Thursday, June 2, 2016

Eating Disorders and Underrepresented Communities

Today is World Eating Disorders Day, a day to help raise awareness for eating disorders of all kinds, throughout the world. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will be ignored on this day. The typical face of eating disorders will be a young, white, very thin, girl, likely with anorexia or possibly bulimia. And yes, these people exist. This post is not meant to deny or invalidate those experiences because they are very real and very deadly. But while people are offering support and resources to these young women and girls, people of color, fat people, men, trans, and nonbinary people fly under most people's radars.

Let's start with the fact that studies show in 6th and 7th grade girls, Hispanics and Asians showed significantly more body dissatisfaction  more, than white girls. Similarly, Native American girls were attempting weight at a greater rate than white girls. Despite the fact that eating disorders are seen as a white person's issue, ED's affect all races in the US at about equal rates.

Another group that's rarely, if ever, talked about, is older people. Yep, you read that right. Eating disorders among older people are on the rise. There's been a steep rise in the increase in body disatisfaction in people past midlife- a 31% rise in the past few decades and we don't even have statistics on this past 1997 (almost a decade ago!). We do know that over a third of outpatient treatment for eating disorders was for people over the age of 30. And, even though weight loss can be harmful, especially as you age, 20% of women who were 70 years or older were actively trying to lose weight.

Boys and men are not only often ignored when it comes to the ED community, but face added stigma in that eating disorders are seen as a feminine quality. There aren't really many statistics on men and eating disorders and more research needs to be done, but we do know that, though eating disorders affect women and girls more often, cases for boys and men are catching up. And there aren't even statistics on boys and men with muscle dysmorphia or "bigorexia", a condition in which someone is obsessed with the idea of getting bigger with muscle.

Sexuality plays a role in this too. For boys and men who were queer, they were significantly more likely to have starved themselves (fasted), used laxatives or diet pills, or vomited to try to lose weight.  Queer teens were also twice as likely to report incidences of binge eating with queer girls and women being twice as likely to binge. (Binge Eating Disorders is another under the radar, stigmatized, ED that we'll talk about later) Keep in mind that we don't even have a vague idea about eating disorders in the trans community. Among trans and non binary people, eating disorders exist, but we don't know how common they are or how their identities play into their eating disorders. We do know that fat is often associated with femininity, especially when it appears in certain spots in the body (such as the hips or chest). Here's a story about a trans man with an eating disorder where his curves made him feel fat and, ultimately, lead to anorexia nervosa.

And, speaking of fat.. let's get onto eating disorders in fat people. We know that being "overweight" or perceived as "overweight" puts you more at risk for an eating disorder. That's right folks, fat people are at a greater risk for eating disorders than thin people. And fatphobia- convincing thin people that they're fat or need to lose weight- puts them at greater risk too. I don't think we can pretend that fatphobia has nothing to do with eating disorders when thinness is often the goal. Wanting to be thin and body dissatisfaction are the most well known risks for eating disorders, and yet, we like to think that fat shaming not only is good for fat people, but doesn't affect thin people. In reality, fatphobia is deadly. Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness with people with anorexia nervosa having a mortality rate six times higher than the general population which includes suicide. Bulimia also has a high suicide rate and mortality risks for Bulimia and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) were similar to those with anorexia.

We should not that fat people are most often diagnosed with EDNOS and that EDNOS is the most common eating disorder. (Though people with EDNOS can fall anywhere in the weight range from average to fat, they just don't meet the low weight requirements of AN or BN)

Unfortunately, we don't know the suicide rate among those with BED (Binge Eating Disorder) because, let's face it, no one cares. People with BED tend to be fat (Though not all are. You can have BED and be thin) and we don't really care about fat people. Or BED. Binge Eating Disorder is highly stigmatized. If you're thin then the general thought is that eating a lot is cute, adorable. Despite the fact that BED sufferers face extreme emotional distress including guilt, feeling of internalized fatphobia, and self hate. Fat people with BED are thought to just be overeaters who brought their fate on themselves and they could "simply stop eating so much" and they'd be cured.

And please, let's not forget that none of the statistics in this blog cover disordered eating (such as dieting or other methods of weight loss that do not fit the criteria for an eating disorder). When we factor in the percentage of people who are dieting to lose weight, it's clear that eating disorders and disordered eating affect a massive number of people. In adult women, over half say that eating holds no pleasure and they often feel guilty- think about that. Guilt for doing something you have to do to survive, something we've evolved to take pleasure from. Only 20% of women are instinctive (intuitive) eaters, meaning 80% had some kind of disordered eating.

This is a serious public health concern. I know people like to spout off that "obesity is an epidemic!" but this? This is the real epidemic: fatphobia.

So, today as we look at all of the personal stories of people who have struggled with eating disorders or who still struggle, let's remember the marginalized and underrepresented people who struggle as well. Challenge the stereotype and educate people, because ignorance is killing the most vulnerable among us.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flowers and Pearls

I was completely honored to work with local Burlesque performer Miss Pearl Necklace. Together with photographer Freeman Long we created some beautiful fat positive photos that I absolutely adore!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Just an Update

It's been a while and, yes, I have photos coming for you soon, but not today. Today is just an update day. To let you know what's going on and that I haven't forgotten about you.

