Fat Acceptance?

Have you heard of Fat Acceptance? It’s a perspective pushed by activists like Joy Nash, and artists like Beth Ditto.

Here are a couple of videos made by Joy Nash on Fat Acceptance:

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I have to admit, I’m on the fence. On one hand, I know that taking care of my health is important. I have a family history that includes diabetes and heart disease. My ticker has already been in the shop, due to a birth defect. I want to feel healthy. I want to feel good.

On the other hand, I have only been below 200 lbs once in my adult life, and it required me to spend a year of my life exclusively to obsessively monitoring my weight, my calorie intake and exercising constantly. I lost a lot of weight, but I didn’t gain anything that year. I had no lover. No hobbies. No friends. I don’t recall reading any good books or writing anything beyond dieting diaries. I didn’t work on any projects beyond calorie calculators and divining prescisely how few calories I could eat without permanently harming my body.

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I’m told I looked good. I think I felt ok, but all in all it was a lost year. I may have made it to 180 lbs, but I didn’t gain anything that year. I certainly didn’t gain any self-esteem. People only told me how good I looked after I gained the weight back, in an attempt to coax me back to my obsessive habits. That certainly did nothing to improve my self worth.

I am always going to be fat. Even the thinnest of my female relatives are overweight, except for a niece who inherited the genes of her father when it comes to weight and metabolism. I was a fat teenager and I have been a fat adult. As I begin to round the corner to my 30th birthday, I consider how one of my goals to reach by then was to achieve a certain weight. I’ve actually gone in the opposite direction. A few years of being chained to a computer desk have done wonders for my body, and not in a good way. I am at my heaviest weight ever. Unlike Joy Nash, I’m not comfortable giving the exact number, but it’s well above my “happy place” of 230-240.

For me, 2012 is going to be about taking honest stock of my life, my limitations, my talents, my desires and my needs. Taking a good hard look at the reality of your life, at who you really are, instead of how you want things to be, is not easy. Some of the realities about myself have been difficult to face. Taking a good hard look at my emotional, cognitive, intellectual, physical, social and spiritual abilities and limitations has been hard work, and I’d be lying if I said that no tears were shed. Yet, of all the issues I’ve analyzed over the past few months, including my solitary Yuletide, my weight was one that didn’t bother me.

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I’m not going to pretend I am completely comfortable with being fat. After all, If I were able to pick a body size and shape from a rack, I would not pick the one I have. Yet, I don’t think I would pick a skinny model’s body either. While not exactly advocating Fat Acceptance, being a large woman, a woman of size and softness, has become an integral part of my identity. It just slipped into my idea of myself some night when I wasn’t looking.

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s because I’m Pagan? Our Goddesses are large and in charge. From the Venus of Willendorf to big-hipped Hindu Goddesses to the ample curves of Ruebens’ Venus. I picture Demeter with large and shapely thighs, I imagine Danu with a softly rounded belly, I think Freya has love handles and I perceive Oya with her swirling skirts to be an ample woman with strength to spin the storms.

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Not only am I blessed to have a faith and worldview in which there is divinity that is fat like me, but that my sister co-religionists also embrace this. What better blessing beyond that than to see my brother co-religionists creating Goddess artwork featuring big hips, ample bosoms and round bellies!

Maybe I’m not altogether comfortable identifying with Fat Acceptance yet, after all, losing enough weight to get back to my still-overweight “happy place” is a goal of mine this year, but I did have an epiphany of sorts recently. Recently a man told me he preferred large women, and for the first time in my life I didn’t find that repulsive. I accepted it as natural to have a size preference in romantic partners.

After all, I may drool over Johnny Depp as much as the next woman, but in reality I prefer large men, and have drooled over Meatloaf and Jack Black on occasion. In fact, Zach Quinto coming out as gay was a personal disappointment for me, but Eric Stonestreet, “Cameron” from Modern Family, turning out to be straight set my little heart aflutter. I like my Hollywood fantasies to be grounded in reality, and finding out the sexy new Spock wouldn’t be interested in me even if we were trapped in an elevator, just doesn’t do it for me. Just as fantasizing I’m thin enough to catch supermodel-lover Depp’s attention doesn’t do it for me.

I’m fat. It’s likely I will be for the rest of my life. It doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy, happy and attractive. Facing up to that reality isn’t “giving up” on myself. It’s loving myself for who I am and appreciating the life I have rather than wasting it by being dissatisfied. That’s a good thing. I’ve got the love handles of Aphrodite, the booty of Erzulie Freda, the hips of mighty Inanna and the plumpness of Ixchel.

And if Eric Stonestreet reads this, I’m single! *exaggerated and inappropriate wink*

What do you think about Fat Acceptance? And have you seen these NSFW fat-positive images by Leonard Nimoy? (He’s the original sexy Spock!)

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Ellen Apple

    As a fat woman who has went through all that and then some, this really struck a chord with me. When I power-walked and crash-dieted myself down to 184 pounds in 1994-ish, I triggered a cascade of health issues. I am who and what I am. End of story. And it took less than 2 years for most of the weight to come back! Not by choice, but because I am a fat woman.

  • Crow Steals Fire

    Quality of life is the most important.

    There are many ways of being beautiful and many ways of being healthy. We all don’t have to pick the same ones.

    Wonderful post! Thank you!

  • Soliwo

    I find this a tricky subject. I acknowledge we are all better of not fitting a size 0, 2 o4 4. I myself  weigh 154lbs, being 5.7.  I would like to loose 5 pounds but am otherwise happy where I am. I also think that for some people being bigger is ok! That is what I would say to the individual with her own personal story of their struggle with weight. I would be congratulating them on their rising self- acceptance.

    However … this is a big however. The western world in general is getting fatter. And I do not think this is ok. I do not think it is ok that 1 in 3 is heavily overweight. And although many people have stated that being healthy is not the same is being thin, in most cases being heavier will mean you will be more at risk for many diseases. Being fat also doesn’t equal to being healty. In in many cases where heavier people claim they are just as healthy, this turns out not to be so. Some health problems do not immediately rise to the surface. You can feel great and healthy and being actually healthy. And in my country. where health care is getting more and more expensive, I think it is important to take care of ourselves where we can. I do think that for most of us, eating healthy (not calorie-counting) and regular exercise (about twice a week) is a good think and something to strive for.

    A lot of people talk online about accepting their weight and size. But often they only look for confirmation and get really angry if someone argues that living a healthy lifestyle is important, and that they think weighing more than 300 pounds is not ok. I have seen this lately at the cauldon for example. I understand this is a sensitive issue, but if you put something up for discussion, you should not complain if people actually think differently and want to discus it.

    I think it really says something about this day and age, where some people are demanding that the rest of the online community is just there to cheer, and agree.  However, weight when related to health is never only a personal issue, but also a public and cultural one.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Eating healthy and exercising is important. However, those things don’t automatically make you thin. Everyone’s body is different. Doing your best to be as healthy as you can be is all anyone can do, and that doesn’t always correspond to a number on a scale or a pants size.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      Why is it, do you think, that people focus on “weight when related to health” in terms of fat people, but not thin people?  

      Also, why is there a magic number, below which is “acceptably fat” and above which is “unacceptably fat”?

      The point of fat acceptance isn’t that health isn’t important.  It’s that health does not have a size.  Health does not have a shape.  Health does not have a diameter.  health != BMI.  Health has a series of metrics which are measured in much different ways.

