Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Tumblr!

I have finally bitten the bullet and started a Tumblr site!


It will pretty much be a collection site for the size positive quotes and photos I find around the internet.  This blogspot blog will still be where I post articles, recipes and longer writing.  The Tumblr site will focus on the positive and constructive site of FA and social activism.  While not safe for work, it will hopefully not use up any sanity watchers points either! 

Just remember that I'm really new to Tumblr, and may still have to experiment with the layout and other aspects. 

A note to the Threatened....

In response to people who feel threatened by body acceptance for fat people, and feel it is somehow oppressive to thin people for us to love our bodies and demand representation, role models, and a voice....to these people I quote Jon Stewart and say you've "confused the loss of absolute power with persecution."  We are taking away your power over our bodies and emotions.  That is a loss you'll have to cope with.  We're not, however, taking away your power over your body and emotions,  or your ability to love yourself.  There is no finite amount of acceptance in the world that accepting me creates a risk that you'll be excluded. In fact, accepting me makes it more likely that I will accept you in return, and closing down the monologue of body criticism in your head makes more room for you to have meaningful experiences and connect with others.  So think about it.  I'm going to love my body whether or not you approve, but accepting it benefits you more than it does me.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

SAAS: Sewing at Any Size: Fatkini Season Part 1

This is my series on Sewing at Any Size, or making basic wardrobe items from scratch to fit any body.  Please feel free to print/save for personal use.  You can find other patterns and instructions HERE


Yes we're already hearing about the "beach body" panic from ads and media trying to hock you the latest fad diet, surgery or gym membership.  Now here's the best part of body acceptance. Go to a full length mirror and take a look at yourself.  THAT is your beach body....right now...with no changes needed!  So if it was on some mental list somewhere you can go ahead and check it off and enjoy the holidays. 

Maybe you feel more comfortable covering up on the beach, but if you feel up to baring some skin then you should check out the fatkini threads on Tumblr. It started earlier this year, when Gabi Fresh put up a gallery with XOJane of fat bodies rocking their bikini swimsuits. It got a lot of media attention (some good, some bad) and inspired others with bodies of many sizes, shapes and color to post Tumblr pics sporting bikini. It is super-empowering to flip through the images. You can find a lot of submissions using just the Tumblr tagfatkini, but warning; some triggering items are mis-tagged (like weight loss and body-negative posts). 

So this summer, I have every intention of wearing a bikini in public, and screw anyone who has a problem with it!

While the XO Jane site has a list of places that sell plus-size bikinis, I thought I'd show how easy it is to sew your own so that you don't have to guess at the fit. These instructions are simple and will work for any size and shape body.

Today's project will be the string bikini top (all bottoms will be addressed in a separate post).

You will need a few measurements:

Measurement A: around your chest just beneath your breasts, where your bra band usually sits.
Measurement B: from beneath your breast to above it, over the nipple.
Measurement C: across your breast at the widest point (up and over like for measurement B)
Measurement D: from the top of your breast to the nape of your neck.

Here's a visual:

 You will generally need about a quarter to a half yard of fabric, but if you plan to make matching bottoms you may want to get a full yard. You can use almost any fabric with some stretch for this, down to and including an old tee shirt or pair of sweat pants you want to recycle. You want something that will dry well, and is somewhat chlorine resistant if you plan to be in the pool. If you use very thin, light color material you will want to do two layers unless you really want the world to see your nips.

Note: If you have one breast a different size than the other (whether due to nature or surgery) then just take measurements B and C for both breasts separately and keep track of which is which (Left and Right). If you plan to wear an insert or pad of some kind, measure to include it. If you wear a mastectomy or other prosthesis, you can make two layers and leave one side open as a “pocket” with a velcro closure. Message me if you need help with this. 

