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I Think You Forgot To Mention Something

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Do you ever experience a moment when it seems like someone is on the verge of a truth but they end up just skirting around it? It seems like that happens often around issues of weight. We hear a lot of talk about how horrible life is for fat people and we activists sit there, mentally filling in the blanks; “Yes, life is hard for us because people discriminate against us!” Unfortunately, many people never seem to reach that logical conclusion. Instead, it’s “Doctor’s treat fat patient’s poorly, so you should lose weight.” “Kids bully fat people, so you should lose weight.” “Airlines kick fat people off of flights, so you should lose weight.” And on and on it goes.

Last week I was sitting at the break table at work, flipping through the most recent issue of Mental Floss magazine, and I had one of those “avoiding the truth” moments. The magazine included a feature on how the seven deadly sins may not be so bad for you after all. I mostly skimmed the article, but of course I wanted to see what they had to say about gluttony. Now, I don’t really need a magazine article to give me permission to practice some good old fashioned gluttony. I don’t believe in attaching moral value to food or drink anyway, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that indulging in something you enjoy makes you happy, so just enjoy it already!

Even though I wanted to see what the rag had to say about gluttony, I didn’t get very far, because right at the beginning of the section was a parenthetical that warned against being too gluttonous, because heavier people (their words) tend to get raises and promotions less often. Hmmm. Mental Floss, I feel like you’re missing something.

See, this is true. All of us fat activists know this is true. Apparently the writers of Mental Floss know this is true as well, because they threw it in as a little tidbit in an article about why it’s okay to indulge (but not too much, I guess. Don’t over-indulge that indulgence, folks). The thing is, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to include this fact without bothering to talk about why it’s true.

Being less likely to be hired, promoted, or given a raise is not some odd little side-effect of being fat. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not an unavoidable trait. It’s discrimination. Fat people are discriminated against. We are less likely to be hired, promoted, or given raises because the people in power see us as lazy, unintelligent, or just ugly. The article in Mental Floss mentioned this fact of discrimination against “heavier people” so casually and quickly that it wasn’t clear whether or not they actually see it as discrimination. Reading that line I felt like saying “….Yes, and?”

The thing is, it’s not our fault. It’s not our fault we are less likely to be given these opportunities in the workplace. It’s not our fault we are discriminated against. To throw this fact out there so casually, and then not explore it, makes it seem like this is just an interesting and unfortunate side affect of being fat. What it really is, is a side affect of living in a society that views fat people as lesser beings. We are headless blobs on the evening news, miserable bed-ridden guests on Dr. Oz, reality show contestants desperate to lose weight in order to “take our lives  back.” I don’t know about anyone else, but I just want to be a person.

Yes, fat people are less likely to be given raises or promotions. And that is fucking unacceptable. 

The Line Between an Ally and a Hindrance

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Something I really love seeing is non-fat people speaking up for the fact acceptance movement. I like to see that people of all shapes and sizes are saying “You know what? It’s bullshit that fat people are treated like pariahs in America, and elsewhere. I’m gonna do something about it.” That’s great! Please do hop on this bandwagon of awesomeness and acceptance. However, while I generally love the non-fat praising the fat, I’m finding I have some issues that I can’t quite settle with, so I’m gonna try to hash them out here. 

Issue 1: Non-fat people joining the fat acceptance movement and claiming to be fat themselves.

Okay, I will say right away I feel like an asshole for where this is going but I also need to say it. Not everyone gets to call themselves fat. You don’t get to claim the title of fat and proud because you have some belly rolls or jiggly thighs. Having fat on your body does not make you a fat person. You don’t have to be fat to support or participate in the fat acceptance movement or fat acceptance activism, but this doesn’t mean you actually are fat. Now, the big problem with this is, of course, at what point is someone considered fat? There is no magic number on the scale or the size tag that means a person is now fat. But if you have spent any time reading various size acceptance tumblrs you have probably seen a lot of small girls with little round bellies calling themselves fat or chubby and talking about how they finally learned to love their body. That’s great, I am so happy that you are loving yourself and accepting yourself! But are you fat? And is it fair to be a size eight and saying you are fat when there are really fat people that are still struggling to be considered worth anything by society? I never thought I would see the day when I got upset that people were calling themselves fat, but in today’s world people (typically girls and women) will get called fat for being anything other than model-thin, which might be where this “I have cellulite and I’m finally loving my fat body!” mindset stems from. I feel like the more small people that call themselves fat, the more people will only support fat acceptance as long as the fat people in question aren’t too fat. And that brings me to my second issue:

Issue 2: Supporting fat acceptance up to a certain extent. 

