Monday, December 29, 2008


I’ve been considering the motives behind those who feel they must judge the bodies or lifestyles of others. While I do allow for the possibility that there may be genuine concern for the health of others (however misplaced it may be), it seems more often that the health issue is more often a convenient hiding place for something no one is quite comfortable admitting aloud.

“ I am Envy, begotten of a chimney-sweeper and an oyster-wife.
I cannot read, and therefore wish all books burned. I am lean
with seeing others eat. O, that there would come a famine over
all the world, that all might die, and I live alone! then thou
shouldst see how fat I'd be. But must thou sit, and I stand?
come down, with a vengeance!”
-Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus From the Quarto of 1616

There is of course some doubt as to why anyone would envy a group that is so regularly despised and marginalized by their cultural, peers and selves. On the other hand, the stigma that fat is the result of “letting yourself go” is telling. The stereotype may have negative connotations of laziness in our culture, but when you remove the Calvinist interpretation there is much more lurking underneath. In our business and object-oriented society we spend our lives figuratively scrambling up the cliff face by our fingernails in order to reach the top before anyone else. We are never asked to consider whether there is anything on the top of the cliff worth reaching; we only know that we must climb.

What really happens when you let go? The trouble is that no one can really know until they do so. They are told that at the top of the cliff lies immortality, wealth, beauty and love. To climb they must work themselves into illness, give up all pleasure, experience the pain of tearing and stuffing and cutting their bodies, seek out and subjugate themselves to those higher up the cliff while hanging on to the edge of panic over how long they’ll be able to continue climbing.

What they are not told is that they are chasing a mirage. They know on some level, of course. This is why they envy and hate those who simply choose not to climb. They are afraid that if one stops climbing, others will notice and begin questioning the worth of the goal. If all stop climbing, their efforts will be wasted. They will have to admit the impossibility of immortality and the risk of love without purchase. They will have to decide what they really want, rather than giving up volition to follow the masses. Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of humanity more than self-examination.

“Clutching her cornet of sweets the small girl turns to go, reconsiders, turns again. ‘You won’t ever guess his favourite,’ she says. ‘He hasn’t got one.’
‘I find that difficult to believe,’ I smile. ‘Everyone has a favourite. Even Monsieur Muscat.’
Lucie considers this for a moment. ‘Maybe his favourite is the one he takes from someone else,’ she tells me limpidly. Then she is gone, with a little wave through the display window.”
-Joanne Harris, ‘Chocolat’

Envy is not just the desire to have what others have. It is summed up in the phrase “If I can’t have it, no one should.” Personally I have experienced body envy. Honestly I’d doubt any woman who claims to have never, even during their teens, resented another human being simply for having a particular physical trait. Speaking from that experience I can say that envy is an ugly thing. Even stripping away the Judeo-Christian concept of sin, it remains an ugly thing. Envy is a grasping, selfish, hateful feeling that twists everything it touches. If you’ve ever experienced it, you can perhaps understand why the envy of those who don’t feel as if they have the right to be happy can express itself in hate.

This is, of course, an explanation rather than an excuse. Anyone who’s watched monkeys in a cage at the zoo will recognize many basic human behaviours. If you watch long enough you may even be able to check off the Judeo-Christians’ seven deadly sins in their entirety. This is an instance of a religion’s rules of behaviour having perfectly sound reasoning behind the dogma. The “sins” separate us from the chimpanzees. They are what make us civilized in the most basic sense of the word. As Granny Weatherwax would say, all true sins begin with treating people as things. Including ourselves.

(P.S.: To the one who made me re-visit Marlowe, and you know who you are, thanks for inspiring this post!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Recipe Box: Sweet Baked Ham with Red-Eye Gravy

I'm not a big fan of pork (and boyo do I realize how many dirty jokes you could make out of that statement!) However, since pig in it's various forms is traditional food this time of year, I've experimented to see how I can make it so that I actually do like it. Even so this is a once a year recipe for me.

I prefer fresh ham over cured/salted/smoked or processed. Unfortunately it's getting harder and harder to find. This year I had to resort to a cured ham, but it was a success at the party anyway. I wouldn't use a fully cooked/ready to eat ham as I don't like the salty flavor.

The ingredients list is what I use for a 12 pound half-ham (serves about 10-12 people without leftovers). If you have a much larger or smaller ham, just eyeball the ingredients. They're not that precise because they don't really need to be. Don't stress out over which size can of pineapple, just dump it on in.


Whole or half ham (butt or shank end)

2 cups (1/2 of a fifth bottle, give or take) pineapple schnapps (can substitute pear or apple if you can't find pineapple). Look for schnapps with natural flavoring. Don't use things like apple pucker with all artificial flavor and color or trust me, it will be gross (and a funny shade of purple).

1 can/1 cup of crushed pineapple with juice
1 can/8-10 slices of pineapple with juice
1 bottle red maraschino cherries with juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whole cloves
1 whole Cinnamon stick


Place the ham in a large roasting pan (cut end down if using a half-ham)

Poke the cloves. (my this post is just full of dirty statements!) Push the sharp end of each whole clove into the ham until you have a pattern of dots spread approx. 1/2 to 1 inch apart over the entire surface (not the cut end if you're using a half-ham). Think Pinhead from Hellraiser if you need a visual. If you get your cloves from a whole foods or organic store they will generally be larger, stronger, tastier and easier to work with than the bottled type.

Use wooden toothpicks to tack maraschino cherries onto the ham, then hang the pineapple slices from the toothpicks (this looks impressively Dickensian when it's finished).

Dump the rest of the pineapple, maraschino cherries, Cinnamon stick and brown sugar over the top of the ham. Don't drain the juices first, just throw it all in. Pour the liquor over everything.

Cover the roasting pan. If the cover won't go on because of the size of the ham, make a "tent" from aluminum foil that peaks over the top of the ham and is crimped onto the inside edge of the roaster. Don't leave any gaps for steam to escape, but remember that you'll need to get in to baste. The point is to trap the condensation while it's cooking so that the ham does not dry out.

Bake at 135 degrees for approx. 35 minutes for each pound (i.e. 6 hours for a 12 pound ham) Yes, this means it'll be in the oven all day! Baste at least every hour, turning the ham if possible.

Uncover and bake an additional 1/2 hour to 45 minutes, baste/spoon the juices liberally over the ham every 15 minutes.

Serve! Remove the toothpicks (the pineapple should stick on it's own at this point) and either cut off the skin or remove the cloves before serving.

Red-Eye Gravy:

Stir up the ham drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan.
you can use a spoon, baster or large-hole sieve to separate the juices and drippings from the fruit. Set aside the fruit to serve as a side dish.
Make a pot of very strong coffee. Add 1/4 cup coffee for each cup of liquid and drippings to a pot on medium-low heat.
Add flour a tablespoon at a time (or corn starch 1 tsp at a time dissolved in hot water).
Stir constantly until gravy thickens. This makes a sweet and savory gravy that goes well with ham and sweet potatoes.


The perfect use for leftover ham from this recipe is to use it, bone and all, as a base for soup. I do bean soup, but it would work as a base for potato or split-pea as well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Comfortable in my Skin

Have you ever met someone who makes you feel entirely unselfconscious? I've encountered a few in the last months, and it was the absence of the initial "once-over" look that made me aware that such a look existed.

You know the look (or at least now you'll be waiting for it). You meet someone new and there's a moment where they assess your clothes, body, shoes, income, hair and stance in a single superficial sweep, conscious or otherwise. You can see certain questions being checked off in their much does she weigh? How tall is she? What is she wearing and what does it say about her? Does she have money, a wedding ring, good/bad makeup? Are her shoes new/cheap/appropriate for her outfit? Is she trying to be trendy/goth/punk/hip/conservative in her dress?

Of course I'm of multiple minds on this. On one hand it's a perfectly normal part of human communication to use non-verbal cues to figure out how to approach people or to correctly interpret or anticipate what they say. It's such a natural part of communicating that most of us don't realize that it's missing in these days of IM and chat. We've learned, to some extent, to adapt to the lack of visual cues, but this lack is part of the reason there are so many more arguments and misunderstandings in online conversations.

On the other hand, as Samuel Clemens said, "common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen". When someone does the "once-over" look, are they filtering what they see through a collection of prejudices that includes the Calvinistic belief that I am all of the negative character traits associated with fat people? That I am lazy, stupid, etc. ? When I defy that belief, is the surprise increased because of those prejudices? (Which, one could argue, might be used to my advantage).

But, as I said, I've met a few people recently outside my regular circle of friends who met me without the usual once-over. Coincidentally, they turned out to be people I'm really drawn to, have a lot in common with, and will hopefully end up as close friends. I don't want to use the absence of the "once-over" as a magic eight ball of potential friendship at this point, but I'm going to at least pay attention to it as a barometer; one more tool when it comes to knowing how people tick.

Then again, using the absence of a superficial assessment of my personality as a superficial assessment of their personality is quite probably hypocritical of me.

