Fat, Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Dr. Sheila Addison: Fat Course Reader

Friend of Shapely Prose Sheila Addison is soon going to be teaching an awesome-sounding course on size acceptance for future marriage and family therapists, and she needs ideas for the course reader she’s compiling. Help her out, shapelings! -Kate

by Dr. Sheila Addison

Friends in the Fatosphere:

Recently, The Rotund asked What Do We Do? when we get frustrated at the hatred, the misinformation, the MeMe Roths and medical scare stories. Readers talked in the comments about the importance of being visible and fighting misinformation through their blogs and in their personal lives.

Here’s what I’m doing.

I teach in an MA Counseling Psychology program. And this coming spring quarter, I’ll be offering a one-unit class on Size Acceptance/Health At Every Size.

PSY 5309, Size Acceptance in a Systems Framework

Dr. Sheila Addison

The “Size Acceptance” and “Health At Every Size” movements have emerged as powerful critiques of our culture’s focus on thin as the only acceptable body shape, and weightloss at all costs. Based in both scientific and cultural critiques, these movements challenge us to look beyond an unquestioning acceptance of dieting and “the obesity epidemic.” Working with clients from a size acceptance perspective requires understanding the critiques of “conventional wisdom” regarding body size, a psychosocial understanding of clients’ fear of fatness, and insight into self-of-the-therapist issues that arise around our own bodies and dieting histories when clients come in with size concerns. This course will not teach clinicians how to help their clients diet more effectively; instead, it will teach the “Health At Every Size” approach that affirms every person’s right to break free from weightloss mandates and instead focus on body positivity and wellness.

I’m really excited about the class, since in my experience, while the action I can take in my personal life is important (I recently had a thin friend tell me that she complained when she found Weight Watcher’s pamphlets at her doctor’s office, thanks to conversations we’ve had about how diets don’t work), one of the best parts of being a teacher for future therapists is that I can cast a wider net of influence. When I share my perspectives on gender, sexual identity, race, social justice, and, yes, FAT with my students, it gives me hope that when they see their own clients someday, they’ll be more likely to practice in ways that help rather than harm.

So here’s where you all come in.

The book I’m using for the class is “The Obesity Myth” (and, did you know it was out of print? I didn’t! WTF?). But I’m also trying to put together a course reader, using news stories, essays, book chapters, and posts from the blogosphere.

What I’d like to know is: What would you consider the most important pieces of writing in your journey toward size acceptance? What made you have “aha” moments, about your own body or the bodies of others? If you have a child or a partner who is fat, are there things you’ve read that have addressed your feelings about them? (Because this is a class for future Marriage and Family Therapists, I’m addressing these issues in the context of relationships and families as well as for individuals.)

If you reference something in print, tell me the name of the source please. If you mention something online, a link would be great. Thanks in advance for your help! Maybe eventually I’ll be able to turn this material into a journal article or a conference presentation, and reach even more people.

98 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Dr. Sheila Addison: Fat Course Reader”

  1. Definitely have them read some of Kate’s early posts, because that’s where my aha! moment came from. Also, reading Junkfood science.

  2. I absolutely, wholeheartedly would have to recommend the book Big Big Love by Hanne Blank. It is the text that allowed me to give myself permission to become romantically involved with my husband, if that makes any sense at all, without any reservation that he wasn’t somehow the kind of person I was “supposed to” want to be with or that his size would eventually cause me to love him less than in the first flush of “omg we’re perfect.” All my romantic relationships have been with men who aren’t “typical” in some way (the raw vegan recovering from brain surgery, for instance), but he’s the only one who has actually been FAT, if mostly in the barrel-chested potential-future-contender-for-Strongest-Man-in-the-World manner. Even though I’d begun to make progress toward accepting myself as a natural size 12, not an ED-attained size 8, through Wann’s Fat!So? and occasional brushes with the fledgling fatosphere, I still felt a lot of pressure to conform to anti-fat societal expectations in my choice of romantic partners. Since our relationship was also long-distance for the first several months, I’d also been concerned that I would somehow be disgusted by sex with him because of his size, and thus hurt us both for a reason I knew was ridiculous. I wanted to try to settle the issue one way or the other before things got physical.

    Blank’s book allowed me to do just that. The entire text addresses fat-positivity in a sexual sense, and allowed me to visualize having sex with a fat man as a positive experience, not something unthinkable, unnatural, or disgusting. She points out the good things about fat, the fun things about fat, the challenges of sex with a fat or disabled person, some of the ways to work around and work with those challenges, and examples of how people of all sizes think positively about their fat partners — all the things I’d never found in mass media. I’m not saying Big Big Love is going to radically convert every last reader to lovers of some sexy, sexy fat people, but for those who are beginning to emerge from the media fog of thin-is-sexy fat-is-not, or those who truly love or WANT to love and support their partners (actual or potential) and are finding it hard to get past that mental block, i think it is amazing. I have the love of my life. I owe FA and the book a great deal for that.

  3. For me, it was reading an article by Campos, so you seem to have that one covered!

    I’m a student in an MFT program right now, and we had a class on multicultural counseling concerns (though it didn’t include size acceptance; I wish it had!). To me, one of the most compelling things I learned were specific barriers that keep different populations from seeking counseling (so, certain ethnic groups that have a strong taboo about airing a family’s dirty laundry, or physical barriers like lack of money and transportation that might keep the elderly from even thinking about seeking help). Seeing that there were real, longstanding, important barriers like that is what really made me realize how culture-bound counseling really is; before that, I had a sense of “Why won’t these people do what’s best for them?” and now it’s more “Why is the system so stacked against helping non-traditional populations?”

    So, in that vein, some of the stories from First, Do No Harm would probably be great to include. There’s a section there on Mental Health, but I think it might be good (if you have time) to talk about how incompetent medical care in general might be likely to keep fat clients from seeking any sort of help — that pushes it more into a systems bias, I think.

  4. This is great! I can only hope that programs like Dr. Addison’s start to spring up everywhere.

    I think one blog that should be required reading for everyone in any medical profession the First, Do No Harm blog at http://www.fathealth.org.

    And, of course, Kate’s own Fantasy of Being Thin post is one I re-read every couple weeks, just to remind myself.

  5. I think this is a great idea for a class and it’s something that I feel those going into the medical profession should be required to take as part of their curriculum.

    Many HAES and FA sites link to the Junkfood Science website http://www.junkfoodscience.blogspot.com and even though the author has been trashed by the anti-fat community, a lot of her articles give good insight into the so-called obesity crisis and the scare tactics the medical and diet industry uses to get people to lose weight.

    A big part of this class should be discussing fatness in relation to genetics. Just yesterday, my mom was talking about our family having the fat gene. She is big (but has gone down from 262 to 212 as part of a reduced calorie diet), I’m big, my brother is big, and so are many aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of whom do not fit the stereotype of the junkfood, fast-food gorging pigs that so many fat haters love to think we are. She doesn’t like the fact that we are big, but I told her that sometimes it can’t be helped, if you’re meant to be big, stop obsessing over it, as long as you are healthy, and eat and be active for health, not weight loss. That should be also be a main issue of the class as well.

    Good luck and I hope you are successful!!!

  6. This is so awesome :)

    If I had to offer the things that helped me the most I would say just about anything here on Shapely Prose, especially The Fantasy of Being Thin. I’m sure a ton of people are going to recommend that one.

