Monday, February 28, 2011

Triad Strobist Photography Group makes the news!

Chris Goette is the fearless leader and I've been a few of these meetups to model  for the photographers (who are of various skill levels from high end equipment with tons of experience, to newbies with point and shoots and everything in between). He's done so well as organizing these meetups through meetup.com that he made the news! And yours truly is in the video clip- my bright red hair is hard to miss.


 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Everyone Should be Required to Take Psych 101

I think one of the major problems we have in so many areas of life is the inability of some people to understand  how people come to the places they do. We see it in bullying, victim blaming, rape culture, and various privileged people failing to understand their own privilege just to name a few. They just can't understand how the words and actions of others can make people feel.

I'm currently on a supposedly plus sized forum which has begun to see more and more thin posters.. Now, thin isn't bad, but there does come a point where any group of oppressed people needs a safe haven- their own space. While some people are fine with this, some people are left feeling uncomfortable, judged and compared (even if just by themselves), and have decided to stop posting. The responses to this have been unfathomably cruel. Opinions abound that they just need to "get over it", that maybe they should just leave altogether and fix themselves before coming back, that bullying on the internet doesn't count because the internet isn't serious,  that needing a space to feel safe is "elitist".  We've even gotten that the abusive bullying comments are just sarcasm at it's finest (can't wait for a plus plus plus plus forum or an elbow fat forum- yeah.. that's not bullying at all).

The very serious trauma that is caused by bullying for years or even decades is something that many people find hard to comprehend. More so, however, people don't seem to grasp that other people can and do handle things differently from them. It's the "I did it so you can too" line. Oh, we've heard that one before, haven't we? It doesn't bother me so you're just being a wuss! You're just crazy! (hello ableism!) Yes, if the mere presence of thin people in a fat safe haven is enough to make you feel unwanted, dejected, and even suicidal then you do indeed have deeper issues.. but am I the only one thinking "duh" here? These places aren't only for people who have zero issues with their bodies, it's not for people who have somehow managed to come out of years of abuse with absolutely  no mental issues, it's not for only those who are completely able bodied/minded. If someone tells you that feelings of being compared to thin people in a fat forum makes them feel suicidal you don't say "get the fuck off the internet, it's not the place for you". People like that, in my opinion, are the exact reason why we need safe places. Elitist? You wanna talk about elitist? Telling people that their discomfort, their feelings are invalid and implying that they don't deserve to participate because they haven't managed to attain the level of self acceptance that you have.. now that's elitist.

I think that everyone needs a basic understanding of psychology- hell, maybe we should make it one of those mandatory courses (it's a bit more important than home ec or gym class). We could cut down on bullying by helping kids understand one another better. To understand not only the damage that bullying does, but the different ways in which people respond and the huge importance of how our environments effect everything about us.

And the thing is.. a lot of this comes from other fat people. Red No.3 points out that even fat people can experience thin privilege, especially when it's combined with male privilege.

Just Jeans

I love the idea of just jeans- on anyone, at any time! I've found that a lot of people enjoy the half naked look. The somewhere in between clothed and not. And let's face it, the right pair of jeans- the ones that fit you just right (especially those old jeans that are uber comfortable), well, they are a fantastic thing. Jeans always make me feel sexy and pretty much ready to do anything. So I thought Danbwr Photos' Just Jeans project sounded fantastic. I'd love to see more shoots like this that are part of a series and incorporate various body types. I wasn't sure how well I could do the topless look, but I think they turned out well.









Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Dieting Is Disordered Eating

photo by: Danbwr Photos
What is Dieting and What Is Disordered Eating?

America, as well as many privileged countries, are having a love affair with dieting. The dieting industry is a multi billion dollar a year industry. They spend copious amounts of greenbacks playing on our worst fears, hyping up false health scares, and convincing us that all of our problems would just go away if we weren't so freaking fat.

Okay, so what is disordered eating? The simplest definition is that it's  an irregular eating habit. In other words, if you're not eating for sustenance and pleasure- then your eating habits are irregular. This can include emotional eating, calorie/food deprivation, and yes, dieting. Disordered eating is not an eating disorder, but they are connected and disordered eating often leads into eating disorders

What is dieting? Dieting is an exercise in control- a common denominator with eating disorders. The most common form of dieting is calorie deprivation. Other than the fact that dieting makes you gain weight, not lose it, long term calorie restriction can lead to severe health problems. So- obsessively counting calories/fat grams/carbs for the purpose of altering your physical appearance. That is dieting. 

