didn't understand how I could be fat while having had such a history of 'successful' dieting (i.e. long periods of very little calorific intake), but was very, very open to listen, and ended up saying she wanted to get back to me and support the idea of a HAES group on campus(!).

Another person I talked with was an 18-year old recovering anorexic/bulimic who wanted to talk to me about body acceptance in teens, and wants to eventually go out into the schools and talk to teens about body image and acceptance, discrimination, and how healthy bodies are all shapes and sizes.

Most were shocked when I said I had received insults, attacks, been belittled by people I didn't know, abused by doctors.

One of the women who talked to me was talking about stereotypes, and I said that people had assumed that I was dirty, smelly, un-organised, out of control and unintelligent. Her response was, "Well, I can understand the first things...but you are so not unintelligent!" and then she realised what she said.

I said, "Well, actually, I'm none of the other things either," (with a smile, because I knew she didn't mean it as an insult) and just paused for a moment. I could see the proverbial penny drop for her. Because even though she considered herself as enlightened, she had bought into all those stereotypes.

She told me afterwards that she assumed I spoke regularly to groups about fat acceptance, and when I said it was my first time, she was stunned. She told me I should!

There was a lot of discussion about the media's connection of 'health' with 'losing weight,' and people were quite open to believe that a fat person can be healthy - mainly because they probably see me doing a lot of stuff around campus and I'm obviously not unhealthy.

The second-last person I talked to was a fat woman who was bigger and taller than I am. I have actually spoken to her a little around campus before, but we haven't really talked about the experience of being fat. This was the hardest session for me.

She came to the session to talk to another fat person about how terrible the New South Wales government was because it won't put WLS on the public health scheme...so she can't afford it. "And I just need to get the weight off. If I got the weight off, I could do so much...you know what I mean - you are there, you are feeling the same things," (argh.)

I wasn't even sure what to say to her, because I have so been there, but I'm so not there anymore! I did mention that maybe in her quest to be 'healthier' (her euphemism for losing weight), that having weight loss surgery with its poor 'success'-rate, and myriad complications, she would end up unhealthier than she was at the moment.

I tried to bring it back to acceptance so many times, but realised she wasn't hearing me (which was very frustrating). So I found some common ground (inability to buy clothes in our town) and shared what I had done to fix that (buying from Ebay/online sites), and then talked about being proactive in changing circumstances -- instead of waiting to 'get thin' before doing anything.

I think I did help a little and I promised to give her some resources - one of which was the book If Not Dieting, Then What?, which started me on the path to acceptance that I was fat, and not a thin person trapped in a fat body. I know the book is not perfect, by any means, but it helped put a big chink in my armour, and has for other people I know as well, so I thought it might be a good starting-point for her, since she just was on a totally different plane than where I am currently.

But I did battle in my head afterwards, wondering if I said the right things to people, whether I did educate in any way, whether I helped. And the day afterwards I had a bingeing episode which was just nuts (haven't done that in years!) I don't know whether it was a reaction, or if thinking about it all just catapulted me back into that mindset, or what. But I'm ok now, and back to believing that it was a very positive experience. It helped that the people who participated were there to confront their own prejudices, and were open (mostly.)

There was recognition amongst the 'librarians' that I was the book that was most likely to receive negative reactions, and they were quite concerned about me afterwards, offering me counseling if I needed it (!), but I told them I was fine, and the people were great.

'Readers' gave feedback to the librarians that they had been really challenged and had changed their minds about quite a few things. It was confronting, challenging, positive and negative, all rolled up into one. And if I had the chance to do it again, I would, like a shot.

There seems to be so little FA in Australia – it’s just not heard about here (at least not where I am!) I think people look at me as though I’m crazy when I first say that I’m not on a diet, and have no intention of being on one. I don’t think of myself as brave. It’s just like I’ve woken up from a bad dream and finally ‘get it.'

I wish there were more opportunities to talk to people about this. Too often it's because someone abuses me, tries to tell me I should be dieting, suggests WLS or similar…and then I get defensive. This was completely different, and was really good.