    Also, the entire blog Good With Cheese (http://goodwithcheese.wordpress.com). The day I found that blog, I read the entire thing, gave up the dieting I’d been doing for ever, and started trying to address some actual issues in my life, with my body and with myself, instead of wasting my precious time hating myself.

  7. This might only be helpful to people who are interested in feminist theory, but Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight really helped me see how the cultural ideal of thinness is tied to misogyny. I particularly remember the chapter called “Hunger as Ideology” as being good — I used to teaching it in undergrad comp classes as a way into cultural analysis. Your students might be more advanced than that in terms of understanding the pressure on women to conform, but then again, maybe not.

  8. I am not sure if this will help, but I found it the other day in a marvelous collection of sociology essays (Gender Through the Prism of Difference) and I was like, this essay was written more than a decade ago!! Where has it been?

    It’s called “It’s a Big Fat Revolution” by Nomy Lamm. It’s rambling and slangy and punk – all the more surprised was I to find it in a textbook – but it covers fat oppression, feminism, and dealing with other types of privilege all in one place, because “All forms of oppression work together, and so they have to be fought together.”

  9. I wanted to stop dieting, and I knew that I had to stop for my own mental and physical health, but it wasn’t until a friend sent me a link to a post here at Shapely Prose (https://kateharding.net/2007/03/05/fat-week-comes-to-a-close/) that I had a concrete example of how I could start to, as Kate-quoting-Margaret-Cho says, “Take myself out of the game.” Numbers 6 and 11 were especially transformative. The rest of my friend’s email was pretty liberating, too – she is brilliant and beautiful and I’ve always admired her so when she said, “You can stop dieting and it’s okay” I actually cried. Because she was right.

  10. I’m going to have to Third Kate’s Fantasy of Being Thin post. Also, All of the Junkfood Science posts on the Obesity Paradox may be good “Ice breakers” to get your students thinking about fat outside of the media storyline.

    Also, it might be interesting to discuss some of the Dan Savage posts. To look at the issues he’s asked about and ask your studens how they would deal with them.

    Wish I could come take your class!

  11. I remember being very influenced by Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body.

    It’s a more academic text, and it was one of the texts that really helped me to articulate why SA/FA/HAES fit into my feminism, and why feminism isn’t complete without it.

  12. I just wanted to say that I agree this is a WONDERFUL thing you’re doing. Being fat is one of the most frustrating issues in my marriage, and the hardest to talk about (less so for me than for my husband). I think learning to separate health from size is crucial for those sorts of arguments, because “but I want you to be healthy!!” is so hard to argue against, and tends to cover up the real issues.

    The fact that most therapists and GPs I’ve ever gone to immediately bring up my weight, even though it’s usually not my primary concern, has always driven me completely bonkers – as well as given my husband more fodder for nagging (but, dont’ your doctors say you need to lose weight?) If more therapists could learn that being fat doesn’t necessarily mean I’m unhappy, unhealthy, or having some deep-seated psychological issues with food, it would make it so much easier to get to the stuff that I DO need to work on in my life.

    So – thanks.

  13. I believe that The Obesity Myth is still in print, but now called The Diet Myth.

    Along the same lines, Glenn Gaesser’s Big Fat Lies was great, and Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin (just in case people need more convincing).

    Like many others, the biggest change for me came though reading SP and seeing how others put these ideas into action every day.

  14. I am actually taking part in a panel on eating disorders this week on my college campus. As a staff member, I will be focusing on Health at Every Size as a counter balance to all the nutrtionists and doctors that will be on the panel.

  15. sweetmachine, I am so glad you mentioned Bordo! I heartily second that as the book that originally got me thinking about the political nature (whether we want it or not) of womens’ bodies.

  16. This might sound weird, but I just read Gary Taubes “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and it is such a thorough investigation into the crap that passes for science, it made me realize that I really, really, really wasn’t going to get anywhere by dieting. It could be considered a thoroughly researched and fleshed-out version of Sandy’s Obesity Paradox posts.

    Another great book about eating and feminism is “The Edible Woman,” by Margaret Atwood. I’ll never forget the scene where the woman behaved as a table on which her lover could rest his wine glass. That was years back but it always stuck with me, along with the conviction that trying to fade away will get me nowhere.

  17. The first thing that I read along these lines that really helped me a lot was the book recommended by my dietitian — “Overcoming Overeating” (Munter and Hirshman — sp?). The authors have a second book that’s also very good — “When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies.” I think the title of the first is rather unfortunate because the book’s message spans a wider audience than just those who have “overeating issues.” For instance, I’m a recovering anorexic, and I found the book extremely useful! OO is my standard go-to book for people who want to understand nondiet thinking. There’s also Geneen Roth’s “If You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull Up A Chair.” I’ve recommended that one to friends, too, and they became believers in intuitive eating / nondiet, too!

  18. I don’t think the obesity myth is out of print, i think they’ve changed the title to ‘the diet myth’ and reissued it (i bought it a few months ago). so you can still make it required reading for your students :-)

    i second the ‘good calories, bad calories’ recommendation. brilliant book.

    as for me, this might sound counterintuitive, but i myself came to FA when i finally ‘succeeded’ in ‘dieting’. discovering that my ‘food’ issues weren’t about compulsive eating, or emotional eating, or any of that crap, that i wasn’t greedy or disgusting or all the things people ‘put’ on overweight people, but was because my insulin response was out of whack and that therefore carbs made me uncontrollabe around food made me start eating right for my body for the first time in my life. it also began to free me from the guilt i’d felt as to my ‘sin’ of ‘fat’. it started infuriating me that people would compliment me on how amazingly i was doing, how great i looked, and how hard it must be, when for the first time in my life i was eating in a ‘natural’ way for my body and it *wasn’t* hard – whereas every ‘diet’ i’d ever been on (low-fat) had been one day of hellish starvation after another that had only ended in me being even heavier than i was before i began. As I started to be treated better because I began to look more like the cultural ‘norm’ I got angrier and angrier at how I had been treated before, and how wrong it was. I was so brainwashed by the anti-fat camp into believing I was as bad as they all said I was, that it wasn’t until I became ‘acceptable’ to them that I could turn round and start being vocal about FA.

  19. My “aha!” experience is not one I’d wish on anyone.

    As a teenager, I was diagnosed with ADHD (tho I prefer the ADD term, since hyperactive is a really inappropriate descriptor for me). My doctor and parents put me on a regimen of dexedrine to help manage the symptoms. I was a skinny teen (5’6″ and 120lbs), and after a while, I got skinnier. Soon I was a *lot* skinnier – think under 110 lbs. BMI normal would be 130 lbs. I felt terrible, food no longer smelled good, and I never wanted to eat. Most people acted like being that skinny was good, including my doctor. I looked like a concentration camp victim, had no energy, and was catching every little thing that wandered along. When I told him that the only thing I was reliably eating was Snickers bars, he didn’t think it was a problem.

    Mom and Dad helped by insisting that yes, I had to go off the drugs. I don’t think the doctor would have listened to me by myself. Any level of thin was 100% ok, even if it went along with symptoms that objectively were unhealthy.

    Ever since then, I’ve wondered why it is that doctors think trying to be thinner is appropriate for *anyone* under 25. There is lots of evidence that men are not done growing until their late 20s, and it’s not uncommon for women to continue going through puberty stages in their early 20s. You need food to grow, and being malnourished while you’re growing has serious long term health implications (osteoporosis just for starters).