      Star, do you read Ragen’s “Dances with Fat” blog?  ( http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/ )  You might find some value in her posts.

      [Edited to fix whitespace]

      • BHG

        Well,  skinny people do get a bit of ‘concern for our health’  out there,  probably not on the same mass-media scale,   but it does crop up:  people trying to fatten you up/criticize your diet/think you must be bulimic or something, and all that goes with *that,*   a certain amount of ‘Now you just need a boob job,’   (I don’t know if that really counts as health advice,   or what,   but occasionally one does just hear some kind of off the wall things.   Usually appearance-related.    When I was younger I’d get a lot of  compliments with some odd  undertone in there:    it doesn’t really compare to things like prejudice against bigger folks,  but there are …some odd assumptions out there.   :)  )  

        Sometimes there does seem to be rather a lack of concern for skinny folks’ health, though,  especially if you do happen to have some challenges maintaining a reasonably-healthy weight/getting enough nutrition and the right sort,  etc.    There’s ‘diet’  and ‘weight loss’  products out there everywhere:   (Just look at the targeted ads you get if you discuss your health in an email or something:   Gods help you if you *were*  anorexic,  I think:  that couldn’t be helpful to see all the time;   )  but more than that,    you’re just kind of on your own if you’re underweight and appetite-challenged. 

         (It’s not really crippling,  but, for instance,  you do end up resorting to junk food more than you might prefer.    It’s probably not a common enough problem to really market to,   except maybe with ‘old people drinks’   … but I think too a lot of people *are* overweight because there’s just poor nutrition in so much of that modern-lifestyle food.     I think there are ways in which the social and practical and economic issues about such things really do affect different people differently, but may be part of the same issues in the modern Western lifestyle.  )

        I’ve kind of had to come to a certain amount of ‘thin acceptance:’   it seems I tend to feel best when still technically way-underweight:  trying to *gain* weight to meet some ideal (On me,  115 pounds doesn’t look  ‘supermodel,’   it  looks pretty sickly:  a bit more than that seems a nice balance.)     has a sneaky way of messing with one’s self-image, too,  at least. 

          No one really talks about it:  people will be like, “Well,  skinny’s the ideal: what’s the problem?”   but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of reasons besides being all messed up about body-image why people might have challenges from the other direction. 

        I do think it’s a good Pagan value to cultivate that we should all be as *fit* as possible and accept and honor whatever shape that happens to come in.    Which I think maybe some of the posts here are kind of trying to articulate,   actually. 

        • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

          I have a number of friends who are work to gain weight or keep it on.  Yeah, there’s some pretty warped things people say to people on that end of the size spectrum.

          My partner has pretty much the opposite metabolism from mine.  It’s always… um… I guess I’ll call it “interesting” to watch how people react to us in restaurants and the assumptions they make about which of us ordered what and the like.  And yeah, he has his own cluster of body image demons.  

          I can totally see how our culture strongly fosters not talking about it, too.  

          We get so wrapped up in our own perceptions of failings and flaws that we can’t really wrap our brains around the notion that someone might long for the very state that causes what we complain about… or that what we’re complimenting them on (however back-handedly or clumsily it might come out – often times, we *think* we’re complimenting, when, really, we’re not…) might be something they lament about themselves.  

          My thin friends don’t want to complain about how hard it is to find clothes that fit them, or about not being allowed to give blood or about how much they have to eat when they’re talking to me… just as I don’t want to complain about my “junk in the trunk” and its attendant baggage (ha!) in front of them.  I remember lamenting in my LJ once that it’s difficult to look androgynous with a hyper-feminine body… and being a bit startled at the number of my friends who’d *happily* trade me places.

          I completely agree, we should be embracing fitness, *whatever* shape it is.  I suspect that, in the attempt to embrace diversity by engaging in “fat acceptance” activism, we’re othering people at the other end of the size spectrum and excluding them from the real conversation we *all* need to be having: “size acceptance”.

    • Robert

      The simple fact is, if you do not have a copy of my blood work in front of you, you have no clue to the state of my health, regardless of my size. 

  • BladedScrivener

    I would simply worry about you being healthy.  If you’re eating a more or less balanced diet and getting adequate exercise, and you still look “the same as ever”, I’d just write it off as genes/body type and not obsess about it much. 

    I’m at pretty high risk for Type II, myself (both sides of family — father, both grandmothers, and an aunt on my father’s side have/had it).  I’m 5’4″ and in the 150′s with a medium frame, so yeah, I worry about my weight too.  I’ve been trying to lose it for a long time, with very little luck.  Dieting, however, is not an option because diets don’t work in the long term.  You have to change your eating habits and exercise regularly.

  • Soliwo

    And just saying being fat is ok might be giving the wrong signal.  Giving the wrong example to your kids is not ok. Not cooking healthy food for your kids is not ok. Dying early is not ok. Obesitas is shortening people’s lives. In Amerika kids have a shorter life expectancy than their parent because of  obesitas.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Right, because telling kids that how they look or how much they weigh is wrong always works. As a fat teenager I played sports and actively played outside several hours a week. Encouraging good habits rather than delivering judgement is a much better parenting strategy.

      • Soliwo

        I never said that is the answer. You are purposely misreading me.

        Being bigger is ok! Only that is not the only thing about this issue is it? I did not say anything aout telling kids they are fat, I only said something about goving the correct example. This is what I mean, even when saying a lot of positive, one is not allowed to see the other side of the story.

        Just as the lady in the first video and you! I might add, I am pleading for the same thing, good habits. I am just saying that globally obesitas is becoming a worrying issue, and that while we should never discredit people on basis of their fat percentage, we do have to worry about the health implications. I said that though I understood this is a very personal matter to very many people (myself included), some people tend to be too easily offended when someone slightly disagrees about this issue. I never thought you were one of those people though.

        Yes you can be healthy while being fat, but statistically their is a connection between being overweight and some types of diseases. And yes there are some cases where this is caused by lack of exercise or improper diet. This is nothing shocking, just fact. I don’t disagree that many people who live healthily should not worry to much about the number on the scale.

        • Robert

          No, there isn’t.  There is no statistically significant correlation between weight and the incident of disease, and that includes Diabetes.  That is a myth perpetuated by an industry that makes significant amounts of money selling diet pills and shakes. 

        • Jessica Robin

          You didn’t “slightly disagree”.  You said that telling children that fat is okay sends a bad message to them, which makes Star’s assumption that you would be willing to criticize their “fat-ness” directly a very logical leap.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      Body shaming is not okay.   Fat people can be quite athletic and healthy.  Even people the BMI claims are obese.

      http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/the-promoting-obesity-myth/ 

      • Soliwo

        I never said it was.

        • Robert

          You claim that “just being fat is not okay”.  How is that not body shaming?  Your claim that “Obesity is shortening people’s lives”, and that’s untrue.  Life spans are -increasing- over time, and if what you claim is true and people are getting fatter, then it actually stands to reason that being fat is actually healthier than not.  

          This is, of course, untrue.  Being healthy is healthy, and is not related to size.  Obesity is not the issue, an emphasis on an unhealthy lifestyle, one that encourages sedentary habits, high stress, lack of sleep, and poor nutrition is the issue.  Fatness is a red herring.

