On Swimsuits and Bodies

My beautiful Avenue swimsuit!

I grew up around water. Whether I was going to one of the Great Lakes for vacation (as I did this past week), or swimming in my grandmother’s pool, or joining the swim team, I spent countless hours perched on the edge of some body of water, wearing little more than a swimsuit.

This past week, I logged at least three or four hours a day in my swimsuit. Spending that much time bearing your body to the world is difficult for many people, male and female. And every summer, when vacation time comes around, it’s something I always think about.

I was lucky, I think. As a kid, I joined the swim team. From age eight up through age fourteen I swam competitively. It was, in many ways, a terrible time for me. I frequently was called fat. I was incredibly uncomfortable in my body and with what was happening to it. I was hyper aware of what my body looked like to other people. But I enjoyed swimming. At some point, I began winning my heats and doing quite well in long distance swimming. (I used to motivate myself to swim fast by pretending there was a shark behind me. It worked every time.) Though I was aware of how my body looked (and how fat I was), I was also aware of what my body could do.

Having spent so much time during my formative years in a swimsuit, I barely even notice it today. Yes, there’s always a twinge when I break out the swimsuit for the first time each year. I stare at it for a while, put it on, glare at the scrap of fabric in the mirror for a while. However, it’s not enough to stop me from wearing it. I vow not to let it stop me from enjoying myself.

But it’s harder sometimes. I sat on the beach yesterday, watching as girls pranced by in their bikinis, and I wished that I had the confidence, the curves, the abs that would make me feel comfortable in so little fabric. I look at them and wonder if I could ever look like that. And then I shake myself, trying to not let myself get invested in that counter-productive train of thought. I remind myself that, even if I were that thin, who’s to say I won’t still want to have a “better” body in some way? Who’s to say I will appreciate what I do have? Who says the body I have isn’t good enough?

Renewing my faith in myself is something I always do. I have to love my body, even in a swimsuit. I have to love my body in a tank top, in a skirt, in a bra and underwear, in long pants and a sweater. I need to love my body in some way every day. And I need to stop believing my body isn’t good enough how it is. Yes, I’m only human, and insecurities come with the territory. Some days it’s harder to do. Yesterday was a day I forgot. Today, I hope I’ll remember.

Big Sales!

I opened my inbox this morning to see two emails from Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug advertising some big sales they have going on! Lane Bryant’s Right Fit Jeans (which I mentioned as my savior last week) are on sale for $24.99, and they are having their big summer sale! Fashion Bug has 30% off everything online. Need to stock up? Now’s the time to do it!

Anybody know of any other big Plus Size Fashion sales? My clothes shopping has always been limited to a few stores, so I’d love the chance to try somewhere new. Let me know in the Comments!

(And sorry things have been light on the blog. I’m currently moving out of my summer sublet, and real life has been getting in the way.)

Fat + New City = Insecurity

I spent this past weekend looking at houses and apartments in the city I’m moving to for graduate school. I’m already getting nervous about leaving the place I am right now. You get comfortable and content in a place with people who care about you, and being uprooted to somewhere new makes all your insecurities rise to the surface. This is part of my so-called “process.” I tend to get anxious before big life changes and start to get nervous that I’m not ready, or not good enough to do well in my new life.

Part of this, of course, is a drop in self-confidence and renewed obsession with my appearance. I always worry that people are going to judge me when they meet me because I’m fat. And I’m terrified that this will happen when I move.

Luckily I’ve secured good, accepting roommates for the fall (I met them this weekend), and already have a few friends in the area, but it’s still tough. It’s one of those times of insecurity that makes me question my resolve. I start to think about losing lots of weight and becoming thin and therefore “beautiful.” I start to want to change myself because I think it will matter to all these new people I’m going to meet.

This, in turn, makes me angry at myself for thinking I need to change who I am for someone else, and continues the loop of frustration. I think I’m secure in my body, but then I start to think negative thoughts and buy back into the same traps and pitfalls I’d had before.

This is one of those times, I think, when I need to be reminded of people out there who don’t care about my size but care about who I am. This is one of those times when I have to remember who I am and what I believe in. This is a time when I need your advice. How do I avoid falling back into my insecurities? What has worked for you in your life? What wisdom can you give me to persist, oh Fatosphere of Wisdom?

Obese Star Loses Weight!!

"Obese Star" Real Headline

But not the kind of star you’re thinking. I was browsing articles over on HuffPost earlier today, and was shocked to run into an article with the headline: “Scientists Discover Obese Star…” It was somewhat shocking to me because I had no idea actual astronomical stars could be obese. Having taken an astronomy class in undergrad, I thought I knew all types of stars…red giants, white dwarfs, etc. But I’d never heard of an obese star.

