It’s really not about fat — Self Esteem Friday

I found this video on Body Politics today.

In China, if a person is too short, they may be denied entry into universities, denied jobs, and (of course) left out of the dating pool.  So, people who are too short are starting to take drastic and dangerous measures to become taller. 

Watching that video made me realize:  It’s really not about being fat.  It has nothing to do with my health (or assumed lack there of) being a fat person.  It has nothing to do with how much money it’s presumed I’m costing the global health system, or even how much food I’m presumed to eat and how it stresses the global food supply, creating global food shortages for more deserving (read thin) people. 

It’s about not being whatever the dominant society says is acceptable.  In most western nations, it’s daring to live fat in a skinny society.  It’s daring to get off the merry-go-round of constant dieting.  It’s daring to have enough self-esteem to stop doing things that are ultimately hurtful to my mind, body, and spirit. 

It really doesn’t have anything to do with fat or height.  It has everything to do with daring to be yourself.

Dare to be yourself today.  Eat what you want to eat, even if it’s at McDonalds, and don’t give in to the guilt afterwards.  Dress in whatever color you want, in whatever style you want, even if it’s a color or style fat people should never ever EVER wear.  Do what you want today, even if it’s “just” taking a down day and watching the movie or reading that book you’ve been wanting to for the past six months but couldn’t find the time to do it.  Enjoy being yourself.  Don’t worry what the dominant culture will say about what you are eating, drinking, dressing in, or doing (or not doing). 

Because the dominant culture is only concerned with what it thinks makes it look good.  If you fall outside of it’s parameters, you will always be lacking.  Even if you are dieting and exercising 4 hours a day.  Even if there is no other cause for your height than genetics.  The dominant culture doesn’t care about you or your happiness, your development as a person.

Which is why you have to care about you .  Which is why you have to do what you can to live the life you want to live, whether or not you meet the dominant cultures standards of beauty or health.  Do what’s best for you (and only you can decide what is best for you at any given minute). 

It’s not about fat.  It never has been.


11 Responses

  1. Ughh, that video made me nauseous. So true, it never has been about fat ultimately. If everyone magically became thin, there will ALWAYS be other physical traits to demonize. Sad, sad, sad. It just sickens me to see perfectly healthy people mutilate themselves to conform to some arbitrary standard.

    I’ll enjoy being myself and do want I want tomorrow, when I have a day off of work. : )

  2. i *wish* i could eat what i wanted. if i could it would be fruitcake and eggnog. 😀 this is why i tell people who arent diabetic to “enjoy a bite of that for me” when they’re eating something i would like to have but cant.

    ok, so i sometimes take one tiny taste of forbidden foods. but i dont want to get into the habit, you know? so today i will laugh loudly no matter what, and TheEngineer will probably feed the stuffed animal addiction some more, and i’ll wish i had my bette midler cd again so i could listen to the song “i’m beautiful, dammit!” cause, indeed, i am. there’s the lyrics if you arent familar with them.

  3. Now I have to add the Divine Miss M to my Christmas List; that song needs to be on my treadmill mix.

  4. Actually, that song is on the Bathhouse Betty album, not The Divine Miss M. (But yeah, it’s great!)

  5. I’m glad you stopped by to check out the Body Politics blog. I see the influence around me every day that society tries to exert on my daughters and me.

    I would like to say that you should try to avoid food that is “bad” for you on a regular basis for health’s sake. I’m not talking about a piece of birthday cake or the occasional eggnog – but french fries from fast food joints can have many health impacts that aren’t really weight related. I want fat girls and short girls and skinny girls and actually everybody to just learn to love themselves. It’s not about eating whatever you want whenever you want – it’s about not being ashamed of yourself and society not putting you in some non-person category if you don’t “fit in” to the beauty standard.

    Lidon is right – even if we all managed that “perfect” media image of beauty – there would be somebody trying to sell us SOMETHING to change it. How do they convince us to buy stuff? By convincing us that what we have SUCKS and we need to fix it.