I've had my hands full with The Fat Naked Art Project and recently traveled to Atlanta, GA for a shoot. In addition, I have had a few local shoots as well. I've been really busy with my photography in general (and keeping the trolls at bay has been a bit of a hurdle). I'm also hoping to launch a new photo project this year called Body Love Through Struggle which focuses on people who have or have had an eating disorder, particularly marginalized groups who are often under represented in the ED community.

Speaking of- I'm working with an ED organization (I'll tell you who when I can!) to make their org more inclusive and body positive. This includes helping with training videos, a youtube interview, and teaching FA courses at their next conference, just to name a few things.

I'm also adding to the types of fat acceptance classes that I'll be teaching locally. With my Fat Acceptance 101 class being a huge hit, I'm planning a 201 class that deals with fat acceptance and intersectionality more in depth as well as a fat acceptance and children and young teens class and a fat acceptance and eating disorders class. Look at me go!

If you're wondering why I seem to be working on so much right now, it's because I'm newly medicated for Chronic Fatigue. Soon to be medicated for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) as well... then, there will be nothing in this world that can stop me! For so many years I've had such big plans and no energy to make them happen. Now that's all changing and I'm so very thankful to every doctor who helped me. I always thought it was the Thyroid Disease slowing me down, but now, even though I have a list of diagnoses, I finally know what's wrong and why and I can tackle each problem as they come.

Thank you to my entire support system and everyone who's been there for me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day '16

by Lauren Carney
Today is International Women's Day. The history of the day goes back to 1909. International Women's Day included women from all over the world, as a day to recognize the social, cultural, political and economic accomplishments of women while simultaneously calling for women's full equality and rights.

To me, the original inclusion of so many women in this day means that today is also a day for intersectionality. Because this is a blog about fatness, I feel it's appropriate to talk about women's rights and accomplishments in reference to fat acceptance. The fat acceptance movement is as old as 1967 (likely older). For decades fat acceptance groups were separated and relied on word of mouth to spread information. Today, we have the all powerful internet and fat acceptance ideas have spread all over the world and there are blossoming and well established communities all over. Books on the subject are easily accessible and, with third wave fat acceptance, we see the inclusion of intersectional issues. I think these are huge accomplishments.

I'm speaking from a place of both marginalization and privilege because we all exist somewhere on a spectrum. That being said, I'm going to talk about a commonly discussed issue within the fat acceptance movement: how female read people have less privilege than male read people when it comes to the issue of being fat. Because today is also a call to action for women's rights, I want to remind people that women's rights should include all women, including fat women who are often stripped of their femininity, their sexual being, and their humanity (note: I'm not saying that this only happens to fat women. Again, fat and woman is just one intersection of many, but it's the one I know.)

Fat women hold less privilege that fat men. This isn't to say that fat men don't face fat discrimination because they absolutely do, especially deathfats (because, yes, thin privilege exists on a spectrum too). Fat women are simultaneously oversexualized (read fetishized) by many people and desexualized by many people. The average girl starts her first diet at 8 years old, and fat women are at the biggest risk of eating disorders. It's harder to shop for affordable and fashionable clothing, and we're denied jobs, raises, and promotions more often than fat men. We're even more likely to be found guilty in court cases. Fat women face greater obstacles to access to birth control including abortion and are often forced to attempt weight loss while pregnant (studies show that dieting pregnant mothers lead to fatter babies).

Fat people are oppressed, but fat women face (at least) two forms of oppression that intersect and we absolutely  need fat men to stand up and acknowledge this fact. Women's rights and fat rights are inexorably linked. In fact, I didn't even become educated about feminism until I found fat acceptance. I couldn't help but read feminist theories and ideas when reading about fat acceptance issues.

Thin feminists and even many fat feminists still fail to recognize this and fatphobia is, unfortunately, extremely common in feminist circles. If your feminism isn't for all women, then who is it for? Just yourself? Just those you care about? (this leads to a disturbing question- do you not care about any fat people in your life?). This isn't a question about (or a post about) health because health is irrelevant in how much respect a person deserves. In how much dignity a person deserves. In how many rights a person deserves. This is a question of humanity and when a privileged person decides that a marginalized person is worthy of humanity. Of wholeness as a person.

