Taking the Plunge

We’re almost a full month into 2016, so I’m gonna call it: This it The Year of Doing Things That Scare You. Are you in?

First up: I’ve been asked to participate in a polar plunge, one of those fundraising events where you jump into a lake in the middle of winter. This one’s for the Special Olympics of New York, so how could I say no? (Click here if you are feeling charitable and want to donate!) Let’s break down why this is my first scary endeavor of the year.

Not this lake, but one just as cold!

Not this lake, but one just as cold!

1) It’s gonna be really cold. I don’t know how cold. Very? Extremely? Ridiculously? Let’s go with that. So, yeah, the idea of a freezing plunge is a little… chilling. See what I did there? Yes, you do.

2) GUSCes. That’s a term I made up right now. It stands for Giant Underwater Sea Creatures, and they rank right up there on the list of Things That Really Scare Me (just behind massive spiders and just ahead of Michael Myers). I know it’s just Lake Ontario, and that I’ll only be running in and back out again, but you never know when a kraken’s going to slither to the surface and grab ya by the ankle, am I right?

3) I’m going to be running around in a bathing suit in a public setting where cameras will be present. Now, normally I am pretty darn comfortable in a bathing suit, no matter who’s looking. Heck, I’ve posted pictures of myself in a suit here on this blog! But those were pictures I had complete control over. I won’t know what I look like in these photos until they are out in the world for everyone to see.

And that, my friends, is the real reason I signed up to take this plunge: Because #3 truly scares the heck out me. The chances are high that I’ll think the pictures are unflattering. What if my Future Husband sees them, and changes his mind about me?! Seriously, though, it’s another step on my body acceptance journey, and I’m nervous and excited about it in equal measure.

Want to join me in The Year of Doing Things That Scare You? Dive right in!

Where Do We Go From Here?

As the calendar rolls over to another year, it’s a great time to reflect on where we were, where we are, and where we want to go. Here are mine:

Where I Was

Me in 2006. Not quite my smallest, but close.

Me in 2006. Not quite my smallest, but close.

I used to be a person who was consumed by the idea of becoming smaller. I obsessively counted carbs, calories, points. I weighed myself every day. I fell in love with The Biggest Loser. I consumed weight-loss news, bought the latest gadgets, and took heart in the stories of others’ successes. People were kinder, more attentive, and more loving toward me the smaller I got. And even more: I loved myself more with every pound lost.When the weight I’d lost began to creep back on (despite my “lifestyle change”), I blamed, shamed, and hated myself. I desperately wanted to shrink myself so I took up less space.

Where I Am

A more recent body shot, taken in September 2015.

A more recent body shot, taken in September 2015.

I am a person who believes in the body positivity and acceptance movements. I subscribe to the Health at Every Size model. I no longer believe in restricting food. I engage in physical activity because I love it, not in the hopes that it will make me smaller. I speak to anyone who will listen about their bodies and how to accept them. I encourage others to open their eyes to money-making madness that fuels obesity research and lines the pockets of those connected to the diet industry. I refuse to engage in diet talk, self-loathing, and food moralizing. I know that it’s isn’t my body that doesn’t fit, it’s the clothes. I take up as much space as I need in the world, without shame. I’m better at all this some days than others, of course.

Where I Want to Go

I want to live in a world where The Biggest Loser is off the air. I want non-fat people to stop telling me that my experience as a fat person is invalid, and that their advice about how not to be a fat person is completely accurate and should be followed (this applies to people in my life, on the street and the internet, as well as famous folks like Dr. Oz and Jillian Michaels). I want people, including those local chiropractors, to be forbidden from advertising that their diet and/or exercise plan results in “permanent weight loss.” I want each of us to talk about our bodies like we would talk about the body of someone we love and respect. I want everyone to realize that shame is not motivating, and that we don’t take care of the things we hate.

