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Feel Good Friday

3rd September 2010

Feel Good Friday

by Rachel

Spousal/partner weight gain is a frequent letter seen among the sundry list of gripes and complaints seen by advice columnists and few columnists get it right with their responses.  The Washington Post’s Carolyn Hax has always been a moderate voice of compassion when it comes to such weighty issues.  She’s on vacation this week and readers are giving the advice.  Here’s a gem from today’s column in regards to a previous letter from a man who blamed his infidelity on his wife’s recent weight gain .

I’ve always believed that every woman is beautiful. Every woman. If I don’t see the beauty in one, that’s MY problem, not hers. It’s up to me to work harder to see the beauty, not up to her to make herself live up to whatever my standards might be.

Word.

posted in Body Image, Body-Affirming, Fat Acceptance, Rachel | 11 Comments

6th August 2010

Feel Good Friday: Putting an end to “fat talk”

by Rachel

I’m still feeling all warm and fuzzy from the overthrow of Prop 8 in California, but there’s other good news to report for this week’s Feel Good Friday.  We’ve mentioned before the blog Operation Beautiful and I’m glad to see it now making more national headlines.  The mission of Operation Beautiful is simple: all you need is a pen and a piece of paper…  So says site editor Caitlin Boyle, who’s on a mission to leave positive, body-affirming notes in public spaces and invites you to do the same.  Since starting the blog last year, Caitlin has received an overwhelming outpouring of support from people (mostly women) also sick of the constant bombardment of “fat talk” and has now chronicled some of the messages she’s received in a new book, Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time. MSNBC has posted an excerpt from that book here, which released in stores this week.    You’ll have to go to the MSNBC link to read the entire exerpt, but I wanted to repost some of Caitlin’s basic tips for ending fat talk here.  Caitlin also appeared yesterday on The Today Show — catch that clip here.

Stop your Fat Talk in its tracks! In addition to consciously correcting yourself, try wearing a rubber band around your wrist and give it a firm “snap!” whenever you feel a negative thought creeping in. Think of it like coating your nails in spicy polish when you’re trying to stop biting them! The rubber band technique is a gentle physical reminder of the internal damage you are doing to yourself when you Fat Talk.

Identify the real issue behind your Fat Talk. Is it really about your body or is it about something else entirely — like an emotion you’re having trouble expressing? Many women use Fat Talk as a way to express sadness or frustration. Find a more positive outlet for your emotions, such as talking to a friend, writing in your diary or exercising.

Make a list of your positive qualities — both inside and out — and tape them to your bathroom mirror so you can read it whenever you need a boost. Do not be ashamed to celebrate your amazing qualities!

What are some other ways that have helped you put an end to the fat talk loop in your head?  How do you react to fat talk by others?

posted in Body Image, Body-Affirming, Rachel | 15 Comments

2nd August 2010

The Beauty Advantage

by Rachel

I meant to post this the other week, but that pesky thing called life got in the way and I back-burnered it.  Newsweek has put together an awesome special feature on the advantages (and yes, even disadvantages) of being beautiful and how it can affect our lives, careers and health.  There are a lot of great multimedia links to follow, but here’s a few that caught my attention:

(And in my own addendum on the subject, I highly recommend Kathy Peiss’ Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture and — what I consider the definitive work on the history of American cultural beauty standards — Lois W. Banner’s American Beauty: A Social History…Through Two Centuries of the American Idea, Ideal, and Image of the Beautiful Woman.)