    The older I get, the more I find that my experience is not uncommon for people with eating disorders. That is not acceptable. Thin at all costs is not safe, healthy or sane. Being too thin will kill you far more reliably than being fat will, and there are many documented cases. Eating disordered behavior is dangerous when you’re 100 lbs and when you’re 350lbs. Eating disorders are not magically ok when they come from a drug. They are not ok when they come from a problem with your brain either.

  20. I think that Wendy Shanker’s “A Fat Girl’s Guide to Life” put the first chink in my diet “armor”. In particular, her section about going to the world-renowned (Duke University?) weight loss center and losing only a pound–and several thousand dollars–really made me wonder if perhaps it wasn’t me who was bad and wrong but the diet industry.

  21. About “The Obesity Myth” being out of print, it was republished under the name “The Diet Myth”. Which as far as I know is still in print. Reading that was definately a key step in my FA process. I would also recommend this HAES study” by the United States Department of Agriculture and this Junkfood Science post on starvation. As for having a partner who is fat, this post at Body Impolitic is a really great one on how to deal with finding a spouse less physically attractive because of weight gain.

    I’ll try to think about whether there are any particular Shapely Prose posts that helped me – reading the entire blog archive was great for me, but of course your students may not have time for that.

  22. For me it was Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata – it’s a great distillation of the science, and I need the science to be the root of my thinking about this. I had lap band surgery about 5 years ago. I lost fifty pounds the first year, and now I weigh about ten pounds more than I did when I started.

    When I finished reading the book I felt such a rush of both anger and liberation.

    It helped me understand that I’m not crazy, I really am eating about a third of the calories I used to, and there’s no point in pushing myself to further extremes with diet or exercise. I’ve now settled into the size my body wants to be, (22 on top, 24 on the bottom) and I eat the best quality food I can and exercise several times a week.

    I think that there is a piece of this experience that should be addressed in therapy, but I haven’t really seen addressed in any of the official literature – I have really experienced a huge amount of emotional upheaval around my acceptance of what’s going on with me. I am still not happy with my body. I know my quality of life and position in society would be higher if I was thinner, and that’s depressing on it’s own. The bigger source of depression for me is my family.

    The farther I move away from a dieting mentality, the more they treat me like I’ve “given up” and am completely delusional about my health status (excellent for my age in terms of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar).

    For me now, the biggest source of stress in my life is them. I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to talk to them. They are good people and they love me and they mean well, but they are absolute shits as far as this transformation in my life is concerned, and that is harder for me to deal with than anything else.

    Because of their treatment of me these past few months I also feel closeted in some big ways. My closest friends are very supportive, but most of my extended network have no idea what is going on with me. I’m afraid to tell them because I know some will react with the same condescension that my family has, and I’m not ready to deal with it yet.

  23. Like Libbyblue said – there’s a lot of self-esteem work out there for fat women; not so much for fat men. Don’t forget the guys, especially with all the current negative newspaper articles (fat men are impotent, unmasculine, unfit, etc.)

  24. My absolute favorite is Taking Up Space by Pattie Thomas (http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Up-Space-Exercising-Regularly/dp/1597190020/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203959763&sr=8-1). It’s a wonderful book that very clearly describes and analyses the authors own experiences as a fat woman, common attitudes she encountered (among others, some experiences she made with therapists and doctors which might be helpful) and her journey to self-acceptance. There are also some very expressive poems and drawings included in the book. Concerning the experience of being the partner of a fat person the preface by Carl Wilkerson, Pattie’s husband and co-author is also a pretty good read.

    Also, Deb Burgard’s website, Body Positive (www.bodypositive.com), is quite good. An example for the content on the site are the “Ten top reasons NOT to prescribe weightloss (and what to do instead)”: http://www.bodypositive.com/top10.htm
    Deb Burgard might also be a good person to ask for further materials for your course…

  25. I don’t think the obesity myth is out of print, i think they’ve changed the title to ‘the diet myth’ and reissued it (i bought it a few months ago). so you can still make it required reading for your students :-)

    I said the same thing to Sheila at first, then realized Amazon is only selling used copies of The Diet Myth, so that, too, is apparently out of print. Grrrrrrr.

    Occhiblu, hang on.

  26. The first FA literature I ever read was Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann. I remember feeling almost embarrassed to be reading it, because even beginning to accept myself as a fat person (rather than a person who would some day be thin) was very scary for me. It started me on the path.

  27. Eat Fat by cultural theorist Richard Klein is a great book. It’s a nice overview of how culture has perceived fat throughout history and what it’s meant in context. It was written before the FA internet presence (in the mid-nineties I think) so it wouldn’t be valuable as an historical archive of this specific movement, but it was the first book I read that addressed fat not as a personal problem or moral failing, but as an historical phenomenon with different meanings for different cultures. It’s subversive and Roland Barthes-y. But it manages to be a really fun read too, and definitely has a HAES vibe to it.

  28. I got to FA because I was trying to find “good” nutritional information and was extremely frustrated by the conflicting articles seemingly everywhere. We’re trying to start a family, and I was looking for information to make myself nutritionally healthy, but every “eat eggs!” had an “never eat eggs, ever!” counterpoint. When I found Junkfood Science, it was like entering Nirvana. Understanding the motivations of health-related articles (whether it’s only about weight-loss, or a study underwritten by a food council) really helped me put things into perspective.

  29. I wish I could remember where I read this and give the person credit because it has been the single most influential thing in loving myself – “You can’t look for thin beauty in a fat person.” I don’t think that’s a direct quote either, but the point stands. I remember reading that and then a short while later browsing through Adiposivity, it was a groundbreaking moment.

    I think that might help with relationship counseling as well – people gain weight as they get older, if a relationship starts to sink because one partner is being a douche about weight, well…they can learn to stop holding their partners to that standard, look for a different standard, find the beauty in another light. It could apply to race or age also.

  30. I see that The Obesity Myth and Unbearable Weight are all mentioned, which is great. Big Fat Lies by Glenn Gaesser is also fantastic, and can be especially useful pedagogically, since the author is an MD.

    My first “aha!” moment really came when I was a young teenager. Camryn Mannheim won an Emmy for her work on The Practice, and her acceptance speech was so wonderful. Her screaming, “This is for all the fat chicks!” really got my 14-year-old attention. Also, Joy Nash’s Fat Rant may be a useful tool. These sources are somewhat distilled versions of the same information found in all of the more academic resources listed above, so I’m thinking that these are the types of things that may be good for your students to use when they are actually practicing.


    Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find video of Camryn Manheim’s
    speech, but she also wrote a fun book called, “Wake Up, I’m Fat!” that you may want to look into. It’s more a memoir, but was enjoyable.

    Joy Nash’s Fat Rant:

    Good luck!

  31. I too was influenced by Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann- and then Camryn Manheim’s autobiography. (Wake Up, I’m Fat- is what I think it was called).

    WAY back in the Pleistocene, I had read a book called Such a Pretty Face– which kind of helped me keep sane when family and “do-gooders” were pushing their diets on a teenage me. I think this book was more in the realm of putting your best face on and being a perfect big person though– not really the message in the here and now. But it did help me in the roughest times- that I had a right to be myself.

