Friday, February 29, 2008

Recipe Box: Rice Pudding

Friday fluff on this oh-so-cold December day.

Wait, it's February? huh. Couldn't really tell with the freakin' blizzard going on outside the window...

So to celebrate the never-ending dump of snow that's currently attempting to bury my car, I'm offering up a specimen of the dreaded "white foods" category. Rice pudding is the ultimate simple comfort food. I can remember my mother making it when we were sick, so it has warm-cozy associations for me. It's very mild, so it can finish off almost any meal, but very filling so a little goes a long way. It can be served warm or cold, and is almost as good either way. I'll work on developing a vegan version using soy milk and tofu, but if anyone beats me to it feel free to share!


3 cups milk (whole milk will make it richer)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup raisins (optional, and mix up with dates, almonds, pecans, and/or coconut as it suits you)
1/3 cup butter
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup raw white rice
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp (approx) nutmeg, or one whole nutmeg for grating.

(mmm....freshly grated nutmeg......)

Combine rice with 2 cups of regular milk in the top of a double-boiler or in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook over hot water in double-boiler or in microwave on high until rice is tender (approx 30-45 minutes, could be longer depending on heat).

Add raisins/dates/nuts/etc. and butter, stir until butter melts

Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, 1 cup of regular milk and sweetened condensed milk and whisk until blended.

Stir into hot rice mixture.

Pour into greased cake pan (9" square pan for single batch, 9"x12" rectangle for double batch) or 2-quart casserole dish (uncovered).

Sprinkle or grate nutmeg over top

Bake in 350 F oven for 45 minutes or until a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool/set up for about 10 minutes and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator and serve cold. This recipe can be fancied-up by serving in individual wine glasses, or even baked in individual ramekins. It's a common dessert to serve with Indian food, and finishes almost any spicy meal well. Like I said, it's filling. Last time I made a single batch it fed about 8 people with a bowl or so left over. Then again, the leftovers are oh-so-good.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Giving Up the Fantasy (update)

I got a lot of positive responses on my post about giving up the fantasy of being thin, and all the procrastination of pleasure that comes with it. Sure, I got some hate mail as well, including one person who actually followed the link to my Craig's list ad so that he could toss bile from several directions at once. But overall I received a lot of encouragement from family, friends and readers.

My main dream was/is to find a place to go horseback riding that had a saddle-trained draft horse. I contacted one stable who's (very nice) owner regretfully didn't have any of her Irish Drafts ready for anything but an expert rider. Since I haven't ridden in 10 years, I have to consider myself back near beginner status. She did offer to let me come out and do ground work around the horses (walk-outs, lunging, assisting the trainer, etc.) until I "lost enough weight" to ride one of the other breeds, at which point I had to (politely) adjust her notions of my intentions. She really was very sweet, despite the misunderstanding, and tried hard to find one of her owners who would let me ride. Nevertheless, the setback did discourage me for a while and I stopped calling stables.

Then, out of the blue and after a long stressful weekend vending at Convocation, I got an e-mail response to my Craig's List post from a woman who ran a horse rescue about a 1/2 hour away, and was looking to lease her Belgian mare. I'd never heard of leasing a horse, but the arrangement sounds perfect. She'd board the horse, take care of all the bills, provide Western and English tack, cart and harness in case I want to learn to drive, provide a few lessons, invite me along with her group on camping trips and trail rides, etc. I would, with exception of a weekend each month when she camps and a few days when she's needed for lessons, be able to come out and ride.

How perfect is that, and just when I'd started to consider giving up? Better yet, after some Googling I found that the woman takes in rescued horses whenever there's room from boarding. The Belgian mare I want to lease is a rescue from the kill pen at the Shipshewana horse auction (bid out from under the nose of the meat buyers and re-trained to saddle and harness). So not only have I maybe found a place to ride, but I might be able to talk her into letting me help work with the rescues when they come in.

I'll have more definite details on Sunday after I go to meet the horse and family, so until then I'm not counting this as a done deal. She still has to approve my leasing her favorite horse! She seems really nice from her posts in horse forums though, so I hope the deal works out. Even if I have to give up on some other projects to afford it. For this dream, I'd give up quite a bit!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Sorry about the lack of posts, but the lull will continue through next Monday as I've been filling every spare second getting ready to vend at Convocation this weekend. Now that I'm staring down a marathon list of things to get done before 9:00 am tomorrow morning, I realize that this whole "I work better under last-minute pressure so I'll start a new series of watercolor wall hangings four days before the event" plan was a bit over-the-top. Hopefully at least one of them will sell. Now I just need to unpack all the totes from previous events, re-pack just the stuff to sell at Convocation, finish edging the last wall hanging, make a booth sign, re-grind the sea salt that solidified in the packets (note to self, do not store wares in garage), decide how much of the palm oil and Shea butter is salvageable for sale (see previous note to self), make 20 new lip balms, do two loads of laundry, pack my actual suitcase, decide if it's worth bothering to bring the knee-high leather stiletto boots, find the knee-high leather stiletto boots, replace one of the laces on the the knee-high leather stiletto boots, clean out the car, pack the car, pick up change for the booth and change the cats' litter boxes...all between 5:30 pm tonight and 9:00 am tomorrow morning.

I knew I should have taken today off.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Recipe Box: Banana Bread (and Banana Bread French Toast)

This past weekend there were twelve of us snowed in together, and just before the storm got too bad to venture out, we got a mutual craving for banana cream pie. We sent the guys out in the four wheel drive for ingredients and they brought back two bunches of bananas from the "last day" produce clearance rack. That was twice as many as I needed for the pies, even when feeding twelve people, and they were so ripe (just turning brown) that I knew they would be tossed the next day. So there was nothing to do but turn them into bread (yeah, banana bread, twist my arm, right?)

The best part about making up a big batch of banana bread is that there's rarely any leftovers. Make small loaves and freeze them, then just leave them out on the counter overnight to thaw. Also, homemade banana bread can be turned into the most decadent, luscious french toast ever created.

