Apples and Oranges, People

Today I heard something disturbing while listening to talk radio on the way in to work. A man called up and said (I’m paraphrasing, obviously) “I’m a smoker and I get really annoyed when obese people tell me it’s unhealthy. Being overweight is just as bad, but I would never tell someone they need to lose weight.” The radio host agreed, of course, said she completely understands where he’s coming from and she probably wouldn’t be able to hold her tongue. She wanted listeners to call in with some suggestions for “comebacks” this man can use. Let’s talk about why this is so completely back asswards that I would have been laughing if I hadn’t been trying to refrain myself from punching the radio.

 

First of all, let me just say that I do not condone going up to someone who’s smoking, unsolicited, and telling them it’s unhealthy and that they need to stop. That’s not my business. Of course, there are situations where this may be appropriate, such as if there are children close by, they are smoking indoors or if the person is being very rude about where they blow their smoke. However, these situations are less about concern-trolling and more about calling someone out on their public rudeness.

 

But I want to compare going up to a stranger and telling them to kick the habit, vs. telling a stranger to lose weight. The biggest difference between these two situations is that smoking is a BEHAVIOR and obesity is a BODY SIZE. There are behaviors that are inappropriate in public. There are no body sizes that are inappropriate in public. Smoking is a choice a person makes. Again, obesity describes the size of their body (sort of ).

 

Secondly, smoking in public affects other people. Secondhand smoke is a real thing that really does hurt people. If someone wants to up their chances for lung cancer that is entirely their business. However, they have no right to increase my chance of lung cancer and I have every right to not be subjected to secondhand smoke. Additionally, people have conditions anywhere from asthma to cystic fibrosis that can be exacerbated by cigarette smoke and they have every right to go out in public with the expectation of being able to breathe. Even if you believe obesity is a disease (it’s not << TW: headless fatties), even if you think it costs taxpayers money (it doesn’t), that still doesn’t change the fact that a smoker could put out her cigarette RIGHT NOW but an obese person cannot lose weight RIGHT NOW (and possibly not at all).

 

Someone who is obese, standing in your vicinity, does not affect you in the least, except maybe to offend your delicate sensibilities. They have zero effect on your life. Someone who is blowing smoke into your face however, affects you very much. One of these things is not like the other.

 

I get that this guy is probably just defensive about getting called out on his habit, but the solution is not a bigoted attack on an entire population of people. That would be like a stranger at a bar telling you that you should slow down on the drinking, and you shouting a racial slur at them. Were they a little out of line? Probably, yeah. Does that give you a right to spew prejudice about anyone who looks like them? Nope, not at all.

 

I’ll say it again: Smoking is a BEHAVIOR, obesity is a BODY SIZE.

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One Day At A Time (A Long Overdue Update)

This is hard.

For the past six months or so I’ve been doing my best. Shortly after I decided I was going to love myself and be happy I slipped right back into self-loathing and depression. Now I’m pulling myself back out and it’s HARD, dude. Real hard. Some days I feel awesome, beautiful and amazing. Other days I wonder why I’m even bothering to put the effort in when it’s so difficult and the whole world is against me and it would be so much easier to just give in, hate myself forever and be done. So here’s what I do to keep on trucking when I feel hopeless:

I read blogs from the fat acceptance and body love movement. Ragen Chastain, Virgie Tovar and Jes Baker are my role model/hero/rockstars and I read their blogs religiously. These ladies are so fantastic and inspire so much motivation and excitement in me.

I look at myself in the mirror, sometimes clothed, sometimes not, and I force myself to see how hot I am. Seriously. This probably wouldn’t have worked six months ago, but now if I try hard enough, no matter my mood, I can see how awesome my curves are. My curvy body makes me feel feminine and I like that.

I solicit a compliment from my husband. Equal parts dorky and cocky, but he’s never let me down when I ask him what he thinks about my body. I used to think he loved ME and accepted my body along with me. Now I realize that he loves me AND my body, something he’s been trying to get through my head since we started dating. (Sorry babe- I get it now!)

I look at pictures of plus-sized models and actresses to remind myself that beauty is not dependent on a size and EVERYONE’S body is perfect.

On days when I feel really down, I don’t focus on me. I don’t want to wear myself down. Motivation and discipline are finite and I’m still new to this. Sometimes my brain needs a break. On those days, I make sure I focus on other people and why they are beautiful. Sometimes I do this with everyone I see, sometimes I only employ this tactic when I’ve had an impulsive, nasty thought about a stranger. In those cases, I recognize the thought as toxic and I make myself come up with at least one reason why that person is beautiful.

I speak out against body shaming. I haven’t done this one enough, mostly because I’m painfully shy and uncomfortable speaking out against most anything. But at the very least, I make sure that when I hear body shaming, I disengage from the conversation.

Mostly, I try to take everything one day or hour or minute at a time and remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect, because being me IS perfect.