          • Soliwo

            Ok. The first thing is actually a mistake on my side. I wanted to say that being fat IS ok, but giving a bad (habitual) example to kids is not ok. Sorry about the mix-up.

            Being fat has not necessarily anything to do with being unhealthy. Obesitas does, why? Because obesitas is a actually a medical term for a medical condition. And yes statistics say that life expectancy in America is decreasing! However, I think that claim probably only holds true for some parts of America, plus no other continents seem to follow this particular trend.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’d like you to cite the studies that indicate life expectancy in America is decreasing, please.

    • Cholla

      There is no evidence that the fall in life expectancy is *because* of obesity. In fact, there is no causal evidence whatsoever that obesity itself *causes* anything. All the data is correlational, and it is just bad science to draw causal conclusions from correlational data.

      What is really related to it is diet and exercise. And if you are assuming a person is not taking care of themselves just because they are fat, then that is simply a stereotype.

      There may be other factors in there that do cause a drop in life expectancy- like the experience of discrimination.  That we actually do have causal data for that.

  • http://profiles.google.com/stacylynnevans Stacy Evans

    I agree, quality of life is the most important.  

    No one says we can’t be healthy as well as fat.  The amount of fat on our bodies doesn’t measure our stamina, or heart health.  We all need to take care of ourselves, but not all of us will have the same bodily reaction to exercise and diet.  As long as we are exercising the body in an appropriate way and eating a healthy diet (most of the time) then there is no reason for us to make excuses about how much we weigh.  

    Love your point of view, Star.  As always.  :)

  • PhaedraHPS

    This is a terribly tricky issue. I’m heavier now than I ever have been in my life, and still do a double-take every time I pass by a reflective surface. I’m fairly healthy overall, but some of my leg, foot and hip problems would be improved with less weight.

    I do cringe at the idea that being Pagan means it’s ok to be heavy, not just a little heavy but really, really heavy. “Goddess-size” shouldn’t mean anything goes and everything is ok.

    Now, I’m not saying everyone should be skinny. Skinny and bony is not the only alternative to heavy. My family is not skinny by nature, and when we are, we look gaunt. When I got down to 108 lbs/5’3″ a decade and a half ago (a combination of food weirdness, drug side effects, and a fiercely physical job that built my muscles but eventually ruined my back) I thought I looked good, but I was so bony, friends used to hand me milkshakes. And even then, my bone structure meant I’d never get into anything below a size 10. And by high-fashion standards, that means I’m “plus sized.” Which is clearly ridiculous. What makes  me laugh is that my sweet-spot weight–around 135–was the average weight of the turn-of-the-last-century Floradora Girls. Fashion changes.

    Still, our lives in computer chairs and suburban car cultures have messed us up fiercely. We think walking from the far end of the parking lot is a hardship, when as a kid in my generation we walked  that far constantly without thinking anything of it. Heck, I’ll bet it took a lot more calories to use a manual typewriter, too!

    Worst of all, every year that goes by, every decade, it becomes easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. That’s what concerns me when I see young men and women who are already really heavy. I ask myself, what will it be like for them 20-30-40 years from now? It’s a very few of us who will be at the same weight at 50 or 60 as we were at 30.

    • Soliwo

      “I do cringe at the idea that being Pagan means it’s ok to be heavy, not
      just a little heavy but really, really heavy. “Goddess-size” shouldn’t
      mean anything goes and everything is ok.”

      Thank you. You express it so much better that I can.

    • Robert

      I’ll bet your hip foot and leg problems would improve more with exercise and physical therapy than with weight loss, I’ll be honest.  You yourself mention that the modern lifestyle is more sedentary than is entirely healthy.  

      And yes, for me being Pagan means that my body is sacred, as is yours and everyone else’s.  That means accepting it and loving it as it is, not as society tells me it should be.  The only thing you can determine by looking at someone’s size is how big they are or aren’t;  you can’t tell what their lifestyle is, their hobbies, their health, or anything else about them.  If you are God/dess, then so are they.  

      • PhaedraHPS

        Actually, when I was more active (I had a job where I was on my feet all day, walking lots and lots and occasional heavy lifting) I was in a lot more pain. I had chronic plantar fascitiis, bursitis in my hips, and sciatica that started with a back injury when I weighed a mere 130 ( and was extremely strong and fit). I did physical therapy, but when I limped more leaving the therapist than when I got there, they finally said they couldn’t help (this happened more than once with different therapists in different states). So I lived on NSAIDs. Now I’m a bit more sedentary, but mostly pain free. My feet healed. But my hips and ankles are touchy, and do better at 50 lbs less than I am now. So, as you say you don’t know by looking. Or reading.

        I accept that my body is sacred. I don’t smoke, and I drink in moderation. I try for a healthy diet. You know that thing about “your body is a temple?” I just don’t think that means that anything goes. Ok, occasional bacchanals, maybe…

        The odd thing is, I was mentioning to someone the other day that I see somewhat less of the extremely “Pagan-sized” people (how I hate that term) at events than we used to. We wondered if it was because people are a little more moderation-focused, or if illness (and death) are keeping the really large people from participating in public events. That would be a shame, woudn’t it?

        • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

          I wonder how many fat people feel unwelcome, othered, shamed, and/or discriminated against, so stop showing up because their previous experiences at public festivals have been terribly unpleasant.   That would be a shame, wouldn’t it?

          Also, if you hate a term, why not stop using it?  

          • PhaedraHPS

            I doubt if previous terrible experiences had anything to do with less attendance of large people, as the attendance of very large people at Pagan events was pretty consistent and unremarkable for the 20-25 years or so that I observed it. It’s only very recently I’m noting a change.

            As for the term, “Pagan-sized”, I first heard it when I was a vendor: “Do you have any of these tee shirts in Pagan sizes?” as if being xxx-large was a Pagan norm. It made me cringe then and it makes me cringe now. I quote it as an example an attitude that was presented to me, not for any other agenda.

            People are the shape they are, and I have loved people who have been all sorts of sizes and shapes, including pretty damn big. But for all my hedonism, I do lean towards having a sense of moderation.

            Argh. I fear there is a subtlety I’m trying to get across here that my words have been inadequate to convey.

            Let me try it this way. When my kid sister had her first baby, she gained a lot of weight. A lot. She said to me later, “It was the first time in my life I gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted.” (She regretted doing so and did lose the post-baby weight.)

            So, I have an unease based on my observations in the community that some people interpret “fat acceptance” not as “I love myself as I am” but as “because it’s ok to be an extra-extra-large Pagan, I can give myself permission to do anything I want.” Kinda like if it’s ok for Pagans to enjoy beer and mead, it’s ok to get completely blitzed. But it’s not.

            You know, I should just give up, because with a sensitive issue like this one, I’m just gonna put my foot in my mouth. Of course if that was all I put in my mouth … oh, crap, you see how easily this can all go wrong?

          • Rose Welsh

            Hey, Phaedra!  I think you’d probably like the newly coined “Size Acceptance” better than Fat Acceptance.  It’s more inclusive and describes it better.

            Also, it sounds like you also might find HAES (Health at Every Size) appealing. 

            As for the hip and foot problem, I have had that for YEARS.  I got into a car accident when I was fourteen and messed my body up pretty badly, though I am lucky that I’m mobile.  In the last year I discovered specifically Crocs Patricia shoes.  I can walk miles in those damned sandals and have NO pain, none, zero.  I didn’t realize how much they’d helped until I walked all over Vegas a few weeks ago.  I’m looking forward to moving more.  I know my pain made me avoid movement.  I just wish that Crocs made more shoes with that particular base.  Nevertheless, if you haven’t tried Crocs, give them a shot. 