The bread is a recipe from my family cookbook, which my mom transcribed onto note cards for my brother and I. I remember the original book from when I was a little kid, and how our "favorites" at dinner or holidays always involved the first step of pulling out "The Cookbook". A veritable witch's scrapbook, the recipes were scrawled out in the handwriting of three generations of mothers and sisters, and stained with decades of chocolatey fingerprints and smudges of flour. The cover bulged over too many pages and slips and crumbling bits of old scotch tape holding together magazine clippings. The recipes were designed for creative people, with terms like "a chunk of butter" a "dash of salt" or "a zap of water," in place of measurements and a lot of ingredient amounts listed as "to taste". It included booby traps like not mentioning if the brown sugar was measured packed or loose (which led to the great "better than meth" sweet potato sugar junkie disaster of 2003) and left out some unwritten secrets like how the roux turns that perfect beach-sand brown and feels like liquid velvet when it peaks. It really felt like each recipe's author assumed she'd be standing over your shoulder, guiding your hand, with the recipe as nothing more than a quick reference. Or else that a few tablespoons here or there didn't really matter, because if it didn't turn out, you could just make it again. Yeah, remember when people were allowed mistakes? Better yet, develop your own twist to the classic recipe and write it down on your very own page, to pass on to another generation.

Banana Bread (ingredients per loaf):

3 bananas, the riper the better (look for brown and nearly black patches on the peel, but not yet split or slimy. The inside should be really soft, past the good eating point, but not yet black)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/2 cup apple sauce
3 eggs, well beaten
2 1/4 cups flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda mixed into 1 Tablespoon hot water (hot tap-not boiling)
Handful of pecan or walnut pieces to taste (about a cup) (optional) (and/or raisins, dates, whatever floats your boat.)
1 8"x4" loaf pan (regular dull metal. If using glass, dark metal or non-stick, the cooking time may be reduced about 5-10 minutes, check the loaf carefully)
2 mixing bowls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

grease loaf pan with butter or shortening
Cream sugars and shortening together
Beat eggs and applesauce into mixture
Set aside
In second bowl, combine flour, baking powder, nuts (optional), salt and spices
Mix well.
Add the two bowls together, mix only until everything is even and moist, don't over-mix.
In now-empty bowl, crush bananas so that no large chunks are left.
Stir baking soda into hot water (if you haven't already), and add to bananas. Mix well.
Add bananas to the rest of the batter.

Stir as little as possible, but just enough to evenly distribute.
Pour batter into loaf pan. It doesn't rise much, so you can generally fill the loaf pan up to 1 inch from the top.
Bake at 350 F for one hour, or until the top of the loaf splits and browns, and a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan. Serve warm or room temperature. It'll keep fresh on the counter for a couple days in a plastic bag, or in the fridge for about a week. Freeze if storing longer.

If you're freezing, allow to cool completely to room temperature. If necessary, place in plastic zipper bag and leave out on the counter overnight. When completely cool, wrap individual loaf tightly in plastic wrap (no air), then in aluminum foil. They should keep like that up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature.

To make Banana-Bread french toast:

Cut bread into 1/2 inch slices
In flat bowl or pie plate, mix:
3 eggs
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (can substitute 1/2 cup milk and 2 tsp sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon

Melt 1 tsp butter in pan or on griddle on medium heat

dip banana bread slices in mixture to coat both sides (don't let them soak or they'll fall apart)
place coated pieces in pan, fry until brown on both sides

serve plain, dusted with powdered sugar, with sliced bananas and whipped cream or chocolate drizzle, rum sauce, syrup, or whatever your imagination suggests.

Yeah, ok, it's more dessert than breakfast :-)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Biggest Loser" at my office

A carry-over from my forum post at Big Bat Blog, where I got a few good responses that confirm that, no, I'm not just being oversensitive. I got this mass-mail yesterday from my boss, sent to everyone in the office:

>>> (my boss's name removed) 2/13/2008 1:23 PM >>>
What is your goal?

$10/participant, we will weigh in on Tuesdays or Thursdays, so (name removed)
can be the official weigher. Each person will state their weight loss
goal. The contest will be based on the percentage of your goal by the
week. The participant that loses the highest percentage of their goal
will get a prize. Length of the contest will be determined by the number
of participants and $ collected.

Your goal should be reasonable for the period of the challenge, i.e. if
the contest is 10 weeks, a 50 pound goal is unreasonable. Once you
have attained your stated goal, you are out of the contest.

If you are interested, please contact (name removed) by noon
on Tuesday, Feb. 19. Weigh-in will be Tuesday afternoon.

I responded to just to her and the employees named in the e-mail as participating, with some dieting facts (98% failure rate, fitness more important than/unrelated to fat, ED triggered by diet, dieters gain more weight than non-dieters, yo-yo weight loss terrible for your body, HAES, etc.) Now my boss is a very nice, normally highly intelligent woman whom I respect very much. In this particular case, it was like my words were being tossed into a black hole. She says that she herself needs to "lose a few pounds" (this is a healthy, tall older woman, about a size 8 or 10 at most) because of her blood pressure and asthma. Did I miss the one where fat causes asthma? How silly!

I'm not getting through. In the meantime the next 2-3 months in my office is going to be miserable. I'm a receptionist stuck at the desk so there's no way to walk away from the diet talk. Maybe I can at least find a way to stay off the mass-mail list where everyone updates each other on how successfully they're starving themselves. I'm also tempted to make a whole lot of really fabulous-smelling lunches, like my beer-braised pot roast or chicken mole, and leave lots of baked goods around the break room, just as a protest. Is that too mean? I could settle for leaving HAES and FA brochures. Anyone have recommendations for the best ones?

A letter to myself at 14

I'm copying an idea that's been making the blog rounds, prompted originally by a post at Big Fat Deal, where a 14 year old girl asks for advice on how to like herself. That set off a round of bloggers writing themselves letters they wish they'd had when they were 14.

Personally, I've always tried to live without regrets, because changing any decision earlier in my life would change who and where I am today. I rather like who and where I am today. Some of the biggest mistakes in my life, if avoided, would cost me my current best friends, whom I met through those mistakes.

Still, there's a few things I wish someone I could trust had told me. Considering that at 14 I didn't believe I actually could trust anyone else, I'm the only one who could have made a difference.

