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Actually, No, It’s Not a Behavior

I’m assuming that most of you who don’t reside under rocks have heard about Jennifer Livingstone and her awesome response to the concern troll who chastised her for being a bad example by being fat at people on their television screens.

In case you have been vacationing in Bedrock and don’t know about it, her response was to go on air and call the bully out for what he is: a bully.

All the wrapping it up in diaphanous garments of concern for little children who might be exposed to the horrific sight of a woman who isn’t thin leading a valuable life and succeeding in a demanding profession can’t hide the ugly message of ‘get off my screen, you’re wilting my manbits.’

Plenty of fabulous bloggers have discussed this episode in some detail. Check out this great entry by Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist. She does a lovely job of breaking down how it’s bullying and why that should be called out.

But one thing in the entire conversation has really struck me: the conflation of body type and behavior.

I’m not just talking about the random assumptions of how people who are fat behave as opposed to how thin people behave. I’m talking about the fact that the original email to Livingstone and quite a few of the ‘but it’s not bullying’ comments on Michelle’s blog all claim that fat is – in and of itself – a behavior.

Here’s a quote from that original email:

Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain.

I don’t know about all of you, but I did not choose the size of my body, nor is it a habit I maintain.

I have a lot of habits. I make a lot of choices as to my behavior every day. I can choose the behavior of taking walks, eating foods I enjoy, playing The Sims, washing dishes in a timely fashion or leaving them to marinate a while, how much attention to pay to Jake the Cat’s constant need to be cuddled, what books to read, and whether or not to sing along with a song I enjoy.

These are behaviors and habits. Some of them may or may not affect the size of my waistline on at least a temporary basis.

But my waistline is not a behavior any more than my height is a behavior. That can also be altered temporarily if I choose, should I take up the behavior of wearing heels, but it is not in and of itself a behavior.

My eyesight is not a behavior, though some of my habits can affect it on a temporary or a permanent basis, such as if I spend many hours on the computer. Still, my eyesight is not a behavior.

My hair is not a behavior, though my behavior can affect it dramatically. I can choose how often to wash it, what products to use on it, how to style it, whether or not to change its color with dye… but all of that does not change the fact that my hair is not a behavior.

My height, my weight, my eyesight, my hair, and dozens of other things are simply physical characteristics and nobody who does not know me can hazard a useful guess at how the are the way they are. Any of dozens of behaviors or choices may or may not affect them.

My waistline may or may not be affected by the choices I make in regards to food and exercise… but I know people who try out every diet known to man and beast without their weight changing one iota in either direction. I’ve heard the story of many a person with an eating disorder diagnosed as EDNOS (eating disorder, not otherwise specified) who had every single symptom of anorexia nervosa except the weight loss.

There are those who struggle with clinical depression and find taking anti-depressants helps a lot. But you know what? Many of those drugs have the side effect of weight gain. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s probably better to take the drugs, gain the weight, and be able to function than to be thinner and trying to cope with suicidal ideation.

Genetics play a huge and uncontrollable part in body size. I’ve got five generations of family photos on my wall that illustrate the inherent unlikelihood of my being thin.

I am fat.

It’s. Not. A. Behavior.

But you know what is a behavior?

That’s right, making the choice to treat people as less than worthy of existence because of a physical characteristic.

I didn’t choose my height, my weight, my eye color, or my skin tone any more than you did. But every single day I can make the choice to treat others with dignity and respect.

And that really is a behavior.

 

Isn’t Not Being Sick Enough?

Ahh, gluten, the latest bad boy of the dinner plate according to popular theory. There’s been a huge spike in the media sexiness of passing on wheat products. You can’t go anywhere without hearing the hype and seeing the products. You can’t go anywhere without someone having a hand-wringing session over it.

I’ve been around the block enough times at this point to know when a food issue is being blown out of proportion by now.

And no, it’s not that I think there’s no such thing as gluten sensitivity. If there’s a food out there, someone is allergic to it on some level. It’s more a case of stick around long enough, and some other food that a relatively small number of people have difficulty processing successfully will suddenly become the reason that ‘everyone’ is sick and become a media scare. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make anyone at all sick. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware. We just shouldn’t panic so about it.

In fact, a friend of mine was recently put on a gluten free diet by her doctor because she showed specific symptoms that can indicate gluten sensitivity. This is what we call evidence based medical treatment, and I’m wholly in favor of that.

So a couple weeks into the new regimen, the scaly hand condition that nothing could solve… yeah, it’s going away after some five or six years. She’s got more energy and less digestive issues. In short, my friend really, truly is gluten sensitive and needed to do this for her health. It’s working.

