Are you watching NBC’s This Is Us? I’ve heard that it’s heartwarming and lovely. I’ve heard it makes you cry. (I love a make-you-cry show… I watched ER for 15 years, people!)
I can’t watch This Is Us, though, and it all comes down to Chrissy Metz’s character, Kate. When I saw the trailer, I had a sinking feeling that her character’s arc would be all about her size, and from what I’ve heard, I was right. I’d love to say that it’s a win for fat people to have a fat female character in a major role on television, but if she doesn’t have a plot line that isn’t about her weight, then… is that really a win? Not to me.
Maybe her character’s singular focus isn’t something you noticed, or thought about. I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, the media (and Hollywood) reminds us on a daily basis that fat bodies are unacceptable—unless that body is attempting to shrink itself. So why wouldn’t someone Kate’s size be actively trying to get smaller? That makes sense. It makes her worthy. (In their eyes, not mine!)
I saw a few minutes of the show by accident one week. It was a scene with Kate and her male suitor, having dinner. He wanted dessert, she “couldn’t” have any; the desperation in her face as she watched him eat was honestly offensive to watch.
And now we have this interview, where Metz talks about her contractually-obligated weight loss. Honestly, while I’m disappointed, I’m not surprised. I would have been surprised if Metz’s character had simply existed in her fat body, if she had had a life outside of being upset by and/or trying to manipulate her size. Can you imagine how shocking that would be, if she was just another person on the show, with thoughts and feelings and experiences that were not weight-focused?
Okay, your turn. Am I completely off base? Is Kate more than meets the eye? Is she a well-rounded character? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
So last night, after talking to someone at my gym, I was inspired to write a quick post on Facebook. And then another Facebook page, PCOS Challenge, took what I wrote and turned it into this! Now lots of people who wouldn’t have seen it are sharing it. That’s working together to make change. I love it!
(Content note: I keep forgetting to repost FB post over here. I’ll try to be better about that!)
Y’all, let me tell you about this sign I saw at the gym today:
(Warning: There’s gonna be some shouting.) Yeah, how about no, LA Fitness? How about FITNESS IS NOT A BODY TYPE. How about FAT DOES NOT MEAN UNFIT. How about THIN DOES NOT MEAN FIT. Everything about this sign is offensive and wrong.
When I came out of the locker room, a guy was smiling and taking a picture of it. So, being the activist that I am, I went to the front and asked to see the person who had written it. I was directed to a thin young woman sitting at a desk nearby. I told her that I found that sign extremely offensive. She, quite shocked, told me that many people had come to tell her HOW MUCH THEY LIKED IT.
I said, “I have been coming to this gym for three years, and for all of them, I’ve been fat.” (And now comes the part that made me cry rage-tears on the way home.) She looked me up and down and said, “I wouldn’t call you fat!”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW? I am ABSOLUTELY fat. In no world am I not fat. Not according to my weight on a scale, BMI, fat percentage calculators, my pants, every store that I can’t shop in (which is most stores!) AND EVERYONE’S EYEBALLS. I am UNDENIABLY fat.
Maybe she thought it would make me feel good, to be called not-fat? Maybe she was thinking of all the negative traits we associate with people we call fat, like unhealthy, unloveable, unworthy, gluttonous, stupid (to name just a few), and a quick up-and-down magically told her I’m not those things? Whatever her reason, it certainly wasn’t because of what her eyes were telling her.
The conversation continued, with her agreeing with me that not all thin people are fit, not all fat people are unfit, fitness comes in all shapes and sizes. Honestly, I don’t even care that she agreed with me. Because if she BELIEVED those things, she wouldn’t have written that garbage sign in the first place. She said, laughing, that she changes the sign every day, so I definitely won’t see it there again on Wednesday. NOT THE POINT. I can’t imagine how people who are less accepting of their body size than I am felt when they saw that sign, even if it was “only” up for a day.
