Thursday, December 29, 2011

Breaking Our Children

I was going to write the usual type of holiday season post about not worrying that you may have gained a pound or ten during the season, but nothing was really working right.  I have figured out why.  Apparently, my Muse was wanting me to write a completely different blog today, and she was waiting to throw the perfect combination of inspirations in front of me.

A friend recently posted a link to a blog entry by Dan Pearce (also known as "Single Dad Laughing") about how parents should love their children as they are, and encourage them to grown and explore life rather than doing and saying things that break their child's spirit.  The situation that inspired his post had to do with a father who intimidated his child about behaviour, not weight, but the post still resonated with me in regards to other articles I've seen about parents who shame their overweight children.  Some do it in the hopes that it will encourage their child to lose weight, some just do it because they are cruel, but all of them do it in the mistaken belief that if their child's body doesn't fit a pre-determined set of numbers, their child has failed and their parenting skills are lacking.  Both of these assumptions are incorrect.

But what really got me thinking was an ad that I heard this morning on the radio as I drove in to work.  Amid the songs by Queen and The Clash, there came a commercial touting the life-changing benefits of the Slim for Life program.  I ignored it for the most part, except to occasionally make an ironic comment now and again to myself (since I was the only one in the vehicle at the time).  Then the Big Sell portion of the ad came on, and the announcer exclaimed in their most excited tone, "Kids get a free membership when their parent joins!!!"


*blink blink*

I'm sorry, WHAT did you just say?????

I actually had to process the words I had just heard for a few moments before they truly entered my mind.  Immediately following that moment I emitted a string of words that really should not be shared amongst polite company.  I can, however, boil the gist of them down for you:


This company that already preys on the low self-esteem endemic in adults that populate our society has now moved on to preying on children!!!  It's not bad enough that fat kids are already bombarded with thousands of messages every day saying that they are somehow substandard because they have a different body shape.  No, that's not bad enough at all!  Now we have to feed on that self-hatred and get it started at an even younger age by having the parents drag the children to Slim for Life appointments, have the parents say things like, "I'm spending the money on this program, so you need to really work to lose the weight." and "I'm managing to lose weight, how come you can't?  Are you cheating?"

Now parents who already feel worthless in our society and are terrified that their children will have to live with the same stigma will end up adding to the wounds that their children's psyches are already dealing with on a daily basis, and they will do it with the best of intentions.  They will do it with the hope that they will be sparing their child from teasing, from fat-hate, from having a harder time getting hired for a job, from a harder time finding a mate who is worthy of them.  They will do it with the words, "I don't want _________ to have to go through what I went through." 

But we all know what they say about the road to hell, right?

Good intentions of the parents aside, the fact that this company's management has decided to take this course of action, to promote this "special" as a viable program is sick and demented.  They aren't doing it because they're worried about children.  They aren't doing it with good intentions.  Plain and simple, they are doing it to make a buck.  Slim for Life has decided that if they can't get the Fatties in the door for themselves, if they can't get their hands on the Fatties' dollars even after all of their testimonials and ads, then by the GODS they will use GUILT as the prod!!!

"Quick!  Get in here and lose weight with your child!  Otherwise the whole world will see just what a rotten parent you are!!!"

That is the message that Slim for Life is selling, and it nauseates me.

Parents, please don't fall for this marketing scheme.  Please don't break your child that way.  Look at your child and tell them with all of the honesty and love in your heart that you love them just as they are, and that you think that they are beautiful just as they are.  Tell them that no matter how tall they get, how short they stay, how much they weigh, how long their hair is, how many piercings they end up getting, that you love them as they are and that they should love their body too.  Find ways to get them interested in being active if they already aren't, and encourage their activities if they already enjoy movement of some kind.  Make sure that your house has the healthiest foodstuffs that you can afford in the fridge and cupboards.  Let them have a candy bar or piece of cake without giving them the "you don't need that" look or speech.  Encourage them to have a piece of fruit or a salad if that's what they want.

Teach your children that listening to their own bodies is more important than listening to what other people say is right, that if their body is tired they should sleep, if it is hungry then they should eat, and that they should always remember how to play no matter how old they get.

Please don't call Slim for Life and sign your child up for their first official lessons in body shaming and fat hate.  Don't pay total strangers for the privilege of telling your child that they just aren't good enough and never will be unless they take the weight off and keep it off (which they only have a 5% chance of doing).

Love your children just as they are.  They already love you just as you are, so isn't it right to return that love without condition?

Let's stop breaking our children in so many ways.  They are beautiful, and they should continue to know that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Open Letter to George Takei

Dear Mr. Takei:

The first thing that I would like to say to you is that I have been impressed by you for a very long time. I always enjoyed your work, and after I read your autobiography, I was impressed with the grace that you handled life especially considering the steps that you have had to take in order to achieve your goals so far.

That is why it is so hard for me to write this note today. It is never easy to find out that someone whom you admire is human and has faults. We are all aware of this in an intellectual way, but when it becomes so very clear that our hearts cannot help but discover it as well, the disappointment is always a shock to the system.

You see, Mr. Takei, I am fat. I came out of the Fat Closet when I was about 8 years old. I was on my first diet before I was 10. Unlike gays and lesbians, Fatties have no choice about coming out, because the whole world can see who and what we are, so the torture begins early and is vicious. I remember having to get on the scale in front of all of the other kids in my class when we did school physicals, and having my weight announced for all of the world to hear. I remember crying into my pillow, trying to smother the sound so that my parents wouldn't hear because while they are loving and caring people, it would have meant that my Mom would have me on another diet because that was all that she could think of that would "help" and the currently mounting evidence that dieting is more harmful than good was not available then. I remember walking up to my locker in high school and seeing fat epithets including words like "Moose" written all over it in black Sharpie marker.

I didn't go to my prom. No one was going to ask the fat girl.

I hoped that when I got out of high school and went to college that things would change, but they didn't.

I hoped that when I got into the work world things would change, but they didn't. I remember working for a mortgage company in their foreclosures/bankruptcy department. I was an excellent employee. Actually, I was such a good employee that I regularly trained other employees in the policies, procedures and laws relating to what we did in our department. When the Team Lead position came open, I applied because I believed that the fact that I had trained everyone in our department showed that not only did I know my stuff, but that I was a talented team builder and leader. I didn't get the position. As a matter of fact, the person who did get the position was someone I had trained only a few months before and who was new to the industry. What she had that I didn't was a small waist.

Mr. Takei, I have spent a large part of my life believing that I have no place in this world. I spent it believing that I was weak-willed, lazy, stupid and that any success I achieved was through accident rather than accomplishment. I truly believed for a time that the world would have been a better place without my presence, and that I had no right to joy or happiness or pride in myself or the things I'd done. And yes, Mr. Takei, there were thoughts that maybe I should remove myself from the world because of who and what I was. Thoughts that people would mourn but that overall they would be relieved that they wouldn't have to deal with me and my fat self any more, that they wouldn't have to be uncomfortable around me any more.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The kinds of thoughts and feelings that the gay and lesbian teenagers you fight for go through the heads of fat children too. Both groups are told on a constant basis that they CHOOSE to be that way, that the only reason they aren't conforming to societal norms is because they are flawed, weak, and that they want to be as they are. Both groups are shamed in front of others on a regular basis, and are seen as valid targets for abuse by peers and authority figures alike. Both groups have former members who are paraded about by those who believe that it is a choice, former members who loudly say, "I did it! Anyone can!"

Both groups have growing bodies of evidence supporting the fact that they do NOT choose to be as they are, that it is as hard-wired in us as having blue or brown eyes, or being short or tall.

Mr. Takei, you have always struck me as a man who cares passionately about fighting injustice, and with good reason considering what you and your family went through in World War II, and what you and the man you love have had to go through most of your adult lives. That is why it came as such a shock to me that you would seemingly just toss aside the concerns that were raised by Fatties on your Facebook page. I really believed that it was just a misunderstanding, that you just hadn't stopped to think about how what you said could be construed as advocating bullying of another targetted group. And then you posted another fat joke the next day.

I cannot adequately express how much this saddens me. I have looked to you as a role model in regards to what one person can do to help change the way that society in general feels, and then I felt betrayed. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that the others who are actively bringing this disparity to your attention are wrong. I hope that you will take the time to consider my words above, perhaps replace the word "fat" with the word "gay" and see if my story is so very different from that of some of the people that you advocate for, and then realize that those of us who are considered to be among the last remaining groups that it is acceptable to be prejudiced against should stick together. We understand each other, Mr. Takei, and we understand how deeply the words and actions of others can cut into the soul, whether the word is "fag" or "fat", there isn't that much difference between us.

I don't know if this message will even reach you, but I have to write it because I have discovered that I am NOT weak, I am NOT stupid or a waste of life, and I have done so against great odds. I have done so despite moments where that doubt returns, and I will continue to carry that discovery forward and do my best to share it with others who have gone or are going through the mental and emotional turmoil that I have survived. I think that you would understand that as well.

