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I’ve been reading a lot lately about the so-called “War on Obesity” and find myself wondering about both the terminology and the idea of waging war on what amounts to a difference between people, much like skin color, age, or gender. Now before you fly into righteous umbrage at my comparison of weight (which many people believe to be completely controllable, much like smoking) to factors that are completely out of one’s control, please listen to one fact: Weight is in between controllable and uncontrollable. I know, I know…I can hear the vitriol on both sides of this issue pour forth…sigh. However, research shows that body weight is as about much genetics and biochemistry as it is sensible eating and exercising.  Ok – one argument down – it’s not completely controllable, and it’s not completely uncontrollable – so let’s get on to the meat of this idea.

Given that whatever the cause we know that people who are overweight and obese suffer discrimination, I wonder if our “war on obesity” actually amounts to war on the obese. Study after study has documented that overweight men and especially overweight women experience discrimination in their jobs and in the rest of their lives (see http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2008-05-20-overweight-bias_N.htm and http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/BeautySecrets/story?id=4568813&page=1 for more information). We hear terms such as “fatty,” “pig,” “heifer,” or “fat cow” more often than many of us care to admit. We’re oinked at, barked at, and yelled at. We get rejected by dates, bosses, and family members because of our appearance. In this war on obesity, the obese are the casualties. My question is, does it have to be this way?

I get that obesity is not healthy, again no matter the cause. But if that’s true, why don’t we support the obese in their attempts to become healthy? Discriminating against people does not cause them to be more motivated to change; rather, it pushes people into resentment, anger and defensiveness, making them less likely to change. When you see someone who is overweight out walking, or exercising in any way, what stops you from saying, “Way to go! Awesome!” rather than “Fat Rear” or “Moo”? Why aren’t there more plus-size exercise clothes, exercise equipment, etc? If we truly want to fight obesity and help people get healthier, we need to STOP discriminating and start motivating.

Any psychologist can tell you that reinforcement (rewarding behavior you want to see increase) works way better than punishment – so why do we punish people and expect the behavior we want to see increase? It simply doesn’t work that way – punishment is designed to decrease a behavior. So guess what – when you discriminate against overweight/obese people, you’re NOT motivating them. In fact, you’re decreasing the likelihood that they’ll want to engage in change behaviors.

In this war on the obese, if we really want to see change, we’ll reward the behaviors we want to see – we’ll make accomodations to exercise equipment, we’ll make more comfortable, attractive workout clothes, and we’ll make access to health care services targeted to obesity more affordable and less stigmatizing. We’ll support people who are working on their weight AND we’ll recognize that people do come in different sizes – and that’s ok. We’ll support movements like Health At Every Size (http://haescommunity.org/). Most of all, we’ll accept that people who are obese having feelings, and have the same rights and privileges as every other person when it comes to access to jobs, employment assessments, and salaries/promotions – size simply is NOT an indicator of worth.

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Warning: This post has should probably be rated PG-13, with an “L” for language

I read an interesting blog post from one of my favorite blogs here, Kate Harding’s “Shapely Prose”. The subject was sexual harassment, and how we women are trained pretty much from birth to be quiet, ladylike, submissive and “good” – and how those same qualities get turned into blaming the victim when a rape occurs. It got me thinking about how many experiences we have of being assaulted, harassed, and violated.

One of my first memories was going with my dad to the barber shop when I was a very little girl. I remember feeling creeped out by the way the barber would talk to me, and yet I also remember being told to “be nice.” Now that I have a daughter of my own, I cringe every time I hear someone tell a little girl who is clearly uncomfortable to “be nice.” “Being nice” is more about OUR comfort as adults than it is about respecting a child’s right to her/his own feelings. And that’s sad.

My first husband…well, prior to our wedding we had talked about that first night because we were both virgins. I made him promise me he would stop if I asked him to, because I was afraid of the pain. He promised me he would, and guess what? He didn’t. He didn’t to the point of taking me three times that night. I could barely walk the next day, and when I called my mother her response was, “well you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”

I also remember being in the hospital at one point, and having another patient – male – enter my room and try to sexually assault me. I told the staff about it, and they “arranged” a time for me confront him. When he got up and left the room, slamming the door in my face, they simply said, “well he’s brain damaged. We can’t expect more.” Then, I knew I felt violated a second time and didn’t say much – where was it going to get me? Today…well, I would have said, “You sure fucking can! Get me a lawyer, because I want to press charges.” The hospital was lucky I didn’t sue them as well.

