Friday, 30 December 2016

Sexism, Healthism, Paganism: A Review of Ellen Dugan’s Practical Protection Magick

Disclosure: I am not Wiccan, in case that was unclear to anyone. I read literature from all faith traditions for academic, theological, self-help, or entertainment purposes. So that may cloud my judgment on this, but know that I’m talking from a place of knowledge and respect for other traditions.  It started when a relative got […]

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Whose Rules Are You Following?

Have you noticed the looks on folks faces when you do something that goes against what they deem to be a rule? I’m talking about being confident in a fat body, breaking fashion “rules”, not dieting or trying to lose weight, or even having a fulfilling life. It’s one of confusion, denial, sometimes laughter (as though we must certainly be pulling their leg) and eventually anger.

I’ve had people congratulate me for buying produce at the grocery store. I’ve had innumerable older white women judge me upon what is in my cart or on the conveyor belt at the checkout line. I’ve had them make comments, remarks, insults, you name it. I’ve had folks make eye contact before hitting me with their shopping cart or baby stroller. While I’ve had these things happen in nearly every shopping setting, I will say that it was worse at Whole Foods, in particular (an old job required I shopped there for them 1-2 times weekly, it was horrible).

They will all insist that they act so despicably because they care about your health, and they are lying. In what other situation or scenario or embodiment would someone treat you inhumanely because they care about your health?! It’s bullshit! I’ve laughed in people’s faces over that shit. If someone truly cares about your health they will ask you how you’re feeling, if you need anything, they will sound supportive. Big difference, there!

When fat people appear confident and happy in public it goes against every rule that so many others have built their lives upon. The years of behavior modification and self denial and all for what? So they might finally be deserving of the love and self respect that we are not flaunting in their faces without the struggles they’ve been through. (Obviously, not really, but this is certainly how some would view it.) For many, these behavior mods and denials become a big part of who they are. When you’re taught early on that certain things are bad or make you a bad person, it can certainly shape your views and who you are as a person.

Fuck this! ^

We’ve all tried these ridiculous things, filled with false promises, often disguised as a healthier way of living. It’s all lies. We know it is. Yet we fall for them time and time again. For what? Because we’re promised the love and respect and human decency we’re denied simply because we live in a larger body. Ridiculous!

Who knows what I could have accomplished or achieved had I spent more time living my actual life instead of actively hating my body. Now I can honestly say that letting go of those things, those rules and behaviors, was the best thing I’ve ever done. Free of the self hate and worries over every little thing and trying desperately to fit in (even when I didn’t truly want to, tbh). I would wake up so sad everyday. I spent years living that way. It’s not worth it! It never was and it never can be. Hating yourself, allowing others to make you feel that you should hate yourself and your body, is never fucking worth it!

When you get to the heart of this bullshit, it is all about money. It all started as a marketing scheme to distract and control and to profit. That’s it! That’s all! It was never about health and happiness. It’s so easy to get sucked into these things, it’s all very religious and cult like, imo. All of the rituals and meetings and shame and guilt and good versus bad. Blegh!

You’re perfectly fine just the way you are.

So whose rules are you following?

Rad Fatty Love to ALL.
<3
S

P.S. Check out the hashtag: #FatAndFree in Insta & FB!

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Workplace “Wellness” Programs

Slate has a good article on how “wellness” programs aren’t.  There’s good details on why they tend not to actually improve health. But the money quote is:

Under the ACA, wellness programs are a legal way to shift a significant portion of the cost of premiums onto employees deemed unhealthy. Wellness programs don’t save money by preventing expensive medical claims—and in fact, they might even increase claims costs due to encouraging unnecessary doctors’ visits. But wellness programs can save money if enough employees fail them or opt out.

I’m glad my current employer isn’t doing this sort of thing. I hope it stays that way.

Image courtesy of Rudd image gallery.


Filed under: Anti-Obesity Programs, WellnessIndustry

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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Famous Fat People: Jane Darwell, Academy-Award Winning Actress

Jane Darwell, Academy Award-winning actress
Periodically on this blog, we look at the lives of famous fat people of the past just for fun. So far we've looked at Sophie Tucker and Marie Dressler. Today we are talking about Jane Darwell.

Fat people are tremendously underrepresented in Hollywood, and even when they actually have a decent role, positive portrayals seem few and far between.

It's helpful to remember that there actually have been quite a few fat folk who have quietly had real accomplishments even if they often get overlooked.

