indigenous HAES

Whenever I have conversations about health disparities affecting Native people, the subject of diabetes has a good chance of coming up.  Not always, since it’s often about reproductive health (I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but I’m a sex educator) , but fairly often.

I went to an amazing and inspiring presentation about language revitalization and the keynote speaker talked about what it “really means” to be Native.  It’s true that many of us* (not all, of course) grow up hearing “be proud to be Native!” but are never told what that means, but seeing our cousins, friends, etc. engaging in destructive behaviors–alcoholism, gang violence, etc.  This can contribute to the belief that being Native really means drinking, living in poverty, and being a stereotypical “lazy Indian.”

It’s also true that we have the highest rate of diabetes among all races, and that 95% (according to the American Diabetes Association) of Native people with diabetes have Type 2.  I’m not an expert on diabetes by any means, but I hear about it left and right from elders, medical professionals, etc.

I posted maybe a year ago about historical trauma and its effects on health disparities, and it comes up a lot in my college classes and fairly often in my job.  I can’t help but wonder, though, whether someone looks at me and makes judgments based on my body about the food I eat and whether it has given/will give/is giving me diabetes because omg deathfat.  Of course, it’s none of their business anyway, but being judged is annoying even when you know it’s unwarranted, shallow and inaccurate judginess.

So how do you overcome the assumptions of predominantly white medical professionals (who may or may not be totally excited about working in Indian Health Services clinics)?  How do you get your voice heard when it’s already being muffled by your race, gender, and size?  How do you explain that the reason why your blood sugars are normal and good “despite” your fat is that hey, fat cells do not automatically raise one’s blood sugar? Or that you are not actually in immediate danger of dying because you’re fat?  Wait, it’s almost like fat in and of itself doesn’t kill people!  Wait, thin people get heart disease too?  WTF??!?

Clearly my fat is leeching sugar and cholesterol into my blood ALL OF THE TIME and that is totes causing health problems because that’s how the obesity works.  How sad.

Ahem.

Whatever it “really means” to be Indian is subjective.  I would hope it doesn’t involve the stereotypes, the alcohol/substance abuse, etc. but everyone’s reality is different and while eating fast food every week may not be part of what it means to be Native, people who do so aren’t less Native.  People like to think that disease is caused by fat and that fat is a choice people make because they’re afraid that they will someday get fat and if they do, they gonna die.  My mom used to (and she hasn’t done this in a long time, knock on wood) “casually mention” how much weight her friends were losing just by cutting out soda, even diet soda! or by eating a handful of whole flaxseeds every day! or by using the Wii Fit! (this one was more recently), or whatever.  As I got older, I interpreted this as “you have my genes and you are fat and if these people lost weight then you can lose weight and I will be reassured that my genes won’t make ME fat omg-please-don’t-let-me-get-fat.”

It seems kinda similar to the way some thin Native people see fat Native people (and I am not comparing fat and alcoholism here, but also the way some sober Natives view alcoholic Natives) as “ruining our image for everyone,” like non-Indians are going to look at us and be like “OMG, a fat lazy Injun!  THEY ARE ALL FAT AND LAZY AND NOT TO BE TRUSTED, AHHHH!!!!” which is all kinds of fucked-up.  We are not obligated to be the sole representative of our race/tribe.  It sucks that a lot of people are forced into that role, but that’s another blog post.

Maybe that’s just my experience.  It’s more of an unspoken (or less spoken, not completely unspoken) thing, and I have no idea whether other fat Native women have experienced this or if just read too much into things/make shit up.  Whatev.

I will write something more coherent about this soon.

*disclaimer:  there are over 560 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. alone, and obvs. every tribe, band, family and individual is different so it’s a) difficult and b) inappropriate to make sweeping generalizations about Native experiences.

June 4, 2010. Tags: , , . FA, intersectionality. 8 comments.

Fat Talk on campus

Part I:

Good news, everyone!

My brown bag lecture/presentation/discussion on Body Love, Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size was two weeks ago today (and I didn’t blog about it right away because both of my computers are currently out of commission… one due to a dead hard drive and one due to a cat whose curiosity killed my LCD screen) and it went really well!

There were 40 people there, which I can still barely comprehend; we ran out of chairs in the meeting room, which usually holds 25 people max. The event was sponsored by my amazing friends at the university women’s center, and the written evaluations were overwhelmingly positive! There were a few not-so-great ones from people who refused to believe that I am healthy at 315 lbs., but with over 90% very positive feedback/raving reviews I can say “haters to the left” with confidence. One evaluator said (and I am paraphrasing here) something along the lines of “yeah, it’s great to have self-esteem!… but IF YOU GET TOO FAT YOU’LL DIE AND I AM TELLING YOU THIS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD,” but others suggested it should be done every semester.