  32. I’ll add an enthusiastic endorsement of Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love. I’d particularly recommend it for its sex positivity and its queer inclusion (Blank is bi, so she’s very inclusive, not just giving a quick reference to gays and lesbians, and she also includes kink). In addition, as a nonacademic but powerful tool to promote fat acceptance, the groundbreaking art book Women En Large questions conventional thinking about what constitutes physical beauty. It’s full of high-quality, artistic photos of nude fat women. So perhaps it wouldn’t be a core text in a counseling class, but a nice addition to the “Further Reading” list!

  33. Definitely Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin, and some of her columns, too.

    Possible for excerpts would be Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. It’s not at all fat-friendly, but his research is intriguing in uncovering cues for how and why people eat, and how the amounts and types of food people eat is so easily subconsciously manipulated. There might be a gem or two in there that would be useful.

  34. Killing us softly -by Jean Kilbourn any version will do, because to me you cannot separate HAES, fat acceptance from Feminism.

    I was also totally influenced by Fat!so?, and fiction novel – Thinner than thou.

  35. Wow. YAY!

    On a personal work level, the thing that had the biggest effect for me was aesthetic critique and example. Adipositivity, Leonord Nemoy’s full body project, & art from us, including cggirl’s animation and the fabulous self-decoration and photos of fatshonistas. Learning how fat bodies are beautiful, and so are thin bodies — they’re just beautiful in different ways — well, that was a revelation!

    I was looking for thin beauty in my fat body. It’s not there.

    That was HARD work for me, though, and I gave myself assignments: go, look, and find beauty. I would squirm and feel ashamed and I shed a tear or three, at the adopositivity site, for the first while. Once I got better at it outside myself, I started looking in mirrors.

    I hadn’t really been waiting to do X or Y until I lost weight – maybe I have poor impulse control *g* – but I did feel like I was wearing shame. Fat and woman are very closely related concepts in my brain space. Finding that it’s not shame, it’s just me, has been like walking out of prison; but it wasn’t an intellectual game. It was visceral, and aesthetic, and the place where my intellectual feminism *and* supportive partner hadn’t convinced my emotions. I was wandering around with the hot potato feeling that post motherhood I was being loved only for my mind – my partner says he finds me sexy, but I didn’t have any way to believe him. I needed something to combat the Wall Of Glossy Woman on every magazine rack in every store; something that didn’t only say “women should not be judged by their sexual desirability” but *also* that “being sexually desirable is allowable even while not-Supermodel”.

    They sound like ideas at cross purposes, but they’re not: because I don’t care if random dudes on the street have a sexual reaction to me and rather hope they don’t – but having Cosmo Girls in the boudoir with me was a different story all together.

  36. I wholeheartedly second drawing connections between fat discrimination and misogyny. It has to go hand in hand.

    With that in mind, a media study has shown that many more female characters than male characters have unrealistic bodies and/or proportions. No big news, really, but I bet there are details to be found. This is Geena Davis’ media watchdog institute. A story on Women’s Media Center: http://www.womensmediacenter.com/ex/021908.html

  37. Kate’s “Don’t You Realize That Fat Is Unhealthy” essay was the piece that really got me interested in FA. I had a nagging feeling up until I read it that something was seriously wrong with the hysterical news-coverage of obesity. But it was her essay that clarified the issue to me and helped make me an activist.

  38. Without a doubt, Joy Nash, and Fat Rant.

    I have only read excerpts of “Fat is a Feminist Issue” and probably should get the book. If you haven’t already read it, maybe it’s one that would be good for your course.

  39. Anything by Kim Chernin.

    Anything by Geneen Roth.

    Eric Oliver’s book.

    And so as to not pretty up the landscape we have to work with too much (after all, the first step to surviving reality is facing it):

    Frances Kuffel’s “Passing for Thin”, Judith Moore’s “Fat Girl”, and Nancy Etcoff’s shudder-inducing “Survival of the Prettiest”.

  40. I was really impacted by Neil LaBute’s play Fat Pig. There’s nothing redeeming about the characters, but bares all of the fat hatred that runs through our society.

  41. The first two books that got me thinking about fat were Laura Fraser’s Losing it and Marilyn Wann’s Fat!So?

    I found Losing It very readable, in a alt-journalistic sort of way, although later I went back and was less impressed with the “good fattie” approach. Fat!So? hooked onto my activist personality, and gave me a jolt of Queer Nation-style fattie energy.

    We’re fat! That’s that!
    Get used to it, you stupid fucks!

    Oh, wait, that threw off the scansion. Sorry.

  42. My personal a-ha’s came from:

    Big, Big Love by Hanne Blank
    Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann
    Body Outlaws edited by Ophira Edut
    Wake Up, I’m Fat by Camryn Manheim

  43. It’s out of print but I really recommend *Never Too Thin: Why Women Are at War With Their Bodies * by Roberta Pollack Seid. She shows how some ideas such as thinness = virtue not only got started but also how they hijacked any clear thinking on the subject of body weight.

  44. Kate Harding’s “Don’t you realize fat is unhealthy” was definitely a big eye-opener for me. The information on Junkfood Science on just how much of health news is not news at all still gets me outraged fairly regularly. I have been firmly of the opinion that people should not hate their bodies, no matter the size, for a very long time, but it was learning that even all the “legitimate” reasons to believe that losing weight is good (healthy) are bullshit that pushed me into making FA something I really advocate.

    Information on the Minnesota Starvation Study is the first thing I show to people when I say “here is evidence of what dieting does to people.” The excerpt from Rethinking Thin is good: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/health/08fat.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
    and this recent post on Junkfood Science is excellent:

  45. First, a round of applause for Dr. Addison for doing this! This is something a lot of therapists really don’t know about yet, and need to.

    It really chaps my hide that so many of the great FA/SA books are out of print. It would be great if we could organize some kind of print-on-demand deal with the authors of these books, who if I’m not mistaken get their manuscript issue rights returned to them at some point for things like that.

    Anyway, the very first thing I read that made me think that people’s obsession with thinness was nuts was the opening essay in Susie Orbach’s Fat Is a Feminist Issue Part 2. Orbach’s books were my initial introduction to intuitive eating, although now I would not necessarily recommend them to people because they seem to imply strongly that everyone will get thin eating her way (same with much of Geneen Roth’s work, although I love Appetites). But FIFI #2 has an opening essay that just kicks all kinds of ass, about how women are brainwashed to believe they must be slim in order to have any kind of a life, love, etc. I do think this book is OOP too now, alas.

    But my first “real” size-acceptance book was Carol Johnson’s Self-Esteem Comes In All Sizes. If you can overlook the fact that there’s a chapter in there on “low fat eating for weight management” (very 1995, which was when this book first came out), this is a very good “size acceptance/HAES 101” type of book. Despite the “weight management” chapter (which does not really mention weight loss as such, so one could easily interpret it as methods for stabilizing weight just as easily as weight loss), Johnson is pretty firm that fat can be perfectly healthy, that most fat people won’t ever become permanently thin, and that no one should be treated as “less than” because of their weight. The book is still in print in a revised edition (which I’ve not read).

    I wound up reading this book, as I’ve said before, because my then-psychiatrist told me to go get a book about self-esteem, whatever book I wanted, and read it, because I might actually live longer if I had some. I went to B. Dalton and this book jumped into my hand. It made sense to me. By this time I had gained about 50 pounds on Zoloft and I was ready, so ready, for someone to tell me that I wasn’t a terrible person because of it, that other people’s prejudices were the problem, not me, and that I was perfectly lovable at my present size.