Jane Darwell was an actress whose career spanned the stage, silent movies, and talkies, and who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She was born Patti Woodard to a well-off family in Missouri in 1879. Her father was president of a railroad company.

She was bit by the acting bug and flirted with the possibilities of circus rider and opera singer before deciding to become an actress.

In an era when acting was considered a disreputable occupation for women, she chose to change her name to "Darwell" so she wouldn't embarrass her family.

Jane Darwell in "The Goose Girl," 1915
She started her career in stage productions in Chicago, then appeared in her first film in 1913 in her mid-30s. After working in films for a while, she went back to the stage for 15 years.

Theatrical publicity still, 1945
In 1930, she returned to films with "Tom Sawyer," and thereafter had an active career on both film and stage. The best roles of her career were as an older actress.

Shirley Temple and Jane Darwell in "Bright Eyes"
Because she was seen as "short, stout, and plain," she always played character parts, usually the grandmother, the housekeeper, etc. She appeared in five Shirley Temple films in those types of characters.

Going over a script with Rosalind Russell
Here she is as yet another maid on the set of "Craig's Wife," looking at a script with Rosalind Russell.

With Tyrone Power in "Jesse James"
Most often, though, she played the mother of one of the main characters. She was seen as the quintessential mother figure, ironic since she never had children herself. Here she is with Tyrone Power in "Jesse James."

She appeared in many high-profile films over the years, including "Huckleberry Finn" (1931), "Jesse James" (1939), "Gone with the Wind" (1939), "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), and "My Darling Clementine" (1946).

As Mrs. Merriwether (center) in "Gone with the Wind"
In "Gone with the Wind," she played Mrs. Dolly Merriwether, a Southern matron and society gossip. In this role, she was noted for having a booming vocal and physical presence on screen.

"The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943)
"The Ox-Bow Incident" let her venture outside the narrow confines of the typical mother/older woman role in Hollywood. She wore pants, rode astride, and was a take-charge woman in a sexist frontier town in this old Western about the moral dilemma of capital punishment.

An atypical role in "The Ox-Bow Incident"
In this role, she was sympathetic in that she was acting outside of gender norms and pushing back against sexist standards, but she was also a complex and dark character because of her blood-thirsty, vicious nature and enthusiastic embrace of hanging a man without a trial. It was a rare departure from the typical roles she played and she dug into it uncompromisingly.

Movie poster for "The Grapes of Wrath"
However, it was her role as Ma Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) that won Darwell the most acclaim. Her quiet strength in keeping her family together despite the trials of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, losing the family farm, and the tough life of migrant farm work was the heart of the film in many ways.

Ma Joad taking one last look at some beloved mementos
One of her most powerful scenes was of Ma Joad silently going through her things in her house as the family is about to leave it forever. She looks at her mementos, mentally saying farewell, burning most of them because she knows they have no place in her new life. She holds a pair of nice earrings up to her ears one last time, remembering better times but realizing she'll never wear them again. Mournfully but resolutely, she leaves them behind.

The director, John Ford, doesn't rush the scene or clutter it up with dialogue. The lighting by cinematographer Gregg Toland is absolutely stunning. She is seen from behind the shoulder, darkly, in a broken mirror, as if lit by a single candle, highlighting her grief. Her image is striking in its poignancy, heartbreaking in its sorrow, but does not hesitate to show her resolute strength in leaving the past behind and moving on. Nearly every critic cites this scene as one of the best in the movie, with her acting and the stark lighting as its central core.

Dancing with Henry Fonda near the end of "Grapes of Wrath"
Darwell played Henry Fonda's mother, and their scenes together are really special. Their bond is crucial to the story and the tragic ending when he must leave the family to protect them. All through the film, they are very reserved with each other, as befits the culture of the people they represent. But they show the special bond between this mother and her son in small ways. By the end, when he sings to her as he dances with her, you can see their rapport. When he has to leave and they embrace one last time, it breaks your heart.

Henry Fonda wanted Darwell to play Ma Joad
Reportedly, Fonda had to campaign heavily to have Darwell cast as his mother. The director initially wanted to cast someone else in the role instead, someone thinner. But in the end, Darwell's careworn face (none of the actors were allowed to wear makeup) echoed Ma Joad's look perfectly. She was Every Woman facing hard times in the Great Depression.