I hope that we can stand together against prejudice and hatred of all kinds, Mr. Takei. I would like that very much.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Antici....pation: Not Always The Lead-In to Dancing or Ketchup

Part of the Health at Every Size philosophy is that it is important to find a type of movement that you enjoy, and to make it a regular part of your life.  H@ES does not treat exercise as a punishment, you don't have a hooded figure standing over you with a lash to get your fat ass onto a treadmill because you ate that slice of chocolate cake and DESERVE to be punished.  That's not how it works.  You ate the slice of chocolate cake because it tasted good, and you wanted it, and you stopped when you didn't want any more.  The treadmill and that cake have nothing to do with each other.

So therein lies my problem.  I have a hard time finding movement that I actually enjoy doing.  Well, that's not really true.  I have lots that I enjoy doing when I'm actually doing it, but I don't anticipate doing it.  The distinct lack of anticipation makes it really hard to get myself out there and doing movement.  Once I'm on the treadmill, in the pool, doing yoga, or Wii / Kinecting, I actually enjoy it.  But when I think about doing it, I find all of the excuses possible to put it off.  I don't want to go in the morning, because I hate getting up any earlier than I have to.  I don't want to go after work because it has already been a long day and if I go to the gym after work, I won't get home til around 8 or 9 p.m. since I get out of work around 6.  I don't take a lunch, so that is out.  Even if I do manage to convince myself that I WILL do something after work, the truck takes over and drives straight home rather like a horse returning to the barn for evening feeding time.  Then I walk in the door and instead of doing one of the many options at home for movement, I find myself diving right into cooking dinner then a little housework, then onto the computer and oh my goodness it can't be bedtime already!

I think that is the problem for a lot of people who are trying to find their way to a healthy lifestyle.  It isn't living the lifestyle itself that is the problem, it is finding the energy to make the changes necessary to be healthy.  They always have the option to actively choose to not be healthy, and for those who do choose that option, it is not my place to judge them to be right or wrong.  Your body, your call, that's how that works.  No one has the right to tell someone else that they HAVE to live a healthier life.  But for those who want to do so and can't seem to manage it, life can get frustrating.

Have you ever wanted something so badly but found yourself finding excuses not to try for it?  Don't tell me that you haven't, because everyone does it at some point in their life.  Some people find their way around that roadblock, but some are stuck there, trying to peek around or over it to see what is on the other side, never able to get a good enough handhold to pull themselves past.  That is really bad enough, but then you get the Helpful People, who truly believe that "Anyone can do it!  Look at me!" and commence with the inspirational stories about how Aunt Millie was so out of shape that she couldn't take five steps without a respirator, but she pulled herself up by the bootstraps and just finished her fifteenth tri-athalon yesterday!  In a more detached moment I can appreciate that they are a Helpful Person, who is trying really hard to just Be Helpful.  They aren't doing it to be cruel or to make light of the roadblock, they really feel that it is just a case of mind over matter.

For some that works.  Watching back to back to back episodes of "The Biggest Loser" may actually get some people out there, moving and eating better.  (Let's not debate the merits and drawbacks of that show now, folks.  I understand that a lot of the Fatosphere hates the training methods and lack of follow-through that the show offers, not to mention the completely unrealistic circumstances that the contestants find themselves in.  Not many of us can quit our jobs for 6 months and focus on exercising for 4 to 8 hours per day, not that this would be a healthy thing to do anyway.  I get it.  Different column there, though!)  But if the inspiration is there for you, and it works for you, that is awesome!  Unfortunately, not everything works the same way for everyone. 

Hey...isn't that rather like the fact that not every BODY is the same?  So while some can lose weight following the adage of "Calories in should be fewer than calories out.", other people's bodies don't work that way.  And while some people can get up off the couch, start walking today, and do a marathon next month, not every body works that way.  While some people can say, "Tomorrow I'm going to start getting up at 5 a.m., go to the gym, and then go to work every day." and accomplish that goal, not everyone has it that easy.

And so we find ourselves back where I started:  wanting to move, and yet not wanting to move. 

I can hear you now, oh Faithful Readers.  You are saying, "Ummmmm...Lys?  You typed all of that out only to end up where you started?  What was the point of all of this, then, anyway???"

The point is that this is something that no one can really help me with, and really, it is something that no one can help ANYONE with.  You can't decide that your husband, your wife, your child or your great aunt thrice removed on your mother's father-in-law's side should be exercising more.  You can't push them to go find something active to do and use guilt or bullying to achieve that.  You can't hit them with Helpful Advice or Inspirational Stories until they fall to their knees and beg for mercy.  For a large number of people, these kinds of things only lead to that rebellious voice in the back of their mind telling them, "If they're so gung-ho about exercising, let THEM go do it. We aren't going to be pushed into ANYTHING!  Here...let's sit on the couch and watch cartoons.'

So if you really want to show your love and caring for the person in your life who is dealing with this dilemma, let them know that you are there for them.  Tell them that you support them in whatever they decide to do.  Encourage them to make their own choices, to explore their own options, and to be happy with themselves as they are.  Being happy with yourself as you are doesn't preclude making changes, it doesn't mean giving up as some folks would like us to think.  Being happy with yourself is just that...being happy.  Be happy with yourself when you are moving, be happy with yourself when you are watching another episode of "Top Chef".  Be happy with yourself, love yourself, and you will end up surprising yourself because we are much more likely to take good care of the things that we like and to ignore the things that we don't like.

Now, here I sit, finishing typing this and looking at the clock.  It is late, I am tired.  I will not get up early tomorrow and go to the gym.  I know this without question.  I think, though, that I'm one step closer to getting my head into the right place to start anticipating movement.  I hope so.  I want to feel happy with moving, I want to have the breath control that will let me sing more than a measure and a half without needing to gasp for air.  I want to feel good when I move.  I haven't felt that in a while now.

Yeah...getting closer.  I hope that you are closer to being happy with yourself too.  Because between you and me, I believe that you are pretty damned awesome right now, just as you are, and that if you choose to make changes in your life, then you will still be pretty damned awesome but will just be PDA in a different flavour than you are now.  So you go, you Neopolitan Wonder, you!  See you on the Happy, Awesome Side!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Persecution versus Paranoia

I firmly believe in trying to be as tactful and considerate in my dealings with others as I can.  There are times when that tact is at the end of a verbal blunt instrument, as I do not believe that being tactful means not telling the truth, but overall I try to make an effort to put things in as polite a manner as possible.  I believe that manners define civilization, and I don't mean the superficial manners that people use to hide negatives, but real and honest manners.

That said, I understand that there are those out there who do not live by this rule.  Some believe that honesty and bluntness to the point of rudeness are the same thing (a theory that I do not ascribe to), some just open their mouths without stopping to think about what they are saying regardless of how it may make others feel, and yet another group deliberately says things that are hurtful in order to project their own pain and shortcomings onto others so that they can have one small moment of superiority to salve their wounded self-esteem.

I think that it is important to those of us who are trying to change the world's perceptions regarding fat and fat people to be very careful when we are reading / hearing the things being said around us.  It is very easy to read a quote by someone and immediately assign motives to it without those motives being there.  Everyone does that to some extent, I am certainly no saint and have been known to get upset about something only to find, to my embarassment, that I was completely mistaken about what just happened and that I inadvertantly applied my own faults to someone else.

"But Lys, what brought this on?  Because this isn't your usual blog about living as a Fat Superhero!"

I thought that you would never ask!

Recently Miley Cyrus has come under fire on Twitter and other places for "getting fat".  Now remember that Hollywood Fat and Regular People Fat are two different things, but still, the point is that people have been judging her harshly for her body size.  She, being a shy and retiring type like me (Hey! Stop laughing!) shot right back at them by posting a photo of a very emaciated young woman and the words,  “By calling girls like me fat, this is what you’re doing to other people.”

I can't tell you what she was thinking, because I don't happen to know Ms. Cyrus, but if I had to guess, I would think that she was saying that people who bludgeon others about their body shape are people who contribute to the rising number of young people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia.  I applaud her for throwing that out there and not giving in to those who feel that just because a person is a celebrity, anyone has the right to tell them that their body shape is wrong.  (My feelings on how people have this odd belief that they OWN celebrities body and soul will have to be discussed another time.)

What dismayed me was the reaction in the Fatosphere.  There were many who took what she said and twisted it in their own minds.  Suddenly, instead of being a young woman telling people that it is no one's business what decisions she makes regarding the care of her body, it became a famous person saying that it's not all right to call slender people fat, but it's quite all right to call fat people fat.  *blink blink*  Um.  Okay.  I'm not really sure how THAT leap of logic happened.  And it really bothered me that I saw this knee-jerk reaction in more than one place.

If we want to change the world, if we want the world to respect us and our viewpoint, then by whatever you believe in (no religious debate here, please!), we HAVE to show that same kind of respect!  We absolutely HAVE to know the difference between Persecution and Paranoia.  When someone comes out with a statement such as the one made by Ms. Cyrus, it is absolutely imperative that we take it at face value rather than ascribing hidden motives to it.  Statements such as hers should be used to bolster our position, because what she said is true when you look at it without assuming anything about her motives.  We should embrace statements such as this, and the people who make them, because the more people who are saying it the better the chance that it will actually become the mindset of the public as a whole.