  46. The book that was part of my ‘aha!’ moment was actually from a class looking at health and media.
    “Big Fat Lies: the truth about your weight and your health” by Glenn A. Gaesser
    It made me really look at the science of obesity, and hearing it from a (at least presumably) reputable book made it so much easier to give myself permission to start eating normally again after anorexia. The studies on the size of people’s thighs was pretty awesome: he looked at the test results of women who had liposuction on their butts and thighs and compared their before and after HDL/LDL cholesterol, general triglycerides, etc. The results suggested that fat legs, regardless of muscle/bone/fat ratios—AKA even if your legs were not simply muscular pillars of misunderstood physiology and are simply *fat*—were partially an indicator of good health. Definitely eye-opening.

  47. Bitch Magazine’s article “Are Fatsuits the New Blackface?” was pivotal in pushing my thinking about the image of fat in popular culture. Before reading that I had a vague sense of injustice about fat bodies being an easy punchline, but had never heard anyone else articulate it. It helped me see not only how pervasive these stereotypes were but also that I was perfectly justified in my indignation. I wasn’t just a fat girl jealous of Gwyneth. The articl isn’t particularly academic, but it started a reading spree for me that has really supported my own body acceptance. I use the article in my own Senior class, and it provokes fantastic discussions.

  48. I’m just now finishing up a really, really successful stint in counseling (after many unhelpful attempts with other therapists.) My therapist is part of the Heroic… um… something-or-other network. (Providers affiliated with the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change, http://www.talkingcure.com. One of their founders wrote a book called What’s Right With You; I think their book for clinicians is called The Heroic Client)

    Anyway, that approach seems to square really well with
    the mentality I’ve found here at Shapely Prose. In the sense that neither physical health nor mental health are advanced, it seems to me, when your approach is something like, “If I can just LOCATE the fatal defect and then SCOLD myself ENOUGH for having it, eventually – EVENTUALLY – I will be acceptable.” Funny how so many “health” gurus – fitness or mental health – think this is the way to have positive change.

  49. I’d look at Kelly Bliss’s stuff too – http://www.kellybliss.com – she has some pretty good stuff on intuitive eating, and exercise videos specially designed for the large, and very large (one of them co-stars her friend who is 500lbs) or the disabled. It’s aimed mostly at those who are just beginning the size acceptance/no-dieting/’it’s ok to have a life even if you’re fat’ journey.

    And Sandy at Junkfood Science’s series on bariatric surgery and its actual risks as opposed to the shiny happy thin-fantasy solution it’s sold as is great. The links are collected in a sidebar on the home page. I expect that counsellors may well come across fat people who are being encouraged to have the surgery and are being told it will be the solution to their mental health and personal problems.

  50. When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies by Hirschmann and Munter (
    amazon.com ) definitely changed my whole perspective on my “problem” weight and eating habits.

  51. OT@ Deborah M: Hey, I’m really interested in knowing how you determined that situation with your bizarre insulin response. That sounds like what might be my issue!! I think I have a chemical reaction to certain foods. Did you read something or have a medical test? (I can give you my email address if the answer is complicated, for some reason.)

  52. This is going to sound weird.

    But I had a revelation about size-fat-food while reading Tennessee William’s “Summer and Smoke.”

    There is a young doctor who is the object of Alma Winemiller’s desire. She’s a premature spinster because her mother has dementia or has had a stroke that has infantilized her. Alma has become an old woman. Always.

    John, the doctor, finds Alma very attractive in a way that frightens and thrills him, and in a way that thrills her but cripples her with guilt and fear. He wants to initiate her, but she is steeped in shame.

    At heart, the play is about her crippling fear of her sexuality. The religious and Victorian forces around her have taught her that appetities in women are shameful.

    And the play becomes a beautiful meditation on her craving for the man she keeps pushing away. The final scene, we see her leaving to indulge another man’s carnal appetites. But she starved herself to death years ago. She doesn’t even know what it means anymore to be hungry for intimacy.

    That play made me wake up to my shame about ALL my appetites, and how I sublimated all of them in my crusade to get skinny.

  53. Women Afraid to Eat by Frances Berg — this is the most in-depth book about HAES that I have yet read, probably because the author was one of the founding members of the HAES movement. It references hundreds of studies and articles, and I believe it is still in print (from 2000.)

    I would also second the wonderful Never Too Thin by Robert Pollack Seid. Another very detailed analysis of the social pressures to be thin. It is such a shame it is no longer in print. I love this book, but have only read the library’s copy.

  54. I am a visual thinker, so most of the things that helped me were photographic displays.

    The very first thing that triggered it for me, was the ad series for a Brazilian yogurt company. They re-shot some of the iconic sexy moments of cinema with heavier ladies with the tag line “Forget about it. Men’s preference will never change. Fit Light Yogurt.”


    I looked at that picture and couldn’t figure out what they were trying to say. I’d kill to look like her! Then I realized they were saying she was too fat to get a man and came up spitting mad.

    The next one I found, and one of the things that helped me the most was Kate’s BMI project slideshow.

    I watched the slides go through showing beautiful woman after beautiful woman, most of them labeled “obese” and realizing that these lovely, healthy, happy women were like ME! and that there was nothing to be ashamed of in being large.

    Also for the visual thinkers among your students, I’d suggest adipositivity, and the NSFW Normal Breast Gallery (http://www.007b.com/breast_gallery.php) both of them show photos of normal women to help come to terms with the self acceptance issues that come from the airbrushed starved, and/or genetically thin people that are seen in the media.

    All of these sources have helped me to re-think “normal” and realize that I am smack dab in the middle of it, and it’s not just ok to accept my self and my body, it’s the right thing to do. Being healthy at the size your genes tell you to be, (not starving and miserable to reach what size your jeans tell you to be) is the only thing that’s important.

  55. I blush to admit that I find hardcore journalistic treatises on fat with loads of statistics and scientific studies like wading through treacle, (they generally make me feel like I’m back at high school studying for some kind of fat exam), thus, these days, I tend to pick at the likes of Paul Campos and Gina Kolata or read others’ distillations of their main points. Having said that I did, back in the day read many seminal works on fat, including the anthology , Shadow On A Tightrope: Writings By Women On Fat Oppression, edited byLisa Schoenfielder and Barb Weiser, with a foreward by Vivian Mayer. This has its roots in the original Fat Underground and flicking through it now, it’s depressing to realise just how little has changed in society’s attitude to fat, ditto that of the medical profession – as well as the conclusions reached by the earliest FA activists. If anything the situation has gotten worse. In relation to WLS, a figure of 5000 operation is quoted. That was considered a lot back in the early 80s when the book first came out. Imagine….

    The stuff that really engages me more tends to be more rooted in personal experience, such as Camryn Manheim’s book, parts of Wendy Shaker’s The Fat Girl’s Guide To Life and Joy Nash’s Fat Rant. However, the book that had the most impact on me was Nancy Roberts’ Breaking All The Rules.


    Nancy was an American journalist living in the UK, who did a lot of campaigning in the mid-80s to improve the lot of plus sized women with regard to clothing in particular. (Since that’s my thing too I was interested). She was also a founder member of Spare Tyre, a feminist theatre group which grew out of the writings of Susie Fat Is A Feminist Issue Orbach. However, unlike her Spare Tyre peers, Nancy found her fat stubbornly refused to budge despite learning to embrace intuitive eating. Since I’d found Orbach’s central premise of all-women-who-become-fat-to-avoid-physical-intimacy alienating to say the least, this revelation made me sit up and take notice. Though the book is predominantly about fashion and HAES, the personal anecdotes detailing Nancy’s childhood dieting also had a lot of resonance for me.

