Come back with me in time for a minute. Imagine being 14 years old, getting ready to enter high school. You really like a sport – say, volleyball. And you start asking questions about the junior varsity team, when try-outs are, how you can sign up. Now imagine getting a letter at home from the volleyball coaches. A letter that says that if you are more than 10 pounds overweight, maybe volleyball isn’t for you. And you are.
This happened. I don’t remember it, but my family does – vividly. I wanted very much to be part of the school volleyball team, and when that letter came home, my parents wanted to speak to the coaches. I mean, really, shouldn’t everyone have been encouraged to try out, and only be cut if they can’t do what is physically required of team members? I wouldn’t let them say anything, though. I insisted that they just let it go. And I never tried out for any sports team, then or ever. That was the beginning and end of my group athletics story.
Fast forward about 20 years, and one day I decided I was going to train for and try to walk a half marathon. There wasn’t anyone around to tell me I couldn’t do that, that I didn’t have the right size body, or that I needed to lose a certain amount of weight first. I crossed my first finish line on September 16, 2007. I have crossed 11 more since then. I became a coach along the way, helping others – of all shapes and sizes – to cross their first finish line. And I did all that while being way more than 10 pounds “overweight.”
You guys, this video made me cry so hard. The longer I watched it, the more overcome I was – with joy, at seeing all of these strong, striving, empowered women; with excitement, at being a part of it (see how many times you can spot me!); and with sorrow… Sorrow that I didn’t see this video when I was 10. When I was 14 and wanting oh-so-badly to join the school volleyball team and being discouraged from doing so by teachers. When I was 20. When I was 30.
I want everyone to see this. I want children, teenagers, adults – anyone who is convinced certain aspects of their lives have to be put on hold until they get smaller – to see this. I want parents and teachers, coaches, partners, lovers, friends, family, everyone to see this and share it and understand how vital it is. How it is the antidote to all those fitness commercials that leave me (and so, so many others) left out and wanting. How this is the inspiration so many of us want, and need, and deserve.
This is my fight song.
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
Hi, everybody! I’m back from my hiatus, and hope you’re still around and ready to talk about some body positive stuff. Let’s get some housekeeping out of the way first, and then I’ll tell you what got me so fired up that I had to start blogging again.
The project I mentioned back in April (has it really been that long?!) is still in the works, but as it’s taking way longer than I hoped it would (and possibly morphing into something quite different than what I’d originally planned), I decided to get back in the post-writing mode while doing the project on non-blogging days. Regarding posts, I’m not going to keep to a schedule like I did before, but rather will post when I have something to say (or, like today, something has me pretty fired up!). The easiest way to stay up to date with BFD is to sign up for emails when I post (do that by sending me your email up there on the left-hand side of the page, where is says Subscribe), or by liking BFD on Facebook (click here).
So! On to the getting fired up thing. This showed up on my Facebook news feed:
At the time I saved it to share with you (over a week ago), this image – which was originally posted by some radio station page – had been shared over 50,000 times. Fifty thousand people thought this was hilarious, and true, and worth sharing. But so did someone who knows and loves me.
I thought long and hard about confronting the person who posted it. I composed dozens of emails, text messages, and comments. I talked to people who understand and support the body positive work I do. And, in the end, I decided to let it go. I know this person was not thinking about me when they posted it. Me and my fat body didn’t even cross their mind. Instead, they were thinking about themselves, and their own fear of becoming… well, like me.
In my experience, a post like this is often enjoyed and shared by people who will never actually become fat. (This is true of the person who I know who shared it.) If they relent in that endless battle and let their love of food “win,” they might gain a few pounds, but they won’t become an actual fat person, the kind that shows up in headless fatty pictures on OMG!OBESITY articles. Like, you know, me.
Thin people: I’d like you to imagine seeing a post on social media that says people fear becoming like you. That they fight every day not to be like you. That implies becoming or being like you is to be avoided at any cost. That would make you feel pretty terrible, wouldn’t it? That’s how I felt when I read this, because that’s what it says: You battle every day to not be fat, to not be like me. I am what you hope you never become. That’s too bad, because I’m pretty awesome.
Also, for the record, food is necessary for life. So that should win the battle every time.
I’m suffering from a pretty big case of burnout, y’all. I’m gonna tell you why, and then I’m gonna tell you what I’m doing about it. Hopefully, you’ll stick with me through this rough patch and be here when I get back.