A Lesson in Acceptance from Lilo and Stitch

I saw the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch shortly after it came out. Other than it being an adorable film, there was one extremely powerful message I took from it. If you’ve seen the movie you may know what I’m talking about- the scene with Lilo’s photographs.

Early in the movie, Lilo, the titular little girl, is questioned by her older sister Nani about a display of photographs Lilo has taken that are taped to her bedroom wall. We see that the photos are all of people. Most, if not all, are fat, white tourists. If you know much about Hawaiian culture (which I did not and had to research a little before I wrote this to make sure I knew what I was talking about) you know that there is a culture of racism and anti-white sentiment that seems to permeate the little island, where tourists and foreigners are seen almost as invasive.

Nani’s reaction to the photos, namely barely contained disgust, is overshadowed by Lilo’s child-like naivety.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” she asks, a sense of wonderment in her voice.

Now, if you believe the internet, the whole idea of Lilo taking photos of tourists is a way for her to turn her “otherness” on its head. She feels ostracized because she is so different, because she is quirky and doesn’t fit in with the other girls and mostly because she has no parents. To cope with this, they say, she takes pictures of people who are more different than she and turns them into the other for her to gawk at and ostracize.

I don’t buy this story. Lilo is a little girl and she states, with utter sincerity, that the people in her photos are beautiful. I don’t know about you, but I find that most children her age (she’s probably about 7 or 8, I don’t know if the movie states her exact age) are not yet at the point where those little white lies are ready in the back pocket. Kids tend to be very honest about whether they think something is ugly and even when they are aware they could be hurting someone’s feelings (and remember, Lilo was talking to her sister here, none of the people in the photos would have any way of knowing what she thought of them, or probably even that she took the photos in the first place) they usually don’t have the skills necessary to lie on the spot like that.

Maybe Lilo was taking the pictures because she identified with the white tourists as being outsiders, but I don’t think at all that she was doing it to gawk. I just think that, despite what her culture and even her own sister were telling her, Lilo was still able to see the beauty in these people whom many others would consider “ugly”. She could see that just because they were so different didn’t mean they were ugly, and maybe the difference even added to their beauty.

We are such a diverse species and it’s such a shame that so many people can’t see the beauty in that. We’re at the point, at least where I am from, where interracial couples are (mostly) no longer seen as wrong. I can’t speak for every part of the US of course, but I know that in my town no one would bat an eye at a mixed race couple walking down the street. It took us a long time to get here but now that we are, I would venture to guess most people see the acceptance of interracial couples as a good thing.

My question is this: why can’t we learn from our mistakes, America? Why can’t we look at the historical institution of racism, declare stigmatization and prejudice a bad thing, and then apply that lesson to all other groups of people?? How hard can it be, knowing that racism is wrong, to then make the leap to realizing it’s wrong to oppress anyone? Why do we realize it’s bad to stereotype based on race, but then continue to do it based on size, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or anything else?

Please note that I am not by any means saying that racism has been abolished in the US. On an individual level it is absolutely still going strong even though things are getting better every day. I am simply saying that culturally, racism is seen as unacceptable but prejudice based on many other traits, most of which have to do entirely with how a person looks, are still employed and even condoned day after day after day.

If a little girl growing up in a culture of racism can look past skin color and see the beauty in each person, why can’t adults in a society where almost 1 in 10 people are not straight, where 60% of the population is “overweight”, look past these traits and see each individual’s beauty as well? I would argue that we absolutely can, that we are choosing not to and that needs to change.

Grocery Store Revelations

I had an epiphany while walking through the grocery store on my lunch break today. We had an 80’s themed dress up day today (why yes, I do work at a bank, why do you ask?) and I was strolling around in my pink leg warmers and bubble skirt. I tried to tone down the outfit a little before I left but there’s only so much you can do without taking off the whole costume. So needless to say, I was feeling a little silly. But I decided I didn’t care because it was a costume and I was having fun wearing it so who cares what anyone thinks?

 

Oh. My. God. Who cares what anyone thinks? I realized suddenly that that little rhetorical question I had asked myself regarding my silly costume could, and maybe should, be applied to every single day. Who cares what anyone thinks? When had I started caring what people think? I certainly have vivid memories of teenage me with a gaggle of friends patronizing malls in tutus. Or wearing matching outfits to sing karaoke at a friend’s family reunion. Or being die-hard “groupies” of a high school classmate’s band, following them around to all their local shows and screaming our heads off from the audience, even if we were the only ones there. I can remember being silly and crazy and outgoing but they’re all distant memories. And now that I think about it, they’re all from high school or shortly thereafter. It’s like becoming an adult sapped the life out of me.

 

But that’s not the real reason, obviously. The real reason is that I wasn’t particularly prepared for the pressures that would be placed upon me. (A is for alliteration!) And so I closed up. My close group of friends disseminated, including my best friend in the world moving halfway across the country, which left me without a support network as I was just starting to find myself. I’d always been depressed and self-conscious but I’d also always had friends more outgoing and confident than I and so they were able to pull me up with them. Apparently I didn’t actually learn from them as they were doing so, I just went along for the ride, because as soon as they weren’t there I could no longer be confident and outgoing and crazy. I closed up.

