Advertising, Fat, Shopping

Listen, All Y’All, It’s a Sabotage

The last couple of days, while riding the el, I’ve been thinking I need to put together a new blog project: going through a day of relatively normal activities and photographing every image I run across that’s meant to trigger anxiety/feelings of inadequacy.

It’s not even just the weight loss ads, though there are plenty of those. It’s the “Don’t let your kid fall out of a window!” ads. The “Do you suffer from…?” ads. The “Are you where you want to be in your career?” ads.

I said relatively normal activities up there because, frankly, “normal” for me doesn’t involve getting out much. I write from home, and I usually stay in the neighborhood when I go out for lunch or a walk, so I see the same stuff every day. Thus, when I ride the el downtown, I see all these ads I’m not usually exposed to — including those you can see from the train, not just the ones on it — and it occurred to me the other night that if I actually commuted to an office downtown, I would be subjected to a couple dozen ads telling me how much I suck (nearly half of those offering me “help” for the undeniable problem of my fatness) just in the course of getting to and from work.

And then, as we’ve been discussing over the last couple of days, once you get to work, you are either conscripted into participation in Office Diet Talk, or you are a stuck-up bitch who thinks you’re too good to hate yourself or something.

And then there are the ambushes, the self-esteem grenades you can’t even begin to predict. Yesterday, I went into a store and tried on some clothes. As the saleswoman was walking me to the dressing room, she remarked on a very “body-conscious” pencil dress I’d picked out, “Oh, that is SO cute! I have it in brown!”

Me: Yeah, I love it! I hope it looks good on.

Her: Well [looks at my gut], you’re gonna need Spanx. I’ve got the 12, and I definitely have to wear the Spanx. In fact, I’m trying to eat less just for this dress! Ha ha ha ha!

Me: Yeah, ha.

Hey, saleswoman, did I ask what you think of your own body, let alone mine? Did I ask what size you wear? Did I ask about your eating habits? Did I ask whether you think a curvy woman could rock this dress sans spandexical assistance? NO. And yet, you’re still talking.

I can’t even tell you how many times shit like that has happened to me. I have an exaggerated hourglass figure, which means I have two choices: wear clothes that show off my shape, or look like I’m wearing a tent from the boobs down. But clothes that highlight an hourglass shape will often also highlight the belly pooch that goes along with the wide hips, or the outer thigh saddle bags, for instance. This is because I am a human being, not Jessica Rabbit. I have come to terms with that.

But a whole lot of women who are in the business of selling me clothes are not so sanguine about my belly and thighs. They desperately try to steer me away from curve-conscious clothing — or at least encourage me to put on some Spanx, for the love of Christ — because I don’t actually look like a cartoon in it. I just look like me. THE HORROR.

So some days, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference how much I like looking like me; perfect strangers will still insist that I shouldn’t like it. How dare you, a person who actually knows what your body is like and which clothes make you feel happy and which make you feel frumpy — not to mention the person who will be paying for this garment — believe your opinion is the only one that matters? It’s almost like you trust yourself! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

And then, AND THEN… you’ve got your own family and friends to deal with.

Good with Cheese has a typically great post up today about eating lunch with her mom.

Anyway, on Tuesday this week, she said she thought it was a double-chocolate cookie day. I just wasn’t feeling it; I really wanted the Fig Newton, so I told her she should go ahead and have the special cookie, but I was gonna go with the Newton. She became…well, pouty, and said if I wasn’t going to have the cookie, then she didn’t need it either.

Can I just tell you how much this kind of exchange drives me BATSHIT? As I said in GWC’s comments, I have one ex-friend I always think of when stuff like this comes up. She? Is categorically A Dessert Person. I am not. I mean, I love plenty of sweet things, but given the choice between sweet and savory, I’ll almost always go for the latter. This means that when I go out to dinner, I’m focused on the entree; if I’m still hungry after that, or if a particular dessert sounds so mindblowing I must try it, I’ll have dessert. But usually, I don’t, because I’m already perfectly satisfied, not because I have anything against dessert.

She, however, thinks dessert is the whole point of going out. She’ll get a salad for an entree and only eat half of it because she’s got her eyes on the prize; she’s the type of person who deliberately saves room for dessert. I’m really, really not.

This means that every fucking time I’ve eaten out with her, she’s gotten all excited about dessert — and asked me to split one with her. And nearly every time, I’ve said, “No thanks, I’m full. You go ahead.”

First, the cajoling: “Come on, don’t you want dessert?”

No. I’m full.

But doesn’t it sound good?

Sure, but I’m full. So right now, no, it’s not particularly appealing to me.

Just a couple bites?


Then comes the pouting. That’s because she doesn’t really want a partner in tackling the dessert, she wants an accomplice. Also, she’s not asking to share because she thinks she can’t finish it herself; she’s asking to share because she thinks she can. She is stone terrified of devouring the world.

It doesn’t matter how many fucking times I tell her to go ahead and order dessert. It doesn’t matter that she ate a third of what I ate for dinner, specifically because she wanted dessert, and is probably still hungry at this point. It doesn’t matter that she is a grown woman paying for her own meal. All that matters is, she has to choose between eating dessert alone and not ordering it at all.

The former choice is unbearable, so she takes the latter. And pouts. And it is all my fault. I have deprived her of dessert because I had the gall to fill up on food I actually craved. The fat chick doesn’t even want dessert! (This woman is, of course, tiny.) How could she possibly be so bad, so indulgent, in light of that? How utterly mortifying would it be to admit she would like a piece of cheesecake when the fat chick is just having coffee? FUCKING FAT CHICK!

You’ll note I said this is an ex-friend. There are numerous reasons for that, but I can tell you I sure as hell got sick of dining with her.

And all of this goes to the point Fillyjonk made in the midst of the whole dieting kerfuffle, a point that deserves to be made again and again and again: it is fucking hard to accept and trust your own body in this culture.

It is hard to feel adequate, let alone proud of yourself, when everywhere you look, there is literally a sign saying there’s something wrong with you.