  56. Kate Harding’s “Don’t You Realize That Fat Is Unhelathy” and “The Fantasy of Being Thin” are definitely two of the best introductions to size acceptance I’ve ever read.

    “Big Big Love” is an excellent book dealing with sexual relationships and self acceptance. I think in Marriage and family counseling you would come across a LOT of entitled fat hatred on the part of partners and parents who are not fat. Or parents who are fat and fantasize that they can “save” their child from fatness by shaming them and telling them nobody will find them attractive. Seriously, any partner who feels justified in harassing or leaving someone based on weight (no matter how acceptable and encouraged fat hatred has become) has issues of their own. They might also just use weight as the best tool to push the partner away so they aren’t the “bad guy”.

    (An aside:Psychiatric Social Worker Rant – Men especially tend to hurt the partner as much as possible to force the partner to be “to blame” for the end of the relationship. “Well, SHE’s the one who filed for divorce, I was willing to keep the marriage together while cheating on/raping/beating/emotionally abusing her. That’s why I shouldn’t have to pay child support.” I see this a lot. Weight is and EXTREMELY socially acceptable reason to leave a relationship, because it ties in so well with fat prejudice.)

    Fat?SO! Was also very formative for me, long before there was a fatosphere. Junkfood Science articles are extremely rational and evidence based analyses of the cultural hysteria that is the obesity epidemic and the science showing that fat is not the killer it is purported to be.

    The best thing to emphasize is that fat people are no different from thin people or other social groups subject to prejudice (positive or negative). You cannot tell anything about a fat person by looking at their body. NOTHING. As with other groups, make no assumptions about your client and instead listen to them. If there are deep issues with eating or body image, they will emerge. The fact that they do not usually indicates that there are none, not deep denial. If someone tells you they eat less than their thin friends, believe them. If someone tells you that his insecurities as a father have little to do with size and everything to do with the way his parents *treated* him for his size, believe him. If food and size never come up, don’t force the issue. If you must address weight because it does come up,do so in an accepting manner that is HAES and size positive. Keep things about psychological and behavioral issues and stay out of . Frame weight in terms of other prejudices to clarify how hurtful and unacceptable mistreatment of fat partners/parents/children really is. If you wouldn’t say it about race or religion, it’s prejudice and you’re behaving rudely.

  57. Congratulations. This is a wonderful idea for a class.

    While it may seem indirect, starting from childhood might be interesting. As I work with and write about young women (and teen girls) and body image, lots of information comes out when I bring up some entries from “I was a fat kid…here is my story.” http://www.catay.com/fatkid/school.asp

    Perhaps the topic of childhood and discrimination will help the couple to discuss some pivotal points in their own lives, when they felt outraged and discriminated against… and when they felt supported and valued.

    Dr. Robyn

    Feel free to get in touch.

  58. A mid-day comment: thank you all for the suggestions so far! Just one refinement to my request – as some of you have noted, I’m not going to be able to tell my students “read all of Junkfood Science” or “read (10 books in addition to the Obesity Myth)”. So if you know of a specific chapter from a book you really loved, or a particular post from a blog you like, that is especially helpful to me because it also saves me reading hours and hours of material.

    I’ve got a stack about 3 feet high of printed out blog articles and piled up books. It’s so hard to harrow things down when I just want to make my case by drowning people in information! But I have it from some reliable sources that students hate that, particularly in a one-unit course. :)

    – SA

  59. Damn, wish you were at my institution, I’d suck up the extra grad hours just to be in the class (I’m in comparative literature, not psych).

    Anyway, there are a couple of good books that have been around for a while. My personal favorite is a very approachable book called “The Body Project” bu Joan Jacobs Brumberg. The book addresses much more than just issues of size and dieting, but it is an awesome book that discusses the cultural reasons why American girls and women are never happy with themselves, hence the title.

    In 1993, Susan Bordo edited a collection of articles about feminism and the body, titled “Unbearable Weight.” Not everything is good, but its not bad — more academic in focus than the book by Brumburg. Might be a good one to put a few select articles on reserve from (if your institution is like ours, we have an e-reserve available for stuff like that).

    There are also a few interesting poems by various authors (you can email me if you need titles/authors) that discuss the issue of perfection in terms of thinness that might be good to get discussion rolling, depending on your focus and teaching style.

  60. I recommend Wendy Shanker’s excellent book, The Fat Girl’s Guide for Life. It’s anecdotal, not scientific, but it was definitely the ‘aha’ moment for me.

  61. Elusis – one easy way to get a lot of the information out there and not have to do it all yourself is to make a book review/report/analysis part of the class grade. You hand out a list of acceptable books, then the students each pick a book to review. Give them enough of an assignment that they have to actually read it, but not too much for a one-credit class, and part of the assignment is that they have to do a class presentation on it. You can control it so all of the books get covered, and if there are too many repeats there could be group presentations, whatever works for your class and reading list size. Then not only do they all get covered, but you get a couple of weeks off at the end of the semester during presentation time!

  62. What would you consider the most important pieces of writing in your journey toward size acceptance?

    Kate Harding’s “The Fantasy of Being Thin” completely changed my outlook on fat acceptance. I have been reading this blog for a while but I had always been like “I completely accept what others do but I could never do that”. After that post I realized that being “not skinny enough” was holding me back and allowing me to hide from fears ect. ect.

    @Kate- have you considered making a more formal version of that essay (with no swearing so it can be read in high schools) and publishing it?

  63. Right now I’m reading a book called Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression edited by Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco, though I haven’t gotten too far into it. It’s pretty much about the societal view and media representations of fat people. One of the chapters I’ve read that was interesting was “A ‘Horror of Corpulence’: Interrogating Bantingism and Mid-Nineteenth-Century Fat-Phobia” but there’s also a chapter called “Sex and Fat Chics: Deterritorializing the Fat Female Body” I haven’t read but might be interesting as well. I’m recommending this book mostly because the book makes the point that our perceptions of fat people are tied with society and culture, and whatever society and culture deems acceptable.

    Also, maybe having your students read stuff on myfatspouse.com will present them with the view of married people who are clearly anti-fat for analysis.

  64. Kate’s Fantasy of Being Thin is what brought me here and was my Aha moment. Wouldn’t be working towards body acceptance without it.

    Also, loved that video, forgotten the name, about Fat, hysterical. Kate has linked it and you probably know exactly which one I mean. It made me laugh, cry, and call my husband over to watch it with me.

    I SO needed those two things. Everyone should see them.

  65. I second Eucritta with Kim Chernin’s The Obsession. When I was struggling with bulemia back in the mid-80’s, that book helped to redefine my sense of what a normal woman’s body is and should be.

    As well, she has some insightful perspectives about the correlation between the words tied to weight loss (lose, reduce, minimize) and the cultural self-perceptions of women post-weight loss (weak, insubstantial, timid).

    The comparison of women gaining substance and strength through self-acceptance and body positivity and women who felt weak and insubstantial after reducing their very being through weight loss and self-loathing was very significant for me.

  66. Kate Harding’s “Don’t You Realize That Fat Is Unhelathy” and “The Fantasy of Being Thin” are definitely two of the best introductions to size acceptance I’ve ever read.

