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.