Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Fatitude: The Movie" Review

"What's wrong with being a sex pig?" -- My friend

I am too old to really get behind the concept of trigger warnings, but if there was ever a movie where I would have appreciated one, this would be it. "Warning: If you are a fat person, "Fatitude: The Movie," will trigger you. Do not resort to food restriction or diet mentality," would have been nice. The majority of the movie is a catalog of how much the world hates fat people and is disgusted by fat bodies, interspersed with interviews with fat activists and health care professionals who practice in a manner consistent with the principles of Health At Every Size. The interviewees were funny, smart, and pointed. The catalog of "the world hates fat people" was just ... depressing.

The movie demonstrated the general dislike of fat bodies by showing many, many fictional and non-fictional media clips of people displaying this hatred, as well as quoting depressing AF studies that present evidence that most women would rather go blind or lose a limb than be fat. The movie included these things to show the omnipresence of fat phobia in our culture (please note that I am using that term as a shorthand for "fat hatred") and to illustrate why fat people face discrimination in the workplace and at the doctor's office.

Although I understand the intent of including all this horrific, hateful content, the barrage left me feeling drained and terrible, so much so that I, uncharacteristically, had severe anxiety after the movie (God bless my friend who gave me one of her Ativan). As a fat person, I feel like I keep all of this stuff in the back of my head, but I have to maintain some cognitive dissonance to go out in the world, keep my chin up, and do my thing. I'm sure this isn't true for most people, but I have only found two ways to be fat in this world: fat and apologetic for it, like when I was dieting, or in warrior mode. The latter is more authentic for me, even though it's exhausting. Interestingly, after the movie, I talked with quite a few friends who are farther along in their HAES journey than I am, and they were not bothered with the content of the movie to the extent I was. 

"Fatitude" spent a lot of time demonstrating the negative portrayal of larger bodies in children's media; you can see a great clip of Lindy West talking about this in the movie trailer. This part actually was helpful to me as a parent because it made me aware of this aspect of the media my kids consume, as if I didn't have enough to be worried about in this regard. My husband and I work hard to push the "all bodies are good bodies" agenda, and I'll be damned if a Scooby Doo reboot is going to detract from that. One of the things West says in the film is that the two biggest fat archetypes in cartoons are the Ursula from the Little Mermaid -- a sea witch who literally steals merfolk's voices -- and Miss Piggy, the consummate sex-starved and food-starved pig. So in a great moment of comic relief after the movie, I went to my friend and said in a panic, "OMG, now I'm so anxious, because people will only see me as the sea witch or the sex pig, and I am certainly more of a sex pig, and ARGH!" Bless her heart, my awesome, very religious friend said, "Now, what exactly is wrong with being a sex pig?" Me: "Absolutely nothing." Glad we cleared that up. Sex pig it is, cuz I'm sure as hell not stealing your voice or helping those "wanting to be thinner" (yes, that is in the song, FFS).

The last 20 minutes of the film offered suggestions about creating a new narrative around bodies and body image, most of which I summarized in my blog post about ditching diet culture. That information is not new to me, because I learned it all in treatment, but I can understand it might be eye-opening if you haven't been exposed to it.

Overall, the film is highly recommended, but be prepared that if you're in a larger body, the film might make you sad. Hopefully, it will also fuel your anger and motivate you to torch the toxic narratives that dominate pop culture.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Keep Your Diet Culture Off My Toddler

"Your words cut deep
Your lies are fueled by your need for deceit
Too scared to speak
You're only alive when you torture the weak
Now hear me roar" -- "You Want a Battle?" Bullet for My Valentine

My normally cheerful toddler had a very tough morning the other day. After I made the horrible mistake of taking away the iPad she was watching videos on, she couldn't stop having a tantrum. I was on my way to the gym, and thought the poor kid might calm down when I put her in the car and put on Amazon Music's Toddler Time station. Alas, it wasn't to be, and I eventually got so rattled after an 45 minutes of this screaming that I had to pull over on the side of the road and get out of the car until I could calm down. This is all a long way of saying that I had a very challenging morning, so I was relieved when T finally calmed down when I pulled into the gym parking lot and she realized she'd get to press the elevator button.

When we made it into the lobby of the gym, T was understandably hungry and I gave her the two snacks I had packed for her. She asked me for more food, but having none -- and trying to forestall a continuation of the tantrum, if I'm being completely honest -- I bought her a cookie from the gym's market. Of course, it's a market at a chain of gyms, so all of the food is packaged high-protein/low sugar foods. I bought her a protein cookie, which will hereto be referred to as the "Fucking Fake Cookie," or FFC. You'll see why. T was happily munching away on the FFC when a woman came up to us and said to T, "Oh, you're so cute! You're SO LUCKY you can eat cookies."

I instantly thought, "Not today, Satan!" and this conversation transpired:

Me: "You can eat cookies, too."

Nosy Lady: "Oh, I can't," she laughed. "If I eat one cookie, I have to eat the whole box!"

Me: "I used to think that, too. The interesting thing is, if you give yourself permission to eat what you want, suddenly the cookies become just another food and not a big deal."

Nosy Lady senses what she's gotten herself into and says, "Oh, but I'm a sugar addict."

Me: "If you give me your email address I am happy to send you a link to some journal articles that debunk that."

Nosy Lady: "I have a doctor's appointment! I have to go!"

Me: "Bye," but I really am thinking "CU Next Tuesday!"

The article I was threatening to send her was this. The TLDR is: "We find little evidence to support sugar addiction in humans, and finding from the animal literature suggest that addiction-like behaviours only occur in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviours likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar." This certainly is true in my experience, but I'd rather talk about that in another post.

What bothered me more than this woman's phony science was the fact that she came up and tried to involve T in this nonsense. First of all, let's be honest: she wasn't trying to lecture T, who isn't even two. She was trying to lecture T's fat mom, but was too pathetic to take me on directly (#lame). I shut down diet talk fast when it's directed at me, but I move at warp speed when it involves my children.

I can't say this often or vociferously enough: I consider dieting and diet culture the worst thing to have infiltrated my childhood. My kids will be exposed to this so many places, our family won't be one of them. My husband and I are committed to keeping this garbage as far away from them as possible.

I feel like there are some days that God tests you, and this was one of those days. The fun continued: I had posted a pretty innocuous meme on Facebook exhorting people not to comment on people's weight loss. You can take it or leave it, but one person commented with some really fat-shaming and stereotyping comments, which royally pissed me off (I know, I know, that's what I get for posting on the dumpster fire that is Facebook).

The coup de grace on this really shitty day is that the FFC caused T massive diarrhea because it was full of sugar alcohols and inulin and things that are really not great to consume. I was covered in poop moments before needing to leave to pick up my older daughter from school, so I was late getting her.  The poor kid would have been better off if I had brought some Oreos for her.  I'm sorry T for feeding you fake food that messed with your tummy. At least I fought the good fight against diet culture.