Someone said to me before I did this, that it was great that I was going to be 'publicly fat,' and that just stuck with me as such a wonderful phrase. So during the living library when people asked me if I spoke like this other times I said "no, this is my first time being publicly fat!" and then laughed (because of course I'm publicly fat all the time, because I'm fat and I'm out there doing stuff!)

It made me think that all of us that are out there, just living our lives and getting on with it instead of obsessing on limitations, abusive people, diets, etc., are being some sort of activists whether we realise it or not -- because we are speaking with our lives.
____________________________________________________________________________________

The Living Library started in Denmark as a project to fight prejudice and discrimination. If you're interested in hosting a Living Library in your town, you can find information at The Living Library website.

I'm not sure how many online fat acceptance advocates go somewhat incognito in their everyday lives, but I know that in many situations, I certainly do. It's not something I feel comfortable talking about with just anyone in just any setting.

However, on the few occasions when I've had a chance to speak in front of a crowd about fat acceptance, I've been terrified beforehand that I will be pelted with rotten tomatoes, and accused of "promoting obesity." The remarkable thing is? That never happens. I can't guarantee the same experience for everyone, but the response has always been overwhelmingly positive, and any criticism has been far more polite than imagined -- and definitely more civil than online.

I think rainalee's point about speaking with our lives is absolutely correct. But for those of you who are so inclined, I enthusiastically, maniacally encourage you to try giving a talk, or doing a project that involves sharing your experiences as a fat person, and introducing the idea of acceptance. It can be scary, but ultimately I think it's good for you, and it's good for the world.

After reading this whole story, I only have one thing to say to rainalee: You kick ass.

Chicago Tribune Reporter Likes Big Adjectives

Chicagoland is getting its first Sonic Drive-In this week, and the Chicago Tribune was on it. Unfortunately, it looks like article author Christopher Borrelli decided to use the article to test out his thesaurus and writing skills.

The other day, three very large men in a very small car rolled up behind the Sonic Drive-In in Aurora. The smell of tar was pungent. In nearby fields little yellow flags from new developments flapped in the wind. The largest of the men, in the passenger seat, with a stomach so vast and gelatinous it rested on the dashboard as if taking a lunch break, rolled down his window. His right arm hung over the window lip like a dead goose. "You people open yet?" he asked. Sonic general manager Ray Mejia shook his head. "Tuesday," he said. The man slapped his palm hard against the metal of the car door. "The 19th," Mejia said.

Seriously, folks, that's the type of writing I learned back in my college fiction writing class. Be descriptive, paint a picture, set the scene. Good advice but in this case it's a big ol' WTF.

Worse there's no reason at all the men's size needs to be in that paragraph. None. By bringing this up at all, Borelli wants the reader to get a certain picture in her head: a picture of disgust. Nothing is relevant there otherwise. And please, "gelatinous?" Really?

There's been scuttlebutt in Chicago that the Trib might go downhill under its new ownership and I've kind of denied that but... I consider this a harbinger. What a disgusting piece of "news" writing. [Thanks, eliza!]

Publicly Fat in Australia - Part 2

The following story was submitted by BFB member rainalee.

Continued from part 1.

Working with the Living Library you realise that everybody has prejudices. We don't believe that there is a single person on the planet that can truly say they are free of prejudice...Because making up our minds about something is our basic way of navigation through our world and daily life...[A common example] is that people who are not overweight, tend to think it must be tough...not knowing that the person may be perfectly comfortable and happy with their current size and shape. Not all overweight people are unhappy with their weight...

-- Living Library on prejudice

When I went to the information session for 'books,' my 'book title' was by far the most confronting for others and the reactions (physical) were really interesting to watch. We went around a circle and identified our 'book title' and said a little about why we chose it and why we wanted to get involved in the project.

When it got to me, some of the other books had a really strong reaction to my comments - some of them were nodding vigorously and turned around towards me, but some crossed their legs away from me, folded their arms, refused to even look at me, shook their heads, etc. I thought it was quite interesting because these people are 'living books' in a diversity/anti-discrimination project! Apparently it's ok to discriminate against fat people, in their minds.

