Actually, I Don’t Care If You’re Healthy

I’m sure that headline would be fodder for the haters, if this were a popular enough blog to have them. But it’s true. I don’t care how healthy you are. 

Why? Because it makes no difference in deciding whether you deserve to be treated humanely or not. 

Here’s a little secret: you do. You deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, love, care, compassion, and dignity whether or not your body matches what is commonly believed to be “healthy.”

I have even more news for you. “Healthy” is subjective. It doesn’t mean the same thing for every person. And not everyone can achieve the common definitions of health, regardless of what their habits are. Disabilities, chronic diseases, injuries, etc, exist, and people with those still deserve to be treated well. 

You get to decide how to care for your body, and as long as you aren’t directly inflicting harm on someone else, no one gets to tell you to do things differently. Not family, not friends, not strangers. Unless you are blowing cigarette smoke in my face, I’m not going to ask you to change (please be courteous and smoke far away from people!). 

Let’s also not forget the importance of mental health. You have to prioritize your life in a way that is mentally appropriate for you. Even if you could have so-called “perfect” habits, what toll would that take? Is it worth it to you? If it’s going to trigger or overtax you, it probably isn’t, though that is a choice you get to make for yourself. 

You may want to heed a doctor’s advice, of course, but even they aren’t perfect. Many have strong anti-fat bias and will misdiagnose or simply fall back on prescribing weight loss because they’re too bigoted or too lazy to do better. But you have to make the decisions, ultimately, about how you treat your body. 

And whatever you decide, you are still a worthy and deserving human. 

What if I Lose Weight By Accident?

This is something I’ve thought about a lot. As someone who has some medical conditions that lead to weight gain, I’ve often wondered, if in the process of treating these issues, my weight changes, specifically if I lose weight, what will that mean? Does that change who I am as an activist or a person? How would I handle the inevitable commentary? What will it do to my mental state?

In thinking about this, I’ve put together a few points to keep in mind, especially if it’s a drastic enough change that others notice.

  • Know that it’s probably temporary: the vast vast majority of people who lose weight gain it back, and while accidental loss is different than intentional, it’s still highly likely that your body will readjust and you’ll end up back where you were. 
  • Don’t boast about it: I’m not saying never bring it up. It affects your life. But don’t treat it like an accomplishment or humblebrag it. 
  • Don’t let others treat it like an achievement: people often regard weight loss as some great act, akin to winning a Nobel Prize or something. Don’t let comments that treat it like that slide if you are in a position where you can speak up. Point out that it’s not on purpose, and that it will probably not last, and refocus on an actual achievement or life event. You can also politely but firmly say you’d rather not talk about it. If people don’t respect that, leave the room (if you can).
  • Respect fat positive spaces: some people don’t want to hear about weight loss at all, even if it’s unintentional. That is their right and you need to be mindful of that. Some people are triggered by the topic, and others are just plain sick of it. There are many places you can talk about it, so don’t trample the ones who would rather not hear it. 
  • Remember that you are the same person as always: this is especially important for if/when the weight comes back. Being smaller doesn’t make you better or more desirable, and being larger doesn’t make you a lesser person. You are you, with every fluctuation in size. 
  • Don’t throw away all your clothes: like I’ve said, this is probably temporary. Don’t do a closet purge right now. You may need to buy a few new things if your size changes, but hold off on dumping EVERYTHING you used to wear. If the weight comes back, you’ll be glad you still have things that fit. Now, if it stays off for awhile and things go out of fashion, you can always reassess. But keep a few basics like jeans, and hold on to more expensive and timeless items for at least a few years. 

If anyone has any other tips, please let me know in the comments. 

Low Maintenance vs Sloppy

Know what’s supe cute? Being low maintainence, apparently. 

Know who doesn’t get to take part in that look? Fat people.

The woman pictured is just wearing jeans (or jeggings), a tee, and a sweater. She’s considered cute, stylish, and low maintainence. Because she’s thin, white, and conventionally attractive. This is nothing personal against that woman or her clothing choices, but she’s a prime example of the double standard. 

Take that same outfit and put it on a fat woman, or a woman of color, or a woman who in any way doesn’t conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. She’s no longer easygoing and cute. She’s sloppy, lazy, not taking pride in her appearance, or some other disparaging description. Depending on where she goes in this outfit, she may end up on a site like People of Walmart, dedicated to mocking and bullying her appearance. 

If you’re thin, white, and pretty, it requires very little effort to come across as stylish. For the rest of us, though? We have to put in ten times the effort and will still be seen by some as slovenly and hideous. 

If this double standard were simply from random people, that would be bad enough, but not necessarily the end of the world. But it also rears its ugly head in damaging ways. At work, the fat person might be told they’re violating dress codes when a thin person in the same outfit is not. If you’re in sweats and you go to the doctor, you might not have your complaints taken seriously. If you fly in comfy clothes you might be the target of more stares and rudeness. But a thin person in leggings and a tee is just being relaxed for the flight. 

