Archive for the ‘Weight stigma’ Category

Quote of the day

The NY Times has posted a number of reader responses to an “advice columnist’s assertion that pretending that obesity is not a problem may prevent hurt feelings but compromise health.”

In the small world department, one of those responses is from 83-year-old writer Anne Bernays, a great-niece of Sigmund Freud.

Bernays writes (emphasis mine):

The trouble began, I think, when euphemisms took the place of hard reality, such as the many ways of saying “fat” without using the actual word: “husky,” “pleasingly plump,” “statuesque,” “big-boned,” “ample” and many more.

Add to this semantic trickiness the idea that if you bring people’s attention to the fact that they could look and feel much better if they dropped, say, 15 pounds, you’re being offensive. You know they’re overweight and so do they.

I’m one of those old-fashioned women who refuses to believe that, given the choice, a woman wouldn’t rather wear a size 10 than a size 16.

I say small world because back in the early 90s, I knew Bernays. We were both sopranos in the Cambridge Chorale (now Cantilena). Bernays is from the generation before mine, so yes, she’s definitely old-fashioned. And I’m sure that most women who have grown up in our Western culture (most alive today given that Twiggy was named the “Face of 1966”) might rather be a size 10.

But that doesn’t make it healthy or right.

See Dr. Barbara Berkeley’s response for a more reasoned (IMO) opinion.

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Quote of the day

On her blog Hunt. Gather. Love, Melissa McEwen writes that fat people in public are apparently an excuse for everyone to play expert … including her:

Here were people who ate diets like mine, diets I thought were the solution to being fat, that would help people lose weight and certainly not allow them to gain weight in the first place. And people eating this way, they were fat.

It threatened my whole worldview, which basically went along the lines of “If only people stopped eating X and ate Y instead, they would not be fat.”

What she believes now:

In retrospect it was an enormously arrogant worldview. And one not particularly well-grounded in science, which shows that there is not a single diet that consistently helps people lose weight. …

Some people are able to lose weight with different diets, most people are not. Those who are able to lose weight will struggle to various degrees with keeping the weight off for the rest of their lives. Hostility towards those who are fat is not going to change that.

Amen to that!

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Michael Prager beat me to a blog post on a Twitter exchange from yesterday about skipping the movie Fed Up because “it’s built on the premise that fat bodies are wrong.” Michael’s response:

Some of that is partly true: The movie does come from the perspective that being fat isn’t a desirable, healthful condition. I also come from that perspective, and remain flummoxed that there is a very strong, very spirited movement that maintains otherwise. …

I support the HAES-ish perspective that says that fat-shaming is wrong, that no one deserves mockery or exclusion or worse based on body size. IMO, those tendencies are deeply ingrained in our society, and we’ll all be better off when they’re dialed down, then discarded. I still need a bunch of that excised from me, and I’ve been working on it for 20-30 years!

But also: A significant portion of obesity in the world exists because consumer-food corporations make more money when we eat too much. Also, when we eat the wrong types of food — usually more processed food.

Who could possibly defend that, or boycott those who point it out?

I’m not quite in the same place as Michael (I believe health issues are more directly attributable to things other than body fat). That said, I am definitely in the camp that says that one of those major health factors is diet, and the industrial food system is something that needs to be addressed.

Will Fed Up get it 100% right? Hardly … and especially if this is really going to be about demonizing sugar. Bleh. And I think that Dayna is right to be concerned that, however well-meaning, this movie will perpetuate stigma.

I support folks’ decisions to vote with their dollars. But I plan to see it for myself. Call me a cross-eyed optimist, but in order to get to a better place, I think we need to have these conversations. And if Fed Up can be part of that, then maybe that’s worthwhile.

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Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Gabourey Sidibe’s aunt)

Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Gabourey Sidibe’s aunt)

Last week the Ms. Foundation for Women held an 80th birthday bash for Gloria Steinem at its annual gala, the Gloria Awards. One of the guest speakers was actress Gabourey Sidibe, who gave a very inspirational speech about her weight, confidence, and being an asshole:

One of the first things people usually ask me is, “Gabourey, how are you so confident?” I hate that. I always wonder if that’s the first thing they ask Rihanna when they meet her. “RiRi! How are you so confident?” Nope. No. No. But me? They ask me with that same incredulous disbelief every single time. “You seem so confident! How is that?” …

What I would say, is my mom moved my brother and I to my aunt’s house. Her name is Dorothy Pitman Hughes, she is a feminist, an activist, and a lifelong friend of Gloria Steinem. Every day, I had to get up and go to school where everyone made fun of me, and I had to go home to where everyone made fun of me. Every day was hard to get going, no matter which direction I went. And on my way out of the house, I found strength. In the morning on the way out to the world, I passed by a portrait of my aunt and Gloria together. Side by side they stood, one with long beautiful hair and one with the most beautiful, round, Afro hair I had ever seen, both with their fists held high in the air. Powerful. Confident. And every day as I would leave the house… I would give that photo a fist right back. And I’d march off into battle. …

“How are you so confident?” “I’m an asshole!” Okay? It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time. And my mother and my father love me. … So when you ask me how I’m so confident, I know what you’re really asking me: how could someone like me be confident? Go ask Rihanna, asshole!

Please go read the whole speech. Please.

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I recently came across Marge Piercy’s 1997 poem What Are Big Girls Made Of? The whole poem is well worth the read, but I found the conclusion particularly compelling:

If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves
like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads?
Why should we want to scourge our softness
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
Why should we punish each other with scorn
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?

When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?

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Paleo for Women’s Stefani Ruper makes a good case that love is the new skinny:

“Strong is the new skinny,” is what everyone says these days. No longer do you have to look like a runway model! No longer do you have to starve yourself! Wow! Everyone is ecstatic.

Except not everyone is. Who isn’t? I am not. That’s because I know that “strong” means you still have to starve yourself (or at least be restrictive). And build eight pack abs on top of that. “Strong” sets an even higher standard that’s even harder to achieve. It’s unrealistic. It calls for amount of willpower. It demands an egregious amount of your time. …

If we are going to change our standards of beauty away from “skinny,” we may as well do it right and go all the way. … Maybe it’s about a future in which the best, most admired, and most desired people are those with the biggest hearts.

Stefani is looking for “a steady stream of ‘love is the new skinny’ memes.” So head over to her post if you’d like to contribute.

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Many moons ago, I blogged author/pastor Steven Furtick’s perception vs reality quote about insecurity:

One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we’re comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.

I was reminded of this when I came across this pic/post by Michelle Yeager on my Facebook feed recently:


Yeager’s “behind the scenes” might surprise you:

I feel like if everyone, myself included back when I was this lean, actually shared how we are really feeling deep down instead of just positing [sic] a picture of a body and saying “eat clean, train hard” or something along those lines, people would be a lot better off. … But no one wants to talk about how miserable they might be feeling. I know for me I was trying to put on a happy positive face, but on the inside I was a mess. I had sooo much anxiety around food. Everything I put into my body had to be perfectly measured to the gram and calculated for the day. I couldn’t focus on much other than the next time I got to eat, my workout for the day, and taking selfies.


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