LGN 36: Fat-woman-ism

Like manna from Heaven.  I’ve been waiting for a good topic for my 700th blog post.  Something I could use a controversial title for.  This is dangerous territory.  Watch out for the ROUS.

From Twitter to SoulBounce to this blog entry:

http://www.dirtyprettythangs.com/2012/01/08/fat-girl-fairytales-the-amazing-transformation-of-jennifer-hudson/

It’s a critique of this commercial (that I don’t necessarily recommend watching):

Now, you know this is like a salt lick for an ovine to me.  I can’t not blog about it.  The trick for me is to maintain the intended tone.  I have passion and compassion here but it’s so easy to be sarcastic and dickish when blog writing.  I may fail.

Personally, I’m not crazy about that commercial because of all that blowing.  “Blowing” in the musical sense.  Despite all of her talent and vocal technique and power, after a point it’s … caterwauling.  Neat concept, though.

I was kind of blindsided by this blog and some of the comments.  I mean — well, first let me just queue up my brain stack.

1. In the ad in question, Jennifer Hudson isn’t skinny, per se.  Relatively, yes, but she’s still curvy.

2. The contention that you have to be rich and privileged to lose weight.  And/or the implication that she only looks better due to fashion, makeup and dollars.

3. Body policing and fat shaming

Quotable:  “It’s a trap!”

I’m going to try to keep this short so if you didn’t have time to read Pretty Brown Girl’s blog — but I hope you did — here’s the next to last paragraph.

Stop telling us through these awful commercials that tired ass “This could be you story”. The average woman (who is a size 12/14, by the way) is not going to be able to transform like Jennifer did without Jennifer’s funds. And those funds came to be via the success she enjoyed with her Fat Body.

I don’t know much, if anything, about fashion or dress/clothes sizes for women.  But this is just wrong.  So wrong.  Well, let me step back from that.  Yes, money helps.  Yes, rich and famous people have access to more options for whatever their body goals are.  But the contention that you can’t transform like that without her money is all kinds of wrong.

It may be a sincerely held belief, but it’s a lie.  It’s an insidious bit of mind f*ckery that’s all too easy to believe because it lets us off the hook.  The most effectively destructive lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

Look.  I mountain bike in the Summers.  Tough, enjoyable exercise — I can burn 1,000 calories per hour — that I love to do.  Burn a lot of calories that way.  Never lost much weight doing it, though.

Last year I started semi-private functional strength training.  First, I got sore.  No, first I was embarrassed.  Then I got sore.  Very sore.  Then I felt old and broken. Then I got stronger and faster.   It does cost money per month.  It’s another bill.  Not everyone can afford that.  BUT!  I didn’t start losing weight (fat) until I changed my diet.  What change did I make?

Limiting my carbohydrates to around 100 grams per day.  Most people could transform their bodies starting there.  Then if you up your daily activity a little bit with walking or get some activity buddies, you’ll be shocked at the progress you make over the course of a few months.  And years.

No surgery necessary.  No pre-packaged foods.  In fact, you’d be a lot better off with natural foods.  The outer aisles of the grocery store.

If we all took a week to log what we eat and then looked through it later, it would be easy to see where all of the extra, refined calories are.

Releasing Toxins

This is the part where I have to be careful.  First, please note I’m intentionally omitting any discussion of physiques that I’m most attracted to.  I’m keeping my body type preferences out of this because that’s not what this is about.

It is largely about health.  That may be separate from body image but it’s extremely important.  I ask myself these kinds of questions, thinking a few decades down the road.

  1. How old do you want your child(ren) to be when you die?  Before they graduate high school?  Before college?  Before they’re married?  Before they retire?
  2. Do you want to be a part of your grandkids’ lives?
  3. How many knees do you want to have replaced?
  4. Where do you want your chronic pain to be?  In the back and neck?  Maybe inexplicable internal pain.  A generally debilitating, overall body weariness?
  5. Do you want to increase or decrease your chances of getting cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.?

