Clarity and Direction

About a month ago I found myself asking what my end game was. I’m an activist, sure. But so what? What does that mean for me? I felt like I needed a clearer picture in my head of what I really wanted. I took time to meditate on this question and the answers really gave me clarity and direction. Here is the list I came up with:

1. I want everyone to know that their bodies are worthy of respect, love, affection and nourishment.

2. I want to teach parents about the effects of body shaming on kids and give them tools for raising body positive children!

3. I want to expose the motivations of the diet industry & the tools they use to rob us of our self esteem so they can sell it back to us for a profit.

4.I want to lead by example! I will wear what I want, eat what I want, rest when I need and NEVER APOLOGIZE for being me. I will be fat and awesome at the same time.

5. I want to respect other people’s decisions regarding their body as I expect them to respect mine (underpants rule!).

6. I want to be transparent with my struggles to love my body because I know others have the same struggles. We can help each other through!

7. I want to do all of the above from a place of compassion, patience, understanding and love (and forgive myself when I fall short of this goal).

After writing this list I realized how much it really means to me! I want to do more than blog and use my outside voice on social media. I want to share it with you to remind me to be transparent and accountable. I want these things to continue to be my foundation, motivation and compass.

When I thought about HOW I might accomplish this I realized that I had been unknowingly developing the tools I need for the past year! Hooping has been so essential to the process of healing my relationship to my body! It has taught me that I am beautiful, graceful, capable and confident! It transcends size, age, gender, race, ability and religion! What a beautiful and fun way to open doors to this conversation! I feel like God has been guiding me down this path for this very reason.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook or follow my business page know that I have been working furiously to get my business off the ground. This list was the spark behind it all! I taught my first class in May, I hoop fairied a day away at the Central Alberta Children’s Festival, and I even managed to sell a few hoops! I even started a GoFundMe page to help me earn my way to becoming a Punk Rock Hoops certified teacher! I really believe that this can open to door to reintroducing people to their bodies in a positive way.

Over the next little while I will be developing workshops with various focuses like body positivity, Health at Every Size, Mental Health Awareness and Anti-Bullying. I am building lesson plans and learning lots about making hoops! I want to eventually develop a line of plus size flow wear because it is so difficult to find and I want everyone to extra lovely in their hoops! I have so much to learn!

So far this journey has taught me how supported I am by the wonderful people around me. It has helped me deepen my gratitude and connection to my friends and family. I am so excited to continue to grow!

Right now all proceeds from my hoops and class fees go towards my teacher training tuition and travel costs. If you feel called to support me or want to see what all this hooping thing is all about I’ll be over here in my hoop!

-Amy out

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Hooping Hotties & Healed Hearts

My nearest and dearest all know that a couple weekends ago I had the absolute pleasure of attending Hottie Hoop Camp in Surfside, TX. It had an unexpectedly strong impact on me so I’ve decided to take a brief detour from my usual fat activist ranting to share my experience with you.

I started hoop dancing almost exactly a year ago (happy hoop-iversary to me!). It has helped me redefine my relationship with my body because it’s movement that brings me joy instead of shame. To my delight, my pursuit of body positivity and hooping intersected perfectly when I stumbled upon Hottie Hoop Camp online. I thought it would be great to learn some new moves in a safe, body positive space so I decided to take a risk and sign up. I got so much more than I bargained for.

HHC was like a spa for my soul. Never in my life have I experienced such pure and unconditional acceptance. It was a safe space to be or do anything with an army of Hotties at my back. If I needed to rest (something I am accustomed to apologizing for) then I could rest! If I wanted to sing at the top of my lungs I would have ladies joining in! If I wanted to strip to my skivvies and play the ukulele with my feet I could do it and be celebrated (next year maybe??)! I could be as silly, creative and vulnerable as I wanted and receive nothing but love and acceptance in return. Just knowing that this acceptance exists (even though it’s a thousand miles away) heals my heart and gives me strength.

Time for the heavy:

I really believe that God brought me to HHC. As many of you know, I was raised in a Christian home. Faith and religion were at the center of how I was raised and who I believe myself to be. During my teenage years I started feeling disconnected from my church and from God. For the last 10 years I had been successfully burying the hurt and feelings of complete disconnection, failure and of being a disappointment to my family. About 2 weeks before camp I noticed these feelings start to bubble to the surface. For some unknown reason, I could no longer ignore them. My heart was heavy with hurt. I was questioning beliefs that are at the very core of who I am and it terrified me.

I carried my questions and my doubt with me to Houston hoping that I wouldn’t be too glum to enjoy myself. I went to the classes and hung out with some truly awesome ladies but inside I was struggling. The turning point came on day two. I had spent the day taking my fire hooping safety training and the time for my virgin burn was fast approaching. The extraordinary Rowen TwoSisters sat us all down before hand and told us to write down what we desired in life and what we wanted to let go of. She said that fire has the power to help us send out spiritual smoke signals to whatever deity we believe in. I felt a bit silly doing it but I knew that I needed answers.

As I stood in front of all my Hotties with a freshly lit hoop, nervous to perform for the first time ever, I looked up to the sky and said, “God, are you really out there?” I took a deep breath and then started to dance. I cannot find the words to describe the joy and lightness I felt within that hoop. I felt released, peaceful, confident, capable, beautiful, loved, accepted and a little bit dizzy. In what felt like no time at all, my burn was over. I hung up my hoop and walked straight over to Rowan and bawled my eyes out on her shoulder. I had the glimmer of a new understanding in my heart.

Maybe God really is out there and I just forgot how to listen. Maybe my relationship with God doesn’t need to be the same as my parents relationship with God. Maybe I can let go of all the hurt and anger from my past and finally forgive. Maybe the most important thing for me to do right now is to drop all of my past assumptions and just listen.

Needless to say, I’m going back next year. I’m practically packed already. I cannot wait to go back and hug my Hotties and see what other revelations I can squeeze out of that magical place. It’s a bit of an expense but I consider it to be an investment in my soul. I’m toying with the idea of creating a GoFundMe profile when the time draws nearer to help offset the cost. I can hardly wait!

For now, I want to say thank you to Rowan, Blythe, Alejandra, the class instructors, the beautiful and talented kitchen staff and all my Hooping Hotties. I love you. Thank you for everything!

-Amy out

The Gloves are Off

An integral part of learning to love & accept myself involves exposing myself to positive media featuring diverse body types and sizes every day. We are exposed to hundreds of messages every day about what our bodies are supposed to look like. Combating this by seeking out media that portrays my body type (and many others) in a positive light has been absolutely vital for shifting my perceptions and thought patterns. Unfortunately, with every Body Positive post that features anyone who is above “average size” (a term used with serious reservations) comes the concern trolls bewailing the “promotion of unhealthy lifestyles”.

Example: “Why would you tell people it’s ok to be fat?? Aren’t you worried about their health? Being unhealthy will never be beautiful!”

Now, let me be clear, again, if you haven’t gotten it yet: you cannot determine the state of someone’s health from a picture. In fact, making an assumption about health/habits/intentions/experiences/diet from a picture is pretty much the definition of prejudice. You are not a good citizen who is just looking out for the interests of fatties the world round. You are a bigot hiding behind the societal equation of health with morality.

Just for fun, though, let’s ignore the above ignorance and take a closer look at the idea of body positivity/size diversity promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. WARNING: INCOMING SARCASTIC RAGE!

People seem to be operating under the ridiculous notion that as long as they hate fat people hard enough we will finally “get it”. All we really need is to see one more headless fatty and we will finally all become thin or at least disappear from their royal sight. It’s their JOB to shame us because if we aren’t constantly receiving messages about how worthless we are we might start thinking it’s ok to be unhealthy! After all, health is the measure of righteousness over and above all else! A person’s health is how you know their worth! If you are thin (and therefore automatically a beacon of health and wellness) you are completely justified in donning your for members only “Super Health Seeking X-Ray Glasses” (trademark pending?) that allows you to actually see the level of a person’s health without any tests or medical training and then ostracize them when they do not meet your incredibly uninformed and bigoted standards. What if a poor impressionable mind sees a fat person being successful/happy/complete and starts shoving lard down their throat so they can be fat too!? OH WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!

*breathes*

As a society, we really need to stop and think about the big picture impact this attitude has. Not only are people attempting to justify their prejudice under the holy banner of health, people are justifying some incredibly stupid and unhealthy shit in their quest to be thin (and therefore automatically healthy, DUH!). Never mind that it has been scientifically proven that we can reap the benefits of healthful habits independent of weight loss! Never mind that there is absolutely no research showing that sustained weight loss over the long term is possible! Never mind that eating disorders are on the rise in ever younger populations! Never mind that the high levels of constant stress from shaming and stigma as well as constant weight cycling are correlated with the same ‘diseases of affluence’ that obesity is correlated with (could they be related??)! It seems to me that if you’re really just a good citizen that is concerned for my health and not ‘prejudice in any way’ you might need to take a look in the mirror.

Do you really think that you are encouraging us take care of our bodies by hating them? Do you really think that nobody has ever told us about diet and exercise before? What do you think would happen if people started loving their body’s just as they are? Our bodies are miracles! They are beautiful and capable and their worth cannot be diminished by your ‘good will’.

-Amy out

Old Pictures, New Attitude

Last week I found myself looking through old pictures. A couple of years ago this activity would have been…difficult.

I would look at a picture and see everything but myself. I would see a visible belly outline and an extra chin. I would see every calorie I had ever consumed and every mile I didn’t run. I would see every failure, every rejection, every cruel joke at my expense. I would see a before picture.

Luckily, 3 years ago some crazy lady on the internet  suggested to me that maybe I didn’t have to hate myself. It’s been a tug-o-war, kicking, screaming, 1 step forward, 3 steps back, all out brawl kind of journey. There have been days weeks months where I thought that it was hopeless. It took courage to keep coming back but it was worth it!

This time was different. I saw pictures of myself that I used to hate and now I think that I actually look really nice! I love my crazy hair, my visible belly outline, my soft curves. I looked at myself with love. It was an experience I have never had before. I am so proud of how far I’ve come and I am so happy to keep going!

Now it’s my turn to be the crazy lady on the internet. I know that everyone reading this knows these negative feelings or has known them at some point. I promise that you are worthy of love and unconditional acceptance. You are worthy of being looked upon and adored. You are worthy of respect and admiration. You. Are. Worthy!!

-Amy out

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Body Mass Index? More like Barely Meaningful Integer…amIright?!

What’s this? A Blog post from the other side? No! I am, in fact, still alive. I have been taking time to learn more about the Size Acceptance movement and Health At Every Size as well as the important differences between the two. I’ve decided to dig even deeper (and blog about it along the way). This month I am learning about BMI and the results aren’t pretty.

IMPORTANT NOTE: TRIGGER WARNING: In this post I will be using terms like ‘obese’ as it is a term associated with BMI labeling. I will also be discussing metabolic health. It is important to note that health is not an obligation nor a ‘barometer of worthiness’ (as the lovely Ragen would say), nor is it always within your control. This blog is only meant to discuss the short comings of the BMI system and the effects it has on society and policy. Also, this is a really long blog post. Read it anyway.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a mathematical formula used to generate a number based on the height and weight of an individual. This magical number is then supposed to determine things like health and longevity but instead determines things like whether or not you will qualify for health care, whether or not you will receive an evidence-based diagnosis and treatment from your doctor (read this! And this!), how much weight-based social stigmatization you will face, etc. Why is it so ineffective? Let me count the ways!

The ways:

  1. It’s the wrong tool for the job

The BMI system was never intended to measure individual health but was meant to measure and predict trends in large populations. Its inventor, was statistician/sociologist (read: not a medical doctor) and wouldn’t have been considered an expert in the medical field 200 years ago let alone today. Even the dude responsible for making BMI popular in medicine today explicitly stated that it was not appropriate for individual evaluation.

We have the ability to measure the metabolic health of an individual without profiling them by their appearance. If fitness level and behaviors are measured, a much more accurate and individualized picture can be established independent from weight and height. Why is the BMI system still used over other more accurate methods? Answer: it’s cheap, easy and profitable. Our fear and misconceptions about our health are making a lot of people very rich.

  1. Metabolic health is complex

BMI makes no concession for things likes muscle mass, bone density, body fat percentage, fitness level, etc. The idea that it can predict health when it cannot even account for these things is ridiculous. Body builders often complain that according to their BMI they are classified as overweight or obese! This may seem like a superficial complaint, but when it begins to affect your ability to qualify for health insurance, it becomes a serious issue. Sounds a little cash grabby on the part of the health insurance industry, doesn’t it?

The truth is that health is a complicated and multifaceted issue and profiling someone’s health by their size is both foolish and damaging. Angela Meadows notes that “thin people are not treated for conditions that doctors think they can’t have, fat people are treated for conditions they don’t have, and eating disorders rise exponentially in ever younger children.” In fact, studies show that a substantial portion of the population is misidentified when using BMI as a valuation of health. This results in sicker people not being treated and additional cost burdens to health care for people who are being treated unnecessarily.

  1. Weight is not a measure of health.

Time to prepare your surprised face! Fat does not equal unhealthy. Crazy, right? So all you concern trolls going, “OMG, BUT WAT ABOUT UR HEALTHZ!” can just take a breather. Seriously, stop. Weight and health are two separate issues and BMI only very weakly correlates these two factors.

Studies show that BMI only weakly predicts longevity and most studies actually find that ‘overweight’ and moderately obese people live just as long, or longer than ‘normal weight’ people. Also, obese people with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease tend to fair better than thin people with the same conditions. So why do doctors prescribe weight loss as a cure for these diseases?

health-at-every-size

The age old argument is that there is a higher correlation between obese people and certain diseases; but it is important to note the difference between correlation and causation (seriously, click that link; it’s hilarious). Did you know there’s also a correlation between reading ability and shoe size? Why is Michelle Obama not waging a war against illiteracy in the tiny footed?? Oh, wait, those are babies. We need to remember that when two things are correlated there is often a third factor at play. Dr. Linda Bacon notes that weight cycling and yo-yo dieting can increase risk for many obesity related diseases including hypertension, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia as well as poorer cardiovascular outcomes. She continues to note “that the association between weight and health risk can be better attributed to weight cycling than adiposity itself.” Other contributing factors to consider are socio-economic status, stress from size based discrimination and shaming, etc. Maybe it’s more complicated than fat=bad. Maybe there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Maybe our solution to the ‘problem’ is actually the problem.

The absurdity of having such sharp lines drawn between healthy and obese was reinforced in 1998 when the CDC lowered the threshold for what is considered unhealthy causing 29 million Americans who were previously considered to be healthy to be reclassified as overweight from one day to the next. What’s interesting is the individuals responsible for this decision had direct financial ties to the diet industry. These people then advocated dieting for anyone who did not fit into the newly defined ‘ideal BMI’ category. I’m sure they just had our health in mind though, right?

  1. It feeds the hate fire!

BMI + Calories in/Calories Out myth + Ignorance = OMGDEATHFATZWTFBBQ!

I’ll break it down for those of us who had trouble with math. People believe that fat people are diseased (BMI) and that it’s a result of our own personal failings as humans (+ Calories In/Calories Out Myth) and that because they have been ordained the almighty rulers of your personal choices (+ Ignorance), we then get our so called ‘Obesity Epidemic’ (= OMGDEATHFATZWTFBBQ!).

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People like to justify their size based prejudice with the “science” behind BMI. When it doesn’t work people think they just have to hate a little harder. If they are able to muster enough self-righteousness they will be able to shame us into either changing to fit in, dying or disappearing from sight. This is often sometimes perhaps occasionally not done with malevolence; these attitudes are so ingrained in our culture that people do not even realize how rude and damaging their behavior is.

The negative view of fat people is not only ineffective in producing thin people but also contributes to rising numbers in eating disorders. It distracts people from larger health issues; it discourages fat people from visiting their doctor for fear they will be discriminated against, and it discourages fat people from participating in healthful habits (and life in general). It also contributes to depression, stress levels and poor self-esteem. Perhaps more importantly, it effects public, medical, professional and insurance policy. There are laws protecting against nearly every other form of discrimination, but none to protect against size based discrimination.

What should we do?

Our focus needs to change from size to behaviors. Evidence shows that people reap the benefits of healthy behaviors independent of size or any weight loss. People can engage in healthful habits at any size! This is not to say that it is ok to police other people’s behaviors, but only that size is not and should not be treated as a limiting factor.

So speak up! Tell your doctor to give you evidence based medical care next time they tell you your BMI isn’t ‘ideal’! Post articles about Health at Every Size and Size Diversity Acceptance on social media! Think critically and do your research! Call people on their discriminatory behavior! Challenge people’s attitudes and assumptions! Let’s make this world a safe place for people of all sizes! RIOTS NOT DIETS!

-Amy out!

Reasons Not to Not Bully Fat People

When is it ok to bully fat people? Read to find out!

Dances With Fat

Bullshit FairyI saw a video today about a woman who was bullied because she was fat. It was one of those click-baity  “You won’t believe what she says next!” things.  It turns out that what she says is that she used to be much fatter.  In this case we’re told that it’s wrong to bully fat people if they are in the process of getting thinner.