Then again, I never did claim to not be a hypocrite.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Health Ramble

Is it my own shift in perspective, or is the "be thin and live forever" market beginning to lose it's edge? The same tired lines, the ever increasing desperation to sell as many magic pills as possible before someone catches on... Weight loss promises seem to be going the way of so many modern Americana trends, and commercials for weight loss now seem at home on the late night infomercial slot sandwiched between the miracle shammy and the gadget that lets you cook chicken on your carburetor. In other words, it's getting old, and it seems people are now looking for the next big thing to throw time and money at in hopes of an eternal life. Maybe if we're lucky it'll be HAES.

At what point do we realize that everyone, fat, thin, smoking, vegan, kosher and jogging, will one day die. Odds are they will also get sick first. The idea that artificial thinness somehow grants immortality or control over fate is so ridiculous that even I have problems believing that I bought it for so long.

If someone does, by some fluke, break through the barrier of immortality, we all know that it'll be some rancher in Wyoming who chain smokes and eats steak at every meal. That's how the universe works. Irony is the subtle weapon it uses to poke at our illusions of control.

In the meantime, I have gone from being able to say "I'm fat but I'm perfectly healthy" to PCOS. Which means I have to say, "There are plenty of healthy fat people, I'm just not one of them." Somehow it lacks oomph in my own mind, even though either argument will fail if someone is truly determined against the idea. It's even a bit unfair to myself, as I am relatively healthy outside of PCOS. It doesn't mean that I don't feel that my body has somehow let me down, or fear that having something wrong with me will give fat-haters an "aha!" trump in any discussion, but in all honesty I'm still generally healthy, regardless of weight. Who knows what it all means in the end, except that perhaps it never really mattered in the first place. Health has always been a red herring for the underlying issue that human beings will always need a group to feel superior over. In the absence of an official hierarchy, an unofficial one will always spring into being. At some point weight was selected in the public mind to be the basis of that hierarchy, and here we are today supporting a $50 billion weight loss industry.

That begs the question...are the thin really at the top of any social scale, or are we simply duped by industry advertising dollars into thinking they should be?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Fat Girl and Proud" Youtube video

What a nice surprise to get on Youtube and find this instead of the usual nastiness directed at fat people!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Recipe Box: Spicy Dandelion Greens (vegan)

So I've been crunching recipes for a workshop I'm doing at the Mothergrove festival next month on incorporating wild plants into cooking. I made this one last night to test the recipe, and while I overdid the red pepper a bit (I think I drank half a gallon of ice tea), it turned out surprisingly well. The taste is a bit like mustard greens or endive.

Dandelion greens are full of iron and calcium (more than spinach), vitamin C, and A. Before they produce flowers in the spring the leaves are mild and perfect for salads. After the flowers appear, the greens get bitter, but the bitterness can be alleviated by pre-boiling and tempering with sweet ingredients. The high iron content makes them a traditional medicine to treat anemia and jaundice.

Make sure to correctly identify dandelion greens, as there are several look-alikes which are not poisonous, according to field guides, but are decidedly more bitter and even a few mixed in can throw a dish. Here's a decent intro to plants that are commonly mistaken for dandelions. Hairy/spiny leaves, branching or woody stems, or leaves growing from the flower stem itself are all signs that you do not have a dandelion.

Also be sure to avoid collecting greens in lawns that have been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers not intended for food crops within the past two years. Do not collect by roadsides where runoff could contaminate the plant. Always wash wild-collected plants thoroughly before using. People with latex sensitivities may have a reaction to dandelion leaves and stems, but anyone introducing a new plant into their diet should do so slowly and cautiously in case of allergic reaction.

Spicy Dandelion Greens
4 side-dish size servings

2 lbs dandelion greens, about 8 cups by measure, which looks like many times more than you need, but the volume will shrink considerably during cooking. Discard any that are discolored or insect-eaten.

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste) or chopped chile pepper to taste.
3 medium cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional, but tasty)

3/4 cups raisins (regular or golden) if using greens harvested after flowers appear on the plant in spring. This is to offset the bitterness, so it isn't necessary if using young spring greens.

bring water with 1 tablespoon sea salt to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the greens.
wash the greens well, removing any stems left on the leaves. Cut into rough 2-inch sections cross-wise (across the leaf)
Boil greens for 4 minutes
Drain in colander and rinse well with cold water, pressing the leaves to remove as much moisture as you can.
Heat olive oil in pan or wok until hot (medium-high heat) but not smoking.
Add Garlic and sautee for 30 seconds
Add the greens, pepper, pine nuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and raisins. Sautee for three minutes or until moisture is removed from greens.
Add lemon juice and continue to sautee for an additional minute, or until greens start to crisp a bit around the edges.


If you don't have a safe source for dandelion greens nearby, you can substitute any bitter green in this recipe, including mustard greens, endive, escarole, turnip greens or chicory. The cooking time may need to be adjusted; turnip greens need to be boiled longer, endive can be just blanched or skip the boiling and go right to the pan, and so on depending on the bitterness and toughness of the greens.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Fat Experience Project

This is from an e-mail I received this week. Check out the link and be sure to give the creators feedback so that this can be a positive force in the FA community:

"The goal of the Fat Experience Project is to map the global experience of fat in a way that is human, has a face, a heart, a mind, a body and a voice. The Fat Experience Project is an oral, visual and written history project which seeks to be a humanizing force in body image activism. By collecting and sharing the many and varied stories of individuals of size, the Fat Experience Project seeks to engage with, educate, empower and enrich the lives of people of size, our allies and the world at large.

As the project grows, it will be filled with first-person, non-fiction narratives (in text, video or mp3 format) that speak to the many and varied aspects of the life lived large. Some of the content will come from interviews already gathered on an extensive 2-month road trip (with the lovely Val Garrison) in both audio and video format. Some content will come from trips on the horizon. Most content will be submitted via the website by readers such as yourself.

It is my hope that the project will be a community tool to combat prejudice/stereotype/discrimination as well as to help externalize shame so it can discussed and dissipated. The things we keep silent about are the things that do us the most harm. Shared burden is lighter. I am hoping, as well, that the project may eventually be used as a humanizing resource for fat studies and social anthropology courses.

...It is my fondest hope that, ultimately, with time and resources, this project will grow beyond a specific and exclusive fat focus and move toward addressing the many intersections of shame. "

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Off Switch

This started out as a comment on Fillyjonk's Ask Aunt Fattie post about a woman who is uncomfortable with the occasional sizist thoughts about her partner's body. After a few paragraphs I realized the comment was getting post-length, so I moved it here.

Starting off with the excerpt that really nailed the concept for me:

"Luckily, the key is not to remain untouched by prejudice, but to consciously and deliberately rise above it at every opportunity. You are not failing in your fat activism when you look at your girlfriend and the voices of a thousand magazines and TV shows and judgmental relatives trill out “is she going to eat that?” Rather, you are succeeding when your response is to shake your head and say “how ridiculous you are, tiny voices in my mind.” "

I think this is a brilliant expression of the fact that there is no magically delicious "off switch" when it comes to cultural conditioning. It is a process of constant revision. After spending a lifetime having a prejudice beaten in our heads Aldous Huxely-style, no one is expected to shake it overnight. For example, I wasn't raised to be an accepting person. I was raised with every influence geared towards turning me into a conservative Christian suburbanite WASP. Luckily some of those gears went *sproing* in time for me to do something about it, but they still pop up at inopportune moments. Ten years later I still find a lot of prejudices in me that I have to stop and confront, and a few that get past me without me even noticing until it's too late.

I believe this is an issue for a lot of people in FA. I know it is for me. There was this great tipping point where I looked FA and finally got it. Joy Nash had a lot to do with that moment, as did my Tante' who sent me books and websites to nudge me in the right direction. I suddenly realized that there was nothing inherently wrong with my body. A lot of you know what that moment felt like.

The problem is that I woke up the next morning buried under all the same old baggage. The only real difference was that I now knew it was there. Part of the self-loathing built into our cultural message is wrapped up in the complete helplessness to find any way to fix what we are told is a problem. The only solutions to our differentness, we're told, are to either force our bodies into a semblance of normalcy or, when that inevitably fails, to hide them. We work and slave and sweat in an attempt to solve "the problem" of differentness, with the increasing pressure of shame and guilt heaped on as motivation. That moment when it all clicked was not the moment I solved the problem of my differentness. It was the moment I realized it wasn't a problem.

Since the click was not universal, however, it also didn't remove all the pressure. It didn't stop the negative thoughts about my body (or other people's bodies). It didn't stop my envying thin friends. It didn't stop the built-in reactions to magazine spreads, fat jokes or diet ads. That's because no moment (or year of moments) can undo the conditioning of a lifetime. All it can do is make me aware enough to start to re-condition myself. I can tell the tiny voices they're being ridiculous, that I don't have to justify my food or clothing choices to anyone. I can start catching the judgemental little part of me that comments on the habits of others, and tell it to STFU. Every time I do, I come a little closer to not not believing what they say. But it's a process. I'm not an enlightened human being, so I have to work at it. But those bad moments (and days) when I feel like a mess and stare longingly at the smiling fakery of a Weight Watchers ad don't make me any less a Fat Acceptance activist. Our culture is eerily efficient at creating shame and guilt from natural processes like that, and we don't have to buy into it. The bad moments don't make me a failure; they make me a human being. One that's still learning.

