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October 25, 2004

Comments

Jennifer

My work is similar to some other folks's here. We have potlucks once a month and probably about once or twice a month, someone has a cake and/or ice cream for a birthday in addion to that.

Every time cake is brought out, probably at least a third of the women around either don't eat it/plead a diet, or ask for a tiny bit. I, on the other hand, eat a normal sized piece, and *gasp!* will get ice cream and *doublegasp!* put toppings on it if toppings are available.

Every time, my boss comments that I eat SOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH FOOD. (She's an ex-gymnast, so I assume she has issues from that.) I like her, but geez, if I'm hungry or like cake, is it any of her business? I don't eat cake every day here, most of the time I'm having salad or soup or something for lunch. It's not going to turn me into a 250-pounder by tomorrow to eat a slice of birthday cake.

The messages we get sent about food by other people are just incredibly annoying and obnoxious, I think. What's funny is that other people (i.e. non-gymnasts) usually think I hardly eat anything. Sheesh.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

"And so this week, I'm giving them the following optional assignment: While out with friends or family or others whose opinion they value, I want my students to eat as much as they want of something they truly, deeply, crave."

Yes, Hugo. After all, America really needs a lot more fatties.

In the modern America, food is so cheap and so readily available that anyone who doesn't explicitly limit their eating eventually becomes fat, period. Saying no to temptation is a necessary skill.

Becoming fat is not a very loving act towards other people, especially towards the loved one that one wishes to satisfy sexually.

mythago

In the modern America, food is so cheap and so readily available that anyone who doesn't explicitly limit their eating eventually becomes fat, period.

This is so flatly false that I can't believe even *you* believe what you're saying.

Hugo

The last thing in the world I would ever want is a woman depriving herself to please me.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

The modern phenomenon of legions of poor and fat Americans continuously prove my claim.

If weight is determined not by how much one eats but by how people feels about themselves, why can't the modern third-world poor or the depression-era American poor feel bad (good?) enough about themselves to be fat?

But I also have another point about Hugo's class assignment. I remember once reading about a dance given for teenagers, sponsored by a tobacco company. To get in, you were greeted by a hostess who gave you a lit cigarette to smoke.

This was perhaps two decades ago, and it is more than likely that this wouldn't be legal today. I remember how utterly disgusted I felt when I read about that dance. But pray tell: how is this any different from giving someone an assignment of stuffing their faces?

Hugo

Illkka, I'm not asking folks to stuff their faces!

I'm asking them (and note it was an optional assignment) to eat as much as they want. In other words, I want them not to restrict but to indulge, not to condemn but to enjoy. Surely there is a difference between being "stuffed" and being "pleasantly full." (Though some folks have such unhealthy eating patterns, they might not know the difference.)

I want to see food reclaimed not as boring nutrition or sinful temptation, but as a profound sensual delight that, like all delights, should be enjoyed responsibly. But it should, first and foremost, be ENJOYED. And guilt is the opposite of joy.

La Lubu

"Becoming fat is not a very loving act towards other people, especially towards the loved one that one wishes to satisfy sexually."

I have stayed out of this conversation, because I'm a fit, trim person who has always been encouraged to eat (read: mangia!), and I work almost exclusively amongst men who don't mention calories or weight, and who are impressed that I can sock food away. Yeah, I recognize that if I were heavy, that my compadres would be less impressed with my appetite.

But, I gotta jump in now and say the above quote is an incredible load of stinking, steaming fatphobia. Part of the attitude that contributes to body apprehension and dysmorphia, and the attending unhealthy behaviors. Cut it out! You can't really believe that fat people are incapable of engaging in sex!! Fat people can and do have active, enjoyable sex lives. They can do without your judgement call. Sex isn't just for the skinny.

NancyP

Hugo, you are in California and I am in the Midwest. California, the world capital of cosmetic plastic surgery, vs Midwest, where patients often rejection breast-conserving cancer surgery in favor of mastectomy, "because it is easier". I really think the urban Midwest African-American women are on the whole a little more relaxed about weight than their "white" same-city counterparts, at least among the 25 years and up working cohort. Undergraduates could be different, for all I know.

mythago

The modern phenomenon of legions of poor and fat Americans continuously prove my claim.

