Fat, Fillyjonk, Media


So, you may have noticed that there’s been a bit of a fatsplosion over at Newsweek lately. When Kate Dailey, Newsweek’s still-relatively-new health blogger, reviewed LFTF as one of her first assignments, I wasn’t sure what to make of her — her interview seemed hampered by an unwillingness to give up on toeing the “fat bad!” line. It wasn’t that she seemed hostile, but that she seemed reluctant to give up the obesity crisis security blanket. And why should she? We’ve seen how science writers tend to cover fat; it’s easier to get published if you vilify it, plus you get to use all sorts of fun synonyms. (Here, we usually write “fat.” Anyone penning an OBESITYCRISISBOOGABOOGA article also gets access to “corpulent,” “portly,” “flabby,” “overweight,” and lots of other colorful language. It’s hardly fair.)

As it turns out, I’ve apparently seen the “this is all very interesting, and if you need me I’ll be over here clinging desperately to conventional wisdom” response often enough that I’m getting to be an expert. That’s exactly what Dailey was thinking, she says –and here’s how she dealt with it:

I started to re-examine what I thought I knew about weight and health. I also started to pay more attention to how fatness was discussed and debated in the media: It’s not pretty, and it seems that the venom we have for fat people far exceeds the scorn we lay on smokers, or adulterers, or those who text while driving, and the recent health-care debate is only making things nastier.

I wonder whether part of the change of heart comes from reading her blog comments — I know Miss Conduct came to fat acceptance partly by being stunned at the vitriol she got when she suggested treating fat people like human beings. We’ll need to get Dailey on Sanity Watchers.

Anyway, because Kate Dailey is by all appearances a thoughtful and reasonable person, she didn’t yell and fight and stomp her foot when she encountered ideas she found unnerving. Instead, she investigated not only the ideas but her own resistance to them — and that’s how we got America’s War on the Overweight, Who Says Americans Are Too Fat?, and a guest post from the Fat Nutritionist. (Though it may be officially unrelated, there’s also a terrific deadpan paean to correlation/causation errors and overgeneralization in the blog this week: Redheads Fear the Dentist, and Tall Men Get Cancer: What Your Appearance Says About Your Health.)

Read them! And then, put your face where Dailey’s mouth is. By which I mean you’re going to want to give her a big smackeroo, but also: she’s calling for photos of fatties doing healthy things. “Healthy” here seems to be hovering in the “running a marathon” category, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t explode that — Dailey asks you to gloss your own photo, so if you want to write “I have fibromyalgia and here is a picture of me standing up long enough to cook a whole meal,” by all means submit that puppy. No reason we can’t challenge conventional notions of “health” while we’re challenging conventional notions of what a healthy and fit person looks like. And meanwhile, if you do have photos of yourself running or hiking or dancing and you’re willing to use them to say “in your face, haters,” you can submit them to Newsweek’s Tumblr page.

89 thoughts on “Fatweek”

  1. I’m currently reading “Fat Politics” and Dailey’s ongoing path to sanity WRT fatties sounds a lot like Oliver’s. (the author of fat politics). He said he was looking to write a book on why the us is getting so oogabooga fat, but he looked at the stats with a statistician’s eye and found it wasn’t all that bad.

  2. I don’t think I have a single picture of myself doing anything remotely athletic. Because I am not even remotely athletic.

    I’m a languorous type, and I kind of like it that way.

    And yes, that realization process Dailey describes — similar to Oliver’s, and also similar to Paul Campos’, if I’m remembering correctly — seems pretty familiar to me. It’s the way intelligent, critically-thinking people react when their unexamined assumptions are challenged by decent logic and evidence.

  3. Yay! for willingness to look at facts beyond assumptions!

    I guess I need to get Mr. Twistie to take a snap of me dancing at a concert or lifting one of my gigantic grocery baskets full of fresh veggies and fruits.

    Mmmm…tasty veggies.

  4. Pictures? That reminds me, karate classes are going to be resuming soon around here. I gotta hem my gi pants, and then get someone to snap some shots of me kickin’ things.

    I like kickin’ things!

  5. I’m struggling to think of any “healthy” activity I could perform for camera. I am not the poster child of HAES. (I have everything but the first letter down pat.)

    If I had a pet I could submit a picture of me cuddling/stroking it. Doesn’t that promote mental and physical wellbeing? :)

  6. Gemma, could you borrow a neighbor’s or a friend’s cat or dog? The mental/emotional aspect is a vitally important thing that all too often gets ignored in conversations about health.

  7. Hmm. I should see what I can do. I am surrounded by exercising larger folks, but I don’t think I have any pics of any of us exercising. They’re not exactly “pretty” photo ops, what with the sweat or the exertion face or the red cheeks. You know?

  8. I hear that, Arwen! I have some pics that I took hiking, but I’m loath to submit them because, hi, I was hiking, I look terrible. Ah, vanity.

  9. A friend of mine posted a comment on the call for photos (it’s the only comment so far) remembering Fat Girl on a Bike, who took her blog down following harassment from concern trolls and regular trolls. I’m sure she’s still doing her thing, but I miss her blog. It was an inspiration to me.

    My concern with posting a picture of myself exercising would be the same as what happened to her – trollish comments. Mind you, maybe she could close the article to comments, and just post the pictures.

