Big Fat Facts Big Fat Index

Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body

I just received a copy of Lesley Kinzel's new book, Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body, and I must say, it's a very good reading experience. My uncorrected proof copy was 167 pages and I finished it over the course of 2 days (would have finished it in one sitting but we had one of our granddaughters over for the weekend).
One of the things in the book that really resonated with me was the part about how fat women are expected to look when we go out in public:

On the one hand, sweatpants and shirts with grease stains are a statement no matter who is wearing them. Their message is, "I don't care about how I'm dressed right now." The "right now" is important because one cannot always assume that a person who runs to the corner store in sweatpants and a soiled shirt necessarily dresses that way all the time. If the person wearing the clothing is otherwise slender and attractive, we're usually willing to imagine the reasons why: maybe she's sick, or maybe she's in the middle of writing a term paper, or maybe she's doing laundry. She must have a reason. But when it happens to be a fat person who is sloppily dressed, the stereotype kicks in: the sweatpants and stained shirt represent not only a disregard for fashion at a given moment in time, but a systematic failure to adhere to the most common standards of appearance. A fat person is believed to have little respect for her appearance in the first place, simply by virtue of being fat, so she cares nothing for fashion, and of course she has no regard for the tender eyeballs of those other individuals upon whom she foists her sweatpanted, stained fattery in public. She is a visual - and even moral - disgrace.
Yet, she also may be sick, or writing, or doing laundry. And even if she's not, even if she is simply a person not much interested in fashion, she should have the right to step out into public, fat and sloppily dressed, and not be forced to face candid disgust from strangers. What is she doing wrong? How is she hurting anyone? She may offend our delicate sensibilities but ultimately there is no real damage done, except to our expectation that people who fail to meet cultural standards of attractiveness should not offend our sight in public, that we should be protected from having to look at them.

There are so many more passages that hit home with me, and I think will hit home with any woman who reads this book, and it won't matter what size she is. If you've ever hated your body because it wasn't the right size or shape, Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body is one of the books that should be on your to-read list.

UK Study: kids who are put into foster care tend to get heavier | A Framework for Talking About Food and Processing

vesta44's picture
vesta44
December 13th, 2011 | Link | Emerald - I totally agree.

Emerald - I totally agree. I'm one of those women who is not interested in fashion at all. I know what I like to wear and most of the time, it wouldn't be considered "fashionable" at all. I don't do accessories - necklaces irritate me and make me feel hot, I'm allergic to most metals so can't wear pierced earrings at all anymore, and I have big wrists so most watches and bracelets just don't fit (ever tried to find a long, flexible watch band?).
I'm also not one for make-up or coloring my hair (I earned every one of those silver hairs, thank you very much), and manicures and pedicures are just more than I want to spend (I'd rather spend the money on books). My wardrobe consists of denim/twill leggings, some knit leggings, knit pants, tee shirts, tunic tees, and a few dressier knit tops to go with my black twill boot cut leggings. I don't own any dresses or panty hose, and I refuse to wear any kind of shapewear. I wear tennis shoes in the winter time and sandals in the summer. The only jewelry I ever wear is my wedding ring and a watch (and I don't wear the watch at home). I may wear another ring on my right hand when we're going out; then again, I may not.
I figure if I'm neat (no strings hanging off my clothes, no holes or rips) and my clothes are clean, I'm good to go. If people don't like the colors/prints I'm wearing on my fat ass, that's their problem, not mine. They don't have to look at me if they don't like what they see, there are plenty of other people/things to look at besides me. I even scandalized my now-ex-daughter-in-law years ago, when I wore lime green leggings and a matching lime green tunic tee to the mall when we went shopping. She said the colors were too bright and people would see me coming a mile away. I said "Well, at least if they can see me coming, they'll not get in my way, now will they?" I think she was afraid people would make nasty comments about my outfit and my size, but if they did, I didn't hear them (I think people are afraid to confront me when I'm shopping because I hate to shop and it shows, I always have this pissed-off look on my face when I'm forced to shop in malls or other crowded places).

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
December 14th, 2011 | Link | Leslie hasn't been blogging

Leslie hasn't been blogging very actively lately, but here's her blog, Two Whole Cakes.

And yeah, it's true that fat women are judged harshly for not looking put together. So are non-white women. As someone who isn't white and/or isn't thin, it's almost like you have to paste on parts of your identity, because you and your body and your skin are not enough to garner respect from strangers. Constantly being treated disrespectfully by strangers can actually be pretty corrosive to one's self respect.

pocomommy December 14th, 2011 | Link | I, too, am more interested

I, too, am more interested in comfort and pleasing myself than trying to dress to a external standard. I spent too many years in the professional world where the expectations were definitely "one size fits all." I worked for one boss, a willowy tall blonde who looked fabulous in tailored skirt suits but expected that all of her staff would dress the same. Nobody else had the body shape to pull it off (to say nothing of her paycheck), and we all ended up being uncomfortable and dumpy-looking, regardless of our sizes. It was just stupid.

I do dress up for the stuff I want to: and I will always "dress" for a Stevie Nicks concert, for me that is a huge part of the experience. I'd like to tell you long story about the concert I went to back in March 2011.

The concert was held at a casino theatre. They opened the doors about an hour before the show was scheduled to begin. Eventually, the 10,000 seat arena was almost full, but at the early hour when I entered, there were very few people. I really wasn't interested in wandering around the casino, so I figured I'd go sit in my seat and bounce up and down waiting for the show to start.

