Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Big Fat Fallacies: Appeal to the People

See the introduction to this series and an index of posts HERE.

Appeal to the People/Appeal to Popularity (argumentum ad populum)

This is yet another logical fallacy that manipulates emotion in order to distract from an unsupported argument.  Instead of fear or pity, this fallacy touches on our very deep human desire to be liked or popular.  It is one of the most easily recognized fallacies and is in widespread use in advertising.  It can be broken down into a few types.

Bandwagon


The Bandwagon appeal is the good old fashioned "everybody's doing it" argument.  You have probably encountered this all your life in various guises.  In FA specifically, it is really hard to be the only person in the office not dieting (especially in January).  Office-wide "Biggest Loser" contests are particularly toxic.  


Appeal to Vanity/Snobbery

Sometimes there will be subtle distinctions made between these, but they boil down to "only the cool kids are doing it."  We see this in clothing designers decisions to only make small sized clothes, or in the rich and famous held up as examples of ideal body types.  In a world where being thin is impossible for most people, it becomes a status symbol.  

Appeal to Belief 


This is the "everybody thinks so" variation on the bandwagon argument.  In FA, we know that the percentage of people who understand that dieting is usually unsuccessful and often harmful to your health are few (if growing).  So the fact that diet advocates can assemble a huge collection of poorly researched studies and articles from popular websites is a frequent weapon used against us.  


Dissecting the Fallacy 

Humans are social creatures, and the cultural pressure to conform to "the pack" is strong.  After all, if these fallacies were ineffective, advertisers wouldn't use them!  It is important, with all emotional appeals, to separate the emotional content from the factual.  Is the fact that everyone in the office is trying to lose weight any kind of evidence that they'll be successful (or that you will)?  Is the fact that a naturally thin actress can fit into a vinyl catsuit evidence that you should be able to as well?  

Remember that many beliefs about health and beauty were extremely popular at one time or another. Compare the Gibson Girl to the Flapper, for instance.  Consider that people thought (and some unfortunately still think) that mental illness was a failing of character and should be punished via incarceration and torture.  Or that one could cure most illnesses by bloodletting.  


The takeaway is that the popularity of an idea has never been a good gauge of it's merits.  If all your friends jumped off a bridge...


Deciding What to Do

This is a difficult one to fight, because it relies on you having self-confidence and strong internal boundaries.  Chances are, the world made a pretty dedicated effort to strip you of both these tools throughout most of your life (especially if you were a fat child).  

First up is a thorough examination of relevance.  Is wearing this brand of jean really what makes someone popular, or is that mistaking the symbol of the thing for the thing itself?  Perhaps those jeans are only a symbol of a high socioeconomic status, and as a culture we mistake a high socioeconomic status for other attributes, like confidence and likeability.  Can you be confident and likeable without the jeans? 

Next, it is important to decide how important it is to you to conform to the expectations of others. This is part of internal boundary setting.  Everyone responds in some way to the people in their environment, but you can decide just how much you're willing to compromise.  Will you not get a face tattoo in order to maintain a certain accepted look in the office?  Will you dress a certain way to avoid the sideways looks from friends?  Will you resist the pressure to be "one of the girls/guys" by group dieting?  

How far you are willing to go is a very personal decision, and should take some serious consideration.  But once you have drawn the line in your mind, it is much easier to recognize what crosses it and resist peer pressure.  (Yes, even adults experience peer pressure). 

Any search for popularity is really the search for love and acceptance.  We often find that a few close relationships are much more satisfying in the long run than widespread popularity.  We have plenty of evidence that it is possible to have love and friendship in any size or shaped body.  If you find yourself falling prey to weight-based ad populum pressure on a regular basis, it may be time to examine why you feel you are missing something, and perhaps find ways to get it without harm.  If you haven't already, reading The Fantasy of Being Thin may address some of these issues.  After reading it, I went out and gave myself permission to be happy.  Once I did, I found out that what I really wanted wasn't contingent on meeting other peoples' expectations. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Big Fat Fallacies: Appeal to Pity

See the introduction to this series and an index of posts HERE.

Appeal to Pity (Argumentum Ad Misericordiam)

This is a fallacy in informal logic where the arguer attempts to manipulate the emotions of their target by invoking pity for another person.  It is part of the Fallacies of Relevance, because in an argument, the person's emotional state should have nothing to do with how well the evidence actually supports the conclusion of an argument.  

In Fat Acceptance, this one is most commonly seen in a "think of the children" context.  The argument is that unless we can somehow eradicate fat people, children will be harmed.   It is a primary mover and shaker in the so-called "war on obesity," as anytime someone invokes the well-being of children, it is implied that to then disagree with the argument's conclusion would be heartless.  On closer examination, "lose weight or you hate children" doesn't exactly hold water as an argument.  

Its other manifestation usually involves an interaction with someone close to you.  A parent, sibling, child, or best friend will pull the "it hurts me to see you take such poor care of yourself" card.  This is much more problematic, as it is a subtle form of emotional blackmail.  They are saying "if you love me, you will change."  But the blackmail is usually taking place on such a low level of subtext that they would be hurt and offended if you actually pointed it out to them.   

Dissecting the Fallacy

The fallacies that appeal to emotions are illogical, but effective.   Our emotions often drive our decisions, actions, and even our thoughts.  While the appeal to pity can sway either our genuine empathy or our need to identify as a good person, at its core lies poor personal boundaries.

Many people mistake the outward expression of personal boundaries ("I will not spend time with someone who fat shames me.") for the boundaries themselves.  In fact, boundaries are something you set with yourself, inside your head, rather than with other people.  You decide what you are willing to accept or take personal responsibility for, and act on that decision.  

An appeal to pity is a rather sneaky way for someone to convince you to take responsibility for their own emotional state or well-being.   You are being offered responsibility for the well-being of all children, everywhere.  You are being offered responsibility for your loved one's emotional state and anxieties.  

Worse, you are being asked to sacrifice your own well-being and emotional state in order to satisfy that of others.

Deciding What to Do

It helps considerably to already have your own personal boundaries in place.  Making the decision ahead of time as to how much you will let the emotions of others affect your decision-making gives you a solid metric by which to respond.

It can be very hard to say no. You might feel like a bad person (especially if the other person accuses you of such).  You might feel that if your self-acceptance hurts your mother, then it is cruel.  She might even say so.  She would be wrong.

If someone else hinges their emotional well-being on your decisions about your body, they are practicing poor boundaries and you are not responsible for their pain.  Your decision to diet or not does not actually affect them outside of their own anxieties.  You can help them sort through and cope with those anxieties, but you cannot "fix" them, especially by giving up your own body autonomy. If you try, the anxiety will simply shift to something else, and you will eventually have to draw a line concerning control over your life.  Start now with control over your body.  

Another boundary to consider is how often you're willing to put up with continued attempts to coerce you.  You may make the decision that it is worth spending time with family to put up with the one fat-shaming relative once a year.  You may decide it is too triggering.  The important part is that it is your own decision to make.  Once you know that it can't be taken away from you, you'll find a lot of the defensive reaction to attempts to do so start to fade. 

