Friday, November 30, 2007

The Salad is Not your Enemy

I'm on a veggie crave at the moment. The Panera Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich is calling my name sweetly from afar. Ah the siren song of cilantro hummus, the sweet strains of tomato-basil bread.....

I've never been a full vegetarian, but I tend to follow my cravings as a guide for eating. Generally if you have a serious craving, it's something your body needs. Of course, everyone has their emotional "trigger" foods as well, but generally it's always better to follow your intuition when it comes to...well just about everything. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if an aimless "snacky" craving for nothing in particular is really a grazing instinct because I'm craving something I've never tasted before. Maybe my instinct is seeking a bite of some rare Korean flavoring or a drink of some exotic fruit juice.

Well...maybe not, but it's a good excuse to learn all kinds of interesting new dishes :-)

Growing up, we had a saying about my brother. It went "the only green things he likes are grapes and money." He hated most green vegetables, to the point where mom started to find creative ways to hide them in sauces and stuffings. It wasn't until adulthood that he figured out why he hated salads so much. Or rather that he didn't...he just hated bad salads. Generally the salad we grew up with was iceberg lettuce (bitter and nutrient-poor), bland cheese (mozzarella or tasteless commercial colby-jack) and packaged (over-sweet) dressing.

When he got out of the house and into his own kitchen, he started to experiment. In experimenting, he found out two things...he hated iceberg lettuce, and most off-the-shelf dressings are actually pretty gross. The first time I saw him actually sit down and dig into a plate of what they call "rabbit food" with evident enjoyment, I almost had to check him for signs of alien abduction.

He tossed the iceberg (insert rimshot sound here) and started with raw baby spinach and field greens. He chose toppings for taste and quality instead of accepting the traditional (really, does anyone actually like croutons? Unless they're homemade, they're basically stale leftover bread with a little fake butter flavor and decades-old herbs. Yuck.)

Low and behold, he actually found himself liking salad. Low and behold, I followed his example and found that a salad is actually supposed to taste good, not just be bland raw filler material disguised by too much dressing. I found that the cheese to lettuce ratio doesn't have to be anywhere close to equal, if you buy cheese you can actually taste. That's why I like the little import-cheese cooler in the grocery store instead of the standard dairy case. You find cheese that actually tastes like cheese instead of tasting like thick oil or slightly musty butter :-)

So, in honor of the first seriously winter day this year, I present my brother's perfect harvest salad:

Raw baby spinach and/or mixed field greens (I like 1/2 and 1/2 spinach and "spring mix" that uses baby lettuces, endive and mustard greens)

Extra-extra sharp cheddar cheese, (the sharper the better) cubed or crumbled.

roasted sunflower seeds, salted or unsalted according to your taste.

Dried cranberries

Dried Cherries

Grape Tomatoes. I personally hate raw tomatoes, but they work well on this salad for those who like them.

My brother stops there and eats it dry. I like either a fruity vinaigrette (cherry or raspberry) or a really sharp italian dressing to provide a foil against the sweetness of the dried fruit.

Since then, about five years ago, I've re-discovered salad as a good thing, a thing to crave because it tastes good, not an instrument of torture to keep from being too hungry on a "diet".

Wait...what happened to the epidemic?

So after years of extremist scare tactics and scientists screaming from every rooftop that the Nation, nay the WORLD is getting fatter by the very second, that our children were at risk from the DEADLY and contagious disease of fat and if we didn't do something drastic, we would all become enormous blobs living in little floating chairs sucking down 5000 calories a day and die of diabetes...leaving the earth to lower life forms (like cockroaches and fundamentalists)

Then, in a trick reminiscent of the stage magician who pulls the tablecloth away while leaving crystal and candlestick undisturbed, the CDC comes out with the astonishing information that there has NOT been a significant increase in the number of obese people in the last five years (since 2003).

Oh, happy day! The billions of dollars we've been dumping into government tactics and research and programs and banning coke machines in school are finally paying off!

Wait, the trick isn't over yet...what new wonders shall be revealed in our victory over fat? Why, that would be a 2004 CDC report that said...

...wait for it...

That there wasn't a significant increase in the number of overweight or obese people between 1999 and 2002.

Ta Da!

Wait...1999? Isn't that BEFORE all the expensively necessary government programs to combatant this rampant "disease" that's going to overrun the world and kill us all? Does that mean that all the hype, hysteria and marginalization of over a third of the human population was to counter a problem that didn't exist?