 

The fat-hating world we live in makes me sad, angry, and bored – often at the same time. Sometimes I lose patience with people who still believe in the myths of fat = unhealthy and thin = healthy, and I don’t have the energy or patience to try to open their eyes. But then I try to remember that I was like that once. Now that my eyes are open to how wonderful life can be when you stop hating and judging yourself and your body, I want everyone to experience that joy. There’s no reason you can’t! It takes work, but you can get there. I take heart in knowing that more and more people are realizing the truths of health and wellness every day, and that this can only lead to a kinder, happier world for people of all shapes and sizes.

So what about you? Where were you? Where are you? And where do you want to go?

Oh, one final note. I accidentally caught just a few minutes of the current “temptation nation” season premiere of The Biggest Loser last night, and that was plenty long enough to remind me that I wish this show would go away forever. Although first I’d like to be a contestant this season, so when Bob Harper offers me the choice of losing 40 pounds or taking $40,000 cash, I can skip off to the bank and start looking at airfare for my next Caribbean vacation. Meet me at the beach!

Sorry Not Sorry

Y’all, I have noticed lately that a lot of people are sorry for a lot of things. If you’ve done something to hurt someone, then sure, sorry can be a good and necessary thing. But I feel like we’re apologizing for things that we don’t need to apologize for.

sorry

You.

 

sorry count

Me.

Here are some things that you don’t need to be sorry for:

  • What you like to wear.
  • What you like to eat.
  • What you ate – or didn’t eat.
  • What you like to do – or not do – for exercise.
  • Taking the time to care for yourself.
  • Not feeling up to making plans.
  • Being mad.
  • Being glad.
  • Not caring.
  • Having a hard day.
  • Having a good day.
  • Struggling with liking yourself.
  • Totally liking yourself.
  • Being proud of yourself.
  • The state of your hair, your skin, your body.
  • Not meeting the expectations of society, media, your mother, your partner, yourself.

Did you notice that my list is full of both positive and negative things? That’s because I’ve noticed that people not only apologize for what they feel are their failures, mistakes, and inadequacies, but also for their successes and happiness. Why did we start doing that?! If you’re having a good day, if you did something awesome and want to brag about, if you look smashing and took an amazing selfie and want to post it online, go right ahead! I’ll be standing behind you, waving my pom-poms. Celebrating your successes and happiness is nothing to be sorry for. And having a down day, being blue, or failing to accomplish something are not things to be sorry for, either. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has a tough go now and then. That’s part of being human.

sorry Joey

This can be all of us.

Also part of being human? Having a body that doesn’t look anything at all like the bodies you see on TV and in magazines – or even like the bodies of the people in your life. Having a body that doesn’t respond to food and exercise the way it “should.” Having a body that sometimes wants to run three miles and sometimes wants to eat cookie dough ice cream straight from the container – on the same day, even! You do not have to apologize for not looking like Beyonce, or Matt Bomer, or Adele, or Idris Elba. Because the only people who do are Beyonce, Matt Bomer, Adele, and Idris Elba. You get to have a flat stomach or a double belly. You get to have no hair, frizzy hair, blue hair. You get to be – and look – like you, without having to say you’re sorry.

You are more than the sum of your parts. You are every good day, every bad day, every muscle, every stretch mark. You are your highest moments, and your lowest. You are every drop of sweat, every lazy Sunday afternoon, every frustration, every triumph. And you have nothing to be sorry about.

Great Power, Great Responsibility

I’m a big fan of superheroes. I watch Arrow, The Flash, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I love all of the Avengers. When I was little, I had an obsession with Spider-Man. So I was very excited to watch the new Netflix series Jessica Jones. I’m three episodes in so far, and it hasn’t disappointed.

Except for one small thing.

jessicajones

Not ten minutes into the first episode, we’re treated to a scene of Jessica, a private investigator, perched on a fire escape and watching a building across the street. Because no one does anything with their curtains closed, Jessica spies a woman working out. A fat woman. Cue Jessica’s voice over:

“Two minutes on a treadmill, twenty minutes on a quarter-pounder.”

And sure enough, we cut back to see the fat woman literally stopping to eat a cheeseburger in the middle of her workout. For added laughs, she even gets back on the treadmill and eats while she’s moving.