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Big Fat Fallacies: Appeal to Fear, Appeal to Force

See the introduction to this series and an index of posts HERE

Appeal to Fear (argumentum ad metum) 

This is a fallacy in informal logic where the arguer attempts to manipulate the emotions of their target by invoking fear.  It is part of the Fallacies of Relevance, because in an argument, the person's emotional state should have nothing to do with how well the evidence actually supports the conclusion of an argument. 

In terms of fat activism, the appeal to fear is an old acquaintance that should be forgot.  Some examples include:

  • "If you don't lose weight you will die of diabetes" (or cancer, or a dozen other nebulously "linked" diseases).
  • "If you don't make your children lose weight they will be taken away from you.
  • "If you don't lose weight, no one will ever love you."
  • "If you don't lose weight, you will never be successful."

While these statements often drag in other logical fallacies, especially slippery slope and false dichotomy, their primary weapon is fear.  

Argument from Force (Argumentum ad baculum)

Often presented as a subset of the appeal to fear, the argument from force uses fear in a much more personal way; a direct threat.  The most common example used in logic to illustrate this goes something like: "You should really change my grade.  My father is the dean and won't be happy when I tell him you flunked me."  

Like the appeal to fear, this "argument by the stick" drags in information completely irrelevant to the argument, but is intended to coerce the listener into agreeing with the arguer.  

In weight stigma, this kind of argument is especially difficult to deal with.  Examples include:
  • Doctor: "I don't want to see you back again until you've lost ten pounds." or  "I don't want to have to label you non-compliant."
  • Co-Worker: "You should really participate in my 'biggest loser' office contest.  I don't think our boss would appreciate your uncooperative attitude."
  • Boss:  "You need to lose some weight if you want to keep this promotion; the regional director has very specific ideas of who gets to represent the image of our company."
  • Partner: "I hope you never get fat.  I could never be attracted to a fat person."
Note that none of these arguments have anything to do with adipose tissue, or even health.  They all rely on threats (withholding medical care, workplace status, promotion or love) in order to convince.  While arguments from force can be phrased in such a way that they sound caring, it is important to recognize the one thing they have in common; a threat.

Dissecting the Fallacy

When confronted with an argument from fear, the first step is to sort out what the person is presenting as far as facts.  Tackle the facts separate from the emotional content, and you find that the emotional content is often just a boogeyman in disguise, no matter how convincing it sounds. 

So there's three key questions you need to ask, straight out of Dialectic Behavioral Therapy techniques:

1. What am I being told to be afraid of? 

When dealing with a fallacy, you're not dealing with facts, or even the conclusion the person is stating.  Your primary focus is the subtext.  In this case, the subtext is "you should be afraid of this thing."  

2.  How realistic is this fear?

What is the actual likelihood that this feared thing will take place, and how bad would it be if it did?  It is important to disengage statistics from personal experiences.  If fat people are paid, on average, less than thin people, you cannot take away the idea that losing weight would improve your personal job prospects, or risk for (largely genetic) diseases.  Statistics talk about groups, not individuals. 

Causation vs. correlation falls into consideration here as well.  We still don't know, for instance, whether high levels of fat causes diabetes or diabetes causes weight gain ,or whether both are attributable to a third factor.  

The fact that this is a fallacy means that if you look closely at their argument, the facts don't hold up.  The difference in life expectancy by weight category is vastly exaggerated (and in some weight classes, non-existent).  Fat children mainly stay with their parents with a very few (albeit horrific) exceptions.  Fat people fall in love and get married often enough to support a plus-size wedding dress industry.  Fat people get their doctorates, or become Surgeon General of the U.S. Terrible things do happen, but it is important to be able to realistically evaluate the chances of it happening to you personally.  

3.  Is this thing within my control?

There is a very long list of studies that show long-term significant weight loss is an impossibility for the vast majority of people.  So even if the fear is realistic, a permanent weight change may not be within your control.  Also consider that if the thing to fear is actually caused by something other than your weight, such as genetic or epigenetic factors, biological or environmental limitations, or the decisions of other people, then your control is highly limited.  

Remember that your control in any situation is limited to your own thoughts, words, boundaries and actions.  
 
Deciding What to Do
 
You should first consider whether the relationship is worth preserving, and whether the speaker is operating from genuine (if misplaced) concern or actual malice.  

Let me state up front that you have NO responsibility to educate others about fat, or to teach them how to be a decent human being.  You can choose to take on that responsibility, but remember that fixing ignorance is extremely hard work that uses up many Sanity Watcher's points.  If a relationship is valuable to you AND you think the person can be convinced, you can choose to make the attempt.  If either or both of these factors are absent, then you can find an exit strategy.  This can be as simple as blocking a troll on Facebook, or as complicated as switching doctors.  

A third factor in your decision may be the audience.  If you don't care what a troll thinks, but you would like to use them as a learning experience for your readers, you can engage (just don't expect to ever convince them.)  If you don't care about a stranger's opinion, but they fat shame in front of your child, you may choose to set a good example.  

If a person is using a fear tactic out of genuine concern, look for even further subtext in what they are saying.  Are they genuinely afraid of losing you?  Do they genuinely want you to be happy?  If so, address that subtext directly.  Offer them information on Health at Every Size, fat studies, and other information debunking the common fears about fat.  Start with the ASDAH website, or Linda Bacon's website which have resources and training information they can browse.  Get them a book from Pearlsong Press that you think they can process.  Re-assure them that you are happy, or are finding your own path to happiness that doesn't revolve around your weight.  Refer them to blogs by happy fat people.  Let them know that they are diminishing your happiness by rejecting your decision to love your body. 

Concerning the argument from force, however, I strongly believe that person who threatens you is not a person who truly cares about your well being and personal autonomy.  Arguments from fear and force are red flags for a toxic relationship.  The best solution may be an exit strategy from that relationship.   

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Big Fat Fallacies: Introduction


Samuel Clemens said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."  Logical fallacies are a fourth type of lie, and one that is often entirely unintentional.  While false facts can be refuted, fallacies are more insidious.  They set up the illusion that the conclusion of their argument is supported by their argument when it is not. This can be confusing, because what you're really fighting is the subtext; the things that aren't being said directly.  Pointing out the fallacy means you'll be accused of missing the point, changing the subject, or putting words in someone's mouth.   But being able to spot these fallacies not only helps you think more critically when you read or encounter a claim about weight, avoiding them yourself gives your argument better credibility against attacks in turn.  

This is the starting point and index for my series on informal logical fallacies used against FA or HAES. Since every philosophy textbook you read will have a slightly different approach and interpretation of fallacies (even as to whether they exist or belong in philosophy), I should specify that I am drawing from A Concise Introduction to Logic (11th Edition) by Patrick J. Hurley, and Dr. Michael C. Labossiere's Fallacy Tutorial Pro 3.0 as appearing on the Nizkor Project website, for definitions of informal fallacies.  
 
Each fallacy will appear as a link once there is a post covering it.  