What does this tell us, then, that journalists (or maybe even the astronomers?) are co-opting weightist language to describe phenomena? For me, it actually makes me wonder about how we use the word “obese.” I am a fat woman. That is how I describe myself. But, medically, I am obese. To many people, being “obese” means you’re ill. It means you’re too fat. Many people think it denotes laziness, overeating, inactivity. To many people, “obese” is a negative term.

How, then, does this translate to astronomy? It doesn’t. The star in question has a lot of mass. It’s 320 times larger than earth’s sun, and is quite a discovery. But calling it “obese” doesn’t add anything to the article. All it does is make you wonder, “How could a star be obese?”

It wasn’t until I read the article again (I had saved it because it bugged me so much) that it really hit me. The reason the astronomers and journalists are couching this star’s discovery in terms of obesity and weight is because it’s an analogy that most people will understand.

“Unlike humans, these stars are born heavy and lose weight as they age,” said Crowther, an astrophysicist at the University of Sheffield in northern England. “R136a1 is already middle-aged and has undergone an intense weight loss program.”

They’re trying to humanize it, and give it a defined relative mass. They’re trying to make it resonate with people through a metaphor that is obvious.

To me, it’s reminiscent of “ha ha, look at how funny we’re being by calling this thing fat.” They’re trying to be clever, but they don’t think about how they’re using the word. Does this stretch obesity too far? Are people now relating obesity to anything bigger than the sun? If this article were read by millions of people, would people call me a “big fat star” instead of a “big fat elephant?” When will the hyperbole end, and what damage will it do?

Stephen Colbert talks Weightism

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the video, courtesy of Jamie. Now that I’ve watched it again, I find more things disgusting about it than I did before. I think what really bothers me is that I feel like the audience isn’t laughing at the satire of what he’s saying, but rather laughing AT fat people. That, I believe is why I’m so disturbed by this video which is fantastic otherwise…

Last night, I was lolly-gagging on the internet in my bedroom when my mother shouted to me, “Chrissy!” I went running upstairs. It turns out that she was watching the Colbert Report and Stephen Colbert had just said something about Weightism. That’s right, you heard it, a big TV show host says something about WEIGHTISM. I couldn’t believe it.

I can’t find the video at the moment, (see UPDATE above) but I spent a good amount of time being angry about his satirical commentary on America being the fattest nation. He always does his satirical read to introduce his topic, and this one fed right into the normal weghtist stereotypes: fat people eat whole pies, fat people eat a lot of cheese (?), fat people like to eat….a lot, etc. After hearing this monologue, I started to walk away, disgusted, when my mom called me back. “He’s bringing out a professor!”

Luckily, as usually happens on Colbert, he then proceeded to have a very rational and very HAES-filled discussion with Dickinson College’s Professor Amy Farrell. The very first point she made was that some people can eat junk food and be thin and others can eat junk food and be fat, and that BOTH of those groups are unhealthy. She continued with the wonderful HAES approach that by being physically active and eating right, you can be healthy without regard to your weight.

The interview continued for a while longer, and it was all very good: discussing weight-prejudice, how fat people have a harder time getting jobs, etc, and I was very pleased that this discussion was being had.

However, I still have major issues with Colbert’s topical introduction. I know it’s his gimmick to be satirical and present the opposite opinion of what he really believes, but I just can’t get over the fact that in order to introduce the topic of weightism, he had to crack jokes about fat people being x/y/z. Afterward, though I was pleased with the discussion, I still left feeling a little put out. I know that sometimes when I watch that show, I listen to his funny monologue, and then I switch channels when the experts come on (because often, I’m only watching for the jokes). If I had done that last night (and I almost did), I would’ve missed the real substantive part of the interview.

I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks about it. But I just feel kind of put off about the whole thing, even after seeing such a popular show have such an important discussion. I’ll try to post the video as soon as I find it so you can judge it for yourself.

The Other

I Stumbled across this image in a fit of boredom today. I didn’t run across it in any particular context (though the URL seems to indicate it was part of a news article), so just looking at it straight up, what do you think of it?

On the one hand, I think it’s a great idea to have bigger seats available, to accommodate a wide range of sizes. On the other hand, why have just one? Why not make ALL the seats bigger? Having just one like that is awful othering. Plus, what if you want to sit in a bigger seat, but the only one in the row is already taken? I also find it interesting that it seems to be set at a lower height than the other chairs. I am not sure what the logic behind that would be.

Do you see this as a sign of progress? Or do you think it’s more like a finger-shaking, shaming thing?

Update: Commenter BamaGal notes that the chair is probably blue and lower to the ground because it is meant to be a handicap chair. I apologize for not considering that possibility before – that would be my able-bodied privilege, there.