The funny thing is, that doesn’t seem to be enough for some people. Just last night, my friend and I were out grooving to a local band (as it happens, the one Mr. Twistie and my friend’s brother are in) and a couple of her friends (as in: she knows them a lot better than I do, not as in they’re people I dislike) showed up to support the band and have a nosh at the cool neighborhood cafe the band was playing. My friend told her friends about going gluten free and how much better she was feeling.

All three more or less dismissed the ‘feeling better’ bit with a desultory ‘that’s nice’ kind of comment. Then they eagerly asked if it had any other benefits. As in: how much weight have you lost?

Seriously?

The end of a series of symptoms ranging from aesthetically annoying to seriously uncomfortable are going away in a matter of a couple weeks after years of suffering, and that’s not enough for you? It isn’t a good thing until she fits into smaller clothes?

And how sad is it that I didn’t know my friend was on a doctor-prescribed regimen for a specific problem until last night? Frankly, when I saw she had a book on living gluten free and was suddenly asking in restaurants what did and didn’t have wheat or barley in it, I was afraid to ask whether this was because of doctor’s orders or because she had decided this was going to finally be The Answer to her lifelong ‘weight problem’… just like low carb, low fat, sugar free, and dozens of other food trends have been The Answer as long as I’ve known her. For the record, not one has worked for her no matter how carefully she followed instructions.

This, my friends, is a perfect illustration of how screwed up our attitudes about food, and about health are at present. I assumed a medical intervention for a specific problem was probably another trendy diet, and all her other friends discount the specific good it is doing her because it’s not having the perceived good they expected.

We desperately need to get beyond weight as shorthand for health or illness. It’s bad for everyone.

Can We Just Enjoy the Party, Please?

Yesterday was the annual block party on my street.

It was a great time, overall. There were games and a bouncy house for the kids, Mr. Twistie’s band played for the adults, though several toddlers were quite fascinated, too. Everyone came out of their houses and chatted with neighbors they hadn’t gotten to know well, yet. Mr. Twistie and I met the newest family on the block, who were quite charming people with an adorable small daughter and great taste in music. What? They loved Mr. Twistie’s band!

I spent the entire week prepping for this shindig in the kitchen. If you’ve read more than one of my missives here on this blog, then you know how I love to cook and especially bake. I pulled out all the stops. For this year’s party I made: apricot scones, a sweet ricotta galette, a white chocolate layer cake filled with homemade lemon curd and frosted with lemon buttercream, and a malted milk ball tart. I hasten to add that last one isn’t made from malted milk balls. It just tastes like one. Yes, I love to make desserts. Also, I make amazing desserts.

There were oohs and ahs as I brought out goodie after goodie. And yes, I oohed and ahed over many of the fabulous savory dishes on the table. BTW, if the creator of that incredible cucumber avocado salad with the ginger vinaigrette is reading this, I will not rest until I have the recipe. I could eat that endlessly.

So what’s the problem? Well, as I brought out my desserts, amid the gasps of wonder and delight, it seems I brought an unintentional passenger along to the table: body shame.

Yep, faced with lots of delicious sweet options, many people just could not deal with the situation without informing me that they couldn’t have any of them because they might ZOMG! get fat. Or fail to lose weight. One bite of cake might turn them into the Goodyear Blimp. And every single one of them chose to tell me how fattening my desserts were.

It’s not like I cared if someone chose not to eat one of my desserts. There were a lot of options on the table, both sweet and savory. All I wanted was to provide something delicious for people who enjoy delicious food. I don’t know who’s on a diet or who has a gluten sensitivity, or even who just isn’t big on sweet things. Eat it, don’t eat it, we’re cool. It’s not like I could have tasted everything out there, either. It was a truly table-straining repast. I tried a little of a lot of things, but I was full before I could eat some of everything, and there were things I passed on because they didn’t appeal to me.

But as my desserts were disappearing at record rate, I heard plenty of clucking about how eating desserts is a bad thing. I actually had a woman tell me that the reason her son is thin is because he stops eating when he’s full. I leveled a stare at her and said: “So do I. I just come from a long line of fat people. That’s why I’m fat.”

In the end, I brought about two slices of cake back… and three dishes that bore only crumbs and a trace or two of whipped cream. Since I hadn’t gotten a slice of cake at the party, I had one as a midnight snack. I’ll probably finish off the other slice for dessert tonight. Chances are high that I won’t be making another layer cake for weeks, maybe even a couple months.