Some critics have suggested her appearance was too "soft," "dumpy," "porcine," or "plump" for Steinbeck's steely family matriarch ─ as if a fat woman could not still be fat through hard times, or as if fatness could not represent the physical or emotional toughness needed to keep a family together through great difficulties. These comments reflect the authors' biases; Steinbeck's original work states clearly that Ma Joad is heavyset from childbearing but strong from years of hard work.

On the road as migrant farmworkers, in "The Grapes of Wrath"
Although her work was certainly sentimental in the typical acting style of the time, most critics have praised it, calling it a "a performance of quiet strength, dignity, and optimism," and "the performance of a lifetime." Some have even called her performance "one of the greatest mother figures the screen has given us."

Darwell receiving her Oscar for "Grapes of Wrath"
Certainly her peers and colleagues seem to have agreed with the latter opinions, awarding her the 1940 "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar for her work in the film, despite stiff competition from some amazing actresses and roles that year.

Saying goodbye to her son at the end of "The Grapes of Wrath"
Through her career, Darwell played Henry Fonda's mother so often ("Jesse James," "Grapes of Wrath," "Chad Hanna," "The Ox-Bow Incident," and "My Darling Clementine") that they joked about it. She said:
I've played Henry Fonda's mother so often that, whenever we run into each other, I call him "Son" and he calls me "Ma" just to save time.
As Mrs. Rogers in "There's Always Tomorrow"
In the 1950s, she began to scale back her roles as she faced health challenges in her 70s. Even so, she appeared in numerous TV shows as well as occasional movies like "There's Always Tomorrow" (1956) and "The Last Hurrah" (1958).

As Granny McCoy on "The Real McCoys" in 1961
In the 1960s, she was in her 80s and becoming frail. She still made occasional appearances, including on TV shows like "Wagon Train" and "The Real McCoys," working until 1964 and about age 84 or so.

Darwell's last role, in "Mary Poppins"
Her final role was as the Old Woman feeding the birds in "Mary Poppins" in 1964. According to IMDB, she refused the role at first, but Walt Disney personally visited her in order to convince her to do the role. It's a small but important part of the picture, a sweet but serious moment that is striking and memorable. 

She died a few years later at age 87 (nearly 88). She had appeared in over 170 films.

Critics would have us believe that fat people were non-existent in the olden days and that fat people could never make a career in Hollywood. They'd also have us believe that fat people never live to be old, always dying young.

Jane Darwell is another example that refutes these common misconceptions.






References




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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

New Year, New You…For Whom?

We’re smack in the middle of the week between Xmas and NYE and the volume of the whole “New Year, New You!” bullshit has gone from a tolerable din to a raging dischord-symphony. UGH! I want to smash it all! I don’t do resolutions, I don’t do goal setting, and I don’t fuck with diet culture! NOPE!
grump-nope
What I have always strived for is simply to live a life of my own choosing. Being and (always) becoming my most authentic self. So when we start with the whole “New Year, New You!” bullshit, what feels gross to me is the implication that there is something inherently wrong with us/me/you. Fuck that!

If I feel that I want or need to make a change in order to set myself up for a more authentic life, then I just will. I don’t need a date or a commercial or a book or a new workout fad to make it happen. Of course it’s totally okay and fine to try new things, but I ask you to explore one thing: for whom these things are done?

The importance of this cannot be overstated: For whom is this for? Because if it isn’t for yourself, what else are you compromising or missing or holding yourself back from enjoying?!

Whispers of, “It’s for your health” and “I love you and I just want you to be healthy so you can live longer” all sounds nice, but if anyone gave an actual shit about your health and well being they wouldn’t attempt to make you feel like shit with this passive bullshit to begin with. If you do have people in your life passive aggressively “motivating” you to do these things, ask them what it is they are attempting to make you feel and compare that to how it actually makes you feel. Is it shame?  Is it guilt? Is it that they think something is wrong with you and feel it’s your responsibility to “fix” yourself? Because fuck that and fuck them!
screenshot-2016-12-28-at-12-18-40-pm

Think about your day to day life. When you wake up in the morning, what are the first things you think about? What are the first things you do? For whom are you doing these things? What thoughts or actions are you suppressing or ignoring because of someone or something else?

You have to live your life for you! You cannot be your most authentic self if you’re holding yourself back from what your heart desires!

You deserve better! If there’s things in your life you want to change, do it for you! It is your life, no one else’s!