It is hard to accept the label of Weird Office Bitch instead of cataloguing your self-hatred along with your co-workers.

It is hard to have fun with fashion and enjoy adorning your imperfect body in clothes that make you happy, when perfect strangers are telling you you need a girdle and a diet before you even get the fucking thing on.

It is hard to simply eat what you desire and leave it at that, when even people you love cannot do the same — and furthermore cannot shut up about the moral value of certain foods.

It is hard.

It is hard.

It is hard.

Sabotage lurks around every goddamned corner.

About the only thing harder is playing the game.

84 thoughts on “Listen, All Y’All, It’s a Sabotage”

  1. And the sabotage comes so subtly packaged – at least in the ads. I get so angry when I see an ad with normal sized women looking happy and leaping about, only to find out its an ad for something intended to make them or keep them thin.

    I’m working on starting an HAES support group and it is so hard to find graphics for flyers of happy plus sized women. I might have to recruit some friends.

  2. Not that I was around for them, but I long for the days that a soft, poochy belly was considered sexxxxay.

    ‘Cause I got one. And I have to admit, I own spanx. And I use them.

  3. I spend a lot of times, when we’re developing programs, looking at images of kids and adults for use in my book. And fuck all if I have ever seen, from any stock footage company, a happy fat person in a photo.

  4. A soft poochy belly IS sexxxay. People just won’t admit it yet.

    And KH, OMFG. That must be why I don’t have very many friends I go out to dinner with. Can’t food just be food and not a frigging landmine, assuming that your dining partner does not have a clinical ED? Can’t the person who wants a dessert just order one and only eat half and take the rest home if she only wants half, or even a little bite of it if that’s enough to satisfy her, and leave her dining partner the hell alone if she legitimately does NOT want any, or would rather just get a little piece of chocky at Moonstruck or something?? (Mmmm, Moonstruck truffles.) Unless it’s ice cream, it will travel perfectly well and taste perfectly fine the next day. What’s this, “If I have to you have to, if you can’t I can’t” crap? What are these people, 8 years old??

    To paraphrase TR: AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

  5. This post is nothing short of sheer brill. Are you thinking of putting those pictures here or in a new/different blog? I remember taking the el to and from school when i was growing up in Chicago, and even then, some of those ads were ridiculous.

    I don’t take the train in Atlanta because, well, we have two lines: north-south and east-west. Hardly the el, i’m afraid. Now i’m tempted to just hop on the train for a puttering around day on the weekend… taking pictures of all this stuff that so many people see in the periphery. I’d be curious to see how different cities compare – especially north vs. south; weird as that sounds, i faced MUCH more weight discrimination when i lived north than i do on a daily basis in the south. Even here though, it depends on what part of town you’re in.

    I do think i’m pretty lucky, being in IT – fewer women, much less diet talk. At least, that’s been my experience. Well… maybe i’m oblivious, or maybe people just aren’t comfortable talking about it in front of me. I’ve been told i’m intimidating because i appear to be some sort of weirdo, yet simultaneously a pillar of strength. Women tell me that they wish they were a “full figured goddess”, because they knew that i knew that’s what i was. Which always created a sort of “BUH?” feeling – i don’t feel anywhere near as confident as people say i come across. Men have told me that i’m “someone to marry, not someone to date”, and refused to explain (but seemed tied into the stuff i already mentioned). I’ve been called an untouchable – not in the caste sense, but in the “don’t fuck with her, because you can’t fuck with her”.

    If i could ever figure out wtf that was all about, i would totally bottle it up and sell it to the masses. Yeesh.

  6. Big dittoes on the el ad gauntlet. I have seriously considered graffiti manymanymanymany times. More often, I’ve boycotted products and sent nasty e-mails to marketing departments because of them. Stupid el ads.

    Hells yeah on the rest of this post, too. I get so tired of food peer pressure (Mo’nique’s book “Skinny Women Are Evil” has a riff on this that I love). Eat what you want without looking to anyone else for permission or justification. Jeebus.

  7. Spanx don’t even do as much as people think. It’ll smash down really JIGGLY flesh into a firmer mass that may not even be a look you want, but it won’t do a thing if you’re already kind of solid–except give you red lines on your skin from the compression.

    I think a lot of women get used to a “girdling” effect from jeans or control top panty hose. I have two pairs of Spanx and two garments that require their use…but every time I see these sausage casings in my drawer I just get really sad. What I need to do is get rid of the two garments and the two Spanx and write them off as Things That Just Didn’t Work Out. I’m all for bras because of comfort, and hosiery too because shoes fit and feel better, but girdles? So I can buy another garment that won’t work AS IS? I think not.

  8. A few years ago, on the theory that modern shapers do nothing for my size-20 PCOS enabled gut-flap, but still greatly aware that said gut-flap was just unacceptable, I found an old-school, old-lady giant-ass white girdle as dead stock at a thrift shop. I wore it once, at a dance at a sci-fi con, under my clothes. I was drinking and dancing like a crack-addled muppet and eventually had to pee. I remember crashing into the stall and desperately trying to unhook the garters (“where are my fingertips? Why can’t I grasp anything?”) and then peel the industrial strength rubber off my ass before I peed myself. At some point I sort of fell forward and hit my head on the door after failing to counterbalance my frantic yanking. At last I had succeeded, which was good, because I had just fallen backward onto the toilet. I was too drunk to remember that I had been keeping my hotel keycard in the waistband of said undergarment until slightly too late, and wound up having to fish the thing out of the toilet, uh, post-use. So yeah, swaying and scrubbing off my hands and keycard in the sink. That was fun.

    Spanx? Shapers? The stupid ass control-top pantyhose? I’m fat. All those things do is punish me for being fat by causing pain. They certainly don’t make me look less fat. And if I’m feeling self-conscious about whether my dimples show through my clothing, I find a better cut that clings in the “right” places. Although at this point, I’m more concerned with finding pants that don’t settle in my butt-crack. And on the days where I feel guilty about not feeling self-conscious about my various pooches and rolls, I remind myself that it is not my obligation to be decorative.