Dear me at 14:

You’re about to start High School, and it’s going to suck even worse than junior high. I’m not going to help you avoid a lot of the bad stuff coming up, because it makes you who you are as an adult. Try to make good choices, stay honest (you never were a good liar and have a highly developed guilt reflex, so don’t bother), stick by your friends, and try new things with the understanding that any embarrassment won’t be remembered by anyone else after you graduate.


People are cruel. Guys are asses, chicks are bitches. In general. Don’t become them. All you can do is sort out the exceptions. Only surround yourself with people you trust, and then prove yourself trustworthy to them in return. That second part is the most important. Your closest friends right now are the ones who will stick with you if you let them. It’s you that’ll screw things up by driving them away so that you don’t have a best friend to leave behind and miss when you go on your exchange tour. You won’t realize that’s what you’re doing until Matt points it out to you. He’ll be right, but too late. Always remember your responsibility to those who give you their trust.

You’re fat. See the above about asses and bitches. Your body is the result of a hundred generations of Vikings and sturdy Irish peasantry. There is nothing you can do to change it… not by dieting, exercise, dressing differently, not eating, eating too much, cutting, closing yourself off to the world and pushing it away, or sticking pins into poppets. You’re stuck where you are. Once you stop focusing on your fat and look elsewhere the world becomes much more interesting.

While you’re working so hard to turn the outside into something it can’t ever be the inside is being neglected. Figure out what you really want. It isn’t to be thin; it’s all the things you associate with being thin (happy, outgoing, athletic, beautiful, desired, confident, etc.) The problem is that nothing is actually stopping you from being any and all of those things, right this minute, as a fat person. Find out what makes you happy. Work on reaching out to others. Wear clothes you like. Be proud of what you do well.

Do not accept any implication that there is something wrong with you. When your 9th grade school counselor has the bright idea to try and force you to be friends with the “other fat girl” at the school even though your weight is the only thing you have in common, stand up for yourself. Tell her she’s out of line. Tell her she’s stereotyping, and that she would never try this on two kids who happened to both be black in a predominantly white school. Tell your parents so that they can say it for you. They will.

Do not accept ownership of the shame and anger directed at you as a fat person. You have only to be ashamed of wrong action or words which hurt yourself or other living beings. That’s it. You do not have to take responsibility for anything else, including what others think of and do to you. If you do not accept the shame others try to instill in you, then it is only for them to feel it. Hold on to that when it gets bad.

Your family is your greatest ally. You are so wrapped up in your own hurt and resentment that you don’t even realize it. Your brother has and will always defend you, and will be a great friend if you let him. He’s your connection to people (gamers, geeks) who are most likely to accept you for who you are regardless of what you look like. He will also forgive all the rotten things you’ve done to him throughout your life. Your friends liking him doesn’t mean they like you any less, but your completely illogical jealousy and torture of him makes you look like a crazy, petty bitch. You resent him because you feel invisible, but that isn’t his fault. Don’t put your self-loathing onto other people, that’s always a mug’s game.

The level of anger, hurt, fear, resentment, paralyzing embarrassment and numbness you feel every day isn’t normal. It isn't something everybody else feels and just deals with better than you. It isn’t supposed to be this hard. Ask for help. Do it while you’re still on your parents’ kickass company insurance, because the kind of help you need costs money. You won’t get another chance.

When you get a bit older, and this is hard, remember it isn’t about who you can have; it’s about who you want. The two are NOT the same thing. You are not defined by who will sleep with you, because some men will sleep with anyone. Don’t mistake sex for love, that’s not how some guys are wired. Don’t accept less than respect from a partner, but make love your standard. (P.S., when Tyler asks you out…throw something sharp at him and run the other way. Fast. Far. Don’t look back.)

Until you have your own head and heart sorted out, sharing them with someone else is just going to end badly. No one is going to do it for you, or keep you on a little pedestal without ever noticing your faults so that you can ignore them as well. No one else is ever responsible for knowing when you need help, and it's unrealistic to expect it, no matter how well connected you are. You have to ask. No one is going to save you from yourself, or change you from the outside. That’s all on you.

Your half-brother is a bigot, a loser, and consumed by his own insecurities. He is not someone you should worry about impressing. He will not get any better in the next 15 years, and in fact will get worse. Do not place any importance on what he thinks of you.

Avoid the credit cards. I don’t care if you have to shop at Goodwill and eat ramen noodles the rest of your life (you won’t). Your credit balance will bury you just when you should actually be able to afford all the things you wasted money on too early.

Don’t be afraid of being the fat girl who loves to cook. Don’t give up anything you love because of how it might look to others.

Own your actions. Take responsibility for your own headspace. Take pictures, be in pictures, label pictures (trust me; it’s the only way you’ll remember what happened). Be careful what you project onto others (either demonizing or idealizing). Let people in, at least a little more. Write everything down, even the bad stuff. If nothing else, it’s practice. It’s all practice, so you don’t have to get anything right the first go-around. If you do hit 30 without finding that one person who can keep up with your constantly switching tracks in life, the world does not end. You’re an acquired taste, wait for a connoisseur. Trust in the universe, but lock your car. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.


Jo, 15 years later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lane Bryant Shootings memorial fund

A comment received yesterday on my post about the Lane Bryant shootings in Tinley Park:

Charming Shoppes, which owns Lane Bryant, Catherines, Fashion Bug and
Petite Sophisticate, has established a memorial fund for the families of the
incredible women who lost their lives.

The Lane Bryant Tinley Park Memorial Fund
Harris Bank
19500 S. Harlem Avenue
Frankfort, IL 60423
ATTN: Sandy Kozin

All of the funds collected will be distributed equally among the five victims'
families. As a manager of one of Lane Bryant's "sister" stores, I cannot tell you
how many times I have thought over the last 10 days, "this could have happened
to us." My hope is that they find the monster who committed this unspeakable
crime as quickly as possible, and that he receives the punishment he deserves.
Rest in peace, ladies.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Breaking News: Fat People Eat Instead of Sleeping

A new story making the rounds of the news feeds is about a study that claims a faulty circadian clock alters natural hunger cycles.

"Mice fed a high-fat diet experienced a sudden disturbance in their
circadian clocks, which caused them to overeat when they should have been
resting or asleep."

