Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fat-Friendly Events

BFB is having a bowling event here in Chicago on Saturday, and other fat-friendly events are going on all over...

It is just one of many social and athletic get-togethers that Ms. Bellemore's network and other groups like it organize around the country to allow the very overweight to mingle in a climate of tolerance. The events are meant to encourage people to get out and meet one another, to transform their shame into confidence and to accept themselves as they are, not as others would have them be.

As Sandy Schaffer, the director of the New York chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, put it, "Why allow somebody to say, 'You can't do this until you lose weight'?"

Some people have found it interesting that I identify so heavily with the whole "fat acceptance" gig.

I've had a friend or two say, "But Kameron, you're not obese."


I'm 5'9, 210 lbs or so, and a big, substantial woman in the big, substantial woman sense: my shoulders are as wide as my hips. My lowest weight post-puberty was 175/180 lbs, when I was working out six days a week, sometimes twice a day, and living mainly on brown rice and eggs. My sister told me I was looking "really skinny." (?) What these whole "5'2 200 lbs" descriptions never seem to take into account is how well that person holds themselves at that weight, what their workout and eating schedule is like, and how they maintain their time.

And guess what? According to the ridiculous BMI we're using, I'm obese.

Just like Brad Pitt.

Lucky me!

And I can jog three miles and until a few months ago was engaged in regular boxing classes.

And guess what's even more:

At my "lowest weight" of 175?

Still overweight by BMI standards!

What incredible fucking useless fucking bullshit crap.

A lot of us have to monitor everything we eat just to stay at 200 lbs. Unless you want to get into starvation mode or major work-out mode (yea, I could do this in college. With 15 hours of commute time a week, it's not feasible at the moment), and starving, for me, means sleeping a lot. And you know what? Missing out on my life cause I'm sleeping all the time just ain't worth fitting into a size 10 (in fact, unless I start taking the boxing seriously and do about 3 hours of training a day, I don't think I'll ever be a size 10. I've never been a size 10. Post-puberty, my comfort level is a 12, and that's a tough size for me to stay at).

My journey the last two years has been one of getting my binge-eating under control, which I've very nearly successfully done. It was a crazy, fucked-up, freak-out sort of behavior that I engaged in when I was stressed out and pissed off because I wasn't fitting into the "right" size of clothes, because I viewed myself as too big and too unfeminine, and believed everyone thought I was a fat, ugly, useless slob.

Binge-eating is a great cyclical sort of problem...

So I have some experience in the realm of self-acceptance and learning to break the binge/diet cycle through the realization that being big and intimidating can be...

Really cool.

The trick, for me, is finding the power in my size, and working to build muscle mass, which I view as very useful weight.

I have up and down cycles: as mentioned, I've gone soft and doughy again, and I'm irritated about that, because exercise makes me feel a whole lot better in my skin. I make it a point not to eat shit food during the week, but if they've got bagels at work, I might have some. If we're celebrating and ordering Thai food, I'm totally in. When B's over, we have pancakes with enough lite syrup to drown a small navy.

Food's not the enemy, it's just that there are certain times for certain things, and hating myself by gorging is a terrible form of punishing my body because it's not "right" or "perfect." Like everything else in my life, it is what it is.

What I've realized is that my body goes through cycles, and it also has a pretty "high" set point and comfort zone, and I need to respect that, and respecting that also means respecting myself enough to give myself the right sort of fuel to get through the day, and through workouts.

I'm not here to get down to a place where I can fit into clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch, though that would be nice...

I'm just getting to the point where I realize it's not my body that's all wrong - it's Abercrombie & Fitch.

And if the A&F wearers are going to roll their eyes at me cause they're so hungry and I'm not, I'd far prefer to be in a crowd of equally non-hungry people who are out to have an actual good time instead of sitting around punishing themselves for not being a size 00.

I have more important things to do than play the who-can-eat-less-and-still-function-game.

It's cool to be around people who feel the same way.

10 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I'm 5'2", and when I'm in really good shape I'm at 160 pounds. That's where I was in high school when I biked several (hilly) miles to school and back every day, had swim team practice every day, and did serious backpacking on the weekends.

My doctor says I'm healthy, and that if I start dieting to lose weight she would be worried. I'm in the process of getting back into shape (I was sick all winter) but I can still do more, lift more, bike farther, and go on longer hikes than many people who are at their "ideal" weight. Despite being short, I am sometimes referred to at work as the Amazon.

I inherited my parents' genes - short, stocky, and strong. I'm never going to be a size 00 or probably anything less than a 10 or 12, but I like what I can do in this body, despite the fact that, at my best weight, I am overweight according to the BMI charts.

Screw them. I'm healthy and happy. 

Posted by Wendryn

Anonymous said...

I'm in pretty much the same boat; I'm at a BMI of ~30 and while I want to lose about fifteen pounds for (admittedly) aesthetic reasons, I'd still be "overweight".

I have trouble with some of the movement's more radical claims--for example, that any weight can be a healthy weight (I've an aunt who's pretty much immobile)--but I've seen enough dieting in my family to realize that trying to remake your genetic destiny is futile.  

Posted by Maureen

Anonymous said...

Would you believe me if I said that I envy your strength and power? I'm 5'6" and 105 lbs. I'm one of those freakish people who are naturally skinny and never have to think about what they eat. And I know I benefit from thin priviledge in ways I don't even realize (if it's any consolation, department store clothes don't fit me either. I have no bust to fill out the shirts and my grandmother's birthing hips mean that pants never fit me right). But having my body type means always feeling and being percieved as little, helpless, needy, childish. That is what this ridiculous beauty ideal is really promoting. Defenseless, vulnerable women. Which is scary. Being the 98 pound weakling growing up, I had a passionate loathing of gym class. The only sport I was ever good at, where I ever felt strong and capable, was soccer. But I've started excercising, because I want to be fit and self-confident when I move to Europe this fall. And I have an inner butch that's been screaming to get out, but it doesn't matter how short my hair is or how masculine my clothing, I'll always be petite and "delicate."
I don't want this to come off as a "skinny people have it rough too!" comment, because as a woman and a dyke, I know how infuriating it is when someone with priviledge comes along and proceeds to talk about how tough *they* have it. My point is it's insidious, the way our culture makes us unsatisfied with our bodies, no matter what we look like or how much we weigh. Keep them insecure about their looks and you can strip civil liberties and war-monger all you want! 

Posted by Andygrrl

Anonymous said...

Wendryn, yea, screw um, I've decided, is the right attitude. ;)

Andygrrl, I get you. Me and my roommate, who's really small-boned and slender, have had a similiar conversation before. Being smaller also has a lot of anxiety around the defending of oneself bit especially. I'm pretty confident that I can stare down 90% of the people who fuck with me, and I give myself a fighting chance with the other 10%.

Being the height and weight of the average guy, only half the guys I meet are going to be bigger than me, and only a handful of the women, and there's certainly some comfort in that, especially now after taking some martial arts classes (gotta get back on this, dammit!).

Oddly, I've also noticed that being as big as I am, I'm really protective of people I care about who are smaller than me. It's an interesting urge.

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

I have trouble with some of the movement's more radical claims--for example, that any weight can be a healthy weight... 

What disturbs me about this entire cycle is that the structure of social loathing and rejection creates another wall that people who really do have to lose weight must hurdle. It's hard enough when you're fighting years of personal habits and your body's own predispositions, but when you're either a big fat fuck or completely invisible, you start blaming everything on your weight- paradoxically making it harder to change. 

Posted by perianwyr

Anonymous said...

i am 5'5", and when i weighed 170 (about a hundred pounds less than i weigh now, loosely) i looked skeletal. so it's not just you.  

Posted by betsy

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I'm of normal weight, but I know I'm genetically lucky in this characteristic. Fat-bashing really pisses me off. There is nothing wrong with your body. Keep exercising & feeling good about what your body can do and you'll project your sexy self-confidence. 

Posted by Ron O.

Anonymous said...

How about Athletic fat friendly events for guys? How about the NFL? Then move on to most of the major sports, NBA etc... Don't believe me? They have studied the average size of linemen in the NCAA & the NFL. Linemen are typically the heaviest members of the team, the guys who do most of the blocking and tackling, not the running. People have studied & graphed it, and it's pretty damn amazing. In the 1960's-1970's your average lineman would come in at around 250-270, about 6 ft. or just under. This has increased every decade until now we have behemoths weighing in at better than 350 and more with only a few more spare inches added to their height (6'2-6'5). It's not even noticed by some, but even the kids playing the game are way larger. The back field is larger, the ends are too & so are the defensive backs by in large. It's rare to find a 'normal' sized individual on a team, and they're usually the safety's the deepest and fastest defensive backs. Even the NHL guys are larger, and most would be classed as overweight if not obese.

So you'll know that the culture takes this fat stuff seriously when someone notes in a football commentary; 'Yes you know Pat, during this lull it's important to mention to the kids at home that fully 98% of the men on the field are obese by CDC & government standards'. For most of these guys watching what they eat means being careful not to eat the pets in the house when they're hungry.

It's almost never the guys that get this pressure, it's the gals. Those exemplars of our sports heroes are mostly pretty fat by historical standards. I think Tiger is about the only major male athlete I can name who is about normal weight (perhaps even a bit under), and would be comparable to champions of the 1960's-70's in size.  

Posted by VJ

Anonymous said...

Oddly, I've also noticed that being as big as I am, I'm really protective of people I care about who are smaller than me. It's an interesting urge. 

I have the same urge at 5'6" - and yes, according to my BMI I am overweight. I was tiny until I hit puberty (really late) and I feel like I'm really big in comparison. So I'm really protective of other women, especially women under 5'4" (like my mom and quite a few of my friends). My stepfather gets annoyed when I open doors for him and generally act in a way that is "gentlemanly." He was trying to show me how a man treats women, but I apparently thought he was just modeling appropriate behavior.

Posted by Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Last summer, after a year of nursing a baby who grew to nearly 25 pounds soley on calories processed through my body, I finally dropped below the BMI threshold of 25.0 and hit a BMI of 24.9. "Normal." No longer "Overweight" or even the "obese" that I was before my pregnancies. I was the lightest I'd been since high school. I could put on my jr. prom dress.

And three different people told me I looked gaunt. I was wearing a size 14 - something many women consider with horror as the start of "plus sizes."

I'm 5'10" and I've never taken less than a size 14 since I hit this height, and I would have to starve myself constantly to stay at what the government charts say is my "ideal weight." My mother is my height, and as a young adult she dropped to 120 pounds due to a thyroid condition. She was model height and model weight -and she was still a size 12. Still a "plus size woman" at the time.

I think there must be some kind of law of Conservation of Female Volume. For evidence, examine the sizing charts on the backs of pantyhose packaging. The taller you are, the less you are supposed to weigh, because you are already taking up too much space. 

Posted by Sara