I… don’t know what to say

As a fat woman – and one who likes to think she exercises her grey matter on occasion – I’m used to reading stupid things that’ve been published under the name ‘journalism’. Usually these pieces make me cringe more than anything but today I read something so mind-numbingly stupid I had to share.

This article was published on Stuff (a New Zealand web site run by Fairfax media) with the title ‘Bid To Break Obesity Cycle’. The actual article (headlined slightly less sensationally as ‘Mums-to-be Targeted For Testing’) made me see red while also wondering what the hell was going on. The general gist is that apparently the obesity epidemic can be blamed on us fat Mums who eat too much/badly when we’re pregnant, therefore making our future children fat, diabetic, and likely to get heart disease. From the article:

“A mother’s diet can determine a child’s future weight, and risk of diabetes and heart disease, according to research by Sir Peter Gluckman, chief science adviser to the prime minister.

In a dangerous cycle, the new generation of children are then more likely to pass bad eating habits and diabetes to their children.”

But wait – it gets better!

“The rising rates of gestational diabetes and maternal obesity are a real concern. All New Zealand women should have a glucose tolerance test during pregnancy,” Gluckman wrote in his submission to a health select committee on September 26. He said the current burden of gestational diabetes is probably being “grossly underestimated”.

AUT nutrition professor Elaine Rush said three in 100 women now develop gestational diabetes, but in the next 10 years it will be one in four.

She said testing every mother for gestational diabetes will work only if there are support services to back it up.”

Fat shaming and anti-fat rhetoric aside (hell, I’m used to seeing that in the mainstream press!) this is the bit that made my jaw drop: “All New Zealand women should have a glucose tolerance test during pregnancy” (emphasis mine).

Why did it get me so? Because we already do test for GD! Fairly extensively, in fact!

Now, I’m sure there are a few women who don’t, but in New Zealand it’s a very, very common test and I personally don’t know, and haven’t heard of, anyone who’s refused it. It’s usually done somewhere about 26-28 weeks if I remember correctly. In fact during my last pregnancy they made me keep doing it over and over because they couldn’t believe someone as fat as me wasn’t diabetic :)  But I digress.

The combination of fat shaming and blaming with sheer bald-faced *lying* made my jaw drop. The media routinely lies about fat issues (as do most of the so-called ‘experts’) and – I don’t know about you – I kind of expect that. After all, how can they paint us as the Monsters we so truly are (!) if they don’t create, nurture and inflame anti-fat prejudice. But to lie about something that a large percentage of their female readers will have experienced first-hand… that to me is a whole ‘nother matter.

Is this enough to make people thing “Hang on a second…”? I hope so.

Edited to add: The photo accompanying this piece was also a doozy – a headless pregnant woman, with a huge Danger! sign body painted on her belly. And was this pregnant woman fat in any way? Hell no! Why illustrate an article shaming fat mums with a fat mum? Geeez.

A revelation

I had a bit of a revelation last week about my eating issues.

I don’t know if I mentioned it in the other post, but one of the many reasons why I’ve finally decided to face this and take it on is that we can’t really afford for me to keep bingeing. I guess it depends on where you are in the world but here in New Zealand junk food is expensive, and to be honest although I can and have binged on just about everything (I went through a hummus and freshly baked bread phase once; lovely stuff) it’s usually the higher-end junk food I go for (stuff like McDonalds or Pringles instead of fish and chips or budget-brand chips… but to be fair I just like ‘nicer’ stuff, I think: hence the hummus and bread I mentioned earlier!)

So The Man of the House and I have undertaken – at my instigation – an agreement where he keeps control of the cards and the cash, although I still do the fortnightly shopping (we get fruit and veges from the growers at weekend markets). I have a houseful of food, of course, and if I want a ‘treat’ I have to bake it myself. I’m hoping to kind of ‘short circuit’ the bingeing behavior by not restricting when or how much I eat and by only partly restricting what I can eat by focusing not on any moral judgements about different foods but on their cost. In other words, if I make myself a chocolate cake and eat it that’s fine; buying that same cake and eating it is not. It’s early days yet and I’m still stuck in the ‘I want the stuff I can’t have!’ phase but I expect that’ll change soon and I’ll be bingeing on what I have here. Or maybe not.

But what was really interesting to me was that along with that feeling of deprivation were very, very strong feelings of loneliness and boredom. Given how my life is at the moment – and the various issues I know I have around making and maintaining friendships – I am not at all surprised that I feel that way. What I am surprised about, though, is that I didn’t see it before. I’ve had the whole “you’re eating to fill an emotional void!” accusation thrown at me more than once before and I’ve always hated it because it’s such a pat and stereotypical ‘excuse’ for why that fat person needs to be ‘saved’. But there’s nothing to say it’s not true in my specific case.

