Thursday, 10 September 2009

Shopping! Sales!

A plus-sized friend informs me that now is the perfect time to go online shopping. The Aussie dollar is strong, or the US one is weak, or whatever it is that makes it cheaper for us to buy things. And the US retailers are clearing out summer stock as autumn comes in. Perfect timing for us, as spring is sprung over here.

Her recommendations for on-line plus sized fashion are:
B & Lu
Kiyonna - but, she warns, absolutely not their Blue Plate line.

Sizes can be tricky. If you have an old tape measure with inches, this chart might help. Or use a calculator: divide your cm measure by 2.54 to get inches.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Will somebody rid us of that dickhead, Kyle Sandilands?


In case you haven't heard, he's been having a go at Magda Szubanski for being fat. Ahahahaha, the hilarity. Well, she's a big girl, she can take it, and she has done so quite graciously. And the rest of us could just grouse a bit about the usual fat hate, if only he hadn't taken a giant leap across the borders of taste by informing us that if only someone stuck her in a concentration camp, then she would lose weight. Which is no doubt true. Thanks a lot. And it's also true that if someone sewed Kyle Sandilands' lips together, he would appear a lot smarter.

Trivialising the hideous mass-murders of Jews, communists, gypsies, homosexuals and all the other people the Nazis wiped out is such a good look, isn't it? Great publicity. Yay, Auschwitz was a health farm?! Excuse me while I throw up. Yay! Who needs bulimia when they can listen to Kyle!

More info: the SMH news article on the incident, and the crikey commentary.

(Note: This post is dripping with sarcasm. Bulimia is bad. Auschwitz was bad. Murder is bad. All cheering is sarcastic.)

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Being too fat is bad for you!1!eleventy!!

Yes, it's a deliberately provocative title, and a rather naughty tease from me to the FA blogosphere. If you are hearing impaired or YouTube impaired,  you can find a transcript of this classic Fry & Laurie sketch here. It's lots of fun seeing Hugh Laurie back in the day when he was mostly playing a gormless idiot, instead of in his more recent role as Dr House. The delightful snarky skepticism remains a constant, whether it's being delivered by Fry or by Laurie.

The most relevant line here is at 2:41, with Stephen Fry's little rant:
Well of course too much is bad for you, that's
what "too much" means you blithering twat. If
you had too much water it would be bad for you,
wouldn't it? "Too much" precisely means that
quantity which is excessive, that's what it means.
Could you ever say "too much water is good for
you"? I mean if it's too much it's too much. Too
much of anything is too much. Obviously. Jesus.

So there. Being too fat is bad for you. Being too thin is bad for you. Drinking too much alcohol is bad for you. Drinking too much water is bad for you. Eating too much lettuce is bad for you. Ad nauseam, and ad infinitum, because that's simply what "too much" means!

Now let's refer back to my basic philosophy that I posted the other day.

Point one: so what if it's bad for you? If someone is doing something or has some condition that is bad for them, that gives no-one license to go around abusing them for it. Having an inherited tendency to heart disease is bad for you. Being poor is bad for you. Having cancer is bad for you, and so is having the flu. Also, being a woman, being short, being left-handed, being non-heterosexual, and being non-Caucasian all have demonstrably bad effects in certain societies.

We are all human, and we all have our own problems to deal with. Can there possibly be a single person in the world who has no innate health risks, and then never does anything that's bad for them, ever? I don't think so. I know it's very hard when you have to deal with the people whose problem is that they are sententious interfering narcissistic jerks, but do try to have a little compassion :)

Point two: I do not think that the current popular wisdom on what counts as "too much fat" is actually correct. I'm pretty damn sure that a BMI of 25, or 30, or even 40 is not the cutoff between OK and DOOOOOMED!! Probably it's variable with each person. And even for an individual, what their ideal healthy weight is at any given time of their life could still be quite variable. The research is just so NOT in. While I am of the general understanding that statistically the lowest death rates are found in people in the "overweight" rather than the "normal" group, I don't know what that means in practice. Can one actually change one's health risks by changing one's weight? Weight change may very well come with some nasty hidden costs.