Well, what's wrong with that? Firstly we can start off by saying that dieting and weight loss as firmly grounded in the superficial and vain- and I don't just mean the dieters but all of society that encourages, pressures, and expects people to look a very certain way, especially women. First let's get rid of the excuse that dieting is for health. People who are really changing their eating patterns for health don't diet- they engage in healthful eating behaviors by incorporating more healthy foods and limiting unhealthy ones. If you are on a traditional diet solely for health benefits then you are bigfoot-rare and probably aren't the type of person to read a blog like this anyway. Although I should warn you that if you're doing it for health- you're not going about it the best way (see the above links). In reality, even if some people hide behind the "it'll improve my  health", let's be honest, if you got healthier but didn't lose any weight, how would you feel? Disappointed? Frustrated? Depressed? Then your real reason was to be thinner. Ignoring your body's natural weight and trying to push it below that, then that's not natural eating. It is disordered eating.  What is natural eating? It is eating for sustenance and pleasure as well as paying attention to internal cues for what your body needs nutritionally as well as cues for hunger, fullness, thirst, etc. Dieting means ignoring hunger, ignoring nutrition (ignoring calorie needs is the most common but low carb diets come in a close second. The daily recommended amount of carbs is around 300 where, for example, some Atkins patients in the 'first phase' are restricted to about 20) and having an unhealthy focus on food. 

Disordered Eating And The Line Into Eating Disorder

Susan Schullherr, LCSW, an advocate for the rights of patients with eating disorders, in an interview on PsychCentral, says that "Dieting sharply increases the likelihood of crossing the line from disordered eating into eating disorder". One of the most pervasive causes of disordered eating, she says, is trying to adhere to an unrealistic social ideal of thinness. Sounds familiar doesn't it? While I love the BBC Documentary "Why are thing people not fat" for it's ability to demonstrate how thin bodies handle excess calories and limited exercise, one of the most disturbing parts of it is that the participants all began engaging in aspects of disordered eating after the experiment was done- obsessively counting calories and fixating on what foods they could or could not have as opposed to their original behavior of just eating whatever they felt like and listening to internal cues (something that kept all of them thin and lean because that was their natural body type and weight).  This highlighted just how afraid people who engage in disordered eating are of food. If you're afraid of food- you can be sure that you're not eating naturally. 

People have stopped thinking of food as this great thing that is necessary for survival, health, and, indeed, can even be pleasurable and they've started thinking about it in terms of being an enemy.  It's not what food does for you, it's what food does to you. Food is something you have to conquer, to fight. Hunger is an ambush, just waiting to mess up your entire life. And eating is a necessary action that holds your body as a prisoner of war. Someone please tell me how any of this can be considered a healthy relationship with food? 

EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) is the less well known and less cared about eating disorder and the one that most dieters cross the line into. According to the DSM-IV (the standard for diagnostic criteria of mental illness), the criteria for EDNOS is extremely vague and basically states that it's any eating disorder which doesn't qualify for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, however, some examples of criteria include:



Based on the limited technical criteria above, following are some additional examples of the behaviors associated with persons struggling with EDNOS. (Please note: this is by no means a comprehensive listing). *1

  1. You're always on a diet, always coming off a diet, or always getting ready to go on one again (chronic dieting).
  2. You categorize foods as 'safe' and 'off limits', but are not significantly underweight and are not participating in bulimia.
  3. You starve yourself regularly, but are not significantly underweight (i.e. less than 85% ideal weight)
  4. You eliminate entire food groups from your diet (yes, that includes carbs!).
  5. You are obsessed with exercising but eat fairly regularly.
  6. You binge and/or purge, but not more than once a week.
  7. You substitute supplements and fad diets for real food, but are not significantly underweight.
  8. You skip social occasions because you feel fat, or because you are afraid of what's being served, yet are not significantly underweight.
  9. You are obsessed with eating only organic, natural or raw foods (orthorexia).
  10. You believe that everyone is as focused on your weight as you are.
  11. You refuse to eat regular meals, choosing instead to 'nibble' throughout the day on small portions of food (which usually leads to binging).