“I want many things, sure, but most of all I want to be and feel loved and special. Isn’t that what any of us wants?”
(Quote from a previous end of the year post on this blog.)
screenshot-2016-12-28-at-12-20-30-pm

When I started my new job (it still feels unreal and new I guess, 7 months in), I quickly bonded with someone over a book, “Daring Greatly” and not only do I highly recommend that book (by Brene Brown), but there was something she said in the book that has stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something like, Are you happy with who you are and your life right now? Is this the life you set out to live? Like, if you could see your life now from when you were a kid, would you be okay with it? That whole book is so quotable! But I can’t find the exact quote. You should read it anyway, it’s just good.

I just reread some past posts from this time of year. They’re all filled with portions of hope and despair and wishes and fears. It is no small wonder that this time of year always rattles me! I noticed a serious pattern of income instability at this time of year for many years! I’m so glad that is not the case this year. This year all of my battles and struggles are internal. Life can seem so simple from the outside, but dammit it’s hella complicated when you’re actually living it! Ha-ha!

I’m depressed this week. I know it will pass, it always does. I’m trying to get my house together, but it’s awfully slow going. I’m enjoying the downtime with my lil’ puggo. Each day brings sad, sad news. This weekend will be full of celebrations with friends. I feel a growth spurt on the horizon. I hope it brings more joy, fulfillment, and abundance into my life.

screenshot-2016-12-28-at-12-16-16-pm

If you’re feeling a bit adrift as well, might I suggest perusing The Steps, which are just ten steps of stuff that has helped me live a happier life. I’m going to reread those myself and see where it takes me. I really felt in my element when I wrote those, I miss that.

I won’t entertain prophecies or fortune telling for the coming year, but I can put out the intention that we will be closer to each other. What brings us closer who can say, but I hope we can all lean on each other and our communities.

We are stronger through vulnerability, not in avoiding it.

Listen to your gut. Never lose that connection to yourself.

See you on the flip side!

Rad Fatty Love to ALL.
<3
S

screenshot-2016-12-28-at-12-18-00-pm

My blog’s Facebook page for things I share that aren’t on this blog (body positive always, funny sometimes):
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Thinking About Joining A Gym This New Year?

My Best Friend Kelrick got this figurine for me in a little shop in Astoria, Queens. Sadly I don't know the artist.

My Best Friend Kelrick got this figurine for me in a little shop in Astoria, Queens. Sadly I don’t know the artist.

As you may have noticed, I’m taking a bit of a break from new blog posts.  I’ll be back with new stuff in the new year, for now, another annual tradition post:  A lot of people make a New Years Resolution to join a gym or to go to a gym more.

This is a, well, let’s call it a unique time of year to join a gym because at the moment gyms are  packed to the gills with people. It does die down – by mid-February you won’t be waiting in lines for equipment, there won’t be a line at the front desk to check in, and you will be able to get a bike in spin class without showing up 2 hours early and tying people to poles in the locker room.

For many people the gym is a big scary place.  I’m a gym rat from way back so for me it’s really more like home.  All the sights, sounds – yes even the smells – of the gym make me feel comfortable.  If you read this blog regularly then you know that I don’t think that going to the gym, or any kind of movement or exercise, is any kind of obligation – whether or not someone chooses to move their body within their ability is absolutely their choice (and is a choice that can be limited by external circumstances) and all choices are valid.  I’m writing this because I just don’t want someone who wants to go to the gym to skip it because the gym seems so unfriendly.  Here is some stuff that might help:

Choosing a Gym

This is a matter of money, vibe, location, and what you need in a gym. Typically more money means more amenities so decide what you want.  I once toured a gym that had a $10/month membership fee but didn’t have locker rooms.  That obviously works for some people, but it doesn’t work for me.  There are gyms that are snotty, gyms that are laid back, gyms that are more based on group exercise and gyms that don’t even have a cardio room.  Some have a pool, some have a pilates center etc.

It’s worth it to take the time to check out the gyms in your area and see what’s available (a lot of this can be done online.)  Some of them will have incredibly pushy salespeople who say that you can only get this special if you sign up Right.  This.  Second.  Ask to speak to a manager and ask what’s wrong with their gym that they don’t think it will stand up to a little comparison shopping.  Then ask for the deal in writing and two weeks to make a decision.  Be prepared to negotiate down to a week or so and your mileage may vary, but this has always worked for me.

