In honor of the recent TV airing about the “health at every size” issue and fat acceptance, I bring you this timely excerpt from the Fat Girl’s Bible: The superfantastic Wake Up, I’m Fat! by the large and fabulous Camryn Manheim.
It is from the chapter about her time at the New York University Tisch School for the Arts, where the professors and administration of the Drama “hocked” her (as they say in Yiddish) about her weight and her admittedly bad attitude (“Camryn, you have a bad attitude!” “Did you say I have a fat attitude?” “No, I said you have a bad attitude!” “I heard you! I’m too fat for class!”). Now, pay careful attention, ladies, to this paragraph from page 64:
I was doing speed in the morning to get through the day and Valium at night to get to sleep. Speed in the morning to get through the day and Valium at night to get to sleep. Speed in the morning. Valium at night. Speed in the morning. Valium at night. Speed. Valium. Speed. Valium. Speed. Valium. (Pant, pant) Speed and Valium . . . it’s got a certain rhythm, but you can’t dance to it. Life was going by at a hundred miles a minute. I wasn’t eating a thing and I was exercising more than ever. I was playing tennis, racquetball, swimming. I was really improving my cardiovascular system and destroying it at the very same time. By the end of the summer, I had lost about thirty-five pounds, and when I returned to NYU I was celebrated by my peers. My teachers took a brand-new interest in me and I felt like a star. I was afraid if I stopped taking the speed I would gain all thirty-five pounds back, so I decided to keep taking it during my last year at NYU. I was a wreck but a trimmed-down wreck, and that kept NYU happy. By spring I was the thinnest I had ever been in my adult life, about eighty pounds less than I am now. I don’t think anyone ever noticed that I was on speed, but then, ya know, I could have been in denial.
Remember, boys and girls: You cannot tell just from looking at someone how healthy they are. If they used to be obese and are now thin(ner), the question should not be “how can we celebrate your new-found health and beauty?” but rather “did you lose the weight in a healthy way? Are you actually healthier now than you were before? If so, congratulations! If not, is worrying about your (subjective) beauty more important than worrying about your mental, emotional, and physical health? How can I support you in what you really need?”
Turns out that, in response to the negative publicity they received after Manheim wrote a one-woman show about how awful they’d been, NYU’s Tisch school completely revamped their attitude (fattitude?) toward overweight students. Want to know how Manheim found out? You must buy the book!