I have now done what I should have done in the first place and gone to the source URL and searched The Sun’s website for the article for which the image is an accompaniment. Here is the article:

SPECIAL chairs for obese passengers have been installed in Brazil’s trains and stations to cope with the country’s soaring obesity rate.

The seats are nearly twice as wide and can support passengers weighing up to 40 STONE without breaking.

FatChairs_3-380_870963a

Priority ... for larger passengers

But Metro bosses in Sao Paulo say the chairs are being ignored by bigger passengers, possibly because they are too ashamed to use them.

A sign above each seat shows a cartoon of a bulky passenger that reads: “Priority chair for obese people.”

One manager said: “It may be that they don’t want to think of themselves as fat or that they resent being put in with pensioners and the disabled.”

Does this added context change how you feel about the chairs?

Speaking Up

There’s a great post up over at Big Fat Deal answering a question by a newcomer to fat acceptance about when to speak up. She asks, because recently she lost about 20lbs, and is just now seeing friends who she hasn’t seen since she lost it.

Many people haven’t seen me at all this summer, and I am now dealing with lots of weight-less comments about how much weight I’ve lost, and how “good” and “healthy” I am. These comments now make me extremely uncomfortable. This happened the other day with a coworker, and I tried to diffuse the situation by saying that unfortunately I realized that for me, weight loss actually came with a lot of unhealthy behaviors (and muscle loss), and I don’t diet any more and try to practice health at every size instead. It resulted in colossal awkwardness and blank stares.

When I found FA it was after a similar experience. I’ve been pretty vocal about how I had lost about 40lbs while in Ecuador. Immediately after I returned, I found FA and had to deal with the compliments that resulted from losing weight, and trying to find a way to explain to my friends, and sometimes even strangers, my new feelings of self-acceptance.

Unfortunately, this is something that I still find difficult. Although I haven’t gotten weight loss compliments in a while, I still feel like it’s difficult to decide when to speak up. While at school most of my friends and even some people who I didn’t really know were well aware of my fat acceptance activism. Although I didn’t drill it in to the campus like I wanted, I was pretty vocal about being size- and body-accepting. Most of my friends read this blog, and a lot of the campus saw my fat documentary and/or heard me read from my poetry collection. It’s something that I had to be vocal about at that time in my life.

Now, as I continue on to new places with new people, I find it a bit harder. When I started working at the internship I’ve worked at this summer, I wasn’t sure who to tell and what to tell them. I was nervous, sometimes embarrassed, to explain where I was coming from. It was pretty easy, eventually, for me to spread word that I am a size acceptance activist because we’re working on a show about women’s health. When I expressed an interest in interviewing Kate Harding, I had to also explain my fat activism.

So somehow, without really meaning to, I’ve informed almost everyone in my life thus far that I am a fat acceptance activist. And maybe that’s the key: I identify myself as an activist. For me, being a member of this community means I speak out about it. Now, that’s not the same for everyone, but I think that’s why it’s seemingly easy for me, and I’ve figured out, in some wonky way, how to answer those complimenters.

I say, “Thanks.” because I know they mean well. And then, next time I see them I tell them about my blog, or my video work, or my poetry collection, or when they ask about me I tell them who I am. If they’re a friend, I wait until the appropriate time to explain fat acceptance to them. But part of my whole existence in this community is to spread the word. So that’s what I do.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the post and comments at BFD. People have some great suggestions. This is just my meditation on it.

Meghan McCain is my Homegirl!

Meghan and John McCain

Meghan and John McCain

Thus far I’ve used my homegirl posts to recognize celebrity women who I feel particularly fond of at a certain time. Margret Cho and Kate Winslet, the past Homegirls, are women who I have been a fan of for quite a while now. Lately, however, I’ve found myself following the story of Meghan McCain, whose anti-Ann Coulter comments posted at the Daily Beast have caused Republican radio-show host Laura Ingraham to mock McCain for being “plus-sized.”

I’m not going to get into all the details here (though you  can find them here, here and here), but I’d like to say, Meghan McCain’s response to the media blitz now focused on her weight have caused me to say “Meghan McCain is my Homegirl!” I’ll admit that I did not follow McCain before now, and that I’m not a fan of her particular politics. But she has conducted herself with such grace, poise, and beauty that I can only be in awe of her. She recognizes the importance of her position in the media, and has stepped up the plate to say “hey, it’s not okay to say that my weight means my opinion isn’t valid!” I am proud of her.

Meghan, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re an inspiration.

For more from Meghan, here she is on The View:

The Obesity Epidemic: What Really Gets To Me

I am currently in a TV Production Studio class at my college, and yesterday we took a field trip to the local CBS affiliate to see their studio and how they run their 5:00 news. It was really really exciting for me. I just thought it was so cool–seeing how everything works, watching the reality of the show as it’s happening, and hearing the newscasters make snarky comments while a segment was rolling in. Very neat.