I believe that one of the worst things that those who support Health at Every Size and equal rights for Fat Superheroes can do is to turn potential allies against us by putting words in their mouths.  We cannot assume persecution where there is not any to be seen.  That is paranoia, and it is unhealthy for us as individuals and as a movement.  Believe me, there is more than enough true persecution out there without us feeling the need to turn benign statements into persecution through our own paranoia.  Really, this can be applied to any sensitive subject.  There is a reason that people get tired of political correctness, and that reason is that some people take it way too far.  I know that common sense has become a very uncommon thing, but that is what needs to be applied.

So whenever you see a statement that seems to carry a double meaning, before you jump to the conclusion that the person it originated with meant it to be insulting, please take a moment and think.  Give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, because what goes around comes around, and if enough people start giving the benefit of the doubt, then the next time you or I finds ourselves in a situation where we might like a little ketchup to help the taste of that foot that's in our mouth maybe someone will give us the benefit of the doubt as well.  It doesn't hurt anyone, and instead it may end up helping us all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Even the surefooted stumble once in a while

I try to be a confident person when it comes to my belief in Health at Every Size.  I have taken a long time to get to this point, and generally I believe that I have built a very solid foundation that I can use to help change the world (even if only a little at a time).  But every day is still a struggle in some ways, a fight against old habits, old thoughts, and the pressure from society in general to fall into line with the generally accepted way of looking at weight.

When my knees and ankles hurt, when I find myself getting tired, I have to really work not to fall back into the old ways of thinking.  I'm still working on that part of things, you see.  I KNOW with my head that it isn't my weight that is the problem, it is my health, and that they are two different things.  I KNOW with my head that I need to find some way of moving in order to strengthen the muscles and framework that holds them.  If I end up losing weight because of that movement, well, then I will love the version of me that exists in that moment as much as I love the version of me that exists right now.

But in the back of my head, that insidious little whisper still hides in its dark corner, coming out at irregular intervals.  It mutters to me that I hurt because I'm fat, not because my joints are weak and arthritis is slowly eating away at my system.  It tries to brush aside the knowledge that I likely would have arthritis even if I were in the ideal portion of the BMI range, and scoffs quietly, stating that the reason I hurt is that I'm fat and lazy and have no will power.

I fight that dark little whisper more often than I should have to, more often than ANYONE should have to fight.  When I think of it, I think of the scene in "The Ten Commandments" when the Angel of Death is coming to take the eldest child of every house except for the ones with the marks on the doors.  That fog, twisting and squirming its way through the city, looking alive and sinister as it moves, and the sense of dread that accompanies it.  That is what the dark little whisper in my mind is like.  It slips through the tiniest crack, oozes over the crannies of my mind, finding weaknesses and using them to gain entry into my thoughts. 

I know that this blog generally focuses on the positive.  I like to urge others to join myself and those fighting to get our voices heard against the overwhelming static being sent out by The Weight Loss Industry and their paid researchers.  So right now, today's entry may seem like a black spot of negativity in the midst of the bright positivity that I try to normally promote, but isn't.

EVERYONE who is fighting the battle of learning to love their bodies goes through this.  EVERYONE.  It may take different forms, you may find yourself saying things differently than I do, or you may picture your dark little voice differently, but I can tell you that the voice is there for everyone.  I hope that it can be vanquished forever, and that spot of darkness can be banished by the light eventually, but I will be honest and tell you that I think it will remain there for my whole life, no matter how hidden it remains. 

It is my hope to be part of a change, a change that means future generations of people grow up without ever hearing a dark whisper like mine.  I write these blog entries and speak up about H@ES and the mindset that goes with it so that children have a chance to live their lives without ever fighting the battle against their own head, so that they don't have to struggle for over forty years just to learn to love themselves.  No one should hate themselves for that long, and the companies who encourage that self-hatred just so that they can make a profit should be ashamed of themselves.

So yes, my children, I have my weak moments.  I have times when I wonder what life would have been like if I had been slender instead of fat.  I cry now and then, because for every two steps that we take forward in learning to appreciate people for themselves, fully and completely, rather than trying to change them to fit some kind of mythical ideal, we take one step backwards by allowing The Weight Loss Industry to dictate our political policies, our health system, and our minds.  I live with the dichotomy of learning to love myself while remembering how much I have hated myself.  I live with the hope that I will see the first generation to grow up without that self-hatred, and I live with the fear that it will never happen in my lifetime.

Even the surefooted stumble once in a while, and this is how I stumble.  All that I can do when I take that fall, though, is to get back up and brush myself off then keep moving forward.  It would be easier to just stay there, to give up and give in, to just say, "You're right.  I'm fat because I'm weak-willed and worthless.  Do with me as you will.  Starve me, shame me, browbeat me.  I give up." but I can't.  I just can't.  I am NOT weak-willed, I am NOT worthless.  I will climb to my feet, rise onto my aching, arthritic legs and take the next step forward.  I do it for myself, because I'm worth it, and I do it for those to come, because they are worth it too. 

Even if you stumble, get up again.  Continue to fight against anyone or anything who tries to tell you that you aren't worth it.  Even if that person is yourself.  You are worth it.  We are all worth it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spreading the message, one confused teenager at a time

For the past ten years I have worked at a haunted theme park every October.  I love doing it, though it is physically one of the most demanding jobs I've ever had.  It can also be emotionally demanding as one of the goals of a haunted house is to create a world where the actors inside the house are no longer people to the patrons.  The goal is to have the patrons lose that natural connection of human to human, and to consider the actors to really be zombies, cannibals, werewolves or whatever.  Unfortunately, that can be a double-edged sword.  When the patrons lose that connection, they believe for that short time that the creatures chasing them ARE real and they get the adrenaline rush of danger and the accompanying release.  However, they also tend to treat the people working at the haunted house poorly at times, saying things and doing things they would never do to another "real person".

I learned that lesson during my first season, when people would regularly make comments about how fat I was.  The Manager of my house was also a good friend, and the night that he found me outside my exit door, sitting on a railroad tie, curled into a ball and sobbing in the midst of a light rain, he just held me and told me what jerks people are and how great I was and that everything would be all right.  I will always hold him dearly in my heart for that.

Over time I found that the best way to combat the unusually aggressive tendencies that patrons have at the haunt was to beat them to the punch.  I was moved out to a greeter position, where I wasn't scaring people but rather giving them the rules of the house and a feel for what was waiting for them inside.  I created a clown character named Miss Chiff, The Fat Lady.  By introducing myself that way, I cut the people who wanted to insult me with fat comments off at the knees.  It still hurt a bit, though, but it was better to take away their weapon than to let them use it.

Now, nine years later, I am a House Manager.  I am the one to comfort, scold, encourage, and otherwise mother my actors.  I still deal with the public as I have to keep a close eye on the line in front of my House to try and keep it from becoming a seething ball of hate as people wait for an hour to get inside.  To do this, I have to move around within the line.  This means asking people to move aside.  I generally do this by loudly repeating, "Excuse me folks!  Short, fat lady with a radio coming through!"

I am short.  I am fat.  These two words carry the same level of (pardon the pun) weight with me now.  They are descriptives and nothing more.  I amuse myself by saying it this way, AND I give people notice that they're going to have to give me a bit more room to get by than if someone skinnier were asking to get through.  I now believe that while it serves the secondary purpose of disarming those who would try to use my size as a weapon, putting it this way mainly serves the purpose of creating an opportunity to spread the message one confused teenager at a time.

And currently someone somewhere is asking, "Um....Lys?  What do you mean by that?"

Quite simply, I can let them know by example that words only have power when we give them that power over us.  Inevitably some kind-hearted soul will blurt out, "But you're not fat." because they think I'm putting myself down.  This lets me stop and say, "But I AM fat, and that's okay.  It's just a word, and it describes my physical shape.  It doesn't describe anything else about me.  I'm fat, and I'm smart, beautiful, confident, and worthwhile.  Being fat doesn't take any of those other things away from me."

Sometimes they try to still console me, but after a few repetitions they either get it or they don't.  Some will just look confused, because this is a concept that they have heard denied for so long by The Weight Loss Industry and mass media, that it is just too much to wrap their heads around.  I hope that the confused ones think about it and eventually get it.

Every once in a while, though, I see a gleam come from someone's eye.  They get it.  Sometimes it is a fat person who is nearby, who has never heard those sentiments expressed before, and who has never realized that they can BE fat, smart, beautiful, confident and worthwhile all at the same time.  Sometimes it is a teenager who may not be fat, but maybe has something else that they feel ashamed about, and I can see the startlement in their eyes, the wonder that someone whom society says should be ashamed is standing up and taking ownership of the very thing society dislikes, then throwing that dislike aside and accepting themselves for who and what they are.

It may not be a huge thing that I'm doing, it may only be one pebble thrown into the pond of fat hate, body shaming, and bullying, but every pebble creates ripples.  I hope that my ripples spread far and wide, and help someone somewhere the next time that someone tries to use words as a weapon against them.