    Approaching 40 I don’t want to lose my mobility and my ability to hike, bike, bend, stretch and keep up – so I need to do more activity to assure my mobility. However that doesn’t mean I have to weigh myself or stand in the mirror scrutinizing myself. I can exercise and be happy with me!

    Have a great holiday!

  6. Heather: Part of your message here I agree with. The part that says: “I want fat girls and short girls and skinny girls and actually everybody to just learn to love themselves.” That part, I fully agree with.

    But my telling somebody to eat at McDonald’s if they wanted, did not mean that all fat people eat at McD’s all the time. You are buying into the epi-panic and the propeganda that says that and more.

    If you take anything away from this blog, I’d like you to take away an idea to not believe everything you hear on tv, or your coworkers say, or some comedian, or even the studies.

    Most fat people I know (myself included) eat well balanced meals for the most part. Yes, we go to fast food restaurants on occassion. So do normal weight and skinny folks though. So why is it okay for normal weight and skinny folk to be seen eating at McD’s and I can’t? That was the reasoning for saying to go to McD’s, if that’s what a person wanted to do that day.

    Also, there is no moral judgement in food. There is neither “good” food nor “bad” food. If you eat a so-called bad food (like a piece of cake, or some candy, or yes, a Big Mac (TM) ), you are not going to hell for it. Food is food. All food has nutrition (okay, some of the chemically engineered ones are questionable, but I’m not going to get into that). All food will nourish the body to some extent. To eat any one food (or one type of food) will be unhealthy for a diet. A diet of nothing but carrots and celery sticks would be just as damaging as a diet of nothing but Big Mac’s (TM) and fries.

    To say “I’m only saying this for your health” is disingenuous. Do you really believe that I don’t know about nutrition? With as many diets I’ve gone on (both on my own and put on by doctors), do you really think I haven’t looked at study after study after study? Do you really think that most people (fat, skinny, short, tall), especially in this weight environment we live in today, doesn’t know that fast food isn’t necessarily the best (ie, for nutritional values) choice out there?

    Let me ask you a question though, about food choices: Would you say that eating a steak, baked potato, and salad would be a good choice for a nutritionally dense meal? If you answer yes, then please tell me the difference between the steak and baked potato and the hamburger and fries.

    Lastly, you said you don’t want to lose your mobility as you approach 40. Let me tell ya something, I’m 42, and the only reason I lost my mobility (when I was 34) was injuring my knee and not having insurance to get it looked at by a doctor at that time. I know people who are fat and older than me who can out walk younger, skinnier folk than both of us. I know fat people who can do belly dancing or yoga and who are so flexible they can make a 10 year old jealous. And I’ve met a 13 year old who had so much mobility issues due to a lifestyle choice her parents made that she was going to PT to try and get back to a normal life.

    Most people as they get older, unless they work at not losing the flexibility and mobility of their youth, are going to lose some flexibility and mobility. It has to do with our bodies aging, and not about how much weight we carry.

    Your desire that everybody learn to love themselves is commendable. You just need to take it an extra step and urge them to love themselves no matter what. Not whether they eat ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food or whether they are flexible or not.

  7. I think you’ve misunderstood me. I am making no moral judgment about french fries. I am simply saying that fries or potato chips are bad for anybody if they eat them regularly – fat or skinny, particularly if you consume those that contain partially hydrogenated oils.

    I have been blogging for years about the oppression of the woman and the fat woman in particular – and before blogs I had a “homepage” – remember those funny quaint little things? LOL! 🙂

    My point is, there is probably little you could tell me about “buying in” to anything that I don’t already know. My art, blogging, writing – much of it surrounds this topic.

    The first book that really explained to me that I could be fat and healthy was “Big Fat Lies” by Dr. Glen Gaesser. That was a real totem for me – especially when I knew that I wasn’t doing all that much different from some of my thinner peers. Of course I read all of the other fat girl bibles that were coming out back then – No Fat Chicks and Wake Up I’m Fat etc. So, you are preaching to the choir with some of your assertions.

