Syndication at BlogHer!

I’m so incredibly excited!

My post If You Are, Then What Am I? is going to be syndicated on BlogHer.

This excites me on so many levels. I mean, what writer doesn’t want more readers? That’s the purely selfish level.

But also–a body positive post on the front page of a major media outlet for women? That’s just awesome all around. Talk about being an FA missionary.

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Myth Three: Fat is Unwanted

Dr. Pattie Thomas wrote a book called Taking Up Space: How Eating Well and Exercising Regularly Changed My Life that is just really awesome. If you haven’t read it, it’s well worth investing in.

The first chapter of the book has 10 fat myths. As I read them, I had so many ideas and thoughts and things I wanted to say about each one. I contacted Dr. Thomas and she said that it would be okay for me to use her list to talk about each of the myths here. So–welcome to a 10-week Thursday series.

Myth number one on Dr. Thomas’ list: Fat is unwanted.

I’ll be honest. I really struggled with buying that the statement “fat is unwanted” is a myth.

I mean, fat is clearly unwanted, right? Few people really, truly want it, and in my mind as I was thinking this week about the wanted-ness of fat, I was startled to find that when I tried to think about people who might actually really want fat it was really difficult.

Yep. This is one I really had to unpack and take a look at, if only so I could understand my own reaction to the idea.

Do I want my own fat? I am getting more comfortable in my own skin. I’m getting more comfortable with having a body that doesn’t conform to the beauty myth. And it doesn’t make sense to wonder what I’d do if given the choice to be thin, because I won’t ever be given that choice any more than I’ll ever have the choice to be short or have blue eyes.

In fact, every other part of my physical self, I’m capable of accepting fully the way it is. Curly hair, big feet, big boobs, a round face, being tall, having brown eyes–all of it. I don’t put moral judgments on any of it. I don’t try to pretend that I can change any of it. I don’t hate any of it. I don’t feel the need to embrace any of it. It just is.

So perhaps the idea of fat being unwanted is goes back to the magical thinking I talked about the other day. Collectively, most of Western society is caught up in the huge bubble of magical thinking that says that if we are good enough, and diligent enough, and would just stop being lazy, slothful gluttons, then we can get rid of the fat we don’t want.

Try this experiment. Next time someone you love talks to you about their most recent diet or how they need to do something about their thunder thighs, tell them that you aren’t trying to lose weight. Really watch what happens when you try to bounce your ideas off the walls of their magical thinking. Maybe they’ll miss every point you make so spectacularly that it seems willful (You: I’m eating intuitively. Them: So, you’re saying you don’t care if you get diabetes.) Maybe they’ll get angry, taking your decision very personally. But you’ll see how protective they are of their magical thinking.

Maybe the real myth here is that we can do anything about not wanting fat.

Or maybe the myth is that fat has to be unwanted.

There isn’t any shame in declaring that I enjoy being tall and that I don’t care that I’m taller than my husband. There isn’t any in refusing to go broke and insane trying to make my hair straight. There is no shame in thinking I have pretty brown eyes or liking the shape of my feet. But if I’m going to suggest that I’m okay with being fat, I have to be willing to sift through a bunch of it from myself and from other people.

But, I’m actually finding it hard, as I type this, to say “I want my fat.” It makes me uncomfortable. It pushes against the edges of my personal envelope. What I find myself wanting to say instead is “I want all the parts of my body,” which kind of mitigates the weirdness, the anti-socialness of “I want my fat,” doesn’t it?

Calling “fat is unwanted” a myth means that while many people believe its true that fat is unwanted, in reality it is wanted.

Is it? When people say they want to be thin, when they spend their money and their time and their physical and emotional energy on attempt after attempt to lose weight, is it really their fat they don’t want?

I mean, even people who have no ill effects as a result of their fat want to lose it. Lots of people who are in the illusive normal BMI range want to lose their fat. People who can pass for thin want to lose their fat (ever here someone say that they’re fatter than they look?) In other words, wanting to lose fat is not reserve for fat people and it is certainly not reserved for sick fat people.

So are we really feeling something else, and just blaming it on our fat?

Maybe a desperate desire to fit in that never really stops after middle school?