    • Deidrem

      Well, I weighed between 180 and 200 pounds in high school, decided not to diet, and  at 42, I weigh 210.  What happened to me?  Nothing, really.  No real health problems, either.  Maybe you don’t need to worry.

  • Lady GreenFlame

    Well, I was going to write a bunch, but — “what Phaedra said.” For me, it is no longer about body image but health, and 50+ excess pounds on a middle-aged small frame is a prescription for ills that I would rather not face, or at least face later rather than sooner. While I applaud women of size loving themselves and validating their own beauty and Goddess-beauty inherent in their bodies, it does bother me when I see a Pagan woman (especially a young one) (and this statement is not about you, Star) who is morbidly obese and already suffering  visible physical consequences in terms of joint and back problems, choosing to be oblivious to it.

    Complicating this is why we are obese, and while sedentary lifestyles and a poorly-fed culture have a lot to do with it, I wonder about xenoestrogens, and antibiotics that kills off healthy gut bacteria, and “X” factors such as that which are just now being explored. 

  • Shawn Cameron

    This is a very touchy subject Star, and I agree with the way
    your word things in the post and in response to some of the comments. Having and
    teaching good habits is essential and though it wont necessarily lead everyone
    into a size 8 it will keep you on the healthy side, which is what really
    maters.

     

    The problem I have with “Fat Acceptance” is that much of the
    general public are only looking for excuses not to try. They don’t want to exercise,
    they don’t want to change their eating habits. I’m afraid a message like this
    will give many that excuse and someone who, with only a few changes and good
    habits would fit into a 12 – 16 is now content as they continue to gain weight
    a few ponds at a time.

     

    A few notes/opinions as well:

    Exercise: I would never tell anyone they should burn themselves
    out on any kind of exercise to loose weigh, especially cardio, it will cause
    more harm then good. But being active (as you where in school according to comments)
    or doing any light exercise such as Tai Chi or Yoga will help in more ways then
    staying fit, are low intensity, and are quite meditative in nature, (so you
    kill to birds with one stone so to speak as most people recommend regular
    meditation) You don’t have exercise to be thin, and you don’t have to be thin
    to exercise.

     

    Eating Habits: Dieting is one of the worst inventions of our
    modern age. Most if not all are ultimately unhealthy and they don’t work
    anyway. People and children don’t need to be counting calories, or stressing on
    whether they can have that slice of pie at Thanksgiving. What needs to be
    practiced and taught are good eating and cooking habits. It’s hard and time
    consuming, but cooking at home rather than eating out or making food in the
    microwave is the first step anyone should take for good eating habits.

     

    Proper Dress: This is the most important thing that no one
    ever seems to what to talk about when it comes to weight and accepting your
    body shape and appearance. You don’t have to be thin to look good! Men and women
    with some meat on there bones tend to be preferable as long as they dress to extenuate
    their figures and not try and fit into cloths designed for someone with a supermodel
    figure (which is no figure at all these days) or go to the opposite extreme and
    cover themselves with baggy cloths out of shame. A good woman to look up to for
    this is Queen Latifah, a heavy woman who dresses in a way to make her look
    good.

    • Shawn Cameron

      ug… sorry about the format. That’s what I get for typing my response in Word and then copying it over… I will remember this for next time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1048100108 Erin Erlinger

      i actually purposely follow what queen latifa wears and try to emulate her…she knows how to dress sexy for her curves.  that being said…no one is gonna stop me from my huge broomstick skirt + Tshirt combo that is my uniform at most concerts/events.   even if it is unattractive and rides up over my butt.

      Also i find yoga essential at a way to ground my adhd and a way to help the back issues that come with having my goddess body!

    • Cholla

      Wow, fat acceptance as an excuse not to try? I think you might not understand what fat acceptance is. It’s simply the decision to love your body, even if the rest of the culture is trying to kill you for it.

      There are healthy fat peo0ple. In fact, one of the basic tenets of fat acceptance is Health at Every Size (HAES). This is simply the idea that everyone can be healthier, no matter what kind of body they have. You might want to check out the work of Linda Bacon on this subject.

      The New England Journal of Medicine did a review of a vast number of medically supervised diets. In a two year follow up they found that dieting had a 90% failure rate. In fact, other studies suggest that dieting actually makes you fatter (lose 10lbs., gain 15lbs.). Dieting damages your metabolism.

      Not to mention the obsessive behavior that goes along with it, that Star has mentioned. It is now considered a disorder.

      Star has decided to try to be healthy both mentally and physically. Even just not dieting is a step in the right direction. Good for her.

  • Nara

    I think there needs to be a change in the way we tend to talk about this issue. It’s always “fat,” “thin,” “diets,” etc. when what really needs to be focused on is healthy vs unhealthy, and I think “fat acceptance” should be framed along the lines of health and quality of life. If someone’s naturally bigger, happy, and healthy, there should definitely be acceptance for that; trying to make them fit into a skinny mold that’s not natural for them, or their body, is only going cause hurt in the long run. However, if someone is big and obviously unhealthy, for example someone who’s 500lbs and can barely walk, I feel that shouldn’t be a case for “fat acceptance” because so far as I know no one is naturally 500lbs. That should be a case for concern and encouragement to get **healthy** (not skinny). 

    • Soliwo

      Your right about the vocabulary. I would want to use different words too. I seem to be copying the words of others without really thinking about it too much, perhaps also due to translation issues.

    • WhiteBirch

      Part of the point is the RECLAMATION of the word fat. It’s good to consider health, but as long as people equate fat = unhealthy, then focusing on health is still, far too often, going to be focusing on weight.

      Here’s an example: I have a small frame but am very curvy. I am the same size and shape as my mother, she is the same size and shape as her mother. I recently fractured a bone in my foot when I fell down a flight of stairs. I went into the doctor, and before he even looked at my foot, he looked at my weight on the scale (202) and told me that with my small frame and weight, I can expect foot pain. I had a BROKEN BONE and my doctor almost didn’t check because he was prejudiced against fat people and all he saw was my weight.Changing the vocabulary (I noticed you say ‘big’ and ‘bigger’ instead of fat) just reinforces that fat is something to be ashamed of, it’s so shameful we can’t even say it. Fat ought to be a value neutral descriptor that describes someone’s appearance, just the same as brown-haired or tall. 

      • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

        Everyone in my family has glasses. Even those who didn’t need them to drive had readers. When I told the doctor as a teen that my vision seemed to be getting worse, he suggested a diet.

        • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

          *dislike*  I hate when doctors pull that crap.  >.<

  • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

    A shout out in agreement with Star’s earlier comments above here that encouraging healthy habits rather than image is the way to go for sure. I hang out with some REALLY healthy people and several of them are quite “large and in charge”! I would say those individuals have habits that are even healthier than mine (which are pretty decently healthy).

    IMO, everyone should be ok with a basic low-fat vegan diet with moderate exercise (state of mobility allowing). That’s really all we need as a basis.  Bigger people I know who do these things have tons of energy and minimal to zero health issues. Its all what’s going on inside the body that counts. Combining living food with living activity = a living body.