I think that most of us would agree that lookism is A Bad Thing, but surprisingly, in a survey conducted by Newsweek, only 46 percent of the public said they would favor a law making hiring discrimination based on appearance illegal.  Is this a case of a deluded public who’s bought the beauty myth hook, line and sinker?  Or could it be a pragmatic public realizing the practicalities of such a law difficult to enforce?   Your thoughts on this and the other columns and galleries in Newsweek’s special feature on beauty?

posted in Body Image, Fashion, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Pop Culture, Rachel, vintage ads | 4 Comments

22nd July 2010

Crystal Renn on skinny pics: “Don’t make me into something I’m not”

by Rachel

Plus-size model and body image darling Crystal Renn and blogger Leslie Goldman appeared on the Today show to discuss the recent airbrushing scandal of Crystal by photographer Nicholas Routzen. I found her to be extremely smart and eloquent in her response to the situation, as well as to the pervasive issues plaguing plus-size models.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Renn also earlier spoke with Glamour about her reaction to the photos, explaining:

Well, I was shocked. When I saw the pictures, I think I was silent for a good five minutes, staring with my mouth open. I don’t know what was done to those photos or who did it, but they look retouched to me. And listen, everybody retouches, but don’t make me into something I’m not.

I look like me; I look strong. But in the new pictures…well, that body doesn’t look like my body. It doesn’t. Having had an eating disorder, I know what that very thin body looks like on me, and it’s not something I find attractive. It’s not something I aspire to.

I feel completely confident in my own health because I know I don’t look like that, but even to see it in an image was really disturbing to me.

Airbrushing a model beyond recognition is unethical in more ways than one, but given Crystal’s hard-fought battle against anorexia and her public campaign to raise awareness of the disorder, this act of virtually whittling her back to those dark days is especially heinous. Even more ironically, photographer Nicholas Routzen shot and altered these images to promote his nonprofit charity Fashion for Passion, which supports arts and music programs for children. Ehem, Nicholas? It may be a little difficult to inspire a passion for the arts in children who are too obsessed with looking like the unrealistic and unattainable airbrushed images they see in magazines and the media.

Your thoughts on the whole debacle?

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Fashion, Rachel | 15 Comments

9th July 2010

Win it: Body positive goodie basket and gifts

by Rachel

I’ve been a very lax blogger as of late and for that I am incredibly sorry.   I went off my thyroid medication for more than a month (long story, but ADD played a huge role) and as a result I was extremely hypothyroid and have been battling mental and physical exhaustion and lethargy since.  I’ve been back on my meds now for a couple of weeks, but am nowhere near my usual near-manic energy level.  I’ve also been extremely busy with the nonprofit animal rescue I volunteer with (anyone want to adopt a kitty or bunny?), and frankly, I’ve just needed a break from the topics I usually blog about .  So, as a sign of my sincerest apologies, I’m giving away a few goodies.  One lucky winner will get a body positive goodie basket and three others will receive a smaller body positive gift.

The rules are simple:  To enter, you must be a resident of the U.S. (sorry, international folks; I’m the one forking out shipping costs).  Only one entry per person.   The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. (EST) Thursday, July 15.  Winners will be announced on the blog on Friday, July 16 and contacted by email for shipping details.  You must enter via the form below.

And for your Friday dose of cuteness… I rescued two bunnies last month from absolutely horrendous living conditions.  The mom gave birth a few days later to these adorable eight baby bunnies (available for adoption in mid-September!).  Mom is a Californian and dad is a Satin cross; parents and babies are all now doing well.

posted in Body-Affirming, Contests, Rachel | 23 Comments

29th June 2010

Open Topic: Talking to kids about fat comments

by Rachel

I’m back on my thyroid medication and feeling more like myself than I have in the past month I’ve been off it, so I hope to be back posting regularly soon.  In the meantime, here’s an item for discussion.  My brother- and sister-in-law and their children live in a city about an hour and a half from us (and have 6-month-old twin girls), so we don’t see them as often as I would like.  We made the trip down on Sunday to celebrate my niece Klara’s seventh birthday; our previous trip was in April to celebrate my nephew’s birthday.  On our last two visits, my niece has made three comments on my weight, specifically about how fat she thinks I am.  On all three occasions I was caught off-guard and didn’t give as good of a response as I would have liked to give.  The first time I think I said something like, “Yes, Klara, I am fat” and changed the subject.  She made another comment later that night and I tried to explain to her that God made everyone different, like he made Uncle Brandon tall and Aunt Rachel short, and that we would be really boring if we all looked alike (the family are devout Christians).   The last comment came during dinner on our latest visit.  Klara suddenly grabbed the loose skin on my bicep and remarked that I wouldn’t be so fat if I didn’t have so much extra skin.  Caught off-guard, I kind of stammered that “Yes, I lost weight too fast and my skin couldn’t keep up and that’s one of the reasons I am fat,” and changed the subject.  * All three comments were unheard by her parents.

