naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
So this video came across my Tumblr dash, and it triggered a rant.
Basically, the gist is this: a researcher fed volunteers milkshakes. One group got milkshakes that were labeled as low-calorie. The other group got milkshakes labeled as high-calorie. The group given the “high-calorie” milkshakes felt less hungry afterward.

This is an interesting example of the placebo effect, for sure. However, it is now being bandied about as “You can change your metabolism with your miiind!” And, predictably, people are discussing it almost solely in the context of weight-loss dieting. As if it offers hope.

Because I’d like it preserved for posterity, here’s what I said on Tumblr (with a few minor edits):

The fact that this works for one feeding with a single milkshake means nothing. It’s basically a trick to fool your body into feeling fuller, temporarily, but it says nothing about how your body treats hunger over the long term.

See, there are three kinds of hunger.

There’s mechanical hunger, which is your stomach being empty and growling. It says “PUT FOOD IN YOUR STOMACH.”

There’s mouth hunger or aesthetic hunger, which is your need to eat food that satisfies you psychologically. Comfort food, the native foods of your culture, foods whose tastes and textures satisfy you innately. It says “PUT YUMMY THINGS IN YOUR MOUTH!”

And there’s chemical hunger. Chemical hunger is craving … something. That feeling you get when you don’t eat enough fruit for a while, and suddenly you crave citrus. The feeling you get when you are bleeding from your vagina for the tenth day in a row, and would literally murder old ladies for a steak and/or a bucket of bone marrow. The feeling you get when, for no reason you can name, you crave something like almonds or anchovies or really dark chocolate. At its most immediate, it’s the low-blood-sugar shakes and dizziness. At its most insidious, it’s the thing that leads you to eat and eat until you are satisfied. It says “MEET YOUR NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS BECAUSE YOUR CELLS ARE STARVING, YOU NUMBSKULL.”

Reduced ghrelin may not have much effect on mouth hunger, and it absolutely isn’t going to affect chemical hunger. It will affect mechanical hunger, but only for a short time.

As someone who, out of a hateful illness, starved herself for years like nobody else could do it right, I probably know more about actual hunger than most people ever, ever will. I can tell you all kinds of things about it. Things you probably don’t want to know, honestly.

I can tell you right now that I tried all the tricks.

I tried using smaller plates.

I tried drinking loads of water before each meal.

I tried chewing slowly. (SOOOO SLOWLY.)

I tried filling up on really bulky, low-calorie foods.

I tried really small, frequent meals.

I mean, if there was a trick, I tried it. If I’d known about this, I’d have tried this too.

And none of the tricks worked. I was still hungry pretty much every few hours, and the less I ate, the less time it took for me to get hungry. Eventually, I was hungry all the time. Like, I was so hungry I stopped being able to feel mechanical hunger.

No, stop, think about it. My body had become so used to my stomach being empty that it stopped sending me those signals completely. And yet … I was hungry. All the time. Even when I satisfied my mouth hunger, I was hungry. I needed to eat. I can’t even describe what that felt like, except to say that it was overpowering.

When I finally started recovering, I ate whatever I wanted. And for two years, two years, all I wanted to eat was salt, fat, sugar. For several months, I still never felt hungry, but I couldn’t stop eating. I would eat until I felt physically sick, and I still WANTED to eat more. Because I had been starving myself, and that is what starving yourself does.

Because my body knew, it knew, that 700 calories a day was not 2,000 calories a day. It knew it was starving. It thought it was dying.

You cannot fool that. You cannot permanently change your body’s metabolism with tricks. Just because it works once doesn’t mean it will work the nine hundredth time you try it.

So, unless it can trick your body into literally thinking that 100 calories is 300 calories forever and ever, your weight loss tricks are not going to work forever, you will rebound, you will gain back the weight you lose.

Research like this is useful, because knowing how the human body and mind interact is useful.

Research like this in the hands of people who aren’t qualified to draw conclusions from it is not useful. This will no doubt somehow enter the vocabulary of weight-loss “tricks” intended to help desperate and misguided people fool themselves into thinking they are smarter than the literal cells in their body, when they are not. And that is a sad thing.

So for the people saying “If you think of your kale/wheatgrass/quinoa/goat placenta smoothie as really indulgent, you won’t feel hungry afterward!”, you’re wrong. Do it often enough, and you’ll feel hungry constantly.

There’s not a shortcut. I don’t recommend weight-loss dieting to anyone, but if you’re going to pursue it — again, just don’t do this if you still believe all the crap about being thin being a somehow magical state that will insulate you from all kinds of physical and psychological and social ills — you should know that you are working against literally every cell of your body. There’s not a work-around for that. It is a bone-scraping, desperate hunger you will feel every minute of every day, worse and worse the longer you go.

Clever “tricks” like this are sops thrown to you to say “Look, look, it’s easy, look how easy it is! Look how stupid the human body is! Look how much more powerful your brain is! You can totally fool yourself out of being a meat-popsicle that craves fat and starch and salt if you just work at being satisfied with less.”


All they do is make it easier to start, and easier to keep limping along pretending nothing is wrong, when you can feel with every fiber of your being that there is.

Whenever new “science” shows something that implies, from research based on a single event, one single meal or item of food, that there is a faster way to lose weight, or an easier way to not feel hungry, give it the stinkiest of all stink-eyes. Because one meal? One meal more or less is not hunger. Not really. The measure of hunger is what happens once you have depleted your body’s reserves enough for it to start eating itself away … and then you keep going. And going. And going. What you feel then is hunger.