    • http://twitter.com/maggiemunkee Maggie Deegan

      not everyone can be vegan. some people NEED animal protein and will get very ill without it. people are varied in their nutritional needs.

      • Sunweaver

        I do what I refer to as “facultative vegetarianism” rather than a full vegetarian or vegan diet. Facultative anaerobic bacteria are mainly anaerobic (don’t require oxygen) in nature, but when oxygen is plentiful and available, they do fine. Other kinds of anaerobes die when exposed to oxygen environments. That’s how the oxygen bubbles made by hydrogen peroxide kills germs.
        Anyway, I buy good, local, humanely treated meats when I can and eat vegetarian most of the rest of the time. It’s good for the body, the budget, and the environment.

        I aim for moderate-fat diets rather than low or high fat diets. Your brain, nervous system and all your cell membranes have lipids (fats) as a primary component, so you do need some fats. I wouldn’t suggest deep-fried butter on a stick as a good snack, but nor would I eschew butter as a tasty addition to mashed potatoes.

        Gak is best served live
        …with cumin and a side of prune juice.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

        That’s not actually true. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that anyone alive will get sick or die if they do not eat animal protein. That is largely the biggest myth surrounding eating meat.  If you WANT to eat it, thats fine, but dont say that its harmful to not eat it.  Protein is protein whether it comes from a cow, a bean, or greenleaf lettuce.

  • Sunweaver

    I showed the 3rd video to my daughter and said (about the singer) “Isn’t she pretty?” Because she is. She replied “You don’t have to be slim to be beautiful.” She’s 10 years old. I love this kid.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Beth Ditto is pretty, and a dynamo on stage. I don’t know where she gets the energy! Although I do think it’s strange she doesn’t use deodorant. I know some folks have health concerns and such, but most at least rely on a natural deodorizer.  But I digress… lol

      • Sunweaver

        ::shrug:: Sometimes even the most anti-persperizing antipersperant just doesn’t do it when you’re workin’ it on stage. IDK, I just work here. I didn’t for a long time and then started using a natural deoderant because I have really sensitive skin under there and I love it. I’ll link you when I can remember where it comes from.

        Returning to the topic at hand (gasp!), I’ve always equated “ugly” and “hateful.” You could look like a model and be ugly or you can be wrinkled up and homely and be beautiful because it’s your character that makes you so, not your appearance. This is one reason I can really get behind this idea of fat acceptance. Beauty and physicality are not related in the same way for me and I try to teach that to the kiddo. We’re both slim, but I want her to value health, integrity, and kindness over her physical appearance so that she doesn’t stress about some imaginary physical ideal and so she doesn’t turn out like the Valley girls at the beginning of “Baby Got Back.”

        I love that song, by the way, because I find it to be very body-positive. The message there is “The fashion industry would have you believe that the skinny ideal is attractive, but I disagree. I find round, curvy women to be desirable as potential mates.”

  • Mhaoillain

    OK, this topic has really got me riled up! Now, I know thin people with heart problems, even diabetes. So, health is hardly the issue here. I think the issue is self image. But, by whose yardstick are we measuring? Hugh Heffners? David Hasselhoffs? Gads! Look at them! And besides, what gives anyone the right to say what you should look like. I would never let anyone tell me what my body should look like, (I’ve had tattoos and piercings all my life), any more than I would let them tell me what my relationship should look like (I’m one of two males involved in a long-term, loving polyandrous relationship), what my temple should look like, or what a man should look like (see above!). So, since when is a thin woman preferable to a larger, curvier woman? Because Victoria’s Secrets 14 year old models set our standards for us?! Please!! Women are beautiful! No matter what dress size they wear! They are NOT trophys. They are loving partners. 
    P.S. I watched you in Egregore News Star. You’re beautiful!

    • Soliwo

      “Now, I know thin people with
      heart problems, even diabetes. So, health is hardly the issue here”
      Yes thin people have heart problems, which are often genetic, but not just genetic. Loosing a lot of weight in a short period can lead to heart attacks! However, health does remain an issue. And with a certain level of obesitas, there is more pressure on the joints, blood vessels, airways, increases the chances of diabetes. Yes thin people have problems too, but that doesn’t mean there is no connection between weight and health.

      • Robert

        Again: there is no correlation between weight and health.  

        • http://twitter.com/maggiemunkee Maggie Deegan

          *grin* Robert, i like your attitude. i think you might be aiming for correlation does not equal causation. many recent studies about health and weight have found there are many advantages to a certain level of fatness. they call it “the obesity paradox.”

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I know some people with no major health problems, who are in the “scientifically acceptable” and “normal” range for their height weight-wise, who won’t walk three blocks to save their lives.  I also know people who are over 300 lbs. (and it’s not remotely “all-muscle”!), who can do a 40 mile bike ride at the drop of a hat, and who move faster than I do up and down stairs, etc.

    I know some people who are what you’d call “conventionally attractive,” who are most often on the thin to “average” size weight-wise, who are so manifestly uncomfortable in their bodies that it is almost painful to watch them just sitting there; and then there’s some wonderful folks I know who are on the large end, who move and dance and simply carry themselves with such joy and dignity and present-ness that I’m very much in envy of them.

    I’d be the first person to say that if 50 lbs. was the difference between having type II diabetes and not, it is worth losing the 50 lbs.  But, if that isn’t the case, then I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.  People should feel comfortable doing what is best and most right for them, and some people do it exceptionally and attractively well.  (E.g. Dawn French, Camryn Manheim, Stephen Fry, etc.)

    To bring in the specifically religious angle on all of this:  while having the Venus of Willendorf and so forth as goddess-figures in Paganism/polytheism is certainly a good thing, I think one thing that mitigates against fat acceptance in mainstream culture is that the “perfect human” has been presented in an image that is ascetic, sickly-looking, and anorexically thin–I’m of course talking about most of the crucified Jesus figures one sees in many churches.  (However, there is another school of Christian art, which one finds in Ireland for example, that presents the “perfect human” as a kind of bodybuilder, so when he’s stretched out and crucified, he looks more like The Rock than like Gandhi.)  If this is presented as the image of perfection, it certainly has a negative effect on anything which doesn’t fit that image, no matter the gender or religion of the person involved.  Alas…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1048100108 Erin Erlinger

      interesting thought about the sickly christ image.  

  • Vivianna

    I cannot think of much of anything to say that has not already been said.  As someone who had struggles from an early age with weight, I too have come away from the dieting industry and taken years to recover.  Luckily I recovered  my senses and MYSELF! 

    One of the great things about being underemployed at the moment is that I have no access to cable and the money I have, I prefer not to spend on magazines.  When I do get to watch TV or see a magazine, it becomes BLATANTLY obvious (in ways that I could not see when I had easy access to both) just how many ways that we allow marketers to tell us how to feel how to look, what we will be like if only we had [insert overpriced POS item here!]

    While everyone’s journey, DNA, baggage, etc. is different, I hope that more and more people end up where I am: focused on lifestyle!!!  Look at the whole picture and then talk to me; don’t look at my 250#, 5’4 frame and think you could tell me the whole story!  I am an advocate of the eating and activity plans that advocate small things that you can do over your lifetime- they can grow with you.  Plans that give you the tools to get in touch with what your body is saying.