So, the reasons for my burnout are two-fold. First, to be completely honest, a lot of what I write here is being said elsewhere, by louder, more prominent voices. Case in point: Last week, I talked about how I’m not a fan of the new Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel campaign. Since I posted, I’ve seen three or four very similar articles on mainstream and social media sites. Every time I see another article pop up and get shared, I think, But I said that, too! How come no one cares about what I said?!
I realize this sounds like I’m whining, that I’m sad that no one is paying attention to what I’m writing. Well, sure! I mean, I don’t spend hours every week (and heaps of mental and emotional energy) doing this just for myself. But lately I’ve been thinking, what’s the point of me spending all this time and effort when what I’m saying is being said elsewhere, and read by many more people? Sure, I write personal things that can only be found here, but any newsworthy story is being covered by others with a much, much wider audience.
So that’s my first reason for burnout. Second, I have a new, pretty big project brewing that is going to take heaps of time and energy. I can’t figure out how to balance that project and weekly blog posts, so something has to give. I think the new project (which totally needs a covert operation name – suggestions welcome!) could be pretty amazing, so I want to shift my focus there.
Now! What does that mean for you, loyal readers? It means that you need to hop on over to Facebook and keep up with me there. I’m going to be much more active on the BFD page, sharing articles (from a lot of those people with louder voices than mine) and my own musings. I hope you’ll comment and post there. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can follow me on Twitter, but I’m less active there (and more likely to just tweet at my fave celebs – so if you like country acapella and comic book TV shows, you’re in luck!).
Thanks to each and every one of you for sticking with me this far. It isn’t the end of the road, not by a long shot. I’m just taking a little detour that will hopefully lead to even more amazing adventures.
I read heartbreaking stories all the time about people who are treated terribly by people of influence in their lives – everyone from family members to spouses to doctors. I don’t know why, but I have been blessed in my life to have a lot of allies, and today I’d like to give a shout out to some of them. (Friends and family, a huge thank you to all y’all for your support, but this one’s for the pros.)
First, to my primary care physician. Her name is Dr. Barrett, and while she probably wouldn’t describe herself this way, she practices Health at Every Size. Since we first met in 2003, she has been supportive, understanding, and proactive. I never feel rushed when I visit her, and I always feel like she is listening to me. She has never fat shamed me; in fact, she has told me on more than one occasion that I am one of her healthiest patients. I wish that everyone could have a physician like Dr. Barrett. I know so many people (and read about many more) who don’t go to the doctor for fear of how they will be treated because of the size of their bodies. And here I thought the first rule of Doctor Club was “do no harm.” Be more like Dr. Barrett, medical pros!
Second, to the physical therapists who have helped me throughout my marathoning career. From a busted up knee (twice!) to a suspected foot stress fracture (lies!), to a severely sprained ankle, to a bunch of leg pain and muscle knots from all of the above, you could definitely say that distance walking has not been kind to me. But my PTs (including Karen at Lattimore Rush-Henrietta) sure have been. I was so super nervous to walk into Pittsford Performance Care, because it says right on their website that they treat athletes, and the place was full of thin, attractive men (both the staff and the patients!). I am an athlete too, but I often feel like other people don’t want to – or refuse to? – believe it. But I walked into PPC with my head held high, told my story, and… was treated with tremendous respect and given excellent (if super painful!) care by Dr. Mike and his cohorts. I never felt like I wasn’t welcome there, or that my needs weren’t just as important to the docs as the needs of any of the more typical-bodied athletes. I tried to express my gratitude to Dr. Mike and the others about this, but I’m not sure if I got my point across through the tears. That’s how glad I was to just be treated like any other athlete.
Finally, I want to thank my main aqua fit instructor, Keshia. I’ve been participating in water aerobics classes for well over a year and a half now, and I love it. I love the camaraderie I’ve developed with my fellow classmates, and I love the challenge of the class. I get the impression that a lot of people think aqua fit is not hard. Those people are wrong. Aqua fit’s no joke! Like any workout, you get out of it what you put into it, but with Keshia, we took things to the next level. My abs will never be the same, and I mean that in the best way. Keshia is leaving my gym, headed on to bold and beautiful new adventures, and I’m going to miss her like crazy. Her leaving is actually what inspired me to write this post. I can’t thank her enough for her dedication to my fitness, the way she constantly challenged me, and how she never made me feel like anything less than what I am: A fit woman (who just happens to be fat).
Somehow, I’ve been super lucky in that I’ve been able to surround myself with this amazing group of professionals who support, encourage, care for, and challenge me. My wish is that everyone – no matter their size, shape, or health – would receive the same from the pros in their lives.
Check this out: I was nominated and selected to be one of Rochester’s Roc health all-stars!
