Fat and Polyamorous

Hi all,

I was wondering if any of my lovely readers identified as polyamorous. I’ve recently come out as poly and am very interested to hear about any experiences another fat and poly person might have had (esp. since I’m still a real n00b at this point).

Do you find that being fat makes a bigger, lesser, or the same difference in the poly dating world as in the  mono dating world, for instance? My guess is that it would make less of a difference since lots of poly people seem to already be engaged in the alternative world, but I have no practical experience to either verify or reject that guess.

(for those who don’t know what polyamory is, Franklin Veaux has a set of fantastic essays on the subject – “Polyamory – What, Like Two Girlfriends?“)

Thanks in advance for any comments!

On Diets

I’m writing this post in response to Meowser’s excellent post There Are Diets, And Then There Are DIETS. It was truly excellent, and made me start thinking about how my very unusual dietary requirements go practically counter to how fat people such as myself are often told they “should” eat.

I have orthostatic hypotension, brachycardia, vasovagal something-or-other, and generally horrible circulation. These are all generally spawned from too-low blood pressure, or hypotension. I also have lipedema, which though thought largely genetic, is also associated with hypotension and poor circulation.

Because of these conditions, I have to make sure I eat a sufficient amount of things most fat people (and most people in general) are told aren’t generally good for them:

1. I have to make sure I’m salting my food.

2. I have to get enough sodium in general.

3. Every morning I should drink a cup of strong coffee.

Keeping hydrated is something else I need to do, though I need to make sure sometimes to:

4. Drink water with some kind of sugar in it.

I also should:

5. Stay away from alcohol. Even a glass or two could send my blood pressure through the floor, as it is a depressant.

6. Stay away from other depressive substances.

And exercise? I need to:

7. Be careful and don’t do cardio training for any solid length of time (like months). Cardio training can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.

Also, guess what else lowers blood pressure? Calorie restriction. So:

8. Do not diet for weight loss.

Additionally, women with lipedema are usually told:

9. Do not diet for weight loss, since there is a much higher incidence of anorexia in women with lipedema. Dieting will not remove the lipedemic fat, the metabolism of the cells of which are damaged and the lipedemic fat won’t “shed.”

So all in all, with my various very genetic (all passed from my Dad’s family) disorders that are tied into hypotension, dieting for weight loss, and cardio training, are generally prohibited.

What happens if I don’t follow the prescriptions to keep my low blood pressure at a reasonable rate? I didn’t, for a few years, so I know the answer to this:

I generally feel ill. I pass out after getting out of the shower, on a humid day inside or outside or in the car, feel ill after exercising, feel ill all the time in general. Foggy, can’t think, nauseous, can’t breathe, headaches, dizzy.

I was lucky. Only one time did I pass out and get slightly injured; the other times I was able to “take myself down” once the symptoms of fainting starting cropping up. But as anyone who’s watched “Million Dollar Baby” knows, it only takes one bad fall to pretty much end your life.

So is a weight-loss diet, the antithesis of what *I personally* need to eat for *my personal* optimal health, worth paralysis or death?

The person who refuses to sit next to me on an airplane, or the subway, or a bus, or the train, thinks so. The person who has to look at my cellulite on the beach thinks so. Tam Fry thinks so.

What do you think?

A short comment about comparing fat and racial prejudice

I’m reposting a short comment I made on Nati’s Plushus blog about comparing fat and racial prejudice. I’ve been silent on this a long time, because I spoke up long before I had really coherently put together my thoughts in a way that would most clearly represent what I had to say. Additionally, I’ve been studying moral panics and moral crusades as a historical phenomena in the interim, and it has really enlightened me as to how certain patterns of superiority-and-deviance have repeated themselves, in different forms and degrees, over and over since practically the dawn of mankind (I can’t go back further than the Epic of Gilgamesh, sadly lol).

Here’s my comment on this post by Nati:

This argument has come up before on the Fatosphere and other fat activist sites, and I think sometimes the argument can get heated because people are coming into the argument with a lot of baggage and not paying attention to the real point.

Fat prejudice is like racial prejudice because they’re both a form of prejudice. We can learn from racial prejudice in the fat community because although fat prejudice is at a much, much more rudimentary stage than the peak of racial prejudice, the concept underlying the two – the creation of a deviant class based on group characteristics that have nothing to do with character or personhood – is the same.