After the first part of the session, we were to split into pairs and try out being alternatively a 'book' and a 'reader' (as a trial run). I was matched with someone who then said, "Oh, can I swap? I think I know this book," so I was just standing there. Then one (lovely) woman said "Oh, can I please be matched with Fat Person? I'm really wanting to read that book!"

She was an older woman who was quite thin, and she shared with me straight up that she had been terrified that she was fat her whole life, and had been bulimic for 20 years. She wanted to know how I got to the point of being ok in my skin, and not listening to the craziness that is the media. She also wanted to know what discrimination I had faced (I talked about doctors/getting health care, buying exercise clothes, being accosted by strangers in the street). I emphasised that I got out and about, had friends, and had a relatively normal life, and that the constraints I experience were due to general non-accommodation of body size diversity.

I think it was eye-opening for her, and I felt quite positive about it all - I was then looking forward to Thursday when I would do it for real, with members of the public!

To be continued.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

The Living Library started in Denmark as a project to fight prejudice and discrimination. If you're interested in hosting a Living Library in your town, you can find information at The Living Library website.

Showtime: Taking It Seriously

Reader unndunn was tired of seeing fat jokes on Showtime's commercials and shows, so she wrote a letter. Here it is:

I want to lodge a complaint about the offensive jokes being shown on Showtime as previews for the show Weeds and "I Can't Believe I'm Still Single" I love Showtime. I've been a subscriber for more than 15 years. It's my favorite channel. I love Weeds, Dexter, Big Brother After Dark, the L Word and everything else. I love the fact that you don't have to deal with censorship the way other broadcast channels do.

I watch Big Brother After Dark every night. During the show you cut to commercial several times to show upcoming series, episodes etc. For the past week I have had to watch the same clip from "I Can't Believe I'm Still Single" where the star of the show talks about wanting to have sex with a fat woman who is walking down the street with her friends. It's part of his show, and I can respect that, but it's really demeaning to that woman and all other fat women who hear these kinds of things all the time. Now, in the current Weeds commercial, the character Doug finds out that Andy has located the woman he has been wanting to see again. He asks Andy over the phone "did she get fat?" So, now several times a night, every night, I have to hear these slurs against fat women. It is hurtful. It makes me wonder why it's okay to put down fat people, especially women, and not even think twice about it. Not everyone lives in thin-obsessed LA. Real Americans with real bodies are your subscribers.

Once again, I love your channel, but I am finding myself not wanting to watch it at night because of these commercials. One line in an episode isn't a big deal to me. It can be humorous depending on how it's done. But the same line over and over and over again making a mockery of fat women is too much.

I am a member of a fat advocacy group and plan to let everyone know about this situation. I respectfully ask you to please consider how these clips may make your subscribers feel.

Nicely done. And the response?

Thank you for contacting us and for bringing this matter to our attention in this light. It is not the network's intention to insult or offend any of our viewers, and we understand that the repetition of these promotions could be found troubling.

Your comments have been forwarded to the individuals within our organization who are responsible for on-air promotion, and the matter is being seriously considered.

Thank you again for writing to us, and thanks as always for watching Showtime.

They're taking it seriously! Oy.

A somewhat interesting offshoot: Showtime's site features some full episodes of series - US only, unfortunately - including the "Obesity" episode of Penn and Teller's Bullshit!

Publicly Fat in Australia - Part 1

The following story was submitted by BFB member rainalee.

"Borrow a person you normally would think you would not like. We have a wide selection of unpopular stereotypes. Take a walk, have a talk, or don't. Just remember to give back the person…When you're done, you are guaranteed to feel like you have just lost a friend."

-- From Stop The Violence's first "Living Library"

I work at a university in Australia as an academic. Part of my job is being the 'Women in Technology' program coordinator, and recently we had one of the staff come talk to us about a 'Living Library' project on our campus, as part of multicultural week. People volunteer to become 'books' for a day, and borrowers can 'borrow' a book for a half- hour conversation about their life experiences. The idea is to confront prejudice and break down barriers.

