Category Archives: food

calling all fatties!

So I’m sitting on a couple of panels at this weekend’s Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom, and I’ll be talkin’ fatty things!

I want to make sure I am offering up a wide variety of resources for attendees to use if they want to dive further into these issues, so I would love your comments/suggestions!

One panel is on food justice, and while my work isn’t directly on point with this area of activism, I was asked to bring the perspective of a fat activist and challenge folks to think about how we label food as “good” or “bad,” how classism can be inherent in a lot of conversations around food justice (you know, the old “if everyone ate whole foods and made their meals from scratch, people wouldn’t be so fat!” trope), and offer examples of how to incorporate fat activism into food justice work. Anyone have examples of how this is done well? Or have articles/books/resources I can point people to? I, of course, have done and will continue to do research, but I wanted to get ya’lls input as well.

The second panel is more in my wheelhouse, as I’ve been asked to speak about how fat activists have challenged media culture around bodies by sharing stories and building community. Hey, like I’m doing right now! I’d like to also point attendees to some great spaces on the interwebs regarding body image (think OOTDs, fatshion blogs, etc), but I have not been particularly active on Tumblr in the past several months. I would love some suggestions as to great Tumblrs that showcase various fat bodies, focusing particularly on folks who identify as queer and/or people of color, and of course would not turn away additional online resources you can think of!

Thank you in advance for your thoughts! I appreciate that CLPP understands just how important it is to discuss fat and body image issues within the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement. And if any of you will be at CLPP, lemme know so we can fatty high five!

throwing the fatties under the bus

i work in the reproductive justice movement. As such, my facebook & twitter feeds are generally chock-full of news, comments, and status updates about the (more often than not) horrendous state of affairs in the US regarding a host of reproductive health, rights, and justice issues (see: the shackling of pregnant and birthing prisoners, infant mortality rate as a result of systemic racism, environmental toxins and their disproportionate impact on the repro health systems in communities of color, etc). Needless to say, it can be a real bummer sometimes. But I love this work so very much.

I get to work with some of the brightest, most passionate, kick-ass, radical women and men to help push this country forward when it comes to fighting for reproductive justice. But sometimes I get a big reminder that just because folks work in social justice does not mean they don’t carry with them some seriously fucked up notions of fat bodies.

A couple of weeks ago this video made the rounds on my facebook feed. If you can’t view it, basically it’s a rant by a rather social justice minded comedian about a website put up by pro-life/anti-choice folks. The website is a place where folks can let readers know what they’re giving up “until abortion ends” (I think the website is called until abortion ends, but I don’t want to give it traffic) by uploading their own videos. So people make a video about, say, giving up ice cream until abortion ends. Or soda. And so on. Ok, yes, it’s a slightly odd take on the issue, but I see where people are going with it. To them, abortion is evil. They are taking a stand, as it were, by giving up something they love in order to save fetuses. I can wrap my head around that (that doesn’t mean I agree with the sentiment, I’m just saying it makes sense).

So, this comedian is lambasting the people who upload videos to this site; he says something like “hey, big deal you’re giving up ice cream and soda! this isn’t a stand! you’re giving something up that you should give up anyway.” (emphasis added) He talks for a little while longer about how it’s not a sacrifice when you’re giving up something that isn’t good for you. You see where I’m going with this.

Anyway, quite a few of my facebook friends (and organizations I like) put the video up and made positive comments about it. I ignored them, until it just pissed me off. So I put it on my page and wrote: “this video has been making the rounds on my news feed…and i gotta say, i find it interesting that people and organizations that advocate for a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her repro health care are in the same breath telling her what she should and shouldn’t put in her body. #saynotofoodshaming!”

I thought more people would respond, particularly because so many folks had also posted the video but with glowing reviews. I did get one response, someone who, in my eyes, missed my point entirely. She said: “I see it as less food shaming than pointing out that the people on this site aren’t really making sacrifices because the things they’re pledging are really just making healthier choices. Pointing out that giving up McDonald’s or Taco Bell is something good to do anyway isn’t dictating what a woman puts on her body.”