The really sad thing? For literally YEARS after that incident, I would have nightmares of being chased and hunted down, and not being able to yell or scream because I couldn’t open my mouth. Talk about dreams reflecting real life…at this point in my life, I recognize that I was dealing with classic PTSD, generalized anxiety, and depression. It didn’t help that my husband was an emotionally abusive man either, or that I grew up in a verbally and emotionally abusive home. Following years of being verbally and emotionally abused took its toll on me though, and I didn’t even realize that they (both the hospital and the man) shouldn’t have been able to get away with what they did.

Another incident occurred while I was in graduate school. This time I was guest lecturing for my advisor, and was confronted by extremely rude, confrontative, aggressive behavior from a male student. The first time I lectured, he “merely” made sexist comments. My advisor (a woman) “advised me” to let it go, so I did. In graduate school, advisors have a LOT of power over you, so I didn’t feel I could take action. The second time this happened, I was more firm and the student nearly became violent at the end of class. He was calling me a “motherfucking bitch” and “cunt” and other names. When I turned away, he yelled “Don’t you turn away from me, you motherfucking cunt!” Where was my advisor during all this? Trying to placate HIM. It turns out this student had various harassing incidents on the student listserv, and other in-class violations which had gone unreported.

When I told her I was going to report this incident, my advisor wanted me to “collaborate” with her and her teaching assistant so we could “be consistent” in our reports. I went over her head, and felt every right in doing so – she was essentially revictimizing me by trying to put a face-saving spin on the incident. I wasn’t having any of it and went to my teaching supervisor and the department head – both male and both more supportive than my advisor. Now, you have to realize that my advisor was one of the more vocal feminists in the department – I realized after that incident that she was more talk than walk. It was a horribly sad, eye-opening incident.

What ended up happening was the the case was taken to the student ombudsmen, who supported me. The student was expelled. The damage between me and my advisor was irreparable though, and shortly afterward I changed to a different advisor. I found out later that one of my friends had been raped her first year by another graduate student and that our (mutual) advisor had acted very similarly, and actually discouraged her from reporting it. So much for being a feminist, or even supportive. You would think that incidents like these would affect this woman’s career – but no. Tenure is a powerful thing, and this woman is internationally known and acclaimed for her research. So…like many incidents involving women who are in unequal power positions, it got swept under the carpet.

The truly tragic thing about these incidents is that they’re not isolated. They’re COMMON. Nearly every woman and far too many girls have stories like this to report. It is hard for me to even accept that I’ve been assaulted at all, but I consider myself a survivor. I’ve survived a lot of abuse, and yet it’s nothing compared to what some women and girls experience.

In our society, women are still objectified and judged by their attractiveness to a male audience. My appearance and my body size – my attractiveness – are what matters in society, and all of these are open to scrutinization and comment, whether I want it or not. I’m STILL being violated, as are ALL women, whether we want to admit it or not. This is in addition to everything SweetMachine writes about – women are victimized if they dare vary from the ideal of what a woman should look like or be. This kind of thing is still ignored, minimized and laughed at, because we want to believe our society has overcome these kinds of abuse.

And that’s what these incidents are – abuse, pure and simple. Women in this country, and around the world (in even worse situations) are abused on a daily basis. It’s so common, we don’t even think about it at ALL, much less think about it as abuse. As SweetMachine pointed out in her post, we think that the way we’re taught to behave, the way we’re taught not to be provocative is protective and normal. In reality, it’s the beginnings of blaming the victim. Before something even happens, we warn women and girls, “don’t do anything that could be taken wrong.” We SHOULD be warning men instead, “don’t do things that hurt people.” It’s that simple – we’re blaming the potential victims for the inappropriate, hurtful and violating actions of others.

No wonder we’re afraid to report. No wonder we’re afraid to talk. No wonder we keep quiet on the blogs, listservs, websites, emails – we risk being harassed or hurt every time we open our mouths. And now…I’ve had enough. I’m opening my mouth, and not just talking but yelling it to the rafters: “THIS IS WRONG! WE HAVE A RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM ABUSE!”

