Tag Archives: body acceptance

Recognizing Size Bias

Please come read the post you’re looking for at my new self-hosted blog (liveoncejuicy.com). I’m so sorry for any confusion–hopefully the Fatosphere and Fat Liberation feeds will be updated today. XOXOX

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Rad Fatties Project: Episode Three

It’s all in the face.

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Body Love Letter

Glitter Politic is hosting a body love letter project which I learned about on Not Blue At All. I think it’s a fantastic idea, but I’m a little behind the times finding out about it. Still, I enjoyed writing this.  If you’d like to submit your own body love letter, send it here: glitterpolitic@gmail.com.

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Rad Fatties Project: Episode Two

Courting rejection.

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The Rad Fatties Project is a body-positive silent self-portrait celebration of what is fine and wonderful about the wide diversity of human bodies.

Conversation is encouraged, but this is a judgment-free zone, even against yourself. Don’t apologize or explain away your supposed defects. They are beautiful here.

If you’d like to participate, post a titled self-portrait or series of self-portraits on your blog . Post the link in the comments and direct your viewers back to this post  so that they can see all of the other rad fatties. If you don’t have a blog, but would like to participate, email your picture to shauntagrimes@gmail.com.

You can support the Rad Fatties Project by getting the word out. Thank you!

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Fat Acceptance as Counter Culture

Silentbeep posted a couple of weeks ago about fat acceptance as counter culture.

I haven’t ever really thought of myself as counter-cultural before. I mean, I’m a white woman with a family income that’s just about exactly equal to the American median. I’m not physically or otherwise disabled, I’m educated, I’m heterosexual and I identify as the gender my body was born with. I have three kids, a husband, and a safe place to live.

In other words, I have a whole trunk full of privileges. I am a pretty good representation of non-counter-culture.

I can walk into a store without being watched as a possible shoplifter.

If I contact a real estate agent, I am automatically shown houses in safe neighborhoods with decent schools. If I look at a house in a ‘bad’ neighborhood, I can expect that someone will stop me from trying to live there. (We took a trip to Carson City and looked at a rental house there. Everyone we spoke to about it, including the person who owned the house, warned us against renting it. Why? Well, one woman Kevin works with said that it’s a “gang area.” Her proof? She used to live in the neighborhood. There are a lot of Mexicans there, and they knocked on her door everyday trying to sell her mangos or corn.)

When my daughter was ill and in the hospital this winter, I expected to be treated well, even though we had no insurance. I was not disappointed.

I was able to marry the person I fell in love with. Twice. And have children with no one questioning my right to parent them.

I am not, of course, perfectly privileged. I’m a woman in a man’s world. And I’m fat.

But I’m privileged enough that even the things that might reduce my bag of goodies, like having spent several years as a poor single mother or coming from a broken family or having my dad in prison when I was a teenager, haven’t.

And then there is being fat.

Being fat comes with a set of perceived cultural obligations, right?

As a fat woman in America, I am expected to want to take up less space than I do. I am also expected to live with and take responsibility for  whatever problems come from taking up too much. For instance, if I’m uncomfortable in an airplane seat, or make others uncomfortable by encroaching on their very limited space, then conventional cultural wisdom says that I am expected to accept that it is my fault and what I deserve for lacking the discipline to be smaller.

I have a cultural obligation to believe that I’m fat because of a defect in my character. That if I just made the decision to be thin, and then was willing to do the work to get there, I would be less of a burden on society, would take up less of the country’s health care and would live forever.

I am expected to have a gym membership, but if I use it I am expected to understand that the other people at the gym will either wish they didn’t have to look at my jiggling fat so often or gush over-enthusiastic pride at me for my dedication to doing something about my body.

I am expected to cultivate behaviors that in smaller women would be causes for concern. There are dozens of books, shelves of pills, commercial programs and white-coated surgeons all dedicated to helping me do this.

As a fat woman, I’m expected to eat less than anyone else in social situations. While thin people are praised for having big appetites, I’m expected to have a less than normal one, at least publicly. Stuffing myself full of snack cakes and bacon in private is pretty much assumed, whether it is true or not.

And as a fat woman, I am expected to try to lose weight.

Arguing against the other examples of what is culturally expected of a fat person doesn’t feel like I’m really flying in the face of much. I mean, fat acceptance is full of fairly radical ideas, but they aren’t totally outrageous. But this one, that I am expected to want to lose weight, is so universal that not trying to lose weight does feel like a counter-cultural act.

It’s so counter-cultural, that I have had to work up into it myself. I can say without hesitation that I deserve enough to eat or to live my life without ridicule. But it isn’t easy to look someone in the face and say, “I’m not trying to lose weight” when you weigh 340 pounds. It isn’t even easy to say it to myself. Not yet.