Any of this sounding familiar? At this point it's easy to point out that if you're fat you're expected  to exhibit these behaviors. It's only an issue when you're already socially ideal- according to most people. But psychologically the process, the emotions, and the pain and obsession are the same. Of course, if you go and see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders they're likely to diagnose you with EDNOS whether you're fat or not, but the baseline information shows a significant bigotry against fat people. We're supposed  to starve ourselves and obsess over food, right? Because accepting our fat means accepting laziness, and gluttony.  

I spoke with nutritional anthropologist Leah Baskett from the University of Arizona who said, "I think in our society fat people can't have ED, period....If you're fat, and if you do not keep a food journal, weigh yourself all the time, ruminate over every single bite of food, and absolutely despise yourself for having any needs and despise your own body for having needs (esp. the need for food), you are a piece of shit." And I agree with her. Because these behaviors are expected in fat people and you're a "bad fattie" if you don't engage in them, then we end up thrown into a world of disordered eating that's not acknowledged as disordered eating. A "good" fattie is someone who's properly ashamed of their weight and making every (futile) effort to conform to the societal ideal. 

So, if chronic dieting is considered a symptom of an eating disorder, then dieting in and of itself can certainly be called disordered eating. Especially since it doesn't achieve that which the dieter hopes for- health and lasting thinness. Baskett noted, "Every diet (or as they now label themselves, "lifestyle change") group I ever was a part of....did not discourage disordered thinking about food: on the contrary, they actively encouraged and promoted it." Linda Bacon, PhD and author of Health at Every size, told me, "Absolutely, I believe that dieting is disordered eating. As I write in Health at Every Size, "Any system that emphasizes external processes to determine what to eat is fragile and ineffective and promotes discontent and periodic rebellion and binging." I'd much rather support people in honoring their intrinsic drive to take care of themselves."


The bottom line seems to come down to the idea that fat people can't have eating disorders and the only form of disordered eating they can have is overeating. When people who aren't of the social ideal engage in disordered eating/eating disorders it is considered good. It means they are properly ashamed of their grotesque form and trying to become a good and better person. The fact that we promote disordered eating in anyone is worrying and is detrimental to both physical health and mental health. I would argue that the mental health damages of diet culture and body shaming is far worse than any physical health damages that are perceived by the general population. 


 Dieters who aren't underweight are the silently abused. Abused by an industry that profits from their pain, abused by a society that places worth and value on appearance and weight, and abused by themselves as they internalize the vitriolic messages about their bodies. Body acceptance and, yes, fat acceptance, is the only good way to combat these unhealthy relationships and feelings with and about food. While we should all be informed about our food choices and be aware of what goes into our bodies, food should not carry feelings of guilt, shame, or disgust. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ruffles and Curls

I'm not sure what I was going for here.. sort of a.. burlesque inspired rockabilly? Does it really matter? I'm fairly sure I rocked regardless. So I'm wearing a black ruffled top from Torrid underneath a black handmade corset from Etsy, fishnets under my torn jeans (also from torrid) and grey heels from who knows where many years ago. Earrings were made by myself and the hairclip is from ebay. This was an open shoot at Fila Academy with the Triad Strobist group (whom I am going to miss desperately when I move to Chapel Hill or Durham in a few months). I also got myself a curling iron (haven't had once since High School- can you believe that?) and I now love curling my hair! So here you go everyone- my bright red hair is making a comeback!

Chris Goette



Peggy Brutcher


Peggy Brutcher

Tanya Peterson

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dermographia

Warning: nudity and lots of fat

What is dermographia? As you may be able to tell from the word itself- it means skin writing. Pressure on the skin releases histamines, causing red, itchy welts. Because it's caused by pressure I can draw on my skin as the welts will show up in the pattern that I create with the pressure from the pencil. I had a hard time finding someone to do a dermographia shoot with me- perhaps because no one knew what it was (only 1 in 10,000 people have it and no one knows what causes it. And no, there's no cure.) but finally Allen Studios thought it was a good idea. This shoot was my actual real first nude so I want to really thank Mikel Allen for making me feel really comfortable. I'm really excited over these photos and I think they are just the bee's knees!