It’s that simple.

This is one of my favorite blogs here (“Shapely Prose”, and here are two posts on being different in our world:

“The Fantasy of Being Thin”:
http://kateharding.net/2007/11/27/the-fantasy-of-being-thin/

“The Fantasy of Being White”:
http://kateharding.net/2009/07/08/guest-post-the-fantasy-of-being-white/

What seems to be a weed, may be a bouquet of blessings in disguise (image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

What seems to be a weed, may be a bouquet of blessings in disguise (image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

I recently had a couple of lessons on appearances and judging people by their appearances. I was on the receiving end of an act of verbal violence when someone drove by and yelled, “Fat Rear!” Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for me – I’ve been “moo’d” (as have many of you, unfortunately), barked at, and been called “a dog.” We live in a society where a person’s worth is initially judged by their appearance – a quick judgment that often dismisses a person before we even know anything about who they are.

Glenna Peterson, a columnist for the Idaho Statesman, wrote that:

Height, weight, shape, hairstyle, dress, age, complexion – all are things we see and catalog when we look at others. When they open their mouths, we note accents, grammar, speech patterns, and make more notes in our mental catalog.

There is an old adage that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” While external clues may give us information about the person, they do not really give us the full picture – and often we make a decision without all the facts. My mother often lamented what she referred to as a “rush to judgment,” noting the times she had written off someone, based on appearance, who on closer acquaintance displayed personal qualities that led to admiration and friendship.

I suspect most of us have had such an experience. While appearance can provide some clues regarding a person, it does not tell us about the “real” person.

She hit the nail on the head in this article. And even though I had so recently been the victim of such judging, I found myself doing the judging a few days later.

After being at my mom’s in Orem for a few days, we left to head to Idaho to visit my husband’s parents. This was a long, tiring drive and by the time we were a few hours away from Boise, we were all cranky and sticky and dirty. The kidlets needed a potty break and we needed gas, so we stopped in this little brush town called Rupert. What initially looked like a travel plaza turned out to be a refurbished hotel that was turned into a gas station/convenience store. The restrooms were outside, and so I took little Becca to use the girls room. We locked the door, and a few minutes later heard a knock – I said, “We’ll be right out.”

When I opened the door, I was faced with a large woman with tattoos, long dyed platinum blonde hair, tight “biker” leathers and T-shirt – if you’ve ever seen the “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” and know his wife, Beth – this lady could have been a much larger, dusty ringer for her. And I – who had so recently been judged myself on the basis of my appearance – fell into the trap.

All the stereotypes of bikers came up. I was immediately concerned for my daughter’s safety even though NOTHING even remotely threatening had occurred. We came out, and I smiled and said, “Sorry we were taking so long, she’s just starting to use the potty.” Here’s the thing, though – even though I didn’t SAY anything offensive, I was caught in the trap just as surely as were the young men who yelled at me.

My daughter – being the little extravert that she is – beamed up a huge grin and said, “Hi!” The woman smiled at me and said “hi” to Becca, and then smiled again and said, “She’s a little doll isn’t she?” She was a nice, friendly person and I’d almost missed the chance to find that out because of MY prejudices and biased thinking. Again, I learned a lesson – one that seem to need to learn over and over again – you can’t judge people by what they look like. Really.

I’ve heard that we keep gettings experiences designed to teach us, until we learn the lesson these experiences teach. If that’s the case, I must have a long way to go. I learn each time something like this happens, though – and I’m grateful for the lessons even if they ARE painful on occasion. So, I keep trying – I keep forgiving those who hurt me, and I try to be a better person myself. In a way, I hope I keep learning because it means I’m still growing – and I never want to stop learning or growing.

Glenna Peterson also wrote,

By looking only at the external we may miss opportunities to learn and grow from the interaction with a special person. I look at pictures of famous people who have contributed to mankind: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela. Some of them are not attractive. Others might be discounted because of gender or color of skin. But reading their words or others’ accounts of them leaves me wishing I had known them.

I agree with my sister-in-spirit here – attractiveness, skin color, weight, height, hair color, skin condition – any physical attribute that you can think of simply doesn’t matter and has no bearing on what kind of person someone is. The clothes they wear, the car they drive, the state of their home – it may give you information on how they live their live, but it doesn’t tell what kind of person they are.