 Fallacies of Relevance:  These bring in information that is completely irrelevant to a person's conclusion, but pretend to give strong evidence as to why you should agree. 
  1. Appeal to Fear/Argument from Force
  2. Appeal to Pity
  3. Appeal to the People
  4. Argument Against the Person
  5. Fallacy of Accident
  6. Straw Man
  7. Missing the Point
  8. Red Herring
Fallacies of Weak Induction:  These arguments are phrased in a way that gives the illusion that the evidence strongly supports the conclusion, but the support is actually quite weak on closer examination.
  1. Appeal to Unqualified Authority
  2. Appeal to Ignorance
  3. Hasty Generalization
  4. False Cause 
  5. Slippery Slope
  6. Weak Analogy
Fallacies of Presumption:  These assume information when making a point, and try to distract you from the fact that the evidence assumed is actually weak, non-existent, or modified by certain unstated facts.
  1. Begging the Question
  2. Complex Question
  3. False Dichotomy
  4. Suppressed Evidence
Fallacies of Ambiguity: These rely on ambiguous meaning in a word or phrase to twist them into the illusion of support for a conclusion.
  1. Equivocation
  2. Amphiboly
Fallacies of Grammatical Analogy: These erroneously transfer attributes from parts to the whole (or vice-versa).
  1. Fallacy of Composition
  2. Fallacy of Division


Some Definitions

 If you've never encountered logic, there are some basic terms that will be thrown around in these posts that might need explanation.  This section will be expanded as needed as the series continues. 

Argument: A collection of statements including one or more premises which claim to support a conclusion.  

Premise: A statement used to support a conclusion.

Conclusion: A statement claimed to be supported by one or more premises.

Example 1: 
Premise: A if B
Premise: B
Conclusion: Therefore A.

Example 2: 
Premise: Doctor Who has had over 800 episodes
Premise: Star Trek has had 726 episodes in all series combined
Conclusion: Therefore, Doctor Who has been a longer television series than Star Trek.  

(unstated conclusion: I am a big ol' nerd!) 

Fallacy: in informal logic, a flaw in an argument that is not based on false premises alone.  In other words, there is more wrong with the argument than just incorrect facts; there is something fundamentally wrong with the argument itself.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Age of Puberty: Why This Isn't About Fat (or Facts)

The Huffington Post threw up another scare-mongering article about how fat people are ruining the world yesterday, with a classic "think of the children" twist.  The reporter breaks the startling news that onset of puberty (both menarche and spermarche) are occurring at a younger age than in previous generations.  He draws the conclusion that obesity is to blame.  Of course, since fat people are to blame for everything from global warming to the decline of the mitten industry in the U.S., I'm starting to experience a little fatigue as to what people are willing to hang on my body in order to avoid facing reality. 

But let's analyze.

#1:  Correlation is not causation.  Let's say it again: CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION.  You cannot conclusively say that X causes Y without a well-constructed, replicable, controlled study.  This obviously cannot be done, because you would have to take identical children, make one group of them fat, and observe onset of puberty.  One of the reasons why this wouldn't work is that no one has found a way to make a body sustain large weight changes in either direction.  Another reason is that it would violate a whole lot of ethical standards to attempt it.  So instead, the studies listed in this article seem to take the false claim that we are getting fatter by the minute and the real fact that we are experiencing early puberty and make the correlation seem more ominous than it actually is.

My favorite correlation to illustrate this kind of correlation fail is an oldie but goodie. Both murder and consumption of ice cream have a strong positive correlation.  Is rocky road driving us to kill?  Not so much.  Could it be that hot weather increases both temper and temptation of frozen goodness?  Maaayyybee.....

#2:  We are experiencing earlier puberty....but this isn't news.  In fact, we have been doing so every generation since the 1840s.  Until the early 18th century women didn't experience puberty until age 17. About that time, we saw the beginning of a secular trend where each generation was a few centimeters taller and experienced puberty a few weeks earlier than the previous generation. The current theory is that steady advancement in health and nutrition is the cause. Less developed countries have not experienced the same rate of change, possibly due to poor health care and malnutrition. Even today people in less developed countries hit puberty later than people of the same ethnicity in developed countries (Eveleth & Tanner, 1990; McDowell et al., 2007; Susman & Rogol, 2004).

So the alarming news that children today are experiencing earlier puberty than 15 or 30 years ago by a few months is neither alarming, nor news.   It is like shouting frantically from the rooftops that people are taller than they were a hundred years ago. 

Here's a fun fact though. Stress can cause early puberty (Warshofsky, 1999; Ellis & Garber, 2000, Romans et al., 2003) including stress from family and society. You could easily make the case that the constant pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty and other standards in our culture, including infants placed on weight-loss diets, are contributing to early onset of puberty.  It makes as much sense as blaming adipose tissue. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Break From Hiatus and a Brief Plug

It's been a while since I posted here.  Between full time school and submitting articles to Yahoo Contributor Network, I seem to have little creativity left for blogging. 

But I did want to pop in and start the ball rolling again with an announcement!  Dr. Lonie McMichael has put out a new book on fat prejudice.  It contains the voices of many fabulous FA bloggers, including a piece I wrote on being a thin ally in Fat Acceptance.  My piece is based on a five-part post on the subject which begins here.

 Along with the diverse voices of fat people themselves, Dr. Michael uses her extensive research to explore Fat Acceptance and fat prejudice in our society as an issue of social justice. 

The book is "Acceptable Prejudice? Fat, Rhetoric & Social Justice"  by Dr. Lonie McMichael.

More information is available from the publisher, Pearlsong Press.  

The book is available from Amazon.com in print and Kindle formats, and from Barnes and Noble.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Framing Fat

Whenever you enter into a discussion about something, you are interacting with someone's frames. These are the person's underlying assumptions about the topic and the world in general which inform their point of view. When answering a person's question directly, you are accepting their frame, even if you are disagreeing with them on the question itself.

For a common FA example, let's take an argument I had with a troll recently in an online forum. Here was the question:

“Why would you choose to be fat when you could be so much healthier?”

We've all seen multiple variations on this question, and the amount of misconception packed into a single sentence can be daunting. If I chose to engage at all with this person, I would begin by unpacking the frame. There are several things going on. In this example, there is a direct, explicit question: “why are you okay with being fat?” But the subtext shows multiple assumptions framing this question:

  1. Being fat is a choice. Wrapped up in this is the assumption that you have conscious control of your weight, and could therefore permanently lose enough weight to no longer be considered fat.
  2. Being fat is inherently unhealthy, and being thin is inherently healthier than being fat.
  3. My weight is this person's business and I have to justify my body size to other people.

So in this one sentence, this person is layering all of these into one package. If I only addressed the explicit question (e.g. “Because I don't think there's anything wrong with it.”) I would be accepting the rest of the package. If I do that, I end up trying to justify my weight while agreeing with the implicit assumptions that permanent weight loss is both possible and desirable. This considerably dilutes my own message, and re-affirms the other person in theirs.

What I should do instead is reject the framework offered by the question. This is actually harder to do, but it comes much closer to answering the question they don't even know they're asking. You are looking for that underlying question or message. Depending on the person or tone, the same question I used above could mean anything from “I'm concerned about you because I'm being told one thing by the media and another thing by you,” to “I think you're less than a human being and want you to know that in order to elevate and affirm my own status.”

Let's assume a forgiving reading of the question, where the underlying meaning is something along the lines of “tell me how to understand this.”

One appropriate answer to this question is, certainly, “I'm sorry, but I don't consider my body to be any of your business.” Of course you can escalate the bluntness as you like. This rejects assumption #3, which underlies the person's belief that they get to even ask questions about other peoples' bodies. Since this is their frame, they may try to re-assert it by either labeling you rude, or pushing the question further. But it's your frame, and you get to defend it.

Another appropriate response is to ignore the question and address the frame directly. You could do so by asking them to justify their frame: “Why do you assume I can't be healthy as I am?” is a good soft opening for dialogue with someone you feel like educating. A more aggressive and direct rejection of the frame might be: “Do you really think, despite decades of research to the contrary and my own personal experience, that significant permanent weight loss is possible for 98% of the population?”

Remember that most people are entirely unaware of the frames they are offering. The exceptions would be people who work in public relations, advertising, and sales. For someone who doesn't use frames professionally, rejecting the framing of a question or statement can be disconcerting because they honestly believed they were asking one thing, and completely unaware that they were asking or saying something entirely different. They may be able to say “that's not what I said,” and you can certainly argue “no, but that's what your words meant, whether or not that was your intention.” Remember, though, that derailing the conversation to the other person's feelings or detailed connotative debates is a distraction to keep from examining the real issue in any more detail. Bring the conversation back on track, or end it. Lead the conversation, don't follow it down a blind alley.


Monday, February 4, 2013

JoGeek vs. The Gluten

I am spinning off my gluten-free topics into their own blogs, so that this one can focus on social justice activism and body prejudice.  If you are following me just for my gluten-free recipes and tips, please come on over to either:

http://jovgluten.blogspot.com/
http://jogeekvsgluten.tumblr.com/

The content is identical, but the Blogspot one will have indexed posts, printable recipes and the ability to comment.  Both will have daily recipes, product reviews, resources and tips for gluten-free living, as well as general Celiac and gluten intolerance issues. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Owning Normal

I want to share this great quote from Jennifer Rowe at Fat and Not Afraid:
"Today however, I want to say no to a bunch of things, specifically the Shoulds. You should lose pounds/inches, be quieter, be nice(r), stop taking up so much room, not wear that, not eat that, suck it in, suck it up, smile, fit in, get over it.
 No, I will not. No to all of that. A deep inner voice wants to climb to the top of the closest mountain, and out here I have my pick, and scream NO at the top of my lungs. NO."
 -Jennifer Rowe, Fat and Not Afraid

The "Shoulds" are destructive.  They are part of a huge societal effort to maintain the status quo using a tool named "normative statements."  They are saying, "hey, you're deviating."  But in reality, the "norm" being advanced is rarely actually a norm; it is often an individual person advancing the idea that in order to be okay, everyone else needs to be like them.  They are "normal" (regardless of how close to average or the majority they are) and if people are allowed to be "abnormal" (relative to them), then it suggests they might actually be abnormal.  Of course behind every normative statement is the assumption that abnormal is a bad thing. 

In other words, if someone is using the word "should," it is often entirely about their own fears.  They are trying to fit in by forcing others to be like them.  They are afraid that if you stand out, it will somehow invalidate them and their efforts to fit in.  They are afraid that if everybody else doesn't want to be normal, they will lose the meaning normality holds for them.  If they base their life and values on what they consider normal, it is vitally important to them that normal exists outside themselves.  

The good news is that this is entirely about them.  Good boundaries show that nothing in their motivation or words has any actual consequence for you.  You can empathize with their fear, but you don't need to take responsibility for it.  

Never own other people's norms. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interview Clothing Needed!

Lost-n-Found Youth needs your clothes!  Specifically business clothes appropriate for interviews for entry level jobs. 

Lost-n-Found Youth is one of only a handful of organizations in the country focusing on homeless LGBTQ youth ages 18-25.  While approximately 10% of the general population identifies as LGTB, they represent 40% of the homeless population.  Many large shelters will not accept LGBTQ youth, or prove to be unsafe for them due to bullying, coersion, or sexual violence. 

Lost n-Found Youth runs a 6 bed home in Atlanta, along with a 24/7 staffed emergency hotline for LGBTQ homeless youth.  They work tirelessly to get young LGTB people under roofs and help them learn essential life skills to support themselves.  One of the primary goals of the program is to get the youth employed so that they can afford their own place to live.  Considering the many obstacles they face to employment, it is vitally important that they get off on the right foot at an interview by looking neat and professional. 

Lost-n-Found Youth receives so many donations of casual clothing that they don't actually have room for any more and are redirecting donations elsewhere.  Meanwhile, they have a critical shortage of interview-appropriate outfits, especially for women, and including plus-sizes.  The youth in the program go job hunting every day, but need the following women's clothing to be successful:   

dress shirts/blouses/light sweaters
skirts
slacks
dresses
Belts
dress shoes (comfortable for walking)
dressy jackets and suit coats
Nylons/pantyhose (new in package)

Larger shoe sizes would be particularly useful (women's 10+)

While their biggest need right now is for women's clothes, they could still use interview-appropriate clothing for men, including:

Dress shirts
Slacks
belts
Dress socks
suit jackets/blazers
neckties in simple, modern styles

If you're cleaning out your wardrobe and getting rid of anything that a young person could wear to a basic minimum-wage job interview (i.e. those "boring" pencil skirts and blouses you've replaced with something more stylish, or those "other sizes" you'll never wear again) now's your chance to clean out the closet.

If you're willing to ship them to Atlanta, GA please contact me at conklin.email @ yahoo.com for arrangements.  Lost-n-Found Youth is a registered 501(c)(3) and can provide a receipt for your tax records if you need one.

 All sizes of interview-appropriate clothing are very welcome, and I can do basic mending on items that need it (i.e. seam repair, button replacement, shoe shining, etc.). 

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Foodiness

One of the highlights of spending Christmas with my parents in Florida (besides the salt-water swimming pools and the Siesta Key drum circle) was the visit to Katy Rose Olive Oils in Sarasota.  Before any real foodie gets condescending about it, let me say that in southwest Michigan the idea of an oil and vinegar bar is pretty damn exotic, so I was mainly limited to what I could find on the shelf at Meijers.

You walk into this place and it is rows of "casks" of olive oils and vinegars.  You can taste each one, and/or they will fill bottles for purchase.  Everything they have is gluten-free, and they stock other gluten-free items, such as pastas and candies, elsewhere in the store.

The foodie impulse, of course was "one of EVERYTHING!" I ended up with a large bottle of an herbed olive oil, a medium bottle of a fig balsamic vinegar (so delicious on fruity salads!) and a tiny bottle of the red apple balsamic vinegar.  The last is a thick vinegar with a rich, dark tart apple flavor, and I had a specific purpose in mind for it.  As soon as I tasted it, I knew it was destined for homemade caramels.

Now the caramels are made, and so very, very tasty.  I'll share the recipe, but know that you can either substitute another fruity balsamic or leave out the vinegar and they will still be very, very tasty!

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup corn syrup
2 1/4 cups (lightly packed) brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream (can use whipping cream)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon high quality, thick, fruity balsamic vinegar 

Extra butter for greasing

Other handy things to have include a large sauce pan with a heavy/thick bottom, a basting brush, parchment and wax paper, and a 9x9 pan.  A candy thermometer is handy, but not crucial.  A flat-edge wooden spoon makes an excellent stirrer for candies.  A bowl of ice water allows you to test for firmness and brush down sugar crystals on the inside of the pot. 

line the pan with parchment paper and use the butter to grease the paper.  I used two loaf pans and poured half the batch before adding flavorings (so that I'd have a plain half-batch and a fruity half-batch).

In the saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
When it is melted, add the sugar and stir well until it is all incorporated. 
Stir in corn syrup and cream
Cook over medium heat for two to three minutes, then raise temperature to medium-high.
Stir constantly until the mixture boils, then reduce back to medium heat.
Keep at an even boil until the mixture thickens (30 minutes to 1 hour), stirring frequently to prevent separation.
If sugar begins to crystallize on side of pot, use a wet basting brush and cold water to rinse down the crystals.  They will cause the mixture to crystallize and separate if allowed to stay.
When mixture reaches 245 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer or a spoonful dropped into ice water forms a firm ball, remove caramel from heat.
Add sea salt and vinegar and stir briskly for a few seconds to incorporate.
Pour immediately into buttered parchment-lined pans.
Allow to cool for several hours or until completely firmed.
Cut into small pieces with heavy duty kitchen shears, a knife, or a pizza roller.  Greasing the cutting edge with butter will help prevent sticking.  Wrap each piece in wax paper.
The flavor of the vinegar will be subtle at first, but will develop more over time. 

Next year, I think, I'll need a bigger bottle.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Personal Note (and kitty health care)

After a 10 hour drive home from my parent's place in Florida, I woke up Foxie cat and she started crying and walking in circles, bumping into things. The pet-sitter's report from the day before was normal, but at some point in the night or day she had gone completely blind. We found a veterinary emergency room. After $1000 and only five hours of sleep we found out that she has mild kidney dysfunction, which caused her blood pressure to soar, which caused her retinas to partially detach.

There is some hope that with medication she'll regain her sight, but in the meantime the poor thing is completely blind, and had already gone mostly deaf. She's 17 years old, and in fairly good shape for all that. We're assured by many people that (indoor) cats can function just fine by sense of smell and navigate by memory if you're careful not to rearrange rooms. Her quality of life will be fairly good (other than when I'm trying to get her to swallow her pills). But it means we have maybe 2 years left with her. Not the best ending to a vacation, but it definitely could have been worse.

If you have an older cat, make sure that your vet checks blood pressure at the annual checkup.  It can have many underlying causes, but it is the most common cause for sudden blindness in cats and can be controlled with medication.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

SAAS (Sewing at Any Size) Fatkini Season Bandeau Top

You can find many more simple sewing projects by clicking the sewing link at the side of my blog.  

 It's almost here...the frantic messages screaming from televisions and newstands about post-holiday "beach bodies." These next three months or so always strike me as the most actively body-shaming time of the year in our culture. So in response, I say celebrate your beach body! It is your body, as it is, right now. Because people of any size, shape, color, etc. deserve to get out in the sun and sand, or down by the pool, and bare some skin!

To that end, this is the second in my series on Fatkinis. This is a super-simple bandeau-style bikini top.  You can find instructions for a halter-style string top here. 

First, the measurements.

Measurement A is just above the breast. A good way to find this point is to look where your cleavage starts. Measure around the chest, under the armpits.

Measurement B is from under the breast, over the nipple, to above the breast where you measured for A.



You will need stretchy fabric, but if you have larger breasts you may want to look for something more supportive than standard swimsuit fabric. You can even recycle an old tee shirt, sweat shirt or yoga pants for this. If you use a thin, light-color fabric, get it wet and drape it over your hand in bright light. This will tell you how see-through it will be at the beach. You may have to sandwich several layers of lighter fabric to keep from flashing nips to the world.

Cut a long rectangle of fabric that is Measurement B plus 1" wide, and Measurement A long.

You will also need 2 lengths of string or ribbon approximately 12" long and 4 lengths 6" long. These can be a different material or you can make it from the same material by folding over a 1/2" wide strip, stitching on the long edge, and turn it inside out. Stitch or knot the ends.

Fold all four edges of the long rectangle over 1/4" and press or baste. Fold the edges over again 1/4" to hide the raw edge and use a stretch or zig-zag stitch to hem.

Fold the two short edges over 1" and stitch with a stretch stitch at the hemmed ends, creating a tube of fabric at each end.

Thread one of the 12" strings through each tube.



Tie a 6" string around the center of the top. This will go between your breasts. This is optional, if you want a solid tube-top style instead of a sweetheart top, you can leave this off. 



If you need additional support for the top, you can use a much longer string, knot it tight at the center as below, and then tie the ends behind your neck as a halter.

Tie the top on behind your back. On each side, mark the spot directly under your armpit. Take the top back off again, and knot one of the remaining two 6" strings at each armpit mark. 



Put the top on again and adjust the ties as needed. When they are in a good spot, make sure you tie them in a solid square knot. If they're in danger of coming undone or shifting, put a few stitches in to hold them in place. You can cut off dangling ends if needed at this point, and use stitches or glue to prevent fraying.

You now have a complete bandeau bikini top, so rock it whenever you please!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chris Christie Calls out Jon Stewart for Fat Jokes

Chris Christie was on Jon Stewart this week (December 6).  It was a fairly good conversation, but for me the best part came right at the end.  Christie actually called Stewart out for previous jokes and comments Stewart had made about Christie's weight.  It was fantastic!  Here was a fat man on national television telling this respected comedian that what he did was NOT OKAY. 

Here's the episode link.  The bit I'm talking about starts at 33:54 on the timer and lasts about a minute or less. 

Now I have a lot of respect for Jon Stewart as a brilliant, rational man and a mostly compassionate human being.  The one place he repeatedly falls down is in weight bias.  Not in every episode or even the majority, but he does take up the cheap shot fat joke when it presents.  While he didn't actually apologize to Christie (there's a moment when he seems about to, but is interrupted), he was at least given some visibly uncomfortable moments when he realizes that the person he mocked not only listened, but felt.  Here's hoping it'll make him reconsider his words in the future. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Fatshion

 I have just recently come to a stunning, world altering realization:  I no longer have to dress for the office.

I know, obvious right?   But after spending 10 hours a day, 5 days a week in office clothing for 13 years,  it comprises some 75% of my wardrobe.  Another 10% is "going out clothes" (with some crossover with officewear) and the rest were camping/cleaning/yardwork style grubbies.

Now I'm a student.  Not only that, but I'm an online student.  I don't have to get up and put on a conservative skirt or dress and sit in a cubicle all day while I represent a company.   I get to represent myself

This is an amazing thing.  When I was a teenager looking to find my "style," it was pre-Internet.  We lived in a small town with one available plus-size store (Lane Bryant) and they were back in their conservative, loose-fitting, "woman of a certain age" phase (you know, the styles that got farmed out to Catherines).  So as a teenager I was in outfits suitable for a 33 year old office worker.  I often just wore things out of my mom's closet.  I never got to develop a style, because I was entirely limited to what was available. 

Now I can lust after e-shakti dresses and others on the internet.  I can wear a man's suit and wingtips out on the town to mess with peoples' gender perceptions.  I can push boundaries.  Finally, as a 33 year old, I can wear whateverthehell I want.

But I'm not a fatshionista.  I don't choose to make high-end clothing labels a priority in my life, and really don't see much of a point in handbags (I own one purse).  I am, thanks to the fatshion blogs and others, developing a specific set of styles I want to play with more to see which feel right.  I think it's going to depend on my mood of the day.  I still love menswear, but high-end formal menswear.  I would spend more on a suit than I ever would on a dress.  I have my Donna Reed days and my punk days.  Maybe my taste will settle into a style, and maybe it won't.  But the choice is finally up to me instead of a company dress code.  You wouldn't believe how powerful that feels.

So here's a Fatshion pic:

Awesomely geeky tee shirt from Amazon.com.  Tweed pencil skirt courtesy of my sewing machine.  Extended-calf boots from Payless.  This is my "flirty nerdy" look, but really needs some zero-prescription glasses with square black plastic frames.  Alas, the low-script reading glasses I got from the dollar store would have been perfect, but they gave up the ghost (and a lens) that afternoon. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Tumblr!

I have finally bitten the bullet and started a Tumblr site!

http://unapologeticallyfat.tumblr.com/

It will pretty much be a collection site for the size positive quotes and photos I find around the internet.  This blogspot blog will still be where I post articles, recipes and longer writing.  The Tumblr site will focus on the positive and constructive site of FA and social activism.  While not safe for work, it will hopefully not use up any sanity watchers points either! 

Just remember that I'm really new to Tumblr, and may still have to experiment with the layout and other aspects. 

A note to the Threatened....

In response to people who feel threatened by body acceptance for fat people, and feel it is somehow oppressive to thin people for us to love our bodies and demand representation, role models, and a voice....to these people I quote Jon Stewart and say you've "confused the loss of absolute power with persecution."  We are taking away your power over our bodies and emotions.  That is a loss you'll have to cope with.  We're not, however, taking away your power over your body and emotions,  or your ability to love yourself.  There is no finite amount of acceptance in the world that accepting me creates a risk that you'll be excluded. In fact, accepting me makes it more likely that I will accept you in return, and closing down the monologue of body criticism in your head makes more room for you to have meaningful experiences and connect with others.  So think about it.  I'm going to love my body whether or not you approve, but accepting it benefits you more than it does me.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

SAAS: Sewing at Any Size: Fatkini Season Part 1

This is my series on Sewing at Any Size, or making basic wardrobe items from scratch to fit any body.  Please feel free to print/save for personal use.  You can find other patterns and instructions HERE

It's almost FATKINI SEASON!

Yes we're already hearing about the "beach body" panic from ads and media trying to hock you the latest fad diet, surgery or gym membership.  Now here's the best part of body acceptance. Go to a full length mirror and take a look at yourself.  THAT is your beach body....right now...with no changes needed!  So if it was on some mental list somewhere you can go ahead and check it off and enjoy the holidays. 

Maybe you feel more comfortable covering up on the beach, but if you feel up to baring some skin then you should check out the fatkini threads on Tumblr. It started earlier this year, when Gabi Fresh put up a gallery with XOJane of fat bodies rocking their bikini swimsuits. It got a lot of media attention (some good, some bad) and inspired others with bodies of many sizes, shapes and color to post Tumblr pics sporting bikini. It is super-empowering to flip through the images. You can find a lot of submissions using just the Tumblr tagfatkini, but warning; some triggering items are mis-tagged (like weight loss and body-negative posts). 

So this summer, I have every intention of wearing a bikini in public, and screw anyone who has a problem with it!

While the XO Jane site has a list of places that sell plus-size bikinis, I thought I'd show how easy it is to sew your own so that you don't have to guess at the fit. These instructions are simple and will work for any size and shape body.

Today's project will be the string bikini top (all bottoms will be addressed in a separate post).

You will need a few measurements:

Measurement A: around your chest just beneath your breasts, where your bra band usually sits.
Measurement B: from beneath your breast to above it, over the nipple.
Measurement C: across your breast at the widest point (up and over like for measurement B)
Measurement D: from the top of your breast to the nape of your neck.

Here's a visual:

 You will generally need about a quarter to a half yard of fabric, but if you plan to make matching bottoms you may want to get a full yard. You can use almost any fabric with some stretch for this, down to and including an old tee shirt or pair of sweat pants you want to recycle. You want something that will dry well, and is somewhat chlorine resistant if you plan to be in the pool. If you use very thin, light color material you will want to do two layers unless you really want the world to see your nips.

Note: If you have one breast a different size than the other (whether due to nature or surgery) then just take measurements B and C for both breasts separately and keep track of which is which (Left and Right). If you plan to wear an insert or pad of some kind, measure to include it. If you wear a mastectomy or other prosthesis, you can make two layers and leave one side open as a “pocket” with a velcro closure. Message me if you need help with this. 

A Note on Knits

Swimsuit material and other light, super-stretch knits are notoriously difficult to deal with. It slides, stretches out of shape, and your sewing machine really wants to suck it down into the bobbin casing. You'll want to be careful when measuring and cutting to make sure the fabric isn't stretched or distorted. If you pull on it while measuring or cutting the end result will be off.

Since we're working with straight lines here, an easy way to set up the fabric is to use masking tape. When you measure, use 1/2” wide masking tape to outline the shape you want to cut. Place it so that you cut down the center of the tape. This not only helps keep the fabric from distorting when you cut, but it keeps it from unraveling and developing runs. Remove just before hemming. 

A sewing machine needle specifically for knits may help if your material is subject to runs, but is not necessary for heavier fabrics like tee-shirt fabric.  

When you sew, use your machine's stretch stitch settings (look in your manual). If you don't have a specific stretch stitch, use the zig-zag stitch. Use a thread of similar type as your fabric (cotton for cotton, synthetic for synthetic). Don't bother with the stretchy elastic thread unless you really know what you're doing. I tried it, and the hassle of finding just the right machine settings to keep it from shredding completely outweigh any extra stretch benefit. If you make it to fit your body, normal thread on a stretch stitch will be stretchy enough.

You will want to pick up some neutral-color tissue paper, like you use in gift bags, or wax paper. By placing this under the fabric as you sew and stitching through it, you keep the machine from sucking the fabric down into the bobbin case. It should come out afterwards with a hot water soak and tweezers. If you want to get fancy you can buy water-soluble stabilizer from a fabric or craft store. This saves you some tweezer plucking of paper scraps and simply dissolves in soap and water. I don't mind the extra work, and the tissue paper is cheap.

Making the String Fatkini Top

You will first need a piece that will tie around your chest under the breasts. You can use a ribbon, bias tape, or a piece of your swimsuit fabric for this. Cut it to measurement A plus 13 inches (for tying). Hem or otherwise secure the ends.

If you're making it out of fabric, cut a strip that is measurement A plus 13 inches long by 2 1/2” wide (you can make this wider or narrower as you'd like, but this produces a band about 1” wide). 

This gives you about 6 inches of end for tying in the back.  If you want a bigger, showier bow then add a few more inches.  

Fold the short ends over 1/4” and stitch the hem.

Fold the strip in half lengthwise with the wrong side of the fabric on the outside. Run a line of stretch stitches 1/4” from the raw edge down the length to make a tube.

Use a large safety pin or other tool to turn the tube inside-out so that the seams are on the inside. Stitch the ends closed. This is your chest band.

Now you are going to make the breast pieces. Draw two triangles of fabric where the base is Measurement C plus 2 inches wide and the height is Measurement B, plus 1.5”, plus the width of your chest band (1” if you made it as above).

 Start by making a 1/4” hem on all sides of each triangle.

Fold up the bottom edge to the width of your chest band. Sew across, but leave ends of the “pocket” open to thread the chest band through.

Fold down the tip of the triangle 1”. Sew across, leaving a pocket open on both ends. 
For the neck tie, you can again use any two ribbons or strings twice the length of Measurement D plus 12 inches, threading it through the open pocket at the top of each breast piece and tying it all behind your neck.

You can also use the same technique as you used with the chest band. Cut two strips of your fabric 1½ inches wide, and the length of Measurement D plus 12 inches. (note: this gives you 6 inches to tie a bow at the back of your neck. If you want a bigger bow then make it longer).

Hem the short ends, then with the fabric wrong-side out, fold it in half lengthwise and stitch along the long end. Turn the tube inside out and stitch the ends closed.

Thread the chest band through the bottom of each breast piece, and a neck tie through the top of each piece. You should get something like this:
If you don't like the double strings around the neck you can use a knot, bead, or bow just above the breast piece to bring them together and make them look like one piece. You could also alter the pattern, so that instead of the breast piece coming to a triangle point, it extends up and becomes the tie itself. This will be trickier to cut and hem, but it is entirely doable. You can also cut a single tie and sew it on at the top of the triangle (in which case you would not make a separate pocket at the top).
 So now you have a rockin' fatkini. You can go to town with adding ruffles, beads, fabric paint, etc. to make it your own. You can wear it with a tankini bottom piece, or wait for the instructions on bikini bottoms to make a matching set.







Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hiking

So after a few months of being way to busy to get any exercise, I finally went online and looked for local parks with easy hiking to get back in the game before we tackle something more strenuous.  I was really happy to find Big Trees Nature Preserve less than 20 minutes from my house.  It has a couple of miles of relatively easy trails (although the hills are "easy" relative to mountains, not good old flat Michigan.)  I took a few pictures on my cell phone, and look forward to getting more as the seasons change.  It felt so good to stretch out and move again.  My joints feel better already.  Hopefully by next summer I'll be ready for some days up in the mountains a few hours north, or even some all-day hikes at Mammoth Cave.  In the meantime, I know nature isn't everyone's bag, but just spending time in a beautiful place (whatever that means to you) can have a healing effect on the body and soul. 

Pictures:




What I love about our move to Atlanta and our final decision to rent a place north of the city itself, is that places like Big Trees and the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area are about 20 minutes away, and so is this:


Ya know...provided there's no traffic.  Meaning no later than 6am :-)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Day

Due to a shared respiratory bug and a tight work schedule, JD and I ended up spending Thanksgiving with just each other for company.  That's actually okay; we haven't had enough of that lately :-)  I found myself thankful for many things, but especially for being able to eat, without shame, the holiday food I remember from my childhood.  Part of that is FA and getting rid of the baggage and apocalyptic thinking around holiday food.  Even at a time when we're supposed to be celebrating we have magazines, commercials and sometimes family heaping on remorse and stress for food choices.  Part of that is my recent gluten-free recipe discoveries and experiments.  After three years without my favorite Thanksgiving dish (stuffing) I was able to put it on the table, along with rolls and pumpkin pie with a crust.  The prep was a little more work, but I was able to sit down with my life partner and eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal without any reminders of food restriction or guilt.  I'm thankful for that, because I know not everyone who experiences the holiday does so with enough food, or with supportive people, or with good memories.  I haven't always done so either.   This year was good. 

And by the way, for those who want to know, I used this recipe for the stuffing base and rolls (the stuffing requires about 1/2 cup more broth than you would normally use, 'cause GF soaks up the liquid) and this recipe for the super-flaky, delicious pumpkin pie crust. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Social Justice Bingo

In the grand tradition of Red No.3's Fat Hate Bingo, I bring you:

With the fun of discussing any marginalized group on the interwebz :=)  It is still a work in progress, so please feel free to send suggestions!

If you're not familiar with the concept, whenever you have a discussion with someone about a marginalized group that turns trolly, you can use the bingo card to check off the stale, overworn arguments they use.  I'd say that if you actually fill a row or column, you should win and get to instantly end the conversation (it's probably not worth having anymore). 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Body Acceptance Favorites List

I've added a new list to the sidebar, under "Body Acceptance Favorites".  Since most of my regular reads are on the Fatosphere or Fat Chat blog feeds already,  I wanted to focus on blogs and tumblr streams that are not on established feeds and that focus on underrepresented groups in FA or are representative of the diversity in FA. 

There are a few exceptions, and the few blogs on the list that are on one of the existing RSS feeds are my "go-to" blogs that I read regularly even when I skip the feeds. 

If you have a suggestion of something that belongs on the list, please let me know!  I'll be adding as I crawl through followers of followers :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

French Bread: The Gluten-Free Holy Grail

I have actually found and successfully tested a gluten-free french-bread recipe that turns out crusty, chewy, yeasty, delicious demi-baguettes of bread!  Mind you, they're closer to the grocery chain bakery version of a baguette than a Parisian one, but the texture is authentically chewy and not gritty or mealy. 

When stored overnight in a sealed bag they stay soft and chewy, but lose some crispness to the crust.  They stay in great condition for sandwiches and spreads.  I have not yet tried secondary recipes like stuffing, but I've made two rounds of french dip sandwiches that soak up the au jus beautifully without falling apart. 

Here is the recipe and detailed instructions from the blog Simply Gluten Free:

Easy Easy Easy French Bread

I went to Amazon and got an inexpensive baguette pan for baking, but the recipe includes instructions to make crusty dinner rolls.  I would try out the rolls first to see if you like the result before investing in new equipment.  The perforated baguette pan turns out beautiful, evenly crusty loaves.

