Friday, January 27, 2012

Inside the TLV: The Little Voice

TLV:  The Little Voice is that voice inside our heads. Most people have it, I think, though some people's TLV is weaker than others.  I can't speak for all fat people, because everyone is different, but if I had to make a guess, I would say that the majority of fat people have a pretty strong TLV, and sadly, for many of them it is a negative experience.

I know that my TLV is a petty, vindictive bitch whom I actively fight on a constant basis when I am aware of what she is doing.  That does seem to be the hard part, though, being aware of her and her activities.  You see, when a TLV is part of you for so long, and has been reinforced by so many external voices, you sometimes don't even realize that she is whispering in the back of your head.  She's just there, a dark murmur droning into your subconcious without pause.  You don't realize that she is constantly telling you how you deserve to be looked down upon because you are fat.  Your mind doesn't consciously register that she has just whispered about how you are obviously less worthy because you are weak-willed and pathetic because if you weren't weak-willed and pathetic you wouldn't weigh as much as you do.

The TLV has learned all of the best ways to sabotage even my brightest moments. 

I happen to have a beautiful singing voice.  I know, it isn't considered polite to say such things aloud about yourself, but really, I do.  My instrument is warm, with a pleasing timbre, and a pretty big sound.  Yet until recently I had not done any singing beyond singing along with the radio or singing the end of the day song at Scarborough Faire, and I had not done so for well over a decade.  I went to college for voice, and yet I denied myself the joy of singing because my TLV had finally overrun my defenses.  When I would sing, I would think, "That went well." and then my TLV would whisper, "Except for the fact that your breath control still sucks because you're too fat and out of shape to hold a note well for the right length."  or "That high note was wobbly and everyone noticed and whispered about how that is normal for a fat person." or even, "I doubt anyone noticed how well you sang since you couldn't find a decent fat lady dress and you look horrible."

Even now I fight it.  I sing with The Women's Chorus of Dallas and we had our Holiday Concert last month.  Instead of being able to immerse myself into the music and lose myself in the experience, I ended up listening to my TLV go on and on inside my head about how fat my butt is and how we had to turn around to look behind us and the whole audience would be pointing and laughing behind my back because of the wide expanse of glittery fabric covering my posterior region.  Then she whispered about how hard it would be to get my fat body up and down the risers in any sort of graceful manner.  As the music began, my TLV warned me yet again that my fat body could not in any way, shape, or form actually give the kind of breath support that was needed for the music and maybe I should just quit after the concert and save everyone the embarassment.  It would save the Director the embarassment of having to tell me that she couldn't use me any more because I'm not good enough, and it would save the other chorus members the embarassment of being "stuck" near me, and it would save me the embarassment of failing yet again.

And yet I have a beautiful singing voice, a lot of valuable training, and a solid set of musical skills.  But despite all of this, my TLV managed to push me to the point of almost quitting.

Then I realized what was happening and I analyzed TLV's points.  Honestly, with over 50 women in the choir, I doubt that the entirety of the audience was focused on any one person, even when we turned around.  The curtains were closed when we got on and off the risers, so really, grace didn't matter anyway.  I got up and down them, and I did so with only a minor spasm in my knee when I had to jump down from the second level to avoid the children standing on the 1st level.  My breath support COULD be better, but it hasn't got anything to do with my size, it has to do with the fact that I have been shirking on my exercise and that the only thing that will fix breath support issues is cardio, cardio and more cardio!  I could weigh 500 pounds again, but if I had solid cardio I would have the breath support needed to do what needs to be done.

I almost quit something that I love for a second time because I let my TLV get to me.  How many of you have done that?  Let your TLV stop you from trying something new, or continuing something you love, because it whispers to you in the back of your mind about how Fat People CAN'T do things like that?

How many of you have let your TLV stop you from trying something new or continuing something that you love because it whispers to you that WHATEVER your personal weakness is means that you aren't worthy of doing those things?