My BIL and SIL are very insistent on teaching their children good manners and both Klara and her brother are otherwise very polite children.  Brandon and I both thought it odd that she would comment so much on my weight, so I sent her parents an email letting them know.  Here’s part of what I wrote:

I don’t want Klara to grow up thinking that “fat” is a four-letter word — girls these days have enough issues with self-esteem and body image — but many people do consider it to be an inappropriate comment to lob at someone and I would hate for Klara to inadvertently insult someone in your church or at her school.  I’m also concerned that Klara seems to hold a negative perception of fatness and fat people and I worry that that perception may color how she sees and relates to others and may influence her own sense of body image as she grows older.  The prevailing cultural opinion seems to be that fat people just sit on the couch all day stuffing Twinkies down their throats, but genetics do not come in a one-size-fits-all sequence and people are fat for a variety of medical, physiological, socio-economic and emotional reasons.  You two do an awesome job of trying to instill in your children respect for different races and people and basic etiquette, so I thought that I would bring this to your attention so that maybe you can have a discussion with Klara on how it is impolite to comment on the bodies of others and to respect that people come in different shapes and sizes.

I don’t have children (thankfully) and I can usually only take kids in small doses before they mentally and physically exhaust me, so my experience in how to relate and explain things to children in language they can understand is limited to say the least.  I do think that it’s important to let Klara know that it isn’t appropriate to comment on the way someone looks or on their body, but I’m  concerned that by shushing her, it will reinforce to Klara that being fat is Something Bad, which is also something I don’t want her to think.  Does anyone have any suggestions on how to explain to a seven-year-old that being fat isn’t bad or something to be ashamed of, but at the same time that it isn’t polite to comment on someone’s body?

posted in Body Image, Body Politic, Fat Bias, Rachel | 40 Comments

23rd June 2010

Wednesday Weigh-In: A tide-you-over post until we can write something in more detail

by charlynn

I have a feeling I’m not the only writer for the-f-word.org that is insanely busy right now since no one has posted in over a week. On behalf of the three of us, you have our apologies. We hate it when life gets in the way of blogging just as much as you do. :)

With that in mind, here comes another roundup of links instead of a fully thought-out post, but at least it’s something new…right? Right!

MSNBC profiles three women who gained weight as a result of illness, not overeating. One struggles with a hormonal imbalance and has noticed how people treat her differently because of her weight. Another gained weight as a result of taking steroids for migraines. The third woman developed insulin resistance, and prior to developing her condition, believed that obesity was a “couch potato disease.” Not any longer — she says she is ashamed for being so judgmental in the past.

In case you haven’t already heard about this, former Biggest Loser contestant Kai Hibbard is speaking about her experience on the show, saying she left the show with a distorted body image and developed an eating disorder. She is going public with her story because she feels that some elements of the show are misleading and hurtful to viewers.

Haaretz.com in Israel has a fantastic story about what life is like at the eating disorders unit at Sheba Medical Center.

And finally, the Los Angeles Times published an article a couple of days ago about the Maudsley Approach. Success stories as well as skepticism about the method are discussed.

For the sake of discussion, what has everybody been doing while we’ve been absent? Share your latest by making a comment!

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Bulimia, Charlynn, Eating Disorders, Fat Bias, Recovery | 12 Comments

9th June 2010

The Wednesday Weigh-In

by Rachel

Margarita Tartakovsky of the blog Weightless interviews Cheryl Kerrigan, author of the new book Telling ED NO! and Other Practical Tools to Conquer Your Eating Disorder and Find Freedom.

Fat Lot of Good blogger Bri weighs in on a recent study that found that children whose mothers were chronically abused by their partners were more likely to be fat by age 5.  Because being fat is so much more pressing of an issue than being victimized by domestic violence.