So world, look out!  There's a short, fat lady with a radio coming through!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Kermit had it right!

"It's not easy being green." - Kermit the Frog

It is really a bit of an irony, isn't it?  It's not easy being different, but everyone is different from everyone else.  So while we should be celebrating our differences, we spend our lives trying to be just like everyone else who is trying to be like everyone else!  It makes your mind spin sometimes, keeping it straight, doesn't it?

Today, though, I'm talking about being fat.  (I know, what a change of subject for me! *laugh*)  Not only being fat, but being fat and loving yourself.  This is one of the hardest things I've ever attempted in my life.

Note that I said "attempted" not one of the hardest things I've ever done.  You see, I'm still at the beginning of the journey compared to a lot of the Health at Every Size proponents who blog.  I've barely put my feet onto the path that they have all tread already, and I'm finding it to be a Herculean task in many ways.  I'm finding that it isn't very intuitive at all after a lifetime of being barraged with the message that I'm just not good enough as I am.  The old habits have been ingrained deeply, and for every success that I have, I deal with three or four old demons coming back to haunt me.

Some activities make shove my old self-hatred in my face rather violently.  For example, last week I was in the position of needing a specific piece of clothing for an upcoming event.  I need a top that is reminiscent of the late 1940's / early 1950's, the kind of clothing that women wore when they had their hair up in victory rolls and wore dresses, heels and aprons to dust the house. 

It is hard enough to shop for clothes when you have very basic restrictions like "I need a pair of jeans" or "I just want a couple of new tops", but when you add very specific needs into the mix, it becomes an exercise in fortitude, patience, and self-hatred.  After nearly three solid hours of internet searches using sites I'd already bookmarked and seeking new sites to look at, I was still completely and totally without options.  That was when my Demons made their move.

"I am such a blob.  I don't deserve pretty clothes because I would just look like a lump in them anyway.  Who cares?  I didn't want to go to that event anyway."

Welcome to the typical thoughts that run through the head of someone who is fat in America.  Let's break it down, though, shall we?

"I am such a blob." - Actually, no, I'm not.  Though I will admit that I am shaped a bit like a Shmoo (look it up if you don't know what that is), and that my shape is round, I have many more positive characteristics than a blob.  Blobs are faceless, amorphous beings that lack any distinctive traits.  I have plenty of distinctive traits, including amazing blue eyes, a laugh that makes others happy just hearing it, baby-soft long brown hair, curvy hips, and a vibrant personality.  Thus, the blob analogy fails on multiple fronts.

"I don't deserve pretty clothes because I would just look like a lump in them anyway." - If I look like a lump in my clothes, then it is the fault of the clothes and the designers who create them for not making things that flatter my shape.  But if you suggest that designers create clothes specifically for fat people, most will get a look of unadulterated horror on their faces.  There was an episode of "Ruby" on the Style Network where a group of design students were asked to design clothes for Ruby, and their reactions ranged from reluctant to downright horrified.  Of course, once they did it and they met her, it was different.  It wasn't just "a fat person", it was a person they'd spoken to and gotten to know.  But that is the attitude that is encouraged in the design world, and it isn't possible to ask every designer to hang out with a fat person for a day to change their minds.  The design world needs to step up to the plate and change those attitudes from within.  If they don't do it out of a sense of social responsibility, they should at LEAST do it out of a sense of financial responsibility.  There are a lot more of us fat folks than there are of them, and we have money to spend for the designer who comes out with a line of flattering clothes!

"Who cares?" - I do.  If I didn't, then it wouldn't hurt so much when I have to struggle to do something that takes slender people five or ten minutes to do.  I care that I'm made to feel like a second-class citizen just because I want nice clothing that fits me well.  I care that society repeatedly tells me in this manner and in other ways that I am worth less than people who look smaller.  I care that I am constantly judged by my appearance and found wanting, though I am just as smart, just as talented, just as nice, and just as healthy as many people half my size.  If I didn't care, then I wouldn't cry.

"I didn't want to go to that event anyway." - Yes, I did.  Yes, I do.  Yes, I am.  I have found something, though it still isn't exactly what I need.  But it is close enough that I won't stand out horribly.  Even if I hadn't found something, I was still going to go to the event.  I refuse to let myself miss out on things that I enjoy because of my size.  Not any more.  I have hidden for too many years, and I have stepped back out of line too many times.  Too many other fat people let the world shove them away and convince themselves that they didn't want to do it anyway rather than stand up and say, "I have every right to be here too."

So Kermit had it right.  It's not easy being green, or fat, or any number of other things.  It is downright hard.  But to quote Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in "A League of Their Own":

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."

I hope that someday everyone DOES love themselves, and that it stops being hard.  I think that if loving ourselves stops being hard, it will still be great.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Perfect Reduction Plan

Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen!  Come right this way!  You too can shed that unwanted weight, lose the very thing that is weighing you down and keeping you from happiness!  That's right, I have discovered the Perfect Reduction Plan!   And you know what?  I am GIVING it away for free!!!  You heard right, folks, I'm not charging one red cent for this Perfect Reduction Plan!  So listen up and get ready to give it a try at NO RISK TO YOU!!!!

I can hear you now.  "But Lys, I thought that you decided that diets were not the way to go, and that Health at Every Size was the logical way to approach your life?  Now, suddenly, you're advocating a diet plan?"

No, I'm not.  I'm advocating a reduction plan.  Though I will admit that it is one of the hardest plans I've ever tried.  I am advocating reducing the central tenet of life from four words to three.  Let's stop living the religion of "Eat Less, Move More" and reduce that down to three words.  What words?

"I am beautiful."

One of the heaviest weights that a fat person can carry around is the guilt that they feel for being fat.  Our society has made this one of the greatest burdens we know right now.  We blame way of life, we blame our parents, we blame our circumstances, but mostly we are given the message over and over again that it is our own choices that lead to the bulkiness of our bodies.  Television, books, magazines, radio and movies all throw it at us over and over again that if we would only shake off the self-hatred that keeps us stuffing our faces with bacon double-cheeseburgers and chocolate, and if we would get our fat asses off the couch and walk a few hundred steps more per day, we would find ourselves slimming down to a size that is more acceptable to be viewed by others.

That's the thing, really.  It isn't that other people want fatties to be healthier (though that is the "concern" that they use as justification for fat-bashing in its many forms), it is that they don't want to look at fat people.  To them, fat is an uncomfortable thing.  Fat isn't pretty to look at according to modern Western standards.  Fat people make others uneasy because they're afraid that it may be catching.  The fear that they may get fat someday too, and then be on the receiving end of the hatred rather than handing it out, that is a paralyzing thought for a lot of people.  Women have been known to say things like, "If I ever got that fat, I would kill myself."

Really?  You would rather DIE than live a happy and healthy life as a fat person???  What is wrong with our society that this kind of attitude is not only prevalent, but lauded?

But that's all right.  As I said, I have the answer.  Everyone, no matter their size, needs to start looking in the mirror every day and saying three words. 

"I am beautiful."

I can tell you from experience, they're not easy to say.  As a matter of fact, it is probably one of the hardest life-changing habits that I have tried to develop.  Living on 500 calories a day was easier than looking myself in the eye in the mirror and saying, "I am beautiful."  Even harder is looking in the mirror, saying the words, and believing them.  I have been told my whole life that I'm NOT beautiful.  Yes, there have been a few who have said that I am, and I have never believed them.  But now I am making an effort to believe them, to believe me, and to know that I AM beautiful just as I am.  Should I lose weight, I will be beautiful then, too.  But right now it is more important to know that I am beautiful as I am, and if I decide to eat less it will be because I'm not that hungry.  Should I decide to move more, it will be because I've found a type of movement that is fun and I enjoy and it makes me FEEL good.

So there you are.  The world's most Perfect Reduction Plan.  Lose the weight of shame, guilt, and "Eat Less, Move More".  Reduce it down from four words to three. 

"I am beautiful."

Say it.  Believe it.  Live it.  Because you know what?  You ARE beautiful.  Just the way that you are. 

Oh, and if you have a hard time with it, just imagine me standing next to you, looking into the mirror with you.  We'll say it together every day.

"I am beautiful."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Last Acceptable Prejudice

The more that I look around, the more that I realize that fat-bashing really IS the last form of acceptable prejudice.  Humanity has come a long way in just a few hundred years, really, moving past the obvious hatreds for the most part, things such as skin color and country of origin for example.  Yes, there are still problems in those areas, still hold-outs who insist that they are better than someone else because of those factors, but for the most part that kind of narrow-minded thinking is considered to be offensive.  Most (not all, but most) people look at the folks who express such views as ignorant bigots, and those who hold to that kind of thinking are generally scorned and / or pitied because they can't seem to move past their blindness.

After we freed ourselves of those lines of thought, we moved on to less obvious hatreds, things that may not necessarily be immediately visible, such as religion, homosexuality and political ideology.  We're still struggling with being as open-minded about these ideas and ways of living, but overall as a species we are on the downhill side of a long uphill battle.  And again, this is wonderful.