Bugger.

 

Where I am, and thoughts on visibility

I’ve not been in a happy place lately.

And when I say ‘lately’ I’m sort of talking about the last 6 months or so (although as ever I’ve been slow on the uptake and have only realized all this in the last wee while). Part of it can be attributed to finishing my graduate diploma and not knowing what to do next (ie. having no real goals), and part of it can be attributed to a recent lack of exercise and general physical activity (caused by my dodgy foot). Meanwhile my eating and self-image have taken a hit and I’ve been thinking about wanting to lose weight.

I don’t want to diet. I know weight loss endeavors rarely work. And I hated that mindset it takes place in, the daily grind of tricks, sneaky substitutions, lies and stress…. blame when it goes ‘wrong’ and euphoria when it goes ‘right’. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I suspect (well, I know) I have an eating disorder. It started with my first diet when I was 15 and has gone through several iterations before now (starving, starving and purging, binging and purging) but for the last decade at least it’s been about bingeing. Not what I’d call ‘normal’ bingeing, the sort everyone does at some time or other (eg. eating an entire packet of biscuits because they taste so damn good) but instead a sort of binge eating where the food is a punishment; each mouthful is a punch to the face and it’s not about eating food I enjoy but rather eating quantities that I don’t enjoy or want. It’s not a compulsion, it’s more a feeling of being pushed if that makes any sense. Even when I want (or crave) the food involved there is no joy in it, no good feeling attached. Part of me cringes when I put it into words because it sounds so self-indulgent and melodramatic but I want to make the point that it’s not like the ‘compulsive eating’ I see derided in so many books as simply an excuse to over-eat. It no different to anorexia in that (for me at least) there are strong elements of control and self-hate tangled up in it. With a background like this any kind of eating ‘plan’ is a recipe for (mental and emotional) disaster.

But. Living in the ‘real world’ as a fat woman (especially as fat as I am, 130 kilos at last weighing 2-odd years ago and I think I’ve put some weight on in the last month or three) can be hard and sometimes I just want respite. I want to be able to buy a goddam raincoat that fits me. I want to buy long sleeved tops seeing as it’s winter and I’m cold. I want to buy nice clothes in general without hassle and a huge price tag (almost all the plus-size shops in New Zealand top out just before my size) but I’ll settle for the functional stuff for now. And when I read, day after day, hate and vitriol and anger on the internet… I want to go out and about my day without looking at everyone I see and wondering “Do you think that way too? Do you agree with the person who told me they hoped my babies died inside me, rather than ‘suffer’ being born to someone like me?” 

I just want to be ‘normal’. But I can’t be ‘normal’. Even if I could, and did, lose weight, I have good reason to suspect I would still be obese. Still fat. Still non-human. Still Me.

The Man of the House (who isn’t fat and never has been) is sympathetic to the way I’ve been feeling but his suggestion was that instead of shying away from the world I should face it and embrace it. Not so much for me but for the sake of the world… he feels that by being visible just living normal lives we fatties can help change minds and attitudes. He feels that visibility leads to normalization. He’s right, I know he’s right, and I also know that – the general populace and their thoughts on fatness aside – it would be much more healthy for me to stiffen my resolve to just live my normal life come what may. Living life for/thinking of someone else isn’t healthy (in general). But in my current general slump… I’m not sure I want to be all that visible anymore.

I’d like to know what it’s like to blend in.

A little light in my day: and why it’s depressing as hell

Hi – long time no write :)  I have no excuses, I’ve just been busy with kids and study (but now I’ve graduated, yay!) and all. But I had to share this morning with you.

I’ve been having some strong pain in my left foot for over a month now. It stopped me from going to Zumba, walking the kids to school, etc., and I got sick and tired of waiting for it to go away on it’s own. So I called up the local podiatrist and made an appointment.

I’ve had mixed experiences with medical professionals in the past, from a midwife who was encouraging me to diet during a twin pregnancy to GP’s who have never once mentioned my weight and when I asked (in relation to a specific illness) told me my size was pretty much irrelevant. So I tend to have an open – and hopeful – mind when I see someone new. But I’m also aware that things seem to be getting worse in terms of fat vilification (which I personally think is down to the fact that FA is becoming more noticeable and people are beginning to think about the issues involved… which makes them feel a little uncomfortable). Plus we’ve recently had a Fat Studies conference in the city I live in (yay Dr Cat Pause!) and some of the comments relating to that have been very, very negative.

So imagine my relief when the podiatrist (“Hi, I’m Tim!”) was my very favourite kind of health professional; careful, considered, and full of explanations about what he was doing and what he felt was wrong and why. And the icing on the cake was that my weight was never mentioned  :)  I was ‘just’ a person, ‘just’ another patient… and that’s just the way I like it.