  10. I wonder if pictures of me doing random flexibility exercises on the beach would count… because for some reason, that’s all my fiance got pictures of me doing last time we went to the ocean. Heh.

    I also immediately picture Kate’s infamous yoga pictures and Marianne on roller skates!

  11. I am pretty sad that, as more folks get hip to fat acceptance, “health” is the latest measure by which to judge people. I know health and morality have been conflated for a very long time, but there is a new angle now.

    People concede it’s OK to be fat (gee thanks!) AS LONG AS you’re “healthy.” As long as you work out X hours a week. As long as your lifestyle resembles a stereotypical thin person’s.

    How about pictures of fat people just doing normal human activities? This little project comes across as “Prove your worth, fatties.”

  12. I just passed this forward, as well.

    Daring to be fat and active and female; it occurs to me that the only times I’ve been street harassed in the past 10 years have been while running or cycling. Huh.

  13. Now if we can get some of this content into the print editions (it seems most of these posts are “web exclusives” of Newsweek.

    I offer golf claps for Dailey for confronting this situation like a rational human who actually did some investigating rather than simply sticking her fingers into her ears and going “la la la.”

    I do wonder, though, how many times we’ll see this same thing happen – someone who was, if not a zealot certainly an adherent to the CW on fat having a moment of doubt for some reason that propels them to do some more digging, only to realize that it’s not all as black and white as it seemed. In particular, how many times this will have to happen before there’s any wider progress. (I’m thinking of the “Hey girls suddenly like geeky stuff” articles that come out like clockwork regardless of the reality that women have always liked geeky stuff and we go to movies that aren’t about women, etc.)


  14. How about pictures of fat people just doing normal human activities? This little project comes across as “Prove your worth, fatties.”

    I just think of it as a nice offset to the “I see fat people at McDonald’s” claptrap that’s always offered as evidence that badevillazyallyourfault etc.

    Isn’t there some principle that people are more likely to register/retain information that confirms their prejudices? Help! Is there a social scientist in the house?

  15. This little project comes across as “Prove your worth, fatties.”

    Dailey’s readership doesn’t believe her that there are fat people who engage in what they would consider healthy activities. She aims to prove that there are. This is not a fundamentally worthless pursuit, as much as we may want to trouble the notion that health is the be-all and end-all.

    Isn’t there some principle that people are more likely to register/retain information that confirms their prejudices?

    Confirmation bias.

    Chamomile, I haven’t a clue about minimum fatness… contact Dailey, perhaps?

  16. Points to the good lady for overcoming cognitive dissonance. It takes real, fearsome work to rearrange your assumptions around facts rather than going with the easy tide of conventional – and incorrect- wisdom.

  17. I wonder if Dailey plans to write anything about the comments responding to her posts, because they certainly prove her point.

    Do editors-in-chief say to theselves: “Hey, it’s a slow news week and lots of folks are on vacation. What can we write about that will get the blog pages booming and make our advertisers happy? I know; we’ll suggest that maybe fat people aren’t just being fat at us and eating too much and never exercising. That’ll get folks fired up!” And of course, the commenters can say things that columnists wouldn’t.

    Maybe if the writers spent more time just outright shaming people for the horrible things they feel it’s perfectly OK to post and less time discussing the genetic vs. behavioral vs. environmental “causes of the oogabooga Obeezity Epidumbic” folks would realize that they should have learned the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut (and fingers away from the keyboard” lesson in kindergarten.

  18. “How about pictures of fat people just doing normal human activities? This little project comes across as “Prove your worth, fatties.”

    erm, yeah – this. i’m not the most athletic person in the world, either. the most athletic thing i’ve done in the last few weeks was walk an elderly burmese mountain dog every day for some folks who were on vacation. i wouldn’t call it olympic-level fitness training.

    but i wasn’t athletic as a thin person, either. i just get more shit for being a reading/writing solitary non-athlete now that i’m being fat at people who remember what i used to look like and assume i’m somehow less virtuous than i was before.

    i mean, we see photos of thin/average sized people with their kids on sofas and discussing everyday life issues that have nothing to do with how active they are, and no one troll-bombs those articles with commentary about how they’re going to hell in a fat handbasket for sitting around. it’s only people who ‘read’ as fat that do.

    how best to combat the assumptions that body type is directly correlated to what you do with it on an average day is something i can’t figure out how to do yet, but i would like to note that a conspicuous number of the ‘hedless fattiez!’ that make the cut for BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA articles are of fat people walking down the street. you know, walking? a healthy activity? while lawyers/ authors/ sports figures/ etc. who are pictured for whatever their achievements are may be seated in the photos without drawing ire.

    so. i’m a little doubtful that a gallery of ‘fatties in motion! observe the dissonance!’ can make a ripple in the endless sea of prejudice, but i suppose it beats hiding in the library (like i do). i like joy nash’s idea for combating fat prejudice, tho (“BITE ME!”) – LOL. go the direct route!

  19. You brought tears to my eyes when you said “I have fibromyalgia and here is a picture of me standing up long enough to cook a whole meal,”

    Thank you for this comment.

  20. I am turned off by the Fatties in Motion (nice, hallie) because, like I said, I think “health” is turning into this bar we must all reach for if we want to escape ridicule. I totally understand that people’s minds have to be changed so I’m sure it’s a necessary first step.