    Star, your post is timely and courageous.  As a member of a mid/large sized (# of people, not body size!) coven, I do wonder what we owe ourselves, and our brothers and sisters on this issue.  I think that when we [Pagans/Wiccans] come together, it feels like we’ve come home!  We’ve searched for people who thought like we did and finally- we’ve found each other!!  Once we get comfy with each other, do we dare say anything about morbid obesity?  We’d risk coming across as judgmental, arrogant, etc. Plus we run the risk of losing our family members after searching for and finally finding them.  So we say nothing.  Isn’t that just as bad as mainlining chocolate icing?  I don’t know.  Anyone who is over weight and feeling the health impact of it already knows it and doesn’t need anyone to say anything.

    I think that in a coven situation, maybe no one should SAY anything.  Maybe we should just all DO things that incorporate physical activity.  Sure we can have a “Candle Magick” class but why can’t we have a Tai Chi class also?  If we can organize a festival, can’t we also organize a hike for beginners and more advanced folks?  Or a Sun Salutation gathering?  If we can organize a class on meditation or mental discipline, let’s also organize a class that explores ‘active meditation’ methods (meditation while doing an activity- usually rhythmic or repetitive like Chi Gong or hula hooping.)  If you can organize a drum circle, can you also not organize a belly, tribal, African, etc. dance class as well?  (I use these ideas as possible EXAMPLES.  Of course the interests of the folks in the group should dictate what activities are done.)  My point is, if we focus more on movement, finding joy in the ‘junk in your trunk’ or the ‘wiggle in your jiggle’ maybe it’s a doorway to seeing oneself differently and regaining balance in one’s life.  Additionally, if we incorporate a bit more physical activity into our group activities, we provide opportunities to find the Goddess or God in all things, at all times, without a robe (or other props like an athame, or cingulum, etc.) wherever we are.  In all that I wrote in this paragraph, not once was the E (exercise) word used!  If the only active aspects to your group/coven life is dancing the Maypole, I wonder if you squander the other 11 months of the year! 

    What about the food factor during coven gathering?  Ugh- that can be saved for another day!  And Star, I rewatched your Egregore Newscast today.  Actually, I listened to it yesterday multitasking and watched and listened today.  I concur with the poster above on how beautiful you are, inside and out!

    We may all use words to elegantly carve out our ideas.  Self Acceptance?  Fat Acceptance?  In the end, I think they are the same thing. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I think we need more dance parties. I say we put Dante in charge of that and let him crank up some Cher and Gaga!

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      Funny you should say that!  I’m prepping for teaching (with two others) a class on movement, meditation and the Divine creative spark just next month!  We’re using movement from aikido, yoga, Stadhagalr, and qi gong as ways to open up our creativity and draw on Divine inspiration, along with caring for our bodies during the creative process.  

      Also, I completely agree, “Self Acceptance” is the real goal!  Love it!

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    The big problem is that we are taught to assess healthiness by how our body looks, as opposed to what it can do.

    It is the product of an image-conscious culture, and worse, an advertizing industry predicated upon the theory (probably a correct one) that the easiest way to make people buy the products you want them to, is to make them feel bad about themselves. As Pagans, I feel it is important for us to critique this status-quo, especially as we place a greater emphasis on doing things with our bodies, rather than believing things with our minds, which is the dominant narrative for religion in the West.

    The key questions are these: Do you *feel* healthy? Can your body do what you want it to do, or what it *ought* to be able to do, realistically? If so, fine. If not, professional advice (and I don’t mean doctors, who IIRC study maybe 8 hours on nutrition over their entire medical degree) about nutrition and exercise will put you on the path.

    How your body looks will take care of itself.

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/nervy_girl ProfessorZed

    Star, if jumping straight into Fat Acceptance is an iffy proposition — and honestly, while I’m supportive of the movement, I can see how some of the rhetoric can be a bit off-putting — you may be interested in the related Health At Every Size movement.  In fact, I’m guessing you’ve run into it.  It’s been a topic in the Fatosphere for some years, but is just beginning to get some play in the mainstream media.  The central tenets focus on (what I think is a very Pagan-friendly concept!) developing a relationship with your body: learning to listen for what it wants for fuel and how it wants to move.  It’s a different perspective on diet and exercise, more celebratory than punitive.

    …and I just realized that, despite reading regularly, I may never have commented here before.  Um…hi?  :D

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I’ve not encountered that movement. I’ll look it up!

      And hello! Glad you decided to comment!

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      yes yes yes!!  Unliking so I can like it again!!  Star, Health At Every Size is part of what Regan blogs about over at DancesWithFat.  I can’t endorse it strongly enough!

      Whilst I’m suggesting stuff, I also really strongly recommend Heavyweight Yoga… Abby Lentz is just amazing!  She teaches people of all sizes and abilities how to do yoga in the body you have, whatever its challenges may be.  Thanks to her, my flexibility challenged partner is able to do yoga with me.  Good, good stuff!http://www.heartfeltyoga.com/heavyweight_yoga.htm 

  • GimliGirl

    “Goddess-size” shouldn’t mean anything goes and everything is ok.”

    But everything DOES go and everything IS ok. Do I or do I not have full autonomy over my body and what I do with it or put in it? I love fat acceptance and the health at every size movements because not only are they about redefining the vocabulary around being fat, and shredding the crap science that surrounds the diet industry, but they ask each person to look at their own personal history, their own body and say “What’s right for ME?” Diets don’t work. Even excersizing and eating “right” wont change a person’s natural set point very much, and not without drastic changes like the kind Star described. Fat acceptance is also about destroying the stereotypes that surround fat people, the idea that they’re fat because they don’t eat good food, they’re lazy, they’re slobs, they cost too much for health insurance, they’re stupid, etc. In the current society, it’s OK to comment on/about a fat person’s body, to create tv shows promoting radical, dangerous weight loss. It’s OK to make a fat person buy two seats on an airplane. It’s OK to try and pass legislation denying fat people access to restaurants (I’m looking at you, Mississippi). It’s OK to shame your kids about their size and put them on diets or in fat camps because it’s the WORST THING EVAR to be fat. Kids as young as 5 and 6 are getting eating disorders because of our completely messed up relationship with our bodies and food.

    As for being Pagan and into fat acceptance, personally I see it like this; my body IS a temple. It houses that divine spark that is the same as the Goddess, as the stars, as the trees. It’s my pleasure to nourish this body in every way I see fit; after all, all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals and making and eating food, for myself or with/for friends and family, is a joy. We come in all shapes and sizes, colours and creeds. Nature loves diversity! 

    • BladedScrivener

      Not only do diets not work, but there are so many of them and their various gimmicky foci are so contradictory and confusing that I don’t see why most people don’t just throw up their hands and cry “Uncle”.

      And some seem to be outright dangerous.  A few years ago I tried the “vinegar diet” someone told me about where you swallow about a tablespoon of vinegar before each meal, I guess as a non-pharmaceutical appetite suppressant.  About five minutes afterward I usually felt like I’d just swallowed ground glass.  I think I dropped it after the second day…  Bleh. 

      I wonder sometimes if the whole dieting thing isn’t a trap designed to relieve people of their money for the books and videos and “menu programs” of whatever/whoever is supposed to be “hot” right now.

      • http://twitter.com/maggiemunkee Maggie Deegan

        the weight-cycling (weight “loss”) industry earns sixty BILLION dollars a year. they are highly invested in you giving them money to fail at permanently changing the size or your body.