Unfortunately, one of the stories was a health story alleging that obesity is as likely to kill you as smoking. I don’t know what study they were citing, but apparently new research has concluded that you’re equally likely to die early if you’re fat as you are if you’re a smoker.

It was at this moment that it became perfectly clear to me what my major problem is with the “obesity epidemic.” What the news, society, doctors, medicine at large, etc. fail to acknowledge is that it’s not obesity that’s killing people; it’s the problems they associate with obesity. Under the title of obesity fall high blood pressure, immobility, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. etc. Obesity itself doesn’t kill people; all these other problems kill people. And whereas the scientific community would like to say that obesity=these problems, I think most of us in the fat-o-sphere are living proof that that is not true.

I also think that the large number of individuals who are thin and have these same issues are proving them wrong as well. My normal-weight (by BMI standards) friend has high cholesterol. Another of my friends (who is normal weight by BMI standards) has high blood pressure. The list goes on. How does the medical community reconcile that? They are just health issues. They aren’t caused by anything more than genetics, maybe an unhealthy diet. When they show up in fat people, it’s considered a result of their obesity.

I just will never understand it. It’s like obesity is a virus, like the flu, that’s going to kill you slowly. Or that your fat is just going to strangle you one day while you sleep. WTF is that? I’m never going to understand it.

On the other hand, I do have high cholesterol. I’m trying to get it under control with diet and exercise and medication. But it’s in my family history. My dad has high cholesterol, my mom has high cholesterol. Two of my grandparents (one from each side) have had bypass surgeries due to blocked arteries. It’s flippin’ genetic. But still, when I walk into a doctors office, the first thing I’m told is that I need to get my weight under control. Like weight will solve all of my issues.

It wasn’t until recently that I really figured out how to approach this whole deal (with HAES as my guidance): we, in our society, and me personally, need to shift our focus from WEIGHT to HEALTH. It’s one simple thing. We need to switch from treatments for OBESITY to treatments for particular HEALTH ISSUES. Although I’m sure losing weight will help my cholesterol, losing weight isn’t enough, nor is it likely to happen quickly. I can start right now to change my cholesterol by eating right, working out, etc. But if I were to focus on my weight, as the treatment for my disease is asking me to do, I doubt I would get healthier. In fact, I’d just have an unhealthy view of the world.

This all just really clicked in my head today, though I’ve been thinking of it (not in these terms) for a while. It’s all in how we think about things. Sadly, I think that in the case of most of our society’s health issues, it needs to start with mind over matter: get it right, then make it right.

The Internet Knows I’m Fat

You know what I hate? The fact that the world wide web knows that I’m fat. I mean, it doesn’t bother me when I’m the one who tells it that, but when I feel like the internet is keeping tabs on me, it’s really annoying. For instance, just now when I was looking around on the intrawebs I went to two sites one right after the other, my email at hotmail, and dictionary.com. On my hotmail, there was a nice little ad for Lane Bryant. I thought, hey, great. Nice to see ya, Lane Bryant.

Five seconds later I click over to dictonary.com, and there is this:

Dictionary.com Knows I\'m Fat

Ummm….It scares me that Dictionary.com knows I’m a fattie. it’s not like I regularly search for fat words. I mean, on my email, I at least get fat-related emails (that’s where all comments, etc. from here get emailed), so maybe I’d expect it, but still, ewwwww.

My friend E. and I had rejoiced at the beginning of our academic quarter when we saw all the Lane Bryant ads all over the place online. We had just had our “reboobolution” as I call it, where we had gotten new bras that lifted our moral as well as the ladies. We were feeling good, and loving LB. E. and I had jumped up and down when we saw the ads hit facebook. Then, a few weeks ago, E. turned to me and said that our mutual friend G. hadn’t seen any Lane Bryant ads when she went on facebook. She did get the “Ewww…Gross” one that Jamie posted about a while ago . But she never got our Lane Bryant ads. And I had never seen the “Ewww…Gross” ad, either, until Jamie posted about it. We realized, pretty quickly, that the internet knows we’re fat. And it’s deeply disturbing.

I’ve done a little research into targeted ad campaigns on the internet, and have found some interesting stuff on CNET about it (see this article, for instance). But it freaks me out still. And it sort of make me mad. I mean, I guess it’s nice to see a friendly fattie on a Lane Bryant ad instead of some dieting scheme BS, but how deep into my private life should the internet get?

Next thing I know, it’ll be talking my order for food and having it delivered before I even pick up the phone to call. The internet is getting too smart. And scary. Ay dios mio. No mas.