I don't honestly think there will ever be a day when I stop being aware of my differentness, or stop wanting (on some level) to go back to trying to fix it. But when the good moments outnumber the bad, I think I'll call it a win.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I had a good ride today. It's been almost a week since I've been out, but it was hot enough that I left the saddle in the barn and rode a long bareback ramble through the lanes of the deserted christmas tree farm behind the stable property.

Riding bareback is a matter of balance. You ride with an awareness of the center of your body, and balance your center over that of the horse as it moves. It's a form of meditation in motion. As I rode along, belting out The Hedgehog Song to the miles of open air, I thought about the myth of the clumsy fat person.

Occasionally there is a thin person who wonders how it is to be fat. They don a heavy padded suit (usually for the benefit of cameras) and try to move through the world under the honest mis-assumption that they are somehow gaining the perspective of what it feels like to be fat. It feels horrible and unnatural, this thick envelope of sensory-dead stuffing isolating them from the world. Their skin no longer gives them cues of space, motion, heat or cold. The thousands of small motions of balance and posture their bodies perform without their awareness are useless against the unfamiliar weight in unfamiliar places. They feel monstrous, clumsy, humiliated, and alien. They then take off the suit with great relief and continue through the world with a renewed sense of how terrible it must be to live like that every day. The problem is that they haven't actually learned anything.

I grew up fat; I haven't been thin since my black-irish genes kicked in around third grade and turned me from a thin blond to a fat brunette. What the person in the fat suit doesn't realize is that if they wore the suit every day of their adult life, it wouldn't be awkward or alien (unless they wash it, of course, it will begin to smell...opening up an entirely different discussion of fat stereotype). I grew into my fat body and learned it's strengths, movements, reach and ability just as any other teenager would. I don't wear my fat as a suit, but as part of me. I don't have to think about the extra effort to move, because it isn't extra effort to me. My body knows how to move and balance because it has developed all the unconscious and necessary thousands of tiny motions it requires. It has done so exactly as a thin body would.

My point is that those who try to simulate, or even imagine what it's like to be fat may simply be unable to do so. A naturally thin person would be awkward and uncomfortable if they were fat because their body has developed into a shape they are accustomed to and has no idea how to accomodate the change. Likewise for the naturally fat person who found herself suddenly thin. The body would have to re-learn how to move and react and balance, just as it did in puberty. That's why, for all the fantasy potential, I don't think I could even imagine myself as a thin adult. My body only knows what it has learned.

A girl once raised my eyebrows and ire with the question "don't you feel handicapped with all that fat?" Putting aside the more complicated response to her rather awkward vocabulary, I'll respond to her real question. Do I feel like I have some dead, awkward envelope of fake padding restricting my movements and throwing me off balance? The answer is no. I have my body, which I've known all my life. It is living, sensing, reacting flesh all the way to the skin. I know how it balances. I know how it moves. I know where my center is.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Think Tank

The Think Tank is tomorrow, but for all those I'd hoped and planned on meeting it turns out I'm too sick to go. The last thing I want to do is drive three hours and share bronchitis around the FA community (not to mention ten strangers sleeping in the hostel room with me).

So I won't make it :-( but I do hope to see reports from those who do and I'll check the twitter stream between Nyquil doses.


Well I'm officially dipping into my summer break-from-blogging with this post, but I need to check in to the Fatosphere for some information.

I know there's a few readers out there with PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome), so I'm hoping for some direction. It isn't certain yet, but the doctors are looking at it as the most likely eventual diagnosis for me and approaching it accordingly. The problem is that every website I can find seems to indicate that you can't effectively treat PCOS without weight loss (which makes me say hmmmm....since, like diabetes, thin women get it too), or low-carb dieting.

The usual "losing just 10% of body weight cures most of the symptoms!" garbage is prevalent on official websites like Mayo Clinic and WebMD, without any clinical information to show whether the improvement is from the actual loss of fat tissue, or the exercise and arugula-eating the person engaged in to lose the fat tissue.

For those who are already struggling to balance Fat Acceptance, HAES (Health at Every Size) and PCOS, are there any books or websites you'd recommend that are light on or free of the weight loss mantra, and possibly advocate holistic therapies? I'd really appreciate some recommendations to get started. My doctor recommended the book by Samuel Thatcher (PCOS; the Hidden Epidemic). Does anyone have an opinion on the book?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hands in the Dirt

I've been neglecting the internet pretty badly lately, but it feels so good to get my hands in the dirt that I've been letting almost everything else slide (even the horses!). I've got three new garden beds dug and planted for herbs, and the final one dug and ready to plant tomorrow after the frost warning has passed. Quite a few of what I'm planting are simply weeds in disguise, having sprouted up in my lawn between mowings (to the chagrin of my Tru-Green neighbors!)One example is a beautiful crop of first year Mullein. I've moved them from my yard to pots so that I can harvest a few leaves at a time throughout the summer.

I left one in the ground for Fred the rabbit to nibble on. He's moved into my brush pile and sits unconcernedly by my front door when I come out each morning. So far he's leaving my potted mullein alone in favor of the wild, but he did sample my newly planted sage almost to the ground.

My other "weed" finds that I've moved to pots for various reasons include Five-Finger Grass (Cinquefoil) (no, it's not related to Cannabis),

a beautiful spread of Star of Bethlehem by my shed

a great spread of sweet-rocket from the ditch by my office, a spread of violets in march, and a few as-yet unidentified wildflowers I've saved from the lawnmower in hopes of transplanting after their blooms are gone.

The satisfaction of working on my own land, the meditation of studying the changes of the season, the back-breaking sweaty hours of digging, raking, hauling and mulching, and the good old fashioned kid-like joy of playing barefoot in the dirt are all so very good for me. Especially since health issues have kept me from being able to do Yoga for the last two months. I've started a Dandelion tincture brewing for detox, and transplated a stray Raspberry cane that escaped via rhizome from a friend's garden, in hopes of starting a Raspberry leaf tincture as well. The store-bought version seems to be helping my health issues quite a bit, but I hate to pay $12 a bottle for something I can make.

Once I'm done getting my dirt fix I do plan to get back on track with FA, this blog, the COFRA site, and all my other social comittments. Until then, I leave you a moment of zen a la Wizard of Oz. The hairy-looking alien pods have opened, and my "leave it alone and see what pops up" garden is once again in a profusion of (non-narcotic) poppies. I got pictures tonight in case the frost wipes them out. They're very pretty, but incredibly delicate.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Recipe Box: Strawberry-Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

The Rhubarb is coming the Rhubarb is coming!

In Michigan it's the season for cheap/free produce, as the Rhubarb explodes out of everyone's garden until it overflows all the freezers and jams and pies their owners can handle. One of my best friends and her family just inherited a massive overgrown garden with their new house, and they are loving the surprises popping up this spring. She has giant bush-like rhubarb plants producing enough to fill three freezers, so she graciously bestowed a pile on me just as I was racking my brain for something to make for our office's annual cake-off. In a Michigan summer twist (not that I'm claiming rhubarb is specific to Michigan) I made strawberry-rhubarb upside-down cake. Yes, I cheated by using a box cake instead of scratch, but that's the problem with baking projects on a weeknight. Between the baking and the digging (since I got some Raspberry canes to plant along with the gift of Rhubarb) I was up until midnight. I jittered myself up with coffee and ended up in a three-way tie for first place at the Cake-Off the next morning. I didn't use any of my own votes (you pay 25 cents for each slice and vote), but I'm wondering if it really would have felt like an empty victory if I had :-)

Strawberry Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake (aka Spring Flip):


1 box french vanilla cake mix (Supermoist or pudding cake mix)

Ingredients to prepare cake mix per directions on box (typically 3 eggs, oil and water)

2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb (½ inch to 1 inch pieces). The Rhubarb doesn’t need to be completely peeled, but it helps to strip off any tough or stringy skin you might find on older/larger pieces.

2 cups plus ½ cup sliced fresh sweet strawberries

1 cup (packed) light brown cane sugar

1/3 cup butter

9x12 glass baking dish with at least 2” high sides (an extra inch or two higher is even better)

Optional variations: you can include one or more of the following if you’d like, or come up with your own variation. (If adding more fresh fruit or liquid, be sure to balance it by adding dry ingredients such as flour and sugar):
  • ½-1 cup pecan halves or pieces
  • cinnamon or nutmeg (to taste)
  • ½ - ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut


Preheat oven to 350

Put butter in glass pan in oven to melt (careful not to let it scorch)

Prepare cake batter per directions on box, subtracting 2 Tablespoons of water from the ingredients called for and adding ½ cup sliced strawberries. Beat the strawberries into the mix well so that they break up and distribute evenly.

