About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#3: Fat! So?

Fat! So? Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size, by Marilyn Wann (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1998)

Jacket Summary: "Life is too short for self-hatred and celery sticks!

"Whether you're a size 2 or 2X, Fat! So? will make your 'weight problem' disappear. Based on the popular underground zine of the same name, Fat! So? tackles the last American taboo -- fat -- with sassy quotes, eye-opening essays, true stories, and attitude. Plus it's tons of fun, with a fab flipbook, nifty trading cards, glam paper dolls, and much more. Along the way, zine publisher and fat rebel Marilyn Wann shows you how to reclaim your body, live healthy at any size, and remember why they call it a belly laugh!"

Table of Contents (partial):
  • What Are You So Afraid Of?
  • Quiz: Are You a Fatso?
Anatomy Lesson #1: The Butt
  • What Do You Like About Being Fat?
  • Love in the Time of Size 18
  • Little Lost Pound o'Fat Sees the World
  • The Fat! So? Manifesto
  • Talk Radio & You
  • She Likes It!
  • But What About Your Health?
  • What's In a Word?
  • Fat Kills
  • 300,000
  • Another Number
  • Anatomy is Destiny
  • The Little Black Dress
  • A Letter to Fat! So?
  • The Cutoff Point
  • Oh, Yeah?
  • Celebrity Wasting Syndrome
  • My Personal Trainer Can Beat Up Your Personal Trainer
  • Cinder Says ...
  • Break the Connection
  • What Being Fat Has Taught Me
  • A Talk Show By Any Other Name
My Take: OK, perhaps an odd choice for someone who's lost ~30 pounds in the last 9 months and is desperately trying to get back on the wagon after Christmas to check out right about now, but it's been on my list for a while and it practically jumped off the library shelf into my arms this afternoon. What's a gal to do?

Mildly interesting and entertaining, but I think it leaves some key pieces out of the puzzle. Do I agree that fat may be the last great American taboo, and that even if rising obesity rates are a legitimate public health concern (which Wann would dispute), it's blamed for far too many not really related things? Yep. I also agree that the number on the scale and the size of your clothes probably mean much less for your overall health than your blood pressure, cholesterol level, and overall level of activity. And many of the suggested comebacks to rude, ignorant comments are pretty darned funny.

That said, I don't want to make this all about me ... but again, I think there's a lot to this issue that Wann's just plain avoiding. Yes, genetics influence our body's size and shape, but they're not the whole story ... if they were, how would we explain the huge uptick in the percentage of people who are overweight over the last generation or 2? Granted, the book's more than 10 years old, and at the time it was published, there wasn't yet much conversation about how culture and advertising influence how we eat ... but there is now, and (pardon the pun) addressing the issue of size acceptance without addressing the cultural component is like ignoring an elephant in the living room.

My other chief gripe here is Wann's oversimplistic implication that if fat people can be happy and healthy regardless of their size (OK, with you there), thin or average-sized people are automatically unhappy and must be constantly denying themselves pleasure. Eh, not so much. Heck, I've been in the trenches of this war for almost a year (and that's just this latest deployment). Sure, in a struggle to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, many people find themselves sometimes passing up a treat that might seem appealing ... but does that necessarily mean you're denying yourself pleasure, and/or must be an unhappy, withholding person? I don't think so. I'd think part of overall health and wellness means making decisions not just based on what might feel or taste good right now, but what's going to make you feel best over the long haul. Sure, that third glass of wine might taste good right now if I let myself indulge, but you can bet I'll be paying for it later. Ergo, I'll say "no, thank you" -- to me, the short-lived pleasure of sipping the wine and perhaps getting a slight (responsible, of course) buzz isn't worth feeling sick or hung over later. Same deal with certain foods. Yeah, I like pizza, and if it's particularly tasty, a third slice might initially seem like a good idea ... but if I know that eating it will leave me feeling stuffed and uncomfortable, I'm going to pass it up. This isn't because I want so much to be a Size 00 and weigh 110 pounds that I'm willing to live on celery sticks and cottage cheese; it's that I've learned -- yes, while actively pursuing a weight-loss program -- that I feel way better, have more energy, am happier, etc. -- if I limit my intake of certain foods.

If the subject matter interests you, read it, but it's probably not worth an actual purchase. Entertaining, even thought-provoking in places ... but not, I don't think, terribly memorable.

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