You know what else probably kills your appetite? Videos of surgery. Nobody’s suggesting that we take up watching those before our meals so we don’t feel like eating as much. And if we did? We’d get used to it pretty fast, as the large number of surgeons, nurses, veterinarians, and techs who can still eat will attest.

They get over it because our bodies need food. We need to eat, both physically and psychologically, to be healthy. And that is stronger than pretty much any other urge we have except maybe thirst — I don’t know, I never tried to dehydrate myself to death. Hunger takes longer to kill you. (And yeah, you feel every minute of it.) It is stronger than the urge to lick Ben Barnes. Stronger than the urge to pet kittens. I could stop thinking about those things for hours at a time. I never forgot that I was hungry.

Also, as one final note, there’s a huge error in this research. Food is not neutral, okay? We have such a guilt complex around food these days that if I give a random person a 600-calorie treat, it’s 99% certain that they will feel some guilt. And they will feel less guilt over a 100-calorie treat. And guilt? A surprisingly good appetite-killer. Which is why the diet industry is so huge on guilt and shame. So unless you could find someone who had literally no associations with food/calories/guilt — and these days, even finding tiny children who do not have that is going to be a job of work — your study might be measuring something other than what you think it is.

(And guilt doesn’t work long-term, either. I was still hungry enough after four years of 700 calories a day to eat a whole goddamn box of Pop-Tarts. I felt pretty fucking guilty after the first one. I still ate them all, and every piece of fruit in the house.)

(Also, anyone who expects you to endure that sort of hunger just to access a higher tier of respect in the pecking order is a fucking douchebag and you can safely disregard anything they say as toxic bullshit.)

Ugh. Rant over. I’m going to go eat something bad for me, because I fucking can. The best way not to feel hungry — eat when you want to eat.
naamah_darling: The Punisher skull with a red ribbon barrette. (Punisher Ribbon)
Last night I had a dream I was in some sort of godforsaken upscale organic food market place, like Whole Foods, and this really cute woman in a nice suit came up to me and tried to sell me her weight loss plan thing.

She was like "We have this revolutionary new system that will allow you to--"

And I was like "Get. The FUCK. Away from me."

And she kind of backed up and sat down in a chair that was by the wall, eyes wide, and I felt a little bad for being so angry so I explained the whole deal to her. I told her I was an eating disorder survivor, that my body was nobody else's business unless I chose to make it so, that I might not be happy with it but that it still deserved love and shouldn't be starved, and that what she was doing -- I was adamant on this point -- was genuinely hurting people.  And she needed to stop encouraging people to do this to themselves.  And if she was doing it to herself, she needed to stop it.

I told her about the books I'd read that set me straight, took her notebook away and wrote down the names and titles, and gave it back. And because it was a dream, I knew that I had planted the seeds of doubt, and that she would change her mind and stop doing what she was doing.

And I think that was a pretty amazing dream to have. I literally wasn't buying what she was selling.  I've had other dreams like it, but that was especially good.  A dress rehearsal for when I have to meet the new doctor I'll be seeing late this month, I guess.  I've already called the office and explained the deal, and I explained it again on my intake forms, but that doesn't always do the trick.

So yeah, I think that's a victory of some kind.  We are at the mercy, in dreams, of what we really think about ourselves.  There's no filter there.  And yet, all this time, it's been in dreams I've seen the first flashes of acceptance.  Meaning it's been there the whole time, quietly growing without me knowing about it.  A dream like this is proof of that.  Proof of how far I've come.

I am pleased.  I am really pleased.

(Originally published at Silver Into Steel.)

naamah_darling: Cartoony snarling wolf in profile. (Werewolf)

This picture has been going around on Facebook, and I'm getting some serious rageface whenever anyone reposts it. Again. Maybe it's because I'm having a hard time not hating the way I look this month, so it's really in the forefront of my mind just how toxic this shit is.

I appreciate the fact that our culture demands ridiculous things of women and their bodies, and that a lot of skinny models and actresses may genuinely be wrestling with some sort of eating disorder (which is, by the way, not a valid reason to sneer at them) or may genuinely be at an unhealthy weight. Believe me. Look at this colossal ass. I was still "overweight" even when I was starving myself to death! Nobody appreciates the ugliness of our ideas about body shape and size more than I do. But this picture . . . seriously?

Tearing skinny women down is not going to make the world friendlier toward anyone's body. It does not make me feel better about my own body. It does not make me feel good at all. It makes me angry. It hurts me. It makes me sad. It makes me wonder what the fuck is wrong with everyone who responded with "RIGHT ON!" or "THIS!" or "REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES!" that they can't see that they are spreading the same body-hating bullshit they claim offends them. For all y'all's sake, I'm going to assume that if you were one of those people, you just weren't thinking.

Breaking news:

Women of ALL sizes are subjected to pressure and shame about their bodies. That goes for thin, thick, and in-between, even for women with bodies you personally think are perfect. That "perfect" woman? She gets shit from someone about how she looks -- probably most of all from herself. We ALL get shit for it. It hurts ALL of us. Whether we listen or not, whether we believe it or not, we are ALL told we are not good enough, somehow, every day. Putting down one group of women DOES. NOT. HELP.