Nope. The poor are fat because the worst food is cheap. It's not that the poor, mysteriously among all people, can't control their eating; it's that when you choose food based on how long it will make you feel full, you end up eating food that is salty, fatty and starchy. Oh, and let's not forget exercise.

If you truly believe eating a big meal is the equivalent of sucking on a cigarette, you have issues. Subscriptions, even.

Amanda

Ilkka, it would be fun to shove a bunch of food into my mouth until I couldn't close my mouth and crumbs were falling out in front of you just to see the look on your face.

Pigging out until you puke for a whole weekend won't make you fat, so what's the worry?

elenmír

Amen to that, Amanda. I've been on said assignment for most of the past week (I was having fun, so I extended it). It's marvelous.

...and no, you fat-phobic people, I haven't gained 10 lbs or suddenly lost all control of my eating habits. I'm slender, fit, and have a healthy attitude toward food (I enjoy but don't overindulge). For tiramisu's sake, give poor Hugo a break; the assignment was given in a good spirit.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

La Lubu: "Fat people can and do have active, enjoyable sex lives."

They can, but the vast majority of people prefer a thin partner, given a free choice. Even the fat people themselves prefer a thin partner, otherwise they would just pair up with each other.

Gaining weight therefore takes away sexual pleasure from the partner, and thus cannot be considered an act of love. (Except towards the weight gainer him/herself, in certain sense.)

Mythago: "The poor are fat because the worst food is cheap."

Exactly my point. Calories are so abundant and cheap in the modern USA, that even the poorest people can easily afford them. To avoid gaining weight, it is absolutely necessary to make healthy eating choices and limit your eating.

In the olden days and today in the Third World, one could eat everything that is available and still not gain weight, since there is so little available. But not any more, not in America.

La Lubu

"The vast majority prefer a thin partner, given a free choice.."

No, the vast majority of people prefer an average size partner, and that varies from culture to culture...what the "average" is. In white, U.S., media-driven culture, the only thing that passes for "thin" is an extreme, unhealthy skeletal look. I've heard from, (and am) one of countless thin women who've been told "how much better" we'd look, if we'd just lose another ten pounds....makes it easier to count our ribs behind all that pesky skin and muscle tissue, I guess. Seriously. When I was growing up, size 0 was in the preteen section. There's something wrong with a culture that expects adult women to wear size 0. There's something wrong with a culture where there is plastic surgery to remove toes to fit into slinky high heels. The whole parameters of what constitutes a "healthy body" have been changed, and if you want to talk about being healthy, you better be prepared to face the music.

The music? How about the dissonant sounds of girls and young women puking in the bathroom, paranoid of taking in any calories, because they have deemed their thin bodies as "fat"? The young women with amennorhea and early onset osteoporosis, because of their lack of healthy calories. Look at the websites devoted to anorexia and bulemia. Why? Look at the images of models that are seen everywhere. Models around six feet tall who only weigh 110-120 pounds.

Now, your claim that poor people are fat because they can easily afford food is really trying my patience. The only food that is accessible, either financially or because of transportation issues, is fatty, empty calories. Poor people eat that because they have no choice. There are entire sections of cities that have NO grocery stores, and little or NO public transportation. Time is also a factor. If public transportation is nonexistant or inadequate, one may not have the time between getting off of work, school, picking up the kids, etc. to get to the grocery store that is ten miles away. If you're young, healthy, and able-bodied, sure, you can walk ten miles....but it takes time. There is only twenty-four hours in a day. For the rural poor, it's even worse....the nearest grocery store can be twenty or more miles away. The price of gas and reliability of transportation (will my car break down? will my sister really come and give me a ride?) is a factor.

Meanwhile, the corner "convenience mart" or gas station, or fast-food joint is there, with cheap (yet overpriced) empty calories. Yes, I said overpriced. The cost of a bag of fries compared to the cost of a potato...yet the fries are available, and the potato may not be. And "convenience stores" crank up the prices sky high on fruits and vegetables (like 300% markup from what a gracery store would price the item). Yet fast food remains cheap. Self magazine did a good expose last year (unfortunately, not available online) on how healthy food, like lean meats, fruits and vegetables are priced out of reach or are unavailable to the poor. And how supermarkets in higher income areas have good produce available, yet the lower-rent chains (owned by the same parent companies) offer nasty, rotten fruit and vegetables at higher prices!!! This is the backdrop of food and poverty in the U.S. I know....this was my reality at one time. I did not end up fat mostly due to metabolism....I knew plenty of fat people (also) without cars who walked as much as I did.

Healthy eating "choices", my culu. Poor people don't have many choices. For you to come up here and insinuate that they do is beyond offensive.

mythago

Calories are so abundant and cheap in the modern USA, that even the poorest people can easily afford them.

Err, no. The point is that the cheap food is the stuff that's abundant in not only calories, but in fats, starches and sugar. Poor people don't have a lot of choice but to eat bad-for-you, fattening food, no matter how carefully they monitor their eating.

I notice you don't mention exercise, which is essential to good health. You can be as slender as a supermodel and it won't make you healthy, if you suck down cigarettes and loll on the couch all day. (Of course, it's a lot more work to exercise than to mock fat people for their alleged piggery.)

but the vast majority of people prefer a thin partner

There are enough people in the world, unlike the 'olden days,' that even if only 1% of the world finds you attractive you can get laid. Sorry, the "starve yourself or be celibate" argument is as silly as your others.

La Lubu

Oh, and Ilkka? Maybe you'd be interested to know that the biggest contributing factor to the methamphetamine epidemic amongst rural U.S. women (and poor urban ones) is this fear of fat.

Just some more food for though.

La Lubu

That's "thought"...oops, hit post accidentally!

Amanda

Drugs, bulemia and anorexia are just how a woman shows she loves her man, dontcha know?

La Lubu

Yeah, Amanda...and hates herself. I think think it stinks beyond belief that the two are expected to go hand in hand.

piny

Oh, please, Ilkka, don't withhold sex from us ugly fat American slobs! Please, please, won't you deign to touch the quivering, gelatinous folds of our grotesquely swollen bodies? Hideous though we are, we deserve human contact, too! And it's been so long--I haven't been touched by a man since I stopped fitting a size 4! I've had to pay for sex ever since--I order out for it, now, with my calzones and biryani.

(Sob)

I'm just so, so lonely and frustrated. Won't you please have sex with me? Please? Pretty please? Pretty please with a carob chip on top? I'll buy you dinner first. We can even go somewhere where they serve salad!

God, would you listen to yourself? No, wait, wait, scratch that--listen to US. Everybody out there with a belly and a butt, could you just raise your hands if you have sex? Okay, now raise your other hand if you'd be interested in having sex with someone who thinks of your body in terms of his comfort only.

Um, that whole majority thing? Is a reflection of rabid societal prejudice against fat people. There are all kinds of bodies that are supposedly unattractive to the mainstream: tall female bodies, butch female bodies, strong female bodies, feminine male bodies, short male bodies, transsexual bodies, androgynous bodies, aging bodies, bodies out of makeup....

And considering the extent to which all of those bodies are fetishized, their asexuality is nowhere near as real as people like you believe.

"People," if the media is to be believed, also prefer ultra-feminine female partners. Putting on a pair of comfy sweats, as opposed to high heels and lipstick, is considered an act of war against one's longsuffering husband. There are entire magazines dedicated to preventing women from doing something so hateful as dressing down after a long day at the office.

Oh, and women aren't supposed to have body hair, either. Refusing to shave your legs and pits is just as hateful as eating that second piece of sheet cake, since most men can't stand stubble anymore than they can stand flab. It's a perfectly reasonable disgust, though, right? Since body hair has been shown by unbiased study after unbiased study to be unhealthy. And since no one has body hair in the Third World.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

La Lubu: "Healthy eating "choices", my culu. Poor people don't have many choices."

