Cruise Control

So one of the things that cruises are notorious for —

Wait, did I ever mention that The Trip was a cruise? I can’t recall and I’m too damn lazy to go look it up. In case this is new news, and just to get this down on the record: The Trip was a cruise.

Display on the first cruise day, in the Windjammer (the buffet restaurant)So anyhow, one of the things that cruises are notorious for is the quantity and quality of the food you’re served. Actually, I’m not enough of a hard-cross cruise traveler to know whether all cruises are known for having good food, or if it’s more like the same rep an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet has: food that’s notable  more for the available amount than for the flavor profile. (Even if most cruise ships have food that’s more adequate than exceptional, the ship we were on is on this list of the “best cruise ships for foodies,” so trust me when I say that not only was there tons of food available, it was tasty, tasty stuff.)

Now, there’s a whole lot of rhetoric out there about how it’s inevitable to gain weight on a cruise, with various fat-panic/fat-shaming suggestions on how to approach that “problem.” For example:

  1. controlling your on-ship behavior to minimize weight gain
  2. doing a little prophylactic weight loss ahead of time to build your “buffer zone”
  3. going on x, y, or z post-vacation diet plan
  4. deliberately infecting yourself with a parasite or the norovirus in order to stay skinny

(Okay, maybe I made that last one up. And, for once, no, I won’t be providing links to sources. I don’t feel like actively participating in Diest Culture, and you can find this kind of shit so easily with the simplest of google searches.)

It was an interesting comparison across the years, thinking back to the first-ever cruise Mr. Mezzo and I took back in 2007, right when I was at the verge of learning about fat acceptance and adopting that perspective for myself and my worldview. That first cruise also had lots of good food. I indulged, and I know I gained weight — though at this distance, I can’t recall what the number was. And I felt so ashamed for all of it. For my lack of dietary discipline, for my laziness in not becoming a cruise-ship gym-rat, and then for my inability to diet and lose the weight after I got back on land.

martinisThis time around, I decided adamantly against imbibing a guilt-and-shame chaser with any of the meals, martinis, or desserts I had while vacationing. I have no idea if my food was any less rich or sugar-laden this time around as in ’07. (I’d guess not much appreciable difference, then and now.) But I do know I’m feeling lots better than I did 7 years ago — if for no other reason than the fact that I’m not mired deep in a self-shaming and self-punishment cycle. ‘Cos honestly, when I let those voices loose in my head, it’s never to my benefit. Spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

Having said that, I am feeling a bit logy after-the-fact. I’m guessing, based on my HCG experience from the spring, that I’m mostly feeling the after-effects of the dramatic uptick in added sugar during those two weeks (read: desserts, martinis and Belgian chocolate). And I’m kind of fascinated by the way, as far as I can tell, that my spring detox journey helped me more attuned to my body so I could notice this change, but my history of fat acceptance work and my ongoing growth around overall self-acceptance has in a place where I’m not upset or blaming myself about it.

belgian-chocolateInstead, I’m just quietly moving back to some of the cooking routines and rituals I used during the spring, adopting something that’s closer to “clean eating” than I was doing recently. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not on some extreme ascetic kick. Beyond my own natural sense of fullness, I am setting zero limits on the quantity of food I’m eating.  I’m even having a little taste of “added sugar” each night after dinner (I say again: Belgian chocolate. You don’t think we were coming home without a small stash of that to enjoy, did you?)

I’m just trying to listen to my body. And if my body is craving greens and chicken rather than my cruise staples of pasta and red meat, I’ma good with that.

Plus a little of that Belgian chocolate. Yummy and absolutely guilt-free.

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Image credits:

Fruit buffet: http://forsythfamily.com/caribbeancruise.htm

Martinis: http://zynkah.hubpages.com/hub/10-Best-Flavored-Martini-Recipies

Chocolate: http://www.moonlight-mile.com/belgian-chocolate/

 

 

 

 

Baby Jiu Jitsu

A Dance of Appreciation and Avoidance

Baby Jiu JitsuOne of my other weekend activities was to get a somewhat-overdue haircut (and a color touch-up, though that was more on-time).

I had a haircut scheduled two weeks ago, but my hairdresser got sick, and I just decided to grit my teeth and wait till the Saturday coloring appointment I already had on the books.