Saying there's something wrong with thinking thin women are attractive is just as fucked as saying there's something wrong with thinking fat women are attractive. What I think is attractive and what you think is attractive and what that person over there thinks is attractive and what that priapic dog in the street thinks is attractive are complete irrelevancies. People thinking I am attractive does not make me a better person, or excuse any features that in a fuckable person might be sorta okay but are otherwise considered undesirable.

Also, size acceptance is not about who is hot and who is hotter. Being considered hot is not what chicks, fat or thin, ultimately want. I mean, it's nice to be considered attractive, but it's not the be-all end-all. It's not what confers or denies our humanity.

And, finally, asking people to accept people for the size that they are does not mean forcing anyone to find fat people (or thin ones, or ones with curly hair) attractive. Imposing standards of attractiveness on other people is not what size acceptance is about. We kind of want the opposite of that. And, frankly, if you are the kind of person who needs to find someone fuckable before you will treat them with respect, I hope your next affair with a camel gives you projectile leprosy of the junk.

I realize with all of this "We'd appreciate it awfully if you could maybe not act like an asshole!" it's pretty confusing in here. What do fat people want?

What we WANT is to be seen as people. Not as a health risk because of our size, not as part of an epidemic because of our size, not as a burden on America because of our size, not an object of ridicule because of our size, not even as a sex object because of our size. People. Not because of our size, not in spite of it. Just. People.

We WANT people to step the fuck off and stop acting like it's okay to be heavy IF you are healthy or trying to eat right or exercising well or if someone thinks you're sexy, but somehow not okay to be heavy if you are unhealthy and eat junk food and never exercise and aren't sexy at all.

We WANT this "good fatty/bad fatty" fuckery to stop. Seriously. If you think I'm gross and are all up in my shit because whenever I want to, I eat chocolate cookies and ice cream and burgers and Cheetos and 'cause I drink non-diet Coke, but would lay off and show some respect if I ate naught but fresh-plucked greens harvested from the slopes of Mount Olympus and tender baby swans braised with the tears of happy virgins and drank only water from the Well of Insufferable Perfection, because then I would at least be *trying* not to be fat at you?

If you are that person? If you think I have some kind of obligation to not be fat because it's bad for me or costs imaginary people imaginary money?

Fuck. Off. I do not want anything to do with you. You. Are. A. Douchebag. GTFO.

We WANT people not to harass or deride us about what kind of bodies we have, whether they are considered sexy or not, because our bodies are not fucking public property and do not exist for others' viewing pleasure -- they are ours, they are the only bodies we have or are ever going to get, and what someone's body looks like does not ever, ever excuse treating them with a lack of respect.

If you think that it's my job to entertain you by being attractive or by serving as the butt of your jokes . . . GTFO. I'd also like to invite you to shove a flaming chainsaw up your ass and do a little dance on the way out. You know. For my entertainment.

I'm not going to say that thin women have it just as bad as fat women. I'm also not going to say that they don't. I'm not going to say that women in the middle are the ones who are lucky. This is not the Pain Olympics, and we aren't competing for prizes in competitive self-loathing. It doesn't matter who has it worse on the whole, or individually, because these are things that nobody should have to feel. Not even a little bit. Skinny women don't somehow deserve it just a little less than fatties. Fatties don't magically deserve it more. Nobody deserves it, because we are all equal in one regard:

People. We are them. Deal with it.

And yes, you may link the fuck out of this if you feel so inclined.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Trigger warning: eating disorder recovery issues ahoy. Also, see disclaimer below.

I looked fine. At five-one and a hundred and forty pounds, I was not thin, but nor was I a size that aroused disgust or concern for my health. In fact, the extra squeezy bits were really effective camouflage for what was wrong, which is that I exercised for hours and hours every day even though I hated every second of it, and thought eating over a thousand calories in one day was a disaster.

Nobody caught it. Nobody knew. I was never formally diagnosed with anything. Officially, I never had an eating disorder.

People with eating disorders are super-skinny, right? Because they never eat, right? Or they're hugely fat, because their problem is that they can't stop eating. So just look for the chick who'd disappear into a dish towel, and the three-seater with the bucket of KFC, and you'll be able to tell who has an eating disorder, right? (Also, dudes don't get eating disorders.)

Yeah, no. That isn't how it works.

The fact that it isn't like that is a kind of proof that the less food = weight loss / more food = weight gain equation is seriously flawed. There are fat anorexics. Far more of them than anyone has ever bothered to count. I could probably have starved or exercised myself to death without ever getting under a hundred pounds . . . which is about where most folks seem to think a five-foot chick should be. My body is not meant to weigh that little.

There's this idea that if someone is truly sick, they will look sick, and this applies to eating disorders in a particularly awful way. It's not considered an illness until you get too thin. Until then, it's considered the least fatties can do.

The real sickness you can't see. It's the self-hate, the tightly-wound fear, and the anxiety and urgency to control something, anything, that propel eating disorders. And that can manifest at any size. Being fat doesn't make starving yourself okay, because it doesn't make hating yourself okay.

Before all of that, when I was what pretty much everyone would agree is "fat" (which I am again), I had people express concern for my health. Not because I looked sickly, or because I seemed to eat too much, or because I huffed and puffed and couldn't climb a single flight of stairs. Those things weren't true. Not even because I was mentally ill and was showing signs of it as early as twelve or thirteen years old, and was in obvious trouble by the time I was in my early twenties. Because I was fat. Only that. Only because of the size of my body. No other reason.