Being a Newbie:

First, try to have some old timer empathy.  Imagine if you shopped at a store 5 times a week every week for years.  Then all of a sudden the store is filled with new people who don’t know where anything is, they start moving things around etc.  Suddenly your 30 minute shopping trip takes 2 hours and the things that you buy 5 times a week are all sold out.  Of course it’s nobody’s fault, you have every right to be there and use the gym, and it’s not an excuse to be an ass, but some empathy can help.  I, like many old-timers, are glad that the newbies are there, and appreciate it when we all follow some basic etiquette:

Take a deep breath, everyone around you was once a Newbie too – none of us was born knowing how to adjust machines that look complicated enough to require launch codes.  If your gym offers classes to help you learn to use the equipment, it may behoove you to take them.  If you aren’t sure how to adjust a machine:  Do ask a friendly looking person.  Do ask someone at the front desk for help.  Don’t ask a personal trainer who is in session – remember that someone is paying that person for their undivided attention.

Look around before you just start grabbing things and moving them around. Think of it as a new job, you learn the office etiquette before you start playing your radio, making coffee, taking breaks etc. It’s the same at the gym–figure out what’s appropriate before you re-arrange furniture like it’s “Trading Spaces–the Weight Room Addition”.

When you go into a group class for the first time, it may help to stand back around the edges for a little while to get the lay of the land, let the regulars get their spots etc.  Pay attention to things like how far apart people tend to stand – unless you want to tell your grandkids about that time you got kicked in the head in step class.

People might say ridiculous things to you.  While it’s pretty rare that someone says or behaves in a way that is mean, plenty of people may behave in a way that is annoying.  Some people may congratulate you for starting an exercise program (even if you’ve had an exercise plan for the last 10 years)  or encourage you on your weight loss, even though you aren’t interested in manipulating your body size. While this is a very real concern, I personally think that if I stay home because people might be jerks, I’m the one who loses out in the end, so I strategize.

Of course it’s your choice how you deal with this: thank them while you think really hard about rolling your eyes, use it as a teachable moment for Health at Every Size/Size Acceptance, put Bengay on their sweat towel (that was a joke, please don’t actually do that).  I typically prefer teachable moments, but whatever you choose I would recommend deciding beforehand and practicing.  It’s harder than you might think to say what you intended to say when you are sweaty, exhausted, and surprised by a perfect stranger weighing in on their assumptions about your life choices.

Crap Old-Timers Try to Get Away With

Most old-timers are going be on a spectrum from awesome to at-least-they-leave-you-alone.  Sometimes old-timers will try to get away with the following behaviors.  Here’s what you might do:

Time limit?  What time limit?

This one is usually accompanied by a look of wide-eyed innocence.  During this time of year many gyms put time limits on their cardio machines.  People who’ve been around awhile tend to try to get around this by:  putting their towel over the clock, restarting the timer every 10 minutes, or just ignoring it thinking nobody will say anything.

You can handle this directly with them (excuse me, but can I take a look at the timer on your machine to see what kind of wait I’m looking at?  I’m sorry, you may not have noticed but you’re over the time limit).  Or you can tell the good people at the front desk.*

Opposing Muscle Musical Chairs

A lot of resistance training programs are based around working opposing muscle groups.  Some people like to alternate between the two (one set of biceps/one set of triceps, lather rinse repeat) so they will work on one machine and leave their water bottle and towel on the other.  This is not cool.

You can deal with it directly (Normally I ask “may I set in” – in other regions they say “may I work in” – but if someone is pulling this you can just say “I’m going to set in on this machine” or don’t say anything, just move their stuff and start working out, or ask the nice people at the front desk to deal with it.*

Mine. All Mine.  My Precious.

Some types of weight lifting require the person lifting to use a number of different weights.  While that’s fine, it is NOT FINE to get 12 sets of weights and put them under your bench at peak times at the gym.

Again, I typically come by and ask “Mind if I use this” indicating the weights that I need.  You can also talk to the people at the front desk.*

*A note on talking to the front desk people about your issues.  I don’t particularly recommend it unless someone’s behavior is egregious or they don’t respond to polite inquiry.  Most people will start to act like they’ve had some home training if they are gently confronted.

A last note:  I’ve noticed at my gym, it’s as if every year there’s a “newbie class” who meet each other and then wave and say hi at the gym forever.  It’s not that they all hang out or even chat very much, it’s just that in 2008 they all survived being gym newbies who work out around 6pm, and now they are bonded.  It’s pretty cool.  I’m an early morning or late night worker outer.  We seem to have a camaraderie all our own.  While we basically communicate only through grunting and pointing,  when you lift weights with someone at 3 in the morning a few times a week for a while, you’ve bonded.

