Good Afternoon, I would like to thank Maureen Tzudiker of Feminists Address the Body for inviting us to speak today, my name is Leslie Curtis and I am the chairperson of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance or NAAFA. Founded in 1969, NAAFA is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for fat people. NAAFA works to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through public education, advocacy, and member support.
For me fat acceptance has two parts: The first being working to change societies thoughts about fat people and making the world a friendlier and more acceessable place for us. There are challenges that large people face everyday that are unfathomable to average size people. Imagine going into a restaurant, or classroom, or doctors office and not being sure if there will be seating that you will fit into. Imagine not being able to buckle the seatbelt in your car, which is not only illegal but could cost you your life. Imagine going to the doctor and have them refuse to touch you. All of these are issues which fat people face all the time.
I know a bright talented young woman who dropped out of high school because she was too big to fit into the desks and too embarrassed to ask for appropriate seating. I know of a woman much smaller than myself who went to the doctor because of some lumps on her back. The doctor refused to touch her until she lost 20 pounds. Now tell me what losing twenty pounds had to do with what turned out to be tumors on this womans back. This type of prejudicial medical treatment causes many fat people to not go to the doctor, and why many that do do not get the treatment they deserve.
For many women going to the doctor for their yearly exam is a scary anxiety-producing event. A fat woman has the added anxiety of facing waiting room chairs that may not fit her, a gown that does not cover her, an examining table that may not feel stable under her, and a doctor who almost definitely will harass her about her weight and/or the lifestyle the doctor assumes she has.
Recent studies have shown that many fat people do not eat anymore than average size people. Most fat people have been on many severely restrictive diets throughout their lives, which eventually leads to higher and higher weights. The human body is highly adaptable: when a person goes on a low calorie diet the body assumes it is a time of famine and lowers the metabolism in order to ensure survival. When the diet or famine is over the body tries to reserve the extra calories it is receiving in the form of fat in order to insure survival in future famines. For example say a person starts out at 200 pounds and goes on a low calorie diet and eventually loses 50 pounds. When that person starts eating normally again it is highly likely that not only will they gain the 50 pounds back but they will add another 10 or 20 pounds to their original weight. Up to 95% of diets fail within five years.
Making assumptions about a person based on their appearance is prejudice and it is wrong. Fat people are not lazy, slothful, greedy, sex-less, or dirty, these are stereotypes. Yes there are fat people who are all of these things but there are thin people who are too. Fat acceptance is about accepting people without judgment or prejudice no matter what their size.
The second part of fat acceptance is self-acceptance. It is loving yourself for the person you are and accepting your body no matter what its size. In today’s society where we are constantly being bombarded with images of perfect, airbrushed, super model bodies it is hard for anyone, fat or thin to accept their body. One way for fat people to work towards self-acceptance is to surround themselves with images of beautiful fat people. If fat people can start to see other fat bodies as beautiful they can work up to realizing that their own fat body is also beautiful. We will speak more on this later in the presentation.
One barrier to self-acceptance is fears about the medical implications of being fat. Joe Obrin will now address this issue.
The final portion of our talk deals with Fat acceptance.
What is Fat acceptance? When it comes down to it, it is really self acceptance. It is learning to love yourself where you are today, not where you wish you were or where your friends, family, or society in general says you should be. It is the ability to look in the mirror and tell the person you see that you're glad she is there. But how do you get to a place where you feel comfortable saying that and more importantly believing it?
There are many tools on the road to fat acceptance. They fall into 3 primary categories: self support, media resources, and the community around you. . The first and most important tool is self support. All the outside support in the world isn't going to bring self acceptance if you aren't willing to put in the effort to believe in yourself. But how do you start to believe in yourself? I'm sure a lot of you have a little negative voice somewhere deep inside that feeds your doubts and insecurities. I know that voice is has been very vocal in my own life. This is the voice that tells you don't look good, you'll never be able to accomplish your dreams, your too fat/thin/short/tall....too different to even hope of trying that new thing you always wanted to do. That little voice stops us from gaining so many new experiences in our lives. We need to fight it, and the bad news is that it has a head start. The good news is that it only has the power we give to it. We can drown out that little voice by replacing it with positive thoughts. An important tool in self acceptance is positive self affirmations. We need remind ourselves of our talents and our own intrinsi c worth on a daily basis. We need to challenge ourselves to try new things. We need to act like we believe in ourselves until that belief becomes a reality.
Once we come to terms with ourselves, we are ready to look out at the world around us, which brings us to our second type of tools, media resources. This is a diverse group. First, there are fat positive non-fiction books such as Marilynn Wann's FatSO!, or Bonnie Bernell's Bountiful Women, which serve as primers for happy living in a plus size world. Bountiful Women in particular is a great starting point for those who are still coming to terms with their size. Another media resource is fat fiction. By supporting fiction and art that portrays fat people in non-stereotypical ways, we can begin to surround ourselves with positive role models of size. When we see other fat people as heroes/heroines, or beautiful models (as in rubanesque (SP), artwork), we begin to give ourselves permission to see ourselves in the same light. A good resource for finding fat positive media is the internet. There are a myriad of websites dedicated to fat acceptance that are only a mouse click away, such as our own RMNAAFA home page , the National NAAFA home page, Joe Obrin's Fat Person's home page... the list goes on. These sites can provide a starting point to getting involved in the fat acceptance movement.
Once you're ready to jump in, it's time for the third type of tool, the community around you. Rocky Mountain NAAFA is a great community resource right here in Colorado. I've been involved in Rocky Mountain NAAFA for a little over a year now. The reasons I came to be a part of NAAFA will probably sound familiar to a lot of people. I was looking for people to socialize with who would accept me the way I am, a place to belong and not feel so different. The really great part of being in NAAFA is that I'm not the token "fat chick" in the group. By being around other fat people, my "fatness" ceases to be my defining characteristic and can be seen as what it really is, just another descriptive term about my self, no more important that my hazel eyes or my age. Once we see these descriptive terms as simple labels that have very little to do with our true identities, we can feel confident enough to embrace first ourselves and then the diversity of the world around us unashamed.
So through self support, utilizing media resources, and being part of a supportive community I can say: I am Margaret Mary Short, I have hazel eyes, I'm 32 years old, I'm a molecular biologist, I'm fat, and that's okay.
My name is JeanMarie Olivieri. I am 36 years old. I am a technical writer. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt. I am a friend. I am a good writer. I am a good dancer. I am fat.
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