And then we come to fat people.  The Size Acceptance Movement has nowhere near the support as the Gay Pride Movement or the various political parties.  Every day we are blasted with continual messages about how The Fatties are ruining our country, how they are evil and pathetic, and how they are CHOOSING to remain that way despite the efforts of all of the Really Good People (not Fatties) to show them the error of their ways.

In the past two days I have seen articles on how fat people cost companies more money, how fat people have worse credit ratings than slender people, and how fat people drive up the cost of flying.  Even worse than the articles themselves are the comments.  Most of the time I don't read them because I already know what is coming.  Small-minded people who are safely hidden behind the anonymity of their computer monitors spew vitriol and hate toward The Fatties.  They call names, they point fingers, they talk about how fat people should stop stuffing their faces with fast food and potato chips and get up off their couches to do a little exercise for a change.  The anger and the hatred is truly mind-boggling to me.  I don't understand how anyone can have so much fury roiling around inside themselves toward people who have honestly never done a thing to deserve it.

I know that part of it is the fact that they don't have to look someone in the eye and say what they're typing.  I think if they had to actually watch the faces of the people they were so casually throwing hateful words at, most of them would think twice.  There would be a small minority who would say it anyway, because they are vicious and spiteful, but generally I think that people would "speak" differently if it were face to face.  It is so easy to generalize and say cruel words when it is a generic mass of unknown that you are addressing. 

It is growing more and more important that we all stand up and refuse to tolerate this kind of behaviour any more.  Whether you are fat or slender, whether you are underweight, "normal" weight or overweight according the the medical establishment and The Diet Industry that runs it, it is your responsibility to reply to these people and let them know that their prejudice is no longer acceptable.  To be honest, while I am a strong advocate of fat people standing up for themselves, this one time I will say that it is almost more important that people who are NOT fat speak up as well.  I know, I know, that's not my usual style, to depend on someone else to fight a battle, but here is my line of thinking:  Whenever a fat person steps up and says, "But this isn't right.  I DON'T eat more than my not-fat friends, I DO exercise, my health is better than most of the not-fat people I know!" they get patted on the head and condescendingly told either that they are the exception (if people are being nice) or that they are outright lying.  Fat people get told on a constant basis that we obviously HAVE to be eating more food and unhealthy food because if we WERE eating right and exercising, we obviously wouldn't be fat!

So the next time you see an article about how fat people are ruining the world, please go down to the comments and use some of the information that I try to pass along in this blog.  If you want more ammunition, there are a lot of other Size Acceptance blogs and resources out there.  A simple search for the terms "size acceptance" and "Health at Every Size" will provide you with a vast abundance of information refuting the oft-repeated half-truths that have been spoonfed to our populace so often that it is now taken as "well known fact" without anything to support it.

Please, when you read those insulting and demeaning comments, picture the face of any fat person that you know and love (because we ALL know fat people, there are too many fat people out there for anyone to claim that they don't), and imagine how they would look if someone said that to them.  Take that thought and use it to fuel your determination NOT to allow that kind of behaviour to go unchallenged, because when we let it stand without calling the perpetrators out, well, then we condone it via our inaction.

Let's add Fat Hating to the list of UNacceptable prejudices.  That is one list that I would love to see continue to grow until there was nothing left to add.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Body, My Business

My computer at work has as the homepage when I sign onto the internet.  I brought my internet up today and as I was about to type the address of the page I wanted to go to at the top, a headline further down caught my eye.  I clicked on it, and got this:

LeAnn Rimes was totally proud offended the other night at dinner in Chicago when another diner stopped by her table to suggest she put some food in her mouth. "How dare someone come to me at a table w/ the boys and tell me I need to eat something," LeAnn tweeted. "What is wrong with people!? As I'm stuffing my face … have another drink and maybe take a class in manners!
Cheers!" Weirdly, no bikini photos accompanied LeAnn's "everyone-thinks-I'm-too-skinny" story du jour. (DailyMail)
I know that the majority of my posts in this blog are about how obese people are treated by the world in general, but this is really the opposite side of the same coin.  We, as a people, need to STOP judging others on their body shape / size, whether we think that they are too large or too small.  No one has the right to walk up to someone else and pass judgement on how they look or what they eat.  This ranks up there with the rudeness of taking a package of snack cakes out of a large person's shopping cart while telling them that they don't need that kind of food.
Here's the deal, folks:
My body is my business, and nobody else's.
That's right.  Whether I'm morbidly obese, or super-skinny, the decisions that I make regarding my body and what goes into it are not fodder for public consumption. 
I will admit that if my husband were to say, "I'm worried about your health.  How can we work together to be healthier?" I would probably pay attention to that.  (Though it would be amusing in some ways as he has high blood pressure and cholesterol, and mine both fall into the category of "The nurse checks a second time every time because those numbers CAN'T be right for someone so fat!  They are too normal!")    But to have a total stranger decide without knowing me or my life that they know what is best for me is offensive.
I do have my health problems, though, including diabetes and arthritis.  And I am continually working to find ways to feel better physically. That said, if someone were to come up to me in a restaurant in front of my non-existent children and tell me that what I was eating was wrong, I would probably not set the best example for my children in terms of public behaviour with my response.  My reply would start with, "It really is none of your business." and go downhill from there.
Look, folks, let's try something, shall we?  How about we make an effort to stop judging people by their size.  Fat folks, stop thinking, "Eat a pork chop." when you see someone who is uber-slender.  You don't know why they are that way.  Maybe they have a super-fast metabolism.  Maybe they just finished treatment for cancer and haven't been able to keep food down.  Maybe they just don't eat a lot and are comfortable with that.  It really isn't your concern if they're healthy and happy with how their life is going.
Skinny folks, stop thinking, "Put down the potato chips and take a walk." when you see someone who is fat.  You also do not know what their circumstances are.  Maybe they have a very slow metabolism.  Maybe they have arthritis or an injury that keeps them from being able to move as much as they might like.  Maybe they're on a medication that causes weight gain.  Maybe they just really like good food (or even bad food!).  Again, it really isn't your concern if they are healthy and happy with how their life is going.
"But Lys, how can they possibly be healthy if they are...(fill in the blank here)??"
Repeat after me:
I can't tell if someone is healthy just by looking at their body size.
That's right, folks!  YOU DON'T KNOW!  Fat does not equal unhealthy.  Skinny does not equal healthy.  There are a LOT of variables that go into determining if someone is healthy or not.  There are fat people who have better health indicators than most slender folks, and there are slender folks who have better indicators than other slender folks.  And you know what?  There are even really, really skinny folks who have better indicators than the "healthy-looking" slender folks.
My body is my business.  Your body is your business.  How about we just cut each other some slack and realize that the decisions we each make regarding our own bodies are just that...our own decisions.  There really are more important things to be worrying about in the world than whether the person at the next table is eating what you think they should eat, such as teaching our children enough courtesy that they don't walk up to a stranger in a restaurant and start telling them what they should be eating.  So stop worrying about it and focus on your own meal.  You'll enjoy it more, believe me, and you won't have to hear me tell you exactly what I think of your lack of manners.  It will be better all around.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fat Fashion (?)

I am a person who appreciates comfortable clothes.  I'm not a haute couture kind of gal, though I enjoy watching the occasional fashion show just to see what they're trying to convince women to wear as the latest thing.  The reality is, though, that personally I'm happier in a pair of jeans and a polo shirt than just about anything else.  But when the occasion requires that I dress more fashionably than that, I try to make the effort to do so.

Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to get clothes in my size that aren't either just skinny people's clothes cut out of a lot more cloth or polyester grandma pants and muumuus.  To add to the problem, I am what is known as "a pear", which means that my upper body is about 2 sizes smaller than my lower body.  Let me tell you THAT makes it interesting when trying to buy a dress!  When the shoulders fit, it won't even go down over my hips and when the hips fit, it is practically falling off my shoulders.  Since I am not a pop culture persona (yet...but if enough people eventually follow this blog, who knows what could happen! *grin*), I really don't want to be giving the world the excitement of a wardrobe malfunction.  Thus I do a lot of separates, so that I can buy things in the appropriate sizes.

I am about to embark upon a clothes purchasing bout as I have pants that are so old that the elastic isn't stretchy any more, shirts that have holes worn through them, and have managed to get some kind of stain on nearly every item that I own.  Most of these come with interesting stories, my favorite being the combination of joint compound and three different colors of paint that have permanently discolored a formerly white shirt because I was up to my elbows in the mixture making "stones" for a friend's haunted house.  But stories or not, I need to have clothing that is presentable and able to be worn in public without me wanting to start explaining WHY the stains on my shirt are so cool.