  9. The other day I put on a shirt that I adore, only to be reminded that I needed my Spanx in order to wear said shirt without looking like it was far too tight. So I struggled into the stupid thing all the while my 4 yr old son and husband were in the room. I got so angry at how hard it was to put it on, and how stupid I looked struggling into it, I actually yelled at my poor husband. “Do you have to watch me while I do this?!” Poor man didn’t know what to say other than to tell me that he was actually watching our son. I was mortified. Not only was I so conscious of how I looked without the damn Spanx, but I was far too conscious of how I looked putting the stupid things on. They need to be thrown away, and the shirt worn only if I feel comfy with the way it looks. If it stays in my closet for more than a year without wear then out it goes. I can’t afford many clothes so I can’t just throw things out willy nilly, but when they’re just taking up precious real-estate in my tiny closet they need to go away.

    With everything else sabotaging me, it’s no wonder I sabotage myself. It ends now! Or at least it’s going to be the beginning of the end.

  10. Your comment about the advertising designed to make us anxious made me think instantly of these ads i saw which made me absolutely LIVID.

    I was sitting at a train station just the other day, (in england), and every single adverising space was filled with the most insidious ads. bright pink background. black silhouette of a mildly plump person, some male, some female, with a tape measure around their waists. The caption read: IF your waist is bigger than this, then you may have diabetes.

    the measurement for the men was 37 inches, the measurement for the women was 31.5 inches.


    There was other writing which said if you had 2 or more of these risk factors then to go see a doctor about it. They were: overweight, Over 40, family history of diabetes, and of black or south asian descent.

    why single out the weight one. it means nothing without the other risk factors, but they use it to catch peoples eyes and make people feel anxious about their health, to spread the misconception that being overweight is immediately terrible for your health. AND the disgusting misconception that type 2 diabetes is a disease that is bought on entirely by ‘unhealthy lifestyles’.

    Worst of all, how can a blanket waist measurement diagnose wether a person is overweight or not? a woman who is 6ft with a 31.5 inch waist is slim, while a much shorter woman would not be so. It just hit me how rediculous it was. How horrible it made me feel for having a 32-33 inch waist. OHNOES. IM GONNA GETS THE DIABEETUS. (I, uh, cover all the risk factors except the age one… no doctor has ever called me out on it. shame on them)

    It put me off my caramel shortcake slice i was just about to enjoy, i was so livid. but then i thought. sit under one of these posters and EAT IT. DEFY THEM. so I did.

  11. “It is hard.

    Sabotage lurks around every goddamned corner.

    About the only thing harder is playing the game.”

    Do you find that now you’ve seen the brainwashing for what it is, it’s actually very difficult to go back and participate/cooperate with the folks who haven’t seen the size-acceptance light?

  12. Apricotmuffins, so the corollary of that is, “if your waist is smaller than 31.5 inches, you definitely DON’T have diabetes”? Tell that to Halle Berry, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to know she doesn’t need insulin after all.

    (And yes, I know there is a difference between type I and type II. But I also contend that there’s much they don’t know about this disease and possibly don’t even WANT to know. Just ask my XH, who got it because of LIFELONG IRON OVERLOAD and didn’t find out that was the cause until he already had frigging cirrhosis on top of it, and he doesn’t even drink all that much.)

  13. Do you find that now you’ve seen the brainwashing for what it is, it’s actually very difficult to go back and participate/cooperate with the folks who haven’t seen the size-acceptance light?

    Sharon, absolutely. Someone just commented at Shakesville that no, actually, playing the game is easier. Which is true for a lot of people.

    But once you actually start to like yourself a little and recognize the lunacy of the FUCKING ENDLESS talk about how awful women’s bodies are and how scary and complicated food is, yeah, it’s a lot harder to play along.

  14. why single out the weight one.

    Well, can you imagine the uproar if they’d done a poster illustrating the risk factor of being black or South Asian?

    I know that comparison only does so much work, but still.

    AND the disgusting misconception that type 2 diabetes is a disease that is bought on entirely by ‘unhealthy lifestyles’.

    You know, I actually don’t think there’s enough focus on lifestyles in that ad. It’s almost certainly not true that someone with a strong family history is going to be able to avoid diabetes by exercising an extra half hour a day, but certainly you can prevent and manage blood sugar problems by making healthy choices. But they mention “overweight” as a risk factor, NOT “eats lots of refined sugar and then doesn’t move.” As though thin people automatically either metabolize sugar perfectly, or don’t eat it at all.

    Kate, the “accomplice eating” thing is a difficult one for me, because that was me SUCH a short time ago. Especially when my mother was around. I absolutely needed group dispensation for dessert — even one person getting dessert was probably not enough. Honestly, if not for the fact that a) I can’t eat much at a time and am probably taking half my dinner home anyway and b) I don’t like eating dessert right after dinner and would usually rather take that home too, I might still be struggling with this.

    Not that anyone needs more insight into disordered eating, but for the sake of harmony with your friend, let me clue you in to the magic of after-dinner cappuccinos. I find that people will happily go ahead and get dessert if I say “I can’t possibly fit it, but I’d love a cappuccino” (while, in my case, gesturing towards my doggie bag). In fact I would NOT really love a cappuccino, because it is too much caffeine for my tum. But they are very delicious, they cost a couple of bucks, and somehow they seem to act as dispensation.

    Granted my friends/family are not terrifically disordered, aside from my mom (who I swear to god is improving due to fatosphere exposure), but I know it would have worked for me too. Because in my case it wasn’t only about wanting an accomplice, but about being utterly terrified of inconveniencing someone else (or myself, whcih is why I can’t cook) just so that I could eat. (This is absolutely one of the things that stayed with me even after I gave up purging and restricting and all.) At a certain point, I could stand to eat dessert in front of someone, but I absolutely could not bear to do it if I thought I was holding them up. The cappuccino, digestif, or whatever says “I’m going to sit here anyway.” In a sense it’s enabling, but then maybe you can use that time to talk about the cultural significance of dessert. :)

  15. I think that the el itself can contribute to size anxiety even if there aren’t any ads on it. I have broad shoulders and a broad ass and I thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster when I can get a onesie seat. The seats really aren’t built for anyone larger than about a size 10.