And next year I will spend another week in the kitchen baking my heart out because I enjoy doing it and because there are people who have no problem enjoying what I bring out.

But to those who had to tell me how fat they are (and they were – to a woman and to a man – a hell of a lot thinner than I am), please don’t lay your guilt on me. Eat the cake, don’t eat the cake, it’s up to you. You’re all grown up and get to make these decisions for yourselves. But if you make the decision not to eat my desserts, don’t tell me it’s all about how it will make you fat.

I’ll be too busy enjoying all the food – savory and sweet – to give a damn about your waistline.

When In Doubt, Blame Mom

Okay, I know Joan Crawford isn’t up for Mother of the Century, and I’m down with that.

Still.

Last week Liz asked me to share my thoughts about the recent study that claimed to link autism to maternal obesity, and I don’t even have to go very far in depth with the study to have an opinion. There are a lot of people out there who have taken the study apart, pointed out that what was found was a weak correlative link rather than any sort of causal mechanics, and questioned every possible aspect of the study.

I’m not going to deal with the specifics of this particular study. Do a Google search, find an article or three.

What I’m going to discuss here today is not one single study that may or may not hold a clue to one potential health question… or may be a steaming pile of cassowary refuse.

What I want to talk about today is the assumption that when something is ‘wrong’ with a child, it’s the mother’s fault.
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Excuse Me, But I Didn’t Order a Side of Body Shame With That

When Mr. Twistie and I eat out, we have a few tried and true places we tend to go to. These are places that have good food at reasonable prices, and where we feel taken care of. In fact, the place where we breakfast every saturday morning is just two blocks from our home and everyone there knows our names, as well as what we’re going to drink with our meals (latte for me, iced tea for him). For the past two years I’ve even baked the proprietor’s birthday cake. She adores lemon pound cake.

So when we’re eating out, we usually are in very safe waters where we know what to expect.

For one reason and another, though, we’ve found ourselves going out to some less familiar places of late. Some have been fabulous. There was the little Brazilian place where the owner greeted us like family and the seafood risotto was a dream. Some have been… less fabulous, but at least not a horrible experience. And let’s face it, not every restaurant can blow me away with the food they produce.

Then there’s the phenomenon I’ve run across several times in the past few months that really gets under my skin.

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Let My People (or at least me) See

(Illustration of Dark Restaurant via Stuffkit. Do check out the accompanying article on the worlds’ most unusual restaurants … but probably not while you’re eating.)

Mood lighting in restaurants. Can we talk about this?

There’s a fabulous German restaurant in my sleepy little town. The food is to die for, the staff efficient and pleasant, and they often have excellent live entertainment. It’s not the most budget-friendly place on Earth, but Mr. Twistie and I have been known to scrape up the necessary coin to eat at similarly-priced venues at least a few times a year. And yet we go to this one maybe once every two to three years, and then only when someone else suggests it or someone we know is playing there. Why?
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‘Back’ In the Saddle Again

It’s been a long week at Casa Twistie.

Last saturday evening, I was doing laundry, which I am compelled to do since I entirely fail to have any muscle-y hunky guys around to do menial tasks of that nature for me, sigh. And I would feed them so very well.

Anyway, the washer is a huge top-loader. I washed some socks. One of said socks decided to hide from me in the rear at the bottom of the load. And as I stretched my vertically-challenged self to reach it, I felt as though someone had undone a string in my back. This was followed a minute or two later by a searing pain.

Guess who managed to pull a muscle badly in a bizarre laundry incident!

It’s been a long week, as I said. I can’t bend far. I can’t lift stuff. I never realized how low one of the sinks in my house was until I could no longer reach it to wash my hands. I never stop to think about all the stairs up to the second floor where the bedroom is, but I’ve been painfully aware of every single one this week.

And then there’s the cat. He’s fast, and he darts. And he loves to be picked up. I think he thinks I don’t love him anymore. He’s certainly been bringing me more than the average number of catnip mousies as offerings to a beloved and feared god-like-figure. I am the goddess of thumbs, keeper of the cat food, you know.

My back is recovering now, and I am beyond grateful.

And so I wish to pay homage to my back. It is a wonderfully useful item. It supports my whole upper body, allows me to turn and twist, bends to allow me to reach socks in the laundry and stretches so I can get at the pots I keep above the stove. It helps me hold my squirmy cat in my arms – even up the stairs (What? He loves getting rides, and I love spoiling my kitty as he deserves).

Sometimes you just have to appreciate your body parts. They do so much and ask so little in return.

Thanks, back. I love you.

Now please stop hurting.

Ow.

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