I hope that someday I can be as gracious and wise as Ms. Peterson – as well as the people she mentioned in her article. At this point though – I have a long journey ahead and the road is long. And I’d better get started on that path.

Till next time, when we meet again – God/dess be with you and may your days be full of love and acceptance.

Something happened to me tonight, that I’m sure has happened to millions of other large – fat – women worldwide. I was verbally assaulted, on the basis of nothing more than my appearance. I am visiting my mother in Orem, UT and I was unloading our van, when a truck full of teenage boys roared by. As they leered out the window, they took it upon themselves in all their righteous ignorance to yell out, “Fat Rear! Fat Rear! Fat Rear!”

I was shocked. I was hurt in a way that few people can do to me anymore – this was sheer violence, expressed in a verbal way. Now one of my areas of expertise in psychology is peace and violence. Violence is expressed in two ways: direct and indirect. Direct violence is an attack, whether it’s physical, verbal or another form. Structural or indirect violence is the structure in society that allows the direct violence to occur – these are our prejudices, our stereotypes, our discriminatory actions and our “isms”.

Tonight, I was victim of direct violence – a verbal attack that was meant to be cruel and hurt. Even more harmful, though, is the fact that these young men felt justifed in making the attack. Fat prejudice is so ingrained in our world, that we don’t even think twice about denigrating someone who doesn’t fit our idea of conventionally attractive. Women who are fat, who have deformities, who are different-looking from the norm are all considered fair game. This is wrong, in any uncertain terms. Women in general are paid less than men – fat women are paid even less. One study examined hiring biases and pay biases. Men in general earned more and were hired more often than women, but here’s the really interesting part: Fat men were hired less and paid less than thin women, and fat women were paid the least and hired the least often of any of the groups. The students who participated were divided into groups, and each group was given the same resume – the only difference was the picture attached to the document.

Fat women were judged to be less intelligent, less competent – not to mention completely unattractive. Being fat in this society is bad enough – fat prejudice is one of the last “acceptable” biases there is. We are seen as “fat and ugly,” “fat and smelly,” “fat and lazy,” or “fat and stupid.” The point is that no matter how you justify it, no matter how righteous you feel in believing that it’s a matter completely under control and that if “you only exercised more and ate less, you’d be fine”, no matter how “helpful” you think you’re being by mentioning someone’s size – even if commenting on weight loss – you are engaging in fat prejudice. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It is – and imagine what it’s like being on the OTHER side. Think about what it would feel like if someone said to you, “Wow – you’ve gained some weight! You were starting to look like you were starving…remember those concentration camp survivors? I was wondering if you were one.” Insensitive, clueless and prejudiced, isn’t it? Point out what seems to be a good thing – weight loss – often reminds the person of how unattractive s/he used to be perceived.

I’ve had people say to me that I’m making excuses for looking the way I do. Here’s my question back – Even if I am, SO WHAT? What business of anybody else’s is it if I look different from the norm? Ok – some of you are going to say, “Well MY insurance premiums and health care costs are higher because of you” – is that REALLY true? If you say this to me, I’ll first tell you that a) I”m healthy and have the medical records to prove it, b) that I DO eat well and exercise, even if you don’t want to believe it, and c) Mind your own f***ing business. Frankly, there are so many conditions, so many socioeconomic reasons – including the pharmaceutical companies’ greediness, so many people in poverty that being larger than normal is a drop in the health care bucket.

I’m not talking about morbid obesity, or fetishist obesity – those are problems, and in the case of a lot of involuntary obesity honestly beyond control (and don’t even get me started on voluntary – or fetishist – obesity.) The bottom line – if you’ll forgive the pun – is that we, as a society need to move beyond our prejudices and discrimination. We consider it a hate crime to use certain terms about people of color and people of Jewish descent – as a society, we HAVE accomplished some things.

So, why – WHY, WHY is it acceptable to do the same to large women? This is every bit as much a hate crime, and should be treated as such. And here is where my struggle comes in.

