Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fat Girl Health: Update

Remember how I gushed about the doctor not mentioning my weight? Well that didn't last long. She called me to let me know the results of my blood tests. My blood pressure was already good so she called to let me know that my cholesterol and my blood sugar were also good- a relief since diabetes runs in my family. Still, she just couldn't help (though to her credit she seemed tentative about it) but suggest that I lose weight. Being thin means being healthier! Right? But I'm already healthy so what do I have to gain exactly? More so, I'd like to know how she'd suggest I do this.

I'm going to talk a little about my health- something I avoid doing because I try to sound professional most of the time (I pull that off, right?).  I have hypothyroidism. At least according to my blood test done Dec. '10 with a TSH level of 4.1. This is something that actually impacts my  health. More recently because, despite not being medicated, my TSH suddenly dropped to 1.6 as my symptoms became debilitating. I may actually have hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's disease. It's an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the thyroid. When it does pieces sometimes break off and dump thyroid hormones into the body causing TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone- a hormone released by the pituitary gland in order to stimulate the thyroid when it's not producing enough hormones [T4 and T3]) to drop suddenly. The symptoms are hell to be honest. Severe fatigue, nausea, dizziness, pain.. I've been barely functioning for the past month or so.

This is partially relevant because one of the symptoms I've been experiencing is lack of appetite and nausea after eating. I've been eating very little. It varies from day to day but the most I've been able to eat in the past few weeks is about 1400 calories (I only know this because someone was concerned and asked me to add it up) and the average is closer to 700 with some days being much less. This is not okay and it also hasn't caused weight loss. So when I ask "what would she have me do?" she certainly can't tell me to eat less! This was just plain irresponsible of her. The severity is what caused me to make a doctor's appointment asap. So this, this is what actually effects my health and in a severe way.

I wanted to make the severity of my symptoms clear so that you can be shocked and outraged when I tell you that the doctor (resident) dismissed all of these symptoms. Perhaps she thinks 'oh, fattie thinks she has thyroid problems, big surprise' (even with a copy of my last blood test in front of her) or maybe she's just inexperienced- she is a resident after all. But these things she dismisses while my life is put on hold because of how sick I am, but she thinks weight loss is an appropriate piece of advice (after I informed her of my history with an ED no less- something else I haven't talked about on here because it still makes me feel ashamed and uncomfortable). There is no good excuse for this people. I have one more appointment next week and if it goes as poorly then it's time to find a new doctor!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fat Girl Health

Actually, all health, male or female, thin or fat. But this is my particular experience with my trip to the doctor as a fat woman. I didn't jump in the recent debate about Jess Weiner, the former fat activist who wrote a sensationalized article about how fat acceptance "made her" ignore important aspects of health such as seeing a doctor. Because I don't know much about this woman or her history in fat acceptance, I stayed away from it, but my trip to see a doctor today for the first time since I can remember for a checkup did remind me of her and how our culture views health in general.

First of all, exercise and healthy eating are extremely important for health. I'm not denying that, I'm not challenging that, that's not what this is about, just so as we're clear on that. Lifestyle, however, can only take you so far. I feel empowered when I go to the gym, especially after an especially hard workout. I feel empowered when I make a delicious and healthy meal or when my son rejects someone offering him fries and asks for an apple. I feel confident that I've taught him healthy habits and that makes me proud. But nothing made me feel so empowered, so in charge of my health and my life, as going to see a doctor this past week. I had blood drawn for all of the normal things- lipids, glucose, vitamin D, etc (also had blood pressure taken which was fabulously perfect even with the white coat anxiety). I feel pretty sure they'll all come back fine, but the part that makes me feel good is knowing for sure. If they don't come back fine I feel great knowing that the knowledge means that I can take control of it, change it, or treat it. And there are plenty of issues that can arise regardless of how active you are or how well you eat. You should also regularly get tested for STI's even if you're in a monogamous relationship and don't forget your general physical exam. I also got the first dose of the HPV vaccine; if you're a woman, you should be getting this.

My point is this: taking care of yourself feels good. Great even! And it goes far beyond just lifestyle and definitely beyond weight since that number can't tell you anything about your health. Sadly, almost 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. Even more have health insurance but still don't go to the doctor's because they can't afford the deductibles and copays. I'm 26 and I just now got insurance. I haven't been to a doctor for anything other than reproductive issues in so many years that I can't even remember. In fact, I may not have been to have a regular checkup since I was a kid. I'm privileged enough to have that taken care of for me. I was able to tell the doctor that yes, I wanted the Gardasil vaccine even if my insurance didn't cover it. Health is multi faceted and while the "obesity epidemic" is complete bullshit, we do have a health epidemic. Health care should be considered a basic human right and this is one area that the US is greatly lagging behind in. Maybe that's why we resort to faux epidemics and scare tactics and sensationalism. It's a substitute for actual health care and it doesn't work, not even close.