  16. Meowser:

    And yes, I know there is a difference between type I and type II

    Sure, but one of those differences is NOT that Type II is the only one that can manifest after childhood. People absolutely think that if they’re not diabetic and they’re not fat, they won’t become diabetic, and that can definitely be dangerous.

  17. Oh, and Lindsay, I was thinking of doing the project as a one-off for this blog, but if you want to coordinate something, we can either link to each other or move it elsewhere and encourage other people to participate. (I cannot edit another blog, but if you want to be in charge of that, I think it’d be awesome.)

  18. Kate, i’d be more than happy to set up another blog for the purpose of this project, but i’m gonna go with whatever is your preference: it was your idea, after all. :)

    If you do want a separate blog, i can set it up on the wordpress domain or on Either way, it can easily be set up so that multiple people can post to it. I think it’d be a great group project, having multiple people contribute to it could be extremely empowering, as well.

  19. Maybe a Flickr group too? Like, people can contribute to the group and a blog administrator can pull out certain particularly egregious examples for posting.

  20. Sounds great, Lindsay! If you want to do it, please go ahead with my blessing! I’ll contribute and plug the hell out of the site.

    And yeah, I think a Flickr group is a great idea.

  21. I’ve never used the wordpress site for creating a blog. Do they allow for image uploads? And if so, is there a limit on how many, be it by number or by size? Their page on the “free blog” thing doesn’t mention anything about it.

    But the flickr group is also a great idea! Perhaps a mingling of the two ideas is in order. :D

  22. WordPress is supereasy and free, so I’d recommend it. Images are fine — there’s a limit on direct uploads (after which you have to pay), but you can link to Flickr, Photobucket, etc., to your heart’s content. So it would work just fine with a Flickr group.

  23. BTW, i was telling Ben about this project, and read him this bit: The last couple of days, while riding the el, I’ve been thinking I need to put together a new blog project: going through a day of relatively normal activities and photographing every image I run across that’s meant to trigger anxiety/feelings of inadequacy.

    His response? “Oh shit, she’s not gonna get anything done that day.”

    I wish he were wrong. :P

    I’m setting up the blog on bandwidth is a factor here. Heh. In any case, i’m stuck on a name. That sort of thing always gets me.

  24. *sigh* I hate to admit it, but I am part of the problem – the ad problem anyway. I’ve been working in advertising/marketing for 12 years now, and am a small cog in the giant corporate advertising machine.

    Let me tell you, when I was doing advertising for an online postage company, making “postage” interesting was very difficult. How do you make stamps sexy? Put a cute, thin woman in the picture, or a GQ guy. It’s not right, but it raised interest. (One particularly nasty idea that was passed around included a naked woman and the phrase “lick this”. Thank goodness it was rejected.)

    The worst consistent offenders, online anyway, are ads for games. Impossible body shapes stuffed into improbable armor (cuz boobs and the crotch are the only places that need defending!). The only reason I can think of that they do that is because it appeals to teh menz… or at least, to the 12-year-olds that whine to their parents to buy the game. It just sets up their expectation that “ideal” women are skinny with big boobs.

    If you ever need examples of insane online ads, I’m your woman. Not proud, but I have to get my paycheck somewhere!

  25. Kate, you’re a better woman than I for not looking at the salesgirl and saying, “Well, of course, *you* need the Spanx, but I think I’ll be fine without it.” I guess I’m a mean spirited little thing.

    Is it not enough I wear clothes and save people from the horrors of my nakedness? Now I have to worry about what they might see jiggling or rippling or bulging beneath said clothes?

    Some people are just too delicate, I guess.

  26. People absolutely think that if they’re not diabetic and they’re not fat, they won’t become diabetic, and that can definitely be dangerous.

    Type II diabetes used to be considered a disease of aging, of your pancreas crapping out on you after a certain age. And to a certain degree, it still is. I still think they don’t quite know yet everything that can possibly impair pancreatic function or to what degree damage might be reversible or preventable.

    After what happened to my XH, I certainly think anyone with a high or persistently escalating FBS should automatically get an iron panel. I’ve also encountered a few people who are not anything close to “old” or “fat,” who say they were diagnosed with diabetes after a long bout of extreme stress.

    I’m also curious as to why someone who has gotten WLS would show significant improvement in diabetes within days, before any significant amount of fat could logically have been burned; does the gut flora change then, maybe?

    I just really hate the way “diabetes” has been co-opted as some kind of scare word by people who barely understand it or have barely even attempted to understand it. It’s a medical condition, not a frigging two-by-four.

  27. I’m also curious as to why someone who has gotten WLS would show significant improvement in diabetes within days, before any significant amount of fat could logically have been burned

    Probably because they can only eat a couple tablespoons of food. Your blood sugar count is gonna go down if you’re starving, no?

  28. penguinlady, as i gamer i certainly concur that gaming ads are pretty bad. From the old D&D campaign books with melon-breasted stick figures to the World of Warcraft dancing female Night Elves… there’s some pretty ridiculous stuff out there.

    But in some ways, it’s not as bad (not saying it’s great, mind you) – because most hard core gamers know it’s not real. But part of the problem is when people get those lines between fantasy and reality blurred on a regular basis, to where some folks find it hard to distinguish between the two. In all my gaming years, these cases are relatively few and far between. And i’m cutting that off right there because that’s WAY too complex an issue, and not 100% related to the topic at hand. Heh.

    … and there goes my weird routing issue again. Le sigh. I can still get to flickr, but it looks like is right out. But hey, i guess that’ll give us time to come up with a name, eh?