    Some of us aren’t healthy – either because we were born this way or because we developed a disease/illness later in life. Some people with disease are physically fit. Do they qualify as “healthy?” Some people without disease aren’t physically fit. Where do they stand?

  21. Oh, no….I read the comments at the Fat Nutritionist’s guest post. Silly Kelly, you know better than that.

    Pictures of fat people doing healthy things. I may have pics of me fencing. If not, I can bug the husband to take some at Wednesday’s practice.

  22. What is the minimum fatness one can have for these photos?

    I would hope she includes everybody with a BMI of 25 and over who sends in a picture, because that’s who the “obesity epidemic” is talking about. Or, at the very least, everybody with a BMI of 30 and over. Just so that people can see that, not only are those evil fatties able to walk, but most of them look, I’m guessing, a whole lot like the readers making the nasty comments.

    I like the idea. I don’t even think we’re at “It’s okay to be fat as long as you’re health” in the culture at larger; we’re still at “You CANNOT be fat and healthy” or, at the most accepting, “You can be THIS fat and still be healthy, but not THAT fat.” I feel like getting people to accept that you can be fat and healthy is a first step, because once you decouple weight and health, it might be easier for people to accept that being unhealthy is not a moral or personal failing regardless of whether somebody is fat or thin. I think the decoupling of weight and health has to come first, though, and showing that fat people can be healthy is part of that.

    Maybe she can also get thin people to submit pictures of themselves doing unhealthy things, too. Like sitting on the couch eat donuts.

  23. And, I do know grammar, although you would never know it. I’m sleep- and calorie-deprived right now, thanks to insomnia and morning sickness, and so apparently my brain isn’t functioning very well.

  24. Oh, and obviously there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about either sitting on the couch or eating donuts, or doing both at the same time. I was just thinking of stereotypically “unhealthy” behaviors that people assume only fat people do.

    Or a picture of thin people at Chili’s eating burgers and fries and drinking sodas.

  25. I’m more than a little doubtful – judging from the vitriol of the comments on the Fat Nutritionist’s post there, I think a photo gallery of fat folks engaging in athletics will do squat to convince the commentariat at Newsweek. It might, however, be of interest and use to the folks who don’t comment, and it’s a certainty there are a lot more of them. So, on that level, it might be worth doing.

    Might be. I’m not convinced, and I’m also not comfortable with it, since to me it has an odor like … the same bigoted impulses and preference for manufactured drama, that lead media to approach disability stories from the perspective of either supercrips or the brave-but-struggling, and ignore those of us who are neither, but rather just muddling along and living our lives like everyone else.

  26. Well, I don’t know — I understand the skepticism, but I also know that the BMI project continues to get hits and links (and get us new readers) every day, almost two years after it was first posted. I think people are hungry for images of people of different sizes who are not being demonized: lots of us love it when we get to see someone who’s not a headless fatty. This population may not overlap with the people found in Newsweek’s comment sections, but I see potential here.

    Of course I do think we have to be wary of perpetuating a “good fatty/bad fatty” false dichotomy or holding up health as a moral imperative — both things we’ve talked about a whole lot here before, incidentally. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with showing people their own logicfail (i.e., the response to “All fat people are unhealthy and hate exercise!” is “Here are examples of fat people who are not unhealthy or who do not hate exercise”).

  27. I wonder if they’d be open to pics of fat non-human ‘people’. I bet I could get a good one of my huge fat cat doing an amazing mid-air jump-and-grab for his tossed toy.
    (People always say, “I, um, didn’t expect him to be so…agile,” lol.)

  28. The “show fatties exercising” thing has me a little suspicious too.

    On the one hand, showing fat people doing ‘healthy’ things CAN be a wake up call for all those ASSumptions people make about fatties…and may start a crack in the foundation of the ‘conventional wisdom and logic’ that so many cling to. There may be “some” people who are surprised in a good way that a fat person was even capable of something they themselves could not do (i.e. 5k or marathon, etc). At the very least, it may challenge their own stereotyping behavior and lead them down a path that disrupts their judgement-based-on-looks way of thinking.

    On the other hand, I can (pretty accurately) predict that most of the comments AFTER those pictures are posted will consist of a variation of these things:
    1) He/She is the exception, not the rule
    2) That picture was photoshopped!
    3) But they don’t do that ALL THE TIME!
    4) Don’t make me look at a fat person exercising because it’s “gross”
    5) They’re doing it WRONG if they aren’t losing weight
    6) Why don’t you show pictures of them eating at McDonald’s–because that’s where they go after exercising?
    7) Denial….there is no way in hell that fatty ran a marathon
    8) If fatties can do this, then why are my insurance costs so high?
    9) But they still smell, and I have to sit next to them on buses, trains, subways, and airplanes.
    10) I don’t care what they can do, just as long as they stop being fat ‘at’ me.

    Call me skeptical, but my money is on the latter. The ‘conventional wisdom/logic’ is so pervasive, so deep-seated, that people will and do reject that a fat person can be healthy. There are so many people, from all walks of life, who believe that fat=unhealthy, that unless they find that fat:
    CURES CANCER (in spite of studies that show cancer patients fare better with fat)
    fat people will continue to be maligned for everything that is wrong with the world.