When I was at my thinnest, nobody expressed concern for my health based on my body size. I was also very, very sick.

Which tells you that assuming someone's unhealthy because they're fat is bullshit, and that assuming someone's healthy because they're thin is bullshit too, so clearly the idea of equating body size with health is pretty stupid.

To get back around to my point, nobody could see how much pain I was in. How anxious. How afraid.

What drove it, ultimately? Fear of being invisible, useless, undesirable. A desire to prove that everything I'd been told as a kid about how once you're fat, you're fat forever was wrong (which it was, not on its own merit, but because terrorizing a child with that is wrong).

But the whip I used to drive myself along, my justification for the way I was treating my body, was that fat was deadly, and every day that I didn't starve myself or exercise until I wanted to cry from boredom and hate and hunger, I was killing myself a little more. And every day I was "good," I was just a little bit immortal. Health. Because I believed the lies.

When I finally did the research and found out how wrong I was, when I finally was able to see what I'd become, it was agony. I wasn't just trying to recover from a grueling physical ordeal, I was trying to cope with the sudden awareness that I had been lied to by pretty much the whole world, and almost everyone who loved me, since I was a child. And I had to deal with the fact that I had become something I never thought myself capable of being.

Eating disorders? I never thought it could happen to me. I used to laugh at anorexic folks. That was a problem for rich white girls who had nothing else going for them and nothing better to do with their time. Seriously, how stupid do you have to be not to eat? Not very, apparently. Because that's not how it works. Nothing is that simple.

If someone had known, they might have been able to talk to me about it when it was early enough for me to shake it off or get help. Or it might not have done any good, because this sort of thing is intractable like that. Nobody is as good at not listening, at justifying, as someone in the depths of that hell. I think the only person I would have listened to is someone who had been through what I had been through, and at the time, I didn't know anyone.

So I want to say something to everybody who ever reads this. Even if you think you don't need to hear it. Even if you aren't ready to hear it. Even if you are never ready to hear it. Even if you agree but aren't ready to act on it yet. Even if you don't believe me. Even if you already know.

What value you have derives from you. Not from the shape or size of your body.

Your value as a human being does not increase the closer to the cultural ideal you are, or decrease the further from it you get. It is important that you know this, even though it's something you've probably been told countless times. It is always worth saying again.

Here's something that you might not have been told. If you are a sick person, sick like I was, the hate and pain and doubt you feel won't go away once you're thin. All of that anger and loathing and stubbornness you use to drive yourself to do just a little more, to eat just a little less, to wait just a little longer, to hold out, to overcome, to rise above and transcend something so basic and pervasive as hunger and tiredness and pain, it will not magically go away once you step on the scale for the thousand thousandth time and see that you are finally at your goal weight. It will remain there, grinding away inside you. There may come a time when you do not think you feel it, or a time when it is lying quiet, but it is still there.

You will never be able to sit back and say "I'm done, this is good enough." Because you can't. That is a part of what drives you to do what you do, it is why you are able to do extraordinary but awful things like starve yourself. Believe me. I know. If you get thin enough to not actively hate yourself, that truce is conditional. That hate is still there. If you get fat again, you'll hate yourself again.

Is love that is conditional really love? Would you accept that from another person? I'll love you unless you cut your hair. I'll love you until you start getting saggy boobs. I'll love you until you don't look twenty anymore.

I'll love you until you break a hundred and fifty pounds.

Is that love? Or is that just another lash to flog yourself with, another threat?

When I was at my worst, I used to say, I used to write in my bedside journal, "I will die before I let myself get that fat again."

I meant it at the time. I wanted it to be true. I would have preferred to die. I thought I would deserve it for allowing myself to be that weak, to get that disgusting again.

Over four years later, I am still in the process of coming out of that. It's not over yet. A part of me still crouches in the corner, hateful, resentful, stubbornly insisting that at least being dead would mean that the fat was dead, too. That I wouldn't have to look like this person who isn't me anymore. That I wouldn't have to feel a body that isn't mine all around me. And even if that part of me eventually withers up and goes away, I will always know that it was there, that I wished myself dead for something over which I have limited control at best. It's an awful thing, to know that it is possible to hate yourself that deeply. The only remedy for the awfulness is to struggle every day to forgive. And maybe, if I forgive enough, I will learn to love.

It's not easy. It is hard. Some days -- and there have been more of them as time passes -- it's only hard like ignoring something mean someone said about you back in third grade is hard. It's not that bad. But sometimes it is harder than walking twenty miles in Oklahoma August. Sometimes it is harder than saying "no" to food when at no time during the last week have you eaten more than half of what is required to keep a human being running. Sometimes, it isn't possible. Sometimes I fail, and I hate.

I am sitting here right now hating the way I look and feel, embarrassed simply because I exist, and I know that I could turn off that hate tomorrow, like flicking off a light, if I just went back to starving myself and walking twelve miles a day. It would buy me respite from the pain for as long as I was making progress. Sure, once I stalled out it would start hurting again, and sure, I'd have another breakdown once I realized -- again -- that in order to maintain even a modest weight loss, I have to exercise so much and eat so little that it actually endangers my health. But for that little time, I would not feel this sort of pain.