Maybe we’re scared by all the booga-booga about fat trying kill us. Who wouldn’t want to lose a serial killer that’s wrapped around your abdomen?

Maybe we want to conform to the myth that only thin is beautiful, and if we could internalize the idea that we are already beautiful, our fat could become more welcomed and less unwanted.

I’m the fat one in a relatively slender family. My sister is four inches taller and weighs 100 pounds less than me. My decision to stop trying to lose weight has made her so uncomfortable that she can’t even talk to me anymore. I’m always slightly uncomfortable eating in front of them, always making sure to make a ‘healthy’ choice and eat a little less than everyone else–and still I get accused of eating McDonald’s five times a week by my brother on my public Facebook page. I’m pretty sure that my dad believes his concern about my weight has to do with my health, but I know he thinks skinny girls are prettier. He left my mom for a skinny woman, didn’t he?

Being fat can be an emotionally exhausting experience, especially when you’re putting most of everything you have into trying desperately to be one of those very rare birds who can do something about not wanting their fat. Being ‘other’ in your own family is a whole lot less than fun.

And what about the people who aren’t fat, but spend so much of their resources on the desperate desire to keep it that way? Those who have managed to actually lose their weight and then spend the rest of their lives in some kind of cat-and-mouse chase trying to keep it from finding them again. Or those who live in fear of one bite too much sending them spiraling into fatness.

Yeah, there is a lot of baggage that goes along with being fat or even just the idea of fat. Lots of it isn’t even rational, but that doesn’t make it any less real. And I think maybe in the end that’s what this myth is about. It isn’t the fat we don’t want. If we lived in a world where body types were morally neutral, we wouldn’t spend any more time trying to get rid of horizontal inches than we do vertical inches.

What if its the pain and humiliation and shame and rejection–and a million other things that are so hard to articulate we don’t want, and it’s just easier to say that we don’t want fat?

What do you think about the idea of “fat is unwanted” being a myth?

* * *

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Do We Need Yale Scientists To Tell Us That Our Brains Like Food?

Yale scientists have figured out that women’s brains respond to being exposed to chocolate or a milkshake with brain activity that is similar to that of a drug addict who is exposed to their drug of choice. And that exposure to tasteless food doesn’t do the same thing.

News break of the century, right?

Here’s  the thing. Drugs don’t introduce those feel-good chemicals into the brain. They stimulate a release of them. They are in your brain in the first place so that you are rewarded for doing things that ensure your survival and the survival of your species: like eating. So it makes perfect sense that being exposed to a food that is a) delicious, b) high in calories and c) high in fat is going to prompt your brain to reward you.

Music effects the brain the same way, but you don’t hear anyone suggesting that we’re all addicted to it.

The Yale scientists drew a correlation between a drug addict finding some relief by being removed from exposure to their drug of choice, and obese people needing relief from being exposed to an overwhelming array of food choices and advertisements for fast food.

If we could just stop seeing food, we wouldn’t want it? Or maybe they mean that if we were only exposed to food that didn’t make us feel good, we wouldn’t be fat. Because, as we all know, not being fat is the most important thing.

There are some people who have a collection of traits that make them more likely to abuse or become dependent on a substance, or to turn a habit or hobby into a compulsion. That’s why everyone who has ever woken up with a hangover or snorted a line of coke isn’t an addict. That’s why most people can take a gambling vacation to Vegas, and don’t end up spending their kid’s college fund on internet poker afterward.

But all of us (or mostly all of us) have brains that respond with a release of feel-good chemicals when we eat. It’s what keeps us eating. It’s why we don’t get so busy with our lives that we starve to death. Our bodies have powerful systems in place to ensure our most basic survival needs, and it doesn’t get much more basic than food.

There is something very irresponsible, it seems to me, about equating a body’s natural response system with drug dependence. It isn’t fair. It also feeds into the dangerous belief that there is something wrong with us and if we could just fix it, we could all fit into some perfect social mold.

There is a comment in that Huffington Post article that suggests that fat people should be sent to prison. That isn’t the first time I’ve read someone stating that fat people are offensive enough to be criminally offensive and should be jailed, or have our children taken from us, or be forced into “treatment” as drastic as weight loss surgery. Do we really need Yale scientists fueling this kind of ignorance?