I’m fat. Very fat. Over 300 pounds fat. For a lot of people, both inside and outside the body-acceptance crowd, this puts me outside the acceptable range of, well, acceptability. This ties in very closely with the first issue I brought up because many people might see a smaller, slightly chubby girl touting fat acceptance and say “I’m all for fat acceptance if that’s what their talking about! I just don’t support those really fat people.” Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that every smaller fat acceptance advocate thinks this way, just that some do, and some people outside the movement see those smaller people and think that’s all they need to support. This isn’t news to anyone that has been involved in FA for a while. We’re used to people saying that it’s totally awesome to love and accept yourself but not if your, like, obese or anything! This is the big news, folks: Fat acceptance means fat acceptance. You don’t get to cherry pick the smaller folk and say, hey, they’re ok, just don’t expect me to accept really fat fat people. When I really hate to see this is when it’s coming from people claiming to be IN the fact acceptance movement, as in fat themselves. You don’t get to stand up and demand acceptance for your body and say that mine is outside the realm of acceptability. Onward to issue three!

Issue 3: Non-fat people speaking FOR fat people:

This is similar to issue 1 but slightly more specific. Here I am referring to people that are speaking up for fat acceptance and drawing attention to it, but not referring people to the work or words of really fat people that have already been saying these things. It’s great to draw attention to a movement you care about. But chances are, lots of people have already been speaking for themselves for a long time. If you’re a thin person, or maybe a little chubby, you have a voice that a lot of people are more willing to listen to, because you are closer to the acceptable body ideal than I am. So when you say that fat people should not be shunned, that we should all stop judging our own and everyone else’s bodies, that’s an awesome thing. People will listen. That’s powerful. But if you don’t point your listeners towards the work and words of advocates saying the same thing from a much bigger body, you run the risk of people thinking that fat acceptance stops with people that look like you. 

We all deserve love, we all deserve to accept ourselves and be accepted by others. My goal with this post is really not to alienate people from the fat acceptance movement, because it is a wonderful place to be. I just want people to ask themselves if they are helping or hurting. I want to make sure that in the fat acceptance movement, fat people continue to have the loudest voices. 

 

My Experience of Flying While Fat

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I recently went on a trip and I thought I would share my traveling experience.

Throughout my whole life, I’ve only ever flown Southwest airlines and had no issues with the staff. I find this amusingly ironic considering how often they make the news for harassing someone based on weight or dress. I do not fit comfortably into their seats but I find that as long as I check in online as early as possible, I am able to board early and avoid sitting next to anyone. For me, the worst part of flying is having to sit next to strangers. I feel obligated to squeeze myself into as small a space as possible so as not to end up on the wrong end of an angry blog post about how HORRIBLE it is to fly next to fat people, so I basically spend a couple hours being extremely uncomfortable unless I sit alone. Luckily for me, unless a plane is full,  no one willingly sits next to fat people!

Unfortunately on this last trip, I had to fly United. Now, I can’t speak for the airline as a whole, having never flown with them before, but I can say that the two planes I flew in were about the size of my apartment and about as uncomfortable as my apartment would be if you filled it with sixty strangers and couldn’t open the windows. On the first plane, going to my destination, I was one of the last people to board the plane as we were called by boarding group. Sadly, unlike Southwest, we had assigned seating. This meant I had no choice but to be wedged next to a stranger who was probably none too happy to be sitting next to the fat person on the plane. Since I was one of the last to board, my seat buddy was already in place, so she had to move while I did my best to load my luggage, and myself, without elbowing anyone in the face. I spent the ninety minute flight leaning as far against the window as I could.

On the plane ride back, I caught a bit of a break. Even though our boarding passes were labeled with boarding groups, we were called to board the plane all at once. I got my butt on that plane as early as possible and I beat my seat buddy to our aisle. I was able to situate myself and my bags comfortably and get settled in before the neighboring passenger arrived. This would be my number one tip to my fellow fat flyers: board as early as possible! Check in online as early as possible and get to the gate well before they start boarding. As a fat person, I can say I always feel like I’m being judged and scrutinized by my fellow passengers on public transportation. Even if I’m just being paranoid, that feeling is still a result of the fat-phobic  society we live in. That being said, getting on the plan as early as possible eases that feeling a bit, since there are fewer eyes on me and fewer people that have to move out of my way.