This means, of course, that I am about to get both depressed and angry as I search for something that will fit me, before resorting to purchasing some things from the Roamans and Lane Bryant catalogs, like I always do.  Before I do so, however, I would like to say a few things to the so-called designers who come up with Fat Superhero clothing:

  • Not all Fat Superheroes are big breasted.  I know that it is a thing, that comic books always show female superheroes with size ZZ boobies perkily peeking out of some form of no-real-support bustier thingamajig, but the reality is that, like most women, we come in assorted shapes and sizes.  There ARE fat Superheroes who wear A and B cups.  It would be nice if we could find bras too.
  • It would also be nice if we could find shirts that didn't assume that if our hips are big, then our breasts are big too.  Personally, I welcomed the whole 'babydoll shirt' style, because it meant that I could FINALLY get tops that fit my breasts AND my hips!
  • Taking a design created for a smaller size and simply adding material does not guarantee a flattering garment.  Yeah, it works for some, but not all.  The designer who figures out that they can actually design clothes specifically for Fat Superheroes is going to become rich.  We want flattering clothes too, and when someone finally starts marketing clothing that fits our proportions and isn't just small clothes made big, we will take ourselves and our many, many dollars to them, and we will be pretty darned loyal to them as long as they continue to put out quality product.  Remember, fashion world, there are more of us than there are of the supermodel sizes!
  • I would like to find the person who decided that Fat Superheroes want every top to have short sleeves or to be sleeveless and beat them into a state of physical insensibility that matches their apparent state of mental insensibility.  Sure, I wear tank tops and t-shirts, but I really prefer a 3/4 length sleeve because otherwise my water wings catch the wind every time that it blows and I end up doing a Mary Poppins impression until the wind gives out and I land on some unsuspecting stranger's lawn with a thump!  So please, give us some options with sleeves, too?  Especially on formalwear!  There are some beautiful dresses out there, but I really find it difficult to clutch a shawl around my shoulders for the entirety of my friend's wedding buffet.  The little tassels tend to dunk themselves into the meatballs and sauce on a regular basis.
  • Lastly, please remember when you make your jeans, that just because I'm Fat, that doesn't mean I don't have a waist.  I can't tell you the number of pairs of jeans I've owned where the hips fit, and then an entire bolt of material had to be gathered around my waist with my belt, or I had to take scissors, needle, and thread to them to put darts in so that my pants actually stayed up.  I'm not one of those gangsta wannabes who runs around with my underwear showing on purpose (though I have some darned cute undies, thank you very much!).  Would it be too much to ask that my jeans have a waist that fits and hips that are roomy enough for me to sit without wincing?
So, those of you clothing manufacturers who deign to carry larger sizes, do yourselves a favor and start asking your customers what they really want out of their clothes.  After you do that, GIVE them what they're asking for.  I suspect that you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Oh, and by the way, those of you who make clothing for our taller sisters, you may want to do the same thing.  I suspect that a lot of the things that bother my fellow fatties and myself also bother the tall gals.

Lastly,  stop charging me ten times the price for my clothes.  I know that there's extra material, but really, the amount of material you're using in my clothing does NOT justify the price difference between what I'm buying and what someone who wears a size 10 is buying.  And the price difference certainly isn't due to extra design and development costs!  Just give me quality clothes that fit me well at a reasonable price, and I'll be yours forever.

As for right now, I think I'm just going to get two new pair of jeans, and a polo in every color that Roamans offers them in.  Oh, and possibly that cute little lingerie set.  My hubby deserves a little treat.  *grin*

Monday, August 8, 2011

Further Thoughts

The weather in Dallas, Texas has been extreme over the past month to say the least.  We are currently on our 38th straight day of 100+ degrees.  For those with a curiousity about this sort of thing, the record currently stands at 42 days.  I'm betting that we blow the record out of the water.

"But Lys...?"  I hear you say, "What does that have to do with being a Fat Superhero?"

Well, let me tell you, normally it wouldn't but the past four weekends have seen me out in this heat from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the earliest and until 6 p.m. at the latest working on location for a short film that a number of my friends are making.  (Gratuitous plug:  check out our website at and our Facebook page at!/pages/The-Lightbringer-Saga/208325359188759 ) 

"Lys?  I'm still confused."

I know, trust me, there is a connection between all of these threads. 

As we have been outside, running around in the woods, hiking up and down concrete staircases, and climbing hills to get the perfect shot, I realized that while I am making great progress in loving myself for who I am, I am not happy with the state of my health right now.  And THAT is really what "Health at Every Size" is about.  Are you happy with your health, no matter what size you are?

I know that a lot of people's first impressions of HaES seems to assume that the people who follow that line of thought are just fatties trying to justify being fat so that they can continue to sit on the couch, eat Cheetos, and not have to move.  That's not right, though.  Health at Every Size is about health (thus it being the first word in the title!).  Everyone in the world has the right to the best health possible for them.  It doesn't matter what they LOOK like, what matters is how they FEEL.  And that is the main difference for me when it comes to HaES versus some aspects of the Fat Acceptance movement. 

I don't care if I'm fat, I don't care if I'm slender, what I care about is how do I feel?  Can run around the woods, hike up and down concrete staircases, and climb hills and do so without those activities sucking the joy of whatever it is that I'm running / hiking / climbing for.  Unfortunately, for me, the last month has proven that I cannot do those things without feeling horrible.  I don't like the pains in my joints, the huffing and puffing, and always being the last person to get anywhere because my body can't handle the strain. 

"So, Lys, how do you take care of that without falling into the dieting traps laid out by Big Business and The Weight Loss Industry?"

That, my friends, is a good question! 

The key is movement.  If you want to be able to move well, you have to start moving.  Ironic, isn't it?  My eating habits are actually pretty healthy.  I know that there will be people who think I'm lying when I say that, who think that there is no way that I could be so fat if I ate as well as I claim to eat, but that's their problem, not mine.  It comforts them to think that I have to be eating well in public and then scarfing down five gallons of ice cream in the dark living room after my husband has gone to bed.  It comforts them because they don't do that, so that means they'll never get fat.  It isn't about ME, it is about them and their fears, so I don't listen to them.

But as I was saying, my eating habits are pretty healthy, really.  We do a lot of vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins.  We've even cut back portion sizes on meats, though my husband tends to gripe about that a bit.  I'm not saying that there isn't room in our menu for ice cream or chocolate, but they take the form of small bites rather than huge bowls now.

That leaves movement.  That is my avenue for getting my joints to stop hating me, for getting my lung capacity back up to a decent level, and for being able to enjoy my time with my friends rather than making apologies for being so slow.

I'm honestly still a little stymied about this, really.  It is hard to find movement that I enjoy and will do on a consistent basis.  I do enjoy yoga, so I will be starting to use my yoga DVD again, but I'm not sure what else to do.  So, now I begin a new quest:  to find something I like to do and will do on a regular basis.  I expect that there will be some working with our practice swords, and some form of dancing.  If nothing else, it will be fun to explore the options!

So, my dear VURD!  Talk to me!  What kind of movement do you enjoy the most and why?  It doesn't have to be something officially classed as "exercise", like the treadmill or elliptical (though if it is, that's fine too!).  Share with me, and everyone else.  What gets your heart pumping and puts a smile on your face?  I really do want to know!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Health at Every Size means to me

After my previous posts I had someone say to me something along the lines of, "My brain tells me that a smaller size is part of being healthier."  Now before anyone takes umbrage, she didn't mean it in a negative way or a mean way.  That's not how this particular lady works.  I read it as her puzzling things out in her mind regarding the things that I've been talking about.

That's the thing, really.  We have all been told for so long that fat is unfit, that it has become reflex for us to think of a smaller size equalling a fitter body.  But it doesn't necessarily happen that the two go hand in hand with each other.  Even people who have experienced being fit and being larger than society approves of still can have the mindset because the Establishment has told them for so long that they STILL weren't fit due to their size that even though they have empirical evidence to the contrary, they doubt themselves.  Isn't that saying something about our world, that people who have LIVED an experience can doubt it because they have been told the opposite for so long?

Now, I'm not saying that if you lose weight that's a bad thing.  Your body will know what the right weight for you is, and that right weight may even change from time to time depending on circumstances.  The important thing isn't what size you are, it is that you feel good at that size.  Mentally you should feel at the top of your game, emotionally you should love yourself, and physically you should feel like you can do anything that you want to do.  If you want to play sports, then you are healthy when you can do so and enjoy it.  If you want to dance, then you are healthy when you can get out there and cut a rug while having fun doing so!  If you want to sing, you are healthy when you can do so with the breath support you need to hit the proper notes and hold them as long as you should.  THESE are valid indicators of health, not some number on a scale or a measuring tape!

Unfortunately, that is not what The Establishment wants us to know.  The Establishment (also known as the Diet Industry) wants us to hate ourselves.  I know, there are some of you saying, "Oh jeez, there goes Melodramatic Lys again." but that's not it at all.  Think about it, it is very logical.  If we love ourselves as we are, if we view potential changes to our bodies as the natural outcome of listening to those self-same bodies and doing what comes right and naturally to us, then what reason would there be for the existence of The Establishment?  None whatsoever, and they know it.  That is why they promote things like "The War on Obesity" and self-hatred.  They do so in order to propogate their own existence, and to make a profit from all of those people who have learned to hate themselves via the messages of fat-hate that bombard us every day.

For instance, did you know that that the World Health Organization pushed for the BMI standards for "normal" weight to be lowered to 25?  Did you also know that this was based on the work of the International Obesity Task Force?  Lastly, do you know who funded the IOTF?  Surprise, surprise, it was funded by the makers of Xenical and Meridia, two of the most popular weight loss drugs.