Urban Outfitters removes what many are calling a pro-ana t-shirt from its website, but the “Eat Less” shirt remains available in stores.   Outraged?  Join the Girlcott Urban Outfitters group on Facebook.

Should appearance-based discrimination be treated with the same weight as we give to other -isms like racism and sexism?  That’s the question Deborah Rhodes tackles in her new book, The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law. Read Dahlia Lithwick’s review of the book on Slate.

Just when you thought the insanity would never end…  It’s not enough that some parents lose custody of their obese children because of their weight.  Now a British animal welfare council has seized custody of an obese dog.  The pudgy pup Gucci is said to now be on a strict diet and exercise regime at a special canine fat club.

FEAST has launched its Around the Dinner Table Plate Drive through June.  The fundraising initiative supports the group’s mission, which is to empower families and support parents and caregivers in helping loved ones recover from eating disorders.

The British Mail’s Lucy Taylor ruminates on on how she gave up running and learned to simply enjoy the journey.

Oprah.com contributor Karen Salmansohn looks at the Fox and ABC refusal to air the sexy new Lane Bryant lingerie commercials in a different light: “The fact that a TV network would find this Lane Bryant spot far more sexually enticing than Victoria’s Secret spots — which air all the time — simply shows they’re acknowledging the extreme sexiness of voluptuous women!”

Comments?  Any links to share?  Add your two cents in the comments below.

posted in Anorexia, Body Image, Body Politic, Body-Affirming, Eating Disorders, Fat Bias, Feminist Topics, Legal Issues, Mental Health, Non-profits, Politics, Pop Culture, Rachel | 12 Comments

29th April 2010

Food for thought

by Rachel

Garrison Keillor has the kind of breathy, melodic baritone voice that makes me want to run away with him to live forever on Lake Wobegone even if he does  look like a gangly mathematics teacher.  I was listening to his Writer’s Almanac show on NPR on my drive home from my photography class last night and this poem he read struck such a chord with me that I had to repost it here.   On this day (yesterday) in 1927, the French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote in her diary:

“In the brilliant sunshine I felt the desire to take walks in muslin dresses completely soaked with my sweat, to stretch myself out in the grass without a thought, to take refuge in this sensual pleasure, in my body which doesn’t need to depend on anybody.”

posted in Body Image, Rachel | 1 Comment

27th April 2010

Skinny dreams meets skinny reality

by Rachel

I have never liked running.  Before I lost weight, I thought I didn’t like running simply because I was physically unable to run and believed that once I lost the weight, I’d magically become one of those cross country runners sporting an armband iPod and gloating about my runner’s high.  Fast forward one year and 175 pounds lost.  I weigh 125 pounds, wear a size four and guess what?  I still can’t run more than a mile before dissolving into a huffing and puffing red-faced mess.

MSNBC has a great story out today on people who’ve discovered that the skinny dream is just that… a dream. The story profiles three women, all of whom thought their lives would be just fabulous once they lost the pesky weight holding them back, and discovered that weight loss isn’t a panacea for life’s problems nor has it made them a better person.  Self-described “accomplished fat girl” Jen Larsen had a master’s degree in creative writing, a great job working in an academic library, a great boyfriend and a slew of friends.

By age 32, she believed she’d be writing a book, “doing something important,” she says. The only thing holding her back, she thought, was weight.  “Not so,” she now says. “The only thing that’s different is the size of my ass.”

Larsen thought skinny came with a mega-boost of self confidence. And a huge dollop of happiness. She thought she’d be dynamic and brave and ready to take on the world, just because she was thin.

“I think fat people are sold a fantasy, and then get no support in the reality, because we’re simply supposed to be grateful that we’re no longer fat,” Larsen says.

…In a culture obsessed with BMIs, the tears and triumphs of “The Biggest Loser,” and the latest-greatest surefire way to lose weight and keep it off, Larsen’s take on her new lean physique sounds like heresy. But weight loss chat rooms, forums and blogs are filled with people who are wondering why their newfound svelte selves and stellar metabolic profiles are leaving them ever-so-slightly disappointed.