You may have occasionally heard the word healthism come up in the fatosphere and perhaps in a post or conversation about ableism. Healthism is the idea that healthy people are more moral and better people than unhealthy people. I likely don't have to tell you, dear readers, that it's all too obvious that classism is also involved since the ability to access quality healthcare is something that's reserved for the wealthy. Not even the middle class have the kind of access they need. Because I am middle class and I still have to decide if I should go to the physical therapist that my doctor recommended for an old rotator cuff injury, the psychiatrist for my bipolar medication, the psychologist for my PTSD, the eye doctor, or the dentist. I can only pick one for this month and then I have to decide who in my family gets to go get their needs taken care of first because we can't all seek medical care at the same time.

How is this a fat issue? Because healthism is deeply intertwined with fatphobia and sizism and poor people are more likely to be fatter (there are all kinds of speculation on why- my belief is that it has to do with emotional well being as well as untreated health issues). Healthism includes fatphobia which includes classism. It's a vicious cycle of violence against the sick and the poor. Healthcare is a human rights issue.

 I feel like the importance of seeing a doctor regularly is glossed over when talking about HAES sometimes, perhaps because of the huge number of people who have no way of following this advice. Our broken health care system is proof that no one actually cares about our health when they shame us, especially when you think about government programs and initiatives such as Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" anti fat kid campaign. The same people who claim to care about your health in one breath will deny you healthcare coverage in the next. So all of you health trolls- I will be completely ignoring you until you start advocating for universal health care and stop talking about fatties driving up health care costs.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cupcake Love

This was supposed to be an entire dermographia shoot. It didn't workout that way. We decided to start out with a cupcake on my collar bone- boy did that not work! You can see it a bit but the first photo shows how splotchy it was and it faded quickly. My skin was not working with us that day. Despite that we at least got a couple of good photos and John Horwitz brought some awesome broken glasses which I just love.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Raleigh Photographer Workshops

My first experience with this group, wasn't a pleasant one. Still, I figured I'd give it another go since the organizer made sure to post a special message to the group which read:

To all the photographers: The lifeline to the continuances of our group are both our new and veteran members. Our goal is to welcome aboard all those who participate in our events. For every person we shoo away because of our lack of artistic vision and sense of community, we will slowly shoo away the original intent and mission of our group, and that is for us as photographers from the very green beginner to the grizzled veteran to assemble as a collective group to SHARE our enthusiasm and learned knowledge of photography with others. Please, let's be considerate to our models and other photographers.

I appreciate the general nature of the message which refrained from calling me and my experience out specifically. Still, I'm not sure the photographers took it to heart. Of the 14 photographers and 4 models (including myself) that were supposed to be at this shoot only one model (myself) and six photographers showed up. We waited around for almost an hour and then half of the photographers there decided to leave because they "thought there'd be more models". I can't know for sure what they meant, but I'm fairly sure it wasn't the number of models that was the problem. The three photographers who stayed, Mike Hanes, Bing Shens, and Charles Holiday, were great fun to work with. Overall impression of this group, however, is still a poor one. The sheer lack of professionalism with which the majority of the photographers I've met have conducted themselves is disappointing at best.  All of the photographs I received were face shots and no body shots- it's possible that they weren't used to working with a fat model but, guys, for future reference, I didn't get dressed up for nothing. (edit: after I wrote this I did get photos from the third photographer, Charles Holiday who included some body shots so I'm going to include some here!)

The three photographers I did work with were great so on to the photos!

Friday, September 16, 2011

For the Love of Food

"I just love food too much to ever be skinny"

That statement. I've seen it a hundred, a thousand times before. The good news is that it often comes from those who have decided to accept their bodies and end semi starvation diets. The problem I have with this statement, however, is that it alludes to the fact that people who weigh more, eat more. People don't seem to realize that thin people often enjoy food as well. In fact that's sort of a basic part of human survival. Food tastes good so you seek it out. If we didn't really enjoy food, as a species, we probably would have died out by now. It's okay to love food and it's not just something fat people do.

I got into a small debate on reddit many many months back, in which a girl was lamenting about her sweet tooth preventing her from losing weight. I pointed out that skinny people eat sweets too. Of course, you know, one person's experience means everyone has to have that experience too! So I got replies of skinny people who swear they've never touched a sweet! I get that, I do. I know plenty of people who enjoy salty foods more than sweet foods. My husband will reach for a bag of pretzels or chips over a cookie any day. But then I had some wonderful skinny people jump in and say "so what if you don't? I eat sweets every day! Multiple times a day! I love sweets and I'm a size 4!". My point; it was made.