There are times when it seems worth it, just because the hate and the loathing and the pain are still there, and still rear up once in a while to trip me. I just have to stand firm and remind myself that this hate that comes over me, this loathing, wouldn't stop if I were a size ten, because it's not hate based on my actual size, my actual body, but based on how I feel about myself, the things I feel that I should be and am not, and cannot be.

You can't improve yourself by hating yourself. It just can't be done. I've got to remind myself of that as often as necessary, probably until the end of my life. And if I am reminding myself of it tonight, I might as well remind you, too.

Disclaimer: I'm not dissing exercise, which is wonderful if you can stomach it, nor am I saying that everyone who diets is ill. I am not up for a debate about the merits of weight-loss dieting, nor am I up for a debate about whether or not fat is inherently unhealthy, nor am I particularly interested in arguing with anyone over what they, personally, should or should not be doing, or why it's okay or not okay. The constant "But don't you realize. . . ." and "It's fine for other people, but. . . ." and "I'm not saying that. . . ." is part of what makes recovering from this shit so goddamn hard. "Well, you have to admit that there's a level of fat that is just not okay!" is actually more destructive than the stuff asshole trolls say. (That link will blow your Sanity Watcher's points, so don't click if you're not feeling up to reading some really nasty shit in addition to lolarious stupidity.) So, not having those debates here.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
My big fat double standard is our latest article! Sargon takes on the unfortunate truth that, within the subset of the erotica genre that has embraced fat women as characters, there has not been a corresponding increase in the visibility of fat men. I'd excerpt it, but it's short, and it's all very much to the point. Just go read!

And there's another chapter of Sky Pirates of the Rio Grande up! Chapter 14: A daring plan with a single overwhelming flaw.

With no warning at all the big window above the bed shattered inward and Zenobia came swinging through on a knotted line. Belial rose up in shock, caught completely flatfooted. Zenobia kicked out with both legs and caught him in the chest, sent him hurtling back off the bed to crash against the closed door.

Eden screamed, covering her head as broken glass rained down all over her. Zenobia came down on the bed beside her and then bounced up, heedless of the small cuts from the glass on her naked skin. She scooped Eden up in one arm and kissed her impulsively.

"Hang on!" Zenobia said with a mad grin and swung the both of them out through the smashed window and over empty space below. Eden screamed again and clutched at her. Zenobia looked back at the cabin and saw Belial coming up off the floor, bellowing in fury.

Zenobia shifted Eden towards her back. "Hang onto me," she said. "Hang onto me so I can climb, damn you!"

"Sorry," Eden managed, trying not to look down as she clasped arms and legs around her rescuer from behind. They swung back in towards the broken window and she saw Belial pointing his pistol at them. She shrieked as he fired off several shots and she heard the bullets buzz past them like bees.

But now Zenobia had her arms free and she climbed up the rope at an incredible speed, seemingly impervious to Eden's added weight. They were at the rail in just a few seconds and then over it. Eden dropped gratefully to the deck, naked and suddenly very cold in the night air. She fell onto her backside and grunted in pain, but Zenobia hauled her up by one arm.

"You said you had a plan. What is it?" Zenobia shook her none too gently.

Eden shook her head to clear it. "We . . . oh damn. We get on the Jackson and cut it free," she stammered.

"And then? We can't outrun them in that old tub!" Zenobia heard shouting from below as the crew was roused. They didn't have much time.

"Not run, we crash," Eden said.

Zenobia gaped at her. "Crash?"

"I never said it was a good plan," Eden said defensively.

More shouting, and Zenobia knew they were out of options. "Very well, if it is crash or die, I say crash."

Fun times!

I am putting this button here in case anyone feels like throwing a tip in the jar. Or, if you're feeling especially brave, join up at I need to see the doctor soon for some worrisome side effects, so that's what it'd be going toward.

naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
New article up at Adventurotica! Free to read (as is everything on the site but the members-only story content).

Writing the plus-sized character.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a fat girl, and knows that I am committed to the principles of size acceptance. It's very important to me. So, in my stories, I try to make an effort to include women who are definitively not thin. There's trouble with this, though.

How do you write about a person's size so that the reader knows that they really are supposed to be capital-F Fat? A lot of sexy fiction (and unsexy fiction, but that's not our trade here) written from a woman's point of view has some version of this in the first fifty pages:

"Sexerella knew that she could stand to lose a few pounds, but nobody had ever complained about her voluptuous womanly body, and she knew that her new super-tight velveteen dress was going to look like leopard-print dynamite over her dangerous curves at the fuckerware party later that night."


Some readers read that and go "Well, who couldn't stand to lose a few pounds?" Others read it and go "Sheeyeah. That chick isn't fat, she's just got some meat on her bones. She's sexy and curvy."* They think that because those thoughts are familiar to them; because, as a result of nasty social conditioning, women in real life tend to have an internal monologue that goes "Holy shit, I have an ass the size of a Belgian draft horse's and nobody will ever want to fuck a woman with a horse-sized ass!"** at least a dozen times a day. That mindset doesn't seem odd.

The point being, readers don't parse that as meaning the character is actually fat. They parse it as being typical female self-deprecation, and go on to classify the character as being "sexy, not fat."

I talk a little bit about my experience writing Witches' Mark, where the heroine is decidedly a fat girl, and what it's like to write a character like that in a real-life culture that is kind of down on fat heroines, and in a genre that is notorious for marginalizing certain bodies. Any of y'all that run size/fat/body-acceptance blogs who wanted to link to it, that would be most welcome.