Now for the best part...folks know that a magic show isn't a magic show without that finale, that moment where they stop pulling rabbits out of hats and create a wondrous disappearing act that leaves the audience breathless. In this case, the magicians at the CDC proved as never before that they can actually make facts disappear! Impossible you say? A violation of the natural laws so beloved by our scientific institutions? Well, I say to you that not only can this astounding feat be accomplished, but a further wonder is in store! Not only will the CDC make facts disappear, but in a dark act of magical transformation they shall re-appear... propaganda!

A gasp falls over the crowd...dieting women faint away with astonishment and malnutrition,
children scream...

Thank you everyone, please tip your waitresses...

Ok, so I take the analogy too far. It's a Friday. I missed breakfast because I had to chase down an escaping cat before work this morning and I get a little punchy :-) Let's try it again.

Despite that their own findings state clearly that there has been no significant increase in obesity rates in almost a decade, the CDC still tries to avert any correlating decrease in its budget by hastily re-assuring us that even though we're not getting fatter, even though we haven't been getting fatter in almost a decade, even though we weren't getting fatter when the government launched it's war on fat....well...we're still fat, right?

Yeah, yeah, that's it. weren't trying to keep people from getting fatter, and, like, even if we worked, right? yeah we're just trying to make already fat people LESS fat! Yeah, that's it.'t be fat people. Where's my grant money? Gotta go, I've got a round of golf with GlaxoSmithKline.

Ok, one more time, and see if I can make it through without slipping into cynical mode..

In the face of their own evidence that "obesity" has not increased since 1999, and of increasingly frequent findings by others that fat doesn't cause all the nasty health issues attributed to it (in one of the greatest causality vs. correlation debacles since phrenology), they're still hanging on to the obesity fight like a hyena on a baked ham. Perhaps there's just too much at stake considering the millions they've poured into research, grants, school programs and their own staff to handle the load. Maybe they'd rather tackle obesity than a real epidemic, like aids...or stupidity.

Sorry...some days I just can't keep the snark in check. Best not to try, really.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Fat 50 Project

An exciting new project is in the works, courtesy of Paul and the folks at Big Fat Blog. It's called the "Fat 50" project and seeks to compile a web guide for each of the 50 U.S. states with state-specific legal information for fat people.

Right now, only Michigan has legal protection for fat people built into a non-discrimination statement:

"Both State and Federal laws prohibit discrimination on the basis
of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age, sex, height, weight or marital status under the U.S.
Civil Rights Acts of 1964 as amended, 1976 MI PA 453, 1976 MI PA 220, Title V of the Rehabilitation Act
of 1973 as amended, and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended.."

In California, they've achieved nondiscrimination policies on a local level in a few cities. San Francisco's is particularly impressive in scope and detail:

The Fat 50 project is a precursor and guide to efforts to enact similar size-protective legislation in all 50 U.S. states by offering information on current legal status, rights, and other pertinent information. It will eventually encompass "Fat 50+" where information is available in other countries and provinces, as volunteers are found to help research and provide that information.

That last bit is key, because a lot of non-U.S. Fat Activists complain the the movement is U.S.-centric. It's a valid complaint on the surface, since most of the active organizations are based in the U.S. and there is a great need in other countries (especially the U.K.!) for support of Size Acceptance. On the other hand, for an American organization to start petitioning a foreign government for any sort of policy change will just be taken as another example of the nosy Yank trying to tell other countries what to do. There are also subtle differences in method, as the in-your-face activism that goes off well in the U.S. will fall resoundingly and disgustedly flat in most of Europe. There's a "flavor" to effective activism that can really only be captured by someone intimately familiar with the culture, its psychology and its symbolism.

If someone wants more Fat Activism in their country, it is necessary that they step up and begin. The U.S. based groups would generally be ecstatic to help and support. If someone in Germany or New Zealand were to take on the research (or recruit others) to complete a "Fat 50" page for their country, it would go up with the rest of them and serve as a jump-off point for further activism.

In other words, change starts at home.

Speaking of, they do need more volunteers for Fat 50! The following states already have coordinators, but I'm sure they'd welcome assistance and input:

New York
North Carolina

Don't see your state there? Volunteer by e-mailing Paul. Don't have time yourself? Find someone else who might be interested. Get creative: This would make a fantastic project for School, Scouts, service credits, other organizations for collaboration, etc. It may be a backhanded suggestion, but need to punish your teenager for something? Don't just let them moulder in their room...set them to work :-)

Because, like I said, change begins at home.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Don't Feed The Humans!