I almost turned the show off right then. Truthfully, though, I wanted to keep watching. And that’s the dilemma I face so much of the time: Not wanting to support shows and people that fat shame, but also wanting to watch them because they entertain me (in non-fat-shaming ways, of course). I decided to compromise by continuing to watch the show, but also being vocal in my disappointment. (I actually struggle to think of a show I watch that hasn’t fat shamed in some way. Lovely.)

Just like Peter Parker learned, with great power comes great responsibility. The media and the entertainment industry are pretty pervasive in our lives. There’s the great power. I would like to hold them to task to take on the great responsibility. To stop using fat bodies and fat stereotypes for cheap, easy laughs. To stop perpetuating the idea that all fat people are lazy, gluttonous, stupid, to be made fun of. There’s absolutely nothing creative or clever about that scene. It’s offensive, plain and simple. If you saw it and laughed at it, I hope you’ll take a moment to think of the fat people in your life, and how they would react to seeing it.

There are two other Jessica Jones things to talk about that relate to BFD – two things that the show does right. First up, Carrie-Anne Moss. You probably best remember her as Trinity from the Matrix movies. Now, take a moment to realize the first of those flicks came out sixteen years ago (I know, right?!). Carrie-Anne Moss is now 48 years old. And while it’s unfair (and untrue) to say there is a “typical” way that a 48-year-old woman’s body should look, I was pleasantly surprised to see that hers more closely resembles a real-life (that is, not Hollywood) middle-aged body. Don’t get me wrong, I think she looks stunning. I just can’t get over that she is actually allowed to look her age!

CAM

Second, meet Luke Cage. He’s handsome. He’s tough. He’s very muscular. And if you look closely in the scenes where he has his shirt off? He has stretch marks on his shoulder. A lot of viewers probably didn’t notice this, but I did – immediately. How often are we ever allowed to see a body with a “flaw” like a stretch mark, much less on a man? (Answer: Pretty much never.) We are told (by people who desperately want our money) that things like stretch marks and cellulite are not natural, and should be eliminated at any cost (even though they can’t actually, you know, be eliminated), and most certainly should not be seen. I don’t think the show intentionally showed us Mike Colter’s stretch marks, but I’m glad they did, and I hope they made other people feel better about their own stretch marks.

I couldn't find a shirtless pic, so here's Mike Colter in a cardigan!

I couldn’t find a shirtless pic, so here’s Mike Colter in a cardigan!

We can’t all be superheroes, but we all have the power to make the world a safer, kinder, better place for people of all shapes, sizes, ages, colors – “flaws” and all. And, I would argue, with that power comes the responsibility to do so. Speak your mind to @JessicaJones and @netflix.

One-Up

Want to know something I’m completely done with? People who feel the need to one-up each other about how much they don’t like their bodies. Here’s an example. The other day, I overheard a conversation in which three women with thin, socially-acceptable bodies took turns trying to convince each other that no, their body was the worst. One woman would say something negative about her belly, and the others would say, “I wish I looked like you!” and then name parts they hated on their own bodies. I’m sure you’ve overheard or been a part of conversations just like this.

Not that kind of 1-Up, Mario!

Not that kind of 1-Up, Mario!

Are you familiar with the term “social currency”? It’s the idea of sharing things socially in order to bond or get people to like us. Here’s part of the definition from Wikipedia: “Social currency […] is about increasing one’s sense of community, granting access to information and knowledge, helping to form one’s identity, and providing status and recognition.” Sounds okay, right? Well, consider that disparaging our bodies is a major way that we spend our social currency. Talking about how much you hate your body is a way of helping to form your identity, a way of increasing your sense of community, a way of gaining status and recognition. How sad it that? And yet so many of us do it, so much of the time.

Engaging in negative body talk with others is so pervasive – so accepted – that we actually look askance at people who don’t do it. Read any article online about a fat person who likes themselves, who isn’t actively (and constantly) trying to change the shape of their body, and the comments will be full of infuriated folks ready to put that person in their place, reminding that person that they aren’t allowed to like their body until it is the size and shape it “should” be.