Also, consider joining or contributing. The free section of Sky Pirates of the Rio Grande is going to end pretty soon, so you'll want to get in on the action if you possibly can. Five bucks a month, three fiction updates a week, two articles a week, and we're only going to be adding more as time goes on.

We have around 30 subscribers right now, and our pageviews have been between 100 and 500 most days. We hit a high of 900+ at one point. These are pretty good numbers for a new site, but I would love to get them higher.

The site will continue to evolve as we work out kinks and build community. We would love for y'all to be part of that. All proceeds go toward the mortgage payment so we can keep our house, medical expenses so I can keep my health and my sanity, and this month I need a new pair of shoes.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (El Dorado: Little Voice)
TRIGGER WARNING: body image/eating disorder issues

I have started I don't know how many entries about body-image type stuff. This entry right here has been in my composition window for something like three days. Every time I start a post like this, I break it off because it feels like I have to give this long, involved history before I can talk about what is bothering me.

So maybe I should just give you the history so I can go on and talk about other stuff.

There is shit that I have never told you guys. I haven't talked about it because it's a long and painful story, and telling it always means dealing with other people's reactions to it, some of which are guaranteed to be inappropriate. This sort of thing is not something that people tend to be able to comment about in a civilized fashion. There's always someone who comes around and says "But it's fine to lose just a little weight. That's totally possible!" When, you know, way to miss the cunting point.

There is no way to talk about this honestly without making other people feel bad because they have done things or do things that hurt me. That's less of a concern that it used to be, frankly, because I am around pretty universally awesome people, but it's still a concern.

And as a result I don't talk about this shit, and it builds up.

Anyway. I just want to lay this out. Today you just get the quick version.

For several years, five or six, I was acutely ill. I was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I am pretty sure I had one. I covered it up, I hid it, I thought a lot of my dysfunctional behaviors were normal or healthy. I exercised a lot. I ate really healthy food. Isn't that what people are supposed to do? Especially fatties? And if doing those things is good, surely doing them really hard is better, right? Right?

Yeah, I can hear some of you not-laughing, because you know.

The gist of it is this:

For several years, I was eating 700-1000 calories a day, from a very limited menu of fresh vegetables and lean white meat.

For several years, I trained with weights every other day, intensively.

For several years, I was practicing dance for upwards of an hour every day, longer on days I did not do weight training.

For several years, I was walking every day for miles. Miles and miles. A bad day was not zero miles, a bad day was three miles. An "okay" day was ten. On one occasion, I walked twenty miles in circles around the local park. In addition to both of the above. That was a "really good" day. (I remember it really well. For about four hours I didn't hate myself.)

I did this six days a week.

For years.

Until I stopped being able to feel hungry because my body just got used to it as background noise.

But I didn't think I was ill.

If you are reading this and thinking that what I was doing sounds reasonable, you should probably just click away. It wasn't reasonable. It was killing me. I was going crazy from starvation. All because I wanted to be thinner. And yet, that's what our fat-hating culture would have me do, because better a dead fatty who was trying to be thin than a happy fatty who is content to remain that way. When fatties kill themselves, well, it's the least they could do, really. And if you think those views are impossibly hateful and that nobody really believes that, well, all I can do is envy your ignorance, because I would probably be happier not knowing that to a lot of people the sum total of everything I am and was and might become is unimportant enough to be completely negated by how much I weigh.

And I will never understand how it is that I came to drink that Kool-Aid. I will never understand it and on some level it will always remain unbelievable to me that I let it go on for so long. It felt like the actions of another person. It seems so out of character for me. I don't understand. I mean, there were factors in my family and childhood, yeah, I can see that now, but why didn't those come to a head when I was a teenager? Why did it wait until my late-mid twenties to start?

I managed to get down to 128 for one half of one day. Never could get below that. Never could get into the "normal" BMI category. Most of the time, because I was muscular in addition to being fleshy, I was about 140. I thought I was horribly fat. I told myself I would rather die than gain back the seventy pounds I had lost. Worse, I thought I truly deserved to die.

I had a breakdown sometime shortly after my mother died. This untenable way of life collapsed in on itself and I could no longer sustain the incredible effort it took keep it going, running as hard as I could, starving myself, exercising myself to exhaustion every day, not even to lose weight but to stay exactly where I was, with any relaxation causing an immediate uptick in my weight.

I became suicidal. A combination of starvation, a bipolar mixed state, and stress from where I was living and our monetary situation, both of which were awful. The drugs I was put on fucked me up, and I gained weight. The aftermath of starvation fucked me up worse. I gained everything back, every pound, with interest. Which is what happens when you do what I did, which was even worse than the Minnesota Starvation Experiment*, and went on for far longer.

It was reading about that experiment, actually, that jarred me out of the worst of it. Those men were living on 1,560 calories a day and were expected to walk 22 miles a week for 24 weeks -- 6 months. I was on 700-1,000 calories a day for something like three years, and at my peak I am guessing I walked half again to twice that amount.

It was, specifically, the guy who CUT OFF THREE OF HIS FINGERS and then COULD NOT REMEMBER WHETHER HE HAD DONE IT ON PURPOSE OR NOT that finally reached me. Here was a man, a young man who had passed rigorous physical and psychological health exams, and who volunteered to do this -- he knew it would end, and when -- and he couldn't make it six months in a controlled environment with a great deal of mutual support. And he didn't just wash out -- these were 36 committed, determined individuals, and only two of them, two, failed to complete the program -- he fucking CUT HIS FINGERS OFF. And was psychologically damaged enough by that point to be unsure if he had meant to do it. And again, I will emphasize: he knew when the starving would end.