This is all over the internet and blogosphere today. Paul Campos is the author of my very-own-first Fat Positive book (The Obesity Myth/The Diet Myth) Which the lovely Tante' Terri was so good as to send me in the mail one day. It really was my first first jump into the "maybe I'm not broken!" head space, from where I ran quickly through the steps of, "wait, does that mean I don't have to dump all this money, time and stress into "fixing" myself?" to "How dare those Ass-Hats out there in the world make me think I'm broken!" and all the way around to, "Poor self-hating, fatphobic, have a brownie..."

In his new article, he examines the results of a recent study where the data showed one thing:

"Flegal and her colleagues found that, for a whole range of diseases, from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to infectious illness and most of the major respiratory ailments, "overweight" people face a lower mortality risk than "healthy weight" persons. In addition, they found no difference between the two groups in mortality risk from heart disease or cancer (the nation's two biggest killers, and ones that many people tend to associate with being overweight). Thus, the relative mortality risk, and by extension the overall health, of "overweight" Americans appears to be better than that of "healthy weight" people."

But the conclusions of the researchers said something very, very different. First that somehow the overweight woman is closer to "obesity"

danger Will Robinson!
What is it, Robot, giant talking carrots again?
No Will Robinson, it's much much worse...its FAT!

As if the study even touched on the haphazard methodology behind the "risks" of "obesity". Campos points out that the average woman in the overweight range is closer to the danger of being underweight, which this study finds doubles her chances of various health troubles, than the other end of the scale.

"Second, researchers talk about "quality of life." After all, life expectancy isn't everything. As Manson says, "health extends far beyond mortality rates." According to a New York Times story, Manson is concerned that excess weight makes it difficult for people to move around, and therefore impairs their quality of life. That's part of "the big picture in terms of health outcomes," Manson says. The notion that an average-height woman who weighs between 146 and 175 pounds is going to find it difficult to move about is as good an example as one could hope to find of what eating disorder experts call "anorexic ideation." Here again, we see how an argument which may make sense when talking about extremely fat people is transferred onto people who are "fat" only in the sense that they don't conform to a radical preference for extreme thinness--a preference which is one of the key explanations for why we're saddled with a scientifically bogus definition of what constitutes a "healthy weight.""

And then, once again, we're reminded that science has evolved to take on the earmarks of religion. Or, was it ever very far off? After all the Alchemists were early scientists, and devoted to their beliefs as fervently as any nun kneeling in her cell and giving up the material world for the peace of conviction.

"Still, when the entire public health establishment has put its stamp of approval on a definition, those who have staked their professional reputations on the accuracy of that definition aren't going to be deterred by something like, well, evidence. Predictably, Willett, who has been perhaps the most prominent proponent of the idea that people ought to try to maintain very low weights, was outraged by the latest refutation of his theories: "It's just ludicrous to say there is no increased risk of mortality from being overweight," he told The Washington Post."

If they were alchemists, or investigators into the chemical structure of some weird African Frog or portugeuse reef crab, I'd say let them quarrel peacefully in their own delusions. Unfortunately, we are the African Frogs. I am the Portugeuse reef crab. The fact that they are having so difficult a time accepting the evidence of their own methods says something about the uphil battle for Fat Acceptance. On the other hand, the fact that their evidence contradicts their own beliefs says something about It's accuracy, for how many scientists find only exactly what they're looking for, no matter how hard they have to mine the data to get it? Which means that whether or not they cling to their beliefs, they have given us a tool to educate others. So we should thank them.

Poor self-loathing fat-phobic, have a brownie.

Monday, November 26, 2007

When I Can No Longer Hide...

Watching Joy Nash's Fat Rant videos, the one segment that hit closest to home was where she looked around and went through the litany of excuses that has hovered in the back of my own mind since fourth grade.

I can't talk to that guy, why would he be interested? I'm fat. If he's not interested, it's because he thinks I'm hideous. Because I'm fat. That has to be the reason, right?

But wait, she says, there are so many other reasons. I'm a bitch! I can be selfish. I can be mean...But what does all that matter when I can just say, that person won't like me because I'm fat?