Jennette Fulda, a.k.a. PastaQueen, was a national merit scholar, her high school class valedictorian and graduated with highest honors from college — all accomplished while weighing 372 pounds.   “You can be fat, accomplished and pretty darn happy.  I think people forget that,” she said.  ““I guess we all really think that losing weight gets rid of our issues. But in so many ways we’re still the very same person, not that skinny woman we dreamed about.”

It’s something that Darliene Howell, 55,  knows all too well.  A yo-yo dieter since the age of 6, Howell says she’s tried “every diet on the planet” and has counted calories, points, carbs and proteins “until I thought I was losing my mind,” she says. She finally lost 100 pounds on a liquid diet.  “I’ve weighed 150, 250 and even 300, and each time I lost weight I thought I was going to live the skinny dream,” she says. “My life was supposed to have changed. I thought I was supposed to be more popular, more attractive, if only I were thinner. Well, that didn’t happen.”

I think many of us suffer from the delusion that is the “skinny dream” — that if we just lose weight, everything else will follow.  We will become vastly more interesting, creative, outgoing, self-assured.  Guys will beat down our doors laden with bouquets of roses and people much cooler than ourselves will clamor to be our friends.  We’ll finally land the dream job we’ve always wanted, become a veritable social butterfly, get the guy and live happily ever after on that thin, thin cloud of delusion.

Reality check: weight loss, in itself, is unlikely to bring about any of the above.

I’ve been morbidly obese and I’ve been on the low end of the “normal” range of BMI and have now settled somewhere comfortably in between.  Before my weight loss, I also suffered from the delusion that my weight and weight alone was the only thing holding me back from becoming the person I wanted to be.  I discovered all too quickly that happiness can’t be found in the junior’s department. If you read the so-called weight loss success stories, they’re chock full of just how awful and miserable an existence life was before weight loss and how fabulous it is after.   And yet, I have never understood (or fully believed) these people who lose weight and lay claim to some newly found self-confidence that has just laid buried beneath fat, like a diamond waiting to be mined.  If anything, I was even more insecure after my weight loss than before!  I still battled the same self-doubts and fears.  I still had the same old fat girl self-image.  I still had the same money problems.  I still had the same unresolved family issues.    The only thing that changed was that I went from being morbidly obese to morbidly afraid of regaining the weight.

This is not to say that weight loss did not change my life in any significant way.  I sincerely believe I would never have landed a contract job with a major computer corporation had I weighed 100, 75 or even 50 pounds more than what I weighed at the time.  Sales clerks, professors and classmates and even some family members treated me more nicely than before.  It was easier to find fashionable and affordable clothes in my size.  My personality even changed after my transformation to the point where my sister, the person to whom I was closest to at the time, remarked that I was like a new person.  It wasn’t that weight loss freed some skinny girl inside me clawing her way out, but rather that it took a while to reconcile my split identities between living Life as a Fat Person and Life as a Thin Person.  For a while, I felt like an imposter infiltrating a thin insider club, a fat girl masquerading in a thin suit, laying claim to a title I had no right to claim.  I always thought I wanted to be part of them, the Thin People, but after my weight loss, I found myself literally disfiguring myself with body piercings in an attempt to salvage some element of my Fat Girl identity, to show that I wasn’t one of them.

Although I struggled with my identity, being thin did not grant me membership to some exclusive club in which being thin absolves you of all your problems.  If anything, the compulsive calorie-counting, over-exercising and general obsession with my weight only created more problems and took away from the time I could have dedicated instead to facing the existing problems I had, like, oh, resolving longstanding issues with my mother, my poor self-esteem and dead-end job situation.  And surprise… once I committed to face the real problems head-on, my issues with food and  body also began to resolve themselves.  

How about you?  Did you (or do you still) suffer from the delusion of thinness?  How did your skinny dreams measure up to reality?

posted in Body Image, Mental Health, Personal, Rachel, Recovery | 41 Comments

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