Response to Lori

March 1, 2008Erin 17 Comments »

My comment back to Lori turned into an epic, so I am putting it up here as it’s own post, as a response to her comment on Body Acceptance. I freely admit that I do not know HTML enough to format inside a comment box and there are a lot of links that I wanted to include. It’s cut for length, and while it is a response to Lori, I am of course always interested in others’ points of view.

My earlier comment was about your comment that you’ll never be society’s idea of attractive, and that is what I called bullshit over, not the rest of your post.

My argument, and I do have one, is that the fat acceptance people think that “society” equates “thin” with “beauty”. Society doesn’t do that.

Yes it does. That is why all advertising is done with thin models. Why everyone on television has to fit a certain mold. Why actresses are told to lose weight to get parts in movies. Why places like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers and LA Weight Loss can exist. Why people are willing to take appetite suppressants and diet pills that can cause a multitude of health problems. Why weight loss surgery is on the rise in North America.

The fat acceptance people want and need you to think that. The fat acceptance people need you to think that all bodies are beautiful no matter what. That is not true.

According to your scale of beauty, I suppose that statement can be true for you. It’s not for me. I think that every body can be beautiful.

If you are more than 20 lbs overweight you are not eating right and you are not exercising enough for your body. If you are carrying several inches of fat around your midsection, you are not healthy. This is an evolutionary principle, not a beauty one.

Did you mean to be so insulting here? I’m just curious, because according to every method out there I am more than 20 lbs overweight and I am genetically designed in such a way that I carry my excess fat on my midsection. I go to the dojo five times a week. Do you truly believe that I am not exercising enough for my body and if I just ate less and moved more, I’d become more ‘healthy’? Or do you mean that I’d lose weight? Because the two are not mutually inclusive.

The human body is designed, has EVOLVED, to be 10 to 20 lbs “overweight”. Not thirty, not fifty, but 10 to 20 lbs of optimal weight. This is a failsafe in case of future famine. Its part of natural selection.

No one who is 5′6″ and 200 lbs is healthy. Not if its muscle, not if its fat. It’s not healthy. The fat acceptance people want you to think that is, but it’s not on several fundamental health levels.

Could you source this, please?

I will not let anyone tell me that I am or am not healthy. You are not me – you never have the right to make that call for me, or for anyone else other than you. For you to write that 20 lbs overweight is okay but anything more than that is unhealthy says that you are the one buying into the bullshit. And I have to ask – over what weight, exactly? You say you don’t believe in the BMI – then tell me, what is the optimal weight for a person who is 5’6″? Does it take into account that some people are naturally more curvy than others? Does it vary for body type? For gender? For race? For genetics? Or is your idea of the perfect weight for a person of 5’6″ a static number? Who decides? And how?

And who the fuck cares what the scale says? Health is not measured by that but by a multitude of factors, none of which can truly be determined except by the person living in that body. I read a blog of a woman who weighs 300 lbs and she completes triathlons. Is she unhealthy then because even though she exercises every day probably more than anyone I know, her body’s set point happens to be 300 lbs?

Oh, and a few of my sources are here, here and here.

The fat acceptance movement needs women to be angry at “society” rather than empowering them to get their asses moving and moving in a way that works with the evolutionary changes the human body has made.

Because everyone who is more than your allowable 20 lbs overweight must be “not eating right and …not exercising enough for [their] body.” Clearly, it’s obvious – eat less and move more, right? Wrong. Read this and this and this.

Women need to maintain over 10% body fat to assure fertility and hormonal balance. That is not a mistake. That’s natural selection. However, over 20% body fat can decrease your fertility and send your hormones out of balance. That isn’t a mistake either.

Again, could you source that, please?

Its not easy in a society where we don’t move around enough and food is very plentiful, but I have to do that.

I’m not saying that BMI is the indicator. I’m not saying that there aren’t people who don’t hate and threaten fat people. I’m just saying that society isn’t talking about a couple of extra pounds when it says disparaging things about “fat” people. But the fat acceptance people don’t want you to think about that. They want you to think there is a vast conspiracy against anyone who isn’t a size 0.

No they don’t. At least, none of the blogs that I read do. But then, judging from your comment, you haven’t actually gone out and read what the fat acceptance movement is doing or talking about. I suggest starting here and then going here and here and here.

But there isn’t one. And saying that you’ll never be beautiful in society’s eyes is copping to the bullshit that there is one.