 

No more. I’m done being the silent girl in the corner. From now on, I’m choosing to have fun in life. I’ve decided not to care what people think because if they judge then they’re probably not people I want to hang with anyway. I’m going to stand tall and love myself and be me. Who’d athunk a little trip to the grocery store could inspire all this? 😀

V is for Victim… That’s not good enough for me

I refuse to be a victim anymore. I will not continue to succumb to the propaganda of the diet and weight loss industries. To paraphrase the lovely Ragen Chastain (who I believe is herself quoting someone- CJ Legare? I can’t be sure, but regardless both those ladies are awesome and you should check them out) I refuse to allow my self-esteem to be taken from me, cheapened and then sold back to me at a profit. I refuse to hate my body just because someone (or everyone) tells me I should.

 

I took Tae Kwon Do for a few years in middle school (in fact I’m thinking about getting back into it). One of the first things you learn in the self-defense aspect is that you’re only a victim if you allow yourself to be one. Victimhood is a choice. Being a victim of circumstance is obviously not a choice (natural disasters, violent crime, etc), but choosing to remain a victim once shit’s gone down is entirely on you. Crap stuff happens to people all the time but when it does you have a choice. You can wallow in your misery and play the victim card and people will feel bad and help you out for a while, or you can accept what has happened and then try to change it or prevent it happening again. I am accepting that I have allowed the diet industry to get in my head and I accept that I believed their lies for so long. It’s done, I can’t change it so I’m not going to bother worrying or beating myself up about it. I accept that I’ve been victimized and that I’ve victimized myself. I also refuse to do it any longer.

 

I will not be told that I am not good enough by complete strangers. I will not let a group of powerful, wealthy, sick-minded individuals convince me that my body is unworthy, especially not when they stand to make a profit from me believing their lies. I will not count calories, anally tracking every unit of energy that passes through my body, hoping to strike some magical balance between the amount of energy my body needs and the amount I’m told I should give it until it achieves its “perfect shape” (incidentally, those numbers are about 1700 and 1200, respectively. I am just realizing how very little sense it makes to only allow your body 2/3 of the energy it needs to survive). I will not eat packaged diet food that is sold under the guise of “healthy” when it would be far healthier to consume their full-fat, -calorie, -sugar, -whatever counterparts. I will not buy clothes that “slim” or “mask flaws” I will not force myself to do exercises I hate for a predetermined amount of time as punishment for the food I’ve eaten.

 

What will I do? I will tell myself every day that I love myself, and I love my body and that I am beautiful and intelligent and worthy of being liked. I will allow myself to eat anything I want while keeping focus on healthy, whole foods. I will start a work-out program doing something I like for the sole purpose of physical fitness (not body shape). I will allow myself wiggle room on the days and duration of my work outs. I will try my very hardest to pass this message along to anyone who will listen. I will start with my little sister. I will not let her go through the same torment that I did.

I’m Making A Choice

Today I have decided to not hate my body. It’s a radical move for a girl who has never once liked how she looked. For a girl who has grown up knowing that she’ll never be good enough, that her butt will always be too big and her arms will always jiggle just a little too much. For a girl who’s been learning to hate her body since she can remember, it’s a radical move to decide to think otherwise.

 And I’m scared. It’s really terrifying to decide not to hate something you’ve hated your whole life. I’m scared I won’t be able to do it, that I’ll never come to terms with how I look and I’ll be right back where I started, months or even years from now. I’m scared I’ll be judged, that people won’t think I deserve to love my body since it isn’t perfect, and I’m upset that that scares me, because I should only care about how I feel. And more than anything, I’m scared I’ll gain weight by giving myself permission to be as I am and not be perpetually dieting or thinking about dieting. Even though what I’m doing now clearly isn’t working, I’m scared that changing my approach to eating and my body will make things even worse.

 But it has to be done. I have to do something. I cannot continue to think and feel the way I do or I won’t survive. I’m so sick of being depressed all the time, so sick of constantly beating myself up every time I eat something. I’m so sick of trying to force myself to get on the treadmill to burn off the calories I just ate. I want to eat good, healthy food just because it’s delicious. I want to eat fruits and veggies most of the time, but I also want to be able to have a piece of cake if I want one with no guilt too. I want to go to the gym not as a punishment but because working out makes my body feel good and relieves stress. I want to get healthy for the sole purpose of being healthy. I don’t want to want to lose weight anymore, but I can’t help it. I want to lose weight more than anything in the world. But I’m not allowing myself to have that goal anymore. It is destructive and I’m done.

 From now on, health is my only goal. It’s an idea that’s been floating around in my head for almost a year. I tried it once before, focusing just on health and ignoring weight, but I slipped right back into diet mentality not to long after. This time it’s for good. Today I pull the trigger and there’s no going back.