    I HOPE that is not the case. I HOPE that there is real, solid change that occurs from articles, studies, and media reporting about the myths of being fat…..I HOPE.

  29. In response to Lori,

    We do see pictures of thin people doing unhealthy things all the time, but I think they call it advertising.

  30. We do see pictures of thin people doing unhealthy things all the time, but I think they call it advertising.

    But we all know they don’t really do those things. I mean, sure Chili’s might advertise using thin people, but obviously it’s just to appeal to fatties, and those thin people just pretend to eat the food. They don’t REALLY drink soda or eat candy bars or eat at Red Lobster. ;)

  31. RE: the skepticism based on the nasty Newsweek commetariat…

    I’m reminded of discussions I’ve had with other teachers, about the worst of our students, who always make for the most ghastly/entertaining stories. Every now and then we had to stop and remind ourselves that most of our students were average-to-good students and nice people, but they escaped our notice because the jerks were such attention sucks.

    Sure, there are going to be hundreds of idiots who write nasty comments on a “fatties exercising” post. But there will be thousands who quietly look at the pictures and read the text and think, “Huh… that’s interesting, isn’t it?” And some of them will get the point right away, and some will get it weeks or months or years later.

    We can’t let the jerks keep us from engaging with the good people.

  32. I saw Dailey’s piece and appreciated her thoughtfulness.

    I believe LFTF gets some of the credit here for spreading the word. And rock on Fat Nutritionist for the blog post.

  33. Regina T – don’t forget “But she’s not fat!” – for BMI victims, etc…what’s that count as? more denial?

  34. On the not-what-immediately-comes-to-mind-as-healthy idea, I’d love to submit one of the pictures of me and all my kids 3 hours after the youngest was born. Because being a fat woman does not automatically doom you to complication-ridden pregnancies or infertility. (And if more people understood that, maybe more research would be done into the idea that fat doesn’t cause PCOS but PCOS might well cause weight gain! Stupid “just lose the weight and everything will be fine” non-advice…)

    However, those pictures are a) terribly unflattering and b) may not entirely comply with the “no nudity” rule.

  35. We can’t let the jerks keep us from engaging with the good people.

    Yes. Plus, I honestly don’t believe that your average person is as awful as your average person who comments on news sites. I had to beg my husband to go on his own version of Sanity Watchers, because if you read the comments people leave at the Detroit Free Press, you get the impression that the only people in the world are the most insanely hateful, racist people you can imagine. I mean, we’re talking about people who read a story about a young child dying and respond that they are glad it happened. Just unbelievably horrible stuff, and my husband was spending way too much time reading the comments after each article and feeling like everybody in the world was that awful.

    But, they aren’t. I mean, yeah, there certainly are horrible racist assholes out there, but I certainly don’t think they outnumber sane, rational, non-hateful people 10-to-1, the way they seem to on some news sites. And while there are vicious fat-haters out there, I honestly don’t think they outnumber people who are either sympathetic, interested, or at least open-minded out all, and certainly not as massively as they seem to online.

    Beyond that, I’ve said things online that, when I think about it, are harsher and often downright meaner, than either what I would say in real life or what I really feel. I think there’s something about communicating online that pushes people to take really extreme or dogmatic positions, even if they honestly don’t feel that strongly about it. So even when it does come to the genuine fat-haters out there making comments online, I would guess that a good number of them probably don’t feel half as strongly about it in real life as they do when they start typing about the fatties.

    All to say that I think there is a lot of positive that could come out of something like this, and for every hateful troll or self-righteous fat-hater it would bring out, it would probably inspire far more people to think critically or consider something new or feel better about their own bodies.

  36. Leely, send your shortly-after-birth pictures to me. I am collecting photos of fat women in pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, etc. because there are so FEW of these photos out there in the mainstream.

    Showing fat women having normal pregnancies and normal births and breastfeeding just fine goes a long way to counter the media-pushed concept that we only have complication-ridden pregnancies or infertility. Nope, many of us do JUST FINE, thank you, and it’s time that we showed that too.

    Send your pictures to me at kmom at plus-size-pregnancy dot org, and give permission for me to publish them.

    And yup, it still FLOORS me that so many people (including many docs) think that fat *causes* PCOS instead of it being a common side effect of PCOS. It’s just a paradigm shift that most people cannot consider. Duh.

  37. Showing fat women having normal pregnancies and normal births and breastfeeding just fine goes a long way to counter the media-pushed concept that we only have complication-ridden pregnancies or infertility.

    And along with that, sort of with the thin-people-aren’t-always-perfectly-healthy thing, the more common pregnancy complications, like PIH and GD, also occur pretty frequently in thin women. I beat myself up so much after my first pregnancy, because I was sure a huge part of my blood pressure issues was being fat. As soon as I started meeting and talking to other moms, I realized that blood pressure problems happen to women of all sizes, often especially in a first pregnancy. So I think it’s important both to remember that most fat women have healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies, but for the fat women who do have complications, those same complications happen to thin women, too.

  38. Oh poop, I had a great picture of myself in a quintet singing and dancing in the last opera I did, but I can’t find it anywhere. XP Only a couple pictures from that production where I’m merely standing or sitting.