According to a more detailed article, the mice were fed a diet containing 45% fat for two weeks to create the disturbance of the body clock. There was no mention as to how they controlled for other nutrients (if half the calories are coming from fat, how nutrient-dense are the rest of them? Are the control mice getting more vitamins and minerals, and that's having an effect on the circadian?)

"The eating behavior of mice in the study mimicked that of people who experience munchies non-stop and then, after snacking all day, launch midnight raids on their refrigerators, Bass said."

Oh, right. I forgot. Fat people are fat because they eat ALL THE TIME, day and night, never pausing in the quest to stuff their face with baby flavored donuts and milkshakes made from kittens. How silly of me.

I really need to get a subscription to access studies beyond the abstract. I'd really, really like to know details that get handily left out by the media. What was the activity level of the mice? What were the total calories consumed by each group? Did they try a group of naturally fat mice as a control, or just overfeed a bunch of thin mice to make them temporarily fat (which would indeed mess seriously with their biological functions)? Did the researcher find out if the circadian is altered in mice that were born fat?

More importantly, why didn't I know that all fat people sleep badly? Gosh and Geburah, this could explain everything! Sleeping pills for everyone, lets cure this pesky epidemic.

*eye roll*

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cold Day, Spicy Food

Kalamazoo isn't that small. Granted, much of the population is seasonal due to two universities and a couple of colleges in the area, but you'd still think we'd have at least a couple restaurants that stretch the definition of "exotic" further than a Chinese buffet.

Finally, in the midst of this sub-zero February fark, I think we may have finally reached the tipping point where someone has decided that we can support an Indian grocery!

mmm....lentils....with chilies....

Just when I was really starting to get into a cooking funk from boredom, a whole new sub-continent is opened up to me. Finally, I don't have to base my recipes on what's available in the one single "international" aisle at Meijer's. Although, to be fair, they have been a reliable source for whole vanilla bean.

Now if we could just swing a nearby Trader Joe's, it would be like spring all over again :-)

BigMovesBabe left a great Paneer recipe on Shapely Prose today...anybody else have a favorite Indian recipe to share?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The How, Part 3: Be an Example? The challenges of representing fat

The How: Part 3

Be An Example?

(The Challenges of Representing Fat)

Picking up an old series on how individuals can find their own particular niche in Fat/Size Acceptance activism, I've reached what may be the most controversial of the suggestions: Be an Example.

A great post over at FatGrrl talked about the mind games many of us play as fat people. Amongst the other gems that made me cringe with guilt (because we've all been there, played that) is number two: "You’ve seen a fat person in a store in one of those motorized scooters and thought 'that’s what gives us a bad name.'"

Now I created the original "How" post before a lot of the cobwebs of self-loathing had been chased out of the attics of my unconscious, so I hadn't yet realized that I, as a fat person, have participated in fat hate. I’ve been guilty, upon seeing a fat person on television or in person who fit a certain stereotype, of thinking “how dare he/she, when other people will see that and judge me by it.” This may have been part psychological projection, part acceptance of the pop paradigm, or entirely my own awful ignorance. It doesn't matter. I never got to the point of actually going to peoples' faces or blogs and hating on them, but a quiet bigot is still a bigot. If I'm being entirely honest with myself, I was a hater in my own head. I don’t think I’ve really come to terms with that until now. How dare I think I have any right to expect someone to live their life differently because it fit the way I see the world? How dare I heap more negativity on people who are already buried beneath it, when they are human beings deserving of my respect? How dare I presume to have any right to judge, or even know anything about a person’s life, simply because they don’t waste time trying just as hard as I do to conform? How dare I, when others were probably doing the same when they looked at me?

A hate crime enacted upon yourself or upon others who resemble you, should still be considered a crime.

It’s a pretty subtle trap, the idea that all fat people represent fat. As illustrated in the "Knapsack of Privilege," very few groups of people get to walk out their front door without being a representative for something. Few human beings can dress however they want, do whatever they want, eat however they want, or express themselves without having to stop and consider what it says about every other person who looks like them. This is an incredibly powerful state of mind that does more to prevent equality than many more overt barriers. No one escapes it entirely, but some groups cannot escape it at all.

The assumption of representation is designed to keep a group of people in line with what society is comfortable thinking about them. It works so well that the people themselves adopt it, creating a self-regulating stereotype. Another way to put this is to say that living in deliberate avoidance of stereotypes is still allowing stereotypes to control your life.

I’ve been just as quick as any other FA activist to pull out the “good fatty” argument. If someone tells me I wouldn’t be fat if I just exercised enough, I point to Jennifer Portnick, the size 16 aerobics instructor that works out 6 days a week and leads back-to-back classes. I offer up Fat Girl on a Bike as a fantastic example of someone who is at the peak of fitness without being thin. If someone pulls the “donuts and Twinkies” argument, I hit back with the fact that many fat people actually dislike rich or sugary foods, some are vegans, some control carefully for carbohydrates. This works well in those discussions where you know the other party is really not up to the mental exercise of actual science or math and needs a simple picture drawn for them. Now I wonder whether I’m helping or hurting FA by doing so.

So let’s look at reasons why.


Every movement throughout history has sought “poster people” who defy stereotypes and give the average citizen a real face to identify. Symbols are important, as they are easier to quickly grasp than studies when so much conflicting information is competing for our attention. If you are a beautiful woman who happens to be fat, it not only challenges the concepts of beauty pushed by the cosmetics and fashion industries, but serves as a positive message to those who still hate their own bodies. If you dress neatly and fashionably as a fat person, it challenges the idea that fat people never care about their appearance, or the infuriating “letting yourself go” theory of why fat people allow themselves to exist. If you eat healthy and exercise, it challenges the myth that doing such will make anyone thin.

The bias and hysteria over fat is so pervasive and under-challenged in mainstream culture that any tiny chip in the armor of certainty is a victory. The response to "well you're not a triathlete you fatty mcfatfat!" should be something like "No I'm not. But I can point to that person to challenge your first assumption. Now that it's out of the way, we can work on your assumption that you have any right to know or judge MY body or how I live MY life." When it comes to stereotypes and prejudice, sometimes you have to divide and conquer.