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Compulsion and Magical Thinking

I wrote a few days ago about the difference between dependence and compulsion. I’d like to take a few minutes to go a little deeper into an aspect of compulsion called magical thinking.

Magical thinking is a term that refers to the thoughts that run around in the head of a person who is suffering from a compulsion. If Ruby truly believed that eating sandy hot dogs while wearing a pink floaty and wishing really hard would make her a mermaid, and as a result ate only hot dogs for the rest of her life, she’d be deep in the realm of magical thinking.

I went to a conference once for counselors who treat compulsive gambling (fun times.) The keynote speaker was an attorney who had drained his escrow account (a big, bad no-no) and gambled it. And as he was gambling it, he truly believed that this was a reasonable and even responsible way out of his troubles. He’d take this half a million or so dollars, double or triple it, return the money and have enough to repay the escrow account and pay off his previous gambling debt. He wasn’t just telling himself this–there was no extra step of denial–he honestly believed it.

If you have ever tried to talk to someone about a behavior of theirs and felt like you were ramming your head into a brick wall, you’ve probably come up against magical thinking.

Nick from Nicholosophy wrote about a friend who is a fat activist who posted about her decision to not support products like a diet shake meant to simulate weight loss surgery by making you very full. So I went and read the original post and the comments. And I came across this nugget:

Until i read an article that clearly states ‘this product has not worked for me’, after that person has followed all the necessary steps, then i will continue believe that it is actually a product that works . . .

And that, my friends, is one bright and shining example of magical thinking.

In fact, if you go read that blog posting and then the comments, I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel like you’ve walked into the twilight zone. There are all of these people posting that they are going to try this product, and ideas of where to get it, and on and on–and a few people doing the written version of a double take at the spectacularly, willfully missed point.

Magical thinking is dangerous, because it keeps you separated from the real world. If you believe that purchasing a new pair of shoes with your rent money is going to drive away your demons or having a sex life that puts you at risk for all manner of dangerous things will lead to happily ever after–or that drinking a shake that expands in your stomach is going to cause all of your dreams to come true–then you have a problem.

Is it impossible to steal your escrow account and gamble it, then win enough to change your life and never get caught? Or to shop your way to a fabulous life? Or to find your soul mate in a pick-up bar? Or to try one more fad diet and end up a slender author with the life you always wanted?

No. It’s not impossible, but it’s so rare that if it happened to you someone would probably want to make a movie about it. That’s where the magical thinking comes from. There is the glimmer, however slight, of hope. Just enough possibility in the magic world to hold a person there until they end up losing their health or their license to practice law or have to move into their parent’s basement.

One reason compulsive behavior is so difficult to treat is because the magical thinking takes such a strong hold. Even when someone knows they are hurting themselves and everyone they love, they are able to convince themselves that one more toss of the dice is going to make everything okay.

These compulsive behaviors falsely promise lives beyond what the person engaged in them can hope for otherwise.

Losing weight won’t only put you in a size 4 dress for your high school reunion–it’ll give you a Romy and Michele moment where the boy in your class who became a billionaire arrives by helicopter, proclaims his love for you, does a choreographed dance with you before sweeping you away in said helicopter and then invests in the business of your heart.

Conversely, if trying to lose weight is a compulsion, you might truly believe that you can not have anything you want if you don’t lose weight. If you have to wear a size 26 dress to your high school reunion, the former cheerleaders will laugh at you, no one will dance with you, you’ll end up eating your cake in a bathroom stall with mascara streaming down your chubby cheeks and you’ll probably end up dying in your cubicle at the job you hate but will never be able to quit because you’re too fat.

If you’re stuck in this trap, it can be really hard to get out of. You have to start questioning yourself and what you believe, and why you believe it.

For many compulsions, it helps to find someone you trust and bounce your magical thinking off of them and then force yourself to really listen to what they say when they tell you that no–no, you probably will not be able to live in the real-life version of a Barbie Dream House if you purchase just the right pair of Prada pumps. And no, the guy at the end of the bar who’s had a few too many probably doesn’t want to marry you and let you have his babies. And no, if you lose weight, you are probably not going to be anything more or less than you, only temporarily smaller.

But such a huge portion of our society is caught up in the magical thinking of compulsive attempts at weight loss. You run the risk, if for instance you ask your mother whether she believes that you will never find true happiness in a size 26, of her recommending that damned weight loss shake.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’d love your thoughts and ideas.

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Things No One Needs to Tell a Fat Person

1. “You’re fat.” Who me? Oh, my God! Look at the size of my ass. You’re right. Thanks for enlightening me.

2. “You really should lose weight.” Really? Why didn’t I think about that? It’s a revolutionary idea that I’m sure no fat person has ever heard before.

3. “You shouldn’t eat that.” What if I’m hungry? Oh wait . . . what’s that you say?

4. “That hamburger is full of fat, sodium, calories and probably anthrax that will kill you on your next bite.” But, it’s only my third one today.

5. “I’m just worried about your health.” No, you’re not. If you were, you’d say something like, “hey, how’s your health?”

6. “No, really, you’re going to die.” So are you. And if you smoke, drink, use drugs, suffer from depression, have a family history of heart disease, skip your yearly pap smear, don’t wear your seat belt, a helmet or sunscreen, or earn your living doing anything more dangerous than writing copy–chances are you’ll kick it before me.

7. “You probably eat McDonald’s five times a week.” And two whole cakes for dessert.

8. “Eat less and exercise more.” Wow! You’re just a font of knowledge that no one has ever said or written about before. What would I do without you. Let me go that right away.

9. “Don’t skip breakfast, fill up on fiber, cut back on calories and fat, eat a lot of protein, no make that carbs, no wait, protein, and stop eating when prime time TV comes on.” You are seriously a weight loss genius. Someone should pay you a lot of money for these ideas. No one has tapped that market, right?

10. “I don’t want my taxes to pay for your gluttony.” Your compassion overwhelms me. To repay you, I’ll have weight loss surgery–oh wait. That might kill me and probably won’t work in the long term anyway. How about if I just promise to let my taxes pay for your health care right back?

11. “Fat people can’t . . .” Wanna bet?

12. “Did I mention you’re going to die?” Uh huh.

 

 

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Review: Better Batter GF Flour Mix

I just ate a fluffy Italian bread roll with real butter and grape jam that was so good, I might have had a little tear.

It was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. There are no eggs in the dough, so there is none of that weird, burned egg smell and taste that so many gluten-free breads have. It tasted like a little bready piece of heaven.

Someone recommended Better Batter gluten-free mixes to me, and now I have the pleasure of recommending them to you because the company sent me a box of their delicious deliciousness. I tried the All Purpose Flour Mix first because the person who sent me the box also emailed in response to my blog post about not liking the King Arthur GF bread mix that I should try the Easy Italian Bread Rolls on the back of the box.

Thank you, Ma’am. They were amazing.

The mix has these ingredients: Rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, pectin and xanthan gum. It is marked as gluten, dairy, peanut, seafood, egg and soy free.

As I mentioned, my biggest issue with GF yeast bread or rolls is that you usually have to put up to three eggs in the dough, which is really more of a batter. And you end up with something that looks like bread, but tastes like sort of vinegary burned eggs and if you’re extra lucky and the recipe called for bean flour, a garbanzo-y after taste. Yum.

These rolls called for just the whole 20 ounce box of flour, warm water, a packet of yeast and some salt. A little corn meal on the pan, which is a stroke of genius, and an egg wash on top for even coloring.

That’s it.

No eggy batter!

In fact, after I mixed for the recommended four minutes, I ended up with something like a loose bread dough.

The rolls formed up lovely on the pan and the dough was stiff enough to stay put and not spread so that after rising I just had one big cookie-sheet shaped roll.

They rose for 20 minutes and baked in a 450 degree oven for 20 more. They rose up like big fluffy clouds and turned a really pretty golden brown.

But best of all, they tasted really good. Like bread. The kind of bread you can just take a bite of without having to toast it to hide the weird texture and then slather in as much stuff as possible to hide the taste. These rolls are not sandwich-filling delivery systems. They are rolls.That’s all. Something simple that you miss when it’s gone and are grateful for when it comes back.

If you look at the front page of their website, you’ll see a tab called Financial Aid. This company offers a discounted price for families who have a child who has autism and those who qualify for food aid, such as WIC or food stamps. Now, of course, if you qualify for food aid, you can probably use your food stamps to buy this product in the store (if it’s available) or a competitor with no cash outlay.

But, the idea that this company is offering a financial aid program at all is refreshing and really makes me happy to support them.

In fact, the company’s logo is Eat Freely, Give Freely. A percentage of their profits goes to charitable causes.

Delicious rolls and helping others? Pretty cool.

The All-purpose flour is a cup-for-cup replacement for wheat flour. You do have to make some adjustments in recipes, having to do with the liquids, but these printed in plain language right on the box–and the website has many recipes if you want something that is already converted.

Speaking of the box, I want to take a minute to say that the packaging of these products is really nice. It’s simple and pretty with the ingredients listed using language that I could understand, a clear allergy advisory, a well-written recipe and the information about using the product.

Okay. I’m going to have to order some of this now, because there is no way I can give up rolls twice.

* * *

Better Batter sent me a sample of their product to try and review for you. My comments are my own however.

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Review: Better Batter GF Flour Mix

I just ate a fluffy Italian bread roll with real butter and grape jam  that was so good, I might have had a little tear.

It was crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. There are no eggs in the dough, so there is none of that weird, burned egg smell and taste that so many gluten-free breads have. It tasted like a little bready piece of heaven.

Someone recommended Better Batter gluten-free mixes to me, and now I have the pleasure of recommending them to you because the company sent me a box of their delicious deliciousness. I tried the All Purpose Flour Mix first because the person who sent me the box also emailed in response to my blog post about not liking the King Arthur GF bread mix that I should try the Easy Italian Bread Rolls on the back of the box.

Thank you, Ma’am. They were amazing.

The mix has these ingredients: Rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, pectin and xanthan gum. It is marked as gluten, dairy, peanut, seafood, egg and soy free.

As I mentioned, my biggest issue with GF yeast bread or rolls is that you usually have to put up to three eggs in the dough, which is really more of a batter. And you end up with something that looks like bread, but tastes like sort of vinegary burned eggs and if you’re extra lucky and the recipe called for bean flour, a garbanzo-y after taste. Yum.

These rolls called for just the whole 20 ounce box of flour, warm water, a packet of yeast and some salt. A little corn meal on the pan, which is a stroke of genius, and an egg wash on top for even coloring.

That’s it.

No eggy batter!

In fact, after I mixed for the recommended four minutes, I ended up with something like a loose bread dough.

The rolls formed up lovely on the pan and the dough was stiff enough to stay put and not spread so that after rising I just had one big cookie-sheet shaped roll.

They rose for 20 minutes and baked in a 450 degree oven for 20 more. They rose up like big fluffy clouds and turned a really pretty golden brown.

But best of all, they tasted really good. Like bread. The kind of bread you can just take a bite of without having to toast it to hide the weird texture and then slather in as much stuff as possible to hide the taste. These rolls are not sandwich-filling delivery systems. They are rolls.That’s all. Something simple that you miss when it’s gone and are grateful for when it comes back.

If you look at the front page of their website, you’ll see a tab called Financial Aid. This company offers a discounted price for families who have a child who has autism and those who qualify for food aid, such as WIC or food stamps. Now, of course, if you qualify for food aid, you can probably use your food stamps to buy this product in the store (if it’s available) or a competitor with no cash outlay.

But, the idea that this company is offering a financial aid program at all is refreshing and really makes me happy to support them.

In fact, the company’s logo is Eat Freely, Give Freely. A percentage of their profits goes to charitable causes.

Delicious rolls and helping others? Pretty cool.

The All-purpose flour is a cup-for-cup replacement for wheat flour. You do have to make some adjustments in recipes, having to do with the liquids, but these printed in plain language right on the box–and the website has many recipes if you want something that is already converted.

Speaking of the box, I want to take a minute to say that the packaging of these products is really nice. It’s simple and pretty with the ingredients listed using language that I could understand, a clear allergy advisory, a well-written recipe and the information about using the product.

Okay. I’m going to have to order some of this now, because there is no way I can give up rolls twice.

* * *

Better Batter sent me a sample of their product to try and review for you. My comments are my own however.

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