I've been to several of these casino arena/theaters now. They are very nice, but very steeply built up, more so than most sports arenas even. Getting to the upper rows is an endurance contest. My seat was in the second to the last row--a fine-enough view of the show, for the price, but high. As I waited in my seat, there were pockets of folks sitting in the sections around me: groups of two or three or four, mostly women, mostly in their 40s and 50s, some a little older, some a little younger. I know, at these casino shows, some of the audience is there because they are "comped" by the casino, and then there are the die-hard fans like me who came specifically for the show.

A young woman started the long climb up to our section. She looked to be in her early 20s. She was decked out in an elaborate Stevie-Nick-ish outfit: flowing skirt, gypsy blouse, shawls, headscarf, flowers in her hair, tons of glittery jewelry. In a sea of middle aged women in sensible shoes and comfy pants suits, she stood way out. She was also very large. I hesitate to describe her size but it was her size more than her outfit that was garnering attention. Suffice it to say that she was going to have a hard time sitting in the stadium seats. As she made her way up the steep stairs, I watched her struggle to keep her billowing skirt in line, to catch her breath, to move steadily up the stairs, and (as I found out later) to protect her arm where she had recently had surgery, so she could not grip the handrail well.

All around me, the GrownUpMeanGirls started making comments. Out loud. In their normal tones of voice. If I could hear them, she could hear them too. No one whispered. No one couched their language. This was grown up bullying and ridicule at its worst. Pockets of strangers, apparently spurred on by hearing others around them, started laughing and making even more comments. GypsyGirl continued her journey without even acknowledging them, chatting cheerfully with the usher who was showing her to her seat.

I don't understand it. She wasn't bothering anyone. She wasn't hurting anything. She just looked different than they did.

She was sitting one row behind me, one section over. I looked around at the Bitchy Bullies all around me, and knew I could not take them on. So I did what I could: I went over to her, and said loudly "You look fantastic! I think it's fabulous that you dressed up for the show, nobody much does that anymore! You and I are obviously into Stevie Nicks! Have a wonderful time!" She smiled and thanked me, and I flounced back to my seat.

A few minutes later, she came over to me and sat down next to me for a few minutes and we chatted. She was sweet and silly and very excited about the show, as I was. Then, before she left, still with that smile on her face, she said "Thank you for talking to me. I felt a little like an oddball, all dressed up, but I really wanted to do this. Thank you for being so nice."

At the end of the show, Stevie Nicks addressed the audience and said "Take care of each other." Everyone applauded enthusiastically, including (I suppose) the Bitchy Bullies. GypsyGirl and I caught one another's eye as we were exiting the stands and we flashed the peace sign to one another. It was a powerful reminder to me that "taking care of each other" means not just the people you know, the ones you came with, the ones you like or understand. It's not always grand gestures or hit songs. It just is.

worrier December 14th, 2011 | Link | Pocomommy, thank you for

Pocomommy, thank you for that story, and I applaud you for what you did. Under the circumstances I think it was the best thing you could possibly do. I think we should all try and challenge that sort of behaviour when we see it, as best as we can at the time, if we possibly can. It's continually astonishing that so many adults can still behave like they never left the school playground. Your response to their behaviour was very mature and probably more effective than challenging the overgrown school girls directly. And I bet the Stevie Nicks fan really appreciated the support. Three cheers for Pocomommy.

DeeLeigh's picture
DeeLeigh
December 14th, 2011 | Link | Three cheers! Seriously,

Three cheers! Seriously, nobody should ever be shamed for getting into the spirit of a show or a holiday or whatever. That's just weak.

richie79's picture
richie79
December 16th, 2011 | Link | Fantastic story and an

Fantastic story and an inspiration to those seeking the courage to challenge the sort of outspoken criticism of larger people for the mere crime of existing that seems to have passed into social acceptability. And I'm also glad she let you know just how much it meant to her. This sounds like an example of classic pack mentality - bullies ganging up on one who was clearly isolated, vulnerable due to her 'difference' and hence an easy target, in order to confirm their own 'normal' status and reassert the fragile membership of their own groups. As you say, that's the only explanation I can imagine for such cruelty based on nothing more than disapproval of someone's expression of their identity through appearance.

Whilst I generally lack the courage to intervene in incidents of overt fat hate (either because I'm outnumbered, fear retribution, which in the UK and on public transport can often mean physical confrontation, or convince myself that my assistance would be unwelcome, intrusive or draw further unwanted attention) I am nevertheless aware that if we ALL stood up for one another a bit more maybe we could convince some of the haters to if not maybe re-examine some of their prejudices, to maybe at least STFU and mind their own.

Again, I envy your courage - whilst much can be achieved by railing against fatphobia from behind a keyboard, it's something else entirely to take the risk of being the change you want to see out there in such a hostile world.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

Beanietude's picture
Beanietude
December 16th, 2011 | Link | Years ago I witnessed a

Years ago I witnessed a similar incident on a bus. A group of young women in their late teens sat in front of me, being loud and mildly obnoxious, but basically keeping conversation to themselves... at least until a fat woman, probably about the same age as the mean girls got on and took a seat opposite me. The conversation went from obnoxious to downright mean, using some very strong and expletive language, wondering why she didn't just kill herself since she was so fat and ugly, and guessing that nobody would miss her if she did. The object of their ire said nothing, just sat and stared out the window. I sat directly behind one of the mean girls with my headphones on, but I could still hear them. I leaned forward and said to the mean girl, quite loudly (headphones, see?) "Are you aware you have nits?" Her friends thought this was hilarious and turned their attention away from the fat woman, getting off the bus shortly there after. Never saw any of them again so I couldn't say if my intervention had any impact. In retrospect it may have been a bit mean, bullying a bully, but a part of me really doesn't care.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

© 2000-2017 Big Fat Blog and its authors, all rights reserved. Big Fat Blog, Big Fat Facts, and Big Fat Index are our trademarks.