When the butter has melted in the dish remove it from the oven. Make sure the butter has coated the bottom of the dish evenly.

Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the butter at the bottom of the baking dish

Layer 2 cups of strawberries on the brown sugar

Sprinkle 2 cups chopped rhubarb over the strawberries

Sprinkle any optional ingredients over the rhubarb

Press ingredients gently down into the brown sugar

Pour the cake batter over the layers in the baking dish (there might be some left after the dish is full. You can make a cupcake or two, or discard)

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes

If the cake is firm down to the fruit and doesn't "jiggle" with movement, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, skip to the next step. If it isn't done yet, run a butter knife around the edge of the dish to separate the cake from the sides. This allows moisture to escape so that the fruit cooks down properly. Reduce oven to 325 and bake an additional 20-40 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven until fruit is bubbling up the sides, the cake is firm without “jiggling” when you move it, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Place a cookie sheet or heatproof serving tray over the top of the baking dish.

Holding the cookie sheet or tray firmly against the baking dish, flip them both over so that the dish and cake are resting upside down on the tray.

Let sit without removing the dish for at least 30 minutes to allow all the fruit to drop and the cake to keep the shape while cooling.

Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream or whip cream.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Letter to Torrid

Dear Torrid Executives:

As a formerly eager customer, I would like to express disappointment in your decision to be involved with a contest featuring a "boot-camp" for weight loss. Losing weight rapidly is not only untenable in the long-run, but unhealthy for the participants both physically and psychologically. I don't understand how a store purporting to serve a customer base that is comfortable and confident in their bodies can support a program that teaches them, as all diets do, that their bodies are unacceptable and objects of shame. If you don't want large women to accept their bodies as they are, why do you choose to serve them as a demographic? If you want, as your clothes suggest, large women to feel confident in themselves as people, why would you choose to suddenly sell them out to the media industry that survives primarily by a constant reinforcement of self-loathing in women and girls? Supporting that media and it's ideals of body-hatred through weight loss is a betrayal of your customers' trust.

I do love your clothing line, but I have made the difficult decision to no longer give any of my business to support a company that tries to sell me clothing while telling me my body is not an acceptable shape to wear that clothing. I cannot support a company that asks women to wear the symbols of confidence in their bodies while it in turn supports a contest promoting the objectification and manipulation of women by telling them the shape of their bodies is more important than the achievements of their minds or skills.

If your company would be willing to cut ties with this contest and no longer support any promotion of dieting or body-hatred, I would be happy to bring my business back to your stores. Please consider the long-term effects of your actions, and whether the loyalty of your customer base is more important than any fleeting profits you may realize by selling their trust.


Susan Conklin

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How to Contact Torrid

For those who haven't been following, Torrid has made the disappointing decision to participate in a contest involving boot-camp-style weight loss for women interested in plus-size modeling.

Big Fat Blog has covered this issue in detail, including the original Craig's List post asking for fat women with "pretty faces" to participate in their weight-loss regime in order to be pretty enough to wear clothes.

There's also a response on Hyde and Seek, and a discussion on Fatshionista where they've posted some of the responses they've received from Torrid trying to justify their actions.

If you'd like to write and let Torrid know what you think about their decision to be involved in this contest and encourage unhealthy dieting in their customers, please write to:

Torrid Headquarters
18305 E. San Jose Avenue
City of Industry, CA 91748 USA

You can also E-mail them from their customer service page, but remember that a written letter will always be taken more seriously than e-mail.

For tips on how to write a good protest letter, see NAAFA's list here.

I'll be putting a letter together in the next couple of days that others can use as a template, but remember that original letters will always be more effective than form letters. You don't have to be the most eloquent or erudite person in the world to let the company know you're disappointed in them! Just simply say so. You can include one of the NAAFA brochures , or quote (with credit to the original author) some of the information you've read on blogs and websites to say why dieting is dangerous and ineffective in the long-term.

Even if you just send a short paragraph, your voice needs to be heard by Torrid, so that they know they can't pretend to serve their market while despising it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Send a single mother to Disneyland (part 2)

A few weeks ago, I posted a request for your help in sending a hardworking single mom to Disneyland via KMEL's Bay Babes baby photo contest. I've heard now that she's made it to the final round! If you're interested in helping again, please go to the KMEL website at and vote for

23) Jazmyne-2

Enter your e-mail address and respond to the confirmation e-mail they send you. You can vote once per day.

If there are multiple people voting at the same computer from multiple e-mail addresses you'll have to clear your browser cache between voting.

The mother and kids are over the moon at the chance to have a summer vacation! Thanks to anyone who'd like to help.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Book Review: "Thinner Than Thou"

Book Review: Thinner Than Thou, by Kit Reed

A novel about a dystopic semi-future where youth and thinness has displaced religion as the moral guide in the U.S. The primary "church of thin" is a multi-billion dollar conglomerate of products and clinics claiming to cure both fat and age. It has all the trappings of the modern church including a charismatic prophet of thin who preaches via infomercial and recruit converts willing to give up most of their worldly assets in the pursuit of the new norm of physical perfection. A cadre of mysterious nun-like "sisters" carry out secret operations to save those who refuse to conform, and chains of "scarf and barf" eateries offer a distinctly Roman outlet for suppressed urges. Of course any rigid society creates a fringe, and in this world there are two. The first is the complete fetishization of food and fat. There's the furious and serious national sport of eating competitions, and the pornographic "Jumbo Jigglers" clubs, where clients pay to watch fat people consume huge amounts of food. The second is the secret society of former religious leaders who have banded together, Catholic, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist, to create underground railroads and cadres of believers.

The plot centers around an anorexic teenage girl who is put in the hands of the mysterious "Sisters" for rehabilitation. Her outraged brother and sister (twins) and boyfriend set out on a cross-country search to find her and rescue her from their hands. A secondary plot centers around a writer who commits himself to a weight-loss internment camp run by the prophet of the new church.

Let me start out with the caveat that I read a lot of classical literature. That tends to make me interpret modern novels harshly when it comes to voice and characters. That said, I was irritated at the campy-teen dialogue in the book, along the lines of "Like, totally! Way! No way! Dude! Awesome!" Then again, I don't know many teenagers, so they may actually only talk that way. It was just jarring. The dialogue, with the exception of a few speeches, was stilted and often awkward.

The setting is the real strength of the book. The author describes a world where religion is sacrificed to youth and beauty, because the worship of youth and the contemplation of death are seen as mutually exclusive. The elderly are a problem not in terms of support, but in terms of concealment so as to not remind the world of time's inevitable result. Details like these are brilliant.

My biggest struggle with the book is deciding whether it really glorifies eating disorders. The main character is anorexic, and while those with anorexia may be able to relate to the character's motives and history, the book sets her up as a heroine for maintaining her disorder against the efforts of her rehabilitators. Granted the rehabilitators' methods are medieval, but nothing in the novel really dispels the impression that the girl is anything but daring and independent for challenging the status quo and overcoming every power of the institution by refusing to eat. Any question of her recovery is forgotten amongst the rest of the (otherwise Spielberg-like) ending. Yes, it's a dystopic fantasy and there is an argument for realism, but I wouldn't want my (completely theoretical) teenage daughter to read the detailed instructions for hiding anorexic symptoms from friends and family.

On the other end of the ED spectrum in this book lies the strongest objection I have against the book; Every single fat person in the book is portrayed as a compulsive eater. There are detailed scenes of one-dimensional immobile straw fatties who weep at their inability to stop as they eat an entire roast pig and several entire cakes provided by fetishists. More detail is devoted to the description of pork fat dripping down a fat person's chin or the fat folds of a pink organza-wrapped immobile dehumanized fat person than is given to the development or description of any of the main characters. Fat characters in the novel frequently have to buy love, friendship and/or physical affection with food. The fantasy around the fetishization of fat and food is explained as the desire to let one's self "go" in an overcontrolled society, rather than a natural feature one can't really permanently change. They are also, to highlight one of my own pet peeves, described at least twice as having "such a pretty face."

Now that could be tongue-in-cheek, but the problem with tongue-in-cheek is that only those in on the joke will recognize it as such. The average person reading the book may gain some sympathy, but I doubt they will walk away with any fewer fat stereotypes. While the book does drive home awareness of the current unhealthy obsession with thin and possibly promote some awareness of eating disorders, I don't think it really does much to advance FA.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Recipe Box: Garlic Mustard

Most of the midwest, northwest and east coast states are now dealing with a severely invasive non-native plant that takes over any disturbed soil in partial sun or shaded areas such as woodlands, roadsides and vacant lots. Garlic mustard was introduced by european settlers and has spread wild as a weed anywhere it can establish itself, including my backyard in Michigan.