  29. Diabetes “improvement” immediately after WLS may be due to not needing as much insulin or medications because there is no incoming blood sugar to “bring down”. Your pancreas still has the same problems, but you don’t have as much sugar in your blood doing damage to vessels and organs.

  30. Hey Lauren – at least in WoW you have the option of playing a Tauren female. Granted, Tauren are cows, but … as I commented to my hubby the first time I played, “Hey! She has a sexy tail!” (Talk about off topic…)

    I guess because I work at an online site that caters to gamers, I just see all the ads, and the preponderance of skinny + big boobs gets to me.

  31. Awesome post, Kate. And Ann, I agree about the El seats being tiny; I was just noticing that the other day as I (currently hovering around size 12) sat next to a slightly chubby guy, and our legs were touching. There was no way we could have not touched, and neither of us were fat; we were just NOT TINY.

    I would totally be interested in participating in the photo project, though Kate and I would probably overlap too much on the El! Maybe I could do a campus version.

  32. Firstly, Kate, I think you and I have some ex-friends in common…I can really relate to the food thing. I have a huge sweet tooth, but I still get flack if the king size portion of whatever savoury food I was craving means I don’t feel like swimming in tiramasu right now. Cause if the fat chick doesn’t then how can the size 0 twig indulge?! Are these people in pre-school??

    Secondly, my waist is 38 inches – I don’t have diabetes and I eat healthier than most people I know.

    Thirdly, the person who invented girdles should be shot. If my wonderfully fat rear end doesn’t look good in the offending item of clothing, I don’t wear it. Personally, I don’t find my fat a problem – on the few occasions that I venture out of my jeans into a skirt or dress, my other half can’t stop fondling the podgy bits!! I love showing off the curves – as I keep saying, it’s not that often that you get 38DD’s if you’re skinny. And I like my girls :o)

  33. Me: I’m also curious as to why someone who has gotten WLS would show significant improvement in diabetes within days, before any significant amount of fat could logically have been burned

    FJ: Probably because they can only eat a couple tablespoons of food. Your blood sugar count is gonna go down if you’re starving, no?

    That might be. But has anyone actually done experiments on whether pancreatic function actually improves — that is, fasting insulin actually normalizes long-term along with lowering of blood sugar — with what is basically fasting, with or without WLS? Chronic hypoglycemia doesn’t strike me as a “cure” for diabetes, especially since many diabetics do have hypoglycemic episodes from time to time and have wildly fluctuating blood sugar. Not that I’d advocate chronic fasting even for someone who was diabetic, but still, it would be interesting to know.

  34. Given that foods with a low glycemic index will keep you full longer, I am absolutely willing to believe that stomach amputation will improve your insulin levels long-term. I mean, if you can only eat a couple tablespoons of food at a time, are you going to want it to be bulghur or Whoppers? Eventually you’re going to want to maximize your fullness and, once you get a load of what your life is gonna be like, your nutrition. So you’ll err on the side of eating things that are recommended for managing diabetes, since those are the things that don’t leave you hungry and in danger of busting your stitches.

    Maybe. That’s my theory, anyway. Doesn’t in any way mean that WLS is healthy.

    My little freakout yesterday, by the way? Revolved a lot around whether I was ruining my blood sugar levels by eating too much fruit. I eat fruit and cottage cheese for breakfast and fruit and yogurt for lunch because fruit is one of the few things I can reliably digest (cottage cheese isn’t, but I have to get some protein). Now, my doctor did not tell me to stop eating fruit, but the carb-panic attendant on diabetes-panic did. That whole thought process is so backwards that “chronic hypoglycemia is a cure for diabetes” doesn’t strike me as too far-fetched.

  35. At least for the family, friends, and coworkers part, I find that being proactive can help. I am just taking a break from making a button from a great magnet I got from Women and Children First (seems to be quite a few Chicagoans on here.) It says “She knew she had a great big *ss, her attitude was kiss it.” I’ll put that on my backpack, along with Ruby in honor of Dame Roddick and a few of Nikki’s Nana’s, and I guarantee you know one will bug my about my fish and chips and Guiness I am going to have at the Celt fest tomorrow. As far as el-hell goes, there is so much to hate on it. If I didn’t have strong ear plugs and my own reading material I would have hit the barbeque rail by now!

  36. There was a Wall Street Journal article on diabetes and WLS the other day and while I’m at a point of being very skeptical of any sort of health study, this was interesting. The article came to the conclusion that there was something specific to the particular part of the digestive system removed that affected the absorbtion of insulin. Basically, the diabetes improvement had nothing whatsoever to do with either weight or habits.

    Yeah, there’s a lot out there we don’t understand.

    On other topics, with the constant bombardment of messages that you’re not good enough (and I think this applies to so much more than just body image, but is particularly horrible in that area) that so many people feel like they need to validate the fact that they’re eating something less than perfect.

    I know I still slip into that a LOT. I feel incredibly uncomfortable eating when someone else isn’t partly out of politeness and partly because of body/food issues. But you’re right, I’m a grown up and it’s pretty pathetic to go around asking for approval to eat.

  37. My parents all but forced me to wear a girdle when i was 17 AND HAD NO NEED FOR A GIRDLE… other than the fact that I inherited the righteous butt and thighs of my Eastern European bloodline. I was 17 and looked just fine. The insistence of a girdle, however, let me know that I was wrong.

    nerdycellist, I love you:
    Spanx? Shapers? The stupid ass control-top pantyhose? I’m fat. All those things do is punish me for being fat by causing pain. They certainly don’t make me look less fat.


    What will bring me to abject tears are the WW ads on TV. And I watch TV with commercials on mute deliberately, but sometimes don’t get there in time, and sometimes it just happens that the commercial comes on. Jenny Craig too.

  38. My parents all but forced me to wear a girdle when i was 17 AND HAD NO NEED FOR A GIRDLE… other than the fact that I inherited the righteous butt and thighs of my Eastern European bloodline. I was 17 and looked just fine. The insistence of a girdle, however, let me know that I was wrong.