Point three:
I'm really not sure what would count as "too much fat" even for myself, let alone for any other given individual. And it's certainly not my business to tell anyone else what they should do about it.

And that's all one can say on that topic, really, except to reiterate the call for compassion with more seriousness. I would like to send blogger Heidi, who had gastric surgery, a great big hug, and tell her that she's fine and brave and wonderful. And especially, I want to tell her that she need not fear the reactions of her peers in the fatosphere. But if you read the tail end of the piece, where she posted an update on her own blog, it seems that I would have been wrong about that. Please, is it really so hard to be kind to one another?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

My Philosophy, which is mine

Dinosaurs were thin at one end, thick in the middle... oh, wait.

My philosophy of FA is a little more sophisticated than Ann Elk's theory of dinosaurs, but I'm afraid it may not be a lot better thought out. I have been trying to write a good post on it for several days now, and am finding it a lot harder than I expected. It is indeed a tricky subject.

I have one key idea, and that is that there are three entirely separate dimensions of Fat Acceptance.

1. Human Rights and Dignity
Nobody should be discriminated against, or mocked and jeered at, no matter what the size, shape or colour of their body.

2. Questioning the Common Wisdom
The media is out there telling us that we should all be thin. So is a lot of the medical establishment. Are they actually right? Quite possibly not.

3. Making Personal Choices
What are we to do? To diet, or not to diet? How do we think about ourselves? How do we exercise, eat and dress ourselves in the very real world that we have to deal with right now?

The first point is pretty uncontroversial, you'd think. But sadly, no. While pointing and laughing at someone with a missing limb, or denying them a job that they're perfectly capable of doing seems unacceptable, there's a lot of people who would try. Just look at Cerrie Burnell. And gender discrimination and racial discrimination are very far from dead. The world is a much less civil place than many of us would like it to be.

Fat people are the big butt of jokes. (Haha, see what I did there?) Hundreds of comedians such as Mikey Robbins, Magda Szubanski, and Dawn French have made a successful schtick of laughing at their own bodies. And it's hard not to seem humourless if you complain about it. We may think it's cruel and wrong to laugh at people for things they can't help, but being fat is seen as a choice. So it doesn't count. A recent article in US Newsweek discusses how being overweight is seen as a moral failing. So, you made your bed, you lie in it? We can mock fat like a Darwin award, because it's self inflicted? OK, maybe, sort of... but what if it isn't?

This brings us to the second point, where things get immediately a step more difficult. What is actually true? Is there really an obesity crisis, with genuine health dangers to much of the population? Or is it a lot of media hype? Is being fat really bad for you, or is it not exercising that's the problem, or something else? Is BMI a useful measure? Do any weight-loss diets work? Is weight genetic and does everybody have a set point? Does yo-yo dieting cause obesity? All of these things are scientific questions, and can be investigated for truth or falsity.

It's not as easy as that sounds, though. Humans are sociologically, psychologically and metabolically complex, and the research rarely gives simple answers. There are trends and tendencies and correlations and confounding factors to work through. And the evidence is in technical journals, and can be pretty hard for a lay person to pick up. Then it's also heavily obfuscated by sloppy and over-dramatic reporting in the popular press. Not to mention the massive money-driven quackery of the weight loss industry pushing the miracle diet/drug du jour, or the One True Program that will help you to finally lose weight for just ten easy payments, all major credit cards accepted...

But here's a crucial point. None of the answers have any bearing on the first issue. IF being fat is dangerous, and IF being fat is a choice - even then, fat people deserve basic human respect. Other people make other dangerous choices - they do extreme sports, or ride motorcycles, smoke tobacco, or work as firefighters. Perhaps the fat person has chosen to put their efforts elsewhere, into great art or caring for others, or finding a cure for AIDS. Or is too busy doing two jobs to keep their family in food and shelter. It's not up to us to dictate what other people's priorities in life should be.

