Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with your Body" - a Book Review


Why the Fat Acceptance Movement Benefits Non-Fat Persons

I am a huge fan of the FA blog site, Shapely Prose, so when blog creator, Kate Harding co-authored a book with fellow FA blogger, Marianne Kirby of The Rotund, I had to buy it! Tomorrow I will be volunteering at Charis Books & More getting the place ready for Kirby's book signing and discussion at 7:30p. Needless to say, I am ecstatic!
The book as it appears in Charis!

Harding and Kirby are both proud of their bodies and of themselves as people, promote the fact that dieting does not work, and work hard to get their message across that "fatties" are people too. Fat people deserve just as much respect and autonomy as the thinnest supermodel, because they are all human beings! Which really should not be such a hard concept and yet we all know it is...

The back blurb:

The bad news: There probably isn't a thin person inside you waiting to get out. But there just might be a happy,confident, awesome fat person in there-and this book will help you find her.

Bloggers Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby have lost count of how many diets they've been on. Between them, they've lost enough weight to make up a whole other person-a whole other fat person. But like almost all dieters, they always gained it back-so they finally decided it was time to activate Plan B. In Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere, they share how they came to quit starving themselves and began liking their fat bodies the way they are.

Marianne and Kate know that "fat" doesn't equal disgusting. Or lazy. Or undisciplined. Or stupid. Instead, it's just the single most efficient description of bodies that aren't, you know, thin. So it's time to reclaim both the word and the reality. In Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere, you'll discover how to live your life with joy,pride, brio, and plenty of healthy self-respect, no matter what size dress you wear.

When I first got this book, I carried it around with me everywhere I went and finished it in no more than three days. My little, happy bubble was momentarily burst only on day two, though, when a co-worker laughingly remarked, "Lessons from the fat-o-sphere?! Why? You're not fat!!!" I pointed to the words below, Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body and skulked off, totally not laughing.

But she is right-I am not fat. I hesitate to say my body size is average, because I am shorter than most womyn-in fact, at 4'9.5," I am on the cusp of being a little person-half of my shoes are a child's size four-but I do not feel that I am "thin." Of course, I'll admit my perception of my body is majorly fucked up, as I have been hospitalized twice for an eating disorder and when I say I am not thin, it is because I am comparing myself to the bone-thin, anorexic womyn at my treatment center. (I am merely afflicted with the diagnosis ED-NOS or eating disorder not otherwise specified, which as another friend who works in a mental hospital said, "Anything with the label, not otherwise specified, is as about as a bad a label as a person can possibly get." To that I say, "Amen!")

I also think of Dr. Co, a psychiatrist at RiverEdge, a non-profit mental health center in Milledgeville, GA, who told me I was "overweight" and did not have an eating disorder at all, even though I had only been out of the hospital for a few months. For many other things he said to me that day, I reported his behavior and I sincerely hope he does not work there anymore, although I suspect he does.

This book, and the whole fat acceptance movement, are so enormously important to me, because as far as long-term recovery goes, they are the things that truly help me keep the goal of recovery firmly in my mind. Like most womyn, I have dieted for most of my life-to the point that it was all I did or cared about. For a good majorly of my life, I would rather have been dead than to be fat, because fatness to me meant failure.

But recovery, for a person with an eating disorder, often means that the person is going to get fatter and in fact, that fattening up process is intensely encouraged! So while I am not fat, per se, I am definitely fatter than I used to be and that can be terrifying. Fatness used to symbolize being out of control and ultimately, being a failure. But through the fat acceptance movement, I am learning that fatness is just a
size-that's all. My becoming larger in size has nothing to do with how much in control of my life I am or with my success. It really does not. My body shape does not tell the world whether I am a good or bad person-just that I am a person, who as a person, does take up a certain amount of space, but that is all. And it is such a relief to know that the state of my well-being does not have to depend on an arbitrary number on a scale or a pair of jeans. I am still in the process of learning how to live in this mindset, but as Marianne Kirby wrote in her blog post, The Limbo: A State of Being, Not a Party Game,

Put aside the question of whether or not you feel like you are worthy of self-love. Stop thinking about it as much as possible. You don’t have to have come to any conclusions, you just have to table the matter. And then treat yourself the way you would if you already loved yourself. Treat yourself well. And kindly. And treat other people the same way. And it will sink in.

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