Garlic Mustard may be a weed, but it's also medicinal (which is why settlers brought it in the first place). The leaves are antiseptic and can be used on humans to treat everything from cuts and scrapes to acne and itchy bug bites. The root can be cooked in oil and applied to the chest for lung complaints like bronchitis.
The leaves are edible, with a flavor somewhere between garlic and onion. The young leaves are less bitter and can be added in small quanities to salads. The older/larger leaves make a great herb in soups, marinades and dry rubs, especially for game (venison, game birds, etc) but also beef and chicken.
I love that spring offers new ways to experiment with ingredients you can't get at the store! It's important, however, to gather from areas free of pesticides or other pollutants, and preferably at least 1/4 mile from the side of roads. Make sure there's no poison ivy growing amongst the garlic mustard plants. Wash the plant thoroughly before using or drying. Also make very sure that you have the correct plant, since there are a few that look similar.
The most common recipes you'll find for Garlic Mustard are pestos, as the bitterness of the leaf goes very well in the flavors of a good pesto sauce. There's plenty of recipes at:

which is the annual Garlic Mustard challenge held in Maryland. A google search also comes up with some fantastic recipes to use this invasive weed in various recipes.

I've got several bunches hanging to dry, and hopefully will have a nice stock for the rest of the year :-) I have a feeling it'll work very well in a wild rice pilaf!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The latest greatest diet: Rotavirus

The gist of a conversation overheard by my desk at work:

Woman: The doctor said I have viral gastroenteritis. I just can't keep
anything in me so I'm pretty much on clear liquids.

Man: That can't be good.

Woman: Actually I've lost 8 pounds so far! It's not how I'd choose to
do it, but I sure did need it.

Man: Well then, at least something good's come of it.

Ok let's bypass the part where this woman is at work with an incredibly contagious disease and touching all the office equipment (phone, copier, postage meter, etc.) that I and others (including several pregnant women) have to use. Let's even bypass the part where she could have at least sprung for some clorox wipes to carry around and wipe down any common surfaces she touches. That's a lot to expect anyways from someone who doesn't even wash their hands after using the bathroom (whole 'nother rant). Let's jump right to the part where she's happy she contracted this horribly contagious, very uncomfortable disease that provokes constant and violent episodes of diarrhea....simply because she's 8 pounds lighter.

Are you f***ing kidding me!?

First of all, it's probably water weight from the dehydration of diarrhea. Secondly, there's no way of maintaining weight lost from a forced starvation liquid diet and the equivalent of a laxative purge. Thirdly, has the myth of thin=health really gotten so bad that people would rather be very slightly and unnoticably thinner than, say, not trapped in a bathroom fighting intestinal cramps and liquid poo?

Serious and absolute *headdesk*

The man never even blinked at the idea that being a whole 8 pounds lighter was a benefit outweighing the drawbacks of Rotavirus. Who ever said that the myth of thin doesn't cross gender lines?

It's also creeping me out considerably that this non-hand-washing disease carrier had just been sitting at my desk, using my computer, touching my phone and keyboard while I ran an errand for her division. My IRL friends will now be laughing at the mental image of a Zim-like episode involving lysol and a full-body biohazard suit.

Must now bathe my keyboard and mouse in rubbing alcohol.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Appreciation for my body

Yesterday I found yet another reason to appreciate my body and all it can do.

For the non-horsey folks, let me explain that "longeing" a horse means to ask them to move in a circle around you at the end of a long flat nylon rope called a longe line (Americans tend to spell it phonetically, i.e. "lunge" line). I was longeing Sunshine (a Belgian draft horse) and when I asked her to trot she decided she'd rather have a freak-out and bolted away at a gallop. That's usually the point at which people either let go of the line (and hope the horse doesn't step on it and break their neck/leg since the other end is attached to the side of their head) or get pulled right off their feet and dragged across the field. I'm not used to letting go (yeah yeah, Freudian much?) so I just took a good grip, dug my heels in and threw my weight backwards and down against the weight of the horse. Of course, no human being can really win a tug-of-war with a 2000 pound scared animal who's really determined to go away. On the other hand, if a horse is well trained, they may stop if they feel enough resistance to be convinced that they're attached to a stationary object.

I can apparently be a very stationary object when I want to be.

She actually ended up repeating the trick a few minutes later, which tells me that she's so used to it working (and consequently getting back to the barn and not having to work anymore) that it's more a show than an actual panic. After the second runaway (where she actually managed to drag me a few steps before stopping) she was very well behaved. I think a few more sessions of "who's the boss" and her manners on the ground will improve considerably.

The point is that I very much believe that if I were the medical world's "ideal weight" I would have been face down spitting dirt and watching the horse disappear through the gate. As it is, I thank the powers that be that I took some online advice and wore gloves, otherwise I'd be out several layers of skin. It was my weight that made the difference in winning that particular contest. I've been fat all my life so I rarely take notice of how much I use my weight or my fat to physical advantage in life. The difference Fat Acceptance has made is in noticing how much my body does for me. I have hips and a belly to balance heavy boxes when I need a hand free. I have strong legs to climb with, strong arms to lift with. I have a butt to pad my falls and thighs to wedge against heavy furniture when it needs moving. I have 300+ pounds of living anchor to drag a bolting draft horse to a stand-still.

What wonderful gifts to have!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alternative Healing

I'm interested to hear if any of my readers have explored alternative medicines or therapies, either through mistrust of the current medical practices or to avoid a fat-hating doctor.

For example, many of the women I know (including myself) will exhaust herbal options before setting foot in a doctor's office (mmm...sage honey cough syrup...). I also know a few people who have become disgusted with their doctors and turned to acupressure, massage therapy and Reiki energy healing with various levels of success.

I'm not putting any sort of value judgement on any system. There are, sadly, very bad doctors out there. There are also very good ones if people have the means to seek them out. Just as there are quacks, thieves, and talented and ethical healers amongst most alternative therapies. Perhaps the reason so many fat people turn to the alternatives is that they feel the holistic therapies are more likely to treat them as an entire person instead of a BMI. Possibly there's also a perk in that I've never met a Reiki master that insisted their clients step on a scale before pulling out the chakra crystals. Either way, I believe that the growing popularity (and insurance support) of alternative therapies might actually get more fat people to seek some form of diagnosis and treatment in good time instead of too late. Perhaps one of the more important purposes of the FA movement is to convince us that we do not deserve to live with pain or illness. Once we can convince every human being that every other human being has a right to equal access to medicine (regardless of weight, age, color or socioeconomic bracket) I think it will narrow many equality gaps in our society.

In the meantime, every doctor should be required to read the blog "First Do No Harm" before they're allowed to venture into the world of human beings. It may remind them that their patients and they are the same species.

Friday, April 18, 2008

CEDNEC AWARD: Your fat makes you fat?

In what I consider the pinnacle of Ouroboros logic, today's CEDNEC award goes to a group of scientists who have declared that being fat is what makes people fat.

Proving that stupid news races around the world much faster than the beleaguered Olympic Torch, the story comes from Popular Science, The BBC, and CTV British Columbia. Each features the requisite scare-pic that have become almost stock; a headless fat caucasian belly in as unflattering a pose as possible. At least Popular science shows some originality here; their picture is a closeup of frying bacon that will turn any vegetarian an interesting shade of green. Even the fat ones :-)

The Canadian researchers claim that abdominal fat cells produce a hormone (Neuropeptide Y, dubbed NPY). They claim that "NPY increases fat cell number by stimulating the replication of fat cell precursor cells, which then change into fat cells."

Their theory is that this appetite-stimulating hormone is released by the belly fat, triggering excess hunger, causing the fat person to overeat, creating more fat from the precursor cells created by the NPY.

The researchers are, apparently, all ways of giggly over the "possible therapeutic applications" of this discovery (i.e. drugs that block NPY production or uptake, i.e. appetite suppressants).

I don't even know where to begin with this one. Maybe the entire underlying premise that fat people eat more than thin people? Maybe. That's a good start at any rate. Many studies have actually started out with the determined intention to prove that fat people eat more (on average) than thin people, but could not do so. Of course we all know (either personally or anecdotal) a fat person who does eat a lot. We also know a thin person who can pack away four-square plus snacks and never put on an extra pound. That's what "on average means." But, of course, these researches must have some secret hidden (unreferenced) knowledge that shows every fat person secretly binges hourly on cartons of baby-flavored donuts cooked in bacon fat and topped with double cream...all in the thralls of overactive appetite hormones. My goodness, all this time and what we really needed was another unproven, theoretical new appetite suppressant. Because anorectics are such an innovative and never-before-tried method of losing weight. And oh-so effective. Evidenced, of course, by the fact that they've been around for over a century and look at how fewer fat people there are.

Oh, and I love how they assume actual binge-disorder eating has anything to do with physical hunger. What are these, high-school biology students?

But effectiveness has rarely stopped the pharmaceutical diet industry, and when the research institute behind the study (Lawson Health Research Institute) lists it's "Worldwide Business and Industry Partners" as: "including large corporations such as Bayer, Eli Lilly, Fujisawa, GE Medical, GlaxoSmithKline Inc, Medtronic, Merck Frosst Canada, Novartis, Pfizer, Schering...." You really have to wonder whether the science behind this was ever actually intended to be disinterested.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A point for Miss Conduct

Still hacking up bits of alveoli this morning, so I was happy to find a positive note for my post today in catching up on the weekend's media. As someone who generally doesn't follow advice columns, I find myself an increasingly loyal fan of the Boston Globe's "Miss Conduct". The advice in the column has found a stronger voice in the most recent writer and most advice boils down to the ever-essential but often-forgotten "Don't be an AssHat" as a solution for most social quandaries. Of course, she puts it more politely. She also, as a rarity amongst any media reps these days, extends the "Don't be an AssHat" policy to fat people.