Despite the person who allegedly advocates for positive body image but still thinks that fat is unhealthy, it was so amazing to hear from individuals–fat and not-fat–who were deeply touched by what I was sharing, which included statistics as well as personal experiences with fat hatred. I was impressed to see such a successful example of Real-Life Meatspace Fat Activism; I’ve often heard people bash FA for being a predominantly online movement, which really just proves that we’re all a bunch of lazy-asses who have nothing better to do than talk to each other on the internet using accepting ourselves as an excuse to sit on the couch all day eating cheeseburgers, AMIRITE?!? (JK, but seriously, my own roommate said that to me a few months ago.)

Part II:

Earlier this evening I took a survey, for which I was Randomly Selected about food at the university. The e-mail I got was fairly vague, but mentioned that it would be about the eating, health and environmental habits of the student body.

I was pretty excited; completing the survey could get me a free $5 (I’m broke), I tend to eat on campus way too often, and I would really enjoy some organic/healthier options besides frozen Amy’s meals (which are delicious but overpriced and, well, frozen) and “Healthy Choice” TV dinners–which, for me, are triggering by nature, and that discourages me from purchasing them (and I haven’t actually done the research to find out whether they’re actually “healthy”).

However, I wasn’t sure how to feel when I was prompted to enter my height and weight. I wasn’t surprised, but I assume they will calculate and use my BMI somehow–maybe to figure out the “average” or look at it alongside my food-buying habits or whatever it is surveyors would do with that sort of information.

I was a little annoyed because it isn’t relevant. I get that they want to find out whether there’s interest in convenient and healthy food choices on campus, but I don’t think they need to know my height or weight to effectively analyze my answers.

It was an “answer this question and if you say ‘yes’ we’ll expand on it with more questions” survey, and I didn’t see the questions I would’ve answered if I had clicked “Yes” when it asked me “Are you currently dieting to lose weight?”–but that shouldn’t be relevant to whether they decide to incorporate healthy options either. Just because I’m a big fat fatty and will most likely stay that way doesn’t mean I have any desire to eat a burger and fries for lunch every damn day, and just because I want to eat a healthy meal once in a while when I’m on campus all day with no time to cook lunch/dinner at home doesn’t mean I want to lose weight.

Maybe I’m just worried that my school will end up like Lincoln University and make us fatties take a glorified phys. ed. course before we can graduate, but I’m considering e-mailing the psychology department (a primary sponsor of the survey) to inquire as to why they asked for height and weight and, if they say they did it to measure our health, politely give them a piece of my mind.

Am I over-analyzing this shit? Taking it too personally? I’m not ashamed or afraid of telling them my height and weight, but with a little bit of fat-positive buzz going on around these parts in the past two weeks (at least in my bubble within the campus) I would be real disappointed if this lead to the university being all “uh oh, our students are too fat! let’s save them from themselves!” any more than it already is (I haven’t seen a doctor at the university clinic in a while so I’m not totally sure what that environment is like).

I might just be way eager to keep talking about HAES with people who don’t “get it” yet, but maybe some body-positive good will come of this.

December 3, 2009. Tags: , , . FA. 3 comments.

seeking input for a size acceptance/HAES workshop

I know it’s been forever since I posted here, but I have some really exciting news!

As a project for a class, I’m facilitating a workshop/presentation/discussion called “Body Love, Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size” at my university on November 18. I’m super excited, and I hope that everyone who comes will benefit from it–so I’m coming to you all for advice!

If you were completely new to FA/SA/HAES, what kind of information would you want? I plan on showing the Fat Rant YouTube video by Joy Nash, talking about the basic principles of Health at Every Size and probably providing a list of resources like blogs and books–so any “absolutely must-read” resources would be great. I might follow the general outline of Lessons from the Fatosphere, but I haven’t put together a format yet.

I’ll focus on fatness in particular because I’m fat, but I know there will be people there who aren’t. I’ll try to talk about thin allies in the fat acceptance movement; anything else I should mention regarding non-fats? I definitely want to include the fact that thin people also face body image issues, but I’m not sure how to approach the subject.

There’s a lot of information I could include, but it will only be an hour long so it’ll be somewhat of a crash course. Hopefully I’ll be able to make the whole thing as effective as possible in the time we have. I’m thinking about having a follow-up meeting/get-together for people who are interested, too, to see if/how they’ve used this information, and maybe more discussion on the topic can come out of that.

Thanks in advance!