How familiar are you with the idea of the moral crusade or moral panic? Underlying many of the worst prejudicial movements is the idea of, “You deserve it (in a moral or absolute sense),” or “We’re doing it for your own good.” Some of the worst crimes perpetuated during the peak of racial prejudice were in the name of this fallacious moral crusadership.

I think, like with much in history, we can learn the hard lessons of the racial prejudice period (which some would claim is still in full force, and I agree, though it’s changed its form a bit) and apply it to how we go about fighting fat prejudice.

It’s not about who had it worse, it’s about this idea that groups are singled out and persecuted while being entirely innocent. That is what all prejudice, regardless of the degree, has in common.

Yes, I’m a Total Geek – DBS and Obesity

So Sandy has a great post today about the DBS human experimentation. As a short summary, DBS (deep brain stimulation) is electrodes surgically connected to a certain area of the brain, and a pacemaker implanted in the chest, in order to then give doctors the ability to send electrical shocks to that area of the brain. The idea is that the brain is sending the “wrong” signals on its own, and it needs surgery to be “fixed” so that the “right” signals are sent.

DBS has found a place in anti-obesity medicine, as a possible method to make fat people permanently thin.

Naturally, brain surgery to make fat people thinner would make the creators of this method, and brain surgeons, dazzlingly rich. This is of course because there has been no weight loss method thus far that has been shown to be generally effective post five years.

Needless to say, in this day and age of many popular prescription medications going generic, the success – or dare I say it, perceived success – of this method would be a boon.

And indeed, as Sandy so well details, the very basis of the methodology behind this surgery is faulty. The assumption is made that fatness is caused by an addiction to food or some other kind of neuropsychological food disorder. The shocks are directed on a portion of the brain that has been suggested in animal studies to reduce hunger.

As those who have had eating disorders know, it is a disconnect with the impulses of hunger that is cultivated during the disorder (not that this disconnect is the cause, of course). In order to most successfully starve oneself, one desires to unhook the natural hunger impulse as much as possible. During a binge, the hunger impulse is also ignored, as one gorges far past the point of fullness (note: for those who are unacquainted with binge eating disorder, it doesn’t mean simply having seconds of a meal or snacking when one is not hungry, or having that second bowl of ice cream on an especially stressful night).

All that aside, there is an especially important quote from Sandy’s article that I think deserves emphasis:

At a meeting of the American Neuropsychiatric Association, Dr. Lozano also described a troubling complication observed when stimulation spread to the hypothalamus, which is the target for DBS:

[T]here have been reports of aggressive behavior induced by intraoperative stimulation in the vicinity of the subthalamic nucleus, thought to be related to the spread of the current to the hypothalamus. There have also been acute depression and anxiety induced by stimulation in the vicinity of the substantia nigra pars reticulata; there have also been reports of euphoria and laughter… by stimulation in the subthalamic nucleus. Because the subthalamic nucleus is rather small… it’s quite difficult to only be in the motor territory without having some spillover into the cognitive and limbic territory, so we often, if the current is too high, or if the electrodes are misplaced, get some of these collateral effects.

Which brings me to the title of this post. You see, I’m a total geek. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, and other good sci fi. I’m a science fiction writer, myself. And since the lead researcher of this experiment himself compares it to borderline science fiction, I think it’s apt to reflect a great piece of writing from the movie, Serenity.

The character Mal from the movie Serenity

The character Mal from the movie Serenity

In this movie, the crew of the starship Serenity discover a human experiment on a massive scale. The planet Miranda had been terraformed by the Alliance government, and a general call had been sent out for individuals to become part of a new civilization on Miranda. What they hadn’t been told is that the Alliance government, in partnership with its government healthcare researchers (as far as I can tell in the Firefly series, off of which Serenity is based,  healthcare is nationalized), have developed an airborne drug called Pax.

Pax was supposed to be a “civilizing” drug – meant to weed out aggression amongst the population. However, it had horrible side effects. It worked, in the sense that along with aggression ambition, and even the simple will to live was weeded out, causing many of the population to just allow themselves to die. However, in a small number of cases Pax had the opposite effect – it caused extreme aggression. Those individuals so warped by the drug were to become a permanent threat to the Galaxy at large.

Sure, it’s an exaggerated, geeky example. However, the point is when we start abandoning the idea of rigorous science and studies based on fact with real outcomes, and start marketing anything and everything because there is a population steeped in fear about a particular “malady” (here it is obesity, in the Serenity movie it was aggression), we bear the brunt of unexpected side effects.