    Also, there may not be “good” or “bad” food as a moral judgment but there are certainly foods that are good for you and those that are bad for you, particularly if those with little nutritive value are consumed in large quantities and those that are packed with nutrients and fiber are consumed in smaller quantities or at least not in amounts that give your body what it needs.

    Regarding mobility: Well, I do know people who make poor food choices and have lost their mobility. I never said it was because they were fat – you assumed that. My mother, for instance, has adult onset diabetes. Sure, she’s fat, but I don’t think that is the “cause” of her diabetes, as she has been told and believes. I have tried to tell her over and over that simply losing weight was not going to cure her, that she had to make smarter healthier food choices. She eats foods high in carbs, processed foods and foods that diabetics should not be eating in great quantities she should not be eating them in thereby overloading her pancreas and system. My mother is on a slow boat to being legless if she keeps it up. Incidentally, together in the spring we devised an eating system that consisted of whole grains, fresh fruits, the exclusion of processed sugars except in portioned amounts and moderate exercise and she did so well she was able to go off of her diabetes medication. She didn’t lose much weight as far as I know – that was not the devise of the plan – it was simply a plan to avoid the things that made her sugar go out of control and to eat them in satisfying portions that still allowed her many many choices. However, she has gone back to eating a quarter of a pumpkin pie with half a bottle of reddi whip, doritos and non-alcholic beer for breakfast and is it any surprise she spends half the day in bed and is sick and likely going to have to go back on her meds? To deny these realities in the name of fat pride is a mistake. I may piss off some of the fat pride folks with this – but to me to deny these realities in the name of fat pride is the same as folks who deny that you can be fat and healthy. There IS middle ground and there is reality in both camps.

    The difference between a McDonald’s burger and fries and a baked potato and steak: Besides the sodium and the processed white bread and the processed sugars in the sauce there is also the poor quality beef issue to deal with (as well as the moral obligations to our animal friends that that implies). Hopefully the steak you refer to has beef that is lean and organic and humanly treated and grass fed. Hopefully the potato is organically grown and drizzled in olive oil and fresh garlic and maybe a little cheese for all that vitamin d we need or even a small pat of butter and chives. Yum.

    As for the fries – fried foods – particularly potatoes – has been shown time and again to be bad for systems that don’t handle that type of carb well (like my mother) and have also been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer (and other cancers). The key words there are “increase risk.” Will it give everybody cancer? Will eating broccoli and cabbage keep everybody from getting cancer? The answer to both is no – but I choose to opt for the fries only on a rare occasion and more often I eat the veggies. I love chocolate too – so I go for the dark without trans fat most of the time. Do I ever pop a Hershey’s? Sure. Sometimes. But if I was diabetic I wouldn’t. Just like if I was allergic to peanuts, I wouldn’t eat them either.

    It took me a long time to find a balance between getting over my eating disorders, being a proud fat girl and doing things that are good for my health. It is likely having McDonald’s fries a few times a month isn’t going to hurt anybody. However, if you are eating crappy quality food like that on a weekly basis – it will probably catch up with you. Will it catch up with everybody? No. Neither will smoking. Smoking is bad for you – we all know that. But there are people who live to be ninety and are fairly healthy and smoked their whole lives. However, there is no doubt that not smoking is the better and healthier choice, is there?

    I am not telling anybody what they can and can’t do – there are plenty of people out there to do that. I am simply airing my take on the subject and where my hard won feelings and conclusions have taken me.

    BTW – I do belly dancing, yoga, bike riding, swimming and of course a healthy dose of sex (I love to try and count that in the exercise – that’s fair!). But I do feel less mobile than I did back when I was exercising regularly. So, maybe you can run up a hill with no problems – but I need a bit more work before I’ll be riding my bike more than a few miles from home. That is a choice I am making for me. And I am championing that choice for others who want to do it along with me. My main objective is to say to society that if somebody makes different choices that doesn’t make them “bad.” If somebody is fatter or skinnier or shorter than what is considered by the mainstream media to be “hot” – well screw them and hold your chin up – you are a goddess!