October 15, 2009. Tags: , , . FA. 11 comments.

Sarcasm: the emotional barrier of champions

Hey blog, it’s been a while!  It’s mostly been a while because I’ve been working nonstop for the past ~2 months and have finally got a break (and by break I mean I’m done working for the summer).  I should be blogging more regularly now, so yay.

My first job this summer was through the medical school at my university.  It was for Native high school kids who want to pursue careers in medicine.  This is awesome.  We need more Native doctors and I’m glad to help.

Well, a few weeks into this six-week program, a Diabetes Team from the local reservation came to talk to the kids.  I’m not going to claim that diabetes isn’t a problem in Native communities; it is, and that sucks.  However, I believe that IT IS NOT BECAUSE WE ARE ALL TEH FATZ.  The “team” consisted of two women (at least one of them was white, I’m not sure about the other): a personal trainer/fitness expert (or something) and a nutritionist.  They did the standard “exercise and eat healthy food and lose weight and you’ll greatly reduce your risk for the diabeetus” spiel, and they did not fail to mention that losing 10-15% of one’s body weight is, like, totally good for you.  (I posted last month about this.)

The whole weight loss component of the presentation made me uncomfortable, and the nutritionist had blocks of fake fat in the amounts of 1, 5 and 20 pounds.  The 20-pound chunk of fat was kind of like a front-facing backpack so you can totally know what it feels like to be 20 pounds heavier!  Because whenever you gain 20 pounds, you carry it with straps on your shoulders.  She had a volunteer go up to the front to wear the 20 pounds and proceeded to ask her, “how does it feel?  Is it harder to move around and do things?” (it was.) and asked the room “Has anyone here ever lost 20 pounds before?”  I bit my tongue instead of saying what was in my head at that point, which was Yeah, when I was depressed/had severe issues with disordered eating/was crash dieting and hated myself, thanks for bringing that up. The BMI was mentioned once or twice.

The students did sessions of Problem-Based Learning (PBL), which is apparently what they do in med school; they were given a medical case and had to see what was wrong with the person.  The very last one involved a woman who had pain in her mouth and dwindling eyesight and rapid weight loss, and it turned out she had diabetes.  I don’t remember her height, but she weighed over 190 pounds, to which one of the two boys in this particular group responded:  “DAAAYUMMMNN!!”

I felt a little uncomfortable, mostly because I weigh >100 lbs. more than this hypothetical woman, and I’m pretty sure their facilitator, associate something-or-other for the medical school, assumed for the few weeks we interacted with each other that I was about to die of fat.  This happens every time my friends/whatever people I’m with (like the students at work) talk about other fatties when I’m around; I can’t help but think “what do they say about me when I’m not around?  Do they not see that I’m fatter than [whoever they're talking about]?  WTF?”  My default defense mechanism is sarcasm, but that doesn’t really seem to work when I’m confronting issues of fat, because I forget that people actually believe that fat people don’t deserve nice things, or that no heterosexual male would ever want to have sex with a Fat Chick, EVER.  Sarcasm tends to be lost on people who have been socialized to believe what you’re saying, or they sense the sarcasm but don’t understand why it’s there because these statements are OBVS TRUE.

At the end of the program, the kids did presentations about different health issues:  COPD, pandemic influenza, asthma and smoking, healthy aging, something I don’t remember, and “Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles.”  The Nutrition group started out by saying (and I may be paraphrasing slightly) “it’s common knowledge that obesity causes a myriad of health problems” and encouraged everyone to lose weight if their BMI was in the “overweight” range.  Common knowledge is something that irks me, especially when used about something that ISN’T common knowledge–or, in this case, something that is widely accepted but not true.  It’s like saying “it’s common knowledge that fat people never exercise and binge eat 24/7.”  There are people who actually believe this shit, and if they happen to come across a fatty who does exercise and doesn’t gorge themselves constantly, it’s “oh, but you’re the exception!” and/or “it’s okay for you because you can’t help it!”

I’m at the point where I’m finally comfortable calling people out about fatphobia, but I’m not comfortable enough to do it in a serious way.  My response to a friend who has made an effort to eat healthily and exercise tends to be “I heard fat is the worst thing anyone could ever be in the history of everything.”  It’s taken her a while to get that I don’t want to hear about how she OMG gained five pounds and that is definitely the end of the world!!!11one, but it’s happening.

I use sarcasm as an emotional shield for a lot of things, which I realize is probably unhealthy but it’s how I do.  When friends or even acquaintances say or do things that make me uncomfortable I tend to panic and revert to sarcastically remarking, “Rape is hilarious!” (why do I have friends who make rape jokes?  sigh.) because if I didn’t have that defense mechanism I might start crying and screaming at them instead.