        • BladedScrivener

          60 –billion–?  Whoah… I’m just gonna wander away and ponder that one in –awe– for awhile…

  • http://twitter.com/Will_Dees Will Dees

    It all depends on your own body type. A good friend of mine is built like a football player–she’s a big woman of germanic descent, and she’s never going to be anything other than a Valkyrie.  

    Another friend of mine, however, has a small frame but is quite large due to her family’s incredibly poor eating habits. She *could* be smaller because her brother is losing a lot of weight by eating healthy & exercising, but she thinks he looks “disgusting” because he’s not his big self. She constantly complains of joint pain in her legs & feet, and that could be be made better by some weight loss. 

    Diets can work, but you can’t go beyond the limitations of what your body is actually capable of doing in the first place.  I like that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” to the human body.

  • Gingerspark

    This all touched such a chord with me and it all comes down to self-acceptance. And removal of judgement of others. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do both. I’m starting with me…cause I have major body issues and I am a small person (with some diabetic health issues which are genetic). I have a tiny frame at 5 feet and can wear tiny sizes of 2s and 4s but I’m very curvy so feel “fat.” Which rationally I know is ABSURD! For my height and weight, I have a normal but high BMI. I lost major weight a few years ago after training for a marathon (which killed my knees and was boring) and went from a 12 to a o size…but even then I was not happy. At a 0 I still felt fat. ABSURD! So my resolution in 2012 is to exercise and eat healthy, but not to obsess about it. To be okay with who I am. To respect myself and those around me. To honor who I am today. 

    Love and light, 
    Gingerspark

  • Varoom13

     Just accept me for who I am. We accept people, or at least I hope we do, without judging their color, or disabilities or other physical traits  Don’t see me as a large woman, see me as a woman who happens to be large. My heart is as large as I am, but people don’t see that until they get to know me…all they see is a large woman…THEN if they can get past that they get to know me. We are all children of the divine no matter how large or thin we are.

  • http://twitter.com/jenettsilver Jenett

    Besides the other awesome suggestions to read Dances with Fat here, I’d also love to recommend the Fat Nutrionist (http://www.fatnutritionist.com/) – she does some excellent conversation about how our food choices and patterns can get so very messed up, and how getting back to basics about what food is and should be for us can be so very helpful.

  • Joannadeadwinter

    Quality of life isn’t just a right regardless of size, it maintains health on a physical level. Negative stress and stigma increaase the levels of stress hormones, which leads to adverse health effects like hardening of the arteries, rashes, etc. and yes, weight gain too. Pagans aren’t just concerned with the physical, but with the emotional and spiritual aspect. It’s holistic. Health should be too.

  • badu

    “My ticker has already been in the shop, due to a birth defect.”

    Do you know this is so rarely mentioned? I understand about a quarter of babies are born with some kind of minor or otherwise heart defect and I’ve often wondered how many are fat because of that-which is always treated as cause.

    Even minor issues can reduce energy and perhaps threaten bodyweight which stores to manage that, but also in case of future crisis. Fatness has been associated with better outcomes.

  • Cholla

    Great discussion, and so glad to read this, Star.

    I’m not sure that being pagan really makes a difference, though. Even though those images of goddesses might be revered, people are human and prone to the stereotypes of their culture. As a fat witch, I often have to deal with all kinds of issues like this even within pagandom.

    However, I think it does make a difference to me, at least in my tradition. We are told to never submit our lifeforce to another, and to follow our own will. That sometimes means choosing what is best for us, even in the face of cultural statements about our own worthlessness. I don’t know how much being pagan has influenced me towards fat acceptance, but being Faery certainly has.

    Thank you so much for being brave with your struggle, and I wish you luck on your journey. Know you are not alone out there.

  • kenneth

    There’s nothing hotter and sweeter in this world than a big, curvy woman! :)

  • http://blog.dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    Hi Star! You probably know that my “day” job is as a plus size fashion blogger, and that I’ve gotten recognition by the New York Times and major companies for my work. I really encourage you to look up Health At Every Size and/or email Dr. Linda Bacon, if you truly want to know more. Also, I’d be happy to talk to you about this privately.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I did not know this! But now I know who to go to for fashion advice! yay!

  • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

    Something to consider…In the years that I have watched the average pagan’s circumference increase, I have seen a slow trend towards more sedentary rites at public (and private) events and festivals. I have seen events where there has to be shuttle service from campsites to ritual sites because people were physically unable to walk a half of a mile. I have seen a lot more rituals where chairs have to be provided for people of all ages because people cannot stand for more than 10-15 minutes. I know people who cannot do camping festivals because they require electricity for a CPAP machine for their weight-induced sleep apnea (that was my husband 80 pounds ago, in fact…). Finding a potluck with healthy food as a norm is a rarity. Heck, I have even seen people tell other practitioners that it is acceptable to use soda for wine and Little Debbie or Twinkies for cakes in ritual.

    Being happy with one’s weight and health and how it manifests is a personal choice, and as long as someone is willing to accept the consequences–positive or negative–of their health choices–whether underweight, overweight, or at ideal weight–then that’s a personal decision. But there is part of me that wonders how a more sedentary populace will change the way paganism is practiced. Certainly if I were running a festival’s medical staff, I’d probably want to consider investing in portable defibs (not cheap, but can be a lifesaver!) and make sure to have resources on hand to deal with things like insulin issues. Do we need to keep ritual dances short (or perhaps cut them all together) because we’re moving to a world where the majority of the people are not able to participate? Will weight issues push paganism into more of a congregational style of practice where everyone sits down for rites? For those who meet in living rooms, will larger person size mean that fewer people will be able to comfortably fit in a meeting space, leading to smaller groups? It’s certainly something to think about, but I already see a lot of that happening…. how far will it go?

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      That’s one reason I want to be healthier. I couldn’t dance in ritual this year like I could the year before. I want to be an active participant in our rites, not a passive one!

    • Robert

      Conversely, I haven’t seen any of the things you describe happening, regardless of the size of the participants.  I have seen an increase in chairs and shuttle services, but that’s because I’m seeing more and more people with mobility challenges and various other physical differences joining our community.  I see that as a good thing, and to be encouraged!  I’ve not seen any rituals that were written to avoid dances or other activity–quite the contrary, I’ve seen too many that were written in such a way that those who physically could not engage in the dance or activity had no other way to participate in the rite. 

      Mind you, if I were running a festival’s medical staff I’d also want portable defibs, insulin (and sucrose), etc — not because there’s fat people there, but because there’s people there at all! 

      Modern American lifestyles have become more sedentary over time, and this has led to less fitness overall, true.  But fitness =/= fatness, and it’s fitness that tells you if you can dance for 5 minutes or 50.  Weight has nothing to do with it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

        In my view, hopefully it’s just a mid-Atlantic mindset to start scaling back rituals to avoid physical activity for participants, as I’m not a fan of rituals where there is no movement in circle. I personally have no problem if there are people who, for whatever reason, have to take a more physically passive role for a rite. (I had to “take to the chair” in my third trimester because standing for 3-4 hours wasn’t going to be good to my blood pressure!) At some point we hit a tipping point, however (no pun intended). When you’ve got more people who are unable to engage in physical activity at a ritual than people who are able to engage in physical activity, a ritual would need to adapt to that new reality. I know of some groups, because of the makeup of their membership and physical limitations therein, who do all their rituals completely seated except for casting circle. It works for them, so certainly it is what their members need. On the other hand, it is a very different type of ritual from what many of us have “grown up with”, and I’m not sure that it is the type of experience that most people would want to see become the norm. It isn’t a weight issue per se, however the reason that most people cite for why they have to sit out of being active in ritual isn’t because of age or physical mobility issue or other medical issue (asthma, blood pressure issues, etc.), but in their own words is because they are too fat to get up and move. Perhaps they should stress a lack of fitness is why they can’t move instead of an excess of fat, but I can only go by what they say….and they say it is because they are fat. (And lest anyone thinks I’m some skinny chick complaining about “those people”, I’m in the overweight column, too.)