Dermographia can be irritating- as I already said, it's awfully itchy. That means that anytime I scratch an itch like a normal person the skin welts and gets even itchier! It also means I can't walk barefoot over textured surfaces. In addition to the itch, it can sometimes be painful. Though it comes and goes as far as severity, when it's at it's peak, small touches can be painful. Ever watch a movie with your SO and put your arm around him/her and rub their arm with your fingertips? It's a sweet and affectionate touch that says "I love you". Repeated touches like this are intolerable to me as they become very painful after about a minute. I can sometimes politely tolerate it a little longer- but not much.

The upside to it is that it makes a fantastic party trick and it's just damn cool! I'm posting all 8 photos.. so it'll be a bit long but it was just too awesome to leave any out. Behold:















Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nude Art

Warning: Full nudity and lots of fat

This is the final set from my shoot with Dan Smith from Duke University in Durham, NC. If you missed my previous two posts, I decided to participate in this project as a way to, firstly, spread the concept of fat acceptance and body acceptance and, secondly, to further myself in my own fat acceptance journey. Some days are harder than others and, let me tell you, seeing yourself, completely and unforgivably  naked on camera.. that can be a bad day.. for me anyway. Seeing the photos when Dan first sent them to me was difficult.. I kept shutting the window and re opening it. I just couldn't look at myself. I felt immense shame and embarrassment. I had to leave for a few hours and come back to them to finally be okay with them and enjoy them. I hope you enjoy them as well.

I did want to mention a bit that when Dan was doing the bodyscaping (third photo down) he told me that the photo would get my stretch marks and asked if that was okay. What I find interesting is that there are indeed a lot of women- even some who are into fat acceptance- who are not okay with typical side effects of fat- such as cellulite (which even thin people get by the way) and stretch marks. I find it most interesting from women who only have stretch marks due to childbirth. To me it seems like that would be a badge of honor! But even if it's simply from growing too fast (whichever way), I don't think they're something to be ashamed of. All of the ideas that go into fat acceptance apply to those things too.

Anyway- and now onto the photos:













Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Someone Thinks You're Beautiful

While on a photoshoot with the Triad Strobists a few weeks ago I was talking to photographer Bonnie Stanley. "You know" she told me, "I think I've figured out my real purpose in being a photographer". I hadn't talked to Bonnie a lot- I figured she was probably too good for me to associate with (yeah I know.. but we all have our insecurities.. that's what this whole blog is about!). She was sitting alone, not photographing anyone as she had already gotten her fill and was waiting for any interested models to come to her (hehe.. make em work for it, right Bonnie?). So I playfully slid in front of her and struck an absolutely ridiculous pose- just for fun. She decided to take a few actual photographs of me which broke the ice for us to start a conversation. So.. what was her real purpose? The driving force behind her beautiful photography? "To show all women how beautiful they are". Wow.. what a beautiful reason to be a photographer. 

It was really great to meet a photographer who was into body acceptance and she told me about a photography project on body acceptance that she's planning (and invited me to participate in), but she told me about another idea she had.. she wanted to make stickers that said "someone thinks you're beautiful" and hand them out to regular people she met throughout the day- bank tellers, cashiers, waitresses.. whoever. A little bit of love and happiness in their day. Nothing is better than random acts of kindness. 

I loved her idea so much that when I got an offer from vistaprint.com for some free magnets I decided to go with her idea. I talked to her about it and told her I'd really like for the two of us to try to promote this.. and try to make it a "thing". So what do you think? Let's do this- print stickers, magnets, slips of paper.. anything.. and make someone's day.

Edit: Someone's brought it to my attention that there's a website that already does this! So visit http://www.you-are-beautiful.com for some stickers and spread the love! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tulle

Warning: nudity and lots of fat.

Another set from my shoot with Dan Smith with a black tulle skirt. When I told Dan that I'd brought a tulle skirt he looked confused for a moment then said "ooooh!", explaining that he thought I'd meant a tool skirt. To me these were some of the most artistic and beautiful of the shoot we did, especially because of the back lighting. I hope you enjoy. To see the rest of the photos from this set, visit my flickr page.