While I was as uncomfortable as ever on this particular trip, I can say no one was rude to me, no one made comments to my face or tried to make me buy two seats (as these planes were full, my main concern was getting kicked right off). The United planes carried seatbelt extenders so I was as safe as I could probably be. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t faced any of the bullying or discrimination that other fat flyers sometimes experience. The fact that I consider this lucky is sad indeed.

I wanted to talk about this experience to draw attention so something that doesn’t always get talked about during discussions of flying while fat. People are quick to point out how horribly uncomfortable it is to fly next to fat people. They might have to touch a fat person’s arm or thigh with their arm or thigh, the horror! Sometimes those fat people might be sweaty, or smell bad, oh no! Of course, if it’s a thin person who is sweaty, or not so great-smelling, or maybe hogs the armrest, that experience isn’t used as an example of how gross thin people are, how they should be forced to buy two seats, how they should just be banned from flying entirely. What I really want to talk about, what I really want you to understand, is that flying is infinitely more uncomfortable for the fat person in question than for anyone else on that plane.

We have to deal with the mental and emotional stress of worrying that we might get kicked off the plane, or asked to buy a second seat that we can’t afford. We have to be the recipient of dirty looks. We have to wonder if every time a part of our body makes contact with someone else’s, if that person is going on an inner rant about how they had to touch a gross fat person. We have to be extra conscious of how we smell or how sweaty we are, lest we be labeled a gross smelly fatty. Never mind the fact that travel is always stressful and airports often include lots of walking while carrying heavy bags, heaven forbid we break a sweat. You might have a little bit of your seat taken up by a fat person, but that means we take up our entire seat and then some. How comfortable do you think that is for us?

The next time you travel and start to feel annoyed by someone near you on the bus or plane, ask yourself, are they doing anything they can control? Are they blasting music through their headphones, wearing far too much perfume for an enclosed space, or kicking your seat? Or do they just have a body type that you are uncomfortable with?

Because….. they’re poison?

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Do you ever see something so ridiculous, so odd, so fantastically incorrect that you need to rush and tell someone as soon as possible?

A few minutes ago, I was checking a weather forecast site for my local seven day forecast. I glance to the top of the screen and what do I see but a banner ad excitedly and desperately trying to inform me of the five foods I should never eat in order to trim my belly fat. To the left of the ad were the words “Never eat” with an arrow pointing to…. a banana.

After I regained consciousness, I decided to see what the internet has to say about banana nutrition. If the nutrition chart I found is even remotely accurate, bananas have a couple hundred calories, quite a bit of potassium, and a smattering of vitamins and minerals. That almost sounds like… food! Calories, to give you energy to do stuff! Vitamins and minerals to provide various benefits! Clearly deadly and will make you fat! NEVER EAT THEM!

This is just a tiny sample of the ridiculous messages we are bombarded with every day. These messages range from the potentially dangerous (Take this non-FDA approved pill and drop weight fast!) to the simply laughable (Don’t eat white foods!). These messages build up, creating a conflicting, nonsensical jumble of misinformation and empty promises. This is the miracle cure that will help you lose that extra five pounds! No, this one, over here! NO, over HERE! Now apparently we should never eat a certain fruit if we really, truly want to lose that dreaded belly fat.

To you all I say; Enjoy that banana, or that bowl of cereal, or that white rice, or whatever you feel like snacking on today. And if you see one of these silly banners, have a good laugh on me.

A real post, really and for real

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Hello readers who may or may not be there!

I created this wordpress account some time ago, as a place to blog about fat acceptance. It sat empty as I struggled with what to say. I started blogging on tumblr, enjoying the quick and easy format. Lately, however, I realize I really do want a place for my thoughts solely on the issues surrounding fat. My concern, for a long time, was not I would not have anything new to say. There are so many amazing people blogging about Health At Every Size and Fat Acceptance, or fabulous fat fashion. I thought, would my voice be able to stand out in this? Then I realized that as long as I use my unique voice and tell my own story, I could find a place in this community.

I’m here to tell my story. I’m here to talk about what it was like for me to grow up fat. I’m here to talk about losing friends and being wary of new ones due to how they view fat. I’m here to tell you how Fat Acceptance has changed my life. More than anything else, I’m here to reach out to other people with my story. I’m so excited to get blogging. See you soon!