I believe this is a wonderful project, and I volunteered to be a book. My “blurb” was:

FAT PERSON - "I think one of the biggest 'light bulb' moments in my life was when I realised that I am not a broken thin person. I'm a person with feelings, dreams and aspirations - and those don't all revolve around the size or shape of my body." In an atmosphere of hysteria about the obesity crisis, what is it really like being a fat person today? Have a read and find out.

I wanted to challenge and attract people who buy into the 'omg omg the obesity crisis we are all going to die' mindset. I also wanted to refer to myself in the book 'title' as a fat person, because the word 'fat' is so loaded with moral undertones, and putting it together with 'person' is making a statement in itself.

I'm relatively new to the whole notion of fat acceptance. I'm currently continuing to de-program myself out of thinking that being fat is the source of life's problems, and reminding myself I'm just as worthwhile as any other human being. While I think I'm making progress in just 'being,' I haven't really moved into being an activist or trying to educate/inform others before this. I guess I’m moving out of my comfort zone!

Here in Australia things are becoming quite difficult for fat people. The media are really pushing the 'OMG WE ARE THE FATTEST NATION ON EARTH WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE' line and I've noticed more negative reactions and quite rude antagonistic behaviour from people in public recently, compared to, say, ten years ago.

We are starting to get media articles (a lot of them) about how our fatness is costing the government more in healthcare. It sucks getting larger sizes of clothing, particularly if you live outside the state capitals. I live in a large town, but I buy most of my clothes from the net, simply because I literally cannot fit into anything here. Clothes that will fit me around my body, are short (I’m 5’9”) or built for top-heavy women.

Our cinema seats are not made for people with large butts (I have been to many other cinemas where I fitted in seats with room to spare, so it's the choice of seats that the cinema has made.) Our area has many cute trendy cafes -- most with tiny, armed chairs that I can't fit in, so I don't go. I sometimes feel alienated because there is so much media attention about how terrible it is to be fat. People buy into it, and treat me differently because of it.

But, I'm healthy. I do a lot of things that everyone else does. I've tried every diet known to man (and know from experience they just make you fatter!) and no longer diet at all (and won't ever diet again.) I was fully expecting the question on the Living Library day, "But why don't you just diet? Don't you have any willpower?"

I felt like I was putting myself up there as a target, but if someone 'borrowed' my 'book,' then they must have been willing to lay down at least some of their prejudice, don't you think?

To be continued.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The Living Library started in Denmark as a project to fight prejudice and discrimination. If you're interested in hosting a Living Library in your town, you can find information at The Living Library website.

Hear Me on Vocalo Radio

This afternoon I was invited to appear on 89.5FM - Vocalo here in Chicago. The good news? the program will be rebroadcast on vocalo.org! From the program description:

Plus we've got Paul McAleer, the founder of The Big Fat Blog [sic]. One of the oldest blogs in the Fatosphere! We have him on air to talk to him about fat activism, headless fatties, and obesity in general.

We covered those topics along with the eternal "can you lose weight and support fat activism?" question, HAES, and an... interesting... parody video. It was a nice, casual conversation and all around it was good stuff. My thanks to Ben at Vocalo for making it happen (and putting up with my schedule!)

For Crying Out Loud

Random people out there (NSFW header image): the fatosphere isn't looking to get into a pissing match of race vs. fat. Stop it. It's a nasty rumor that needs to freaking stop already.

[ETA: Davita edited her post with a thoughtful response, which I'll in turn respond to later today/tomorrow. Thanks!]

Landmark US Study on Healthy Fat People

News rang out from coast to coast here in the US - even making the front page of The Oregonian - that fat people can be healthy. (Kate Harding called in the Duh Truck.) The study comes from an Albert Einstein College of Medicine study led by researcher MaryFran Sowers and appeared in Monday's edition of Archives of Internal Medicine. From the AP piece:

A new study suggests that a surprising number of overweight people — about half — have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while an equally startling number of trim people suffer from some of the ills associated with obesity.

Wait a minute - you mean that Fat People Diseases™ aren't limited to fat people? Get outta here!

Emphasis mine on this one:

In the study, about 51 percent of overweight adults, or roughly 36 million people nationwide, had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats called triglycerides and blood sugar. Almost one-third of obese adults, or nearly 20 million people, also were in this healthy range, meaning that none or only one of those measures was abnormal.