Take hold of your future, and your dreams.  Pay attention to when your TLV speaks up, even when it is the softest of whispers in the dark recesses of your mind, and counter it EACH AND EVERY TIME.  Do not let your TLV win. 

We are all worthy of doing great things.  We are all capable of experiencing joy and pursuing dreams that we love.

We are NOT our TLVs and we never were.

Stand against your TLV and deliver your dreams to yourself.  I'll make a deal with you, and I will continue to fight my TLV and share the things that I love with you if you do the same.

We are worthy.  We are strong.  We CAN.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stand 4 Kids

Recently I posted about how a well-intentioned but poorly executed program in Georgia has targetted fat kids as part of an ad campaign to bring attention to the "childhood obesity crisis".  While I can appreciate wanting to encourage children and their families to develop healthy habits, I cannot condone doing so in a manner that uses shame as the primary motivator.  We shouldn't work toward a goal because we are shamed into it, we should try to achieve goals because they are something that we aspire to, that we want because they are positive things.  There is nothing positive about telling children that fat kids are fat because they are weak (Direct quote from billboard ad:  "Big bones didn't make me this way.  Big meals did.").  It only encourages other children (and adults) to treat them poorly based on size.

Luckily, I am not alone in my views.  And thus Stand4Kids was born. 

I am proud to say that I have had an image used to create an ad for the campaign:

If you would like to see the other images that have been created so far, check out the Tumblr pages!

It is important that we teach our children how to make healthy choices in their lives, that we give them the tools that will allow them to build the kind of lives that they WANT to live.  It is important that we do so without giving them the message that they are worth less if they don't meet a set of arbitrary societal standards.

Please check out the links I've given.  Our children will shape the world, and we give them the tools to do so.  Let's give them the tools that will help them succeed at whatever they choose to do, and that will allow them to do so with their self-worth, love for themselves, and love for the world around them intact.

Thank you.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Success, Envy, and Guilt

For those of you who are new to my life, I had a gastric bypass several years ago.  The surgery was a success, medically speaking.  Before the surgery I weighed 500 pounds (give or take a few on any given day).  After the surgery I weighed 340 pounds.  I currently weigh 360 pounds nearly five years later (again, give or take a few on any given day).  This is technically a medical success, as I have lost approximately 140 pounds and kept it off. 

But is it a success?  I still weigh 360 pounds.  I am still super morbidly obese, and yeah, gotta love that term, right?  But hey, it's the correct medical term, so no use getting all snitty about it I say.  So here I am, still super morbidly obese, still not looking like the slender young thing *grin* that the ads all say that I will end up looking like.  Here I am wondering what the hell I did that the Fates hate me so much to keep me locked in this waddling, roly poly pear-shaped lump of flesh.  I mean, did I offend them somehow so that they decided I should never know the joys of walking into a store and buying something off the rack?  Because despite my 140 pound weight loss, I still am too big to shop successfully even at Lane Bryant (the Mecca of Fat Lady Shoppers everywhere)!

It obviously must be me, goes the line of thought.  I have failed.  So many other people have this surgery and end up bouncing around talking about how they're finally living their lives because they can move and bend and run and do all of these things that they couldn't do when they were fat.  It worked for them, they look great, they feel great, they're happy.  Why not me?  What have I done wrong?  Why am I such a failure?

So there's the Success and the Guilt.  Where's the Envy?

I have friends who have had the surgery, and I find myself in the peculiar position of feeling so very happy for them that they have achieved what they set out to do.  They've lost the weight, they've dropped the sizes (in some cases, fewer pounds than I have) and now they are svelte, dainty creatures.  Okay, stop laughing, I know I know.  Very few of my friends are dainty creatures, no matter what their size. *grin*  Mon petite fleurs do not tend to reside amongst my circle of friends, no matter whether the women in question weigh 100 pounds or 500.  We're all pretty strong ladies, really.