At what weight do I become undeserving of basic rights and so deserving of scorn and oppression? Which magic number is that on the scale? This is my call to other feminists who are currently not fat inclusive to become so. To be truly intersectional. Fat acceptance is in the spirit of the day and I hope for every step we gain as feminists, we can gain as fat people too.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Photo by Freeman Long
Photo by Freeman Long
Photo by Freeman Long

Photo by Freeman Long

Photo by Freeman Long

Photo by Freeman Long

Monday, January 25, 2016

Forest Spirit

This is my favorite costume that I've done (though Ursula will always have a special place in my heart). I made the headdress myself. My makeup artist was the very talented Pilin Leonard (pi_cosmo_mua on instagram) and the shoot (theme was Enchanted Nightmare) was organized and set up by Sarah Robertson (sarah_bethxo on instagram). Okay, nothing more really needs to be said about this post- it's a picture post and I had a great experience! Photographers credited under each photo.

photo by ICU Pictures

Photo by Glass Avenue Photography

Photo by Duncan Moody

photo by Avisek Choudhury photography

Photo by Tusharadri Mukherjee

photo by ICU Pictures

photo by CH Photography and Art 

photo by ICU Pictures 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Disability in the New Year

It's a week into the new year. I can't believe it's 2016 already! (wasn't 2000 just, like, a couple years ago? Seriously now.) This year is starting out with an amazing shoot (next week duckies.. just be patient!) and more positivity and energy than I've had in a long time. Although I took a six month break from The Fat Naked Art Project, we've started posting there again as well. It's been one hell of a week.

All that being said, I want to take this opportunity to write about disability and fatness as well as disability and activism.

What spurred this new post? Well, honestly, the amount of money I just had to spend on prescriptions (and I still have a couple more that I need to pick up today).

Most of you know that I have thyroid disease (Hypothyroidism). Some of you know that I have Bipolar Disorder (Type I). I haven't talked about my Migraines, or having POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrom) or even my Chronic Fatigue. I don't talk about the pain that I'm in daily from injuries resulting from being Hypoermobile either. Heck, I don't even really talk about my Acid Reflux or now it's given me Chronic Nausea for so many years that I've forgotten when it started which severely impacted my life. I'm also in recovery (5 years) for Atypical Anorexia.

So I want to take a moment to talk about how those affect me, affect my activism, and affect how people see me in regards to my activism.

Firstly, most of you probably already know about Spoon Theory. For those of you who don't, go ahead and go read up. For a quick TL;DR-  spoons are a metaphor for energy/ability either mental or physical and is typically used by the disabled community. I even made a text based game called Spoons to help my friends and family understand what it's like a little better.

Having disabilities, both mental and physical, makes my job tough to say the least. I'm going to be brutally honest here and I know this will draw a lot of hate from trolls (which I'll talk about a little later). I'm a Stay At Home Mom partially because I have too many disabilities to hold down a traditional job. Even modeling is difficult and I've had to cut back on how many shoots I do. I'm also a photographer, but I can't do that full time either. This puts me at an emotional and financial disadvantage (I'll add that I do have class privilege because of my husband who is able to work). Oftentimes I come up with a money making scheme that involves photography or making things, but, inevitably, I run out of spoons time and time again.

Not only does my Fatigue affect my modeling, but my Bipolar Depression limits how many shoots I can do as well and when I am able to do a shoot, my Chronic Pain (from injuries), limits my movements. In particular, I have Chronic Tendinitis in both shoulders which means I can't fully raise my arms or put my elbows over my head.

There are both mental and physical limitations to what I can do in any given month, week, day, or even hour. By fat, the Chronic Fatigue has been the most limiting. It's hard to explain to people what it feels like to sleep twenty hours a day (and no, you don't wish you could do that), to miss so much of life because you're too exhausted to even eat. (Luckily I start a new stimulant medication for this tomorrow!)

I think though that, by far, the hardest part of being disabled and an activist, is the part where people mock you and dismiss you for your disabilities.

  • Why are the fat ones always crazy?
  • Right... it's a glandular issue... uh huh... 
  • Exercise intolerance? (part of POTS) she's just lazy cause she's fat. 
  • She wouldn't be so tired if she just lost weight. 
  • no one listen to her... she's bipolar/crazy. 
  • An eating disorder? Eating too much isn't an eating disorder fatass. *
*It can be. It's actually called Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

It's difficult having such a huge part of yourself, one that you have no control over, being mocked and shamed. This is ableism. Ableism is the oppression and discrimination of people with disabilities in favor of people who are able bodied (people with no disabilities.) 

Having your work and your beliefs and ideas dismissed because of illness is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the disabled are treated. Ableism intersections with just about everything, including Classism for those with disabilities who cannot earn a living. We also face higher incidences of domestic violence and violence in general ad have a higher mortality risk due to ineffective or insufficient care as well as just by virtue of being oppressed. Being fat and disabled almost ensures medical neglect and social stigma. Sometimes I worry about how shortened my life will be, not because of my lifestyle or my weight, but because of how others treat me, including medical personnel. 

The trolls/abusers of the world will always always use your disabilities to their advantage, as I've found out personally when I came out as bipolar as well as anorexic. Trolls, like all abusers, will use anything and everything they can to break you, including gas lighting, insults and belittling you, threats of physical violence, and more. 

The key, for me, has always been fat acceptance which has enabled me to learn to stand up for myself, to have confidence, and to love myself regardless of what other people say, do, or think.

So, while 2016 has, so far, been an exceptional year for me, I, like many others with disabilities, will face many obstacles throughout the year(s), but I will always turn to my fat acceptance community to keep me strong, mentally and physically.