    I’m glad you are mobile, happy, and vocal – that’s great and inspiring. That’s all I want for anybody. But don’t try and minimize my path by judging it in a way you won’t accept yours being judged. I know that some foods have done harm to my body and I know I feel better when I avoid them. I know I feel even better when I exercise – my mood included – so I feel very strong in saying those things are real for me – even if they are not really the same reality for others.

  8. By the way, have you seen that stupid commercial for that gastric band “realize band” commercial? Those are the things that really piss me off.

    The very idea that a woman can’t go to Paris with her lover because she needs to lose weight first! REEE-DICK-U-LUS!!!!

    That commercial makes me so mad. I recorded a snippet of it – that’s going to be my next Body Politics blog.

    It’s commercials like that that validate the concept that if you are fat you can’t do things that other people can do. Stupid and insulting!

  9. By the way – Have a Happy Holiday!!! My best wishes to you and yours.

  10. Heather: I judged the tone of your writing. If all this stuff is great *for you*, then awesome. It’s about choices, and you have the freedom to choose to eat as you want.

    It’s when you start being preachy (like you are doing in my blog here with your “grass fed beef” and “organically grown potatoes” and “no potato fried in oil is ever good for you”) that you go over the line, at least, for my blog. This blog isn’t about preaching what people MUST do or MUST NOT do regarding food, what they eat, or how much of what they eat. If you really want to do that and call it fat acceptance, you’ve got your own platform to use to reach people in that way.

    It’s the whole thing of being an adult. If your mother wants to eat in a way that’s been proven to her through her experiments to make her feel worse, well, it’s her choice. She’s an adult and can eat how she wants. And before you call me heartless, I have the same challenges with my mother-in-law. She was recently told by one of her doctors not to eat any wheat. Her interpretation? She can’t eat whole wheat anything. But any cracker, bread, etc etc etc that isn’t “whole wheat” is fair game, including white bread, Ritz (TM) crackers, etc. Six months ago she was told she couldn’t have milk. She didn’t even cut down on her nightly ice cream treat and insists “that little bit isn’t going to hurt me”.

    Thing is, while I can advise her on what her doctor says is healthy eating patterns for her, I can’t force her to eat the way the doctor says she should (for a lessening of her GERD). She is an adult, and is capable of making her own decisions. And if she chooses to be on Nexium (TM) for the rest of her life and eat white bread and ice cream, that’s her choice to make.

    Just like eating, or not eating, anything is the choice all adults have. Whether you think they should or shouldn’t eat what they are eating.

    And it really doesn’t matter how many years you have in blogging (and yes, I remember “Homepages”) about whatever, when you come into my blog, you are a guest here, and I expect you to behave with good manners. Good manners does not include telling people that their possible choices of food are bad for them. Or assuming that because somebody gives themselves permission to eat something not nutritionally dense once in a while that they are going to do that all the time. Or telling them how bad they are if they choose to eat something that isn’t nutritionally dense most of the time. Good manners does not include telling people that what they are doing is wrong.

    Wrong for you, maybe. Wrong for them? You don’t get to make that judgement.

    You are quick to point out me judging you. Have you looked in the mirror lately? Did you read the words you wrote, and see how judgemental they sounded? If I percieved judgement, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who did. If you don’t want to be called on your judgement, then maybe, you should stop judging other people’s choices. Just a suggestion.

    The way you have written in my blog makes it sound awefully ‘one way-ism’, ie, there is only one way to be healthy and fat and that’s your way. That is something I won’t accept here. So, consider yourself warned.

  11. I consider myself “warned” and thanks for having me as a guest – you won’t have to “warn” me again. I depart wishing you well and abundant happiness.


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