A last, last note about the gym and Health At Every Size.  The gym is NOT the only path to fitness.  So if you think it would be fun to take water aerobics or spin class, if you love the elliptical or  the idea of getting strong through weight lifting then I highly encourage you to try the gym.  If you want to move more but you’d rather have a root canal than come to the gym then it’s completely cool for you to find a movement option that makes you happy!

If you want some support, feel free to check out Fit Fatties, it is a fun and supportive group, founded by two fathletes, for people of all sizes who are interested in talking about fitness from a weight neutral perspective.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



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Saturday, 24 December 2016

Link: Nocturnal Animals and the Metaphor of Fat Women

If you don’t follow Your Fat Friend on Medium or Twitter, maybe you want to make that part of your New Year’s Resolution.  Her writing is insightful, emotionally resonant, and uncompromising.  Her most recent article is an open letter to director/fashion designer Tom Ford on his debut film Nocturnal Animals, specifically the use of fat women’s bodies as symbolic imagery and her own experience as part of a theater audience.

It was neither the first nor the last time an artist or intellectual I loved expressed their disdain for me. All because of the body I have. All because of the way I look.

I wonder if they ever imagined me reading or viewing their work. I wonder if they thought of lecturing me on the dangers of the body I have, or if they stop short, surmising that I might have heard that before.

I wonder if they know fat people, or if they’ve come to love any of us.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to let you know that I’m going to be busy with theater projects in January, so I won’t be able to update CPBS next month.  However, if you think you’d like to contribute a guest piece, please reach out to me with a pitch:  pandabearshape at gmail dot com.

I hope you have as safe and peaceful a holiday season as possible.



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Resources for the Holidays

Holiday Biscuit

Biscuit the Pug and I wish happy, body positive, holidays to all who are celebrating, and a happy, body positive rest of the year to those who aren’t!

Every year, this is one of my biggest e-mail days – when I receive the most e-mails asking for help or support dealing with fatphobia during the holidays – from those who are celebrating and those who aren’t.  For some people, the holidays are filled with fun family get-togethers and happy memories and festivities. For many people, it’s very much not.

People for whom “the holidays” aren’t so happy often don’t feel like they can talk about it (or are discouraged from talking about it), which makes it extra suck.  So I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that and let you know that this is a safe space, and to re-post some resources, if you have additional resources please feel free to post them in the comments!

Dealing with family and friends food police

Combating holiday weight shame

The Holiday Boundary Song

Dealing with people who can’t handle you setting boundaries

This article was written for Queer people, and has good tips for everyone.

There is a past discussion thread about this over on Shakesville that has some really great ideas and discussion.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

If you are uncomfortable with my offering things for sale on this site, you are invited to check out this post.



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Thursday, 22 December 2016

the HAES® files: Fitbit? No Thanks.

by Nicole Christina, LCSW

Ok. I admit they look cool. Especially the Jawbones. They look like something I might buy in the Museum of Modern Art catalog. Or a fashion statement worn by a character in the film Bladerunner. But I have a real beef with this supposed “health trend”.

For the benefit of discussion, imagine using this computerized tracking system for your dog; counting their steps, weighing and entering their kibble into an app. Doesn’t it make more sense to use your pet’s behavior to judge how much exercise and food they need? Don’t they have an internal system which tells them when to eat and how much to exert themselves?

Dogs’ food and exercise requirements might depend on the day, the weather, and their energy level. When they are out for a walk and they slow down and appear tired, it’s time to go home to rest. A nap on the couch might follow. Exercise feels good because, like us, they are designed to move. It’s about their individual bodies, combined with some simple, time-tested guidelines: movement is good for bodies, and eating regular, satisfying meals works well. It’s basic, common sense.

Using a fancy counter, however attractive, to indicate how much exercise, rest and food I need makes as much sense as counting Fido’s steps. Do I really believe that these plastic fitness counters have as much wisdom and value as our internal hunger cues, which have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years?

Talk about a successful ad campaign! It’s not in Fitbit company’s best financial interest to state the obvious: We are the experts on our own bodies. Each of us is different. What works for me may not work for you. (My kale smoothie trial landed me in my doctor’s office with terrible stomach aches. Other people swear by them).

But even worse than allowing a device to trump my internal wisdom, using a sophisticated counting machine sucks the joy out of exercising. So instead of noticing nature or my breath, I’m checking to see how many steps I need to meet an arbitrary goal. It’s like having the food and exercise police follow me everywhere! Not so different than an ankle monitor worn by prisoners.

