Monthly Archives: December 2007

What is fat?

I have almost over-trained myself to not comment on people’s appearance. I hate it equally when an “average”-sized woman (or man) claims to be fat or needs to diet or when anyone tells a skinny woman that she needs a sandwich (and yes, I have been guilty of the latter). I don’t believe that someone’s body is a valid topic of conversation or criticism.

But sometimes, I find myself unwilling to state what seems obvious to others. She is fat. She is skinny. She is average. Our eyes can pick out of a crowd who is different and who is similar. But what does all that really mean? And what language should we use to describe ourselves and others in a casual, size-positive way?

If Kate Harding’s BMI project taught us anything, its that we can’t rely on this poor excuse for a medical tool to categorize weight. And our own experience shows us that what is considered “skinny” is a social construct that has changed drastically, even just in the course of our lifetimes. When I was shopping for clothes as a teenager, I had never heard of a size 0! Historically, harder times often meant that a person with a few extra pounds was seen as beautiful because they represented bounty, fullness and of all things, health!

But today, even though we have ample food, inequality keeps that food from getting to the places it should be. Fat, therefore, is seen as a symbol of excess, greed and injustice. The most nutritious foods are available only to those with the means, while those who are considered working poor or indigent can afford only the most processed, chemical-laden crap on the market.

Class, I believe plays a huge role in the social construct of weight. So, really when coming up with definitions, I think its important to note that anything I come up with are “middle-class” distinctions of weight. What is a fat or skinny person to me is based completely on the availability of food in my class or country and how I view others with similar socioeconomic and political circumstances.

So with those caveats in mind, what is fat? What is average? And what is skinny? And why do I think its important to even categorize people in this way?

Well, I don’t really. I don’t think we should need to categorize. But I have also read a lot in fat-forward blogs that people often feel they are either too fat or too skinny to participate in or be represented by this movement. So its got me thinking about what is too fat and what is too skinny?

There’s just too many variables to intelligently answer this question. How much do you weigh, how tall are you, where do you carry your fat, what’s your body shape, what’s your muscle mass? With all those factors, does average even really exist or is it just in our heads?

And isn’t there a difference between society telling you you’re fat and your body telling you that you’re fat? My body probably didn’t tell me I was fat until a year or so ago. My media-influenced mind, my insecurities and the people around me told me since I was in 5th grade. But my body didn’t speak up until quite recently. And Health at Every Size is about listening to your body, not the bias of other people.

I was hoping that writing this would lead me to a conclusion, but I don’t have one. Perhaps the answer is in discussion. Are you fat? What factors, social indicators or clues tell you that you are fat or not-fat?

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Corpulent Cogitation

The holidays are over and I have boxes of excess consumerism to deal with strewn all over my house. But with a quiet day at work, I’ve had some time to catch up on my Fatosphere reading.

I responded rather late to a post over at Shapely Prose and it got me thinking about how much time the average person, affected by the average (read: extreme) amount of media influence regarding food, diet and health, spends feeling guilty about the most common activity of our existence: eating.

So I decided to think back to a time when eating was a terrifying, guilt-ridden thing for me. A time when I bought into the near religious nature of food associations and the morality they attempted to apply to my choices: sinful, indulgent, divine.

Say, I ate an entire plate of spaghetti. I’d feel guilty for at least as long as I felt full, sometimes longer. So since the gastric phase of digestion takes at least 3-4 hours, let’s say I spent an average of 1-3 hours feeling guilty about my meal.

I eat three meals a day and rarely snack in between. But let’s go ahead and throw in the average two snacks per day and double the guilt there because snacking is evil in the dieting world.

So at the very minimum that’s 7 hours a day I would spend feeling guilty about my food and therefore negative towards my body and thus my entire self-image. At most, that’s 15 hours of guilt, stress, self-loathing and fear.

Think about that. In today’s stressful world of multi-tasking, helicopter parenting and financial rollercoasters, does anyone need 7-15 hours of feeling like shit about yourself for a task as simple as eating?

This is why I contend that dieting is so much LESS healthy than the industry would have you believe. When you pile all that stress and self-loathing wrapped around the basic need of eating, plus the stress on your body caused by yo-yo dieting, plus the general desire of the media to make you feel like crap about yourself without their product, I’D RATHER JUST BE FAT!

And realizing that is the most freeing feeling I’ve ever experienced. This doesn’t negate my responsibility to be a healthy person. In fact, this is me ACTING on my responsibility to be a healthy person.1

To me, getting back my 7-15 hours and spending it living is worth it. To paraphrase a beauty company’s motto, I’m worth it!


1Edited 12-27-07: I marked this out because I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a ‘responsibility to be healthy.’ That’s moralist talk creeping into my language. It sounded good when I wrote it but I wasn’t thinking about what it implied.