The upshot of all this scheduling information is that my last haircut prior to this one was the weekend before I flew down to begin the HCG protocol. So, my hairdresser hadn’t seen me since this whole journey began. And I guess I look different enough now for it to be noticeable.

“You look great! Have you lost weight?”

Welcome to the compliment minefield.

———-

[HAES/FA Basics Break]

Just for clarity, let’s recap some of the reasons why this particular “compliment” is deeply problematic and not very complimentary.

As a start, here’s Regan Chastain at Dances with Fat:

People who undertake weight loss attempts are often encouraged to motivate themselves by hating their current bodies.  When they are successful at short term weight loss, they are encouraged to look back at their “old body” with shame, scorn, and hatred.  And that’s a big problem.

Not just because at some point the person will probably start to think “if everyone is talking about how great I look now, how did they think I looked before?” but also because the vast majority of people gain back their weight in two to five years.  Then they are living in a body that they taught themselves to hate and be ashamed of, remembering all of those compliments. Yikes.

Tracy I at Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty unpacks some of the deeper implications of this compliment, and its collusion within a structure of the Foucauldian panopticon:*

It reinforces the idea that it’s okay to let people know that we are monitoring and judging their bodies. One thing that shocked my friend in the story I opened with was that she really didn’t even know the person who commented on her weight.  And yet the person felt completely entitled to say something. What kind of a twisted world do we live in where the state of our bodies is fair game for comments from whoever feels like making them?

Finally, here’s a meditation from Michelle Parrinello-Cason at Balancing Jane on the question of what exactly we’re praising when we compliment weight loss.

What if I say “Have you lost weight? You’re looking great!” to someone who has been starving himself for weeks. Now I’ve reinforced that behavior.

What if I tell someone she looks great when she’s actually suffering weight loss as a side effect from a deadly disease (as happened to this woman’s friend who was suffering from Lupus).

We don’t know what we’re praising if we’re only praising a result. If our goal is to encourage people to take care of themselves and to be healthy, then shouldn’t we make sure that we’re actually encouraging people to, you know, take care of themselves and be healthy?

If someone gets up an hour early and went for a run, we should praise that. That’s hard work.

If someone cooked healthy meals all week long for themselves and their family, we should praise that. That’s hard work. [. . .]

If we rethink the way that we give praise, we can begin to restructure our norms. If we praise hard work instead of outcomes and acknowledge beauty wherever we see it and the people who are doing that hard work don’t get any thinner, we’re still reinforcing positive, healthy changes. Isn’t that what we really want to value as a culture?

[/Break]

———-

For all that I agree with these multiple analyses about the problems behind my hairdresser’s statement, I also agree with Golda Poretsky at Body Love Wellness about the root cause of these “compliments”:

I think people are, in some ways, nearly literally blinded by weight loss culture. So when they read something or someone as beautiful they make an automatic connection between beauty and weight loss. I really don’t blame people for that. I think that most of us who have woken up from weight loss culture have been truly hurt by it (or have great empathy for someone close to us who has been hurt by it), so people who haven’t had that experience often just see our current weight loss culture as normal.

So the question becomes, what do you do in the moment? Depending on the context and your relationship to that person, you can handle the compliment of “You look great. Did you lose weight?” in many ways.

Among the options Poretsky lists are saying a simple thanks, setting a boundary against public discussion of your weight, or using humor to redirect the conversation. In the moment on Saturday morning, I didn’t select any of those precise options, though I feel as if I kind of rolled them all together, a bit.

I thanked her and said I’d been doing this detox diet for a number of weeks, limiting my food to lean proteins and fresh produce. I was sure some weight loss had occurred as a side effect of the detoxing, but that’s not my focus.

“Do you have an ultimate weight loss goal?”**

“Nope,” I repeated, “that’s not my focus.

And that’s where we left the topic. Me wanting to acknowledge and appreciate her desire to say something nice and kind, while also jiu-jitsuing my way out of the specific value proposition (thin=beautiful=virtuous; fat=ugly=lazy cow) she was unconsciously peddling.

* I stumbled across this blog tonight looking for good links to use here and I am already head over heels in love with Tracy’s intelligence and insights.

