Wednesday, July 22, 2015

fat: clarification, further examination and some checking of myself

After my previous post, I got a Facebook message from a friend (who is staying anonymous because she is private, not because she has body shame). With her permission, I’m posting our exchange. Body stuff is such a loaded topic, so it makes me happy that we can talk about it sanely, in stark contrast to most of the internet.

Cheryl, I just read your post about weight and dieting, and I have a lot to say about this post and would be happy to have a longer 1:1 conversation after you have had some sleep...say in 2-3 years!

Briefly let me just say that in not one of the photos you posted were you fat by anyone
’s definition -- anyone’s but your own. To say that you were the “fattest cheerleader” is a disservice to you and to all of us who are fat. Further, youve set up a double dichotomy of skinny = good and fat = bad. For your sake, and most especially for your sons, I would encourage you to spend some time reading in the Health At Any Size (HAES) and All Bodies are Good Bodies movements. Some good links:

Bevin Brandlandingham:
Jes Baker:
Linda Bacon, PhD:


Your fat friend


Bevin of the blog Queer Fat Femme; owner of amazing shark dress.
Thanks for reading the post and writing to me. My intention was most certainly not to say fat = bad and thin = good, but I can see now that I fell into an unfortunate trap of conflating weight and health habits. In general, I do think that eating a table full of pastries is a bad idea. But fatness is only sometimes a byproduct of such behavior; sometimes it’s a byproduct (note I’m not saying cause) of other conditions (from polycystic ovarian syndrome to a regular old slow metabolism), and sometimes it’s just body type. Similarly, thinness is only sometimes the result of eating vegetables and exercising. I’ve known people in every one of these categories (fat and healthy, fat and unhealthy, thin and healthy, thin and unhealthy).

The American Cancer Society put out a pamphlet about cancer prevention that recommends a general “healthy body weight” in every category except for estrogen-positive breast cancers, for which it suggests, I swear to god, “being as thin as possible without being underweight.” As you might imagine, that spoke directly to my little overachieving soul and whatever anorexic residue lies buried beneath my chocolate-loving heart. That dictum hangs over me in ways that aren’t always good for my brain, because when I go up a jean size, I imagine cancer cells nomming on the estrogen that is stored in fat cells.

Dash’s birth family has a history of heart disease. His birthmom is on the slender side, so again, I know that health and weight are not the same. I also know that genetics plays a huge part in all of this stuff, so I could get cancer and Dash could get heart disease even if we live off organic carrots and small mercury-free fish.

I also know that orthodoxy can be a fatal flaw, one I have a long unfortunate history of falling victim to. If you try to eat only carrots, you’ll probably fail, say FUCK IT and eat all of the croissants. Better to eat some carrots and some whole wheat bread and half a croissant. By “you,” of course I mean me.

I’ve now played the cancer card, the heart disease card and the kid card. Aren’t I holy?

If only this didn't require playing beach volleyball.
So let me add: I want to look hot in a bikini. Not “body acceptance movement” hot—I want to look beach volleyball player hot. What can I say, I grew up in a town of beach volleyball players. I never looked like one of them, I never really liked the beach all that much and culturally I’ve veered in the opposite direction of Manhattan Beach. Except for the ways I haven’t. And all that shit, all those voices, all those girls who never thought twice about wearing sports bras and short shorts all summer long, are in my head even when health is (genuinely) my top priority.

You’re right, I’m not fat in any of the pictures I posted. I was, nevertheless, the fattest cheerleader—like I said, Manhattan Beach’s body bar is set high and traditional. I was always on the bottom of the pyramid, tossing some cute hundred-pounder into the air. Obviously it still messes with my head a bit.

I wrote about trying to leave shame behind, and I’m realizing now that there are two categories of shame: shame for things that were really a bad idea (whether it’s as minimally consequential as eating a box of Oreos in one sitting or as big as something that would land you in jail) and shame for things that are actually fine and even awesome (being fat, being queer, etc.). In both cases, shame is useless and tenderness is the only cure. But I’d put some of my eating habits in the “try to avoid in the future” category, while putting my body, in all its scarred imperfect glory, in the latter.

Thanks for the links. I think I’ve read and liked some of Jes Baker’s posts before. Bevin Branlandingham has a fun voice and style (not to mention a fantastic name), and I’m interested in what she says about “food neutrality,” which I see that I so don’t possess, as I reread my opening paragraphs of this message. Obviously I need to read more; this is a process. I’m not an authority, just a ponderer with a chronic sweet tooth.

Thank you again!



Claire said...

This sort of weight gain makes me think of the kind you (I) see in people after they get married, that happy with life so not obsessed about weight weight. So it doesn't surprise me that post-getting Dash that you've put on some pounds.

You're also tired (or were at writing of this post) which is huge. I always eat more when tired in an effort to boost my energy. So maybe, just try to get more sleep.

Foodist was a book I really liked, not about dieting except in how it doesn't tend to work, just making better food choices.

Cheryl said...

Maybe I'll check that book out--thanks, Claire!