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Fat Pride=Insecurity

Last night I was at a casual gathering. The topic of fat bashing came up. In particular, the topic of ‘gross fat women on motorized scooters in Target.’

Yes, I know. Couth.

The first thing that I thought about was how amazing it is that people think its okay to make fun of fat people IN FRONT OF FAT PEOPLE.

Keep in mind, these are dear friends. Friends that would not intentionally want to hurt me. But their bigotry is so engrained that they don’t even think twice.

“Oh, but I’m talking about people way fatter than you!”

As if that matters! That’s just a matter of scale. The point is still the same: fat people are gross. And no matter how you qualify it, that applies to me too.

The second thing that marveled me was my reluctance to speak up. I tried to come up with some easier reasons, like not rocking the boat. But when I hit the truth it was this: I didn’t want to speak up because having pride in being a beautiful fat woman is often viewed as veiled insecurity. And I just happen to be the type of person that can’t stand making my weaknesses public. So even though it had nothing to do with insecurity, I couldn’t handle that people would even think that!

So I wonder if this is an issue in other types of bigotry. Do people who are gay or hispanic or disabled ever fail to speak up against bashing because they might be perceived as insecure? Or is this a phenomenon reserved only for fat-hate?

Either way, I didn’t say a damn thing while they went on and on about how fat people who get that bad have no excuse and they let themselves go and blah, blah, blah.

I need an elevator speech about fat-hate. What do you say in these situations?

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Never trust a skinny cook!

My potluck at work today went over beautifully! I thought about trying out some healthy recipes but healthy and potluck are very difficult things to do together. If you have any suggestions, please share!

Still, the recipes I tried turned out great and I’ll definitely be making all of them again! I’ll share them here! Click below for:

  • Bacon-Flavored Dog Biscuits (not for potluck, of course but great gifts!)
  • Bacon and Cheddar Dip
  • Paula Deen’s Hidden Mint Cookies

ENJOY!
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Smokin’

You KNOW you are one hot, sexy, unstoppable woman when you can get home from work at 5:15 and be ready for the fancy Holiday party by 5:45. Aw yeah.

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Regifting a blog…from me to you!

Its that time of year and re-gifting is eco-friendly and functional! Since this is the time of year when the diet talk gets out of control, I wanted to offer, the only situation in which I will talk diet.

When we can’t trust the medical industry to tell us what’s healthy, then how do we determine this for ourselves?

Then I remembered, I did a whole post about it in TOC not too long ago. I wrote this more from an environmental standpoint than a fat-conscious one and I wrote it before I had read a lot of the research on dieting. Keep that in mind.

So here are the only ‘diets’ I would consider.


You all know I hate the term diet and all it entails. “I’m going on a diet” basically means to me that I’m going to throw hundreds of dollars into the diet industry, eat things from the grocery store that say they’re low fat (but are really choc full of sodium and other processed goodness) and when I reach my goal I will stop the ‘diet’ and resume my previous habits and gain everything back. Then I’ll hate the way I look some more and do it again and again with much worse detriment to my body than the original extra poundage ever was.Yeah, no thanks.It’s not that I think losing weight is inherently bad, just the way to go about it, I struggle with. But I’ve been reading a lot about green diets and it is the route I’m taking to eat healthier. Its slow going. If I had to rate my commitment to change at this point, I’d give it a solid C+. But I get extra credit for making it a permanent commitment and not a temporary one. Because changing my diet to help improve the environment as well as myself, isn’t the sort of thing that’s just going to stop being important so once I start something, it’s a lot harder to stop. If I don’t lose weight from it, I don’t care. I’ll be healthier and eating sustainable foods and that’s all I am interested in.

As the omnivore’s dilemma asks, “If you can eat anything, what should you eat?”

I’ve been asking myself this continually since I read the book. I still don’t have all the answers. As I’ve said this is an individual question with individual answers. Nothing that I write here need have any impact on the way you answer the question for yourself. These are just my thought processes as they have progressed. Thus I’m not interested in any brand of food evangelism (meat eaters are killers, vegetarians are all unhealthy, that sort of thing) though suggestions and tips in a non-proselytizing vein and sharing what works for you are always welcome. Still, I think over time, as long as I examine this question critically, the answers will come.

So far, here are my thoughts on a few of the ideas out there*:

Vegan: No way, no how, not a chance. It works great for some people but not for me. If I was born with a certain metabolism maybe I could survive on this diet but its not for me. This is both preference and reality. If I could eat certain things, then maybe I could sustain myself on this diet but there are facets of a vegan diet that I simply could not force myself to eat or enjoy–that’s where preference comes in. And then of course there’s the whole no cheese situation. Yeah, so this is definitely a closed door.