For me, it is much more effective and self-respecting to ask my body what I need. Case in point: This morning I was dragging a bit, having left the house without my usual coffee. I went to take my dogs on their favorite trail hike, but couldn’t bring myself to put on my weighted walking vest. Instead, I walked with my nordic poles, and immersed myself in the fall scenery. It was about to rain, so the light was particularly interesting. The leaves crunched, and the woods had that woodsy-earthy smell. It was gorgeous. Did I fail at my exercise goal? Should I have felt badly because I wasn’t “working my core”? I would suggest that this particular walk did more for my spirits–and therefore my body–than reaching any daily fitness goal.

Instead of using a device to give you marching orders, how would it be to allow yourself to tune into what your body wants to do…run, walk, swim, bounce, stretch…or even nap!

Here’s a little secret… as much as I embrace many “alternative” practices, I’ve found that yoga is just not for me. I really want to like it. But I’ve tried it enough times to know that walking and tennis are the activities that make me happy. Yoga does not. So even though I wish I were a yoga girl, I stick with what works for me. Because I know what works best.

The same goes for eating. Entering meals and portion sizes into an app effectively hijacks my body’s innate intelligence. Imagine what our ancestors did without these calculations? How did they survive? No Fitbits? No scales? No MyFitnessPal? It’s amazing our species survived!

Now imagine the more sane alternative: Eating fresh, whole, delicious foods (without getting overly rigid) until you are satisfied. Instead of noticing a number on a machine ask yourself, “How does this taste? How do I feel? What is my energy level before, during, and after eating?” No Fitbit can measure that. Imagine feeling secure in the fact that your body knows what is best for you, that you can rely on yourself and trust your own judgement. That if you listen, all the information you will ever need is already part of your own time-tested operating system.

So this is my advice: Put away the electronics. Taste your food. Breathe. Enjoy the experience.Throw in a little gratitude about having such varied and fresh choices (you can even say it by name: Wegman’s). Eat slowly. Stop when you are satisfied. Try to get some movement in most days. Take out the ear buds. Notice your surroundings–the trees, the birds, the light.

These practices will stand you in good stead long after that FitBit is gathering dust in your junk drawer.

 


Nicole Christina, LCSW is a writer and psychotherapist in private practice in Syracuse, NY. She has specialized in food and eating issues for 25 years. Her new webcourse DIETS DON’T WORK (but Mindful Eating does!) can be found on her website NicoleChristina.com.



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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Infertility sucks, but no one owes you a baby

Let me start this post off with a little about my own infertility. I have PCOS, and have been unable to have a child. I’ve had two miscarriages (at least), and another failed IUI. After three rounds at the fertility clinic, my husband and I decided it was time to give up. The stress and near-daily doctor’s visits were taking their toll. The expense didn’t help either. We could have afforded as many rounds of IUI as we’d wanted to do (though IVF might be a stretch), but the idea of spending all that money and not necessarily having a baby to show for it was hard for me. I felt like I was putting my life on hold in hopes of something that might never happen, so I chose to let it go and live the life I have, even if it’s not the life I wanted or imagined.

Anyway, Kate Harding pointed out a really gross Federalist article, whose basic gist was that women who can’t raise children are there to be brood mares for infertile couples.

With the help of the many people everywhere in this country and world who are waiting to surround and support you, you can go through pregnancy and birth and raise your child. If you are really young or in really terrible circumstances, that might be exceedingly difficult. So you have another option to give your child a happy life with a mother and father who will read him or her picture books, take your child on walks, hold your child’s hand during an emergency room visit, and wake up a dozen times a night when that sweet baby has a fever.

It’s called adoption. Thirty-six vetted, loving, wonderful families are on waitlists to adopt every single available baby in this country. That’s right: for every child in this country up for adoption, 36 families desperately yearn for the opportunity to care for that baby. They are aching to give your baby a good life.

First off, raising a child is difficult for *everybody,* not just teenagers or people in really terrible circumstances. It’s more than a lot of people can handle, whether that’s due to age, money, temperament, health, or any number of things. It may be hard for an infertile person who’s desperate for a baby to believe, but there are people who just flat-out do not want to be parents.