Being the kind of person I am, I realize that these young men at their root are more empty, more lost than I ever will be. THEY are the ones who are hurting – and they express their insecurity, their immaturity, and their emptiness by hurting others. I, at least, have a sense of myself as a warm, caring, intelligent, helpful, and yes, beautiful human being. I hope these young men eventually grow out of their immaturity, and I’m praying that they do. If I have to be honest, there’s a part of me that wishes they would somehow experience the hurt that they’ve inflicted on others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who they’ve hurt. There’s a part of me that wants vengeance, that wants to crack their empty heads together.

But…the part of me that values who *I* am really doesn’t want to do this. That part of me wants to use this experience. That part of me will use it – to help me understand the people who end up seeing me in my office, who I end up working with as colleagues and as students, and who I encounter when I’m not feeling my nicest. I pray that I remember this when *I* feel like being hurtful or cruel, or when I feel angry. I pray I remember it as I move on, and I pray for those young men – and everyone else – who can’t see past our physical bodies to see the wonderful people we are inside.

This is cross-posted from my professional blog, The Other Side of the Couch. I’m interested in what you all have to say, too!

I’m thinking of planning a retreat. I know, I’m probably nuts, but I figure if I need it, a lot of other people do as well. With my values being what they are, I’d love to make it free of cost, but reality dictates that I probably should charge to cover rental space, materials, food, speaker/teacher fees, etc. So, I have some questions for you all: If I were going to do this, what are the kinds of things you’d like to see? I have some ideas, too – I’d like to blend creative expression in some form with self-esteem, empowerment, relaxation, and healthy interactions.

I’m envisioning a day to start with people being able to choose/sign up for 4-5 one hour “experiences”. I would probably do a group breakfast, all together with fruit, pastries, tea/coffee, juice, along with a keynote/introductory address. Then, have people split up to do their “classes” with a 1/2 hour break in between for mingling and sharing experiences, and then wrap up with a brief talk about taking it home and living it in your life.

Here are the topics I’d like to see – PLEASE feel free to add your own! If I do this, I’d want it to appeal to as many people as possible, and would consider anything you suggest. Here’s my list:

Welcome, Introductions, and Orientation:

Workshops:
1) Setting Boundaries
2) Affirmations and Individualizing: How to honor and love yourself, and how to move away from letting others define who you are
3) Healing through Spiritual Practices: Meditation, Creative Visualizations, Ritualizing/Making the Sacred
4) Creating Balance in an Unbalanced World: Nurturing and caring for yourself while also meeting work and family obligations, realizing the importance of caring for and nurturing yourself and building it into your daily routine
5) Empowerment – Identifying and using your strengths
6) Writing Your Own Path – identifying archetypes that speak to you, and writing your own myth with you as the hero/ine.

Lunch – boxed lunches, catered; juice, water, iced tea

7) Finding Your Inner Artist – Finger painting and intuitive painting
8 ) Body Work – Intuitive Free Dancing to a variety of music
9) Body and Self-Acceptance – Learning how to “love the skin that you’re in”
10) Barriers to Achieving What You Want to Do With Your Life: Identifying what you want to do, and what the barriers to doing it are, collectively brainstorm steps to take to being overcoming these
11) Becoming the Person You Want to be: Taking stock of where you are in your life, and discovering who you want to be; celebrating the parts of you where you have reached this goal, and creating a plan to help you get to who you want to be – All Together

Wrap-Up, Thank-you’s to speakers/presenters, Evaluations and Suggestions.

I also envision having some vendors there making available relevant and inspiring products – humorous items, journals, inspirational works of art, gift baskets…I’d love to be able to offer a gift basket as a door prize/raffle/auction item. Another idea would be to have participants bring in creative pieces for a silent auction to benefit a local cause. What else can you all think of?

How does this sound to you all? Please let me know your suggestions – I’d love and would really appreciate what you’ve got to say. Thanks, so much! 🙂

I posted a little while ago on how “fat” is not a four letter word. And yet, it comes up again and again and again – in how people have lost weight, gained weight, lost it again, gained it again, etc. Look at Oprah – how many times are we (and her) confronted with her weight? I mean, REALLY! The woman has done incredible things with her life, and has helped so many people…but what do we (and the tabloids and magazines) focus on? Whether Oprah has gained or regained weight -as if her entire identity is defined by what she looks like. Puh-LEEZE!