That's pretty amazing to the mainstream media I'm sure - and I trust that a lot of editions of this news ran with some "Oh, but it's not all right to be fat! Really this time you guys! Try WLS!" plug at the end. The AP article wasn't blatant with it, at least:

Study co-author Judith Wylie-Rosett emphasized that the study shouldn't send the message "that we don't need to worry about weight." That's because half of overweight people do face elevated risks for heart disease, explained Wylie-Rosett, a nutrition researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

...And yet that seems to mean we should be worried about health, not weight. Huh.

But, for those without elevated risks, losing weight "might be important only from a cosmetic perspective," she said.

In which case I'd argue, of course, that it's not important at all. From there the review of this study takes an interesting turn and suggests that waist size is the new black... er, BMI. BMI gets a mention here too, confirming that the measurement is indeed heading for the Retirement Home for Outmoded Measures, located just outside of Philadelphia.

Among people of healthy [sic] weight in the study, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors were more common for people with larger waists or potbellies.

This is backed up by a sentence that uses such strong and indisputable words as "could" and "can be" when talking about research on big bellies. (Read: jury's still out.) But that ties us back to the old chestnut, "correlation does not equal causation." This study showed that people who were "healthy" did have smaller waists across all weight groups but, again, CDNEC FTW.

So what can we take from this? It's another piece of scientific evidence we can cite, mention, shout, and share. It continues to prove our case and shows just how wrong - or in denial - people who are anti-fat really are.

Hear COFRA's Carrie on Oregon Public Radio!

Tomorrow, COFRA's Carrie Padian will be featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud program from 9-10am Pacific time. The show is streamed live on the website, or you can grab the podcast.

More information on the subject is right here.

The Only Way to Fly

In the Forums rainalee found a piece about AirAsiaX, an airline floating the idea of charging passengers by the pound. Yep. Here it comes.

Although admitting the move would be difficult to implement, [AirAsiaX Manager Darren] Wright said charging larger passengers "could help Aussies lose weight".

Uh... hm. What?

richie79 pointed to a related piece on news.com.au which features a headless - and torsoless fattie. I've seen these for years - you have too - but this is probably one of the least respectful shots I've ever seen, ever. Ever. As a bonus, you get prime quotes like this:

Ken Yuen suggested a seating class called "Super-size" should be introduced.

"It's just like business class but for large folk," he wrote. "Seats larger, more space, more food even to keep them happy. They can pay more and help keep costs normalised for us skinny folk."

Did you get that? Normalized for skinny people. Normal = skinny; abnormal = fat. Oh, but did you hear that we're the majority in the US? We are normal, and we're the majority. Anyone who claims we're not normal is an ignorant, stupid fool. There are some good retorts in that article (one reader suggests that if we're going to go after fat people, then we might as well go after people with low IQs - in which case, Ken Yuen's going to be paying through the fucking nose for a seat) but on balance it shows a stunning lack of compassion and demonstrates how very competitive we get when it comes to flying, which is no longer a simple act.

All right. So, that happened a few days ago and AirAsiaX later came out and said, "Dude, we were totally kidding!" Instead, AirAsiaX will use a weigh system to determine how much cargo can go onboard. But as rainalee says:

Sooo .... how does this work for height? as in ... if I'm 4'7" and weigh 170lbs (BMI 41 - makes me well into the 'obese' category) I get to take on ... how much luggage? and if I'm 6'5" and weigh 170lbs (by the flawed bmi charts that makes me on the lower side of 'normal') .... I get to take on .... more, or less than the shorter me? Same weight, but one person (the shorter one) is 'obese' and the taller one is 'normal' ... and how is this supposed to target obese people? Or is it just tall obese people?

Short answer: it's a mess with no easy answers.

Laughing

Michelle writes a great entry on humourless fat people, taking to task an ignorant piece from Penn State's Collegian wherein student Kevin Doran basically tells us to laugh all of this discrimination off. Because, you know, we're supposed to be jolly and shit... and it's okay because he's fat too.

The comments at Michelle's blog are also worth your time - great points and discussion there, too.

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