    Well Mary and others have already mentionned my two largest “AHA” moments. I was linked to the FoBT blog through an art website and have been hooked ever since to the fat-o-sphere and the amazing people here.

    Another great demonstrative tool that really kicked my into questioning especially the “OBESITY EPIDEMIC!” was Kate’s BMI project. Wonderfully eye-opening. :)

  67. Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love is written with fat people in mind, not potential clinicians, making it an excellent reference for clients with sexuality-related size issues (whether with their own bodies, their spouses’, or their children’s). For inclusion in a course reader, I would suggest the introduction, Fat, Sex, Facts and Fallacies. Her chapters are long, so you might choose to select portions for reproduction and filter out segments you feel would be less relevant to your students’ needs. It’s a basic primer on fat sexuality, including the shocking fact that fat people are sexual human beings, contrary to popular cultural belief. Various insulting myths concerning fat people are torn apart, Snopes-style, but without the purple prose.

    Chapter four, Getting a Grip, directly addresses self-esteem issues in the (fat) family. The sub-section “Friendly Fire” leans toward equipping fat people for dealing with the “well-intentioned” but abusive statements of parents and friends, though it could also apply to spouses (particularly the second half). The next sub-section, Fear Opportunism, and the Case of the Closeted FA addresses the problem of romantic partners who are loving in private but take issue with fatness in public. This sub-section is shorter than Friendly Fire. It again emphasizes recognizing one’s own worth in spite of such emotional abuse, reminding the fat partner that “you have every right to be respected acknowledged, paid attention to, and treated just like anyone else would expect to be treated in an intimate relationship. Your size has nothing to do with it, the fact that the relationship has come to exist does.”

    Chapter six, Titillations and Tactics, is bluntly about sex acts for/with people of size. Not something to be included in an overview-style reader, but still something to be aware of when recommending the text, as some people are insulted by frankness. (Positions, fetishes, and bdsm – some people are squeamish about these things when it’s for thin people, much less Teh Fat.)

    In brief: the relevant portions of chapter one (you decide, as you know your overall course structure), and the cited portions of chapter four would be my recommendations for course reader inclusion from Big Big Love.

  68. I’m afraid all of my printed references are a bit old, but I don’t think anyone mentioned “Shadow on a Tightrope.” Some of the essays in that book are fantastic.

    I currently have a terrific therapist who isn’t specifically “schooled” in fat acceptance — I feel a little bit “ahead” of him in this one regard, but he is really, really good. I think that his advanced, somewhat rare ability to truly trust the process (and me) make him an exceptional therapist. He has a PhD and a ton of experience with kids and adults. What he might lack in exposure to the concepts of fat acceptance he more than makes up for in just amazing non-judgemental-ness.
    He brought a copy of the Utne Reader for me — the one with the “Love Your Fat Self” articles in it — and I was sorry to tell him I had already read the articles on the ‘net. It was very thoughtful.

    I second the ideas of including “The Fantasy of Being Thin” and
    other stuff on the net, in particular, this recent Junkfood Science post:

    Kimberly Brittingham’s essay about her fake book cover:

    And as others have said, the entire contents of “First, Do No Harm.”

    Maybe you could have one assignment to be to read at least 10 posts on one of the Fatosphere’s blogs (or a selected list).

    The fat acceptance movement has been shaped tremendously by the internet (as someone who has been reading about and following the fat acceptance movement since the late ’80s).

    Kim Chernin’s “The Obsession” was really my first exposure to this way of thinking, and in it the author explores her interior life extensively, so it might make for good reading for this class.

    I am so happy to hear about this, and may just have to let my therapist know about it!

  69. Stacy, I hesitate to talk about it here since it might sound like ‘diet’ talk. And when I started discovering my issues with insulin I was definitely focused on ‘weight loss’ rather than health, even if now I have moved on from that to focus on health. So… Kate, if this post is too diet-y feel free to remove it and give Stacy my email address instead/email it to her.

    I first heard about the idea of insulin resistance/carb addiction from the ‘carb addicts diet’. It gives a list of traits that if you identify with, you’ll know you’re a carb addict. As an aside, I’ve seen many, many people here talk about their intuitive eating and wanting a mix of healthy food as well as the ‘less healthy’ food, etc… well, that was never me. I *did* think I was a compulsive overeater because I was never full, never satisfied, always snacking and grazing. My diet was probably 90% carbs – I didn’t care about or like protein all that much, I lived on pasta and cereal and bread etc. When I read CAD it talked about the fact that some people have a damaged insulin response so that if they eat carbs, instead of feeling full after a certain point, they just stay hungry – which means they just keep eating. Also, even if they don’t keep eating, there’s something in the mechanism gone awry that means they more readily store the food they eat as fat than use it as energy (and since I was also always tired and had little energy despite how much I ate that was for sure true of me).

    Medically, you can’t test your insulin response with the typical blood sugar test because that’s done fasting. There is a different test which gives you sugary drinks and then tests your blood at intervals afterwards for 24 hours, I think. I’ve never done the test, but I don’t need to – I know what the results would be. So, now that I avoid carbs as much as I can, I have a ‘normal’ relationship with food – I eat protein, fat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and I’ve learned what my body will tolerate so that I can enjoy ‘normal’ hunger. Would I prefer to be able to eat more carbs? Sure, cos I enjoy the taste. But I eat dark chocolate instead of milk, cos it’s less sugary, and when I do eat bread it’s whole grain and full of fibre to balance the carbs. Sweet potatoes don’t trigger my insulin response as long as I eat them with protein, unlike regular potatoes, which I avoid. But this has freed me from constant hunger and obsession with food. Now I know the ‘obsession’ was chemical, not mental or emotional. I used to wake up and the first thought in my head was food – now I get up and check email, get ready for my day, and breakfast is a normal part of that. Having reduced my carb intake significantly, nowadays if I eat refined sugar or white flour it actually makes me feel ill.

    Again, this is just me, and I’m not preaching here. But in the interests of full disclosure, this is essentially the theory behind all low-carb diets. For me, it has been amazingly freeing and very healthy – my bloodwork is better than it ever was and I’m no longer hungry all the time. I really *enjoy* food now.

  70. oh, and -when i started eating that way, my periods went back to normal. they had been very irregular and light for a few years – within weeks of cutting down carbs (not losing weight, just changing the way i ate), they were regular again. i’m pretty sure i have PCOS, and that is connected with hyperinsulinemia. that’s the other thing that started me back on the track of low-carb – reading about the connection between PCOS and hyperinsulinemia.

  71. I’d love to see a syllabus of your finished product….you know, for a little self study or a book club? The Big fat Blog might like it too!

  72. I agree with much of what has been mentioned above, but there’s another post that really helped me: it’s on Big Fat Deal (bfdblog.com), and it’s called “Edina Monsoon Would Be Proud.” It’s on an article in BUST magazine about Beth Ditto. It really helped me to see clearly that I should be able to wear whatever I want, no matter whether or not it “minimizes” my shape.

  73. One of my big ah-a moments came about from various comments on this blog regarding the definition of a “starvation diet” in the context of oppression and inhumane treatment. I’m not sure if it’s officially defined in the Geneva Convention or by Amnesty International or if it’s unique to each “situation”, but it sure put the concept of caloric restriction in an entirely new light or me. One person’s brutal torture is another person’s idealized goal.