Nia Vardalos – the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” has written about her journey with weight loss…yes, yet another star telling us how she did it. (http://www.usmagazine.com/news/nia-vardalos-opens-up-about-pressure-to-lose-40-pounds-2009126)  The difference? She’s REAL. She doesn’t talk about liquid diets, personal trainers, diets in general, weight loss pills or anything of the like. She talk about how diet changes and exercising more was the way she did it. Nia also mentions that people don’t want to hear that – they want the miracle cure and quick fix.

Folks, there is no magic pill or quick fix. The weight didn’t come on overnight  (although for some people it’s quicker than others – and I’ll explain that in a bit), and it’s not going to come off overnight, either. I know this from both research and experience. Yes, I’m fat. I wasn’t always fat, and I’ve both gained and lost weight in the last year.

Over the last two years, I had lost 70 lbs. I had people coming up to me all the time, asking “How did you do it?” These people wanted the same answers that people wanted from Nia – they wanted to know a diet they could do, a pill they could take, etc. I got the point where I’d say, “It’s pretty simple. It’s called the ‘Eat less, exericse more diet’ .” I’d see people’s face reflect disappointment as they’d say, “Oh. Ok.”

I wish I could say I’ve kept the weight off. Throughout my life, I’ve also dealt with a mood disorder, and have been looking for something that woud help that as well. I finally found a combination of medications that has really helped. The problem? They CAUSE weight gain. Not just “weight gain may be a side effect,” but actually, “This product usually causes weight gain in patients who use it.” I am faced with a choice of feeling decent in terms of my mood or staying thin.

You can guess which path I chose, based on the focus of this post. I’d much rather be feeling good – about myself, my world, and my future – than be skinny. This flies in the face of what a lot of women say: “I’d rather be dead than fat.” That kind of thinking really pisses me off, to be honest. So, in the 6 months that I’ve been on this medication, 30 of the 70 lbs. have come back.

Here’s the thing that’s really hard. I still eat the way I did and exercise the way I did when I lost the 70 lbs. That hasn’t changed. It’s hard to look at myself in the mirror and realize that, after all that hard work and continuing hard work, the weight is coming back. There are times, honestly, when I’ve looked at myself and cried. I really worked hard for that, and it took time.

My doctor tells me, “Well…just eat less and exercise more again.” Folks, I eat 1000 calories a day. I walk 3-4 times a week, for about 4-5 miles (at an aerobic pace.) For those people who are going to tell me, “Well, you can’t be doing all that and have weight gain,” guess what? I can and do. And it sucks, to be honest. If I cut out anymore or exercise more, I’m going to start falling into the realm of anorexia. I sometimes joke that I’d be the world’s fattest anorexic, but it’s really NOT funny. Anorexia is serious problem, and eating disorders run in my family. I’m NOT going to go down that path, simply to look thin so other people can tell me how great I look.

Frankly, I think I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been. My latest blood pressure reading was 106/69. And again, for those of you who want to believe that you can’t be fat and healthy – think again. It IS possible, and I’m living proof. Am I going to give up and just go back to the way I had been before my weight loss? Hell no.

I’m going to keep doing what I did to lose the weight in the first place. If things stable out and I start losing again, great. If not…well, I’m a good person, I’m attractive the way I am (and yes, I’ve had people tell me that), and I like myself. And that’s worth more than anything any diet or weight loss pill could ever bring me.

I’m fat…and I’m smart. I’m fat…and I feel good. I’m fat…and I’m heathy (believe it or not). I’m fat …and I exercise and eat well. I’m fat…and I’m beautiful. Period.

Okay – I know I’m fat. I weigh 200 pounds, and wear anywhere from a size 16 to a size 20, depending on the item of clothing and whether it’s for my top or bottom. AND, I’m a good, interesting, worthwhile person. I wasn’t always fat, and it’s interesting that I like and respect myself MORE now than I did when I wore a size 7 and weighed 110 pounds. For all of my life until I had children, I was thin – and I hated myself.  Physically, I probably looked the best I ever looked, but inside I was a mess. After a disastrous first marriage, I was still relatively thin – 135 pounds, after having one child. My metabolism was never the same after giving birth, and after each child, it’s continued to slow.