Here’s what you can do to help put an end to this ridiculousness. First, you can personally stop talking negatively about your body to others. You can refuse to play the one-up game. If you don’t have the spoons to talk to people about how unnecessary and damaging this kind of talk is, just walk away. I didn’t engage in the conversation I overheard. I wanted to, but I was too tired and too frustrated, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to say what I needed to without getting angry. So instead, I wrote this note to y’all.

If you’re with me, spread the word. If you need to one-up someone, one-up them about the good things you’ve done today, the people you’ve helped, the love you’ve spread. That’s social currency we can all get rich from.

 

Know When to Walk Away

Sing it with me:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
know when to fold ’em,
know when to walk away,
and know when to run.

I’ve spent the better part of the last six months trying to make a frustrating situation better, but nothing’s worked. So I’m taking Kenny’s advice (or, rather, that gambler he met on the train bound for nowhere) and walking away.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

No, not from Big Fit Deal! (I know I’ve been pretty quiet of late, but for good reason: I’ve been working on my first collection of short fiction, which is now available in print and electronic versions – with an audio book coming soon! While things are slow over here on the blog, you can always follow BFD on Facebook for more frequent conversations.)

I’m walking away from my gym. If you’ve been keeping track at home, I joined LA Fitness in August of 2013, when I was hoping to do some cross-training that wouldn’t affect my injured leg/foot. In October of that year, I severely sprained my ankle, and the pool at LAF became my favorite place to work out. I started swimming laps three times a week, and loved taking aqua fit classes three times a week. The instructors (especially Keshia!) were great, and I made fantastic friends. The classes were tough, and I was making consistent gains in my endurance and strength. Wonderful!

Us, basically.

Us, basically.

In April, Keshia left for greener pastures, and a new instructor took over her Monday and Wednesday night classes. To make a long (and super frustrating) story short: class became boring, unchallenging, and repetitive. My classmates and I tried to work with the instructor to get the classes back on track, but that went nowhere. I spoke to the club manager, his manager, corporate people, and anyone who would listen. I wrote emails and posted on social media. Meanwhile, class attendance dwindled. Some people quit the gym altogether. Eventually, the class filled up with new people who were not interested in a high-level, challenging water workout.

Pretty much.

Pretty much.

For a long time, I was stubborn about it. I wanted to emerge victorious – to either outlast the instructor, or prevail in having her trained in a way that made the class challenging and satisfying for those of us at the advanced level. But I’m done. The time has come to walk away. The local branch and the corporate headquarters are standing firmly behind this instructor. I admit defeat.

thumbsdown

As I walk away from this experience, I consider: What am I walking to? I want to keep swimming, that’s for sure. It’s great for my heart and lungs, and I love being in the water. But I’m ready for new fitness adventures, too. My leg and foot continue to vex me, so I do have some limitations, but I’ve started to walk short distances a few days a week, so that’s encouraging (although, as the Starks know, winter is coming).

What do you do for fitness? Where do you work out? What gets your blood pumping? Inspire me with your comments and suggestions, friends. And tell me: Have you had to walk away?

Fat-Free Swimming

Okay, so here’s what happened. I didn’t have any plans on Friday night, so I decided to head over to the gym to swim. Two of the three lanes in the pool were already taken up, so I hopped in the far lane, turned up the music, and started doing my laps. About 20 minutes later, I noticed a man standing at the end of the lanes, leaning up against the wall and watching the three of us. (The woman next to me – about my size – was doing laps; the woman in the far right lane – quite a lot fatter than me – was water walking and using weights.)

The pool at an LA Fitness.

I asked him if he wanted to share the lane, and he said, “I don’t think that would work very well.” He’s not the first person I’ve met who doesn’t want to share a lane; for example, there’s a guy who always does the butterfly, which really requires its own lane. So I said okay and started to put my headphones back in, but then he asked me how much longer I was going to be. I said 20 more minutes at least, and he muttered something I didn’t catch. Then he said, “Some people aren’t really expending any energy. If you know what I mean.” He looked pointedly at the woman water walking, and then the swimmer. I was so taken aback, I said, “Yeah,” and resumed my laps. I could have kicked myself for not calling him out on his rude comment, but it took me by such surprise, I couldn’t react in time.