I find this line of reasoning fascinating. It contradicts itself in the same sentence! twice! “I see it less as food shaming” and then “making healthier choices.” WHO decides which choice is healthy? (in essence, that was my response to her) “Pointing out that X is something good to do isn’t dictating…” UM, how come YOU get to decide what food is good?

So there we go. A reminder that fat oppression and fat & food shaming exists even in social justice circles. But that doesn’t surprise me. Food shaming is sewn into the fabric of our existence, and it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than the odd facebook conversation to overturn it. Also, this happened just a few weeks after I learned that a panel I proposed at a reproductive justice conference discussing the intersection of reproductive justice and fat acceptance/oppression wasn’t accepted. I’m just feeling a bit let down by a movement that exists, in part, to lift people UP in regards to their bodies, their sexuality, and their health (however they define it to be).

learning to be my own advocate

I’m really good at speaking up for others. I’m still learning to speak up for myself. It helps to get super pissed. I was sad and upset at first, and while I still am both of those, I’m really starting to get pissed.

I had an appointment last week with a new ob/gyn. I’ve spoken before about my trepidation around going to the doctor, a concern that I’m afraid many fat people share. I really liked my primary care doc. The ob/gyn I saw? Not so much. I have so many words and emotions rolling through my head right now about how it all went down, and I’m not even sure how to adequately express just how awful it was.

In short, I went in because I’ve been feeling tired lately, and just a little off. I can’t explain it much more than that-  I just felt like something wasn’t right. A friend was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and her symptoms sounded similar to mine, so I thought I’d have that conversation with the gyn. I brought it up to her and then it all went to hell.

She didn’t treat me like a person who came to her with questions. She didn’t even treat me like a person. She just went straight into the “it’s because your FAAAAAT omgobesityFAAATZ” spiel and never looked back. I’m not looking to be besties with my doc, she doesn’t need to know my life story and all of my hopes and dreams or anything, but a question here and there, especially during a first visit, isn’t out of the question. In fact, it’s expected.

She didn’t listen to me. When I told her that I knew I’d gained weight the last few months but didn’t want to know the number because I’m trying to focus on a Healthy At Every Size approach to my life, three minutes later she pointed to my weight on the computer screen. Huh, thanks for that.  She also kept extolling the virtues of their nutrition program, pointing out that they have a great team that can help you (nutritionists in a group therapy setting – sweet jesus, no thank you. that may work for other folks, and rock on for them. not for me.).

Her: “It’s expensive but really worth it. I had a patient who lost 100 pounds on it.”
Me: “I’m not interested in losing 100 pounds. As I mentioned before, I’m more interested in keeping my health front and center, not my weight.”
Her: “You need to go on a diet.”
Me: “Diets don’t work; I’ve been dieting almost my entire life.”
Her: “But it depends upon the type of diet. What I’m talking about is healthy foods and exercise.”
Me (in my head after I left and got my bearings again): “Oh my god! You mean I should be eating healthy? Like, fruits and vegetables?? This is brand new information to me! You are CHANGING my LIFE!”
Me (in reality): “…”

It felt like she was tolerating me. Like I was an imposition and she needed to just get me over with and be on her way. Maybe she was having a bad day, but I’m not feeling that magnanimous, quite frankly.

Active listening, lady. Try it sometime. “I hear you and understand that you’re wary of dieting and all that the word implies, but what I’m talking about is …”

So then as we’re finishing up I have to remind her again that I’m interested in learning more about a PCOS diagnosis. I read that one test is a fasting glucose, so I hadn’t eaten just in case she suggested that. She did, so off I went to the lab (after having to find it myself, she didn’t even point me in the right direction), blah blah blood test, moving on.