Perhaps DBS-surgered obese people won’t become monsters who want to kill their fellow man, but even if they are in the very least bit not just worse off after the surgery than they were before, but the same, it is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” I consider cutting into healthy brain tissue harm. I consider even cutting into the skin of a person for a reason that is not shown to improve their health harm.

What do you think?

Bad Fatty Revolutionary

Good fatties, bad fatties. For a long time there have existed the stereotypes of two groups which exist within the fat acceptance movement. I think the good fatty/bad fatty debate is an important part of outlining how FA can become a more effective movement, by taking a hard look at what kind of discrimination against fat people in which our own members engage.

The worst thing for a movement is to have some members who are engaging in hypocrisy, with that hypocrisy not being condemned by the more vocal members of the movement. It creates a weak spot at which our opponents can readily plunge a rhetorical knife. I think the hypocrisy in which some of our members engage, and a hypocrisy which threatens to kill the movement or at the least make it a joke, is Healthism.

Healthism, as I define it, is the act of making health a moral imperative. That is, to be a worthwhile, contributing member of society, you should attempt to be at the best health possible. If you do not, then your worth as an individual goes down. Healthism dictates that the unhealthy are harmful, unattractive, a drain on society, stupid, and otherwise deviant.

There seems to be a dichotomy within FA, in which some members engage in and support Healthism in one way or another, and others do not. Sometimes this is political – a fundamental belief in the importance of public health at times can breed a Healthist attitude – and sometimes it is personal.

It’s my opinion that the Healthist members of FA are the ones who are stereotyped as “good fatties.” Here is my list of the most common stereotypical behaviors associated with being a “good fatty:”

  • Outlining, in detail, their exercise regime.
  • Outlining, in detail, what they eat, or saying simply, “But I eat healthy, I’m a [INSERT HEALTHIST DIETARY GROUP HERE].”
  • Being Healthist in general – that is, claiming that being healthy is an important social goal and good and should be an individual goal for everyone – but decrying fat discrimination in the next breath.
  • Hinting that if there were a safe, proven way to become thin, they would abandon their fat bodies.
  • Being personally opposed to the same deviant behavior fat-haters blame on all fat people: laziness, lack of willpower, stupidity, bad hygiene – and breathlessly reiterating over and over again that they are not one of “those” fat people (sometimes by claiming those fat people don’t exist!).
  • Being so obsessed with mythbusting they don’t realize they’re creating a sub-deviant class within the group of fat people, which isn’t protected by their brand of fat acceptance – “bad fatties.”

And here are the possibly well-known stereotypes of being a “bad fatty”:

  • Not caring about health.
  • Eating fast food more than once a month.
  • Eating convenience store snacks more than once a week.
  • Sometimes eating when they’re not hungry, or not eating when they are hungry.
  • Not paying attention to what food they are eating, and whether or not it is “healthy” by some standard or definition, or whether or not it satisfies a particular craving or it just happens to taste good at the moment.
  • Not exercising regularly, and worse, not acknowledging the importance of regular exercise as a health imperative.
  • Believing it isn’t anyone’s business what they are eating, how much they are exercising, and what constitutes their family dinners. Not recognizing a social moral imperative attached to health.
  • Not believing in public health.

Again, these are stereotypes, listed to make a point and to paint a vivid picture. Most people don’t fall neatly into these kinds of categories, adopting some or the other behaviors and viewpoints.

However, according to these lists, I’m very staunchly in the “bad fatty” category.

Why I believe the FA movement needs more vocal “bad fatty revolutionaries”:

Simply put, because the Healthist arguments subdivide fat people into “less deviant” and “more deviant” subclasses. When engaging in Healthist behaviors or making Healthist arguments, you must understand that you’re playing the fat-loathers’ game. You’re buying into their rhetoric, and agreeing with them that wanting to be healthy is indeed a moral imperative, makes a person more or less fuckable, makes an individual more or less intelligent, and so forth.

That means every myth-busting argument you put forth — “But don’t you understand that fat isn’t necessarily unhealthy?” — is played out on their turf. And you know what they can do, what they often do, that takes the wind out of our sails and stops us dead in our tracks?