When I used the word ‘society’ I was using it in the sense that there is an ideal of beauty that is shoved down our throats, and not only do I not fit in it but I never will. And my point in my original post was that I will never fit that ‘ideal’ and that I don’t care. I know that my friends and people in my immediate circle find me attractive. I know that there are lots of people in the world who think that my particular body shape is attractive. And I know that I am lucky that I don’t buy into the ideal of beauty in terms of my self esteem. I say lucky because everyone that I know (and by everyone I mean everyone that I have ever had a conversation with for longer than five minutes) has told me that they want to lose weight because they feel that they would be more attractive or healthier or both if they lost weight. It’s not my place to agree or disagree with them over the health thing because as I said before, no one can make that call for anyone else. No matter that society tells us over and again that we (especially women) should never be content with ourselves the way we are, but should instead always be striving to look younger and be thinner, I am happy and healthy in my current shape and I have no desire for anything else.

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17 Responses to this entry

  • Rachel Says:

    Erin, you rock. And as for your physical attributes, I know I don’t see you much these days, but I honestly can’t believe that you are even considered overweight. I mean, you’re good-looking and fit and always have been, and you take care of yourself so well and you’re confident, and that’s attractive to A LOT of people.

    I get part of what Lori is saying (I think)… at least the idea that it seemed like you were feeling bad because you were disappointed in your body after that class, and then feeling bad on top on that because the FA movement tells you not to feel bad about your body. Do you know what I mean? But I think I recently read a post on Shapely Prose (which I love and read all the time, by the way!) about that very danger.

    I don’t read any FA stuff other than Shapely Prose so I can’t really say too much about it, but from what I’ve seen, nobody in the FA movement would want you to be playing head games with yourself like that. I think part of FA (or Body Acceptance, as you call it, which I like and I think is why I relate to Shapely Prose so much), is accepting that even though you’re happy with your body most of the time, sometimes you’re just not. Sometimes you get sick or aren’t as strong as you thought, or have a bad day, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or have low self-esteem or aren’t well-adjusted. It just means you’re a normal human being.

    Anyway… I have to go watch Midsomer Murders now! (=

  • Lori Says:

    I think what we have here is a critical difference of opinion between what you think society is and what I think society is.

    Society is the general population, and the actions thereof.

    You are talking about the media and their various and sundry interpretations of human interest and behaviour. Two very, very different things. Society, from primitive cultures to the readers of men’s magazines historically and traditionally are attracted to the “hourglass” or a 0.7 hip to waist ratio.

    http://www.numedix.com/FemaleFertility.html

    The body fat to fertility research.

    Not enough body fat and there isn’t enough fuel for proper estrogen production. Too much body fat and your estrogen goes through the roof. According to one online resource the optimum number is 22% body fat, but I’ve heard it as low as 15% and as high as “less than 30%”.

    Most of this stuff comes from my doctor, who doesn’t believe in BMI, but in the tale of the tape measure and body fat percentage.

    She wants me to find my 0.7 hip to waist ratio and to maintain my body fat percentage at around 20%.

    Any more than that I am overweight. Her argument is that if I can’t maintain my 0.7 and 20% then I’m not doing the right kind of exercise. She believes in resistance/weight training over cardio because of the natural fat and energy burn that building muscle does. Not that she doesn’t believe in cardio or flexibility training, she just doesn’t believe that it provides the fat and energy burn they’d like to believe.

    Also, I was typing in the “grand you” sense, not the “you, Erin” sense. I’m sorry if that offended you, but it’s the truth as its been explained to me by my doctor.

    I’m striving not to wither away and fall apart like my grandmothers. If I get to stay younger and thinner as a result of that, I’m okay with that.

  • donna Says:

    Y’know… when I was younger, my body fat was right on target. I wasn’t even remotely healthy and would be out of breath if I tried to run up a flight of stairs.

    I think what Erin’s trying to say is that size & health are mutually exclusive. There are some crossovers, but overall? They’re not terribly related.

    And I honestly don’t put much weight on a single general practitioners explanation. There are PLENTY of medical experts who would disagree with your GP… just like there are plenty who would agree. Health isn’t an exact science, there is no global “truth” in medicine.

    If it works for you, great. But don’t presume to project what works for you onto other people. That’s awfully presumptuous.

  • Lori Says:

    It’s awfully presumptuous to say that “a single general practitioner” means “just some doctor”.

    She’s got a PhD. in evolutionary biology, was a certified athletic trainer for skiers, and an MD. She says that it’s all about finding your optimum performance levels, and if you’re not 0.7 and at the fat % that suits your sport, you are not at optimum levels. So you’ve got to rethink your system. There is also a psychological element to physical training (she doesn’t call it weight loss) that if you keep telling yourself that you’re never going to have a great shape, you never will.

    Oh, and that woman from Shapely Prose is a fucking nutter who routinely bitches about what people said that was mean about fat people, after misquoting them badly.

    See Violet Acres and Dan Savage at Slog.

  • donna Says:

    Where did I say “just some doctor”?