    I was 14. Imagine the ignominy of that in the early 1970s. I didn’t even have proper boobs till I was 17 for pity’s sake. I stuck with girdles, (or “all-in-ones” as my mother called them in an attempt to soft-pedal me into believing they weren’t really girdles), till I was 19, after which I vowed never NEVER again. Not even spanx. All they do is shove the fat somewhere else and give me crippling wind.

  39. Meowser, just to answer/add to the questions about testing pancreatic function improvements with fasting – they used to treat diabetes by starvation. It would keep the blood sugar levels down and prolong the patients lives.

    one of the biggest things I have an objection to is the demonization of type 2 diabetes as a disease of fatness. Ive come across a few people who think that people with the disease deserve it, and i think that viewpoint is increasing, alarmingly so.

    Note, in my last comment i put lifestyle in quotation marks because its the natural assumption these days that fat = unhealthy lifestyle. Those ads blatantly play on that assumption, and

    as for me, I’m resigned to getting diabetes at some point in my life. My mother has it, my aunt has it, my grandmother has it and my uncle, who is a marathon runner and built like a frickin whippet had it for a period of time (stress related- but the doctors couldnt change anything in his diet to make things better without medication…) For this reason and countless others I have to stand up and challenge the close-minded views that are beginning to surround the disease.

    I wore some control pants once, and it was horrid. I had a bulgey line across my torso where they began to hold me in like no tomorrow. Worst thing is? My grandmother bought them for my mother, who’s several sizes larger than me. (it wasnt an appreciated gift). they hurt ME. what are they supposed to do to someone bigger?!

  40. hah, hurrah for unfinished sentences.

    sorry bout that. i cant remember what i was going to write, either…

  41. Name suggestions for the blog/Flickr group (just spit-balling here):

    Fearocracy (or Phobiocracy) with a tag line of “All we have to fear is fear itself?”


    Dystopia (Disstopia)

    Feartopia/Phobitopia (same tag as above)

    Fearmongrel (Fearmongering, Fearmongered)

    Fearmangle (Fearmangled, Fearmangling) (This has the benefit of “mangle” being a device as well as a process.)


    I may thibnk of more later, but that’s what I get off the top of my head.

  42. Fearmangling it is. Nothing there yet, natch, but i’ll get to setting up some stuff in a wee bit. Was someone else (fillyjonk, i think?) planning on setting up the flickr group? Or should i hop on that as well? I’m cool either way. :)

  43. This post really struck a chord with me, because I just find myself able to go from so confident to so beaten down in like fifteen seconds. I was actually at the LB browsing the Spanx rack last weekend, wondering if I should purchase some sort of smoothing undergarment to wear to my friend’s wedding. Then I started thinking, “Oh, shit, if I get laid, it will be totally embarrassing to be basically wearing these giant biker shorts under my dress.” At which point I realized, if I am feeling confident enough about how cute I am in this dress that I am making this decision based in part on what a potential sex partner might think of my undergarments, then why do I need to buy some sort of girdle anyhow? So I didn’t buy the Spanx. (And I did get laid!)

    Yesterday, however, while taking a walk, this guy at the bus stop motions for me to remove my headphones and then delivers this gem: “Fruits and vegetables! That’s all you need!” I must have looked confused, because he went on to explain that “you can cheat a little with some tofu, but no meat or chips, and then I swear, it’ll all drop off; it’s the best diet out there.” I responded that I wasn’t looking for a diet, and then advised him that he didn’t know me, he didn’t know what I ate, and he didn’t know what I wanted my body to look like, so he should keep his fucking opinions to himself. He looked sort of crestfallen and replied that God had told him to tell me. Which made me sort of hate him a little more, but mainly made me feel bad that I’d just sworn at some crazy homeless person.

    As great as I am at being nasty to people who piss me off, though, it still ruined my walk. As a fairly long-time lurker on these types of sites (oh yeah: hi!), I read that big diet debate and all I could think was, “Yeah, you’re right: but how do I get this shit to stop popping into my head?” I could probably manage if I was alone, but I can’t walk down the street in workout clothes without being assaulted with this pseudo-well-intentioned advice.

    Okay, sorry, I have officially gone on too long. But really, I love your blog and it always puts me in a better mood. Thanks. =)

  44. In the interest of managing late-night caffeine intake and also not throwing something at a dining companion’s head (because friends, even your MOM and AUNTS and other assorted “mentoring” and “authority” figures can qualify for the Olympic Sulking & Pouting Team — who knew), there is also decaf cappuccino.

    Port and burgundy are also nice.

    “Sans spandexical assistance”


  45. This was hysterical. I am also a fan of the savory and I’m almost never interested in dessert. I hate the pouting when you won’t share a piece of pie.

  46. Since I don’t have a car and live in a big city, I walk or use public transportation to get where I have to go. So I am exposed to a lot of “Fearmangling” influences (not just ads – also other people) and sometimes it wants to make me run.

    My worst public transportation ad experience was seeing this ad( ) on gigantic billboards in various subway stations. You could always see women inching around the billboards, not wanting to stand in front of them (me included). There was a minor scandal when it became public that the models’ legs were photoshopped to be longer – as if nobody suspected THAT. *eyeroll*

  47. Yesterday, however, while taking a walk, this guy at the bus stop motions for me to remove my headphones and then delivers this gem: “Fruits and vegetables! That’s all you need!”

    I wonder if we should put snapshots of these people on Fearmangling. Sort of a FatHollaback.

  48. apricotmuffins: my waist size is over 40 inches, I’m overweight (d’uh) and my dad has type 2 diabetes, so I went and got tested and I’m fine. (Though I do have slightly raised cholesterol). I think you’re right that the poster is annoying for concentrating on weight/size alone in the imagery but I still think it’s good to raise awareness a bit.

    On the subject of control pants though, I picked out a pair to try on once in M&S. I was borderline between a 20 and a 22 at the time, and they only had the 20s. I couldn’t even get them on. No control pants for me! Corsets on the other hand, as gorgeous outerwear, are another thing entirely, and I love mine.