A few minutes later, a younger man was standing at the end of my lane, so I asked him if he wanted to share. He said that he was actually wondering if I wouldn’t mind moving over and sharing the lane with the lady in the middle, because he and the rude man swim faster than me. I admit I rolled my eyes. I swim with faster people all the time (Hi, Bob!), and it always works out just fine. But they insisted that they, as the fast swimmers, needed to share a lane together. I said sure, and moved to the middle lane.

A few minutes after that, the water walker finished her workout and voila! I had my own lane again. The rude man swam for about 20 minutes. The whole time, I was running through scenarios in my head about what I would say to him if given the chance. He got out while I was still swimming, and started to go to the hot tub. This was my chance! I was going to hop out and join him for a little convo. But apparently he didn’t like that there were people already in the hot tub, because he made a face and stalked off to the locker room.

When I was done with my laps, I spoke to the lifeguard about the man’s bad attitude. The lifeguard told me that the man always complains about “overweight” people in the pool, and he refuses to swim with them. I laughed. Really! I mean, how absurd. Does he think we won’t fit? Because those lanes are wide, people. Does he think he’ll catch fat by being near it? Last I checked, that’s not a thing – and even if it was, I’m pretty sure the amount of chemicals in the pool can kill anything.

OH, THE HORROR!

OH, THE HORROR!

I posted a brief summary of this experience on Facebook on Friday night, and people were very supportive and sympathetic (thank you, friends!). I think, however, that I gave the impression that what the lifeguard told me hurt me, made me feel bad about myself. Not at all. If anything, I think I like myself even more after finding out that there is someone in the world for whom the mere existence of bodies that don’t meet a specific aesthetic standard consumes them to such a degree that it drowns them (swimming metaphor for the win!) in anger and hatred – and, I’d bet, fear.

I don’t feel bad about myself, I don’t feel sad, and I don’t even feel angry. Mostly I feel bad for him. I mean, what a sad existence! Imagine the horror he experiences when someone who looks like me walks into the gym, ruining his view. Imagine the disgust he feels when he is forced to look at a non-thin body like mine, that does not meet his standards of beauty or (presumed) fitness.

Clearly miserable.

Clearly miserable.

Imagine how it really infuriates him to see a fat person like me who loves themselves and is happy, which is something he will never be.

Dear Runners and Walkers

When I first started walking half marathons back in 2007, I was pretty clueless about everything except how long I was going to have to walk. I didn’t know that there are people who feel that distance events are for runners, and that walking is something you do only when you are failing at running. I didn’t know that people believe walking a marathon “doesn’t count.” It’s been such a blessing to spend so many years working with Gilda’s Gang, because we embrace and encourage people of all fitness levels, at all paces, to tackle 13.1 miles. We don’t believe that marathoning is just for runners.

Gilda's Gang 2014!

Gilda’s Gang 2014!

In the newspaper this weekend, there was a blog post by a woman who calls herself The Fair Weather Runner. In it, she offered advice to the first-time marathoner. To be fair, she doesn’t call herself the Fair Weather Marathoner. But still, I’m so glad I never saw a letter like this when I was first starting out, because I probably would have never queued up at my first start line. It’s hard enough to put ourselves out there and do something physical in a very public way; to be discouraged before we even start makes it all the harder. To that end, I’ve written my own version of a letter to a first-time marathoner.

Dear Everyone Who Felt Like Marathoning Wasn’t For Them After Reading that Letter,

No bones about it: training for and completing a distance event is hard work. You may very well have doubts about your ability to finish. With the right training, nutrition, hydration, shoes, and support, you’ll get there! Now, the Fair Weather Runner mentions that “the likelihood you’ll be last is statistically very small.” Well, someone has to be last. And it very well may be you. But as she points out, you will still be a finisher. You will still get a medal. You will still have accomplished something amazing, and there is nothing to be ashamed about. Get across the finish line, and don’t worry about who is or isn’t ahead of or behind you.