If you feel like your particular role in FA is to always appear well-dressed and perfectly groomed, become a positive role model in the community through volunteer work, promote HAES, or otherwise represent fat people, then that can be a positive force in changing minds and breaking down assumptions.


The healthy and positive use of representatives is a pretty narrow line to walk. The danger both within and without the FA community is the potential to start dividing fat people into “good fatties” and “bad fatties.” This is not inevitable, but it is a constant danger that takes vigilance to avoid.

A discussion I’ve seen in FA is whether there is a “cutoff” at which someone is too fat, even for a movement labeled “fat acceptance.” I believe this has a lot to do with ideas people have about the image of the movement and how it will be received, but the question itself is a trap. Do we start excluding diabetics and PCOS sufferers, contenting ourselves with seeking rights for the “healthy fat”? What about the fat people who actually do like donuts? Do we exclude anyone that might allow haters fuel for their vitriol? The answer is certainly “no”.

The risk from outside the FA movement is that people will use the division as confirmation by fatties themselves that only some fat people deserve equality. This could be used as an excuse to transfer all the bias from all the fatties onto a few, who will be more bereft of support than ever. The risk is even more divisive from within FA. If fat people themselves fall into the “good fattie, bad fattie” trap, we will alienate those within the movement who will most benefit from FA and most suffer from discrimination. FA is not about fighting for the rights of healthy fat people, it's about ensuring that every fat person is treated as a human being. Fat Acceptance cannot retain the title if it is not about fighting for human rights for every fat person, period. Sometimes the "good fatty" game can distract from that message, and alienate those who feel that it puts pressure on them to be something other than themselves in order to fit in.


Any tool in the arsenal against fat hate is useful, but any tool can be used with positive or negative results. There has to be a clear, consistant caveat to any use of representation that regardless of whether a fat person has a healthy diet or not, dresses fashionably or not, exercises or not, is married or not, is intelligent or not, is gay, straight, bi, diabetic, struggling with an ED, mobility-challenged, vegan, omnivore, tall, short, black, white, or any other state of being in addition to being fat, they are still human beings. Their weight, dress code, IQ, eating habits, activities, sexual nature or physical health is none of anybody’s business. No one gets to quiz them on their health history or lifestyle before passing judgement on them, because no one has the right to pass judgement on them in the first place. Fat people deserve equal rights and respect not because they are healthy, pretty, fit, disease-free or any other qualifier, but because they are first and foremost human beings.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Purpose of Movement

I'm glad I got my Friday fluff out of the way yesterday, because this subject came up and I wanted to get my thoughts together on it.

How awful is the assumption that the sole purpose of moving your body in new ways can only logically be to lose or prevent fat? Much like the medicinalizing of food, the "workout" mentality sucks the joy out of what should be joyful and creates punishment in what should be empowering.

The long and short is that I went hunting for a new Yoga DVD. I've been using a very basic beginner's training for a month now, but I'm ready to move beyond it. What I found was that it's difficult to find a Yoga DVD that doesn't advertise itself as promoting weight loss. I seriously found titles like Cardio-Yoga, Yoga Dance Fusion, or more directly, Fat-Burning Yoga Workout! (most of them had a lot of exclamation marks and chipper half naked people in leg-warmers on the covers.)

When I first chose to learn Yoga, it's appeal was the focus on physical power, energy, flexibility, and balance. It's supposed to be meditative. It's not supposed to promise ten minute abs. When did we turn so much play into work? What happened to taking a walk in order to enjoy the walk instead of just trying to get that heart rate elevated? How grim a world where we're so caught up in the aerobics of it that we no longer love to dance?

The only Yoga DVD on the shelf at Barnes and Nobles that wasn't about "visible toning" or "fat burning Yogercise" was called "Fluid Power" by Shiva Rea. It's Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and was labeled for experienced beginner to intermediate. Perfect, just challenging enough, and no mention of abs, fat, or tone. So while I could have gone to Amazon and found a lot of great options, I grabbed this one.

I'm a big believer in synchronicity, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to me when I opened the DVD and found that the first sentence of the booklet says "Infinite gratitude to Yemaya".

Those who don't know me need some background on this. Yemaya is the mother of waters in some Yoruban and their syncretic spiritual traditions. She's the Orisha who rules the oceans, and some of her gifts are healing, intuition, magic, feminine strength and mystery. She's also a power that I personally honor because her symbols or her name tends to appear unexpectedly when I particularly need to pay attention to something in my life, or to confirm that I'm doing something good for myself. Like now.

The method on the DVD is about tuning into your body's connection to water through intuitive free-form movement and asanas. The instructional portion talks about the concepts in terms of both vedic teachings and quantum physics, and there are different practices for different levels and purposes. There's even special prep work to get ready for the namaskars (sun salutations).

But this post isn't really about the DVD itself (as geeked about it as I am); It's about the purpose of movement. I do understand that everyone is wired differently. Some people get the same quieting of mind and purpose from free weight reps as I get from the warrior poses. That's great. After all, "some people juggle geese." It's the people who see either of those as some sort of trial to be endured for the greater good of skinny that bother me. If your body is an obstacle, or a recalcitrant prisoner to be beaten into submission, how can you ever learn to trust it? If it's an opponent to fight, how do you ever find harmony with it? If movement is work, as in workout, how do you ever find joy in it?

What ever happened to dancing?

There are great nights every summer when a circle of close friends all get together around a big bonfire. Sometimes we have enough drummers to get a good complex beat going; other times we have to rely on recorded music. But the best nights are when the energy is high and we kick of our shoes to dance. Yes, even us fat chicks. We're not working out or counting calories burned. We're not trying to impress anyone. We're not worried if we don't impress anyone. We just dance, and laugh, and sometimes spin fire. It's a celebration.

I can drag myself into a gym to use an elliptical machine for twenty minutes and barely be able to walk the next morning because I'm so sore. I hate it, and I hate gyms. They work for a lot of people who find their own form of meditation in circuit training, but I'm not one of them. On the other hand, I can dance (and we're talking raw tribal want to define aerobic?) for four hours or more to a constantly evolving drumbeat, and wake up without a single sore muscle. Some people have it the other way around. Maybe it's like intuitive eating, where your body will tell you what movement is most beneficial to you on a holistic level, even if that level or type of movement doesn't work for anyone else. All I know is that what I'm doing seems to be right for me.