I got the results the same day and then finally heard from her today. This is when the getting pissed off part starts to really take its shape. She writes (in short), “your blood tests are normal except for low ‘good cholesterol’ and an elevated fasting glucose, which probably means you have diabetes. See your primary care physician.” I freak out and email back, asking if this means PCOS is off the table. Her response, “you probably had PCOS as a pre-diabetic condition. You now have diabetes.” Literally. You. Now. Have. Diabetes. Now I don’t know about you, but getting that news in a one sentence email from a doctor who treated like me like total shit was not the kind of afternoon I had hoped to have.

I email my primary care physician and explain the situation, and bless her heart she responds back in under 10 minutes, saying, essentially, “um, yeah, you’re fine. Make sure to do cardio. We’ll test again in a couple months.”

??????

Ok, so the problems here are hopefully very evident. Namely, perhaps an ob/gyn shouldn’t be diagnosing someone about something that isn’t in their own field house of expertise, so to speak?

Two notes about all of this: 1., it doesn’t matter if I had the most beautiful numbers on the planet, or if my glucose levels were sky-high, we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of our weight OR health. Which are, of course, two different things. And 2., I’m not denying that diet and exercise don’t have implications on our health. And as I’ve said before, I want to feel better, and I know that part of that means moving my body more and paying more attention to what foods I put in it.

Generally, I’m not the kind to share all of my medical-y business in such a public way, but I feel like these kinds of stories need to get told so that when someone else gets treated like an inconvenience, a bother, a non-person, she or he won’t need to feel like the piece of shit I felt like.

Now I’m off to write a strongly-worded email to the doctor and her supervisor.

it’s about to get heavy

Possible triggering re: weight loss.

I’ve been feeling…off lately. Scattered. Uneasy. Skittish. I think it’s because I’m about to really get into some shit. Some heavy mental lifting, if you will. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact I’m looking forward to it. But I can tell I’ve been preparing myself because I’ve been pretty withdrawn the past couple weeks (as evidenced in part by my complete lack of presence on this here blog). Not really wanting to go out for drinks, not particularly interested in meeting new people, in fact not wanting to be around people at all. I went to my parents house last weekend when they were away and it was simply delightful (love the ‘rents, but damn I wanted some alone time!). Which is interesting, this concept of wanting some alone time. I live alone. I haven’t made tons of friends here yet. I’m gettin’ plenty of alone time. But I needed something a bit more. So off I went with my dog and two bags full of dirty laundry (seriously Sabrina? You’re 30. time to stop taking dirty laundry home to your parents house. does anyone else still do this?) for a weekend full of close to nothing. Just me and three dogs, some horses, and chickens:

I sat outside a lot, just kind of staring at the pretty trees, talking to the animals, soaking up the sun. and I started Dr. Linda Bacon’s “Healthy at Every Size” which is blowing. my. mind. I’ve had the book for quite a few months now, but for whatever reason, didn’t pick it up until I was packing to go home. And I am so glad I brought it. I’ve spoken before about HAES, so I won’t go into detail again here. And I’m not going to turn this into a book review, at least, not until I’ve read the whole thing. Suffice to say, when a friend of mine asked me what I loved about it so much, I responded, “it’s like someone telling me it’s not my fault.” So powerful. And honestly? I think maybe I wasn’t ready to read it until just now. Because it’s bringing up all sorts of stuff for me, mostly around my relationship with food.

Historically, I’ve examined my relationship with food as a bit of a passing hobby. Sure, it came up in therapy (note to self: find a therapist here), but I haven’t dedicated a whole hell of a lot of time into really examining how I interact with food.

I think I’ve been withdrawn so that I could shore up energy, if I may get super touchy feely hippie for a moment. This shit ain’t easy, and the idea of spending real focused time examining, pulling apart, and staring at my relationship with food is utterly terrifying. But the best part is it is simultaneously the clearest thing in the world to me.