    The worst thing about eating out with Mike (apart from his not liking wine, and most places not doing half bottles) is that not only does he rarely have room for pudding but he also doesn’t like coffee and finds most liqueurs just too strong. Still, I’m usually full too, but I feel a bit silly just having a coffee if he’s not having anything at all!

  49. What a terrific post. To say that you have opened my eyes to the politics of womens’ eating through your observations is to woefully underestimate the impact of your writing.

  50. Dude, I was talking about this with my old roommate just the other day. Her dad’s side of the family is from Lebanon, and she has this great, dark, curly hair. My family’s mostly from Belgium and Germany, and I have gold-brown [really] straight hair.

    We got on the topic of haircuts/styles, and I pointed out just how amazing the whole marketing thing is: When I go into a salon, they tell me to dye my hair darker and curl it every day. When she goes in, they tell her to dye her hair lighter and straighten it every day. This is fucked! It isn’t even that we’re all supposed to be striving toward some unachievable ideal, because then there might actually be people who look like that naturally. No, we’re all supposed to be striving simply to be different than what we ARE! The problem is not with curly or straight or light or dark–the problem is with tolerating (much less LOVING) the physical characteristics you’re born with. They’re basically telling us that her hair would look great on me (and vice versa), but that her hair looks terrible on her! WTF?

  51. I still think it’s good to raise awareness a bit.

    Seriously, I’m in CONSTANT danger of forgetting that my fat is gross, unhealthy, generally unacceptable, and inevitably going to kill me. If only there were more awareness.

  52. Awareness of type 2 diabetes yes, but not in this way at all. All the advert was doing was making people a) feel bad about their bodies and b)making people critical of other bodies in a way we get too much and really just do not need.

    wish i could remember the website it listed, then i’d go and tell them their adverts are fucking disgusting and cant they be more creative?

    not that my voice would be heard, but i’d like to complain to the right people :P

  53. This isn’t 100% relevant, but I have been brewing up a rant about this for months – my least favourite ad of the summer. The Boots (UK drugstore) ‘Get Beach Gorgeous’ TV ad shows a very slim, pretty woman stripping down to her bikini on a crowded beach while thousands of people stare rudely. But it’s OK! She’s got no visible fat, body hair or cellulite! So they turn their attention to someone else, much to her relief.

    Clear message: you – yes, you! – have to put in a huge amount of effort just to be good enough to be IGNORED. Aaaargh.

  54. I go to dinner with the same people! small world, huh?

    I often really DO just want “one bite” of a dessert and don’t have the capacity to eat more. Even though I am a non-dieter, people are amazed by this–“you can TOO eat the whole thing!”

    If they say, “I don’t WANT you to have a bite of mine”, then I’m fine with it and, if I’m already full, then I just don’t have any dessert. Luckily, most of my friends are fairly accepting of this, most of the time.

    I will be keeping my eyes open for examples! (I’m in the midwest, so there is less exposure to billboards and such, but I’m sure I’ll find something . . . )

  55. MissPrism- I HATE that ad too – and it’s not just a huge amount of effort, it’s a huge amount of money you need to spend on Boots products. Arrgh.

  56. fillyjonk: that was not at all what I meant. I’m really sorry if I managed to upset you. But I’m still glad I bothered to check I was OK, and I wouldn’t have done without those adverts, as much as seeing them upset me. Since being overweight obviously doesn’t seem to be causing a problem in my case I’ll probably wait til I’m over 40 and hence have a different set of risk factors before getting tested again.

    Personally I just can’t get over how tiny their idea of a large waist size is though. My waist wouldn’t be that small even if I hit a “healthy” BMI.

  57. Great post. I find the “I’ll just have a coffee” thing works fine for me when people have dessert, I’m all about the savoury as well (when I was younger and athletic and hungrier I would often have the cheese platter after dinner instead of dessert).

    But I really don’t have any friends who obsess about their weight. The only friends I have who are food police only do it for themselves because of allergy/sensitivity issues – they don’t give a rat’s arse what I eat and I return the favour (apart from the occasional “wow, that looks good, can I have a taste?” moments).

  58. Wow, Kate, i had no idea that you used to go out to dinner / be friends with MY MOM. She practically invented that whole ‘ch-eating with an accomplice’ schtick, and would pout a blue streak when i was not in the mood to share a tiramisu or banana-chocolate-what-not.
    We travelled to Italy together and spent most of the time locking horns in super-fun food/mind games. Isn’t that why everyone travels to italy. Jesus christ, we should have just stayed in NJ.

    As for Spanx, were these invented by Anna Wintour? – the enemy of women?

    Thankfully, moving out of NYC removed me from the constant barrage of subway ads, telling me how i could improve my life and ‘jesus christ, what the fuck am i waiting for? do it NOW’
    Ridding my life of that nonsense, in conjunction with seriously curtailing how much TV i watch (almost none now, yay!) I can now marvel at how insidious and viral marketing is to people.
    There was a discarded fashion mag. in someone’s recycling last week, so i pulled it out to get a glimpse of the divine cate blanchett (this was W, for those who know), and i just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even make it thru a cursory glance. Do y’all know that Diddy has some new cologne/perfume out called “unforgivable woman” and the print ad is a good ole fashion assault/rape scene. yeah. HOT. The boyfriend says that if they could put women on their knees, naked, with dicks in their mouths, to sell beer/clothing/laundry detergent/etc. and get it past the FCC, (fcc, right?) they would. I don’t think he’s wrong.
    sorry for the rambling post. Don’t ya’ll sometimes wish we were all together and could discuss this amongst each other? I do.
    I get so fired up.

  59. As I was posting this book snippet from 1905 on the “healthful mode of dress”, I couldn’t stop thinking about this comment thread.

