Tag Archives: health

Coming Out – as a Fat Activist

I wrote a paper last year for Cultural Politics of the Body (hell yes for interesting freshman writing seminars) on fat activism – which I didn’t even know existed before writing the paper. Because it always makes it more interesting to research and write about topics related to one’s life, I knew I wanted to write something related to body image and disordered eating. After learning more about and then delving into the topic of fat activism, I was hooked. And I had a paper as a natural lead in for conversations with people over dinner about my enthusiasm over my findings, which I could semi-disguise as academic interest when needed or wanted.

Now, however, although I’ve forgotten a lot of the specifics of the movement, I’ve explored my own relationship with my past, body and mind in the past year, and am ready to “come out” of the fat activist closet.

I am fat.

And sometimes I’m not, according to BMI standards (which are hogwash anyway – more about that later). I’m right at that cusp between “normal” and “overweight.” And no, by saying that I am fat I do not mean lazy, stupid, sad, pathetic, slothful, unhealthy, ugly, or a whole host of other adjectives that people commonly mean when they say fat. I mean that I am fat, as a purely physical descriptor.

I am also healthy and generally happy. (When I’m not happy, it has nothing to do with my weight, although, being somebody of this culture, I do sometimes still blame my emotions on my weight.) Is it possible to be fat and healthy? Yes, very much so. Does this statement bring up any sort of emotion in you? Take a breath, and examine what’s hit home for you.

I’m still trying to explore how to express my thoughts and feelings on the subject in a way that is productive towards my mission of promoting body acceptance and health for everybody and at least stimulating the lifelong unlearning of the fat = bad / thin = good brainwashing message. So let me know – what are your thoughts? Any ideas on how I can get across these points? I think it’s more of a live and bumble around trying to figure it out kind of deal, but in case anybody reading has any insight, please do share.

I wrote this post because a friend of mine who remembered my distate for the health industry’s support of our cultural bias towards thinness sent me an article about the recent Canadian study described in the New York Times article “Excess Pounds, but Not Too Many, May Lead to Longer Life.” This sounds pretty good to support me in my statement that my “extra” pounds are okay. HOWEVER, by digging a little deeper the news gets better for fat activists. Even the New York Times is part of our society, and shys away from telling the complete truth, as Junkfood Science, a great blog on “critcal examinations of studies and news on food, weight, health and healthcare that mainstream media misses,” describes:

“…The report, published online last week in the journal Obesity, found that overall, people who were overweight but not obese — defined as a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 — were actually less likely to die than people of normal weight, defined as a B.M.I. of 18.5 to 24.9…”

False. The study found obesity (BMIs 30-<35) were also less likely to die than people of a “normal” weight, and that the highest BMIs had statistically the same mortality risks as “normal” weight people.

“‘Overweight may not be the problem we thought it was,’ said Dr. David H. Feeny, a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and one of the authors of the study. ‘Overweight was protective.'”

So was obesity. The relative risks for mortality associated with the corrected BMIs were 25% to 16% lower among the overweight and obese (BMI 30-<35), respectively, compared to “normal weight.” And the risks associated with the most “morbidly obese” — the highest 3% of the population — were effectively the same as those with “normal” BMIs (18.5-<25).

I’ll definitely be writing more on the topic now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling on the blog, but that’s probably enough food for thought for tonight. (Unintended. ha. ha. I know.)

Are you crazy?

Why yes, I am. Thank you.

My sister inquired about my sanity when I got home from a run at 11:05 PM tonight. Maybe for serious runners, or even not-so serious runners, running at night is perfectly normal. For me though, it’s been a shift in my life to even start running, so running at night never really came up as an option for whatever reason.

Last night, however, the hostess at the restaurant I work at went for an impromptu run on the beach after work with a couple of the server assistants. On my last legs of a 12 hour day, I couldn’t fathom going, and plus, I was still working, but their enthusiasm and action instilled the idea in me. Then, today was the very last day and run of the nine-week “Couch to 5K” running program I’ve committed myself to, and I didn’t have time to go before work because I slept in so late. I very nearly gave up on the planned run, thinking that maybe I could push run three of the last week to the next week. And, at the same time I had doubts, the combination of my own determination to finish the program and remembering my friends’ run yesterday gave me renewed strength and courage to try something new.

When I headed out towards the beach tonight after work, listening to Michael Franti, I felt joy bubbling up inside me. Knowing I was alone on the beach, making a conscious choice to live as I chose, I started allowing the joy to emerge in giggles and laughter.

the beach in the daylight. (Imagine it without all the blue, basically all black. Ok, so it's really not the same at all, but at least you can imagine the ground on which I trod. And I just really wanted to have at least one image to brighten up the post.)

The beach in the daylight. (Imagine it without all the blue, basically all black. Ok, so it's really not the same at all, but at least you can imagine the ground on which I trod. And I just really wanted to have at least one image to brighten up the post.)

I felt so present, so alive, so proud, to be outside under the stars, listening to music and breaking some of my mindsets – the big one of “Elizabeth doesn’t run” and the smaller one of “Elizabeth doesn’t run at night,” which I didn’t even know I had in the first place until I was presented with the option.

Some background on my relationship with running

I still regard finishing the cross-country season in sixth grade as one of my greatest accomplishments, because although I’ve accomplished a lot, I like what I do… except with cross country. I hated running, and I still kept with it, as a challenge. And back then I hadn’t yet developed my willful, souless dedication which has taken over my life a few times since then, so it was still a gentle, loving determination.

My next association with running was a few years later when I ran for supposed “health,” but really more to lose weight. That was unhealthy mentally, emotionally and physically, and so when I eased into a healthier relationship with myself and dropped my masochistic habits, running was among the first to go.

“Couch to 5K”

Now that I am in a much better relationship with myself, I’ve had it in the back of my mind to try running again for few years, but the time was never quite right. Then, suddenly, the time was right, and nine weeks ago I started the “Couch to 5K” running program, designed to ease “non-runners” into running. I like programs because they give me structure, and in addition to the structure that the program provided, which was wonderful, I set up rewards for myself, one every three weeks, and signed myself up for a 5K race – all to keep me motivated.

It worked, and despite all the self-doubt and mind blabber, I ran (and walked, as per the program) three times per week for the last nine weeks. It’s even started to be a time of joy, as I felt today (granted that joy is usually at the beginning, as I’m just leaving the house and going into nature, but still, it’s a start, and I’ve felt joy during the run too 😉