But it also depressed me because I felt grateful that he’d treated me that way – y’know, like I was just like everyone else. Because I had expected that there was a good chance he wouldn’t. And I carry that wariness into every medical appointment I go to.

It shouldn’t be like that.

What not to eat AKA You Stupid Fat People

For crying out loud this shit has gone too far.

According to my morning paper I – as a Fat Individual – am just far too stupid to know the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food. A group of researchers at Otago University have developed a list of foods that all fatties should avoid. The list, which they’ve published in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal, was apparently designed as tool for a treatment research programme on obesity. According to the group’s press release the list of ‘Neednt’ foods (non-essential, energy dense and nutritionally deficient, geddit?) was:

… developed primarily to help obese people more clearly identify those foods that are best avoided in a healthy diet and only eaten from time to time as a treat, or in some cases avoided altogether.

And from the newspaper story:

Research fellow and dietitian Jane Elmslie admitted many people might be surprised to see items such as muesli bars on the list, because they were often marketed as healthy.

But they were a processed food that was high in fat and sugar – and even more fattening than Toffee Pops, she said.

“Muesli bars are a classic example of how overweight people can be misled into thinking they’re eating healthy food. In fact, most muesli bars are high in calories, and fat and sugar, with minimal nutritional value.

“Essentially, they are just another form of biscuit.”

(…)

The study’s co-author, Ria Schroder, said about two-thirds of participants in the two-year project had experienced significant weight loss since eliminating or cutting back on Neednt foods.

“Simply avoiding Neednt foods is unlikely to be an effective weight-reduction strategy on its own. However, knowing which foods to make individual rules for can help people think more carefully about whether what they are eating is nutritious and necessary, or just random recreational grazing.”

Because we fatties are so stupid we think muesli bars are healthy (and I love how Dr. Schroder contradicted herself there! Plus, the ‘study’ was only 2 years long and I’d love to know what ‘significant weight loss’ was… I doubt it wil be long lasting). But to add injury to blatant insult the list includes things like milo, marmalade, pies, quiches and – this was the bit that made me choke the hardest - honey. I understand it may be different in other countries but in New Zealand you are not allowed to add anything to honey before you sell it – when you buy a jar of honey here that is exactly what you get, 100% natural, nothing added. How can that be so bad it needs to be avoided altogether?? And the group that produced this list advocates the use of artificial sweeteners instead. Yeah, sound so much more healthy to me! And milo? Apparently the sugar content is what they’re worried about there because cocoa with  - altogether now – artificial sweetener is ok. And what’s this about a blanket ban on pies? I’m assuming it’s a pastry thing because quiches and savouries are also on the list of shame. Naughty naughty!

But what really pisses me off about this kind of crap is that it focuses everyone else’s attention on us fatties. People read this, they believe it, (ie., they believe an avoidance of these foods will make us slim) and they act on it. It’s bad enough when you can’t be seen anywhere near junk food without someone assuming it’s yours and asking you if you really need it. But when I’m going to get that kind of attention for enjoying a piece of marmalade toast or making a mince and vegetable pie for dinner… that makes me angry. Very angry. I have a history of disordered eating and most days it’s a struggle not to return to that in the face of other’s scrutiny of my food choices. To have the range of ‘acceptable’ foods reduced even further… grrrr. And – as much as I usually hate this sentiment – won’t someone think of the children? It was bad enough when my daughter came home from school and sadly informed me that she couldn’t have her favourite jam sandwiches any more because they were unhealthy and she didn’t want to die. But now I supposedly should stop giving my kids pies, sausages, jam, honey, milo and fruit juice, just to name a few.

Screw them and their list! I will continue to feed myself and my children as I see fit. Health is about balance not rules.

(And if you’re interested, here is the ‘List of Shame’, complete with acceptable substitutions as determined by the study’s authors. But I wonder why there was no substitute for hot chips? I would have thought a baked potato would be good… perhaps it’s a casualty of the current War on Carbs.)