There are things we need to let go of, culturally.  The way I try to maintain a reasonable tone is to imagine one of my relatives reading this.  Because this is about health.  And it is about body image.

What’s your body image going to be when you have your leg amputated below the knee due to diabetes complication?  Y’know?

Not Fat isn’t the same as Skinny

Please, please, please do not buy into the notion that you’re either fat or skinny.  There is such a thing as being overweight.  There’s such a thing as being underweight.  You can be overweight and healthy.  You can be skinny and unhealthy.  You can be skinny and have a high body fat percentage; skinny fat.

You’ve heard the saying:  Strong is the new skinny.

If you are overweight or obese, you need to work on losing fat.  Period.  No excuses.  You need to.

No one (in their right mind) is saying that you need to be rail thin.  I can pretty much guarantee you that no one out there is looking at you thinking you need to look like one of those tall, scarily thin models on fashion runways.

Your best you isn’t going to be Hollywood thin or magazine cover thin.  Hell.  They, usually, aren’t that thin.  Most of the images we see are all kinds of edited.  Freakishly so, in my opinion.

What I’m saying is, to defend one’s self by citing an opposite extreme is a tactic of distraction.  To be indignantly anti-skinny is self destructive.  To be militantly overweight is insanity.  It’s an excuse.  It’s suicide.

Fat Shaming & Body Policing

I guess a lot of this comes from the media.  Maybe personal interaction.  Messages from every which way.  I mean, no one has the right — well, they may have the right to do it but it would be a real a-hole thing to do — to come up to you and say, “Hey, you’re really overweight.  You need to lose a few pounds.”

I guess family members do that kind of thing more than anyone should.  That does not help, though.

I do not want to be fat.  I do not want to be overweight.  The image in my mind of myself is still circa 20 years old.  My body doesn’t match that image + 19 years.  My body, up until March  2011, matched the habits of someone who got in good but unvaried exercise seasonally or in phases but ate anything he wanted when he wanted and spent 10 to 16 hours a day in a seated position and 8 more hours supine asleep.  (In my next LGN blog I’ll post some of my horrible eating habits from years past where I ask, “How am I still alive?”)

Yeh, it’s painful to see famous women be scrutinized inch by inch all over the media.  Lose weight, gain weight, too fat, too skinny, pregnant, not pregnant, eating disorders.  It’s crazy.  It’s much less intense for men.  For men, it’s whether or not there are six pack abs.  And if not, does he look good with stubble and/or in an expensive suit.

But that’s not an excuse for us, as individuals, needing to take responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones.

We can NOT sit around and say that losing weight is a matter of privilege.  No.  It’s a matter of personal responsibility.  It’s not easy.  Getting started isn’t easy.  The urge to lose weight quickly is probably the biggest destroyer of weight-fat loss efforts.

I mean, being overweight does not make you a bad person.  You’re not overweight because of some horrible character flaw.  If you’re overweight — like I still am, by the way, although steadily approaching my phase 2 goals — it’s because you’ve developed bad habits.  We’re swimming in cheap fattening (fast sugar) foods.  It’s amazing if you think about it.  We have to go out of our way to NOT eat too many calories because they’re all around us in densely packed, conveniently portable snack and fast food form.  Better living through chemistry!

Also, I’m in no way putting down women who are naturally thin or skinny.  I don’t want to imply that there’s something off about healthy and thin women.  You also rock.

Do Sumpin’

Make a change for the better.  Stick with it.  Eat unprocessed or minimally processed foods.  Be more active.  That’s all it is.   It’s not complicated but it’s hard to swap out routines and habits.  For most people.  There may be some hormonal issues and medical issues, but … you know.  That means that it’s even more important to try to maximize one’s health because of those unfair odds.

But hey, if you have the money, take a fun class of some sort.  Zumba people always look like they’re having a good time.

At the risk of losing some of you, get a personal trainer (or semi-private personal trainer like I do) and lift weights.  It’s hard work but it will work wonders for your physique if you stick with it for months and listen to your trainer’s dietary guidelines.  Ladies, you will not bulk up like Ahnold.