Let that sink in for a moment.  The health policy of the United States of America regarding size and weight was decided by the makers of weight loss drugs.  What does this tell you?  That is up to you to decide.  I can only let you know what it tells me, which is that our health is just another chip in the money game, a tool in the corporate game of power, and that true health doesn't matter at all if it doesn't bring profit to someone's pocket.

So, here we are, with our national health policies being determined by the people who have the most to make from us hating ourselves, and with our body chemistry being screwed up by the latest weight loss fads and fitness trends.  Oh, and we're still fat because most people who lose large amounts of weight do NOT keep it off (see resources listed below).

Thus we come to what Health at Every Size means to me.  It is really quite simple, to me it means that no matter what we look like, no matter how much we weigh, we can be healthy.  If we stop running so hard that we don't hear ourselves, we can re-locate that part of ourselves that wants to be fit.  We can have that dish of ice cream as long as we pay attention to it and truly enjoy it, and as long as we stop eating it when we realize that it doesn't taste as good as it did when we started.  Over time, as we listen and eat what we're really wanting, we'll find ourselves wanting a strawberry rather than a piece of strawberry candy.  Don't get me wrong, I don't see my desire for chocolate disappearing into the mists never to return a la Frodo and Gandalf, but I DO see it becoming more manageable even as I learn how to do this H@ES thing.  I am already finding myself having one or two squares of chocolate, then re-wrapping the bar and putting it away as opposed to eating half a big bag of M&M's.

Start listening, REALLY listening to what your body wants.  It will make a difference.  Start being healthy in mind and heart by loving yourself as you are.  Start eating when you're hungry and stopping when you don't physically want any more.  Start moving when your body says to move, and start getting enough rest that it is capable of wanting to move.

You'll feel better.  You'll be healthy, no matter what size you are.  And, The Establishment forbid, you'll be happier.


Miller, W.C., How effective are traditional dietary and exercise interventions for weight loss? 
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999.  31 (8): p. 1129-1134.

Mann, T., et al., Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer.  American Psychologist, 2007.  62(3): p. 220-33.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking Back The Word "Fat"

The title of my blog is "Confessions of a Fat Superhero".  I chose this name deliberately because I believe that everyone is a superhero in their own way and because I have decided to take back the word "fat".

For a long time "fat" was simply a descriptive word. In reference to human beings it simply meant that a person had more flesh on their bodies than the average.  It was not a good thing, nor a bad thing, it just was a way of describing someone much the same way that you would say "short" or "tall", "blonde" or "brunette".  There were even cultures where being fat was a good thing as it denoted wealth and implied that the person who was fat was rich enough in resources to be able to do more than just survive on basic sustenance.  It was considered a good thing.

In modern America, however, the word fat carries so many negative implications with it that using it is considered to be almost taboo unless you are deliberately trying to insult someone.  Young children who are too innocent to have absorbed the idea that being fat is bad often will blurt out things like, "Mommy, why is that lady so fat?" only to be shushed and told by their mortified parents that you aren't supposed to say things like that.

Why not?

I AM fat.  Children are curious, and if they want to know how I got this way, then I have no problem stopping and talking to them.  I hope that if I do so, they will have the seed of understanding planted and will not develop the body-shaming attitude that is so prevalent in our society.  I hope that a child understands whey I say, "When people eat food, their bodies turn it into energy.  Sometimes we eat more than our body needs, and it gets turned into fat until we need it and then it gets turned back into energy.  Some people's bodies use energy much better than others, like how your family's truck uses more gas to do the same things than your family's car.  So two people can eat the same amount of food and one person's body will use the energy so well that they get fat because a lot of it gets stored, and the other person will be skinny because their body uses it all up and doesn't store any of it.".

I hope that the same child  holds that idea in the back of their head so that when they hear people tell someone who is fat that they just need to get off their butts and exercise, they know that isn't always the case.

It is really ironic that in a time and place where we claim to be proud of diversity in all of its forms, fat is a four-letter word.  It carries an implication of sloth, laziness, and gluttony.  People look at someone who is fat and immediately make a number of assumptions based on their body size, and very rarely are those assumptions positive ones.  The first thing that leaps to mind tends to be that the fat person is lazy and that the fat itself is an outward indicator of an internal personality flaw.  The chain of logic then leads to the conclusion that this personality flaw is something to not only be ashamed of, but something that needs to be fixed.  Finally, in a brilliant flare of circular reasoning, the line of thought ends with the idea that the reason the horrible personality flaw has not been fixed is that the fat person is too lazy to do so.

Wow.  Isn't that amazing?  And this flashes through people's minds so quickly that most probably don't even realize that they are thinking it.

Today, however, I hereby take back the word FAT for myself.  I refuse to feel ashamed of it any more.  I refuse to feel ashamed of MYSELF any more.  Yes, I am fat.  No, I am not any more flawed than anyone else in this world.  Yes, I love good food.  Yes, I indulge in it.  But I refuse to apologize for that.  We should indulge in good food, and when we are full we should stop.  We should listen to our body and move when it feels like moving, rest when it feels like resting, and eat when it feels like eating.

I refuse to bow to the people who eye my grocery cart and give me a disapproving look when they see the pint of top quality ice cream in there.  It is not my problem that they are so determined to support their assumption of my flaws that they look past the ten different kinds of fresh vegetables and five different fresh fruits that the pint is sitting on just so that they can judge me for indulging in that item.  I will try not to judge them for having filled most of their cart from the processed foods aisles and the fact that the only vegetable that is present in their take for the day is a bag of frozen french fries.

I refuse to give any ground to the people who watch me walk on a treadmill or lift weights at the gym, swing a sword at faire, or do any number of other physical activities and who do so with disgust in their eyes.  People want fat folks to lose the weight, but would prefer that it happen out of sight of the pretty people, please.  Well, suck it up, cupcake, because I'm not going anywhere.  I am going to do what I enjoy and every time I do it I will get a little better at it and be able to do it longer before I have to stop and rest.  If that happens to shave some inches off my body, I won't object but if it doesn't that is fine too.  My body will know what it needs, and if it decides that it wants to be smaller then it will.

Fat people need to be done with allowing a multi-billion dollar industry control how they see themselves.  Because if we don't stop letting the weight-loss industry turn fat into a dirty word for us, then we will never be able to look at ourselves in the mirror with anything but loathing and self-hatred.  Those emotions may support change for a time, but in the end negativity only begets more negativity.  You have to love yourself as you are.  Changing your looks may change how other people perceive you, but will never truly change how you perceive yourself, and you will spend your life living in fear that you will get fat once more.  Living in fear is as bad as living in self-hate. 

So, my fellow fatties, take back the word.  Stop letting it be used as a whip against you, to keep you shuffling off to buy the next weight-loss fad in the hopes that THIS one will be the fix that fixes everything that is wrong in your life.  Those so-called fixes are only messing up your body's ability to speak to you, and your ability to listen to it and truly know what it is telling you.  As one of you, I can tell you the most important thing that your body is saying, and that thing is, "Love thyself."

Find the ability to truly love yourself, and the rest will happen.  You will stop abusing the body that takes such good care of you, and you can re-introduce yourself to it and begin a whole new relationship with it.  Maybe you'll lose weight, and maybe you won't, but in the end if you feel healthier and happier, if you can do the things that you love and continue to enjoy them without feeling apologetic for your own existence, THAT is the true success.  Be fat, be skinny, be tall, be short, be blonde, be brunette, be you.  Be happy.  Be victorious and we'll be victorious together.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Own Worst Enemy

I suppose that I should start by introducing myself. My name is Lys, and I'm fat. I know that most people don't introduce themselves that way, but if we were meeting face to face you would already know that I'm fat. Since this is an online venue, the only way you would know that I'm fat is either by me saying so, or if I have a particularly fat photo up on my account.

So there we go. I'm fat. I've been fat for most of my life, really. I can't remember a time when I wasn't fat. My first diet started when I was about eight or ten years old. How many of you remember the Grapefruit Diet? It was a real taste-bud tingler, let me tell you! It consisted of half of an unsweetened grapefruit and a piece of dry whole wheat toast for breakfast, half of a can of plain tuna with some cottage cheese and a salad and melba toast for lunch, then a small portion of protein and a salad for dinner. Oh, and the salads were eaten either plain or with nonfat dressing (which was NASTY back then, by the way).

I know! How could I NOT still be eating that every day? It's so DELICIOUS!

All right, all right, I don't believe me either. But there you go. I started my illustrious dieting career at the tender age of 8 or so, and I haven't looked back (positively) since. I've tried them all, you know. I've been to Weight Watchers, Diet Workshops, and Nutrisystem. I've done E-diets,, The Daily Plate, and WW Online. I, ladies and gentlemen, have had gastric bypass! That's right! I was sliced open like a Thanksgiving turkey and had my insides manipulated in unnatural ways JUST SO THAT I COULD LOSE WEIGHT!