    Also hi, I am new here. I’m 23, 6′ tall, and a bit over 350 lbs. I just discovered Shapely Prose on Thursday of last week, and spent most of the weekend reading through the archives (I finally stopped around page 11) and decided to start my own fat acceptance blog, as I’ve been dealing with being overweight (according to society’s standards, anyway) since I was 8 years old. Nevermind that my two brothers are 6’8” and well over 350 lbs themselves (probably closer to 400), I was always the one who got talkings to about it from my parents, doctors, friends, teachers, you name it. XP

    Well, just wanted to say hi, I’ll probably be commenting here fairly often from now on.

  39. Anyone penning an OBESITYCRISISBOOGABOOGA article also gets access to “corpulent,” “portly,” “flabby,” “overweight,” and lots of other colorful language. It’s hardly fair.

    Can we start a bingo game for MSM articles about fatness? Or do we already have one, and I’ve missed/forgotten it?

    I don’t think I have any pics of me exercising — as others have said, it’s not my most attractive activity. However, I think every article like this is a little chink in the armor of the conventional wisdom about fatness. The more people hear that this is all much more complicated than commonly believed, the more they will believe it. Eventually. I hope.

  40. I’ve posted on here before about my spouse, who practices medicine and is part of the lose-weight-and-gain-10-years mega-industry that is modern medicine.

    I get that my partner’s ire at her patients is about a lot of things, and isn’t just cut-and-dried as it might seem. But she does have that medical professional rubric that is expressed as “all patients lie” and “most patients are noncompliant.”

    Last week, she came home from the clinic devestated because a patient of hers was given very little time to live. She felt very guilty that she hadn’t taken the patient’s report of symptoms seriously. Why? The patient said she was unable to eat, due to nausea and loss of appetite. My spouse didn’t believe her because the patient is fat.

    If she caught the patient’s wonky chemistry — which didn’t actually point immediately to a terminal illness – and reconciled it with the appetite loss and anorexia, the patient might have a year to live. She probably won’t live two months, now.

    I so badly wanted to turn the news into a conversation into a teaching moment about fat people in her clinic, but she was devestated. So I held my tongue.

  41. Please Cindy, when she’s feeling better send her to http://www.fathealth.org/ First Do No Harm. She has a great oportunity here to improve the care she gives all of her patients, not only the fat ones, by avoiding these harmful assumptions.

    Also, I have no pictures of myself excersising, and I don’t think I’m fat enough to be a FATTIE MOVING OMG MUST BE SHOPPED! Though I do have some hilarious pictures of my 7-8 year old chubby self figure skating dressed as an arab dancer that are cute as hell.

  42. @Cindy: “…But she does have that medical professional rubric that is expressed as “all patients lie” and “most patients are noncompliant.””

    Well, I do lie to doctors. To the doctors who I can tell don’t believe me. And I am noncompliant. Noncompliant to those doctors who are telling me to do things I know won’t be helpful, because they aren’t based on actually hearing what I know about my body.

    Self fulfilling prophecy right there, huh?

  43. After I get home from work, I’ll post them a picture of me finishing a marathon. My BMI at that instant was 39.

    Just thinking of the ‘But they don’t do that all the time!’ thought. I have a rebuttal to that; how do they imagine that I ran 26.2 miles without training? I’d have to be really super-fit to do that. I need to train like anything, which makes me super-fit.

    Unfortunately, I don’t own the copyright of a photo taken as I was crossing the finish line: there are tummy rolls visible.

    I have spent a lot of time thinking if running so much is trying to be a “good fatty”. Then I remember that I do it because I like it. And that it’s fun to quietly say “I ran a marathon” to people, because they then try to figure out if I mean an honest-to-blog 26.2 miles.

  44. SarahMC said
    “Some of us aren’t healthy – either because we were born this way or because we developed a disease/illness later in life. Some people with disease are physically fit. Do they qualify as “healthy?” Some people without disease aren’t physically fit. Where do they stand?”

    This slays me. Some knob sent in a letter (that got printed!) to our local paper saying if all people would just live their lives right and practice preventative health crud, nobody would ever get sick. I hope to hell he never gets in an accident. Or falls down bowling, virtuously.

  45. HiddenTohru — I look forward to reading your blog! :) I’m a classical singer, too. I’m also tall and fat and have a tall and fat brother (he’s 6′ 9). Guess who always got the “fat talk” from my dad? That’s right, not him.

    As for those who doubt the ability for articles to make any kind of impact, I’d like to introduce myself as a living counterexample to that — it was an article in the New York Times about the Fatosphere that linked me to Rachel’s the-f-word.org blog, and after devouring her entire archives I started an FA blog of my own. I was not before identified as a fat acceptance activist; I was still in that gray area of “You can be fat, but it’s not okay for ME. And probably unhealthy for you, too, but whatever floats your boat.”

    Now I routinely talk to people in RL about FA — and sometimes make an impact, sometimes not. But I would never have been able to do just that small amount of information dissemination without having been directed to FA by that NYT article.

  46. BigLiberty – Thanks! My first “real” entry (there’s just an introductory entry now) is going to be a discussion of being fat in the opera world, probably with heavy references to Stephanie Blythe (who is AMAZING and my idol, since I saw her in the Met Broadcast of Orfeo ed Euridice and I’m also a mezzo). Also I want to write one about self esteem and performing on stage.