***so I wrote all of that up there about 3 weeks ago and then disappeared again. And I think I know why. I had quite the solitary and meditative Sunday this past weekend, and it just sort of hit me like a ton of bricks. I want to lose weight. This may not seem like much of a statement to most of you, but let me tell you in that in the fatosphere, and for those of us who call ourselves fat activists? Them’s fighting words. Or at the very least, they’re words will get you some attention.

But let me explain myself.

“I want to lose weight.” Even saying those words out loud to myself shook me. Why? Why all of a sudden am I starting to go there? It felt like going backward. If I’m all “hooray, fat activism, I love my body!” then how can I want to change it simultaneously? This tension has been with me from the beginning of my FA journey, to be sure. It’s just starting to come up a bit more. But then, on Sunday, I REALLY sat with that statement. What do I mean? What about losing weight is appealing to me right now? And it was as clear as day: I don’t necessarily want to lose weight, I want to feel better. Those are two very different things, but historically, they have NOT been two different things to me. The answer to the question “how can I feel better” was always, without fail, 100% of the time, to lose weight. So now, when I don’t feel right in my body, the answer that comes to me right away is: lose weight. The next step in this for me was to unpack it and go from there.

For the last few months, I haven’t been paying attention to my body when it comes to feeding it. It’s sort of been all processed, all the time.  As I have made abundantly clear in this space before, I am not interested in labeling foods as good or bad. Before we came in to fuck everything up, food didn’t have moral value. It was. just. food. Anyway, the food I’ve been eating lately hasn’t been the most, shall we say, whole and natural. (disclaimer: I don’t give two shits what anyone else eats. Eat Taco Bell and Cheetos every single day for every single meal if you want, I will not judge you for it, this I promise) Instead, my diet has consisted of foods on the more processed side of the spectrum. And it doesn’t make me feel good. Sure, it may make me feel good in that moment, but I’ve been feeling off for a while and it’s due, in part, to my dissociation from my body and my diet.

I joke that my diet (as in, the food I eat, not “DIET” in the way most of us use the word) only works in extremes. I’m either throwing back frozen pizza and no veggies or I’m cooking gourmet, locally-sourced, free-range whatever. There isn’t much in between for me. The time has come to head toward the more whole foods side of things (foods that are whole, not the store). I’ve been focusing on this for the last few days and it’s incredible how much better I feel already. I should also note how appreciative I am that I can make this choice. Cheaper food isn’t necessarily the food with the most nutrients, and there are millions of folks every day who don’t have the opportunity to choose the more expensive/more nutrient rich option.

I’m not saying this was the magic bullet and now all of my problems will go out the window. But it’s been such a glorious relief to recognize the difference between “I want to lose weight” and “I want to feel better.” And besides being a relief? It feels powerful. And I like it very much.

reason # 323496349872 I don’t watch The Biggest Loser

I’m watching Top Chef Masters right now (pirated, I don’t have tv so I gots ta get it via the interwebs) and the challenge for this episode is to re-work the favorite meals of contestants from The Biggest Loser into three meals (plus dessert) that don’t go over 1,500 calories total. Of course the favorite meals that they trot out are calorie-laden monster plates of deep dish pizza, bacon cheeseburgers, and the like. NOW, I am not judging the fact that those are someone’s favorite meal. Shit, a bacon cheeseburger? Essentially perfection on a plate. And even if I didn’t like the food someone chooses as her favorite, who the hell am I to say anything about it? Rock on with your food choices! My beef has more to do with the producers. Of course they only choose the foods that most folks would label as “bad.” Listen, I’m fat. Like, super fat. And my favorite meal is probably a caprese salad and some sort of California-style phroofy thin-crust pizza. I know other fat people who would kill someone over the perfect roast chicken. Did I see a plate of roast chicken with asparagus and fingerling potatoes in the show? I’ll give you seven guesses. Again, I’m not interested in getting into a good fatty/bad fatty discussion – of course people should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of what they choose to eat – I’m interested in the narrative that the producers wish to share with us. There is ONE fat person in this world, and she is lazy and eats everything in sight and that’s the reason she’s fat. One chef even says something like “jesus, I could feed my family for an entire week with what’s just on that one plate.” You, sir, should shut up.