Here’s the article, and here’s the video:
I am so honored to be part of this group. It really shows that health is multi-dimensional, and that it means different things to different people. It also illustrates that health is not just about the body, but also about the mind, heart, and spirit.
Now, it wouldn’t be Big Fit Deal if I didn’t tell you the whole truth, so… Yeah, I am not loving what I look like in this video. At all. To wit:
Here was my train of thought:
Oh, man, they picked the part where I got super emotional. Ack, is that what my makeup looks like? My skin is so blotchy. Why did they have to shoot it at an angle where my chin looks enormous? My nose is so crooked! No wonder I don’t have a boyfriend – look at that face!
Interestingly, I love the shots of me power walking on the oh-so-snowy canal path, which is exactly the part I most feared seeing when they were being shot! But it’s the video clips of me just talking in my living room that bother me. Of course, the point isn’t what I look like – the point is what I’m saying. Still, I’m allowed to feel my feels, and these feels are along the lines of “ugh.” I told you I was going to be honest!
At the end of the day, I hope that when people see this, they hear my words and take them to heart. In the meantime, I’ll work on accepting – and maybe even loving? – what I look like. Deal? Deal!
Oh, and a huge thank you to Heather and Amy for nominating me!
It’s finally here: My interview with Jes Baker, known to the world as The Militant Baker! Jes was in Rochester last week to give her talk, “Change the World, Love Your Body.” I was thrilled to be able to hear her speak, and she did not disappoint. She talked about her theories on why and how fat became the worst thing a person can be, offered us ten ways to learn to love our bodies, and explained how individual body love can change the world. I hope you get a chance to see Jes speak live one day, because it will change your life in the best way. (Check out her TEDxTuscon talk here.)
Pretty soon, you’ll be able to bring Jes home with you in the form of her new book, Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls, which comes out in September. In the meantime, see what she had to say when I had the chance to ask her some questions after her talk. It’s a long post, I know, but totally worth your time. Bonus: fabulous fatties photos!
BLS: What is the best part about what you do?
JB: I think that speaking has turned into my favorite part. Because it’s really nice to reach millions of people online, but there is something really special about meeting people in person. And afterwards, a lot of people come up and they ask you questions, but really they just want to tell you their story. Because we know we don’t really have many people we can have these conversations with. So that is really wonderful, and I’ve heard a lot of really touching stories, and met a lot of really amazing people, and can’t believe I get paid to do this.
BLS: What’s the hardest part?
JB: I hate dealing with the amount of hate that comes towards me, the bullying. It’s just terrible, there’s no way around it. I’m not gonna pretend like it doesn’t exist, I’m not gonna pretend like it’s not hard to deal with. But what’s really lucky, that I just realized, is that there comes a point where it’s so extreme, and there’s so much of it, that it just turns into noise. And I finally hit that part where I will never please everyone, I will always be hated by some – loved by many, hated by some – and it has no bearing on me, my worth, my job. And so that was really liberating.
BLS: Do you think that one day fat people will truly be treated as equals of thin people?
JB: No. Not necessarily. I know it’s not 100% likely, because anger, hate, violence have been around forever. There will always be bullies. You know, my generation’s obsessed with diversity, so we’re seeing a lot of progression, which is very exciting. But there will always be a scapegoat. And I don’t know if it will be a body shape, or if it will be something else, but I know that hate, anger, bullying, will never go away. Because it’s, unfortunately, human nature. So I don’t know where it’s gonna go, but I do think, gradually, we see it getting better. As far as getting rid of body stigma, we obviously are seeing huge improvements. So I think it will continue to improve, but if you’re asking if it will go away 100%, I can’t say that it will.
BLS: What advice do you have those of us who are already involved in the body acceptance/love movements?
JB: Well, I think there’s a lot of requests for Body Love 201, and I think that’s a fair request. But I don’t think it’s fair to request it of other people. My role in this movement is not to come up with anything new. My role is to bring the message to people who are still in pre-body love and translate it into their language and meet them where they’re at. It’s kind of like I’m the gatekeeper, where I meet people in the very beginning and then you can progress. Because there’s lots of academics who have done a lot of research, and you can learn so much from them, but that’s not my job. So when people ask for 201, I would just encourage them to do it themselves. We need somebody to bring 201 to the masses.
BLS: What does Body Love 201 mean to you?