    6. “I am so stout, I must wear stays to keep my stomach down.“

    Unfortunately, that is precisely what occurs as a result of corset-wearing, though in a different sense from that intended by the woman herself. Corset-wearing does force the stomach down, but, more than this, keeps it down, dilatation of the stomach, chronic gastritis, and other digestive disorders resulting.

    [snip interesting handwaving about how corsets actually make you fatter in the belly]

    The fact of the case is that the average woman has no conception of the true meaning of tightness as applied to clothing. She has so accustomed herself to wearing uncomfortable clothing that her nerves have almost ceased to carry the sensations of pain and discomfort. Safe it is to say that the great majority of women endure, perhaps unconsciously, for sixteen hours a day such bodily discomfort as their husbands or brothers would not tolerate for sixteen minutes.

    A woman who has for some time worn healthful clothing becomes painfully conscious of any tightness in bodice or skirt-band, thus showing that the nerves, if afforded an opportunity, would regain in time their power to carry sensations of pain or discomfort. And thus it should be, for it is the duty of the nerves to protect the interests of the body by giving prompt notice of any injury done to any of its parts.

  60. Eleanor, I think you can understand that we’re all just really sick of the “oh we’re just trying to RAISE AWARENESS” bullshit. I’m glad you were fine, but honestly, did you really need your awareness raised that your fat was an OMGHEALTHRISK (which it actually wasn’t, since you weren’t sick)? Were you ever in danger of forgetting?

    It’s great that there are ads out there telling people to get tested for diseases whose symptoms can be easily ignored — you’re gonna notice if you get late-onset type 1 diabetes, but type 2 can be insidious. So okay, that’s fine. But why make fatness the sole visual focus? Well, for the same reason we have to test kids’ BMI or make shows about putting fatties on forced marches… we’re just raising awareness, as though anyone was allowed to forget. I gather you just meant raising awareness about diabetes, not about that particular risk factor, but it’s a tired phrase in this particular context.

  61. Kate, thanks for writing that. I fucking HATE being roped into dessert sharing. I’m not a big dessert person anyway. I like salt and fat and fried things and sugar makes me feel gross. Plus, I like to drink, and I’d rather have another glass of wine than eat something sugary of the dessert persuasion. I agree — if someone wants dessert, fucking order it! Leave me alone!

    Also there is the whole “ohhhhh…. you can’t eat that” because I eat an entirely plant-based diet. No, I don’t WANT to eat it. I eat all the time and am very happy, and I’m totally happy eating what I want while you eat what you want. Please lay off.

    Oh and w/r/t Spanx — when I was trying on my wedding dress: a bias cut slip number, all 3 salesladies were like “YOU ARE GOING TO NEED SPANX!” and I went without. I was just fine. The one time I did wear Spanx under a nude colored beaded Vivienne Tam number to the Carlysle, I felt like I had been given some kind of roofie.

    Total other thing: If one more person in ,my office says, “BUT AVOCADOS ARE PURE FAT” I will kill them.

  62. Also there is the whole “ohhhhh…. you can’t eat that” because I eat an entirely plant-based diet. No, I don’t WANT to eat it.

    Yeah, Lillet, I remember that from my vegetarian days. It’s also a cousin to, “Oh, you’re trying to lose weight?” when I say I don’t want dessert. No, I just… don’t… want…. dessert.

    Total other thing: If one more person in ,my office says, “BUT AVOCADOS ARE PURE FAT” I will kill them.

    I will help! I’m not an avocado fan myself, but that is fucking absurd. WE NEED TO EAT FAT. I hope to hell vegans are all enjoying their avocados. I’m also incensed by the smear campaign against coconuts, btw. OMG SATURATED FAT! Yes, but not animal fat, and coconuts are actually really good for you… grrrrrr.

  63. Avocados are pure *yum*.

    Fillyjonk: thanks for taking the time to elaborate, you’re right, I did just mean awareness of the fact that diabetes can be causing irreversible damage before you notice any symptoms, rather than awareness of teh fat. I was pretty upset at being considered part of the problem, but I’ll try and be clearer and less insensitive in future.

    I am at least lucky in having doctors who will calmly understand when I say I don’t want to be referred to their weight-loss clinic.

  64. And you’re absolutely right that promoting awareness of actual diseases is pretty much always positive. It’s just when people do that by way of “promoting awareness” about the “disease” of obesity that it becomes a problem — and they do that so often! I’m pretty sure that’s all apricotmuffins was objecting to — not the promotion of diabetes testing, but the fact that the only risk factor that was visually represented was fat. Sure, it’s an easy one to visually represent, but that’s lazy!

    (And anyway I’m not even sure that fat alone is really a risk factor. Does liposuction cure diabetes instantly?)

  65. Ok, I have a perfect example of strange advertising…on a self proclaimed TV channel for women otherwise known as Oxygen.

    So, one ad is a Nutrasystem (spelling/actual name??) meal plan ad. I love these anyway, because the lady is talking about how her husband loves her size 2 ass and below in light letters it says “Results not typical”. I just love that. Anyhow, the NEXT freaking ad is basically making fun on skinny women, particularly super models, and asking you to FORCE them to eat. I’m sitting there, watching a channel for WOMEN, that played back to back ads saying “You’re too FAT” no “You’re too skinny” and I realized your fucked either way. Sad.

    So anyhow, screw you Oxygen Network!!

  66. I’m currently being driven insane by the damn ads that show up when I use the yahoo interface to view my mail. Of course, there’s the LB ads, which I generally ignore… but now there’s a seriously offensive animated one with a female cartoon inflating and deflating. It’s advertising some diet bullshit or another, despite the fact that the fat cartoon is clearly cuter.

    Frankly, it’s bad enough I have to look at ads to get to my email, but when they’re all diet related I kind of want to blow shit up.

  67. We have a DVR with our Dish system, so we rarely watch commercials. It becomes so frustrating visiting the in-laws who do not have one on their system when we have to sit through all of those diet ads – NutriSystem, Relacore, etc. It doesn’t help that the in-laws have bought into the marketing and hype of the weight loss industry.

Comments are closed.