For that, for the new-found respect for my body inherent in FA, and for the joy of movement... my "infinite gratitude to Yemaya."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Recipe Box: Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, Chilaquiles

After my parents retired, they moved to Ajijic, a small town near Lake Chapala in the Jalisco state of Mexico. I visited them as often as I could afford it during the two years they lived there (they and my brother often helped me afford it!). Right now in the dregs of February, with the weather farking outside the window and threatening to dump another 6 inches of snow on top of the rising floodwaters, I wonder how irresponsible it would really be to use my credit card to hop a plane.

I remember the guys in pickup trucks full of ice that would drive around the neighborhood selling fish they caught that same morning. In Michigan you just don't get fresh shrimp. Ever. My parents grilled them outside with lime juice and a little garlic, then we had lunch in the garden with frosty margaritas and the smell of Jacaranda trees and old city carrying over the wall. The fruit was another marvel for a mid-westerner. I learned that oranges are supposed to be sweet, not sour and acidic. That's the difference of being allowed to ripen on the tree instead of in the truck. Orange mango juice from fresh picked fruit, pineapple that practically melts in your mouth, bananas with actual flavor...I think the lack of really fresh produce is the worst hardship of a Michigan winter. The stuff shipped up from other states tends to be green, sour, bland, or mealy. There's no dark fleshed plums that burst with juices when you bite into them. There's no green beans that steam up nice and crisp and taste like garden-grown bread. There's just the same tired staples under fluorescent lights, sprayed every ten minutes to look like they weren't shipped two thousand miles in the back of a diesel semi.

Every morning in Mexico you walked down to the Tortilleria and got a stack of handmade corn tortillas that served as a lesson in how to live without preservatives. The first day, stored in stone or clay baskets, they stayed soft enough to eat as tortillas. The next morning they were stiff and crumbly. You sliced them up to make chilaquiles in the morning (with scrambled eggs and leftover salsa), then quartered the rest to fry for corn chips. Then you took your basket and walked back down the cobblestone street to the Tortilleria, where the women wrapped your stack of warm tortillas in waxed paper to keep them fresh.

It was the same with salsa. You make fresh salsa at night to let the flavors really mix well. The next day you have delicious Pico de Gallo for almost any kind of dish or snack. The following morning you use it in chilaquiles, then add avocado to the rest for guacamole. Nobody does delicious leftovers like they do in Mexico.

So yeah, going to my warm happy place as I trudge through the snow, I decided to just go ahead and make a batch of fresh salsa for the Super-Tuesday C-span watching "party" on Tuesday. It tasted an awful lot like summer :-) Today it's just about ready to make into guac. If I can find any avacados.

Fresh Salsa (Pico de Gallo)

This is better if made at least an hour in advance, and best if made the night before and stored in the refrigerator. That gives the lime juice and salt time to draw the juices from the tomatoes and onions and really temper the flavors.

6-8 fresh roma tomatoes
2 medium red or yellow onions
3 limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers (optional - more if desired)
1 tablespoon coarse (sea) salt

Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out (fingers or a spoon) the seed pulp (or as I call it: the nasty slimy bits)
Chop tomatoes into medium chunks (approx 1/4-1/2 inch)
Slice jalapenos lengthwise and carefully remove core and seeds. Rinse to remove all seeds.
chop jalapenos very finely
Peel onion and chop into medium chunks
remove cilantro stems and chop/shred leaves (approx 1 cup)
Juice the limes; you want about 3-4 tablespoons of juice

Mix all the ingredients well together.
Cover bowl tightly with wrap or lid and let sit in refrigerator at least an hour, preferably overnight.
Serve with a variety of corn chips.

This keeps for a couple days in the fridge, but not much longer. On the second morning, leftovers!


Use the leftover salsa from above, add equal amounts of avocado.
Slice the avocado lengthwise and scoop out the meat and pit.
Set the pit aside
Use a fork to mash the avocado and salsa together. I like to leave it a little chunky so you can really taste the avacado.

If you're not serving immediately, guacamole will oxidize very quickly. It doesn't make it "bad", but it turns black and looks pretty gross. To prevent this, put the avocado pits back into the bowl, pressing them down into the top of the guacamole. Cover with saran wrap directly onto the dip and pits, leaving as little air as possible between the wrap and the guacamole. Who knows why, but the pits help prevent the dip from oxidizing.


This was the best breakfast, even if it doesn't quite taste the same in winter :-) I've actually found that cooking it in well-seasoned cast-iron makes it taste more authentic:

For each serving:
2 Leftover soft corn (masa flour) tortillas
2 eggs, scrambled
2 Tablespoons salsa ranchero or 1/2 cup leftover Pico de Gallo
1 Tablespoon fresh cream (can substitute sour cream in the U.S.)
1 tablespoon fresh salsa (or to taste)
1 teaspoon olive oil
cut the tortillas into strips and cook in the oil on medium-high until crispy or browned
turn down heat
add eggs and salsa
cook over medium low heat until eggs are to your liking
serve with a dollop of fresh cream or sour cream and fresh salsa. This can be a main dish for breakfast or a "side dish" with eggs and toast

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fat People Sports!

It's an old FAQ, but so far in my reading it's an excellent one!

Big Folks Sports and Activities FAQ

It goes through various sports and physical activities and talks about how to do them as a fat person. Considering my last post, I consider this find a sign that I'm on the right track. They've got a pretty good section on horseback riding. They also have a good section on caving, but while it sounds like a helluva blast, I doubt I have the time or money for the strength training and equipment it would require.

Wouldn't it be grand, though? :-)

I should get back down to Mammoth Cave this year. I used to go every summer as a kid.

Giving up the Fantasy

Thanks almost entirely to Kate Harding's eye-opening blog on The Fantasy of Being Thin, I've posted the following ad to Craig's List:

Looking for a place to take riding lessons or rent a horse for trail riding within 1/2 hour or so of the Kalamazoo/Portage area, either after 5pm or weekends. Specifically looking for a place with a sturdy horse (clyde, shire, quarter, etc.) that can carry a 300 pound fat chick. Grew up with horses but haven't ridden in 10 years. Willing and able to work as part of/in exchange for lessons (stall cleaning, stacking hay, grooming, some carpentry, etc.) Prefer private lessons or adult group with teacher who doesn't judge ability by body size. Frequency of lessons depends on schedule and price.