A Note on Knits

Swimsuit material and other light, super-stretch knits are notoriously difficult to deal with. It slides, stretches out of shape, and your sewing machine really wants to suck it down into the bobbin casing. You'll want to be careful when measuring and cutting to make sure the fabric isn't stretched or distorted. If you pull on it while measuring or cutting the end result will be off.

Since we're working with straight lines here, an easy way to set up the fabric is to use masking tape. When you measure, use 1/2” wide masking tape to outline the shape you want to cut. Place it so that you cut down the center of the tape. This not only helps keep the fabric from distorting when you cut, but it keeps it from unraveling and developing runs. Remove just before hemming. 

A sewing machine needle specifically for knits may help if your material is subject to runs, but is not necessary for heavier fabrics like tee-shirt fabric.  

When you sew, use your machine's stretch stitch settings (look in your manual). If you don't have a specific stretch stitch, use the zig-zag stitch. Use a thread of similar type as your fabric (cotton for cotton, synthetic for synthetic). Don't bother with the stretchy elastic thread unless you really know what you're doing. I tried it, and the hassle of finding just the right machine settings to keep it from shredding completely outweigh any extra stretch benefit. If you make it to fit your body, normal thread on a stretch stitch will be stretchy enough.

You will want to pick up some neutral-color tissue paper, like you use in gift bags, or wax paper. By placing this under the fabric as you sew and stitching through it, you keep the machine from sucking the fabric down into the bobbin case. It should come out afterwards with a hot water soak and tweezers. If you want to get fancy you can buy water-soluble stabilizer from a fabric or craft store. This saves you some tweezer plucking of paper scraps and simply dissolves in soap and water. I don't mind the extra work, and the tissue paper is cheap.

Making the String Fatkini Top

You will first need a piece that will tie around your chest under the breasts. You can use a ribbon, bias tape, or a piece of your swimsuit fabric for this. Cut it to measurement A plus 13 inches (for tying). Hem or otherwise secure the ends.

If you're making it out of fabric, cut a strip that is measurement A plus 13 inches long by 2 1/2” wide (you can make this wider or narrower as you'd like, but this produces a band about 1” wide). 

This gives you about 6 inches of end for tying in the back.  If you want a bigger, showier bow then add a few more inches.  

Fold the short ends over 1/4” and stitch the hem.

Fold the strip in half lengthwise with the wrong side of the fabric on the outside. Run a line of stretch stitches 1/4” from the raw edge down the length to make a tube.

Use a large safety pin or other tool to turn the tube inside-out so that the seams are on the inside. Stitch the ends closed. This is your chest band.

Now you are going to make the breast pieces. Draw two triangles of fabric where the base is Measurement C plus 2 inches wide and the height is Measurement B, plus 1.5”, plus the width of your chest band (1” if you made it as above).

 Start by making a 1/4” hem on all sides of each triangle.

Fold up the bottom edge to the width of your chest band. Sew across, but leave ends of the “pocket” open to thread the chest band through.

Fold down the tip of the triangle 1”. Sew across, leaving a pocket open on both ends. 
For the neck tie, you can again use any two ribbons or strings twice the length of Measurement D plus 12 inches, threading it through the open pocket at the top of each breast piece and tying it all behind your neck.

You can also use the same technique as you used with the chest band. Cut two strips of your fabric 1½ inches wide, and the length of Measurement D plus 12 inches. (note: this gives you 6 inches to tie a bow at the back of your neck. If you want a bigger bow then make it longer).

Hem the short ends, then with the fabric wrong-side out, fold it in half lengthwise and stitch along the long end. Turn the tube inside out and stitch the ends closed.