But back to Envy.  I love my friends, and I am thrilled that they are happy.  I really am!  But there is that Little Voice in the back of my head that we have talked about before.  The Little Voice (TLV) whispers to me whenever their success is brought up that THEY are Winners and I am a Loser, and not in the weight kind of sense.  They're obviously smarter, stronger, more talented, more brilliant than I am, and I shall always be The Fat Chick who will never be The Pretty One.

I wish that I knew where TLV's originate, because I would SO totally nuke that place from orbit!!!!

Have you ever been in the position of feeling happy for someone else while feeling miserable for yourself because they succeeded where you didn't?  Yeah, it sucks, doesn't it?

And the funny thing is, if we go back to the Success portion of things, I actually DID succeed at the stated goal of the surgery.  I lost almost 30% of my total body weight and I've kept it off.  That technically makes me one of the 5% who lose weight and keep it off.  But oddly, there's no television show offering me thousands of dollars thanks to my Success.  People don't come up to me and ask how I did it.  And there's no sense of satisfaction, only disappointment.

I don't post this because I want people to offer sympathy.  I don't post it because I want my friends to feel like they can't discuss their Success around me.  On the contrary, I LOVE hearing about all of the changes that have come about in their lives, and the happiness that it has given them. 

Really, why I've posted this is because I want to re-focus my thoughts on myself and Health at Every Size.  Logically I get the concepts.  Intellectually it all makes sense.  I'm still fighting the battle of the heart, though.  My brain says to be healthy and just move on, but my heart still has the core of the 17 year old girl who was made fun of all through school, who was openly mocked at her Senior Class Assembly, and who still honestly and truly believes that she's worth nothing because she's fat.

I am working so hard to change that belief into one of worth and love for myself.  Some days I've got it, and some days I don't.  Some days I don't care how wide my hips are because I know that I'm eating right and taking care of my body because it is an awesome thing that does so very much for me.  Some days I fall back into the old way of thinking, hearing TLV talk in the back of my head about how I could lose a few more pounds if I did this, or how much easier an activity would be if I were slender instead of being a blob.  I try, but at times I truly can't help it.  I want to be smaller, not for my health's sake, but because I'm just tired of being fat.

 So I guess that I'm not a Health at Every Size success yet.  I hope that I will be someday.  I hope that I find the balance of eating right, moving, and joy in myself that lets me get up every day knowing that I'm the best Lys that any Lys could ever be.

I'm just not there yet. 

I hope that you all don't think I'm a fraud because I "talk the talk without walking the walk", but I'm trying.  I really am.  And sometimes talking the talk IS walking the walk when it is all that you can manage against The Little Voice inside your head.

Thank you for bearing with me, and riding the rough seas out with me.  I hope that there are calmer swells ahead, but for right now we'll just batten down the hatches, get the bilge pumps going, and keep moving forward one moment at a time.  And if we find ourselves in Guilt or Envy, we'll acknowledge it, then we'll move on, because when it comes down to it, we are all only human and beating ourselves up for having those human moments is counterproductive.

Here's to Success, Joy, and Loving Ourselves as we are!  May we all reach the point where we are feeling these things all of the time!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Breaking Our Children, Part Two

In my last post I talked about how a certain weight loss company is targetting children with a "Your kid gets in free if you join!" campaign and how outrageous I felt that was.  Well this week we've got another outrage to discuss.

In a well-intentioned effort to promote childhood health that has gone horribly awry, the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation has begun a program named Strong4Life, and has begun a series of ads that target childhood obesity.  Now, if they were actually promoting healthy behaviours and treating them as such, I would have no problem with them but unfortunately what they have decided to do is to target Fat Kids with hate and self-loathing, and to exhibit adult, authority figure sanctioned harassment and guilt.  With such examples I have no doubt that the Fat Kids will get the message that they deserve to be teased and tortured, and the not-Fat Kids will get the message that they have every right to make Fat Kids' lives miserable.

