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, Fitday.com, 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.