Thread the chest band through the bottom of each breast piece, and a neck tie through the top of each piece. You should get something like this:
If you don't like the double strings around the neck you can use a knot, bead, or bow just above the breast piece to bring them together and make them look like one piece. You could also alter the pattern, so that instead of the breast piece coming to a triangle point, it extends up and becomes the tie itself. This will be trickier to cut and hem, but it is entirely doable. You can also cut a single tie and sew it on at the top of the triangle (in which case you would not make a separate pocket at the top).
 So now you have a rockin' fatkini. You can go to town with adding ruffles, beads, fabric paint, etc. to make it your own. You can wear it with a tankini bottom piece, or wait for the instructions on bikini bottoms to make a matching set.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


So after a few months of being way to busy to get any exercise, I finally went online and looked for local parks with easy hiking to get back in the game before we tackle something more strenuous.  I was really happy to find Big Trees Nature Preserve less than 20 minutes from my house.  It has a couple of miles of relatively easy trails (although the hills are "easy" relative to mountains, not good old flat Michigan.)  I took a few pictures on my cell phone, and look forward to getting more as the seasons change.  It felt so good to stretch out and move again.  My joints feel better already.  Hopefully by next summer I'll be ready for some days up in the mountains a few hours north, or even some all-day hikes at Mammoth Cave.  In the meantime, I know nature isn't everyone's bag, but just spending time in a beautiful place (whatever that means to you) can have a healing effect on the body and soul. 


What I love about our move to Atlanta and our final decision to rent a place north of the city itself, is that places like Big Trees and the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area are about 20 minutes away, and so is this:

Ya know...provided there's no traffic.  Meaning no later than 6am :-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Day

Due to a shared respiratory bug and a tight work schedule, JD and I ended up spending Thanksgiving with just each other for company.  That's actually okay; we haven't had enough of that lately :-)  I found myself thankful for many things, but especially for being able to eat, without shame, the holiday food I remember from my childhood.  Part of that is FA and getting rid of the baggage and apocalyptic thinking around holiday food.  Even at a time when we're supposed to be celebrating we have magazines, commercials and sometimes family heaping on remorse and stress for food choices.  Part of that is my recent gluten-free recipe discoveries and experiments.  After three years without my favorite Thanksgiving dish (stuffing) I was able to put it on the table, along with rolls and pumpkin pie with a crust.  The prep was a little more work, but I was able to sit down with my life partner and eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal without any reminders of food restriction or guilt.  I'm thankful for that, because I know not everyone who experiences the holiday does so with enough food, or with supportive people, or with good memories.  I haven't always done so either.   This year was good. 

And by the way, for those who want to know, I used this recipe for the stuffing base and rolls (the stuffing requires about 1/2 cup more broth than you would normally use, 'cause GF soaks up the liquid) and this recipe for the super-flaky, delicious pumpkin pie crust. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Social Justice Bingo

In the grand tradition of Red No.3's Fat Hate Bingo, I bring you:

With the fun of discussing any marginalized group on the interwebz :=)  It is still a work in progress, so please feel free to send suggestions!

If you're not familiar with the concept, whenever you have a discussion with someone about a marginalized group that turns trolly, you can use the bingo card to check off the stale, overworn arguments they use.  I'd say that if you actually fill a row or column, you should win and get to instantly end the conversation (it's probably not worth having anymore). 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Body Acceptance Favorites List

I've added a new list to the sidebar, under "Body Acceptance Favorites".  Since most of my regular reads are on the Fatosphere or Fat Chat blog feeds already,  I wanted to focus on blogs and tumblr streams that are not on established feeds and that focus on underrepresented groups in FA or are representative of the diversity in FA. 

There are a few exceptions, and the few blogs on the list that are on one of the existing RSS feeds are my "go-to" blogs that I read regularly even when I skip the feeds. 

If you have a suggestion of something that belongs on the list, please let me know!  I'll be adding as I crawl through followers of followers :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

French Bread: The Gluten-Free Holy Grail

I have actually found and successfully tested a gluten-free french-bread recipe that turns out crusty, chewy, yeasty, delicious demi-baguettes of bread!  Mind you, they're closer to the grocery chain bakery version of a baguette than a Parisian one, but the texture is authentically chewy and not gritty or mealy. 