When you let a physical characteristic define you, there's always the danger of it so overshadowing every non-physical characteristic that it becomes a shield, a weapon and a hiding place. If I assume that people will only react to my fatness, then it gives me no motivation to work on those parts of my personality that might stand out if I were thin. It gives me my own personal whipping boy to hide behind and justify my many actual flaws.

Personally? I can be both mean and petty. I've always been self-absorbed to some degree. I'm a terrible housekeeper. I often fall into the annoying habit (I know, because it annoys me so much when others do it) of acting like a "know-it-all", and pointing out even pointless errors of fact in any conversation in order to refute them. I smoke too much (since "at all" is really too much). So?

This isn't an exercise in "woe is me" or a moment of self-flagellation. In fact I know of many other "quirks" in my personality that may or may not be something that needs fixing...which is the real point. Fat isn't something I can fix, so by buying into the social illusion that it can, I am provided with a handy occupation that takes a lot of time and worry. Everything else is put on the back burner while I consider my fatness, because it is, in some ways, easier than tackling problems that actually CAN be fixed if I devoted head space to it.

So, fast forward to 2007 and strip away the definition of fat as a fault in need of a solution. Could it be that the guy didn't want to talk to me because I was a cringing mess of self-abuse who wouldn't even make eye contact? How attractive could that be? If I just walked up and smiled, would I have been stripped of my own excuses?

So the fortune cookie of the week: Let a definition become an excuse, and that excuse will become a stumbling block.

(Did you know the fortune cookie was actually invented at the beginning of the 20th century in California, and is pretty much a phenomenon of the U.S. and Canada? ...Ok, so no, I really can't help it. But I can work on it :-) )

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Anorexic Model Dies of Heart Failure

This isn't getting a lot of coverage in the media, I picked up the article from Shapely Prose and the F-Word blogs. There have been two high profile deaths amongst runway models in the past few years:

"In August, 22-year-old Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos died during Fashion Week in Montevideo after reportedly surviving on lettuce and diet drinks.

A few months later, it happened again. Twenty-one-year-old Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, who was 5'8", was reported to have weighed just 88 pounds at the time -- that's a BMI of 13.5."

and this new one makes me wonder if this is a new trend, or an old trend that was hushed up for many years. Of course most of us remember Twiggy, the British model who set the new standard of extreme thin in the fashion industry, which women are now dying to surpass.

"When Israeli fashion model Hila Elmalich died last week after years of fighting anorexia, she weighed less than 60 pounds."

To put it in perspective, that's an average weight for a six year old child.

In response, Israel is actually putting standards in place where by law a model must have at least a BMI of 19. It would be much more difficult, but more effective as far as public health is concerned, to require all models to undergo screening for disordered eating, because a model with a large bone structure can be seriously anorexic at a BMI of 19. The BMI scales does not take bone structure or muscle mass into account, and is therefore a really, really poor gauge of body fat content. It is an even worse gauge of health, as many professional athletes are considered overweight or obese by the BMI scale.

What I really have to ask about, however, is how her employers could have possibly overlooked her condition. Or could it be that they didn't care? One was quoted in the article as saying that a woman with curves drew attention to her body and away from the clothes. Therefore they like to use extremely thin women who didn't detract from the clothing they modeled. Isn't that a backhanded way of saying they don't want the models to be prettier than the clothes? So why are they held up as standards of beauty?

I say again, bravo to Jean-Paul Gaultier for standing against the tide. Even if it is only a promotional gimmick :-)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Velvet D'amour

The following videos are about Velvet D'amour, a Jean-Paul Gaultier runway model helping to re-define feminine beauty in France. I've also a link to a 2006 interview that I think really shows her in-your-face spirit. The third video is in French, but expresses a lot of the same ideas she reiterated in the text interview. If anyone would really like a translation, I'll slog through and give it a go.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Recipe: Caramelized Pear Custard Tart

Part of size and fat acceptance is, of course, learning to love food again. It should be our friend, not our enemy. It should be a thing of pleasure, not shame. When listening to our own bodies, we know what it needs, when we're hungry, and when we're full.

I'm a foodie (i.e. lover of good food), and love to cook. I'm a novice really, but I improvise well :-) Since a lot of my favorite foods are the result of experiments, I've decided that I will be occasionally sharing various creations that have tested well, using my wonderful friends and family as kitchen guinea pigs. They still volunteer, despite the very occasional horrific recipe failures :-) I'll try to keep recipes categorized by the labels at the bottom of the posts for easy reference. This is for the pear custard tart I came up with for my fellow foodie friends, and it sounds more complicated than it really is. I added the ground pecans for this Thanksgiving and it worked well.