But the third point is where is gets really, really difficult. Because this is where it gets most personal and intimate. There's a complex tension here, and one that most feminist women will already be familiar with. On the one hand, we assert the right to do what we want with our own bodies. Yes means yes and no means no, however we dress, wherever we go. Keep your laws off my body. On the other hand, we agree that social pressures towards particular standards of femininity are oppressive. To live up to them takes time, effort and money, and can be physically and mentally damaging.

Should we take a bold stand and refuse to wear makeup, pantyhose and high heels? Shall we refuse to shave and wax and trim, and never ever go on diets? Shall we ban all the gossip, fashion and "women's" magazines, and most of Hollywood from our houses? Should we fling our metaphorical bras in the freedom trashcan? And should we exert our own social pressures on others to join us, and tut disapprovingly at those who don't?

Sometimes, yes. There are cases where "STOP! Don't do that!" is the right message to send. Don't kill yourself, don't starve yourself, don't cut yourself, don't gorge and purge yourself, don't hate yourself. With lesser injuries, I think that promoting the idea that "you don't have to" is much better than crying "you mustn't". We all have to make our own compromises, and since our life circumstances and personalities vary, so do our choices.

This is where I tend to part ways with some of the fat acceptance bloggers. I mean, some of them even proudly admit to wearing high heels! The fools, don't they know how much damage they are doing to their bodies?!? Yes, OK, very funny, I won't quit the day job. But not so funny is the other side of the coin, where attempting to lose weight is framed as self-destructive, self-hating behaviour, that makes you a traitor to the cause. Nuh-uh. Like the dangerous shoes, if you want to make that choice, it's up to you.

I would like to conclude by posting a large piece of Greta Christina's open letter to the fat-positive movement. She is a fantastically good writer, and says things so much better than I could. Greta has kindly given me permission to do this, but I would urge you to read the full piece and the two articles  that preceded it: The Fat-Positive Diet, and The Fat-Positive Skeptic. Greta's work is the inspiration for me to launch this blog. Thank you, Greta!

Here is the manifesto she wants to see.
Dear Fat-Positive Movement:
Here is a fat-positive manifesto I could live with.

Feet_on_scaleWe need to make major changes in how our society views weight, fatness, and fat people. Our society has an excessively narrow definition of what constitutes an acceptable body type, and it's a definition that is unattainable for the overwhelming majority of people. People can be healthy, happy, and attractive at a variety of sizes; the standard medical definition of a healthy weight range is almost certainly too narrow, and some evidence suggests that it may be too low. Furthermore, many popular weight loss programs are grossly unhealthy, both physically and psychologically, and are aimed, not at maintaining good health, but at an almost certainly fruitless attempt to attain the cultural ideal of beauty. And many people who try to lose weight have no earthly medical reason for doing so.

Shallow halWe demand that people be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their size. We demand an end to job discrimination based on size. We oppose the moral outrage that is commonly aimed at fat people, and the persistent media representations of fat people as objects of disgust and ridicule. And we demand an end to medical discrimination based on size: we expect doctors to treat fat people with respect; to discuss weight loss with fat people as one option among many instead of the one course of action that must be pursued before any other; and to treat non- weight- related conditions equivalently for all patients, without regard to size.

Weight loss is both very difficult and very uncommon, especially in the long term. And we don't yet know why it's so difficult, or why a few people are able to do it while most people are not. We therefore think it's completely valid for a fat person to decide that weight loss isn't where they want to put their time and energy. Many of the health risks associated with being fat diminish significantly when people eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise -- even if they don't lose weight. We therefore encourage fat people to be as healthy as they can be: to eat healthy diets and get regular vigorous exercise, even if they don't lose weight doing so. And we encourage people who do choose to lose weight to do so in a healthy, sustainable way.