JB: I think it gets more radical. I am fully progressing that way. I think that health is a really great place to start. Our culture’s obsessed with health. We say ‘healthy is the new skinny.’ And so there’s a lot of learning that can happen there, there’s a lot of revolutionizing that can happen there. I used to say, “Well, my body’s healthy,” and that was radical to me. And that’s what I would talk about. I thought it was really justified and very important. And to a certain extent, there’s people who don’t believe that. And it is [very important]! The level up from that is, “It’s none of your f**king business! I am not less worthy because I’m unhealthy.” And so that’s where I’ve progressed to. I refuse to quantify my health for people, because it has no bearing on me as a person, and my worth. And it’s none of their business. Stacy Bias is a really great person to follow. She does 201. She does this whole comic of good fatty archetypes, and it’s fascinating… and really offensive to a lot of people, because we define ourselves as good fatties, right? And we’re like, ‘Ah! You can’t be talking sh*t about me!’ But she’s not. She’s just breaking it down to things we never think about. So that’s kind of what I’m talking about.
BLS: Okay, these are the two most important questions: What is your favorite movie of all time?
BLS: What’s your favorite TV show? Because you haven’t watched Friday Night Lights yet, so that’s not the answer… yet. [Jes laughs.]
BLS: Anything else you want to say to my one hundred readers?
JB: Yeah! Well, first I’m gonna share this [on Facebook], so that’ll be fun, so don’t misquote me and tell people to lose weight.
BLS: Honey, that would never happen in five million years.
JB: I know, I’m just teasing. I think it’s just really important for people to do their own research. Especially in our social media culture, we see something, we make assumptions, we like it without reading it. And I think that’s relevant because we do the same thing with health indoctrination and all of that. And the information’s out there, so people shouldn’t necessarily believe me. They should do further research and make their own opinions. And I think once people start that, it becomes intoxicating, and that’s where a lot of change happens, in doing the research yourself instead of just listening to other people.
BLS: That word is great, intoxicating. Because when I started on this path, I had no idea where I would go. And it’s been the most amazing journey, and I’m glad it’s still going. I’m glad there’s not an end in sight. I mean, I marathon, so you say, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” And I feel that way about body love and acceptance. It’s just gonna keep going on and on. And even knowing people like you and Ragen Chastain and Marilyn Wann and many of the people that you’ve mentioned tonight, this community that’s out there – and I had no idea these people were out there, and it’s just amazing to know that there’s that community. And to feel a part of it.
JB: I remember just discovering body positivity. It was an accident. [Jes describes finding the now-defunct blog The Nearsighted Owl, which was written by a “super fat” woman whom Jes describes was “like me.” You can find Rachele online now over at Lady Bits.] I remember clicking out of it, because it made me uncomfortable, and then going back, out of curiosity. I eventually kept reading, and then it hit me – and I feel so sad that had to be this moment, but there was a moment where I had that realization, “Maybe I don’t have to hate myself for the rest of my life.” And it blows my mind that some people have never had that realization. I did, and once you know that, you can’t unknow that. And the excitement that comes from blog hopping, and following more and more people, and realizing there’s so many people involved. There is a culture and a community there that you can find. And everyone belongs, and it’s so cool.
BLS: I think that’s one of the most powerful things that you talked about tonight, that I’ve talked to other people about to, is that it is revolutionary to realize that you don’t have to hate yourself. [Jes laughs.] And it’s ridiculous to even say that’s revolutionary, but it is. I’m so grateful for people like you, and I’m just gonna grab on to your coattails and ride along with you, if that’s okay.
JB: Yep, sounds good. We all gotta do it.
I have to hand it to companies: They do try. From Dove to Special K, all kinds of companies are busy trying to show us how they embrace and celebrate all kinds of people – whether we are fat, thin, freckled, frizzy haired, or what have you. Of course, they don’t really want us to accept ourselves as we are, because then how would they make money? But I admit, it’s a start.
Another trick companies use to convince us to like them is showing us how they are the opposite of another company whose slogans and images irritate us. Take, for example, the new Lane Bryant “I’m No Angel” campaign.
This ad remind us of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, a club that is exclusive to very thin, beautiful, busty women (representing a very small percentage of bodies) and shows us that the Lane Bryant club is different. Where Victoria’s Secret is exclusive, Lane Bryant’s lingerie line, Cacique, is inclusive. Sort of.
These women, these not-angels, are not thin, but they are beautiful, and they are busty. They are pretty much thicker versions of the VS Angels, which means that they too represent a very small percentage of bodies (although this time, bigger ones). Which means that the #ImNoAngel campaign excludes me, just as all Victoria’s Secret campaigns exclude me. I don’t have a flat-ish stomach or small arms. I’m not proportionate like these women; I don’t have a big chest that would turn my pear shape (or whatever fruit I am) into an hourglass, that would allow me to comfortably call myself “curvy” in the sense that most people mean it. Lane Bryant doesn’t even come close to selling my bra size.