You'll need:

3 large ripe pears (I like to use d'anjou or red pears)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
8 large egg yolks
1 egg white
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp Mexican vanilla, or 3 tsp extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 whole nutmeg or 1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup ground pecans
1 batch of standard chilled short dough, or 1 store-bought pie crust
1 1/2 lb package of Mascarpone cheese (cream cheese might work as a substitute, but the flavor might be too strong)

NOTES: The pears should be almost overripe, at their softest and sweetest. If you use vanilla instead of a vanilla bean (and I don't blame you, they're ridiculously expensive!) I highly recommend that you look for Mexican pure vanilla instead of the standard extract. It can often be found near the regular spices, in the international aisle if the store has one, or (much less expensive) at a Mexican grocery store. We've got a few in Michigan, and they're great for spices (including whole nutmeg) and harder to find items like Mole' sauce. I personally think the pure vanilla makes a big difference to the taste of desserts. It's stronger in flavor, so you would use approx. 3/4 the amount that you would extract in other recipes. The measurements in my recipes always assume Mexican vanilla.


A double boiler, or two pots that fit inside each other with at least 1/4 inch clearance around the sides (to allow steam to escape) and a handle or hook to keep the smaller one from sinking inside the larger one.
1 small (quart) saucepan
1 large frying pan with lid
a 10" nonstick springform round pan (a nonstick pie dish, tart dish or casserole dish will also work)
2 whisks
1 wooden spoon
mixer or hand mixer
fine grain mesh sieve or cheesecloth
large mixing bowl
parchment paper (found in baking supplies or cake decorating aisle)
1 large bag (volume of your baking dish) of dry beans or rice
nutmeg grater if not using powdered (fresh is always better)


Preheat oven to 350 F

Roll out the shortdough as thin as is workable. Fit it, or the pie crust, into the baking dish. Freeze for at least 1/2 hour (this keeps the sides from slumping during baking).
When dough is frozen, line the crust with parchment paper and fill to the top with dry beans or rice. (the weight keeps the dough from getting puffy. You can also use professional "pie weights")
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Remove the beans/rice and parchment paper
Brush egg white onto entire surface of crust
Return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

Lower oven heat to 325 F

Core, peel, quarter, and slice pears no more than 1/8" thick
Melt 1/2 cup butter in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and stir until sugar is melted.
Add pear slices and cover. cook for approx. 20 minutes, stirring often. Turn heat down if mixture is rapidly boiling or starts to brown.
remove the pear slices from the caramel, and layer them in the bottom of the baked crust. Return the pan with the caramel to the heat, reduce to low/simmer and continue cooking throughout the preparation of the filling, stirring occasionally. If mixture thickens (i.e. drip a bit from the spoon and it retains its shape for a moment before smoothing out) reduce heat to lowest setting to keep it warm without cooking.

Set up large mixing bowl with mesh sieve over the top. Have the mixer ready and plugged in.
Empty the container of Mascarpone cheese into the mixing bowl.
Add water to bottom pot or bottom of double boiler until the top is floating 1 inch above bottom. Heat on high until boiling.
In the meantime, pour 1 cup cream into small saucepan. Slice Vanilla Bean lengthwise and add it, or add 1 tsp vanilla. Heat on medium-low, stirring often with a whisk, until simmering. Fish out the vanilla bean. Let simmer during next step.
When water in the bottom of the double boiler is boiling, reduce to medium. In the top pot, combine sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, and egg yolks. Have the whisk ready because you must begin whisking the mixture the moment the egg yolks touch the pot and not let up for at least 10 minutes, or else you will get little egg chunks in your custard. The mixture will eventually thicken to a pudding-like consistency and begin to hold its shape (aka soft peak). When it does, begin to temper in the cream from the other pot, whisking as you go. Continue to cook/whisk for an additional two minutes.
Remove the filling from the double boiler and pour through the mesh sieve into the large mixing bowl to remove any egg bits that evaded the whisk. As soon as it's in, set the mixer to high to mix in the mascarpone until smooth. Beat for an additional minute.

Fill the baking dish approx. 1/2 way with the custard mix.
sprinkle the ground pecans over the mix
Gently add another layer of custard mix until 1/2 inch from the top
Stir the caramel on the stove and remove from heat. Pouring in a fine line, or using a spoon, criss-cross the top of the custard mix so that the caramel is distributed evenly over the custard (it will sink into the top layer)

Bake at 325 F for 30-40 minutes, or until moderately firm. If you have a deeper dish it will take longer. The center can be a little wobbly (it'll firm up more as it cools).
As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle/grate nutmeg over the top.
Serve when cooled to slightly above room temperature with a slightly acidic dessert wine.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's amazing the minefield of mixed messages you find at Thanksgiving. So many people are agonizing over the conflict of enormous amounts of what they consider "bad food" and the inevitable guilt, actual guilt over what they eat. One of my theories is that the increasing social freedoms and decay of Mrs. Grundy has simply re-directed the angst. People need a new definition of correctness and propriety in life, so they re-direct it to food. Control issues maybe? All I know is that the office talk on Monday morning will be less about family, friends, good times, good jokes, good wine, good game, then it will be endless variations of "oh I ate too much I'll have to spend days at the gym to work it off...."

I wonder what would happen if we found a way to remove the guilt of food, and just learned to enjoy each others' company? Would all the "holiday stress" be halved? Would the dynamics of judgement by distant relatives change? Sure, there's still the stress of shopping, cleaning, decorating, putting up with weird uncle Al, but somehow all the magazine racks for the next two months will only go from screaming "How to stay slim through the Holidays" and "How to resist holiday treat temptations" to "How to lose those holiday pounds..."

Why would anyone want to trade days and weeks of inner torment and self-flagellation for a slice of pie and contentment? Why would I want to resist, regret, wonder?

Short blog today, I have to go and bake a luscious, carb-filled, calorie laden custard tart with carmelized pears, crushed pecans, and homemade cinamon cajeta......

And damnit, I'm going to eat a slice too :-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Couple denied entry into New Zealand because of weight

A UK man seeking to emigrate to New Zealand was hired as a submarine cable inspector and supervisor by Telecom. When he applied for his visa, he was denied entry. Why?

"His employer-backed skills visa was initially rejected by immigration officials when they discovered that his body mass index, or BMI, was 42, making him morbidly obese under New Zealand regulations."

So who was this slovenly couch potato? A Welsh rugby player, a former soldier.

"My doctor laughed at me. He said he’d never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit."

New Zealand now has a policy of denying entry visas for those it claims "will be a drain on the health system" and claims to have no idea how many people have been turned down based on weight. They use, by the way, the BMI scale as a determinant, which doesn't take muscle weight into account. As a point of reference, the majority of the U.S. National Basketball Association would be considered overweight or obese.

The man went on a crash diet and lost two inches, doing who-knows-what damage to his system, just to be able to get into the country. His wife, however, had to stay behind until she could lose enough weight to be an "acceptable" immigrant.

So the main argument was that fat people cost the health care system more, in a country that has nationalized health care. In addition to the lack of evidence that weight, rather than lifestyle, has ANY effect on health care costs, the article states:

Mr Trezise has private health care in New Zealand and his employer, Telecom, has a gym membership scheme."

So with the health care costs taken care of by a private company, could it be that New Zealand simply doesn't want fat people there? Even though the country is "critically short of skilled workers"? Are they seriously willing to take their image of a thin country so far as to shoot their economy in the foot?

On the other hand, some would say, he could always choose to stay in the U.K. But fat discrimination is so rampant there that they actually feel it is in the national interest to deny access to in-vitro fertilization to obese women (even though they allow it for smokers, heavy drinkers, those with congenital disorders, etc.) and institute a mandatory weighing of grade school students, going so far as to recommend lap-band surgery for obese youth. They're so afraid of the overinflated "guesstimates" of health care costs from obesity that they're willing to pay for a dangerous, ineffective cosmetic surgery with a 40% complication rate in the first few years, often ending in death, malnutrition, and organ failure.

I'd want to leave too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Photographic Phobia

Sure, I could start off logically with a list of research, resources, and information on size acceptance, and I probably will return to that sort of information in the next few weeks. On the other hand, while a blog is, by nature, written to the public, I plan to begin with the approach of "it's my website, and I'll blog what I want to."

So I wanted to continue a post I made on a topic in the forums at Big Fat Blog which began as a discussion of double chins in photographs.

Photographs and video are "the last frontier" of self acceptance. Not just in fat people, but particularly in fat people. You can be comfortable in your skin, stand up for your rights as a human being, celebrate a healthy lifestyle, and all that can still fly out of the window at the sight of a picture of your double chin from a bad angle. It's a Pavolovian reaction instilled in us from birth by subtle and overwhelming pressure to fear being different. From childhood games "One of these things is not like the other..." to an endless stream of women held up as role-models and airbrushed into faint clones of an imaginary ideal woman as determined by self-loathing executives of fashion. It's so deeply instilled, "Brave New World" style, that only a conscious and deliberate mental detox can check it.

The topic began with a very pretty girl talking about how she considered throwing away one of her wedding photos because it showed an extra chin. She put on the mental brakes, and realized that the photo was in every other respect a good one, and ended up keeping it. I think that's marvelous, and shows great strength of character. On my part, it made me realize something else. I went through four books of photos from the last 15 years, and several digital archives. Out of all the places I've been, all the things I've done, I only have, at most, five or six photographs of myself that I consider "keepers". Not only do I discard great photos, but I've pushed friends and family to trash great pictures because I don't like the way I look in them. The result is a type of lonely invisibility. There was the year spent in Europe, with pictures of ancient buildings and crowds of laughing exchange students. I always volunteered to hold the camera, so there are only two pictures with me in them. There's roadtrips full of sunsets, and shots of laughing friends flashing peace signs or making faces at odd roadside attractions. The only pictures of me in the lot are carefully posed, carefully flattering mugshots. I know I was there because I was holding the camera, but a stranger looking through the collection would have no idea who was experiencing these frozen moments, even though they represented the best times of my life.

So what is the meaning of a sunset over the ocean, without me in frame? The sun sets in that particular spot every single night, 365 days a year, and has done so for milennia. Sure, a snapshot of my friends at the Appalachain overlook is grand, but if I'm not in there with them, isn't it just a picture of some people and a mountain that thousands of people drive by every day? What gives a picture meaning is not just the view, it's the event, the context, the personal connection. If I remove a picture because the image of me doesn't match the image planted in my subconscious mind as ideal, I remove myself from the memory of a place and take only the position of distant observer. The result is a sterile, disposable postcard.

I don't pick through the pictures for others, eliminating one because a person is squinting and another because they look stoned. I consider that part of the memory (remember that one? He looks like hell. He decided we could make the mountains if we drove all night and he was on two energy drinks and a pot of roadside coffee...we spent more time stopping so he could pee it out than we would have stopping at a hotel!) The stuff that looks awful on film is usually what makes the best stories. Perfectly poised and coiffed like a glamour shot tells no story, and could be done at home with the right backdrop. That one where I look like three days of hell just proves that we had a hell of a lot of fun.

So, and I hope to follow my own rede on this one: live without regrets. If you love your self, then you can't be afraid to capture it on film. Strike a semi-dirty pose with the giant concrete elephant. Dig your toes in the sand for that sunset backdrop. Smile and squint and laugh at the bad ones, but keep them anyway. Hand the camera to a trustworthy stranger and jump into the middle of that shot with the whole gang. Don't worry about chins or rolls or frizzy hair because it's the only proof you'll ever have that you were there, and you did that, and you bought the lousy tee-shirt :-)


This blog is something of a compromise, really. Along with a million other drones, I actually have a Myspace (, on which I occasionally blog. My friends are good people, and we hang out on a regular basis, but I've just recently become a member of a cause. There are two drawbacks to being a member of a cause, from the viewpoint of friends:

1. Since the friends came before the cause, they don't necessarily share any interest in it whatsoever.

2. Despite that disinterest, the standard psychology of it, call it "convert" or "born again" headspace, NRE, etc., makes the new member want to talk about their new cause all the time.

In other words, even I can see that I'm getting rather annoying. It's a true sign of friendship that they've stuck it out this long with only minimal eye rolling and a real willingness to offer support for friendship's sake. Sure, there's some concern that I'm turning into a wide-eyed fanatic who's going to wind up on the evening news for throwing whipped cream at bariatric surgery doctors while carrying big photos of amputated stomachs,

...actually that's a good mental image, let me hold onto that for a moment....

At any rate, being an extensive dilettante, I've created this blog to help me organize my thoughts, experiences, data, and activism on Size Acceptance in a single place, separate from the many other facets of my life. Separate because while Fat is part of who I am, it is not the whole me.