But seriously.  Whatever little change you make for the better is progress.

I’m so inspired by all of my friends and relatives who have taken steps in the past few months and years to get a handle on their health and fitness.  It keeps me going.  Seriously, despite all of the progress I’ve made I still feel demoralized sometimes for one reason or another:  still have a too-high body fat percentage, still lack confidence with the ladies, still get tired after long hard exercise, still get very sore after some workouts and take a long time to recover, etc.

Seeing you all make small changes to your habits or big changes in your activities and goals — people are walking, jogging, cooking, training for races, racing for training, weight lifting, yoga-ing, dancing, replacing bad foods with good foods — it’s amazing.

Whenever I lack motivation I can go on Facebook and look at my Facebook friends’ feeds and it doesn’t take long (even if I exclude my gym people) to see someone doing something kickass.

Keep it up.

If you haven’t gotten there yet, what’s to wait for?  We’re here for you when you’re ready to jump in.  You’re not alone.  That’s for sure.

Click here to see all of my LGN (I want to Look Good Naked) and functional strength training posts.

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6 comments

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  1. Janna

    Great link, thanks. Sums up the problems with that ad for sure. And the weird thing is that Jennifer wasn’t that fat to begin with.

    I love that you keep tackling this shit, plowing ahead.

    BTW, I just saw today that Weight Watchers is endorsing chicken mcnuggets as a healthy choice in McDonalds in New Zealand and Australia… NOOOOO!!!!!

    • garyarthuryoung

      What?? McNuggets?! That’s barely food. Do they have a different recipe Down Under or something because the sodium alone…

  2. KhadijahOnline

    I loved PBG’s blog post. She was responding to the Weight Watcher’s ad insinuation that a thinner Jenifer is a better Jenifer. To paraphrase her– a big Jenifer is the one that won a Grammy, did all them movies and stuff. Thin Jenifer is advertising Weight Watchers.

    She also said that Jenifer should be advertising for better weaves, makeup and clothes because the reality is that Jenifer slimmer and still dressing like she did when she was big, she would’ve been a bama.

    Then, the comments got pretty ugly.

    It seems that people– you included, Gary– that hear or read a non-thin person having a problem about how lies are shoved down our throat about health and wellness always seem to get up in arms like we big people are irrational and don’t have personal experience or a large wealth of knowledge about health in general.

    As someone who is considered overweight, blog posts like yours and the general consensus that thinner is healthier is very sad and misguided to me. For the record, I don’t have diabetes. Nor high blood pressure. Never have (pregnant or otherwise). I walk faster than most people. I can still do splits and ride a bike. If you listen to most folks on the thinner is better kick, us big uns can’t do shit. I do have thyroid issues and trying to find ways to heal myself without having to use drugs. For the record, millions of people are suffering from undetected thyroid issues that are brought on my stress and environmental factors, becoming heavier in the process (because thryoid + adrenals regulate metabolism) not necessarily overeating.

    Could I stand to lose weight? Sure I could. Do I want to? Um, not sure. And, that’s where it gets tricky.

    I can’t think of a good reason to be smaller other than to be able to wear skimpy clothes again outside of the house and to have folks get off my back.

    I want people to leave me alone. To stop making comparisons about how I looked when I was 19 to how I look now. I LOVE being my age. I don’t have visions of life being better as a younger person. I want people to stop insinuating I must be miserable because I am a plus-sized woman because “everybody” knows that all women hate themselves and are always wanting to be thinner. I think it is shocking when it is revealed that I don’t hate myself *gasp*, even when posts like yours and comments from people who posted on PBG’s blog say the condescending and “for your own good” comments that make my blood boil.

    It’s funny, but you can’t tell a person who obsessively works out and self-righteously tells everyone else how they should be eating and living that something, instead is wrong with them without being accused of being in denial about your lifestyle as a big person. Apparently, being big doesn’t just mean that something is inherently wrong with your lifestyle if you let most folks tell it, it also gives others a license to feel better about themselves at your expense.