I cried angry, angry tears on the way home because her comment was erasing a critical part of who I am. I am not JUST fat, of course, but it’s a HUGE (pun intended) part of who I am. It’s part of who I am as an athlete, a trainer and coach, a gym member, a swimmer, a half marathoner, a woman, and a human being. Being told I’m “not fat” isn’t just inaccurate, it’s invalidating.
Since “I” seems to to be the letter of the day, let’s end with a vocabulary lesson. This sign is insipid, ignorant, and irresponsible. Class dismissed!
Y’all, this is gonna sound like a country song, but I’ve got a busted body and a broken heart. If you’ve been reading BFD for awhile, you know that I injured my left knee way back in 2008, and it’s caused a host of problems, ultimately resulting in some chronic muscle problems in my right leg that make it super painful to walk. Hence the busted body. It hasn’t been fun, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Here’s a gallery of pics of my 11 of my 12 half marathons. I can’t seem to find a picture of #3, Rochester 2008.
You know what’s been harder than years of painful physical therapy? The heartbreak of not being able to race. Sunday is the traditional Gilda’s Gang half marathon here in Rochester. I’ll be there taking pictures of the Gang, but to not be out on the course, wearing that shirt, breaks my heart so much. This is my second year with no marathons, and time isn’t making it easier for me to sit on the sidelines.
I used to think that walking a half marathon was the hardest thing I’d ever do. It’s brutal work, both for the body and the mind. But being forced to sit out when I still want to participate, when the need to complete those 13.1 miles still sings in my blood? That’s so much harder. Who would’ve thought?
Y’all, I’m not the best at math, but I know this doesn’t add up. There’s a company called Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., that is ‘a leading independent market research publisher of “off-the-shelf” studies about SERVICE industries since 1979.’ John LaRosa, the company’s Research Director, had some stuff to say about the plus-size market. Let’s take a look!
This little-researched market had a breakout year in 2015, as size acceptance became more popular and retailers finally got serious about serving large persons’ needs for fashionable clothes.
I’m sorry, what? Because just the other day I went to JC Penney, Macy’s, and Target, looking for something to wear to a wedding I’m going to, and found nothing I could or would wear. JC Penney doesn’t separate out their (very few) plus-sized dresses, so that was like looking for a needle in a straight-sized haystack. Macy’s has rack after rack after rack of straight-sized dresses downstairs, and 2-3 thinly stocked racks tucked away upstairs. And Target? I literally grumbled out loud about the lack of plus options, I was so offended by what I saw—or, rather, didn’t see. I don’t know what world John LaRosa is living in, but it’s not mine.
Let’s look at some other “Major Findings” by Marketdata. (Note that these are direct from the article, so the scare quotes around the terms below are theirs, not mine, and that missing scare quote is also theirs, not mine.)
Marketdata analysts estimate that in 2015, the plus-size market in the U.S. was worth $21.5 billion. Sales are expected to grow by 4.1% annually, reaching just under $26 billion by 2020.
Based on CDC obesity data, the number of potential customers for “plus sized” products and services is at least 54 million Americans. The number of obese women has nearly doubled during the past 15 years, fueling increased demand for plus size clothing, products and services.
The “average” American women now wears a size 14 (with “plus-sizes, often classified as 14 to 34, accounting for 67 percent of the population). Typically, plus size customers are female, between the ages of 30 – 45, and come from all income levels and occupations.
So, there are a ton (pun intended!) of us “obese women” out there, and 67% of women wear plus sizes, and we’re demanding clothes! And yet maybe two stores in a mall cater to the plus-size market specifically. And stores that have (or make a passing attempt at having) plus-size departments? Well, see my experience above.
I’m so grateful that I have Torrid to shop in, but honestly, if these stats are accurate (and, from existing in the world and having eyesight, I believe they are), then I should be able to shop in way more places than Torrid and Lane Bryant. How does this add up? It doesn’t. Why don’t these companies want some of that $20+ billion? Isn’t making money their bottom line?
I dream of a world where I never write another post that ends like this:
But that day is not today.