For examples of the ads, please see this blog post by atchka.  I think that you will be every bit as dismayed and horrified as I was when I saw them.

Atchka has suggested a campaign of our own, one that involves e-mails and phone calls to those responsible, asking them to re-consider the tone of their campaign.  I have sent an e-mail to them, which I will share below.  If you care to join in on this campaign, here is the contact information:

Kevin McClelland
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Stephanie Walsh

Children’s Foundation
1687 Tullie Circle NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Fax: 404-785-7355

When you dial the number above, just press 0 to bypass the operator instructions and get to a live human.

Please read my e-mail, and please consider sending one of your own to ask them to turn their campaign into something more positive.  Thank you, everyone.

Dear Mr. McClelland and Ms. Walsh:

I am writing to you to express concern regarding the CHOA's Campaign Against Childhood Obesity. I understand that this campaign comes from an honest desire to see the next generation grow up to be healthier than the current generation, and this is a good starting place. However, I must tell you that I feel that your good intentions are being expressed in a twisted and hurtful manner.

You see, I grew up as one of those children. I was The Fat Girl throughout school, and remain fat to this day despite trying every diet program and workout fad known to man. I even had my insides sliced and diced in the form of a gastric bypass, lost 140 pounds, and have kept them off. Yet I still weigh 360 pounds at this point in time. I know what the Fat Kids go through because I lived it, and I live it still.

I understand what you are trying to do. I really do. I understand that you are trying to reach the adults around these children, that you are trying to guilt and shame them into encouraging their children to have healthier habits and hopefully to have healthier habits themselves. What I think that you are missing, however, is the effect that this body-shaming and guilt will have on the children.

Imagine being a Fat Kid as your family's car or the city bus takes you past one of these billboards. I ask you to imagine what that child will feel, to understand that the children (and the not-Fat-Kids who go to school with the Fat Kids) will not see this as an attempt to get adults to focus on healthy habits. Please understand that these children will see this simply as another instance of telling Fat People that they should be ashamed of themselves and of their bodies. This is adult-sanctioned harassment and teasing, and by having this adult-sanctioned harassment out there for the world to see, you are telling children of all shapes and sizes that it is completely acceptable to tease, to harass, to mentally and physically torture Fat Kids because it is all their fault. You are saying, "We, as medical professionals and authority figures, are telling you children that the Fat Kids deserve it all because they are weak-willed, stupid, and losers. So please, guilt them, shame them, and harass them...and do so while sanctimoniously repeating that it is for their own good."

Mr. McClelland and Ms. Walsh, I wish that you would take that caring, that desire to help children be healthier, and frame it in a more positive way. I wish that you would put up a series of billboards that show children and adults of all sizes enjoying physical activity together. I wish that you would run a series of ads showing children and adults of all sizes growing, preparing, and eating healthy food together, with lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables being the centerpieces of said meals. I wish that you would help children and adults begin to understand that health is NOT synonymous with weight, and that you cannot, ABSOLUTELY CANNOT, judge a person's willpower or intelligence or worth of any kind simply by looking at them.

These are my wishes, and my hopes. It would be wonderful to see the mudslinging, negative campaign that you are currently endorsing turned into something positive for everyone instead. It would be encouraging to myself and other Fat People to have visible proof that there are medical professionals out there who understand and are honestly concerned with us as patients and whole persons rather than seeing us as failures and weak-willed losers. It would be a step in the right direction to see that there is a medical establishment that truly believes that EVERY person is worthy of respect.

Please consider my words and understand that they come from someone who has fought for nearly 46 years against obesity. I have finally started to learn that my weight and my health are different issues, and that my body is a wonderful thing no matter its size. I have finally started to like and love myself after 46 years of listening to society as it told me that I was only worthy of contempt and / or pity. Please stop teaching children that THEY are only worthy of contempt or pity. Please teach them that they are worthy of love and respect.

Thank you for your time.