I know that and in fact agree, having read all the anti-sprawl books and even being quite anti-sprawl and pro-public transit myself.

But you do admit that if the American poor had a better choice of foods, they would not be as fat as they are now, yes? And that they can afford to eat lots of empty calories, yes, unlike the poor in India?

Mythago: "Even if only 1% of the world finds you attractive you can get laid."

I'm curious: Do you use that same reasoning in the perfectly analogous situation where only 1% of the world's employers find somebody to be employable, and as a result of this, that person has to settle for the worst and the menial minimum-wage jobs? Do you tell that person that he is just as well off as someone who employers really want, offering him high salaries and other perks, exactly like you seem to tell the fat women that they are just as well off as thin women?

Besides, your claim needs some clarification to be true. If you belong to a 10% group of people that only 1% finds attractive, you might of course get lucky, but only one member in ten in that group of people can really hope to find a partner for monogamous relationship. The others will have to settle for what they can get, and as we see from observing e.g. the fat people, what they settle for is not something that many people would take as their first choice, given the assumption of free choice.

Piny: "There are all kinds of bodies that are supposedly unattractive to the mainstream: tall female bodies, butch female bodies, strong female bodies, feminine male bodies, short male bodies, transsexual bodies, androgynous bodies, aging bodies, bodies out of makeup...."

For some reason, men with options and freedom to choose (say, anyone whose job title ends with "star") rarely find such women attractive and form monogamous relationships with them. Men with fewer option (say, fat men or other low-status men) might of course have to settle for them once the horrible realization of their lack of options hits in.

piny

[Disclaimer: I am using terms like "masculine" and "feminine" as shorthand for the traits attributed to men and women. I don't believe that any qualities are inherently more male than female. Apologies for the shallow phrasing.]

Speaking as a formerly tall, butch, androgynous, strong female, who is now a tall, androgynous, feminine transsexual man, who is partnered with a tall, butch, androgynous, strong, fat woman, it's simply not true that "those" people don't get sexual attention from people with other options. I've never actually been sought out by a star (someday, Derek Jacobi!), but then, neither have you.

It is absolutely true that people with unorthodox bodies can be rejected as long-term partners, but that has nothing to do with their attractiveness. It has to do with social prejudices against certain bodies.

It is just fine, for example, to treat a transwoman as an object to be fetishized, used and then discarded. It's just fine to want a transwoman's body, as long as you don't talk about it in polite society. It is not okay to fall in love with a transwoman, or marry one, or raise children with one. Sexual desire for transwomen is naaasty. It belongs under wraps and in the back pages of adult magazines.

All of the other bodies I mentioned are treated in the same way. It is not okay for a "normal" straight man to fall in love with a butch woman. It isn't even okay for two butch women to fall in love with each other. It is not okay for a feminine man to take the place of the paterfamilias.

And it is not okay for a man to love and not be ashamed of a fat woman. Fat women can never be good wives, because they're so sloppy and selfish. Fat women can never be good mothers, because they're so lazy and incompetent. Fat women can never be sexy, because fat women's bodies are naaasty. If you become fat, you've shamed your spouse. If you have a fat spouse, you're supposed to feel angry and betrayed. Not content, let alone titillated.

And that's why your argument about "options and freedom to choose" is so ridiculous, especially when coupled with your reference to "stars". Celebrities live their lives on camera. Their choices are picked over by millions of people, and their livelihood depends on their popularity with those millions of people. Colin Farrell can't date a fat woman any more than he could date a transwoman: he'd be made a laughingstock. And shame on him for cowardice, and shame on us for punishing any sign of real personhood, but he isn't free. In terms of anti-fat prejudices, his partner options are even more fraught than ours. If you seriously believe that celebrities can do whatever the hell they want, tell me this: why are they so constrained with regards to their own bodies? It obviously isn't enough for them to simply be thin and healthy, or Angelina Jolie wouldn't look like a saluki in a black wig.

Plus, you could make the same argument about "men with options and freedom to choose" with regards to race. How many celebrities are in interracial relationships right now? Does that say something about the essential unattractiveness of nonwhite bodies? Does it mean that interracial relationships don't exist? Or does it say something about our own bigotry?

Fat people will tell you that it isn't all that difficult to find partners who are both loving and hot, once you get beyond the poisonous crap about how ugly and lonely we're supposed to be. We all pretend that we want salukis, but most of us happily end up with normal people with normal, curvy bodies.

mythago

rarely find such women attractive and form monogamous relationships with them

When do rock stars, movie stars, and what have you form monogamous relationships with anyone?

Do you use that same reasoning in the perfectly analogous situation where only 1% of the world's employers find somebody to be employable, and as a result of this, that person has to settle for the worst and the menial minimum-wage jobs?

No, I only use that reasoning to mock people who think their own issues about fat are safely projected onto the world at large. There's no point in taking someone seriously if they assume fat (whatever you mean by 'fat'--a size 10 dress?) is the physical equivalent of working at Wal-Mart.

You started your trollfest complaining that people simply do not control themselves, and that's the sole cause of fat, exercise not having been invented in your parallel universe. If you'd like a real discussion of poverty, culture, diet, and health, then get to it, instead of bitching about all the folks who have the gall to render themselves sexually uninteresting to you.

And that they can afford to eat lots of empty calories

Again: they CAN'T afford NOT to eat lots of empty calories. That's the kind of calories that are cheap. They also can't afford to exercise, or to have jobs that allow leisure to exercise and easily choose higher-quality food.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

There's something wrong with a culture that expects adult women to wear size 0.

I'm mystified by the discussion of clothing sizes that I read in articles, interviews, etc.; the women always describe themselves as aspiring to such improbably small sizes. I'm 5'5", and, I just weighed myself on my bathroom scale and came up with a weight of 115 pounds. According to this Blue Cross insurance site (http://www.ibx.com/htdocs/wellness/reimbursements/weight/we_health_bmi.html), that gives me a Body Mass Index of 19, at the low end of normal - so I'm healthy and low risk as I am, but shouldn't lose any more weight. And, when I shop for clothes, I fit in about a size 10. So, how can normal, adult women fit in itty bitty sizes like size 2, or talk about size 10 as being fat? And yet whenever I read articles about weight loss, size 10 is one of those big, fat sizes that you want to get out of. Am I just buying completely different brands, which label their sizes differently? Are dress sizes (which I don't buy) much smaller numbers than pants sizes?

Piny: "There are all kinds of bodies that are supposedly unattractive to the mainstream: tall female bodies, butch female bodies, strong female bodies, feminine male bodies, short male bodies, transsexual bodies, androgynous bodies, aging bodies, bodies out of makeup...."

For some reason, men with options and freedom to choose (say, anyone whose job title ends with "star") rarely find such women attractive and form monogamous relationships with them.

Well, all of us are going to have aging bodies, sooner or later. At over 40, I think I've already passed the age when women are supposed to be most attractive. So I guess that's a reason to be glad I'm not married to anyone whose job title ends in "star."

On the other hand, I do consciously limit what I eat, and I have lost about 25 pounds since doing so (I was nearly 140 pounds a few years ago), and I do, actually, do so out of love for my husband - but not for the same reason Ilkka's giving. It's not that I'd be an unloving and unsexy wife if I were heavier. Rather, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes, and I decided to keep him company on his diabetic diet, to make it easier for him to keep to it. For me, carefully watching my carbs and fats and making consciously healthy food choices means the difference between being at the top of a healthy weight range for a woman of my height and at the bottom of said healthy weight range - not a big deal. But for him, being able to stick to that diet makes a major difference in avoiding the many health problems associated with diabetes.

And I still do, sometimes, do just what Hugo assigns his students to do, and eat as much as I please of something I want. Last night it was fettucini alfredo, after several hours of hiking.

La Lubu

Piny for President!!

"Men with options and freedom to choose (say, anyone whose job title ends with "star") rarely find such women attractive..."

Yeah, and those men rarely find thin, attractive women attractive too. You know who they find attractive? Themselves.

Ilkka, in case you haven't left the house lately, thin is the new fat. In other words, women who for generations would have been deemed as healthy and attractive, and who would indeed be a portrait of physical health from a medical standpoint, are now deemed to be hideously fat. The Playboy centerfolds of my father's era would be called pigs in this one. Are you familiar with Grammy-award winner Alicia Keyes? The very thin Grammy-award winner Alicia Keyes? The first major record company interested in her work told her she was good, but she had to lose weight before she got signed. She was what? 100 pounds soaking wet? And she had to lose weight?!! She told them to go to hell. Two platinum albums later, I'll bet some A&R rep is eating crow.

But for the rest of us, the ones that aren't "stars"....what of us? Again, I urge you to really look at the increasing numbers of young women (and increasingly, young men, although their fatphobia is directed towards "sixpacks" and "cuts", and so they stand more of a chance at survival) who are turning towards anorexia, bulemia, and dangerous drugs to achieve a skeletal thinness.

Not that I expect you to, though....your response that baldly stated you get your cue from Hollowwood and Madison Avenue pretty much tells me where your mind is.

Ilkka Kokkarinen

"Not that I expect you to, though....your response that baldly stated you get your cue from Hollowwood and Madison Avenue pretty much tells me where your mind is."

I only used "stars" as an extreme example of men who have real options in what kind of women they want to be with. But I should have guessed that it is read that way.

I am simply saying that to get an idea of the real preferences, look at what someone rejects instead of what they settle for. To see what men really want, look at the men who get to freely choose among lots of options, and see if there is some kind of visible trend in their choices to be observed.

I, for one, notice the complete lack of "tall female bodies, butch female bodies, strong female bodies, feminine male bodies, short male bodies, transsexual bodies, androgynous bodies, aging bodies, bodies out of makeup...." there.

The situation is probably not much different if, instead of visible "stars", you move along in the curve and simply look at men who make more than $200,000 a year. I bet that there is an overwhelming consensus among these men on what they find attractive by their revealed preferences.

Just like there is an overwhelming consensus among women about the sexual undesirability of men who are 4'6". (I'm tossing this as a test bait, of course. Anybody want to sneer how I must be such a short and unpopular loser myself, instead of honestly admitting that women also have body-type and social status preferences, and being a man in the low end of those preferences is not going to be a picnic?)

"Colin Farrell can't date a fat woman any more than he could date a transwoman: he'd be made a laughingstock."

Based on what I've read about Colin in magazines, he often has voluntarily and willingly sex with women who are strippers and models. Now, I my parallel universe I know what strippers and models typically tend to look like, and I assume from this fact that he has a preference for such women. If he doesn't, he could always just stay home and prepare for his next movie.

"You started your trollfest complaining that people simply do not control themselves, and that's the sole cause of fat, exercise not having been invented in your parallel universe."

Eating too much due to lack of control is the sole cause of fatness, at least in an universe governed by laws of thermodynamics.

Fat people necessarily eat more than thin people just to maintain their weight, let alone to gain more. Saying this is no different from saying that an SUV owner consumes more gas compared to an owner of a small car.

Exercise helps, of course. But very few people, even disregarding the poor people, exercise enough in an average day to burn even a donut.

"There's no point in taking someone seriously if they assume fat (whatever you mean by 'fat'--a size 10 dress?) is the physical equivalent of working at Wal-Mart."

I was answering the totally absurd claim that one is going to do sexually fine even if only 1% of the world finds him/her desirable. In the vast majority of cases, no they are not, and in the end they are not better off by our closing our eyes and pretending otherwise. Being sexually acceptable to only 1% of the opposite sex has no better consequences than being employment-wise acceptable to only 1% of the employers.

By "fat" in the sense that it affects things that are important in life, I mean someone with a BMI of 35 or more so that it is mainly fat, not muscle.

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