(For those of you who think that you have the “cure” – please don’t bother – I have been and am continuing to work with my medical doctor on the best way for me to exercise, eat well, and be healthy. I walk, I watch my portion sizes and type of food, and like everybody, goof up *occasionally*. Please don’t say that I couldn’t be doing these things, because I wouldn’t be fat if I were. It’s simply not true. I’m also on medications that are known – scientifically – to cause weight gain. I try to counteract that effect every way I can.)

The point to this rant? It’s taken me a long time to accept that I am the way I was intended to be. In our society, you can’t go anywhere without seeing, hearing the message that you’re no good if you’re not thin. I still struggle with accepting my myself, but overall, I like myself a lot more as I am, except when I have to shop for clothes. I hear women say sometimes that they’d rather die than be fat…and I feel sorry for them. They truly have NO idea that life isn’t about being thin. Life is about living, loving and being – no matter WHAT you look like.

For those of you who aren’t plus-size, have you ever stopped and really looked at the clothes that are offered to large women? Many of them are flat-out UGLY. And please don’t say that it’s incentive to lose weight – everybody should be able to find stylish, well-made and comfortable clothes at ANY size. When I go shopping, there are times when I feel as if the designers, manufacturers and buyers of stores think, “Well, these are fat clothes, so it doesn’t matter if they look good or not.” I mean, who decided that huge, fluorescent polyester floral prints look good (on ANYBODY)?? Who in their right mind would want to buy clothes that are cut like tents? Just because I’m fat does not mean that I don’t have a figure – I do, and it’s hourglass shaped, thank-you very much. I have beautiful curves that I WANT to show off – just because the way I look doesn’t fit society’s ideal of what a woman should be does not mean that I or any other large person should be delegated to the “crap” section.

Frankly, it is *absolutely* possible to make the same styles and shape of clothes look good in larger sizes. Shopko does it (Please, PLEASE, **PLEASE** come back to Colorado!!) Coldwater Creek does it (and if they’d add some more of their dresses to that line, I would buy them). Talbots Women does it. Kudos to these places that make larger women feel pretty, good, and desired, just as they are. There are a number of places that prove it’s possible. Frankly, I don’t even mind paying a *little* more; I understand that more fabric is required. I’m reasonable. There are also many, many places that offer one stylish line for “regular” sizes and one fugly line for plus-size – I won’t mention names, but those of you who have had to shop for decent plus-size clothes know exactly who I’m talking about.

And forget trying to find a decent bathing suit, or lingerie. Blech! Land’s End has beautiful bathing suits in a large variety of sizes (thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!) Cacique specializes in lingerie for plus-sizes. The rest of you – GET WITH IT!! You don’t really think that all plus-size women are celibate, do you? Hello?? Don’t even get me started on trying to find plus-size maternity clothes – Motherhood Maternity has a few, JC Penney’s has some and that’s pretty much it. And nursing wear is literally nonexistent, except for a few sets of pajamas. Folks, fat women have sex, and fat women have babies – yes, we enjoy life as much as anyone else. Do you know why most large women work out in baggy sweats? Because it’s next to impossible to find good quality, comfortable, workout clothes in our sizes!

To all retailers: PLEASE!! The average size of women in the US is a 14 – do you REALLY want to lose that much business? Yes, most of us would love to be thinner – some of us even die trying. And yet, some of us, believe it or not, work to be healthy and can actually accept ourselves and (GASP!) love ourselves as we are.

We are tired of being told we’re not good enough, that we’re lazy, that we’re ugly, that we stink, and that we’re not worthy. We’re tired of having very little choice in finding nice clothes, bathing suits, and lingerie. We’re tired of hearing “You’d be so pretty if only…” (We’re pretty just as we are, thank-you very much.) We’re tired of being around thin friends who complain about how fat they are…trust me, you’re not fat, and I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself. We’re tired of being forced to justify our very presence in a world that despises and hates us. (How do you think we feel when we hear people say, “I’d rather die than be fat!” Then again, the people saying these things probably don’t care what we feel, because to them, we’re worth less than than the caca they flush away.)

Guess what world? We’re here, we always will be here, and we aren’t going away. And you know what? I like who I am, and I’m learning to “love the skin I’m in.”

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror