Why I am proud to call myself ‘fat’

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How can three little letters elicit so much emotion? The implicit biases that have been inextricably linked to this adjective are numerous and diverse, but they almost all have one thing in common. The implications conveyed by using the term fat are almost all negative.

Fat began to be an undesirable trait with the most recent set of beauty standards. As thinner and thinner bodies were used for models and actresses, thin became synonymous with beauty and fat with ugly. Media worsened this dichotomy through the creation countless thin protagonists who were smart, funny, a love interest, and strong while large characters were gluttonous, mean, lazy, and pitied.

A common, but largely ignored, phenomenon in medical research followed. Too often, when traits are considered undesirable socially, the medical field turns this implicit bias into a medical problem. (For example, studies on the size of skulls were conducted to ‘prove’ the superiority of the white race.) Being “overweight” was medicalized and studied, their findings correlating higher weights with certain chronic diseases. So these beliefs about being a large person came together in the narrative we have today about fat people: “Overweight” people are too lazy/stupid/careless to eat healthfully and take care of themselves, thus not only are they unattractive, but they are also willfully negligent of their health.

This narrative has led to several forms of discrimination, including fat people being less likely to get hired, having lower salaries, and most counter-intuitively of all, receiving poorer health care. Yet, there is no evidence that larger people are less intelligent, driven, or even inherently unhealthy.

By proudly claiming fat as a description of myself, I’m making a political statement. I’m saying that we can no longer allow fat to be synonymous with those undesirable traits. While I certainly don’t embody every possible positive trait, I am slowly becoming the living proof that fat can’t automatically equate lazy, unintelligent or negligent of health. I hope that as more people join me, society will see that fat people deserve all the same opportunities as thin people to fully enjoy their lives.

References
1. Andreyeva, Tatiana, Rebecca M. Puhl, and Kelly D. Brownell. "Changes in Perceived Weight Discrimination Among Americans, 1995–1996 Through 2004–2006." Obesity 16.5 (2008): 1129-134. Web.
2. Puhl, Rebecca M., and Chelsea A. Heuer. "The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update." Obesity 17.5 (2009): 941-64. Web.
3. Sabin, Janice A., Maddalena Marini, and Brian A. Nosek. "Implicit and Explicit Anti-Fat Bias among a Large Sample of Medical Doctors by BMI, Race/Ethnicity and Gender." PLoS ONE 7.11 (2012): n. pag. Web.


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Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.

Monday Musings: Postcards for Justice

Monday Musings: Postcards for Justice

The folks at the Women's March have created a campaign to help keep the momentum going: 10 actions/100 days. The first action is writing postcards to senators. We will have postcards available at the studio this week and we'll even mail them for you! If you can't get to the studio, please share a photo of yourself with your postcard(s) - we'd love to see them, and you!

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Mindfulness for the Full-Minded

I guess to begin looking at mindfulness, I need to figure out what mindfulness actually IS, outside of slick packaging. So, I asked a bunch of folks some questions about what mindfulness means to them, if they practice it and what that looks like, what is appealing and challenging, etc. Shockingly enough, everyone had different answers about what it means, what it looks like for them in their daily lives, etc.  

Many people had variations on mindfulness being the act of being present in the now, taking time to experience this moment and not let our thoughts be pulled to the past or the future. Rather than frantically planning out my week, thinking about what I am going to be doing this weekend, or making for dinner tonight, or that conversation I have to have with my boss this afternoon (eep!), simply experiencing the moment I’m in. Some people I asked, mentioned how calming this is, how it makes them happier to be able to just have an experience without needing to quantify or qualify it.  

Several folks said that the concept of being present in the moment just doesn’t work for them. One person said it means “knowing the reason and purpose for my actions.” People expressed frustration with the need to stop what they were doing to just check in and be more aware, before moving on to the next thing, and mindfulness felt like another chore they needed to get through, something they weren’t “doing well enough.” Some people said they just didn’t want to take the time to be mindful because taking time to be mindful was using more time from something else they needed or wanted to do more.  

A common thread from people who do currently practice mindfulness was the idea that mindfulness is an ongoing practice – not something that is ever Accomplished. Rather, like yoga or meditation, or any activity we take on in our lives, it is something to be constantly learned about, strived for, practiced, and never something that is achieved and done.