When stored overnight in a sealed bag they stay soft and chewy, but lose some crispness to the crust.  They stay in great condition for sandwiches and spreads.  I have not yet tried secondary recipes like stuffing, but I've made two rounds of french dip sandwiches that soak up the au jus beautifully without falling apart. 

Here is the recipe and detailed instructions from the blog Simply Gluten Free:

Easy Easy Easy French Bread

I went to Amazon and got an inexpensive baguette pan for baking, but the recipe includes instructions to make crusty dinner rolls.  I would try out the rolls first to see if you like the result before investing in new equipment.  The perforated baguette pan turns out beautiful, evenly crusty loaves.

The author is not kidding about any of the steps; make it according to directions at least the first time before you fiddle with it.  In the mixer, the dough will start off fairly tough and cling to the beaters or paddle.  As the mixer goes, it will aerate the dough and it will settle into a thinner, VERY sticky batter.  This might take as long as 5 minutes if you're not using a heavy-duty industrial mixer.  If it still looks like it did 30 seconds in, it isn't done yet. 

The batter is really sticky (like pate a choux) so use the spatula to shape it.  It will cling to your fingers like you wouldn't believe and only soap with hot water will take it off. 

Bread has been the one thing I've had the hardest time adjusting to missing with the gluten-free household.  Packaged GF bread from the store freezer is dry, tough and crumbly.  The GF bakery wants $10 per loaf.  I had entirely given up on sandwiches as a feasible food choice.  Now I have sandwiches, and potential for stuffing, bread pudding, breakfast casserole and all kinds of goodness!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Lies We Tell....

Greg Hodge at the Huffington Post did an article last month that I'm not linking directly to because of some problems I have with the tone and language.  The one thing of value from the article was the data he found by commissioning a survey of male and female internet dating site users from the U.S. and the U.K.  More than half of them, he says, lie about themselves in their dating site application.

The part that interests me is not that they lie, but what they lie about. 

Number one lie for women was weight, followed (in order) by age, physique, height, money, bust-size, claiming to have a glamorous profession, knowing celebrities, having an assistant or other employees, or working in the entertainment industry. 

Number one lie for men was how good their job was, followed (in order) by height, weight, physique, money, seniority at work, how interesting their profession was, knowing celebrities, having an assistant or other employees, and working in the film industry. 

(Data from research agency Opinion Matters via Greg Hodge, Huffington Post online article 10/10/2012)

Notice that for men, physical appearance ranks higher than how much money they have, or their seniority at work.  I don't know if that would have been true twenty or thirty years ago, but it is a clear sign that men are now feeling strong pressure to conform to appearance ideals set by our society.  We are seeing mannequins for mens' clothing shrink around the waist.  We are seeing the beauty ideal for men shift to slim, tall and youthful. We are seeing it in rising eating disorder diagnoses in both boys and men. 

I absolutely hate oppression olympics, so please no responses debating whether men or women "have it worse" when it comes to body acceptance.  Just because one subjective experience is different does not mean we should ignore the other.  When we fight for body acceptance, we are fighting for all bodies.  The gender that occupies a body is no more a determining factor of it deserving human dignity than that body's waist size or current ability.  

Now this is a smallish survey (1000 people) and I have no idea how the data was collected or grouped.  It is simply one piece of a pattern that says men share in our body shaming culture to an unprecedented degree. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Other Kind of Diet

We talk a lot in FA about diets.  In general, we mean diets that restrict food in an attempt to lose weight.  However, everyone has a diet.  It is a term referring to what foods you eat.  It's difficult for me, however, to shake the association with restriction, and all the triggering scarcity thinking and food-obsession a weight loss diet entails.