When you are starving yourself to stay thin like I was, you don't know when it will end. At some point, if you are biologically like most people, you become aware that to stay where you are you will have to keep the effort up forever. That if you stop or relax even a little, you will start losing ground. At some point you realize it never will end. You stare at that fact and you can either 1) give up and let it go, gain it back, and render all of your effort meaningless and destroying the results, or you can 2) keep going and keep fucking yourself up worse, in which case you'll do #1 eventually anyway.

I put as many hours into it as some people put into jobs. It still didn't work permanently. I had been lied to my entire life. By family, friends, doctors, and every book and article I had ever read. Until I read the right book.

After reading about this, I lay down the book in which I had read about the experiment, and I went into a different room and sat there until I no longer felt like throwing up out of disgust and rage and sorrow and pain. And I stopped what I was doing to myself that day even though it hurt like ripping off my own skin. It had been building for a while, but that was the proverbial straw. The fingers.

So. That's the history. That's all the stuff that I feel like people need to know when I talk about this particular kind of pain. Some of that is stuff that I haven't said openly, all together like that.

Someday I will transcribe a bunch of entries from my handwritten journals and I will show you just how diseased my inner life had become. Someday I will scan in the scrawling sketches I did when I couldn't do anything else, the really horrifying ones. I will show you the ugliness that I didn't want to acknowledge.

That day is just not today.

Today I just want to go pretend to be someone else for a while.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Kate Harding has an article up at Broadsheet about the whole Kevin Smith vs Southwest Airlines / Flying While Fat thing. It's right here and I recommend you read it. It's a first-rate piece, and heartbreaking. If this can't humanize those horrible flying fat people for you, well, kindly go fuck yourself and get the fuck away from my corner of the internet.

Also, [ profile] neintales has a good post here.

The Rotund takes it on here, discussing how you don't have to be happy with your own body to believe that other people should be treated well. WORD.

All I have to say about it is that it is absolutely fucking absurd that this cultural hatred and revulsion for fat and for fat people has gone so far. And it is offensive as hell. I'm not going to play the "last acceptable prejudice" card, because that's a pile of horse shit if ever there was one, but I am going to say that the ubiquity of this shitty fucking attitude toward other human beings based solely on what their bodies look like and how much space they take up is really goddamn tiresome, and yet I hear it even from people I otherwise respect every single day.

This kind of shit has been going on for a good long time, and only now has SWA finally put its foot in it by booting off a celebrity. It's disgusting that people will only pay attention once it affects someone they know or someone famous, but hey, if this winds up being SWA's Maytag Moment, fine. If that's what it takes to end this shit, then that is what it takes.

When you go out in public, and that includes using public transportation like airplanes, you run the risk that you will be stuck near some guy in a camo jumpsuit who smells like a combination of three-day-old onion sweat and those cherry-flavored urinal cakes (true story), some horrible woman who is loudly discussing with her friend how rape can't be rape if you enjoy it (true story), a loudmouthed business asshole constantly yowling into his cell phone at such high volume it is impossible to hear oneself think (true story), a family of seven with two kids who won't sit down and are constantly fighting with one another and one infant who screams for an hour straight (true story), some evangelizing asshole who wants you to try his god/diet/money-making plan (true story), or someone who tries fucking grope you (true story), or some fuckheaded fuckblister who fucking WHISTLES (true story).

Very few places make a policy out of throwing those sorts of people out, and fat doesn't even hold a candle to that shit. Fat's just a physical thing. It's not something that we fat people do to piss other folks off, or something that we can stop doing just to be polite. It's not bad manners to be fat, or somehow tasteless or gauche to have a body that differs from the ideal.

Bad manners is treating someone poorly because of assumptions you make based on their appearance. It's not the duty of fat people to impinge as little as possible upon the senses of those who disapprove of us. We aren't required to spend as little time as possible out in public. We have no obligation to try to lose weight just to make other people more comfortable with us, or to prove that we're the virtuous and sympathy-deserving kind of fatty who is at least trying not to be fat. And we have no obligation to take this kind of shit from an industry that is not only inconsistent in its treatment of us, but has been working for years to make flying as awful as possible for everyone, even skinny people. That shit ain't our fault.

Incidentally, whining in the comments here about how you had to sit next to a horrible fatty on some twelve-year transplanetary flight and it caused you to cry because their grody, annoying lard was smooshed up against your perfect supple gracefulness, or playing devil's advocate because you think it would be clever or cute to repeat the same shit we have already heard a hundred times before like some sort of malfunctioning robot parrot, or going into how fat people can just eat less and exercise more and stop being fat at people, or in general starting with the "But don't you know fat is so bad and unealthy! Oh, god, won't you think of the children!" obesity epidemic ZOMGdeathfat! panicked bleating is only going to get you banned.

Also, if you're tempted to play the pearl-clutching disbeliever and say that surely this can't be routine, no, why would a business act in a way that's not in their own best interests? Go away until you've read up on it. This shit happens all. The. Time. And most of the time the airlines don't even try to fix it or make real amends to the people they have screwed.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Wolf Woman)
From an older interview with Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Estés added, "I think that it is all right if people want to control their weight, as long as they don't make themselves sick about it. But I also think that there is something to be said for not causing a woman to spend a huge amount of her entire life preparing food, shopping for food, fixing food, and eating food in order to maintain a weight that's less than her body would like to be.