I relate to this so much:
“Now, I do a lot of other things in my life besides being fat, but being fat is often the first thing people notice, and because culturally we have so many very specific and pervasive stereotypes about fatness, it can cause people to see me in a certain light even before they get to know anything else about me. This is something I have to deal with every time I meet someone new, or go to a job interview or business meeting, or even get on a plane — will the person I am about to interact with be cool, or terrible? Who knows? It keeps life exciting! And sometimes very, very stressful.”
Read more from Lesley Kinzel here.
Are we making a difference when it comes to spreading the message that all bodies are good bodies? We are up against loud voices, funded by big money (the diet industry is estimated to bring in about sixty billion dollars a year!). It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by those odds. But check this out: My friend Ragen Chastain breaks down a nasty situation, and shows us that activism can make a difference! Read about it here.
A little programming note for ya: It’s come to my attention (hi, Sam!) that not everyone is on Facebook. Of course I knew that, but still, I’ve been posting way more over there than I have here.
That changes today! Starting… now!… whenever I post on Facebook, I’ll add the same content here. I tend to post a lot of links, photos, and brief thoughts, so you won’t see the same “in-depth” content that you’re used to here. But hey, we’re living in a TL;DR world anyway, right? Right!
First up, this great image I found today. Words to live by!
Let me tell you about my first friend, “Barb.” Barb has been in my life for… well, forever. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t there. We got along great when we were young, but then when puberty hit and we started liking boys, things got rocky. I knew that there was something about us that boys didn’t like, but Barb didn’t seem to care, she didn’t want to change who she was. I guess you could say were more “frenemies” than friends; while I appreciated some of the good things she brought into my life, most of the time I only tolerated her. (And, to be completely honest, there were plenty of times when I wished we had never met.)
Then, at a point in my late 20s, Barb began to listen. She agreed that if we changed some things, life would get so much better—we’d find love and happiness! We were totally in sync. We did the same things, liked the same things, and it felt amazing. And I was totally right about our lives getting better: We made some new friends, and even started to get some serious male attention. Barb and I were, at last, reflecting our best selves back to each other. Life was good!
Fast forward about ten years, and things began to change again. I was still working toward change, but Barb was reverting back to who she’d been. When we’d look at each other, I recognized her less and less. I couldn’t understand the things she was doing or feeling. Gradually, we grew farther and farther apart.
The more Barb changed, the more I began to dislike her. I didn’t even want to look at her anymore. She was a stranger to me, inscrutable. I would lay awake at night wondering how she could betray me like that, after our beautiful decade of bonding, accomplishment, and love. How could she be so different from the person I thought she was? Why was she changing back? Hadn’t we worked so hard to get to this place of peace, of harmony, of happiness?
I did everything I could to get the old Barb back. I reminded her of how great things had been, reminded her of all the things we’d done and accomplished. I assured her we could do them again! But the old tricks didn’t work this time. So I tried new things, anything, to get her to change. I screamed at her, cried, dragged her across countless miles, begged her! Obstinate woman that she’d become, she refused. We were at a stalemate.
Believe it or not, this story has a happy ending. Because one day—I remember it with perfect clarity—I realized it wasn’t Barb who needed to change, it was me. Barb knew all along who she was. She had been trying to tell me for years, and I was the stubborn one who had refused to listen. I was the one who was sure her version of herself was false. I wanted to break her and mold her into my perfect version of who I thought she should be, instead of letting her be her true self.
I thought Barb and I had found peace before, but I was wrong. Now we’re at peace. Now we’ve found harmony. That’s not to say that we don’t have our little squabbles, mostly me picking at Barb to change just a wee bit here or a wee bit there, in the hopes that it will make life happier and easier for us. But the more I accept Barb for who she is, the more I listen to the truths she speaks to me, the rarer those moments become, and the happier and healthier we both are.
She is my first and best friend. Now, when I stand in front of the mirror and look her in the eye, she smiles. And I smile back.