Yes, yes it is.

Today's post is prompted, once again, by a search phrase used to find my blog. It was "is calling someone fat when they are fat, bullying?". I know the inclination here is just to call this person an asshole and get on with life.. but they post a valid question- valid in that I can see why they would wonder and it is, at least, good that they've decided to research the topic which means maybe they want to change their abusive bullying ways. I can understand how people might be confused. I am  fat so what's wrong with someone calling me fat? I call myself fat after all!

The thing is, when I call myself fat and when I say "fat women" or "fat men" I'm using it completely as a descriptor. And even then I only use those words here on my blog and on other FA blogs where I know people are comfortable with the term, around thin people who could benefit from hearing it in a non derogatory way, and around friends and family who are also comfortable with it. I would never use it in reference to a stranger that I was talking to if I didn't know their comfort level. I would never call someone fat, even in a non derogatory way, if I didn't know their view on the word. Why? Because people who call us fat aren't using it as a descriptor. They're using it as an insult. They're using it as a stand in word for a whole mess of other words like ugly, gross, disgusting, unattractive, stupid, lazy, glutinous, bad, immoral, poor, uneducated (the last two being classist in addition to sizist!) and many more. When people say "omg look at that fat girl!" what they're really saying is "ewwww look how fat she is! I bet she stuffs her face and lays around all day".  When the average person uses the word fat- it's a judgement and it's meant to tear that person down. It's sort of like calling a gay person a "faggot". Technically they mean the same thing, but the second word is used purely derogatorily and I'm sure it's common sense that walking up to a gay kid and calling him a faggot would be bullying and, yes, hate speech.

Previously we've gotten around the F word by using words like "plus size", "larger", "curvy", "fluffy" and "BBW" (and many more). The F word has been avoided because, as I stated above, it's always been used as an insult and most people still use it and perceive it that way. The fat acceptance movement has been attempting to take the word back. To use it as a neutral term as it was originally meant. But if you're  calling someone fat and meaning it as an insult in any way (check your preconceived notions and assumptions at the door please!) and/or if you don't know for sure that the person is comfortable with the term fat then yes, it's absolutely bullying. Bullying is something that is intended to hurt, degrade, belittle, and break people. It doesn't matter if they are actually fat or not (and everyone has different standards for this anyway), it is bullying when you are trying to hurt them. Similarly, if you are using the word fat on yourself in an insulting way, you are abusing yourself- this is much harder to fight because most of us have been brainwashed and abused most of our lives.. and that's what the FA world is for!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This is Harder Than it Looks

Warning: Contains full nudity and lots of fat.

Yesterday wasn't my first nude shoot. Technically it was my second as I had had a dermagraphia based nude shoot just the week before. Although my shoot with Dan Smith from Duke University in Durham, NC certainly was longer and more detailed. I felt oddly comfortable (considering I'm not used to getting naked in front of people I barely know).

Why did I do it? Firstly there's an element of feminism- as someone once said to me "if a girl is naked, it's sexual, period". Automatically connecting nudity and the female body with sex is regressive. It's not even just about stifling female sexuality because nudity is not automatically the same as sexuality, but rather about women not being seen as blow up dolls- toys for the whims of others to satisfy sexual desire. Our bodies are our own.. sure, they're for sex and sex is enjoyable! Fantastic even! but they're so much more than that. They move us through our lives, they bare and nurture children, they go to work, watch TV, exercise, eat, sleep.. they are our very existence and that existence cannot be reduced to just sex. More so, however, is the idea that fat bodies can be beautiful, artistic, and inspiring, is revolutionary (in modern times- fat people in art throughout history isn't uncommon). We've created a society that is disgusted by and loathes fat. We don't want to see it and we don't want to hear about it unless it's about how bad and awful it is. Even the fatties of the world internalize and agree with these messages of hate, turning that loathing on themselves and abusing their own beautiful, wonderful, life sustaining bodies.