For instance, in this week's column she addresses a letter from a woman who writes with great concern that her son has put on weight since meeting his girlfriend four years ago, despite everything she (the mother) has done to pressure him into staying thin. Miss Conduct's response?

"You can either have a fat son who loves and trusts you, or a fat son who
sees you as the enemy. Your choice."

In other words....another adult human being's body is none of your business, even if you happen to share some genetic coding with it. You have no control over it, so you can either accept that person's body or remove yourself from the equation. That's it. Your actions and your words are the only thing you can control in life, and you have complete and total responsibility for them. Hence, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" (-Eleanor Roosevelt) but any inferiority you try to thrust upon others is yours to own as well.

Essentially? "Don't be an AssHat".

The son and his girlfriend certainly sound like they're in FA...anybody recognize the mom?

Monday, April 14, 2008

OT: The Plague

The gap in recent posts is due to my having contracted the plague and died.

Ok, so I'm only mostly dead, and the plague is really the flu that's made the rounds of my office only to land squarely upon my head in time for the weekend. Other then a few forays out into the wilds for Nyquil and fruit juice I've been pretty much stuck inside since Friday. The good news is that I finally read the collected works of Willa Cather that I've been meaning to get to since last Christmas, and finished "The Count of Monte Cristo." The bad news is that the only book I have left unread in the house is something I picked up at a yard sale because it was only 10 cents and mentioned the Magna Charter on the dustcover. I started to read it this morning, but the author used both "scurvy knave" and "dastardly cur" in cold blood within a paragraph of each other. I threw it rather violently across the room and took more Nyquil. Maybe I'll pull out Ayn Rand later...I'm already bitter and cranky so it can't do me any further harm.


So in lieu of something more profound or activist-oriented....I'll just refer you to Ottermatic and her video of cute baby otters doing cute baby otter things. It's like Theraflu for the soul.

Also? Sneezing Panda. This never stops being funny, even after a year.

Friday, April 11, 2008

OT: Send a single mom to Disneyland

As forwarded from my Tante', I'm putting a request out for folks to help a hardworking single mom in the Bay area win a trip to Disneyland. She's had a hard year and because she raises her kids all by herself she rarely gets to treat herself or them to a vacation. Now she's entered in the 106KMEL Bay Baby contest. You don't have to live in the Bay area to vote. If you'd like to participate, go to:

Scroll down to the voting galleries and click on gallery 10 (Jan-Jer).

You can scroll through the babies, or just click on the "vote for me click here" on any baby's picture. You'll get a list, and you're looking for "Jazmyne-2" at number 44. Click on the button next to her name, enter your e-mail address and submit.

I can imagine very few things harder than being a single mom without the ability to give the kids all the fun stuff other kids have (and that I had growing up). You can vote every day, so if you're interested, please take a moment to do so!

Blackburn grandmother refused operation

The Blackburn Citizen posted an article on a local woman being denied surgery because of her weight. Apparently the doctors felt it was less of a "health risk" to send her home to live on high levels of daily morphine doses than to figure out the correct anaesthesia for a woman who weighed a whole 238 pounds. Oddly enough, the doctors who gave her a hernia operation two years ago didn't think she was too fat to operate on at 280 pounds. In fact, the same hospital didn't have a problem 9 months ago when her original surgery date was only bumped when they discovered she was anaemic. Now she's suddenly "too fat" by the opinion of one doctor, and being tossed out of the hospital to get by as she can at home. Apparently now that there's an "epidemic" on, doctors have to save all the medicine for the thin people. In the meantime, the hospital chose to discharge the woman without explaining exactly how she was expected to lose 3 stone (42 pounds) while in constant pain from kidney nodules and cervical cysts, plus suffering from asthma.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The beginning of the end for medicinalized food?

In response to the ballooning trend of translating food into medicine, The U.S. World and News Report has brandished a rather hefty pin.

Last time I went to the overpriced supermarket nearest my neighborhood, I remembered again why it was worth visiting. Not that I needed to pay $6.00 for a bottle of shampoo, but the produce section is full of such pre-season temptations as lemon plums and papaya. Last time I visited they had little cards set up over the displays suggesting how to best prepare the more exotic fruits n' veg, but also little takeaway recipe cards featuring the food. A genius of marketing, if you ask me, since the recipe card has a nice shopping list of all the other ingredients which the store has thoughtfully stocked. This time, however, the recipe cards were gone. Instead there were blazing neon signs advocating some minute nutrient of the food that cured everything from dandruff to cancer in small, highly selective "clinical" trials. Very annoying. Personally? I don't peruse the store with the thought of "what would go better with roast beef, beta carotene or lycopene?" I'm pretty sure I don't know anybody who does, either. (Although I might be surprised, I know some strange people).

What this new article from the U.S. News and World Report points out is that when the trials were expanded, nutrients extracted from the original natural substance (like beta carotene pills instead of whole carrots), not only did these medicinalized nutrients fail to live up to their claims to help; they often caused actual harm:

"The poster child is beta carotene, which not only didn't stave off lung
but actually appeared to increase rates of the disease among
smokers. (A similar outcome was reported earlier this year with
.) "

Of course, the problem is that the issue is worked into an article that is, primarily, about weight loss. The article talks primarily about the trend away from individual nutrients in food, and more towards the wholesale appropriation of a particular culture's diet. I find it ironic that the same people who would scorn the belief behind the voodoo doll would wholeheartedly embrace the modern witchcraft of "If I eat like this person, I can become them."

""You find out who's healthy, then ask what they're eating and how much
they exercise," says K. Dun Gifford, founder and president of Oldways
Preservation Trust, the Boston-based food issues think tank that developed the
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. "

Since there's kitchen-witches hedge-witches, I suggest we could coin this new breed the "health-witch". They concoct bubbling blender brews of the blood of blueberries and curdled milk (i.e. yogurt). They chant affirmations into a lighted mirror at twighlight, dress all in (slimming) black and inscribe their darkest secrets and arcane recipes into the grimoires they call food diaries; all in search of immortality.

Not all of them have cats :-)

To think that we can adopt the genetic code of a group of people by adopting their food is, at best, silly. Even to someone who honestly thinks that directing energy into a poppet and a candle can help someone overcome health issues.

"So, is it that easy: We all just have to eat like the Greeks (or the
Vietnamese, or the ancient Maya)? Well, yes and no. First, most of the evidence
comes from observation, not rigorous scientific trials, so it doesn't prove
cause and effect. "

What's that? A whiff of logic? in an article about dieting? Whodathunkit? Pity it's so scarce.

(Before anyone gets tetchy, I DO believe in voodoo dolls. I also believe in the efficacy of healing rituals, if they're done well. I've never claimed to not be a hypocrite. I also believe it's healthy to poke a little irony at your own beliefs every once in a while.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

OT: Jo At Work

You know, I've been really playing with the idea of learning how to draw so that I can translate some of the funnier episodes at work into a comic strip. It would be vaguely like Dilbert from the perspective of the receptionist. I even have a title for it: Jo at Work. I've got a few gems scripted out, like the day the boss asked me to send an e-mail to let everybody know that our power was out.

Get it?
True story.

I hope I can swipe Kate's *Headdesk*. Maybe she'll let me pay royalties in pumpkin bread.

But then I found this, and wondered if my comic strip was even necessary, when Dilbert says it so well:

Hmm...maybe I'll wait until we work the kinks out of our idea to pitch a sequel to "The Office" and use all the brain-killing administrative tales for episode filler. The sequel is tentatively named "The Regulators," and feature a lowly field office of a "purely fictional" environmental protection agency. Basically like "The Office", but where you get to go with the inspectors as they don hip boots and slog through a wetland looking for endangered species while hoping some pissed off golf course developer doesn't show up with a shotgun.

Great comedic moments will include contractors who submit their applications and construction plans in crayon, a budget that doesn't allow us to turn half the lights on or buy paper towels for the bathrooms, and screaming crazies who think the mafia is poisoning their drinking water. We've got the first season without even beginning to make stuff up.

I think it might just be a hit with the right casting. I demand Hugh Laurie!

But then, who doesn't?

Narf :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Velvet D'amour interview!

Velvet D'amour, the groundbreaking model for Jean-Paul Gaultier was interviewed yesterday by GMTV. They cover quite a bit of ground in the interview, including her career and her view of the modeling industry. My favorite line from the interview, which is going in my quotes is:

"I am not about getting rid of thin models, what I am about is diversifying
our notion of beauty so that it is more inclusive because I feel at present
there are so many people who suffer due to an unattainable beauty ideal."