Secondly, can we please stop pretending that pregnancy itself is, at worst, mildly inconvenient? Women die in childbirth. At higher rates in the US than is acceptable for a supposedly civilized country. And those rates are higher for poor women and women of color, or for women with existing health issues that make a pregnancy more dangerous. Even if a pregnancy doesn’t kill or cripple you, it’s still a potentially disabling condition, especially if you’re disabled or ill to start with. I somehow doubt that all those so very supportive people are going to move in with a woman whose chronic pain is exacerbated by pregnancy, and help her stay bathed, fed, dressed, and gainfully employed with free 24/7 care. Or baby-sit the other kids of the woman with severe depression, so she can go get a massage, or do yoga, or whatever other self-care steps are serving as a poor substitute for the psych meds she can’t take while pregnant.

But third, and the focus of this post, is that infertility does not entitle you to the use of another person’s body. Yes, I understand the empty sense of loss and the aching jealousy that can boil into rage and hate if you let it. I still remember sitting in my OB/GYN’s waiting room during my first miscarriage, *hating* the heavily pregnant teenager in the room with me. Because why should she have what I wanted so badly? (Those ugly thoughts passed, and I try not to resent people for having things I want, when they have struggles of their own, and it’s not their fault I’m infertile anyway.)

Sadly, the truth is that life is not fair. I didn’t “deserve” infertility, nor does anyone else who suffers with it. No one deserves war, or famine, or illness, or racism, either. But the fact that you’re suffering doesn’t mean that someone who has a thing that you want owes it to you. Especially when that thing is a pregnancy that will take nine months of their life to complete, will permanently alter their body, and may injure or even kill them. This is major, life-altering stuff. It’s not like we’re talking about making the five-year-old who’s hoarding all the candy share some with the other kids.

It’s deeply *wrong* to treat women with unwanted pregnancies as baby-making machines who exist for the benefit of those who can’t have children but want to. It also results in all kinds of abuses. In the course of a discussion with another pro-lifer, I came across this article, about a woman who was charged with murder for refusing a C-section. He had painted it as a heartless woman risking her baby’s life because she didn’t want a C-section scar. But that doesn’t necessarily hold up, considering that she had had previous C-sections. Between her mental illness and her cocaine use, she may not have been thinking clearly at the time, but there’s much more to the story than a vain, selfish woman who’s okay letting her kid die so she doesn’t get a scar.

But what struck me the most about this story is that this was a mentally ill woman who’d been transported by an adoption agency from Florida to Utah, to take advantage of lax adoption laws and provide babies for someone who wanted them. They’d put her up in a hotel on a $100 a week allowance. So, here she is, all by herself in an unfamiliar place, being treated by doctors she doesn’t know. She described a C-section as “being gutted from breast bone to pubic bone,” so clearly she was terrified of the procedure. Anybody would be scared in that situation. So, she fled, like scared people do.

But the big take-away for Twitter Pro-Lifer had nothing to do with the woman’s health or safety, and everything to do with how evil she was for not consenting to a C-section. But what if she had actual support? Not an adoption agency who wanted to use her as a brood mare and doctors who were openly hostile to her, but people who actually cared about her? What if she’d gotten to have her babies in her home state, surrounded by people who care about her? Would she have been more willing to undergo a C-section with a doctor she knew and trusted? If she really wasn’t competent to make the medical decision, she deserved to have a family member there who could do so on her behalf, or at the very least, a social worker who’s job it was to advocate for her. There’s no way to say whether the overall medical outcome would’ve been better, but the stress she underwent certainly can’t have helped.

The Nation article pretty well covered what Utah’s reaction should have been:

 Melissa Rowland’s case is one that never should have happened. Instead of arranging her auto-da-fé, whether for murder or child endangerment, the State of Utah should be asking itself how it can improve services for poor, pregnant, mentally ill substance abusers–and maybe take a look at adoption agency practices, too. When doctors and nurses take the time to know their patients and treat them with empathy and respect, patients usually follow their advice.

The thing that I cannot stress strongly enough is that pregnant women are people, not walking incubators. Melissa Rowland was treated like a walking incubator, and that should never have happened.




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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Vitamin B12. Joy.

Researchers have found a possible link between lack of vitamin B12 in early life and insulin resistance later.  (Link has both video and text; video does at times assume fat is a problem, but overall explores why type 2 diabetes is not brought on by eating too much.)

I’ve written before about being deficient in Vitamin B12, so you may understand that this is a bit closer to home for me that others.  And the endocrinologist has reminded me many times that I’m insulin resistant.

So. Yeah. Interesting.


Filed under: B12, Diabetes

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