This is the first shoot that I'm posting that was totally nude. For those of you on the journey to self acceptance, you know that it's a hard road. For me, this was such a huge step and one I haven't truly overcome. As any fat acceptance blogger will tell you, there are good days and bad days.. and it still seems impossible to truly overcome years- a lifetime- of abuse and brainwashing. Please take comfort in the fact that I am not special, I don't have more courage than anyone else, and everyone is still somewhere on their journey- it doesn't matter where, as long as you keep moving forward.


I liked so many of these globe photos that I decided to make them their own post. So here it is and, remember, all the world's a stage. Have fun. 























Friday, February 11, 2011

My (mock) wedding

The triad strobist group hosted a wedding photography class. I, of course, was not the traditional bride. In addition to dressing in a black wedding dress and having oddly colored hair, I brought my good friend, Jessi, to be my bride. I knew not everyone would want to shoot a non traditional "couple", but I knew there'd be a few other traditional couples there.. so hey, something for everyone right? Of course, it turns out that there was only one other couple there. So I didn't get a lot of photos of me and Jessi.. but I completely understand that everyone wanted the white dress and suit for their portfolios. Sometimes circumstances just suck.
By Torey Searcy

By Sam McClenaghan


By Torey Searcy


By Torey Searcy



Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glee's view on fat

Glee: definitely my guilty pleasure. Pleasure because it's a freaking musical every week! and guilty because Glee faces a lot of accusations of abelism, racism, biphobia, and sexism. To Glee's credit they have attempted to change these things in the second season (although the biphobia has not yet been addressed in the least). So watching is always a mixed experience- getting angry at all of the forms of bigotry that can be seen in a single episode and taking blissful joy in the group performances of every genre of music. Sizism, however, has not yet been addressed. And I don't mean that sizism doesn't exist in the show- I mean that no one really cares about that bit when they're talking about the bigotry of the show (actually I haven't seen anyone talk about biphobia either.. I tacked that one on myself).

In season one we meet Mercedes, a sassy, loud, and spirited heavy girl who struggles with disordered eating during one episode in season 2. After hallucinating that all of her friends were food she passes out and decides that loving her body is a far better option. After barely  being able to get through the first episode of season two (which was sexist beyond words), I was really excited to see an episode on loving your body (note that she still wouldn't wear a skirt while on the cheerleading squad because of her size- she wore pants instead). That was the only episode that really addressed weight at all.. until the introduction of a new character, Lauren Zizes (is that supposed to look as much like 'sizes' as it does? youtube even thought that's what I actually meant to type in), who is recruited for show choir. Despite the fact that she didn't want to join, she agreed to in exchange for candy (specifically cadbury eggs which were out of season) and seven minutes in heaven with Puck (resident badass). In fact, there is almost no point in any episode where she has speaking lines where she is not eating. She refuses to perform at sectionals without candy- we see Rachel, desperately begging someone for candy, afraid of having to throw the performance without it.

In this past Tuesdays episode, the show focuses on Puck's crush on Lauren- progressive, right? Fat girl finding love? He gives her a box of chocolate- which she eats all of. She then walks over to him and says "by the way, the chocolates you gave me? They suck." Puck replies "but you ate them all!". The obvious implication being that fat girls will eat anything, whether it's good or not. Although Mercedes is a girl of size, we never really saw weight shaming in the show until Lauren shows up and gets called a rhino by Santana. While I don't ever condone real life violence, it was refreshing to see Lauren kick Santana's ass. Mercedes is, while not thin, one of those bigger girls who is more socially acceptable, and I'm pretty sure the show producers would never consider having this song sung to her.

The episode did have at least one redeeming factor- Puck tries to woo Lauren with a love song called Fat Bottomed Girls, and she completely rejects it as completely offensive.. which it is since the entire song focuses, not on his feelings for her, but on her weight. Lauren tells puck "that's the first time anyone's ever sang a love song to me.... and it made me feel like crap". Later when Puck asks her out and she thinks he isn't trying hard enough he says "but I sang to you!" to which she replies, "yeah.. an offensive song!".

On the whole it feels like they're trying... sort of... and yet still manage to include typical stereotypes about fat people. It is, however, nice that Lauren is tough, secure (in both her sexuality and her body), and definitely stands up for herself since most people assume fat girls are completely desperate and will sleep with anything that passes by and offers. What do you think gleeks? Going in the right direction?