Other fat bloggers have explained the concept of intellectually understanding fat acceptance while emotionally holding onto the Fantasy of Being Thin or just thinking “if I were X pounds lighter/X dress sizes smaller, I could really start accepting my fat body!”–or the Fantasy of Being a Little Less Fat.  To be completely honest with you, it’s only been half a year (almost 7 months!) since I was intellectually introduced to the concept that OHAI, fatness isn’t the end of the world.  I totally got it and I was ready to jump on board with the whole FA thing and fuck diets and whatnot, but there are still times when I catch a glimpse of my body from an unflattering angle or something and think “how could anyone ever find this attractive?  I’ll probably die alone,” moments after I’ve looked at photos of gorgeous fat girls who are roughly my size.

I used to wish I was shorter, because at 5’7″ I’m too tall for the category of “spunky because they’re short and chubby” girls–Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray and the like.  Oh fucked-up body image issues, you are so odd.

So it’s really sad, but if I didn’t deadpan “fat people don’t deserve nice things” or something similar, I might slip and let myself go back to an emotional place that involves a lot of self-hatred because there was a time at which I believed this was true and I’ve had a hell of a time figuring out that it isn’t… if only it were simpler.

I’m working on it.

August 1, 2009. Tags: , , , , . FA, intersectionality, real-life wtfery. 4 comments.

on intersectionality and HAES

I’m a little late, but there was some talk recently over at Fatshionista about diversity within the fatosphere, and after reading this post last month I shamelessly plugged this here blog and decided to start posting more… which hasn’t been working too well because I’ve been really busy, but I’m working on it.

As a Native deathfat, I’m especially “at risk” for type 2 diabetes based on the fact that I’m Native and Morbidly Obese Omg.  Medical professionals say that losing 10-15% of my body weight would reduce my risk.  For me, that’s 31-45 pounds, depending on the day.

Since I started reading about Health at Every Size (HAES), I’ve been thinking about this; if I practice HAES, which I do, it’s contradictory to want/try to lose weight to reduce my risk of getting diabetes, right?  But, says the thought at the back of my head, they aren’t saying I should be thin–just a little less fat.  After all, if I lost 31 pounds I’d still weigh around 280.  I’m aware that these concepts are inconsistent, but damn there’s a lot of pressure–especially when so many Native people are now trying to improve their health, which is a good thing but unfortunately equated with losing weight for a lot of them.

The race factor plays into this in different ways.  Some people think that so many ndns have diabetes because after frybread was invented we all ate too much of it (deep-fried dough isn’t great for you, I’m guessing).  Maybe a little simplistic, but it makes sense.  (For the record, I eat frybread maybe 3 times a year… om nom nom.)  Others, perhaps in the same vein in a sort of roundabout way, see diabetes–along with alarmingly elevated rates of alcoholism, suicide, depression, domestic violence, etc. among Native populations–as a symptom of historical trauma*, which is interesting.

“Compared to the U.S. average, American Indians are 770% more likely to die from alcoholism, 650% more likely to die from tuberculosis, 420% more likely to die from diabetes, 280% more likely to die from accidents, 190% more likely to commit suicide and 52% more likely to die from pneumonia or influenza.”  -Michelle Sotero, A Conceptual Model of Historical Trauma: Implications for Public Health Practice and Research

Alcoholism, suicide and domestic violence make sense.  Native women being 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other population in the United States can also be attributed to historical trauma.

Unfortunately, in the public health sphere, type 2 diabetes is tied to fatness even though there are plenty of fat people without diabetes and thin people who have it.  I haven’t been “diagnosed” with prediabetes, but in the eyes of a lot of people I’m at risk because I weigh over 175 lbs. and I’m Native and… oh wait, that’s it.  I have no significant family history of diabetes, and I’m young and fairly active.

Late last year, I was at a funeral and someone made a joke (heh, it’s what we do) about how in Native communities, something’s wrong if you’re too skinny. Which is kinda true; if someone who’s not fat but not naturally really thin suddenly becomes really thin, there’s probably a health problem going on there.  I found myself laughing nervously and avoiding the eyes of everyone around me, though, because that wouldn’t be true for me; if I were to lose a lot of weight people would probably congratulate me and encourage me to lose more.  Indigenous people have been assimilated to the point where we subscribe to society’s notion of beauty and health, at least the thin aspect.