    The real “lightbulb” moment was when I read “The Fantasy of Being Thin” on here. I’ve been telling myself for years now that I can’t buy new clothes or get another tattoo because I’m gonna lose weight, gonna be skinny, blah blah blah. I read that post and went “OH!” and then immediately made a post in my personal journal that said, in a nutshell, “F— YOU WORLD, I’M FAT” and felt a lot better. I’m still struggling with being okay with myself, it’s an uphill battle, but blogging usually makes it easier for me to process things, so starting a FA blog made good sense to me.

  47. HiddenTohru – I think TFBT was linked from Rachel’s blog, because I’m pretty sure I read it really early on, too. What a great piece of work that is! It should be required reading in all courses that even touch upon body shape and psychological state resulting from one’s perception of one’s body, or “true” self (which sometimes has a different body than the current “fake” self).

    Mezzo, eh? I’m a coloratura soprano who’s voice is starting to strengthen more in her middle and lower tones. Though an Italian composer (he’s done some opera) remarked that he thought I was a Wagnerian soprano. Later on I read that Wagner employed only fat sopranos, and though you’d think I’d just attribute his comment to my body shape, he was a fat admirer and was really talking about my power and quality in a particular range. Heh. Maybe Wagner was actually on to something… though Maria Callas blows that theory to pieces. ;)

  48. BigLiberty – I’ve been told more than once that I have a powerful stage presence, and not just because of my size. On the other hand, I’ve also had a lot of people tell me I’ll have to lose weight to “make it” in opera, despite the fact that most directors do cast based mostly on your voice (I mean obviously physical appearance has SOME importance, otherwise you might get a 70 year old playing a girl of 16, but not that much IME).

    I’ve also been told that I should sing Wagner, but I think it was more a comment on the size of my voice (and I do have a BIG voice) than the size of my body. I’ve been told by some teachers that I’m actually a soprano and that I should be training as one, but as I’ve been a mezzo since I was 15, I am a bit skeptical about that. XD I won’t say it’s not possible (I’ve been doing a lot of good things with opening up my upper range lately), but I’m not gonna sell all my music books just yet.

    There’s also a bit of discussion to be had about the classical idea of opera singers as all being fat vs. the actual reality of opera singers, and I’d love to write about that too. X3

  49. I think people are hungry for images of people of different sizes who are not being demonized

    YES. It’s a big deal to see a picture, especially in a traditional-media publication, of a fat person with a head, doing something besides eating eating eating (donuts donuts donuts). And especially, bunches of pictures.

    I would agree that healthism, overall, is for the birds. But I don’t know that we’re going to get it to go away overnight any more than we’re able to get monogamy-and-baby-fetishism to go away. (Not that there’s anything wrong with monogamy or babies, just the fetishism to the point where people who aren’t involved in either or both are commonly painted as untrustworthy.) And both the feminist and gay-rights movements exploited the latter mightily to advance their respective causes. “See? We’re just like you! We love babies! We want love and happiness with one person forever!”

  50. HiddenTohru, I just added your blog as a friend of mine on DW (I’m avengangle, also on LJ). I’m a classically-trained pianist from Ohio, so we’ve got that sort of in common. :)

  51. Thanks to everyone for the insightful comments, and to fillyjonk for the kind post. There’s no minimum fatness; jn fact I look forward to seeing a diversity of bodies engaging in athletic behavior.

    I had so many smart, interesting points to make based on your reactions to the series, all of which were smart and interesting (a rare feat in comments sections). But I did my first major athletic activity in weeks yesterday (a two hour bike ride to the beach, followed by… a 20 minute subway ride home) and I am TIRED. So better to answer the technical stuff now and work on the trenchant commentary for later.

    We’ll be displaying the photos after Labor Day, so please keep submitting. Many thanks!

  52. I LOVE IT when people getting called out on their bullshit results in people correcting their bullshit. good post. :)

  53. Oh, I really don’t think so. This fatty is nobody’s dancing monkey girl, and the idea that the fat-haters only hate us because ‘jeeeez, I aint never seen no fat person doing healthy stuff’ is patenently offensive. You haven’t? Really? Well then you must be actively avoiding looking at anyone even remotely fat, because just in the course of my daily activities I reguarly see fats out walking, jogging at the park, biking, chasing after toddlers, etc. It’s not like I have to take binoculars and a map to track them down; we are everywhere, and people who don’t see us? Aren’t seeing us for a reason.

  54. Just shared this on Facebook. Totally selfish moment: this couldn’t have come at a better time for me, because in October I’m taking part in an evening lecture series that’s open to the public, hosted by my institution. I decided to do a FA-themed talk that intersects with the religion and theology stuff I do in my academic life. For this talk it’ll go a long way, I think, to be able to say “blah blah NEWSWEEK blah blah.”

  55. I should send them a photo of my obese self pole-dancing! Upside down with no hands, natch.

    Can I get a webcam set up so we can watch people’s heads explode?

    it still FLOORS me that so many people (including many docs) think that fat *causes* PCOS instead of it being a common side effect of PCOS.