    • garyarthuryoung

      Thanks for the comment, K. And your openness. I have to think about this for a bit.

      Until then, I want to say that you’re one of the people who inspires me with your exercise and family outings and
      general constructive activity, social, physical and otherwise.

      Later, gator.

  3. garyarthuryoung

    Okay. I’ve been thinking, KhadijahOnline, for better or for worse. This will probably just add fuel to the fire, though. Sorry. Here’s my return book.

    I thought PBG’s post was great. I shared it. I happened to strongly disagree with the statement that physical transformation can only be achieved with Hudson-style money. Or the overlying implications. I don’t think she meant that in terms of fashion only — the weave and the dress, which truth be told I didn’t notice.

    I write these things about my attempts at achieving fitness, getting healthier and losing weight (which is absolutely part of being fitter and healthier for me and most others, I will hazard) because I want the people I love to see my journey, get inspired and do the same. The health part, primarily, whatever that ends up looking like.

    It’s a dang shame if my passion and attempts at inspiration are generally condescending and self righteous. By the way, I’m collecting the adjectives you ascribe to me so I can use them later in my personals ads. 🙂

    I can not walk in your shoes. I’m not claiming to understand your experience, obviously. I have my own walking to do and my own path to choose.

    NON-THIN
    I am, myself, a non-thin person. When I started this mess, about a year or more before I started strength training, I weighed 244 lbs (and then stopped weighing myself). I’m 5’7″, by the way. I was definitely unhappy with that. Unhappy with myself.

    I went to the emergency room one night because I had multiple symptoms of a heart attack: light-headedness, headache, soreness in the neck, twitches in my chest, a heartburn sensation. I thought there was a good chance that I wasn’t going to make it through the night — the only way I’d go to an emergency room, frankly — and that I would die in a hospital bed, alone, and my family would be notified in some cold, antiseptic way and then have to clean out my cluttered apartment. Blah.

    It turned out that those symptoms were coincidental. I was recovering from bronchitis at the time. I did have heartburn, too. My heart was healthy but I did have borderline hypertension and was told that I was pre-diabetic. That was in 2008.

    I started walking. 10,000 steps a day. Walked all over DC. Anywhere between Adams Morgan and Alexandria or Rosslyn you might have found me strollin’. It wasn’t until I saw a photo of myself that I was really shocked, though. I decided to make a change.

    I lost 20 lbs. on my own simply by keeping a food journal online via DailyBurn. For free. Awareness. Mindfulness. It changed things. I had no idea how much I was really eating.

    Then a few years later I was out of the habit, gained weight back and got up to 232 lbs. Stress, tragedies, lost loved ones, bad choices, lack of motivation, rejection, depression.

    I hope you and others don’t have the impression that I’m some naturally athletic skinny guy who is berating others for being overweight because it makes me feel better about myself. Or that this is easy for me.

    I don’t have the same social pressures that women do or that you do, specifically. But that doesn’t change the fact that this process is a struggle for me. For anyone, really.

    Yes, it is a struggle. It is painful in many ways and I’m swimming upstream. But I’ve found a supportive, productive environment and that’s what gets me from one workout to the next. And the yoga, too, even though I haven’t been in a while. Life seems to channel me toward good people.

    Wait. You can do a split?? How come you haven’t come to yoga with me at PIES to show off your skills?

    HEALTHY
    I am sincerely happy to know that you’re healthy. I don’t want to be presumptuous and get into your business. I’ll just say this. Keep it up. I know how you do. You’re a force of nature. I think you’re one of the rare ones, though.

    I do believe that for the vast majority of people, “thinner” is on the way to healthier. It’s not magic. It won’t fix your life or make you happy and successful, but it’s a good baseline if that translates to statistically better chances at longevity and quality of life. And less medical bills.