The author is not kidding about any of the steps; make it according to directions at least the first time before you fiddle with it.  In the mixer, the dough will start off fairly tough and cling to the beaters or paddle.  As the mixer goes, it will aerate the dough and it will settle into a thinner, VERY sticky batter.  This might take as long as 5 minutes if you're not using a heavy-duty industrial mixer.  If it still looks like it did 30 seconds in, it isn't done yet. 

The batter is really sticky (like pate a choux) so use the spatula to shape it.  It will cling to your fingers like you wouldn't believe and only soap with hot water will take it off. 

Bread has been the one thing I've had the hardest time adjusting to missing with the gluten-free household.  Packaged GF bread from the store freezer is dry, tough and crumbly.  The GF bakery wants $10 per loaf.  I had entirely given up on sandwiches as a feasible food choice.  Now I have sandwiches, and potential for stuffing, bread pudding, breakfast casserole and all kinds of goodness!




Monday, November 5, 2012

The Lies We Tell....

Greg Hodge at the Huffington Post did an article last month that I'm not linking directly to because of some problems I have with the tone and language.  The one thing of value from the article was the data he found by commissioning a survey of male and female internet dating site users from the U.S. and the U.K.  More than half of them, he says, lie about themselves in their dating site application.

The part that interests me is not that they lie, but what they lie about. 

Number one lie for women was weight, followed (in order) by age, physique, height, money, bust-size, claiming to have a glamorous profession, knowing celebrities, having an assistant or other employees, or working in the entertainment industry. 

Number one lie for men was how good their job was, followed (in order) by height, weight, physique, money, seniority at work, how interesting their profession was, knowing celebrities, having an assistant or other employees, and working in the film industry. 

(Data from research agency Opinion Matters via Greg Hodge, Huffington Post online article 10/10/2012)

Notice that for men, physical appearance ranks higher than how much money they have, or their seniority at work.  I don't know if that would have been true twenty or thirty years ago, but it is a clear sign that men are now feeling strong pressure to conform to appearance ideals set by our society.  We are seeing mannequins for mens' clothing shrink around the waist.  We are seeing the beauty ideal for men shift to slim, tall and youthful. We are seeing it in rising eating disorder diagnoses in both boys and men. 

I absolutely hate oppression olympics, so please no responses debating whether men or women "have it worse" when it comes to body acceptance.  Just because one subjective experience is different does not mean we should ignore the other.  When we fight for body acceptance, we are fighting for all bodies.  The gender that occupies a body is no more a determining factor of it deserving human dignity than that body's waist size or current ability.  

Now this is a smallish survey (1000 people) and I have no idea how the data was collected or grouped.  It is simply one piece of a pattern that says men share in our body shaming culture to an unprecedented degree. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Other Kind of Diet

We talk a lot in FA about diets.  In general, we mean diets that restrict food in an attempt to lose weight.  However, everyone has a diet.  It is a term referring to what foods you eat.  It's difficult for me, however, to shake the association with restriction, and all the triggering scarcity thinking and food-obsession a weight loss diet entails.

When I first entered FA, I went through the period most people do, where I ate a lot of the foods I had denied myself in the past.  Once I convinced myself that it was okay not to diet, I satisfied frequent cravings for ice cream, pastries, fried foods, and all the other foods assigned negative moral values in our diet culture.  After a lifetime of scarcity thinking, I had to prove to my body and brain that I really could eat these things whenever I wanted.  I wasn't going to suddenly take them away again.  I was actually going to listen to what my body needed.  The only way to prove that was to acknowledge my cravings and fulfill them when they happened.

After a while (about 6 months to a year) my body was finally convinced that I wasn't pulling a bait and switch.  The food really was going to be available and I really could have it when I wanted.  My body started to trust me again.  The intense cravings stopped, and I began to actually want a varied diet with food that was good for me.  Healthy eating went from a form of punishment (during my dieting periods) to a form of self-care. 

Now, my life partner has Celiac disease.  For him, a healthy diet restricts any food containing gluten.  It also restricts all fast food and most restaurants.  Even restaurants with gluten-free menus have often made him sick from minor cross-contamination in the kitchen. 

Then there's me.  Bread and baked goods have always been a major staple in my life.  I've often said that I could live for months on nothing but good bread and cheese and be perfectly happy.  If left to my own devices, my ideal meal would be a whole-grain baguette and a wedge of imported cheese, maybe with some wine.  Entering into a relationship with a person who gets extremely sick from even the slightest exposure to the major part of my diet has required some adjustments. 

We have tried to compromise where I can eat gluteny food when I'm not in the house or with him.  It involves careful clean-up including a change of clothes, brush and floss, and face scrub. Even then, there is a period of about 24 hours where the particles of gluten in my mouth make it unsafe for him to kiss me.  That is the worst part.  I can go out to a restaurant with friends but afterwards I have to spend a day and night actively avoiding kissing the person I love.  I have to keep my glass and eating utensils separate.  I risk making him sick every time I touch him, in case I have unconsciously touched my mouth.

You would think, considering all this, that it would be an easy decision to go entirely gluten-free myself.  It may have been an easier decision had I not spent most of my life betraying my body with an unhealthy relationship with food.   It might be easier if I were gluten-intolerant myself, because he has developed unconscious aversions to the foods that made him sick, even as a child when he had no idea what was really wrong. 

To me, giving up gluten feels exactly like weight-loss dieting.  It means I cannot eat intuitively.  It means scarcity thinking, anxiety spikes, deprivation and unfulfilled cravings.  Can I convince my body that I'm not betraying it by denying it familiar foods? 

Recently, we both discussed it and decided that I was going to try to go entirely gluten-free myself.  He has had a few gluten exposures since we moved, and he cannot afford the time and progress lost when he's working 12 hour days in graduate school.  I should say we cannot afford it, because the whole point of us coming to Atlanta was to make that happen for him.  The risk is too high.

At his end of the compromise, however, he is working really hard to make sure I can make foods available that fulfill my cravings.  In a lot of ways this feels like coming into FA all over again.  When I started missing belgian waffles, he made sure we could get a waffle maker and I started looking up recipes.  (This one is the best we've found so far).  We got a stand mixer so that I could do better breads and cakes.  We got a toaster so that I could make gluten-free bagels and toast them to be as authentic as possible.  He doesn't argue when I say we need to get something that will help me transition.

It does feel just like going off weight-loss diets.  I have anxiety and scarcity thinking.  I get stressed over foods I can't have.  I've probably eaten a waffle every day this week just to prove to my body that I can have them whenever I want.  I made three batches of cookies with the new stand mixer, and two dozen bagels in the last two weeks.  I'm eating far more bread products now than I did before we decided to both go gluten-free.

The difference is that I've been through it before.  I know that if I just take care of my body, let it work through cravings, and prove that I can still give it what it needs, that my eating habits will return to normal.  The cravings will ease.  Any weight I gain (probably minimal) in the meantime will go away as my body adjusts my energy levels and sends me different food messages.  Most importantly, my body will trust me again.  And considering the risks and benefits, it's worth it.