It’s not right. People in the same clothes should be judged the same regardless of size, race, beauty, or anything. It sounds trivial but when it can result in professional and health repercussions, it’s not. 

You Already Have a Bikini Body (If You Want To)

I’m going to share a little secret, though I actually hope it’s NOT a secret anymore:

You don’t have to look a certain way to wear the swimsuit of your choosing. 

If you want to cover up, go for it, but if you want to wear a string bikini, you can do that as well. 

You don’t have to starve yourself or spend hours at the gym as some kind of barter system for the honor of hitting the beach in a two-piece. 

The #fatkini movement has been around for a few years now, which is awesome. Not only is the notion that wearing what makes you comfortable is perfectly OK, but also that means stores have realized they can sell two piece bathing suits in a wide range of sizes. 

Places like ModCloth, Swimsuits for all, and Forever 21 all carry plus size bikinis, some of which are pretty affordable. Most of the major plus size retailers like Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Simply Be, and Torrid are in on the game. While things aren’t perfect (options dwindle dramatically above a size 24 or so and high waists are still the norm, indicating we should still be covering our bellies), there are a lot more choices and the idea of a plus size person showing more skin has gained a lot of popularity. We can hope things will only continue to improve from here.  

Bringing it Back

I haven’t published a post since January, for many reasons that aren’t important. 

I never meant to allow this page to die, and my plans are to bring things back, post regularly, and build up my little corner of the Internet. 

The Fat Veg

I’m a vegetarian. Have been for about 12 of the last 15 years. 

In case it isn’t abundantly clear at this point, I am also fat.

These two things are not mutually exclusive, no matter how much people try to make them be. 

Being vegetarian or vegan (shortened to veg*n) is not an express ticket to thinness. Not because of the crap you so often hear about how you can sit around and eat junk no matter what. That’s a fatphobic response to the existence of fat veg*ns. No, the reason meatlessness isn’t  a ticket to Thinland is that there is no ticket to Thinland unless you already live there. Long term weight loss is not possible for the vast majority of people. You may visit Thinland, but eventually you’ll leave, and each time you do it you’ll be sent farther away. 

Fat veg*ns exist for the same reason fat meat eaters exist: we just do. Some people happen to be fat no matter what, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

I’m more than happy to discuss a plant-based lifestyle as an ethical choice, an environmental choice, or as a weight-neutral health choice. Those are all very important arguments to have, and ones that need to keep happening in inclusive and respectful ways. Let’s talk about carbon footprints, the human rights abuses of slaughterhouse workers, the environmental impact of ranching, or the various ways to get all essential nutrients from a meatless diet. I’m also very, very happy to share delicious recipes and restaurant recommendations. But I’m not ever going to be here for using “obesity” as a reason more people should go veg. 

And of course, I’d be remiss if I wrote about this without addressing PETA. Screw PETA. They’re sexist, racist, and fatphobic in their ads, they harm/kill more dogs than they help, and their attention-grabbing tactics are more likely to make animal rights activists look terrible than they are to win anyone over.

I do think more people should go veg. It would have a huge positive impact on the world if that happened. But it has nothing to do with weight. 

How Can Thin People Promote Fat Acceptance? 

It’s a question you see a lot — how can someone who is not fat be a good ally to fat people?

There are a few basic things you can do, some easier than others.

First, stop engaging in diet talk, body hatred, food moralizing, and so on. Stop telling fat jokes and equating eating a lot or being lazy with being fat. Even if there are no fat people around. Even if you only mean it in a self-directed way.

Every time you say something negative about bodies, including your own, you are enforcing the hierarchy that makes thin more socially acceptable than fat. So even if you don’t say this in the presence of fat people, the not-fat people who may be around are hearing this and their own prejudices are being legitimized. Additionally, even if someone doesn’t appear fat to you, they may still struggle with body image or an eating disorder, may have fat people in their lives that they don’t want to hear being insulted, and so on. Also, it’s just a rude and nasty way to be and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

This sort of talk includes moralization of food. Referring to things as good or bad, talking about how you need to “work off” something you ate, or discussing whether someone “needs to” or “should” eat something all enforce the same fatphobia. People do all of these things because of a fear of becoming fat. They may claim it’s because of “health” but if that were the case there would be no talk of working off food, there would be talk of vitamin content or eating for joy (because mental health is health, too!).

Stop using the term “flattering” when talking about clothes. That word just means making someone’s body appear to conform to ideals (meaning, making it look smaller). If someone is wearing something that isn’t “flattering,” that’s OK! They probably want to be wearing it, and it probably makes them happy, which is what matters. Or maybe it’s all they can afford, so laughing at them makes you twice the jerk.

Saying “get fat” when you mean “eat lots of delicious foods” is harmful as well. It reinforces stereotypes. People of all sizes have lazy days or go to events where they eat a ton of rich dessert.