 

NEEDNT FOOD REPLACE WITH:
1. Alcoholic drinks Water/diet soft drinks
2. Biscuits *
3. Butter, lard, dripping or similar fat (used as a spread or in baking/cooking etc.) Lite margarine or similar spread or omit
4. Cakes *
5. Chocolate *
6. Coconut cream Lite coconut milk/coconut flavoured lite evaporated milk
7. Condensed milk *
8. Cordial Water/Sugar free cordial
9. Corn chips *
10. Cream (including crème fraiche) Natural yoghurt (or flavoured yoghurt depending on use)
11. Crisps (including vegetable crisps) *
12. Desserts/puddings *
13. Doughnuts *
14. Drinking Chocolate, Milo etc. Cocoa plus artificial sweetener
15. Energy drinks Water
16. Flavoured milk/milkshakes Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk
17. Fruit tinned in syrup (even lite syrup!) Fruit tinned in juice/artificially sweetened
18. Fried food Boiled, grilled or baked food
19. Frozen yoghurt Ordinary yoghurt
20. Fruit juice (except tomato juice and unsweetened blackcurrant juice) Fresh fruit (apple, orange, pear etc. + a drink!)
21. Glucose Artificial sweetener
22. High fat crackers (≥ 10g fat per 100g) Lower fat crackers (≤ 10g fat per 110g)
23. Honey *
24. Hot chips *
25. Ice cream *
26. Jam *
27. Marmalade *
28. Mayonnaise Lite dressings/lite mayonnaise
29. Muesli bars *
30. Muffins *
31. Nuts roasted in fat or oil Dry roasted or raw nuts (≤ 1 handful per day)
32. Pastries *
33. Pies *
34. Popcorn with butter or oil Air popped popcorn
35. Quiches Crust-less quiches
36. Reduced cream Natural yoghurt
37. Regular luncheon sausage Low fat luncheon sausage
38. Regular powdered drinks (e.g. Raro) Water/Diet/Sugar free powdered drinks
39. Regular salami Low fat salami
40. Regular sausages Low fat sausages
41. Regular soft drinks Water/Diet soft drinks
42. Rollups Fresh fruit
43. Sour cream Natural yoghurt
44. Sugar (added to anything including drinks, baking, cooking etc.) Artificial sweetener
45. Sweets/lollies *
46. Syrups such as golden syrup, treacle, maple syrup Artificial sweetener
47. Toasted muesli and any other breakfast cereal with ≥ 15g sugar per 100g cereal Breakfast cereal with <15g sugar per 100g cereal, > 6g fibre per 100g cereal and <5g fat per 100g cereal (or <10 g fat per 100g cereal if cereal contains nuts and seeds)
48. Whole Milk Trim, Calcitrim or Lite Blue Milk
49. Yoghurt type products with ≥ 10g sugar per 100g yoghurt Yoghurt (not more than one a day)

I have a girl crush on Dr. Cat Pause ;)

I’ve just watched 20/20 on New Zealand’s TV2 and the interview with Dr. Cat Pause about FA. For those of you who haven’t heard of her she’s a lecturer and Fat Studies researcher at Massey University.

It was good – Dr Pause handled herself well and there weren’t too many “ugg” moments… you know the ones I mean, where the media makes their erroneous or stereotypical point with a sledgehammer (with the topic being about weight were they afraid to come on too ‘heavy’ I wonder?) The comments on the programme on the channel’s Facebook page were a mix (so far at least) and there are several commenters who ‘got it’ – enough to make me feel a little better about the whole idea of reading the posts anyway! There were a few idiots and I’m sure the insults will fly later. But it is still nice to see FA on mainstream media and treated relatively respectively.

Anyway, I’ve included a link to the programme’s web page which will hopefully have video tomorrow – although I think it may only play if you’re in New Zealand.

http://tvnz.co.nz/20-20-news/week-f-word-4718936

Wow they’re quick, they have video up now: http://tvnz.co.nz/20-20-news/activists-spread-fat-positivity-video-4727856

Go Dr. Pause!!

Positivity – not just for the dying

Just a quick thought. But – even if there was a proven causation between fat and all the ills of mankind (it’s blamed for everything from cancer to ingrown hairs after all) I would still not try to lose weight.

Why? Because dammit I’ve been there and done that and I am sick and tired of the negativity that you have to embrace to think that way. Sick and tired of seeing my body and it’s defences against famine as an enemy. Sick and tired of having to concentrate so strongly on everything I put in my mouth, worrying about whether that cracker has too much cheese on it and making myself drink water to disguise the fact I’m hungry. Sick and tired of expending all my energy to try and fail to meet the expectations of others while those others simultaneously chastise me for not doing so (they can tell, you see, because I continue to be fat). So y’know what? Even if all the current research goes up in ashes and HAES is turned on it’s head I don’t care – I will continue to live my life fat and free.

But I want to know what blip it is in our collective psyches that allows us only to let go of those negative judgement when we’re dying? Think about it. The only group of people in our Western Civilisation who are told to throw caution to the winds – to live as though there is no tomorrow, to be happy in and with the moment, to cease judgement and just be – are those who don’t have long to live. Why don’t we embrace that philosophy a little sooner? Why don’t we live our lives in the moment, as we are right this second, without thinking of how we could be ‘better’?

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