At 6' and around 300 pounds, Velvet holds her own on the runway against any woman, big or small. It's so good, then, to hear her talk about embracing diversity of all kinds in fashion, to better reflect the actual world we live in. Why shouldn't fashion reflect the world, fat, thin, and everything in between?

There's always a misunderstanding when others see a movement that there must inherently be an enemy with a face. Pursuing humane treatment and equality for fat people doesn't mean I hate thin people (although I'm not especially crazy about people who want to make me thin), any more than being a feminist is about hating men. An elevation achieved on the heads of others is always an imperfect and temporary elevation. Any pursuit of civil rights (or even just civil behaviour) cannot succeed by violating the civil rights of others. That's why hate (of fat, thin, male, female, etc.) is self-defeating when asking others to not hate you. For anyone to be human and comfortable in their body regardless of size, all sizes of bodies must be treated with respect.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Thin is the new Fat

Well it's official, even thin people are too fat. A Washington Post article explains why even thin people can be secretly fat, or as they label it, have "normal weight obesity."

"Lopez-Jimenez said the study shows that just because your weight may be normal for your size, it doesn't mean you aren't at risk for heart disease and diabetes. "

hmmmm....I do understand that stigma dies hard, and the obesity panic is so ingrained in the health researcher psyche that it constitutes an unhealthy obsession, but couldn't they just as easily take from this study the conclusion that since thin people get these diseases as well, fat doesn't actually CAUSE heart disease and diabetes? That there's some other cause unrelated to body composition (like, say, genetics or lifestyle?)

Sadly, that more obvious conclusion goes whizzing over the heads of reporter and researcher alike. Instead of eliminating fat stigma, they're simply going to extend it to include anyone with any body fat at all:

"Even a small amount of extra fat where it matters most can wreak metabolic havoc, increasing risk for diabetes and heart disease, while leaving you with a body weight that looks perfectly innocent," Katz said. "Excess body fat in the belly is a menace, whatever your weight. This study should sensitize patients and providers alike to this concern."

Sensitize = make paranoid? Seriously, at what point does society “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let loose the dogs of war”? When will the average person realize it's gone too far, that everyone's going to die eventually, and no measure of obsession with fat or health will make one immune? When everyone is starved into an "acceptable" 10% body fat?

All I know is, the more people they push under the fat umbrella, the more will eventually push back with the sudden realization that instead of numbers, they're talking about you.

"One expert agrees that normal body weight is not synonymous with good health. "

Absolutely, my dear anonymous "expert." but with the opposite meaning you intend it. One more step will get you, I'll even help. Repeat after me: "...and therefore, high body weight is not synonymous with poor health." Atta boy. You'll get there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

2008 NOLOSE Conference!

I have no idea how many of my readers are queer, bi or trans women, but for those who are, I wanted to pass this on!

The date has been set! Mark your calendars for:


September 26th through the 28th (Friday-Sunday).

Meet us by the pool at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Northampton, Massachusetts for a weekend packed with fattastic fun, food, friends and other good stuff! We're all hard at work, planning to make this year's conference the best ever! There are a lot of exciting things in the works. The Clarion has charm, a great location and a staff that is already excited to hang out with all of us. As always, choosing a venue was no easy feat. We have a very diverse population and we have lots of factors to take into consideration. All in all, we are pretty psyched about the Clarion, and we are sure most of you will be too.

Keep your eyes open for more detailed information about the conference as it becomes available and, as always, if you have some ideas about what you'd like to see at NOLOSE this year, let us know! Expect to see a call for workshops in the very near future, because that's how we roll.

For more information about NOLOSE and to keep up with the calendar and new information about the upcoming conference, please visit is a volunteer- run organization dedicated to ending the oppression of fat people and creating vibrant fat queer culture. NOLOSE started out as the National Organizations for Lesbians of SizE. As the years passed and the organization grew, we changed our mission to include not only a broader community of queer women—dykes, lesbians and bisexual women—but also transgendered people.

NOLOSE and the annual NOLOSE Conference are explicitly trans-inclusive. We want to make it clear that NOLOSE invites all fat queer women, all fat trans and gender-variant folks and our allies to participate.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sizism or Sexism? (the answer is "yes")

A friend of mine pointed out an ongoing buzz in the Indy racing world, where the main regulators of the sport have mandated a minimum weight limit for each vehicle/driver combination. One driver, Danica Patrick, believes that the new mandate is pointed directly at her. At 5'2" and 100 pounds she's the lightest driver on the circuit by about 20 pounds.

And boy oh good'ol'boy, are the male drivers in a tiff.

Claiming that her weight gives her a significant and unfair advantage in racing (you know, demonstrated by the fact that she hasn't actually ever won a race), several male drivers have petitioned hard for this minimum weight ruling, some even refusing to race with Patrick until such a ruling was in place.

Patrick (rightly) feels that she's being penalized for being a small woman in a primarily male-dominated field, and that the weight restrictions are one more form of bullying to keep women drivers from succeeding as anything but a PR sound-byte in racing.

When I first heard about this, I had very mixed emotions. First I wondered how much difference 20 pounds (or even 100) could really make in a 3200 pound car. Since I don't follow car racing at all, I'm still not sure (although the head of the Indy Racing League states that it doesn't make any significant difference). Then I thought about how this might actually level the field, as all drivers under 200 pounds would need to add weighted ballast to the car to bring the driver/vehicle combo up to the minimum. They've been doing it in horse racing for many, many moons to make up the difference between the weight a horse is assigned to carry (their "handicap") and the weight of the jockey (who often live in a semi-permanent state of anorexic dieting to stay under weight limits).

But the more comments I read from bloggers and commenters, the more I'm convinced that this is pretty much a pacifier move for the boys who want the feminists to think they allow girls in their club, but don't actually want them to be competitive.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Perspectives and the Dr. Office

So in that great leap of synchronicity that hits me so often, This Post on Shapely Prose and This Post on The Rotund came out just as I actually needed to go to a doctor for the first time in several years because of some internal feminine malfunction (of which I will not be going into details).

My dad is/was the type of person who never actually goes to the doctor unless he needs stitches or cannot possibly deny the fact that he's at risk of dying within 24 hours (i.e. heart attack). My mom has to bully him into regular checkups. I think I inherited a lot of his stance on this. When I do actually have to go to the doctor I tend to do as much research as possible beforehand so that I can walk in and say "I have an ear infection, give me this specific antibiotic." If I think it will pass without treatment or if there's nothing they can do but give me a fancy brand of cough syrup, I don't go. I also (off paper) don't have a specific primary care doctor that I see. Instead I ask for whoever can slot me in after work or on a weekend in the group of doctors that work at that office.

Maybe it's fear of fat-hate, and there are probably some vestiges of that somewhere in the mental process. But if I really examine it, I find my aversion to doctors and checkups has more to do with my being a fiercely private person. I don't like the idea of a single person knowing so much about me. I don't generally discuss my health issues with friends and family, so why should I let a stranger have all this private data and such very personal access to me?

So I hadn't been to a doctor in a year or two and hadn't had my girly bits examined in about six years since I went off birth control (bad reaction to it). In the meantime, I've discovered FA, and read the stories at First Do No Harm. The stories of fat women being humiliated, harassed, or refused treatment when seeking care are horrific. The reluctance to open private matters to a stranger became a solid gripping fear that I would undergo an ordeal of hate and disgust for daring to demand medical care as a fat person. Unfortunately, my internal organs decided to not allow me a choice.

That's when I learned a much-needed perspective. The horror stories of fat prejudice in health care are a real problem. They're horrific, outrageous, and call for much-needed correction in the medical industry's treatment of fat people. They are, however, not necessarily the norm.

I'm sure that at some point in my life I will probably experience prejudice from a doctor. For that matter, maybe it is the norm and I'm just extremely lucky. All I know is that after working myself into some serious stress, I had nothing to worry about. I stepped on the scale (digital) and looked away, the PA wrote the number down in my chart without comment or reaction (thinking back, in that office they have never said the number out loud during weigh-in, or commented on it, during any visit!) She and the doctor were both very concerned that I was comfortable, asked good questions, and listened to the answers. When the doctor asked why I was reluctant to get a pap I specifically brought up FA and the fact that so many fat women have bad experiences or are refused examinations by doctors. She was shocked and outraged at the idea and responded that she treats patients, big or small. By her reaction, I'd say that the idea of refusing treatment to anyone or treating them badly because of their weight had never even crossed her mind. Better yet, she never once made any sort of premature "guesstimate" diagnosis or suggested that my weight might be a factor in what was going wrong. She simply ran the gamut of tests (needles...brrr!), warned that if they didn't show anything conclusive I might need more, and made sure I was comfortable every step of the way. I'm going back in little over a week so that she can go over the test results and decide what to do from there. I think I'll wait and see how that goes before I submit her name to the fat-friendly doctors list.