    Yes, THIS. Fortunately I now have a doctor who believes that fat is a side effect (and that PCOS/insulin resistance/type 2 diabetes are primarily caused by genetics). But seriously, if fat *caused* PCOS, my fat self would still have it, but my skinny little sister wouldn’t. Yet we both have it.

    Oh but never mind, I guess she is the EXCEPTION. Gah.

  56. it still FLOORS me that so many people (including many docs) think that fat *causes* PCOS instead of it being a common side effect of PCOS.

    Story of my life too. SOOOO tired of hearing “if you lost some weight, your periods would go back to normal”. Oh yeah? Then why were they irregular when I was 110-120 lbs (I’m under 5′)?

  57. “it still FLOORS me that so many people (including many docs) think that fat *causes* PCOS instead of it being a common side effect of PCOS.”

    Wasn’t the actual gene/sets of genes associated with this condition identified? I seem to recall reading that somewhere, but my mind’s been known to mislead me.

  58. @Cindy –

    My M-I-L was almost killed because her pancreatitis caused by gall stone went undiagnosed after months of inability to eat. May to July, and I was trying to squeeze food into her, and she was eating less than an apple per day.

    No one believed her because she lost very little weight and she was fat.

    And no one had believed her that she’d been eating an extremely low fat diet – the only way she’d lived without suffering though many years of gall bladder attacks – because she was fat.

    And no one had even checked her thyroid when she gained weight above her family’s baseline, because she’d always been heavy.

    So. She went for two decades with undiagnosed hypothyroid; possibly PCOS; 8 years with gall stones; and 6 months unable to digest food at all do to pancreatitis, all because of fat prejudice and a perception of her lying and non compliance.

    So, your partner is certainly not alone in her prejudice. It’s been my MIL’s entire 40 year medical history.

    Only, my god, my MIL is one of the most fabulous, accomplished, bright, powerful, talented women I’ve ever met, and her loss would have been devastating.

  59. I went ahead and posted a few picks of myself on the newsweek site. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it. Just speaking my truth to power, although I agree that an obsession with “health” can be just as bad as an obsession with “skinny”! I’m sure those who think fat people aren’t healthy aren’t going to see me all sweaty and think–oh she must be healthy–but I don’t really care. Truth to power!

  60. This reminds me that I need to sign up for figure skating class. Where I will probably not only be the fattest, but also the oldest. :)

    Too bad I have no photo of me on skates to send in.

  61. ^ Let us know how the figure skating goes! It’s been years since I skated, and I have fears that my body may not be able to balance on skate blades anymore. It would be encouraging to hear from another fat person who’s doing it!

  62. I hear you, SarahMC, about the “healthy” fatty issue. But I do think it is positive to have headed fatty pictures of everyday fat people doing something, even if that something may reinforce the good fatty/bad fatty image to us. Baby steps outside the fat-o-sphere, I think.

    I’ve been thinking about starting a blog called Fatty On A Bicycle, or something. Maybe instead I’ll just submit my photo. I look forward to seeing the pics!

  63. Does rollerderby count as healthy? I’m pretty sure I could get some pics of the fat ladies on my team, but in all likelihood they’ll be shots of bruises/tackles, so… xD

  64. FJ said:
    I hear that, Arwen! I have some pics that I took hiking, but I’m loath to submit them because, hi, I was hiking, I look terrible. Ah, vanity.
    Thanks for saying that. I was just feeling bad for feeling bad for looking bad in a photo my hubby took of me paddling a canoe. He posted it on his blog. Great essay, but I look downright dowdy, to say the least. Should it matter?No. Does it matter? Well…
    Here’s the link, if you are curious:

  65. Okay, so I feel like such a blog wh–er–promoter, but I just blogged about PCOS and weight gain and such.
    The CME article from Medscape I quoted included this:
    “there is evidence of disturbed appetite regulation in patients with PCOS, which, together with the characteristic endocrine/metabolic abnormalities, may explain why these women have to struggle to maintain normal bodyweight.”
    Ya think?

    Lori, I think that’s a great photo. I don’t know what you look like ordinarily, but in that photo you look like you’re having a good time, and very well dressed for canoeing. Gorgeous essay, and blog.

  66. Yes Lori, I think you look great too. Tell your husband the blog is terrific! My grandparents lived in Maine when I was growing up (Raymond, near N. Windham) and that scenery takes me back.

  67. Man, I went canoeing the other weekend, but we forgot to take the camera. I even sat in the front and did most of the paddling!

    And when I carry heavy groceries home, I do bicep curls along the way, just because it makes me feel badass. Again — no photographic evidence.

    So maybe I’m more active than I thought.

  68. I wonder if you opera singers could somehow download a sample of your work-if you’re not too shy- like Meowser did a while back.

  69. How how convenient that I just participated in a 10km marathon this weekend just gone by! IN A TUTU.
    I totally submitted my photo, which was taken at the half way mark. I hope they don’t mind that I’m Australian!

  70. @wriggles — I think I posted a sample on that same post (blushes). The odd thing is, my voice has gotten so much better even since that sample — I don’t know what it is with me right now, but my voice is changing like crazy. I don’t want to get too off-topic, but I’d be really interested to know if any other singers have experienced this same phenomenon.