I get the impression that some fat people that they just love food more than thin people and therein lies their problem. I get the same impression from thin people sometimes. I've been told by friends who thought they were supporting me and other fat people that they "never eat at a restaurant with a skinny chef", the assumption being that the food must not be as good so the cook doesn't shovel it into their mouths like a fat chef with good food must. Don't get me wrong, that's not the only food assumption about fat people; plenty of people think that fat people will eat anything regardless of whether or not it tastes good.

In reality, however, the act of restricting leads many dieting fatties to fantasize about and crave food. When you have a craving that food tastes better and you enjoy it more when you eat it. If I eat a cookie when I don't really want one, it tastes good but not OMGFANTASTIC like it does if I'm specifically craving it. This is what I like most about listening to what my body wants rather than what I decide it should want, by the way. Food is much more enjoyable.

So the bottom line: fat people love food. Thin people love food. People love food. That's not what's making you five, 20, or 100 lbs heavier than you'd like to be. Enjoy your food, it's okay, really! But don't use it to add stigma or reinforce stereotypes about why fat people are fat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Just A Little Prettier

I was on a shoot yesterday with the Raleigh Photographer Workshops group at Anderson Point Park- more on that experience in the next post. Right now I want to talk about "facial correction". As we were walking the photographers were chatting about various programs and someone mentioned some facial correction software which adjusts a person's face to make them "just a little prettier". Walking beside them I politely said, "That sounds interesting, but please don't change my face".

He said, "No, but that's the cool thing! It still looks like you, it just adjusts little things to make you prettier!".

Wow. Can we think about how much of an insult that is for a moment? "I know you took the time out of your day to drive 45 minutes to model for this shoot, but I think I need to use software to make you prettier".  Now, I'm not going to mention the photographer's name because I think he's a good guy. He was really fun to work with and, other than that weird insult, didn't have a single negative thing to say. All of the photographers were great to work with actually (The ones who stayed.. more on that in the next post)! But it's incredibly common, especially in commercial photography, to alter a model's appearance including her face. This well known video by Dove demonstrates that. The Dove video uses photoshop to adjust the model's neck length, eye size, to thin her shoulders, to plump her lips, to raise her eye brows.. The software that the photographer uses does that as well, just automatically instead of manually.

He emailed me the first photo to see what I thought. My first thought was "it doesn't look anything like me!". Yes, it was a prettier version of myself but I'm fine with my face, thank you very much. It took me a while to come to terms with my eyes, my nose, my brows and, obviously, the roundness of my face- I'm not letting some program take that away from me. Because yes, I spent all day yesterday feeling bad that I wasn't as pretty as some software made me. Thinking "wow, I really would look prettier if my eyes were just a little bigger". As if there's anything I could actually do about that!

So let's see the photos:

So what did the program do? It thinned my face, raised and plumped my lips, widened my eyes, and raised my eyebrows. Subtle, isn't it? my skin was also smoothed (both photographs) to make my pores smaller (you think you have giant pores? You don't- models' pores are just shrunk into non existence. Pore size, like everything else, varies from person to person)

Someone on a body acceptance forum asked "why are there never 'face acceptance' posts?" Well here it is. The standard ideal of beauty cannot even be achieved by the models themselves. Everyone knows that even the thinnest most "perfect" models still have their bodies altered and faces are no different. You're not competing in a beauty contest. You aren't obligated to wear makeup or have your eyebrows shaped, or even to pluck your chin hair- your only obligation is to you. And if you think being pretty will make you happy, it won't. Self esteem, confidence, and body acceptance (yes, that includes your face) is what will make you happy. You don't have to stand in front of a mirror and repeat "I am beautiful", you have to stand in front of a mirror and repeat "It doesn't matter what I look because I'm an awesome fucking person".

That picture above? The one on the right? It should not have the power to make me feel bad about myself. Is it prettier? Probably. But it's not me. I could have chosen to have him edit every single photo of me from that shoot in the same way. I didn't. I replied telling him that it wasn't me and I didn't want it used.

"Well, you can say that because you're already pretty"

Yeah- you have no idea how many times I think that about people that I think are pretty. I look at other plus size models and think "god, maybe I could make it in this industry if I just looked like that." I'm not saying that some people aren't prettier, I'm saying that it doesn't matter. Everyone, regardless of their appearance, body size, hairiness, or even personality, ends up dating and falling in love and all that other mushy romance stuff. People tell me that no one could possibly be attracted to me because of my size (and yes, I've been called ugly plenty of times too- I vividly remember an incident in middle school where the whole class began barking at me). My advice? When some asshole ignores you or insults you, don't get sad or internalize it- get pissed. They're the assholes. Try "ugh, I can't believe I thought that guy/girl was cute. No way I'd want to date a person with that kind of disgusting personality ".

A common thread used in fat acceptance is the idea that our self worth is not based on how many people want to fuck us. That isn't just for fat- that holds true for everyone and every attribute. Your worth is not based on appearance.

One more time: Your worth is not your appearance.