** You see, this bit shows as much as anything how deeply unconscious and blinded we are by the weight loss culture. When an otherwise lovely young woman hears a statement about how weight loss isn’t my focus and then without blinking an eye disregards that assertion to ask me my weight loss goal, there’s nothing else to call that but a symptom of cultural insanity.

———-

Image credit: http://www.groundnevermisses.com/2012/02/striking-grappling-traditional-mma.html

 

A Culture of Shame

What are all these military people going to do when they lose their jobs? And then I thought, well, hang on: we’ve got all these service industries now, things like psychotherapy, and the military approach to psychotherapy would really be kind of perfect. Really efficient and fast! You know, “Listen, you are nothing. You are a worm. And if you don’t get that mother complex solved by 0400 hours, you are dead meat!”

~~ Laurie Anderson, The Mysterious “J”

Gunnery seargent hartmannWhen I was writing about Fat Acceptance/HAES a couple nights ago and had to stop midstream, as it were, I was very aware that I hadn’t really said everything about fat shaming that I would want to. I mentioned the ways that fat shaming carries negative health effects for the target of such stigma, but I didn’t really unpack the general insanity of fat shaming. Or, to be more precise, the bananas nature of how fat shaming is usually justified as a means of informing/inspiring some poor fattie into losing weight and getting healthier.

Of course, those two concepts don’t even really go together, because weight /= health, but I’m using that phrasing to indicate the double level of bananas that’s going on here. First is the delusion that weight and health are equated, but even if that particular myth were true, I still trip over the insanity of the expectation that shaming and stigmatizing someone will inspire them to make positive change in their life.

Now, just in case you’re silly enough to think that engaging in fat-shaming will inspire some one to get on the healthy-eating-and-exercise train, let me give you a quick hit to a study from back in 2007:

We have seen over the years that it does not work to make people feel worse about their bodies. The data are striking — talking about weight, worrying too much about diet, focusing on it increases risk not only of eating disorders, but also of being overweight.

So, no: shaming not effective. (As Kate Harding once said: Special Delivery from the Duh Truck.)

One more thing: considering how steeped our culture is in anti-fat rhetoric, does a fat-shamer really think that his or her observation of my fatness is something that’s going to be news to me — or to any fat person?

So I’ll admit: considering that these two notions — 1)  fat people already know they’re fat; 2)  shaming doesn’t do anything to build positive choices, but instead just beats someone down — are so very common sense indeed, I’ve pretty much assumed that anyone who does indulge in fat shaming (no matter how prettily it’s couched in concern trolling language), is just kinda being an asshole.

Fat Heffalump pretty fully eviscerated that particular behavior pattern a few months ago when she pointed out that You’re not the First to Tell a Fat Person…  Taking direct aim at concern trolling and claims that “I’m just worried for your health!” she has this to say:

No you’re not.  If you were, you would be standing beside me fighting fat stigma and advocating for equitable health treatment for all.  You don’t give a damn about the health and wellbeing of fat people.  You don’t care that fat people can’t get treatment for everything from the common cold through to cancer because they are all blamed on their fatness and they’re just given a diet, not actual treatment.  You don’t care that the public vilification of fat people causes depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  You don’t care that fat people are dying because they are so shamed by the medical profession that they can’t bring themselves to go back to the doctor when they are ill.  Claiming you care about our wellbeing is a lie.

And the inimitable Regan at Dances with Fat more recently pointed out that Being a Jerk is Not Actually Brave:

We are aware that you think “Fat bad, thin good, shame the fatties grunt grunt grunt”. We can hear this message  386,170 times every year.  I’ve been fat for 17 years, which means I’ve heard it around 6,564,890 times.  How can you possibly think that hearing it 6,564,891 times is going to improve my life?   Being 6,564,891 does not make you special or brave, it makes you one more doody in a big ole pile of poo.  It is an act of hubris that is almost beyond understanding to not only be a bully, but to ask for credit by claiming that your bullying is an act of bravery. […]

Or you could swim against the stream and treat fat people like the intelligent human beings we are- not like confused misguided sheep who need your strong guidance – and encourage others to do the same.  Let there be a fat person who only hears 386,169 messages about their body because you refused to pile on the shame and body hate.  That’s brave.

But, if I can come down off my own high horse for a moment, it’s worth mentioning that — however common sense it may feel to me that shaming has no positive effect on a person or situation — the fact remains that we do a lot of shaming in this culture.

And not just about fatness. Almost any aspect of life that comes up for judgement and it deemed to “need changing” comes up for that Nike drill sergeant (“Just do it!”) so beautifully satirized by Laurie Anderson, above. And maybe I’m right, sitting in my own little superiority-tower: maybe we’re all just assholes.

Or maybe there’s some deeper delusion we’re all trapped in, to honestly halfway think that the way to change a life’s path is to try and block off the “undesirable” option with a pile of shit and shame.

Something worth further examination.

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Image credit: http://rcoll-rorscharch.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-worst-kinds-of-fathers.html

Some Fat Acceptance/HAES Basics

(Apologies to anyone who’s a Facebook friend — some of this will be a re-hash of the links I’ve been posting there today.)

It’s occurred to me today that because I’ve been thinking about fat acceptance & health at every size concepts for a few years now, I sometimes talk about these concepts in a very “I hold these truths to be self-evident” way. And maybe, instead, it’s worth unpacking just a little bit about my perspective on questions of fatness and health.

Now to be sure, plenty of bloggers have already dropped the mic on this again and again and again, which may be part of my reticence tonight. After all, why cover ground that has really truly been covered with great insight before?

ANGRY!
ANGRY!

Maybe because the things things these writers have said are worth saying again. And again and again and again, until people finally stop all the fat-shaming and masking their superiority in concern trolling and their obesity panic and bleeping get it.

So here’s my own little piece of the mythbusting puzzle.

Most of what “everyone knows” about fat is pretty much wrong.

To start off, being fat is not automatically unhealthy. Fat people actually tend to live a bit longer, and are more likely to survive cardiac events. There’s also a fair bit of evidence that a lot of health problems supposedly “caused” by fatness might instead be a result of dieting and weight cycling. There is some evidence that certain health risks are tied to having a very specific type of adipose tissue in your body (visceral fat), but guess what? Thin people AND fat people can have too much visceral fat hurting their organs, and unless you’re Superman, I defy you to tell me you have the kind of x-ray vision to know who’s packing VF and who isn’t.

Warning: that last article I linked may give you stabby pains behind the eyes because after reporting on a study that pretty clearly states that the important factors are metabolic health and visceral fat, the author still ends with the concluding thought that these results should not be taken as “an excuse to remain overweight or obese.” Because even though the study shows obesity as a non-factor in measuring health, it’s still somehow a health risk. (Just because?) Ah, rumor-mongering science journalism at its finest.

And while the illustrious staff writers at Time have left such tempting fruit, let’s take on this whole balderdash that implies one’s body shape and size are completely under one’s Ayn Rand-ian will. Because, statistically speaking, diets don’t work. Sorry Not-sorry to burst your bubble on this one: they don’t. And they do incredible harm along the way. The weight loss industry, has a catastrophic “success rate” and an evil jiu jitsu way of transfering its own failings out onto the customer so they feel guilty about it all. Well, to quote Golda Poretsky at Body Love Wellness: “It’s bullshit and it’s bad for ya.”

As for healthy diet and exercise choices, yes they do indeed matter and they can make a big difference in reducing the effect of various “fat-related” conditions like cholesterol levels or blood pressure. But here’s the funny thing: those conditions get reversed independent of any actual weight loss being caused by diet and exercise choices. And considering the negative health effects of being fat-shamed and stigmatized, and considering the fact that fat people have a dramatically lower chance of even getting decent health care on account of the prejudicial attitudes of medical professionals, it’s probably best to steer clear of claiming that a fat person’s health challenges are being caused by weight. ‘Cos I’m seeing a lot of confounding causality here.

I need to get to bed at a reasonable hour, so I’m pulling the cart to a stop here. With one final thought.

Even if fat were unhealthy and if being fat were entirely under an individual’s control, every fat person on this planet would be deserving of fundamental human respect, acceptance and compassion. Just because of their humanity.

The heart-breaking thing is how little respect, acceptance, or compassion fat people get in this culture today —  even though fat isn’t unhealthy and it can’t reliably be controlled.