Okay, I know, it sounds like I’m never satisfied, right? I should be happy with this progress. And I am! Really, I am. I’m glad to see non-thin women prancing around in their undapants. But that doesn’t mean I can’t (or shouldn’t) want even more body diversity. More! I am unapologetic about wanting more. How does #IWantMore sound?
I want to see women who aren’t hourglass proportionate, who don’t have flat(ish) stomachs, who have floppy arms and jiggly thighs and stomach rolls and stretch marks and scars, who have short hair and no hair, who have small breasts and no breasts and mismatched breasts. The more we see bodies that look like ours, the more easily we will learn to accept – and maybe love – what we’ve got. Let’s see someone turn that into an ad campaign!
I wish there was a stronger connection between my head, my heart, and my eyes. Because I had a great time on my South Carolina beach vacation – I laughed, lounged, shopped, and sunned with my wonderful friends – and yet, when I look at the photos, I wonder how I managed to have a good time at all. How ridiculous that looking at a picture or two (or a a dozen) can make me feel bad, when I know I felt so good when they were taken. Listen up, eyes: It’s time for you to catch up with my head and my heart!
Here are two pictures I want to share with you. The first is one I love, of me in my favorite bathing suit and my fantastic new sun hat, standing on the beach. You’ll notice that my belly isn’t showing, or my hips, and one arm is hidden and the other is cut off so that you can’t see how big they are.
Now here’s a picture that my best friend took, of her youngest son and me on the beach, during a break in the action of an intense game of I Spy. Oh, man. When she sent me this photo, I cringed. Look at how wide I am! Look at my arm! I wanted to hide this picture from the world. And then I immediately asked for my BFF’s permission to use this here on BFD. Because a huge part of my body acceptance journey is accepting all parts of my body, even when they aren’t artfully and purposefully cut out of the frame.
There are a lot of other pictures from this trip that make me uncomfortable. I look so wide, so big, so this, so that. (I don’t know if I will ever like my eyes without makeup!) But I keep reminding myself of how much fun I had, how good the sun felt, how much I loved those sunrise walks on the beach, those moments when I laughed so hard I could barely breathe, those glasses of wine with the girls as dusk settled in. I can’t let those great memories that live in my heart and head be corrupted by what my eyes see now.
My friend Rachel once told me that, because a picture is just a frozen moment in time, it doesn’t capture the real us. In life, we are constantly in motion, our bodies are always moving, shifting, changing. When we see what we perceive to be an unflattering photo, that isn’t an accurate representation of what we look like, because our arm isn’t frozen in that particular position, our bellies aren’t always seen from the side, our chins (!) aren’t always viewed from that angle . I try to remember this, that a picture is worth a thousand words, but my body in motion – yours, too – is worth so very many more.
This picture comes into focus: Me, in a bathing suit on a beach, fat arms and belly and hips and thighs, laughing, surrounded by the people I love, happy.
I know I said I wasn’t gonna see you until after my vacation, but I had to pop in to tell you that Jes Baker is coming to Rochester! Before you say, “Who?!,” see if this picture rings a bell:
Yep, Jes Baker, who blogs over at The Militant Baker, is the amazing fat woman who created an ad campaign (that’s her tattooed self in the picture) after Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO made those ridiculous comments a few years ago about who he wants to wear his clothes (hint: not fat people).
Jes’s life exploded after these photos came out, and now she lectures all over the country. She’s bringing her talk, “Change the World, Not Your Body” (come ON with that awesome title, am I right?), to the First Unitarian Church on Winton Road here in the ROC a week from today – that would be Wednesday, April 8th. You can get tickets here, and join the Facebook event here.
Me? I cannot wait to meet this woman! She is a force in the body- and fat-positive movements, and I plan to completely fangirl when I meet her. Pretty much like this:
Hope to see you (local) guys there!
BFD is taking a vacation! I’m heading to the beach with some of my favorite people. While I’m frolicking in the sand, soaking up the sunshine, and unabashedly wearing a bathing suit while fat, I hope you continue to treat yourself and your body with kindness and respect and love.
If you’re looking for a few good reads while I’m gone, check out this article over on Slate – the tag line sums it up pretty nicely: It’s time to stop telling fat people to become thin. You can also check out the links at left, under Big Beautiful Blogs, to see some of the places I get my information and inspiration.
And be sure to follow me over on Facebook, because I might take some time away from sunbathing and relaxing to post a few things. As always, feel free to share and comment on things there.
See you after Easter, my friends! I’ll try to bring some sunshine back with me.