When I first entered FA, I went through the period most people do, where I ate a lot of the foods I had denied myself in the past.  Once I convinced myself that it was okay not to diet, I satisfied frequent cravings for ice cream, pastries, fried foods, and all the other foods assigned negative moral values in our diet culture.  After a lifetime of scarcity thinking, I had to prove to my body and brain that I really could eat these things whenever I wanted.  I wasn't going to suddenly take them away again.  I was actually going to listen to what my body needed.  The only way to prove that was to acknowledge my cravings and fulfill them when they happened.

After a while (about 6 months to a year) my body was finally convinced that I wasn't pulling a bait and switch.  The food really was going to be available and I really could have it when I wanted.  My body started to trust me again.  The intense cravings stopped, and I began to actually want a varied diet with food that was good for me.  Healthy eating went from a form of punishment (during my dieting periods) to a form of self-care. 

Now, my life partner has Celiac disease.  For him, a healthy diet restricts any food containing gluten.  It also restricts all fast food and most restaurants.  Even restaurants with gluten-free menus have often made him sick from minor cross-contamination in the kitchen. 

Then there's me.  Bread and baked goods have always been a major staple in my life.  I've often said that I could live for months on nothing but good bread and cheese and be perfectly happy.  If left to my own devices, my ideal meal would be a whole-grain baguette and a wedge of imported cheese, maybe with some wine.  Entering into a relationship with a person who gets extremely sick from even the slightest exposure to the major part of my diet has required some adjustments. 

We have tried to compromise where I can eat gluteny food when I'm not in the house or with him.  It involves careful clean-up including a change of clothes, brush and floss, and face scrub. Even then, there is a period of about 24 hours where the particles of gluten in my mouth make it unsafe for him to kiss me.  That is the worst part.  I can go out to a restaurant with friends but afterwards I have to spend a day and night actively avoiding kissing the person I love.  I have to keep my glass and eating utensils separate.  I risk making him sick every time I touch him, in case I have unconsciously touched my mouth.

You would think, considering all this, that it would be an easy decision to go entirely gluten-free myself.  It may have been an easier decision had I not spent most of my life betraying my body with an unhealthy relationship with food.   It might be easier if I were gluten-intolerant myself, because he has developed unconscious aversions to the foods that made him sick, even as a child when he had no idea what was really wrong. 

To me, giving up gluten feels exactly like weight-loss dieting.  It means I cannot eat intuitively.  It means scarcity thinking, anxiety spikes, deprivation and unfulfilled cravings.  Can I convince my body that I'm not betraying it by denying it familiar foods? 

Recently, we both discussed it and decided that I was going to try to go entirely gluten-free myself.  He has had a few gluten exposures since we moved, and he cannot afford the time and progress lost when he's working 12 hour days in graduate school.  I should say we cannot afford it, because the whole point of us coming to Atlanta was to make that happen for him.  The risk is too high.

At his end of the compromise, however, he is working really hard to make sure I can make foods available that fulfill my cravings.  In a lot of ways this feels like coming into FA all over again.  When I started missing belgian waffles, he made sure we could get a waffle maker and I started looking up recipes.  (This one is the best we've found so far).  We got a stand mixer so that I could do better breads and cakes.  We got a toaster so that I could make gluten-free bagels and toast them to be as authentic as possible.  He doesn't argue when I say we need to get something that will help me transition.

It does feel just like going off weight-loss diets.  I have anxiety and scarcity thinking.  I get stressed over foods I can't have.  I've probably eaten a waffle every day this week just to prove to my body that I can have them whenever I want.  I made three batches of cookies with the new stand mixer, and two dozen bagels in the last two weeks.  I'm eating far more bread products now than I did before we decided to both go gluten-free.

The difference is that I've been through it before.  I know that if I just take care of my body, let it work through cravings, and prove that I can still give it what it needs, that my eating habits will return to normal.  The cravings will ease.  Any weight I gain (probably minimal) in the meantime will go away as my body adjusts my energy levels and sends me different food messages.  Most importantly, my body will trust me again.  And considering the risks and benefits, it's worth it.