The desire to lose weight underlies all the other cultural obligations I’m expected to conform to as a fat woman. It’s okay if I need to ask for a seat belt extender on an airplane, as long as I’m doing what I can to shrink. And it’s okay to expose other gym-goers to my jiggling fat when I’m doing it to lose weight.

Not trying to lose weight puts me counter to the cultural norm that says that fat people, especially fat white women, must attempt to take up less space.

Culturally, it is far more acceptable for me to complain about the oppression that fat people are forced to cope with, if I can also say that I’m fat because of a metabolic or glandular problem, or if I have an eating disorder, or anything–as long as I can say that I am doing what I can to try to change my situation.

It’s a little scary, this being counter-cultural. I sometimes get anxious that I’m doing it wrong. That I’m going to offend someone. Or that with all the privileges every other part of my life affords me, I don’t have the right to feel oppressed by being fat. And it isn’t a simple thing to unravel decades of buying into the culturally normal idea that as a fat person, I am obligated to try to lose weight.

But then there is a little voice. It says that I have the right to my space. I have the right to be an athlete if I want to be. I have the right to eat enough. I have the right to stand up for myself and for other people who feel marginalized by what our cultural currently has to say about fat people. When I add my little voice to all the other voices, big and small, out there saying the same thing, it’s exhilarating. I get stronger everyday. That little voice gets bigger everyday.

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Inner/Outter Disconnect

I have a confession.

Since I stopped working in an office, I almost never get dressed.

Starting to go to the gym at least got me out of my pajamas. But now, I only get out of my yoga pants and t-shirt when I have to go somewhere other than the gym. I even sleep in the damn things. When I do get dressed, my kids ask me where I’m going.

I’ve had this post on my mind for a few days, and have really struggled to write it. I think that means that I’ve touched a raw nerve. It’s really difficult to talk about myself in respect to femininity.

I’m not talking about a difficulty with gender identity. I have no problem identifying as a woman. I just have a hard time thinking about it. In fact, a lot of my past self-hatred has come from being incredibly uncomfortable with having large breasts or a rounded belly or full hips–things that announce to anyone looking at me that, yes, I am a girl.

I loved being pregnant. I wasn’t sick. I felt fabulous. But, I got this weird, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever anyone would start to wax all Mother Earth-y on me about the awesomeness of being a woman. I didn’t want anyone I didn’t know to fawn over me or touch me. I didn’t nurse my children for very long, because I couldn’t stand it. I can’t even put into words why. It was too–much. It made me physically miserable almost to the point of being ill.

I’m full of contradictions. I like people to notice me, to read what I write or appreciate my work. I have a competitive nature, although it’s mostly turned inward, and I don’t want to fade into the background in most ways. Except I do want to, physically.

I was happy to be a girl growing up. But, I did not want my body to change. I didn’t dream of having boobs. I most certainly didn’t want my period. I was nearly 15 when it started, and I did not have a single Dear God, It’s Me, Margaret moment. Not a single one.

I love clothes. I have an entire room of gorgeous vintage dresses. But none of them fit me. Most wouldn’t fit on one leg. I buy them knowing that someone else will love them.

I’m uncomfortable wearing clothes that draw attention to my body. I have a hard time knowing, when someone says that I look nice, whether they are being sincere. That leaves me feeling unsettled.

So, while I have a good eye for fashion (I’ve worked as a stylist for a photographer and I own a vintage clothing store), I do not ever apply it to myself. I’m great at putting together outfits for my daughters.  For anyone. But, it seems, that dressing myself forces me to spend too much time looking at myself.

I’m realizing that this is one of my mountains. If I’m going to heal from decades of self-hatred, I have to get over my inability to look at myself. I have to stop being afraid to be a girl.

In fact, I just have to stop being afraid to see myself. I have very few pictures of myself. I’m always behind the camera. In the last few weeks, I’ve asked Kevin to take a few pictures of me to post here–roller skating and bowling. But they are difficult for me to look at. I skim past them quickly when I come across them. Not because I hate how fat I am, or I think I’m particularly ugly or find myself grotesque in someway. I’m capable of understanding that when other people see me, they don’t go running the other way. I just really don’t like to see myself. It discomforts me. I’ve developed this huge chasm between my interior self and my exterior self and seeing pictures of myself is too weird.

This is going to sound strange, but the first step to bridging the gap is to get rid of a lot of clothes. My goal this week is to pack up everything I own that doesn’t fit me and give it to someone who can wear it. That isn’t going to leave me with a lot. But it will leave me with an idea of what I have.