RugbyWe understand that there are health risks associated with being fat. There are health risks associated with many things -- things we have control over, such as playing rugby; things we have no control over, such as carrying the breast cancer gene; and things we have limited control over to differing degrees, such as where we live. We think it is reasonable for people to decide for themselves whether they are willing to live with these risks, or whether they want to take action to reduce those risks -- whether that's by quitting rugby, having a pre-emptive mastectomy, moving, or losing weight. Both fatness and weight loss can involve health risks and loss of quality of life, and each individual must determine for themselves their own cost/benefit analysis of those risks and that quality. No person can decide that for another.

Fast food nationWe do understand that fatness is a health concern -- and we think it should be treated as such, as a public health issue and not as a moral failing or a character flaw. We support social and political changes in the way our society is structured around food and exercise -- changes that will improve the health of people of all sizes. We support bike lanes, cities and neighborhoods designed to be walked in, farmers' markets, accuracy in food labeling, laws prohibiting wild and unsubstantiated claims in the advertising of weight-loss products, yada yada yada. We passionately support healthy eating and exercise programs for children, since fatness in children can cause even more long-term harm than it does in adults... and is easier to address as well, at an age when set points and eating/exercise habits are more malleable. And we oppose the American food-industrial complex's use of psychological manipulation to sell excessive amounts of unhealthy, highly- processed, non- nutritious food, and their prioritization of profit over all other concerns.

Science it works bitchesFinally: We want to base our movement on the best understanding of reality we can get. We encourage people of all sizes to base their cost/ benefit decisions about food, exercise, and weight, not on wishful thinking, but on a realistic assessment of the best hard data currently available. We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into why people come in different sizes, and why sizes vary not only from person to person but from culture to culture. We support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into maintaining and improving people's health at the size that they are. And we also support careful, rigorous, unbiased scientific research into safe, sane, effective weight loss for people who choose to pursue it. Our bodies, our right to decide.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Enter Winnie - proud, sexy fat girl

On the back of Cath’s two kick-ass, introductory posts, I thought I might introduce myself. I don’t know how often I’ll have anything particularly insightful to say (I tend to just get mad over random incidents every so often). I do know that I’m a self-confident and sexy fat woman and that I want to share that with the world, because I think it’s more important than ever, with the “obesity crisis”, for girls to have positive role models of all shapes and sizes.

First, a little about me. My name is Winnie. I’m in my twenties, I never really fit in with the crowd growing up. I’ve wavered between size 16-20 for the last 5 years, and for most if not all of that time didn’t hate the way my body looked (even if I didn’t always love it). I think that growing up as an outsider really helped me with throwing away the criticisms of other people and loving myself the way I was. Another big step was when I stopped reading women’s magazines about 7 years ago.

Last year I started burlesque dancing, which really cemented my confidence in my body. I’ve become unapologetic about my size. I’m a knockout.

It was a few months back that I picked up “Screw Inner Beauty” by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby. I agreed with so much in that book, it really gave a name to the attitudes I already held. It inspired me. It was a fat girl revolution and I wanted to be part of it.

That said, I didn’t really see much for me to do except inflict the book on as many of my friends as possible. I never really considered blogging because I thought I’d just end up regurgitating the things I’d read and so it seemed a bit pointless. But when Cath invited me to contribute, I was excited by the idea.

I think my philosophy differs slightly from Cath’s and that’s fine. For example, I am really anti-diet, and though I don’t believe it’s my job to police what other people do with their bodies, I find commercial weight-loss programs sickening. Bonding over how much weight you’ve lost? Talk about disturbing!

I also think that whatever size you are, as long as you are happy being that size, that’s what’s important. No one else should judge you on that, because they haven’t lived inside your skin.

In my posts I want to talk about more everyday things - little gripes I have with the world which inspire me to write, clothing, food, really anything that takes my fancy.

I have this warm fuzzy desire for every woman, hell every person, to love themselves just as they are, and realize that there is no such thing as “normal”. It is my sincere hope that by sharing my thoughts and beliefs I can help to bring that about for someone.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Welcome to Sweet FA

Is it just me, or is "Fat Acceptance" not the first thing that springs to mind when you see "FA"? Well, this is actually a blog for Fat Acceptance, not for random swearing. Not that I'm ruling that out - as a good Aussie, I'm quite fond of a good oath, so the double entendre amuses me. Quite a lot. Enough to name a blog for it.

