Tag Archives: Fat is a feminist issue

Back fat remix

(Because there was more to say about my sixteen year old body, apparently. Whatever, I ain’t questioning the muse.)

When I was sixteenish, I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I didn’t notice until a classmate made a big to-do about telling me to turn to the side and then proclaiming “Ah! Where’s Arwyn? It’s like she disappeared!” (I did not thank him.) I weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 100lb less than I do now (I don’t know my current weight, and only vaguely knew it then). I’m supposed to pine for that weight, that body, because I was sixteen and svelte and sexy, or something.

Except I was also getting migraines multiple times per week.

Except I was still “too fat”, still mocked and attacked in the halls, still told by my entire culture I was ugly and lazy and unfit merely by existing.

Except I was so anemic I couldn’t walk a mile, much less run it, not because I was “out of shape” but because my muscles were suffocating, demanding oxygen I couldn’t give to them because my red blood cells were too small or nonexistent.

Except I lost that weight by accidentally not eating, by having nothing but three giant Mountain Dews at school (thanks defunding of public schools, for making overpriced undernourishing vending machines the only way for our district to buy textbooks), near passing out in Drama after classes, eating whatever I could find as soon as I got home, barely eating at dinner an hour later because I was still stuffed (my stomach too-small from nearly 24 hours with nothing but liquids), and doing it all again the next day.

And this is the body I’m supposed to be nostalgic for, am supposed to think was “better” than the fatter, flappier, floppier, fitter one I have now? This is the body people call “healthier” just because it had less mass?

I have more pains now, and less energy, it’s true. But that’s aging (and an old roller coaster injury and endless parenting) doing its work on me, and is to some extent inevitable. I also have more skills, and fewer mood swings. Less anemia, and a broader palate. Two children, and an amazing lifemate. Fewer hang-ups, and more orgasms. More strength, and less fear of asking for help. Less self-hatred, and more compassion for that small, hurting, hurtful voice inside that calls me ugly. I have hands that soothe and heal, legs that take me wherever I ask them to, arms that carry my children no matter how big they get, a brain that’s clever and mostly kind, and scars from skin that’s stretched to protect me when I felt I would burst from the crazy, when my meds fucked me up, when I made two babies, when I fed two children, when I learned to run, when I relearned to walk, when I lived and lived and lived.

My body was never “perfect”, never acceptable by my society’s standards. My breasts grew in pointing down, my skin scarred silver stripes just from becoming a teen, and I have always, always been called fat in one form or another. I learned so early I had a choice of how to feel, give in to labels of “freak” and attack myself, or say “fuck you” to the entire flawed and too often fatal system. The idea we have to love our bodies, no matter the pain or difficulties they come with, is as oppressive as the one that says we can’t because we are “imperfect” for whatever of ten thousand supposed reasons, but we can, we CAN, if we choose, if we want — and for me, for fat and finally healing me, it feels revolutionary.

And even better, it feels fabulous.

Flappy arms and back folds and I don’t mind

Why would I buy the lie I could look like I did at 16 when I’m 30? Like I do at 30 when I’m 50?

Bodies change. I have carried two babies, breastfed two children, gone crazy and come back, gone to hell and physical therapy, burned, birthed, loved, lived, changed how I ate and moved and carried myself through it all. I will never look the way I did at 16 (hot) again; I will no longer look the way I do now at 30 (hot) in ten years, twenty (probably still hot, but maybe I won’t care anymore).

There was nothing I did then that I could replicate now to have the body I did at 16; I was, simply, 16. I could do what I did then, stay up all night and sleep in and not eat until dinner and have sex five times in a day and flirt and flirt and fight and flirt and I still won’t look like me then, not even if, for a short time, I weigh like me then. Like a teenager. Like someone who doesn’t know better, hasn’t learned better, doesn’t care for herself better.

And that’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine, and it will be fine, and I have no obligation (though every permission) to love or even tolerate any part of me, but I find little point in believing the delusion I can be as I was, either.

Maybe you see that as fatalist, defeatist. I see it as radical acceptance, of who I am, how I am, when I am. I could waste my energy trying to be who I am not anymore, I could. Or — what a miraculous word — I could be who I am now, fully and freely, spend my energy figuring that out, fleshing out the possibilities of me-now.

I choose me.

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”.

I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

And repeat:

There’s no such thing as “healthy food”.

It’s true.

There is Health Food, as a cultural construct1, but, as a cultural construct, it is ever changing; currently we are undergoing a cultural shift from low-fat to low-carbohydrate food earning the appellation. But, aside from the fact that we simply cannot agree on what qualifies, there is so such thing as “healthy food”.