    Hell, there’s a LOT of training that goes into being “just” some doctor, regardless of the rest of her credentials.

    But she’s still one person, and there are PLENTY of other, opposing opinions from people who have similar educational backgrounds. To say that this one person has ALL of the answers, the divine truth, and is the sole voice for All Bodies … I don’t buy that.

    Like I said — if it works for you, great. I’m glad that you trust your doctors opinions, that’s important in a doctor/patient relationship. (Man, after the bullshit with my doctors mat leave replacement… god, I miss having a great doctor/patient relationship.)

    But seriously… “the truth as its been explained to me by my doctor”? Do you honestly think that ANY area of medicine has set in stone “truths” like that? Medical “knowledge” changes on a daily basis. There’s simply no way that any one doctor can claim to know “the truth”. Well, unless they’re God. And since I don’t believe in god… well, you do the math. :)

  • erin Says:

    Rachel: Absolutely, no one in FA would want me to be playing head games with myself. My point was that even though I love and accept my body on a level that I think most women don’t, I still have moments where I think to myself, “I hate my body.” Hence, not perfect and wanting to embrace body acceptance even more. PS. I can’t believe I missed Midsomer Murders last night. Grr. :(

    Donna: All I have to say to you is a big HELL YEAH! :) Thanks for taking the words right outta my mouth.

    Lori: I hope that you took a little time and looked at some of the links that I put up. However, if you are going to use Violet Acres and Dan Savage (both open about their hatred towards fat people) as your reason to dislike Kate Harding (and from there, reading between the lines, it seems the entire FA movement) then I honestly have nothing left to say to you on this subject.

  • Yvonne Says:

    As a fat person who hates her body, but believes the hate is justified not because of what others think but because my heart wants to go splodey, I have to agree that health and weight can be mutually exclusive…and sometimes not.

    When I worked in a club in Japan, there was this “fat chick” from Montreal who was amazingly “fit”. She was an acrobat who could do the most amazing things with her chubby little body. She worked out everyday, she could do flips across the room, but she wore a size 16 and was just over five feet tall.

    Then there was a friend of mine who was a size 20 who could barely make it up the stairs, would eat an entire chicken to herself for dinner, finished off with a bowl of icecream. She was an overeater…constantly. She would complain about her weight all the fucking time, but have no trouble downing an entire pan of brownies (“but they are made with whole wheat, so they must be good for me, right?” *eye roll*) It was disgusting.

    What I’m saying is that it should be viewed case by case. If you eat like a fat person and you’re fat, then don’t fucking complain about it. If you exercise, eat well and you’re still “fat”…then that’s your lot in life unless you fancy surgery.

    I feel sorry for those in the last situation because it’s true that the media and the general population look down upon obesity. But the average person who’s carrying 20-30 extra pounds, I don’t feel is stigmatized as much as some seem to feel.

    Now I’m just rambling. Thanks for letting me play too! hehehe

  • erin Says:

    Yvonne, it sounds to me like you are separating the “good fatties” from the “bad fatties” and making a moral judgement on them. I do not believe that anyone has the right to pass such judgement, because everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Also, most of the time we don’t have all the information. I’ll give you an example: someone who is overweight, sedentary, smokes, drinks, and occasionally uses illicit drugs. Sure sounds like a “bad fattie”, right? But then add in a medical condition that you cannot tell the person has just from looking at them, and suddenly the picture changes. Add in genetics and the picture changes again.

    Also, “eating like a fat person” is an extremely insulting and ignorant thing to say. Most fat people eat like anyone else. And there are lots of thin people out there who have disordered eating and follow eating patterns that I’m guessing you would call “eating like a fat person”. The only difference is that you can’t tell by looking at them because they won the genetics lottery.

    I would also add that even if that friend of yours had changed her eating patterns, she probably wouldn’t have lost that much weight. It is possible to eat your way above your set point and possible to starve yourself below your set point, but generally not by too much. I’m a case-in-point: I starved myself for a year, lost 13 lbs in the first 2 months and then plateaued for the other 10 months I was dieting, and as soon as I started eating normally again, I gained it all back. I’m right back to where I was before starting WW in November 2006 because my set point happens to be around the 175 lbs mark. If I ate 15,000 calories every day I could possibly hit 200 lbs but guaranteed that as soon as I went back to eating normally, I’d end up around 175 again. If your friend truly was an overeater then she most likely had eaten her way above her set point. That in no way implies that if she learned healthy eating habits that she would have been able to get to a weight that society deems socially acceptable.

  • Yvonne Says:

    Yes, you are correct in that my statement to “eat like a fat person” does come off wrong. I mean “overeat” and don’t play semantics with me on it…you know what i mean. NO ONE should be eating an entire chicken by themselves in one sitting unless they are a pro-athlete and need the fuel.