On to the challenge itself. “1500 calories?” i thought. that doesn’t seem like much. Apparently the suggested caloric intake for women, according to the FDA, is 1500-2000. Ok, cool. So it’s not like The Biggest Loser is in the habit of starving people, right? But then I get to thinking about someone who weighs what I do trying to get by on 1500 calories. Wouldn’t my body think it’s starving and go into survival mode? And how is that sustainable? when I plug in my height and weight and indicate that I am active for 30 minutes about three times a week, i’m told that I need to take in about 2550 calories a day. This comes from the Mayo Clinic, it’s not some super random website. The difference between 1500 and 2550 is a lot. What about folks who weigh more than I do?

I don’t have any amazing epiphanies or anything, it just frustrates me to no end that there isn’t any further discussion. CUT and DRIED, people. Fat folks eat gross food, they should severely restrict their diet (and exercise 3+ hours a day like they do during taping of the show), and voila! they will be happy, healthy (read: less fat), and ready to be introduced to the world with confetti and bells and whistles in front of a live studio audience!

Wow, I’m feeling snark-tastic tonight. Love it.

Update: So now (sidebar: I feel like I’m live-blogging this damn thing), the chefs are talking to each Biggest Loser contestant about the food that will get a makeover, and one of the chefs is trying to convince the college student who loves her a bacon cheeseburger that a veggie patty is the way to go because meat is so bad for you. I’ve had some positively amazing veggie burgers in my life, so that doesn’t concern me. what concerns me is his statement later to the camera in which he says, “I do this for a living. I work in this industry with nutritionists and I have great respect for [the contestant], so shame on me if I present anything but a veggie burger.” Ummm, what dude? SHAME on you if you DARE to serve her anything but a veggie burger? What a hero, coming to rescue the fat maiden from her life of beef and hideousness. My hat’s off to you.

Update II: Now some of the chefs are crowing about how all three of their meals were under 1000 calories. See, this is where the shit hits the fan for me. This hasn’t become an exercise in mindful eating anymore, it’s a game to see how low you can go (calories, weight watchers).

Update III: Ok, there is some justice in the world! The preachy chef got sent home because, as one critic put it, he served them a “lecture on a plate.” Awesomesauce.

old habits die very very hard

**possible triggering re: disordered eating

The other day I bought pita chips and hummus to bring to a potluck. The cashier was friendly enough, making comments about my purchases in that sort of non-confrontational, pleasant way. Things like, “mmm, pita chips, yum. hummus with pine nuts, looks healthy.” Without batting an eye, I said “yeah, it’s a potluck so there is always a crap shoot with the kinds of food there.” I kind of trailed off but it was very clear to me what I had just done. i justified my food purchase to a total stranger, hoping that she would “get” how healthy I was being. “look! even though i’m fat I eat ‘good’ foods!” I haven’t done this in a while and it completely caught me off guard. It’s not a mystery where this behavior comes from, most likely for any of us who have a history of disordered eating. Talking about food with other people, or eating around other people…it becomes this bizarre ritual wherein you try and tamp down any craving you have and ignore your body and what its trying to tell you. Instead, you eat “appropriate” foods in “appropriate” amounts. And it’s a constant game, this eating thing. You have to make sure at all times that you’re making it very clear that you’re a “good fatty.” Sure, you’re fat, but you’re not taking up more than your fair share of the world’s food, you’re exercising every day, you’re appreciative when someone tells you “but you have such a pretty face,” you’re apologizing for taking up too much space, and on and on.

Working to better my relationship with food (read: refusing to apologize for being hungry, eating what I want when I feel like eating it, paying attention to what my body is telling me it wants, enjoying food and not giving it moral value like “good” and “bad,” etc) has been one of the most difficult things for me in this FA journey, and I know I’m not alone. I’m trying to combat 20 years of a shitty relationship so it’s no wonder i go into apologizing mode. I just haven’t done that in a while and it kicked me in the gut a bit.