I’m easing into this. Next week’s goal will be to get dressed.

I have an idea brewing. Some sort of photographic project. Not an OOTD thing. Something else. I’m not sure. I’ll keep you posted.

I will be incredibly happy if someone posts that they get where I’m coming from. Am I alone in this weird self-disconnect thing?

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Review: Sally Pugh’s Expanding into Fullness, Yoga for Large Women

I am super new to yoga. I can count the number of times I have done a yoga session on both hands, I think.

I’m relatively flexible in some ways. My hips, for instance, are nice and loose. I can bend forward and touch the ground. The tops of my legs are flexible, too. I can sit criss-cross applesauce and I can tuck my legs under my body pretty easily.

In other ways–whoo boy. I’m so not flexible. My hamstrings, calves and ankles are as tight as a drum. So is my back.

Wow, so I guess the front of my body is flexy and the back isn’t. I wonder if there is something to that?

Also, I have crap balance. I can’t walk with my eyes closed without falling. I had lots of ear infections as a kid and through my teenage years as a result of spending half my life under water. I blame it on that. In addition to being a naturally off-kilter type, I also get serious motion sickness. For some reason, some poses trigger that in me. Like this boat thing, where you lay on your belly and lift your arms and legs. Blurgh.

I’ve also found that I’m intimidated by yoga classes. When I belonged to the YMCA in Las Vegas, I wanted to. Badly. But I was afraid of a) being 200 pounds heavier than what I assumed would be a lot of whip-thin women and b) being so unable to twist my body into the posses that I made a fool out of myself.

Now I don’t live within 200 miles of a yoga studio, or even an informal yoga class. I was super proud of myself for attending a gentle yoga class at the Y last time I visited, though. I hate being scared of anything. I plan to find a studio or something as soon as one is within reach.

In the meantime, I have found that this is this little treasure chest of yoga DVDs designed especially for bigger bodies. This gives me such a squeeze of glee, I can’t even tell you. It’s like the women leading the two I’ve tried (so far) opened their arms and said, who says you can’t do yoga? Let me show you how.

Sally Pugh of Grateful Spirit Yoga is one of these women. She’s made a DVD called Expanding into Fullness, Yoga for Large Women and she sent me a copy to review for you.

The positive first, because there is just so much of it:

1. There are five women in the recorded class. They are a nice full range of size diversity. (There is less age diversity, and no obvious racial diversity.)

2. Every pose in the DVD has at least one modification, and often more than one. So, for instance, in the jackknife pose, you can bend forward with your legs together, you can open them wider (this is what I did, and was shocked at how much more I could move into the pose when room was made for my belly) or you can do the pose in a chair. The modifications are made without fanfare, without any assurance that at some point you’ll be able to do more or not need the modification. I loved this.

3. All of the women in the class took turns demonstrating the modifications and the full, unmodified pose. I really appreciated this.

4. Sally Pugh has a lovely soft voice and described each pose so well that I did not have to struggle to watch the TV to see what she was doing. I was able to focus on the movement.

5. The music was non-intrusive.

6. This was a very gentle, thorough yoga session that left every part of my body feeling tingly and alive. I really liked the series of leg stretches at the end.

7. The DVD was professionally made and easy to watch.

8. I was able to do the entire DVD. I didn’t have have to use any of the modifications, except for widening my stance sometimes to give my belly room, but I believe that just about anyone could complete this DVD without any of the anxiety and negativity that can come with not being able to keep up.

There are only a couple of cons. In fact, I’m going to call them wishes, rather than cons this time.

1. The DVD is 40 minutes long, with maybe 10 minutes being meditation and warming up. I would love a longer option. (Maybe your next DVD, Sally? Pretty please?)

Yep, that’s it. My only complaint is that I didn’t want it to end.

One of the things I loved best is that my ever-present training partner, Ruby, was able to do the DVD with me. And she LOVED it. She’s already asked to do it again today. I can see Expanding into Fullness becoming a night-time ritual a few times a week.

And one of the best things? Sally’s studio is in Berkeley, which is just a couple of hours from Carson City. Which means it is conceivable that I might some day find myself near enough to take a class with her. And also? She hosts a yoga for large women retreat that I’ll definitely be near enough to attend next year.

I highly, highly recommend this DVD for anyone, but especially to anyone with mobility concerns. This would be an excellent first step toward being a defiant athlete for just about anyone.

Check out an example of the DVD here:

It costs $20 plus shipping. If you can afford it, it’s worth every penny.

NOTE: This DVD was sent to me to review for you. The opinions are totally mine.

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