    I don’t mean skinny, either, like I said before. I mean, like, oh what was it. I was looking at ranges for body fat percentage today to try and figure out my next fitness milestone goal. For a guy, healthy was between 12% and 19%. That’s what I mean by thinner, give or take some percentage points on that. 20% is pretty “healthy”. I’m at 23% body fat now, down from at least 35% this time last year, and I am by no means “skinny” or “thin”.

    I can’t speak to every situation. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t speak, though, especially when I see what I see.

    LOVED ONES
    My family is a matriarchy. Has been since about 1984. There are a lot of overweight elderly folk. And friends’ families, too. Let me tell you. They are struggling. In so many ways. Due to their weight, largely.

    They’re amazing, beautiful people. But now, decades later those pounds and eating habits are wreaking havoc.

    Considerable extra weight and osteoporosis? Ugh. Their knees are shot. Some have, literally, no cartilage left in their knee joints. Some have knee replacements but are still in pain because they didn’t lose weight and all of that pressure on the artificial joint is still painful. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. All those things that you say, correctly so, that not all overweight people have. But they have it. I feel like I see it all around me.

    According to the CDC: 10 Leading Causes of Death
    African American Population, U.S., 2007

    http://www.cdc.gov/omhd/populations/BAA/BAA.htm#Ten

    Heart disease, Cancer, Stroke, Unintentional injuries, Diabetes.

    Those are the top 5. Four of those have a common factor of obesity as a contributor. Not 100% causal, but a factor. We could greatly reduce these statistics by changing our habits.

    Is that not a fact?

    MAYBE
    Maybe I’m not self-righteous, though. Maybe I care. Like, maybe the fact that every time I visit my family in Baltimore, I tear up as I walk out the door and on the drive back home because of all the suffering I see. Maybe I’m scared of the inevitable decimation that my family is going to suffer in the next few years and decades due to these health complications. It’s going to be painful and ugly.

    Maybe I’m frustrated enough to punch a hole in the wall when I see one relative bake a cake or pie and give it to a diabetic family member. I see my nephews training themselves to pacify themselves with anything refined, processed and sugary. Literally afraid of and disgusted by natural food.

    Then I see my peers and they’re smoking and drinking and eating like there’s no tomorrow. Or like they don’t care if there’s a tomorrow. Then I see their posts or hear about their health problems and I imagine in a few decades what state we’ll be in.

    I really do hope that this doesn’t apply to you, though. I honestly do. I have never commented on your physique, or belittled you or thought less of you.

    But we ALL need to eat healthier and be more physically active. Period. I will not step back from that one inch. We ALL, on average, need to eat the amount of calories our bodies need in a day and not more (unless it’s part of a goal). Maybe a little less, but It’s still a fair amount more than most people think when they think about dieting.

    I will not stop saying it. I certainly won’t stop trying to inspire my loved ones to take care of themselves. To eat better, move more and have fun doing it.

    I’m sorry if I offend you in the process, but if it doesn’t apply to you then it doesn’t apply to you. I’m directing these to the masses (all 5 of them that read this blog), not the exceptionals. These posts are not indictments. They aren’t about shame. They’re about inviting my loved ones to join me in an effort to become stronger, faster, fitter, more flexible and generally resilient and tough. Built to last. To endure. Prepared for the psychological, economic, social and physical challenges that life throws our way.

    In fact, if there’s anyone out there who does want to lose weight or body fat — I am not an expert or licensed anything on the matter — feel free to ask me what I’m doing and why. What I changed, tools I use, what I do. It’s not a quick fix, though. It’s not some crash diet or fad where you lose quickly and gain back quickly. I think it adds up to good habits replacing bad ones. One or two at a time.

    Our mainstream media conversation about weight, weight loss and dieting is toxic on so many levels. I definitely agree with that.

    YOUR VOICE
    Having said that, K, your voice and perspective on this are indispensable. It’s a side to this that I’ve only read about from afar.

    It is a wonderful thing to be happy in one’s own skin. To have the option, inwardly, to choose the next venture and not be driven by external forces for one thing or another.

    I’m not there yet.

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