The Fair Weather Runner says that running a marathon may make you realize that you hate running. If you decide you hate running, try this: stop running. Why would you spend so much time and energy (and it’s going to take a lot of both, trust me) doing something you hate? A lot of people give up on incorporating fitness into their lives because they don’t enjoy it. You’re more likely to stick with something you like doing – so find out what that is. Marathoning isn’t for everyone. Running one might not be for you, but walking one might! Find what you love, and keep doing that.

In my favorite (not favorite) part of the letter, the Fair Weather Runner wrote, “You might have the temptation to walk. So what. Do it if it makes you feel better. You haven’t quit.” Try this version instead: If you feel the urge to walk, embrace it. There’s absolutely no shame in walking a marathon. Walking is not just the resort of the tired or failed runner. Heck, there are some marathon coaches who encourage walking! It’s still 13.1 or 26.2 miles, whether you walk them or run them. If your body is still moving in a forward direction, you absolutely have not “quit.” In fact, continued forward motion in a marathon is pretty much the opposite of quitting.

Nutrition! It’s very important, and the Fair Weather Runner has some very specific things to say about that. Orange slices? Good! Purple and blue electrolyte drinks? Bad! Honestly, if you dislike orange slices, or dig purple and blue electrolyte drinks, go for it. Spend some time during your training weeks figuring out what works for you, nutrition-wise. There is absolutely not a one-method-works-for-all approach when it comes to eating and drinking during a marathon.

Finally, you do not have to “be prepared to be horrified at how you look in your race photos.” You might look sweaty, red-faced, tired, spent. You might look powerful, capable, and strong. Or you might very well look like all of those things! Your photos are a tangible memento of what you and your body accomplished on race day. Will you use it as your professional head shot on LinkedIn? Probably not. But you may very well want to show it off proudly as your Facebook profile picture. It can be tough to like pictures of ourselves that aren’t typically considered flattering, but there’s zero good in preparing yourself to be ashamed of what you look like.

Post-race in Toronto, 2013.

Post-race in Toronto, 2013.

The expression “fair-weather friend” means someone who is your friend only when things are pleasant or going well for you. It’s not always pleasant to train for and complete a distance race, which the Fair Weather Runner certainly makes clear. It does indeed take “ambition and courage,” just as she mentions. But things will be a lot easier if we also remember to be encouraging, kind, welcoming, and inclusive – to others, and to ourselves. While marathoning isn’t for everyone, it can be for anyone.

These Arms of Mine

Last week, something really amazing happened: I got an email telling me that I had won the Charles McCorkle Hauser Prize for Prose from the Chautauqua Institution! This was a super big deal, because I’d never won a literary prize before, nor had I ever won money for my fiction. As you can imagine, I was over the moon.

Accepting my award at Chautauqua!

Accepting my award at Chautauqua!

A celebration was in order, of course, so I grabbed my friend Heather and we headed out to eat some lobster. While we were at dinner, we asked the waiter to take a photo of us with our giant rum drinks.

IMG_8667

Picture it: I’m on top of the world, a story I wrote has impressed some people enough that they want to give me a prize for it. This is one of the highest points in my lifetime of creating fiction. I’m with one of my best friends, at one of my favorite places to eat. What a night! I take my phone back from the waiter, look at the photos he took, and… I struggle not to cry. My arms! They’re big. No, not big. I’m a writer, I can do better than that: My arms are massive, immense, colossal. I’m horrified and mortified. They dwarf my head – I feel like that guy from Beetlejuice.

The guy on the right.

The guy on the right.