And if you're in that spot where you're single and you don't want to be? Sexually frustrated? Try masturbating. And absolutely never lower your standards even if it means waiting for a bit longer.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pink makes me happy

I am, of course, referring to my new pink strawberry flats. I'm also trying out the fluffy belted rockabilly style skirt thing. I'm fairly sure I'm rocking it- what do y'all think? (also, i totally look annoyed in that second photo, don't I?)

Friday, September 9, 2011

PETA: human rights not as important as animal rights

How did I miss this? Possibly because when it came out in October of 2010 I hadn't discovered body acceptance yet. That and the ad was rejected by Southwest Airlines although not for any noble reason. Apparently they sited the ad being too provocative but a swimsuit model is just fine. But the horror of this ad isn't directed at the airline so let's get back to PETA. Their sexist, body shaming, and fat hate ads are well known and this just adds another to the pile, but, in my opinion, it goes a tad further by playing into the intrusive violation of rights that are body scanners.

The ad features an photo of a thin woman, neck down, in just her underwear which reads "be proud of your body scan: go vegan". Did everyone else just facedesk? Yes? Okay good, let's move on. Ignoring the fact that we should be protesting body scans, not being proud of them, we're going back to the same 'ole argument that vegan = thin and thin = good. Not only does thin = good but apparently it's the only thing that matters when it comes to body pride. Couldn't someone still hate their body scan even if they're thin? If they didn't like their hips or their belly button or their breasts? Or what about men? Body scans show quite a bit of detail (and, unlike the ad, they show you naked, not with undies)- enough to make out your junk anyway.

So while you're being completely and utterly violated by the TSA, all the while worrying about whether they'll make you buy an extra seat or give you a hard time, maybe you should remember next time that going vegan makes you look like the girl in the PETA ad.

See how svelte I became?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

When it's the system abusing the children

We all remember the recent hubub when Dr. Lindsey Murtagh and Dr. David S. Ludwig made a suggestion in a Journal of American Medicical Association issue that perhaps "obese" children should be taken away from their parents for child neglect/abuse. The obvious idea being that these parents must be shoveling food in their kids' mouths and letting them watch TV and play video games all day. This particularly hits home for me because I would have been one of those kids, weighing in at over 150lbs by age 10 which made me clinically "obese". I can't remember my exact weight, I only remember being in grade school and looking at a scale thinking "if I can just stay this weight and not gain anymore as I grow then when I get to be a grown up I won't be fat". My diet consisted of the exact same meals, snack, and exercise as my brother and my sister who were both slim. But my mom was obviously abusing me into fatness, right? I just wonder what would have happened if I had been placed in foster care and they had failed to make me thin too? 

the three youngest children seen on the right holding an adult's hands are
at risk for being taken away for being too fat
In the UK we're seeing this suggestion put into practice. According to the Daily Mail three children have already been taken away and placed in foster care for being too fat. They were later reunited with their parents but had every single thing they ate monitored and even had a check in sheet for bed time. The parents were forced to move into an apartment run by a state program and were only allowed to live with 3 of their 6 children at a time. They were told to enroll their kids in dance and football and now that their kids have failed to slim down they're at risk for being taken away again, permanently, and without visitation. The oldest boy, who's 12, weighs about 224lbs, the 11 year old girl about 150 lbs, and the three year old weight around 55lbs (it doesn't mention heights, but the youngest looks fairly tall for a 3 year old).

Yes, all of these kids are on the larger side, like their parents. That would make sense considering obesity is primarily genetic, but they're also all within the range of normal and they're not done growing. Can you imagine the strain of having a social worker watch your every move? The mother even came under fire for letting her 7 year old fall asleep and stay at her father's because she didn't want to disturb her. What the system is doing to this family is far more abusive than any "over nourishment" that may be happening.

The mother said "The pressure of living in the family unit would have broken anyone. We were being treated like children and cut off from the outside world. To have a social worker stand and watch you eat is intolerable"

These children have been emotionally and psychologically tortured by a system that is supposed to be acting in their best interest but, instead, act with feat, judgement, and bigotry. Any chance they may have had at health or happiness may very well have just gone out the window. What this family has been put through is inexcusable and they're not the only ones. The UK social services department will be looking at more cases of failure to produce thin children and what has happened to these poor parents and children may very well happen to many more UK citizens. 

And there is, as always, the issue that no one is looking at what is being fed to thin kids, regardless of whether it is damaging their health. I can't even express the sadness and anger and frustration that this story has brought me. I have a feeling that the worst fat hate and bigotry and discrimination is still ahead of us. I hope that feeling is wrong. No one, no one, here cares about our health or well being and they sure as hell don't care about the facts or the science. Anti fat policies like this are based solely in fat hatred and ignorance. We need to figure out a way to fight this. 

*thanks to Neil for sending me this story

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