    Oh, and blogwh*ring…I just posted “Fat Ladies Singing.” :)

  71. Singing, especially classical singing, can be quite athletic. I remember well my younger days when I had operatic aspirations. Now I’m just a karaoke kween!

  72. To those who wonder if it is possible to reach people and change their minds with articles and pictures:
    Since I have always had thin priviledge, I never had that much incentive to question conventional ideas about fat. So while not a “fat-hater”, I was very unaware of the myriad of prejudice fat women and men are facing on a daily basis, and how this influences their lifes. I also used to believe in the “healthy lifstile= weightloss” equation.

    But somehow (and I don’t remember the exact circumstances) I stumbled over this blog, and after only a few articles, I was converted. Because reason and logic, not to mention human decency, are hard to ignoe unless you really, reallly want to.

    So yes,you can educate people through these articles and really make them change their way of looking at things. Probably not the angry, derisive trolls; but those who are willing to listen to reason.

    I know that I am very thankful for finding this site and learning so many new, important things. It has made me so much more aware and truly changed the way I look at the world.

    None of you have any obligation to send pictures, but those of you who have the admirable courage to do so, know that there are people out here who appreciate everything you do and are chearing for you.

  73. Wriggles – You don’t have to ask me twice, I love showing off. XD Although unfortunately the only recordings online currently are from my senior recital in November 2007, but they’re better than nothing (just keep in mind I’ve improved since then).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKFcAQKiBB0 – Cuba Dentro de un Piano, by Xavier Montsalvatge
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6fkgbQOqec – Black Max, by William Bolcom
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyDLS1Tm20w – Drei Liebeslieder (Three Love Songs) by Richard Strauss

  74. This is my first time posting here… I think I am going to post my pic on Newsweek. But I’m not doing anything “active” in the picture other than playing with my daughter in the front yard. And being fat. And happy. I don’t know if it will make a difference in people’s opinions, but maybe it will show them that fat people are real human beings with lives and families and feelings. Not just fat, lazy slobs. Maybe.

  75. It’s interesting in the Newsweek article that she talks about how we are a nation of fat people and yet we hate fat people. She says it is a form of self loathing that we project onto others. That makes sense to me, but it doesn’t make me like it any more.

  76. My not-so-nice side wanted to be like “I have PCOS but here’s a picture of my regular menstrual cycle!”

    My medium-nice side is thinking, here’s a picture of me with some friends – see, people still want to be friends with me even though I’m fat.

    My nice side – um, wait, where’d she go?

  77. Oh, wait. I do have a picture of me bending over to grab my ankles. The entire frame is taken up by my big fat ass.

    You think they’ll like that one?? It shows how flexible I am!

    Well, I don’t know about Newsweek, but I think I’d like to see it ;) /filthy perv

    The only pic I can think of where I’m doing something that might be classed as “healthy” is of me and a friend playing Twister, I only just lost to her, in spite of her being slim and active, and me being an obese-inbetweenie fibromyalgic type (and the other two people who started the game with us fell over long before I stood up!) I don’t think my friend would want me to send the pic, sadly, and being an inbetweenie I’d be accused of not even being fat and thus a BIG FAKER, in spite of being well into the 30+BMI category.

  78. I am in the “we shouldn’t have to prove a damn thing” category. However. I have to say that as a fat person it would be cool to see an article like this. I love that shit. I love to see fat people portrayed well.

    It’s just a shame we have to continue to go around proving our humanity. But people of color, women, and gay folk have been doing it for forEHver, so it ain’t like we’re in bad company. :: shrugs ::

  79. I call it a “flurry of media fatfiller” and I think it’s very much related to the health care debate around the country these days.

    One of the main oppositions to health care reform (or rather the hyped up opposition, not to be confused with the insurance agencies oppostion) – is the “personal responsibility” issue. “I don’t wanna be taxed so some fat ass can eat like a lunatic all their lives and then be able to get health care that only responsible people should have”

    Personal responsibility as an argument against social programs and regulations falls flat these days with most other situations, people realize that it’s not black and white and though they used to blame people for bad decisions that is starting to change: …examples are: financial – well Wall street ripped you off; drug use – well you are genetically predisposed, go for treatment, not to jail;…. well, sure there are still some who think all of that is stuff we do to ourselves, but with every new bit of research those misconceptions change. But not when it comes to fattiness.

    With fattiness, well, let me cut this ramble short and say I will not be surprised one bit when somebody comes out and says:

    “Health Care Reform should not happen until America tackles the Obesity Epidemic” –

    and everyone, even the progressives and liberals, everyone except the fatties will be on that bandwagon.

    Also: this is funny in the usually heartbreaky Onion: -http://www.theonion.com/content/news/study_abstinence_only_lunch

    “According to the findings of a recent Department of Health and Human Services study, school lunch programs that teach children to avoid all contact with food may not be an effective method of reducing teen obesity rates.
    Perhaps more troubling, students who completed the abstinence-only program were reportedly unable to answer the simplest questions about their own digestive systems, and some as old as 17 still believed they could catch high blood pressure from their very first Snickers bar.”

  80. I finally got a picture taken of myself doing something “healthy” and submitted it. The picture quality isn’t great, there was some glare, so I’ll be surprised if it makes it in–but I hope it does! The picture was taken after I got home from a 30-mile organized bike ride yesterday. :-)

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