Hold up. I’m the creator of Big Fit Deal. I have spent the past two years of my life writing and talking about body acceptance, about Health at Every Size, about how the size and shape of our bodies are not shorthand for our worth. How can I be horrified by a part of my own body? I swallow the shame, and focus on dinner. Later, I ask Heather, “Is this why I’m single?” As the words come out, I believe them. I feel the shame creep into my heart and up to my face, where it burns hot. Yes, it’s the size of my arms that keep men at a distance, that make me undateable and unlovable, I’m sure of it. Heather says, “I don’t know.” We don’t want to believe it, but we aren’t sure, so we talk about something else.

Before I go to sleep, I face the mirror. I hold up first one bare arm, and then the other. I make myself look, hard. There was (and is) no denying it: I have really big arms. Now, I tell myself, I can go down one of two paths. The first leads to a dark world of shame, anger, and embarrassment. It leads to covering up even when it’s too hot. If I go far enough, it probably leads to calorie restriction and obsessive exercise, in the hope that my arms will magically become small and delicate and socially acceptable (even though that never happened when I did those things before). The other path? That leads to embracing what I’ve got. To focusing on the fact that these big ol’ arms of mine swim laps three times a week, they lift weights, they push and pull and move water in aquafit. Not only that, but at the end of those arms are the hands that I used to write that award-winning short story!

I bet you can guess which path I took. Now, truth is, the size of my arms might very well be off-putting to potential suitors. After all, we live in a world where even small women are afraid to go sleeveless because their arms aren’t toned or tight “enough.” There are countless magazine articles and Pinterest boards dedicated to eradicated the scourge of the fat, flappy arm. But if someone doesn’t want to get to know me because of the size of my arms, that’s their loss, because they give really fantastic hugs.

It’s a common refrain around these parts, but worth repeating: Body acceptance is a journey. Some days are easier than others. Some days, you want to lock your door and never let anyone in – or yourself out. Other days, you face the reflection in the mirror straight on, acknowledge what you see there, and work hard to change your perspective. Then you sit back down at the keyboard and see what else you have to offer the world, one story at a time.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Big Fit Deal

What’s going on in the world, you guys? Today I saw two headlines, back to back. First, this:

bully

And then this:

nutella

What a perfect example of how our feelings about food are so mixed up! In the lunch bullying article, we learn that kids (even in elementary school) are forgoing lunch. There are a bunch of reasons for this – from being bullied about body size to fear of rejection by certain groups to not having an appetite because of bullying. It’s enraging that kids are making fun of others for eating. Eating! A thing that is necessary for human survival. A thing that gives children energy to learn and grow. If anyone still doubts that the media’s obsession with thinness has become toxic, doubt no more. I wonder at the choice of the photo that accompanies this article. Probably someone just googled “lunch room bullying,” and came up with this, but it’s a terrible choice. It shows thin girls whispering about another thin girl, which reinforces the idea that the bullied girl’s body is unacceptable. How will a fat girl feel, if she sees a thin girl purportedly (because of the nature of this article) being picked on for her size? Mixed up, to say the very least.

And then, on the flip side, we have the Nutella Challenge, the goal of which is to eat an entire jar of Nutella in three minutes or less. I love Nutella. It’s delicious, if you like chocolatey, hazelnutty deliciousness. But I find food challenges to be very… well, unpalatable. I don’t find it entertaining or amusing to watch someone eat as much as they possibly can, especially in a short period of time. But I might be in the minority, as there are contests and television shows dedicated to this very practice. Full disclosure: I haven’t watched these Nutella Challenge videos, or read any of the accompanying comments, but I’m willing to bet that fat people are being fat- and body-shamed up the proverbial wazoo. Thin people? Probably not. Just like if a fat woman eats a lot, she’s considered gluttonous and disgusting, whereas if a thin woman does the same, she’s considered quirky and cute. Is it any wonder so many of us have food issues?!

So, in the mixed-up world we live in when it comes to food, what can you do? Start by reminding yourself and your loved ones (especially your children) that food is not the enemy. It is necessary for survival. It fuels our bodies, minds, and hearts. Eating is natural. It is something everyone needs to do in order to stay alive! And then remind yourself (and all those others) that food choices do not define a person’s worth (that includes you!). If you do these things, you can combat the negative, shameful messages surrounding food and eating, one meal at a time.

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