Please note the URL. It's - that's "Sweet XL FA". Sadly was already taken. To add insult to injury, that person hasn't even updated their blog in five years. Bugger.

Now what's all this, then? It's a new blog, is what. And what I intend it to be may not pan out in reality. But here's the idea:

* Alerts to politically relevant news.
* Alerts to interesting news in health, medicine and nutrition.
* Reviews of clothes shops for Australian fatty boom-bahs.
* Reviews of exercise options for Australian fatty boom-bahs.
* Discussions of any HAES kind of stuff that we feel like.

We? Well, so far I mean me. I'm sort of talking to a friend who might contribute, but nothing's settled. I would be very interested to hear from any other Australians who might like to contribute regularly or occasionally. Or Aussie residents or ex-residents or long-term visitors - there's no citizenship test here. There will definitely be an Australian focus, though. If you want to write about yoga classes in Broome, a gym in Melbourne, a dressmaker in Wagga Wagga, or a clothes shop in Fremantle, that would be great. I'll mostly write about Canberra, myself.

I have a post coming up on my philosophy, but you don't have to agree with me 100% to write here. I'm kind of 95% with Kate Harding and 95% with Greta Christina, and am thoroughly feminist, skeptical and pro-science. There are definitely some arguments to be had around those 5% edges - polite, contentful, civil arguments, I hope. You can contact me via gmail - I'm cajela (at) gmail (dot) com - to volunteer or offer suggestions.

To get started on the arguments: I am not opposed to all diets, all the time. There is such a thing as "too fat". And I also quite like colourful language. "Fatty boom-bahs" is fun, isn't it? It may be intended as an insult, but it's so childish that it's funny to me. Go the boom-bahs!

Monday, 24 August 2009

A Very Good Start

The Federal Government may soon be cracking down on bogus weight loss schemes. This is very good news. There's an article and video here on, of all places, Murdoch's The Dietitians Association of Australia is on board with this - as noted in the article.

A spokesman told The Daily Telegraph all commercial diet programs should be assessed by a body of experts similar to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which assesses drugs for safety and efficacy before they can go on sale.

The association said regulation should require businesses marketing a diet program to provide evidence to a panel of experts showing what percentage of those who used the diet kept the weight off two years after starting.

Well, this could be a very radical step - and if actually followed up could be very enlightening. At the moment the rhetoric is all about "well, don't go for the dodgy sisters program, follow a sensible program instead". Because we all know there's an OMG OBESITY CRISIS!!! going on.

But, as is increasingly becoming common wisdom, diets don't work. If this is really followed through, there could be quite some surprises coming out. Choice magazine recently debunked the idea that buying your diet aids from a properly licensed pharmacy is a safe bet. Sadly, no - the consultants have minimal training, and many didn't even ask about important health factors. That story, from February this year, does not discuss effectiveness. But with a whole two hours of training on how to sell the program, just how much could there have been on the relevant scientific data? I'm guessing they haven't a clue whether it really works or not.

Even reputable programs like Weight Watchers (motto: "diets don't work, except ours because we call it a lifestyle change instead") could be caught with their pants down. Fatfu, an American Fat Acceptance blogger ran some stats on them and found that Oh yes, it does work - for maybe two in a thousand!

I'm not saying that no changes of any kind will ever permanently affect your weight, so just give up and eat two whole cakes now. There are actual lifestyle changes, and then there are "Lifestyle Changes Not A Diet Honest Guv". But here we are on a fresh new blog, all pretty in spring green. There's plenty more opportunity for me and my so far imaginary co-writers to go on at greater length about health, fitness, obesity and all that jazz. And I want to go to the gym now, so I'll stop.

Welcome one and all to Sweet FA, and expect more soon!