Basically, I went in with an expectation of something to fear that I had greatly exaggerated in my own mind. I think it was a learning experience for me. I need to adjust my perspective to where I don't expect prejudice, since the fear of it will lessen my ability to live and enjoy life, but am aware of prejudice so that when it does occur I can respond appropriately. It's a fine line to walk, but it's the difference between making activism a part of your life and allowing it to take over.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ot: Earth Hour (for the Chicago readers)

Earth Hour 2008: Saturday, March 29
On Saturday, March 29, turn out your lights to show your support and commitment toward taking action to combat climate change. Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and this year cities across the globe, such as Tel Aviv, Bangkok and Copenhagen, are taking action. This year the City of Chicago is partnering with World Wildlife Fund as the U.S. flagship city for Earth Hour. As an environmental leader, Mayor Richard M. Daley is committed to fighting climate change and this year he will launch the Chicago Climate Action Plan as Chicago's roadmap for action. Join City Hall, Chicago area residents, businesses and organizations in this symbolic event to show Chicago's commitment to combating climate change by flipping the switch. Enjoy the skyline as never before when skyscrapers, landmarks and shops along Michigan Avenue go dark.
When: Saturday, March 29
Time: 8:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
What: Turn our your lights in support of taking actions to combat climate change
Who: All of Chicago, plus other citizens across the globe
Why: Flip your switch to show your support of climate action
For more information & a video narrated by actor Jeremy Piven: Visit

Clothing Fit: A Rant

Every time the topic of clothing comes up in the fatosphere, there is a response that's beginning (IMO) to fall into a pattern:

1. No one can find affordable clothes that fit short people
2. No one can find affordable clothes that fit short fat people
3. No one can find affordable clothes that fit tall people
4. No one can find affordable clothes that fit tall fat people
5. No one can find affordable clothes that fit long-waisted people
6. No one can find affordable clothes that fit short-waisted people
7. No one can find affordable clothes that fit pear-shaped people
8. No one can find affordable clothes that fit apple-shaped people
9. No one can find affordable clothes that fit women with large breasts
10. No one can find affordable clothes that fit women with small breasts

In every case, there's a rant about the designer's assumptions (i.e. that all designers assume fat women are amazons/large-breasted/short legged/big-thighed/small-thighed/etc.

Basically, I'm starting to think that affordable clothing is made to fit mannequins. 5'6" mannequins with socially acceptable proportions. In other words, the reason why it's cheap is because it's mass produced for a median range of height/weight/proportion. If you're outside of that height/weight/proportion, you'll have trouble finding stuff that fits unless you're handy with a needle. It isn't a conspiracy against short/tall/apple/pear/long-legged/small breasted people; anyone outside that median, in any direction, is going to have trouble finding stuff that fits.

Personally? I'm 6'2". I can tell you that affordable clothes are NOT made for "Amazons" (a term I personally hate. Just because I'm tall doesn't mean I want to chop off a breast and go frothing-at-the-mouth into war). Skirts designed for ankle-length hit me at a very unflattering mid-calf. Skirts designed to hit at the knee are, on me, inappropriate for the office. I have a long torso (making the hunt for tunic-length shirts my raison d'etre in shopping). I have a high waist and large belly that turns any empire-waisted top into a "8th month maternity" look (this season's dresses are a nightmare). I have a smaller butt and thighs that means any jeans that fit at the waist will be baggy everywhere else, and solid Viking-peasantry calves that mean I have to look for boot cut or flare jeans (which works, since I'm a hippie at heart). My longer arms mean that there is no such thing as long-sleeve shirts or jackets; they all hit behind the wrist, and so get shortened to 3/4 sleeves so that it at least looks deliberate.

I'm also definitely not rich. My definition of affordable clothing is no single piece over $20, and hunt the clearance racks for those great "under $10" finds. Given that, and that I do have reasonably good taste, I have two options; make with the needle and look for the stuff that's on clearance because of fixable issues (i.e. that awful neon shirt is a good cut and can be dyed darker; that fringe can be removed; that collar can be altered; that skirt can be sized down).

Yeah, that's work. But I'm not a clothes-hound and don't buy "trendy" stuff that won't be viable in a few years. I could probably afford (a piece at a time) to build a really kickass wardrobe from Igigi or something, but beyond the fact that empire waists are popular at the moment (grit teeth and wait it out) I have much better things to spend $100 on than a piece of clothing. I could landscape my front yard or finish my attic or tile my kitchen and bathroom for what they charge for a dress. For two outfits I could buy a close-contact saddle or a nice sheepskin saddle pad. That kickass wardrobe would buy me floor-to-ceiling bookcases for my increasingly enormous epidemic collection of books.

The point? Don't assume that anyone (taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, etc.) has an easier time finding clothing to fit their own style. I have one friend who's a size 10 with perfect classical proportions that looks really good in a lot of cuts and styles that I'd love to wear. Despite that, I still see her get frustrated over clothes outside her size range, or designed for women without hips, or that end up too baggy in the bustline. Everyone has trouble finding clothes that fit and look good on them, because everyone looks good in something different. Don't expect every brand to cater to you; the Old Navy stuff that you complain is cut too long is a blessing for those of us that need it and can't find it anywhere else. The Lane Bryant dress shirts that are way too short on me would look really sharp on a woman with a shorter waist. Until I can afford a private tailor, I'll have to learn to compromise.

And learn to not grit my teeth when someone complains how the "amazons" have it so easy in the fashion world.

I really do hate that term. Why not Valkyries? I'm Irish, not Brazilian. Or Leprechauns? ("and was that not the biggest joke of the Irish, for the leprechauns in their day were the tallest of the mound folk" -American Gods)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Intuitive (Curry) Eating

Happiness is a warm bowl of Paneer Makhani over Basmati rice.

The Indian grocery that just opened up in town is giving me a renewed determination to rein in my finances by making time to prepare food on a regular basis instead of my current trend of "oh crap I hit the snooze, now I'll have to buy something on the way to work and get take-out for lunch again."

I'm a complete neophyte to Intuitive Eating as yet, but I'm just starting to get past the place where I crave everything I denied myself while dieting. My body is finally catching on that I can eat anything I want (budget willing) whenever I want, and that there's really no value judgement on food. I can feel it starting to trust me that this isn't just another breather between diets, so I don't have to hurry up and eat everything "while I still can." It will be there when I actually want it, whether that's the next day, or sometime next month. For those of you who've been doing this for a while, bear with me and try not to smirk, it's still quite a groundbreaking experiment for my personal perspective :-)

Anyway, I found these great little meals at the Indian grocery. They're foil pouches full of preservative-free vegetarian curry dishes (mostly paneer or lentil-based). I can keep a bunch in my desk drawer, bring in a bowl of rice, and have whatever I feel like for lunch as determined at lunchtime instead of the day or weekend before. Since Indian food runs the gamut of sweet, spicy, hot, mild, etc., there's a good chance that I won't be driven screaming from the office by the thought of yet another slightly soppy sandwich packed two days beforehand when I happened to have actual free time at home. I'm not somebody who can stick to a steady routine without going a little insane, so the whole "make up a bunch of meals on the weekend and split into servings" thing has never worked for me. I'll cook up something I'm craving on Sunday (provided I actually have free hours to cook on a weekend) only to be nauseatingly sick of it by Wednesday. At which point I'll throw it away and go get Chinese, blowing my restaurant budget for the week instead of saving it for when I get together with friends on the weekend.

I want to do some landscaping this summer, but the cost can only come from what I can save out of my grocery budget and whatever I can e-bay. I went cautiously crazy in this new store today and bought a week's worth of meals for about $30. They keep their prices surprisingly reasonable, which means they're actually catering to the (quite large) Hindu population in the area, rather than the yuppies. Sure, you can get pre-packaged curry lunches at Sawall's super-elitist eco store for eight bucks. I'd rather pay $1.99 and not have to cover the cost of their entire aisle of trendy exotic bottled waters. I mean, what's up with an eco-store selling plastic bottled water anyway? Even at $5 a pint? Freakin hypocrites.

(Their bulk spices are pretty good, I'll grudgingly admit. It's not like I can find mugwort at Wal-mart.)

It's strange how much easier it is to tackle my budget woes without having a diet on my plate (so to speak) at the same time. It also helps that I quit smoking before I concentrated all my energy on my spending habits. It's interesting to see how the different forms of consumption interact. I used to find that out of the three (diet, spending, smoking) I had about enough mental focus to really tackle one at a time. Which meant I could always use running out of money as a handy excuse for why my diets ultimately failed. Once I take dieting and smoking out of the picture, I might actually get my spending under control and start chipping at the credit cards.

And I didn't even think to look at calories on anything. Not by force of will, but it never even occurred to me. I went by "that looks good" and a brief scan of ingredients to eliminate anything with too much anise (yech.) How much simpler it is to not have to work to get the most bulk for a set amount of calories, but instead just think "garlic and green chilis...yep, that's perfect for the office; I won't have to talk to anyone for hours after lunch." There's the perk also of no one giving me grief for not eating in the breakroom (i.e. bumping elbows with a crowd of people going into gory details of their childrens' pooping habits and whatever sports team currently sucks.) After one sniff of green curry fresh from the microwave they might just beg me to be anti-social :-)