One of the most frustrating things about being a fat woman is: everyone is convinced they have The Perfect Diet, and if I would just follow it, the fat would just walk away2. Everyone. Everyone. The veg*ns. The Paleos. The Atkin adherents. The raw food peeps. Eat no fat; eat tons of fat. Eat no grains; eat soaked grains. Eat a fastfood turkey sandwich every day; eat nothing from a store. Everyone is convinced they have The Truth on what is Healthy Food, and what the other guy (or the fat chick) is eating ain’t it.

Or, maybe, for the super open minded and tolerant, they’ll say we’re not quite sure just what healthy food is (except you won’t find it at McDonald’s). But by all the saints and Starbucks, don’t question the idea that there is such a thing as Healthy Food, because surely, if we just apply Science/Prayer/Common Sense/Historical Analysis/Noble Savage Wisdom, we’ll figure it out. And no one will ever die.

What? That’s the logical conclusion to the idea of Healthy Food. If we eat right, we won’t get sick. If we eat right, we won’t get fat. If we eat right, we won’t become diabetic. If we eat right, our kids won’t get autism. (If we eat right, we won’t be infertile, and we’ll be able to have children, who will obviously be free of all illness and defect.) If we eat right, we won’t be crazy. If we eat right, we won’t die from heart attack or stroke or cancer or liver failure or kidney disease or AIDS — and, if we eat right when we’re pregnant, neither will our children.

These are all things believers in the myth of healthy food have said. Half of them to me.

Ok, but let’s say that’s a hyperbolic misrepresentation of the position of Healthy Food’s believers3. Let’s say that when you say “she got diabetes because she ate like crap” you don’t actually mean “she wouldn’t have gotten diabetes if she’d eaten right” which itself could only be true if “no one who eats right gets diabetes”, which is utter bollocks. Let’s say that, instead, you have amazing powers of sight into alternate dimensions and a perfect ability to predict outcomes of statistical likelihoods4 — because that what it comes down to, risk, with some eating patterns carrying, on a population scale, different risk profiles than other eating patterns. You’re just saying healthy food improves your odds, not actually calling healthy food a panacea. But there’s still healthy food and unhealthy food, right?

No.

If we are not claiming there is a food, or a way of eating, that brings perfect health (which is assuming we can even meaningfully define “perfect health” in the first place), then the best we can do with food is risk management. “Healthy” can only exist as a comparative, not absolute, value.

So, compared to what? Which is healthier, raw cultured butter from pastured cows, or cold-pressed organic olive oil? That depends on whether you’re vegan, or lactose intolerant, or live in a dessert without a means of keeping food chilled5, I’d say. Which is healthier, a plate of brown rice spaghetti in fat-free sauce made from tomatoes from your own garden, or a protein shake with artificial sugar substitutes — to a diabetic? Which is healthier, the home cooked meal a growth-delayed, sensory-averse child absolutely won’t touch, or the McDonald’s chicken nuggets they’ll scarf?

Food — all food — brings things that are “good” for us, and things that are “bad”; or, more accurately, things that we need in that moment and things that we can store for later and things we don’t need (right then or at all) and things that we have too much of and things that actively harm us. All foods have all of these — only the specifics and amounts of each change. And the specifics are variable depending on our needs, which not only are different from person to person but each person’s needs change all the damn time.

Given that no food can fill all needs simultaneously6, and eating is a practice in good enough balance over time, how can we call a food “healthy” as an absolute?7 Food is meant to meet our needs8, and can only be evaluated on its ability to do so. Even a Twinkie is “healthy” for a person starved for caloric energy.

So there it is. There absolutely are foods that have a better need-filling to harm ratio in any given situation9. There absolutely are reasons to aim for eating foods that better meet more of your nutritional needs more of the time (though you have no moral obligation to do so). There so absolutely are reasons to call for large corporations to take out unnecessary harmful components from the food they sell and for, at the least, factual labeling about those additives. I disagree with not a piece of that, nor with helping people, should they wish, learn how to feed themselves in a way that meets more of their needs more of the time with less harm. Please, if that’s your calling, keep at it.

But the fact remains: there is no such thing as “healthy food”.