Much was made of a study that found that bullying fat people may lead to weight gain. People suggested that if bullying was going to make us fatter, then maybe people shouldn’t bully fat people (of course plenty of people took to comment sections to argue that nothing should ever get in the way of people’s right to bully fat people.)

Then there are people who suggest that we shouldn’t bully fat people as long as they are “trying” – whether that means eating the…

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3 Things I want my Friends and Family to Know About Body Love

Aside

Recently an article has been floating around the interwebz called ‘6 Things I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement’. Most of the Fat Activist bloggers I follow had some amazing responses that say it all. I felt like I didn’t really need to respond because who could ever top The Militant Baker?? But I am slowly coming to the realization that this ‘lack of understanding’ is something that needs to be addressed with my family and friends (who are pretty much my only readers). So here it is. This is 3 things I want you to understand about Body Love. This is where I am at and what is in my heart.

1. I value my health very much, thank you!

I am learning about something called Health at Every Size (HAES). There is a book by Dr. Linda Bacon called Health At Every Size that focuses on being healthy as opposed to being skinny and presents research to show that fat and healthy are not mutually exclusive. Dr. Bacon has a Masters Degree in Psychotherapy with a specialty in eating disorders and body image, a Masters Degree in Exercise Science specializing in metabolism and a Doctorate in Physiology with a focus on nutrition and weight regulation. She has dedicated her life to understanding why we struggle so much with weight regulation when it’s supposed to be as simple as diet and exercise.

“Every discipline I studied revealed the same disconnect: The science of weight regulation directly contradicts cultural assumptions as well as those promoted by ‘experts’.” -Dr. Linda Bacon

This book is teaching me about the amazing things my body goes through to regulate my weight. It’s teaching me about how all my crazy diets and unhealthy habits have hurt my body’s ability to regulate itself. I’m learning about how to reconnect with my body so that it can do the job it was created to do. I am learning that everyone’s body has it’s own natural set point weight wise and not all set points result in a size 2. I am learning that you cannot know a persons habits or lifestyle by their weight alone.

I am very much focused on learning to be healthy but I no longer believe that healthy and skinny are synonymous. Watch this video to learn about why I think it’s ok to be fat.

2. I need your support!

Learning to love myself is hard. We live in a society that has turned weight into a moral issue. Foods have come to be known as ‘guilt free’ or ‘sinfully delicious’. Fat people are judged as being lazy and gluttonous at a single glance. Not a day goes by that I am not bombarded with diet ads and images of ‘ideal beauty’ that tell me that this is what beauty is supposed to look like and that I will never look that way. I am fighting an uphill battle and I cannot do it alone. These are the things that I need from you that will help me learn to love myself.

  • My health is my concern. Please know that while comments of concern may be well meaning, they are unfounded and they trigger old feelings of shame that I am working to overcome.
  • While I am happy that you are enjoying success from your new diet, I have a hard time hearing about it. The diet mentality is something that I am working very hard to overcome and often diet talk can trigger feelings of shame. Please know that I am not judging your choice to diet or lose weight, I just need extra support while I work on changing my thought habits.
  • No more negative body talk! If you are unhappy with the way your thighs rub together or with the number of chins you have in the pic you were tagged in, I don’t want to hear about it. Negativity feeds off negativity and I am trying to starve mine out. I don’t need you to feed it for me.
  • I would be over the freaking moon if any of you were to read the book (or at least research Health at Every Size) so that I can discuss it with you.

3. Why should you care? Body love affects us all!

For me, learning about body love has included learning about fat acceptance but that is not the case for everyone. Sadly, I don’t believe I’ve ever met a person (male, female, short, tall, skinny or fat) who could truly say that they loved their body. Body love isn’t just for ‘fat chicks with self esteem issues’, it addresses a problem that has real and measurable effects not just on individuals but on society as a whole.

When you learn to love and accept yourself the world opens up for you in ways you never imagined. You stop holding yourself back from doing the things that you have always wanted to do but felt unworthy of or uncomfortable doing. Instead of trying to shrink and disappear you grow and flourish. You learn to let go of the judgements you have towards other people and by extension give them permission to love themselves. The ideas and principles I am learning about are all things that I would wish for you in your lives as well as my own. So give yourself permission to start loving your body, I’ll be here to help you!

As always, thank you for reading. I want to especially thank my family and friends for being so loving and supportive. You are all the coolest of the cool cats.