Of course, the last was successful in a medical sense. I have lost over 100+ pounds and kept them off for over 5 years. Technically that is a success. Though I am still over 240 pounds from my "ideal" weight, my diabetes has returned with a vengeance, my arthritis has started getting worse again, and I still have sleep apnea. But it was a success!

Anyway, for most of my life I have been convinced that it basically boils down to the fact that I'm a weak-willed, useless, drain on society, failure. Obviously I could lose the weight if I really tried, I mean, that's what everyone says, right? So it must be me. It doesn't matter that I tried as hard as I could, I obviously had to be lying about what I was eating or how much I was moving. "Eat less, move more!" is such a simple thing to say.

But I wasn't lying about how much I was eating. I wasn't lying about how much I was moving. When I tracked my calories, I was actually eating less than many of my slender friends. Quite frankly, the years of yo-yo dieting had destroyed every weight-regulating system in my body, and my body didn't trust me any more.

I finally realized that I am fat, and that I likely would stay that way forever.

Then, about a year or so ago, I started to get a glimmering of an idea. It was pretty nebulous at first, but it came down to realizing that maybe I just needed to start eating what my body said that it wanted, and that I just needed to start moving in ways that I enjoy rather than forcing myself to go to the gym and walk miles to nowhere on a treadmill. Maybe I needed to start really LISTENING to my body and letting it do its job?

This seemed a bit simplistic to me at first. I mean, wasn't that what got me into this mess? Listening to my body say "I want chocolate" and "Let's skip the gym and sleep another hour and a half instead." was how I got here to begin with, right? But that's because my body had given up, and was taking the path of least resistance. And just as I started crystallizing this train of thought, I found out about a book called "Health At Every Size" by Linda Bacon, PhD.

I started reading her book, and everything I'd been thinking was right there, in black and white in front of me! Not only that, she had SCIENCE backing up those lines of thought, that reasoning, the idea that our bodies know what to do if we just get out of the way and let them! We can love ourselves AS WE ARE, and in doing so, we open the door to a healthier lifestyle because our bodies tell us to eat good, whole foods and to get up and dance around the living room when a song we like comes on. We just stopped listening to our bodies, and so our bodies stopped trying to make us listen, and started trying to do what we wanted even though it was totally messed up.

What a revelation!

And so now, here I am. I'm still fat, still finding myself saying cruel things to myself on a regular basis, but I'm now trying to change that. I am trying to listen to my body, trying to learn to love myself the way that I am right now, rolls and all. As my life continues, and my ability to love myself increases along with my ability to actually hear what my body is telling me, it is entirely possible that more weight will come off. It is also entirely possible that it won't. But whether it does or doesn't, as long as my life gets healthier, my body finds its proper settings again, and I can dance, sing, swordfight or do anything else that I want to do without getting out of breath after 30 seconds, then it really doesn't matter.

This is the journey that I'm starting tonight. I have no doubt that there will be rocky moments and that people will be cruel. I have no doubt that there will be times when I am crueler to myself than anyone else. But you're welcome to come along for the ride as we find out what life is like when someone learns to be healthy at whatever size they happen to be, and when they finally learn to love themselves for who they are.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post Rapture Sympathies

So The Rapture didn't happen yesterday, much to the surprise of no one that I know. Unfortunately, though, there were some folks who really believed that it was going to occur. And as the light dawns on the day after I have to say that I feel honest sympathy and pity for them. There are going to be some people who are having very serious crises of faith, and that is never an easy thing.

I've heard some people say, "Well, they shouldn't have listened to one man. They shouldn't have let him dupe them, they should have read their Bible themselves and they would have known better."

It's easy to say that, to be sanctimonious and smug, but that doesn't make that kind of attitude any more right than those who are sanctimonious and smug when an earthquake hits Japan (remember the girl whose YouTube video said that the earthquake was because she had started praying and it was God's judgement on the heathens?) or when a disease runs rampant through gay society (the school board member who said that he's happy that the gays run around and give each other AIDS and die).

I understand that faith is a personal thing. I really do. Considering that my faith is rarely expressed in a public setting (I talk about the theories and belief sets, but I rarely attend any form of public service.), I totally get how faith is so very dependent on who and what we are. But that is really my point in a way. We don't know what is going on in these people's lives, or why they feel that they need a more tangible shepherd than the one in the Bible, but they do. It is totally understandable to me, really. Some people need a more obvious presence in their lives for a while, until they find the path that leads them to have the strength to develop their own solid foundation. Sadly, some never find that strength in this life and it may take many lives for it to develop.

But speaking of the here and now, there will always be some people who need a physical touch on their shoulder, a voice that they can hear outside of the heart, and someone that is more real to them than a person who lived 2,000 years ago. I don't think that this makes them less of a person. I don't believe that such a stage in development is a strange thing. We all go through it in one form or another, whether it is a case of following our parents' religion until we learn enough to make our own decision, or having a crisis of faith that leads us to explore theologies and thoughts that we'd never realized existed before.

The people who went to extremes about The Rapture's supposed occurrence yesterday needed to believe something. Yes, some of them needed to believe that they were better than others, but I really do think that most of them just have something in their lives that makes them desperately want confirmation of a good end for themselves, they need the hope that despite everything they are good people and will not have to suffer eternally for doing what they have done in their lives. They're scared. They are scared of what happens after we die, and this man offered them a solid answer, he gave them the reassurance that everything would be fine for them, and that they wouldn't have to face hell or the horror of watching the world fall apart, or even the dark nothingness of forever.

And now that answer, that reassurance, is gone. Now they have to face the fact that he didn't know any better than they did and they have to decide whether to continue to listen to him and to make excuses for him because they aren't ready to lose that paternal figure in their lives, or whether they move on and try to find something else to comfort them, someone else to believe in, and if so...who and what that will be.

I hope that they find themselves, and learn to believe in their own heart and mind. I think that if they learn from this and move on, they will be the stronger for it. But I think that it is going to be a rough road for them. Especially for the ones who took drastic acts, like getting rid of everything that they own, or even the ones I heard about who put their pets to sleep so that they would meet them in Heaven. Families will be split over this (did you see the article on the family whose parents believed and kids didn't?) and it will cause immense amounts of pain.

So while I am still amused at the variety of Rapture jokes going around (because, yeah, some of 'em are pretty darned funny), I have to take a moment to send out my heartfelt sympathy for the people whose lives are going to be dramatically shaken up by this whole thing. I hope that they find themselves, and their beliefs in Good and a Higher Power survive their disillusionment about one man's belief that he knew more than anyone else.

All in all, I wish them well, and I hope that they come out of this better people than they were when it all started. It is going to be hard. Very hard.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egypt: Hopes and Cynicism

I'm watching the current unrest in Egypt with mixed hopes and fears.  I hope that they can prove to be the modern lesson to the world that the American Revolution was at its time.  I hope that they get a government put into place that has the good of the people (you know, the ones that government is supposed to SERVE?) ahead of the good of the individuals running the government.  I hope that it all happens with a minimum of bloodshed and horror.

The cynic in me, however, watches and wonders if this isn't going to lead to a chaos that engulfs yet another country for decades.  I hope not.  No people deserve the kind of fate that places like Iraq and Afghanistan and assorted African countries have suffered through, where it is completely "might makes right" without even the slightest hope of justice.

Unlike some, I am not worried about whether it puts a conservative Islamic government into place.  You know what?  It is their country, and if that is the government that the people put into place, then that is their choice.  Provided that it IS the government put into place BY THE PEOPLE.  I know, there's really no way to know for sure nowadays if it really is the will of the people, but I still hope that the will of the people truly prevails this time and they get the government that works best for the vast majority (because, let's face it, no government works best for EVERY person in that country all of the time).

So for those of you who fight in Egypt for food, employment opportunities, and a better life for your children, I hope that you achieve your goals.  I hope that you manage it with the least amount of chaos possible, but some chaos will be necessary.  Please hold onto your ideals throughout the struggle, as hard as that will be.  I would like to see you become a symbol of the good that a people can do when they get tired of being taken advantage of and step up to demand better of those in power.

For those of you in the United States who are comparing our current situation to theirs, um...reality check!  Seriously?  There is no way that we live under the same kinds of threats that the people of Egypt have been living under.  We do not have to fear torture teams breaking into our homes in the dead of night and taking us away.  We have the chance to have a true voice in our government every two years.  We do not have a "President" who has essentially made himself a monarch for over 30 years.  Yes, there are massive flaws in our system as it stands in this point in time, but they are flaws of our own making and flaws that we have the potential to fix without rioting in the streets.  Whether that will happen is up to us, up to the silent majority that lets the vocal minority extremists speak for us even when we disagree with what they are saying.  It is up to us to go and actually vote when there are elections of any kind, not just Presidential ones.  It is up to us to get information from a variety of sources and not to just regurgitate the party line of whichever single news source best matches our personal views.

We have the right, and the obligation, to be informed and active in our government.  We have no one to blame but ourselves if our government is not meeting our expectations.

The people of Egypt have not had those rights, and they are standing up and demanding them for themselves.  We need to learn from them and become the country that we have the potential of being.