As I have stated in previous posts, I like the IDEA of mindfulness. I like the concept of being able to just experience a moment. I have with fairly intense, high functioning anxiety, and one of the (many) ways I cope with that is to constantly be thinking about future situations and figuring out how I can handle them, as well as analyzing past interactions to see if I want to do something different in the future (my brain is … fun). While I like the idea of being able to be in a moment, to just simply enjoy something for what it is, or feel angry about a situation without having to place it in a greater context and analyze that for anything else that could go wrong, it feels … scary to let that go. And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.  


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Mindfulness For the Full-Minded is an ongoing exploration by Kat Gordon. She invites you to follow her journey toward mindfulness here. 

Don't go alone

Don't go alone

Role playing games are known for their misdirection. You think you’re at the end, but you’ve only just begun. From a logistical game play standpoint this makes sense; you want to keep the player invested and engaged. But this move only works because it mimics the way life itself moves: A journey peopled with a collection of characters for whom there is neither a discernable beginning nor a concrete end.

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Keep Calm and Yoga On!

A few months ago I shared some of my favorite yoga poses for coping with depression. Like many people diagnosed with depression, I also have an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, yoga helps with that too! But just like depression and anxiety are different animals, so are the yoga poses that can help with them. So without further ado, here are three things I use when working through a rough patch of anxiety. 

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  1. Breathing. Yeah, really! When we experience anxiety we often develop a pattern of shallow, rapid breath, which can lead to cold or numb hands and feet--even dizziness. Taking deep, steady breaths is a great way to begin feeling calm and grounded again. You can do this practice anywhere--standing, seated in a chair, or lying in a comfortable position. Bring one hand to your chest and one hand to your stomach. If it feels relaxing to do so you can close your eyes, or find an object in the room to bring your focus to. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose and feel your belly expand. Pause here briefly, for as long as feels comfortable. Three seconds works great for me, but your mileage may vary. Next, exhale through your mouth and notice your belly contracting as the breath is released. Repeat as many times as you like.
     
  2. Wide-legged forward fold. When anxiety hits, I prefer to do this pose while seated in a chair. Doing so gives me a stable, safe place for me to focus on continuing my deep breathing without worrying about feeling wobbly or dizzy. Find a seat in a comfortable chair (if it has wheels, make sure they’re locked!) and firmly plant your feet on the floor slightly wider than hip-width distance apart. Inhale, lift your chest, and extend your spine--imagine an invisible thread on the top of your head gently pulling it up toward the ceiling. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, bringing hands to a yoga block or to the floor. If you don’t have a yoga block, a few stacked books or a small cardboard box works great here. Continue breathing in this pose for a few moments, with every inhale lengthening your spine, and every exhale allowing yourself to deepen your forward fold slightly. When you’re ready to come out of your forward fold, do so on an inhale, coming up about half the distance first, then slowing coming all the way up to a seated position. Allow yourself a few moments before moving into a standing position to avoid dizziness. 
     
  3. Tree pose. One of the most easily recognizable yoga poses, Tree is my favorite way to get grounded and focus on breath. I like practicing this one with a wall behind me and a chair in front of me to assist with balance. Start with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Begin to shift your weight into your left foot, placing a hand on the back of a chair to help with balance if you’d like. Bend your right knee and turn it outward, bringing heel to rest inside left ankle and toes to the mat (or a block). Engage your core. Breathe. If you feel stable here and would like more of a balance challenge, bring the sole of your right foot to press gently inside your left calf. Resist with your left leg. Breathe here. To come out of Tree, turn bent knee back to center, straighten your leg, and bring your foot back down to the mat. Don’t forget to do the other side! 

These strategies are my definite go-to when I'm struggling with anxiety, but they might not be right for everyone. If these don't work for you, don't be discouraged--experiment with different breathing exercises and gentle stretches until you find something that does. And remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion in all things! 


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Kris Anne is a registered yoga teacher and has been part of the YogaQuest community since 2012. She loves that YogaQuest provides a safe space for geeks to practice yoga, and an accepting environment in which she can move her body and feel free to be a weirdsmobile. Because it has meant so much to her, she is dedicated to bringing YogaQuest to more people, and sharing its message of non-compliant self care.