Say, “You’re lying,” to whatever facts we present. “I’ve got more evidence to back up my claims,” they say, thrusting forward mountains of epidemiological studies that we’ve already debunked, convinced of our bias. “Any doctor you ask will tell you that being fat is unhealthy,” they continue, appealing to authority. “You’re just looking for an excuse to be fat,” they conclude, convinced of our bias, inexpertise, and emotional instability.

My question to all FAers out there: Why are we playing their game in the first place?

We need to change the conversation away from health. Sure, we know we can myth-bust until we’re blue in the face, and the more rigorous, less publicized evidence is overwhelmingly in support of our claims. It doesn’t matter. This is the age of science-by-press-release. Facts and hard evidence don’t have a prayer.

We need to become bad fatty revolutionaries. Instead of apologizing for behaviors that are acceptable amongst thinner people but not fatter people, instead of playing into the stereotypes and showing them that you’re an active member of their world and still fat, reject their world. Reject the moral imperative of Healthism.

Healthism is nothing more than a system of status-determination based on appearance. “You can tell whether or not someone is high or low status (read: healthy) based on how fat or thin (read: unhealthy) they are.” It’s easy. You don’t even have to know someone to know what your and his/her respective statuses are, whether or not you’re “better” than him/her. All you have to do is look.

Healthist FAers — “good fatties” — play into that game, though they slightly change the definitions. You can’t tell by just looking, they claim. You need to ask them about their exercise and nutritional regimes, perhaps their BP and blood sugar numbers, first. Perhaps also their family history of disease. Then you can make that determination. But still, status and superiority are determined — by health!

The hard truth is that Healthism hasn’t done a damned thing for the movement. Since we are in the age of science by press release, it makes us look like a bunch of crazy hypocrites. We look like we’re espousing health at the same time we are, ourselves, espousing unhealth (by accepting fat). No wonder we’re not taken seriously.

It’s time we make them play on our turf, and reject the moral imperative of health. Here are the points I suggest should be stressed:

  • Our bodies, our business.
  • Our health is between us and our doctor.
  • The concern of family members and friends for our perceived health does more harm than good.
  • We’re adults. Stop treating us as if we have the emotional and mental capacity of five year-olds. We reject your disgusting condescension.
  • Our bodies, our business. You have no right to tell me what should or should not go in my mouth. You have no right to demand that I exercise.
  • Beauty standards change. What’s fuckable today might not be fuckable tomorrow. Using body size in leiu of “health” as an excuse to determine fuckability is as capricious as using skin color, hair color, height, country of origin, religion, favorite book, etc. It’s not hard-wired, it’s a cultural creation.
  • Discrimination against fat people is always hate. Any excuse to find a fat person inferior in any way due to their fatness is bigotry. And yes, this extends to attractiveness. It might not be your fault that you’re a bigot, but you still are.
  • Grow up. What we eat and how much we exercise does not make us a more or less worthwhile person. It is not a determinant of willpower, control, sexiness, intelligence, hygeine, parental fortitude, femininity, masculinity, bravery, and so forth.
  • Our bodies, our business. Our health is between us and our doctors and yes, sometimes doctors are wrong, too. We must always be vigiliant that their techniques do more good than harm, because doctors are people, too. They can be bigots. They can make mistakes. Being informed patients is never, ever a bad thing. If we are wrong, they are free to explain to us why, or to refer us to sources so that we better understand why. Our bodies, our business. Our health, our and our doctor’s business.
  • The Obesity Epidemic is a moral panic, and the War on Obesity is a moral crusade. The torch-carriers are Healthists. Their weapons are science by press release, and the belief in the moral imperative of health.

Change the dialogue. Give up on Healthist rhetoric – it does the movement more harm than good. Make health a private matter. Don’t apologize for being fat, or qualify your status by explaining how you’re still a “good person” because you buy into the edicts of Healthism.

Our bodies, our business.

Our health, between us and our doctor, and we have a duty to be informed patients and challenge our doctors who are themselves people and therefore fallible.

Science by press release has taken facts out of the public dialogue, which ultimately dooms fat-accepting Healthist arguments.

Our bodies, our business.

We’re adults. I reject your condescension, your attempts to infantilize me which are directly connected to your desire to gain as much status over me as possible.

Healthism is a class system. It creates deviant classes which the superior classes are free to treat as subhuman and worthless. Reject Healthism. It is ultimately incompatible with fat acceptance, since it forces Healthist fat people to reject un-Healthist fat people, which is no acceptance at all.