Vegetarian: This is realistic in terms of what I like to eat and what would sustain me. However, realistic in terms of my will power, I don’t know. If I succeed in building the healthy food habits that I hope to, maybe down the road this is a possibility. But I think I’d fall into the vegetarian category of ‘I don’t eat meat because I’m too busy eating bread and cheese.’ And it might make me more likely than I am now to go: oooh cheetos, no meat there!! I don’t eat a lot of traditional junk food but if I chose a diet that limited my choices it might become more tempting to eat fatty things. But still I think this is a viable diet for me and may be a long-term goal. And I think an in-between goal would be the serious reduction of the amount of meat I consume.

The ethical side of vegan and veggie: When I look at a major source of my ethics, I look to nature. In nature, I see the consumption of animal products and the destruction of animals for consumption. I think it is the circle of life. If no one ate venison, deer would consume the planet. I think this can and should be done humanely and not for sport or to excess. Basic organic,local and humane farming is cool with me, but I don’t go for major industrialized farming. If trout is overfished, then sorry, no more trout. You may just have to go 10 years before you get to have it again. However, I do not necessarily agree that it is entirely unethical to sustain ourselves off other creatures. The reason I would consider going veggie is not animal cruelty as much as it is the high environmental cost of meat production.

Organic: This is probably the best way to describe a large portion of my current diet. Buying organic means buying foods free of hormones, chemicals, ingredients that have been over-processed or are not natural and buying products that are humane to animals, including free ranged products. I like this portion of my diet but it doesn’t cover all my convictions. If I buy organic free range eggs from South Dakota, what is the environmental impact of getting those eggs to the supermarket? Did a local, individual farmer profit from my purchase or have I simply again fed a large food production company like Cargill? For me, buying organically isn’t enough but its a start.

Local diets: I think this is an awesome diet. But it is one of the hardest ones to do in entirely. The idea of only eating things within 100 miles of your home is extremely challenging when you live in Oklahoma. However, if I include my own gardening into the picture and gain the space to do some indoor gardening and buy more from the Coop, this becomes more possible. I may not be able to find locally made green food coloring and random things like that. And I’m not sure that I can do without pickles in the winter. But again, the more I learn about growing and storing my own fruits and veggies, the more realistic this diet gets. I think a strong combination of a local diet with a bit of organic splashed in there is a really good mix for me.

Paleodiets: Yes, you read that right. Dino-diets. Think back to what the cavemen, our genetic ancestors ate. Wouldn’t they be driven enough by instinct to think that those foods are really what our bodies were designed to eat? Sure, if you want to believe that our bodies haven’t evolved at all since! Actually, I do think this diet has a lot of credibility. Studies have shown that sticking to root veggies, fruits, nuts and lean meats have improved the body’s glucose production. However, I think I can get a great deal of benefit by simply increasing the amounts of those foods that I eat in without completely cutting out breads and dairy products.

Raw Foods: Eh, this is just a matter of not being convinced. I’m not convinced that the positive (nutrients and bacteria) lost outweighs the negative (bacteria) gained if you don’t cook your food. And I think it is a completely random question. Whether or not one piece of meat is better for you cooked or raw depends on how it was cooked, how the animals were fed and what environmental factors may have contaminated it. I’m just not entirely convinced that I’m better off risking e-coli to get a few extra nutrients. I’m not a germ-a-phobe or anything so there is a minuscule chance that I could do this diet without a lot of nose-turning but it would take a lot of science to convince me it’s worth it.

Those are my thoughts on just a few of the eco-diets I’ve come across so far. If there are more you think I should look into, do let me know.


So, how do you determine what is healthy? Because we can eat anything, as omnivores, what do you think we should eat?


*Some of these ideas have come from a great article that athena_jess sent me, some have come from other sources on the internet. Email me if you want more info on anything.

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Knitting Clean UP

Ack! The knitting projects have gotten out of control!

A lot of my knitting gets done around others. While RPGing, while waiting for dinner at a restaurant, while watching OU throw the BCS into chaos by winning the Big XII Championship, while waiting for Matt to finish working on his car at his parents’ house, etc.

This means that when knitting xmas presents, I have to be conscious of what I’m knitting in front of whom. And I keep screwing up and starting another project, just to have something to knit. (The very act of not knitting could be suspicious to my friends and loved ones!)

So I now have 2 washcloths, a dishtowel, the draft stopper and another Jayne hat all in various degrees of “just started.” That can get frustrating. I thrive on accomplishment so small, easy to finish projects are best for me.

So I’m focusing today on finishing projects and preparing my knitting bag with several projects.

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