I’m about to start my second week at a job with a 6-week summer program for Native high school students interested in careers in medicine.  It’s a great job and I think it’s really important to get more Native doctors working in tribal communities and urban communities with large Native populations.  It’s through the medical school at my university and has a focus on developing healthy lifestyles, which is great!  But once in a while someone will say something about how the OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA is a huge problem for us as Native people.  When this happens, I generally bite my tongue and feel uncomfortable because calling the person out and trying to educate them about HAES is a little bit out of my comfort zone.  I’m an undergrad and not pre-med, and everyone else working there is pre-med or already a med student and the person talking about how fat Indians are pretty much in mortal peril (okay, slight exaggeration) was an authority figure.

I think it would be great to educate medical professionals serving reservations and POC communities in general–and, hell, everyone else!–about Health at Every Size.  I have issues with a lot of tribal health programs, including the lack of sex education, which IMO could prevent some of the gratuitous amounts of teen pregnancy (sex ed probably isn’t the cure because my 15-year-old cousin is pregnant on purpose–don’t even get me started–but it could definitely help) in our communities.  The local tribal clinic, not the one where I grew up but close to where I go to college/live now, is and pretty awesome.  They have a nutritionist and walking clubs and stuff, which is great and important, but from what I can tell a lot of it is geared toward weight loss if you’re fat and staying thin if you aren’t.

I don’t know, maybe someday my frustrations will be quelled when indigenous feminism turns into an actual movement and HAES is supported by doctors at tribal clinics, but for now I will plot and have conversations with people when I can/feel comfortable doing so.

*Historical trauma is the concept that Native people still have a lot of historically unresolved grief, which spans across generations and manifests in six stages:

1. 1st Contact: life shock, genocide, no time for grief. Colonization Period: introduction of disease and alcohol, traumatic events such as Wounded Knee Massacre.
2. Economic competition: sustenance loss (physical/spiritual).
3. Invasion/War Period: extermination, refugee symptoms.
4. Subjugation/Reservation Period: confined/translocated, forced dependency on oppressor, lack of security.
5. Boarding School Period: destroyed family system, beatings, rape, prohibition of Native language and religion; Lasting Effect: ill-prepared for parenting, identity confusion.
6. Forced Relocation and Termination Period: transfer to urban areas, prohibition of religious freedom, racism and being viewed as second class; loss of governmental system and community.

There has also been research done WRT Jewish people and the historical trauma resulting from the Holocaust.

June 15, 2009. Tags: , . FA, intersectionality. 5 comments.

Yay for FA books

Yay for the first FA book I’ve purchased, anyway.

This kind of post would normally go in my LiveJournal, but I wanted to share my excitement!

Some setup:  I randomly decided to go to the mall today.  I didn’t really have a reason to go and I only had $20-ish in my purse, but I was bored and wanted to procrastinate homework and cleaning my apartment as much as possible.

I saw that Old Navy had all skirts and dresses on sale in the store (I checked the website when I got home and it doesn’t look like that translated to the website :\) for $15 and I was like “okay, maybe I can fit into a 2X stretchy jersey dress.”  I found one that I kinda liked, but I didn’t end up trying it on because I decided I didn’t love it and there were probably better things on which to spend that $15.

I was right!  I went into Barnes & Noble and browsed around not really looking for anything in particular.  On a complete whim, I went to one of the computer thingies they had set up in one corner of the store and searched for Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby, not really expecting it to be there (I’m not sure why, I just figured I’d buy it online later this month when I had money anyway) and it was! It was in the “Diet” section, which made me inwardly lol and groan at the same time.  So I bought it and it was exactly $15 with tax, and I definitely love it a lot more than that ON dress.  I’m only about 1/3 of the way through, but it’s great so far.

Random side note: There’s a Harding Avenue AND a Kirby Drive here.  Haha.

June 5, 2009. Tags: , . FA, media. Leave a comment.

kids these days; also, I’ve come a long way.

Ohai blog, it’s been a while.

Warning:  The last part of this post contains potentially triggering material.

I was going to post about HAES and a job I might have this summer(!), but literally a couple of minutes after I got home one day last week I came across this article, which seemed oddly appropriate after what happened on the way home.  I’ll make that other post later.