This is my fantasy of being thin.

I grew up with horses (two AQHA registered geldings), but had to give them both up when I went overseas in my senior year of high school. They went to good homes, and I went to Europe. No regrets, really. The exchange year was a once in a lifetime opportunity and did more to temper me than anything else I've ever done.

I did, however, miss the stable. Fiercely. While I was living in France I tried to take riding lessons, but their horses were too small and I was too heavy. I was at my thinnest in a very long time after swimming and walking every day, but at 6’2” I was pretty damn fit and still 280 pounds. To say I was too heavy to ride isn't fat hatred, just biology. Horses are not machines, and the average riding horse does risk back injury if they carry someone over 240 pounds.

So I made it my shiny, pretty, far-off star to reach for during the next three years. When I got down to 240, I would find a stable and ride again. When I got down to 240 I would finally take dressage lessons instead of the putz-around trail riding I was content to do as a kid. When I got down to 240, I would be a horsewoman, and content, and pretty, and happy, and free, and have no problems whatsoever.

Of course, as we all know, I would never get down to 240, and even if I did, only the first of that list would really change. Not even by swimming laps for an hour every morning before work, doing cardio and weight training every day after work, and eating the media perfect “healthy” diet chock full of veggies, whole grains and lean meats, would I ever maintain a weight below my body's set-point. I lived like that for two years in complete social isolation and never got within spitting distance of that goal weight. Nevermind the 180 pounds I was "supposed" to weigh according to the BMI chart maximum.

Now I have no idea what I weigh, and don't much care. I'm about a size 26/28 in most clothing lines now that my body's set point has "reset" higher from dieting. The one line I had to cross in accepting the FA state of mind was that I thought I had to give up on this one fantasy. I know there's a stereotype about fat girls who like horses, as if it's some kind of freudian defect to har har about. That I could get over. Giving it up would be a lot harder.

This one last dream never changed throughout my life, even when others (like doing the Wild Cave Tour spelunking trip at Mammoth Cave) came and went as motivators to chase thin. I loved going to fairs and horse shows just to walk up and down the aisles. I love the smell of dust and hay. I love to watch them move, I love to do all the little chores of grooming, clipping, brushing, braiding. I didn’t want to give up that part of my identity.

But maybe I don’t.

Now that I'm working my way through the stages of fat acceptance, I'm also learning to think outside the fantasy. For example, did you know that you can put a saddle on a Clydesdale? Also, quarter horses can come pretty big; Ours were 16 and 17 hands and they carried me just fine. Sure I'd need a step to mount until my leg muscles caught up to the jump, but does that matter so much? If I toss the fear that everyone will laugh at the fat chick on the horse, is there really any reason why I have to be six sizes smaller, just to grant myself permission to do something I love?

This is my fantasy of being thin.

And this is me letting go of it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

On a personal note....

New Haiar fridge with adjustable glass shelves and humidity controlled produce drawers: $395.

Delivery, set up and haul away old fridge: $30

Knowing that next time I open the door the cilantro won't be frozen solid and the yogurt won't have completed it's short journey to becoming strawberry-botulism flavored cheese curd: priceless.


Ok, I crunched a lot of numbers yesterday on the cost of health care, so today I get a break. At least until tonight when I turn on C-span for the primaries.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Big Fat Public Health Care Costs (Revised)

Ok, some people took umbrage with my math in my original post comparing the cost of obesity vs. the cost of the war on obesity. My math was pretty generalized, but then, so are the estimates thrown about by the media on what a fat person costs the taxpayers. My conclusion was that the U.K. is actually spending 35 Million GBP more on failed attempts to make people not fat than they claimed fat people actually cost the public health care system. E-mailers didn't like that.

So I dug deeper. I found more hard numbers, citations, data from the UK's National Audit Office, etc. What I realized part way through is that I'm arguing against fallacious methodology in the first place. The UK's estimate of what "obesity" costs the NHS each year is based on the cost of treating fat people for diseases they assume are caused by fat. The specific studies they use to determine this aren't listed, but considering no independent study (as in, not funded by pharmaceutical companies or weight loss clinics) has proven that fat causes a single disease (remember: correlation is not causation), and that more recent studies are showing that even correlation disappears in most cases when physical fitness is taken into account, I cannot accept their numbers estimating the "cost of obesity" to be valid in the first place.

So here's the revised breakdown, showing that instead of 35 Million GBP, the UK is actually wasting 324 Million GBP, or US $639,772,672.47 trying to make people no longer fat.

(update 2/5/08: Ironically, the day after I posted this, a supporting article came out on Junkfood Science. It analyzed a new study that shows fat people actually have fewer health care costs than thin people over a lifetime. Who'da thunkit?)

Big Fat Public Health Care Costs

It's a good year to be fat, especially if you're a shareholder of Roche or GlaxoSmithKline. According to a January, 2008 report the sale of prescription weight-loss drugs has undergone an eightfold increase since 1999. 1.06 million people in the U.K. are on some kind of prescription drug that promises to usher them into the exciting new world of fashionable thinness through unfortunate (and sometimes lethal) side effects. The majority of media coverage is touting this fact as a positive move, due to what they claim is the high cost of obesity to the public health service.

Claims of “the cost of obesity” vary wildly, from 1 Billion GPB to 40 Billion GBP per year. Few of these claims cite scientific sources; fewer still actually detail the methodology of arriving at that number. One of the few that does is the official Audit Office of the British Government. They say that obesity costs their country 500 million GBP per year. They come to that figure by researching various studies that show a correlation between adiposity and particular diseases. They then calculate the cost of treating the people in the “obese” category of the BMI scale for those diseases, adding in workdays lost through sickness and early death.

This sounds scientific until one considers the fact that thin people get those diseases too. It’s only in fat individuals that the disorder is blamed on the adipose tissue, rather than the likelier suspects of genetics, environment, stress and/or level of fitness. In other words, the estimated cost of obesity is based entirely on the false assumption that correlation equals causation, and that the disease being treated would not exist if obesity were eliminated. (2001 NAO report by the Comptroller and Auditor General).

