Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh Hell, I should have just posted this:


Melissa says it better than I ever could.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Friendly Debate on Fat People

I started a bit of a friendly debate on Facebook by posting this link: 

That a respectful back-and-forth on the subject of food, exercise and weight could be held - on Facebook, no less - says a lot about the people involved, as this is a subject often fraught with imperatives, judgement, and shame.  As it turns out, they were debating on the finer points of a larger subject that they both generally agreed on, namely that most people would benefit from good food and moderate exercise.

One of the participants in the FB point-counter point (whom I'll call Person A) quotes,
"those who tend to be fat will have to constantly battle their genetic inheritance if they want to reach and maintain a significantly lower weight." 

which he followed up with, 

" I may have to work harder than others, but I can increase muscle mass and decrease body fat - and maintain it, just like anyone else" 
 "If we focused on becoming stronger, and eating a diverse variety of foods which were devoid of bad shit, we'd all be healthier. Weight loss would be an inevitable side effect for the majority of people.... but I'd agree that weighing a certain amount is not a goal unto itself. Being strong, being able to run a few miles without falling over, those are goals everyone should share."

These remarks are some of the least inflammatory I've seen on health and weight in a public forum, and on the surface seem quite reasonable.  I mean, eating well and being able to run a few miles without keeling over are admirable goals, right?

Please re-read those well-thought out words again, and see if you can spot what I spotted. Even Person A admitted that this is a standard he cannot reach. 

The person on counterpoint (whom I'll call Person B) included these equally thoughtful words, 

"When we concentrate on the visual change it COULD cause, it discourages people from continuing that positive behavior if they don't see a change. Whether it does for some people or not, the reason for it should be to feel good, physically and emotionally... hinging it all on some number takes away from the joy of it and keeps people from continuing."  

And my favorite:

"I'd like to see people who are confident and happy with themselves. Who can use their body as they would like to without being told that they don't or can't do something."

Do you see the difference now? 

I posted the link because I believe, as the author does, that the intense focus on weight loss has been both a massive failure and actively destructive to fat people especially (though not exclusively).  Additionally, and most personal to me, when both experts and the general public speak histrionically or piously or authoritatively of health, they conveniently forget mental health and the complicated relationship that the current atmosphere creates around fatness and food and movement and sense of self.  People forget about the concept of agency, and instead mistakenly believe that over-simplification and shame will somehow magically change the corpulence of our nation.

In short, Person B and I have an issue with the Should.

Those of you familiar with my drunken slam poetry might recall that my threshold for Shoulds is quite low. I feel my fight response rise up when I hear people opine that fat people Should be making every effort to make themselves thinner. To be clear, Person A was in completely different league of discussion, but I'm going to disagree with his assertion that "weight loss would be an inevitable side effect" of a healthier lifestyle, mainly because what constitutes a healthier lifestyle begins well short of being able to swim or run several miles a day.

While I genuinely believe that healthier habits encourage stronger, more mentally stable and more metabolically sound bodies, I just don't agree that it makes for thinner bodies.  The USDA study on HAES also disagrees, and demonstrates that the focus on health instead of weight, while useful in improving metabolic markers, created almost no change in weight.  Additionally, health and circumstance are so individual that the ability to run a 5k and eating only food "completely devoid of bad shit" could be a fairly meaningless set of comparatives.  More importantly, I really don't think that any of it is a requirement for walking through the world unmolested by the Shouldy Police.

And this is where Brian is asking for better, and where Person B is going with her argument.  The message we receive in a constant stream from media, loved ones and enemies is that fat people Should (ah, there's that word again) make the pursuit of health via weight loss-inducing activities our most important goal.  I wonder sometimes if they just don't understand the magnitude of maintaining the body in a state that goes against its genetic and environmental indicators.  I wonder if they don't get that maintaining is a full-time job.  And I wonder why they can't grok that this kind of constant struggle simply doesn't work for me.

Over the last decade I've been carefully incorporating more healthy habits into my life. I love caring for myself, and I love my life, and I want to be active and happy as many of the days of my life that are possible, and I believe that these healthy habits are in alignment with those goals.  While doing this, I have to take into account my mental health and my personal history with weight loss dieting and my step-dad's creepy weight-based emotional abuse, and I have to navigate the difficult association that these healthy habits have with activities of a weight-loss bent.

And that's the nut of it, isn't it?  The expectation that healthy habits will cure obesity create an atmosphere fraught with triggers and dangers for those of us who've suffered for our weight.  We can't simply take on healthy habits to care for ourselves, we have to carry the weight of expectation, we are forced, by every commercial and weight loss book and Jamie Oliver special, to focus on a desired end point, rather than the journey.

We live in an atmosphere that gives no quarter for our own sense of what's best for ourselves, because there is a veritable army of people willing to tell us what to do.  If we should disagree, or simply decide not to, we are accused of needing to get real, to stop deluding ourselves.  And this, in my mind, is the worst of it - that the thing we are told on a daily basis is that we cannot trust our own experience. I can't think of anything more insidious than to make someone doubt their own reality.

So this is more complicated than can be fully described by the written word, but I felt it so necessary to try.  Brian's post demonstrated his passion for acceptance and anger at those that would work against such concepts for the purpose of making money, and when he demands better, he says a truth that I feel down to my toes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I wrote this a while back, and never published it...

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you - I've been traveling in areas where I have a lot of family, so I've been traveling and visiting what seems like nonstop for a few weeks now.  Additionally, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with some important decisions coming my way regarding career, school, exercise, and my own mental health. I decided to give myself some time to shut out the noise and really feel what it is that I want to do. 

Essentially, I've come to the conclusion that I will NOT be doing anything - ANYTHING - that sucks. 

The general narrative is that some things - school and exercise, especially - are inherently, unavoidably sucky.  Excuse me, but fuck that.  I've been avoiding those two things because of that narrative, and I'm done with it.  There's got to be a way to make these things fulfilling and enjoyable, and I'll be damned if I'm going to do it any other way.  So, of course, the scary part is figuring out a new way of doing / thinking about these things so that a) they won't suck, and b) they are part of the flow of my life.

This brings me to Kung Fu.  I have both loved and been greatly fearful of my Kung Fu classes.  At first I thought it was just nerves; starting something new can be scary, and being bad at something is part of getting good at something and that whole thing.  While fear is often something to be pushed through, it is just as frequently a messenger, and in this case the level of fear and anxiety was telling me that I'm not ready for these classes.  I asked a professional trainer for her advice, and she agreed with my assessment.

It was incredibly difficult to cancel my classes, and this brought up some pretty painful stuff from my history that had to be worked through.Without going into too much detail, I'd managed to anxiety hop my way from feeling like a failure at the Kung Fu classes to dredging up a lot of guilt about some decisions I'd made in the service of my own self-care.   When I need time to myself to work things out in my head, I feel guilty about taking time from my friends and family.  When I decide that I cannot be around my father or my ex step dad, I feel guilt about hurting my father's feelings, or hurting my sister because I can't be around her dad, since it limits my attendance at family gatherings.

It turns out that taking care of myself, finding joy, and avoiding things that suck aren't just what's best for me, they are what's best for the people around me.  I don't have to disguise my anxiety about certain situations, I don't have to agree to the un-agreeable, and I can choose which fears to push through, and which to honor.  I'm sure a lot of this seems basic stuff, stuff that a 36 year old woman would have figured out by now, but it is a revelation to me, and I am so grateful that, even though late, I've learned these lessons at all.
...a few months down the road and I am still feeling a little (though slightly less) anxious about what to do with my life.  As with most things, it comes down to money and time.  I'd love to say that it's worth whatever debt I'd get into to become exactly what I want to be; however, a) career-wise, I feel spectacularly passionate about exactly nothing, and b) I've had a sneaking suspicion that the careers in which I'd excel would underpay me at exactly the same rate in which I am currently being underpaid. Putting myself into significant debt for something I'm not passionate about and would reap little or no financial benefit seems like a bad idea.

However, I have another sneaking suspicion that going to school and getting a degree will be rewarding in ways that I haven't yet figured out, and I can visualize the future opening up in ways I haven't anticipated. I've always had the feeling that I'd be a late bloomer, at least compared to my sisters, who have had specific career choices / goals in mind from the get-go.  While I genuinely enjoy the training that I do, it is not enough, and I think I'm almost there about figuring out what would be enough.

For shits and giggles I took an online career quiz, with results listed below:

1,2,6, & 10 are careers to which I've already given serious consideration, so it's good that I've been on the right path, at least kind of.  I wish I could be more clear about my next steps, but when I know, you'll know. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Soooo close, yet not really

So I've talked in the past about trying to figure out where I want to go, career-wise.  I'd like to travel way less, and I've decided on some kind of formal education, but I still need to make money and work on my skills in the interim.  I spoke with various managers at my company about possible job opportunities, and found out about one that seemed like a nice fit.

It was (notice the past tense) my understanding that the position requires less travel, but still has a great consulting and training piece, and would help me to work on becoming more detail-oriented, all while able to attend a local college.  Growth and fit, all in one job! So then I set out to (massively over-)prepare for the interview, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to show my colleagues what I could bring to the role.

But then I actually did the interview (5 rotating interviewers, 3 hours total, someone bring a drink please), and saw that the position was more of a secretary to the person doing all of the cool consulting and training shit.  On the way home I had a real moment of clarity and realized that not only I would NOT like this job, I realized that I have already had this kind of job and hated it.  I mean, there was a pretty damn good reason why I no longer did that kind of work - I can do the detail-oriented stuff to an extent, but I. DON'T. LIKE. IT. 

I am simply not detail-oriented.  There, I said it. I'm just not.  Now, I can organize pretty well, but at my own pace, and with my own hierarchy, and I can scope the big picture like a motherfucker.  So why in the name of my mother's grits would I choose to do something that I actively dislike, especially since there are others out there who are so much better at that kind of thing?

Yeah, I couldn't think of a good answer to that one, either.

Not only that, one of my favorite coworkers is also up for the job, and he would be perfect for it.  So I withdrew my name as a candidate and told them I believed that they should seriously consider him.

There's a bit of a feeling of let-down, especially since I put so much effort into the prep, but I am generally feeling pretty great about this decision.  I actually used the interview as an opportunity to see if I would like the job, and when found out I didn't, I didn't fight to make it right.  It's not right, and I am so fucking DONE with trying to fashion myself to fit a popular job description.

So I'm left with this wrung out / kind of thrilled feeling about this bit of personal evolution - not only did I dodge a bad career decision, I somehow clarified my strengths. I have no idea where to go next, but I have a sneaking suspicion that something will rise up to meet me soon enough.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be in the direction of my natural and learned talents, because I am officially too old for that other shit.

Monday, May 2, 2011


(Repost from my Tumblr)

The news of Bin Laden’s death brought to mind the crushing sorrow and uncertainty that I (and so many) felt when I saw the live shot of the towers falling.  I was angry, and wanted someone to PAY.  Some motherfucker had just destroyed, not only thousands of lives, but thousands of families.

Through the years I’ve had time to reflect - we talk about 9/11 constantly, like it was the worst thing that happened, ever.  It was so terrible, and yet… terrible numbers of people die every day from war, famine, poverty, lack of access, often at the hands of American forces and policies.  We bemoan the tragic loss of that one day, but seem so disconnected from the day to day realities of our own bloodied hands.

Even the incursion that killed Bin Laden no doubt killed innocents, as have many of the battles in this war.  We have killed far more innocents than were murdered on that grave and horrible day.

And yet.

The fist pump on the news of his death was automatic and satisfying.  I wanted him dead.  I didn’t want a trial.  I didn’t want to hear any words from him.  I was glad that he’d been taken out.  Fuck you, you fucking motherfucker.

Of course, it occurs to me that this retaliatory sentiment is what feeds the fire, allowing the rancor and murderous hatred of one another to continue.  I said Avada Kedavra, the killing curse from Harry Potter, and yet… as I recall in the book, my new hero never did.  Not even when battling face to face the man who killed his parents, not even after having seen him continue to kill so many of his friends and loved ones.

I’ll think on this for a while, not sure that I’ll ever fully reconcile these twin desires for vengeance and peace.  Though, maybe that’s what it’s like for those in the middle of all of this fighting - tired of the death and destruction, yet unable to put down the sword.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How I Got Here

 I was having a conversation with a friend about some of the people in her life that just couldn't seem to get it - the 'it' having to do with harnessing one's own power via self-acceptance.  A man that she likes very much and is attracted to simply doesn't understand her attraction to him.  As it happens, he is chubby, and this makes him feel that he does not deserve her, no matter how much she tells him that she adores his body type.  He doesn't get it, and it's ruining things for them.  As you can imagine, this feeling affects other areas of his life, and it is difficult for my friend to watch this happening.

We continued to talk about it for some time, and I said that what he hasn't figured out yet is that haters gonna hate.  She quickly said that no one hates him - he's a great guy,  and she wished he'd stop assuming that people are judging him for his weight.  I explained that, even when surrounded by non-judgmental people that love and support you, there's no getting around the judgment that society heaps on fat people.  So yes, there are haters out there.  And they gotta job to do.

That, however, does not mean that he or anyone else has to accept that hatred as any kind of real assessment of one's own personal value.  I love this internet meme because it reminds me that, no matter what I do to conform to the will and wishes of others, people are still gonna hate, so I might as well be me.  Even if I did manage some kind of conformity, it would be a poor substitute for someone who is naturally the ideal. And those haters would still hate.

Having dealt with her share of dieting boyfriends, my friend wondered aloud if those guys would ever pick up on the fact that they kept coming back to the same weight.  I admitted that it took me a full 10 years to get to that point, and that it involved more than one rock bottom. She wanted to know how I'd come to be this way - what led me down this path towards accepting myself in the face of, well, society at large.

I had to be honest, it all started with a diet plan.  Mind you, I didn't call it a diet plan, it was a 'lifestyle change' (the last of dozens I'd attempted).  Of course, the goal of my lifestyle change was to lose weight, so really, it was just another diet with more syllables.  Nevermind the noise I made about wanting to be healthier - I wanted to be thinner, more acceptable, less shameful in my existence.  And yet, as I embarked once more with my food journals and weigh-ins, I felt deep down that I would not be able to sustain any weight loss. I was honestly trying to be positive, but something in me kept pinging, saying that this, too, wouldn't keep.  This made me feel that I was deeply broken, piling on layers of fat to combat my childhood, for surely that was the reason.

So I stopped looking for diets, and started reading about eating disorders, attempting to pathologize my size.  After reading a number of books that just didn't resonate, I came across When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies (WWSHTB) on the $2 rack in Half Priced Books.  The information those $2 gave me proved to be more valuable than anything I'd read before.  It was all revolutionary, a full-on rebel assault against everything I'd learned up to that point - legalizing all food, noticing the size and shape of one's body (neutrally, rather than judging it), and finding / honoring one's hunger and need for comfort - it was a brainshock to read these words.  Normalizing my relationship with food didn't result in weight loss, but I didn't care because I was finally free of the diet / binge cycle that had been wearing me down.

Secondly, I read The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos. If WWSHTB freed me, this book found my rage. Seeing fully for the first time how weight-bias is woven into the fabric of this society made me want to throw things. Sharp things, at people's heads.  It turns out, human physiology and DNA win out over external forces almost. every. damn. time.  Oddly enough, it's not as if the weight-loss industries don't know this, quite the opposite in fact - they depend on it (along with human psychology, which makes people think that 'results not typical' excludes them).  Repeat customers, as any 3 year old can tell you, are good for business.  Listening to diet talk after reading that book was like nails on chalkboard.  I felt like Keanu Reeves waking up with a shaven head in a goo-filled pod, Dorothy as she pulled back the curtain. 

I'd finally grown enough as a person to realize that having someone else attempt to dictate how I should live, what I should look like and how I should eatmovebreathefuck just wasn't working any more.  I felt weak in the knees with these revelations, like a newborn calf, still wet with afterbirth, on knees too wobbly to move.  So I read.  And I read some more.  And I found online forums and blogs and books and scientific studies that had me shouting at the computer screen, so angry at the line of carefully packaged bullshit I'd been fed all my life.  And with the anger, I began to stand my ground.

Being fat, at first I didn't want people to think that I was ridiculous for accepting myself, or that perhaps I was using self-acceptance as an excuse to be lazy, so I didn't say much, not knowing if I could handle a confrontation about my weight. Soon I accepted that working hard against myself isn't the same as work ethic or self-discipline, and slowly I gave up feeling ridiculous.  I am not immune to doubts, or wanting to fit into the societal standard (if only to make business travel more comfortable), but my belief in myself is stronger than my doubts, and you can bet that took hard work.

So that's it, really.  I came to self-acceptance through the door of size acceptance, and everything cracked open from there.  I would hope that everyone can find their way to self-acceptance -as I told my friend, it has freed up precious mental energy and allowed me to steer my life in ways I never thought imaginable. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shouldn't I know this by now?

This is a bit embarrassing to admit... but I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I mean, I have an idea of what I'm good at so far, and what I absolutely hate / suck at... but I can't commit to a career in any one area.

This oversight has become a glaring problem because some events at work have made me realize that I need to take more control over the trajectory of my career. Frankly, that whole thought spiral made me break out into a cold sweat. Seriously, I was balled up on the couch, head in the girlfriend's lap, staring into space for a good 30 minutes. It goes something like this:

My boss overlooked me for a project that would have given me more exposure to upper management > My boss has done this a number of times, and it makes me feel like he doesn't respect me > He only thinks I can do this one thing > What if I can only do this one thing? > Bullshit, your reviews are great, and the compliments from clients are pretty steady > Yeah, but you don't have a degree and CB does (story for another time), and even though she hasn't contributed nearly as much, he still thinks that her degree makes her more qualified > So I should look into getting a degree > What degree should I get?> This isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life > But what do I want to do for the rest of my life?>I want to go to school full time > But I can't afford that. > But I want to try out a bunch of different things > But you don't have the luxury > OK, but if I'm going to pay for college, it should be something good, right? > Wait, what if I pay for college and end up with a worthless degree in an area I find completely boring in 4 years? > What is it I want again? >What if I'm stuck in a career I hate + have $30,000 in debt to show for it? > Well shit, if you don't get a move on it, that college degree is going to cost $50AHHHHHH.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Well, it's more exhausting than impressive, really. SO. What to do. I know! I'll make a list. I'll list the things I like, the things I know I'm good at, the things I'd like to be good at, and go from there.

Things I'm good at / like doing:
  • Public speaking
  • Explaining things in a way that make sense
  • Empathizing
  • Problem-solving
  • Motivating people
  • Finding the good in people
  • Being funny / witty
  • Engaging people
  • Teaching
  • Listening
  • Supporting people
  • Figuring out the right combination of colors to dye my own hair
  • Following recipes / cooking
  • Learning languages (though it's been a while)
  • Making friends
  • Accepting myself / my body / my past / my responsibilities / other people as they are
  • Being honest about what I want
  • Reading people
  • Traveling / exploring new towns
  • Figuring out the root cause of problems (even if this knowledge is wholly unhelpful)
  • Girl sex (A made me add this one, but it's totes true)
Things I'm bad at / hate doing
  • Pretending to care when I really don't
  • Numbers - putting them together, making them make sense in my head
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Money management
  • Motivating myself to do the mundane aspects of the job
  • Traveling in the small airline seats
  • Sleeping in hotel beds
  • Anything requiring physical coordination
  • Dieting
  • Data entry (esp. numbers)
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Being a serious adult
Things I'd like to explore / get good at:
  • Organizing
  • Time and money management
  • People management
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Fitness while Fat
  • Helping others with acceptance issues
  • College professor (what subject???) (A - " NOT math! ") History, psychology, business, presentation skills.
  • Writing
  • Acting (local stage plays, maybe a one-woman show)
  • Something that allows for me to have a life outside of my career.
I'm sort of giving college professor the hairy eyeball right now. In fact, I've been told a couple of times that I'd be good at this. The amount of schooling to get to that point seems a little daunting, but the best way I've heard it put is this: If it takes 6 years to get both a degree and an advanced degree, those 6 years are going to pass regardless, and you might as well have a degree at the end of that time, rather than more regrets for not doing it.