When I was walking home, I passed a house not too far from my own apartment and there were some kids playing outside.  They might have been 10 or 11 (I don’t know, I’m no good at guessing ages), and there was at least one of them who was yelling “douchebag!”–which, I have to admit, amused me a little even though he probably doesn’t know what a douchebag is. Anyway, I was looking straight ahead and about half a block away from my apartment when the same kid (I think; I wasn’t looking) yelled “Fat lady in a dress!”–which was true.  I’m fat and, like most days, I was wearing a dress.  I’m guessing he wasn’t just making an observation; personally, I don’t tend to yell out everything I observe… but the notion does kind of remind me of Real Life Twitter:

So I kept walking and ignored the kid, just like I learned to ignore the kids just like him when I was in elementary school; the house was completely behind me when I heard him yell “there’s a planet on the sidewalk!”, presumably referring to me and my fatness. This would have upset me a lot if I were in elementary, middle or high school–or even my first 2.5 years of college, probably; years ago, I would pretend that the boy or girl calling me fat like it was a terrible thing to be (which I believed for a long time) wasn’t affecting me at all… then I would go home and cry and/or engage in self-destructive behavior.

This was actually the first time in a while someone’s maliciously called me fat to my face, and you know what?  I didn’t cry.  I wasn’t depressed for days. This is what I call personal growth.

I already posted about the fact that I now have something in the area of self-esteem, but FA for me has gone a lot deeper than that.

Warning:  potentially triggering material below.

A little over a year ago, my father passed away.  I was an emotional wreck; I spent the remainder of the semester (3 weeks) and some of the summer at home with my mom and siblings.  Exactly two months later, I was raped.

Like so many other victims (I was still a victim at that point; I now consider myself a survivor), I believed it was my fault despite my better judgment.  A lot of my close friends are sexual assault advocates and I’ve been participating in and organizing V-Day at my university for years, helping to raise money for a local organization that works to empower survivors and recognize that it isn’t their fault.

I convinced myself that this happened to me because of some bad decision I made; my common sense was compromised and because my dad had died, I wasn’t thinking straight.  Therefore, it was my fault. In addition to this misconception, I figured that I deserved it because if I had just done things differently, it wouldn’t have happened.  I also somehow figured that I should be grateful for being raped because hey, who wants to have sex with a fat chick?  No normal, self-respecting person.  Clearly, no one besides a creepy fetishist chubby chaser would ever love me enough to want to have consensual sex with me, so I should just take it where I can get it.

All of this sounds like something a particularly douchy troll would say.  When an asshole on the internet makes comments like these, we as bloggers and blog-readers can ridicule him and kick him in the face with feminism.

My experience is eerily similar to one described by Kate Harding in her essay for Yes Means Yes, called “How do you Fuck a Fat Woman?”, except all of the horrible comments were made by me inside my own head. I didn’t speak my truth until 10 months later at the speakout portion of the local Take Back The Night; I had an intense fear of judgment.  For a long time I thought people would think “who’d want to rape her? She’s FAT!  Eww!” but I felt an enormous weight lift when I spoke at that podium and had an amazingly supportive group of feminists who supported me afterwards.

Treating someone like shit is not automatically justified if they’re fat. Fat women don’t deserve to be raped, nor should they feel gratitude for the experience. It seems like common sense, but just imagine if we could actually realize it. If I hadn’t accidentally discovered fat acceptance a few months ago, I think I’d still have the I’m-a-horrible-person-because-I’m-fat mindset, including thinking I deserved discrimination and ridicule and rape and thinking no one in their right mind would ever be attracted to someone who’s fat, EVER.

I’m so glad I know better now.

May 24, 2009. Tags: , . FA, real-life wtfery. 1 comment.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t why I’m fat.

And eating healthily hasn’t made me thin.

Jennifer of Vegan Lunchbox has started a blog/project in response to “This is why you’re fat.”  For the past few years, I’ve appreciated reading VLB as a lactose-intolerant vegetarian/mostly-vegan-most-of-the-time in need of creative meal ideas, but I can’t say I feel the same way about this new blog, entitled “This Is Why You’re Thin!“.

She chose this title because “thin” is the opposite of “fat” and it will include images of delicious plant-based foods (sounds harmless, right?  I do love food porn) and happy people exercising, smiling kids drinking smoothies, etc.  This was the first thing I saw (in the first post on the blog):

Sunbathing naked covered with fruit is why youre thin!

Sunbathing naked covered with fruit is why you're thin!

Click the image to read the entry.  Aside from the rampant sexism in this image (it could very well be from PeTA), the blog itself promotes the idea that veganism makes people thin, which is absolutely not true.  This entry almost takes a Health At Every Size perspective, featuring an exercising (Nordic walking) woman who is not thin, but it missed the mark a little bit.  Here’s what the woman pictured said:

“As you can see, I am not thin. But, when I exercise, I feel thin; that is, I feel healthy and able.

(emphasis added by Jennifer, I assume, not me)

Thin ≠ healthy and able.  The disabled thin people and healthy fat people I know would hopefully agree.  Yes, it’s a very common, fatphobic misconception that thin people are as a rule healthier than fat people, and some thin people are healthier than some fat people.  However, I’m a lot healthier than a lot of the thin people I know.