  1. Whence we have the terms “crunchy” and “granola” to describe people — as many would describe me.
  2. SOMEONE BUY ME THIS.
  3. It isn’t.
  4. Remind me not to play craps with you.
  5. Helloooo rancid oils.
  6. For example: the presence of calcium inhibits the absorption of iron (and, pertinent to both me and the Boychick, oral thyroid hormone supplementation), and therefore we need to eat some foods high in calcium and deficient in iron, and others high in iron but lacking calcium.
  7. Even postulating the theoretical existence of a food that perfectly filled all of our nutritional needs simultaneously in a perfectly balanced way: would it be healthy to be bored out of our ever-loving gourds by eating the same exact thing all the time?
  8. Not just nutritional needs, but emotional, ritual, social, and so on — none of these is more or less important than others.
  9. A large apple may do as well for our theoretical Twinkie-eater — though only if they have the teeth to eat it.

Linkanikos

Another link round up from the lovely Emily. With luck, I’ll even have a chance to read them all soon. Probably whilst nursing.

Hello all.  How’s you?  Me, oh you know…  Now we’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way, down to linkage.

At Big Fat Blog, in Scotland, a couple might have lose four of their seven children because their parents “failed to help them slim down.”  There’s email addresses at the bottom of the post you can use to help support keeping this family together.

Wikileaks revealed that the U.S has been lobbying against breastfeeding campaigns in the Philippines.  PhD in Parenting wrote about Evenflo breast pumps, and how a company goes from good to very, very bad.

Oregon Health & Science University researchers have developed a new contraceptive that is more focused and safer, controlling mechanisms that result in the release of an egg.  Intriguing.  s.e smith at Bitch on pop culture representations of parenting with mental illness.

At Tiger Beatdown, Sady wrote a lovely post about feminism, critique and feeling virtuous.

Massive unemployment: proof capitalism doesn’t work.  Another sad sign of the times – climate scientists establishing a legal defense fund because of all the lawsuits they’re facing.

In Greece, the rebel dog Loukanikos barked at some police offices in Syntagma (Constitution) Square.  Arwyn has her Doctor Who fandom, I have stray dogs in Athens.  Ok, I have Doctor Who too.

And speaking of, Doctor Whooves is feeling impatient.

Arwyn again: The dear (pony-fied) Doctor was obviously not in postpartum baby-land. As Kareena says, babies distort the space time continuum. Truer words ne’er were spoken!

Fat and pregnant and beautifully blessed

And more than a wee bit exhausted. Especially since we’re also1 buying a house and moving.

But, I took some time out last week from packing, panicking, and sleeping to be blessed by a lovely group of friends, both near and far. And, for the first time, got myself hennaed, a gorgeous stylized tree right on my already-lovely fat and pregnant belly.2

a picture of the breasts, torso and stomach of Arwyn, a white woman.  she is wearing a black bra, and her 38.5 week pregnant stomach is covered with a large hennaed oak tree, henna paste still on and quite dark.  ps she is gorgeous.

Right after finishing, henna paste still on

I walked around for the next week randomly smiling as I remembered this was under my clothes:

another photo of Arwyn, this time a full body shot taken in a mirror with the phone she's holding upright in her left hand. She's wearing glasses, jeans and a navy blue blouse with white stars and white-and-rouge moons which is tucked up underneath her breasts to expose her pregnant belly.  her belly is covered with a large hennaed oak tree, skin stained light red-brown by the henna. she is smiling slightly, and remains gorgeous

And the next day, after flaking off the paste.

But also because this3 was echoing in my ears:

And so, we offer this prayer today, for you, Arwyn:

May you
be valued and cherished,
as a woman, a writer, a healer
a lover, a partner, a mother,

May you
be given help when you need it

May you
love this child fiercely, and gently

May you
have the strength to seek connection, not control

May you
be surprised,
and answer “here I am” when you hear the call,
and may you bend like a willow tree
in the face of the unexpected

May you
forgive freely, forgiving even the unforgivable,
and be forgiven in return

And finally, and perhaps most importantly,
may you be kind to yourself, to your children, partner, family and friends
and be treated kindly in return.

And for your child:

May it grow up given every chance to thrive, to flourish, to live a life as rich and full of experience as can be. May the child live free from harm, from trauma, from unnecessary pain and suffering. And most of all, may it be it happy and loved, by you, [The Man], [the Boychick], and all in its life.

This, please. In these last hours, days, perhaps weeks4, I walk in the hope of this.

  1. WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING OMG NEVER DO THIS NEVER EVER EVER EVERRRRRRRR
  2. The Fetus was not making it easy, doing barrel rolls more or less the entire time, but the lovely Nichol did perfectly anyway.
  3. A blessing written by a dear friend rendered by distance unable to be there herself, but whose presence was felt via her words, read aloud by those there.
  4. Please, at least one week.