    I think what it comes down to for me is the “complaining” part.

  • erin Says:

    I know what you meant because I know you.

    But it’s not just semantics for me, and I can’t let a phrase like that go, either here in my own little space on the web or in real life. It came out sounding hateful and bigoted and I will and do call out anyone who does such in my hearing. (Seriously, ask my brother how many times I’ve jumped all over him for using the phrase “That’s so gay!”)

  • donna Says:

    I eat “like a fat person”. :)

    mmm, mcdonalds.

    And… I’m still going to complain when it hurts when I run. It’s my own damn fault, but hey, LOTS of things in my life are my own damn fault, but I’m going to complain about them anyway. Why should packing on a few pounds be any different?

  • Sarah Says:

    Lori, the two “sources” you cited are two of the most hateful on the web when it comes to fat people.

    Your true colors are showing, and they are ugly.

  • Sarah Says:

    Oh, and Erin – great post! There is not much you can do when you argue with a fat bigot, but I think you did it with grace.

  • erin Says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Sarah. Welcome. :)

  • Buffpuff Says:

    Lori, I’m afraid you blew any credibility you had with regard to not being a concern troll when you started throwing insults and nominating Violent Acres and Dan Savage to lend substance to your anti FA stance.

    And as for this:-

    Society, from primitive cultures to the readers of men’s magazines historically and traditionally are attracted to the “hourglass” or a 0.7 hip to waist ratio.

    Ever seen the Venus of Willendorf? There are plenty more ancient fertility goddesses in a similar mould and they bear very little resemblance to the current men’s magazine ideal. Even the hourglass-shaped ones, (such as those featured in Indian temples), have the kind of assets that would have your oh-so-esteemed doctor reaching for the the calipers and the smelling salts. Give it a bleeding rest.

  • Jeanie Says:

    I think we need to clarify the two types of body fat necessary for normal functioning: essential and storage. “Essential fat is required for the body’s hormone and immune systems to function properly. Storage fat is used as fuel for the body in time of need. Essential fat is stored in the bone marrow, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, intestines, muscles and other organs. This fat is biologically important for child bearing and other hormone related functioning. Women carry more than four times as much essential fat as men. Essential fat should account for at least 10 to 12 percent of a woman’s total weight… lower levels may impair her health. In addition to essential fat, women have varying amounts of storage fat. This is the fat that we gain or lose as our weight changes. Storage fat amounts to about 15 percent of an untrained woman’s total weight.” The combined total of essential fat and storage fat puts the ideal body fat measurement at around 25-27% for women on average.

    To say that “women need to maintain over 10% body fat to assure fertility and hormonal balance… However, over 20% body fat can decrease your fertility and send your hormones out of balance” is extremely misleading and potentially harmful to a woman’s health. When I represented the provincial hockey team as an elite level athlete at the women’s Canadian Nationals in 1999, my body fat measurement was 11-12%. I stopped menstruating. My body stopped functioning normally. To have 10-20% body fat is to be on the potentially dangerous low-end of maintaining what your body needs to function normally.

    “Health experts emphasize that any body fat standards should allow for wide differences in inherited body types and changes that may be normal as we age. [The] accepted standard states that women should aim for a range of 19 to 35 percent body fat, while adult men strive for 8 to 25 percent. Athletes have slightly lower ranges, but going below 5 percent fat in men, or 16 percent fat in women, poses health risks and doesn’t increase performance.”

    I’m a size 6. I haven’t worked out regularly for the past 3 years. My sister-in-law is a size 16-20. She plays hockey twice a week, goes to the gym regularly, has run marathons, and is very health conscious about her diet. She will never be a size 6.

    Additionally, to argue that society and the media are two different things is also misleading. See Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media,” in which he demonstrates that a medium is “any extension of ourselves;” or “The Medium is the Message,” which explains that any change in our societal or cultural conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium. The two are entirely interconnected and interdependent. While “society, from primitive cultures to the readers of men’s magazines historically and traditionally are attracted to the ‘hourglass’ or a 0.7 hip to waist ratio,” those same men’s magazines publish derogatory articles such as this one from askmen.com titled “6 Ways To Tell Your Girl To Lose Some Weight” which lists everything from lying to her to insulting her ‘overweight’ friends: http://ca.askmen.com/dating/curtsmith_100/144b_dating_advice.html

    According to all accepted measurements of body fat that I know of, I am within the “normal” range. I hate my body because I don’t meet the ideal promoted by the media/society. I highly respect and admire Erin for her body acceptance and believe we should encourage women and girls to embrace a more realistic and personal view of what is healthy and beautiful.

  • erin Says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Jeanie. :) *big hugs*

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