Monthly Archives: January 2013

No, I’m not Tongan, I’m just fat

So as I disclosed in my previous post, I watch a lot of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. I recently finished season 7 again and am now on season 9 again (I watched season 8 last week – my daughter and I re-watch seasons based on the contestants we like/don’t like, so we don’t watch in order). If you’ll recall, season 7 is when we were introduced to the contestants Felipe and Sione. These guys are Tongan cousins and were so concerned about the trend/tradition of obesity in their culture. In season 9 of TBL another set of Tongan cousins, Koli and Sam, shared these same concerns.

 

Ok OMLD, your point? Well here’s the thing, since I was an adolescent, I have been asked if I was Tongan or Samoan. I am *sure that part of the reason for the question has to do with my skin tone or hair or some ethnic marker. I think more than anything though, I was asked because I’m fat. I am not Tongan or Samoan, I’m just fat. I have wondered though, what it would be like to grow up in a household, or community, or even culture where I wasn’t ostracized for my size. Where I look like the women in my family. Where I am not the fat sibling. Where my plate at family functions is not policed. Of course, I know, “the grass is always greener.” I don’t presume that people in cultures where largeness is accepted have it easy, clearly Felipe, Sione, Sam, and Koli wouldn’t have appeared on TBL, but here’s the thing (and in telling you the thing, I will reveal certain identifying markers – “O brave new world…”), it sucks being different from your family. It sucks feeling like an alien in a place that you call home, where love and acceptance should abound.

 

Now to be clear, my mother (she is my natural mother) and I are the same nationality, American; we share some ethnic heritage, English, Irish, Scottish; but we are not the same race, she is white, I am black. The standard of beauty for her race is in many many ways not the standard of beauty for mine. Not to generalize, or over simplify, but certain physical attributes are more accepted in the black community. My mother didn’t grow up in the black community. She grew up with icons like Twiggy.

 

Growing up with a petite, super skinny mom was hard af (as the kids would tweet). I wanted to be like her, but by 12 was taller and much larger than she. She didn’t know how to have a fat daughter. So we fought. I want baggy clothes to hide my fat, she wanted me in the smallest size I could squeeze into (this has not changed). We fought about food, I had to carry the OG slim fast in a thermos to school, and at 14 she put my on Jenny Craig. We fought for control. Of my body. Including piercings and haircuts. Eventually I won. My prize was getting fatter.

 

Now as a *responsible adult I am actively trying to understand my triggers. My mom is el numero uno. I’m trying to understand why when my mom asks me “can you have X on your diet,” I want to eat cookie dough because I can *have whatever the hell I want. Or why when she wants to go to the gym together, do I talk my way out of it, and find myself napping half the day. I don’t have all these answers yet, but I now recognize these triggers and redirect my responses so that I am making positive choices instead of negative ones. AND of course I can’t trade my family in for a community of fat people, where I feel a sense of belonging. BUT I can create that community for myself with people who are not necessarily fat, but whose respect and acceptance create a safe space for me to be fat today and work toward being less fat tomorrow.

 

I had to say it out loud (type? it out loud?)

 

Thanks for reading.

My thoroughly dysfunctional relationship w/ The Biggest Loser

So I watch my fair share of reality TV. No Jersey Shore or Bad Girl’s Club, but reality game shows (Survivor, Amazing Race, etc) do reserve sacred space on my DVR. My favorite of these is NBC’s The Biggest Loser. I have watched EVERY season, some of them twice. In fact as I type this, I am re-watching the season 8 finale thanks to Hulu Plus.

I weep like a babe during most episodes, and am inspired by several of the contestant’s journeys. But for every inspirational moment I also take a blow to my self esteem. And the tears I shed watching have a direct correlation to the number of trips to the fridge I take during commercial breaks.

Now no one was more excited for the season 14 season premiere than me. Jillian Michaels back on the show. Dolvett and Bob still lookin fine as ever, and coming of season 13 which has been my favorite yet. This go ’round I even vowed to not eat ice cream while watching a single episode (so far so good on that front). However, for someone at home on her own “weight loss journey,” false hope sure can run high. Seeing players lose 10, 15, 28 pounds in a week can certainly be inspirational, but it can also be depressing as hell.

If you are a viewer anything like me, you sit at home thinking “man I could lose all my weight in just X weeks if I lost like that.” But instead I am on a program that promotes an average of 1/2-2 pounds per week. So it’s more I like I can lose all my weight in 2 years. Ugh.

Now this post isn’t to suggest I have a defeatist attitude, because I will for damn sure plug on with my 1/2-2 pounds a week and be very thankful. Nor am I condemning TBL for kickstarting the lives of its overweight contestants, but what PISSES me off is the contestants in their confessionals in which they bitch about a 4 pound loss. I might sell services on the black market for a 4 pound week. It’s a game, a competitive one, I get it. But let’s send the right messages to the at home fatties like me.

Now here is my even bigger beef. Last week they trapped contestants in a room full of craptastic food and sweets for 4 hours a day for a week straight. What kind of cruel and unusual BS is that. I get that it was to demonstrate to America how our sedentary lifestyle is making our kids fat. But really who is holding kids hostage with a box of twinkies in front of the xbox? It’s about CHOICES, which these contestants were not given. Now every season there are “temptation” challenges, but the contestants have a choice to participate, usually with a inciting incentive or reward like immunity or a weight advantage at the end of the week. Last week’s stunt was a punishment for poor performance in a challenge. Now every parenting handbook under the sun will tell you that food should not be used as punishment or reward. Wanna talk about childhood obesity? Let’s talk about that.

It’s a game, a competitive one, I get it. But damn it I really didn’t like that move last week.

But of course I will tune in again tonight, to see what miraculous fuckery ensues. I will leave you with a pic of #TeamPink from last season. Kim was a beast, and I loved it.

Image

             Kim Nielsen (left) and Emily Joy

What is with the word normal?

I keep hearing the word normal in contexts that leave me increasingly agitated. So, I looked it up and here is what dictionary.com has listed:

nor·mal

[nawr-muh l]

adjective

1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

2. serving to establish a standard.

 

My whole life, I’ve had it in my head that there was some ideal body, a standard of beauty, some example to serve as a beacon of normalness. This notion of *normal* is why I fostered years of shame. And as it turns out, there ain’t no such thing. I mean yes, we are bombarded with images in magazines, in movies, on TV of gorgeous folk with awesomely sculpted bodies. But this isn’t “normal.” Those people are either photoshopped or spend hours of their lives in the gym with trainers working their asses off. They aren’t bad guys for doing this, but the rest of us aren’t bad guys either cause we don’t.

For survival, the idea is that we all keep our hearts pumping at a steady rate with unobstructed blood flow to the various parts of our bodies. Apparently x # of minutes a week makes this possible along with a “healthy” diet. Hours on end in the gym is a career choice, one somehow married to a public life in Hollywood. But “normal” is something else altogether.

If what I hear regularly on the news is true, that there is an obesity epidemic, well then I’m actually closer to normal than my thinner friends. My body is what is common, and in cultures and times gone by, ideal. Good for breeding, a sign of wealth, and a whole host of other things that until film became a thing, were desirable. But even still, I say screw normal, mine, yours or anybody else’s. I don’t want to be normal. It dawned on me only recently that I have never sought to be normal in any area of my life. I have always wanted to be unique, extraordinary, special. So do I still. I want to be healthy sure, and feel good about myself. But I don’t need to look like a top model or Hollywood actor. I want to embrace my imperfections and know that we are all perfectly imperfect.

So who cares about being normal? I certainly do not. It’s an arbitrary idea, unachievable, divisive.

Answering the call…a hero’s journey

I took a little time thinking about what I wanted my first post of the new year to be. Did I want to rattle off resolutions that by March will only serve to make me think of myself as a failure? Or did I want to be the anti-resolutionist, and avoid being specific in my goal setting so I can let myself off the hook for bad behavior?

Truth is, I am resolved. Resolved to change my life, for the better, one day at a time. To achieve this, I DO have specific goals. The first goal is to love myself more. My next goal is to share my courage and laughter. I have an abundance of each. After that, I want to radiate positivity and surround myself with positive people. I want to grow toward the light. Be the light. Be in the light. I want to LOVE.

Do I want to lose weight. HELL to the YES! But I have lost weight only to find more as I back-stepped out of change and into the me I knew and recognized and loathed. This will only work if I embrace the new me. The new me can go out to a restaurant and be social and make new friends and not eat if she’s not hungry. I did that today. The self I am becoming, she can eat chicken wings and pizza in moderation, and not stuff her face as if she’ll never she food again in this lifetime. I did that today. I don’t know her, this person I am becoming, but she seems like a pretty cool chick: smart, and funny, and talented, and compassionate. I don’t know her, but I choose to love her anyway.

So in the new year I plan to make new choices, try new things, be braver, and count it all a blessing. The measure of success is simply a blog post here in about 365 days. In short, my resolution is to show up, and meet myself on the journey.

This is me answering the call.

Thank you for reading.