It’s great to want to motivate people to eat healthy foods that are also delicious, but not when that motivation is a thin body.  A lot of people, myself included, commented in the first post saying that “This Is Why You’re Healthy” would be a better name for the blog.  Unfortunately, “This Is Why You’re Thin!” seemed fitting because she took inspiration from thisiswhyyou’refat.com.

Pizzas with hamburger crusts and sandwiches on donuts instead of bread aren’t why I’m fat, though maybe some people believe that.  I do love me some vegan cupcakes, though.  Mmmmm.

It’s really unfortunate that the blog seems more like Thinspiration than a motivator to actually be healthy; it’s alienating to fat vegans and people who are fat and healthy in general, or even fat people who may or may not be super healthy but don’t eat shit like The 30,000 Calorie Sandwich (“Sandwich filled with ground beef, bacon, corn dogs, ham, pastrami, roast beef, bratwurst, braunschweiger and turkey, topped with fried mushrooms, onion rings, swiss/provolone/cheddar/feta/parmesan cheeses, lettuce and butter on a loaf white bread”).

ETA: LilahMorgan commented on this Shapely Prose post about another blog post at Feministing re: nutrition and privilege and summarized it pretty perfectly;

. . . I think it’s the blase acceptance of this is what thin people do and what fat people don’t do as if it’s an absolute truth. Thin and don’t do those things? Fat and do? Fuck you.

March 23, 2009. Tags: , , . FA. 1 comment.

on self-esteem

Not very long ago, I used to untag every tagged photo of me on Facebook if it made me look fat.

Of course, this is ridiculous–I AM fat, so it’s only natural that, uh, I look fat in pictures.  I was ashamed of my fat, and I didn’t want other people to see it.. despite the fact that I know the vast majority of my Facebook friends in real life.  I haven’t seen a lot of them in years, but years ago I was still fat.

So basically, I’d untag every full-body shot, every picture in which my double chin was visible, and pictures in which I was sitting and couldn’t suck in my gut in time, just in case someone who was viewing my profile decided to look through my pictures.  The approval of my own friends and, potentially, strangers who I didn’t want finding out about my fatness, was apparently Really Important.

I never would’ve DREAMED of posting an Outfit of the Day photo on Fatshionista, especially not a head-to-toe photo.  It took me a long time to stop cringing when looking at pictures of myself that didn’t make me look thinner.

For me, self-esteem came more easily when I started to feel comfortable with my gender presentation, which consequentially was shortly after my femme-ness began to manifest itself in my clothing choices.  I had qualms about being a fat femme, which stemmed from my fat shame.  I felt like being fat AND feminine was somehow not socially acceptable/”allowed” (well, maybe it still isn’t, but society’s hypothetical disapproval of the fat femme was the reason for my discomfort surrounding the idea) and didn’t really even believe that fat femmes existed until I met my downstairs neighbor, who is now one of my best friends.  She was fat AND not afraid to be beautiful, which is what fascinated me before we really became friends.

I was a freshman in college, and my standard uniform was jeans and a t-shirt, maybe with a sweatshirt over the t-shirt.  During one of my first experiences at Recital Hour, a class required for undergraduate music majors and minors, she was performing; she’s without a doubt the most talented vocalist at my school.  I was envious of her stage presence and confidence–and of course, her voice!–but I noticed that she wasn’t only confident on stage, she was confident (outwardly) pretty much all of the time!

I moved into her building this summer (2008) because she’d told the landlords she would find people to live in the apartment upstairs from hers and I needed a place to live.  We started hanging out all the time, and she inspired me to start caring about what I look like.  For years, I didn’t want to dress nicely or wear makeup–sort of as a middle finger to the patriarchy (this is what I would tell people, anyway), but mostly because I was waiting until I became thin to give a damn.  I’d been wanting to feel pretty all of this time, but I wasn’t letting myself actually do so.

I still don’t love my body 100%*, but I actually do pretty much like it most of the time.  I’m finally comfortable in my own skin, which I didn’t really think would ever happen as long as I was still fat.  I had my first doctor appointment since starting to read about HAES, and my weight didn’t even come up (okay, so I was there to get my ankle checked out, but I was sure the doctor would say something like “well, if you weren’t MORBIDLY OBESE BOOGA BOOGA, you probably wouldn’t have fallen down the stairs.”  Well, I’m clumsy and if I were thin I’d still be clumsy.) but I was prepared to defend my refusal to diet.