So... what do y'all think? Anything that I've left off? What do you think I'd be good at? Suggestions as to how to go about it / what pitfalls to avoid?

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm your problem

To my homosexual friends - I'm sorry. Really, I am. It occurred to me the other day that people like me are the reason that people like you have problems with the general population. See, I'd be willing to bet that there are more like me - those with a sexual fluidity - than there are those like you - no fluidity, just a straight up 6 on the Kinsey scale.

I never really thought about it until recently, but I've been attracted to both sexes all of my life. In addition to the cuteboy crushes, I remember feeling funny around girls I thought were attractive. Growing up in the Jehovah's Witness congregation, I'd kissed one elder's son, and played "doctor" with another elder's daughter, mostly out of curiosity and because it felt good. However, without much internal drama, I focused on boys because that was socially - and religiously - acceptable. If I was still a Jehovah's Witness today, I'd focus on men exclusively, with very little thought to the other side of the fence.

If I had to guess, I'd bet a lot of these religious types who say that sexuality is a preference are telling the truth - their truth, which happens to include this sexual fluidity. A lot of people assume that if something is true for themselves, it is true for everyone else - which actually is almost never the case, but which might explain why they feel it is so easy to do away with those "sinful" tendencies.

I hear a lot of dialogue in gay circles about the fact that sexuality is hardwired, which for many is true, but which is also problematic because it is an incomplete picture. I am not hardwired in any one direction, and I have a fuckton of choice. When I was younger and more religious, I had no problem focusing on guys. I'm no longer a JW, and when I became disillusioned by the dating pool, I decided to check out what was going on in the girls' locker room. I literally woke up one day and decided to date women.

And that is why I'm you're problem, my gay friends. People like me are where the gay rights movement gets it wrong. I'm in a gay relationship because I chose to be in one. There are people in the world who have a choice in gender as it regards their heart, and some of those people are judgmental, myopic, religious assholes who can't think beyond their own experience to imagine that it could possibly be different for anyone else. And unfortunately, some of those people are given a stage and a microphone and a budget with which to spew their bile. The gay movement cannot be similarly myopic and assume that no one has a choice, as if bisexuality is only ever that last stop on the train to Gaytown.

Clearly, it is vital to discuss the fact that for many people there is no choice, but that can't be the only focus. This is not just about that. The fact of the matter is, choices or no, people are people, dammit. We should demand equal footing because of our fucking humanity, not because our lack or wealth of choice. While there are specific sources online, I maintain that there needs to be more talk of sexual fluidity in the general discussion of gay rights, and not just as it concerns Lindsey Lohan (or on Oprah, where I begrudgingly admit that I first heard the phrase "sexual fluidity"). Until that time, people like me will continue to be a problem for people like you - our choice will continue to be held over your heads until both DNA and choice are viewed as perfectly valid reasons to love someone.

So anyway, that's my "aha" moment for this week.

ETA - Re-reading this makes me realize that I've been in a bit of a bubble, both lately (because I'm soooo in loooove) and in general (because of my previously mostly straight-ish lifestyle). While I've pretty much always felt that gay rights and equality were important for society in general, having a girlfriend has suddenly made this a lot more personal. Coming out of my hetero-normative bubble has been eye-opening, and while that in itself is an experience that is (in my opinion) worthy of writing down, the fact is that I'm just now realizing things that other people have known for a while.

I'm getting ahead of myself with phrases like, "this is where the gay rights movement gets it wrong", and frankly, as I look around the blogosphere, there are a number of people that have been having discussions on sexual fluidity - I just hadn't stopped snogging my girlfriend to have a look around. In short, the content stands, but the knowier-than-thou attitude that kinda cropped up there can hopefully be examined and then shown the door.