Old habit number two: I’ve been sick for the past week and a half or so. It started out as a cold or something, and turned quickly into a nasty cough and laryngitis. I sounded like death warmed over at first, but I think now I’ve cultivated the sexy phone operator voice. Anyway, I’ve been really really tired and this past week, while on vacation up in Seattle, I’ve been sleeping like it’s my job. As in, one day I didn’t get out of bed until noon. I have never slept until noon before and I gotta say, it’s not awful! And even when i sleep in that late, I need a nap after a few hours. I’ve been having real trouble not beating myself up about sleeping so much. Thoughts like “god, lazy slob” and “if you weren’t fat you’d likely be able to beat this cold by now” are constantly creeping in around the edges of my brain, and I have to beat them back with a very stiff “get the fuck out! you have no business here! also, you’re wrong!” every couple of hours. It’s actually exhausting and making me more tired – see how much unhealthier we are when we’re mean to ourselves? Hey, maybe that whole “shaming fat people into losing weight” thing doesn’t actually work! (end sarcasm)

So anyway, I want to make sure I’m not only documenting the a-ha and “I’m awesome” moments on this here space of mine. It’s important to get into the uncomfortable and ugly stuff. Old habits die hard, this is true. And they come swirling back into your world when you’re not expecting them.

Other habits that are hard to break? Lemme hear ’em! Maybe if we put them out into the universe, they’ll stay away forever?

putting myself first – growing pains

*possible triggering re food restriction*

Recently, I got a comment on one of my earlier posts that I decided not to approve, for a variety of reasons. The commenter mentioned that she only eats one meal a day in order to try and lose weight because she feels that’s what her doctor wants her to do.

This is the first comment that I haven’t approved and it’s been sitting, quite uncomfortably, with me for a few days. I reached out to the ever so fabulous Fat Heffalump for some advice, as I don’t currently have these conversations with the people in my every day not-virtual life (sidebar – this is one of my favorite things about choosing to blog about FA, it has introduced me to some awesome people that i get to have amazing, nuanced, and challenging discussions with!). I think I have figured out what didn’t sit well with me about the comment.

Well, I think it’s two things. First, the comment was a bit triggering for me. I haven’t actually ever restricted my food to one meal a day, but I’ve certainly counted calories, food journaled, and obsessed over every little thing I put into my body (followed by mind-numbing guilt and telling myself some pretty horrible, awful, mean things that I would never say out loud).

And second, this work I do has been one of the first things (only things?) i’ve done JUST for me. I get to set the stage, I get to set boundaries, and I get to focus first and foremost on how I feel about things. I’m not saying I was some total saint who ONLY thought about others around her (yeah, how awful for me. i’m just TOO amazing a friend. /sarcasm). What I’m saying is that when it came to my body, my size, my health, I let every one else be the expert/steer the ship. Doctors will tell me if I’m unhealthy (and because I’m fat, I must be unhealthy), my friends will discuss their dieting habits even though it makes me uncomfortable but I say nothing because who wants to be THAT person who wants the conversation to go according to HER beliefs?, and on and on.

This though? This work? In this work, I get to make the decisions. And while it may sound like I’m totally on board with that idea, sometimes it’s really hard. Because I do things like disapprove of someone’s opinions or thoughts and I mostly hate the idea that someone has to abide by my strict rules to play. But I’m hating that idea less and less, which I think is good because this work is hard – it’s energy-sapping sometimes, and the only way that I can sustain it and maintain my health (mental or otherwise) is to set some ground rules that ensure this stays my happy place (not “happy” happy all the time, b/c there’s certainly some sad shit going on here, but you know what I mean). Other bloggers have “no diet/weight loss talk” caveats on their blogs and I may follow suit. We’ll see. If anyone has good examples of those caveats, send ’em my way!