  74. Great news about your planned course, Dr. Addison. (And hello, Shapelings — I think this is the first time I’ve posted here. :-)

    I can recommend a lot of books, most of which have already been mentioned, but I understand the need for succinctness. In that regard, I think you might find a recently published special report by the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) useful.

    “Kids, Eating, Weight & Health: Helping Without Harming” was edited by Jon Robison, Ph.D. (author of “The Spirit & Science of Holistic Health”). It’s a 36-page issue of WELCOA’s Absolute Advantage magazine containing articles/overviews by Dr. Robison (whose doctorate is in health education/exercise physiology…he also has an MS in human nutrition), therapist Carmen Cool, and dietitian Elizabeth Jackson. Its overviews of facts and issues are applicable to all ages, IMO.

    The PDF of this report can be downloaded free of charge at the WELCOA website (www.welcoa.org). I think the direct link is <>.
    If that doesn’t work, click on the Free Resouces link at the top righthand corner of their website, then scroll down to click on “Free Reports” and on the subsequent page click on “Get your free report” in the section devoted to Kids, Eating, Weight & Health.

    Dr. Robison did a similar (but longer — 56 pages) Absolute Advantage issue on Health At Every Size in general a couple of years ago. That issue is also available free of charge at the WELCOA Free Reports page (scroll way down) or directly at: <>.

    Also, in skimming my computer files looking for the WELCOA PDFs I found the May 2007 Healthy Families packet/PDF from Eat Right Montana, which you might find useful (particularly for future family therapists :-). The 4-page packet has a Health At Every Size/non-dieting focus, with reproducible handouts on Moving Away From Diets: The Joy of Movement and Moving Away From Diets: Feeding Your Body Well. The packet/PDF is available free of charge from http://www.eatrightmontana.rg/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm. (The packet summarizes and contains a link to the April 2007 American Psychologist Mann et al review article “Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer” (which provides empirical evidence that diets don’t work).

    Also…even if you don’t utilize/assign all of J. Eric Oliver, Ph.D.’s book “Fat Politics,” I recommend reviewing with your students his description of the Centers for Disease Control Powerpoint presentation that essentially started the (false) concept of “obesity” spreading throughout the U.S. like an epidemic/contagious disease, and his report that the term “morbid obesity” was coined by a surgeon in the 1950s as part of his efforts to market bariatric (“weight loss”) surgery. I might also introduce/define the terms/practices of “disease-mongering,” “fear-mongering,” “moral panic” and “astro-turfing” (artificial grass-roots campaigns) and note how they apply to “obesity epidemic” hysteria.

    Also FYI, if any of your students are interested in a Health At Every Size friendly approach to eating disorders and/or compulsive eating, I recommend Judith Matz & Ellen Frankel’s “Beyond A Shadow of a Diet” (a handbook for therapists that among other things addresses countertransference re: therapists’ own body/fat issues) and their “The Diet Survivor’s Handbook” (self-help).

    Ellen Frankel’s “Beyond Measure: A Memoir About Short Stature & Inner Growth” deals with her eating disorder (and recovery) as well as the heightism component of sizeism. Relationship issues are also addressed — in her case, specifically, how she turned to/became involved with powerful men as a substitute for her own self-esteem/self-efficacy. (Disclaimer: I published “Beyond Measure,” as well as Pattie Thomas’s “Taking Up Space,” which I also recommend.)

    Another book that hasn’t been mentioned yet, but which addresses weight/fat stigma, is Charisse Goodman’s “The Invisible Woman.”

    Good luck with your class! It’s wonderful knowing some potential therapists will be exposed to size/fat acceptance.

  75. My aha moment came when reading Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love, which I picked up after falling in love with a fat man. It made me realize how much I, as a fat woman, had internalized societal fat hatred, and made me really re-think a lot of my assumptions on that front. I’d been reading Hanne’s blog for a year or two at that point.

    A little later, Hanne decided she wanted to lose a little bit of weight (not get thin, mind, just get into the lower range of her body’s set point so as to ease her joints a bit) and blogged about it, whereafter there was much wank in the Fatosphere as to whether or not Hanne should still get to call herself a fat activist or not. While I disagreed with the stance a lot of bloggers took, and some of them left a fairly bad taste in my mouth, that was how I discovered Shapely Prose and others. Since then I have found much that has re-inforced that aha moment, all of which has been mentioned above, but Big Big Love was where it got started: for the fact that it told me that fat could be sexy.

  76. there was much wank in the Fatosphere as to whether or not Hanne should still get to call herself a fat activist or not.

    “Wank,” huh? If you think someone who was a movement leader switching very publicly from an anti-dieting to a pro-dieting stance — and openly mocking those who did not follow in her footsteps — is worth nothing more than a shrug and a yawn, I don’t know what to tell you.

    Hell, I think anyone can call themselves fat activists if they like. Anyone who wants to help out the cause, great. I’m not about to issue purity tests for anyone.

    But there’s a difference between being an activist and being an activist leader. If she has other priorities right now besides being an activist leader, fine, but really, you can’t do a 180 like that and expect absolutely nobody to mind.

  77. The book, Authentic Happiness, says, “… roughly 50% of almost every personality trait turns out to be attributable to genetic inheritance. Some highly heritable traits (like sexual orientation and body weight) don’t change much at all, while other highly inheritable traits (like pessimism and fearfulness) are very changeable.”

    I found this quote most enlightening. in a book that had nothing to do with diet, exercise, health, or anything but happiness!


  78. One of my big ah-a moments came about from various comments on this blog regarding the definition of a “starvation diet” in the context of oppression and inhumane treatment. I’m not sure if it’s officially defined in the Geneva Convention or by Amnesty International or if it’s unique to each “situation”, but it sure put the concept of caloric restriction in an entirely new light or me. One person’s brutal torture is another person’s idealized goal.

    The Minnesota starvation experiment is one powerful account of what actually happens to the human body and mind under even ‘moderate’ (by many dieting standards) calorie reduction:


    Rather disturbingly, it seems that the WHO – whom I always thought had defined 1600 kcals/day as starvation – no longer have this kind of definition – but they do now have a lot of stuff about obesity as a growing problem. Of course, how many calories anyone requires – to live a normal healthy life, not be some arbitrary size – is individual, but it’s dangerous when no medical or social authority seems to want to say any longer ‘This number of calories is definitely too low for a human being to live on’.

    Anyway, getting back on topic…My very first awakening to the idea that fat might just be OK was way back – Shelley Bovey’s Being Fat Is Not A Sin. Well out of print now, I suspect. There was a spate of such books, I seem to recall, in the early 90s, and I suspect what we’re seeing now may be at least partly a backlash. Bovey herself gave in to pressure a few years back, lost weight and wrote a book about it, which pissed me no end.

    Prior to finding this site and the whole Fatosphere, Fat!So? was perhaps the best bit of recent inspiration.

  79. The late anthropologist Marvin Harris explained in his book “Our Kind” why we humans get fat as well as anyone and also made what I think is the best argument for size acceptance. Our bodies have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to be amazingly efficient at converting food to fat. Our ancestors depended on this for survival. Our evolution did not prepare our bodies for 21st century America where American shoppers can acquire 210 calories of food for every calorie they expend doing it. Hunter-gatherers found nine calories, while early farmers raised 53 calories for each one they expended. Food tastes just as good when you are fat as when you are thin. Humans have a wide range of evolutionary and hereditary defects including S shape spines, flat feet and birth canals too narrow for babies, these conditions however are not stigmatized so why should our bodies ability to store excess food as fat?

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