There’s a picture** on Facebook of me at an anti-war picket in my hometown at age 15, with my little sister (who was 9 at the time).  At that point, I was a size 16 and HATED my body and probably would’ve hated that picture if I’d seen it in that moment–even though a sign is covering most of my body.  Now, at a size 24-ish, I can look at pictures and appreciate the memories they preserve instead of worrying about what other people will think if they see them or instinctively planning my next diet.


*I still do long for a booty; I inherited a wide, frustratingly flat ass from my mother, who is naturally fairly thin.

**I couldn’t resist posting it!

Adam (the organizer of the picket), me (15) and my sister (9)

Adam (the organizer of the picket), me (15) and my sister (9)

It was windy (hence the hair in my face), but it was still a really good time.

March 23, 2009. Tags: , , . FA. Leave a comment.

Weight “problems”/addressing fat

I was talking to an acquaintance while eating dinner today, and the issue of fatness came up.  It was the first time I’ve ever talked with anyone in Real Life about it, and the conversation went like this (semi-paraphrased):

Me:  (blah blah blah, something mentioned kinda-sorta in passing about the fact that I’m a fat Native woman; we were talking about a bigoted assbag in our department who likes to oppress everyone)
Her (direct quote):  Well, despite your… fatness… you dress well!  People with weight problems should dress well.
Me:  Well, I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m actually a very healthy person.
Her:  Yeah, but your self-esteem is up because you dress well, and if you had low self-esteem, you’d probably get bigger, THEN it would be a problem.
Me:  …

I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond.  For whom would it be a problem if I gained weight?  If I gained so much as to be non-ambulatory, I suppose it would be my problem, but my weight has been fluctuating since middle school and it hasn’t adversely affected anything besides my own self-esteem until recently (that is, until I stumbled upon Fatshionista and came across the Fat Acceptance movement).

I remember when I was in seventh grade, a size 14, and I was staying the night at a friend’s house.  She was going to lend me a pair of pajama pants, which wouldn’t have been a problem–they’re usually stretchy, after all–but I went to put them on around bedtime and couldn’t get past my thighs.  I said something about how they didn’t fit me because I was too fat (which was the truth, but I meant it more as a statement of self-deprecation), to which she promptly responded “you’re not fat!” just like any good friend in the eyes of a tween would do.  (I’ve since read Kate Harding’s essay in Feed Me! and am working on my own automatic emotional response to the word “fat.”  Hearing it out loud still makes me cringe a tiny bit, but progress is being made.)

I have all kinds of experiences with the F word, from the first time someone called me fat when I was in the third grade (that person happened to have a lot of the same friends I had in high school, so I felt sort of weirdly compelled to pretend to like her, but we were never friends) to the guy who said “God, Linda, you are so fat!” in a completely disgusted tone while I was getting a drink of water from the fountain before our tenth grade English class (I still see him sometimes when I go home for breaks or a weekend or whatever, and I still don’t acknowlege him when we run into each other at the grocery store or the movie theatre.  He pretends I don’t exist, too, so it’s kind of like a symbiotic relationship of passive-aggression), to the asshole sitting behind me who told me to “turn around, fatty” when I shot him a withering stare while he was being extremely rude and disrespectful during a school assembly, to one of my best friends at the time who said something (I can’t remember exactly what it was) about how I was kind of pretty even though I was fat (I’m sure she meant it as a compliment), and our other friend with whom we were eating dinner got all flustered and kind of angry and said when the aforementioned friend got up to use the restroom, “well, she didn’t need to say it like that!” while I just shrugged apologetically.

I have a love-hate relationship with my fat.  I’m very new to FA, so I’m still in the process of eliminating the hate part of the whole situation.  When I first came across the Fatshionista LJ community, I’d look at someone’s (anyone’s) outfit post and think “Argh!  She’s fat and beautiful, why can’t I be too?  Maybe if I were less fat, or if I were differently shaped, or if I had bigger T&A in comparison to my stomach…”

It’s weirdly similar to the Fantasy of Being Thin, which is ironic.  I went from realizing that fat ≠ ugly/disgusting/unlovable/etc. to immediately comparing my body to others’ just as I’ve been doing for years with thin women.  OHAI, fat acceptance = accepting fat!?!?!?  I’m getting better, at least.  I’m learning to own my fat instead of apologizing for it and being ashamed of it.  That’s something I’ve had to do on my own, no matter how many FA blog posts I’ve read (and I’ve recently spent many a night scouring the archives of said blogs, refusing to believe that they’ll still be there in the morning).

February 27, 2009. Tags: , . FA, real-life wtfery. 3 comments.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.