"Robbing women's creative life from them - to set them after a foolish task - that happens in fairy tales and in mythology a lot. It shows the separation of the person form their own soul life. The person is set upon a foolish task, and finally in the midst of their life they wake up and say, 'Oh, my, this is a foolish task.'" Estés laughed.

"I can't even imagine that we were put on the face of this Earth in order to be thin. I think most of us are here on a mission different from a job or a career. I think we're here to do helping and healing and discovery and creation.

"I think the idea of body size is a diversion and a distraction from the real work. The process of being here is the most important, and we must honor that with respect and love."

Okay, one comment. Women Who Run With the Wolves is an incredible book. Dr. Estés is incredible.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Morningstar)
My second post, "Respecting Pain" is up on The Rotund.

Because, for various reasons, I think we all need to be reminded:

Pain is pain.

For very obvious reasons, we shouldn’t belittle someone else’s experience because they are in a place that we would envy, or because we have had worse, or because they had an experience that we simply wouldn’t regard as hurtful.

We also shouldn’t belittle our own pain because others have it way worse, or because other people shrug off what is catastrophic to us. . . .

Nothing compounds pain like being made to feel stupid or weak or guilty for feeling it, or, worse, feeling like you deserve it.

We can’t (in this area or any other) judge ourselves by the most saintly and long-suffering behavior of other people, nor should we use the yardstick of our own experiences as a way to find others wanting. We have to measure each person’s pain against their own experience.

Certainly, we should strive for some perspective, but as I was always fond of pointing out to my mother, the fact that I could have broken my fool neck running down those stairs does not mean my sprained ankle does not hurt. Nor does the fact that I brought it on myself mean I am not allowed to take a freaking Tylenol. We should learn from mistakes, yes, but we shouldn’t feel so hideously guilty about making them that we cling to the pain they cause us.

With pain, we must first acknowledge that we feel it; until we can see and admit that a thing is there, we can’t take measures to protect ourselves from it or get rid of it entirely. We also have to accept that it’s perfectly all right to feel hurt by things that hurt us. Being hurt by painful things is . . . well . . . painful!

The problem is, our society really hates pain, and expressions of pain. It often belittles and derides those who have hurt feelings — and hurt bodies — as weak and inferior. It likes for people to feel guilty and ashamed about these things. According to the messages many of us receive, we’re supposed to be perfect, and we had better be trying to measure up just as hard as we can, or we are entitled to no sympathy at all.

So a lot of us are conditioned to respond to ourselves when we are in pain by belittling ourselves. We tell ourselves that we don’t really hurt, or that we should not hurt; or worse, we feel guilty and ashamed, and hang on to our pain like a punishment we feel we deserve. The end result of that is that our pain just builds up and festers and poisons our lives.

Unlearning this conditioning is important if we are to accept ourselves and heal. It takes strength to admit to feeling pain and to work through it. It really does. It is easier to go along with what society tells us, it is easier to assume the identity and disrespect thrust upon us, instead of fighting to retain the identity and dignity we deserve, pain and all. If we are making our pain worse by holding on to it and feeling ashamed of what we are, we can never be at peace with ourselves, and until we are at peace, we will never be whole.

Likewise, if we say someone else’s pain is not “real pain,” or if we tell them that they deserve to be hurting, we are simply reinforcing that guilt, that sense of well-deserved suffering. You can’t help someone who is in pain by telling them they aren’t in pain, or that it’s all their fault. It’s one thing to ask someone to accept responsibility for their actions; it’s another to ask them to accept undeserved guilt and blame — especially guilt and blame over something that they cannot change.

Thanks to [ profile] reneekytokorpi, whose comment lo these many moons ago got me thinking about how pain is pain.

Full post here.
naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Belly)
I am overjoyed to announce that I have been asked to write for my favorite fat-acceptance blog, The Rotund.

Look! I've made my first entry already!

". . . That’s my goal: acceptance. And I don’t mean the kind of sour grapes 'acceptance' that always feels like a consolation prize for being a fuckup. I mean real acceptance. I don’t mean settling. I don’t mean saying 'Well, there’s nothing else I can do, so I might as well give up.' I mean living with what I am. Not in spite of, not even though. With. Whole and complete.

"I want to be able to look at myself and say with no bitterness: 'This is what I am, and that is okay. And if it changes, that’s okay, too.'

"And then I want to go on and live my life. Not fat. Not thin. Just me. . . .

". . . I want that for all of us. . . ."

The presence of myself notwithstanding, I urge you to check the blog out on its own merits. TR is brilliant and sweet, the people there are wonderful, and the discussions are so valuable. I know it's done me a world of good to read it. You don't have to be fat to read; I think it speaks to anyone, fat or thin, with body-image issues.

And don't worry about being new to the scene. In fact, you can read a useful Fat 101 primer from The Rotund herself, right here.

Other links you might find of interest:

But don't you realize fat is unhealthy? For all those annoying people who insist that thin folks don't die. And Shapely Prose is just a damn good blog, anyway.

The illustrated BMI project: revealing the BMI for the bullshit it is.

Junkfood Science, a source of solid scientific information, debunking myths about obesity and dieting one at a time.

Happy reading!


naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)

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