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      I’ve seen shuttles at public festivals.  I’ve also seen Grandmother Elspeth, Nybor, and Pete Davis at public festivals.  I’m certainly not going to suggest that they should have to walk a half mile from a campsite to a ritual site.  I’ve seen plenty of thin people with mobility issues.  Are public Pagan festivals only for people who can walk half a mile?  Seriously?  Seems rather ableist to me.

      I don’t know where the gatherings you attend are, but I’d look to the fare (including cakes & ale) being more a matter of regional tendencies than related to the circumference of the attendees.  At my gatherings, I make entreés for the potlucks that are not only made from scratch, but organic, locally grown, vegetarian and wheat-free without refined sugar, corn syrup or artificial colours.  Most of the folks who attend do likewise.  We buy organic juice (often local cider) for our ale and our cakes are usually made for the event, typically by me, following the above litany of restrictions.  We’re only *slightly* more “granola” about this than what I’ve seen to be “normal” at gatherings in this area.  Maybe it’s just an Ann Arbor thing.  ~shrug~

      Thin people have heart attacks — and with causes other than genetic disorders.  Thin people can be diabetic.  Heck, I know more thin diabetics than fat ones.  Festival medical staff, if they can afford it, should definitely keep defibs on hand, as well as being prepared to deal with diabetics.  Also, they should be prepared to deal with bee stings, snake or spider bites, broken bones, sprains and so on.  

      The fact that I’m fat does not preclude my participating in ritual dance and it’s certainly not causing the gatherings my partner and I run to get smaller… Crossroads more than doubled our attendance in the 2010-2011 liturgical year and just since Samhain, we’ve gained another half of last year’s increase already.  

      • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

        Again, like I mentioned to Robert, it isn’t about making accommodations for people who need them. It is about when there’s more people who need accommodations than not, then it is time to change the norm. That’s what I think we’re moving toward–in part because many of us are starting to show the challenges of our years, in part because people in general aren’t as fit as they once were, in part because the next generation coming up hasn’t grown up being as physically active as many of us were as kids. Whatever the reason, when we reach a certain point where most of us, for whatever reason, can’t do X, then that means we shouldn’t try to do X. So if you have a festival where most people can’t/won’t dance around a bonfire, do we need to have a ritual bonfire for dancing, for example? In modern paganism where most people are drawing from the same playbooks, are we prepared to let go of “what we’ve always done” when it doesn’t suit the people we have become and find something else to replace it? If so, then fantastic…our adaptability will suit us well for years to come. If not, then maybe we need to start thinking now about what changes we will need for a path with a change in demographics?

        • Rose Welsh

          Hi… I’m late to the party as usual.

          Let’s try something different.  Think about it this way: maybe we don’t see a majority need for seated (or otherwise accommodated) rituals because we don’t hold many.  It’s like the City Council here that says it won’t spend money modifying the sidewalks for people in wheelchairs because they haven’t seen anyone around that would need to use them.  Ummmm….. maybe if they made the sidewalks accessible that would change?  I’m wondering if the same wouldn’t hold true for ritual.  I mean, even if it was advertized that all abilities could be accommodated in ritual with prior notice.  Then actually talk to people with mobility issues, sight and hearing issues, environmental sensitivity issues and see how rituals could best be modified for everyone without taking away from the ritual or singling anyone out.  I think Reclaiming has started doing this. 

          Thanks, Rose

  • PhaedraHPS

    And I suddenly remember the chant I was singing last October:

    “I’m a Pagan Elder, short and stout …”

    Sighing, with a grin.

  • Chris

    This man was a well know side show fat man at the turn of the century.  He made a literal fortune being “amazingly huge, unbelievably big” our idea of what constitutes normal has been horribly altered not in the way most people think, redefining skinny, but rather in redefining normal weight.  Its true that size zero is not normal but we as a nation are the most obese in the world.  Diet is the key, avoiding the processed foods of the modern day and eating a clean low or no sugar diet.  Remember we eat more sugar now than ever before in the history of the world. 

  • Rose Welsh

    I came to this party really late so I don’t know if it was mentioned, but there is an alternative name out there for FA, it’s Size Acceptance.  I read so many awesome fatty blogs and such I can’t remember who coined it.  It’s possible it was Ragen from Dances with Fat, but I’m not positive.

    It took me a VERY long time to come to FA and HAES (Health at Every Size).  I was first exposed to the philosophy via “Fat Rant” when it was brand new.  I finally gave up dieting last year after losing 10 pounds the “right way” (right portions, and good food and lost only a pound or two a week max) and found myself having gained it all back plus 10.  It took me reading studies that show that most of the people who gain the weight back after dieting (95%) not only gain it back but add 10 or more pounds to boot.  After that, I saw a pattern and I stopped.  I’d read all the other literature and blogs explaining the studies and finally it all clicked.  I decided that if I’m going to be fat I refuse to torture myself in the process by dieting and then feeling shamed and guilty for gaining it back and then some. 

    I have my hard days.  I had one of those not too long ago.  But once you read about studies that show that people not only have a size set point that doesn’t vary by more that about 20 pounds and that most of the diseases like diabetes and heat disease have never been proven to be caused by fat, and that the fatter the person is the more they are apt to survive invasive surgery…. the more I just want to be healthy.  Start moving (once I kick the ass of this lingering sinus infection) and keep making sure I eat exactly what my body wants,  and I’ll be fine.

    I shall stop rambling now.  I’d like to invite you to join us at Big Fat World on Facebook if you’re a member.  You’ll get links there to a lot of great blog posts and Size Acceptance type things.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/207591069284150/

  • http://twitter.com/danceswithfat Ragen Chastain

    What a beautiful blog! 

    There are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size, and weight loss behaviors are not the same thing as healthy behaviors.

    I think it’s highly problematic anytime we start trying to make decisions for someone else, or someone else’s body.  If my body size makes you “cringe”, or if you see me and automatically make assumptions about me based on my size, I hope that you are aware that is yours to deal with and has nothing whatsoever to do with me.  We each get to decide what health means to us, how highly we prioritize it, and what path we want to take to meet the goals that we have set for ourselves.  (Just like people can choose to climb Mount Everest, or not look both ways before crossing the street, or run an Ironman Triathlon even though those things don’t prioritize their health) .  We get to choose what “quality of life” we want, and we are each the best, most competent witness to our own experience.  I am the boss of my underpants, you are the boss of yours.

    If you truly want to work on better health for society, you could focus your attentions on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they want to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy, and appropriate evidence-based healthcare.  Then focus on your own health and respecting other people’s bodies and choices. 

    ~Ragen
    http://www.danceswithfat.org


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