Second, speak up when you hear others doing these things. Tell people you don’t want to hear about diets and that what someone else eats is their own business. Tell people that it’s not cool to make fun of someone’s clothes, even if they are wearing something that’s not normally shown on their body type (fat girls in mini skirts and crop tops? Rock on). Point out that eating a lot doesn’t equal getting fat, and that it’s not OK to make that false equivalence. Don’t let people get away with casually reinforcing stereotypes.

Third, speak up when you see a fat person being bullied. Confront people who are making fun of someone and tell them it’s not cool. Obviously, be mindful of safety, but if something feels unsafe to you imagine what it must feel like for the victim. If you can’t directly intervene, go up to the victim and ask if they’re OK.

(If they get mad and brush you off, or even if they are outright rude to you, don’t retort. They’re not actually angry with you, they’re mad at the situation and probably extremely embarrassed.)

If you CAN intervene, shame the bully as strongly as possible, but do so without relying on stereotypes. Things like “that’s not cool” or “her/his body/health/outfit/meal/etc is none of your business” or simply “leave him/her alone” are fine. If in public, don’t be afraid to be loud (unless it would make things worse for the victim).

Bullies don’t react well to being embarrassed or to having the tables turned on them, but they’re also cowards. Most of the time they’ll slink away. When I loudly shamed the douche on the subway who told me to go running every morning, it didn’t take much to get him to slink away. Once attention was turning to him, and people were giving HIM the stink eye, he lost his power.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where members of the socially dominant group’s opinions are valued more than members of the oppressed group. This means if you are privileged, it’s your duty to speak up. Thin people need to call out fat-shaming, similar to how white people should call out racism, straight people should call out homophobia, men should call out sexism, and so on. It will mean so much to the victim, and it makes the world just a tiny bit more pleasant.

Prescribing Exercise

Earlier today I saw an article on Facebook about doctors prescribing exercise to treat various conditions. While I’m not exactly opposed to the idea of discussing exercise as a way to maintain long term health, I’m concerned about what implications the idea of prescription could have. 

I’m wondering about the classism, ableism, and sizeism that could emerge in this. If someone has a chronic condition (mental or physical) that makes it hard to move, prescribed exercise might not be possible. And I know a doctor SHOULD be able to adjust for a patient’s specific needs, but there are too many misunderstood conditions and too many doctors that don’t want to put forth the effort or time to figure that out.

Even if someone is physically and mentally healthy, if they are living in poverty that can throw up more barriers. Someone working three jobs doesn’t exactly have time to go for an evening jog. Low-pay jobs are already more often physically taxing, will physicians count that as exercise or still demand more, which someone might be too busy and exhausted to do?

And of course, this could have horrific implications for fat people. There’s no control on applying this prescription equally. I would be unsurprised if doctors “prescribed” exercise at higher levels and frequencies in fat patients, or even accused them of lying regardless of hard data to back it up. I’m not saying exercise can’t be helpful in maintaining health for people of all sizes, but I don’t trust doctors to not be discriminatory in the application. 

For example, I had a doctor ask me about my exercise, which, fine, that’s something she could be asking everyone. But then the second I started explaining it she interrupted me to tell me how exercise works and how you can’t just stop when you get tired and how you have to gradually increase the amount. All basic stuff that she assumed I wouldn’t know, AFTER she hassled me about not wanting to be weighed. It was clear from her words and demeanor that she was reacting to my being fat. If a thin patient had said the same things she probably would have listened and believed them. 

(The kicker is that I grew up with a certified aerobics instructor/personal trainer for a mother so I probably learned more about exercise just sitting in the back of a class after school than she could imagine.)

So I’m not convinced that this is a workable thing. There’s nothing wrong with recommending exercise for long-term health, but there are too many variables for unequal application and discriminatory behavior to make prescribing it a good idea. 

Snakeskin Pants at Any Size

When I was in high school, during one of the many diet scamsprograms I tried, someone asked for little goals, no matter how silly. I had seen a pair of faux snakeskin pants at Hot Topic, that only went up to a junior’s size 13 or so, so I said I wanted to be able to buy those. 

I never got those pants, which is fine because they probably would have fit for all of an hour before I put weight back on. Such is the cycle for 97% of us. 

Recently, I popped into an Ashley Stewart (there’s one right across from my gym, which is very dangerous) and guess what they had on the racks? 

Faux snakeskin pants!

Very similar to the ones I had wanted as a teenager, but in the full AS size range. If I wanted them now, I could have them without torturing myself dieting!

I opted not to try them on this time. But now my lack of snakeskin pants is based on my OWN choices, not someone else’s decision to stop making something at an arbitrary size point. 

It was a nice reminder: you don’t have to be a certain size to have fun, to wear what you like, or to just live your life. Wear (faux!) snakeskin or (real) sparkles or mini skirts or whatever if you want to. You don’t have to put everything on hold until you starve yourself down to be temporarily smaller. Live NOW.