If, as many studies independent of the pharmaceutical industry are now showing, fatness has little or no bearing on health when fitness is taken into account, this estimate of 500 million GBP disappears entirely. But let’s look at some numbers that do not disappear quite so easily.
According to the NHS (National Health Service), they spend $47.5 Million GBP on prescription weight loss medication, primarily Orlistat and Sibutramine.

According to the British Obesity Surgery Patient Association, an average of 10,000 weight loss surgeries are performed in the UK each year. An average cost for WLS (without complications) is 10,000 GBP. Complications arise in an average of 16% of cases, more than doubling the cost of the treatment. So, on average, the UK can expect to spend approximately 116 Million GBP per year on WLS procedures, not counting lost workdays and the cost of the much-shortened lifespan of WLS patients.

34 Million GBP has been allocated annually to local primary care trusts for obesity prevention programs.

124 Million GPB has been allocated per year over three years for the new 5-point plan for obesity prevention, including programs targeting the gaming industry

2.5 Million GBP has been allocated for the NHS to offer free dance and boxing classes to obese individuals.

So far we’re up to 324 Million GBP, or 64% of the original 500 million GBP expenses blamed on obesity. As no hard numbers were available, I did not account for the cost of TV ads, NHS doctor consultations and monitoring of diets, supplements for programs such as Weight Watchers, government grants for studies, the time and expense of schools to weigh and measure students or police their lunch boxes for snacks, or the billable hours of elected and appointed officials to study, brainstorm, argue, and fight for anti-obesity policies.

In other words, the “cost of obesity” could be better labeled as the “cost of the war on obesity”. The British government is spending 324 Million GBP, or US $639,772,672.47) on failed attempts to make their citizens not fat. So who is really costing whom?

Imagine what all that time and money could do to benefit every citizen if it were spent on HAES instead of hate?

One survivor in Lane Bryant shooting

Police have confirmed that a sixth woman in the Tinley Park store shooting on Sunday survived the incident and was released from the hospital. They don't release any information on her, however, since she's in protective custody until the killer is caught.

Other stores in the mall are open today, and some of the employees are speculating about the motive for the shooting, which left five women dead in the Lane Bryant store. Police say it's a robbery, but some have pointed out that the clothing store wouldn't have much cash on hand. Officials are investigating whether one of the women might have known the gunman.

The dead include store manager McFarland, 42, of Joliet; Connie R. Woolfolk, 37, a real estate broker from Flossmoor; Carrie Hudek Chiuso, 33, a social worker from Frankfort; Sarah Szafranski, 22, a paralegal and graduate of Oak Forest High School; and Jennifer L. Bishop, 34, a nurse from South Bend, Ind., who accompanied her husband to a convention in Tinley Park.

One of the women did apparently try to fight the attacker. Relatives who claimed her body say she had blood under her fingernails and was badly beaten. Thanks to her efforts, they may have DNA to help convict the killer.

Lane Bryant is offering a $50,000 reward.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Shooting at Lane Bryant

5 women were killed at a Lane Bryant in Chicago's Tinley Park around 10:44 am this morning. Police believe that the motive was robbery, and are still looking for the gunman. At least one victim was an employee of the store. Another victim was identified as Carrie Hudek, a 33 year old social worker from Frankfort. The other victims names have not been released, as the families have not yet been notified. They ranged in age from 24 to 40.

The store did not have a surveillance camera, but police are searching surveillance footage from other stores in the area, hoping to catch a glimpse of the killer.

My hope is that the world of pundits and bloggers treat this as the tragedy it is, and remember the humanity of the victims and their families. My sincere sympathy is with them in their time of loss.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Are health risks of fat exaggerated? (well duh!)

The health risks attributed to fat exaggerated from shaky conclusions and a misinterpreted causal relationship? Say it ain't so! :-) Seems like I've heard something like this before, just not sure where....

The Star Tribune in Minneapolis published a quiet little piece about a recent British Medical Journal debate where, wonder of wonders, a couple of rogue experts are actually disputing the epidemic and dangers of fat.

The article, "Are the health risks of obesity overblown?" is available to view once before you have to buy a subscription, so be sure to print it off. (note: if you delete your browser cookies you can read it again.) It features the highlights of a debate between two sets of scientists. One trots out the same tired old propaganda (OMGDIABETES!!!)

The other?

"Media claims about an epidemic ... often exceed the scientific evidence and mistakenly suggest an unjustified degree of certainty."

Really? huh. You mean having breasts doesn't mean I'll automatically get diabetes? Whoda thunk it?

Wait, there's more!

"...The death rates from heart disease and stroke have been falling, not rising. There's no direct evidence that excess fat causes diabetes. "We argue ... that obesity is a symptom of Type 2 diabetes, rather than a cause," said Luik in an e-mail interview. "For instance, changes in physical activity and diet reduce diabetes risk even without loss of weight. How does this support a cause and effect relationship?"

Holy crap on a cracker, Batman! You mean they're still teaching the difference between correlation and causation at those fancy medical schools these days? I would jump up and do a happy dance, but I think the guy at the copier would look at me funny :-)

"Health advocates have resorted to "deliberate exaggeration or, indeed, misrepresentation of the risks" of obesity."
Who cares what the guy at the copier thinks? *HAPPY DANCE!*

Oh, and it's a relief to know that Mememe doesn't get to dance on the graves of the fat people:

Isn't Obesity Deadly? "The evidence is not as strong as you might think. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health found that thin men had the same risk of dying prematurely as overweight men. Any increase in risk is relatively small compared to, say, smoking. "Despite the supposedly abnormal levels of overweight and obesity, life expectancy continues to increase," the two wrote in the British Medical Journal.
Huh...I think I've heard that one before as well....where could it have been? Oh well, I'm sure my memory would improve if I just lost 50 pounds, right?


In the meantime, Patrick Basham and John Luik are the co-authors of a book that's going right on my Amazon wish list: "Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade." It's only available in the UK so far, but I may be able to track it down through the library.

More articles from the same authors: