Poem “…for a big girl”

“You’re attractive,
for a big girl,”
he said.
He thought
he was trying to
butter me up.
He thought
he was flirting.
He thought
he was showing
mercy.
He thought
that I would want
to date him
after that.
He thought
he was
doing me a favor
by lowering his standards
to go out
with a fat girl.

And now,
nearly 2 decades later,
I see on his Facebook page
that he weighs at least
a hundred pounds
more
than I did
at my largest,
and I wasn’t even
at my largest
when he paid me his
“complement”.
I’ve lost 50 pounds
from that

and he’s found it,
with interest.

I want to be snide
and I want to say
“You’re handsome,
for a big guy,”
but
I’d like to think
I’m better than that.
I’d like to think
I’m above
reminding someone
of their rudeness.

So I wrote it
into a poem
and posted it
on my blog
instead.

Out of kindness,
I won’t tag him.

Poem – giveaway

Why don’t we give it all away?
Let’s give everybody a gold star,
an A for effort,
a big party just for showing up,
for being there,
for being born.

Let’s give everybody $50 an hour
for doing everything and anything
regardless of skill or training.

Let’s never say anything other than
you’re awesome
you’re amazing
you’re perfect like you are
even though they are falling
and failing
and flaccid.

Let’s make sure that nobody
has their feelings hurt
but more importantly
that they never try
to do better,
that they continue to stay
exactly where they are –
less than mediocre
lower than average,
because we are afraid
of bullying them
by wanting them to not settle for
next to last place.

We are creating a generation
(a country)
of people who don’t try
won’t try
to get stronger
in mind or body.
They don’t need to.
They are told they are perfect
just like they are.
There is no incentive to try
at all.

While being kind is good,
while being a bully is bad,
there is danger
in complacency.

Food abuse

I see obesity as a symptom of food abuse. It is the same as alcoholism and drug abuse. It is a sign of an abuse or mis-use of food.

I used to be obese. I’ve had to work hard on relearning what (and how much) is healthy to eat and how to incorporate more movement and exercise into my life. But I’ve also had to work hard on addressing the root cause of why I wasn’t taking care of my body and my soul.

The problem is, we have to eat. We can’t just stop eating food. We can’t drop it like we can alcohol or cigarettes or any other addictive substance.

So we all need to develop a healthy relationship with food – and to address the issues that are causing us to use food to (not) solve our problems. Food can heal us, but it can also harm us if we use it improperly. It can be too much of a good thing, but it can also be the wrong thing.

Food wasn’t the only substance I had a wrong relationship with. Back when I smoked pot, I would smoke it to feel better. I’d have a bad day at work, or my family was hassling me, or there was some other stress to deal with. I’d smoke pot to numb the pain. It would ease the pain long enough that I’d forget about it, until I’d sober up again and the problems would come back. The thing is, the problems never went away in the first place. I just anesthetized myself to them. Instead of dealing with them, I ran away from them in my head. When I got sober, I’d still have those problems, and I’d still reach for pot to “fix” them.

It was a terrible cycle of stupid.

Plenty of people do the same thing with food. Because food isn’t seen as a drug, and because it is not only socially acceptable but normal to eat, food abuse is an easy addiction to pick up. And it isn’t like our society in general has a healthy relationship with food. Everything is super sized and fried. It is too much of a bad thing.

Is this fat shaming? No. Not any more than pointing out that someone who drinks to solve their problems is an alcoholic. This isn’t “blaming the victim” either. It is pointing out that when we use food to solve our problems, we are creating our own problems.

Victims are people who have things done to them. They are passive agents in the story. A person who gets hit by a car, or lightning, or something falling out of the sky is a victim.

If you hurt yourself, you aren’t a victim. You have done it to yourself. Thinking about why you do it is the wrong direction of thought. Blaming your parents or society or your friends for your action is self-defeating. You choose your life and your actions. You have control of what you do. You can also make a choice to change.

We need to start naming our demons so we can slay them. If we pretend like everything is fine then we will continue to kill ourselves bit by bit and bite by bite.

Food won’t fix our problems. Facing them will. No, it isn’t easy.

We have gotten into the habit of shoving our feelings and anxieties down, ramming them into our mouths with food. We have to learn how to let them out rather than shove them down. We have to learn that it is OK to speak up and be heard.

Fight like a girl

When women are told that they “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl” or “throw like a girl” they are being shamed. They are being discouraged from using their bodies. All of these are physical actions, and all of these phrases are designed to get them to stop. Girls are actively discouraged from exercising in “boy” ways.

We are allowed to walk, or skip, or do yoga, or water aerobics. These are seen as suitable activities for girls. “Boy” sports are off the radar for us. We are strongly discouraged or even banned from playing football, for instance. It is still unusual for women to play in team sports such as baseball or basketball – and those who do are seen as “butch” – translation, no longer female.

Why do we have to trade femininity for hard exercise? Why are women not allowed to “roughhouse”? A little girl who plays rough is called a “tomboy”. The fact that “boy” is in the term indicates that she isn’t seen as a girl. The fact that there is a special term for it is an indicator that it is seen as something unusual – and thus something to be discouraged.

We are shamed into being dainty when we exercise, if we are allowed to exercise at all.

Then, because we don’t exercise enough, we get overweight and then we get shamed for that too. It is a lose-lose situation.

Of course we run, fight, and throw like girls. We are girls. But what do these terms mean?

It is time to redefine these terms, and take back the playground and the gym. It is time to take “run like a girl” as a complement. We need to start fighting like girls, and start standing up for our right to exercise however we feel we need to.

Sure, we can still run, and do yoga, and play hopscotch. And we can also climb trees and throw rocks and climb mountains. Let each girl and woman exercise however she wants, not limited by society. Let us move however we need to keep our bodies and brains strong.

Fat shaming

There’s been a lot recently about how people who are overweight are tired of being picked on. They want to be left alone. I get that. I used to be obese. I wasn’t hot on the fact that I couldn’t easily find clothing that fit me. My first clue that I was larger than the average was when I realized I couldn’t buy underwear at Target. I didn’t think I was that big at a size 22. I thought I was fine.

There is a stigma to being overweight, certainly. There is such a stigma that we use euphemisms. Someone is heavy. Or portly. Or large. They aren’t ever fat or obese or even morbidly obese. We use euphemisms about everything we don’t want to deal with. Someone didn’t die. They passed on. They transitioned. They have left us.

Fat is the new normal. We Americans are so overweight that we don’t even recognize when we are fat. We think obese is 500 pounds. Yet there is still a stigma. There is still social pressure against fat people.

Don’t take it personally. People pick on anyone who is seen as different. Any deviation from the arbitrarily determined norm is seen as weak, and weakness is picked on. If you drink too much or smoke at all you’ll be picked on. If you don’t watch TV you’ll be picked on. If you vote the wrong way, dress the wrong way, talk the wrong way you’ll be picked on.

It isn’t personal. In fact, it is as impersonal as possible.

Society picks on people it deems as different because they see them as weak. It is the same as in the animal world. Baby birds that are seen as less than perfect are kicked out of the nest. Male lions eat their young for the same reason. It is to thin the herd to make it stronger. Weakness isn’t tolerated.

We’d like to think we aren’t animals, but we are. We are animals first and humans second. What makes us human is when we embrace differences and are welcoming to strangers. What makes us human is when we act with kindness and compassion. What makes us human is when we overcome our animal nature and work with each other instead of against each other.

Obesity is attacked because it is seen as a sign of weakness, specifically a lack of self control. It is seen as a sign of gluttony. At its heart it is seen as an addiction, even though few people would be aware enough to name it as such.

While it would be lovely if we could all be what we want to be and nobody got bullied for any reason, there is some good to fat shaming. If it encourages a person to get healthy, then it is great. If their response is to learn healthy coping methods, then it is awesome.

Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. Sadly, most people who use food to deal with their problems don’t suddenly learn new ways to be healthy in mind or spirit. Our society doesn’t teach that. It doesn’t teach self-care.

It teaches blame everybody else and don’t take responsibility for your actions. It teaches people to be a victim. It teaches instant everything. Don’t wait, don’t work for it. It teaches people to get lucky from playing the lottery rather than hard work.

People don’t need to lose weight for losing weight’s sake. They need to get healthy. People need to move more, eat better, and develop healthy ways of dealing with stress and anger. I’ve done it. It can be done. It isn’t easy. Anything worth having isn’t easy. Health is worth having. Learning to deal with problems other than stuffing them down is a valuable thing to know.

I remember where I was in my head four years ago before I started to get well. I remember thinking “how dare they tell me I’m fat” when I’d have to go to the “large” section of the store to buy clothes. I remember. And then I remember I went to the hospital with a racing heart, feeling sick. I remember always feeling out of sorts and out of shape. I remember just not feeling like I liked my body very much because it didn’t fit me very well.

I started moving. I found exercises I liked to do. I started eating better. I started loving myself enough to take care of myself.

I’m glad that society didn’t tell me that everything was fine for being so overweight. I’m glad, because if I’d kept going that way I’d be immobilized. My knees were giving out. My heart was weakening. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of even walking up and down my street. Crime wasn’t keeping me from leaving my house; fear of my body giving out was. Being fat was crippling me. Eating instead of facing my problems was crippling me too.

Size

I resent that women’s clothing manufacturers have unreasonable sizing. I came to understand this when I tried on a women’s extra large shirt and it was too tight. Then, from the same manufacturer, I tried on a men’s medium and it was very roomy.

Why are women’s t-shirts different from men’s t-shirts? Women’s shirts are tight and short. Men’s are loose and roomy.

Women are taught conflicting messages. Be sexy, but don’t be slutty. Show off the curves of your body, but only if they are hourglass shaped. No pears or apples need apply.

The focus needs to be on health, not weight. Everybody needs to eat well and exercise. Everybody needs to learn healthy ways to deal with stress and difficult emotions.

Stressing about how much you weigh isn’t going to do anything about it. Wishing you were skinnier won’t make it so.

As one coworker says “the only thing for it is to do it”.

Being healthy is a lifelong thing. It isn’t something you do for a week before you get married so you can squeeze into your dress. It isn’t something you do just after New Year’s Day and then drop it in February.

Getting healthy is a gift to yourself. It is saying that you deserve better.

Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps people don’t take care of themselves because deep down they don’t love themselves. Perhaps deep down they treat their bodies badly because they thing they deserve this.

There is no shortcut to health. It isn’t like you can just eat a grapefruit and the pounds melt off and the muscles come on.

How much of women’s self image comes from clothing designers who try to convince us that we are larger than we are?

High end clothes manufacturers market differently. Their clothes are marked at least two sizes smaller. So you think you are smaller than you are.

Perhaps the sizes need to be like men’s sizes. Just do it in inches. That isn’t an arbitrary thing.

Now sure, American health is terrible. Obese is just considered overweight. People don’t seem to know what healthy looks like. And they seem to think “exercise” is a dirty word.

We need to focus not on weight but strength and endurance. If we change the focus not on how much you weigh but are you healthy – do you eat well and do you exercise – then weight will improve naturally. But who cares what you weigh if your heart is in bad shape and your muscles are weak?