Category Archives: Fat-shaming – Anti-gros

Ring my bell? Please, do!

There is an old trend that seems to flourish lately and it says that one can only ring its own bell. Chris Thompson, a YouTuber, is one of the best-spoken advocates for gay rights I have ever listened to: clear, straight to the point, genuine, asking the right questions, righteous but not sanctimonious. Yet some gay people seem to have a problem with him defending their rights, going to gay prides, campaigning for equality: he’s not gay.

He basically doesn’t belong to the community as such so their argument is that he’s taking the speech time and the space of someone who is truly gay, who can speak first-hand about the realities of what it means to be gay and actually bring water to the mill instead of a half-glass of lukewarm water. Chris Thompson is straight so he should shut it and let the gays speak for themselves.

Firstly, he says it himself, his advocating and expressing himself doesn’t shush the others into darkness. He’s not taking anyone’s space. It’s 2016 and the age of virtual reality with infinite space to share, not 1850 with a couple of newspapers columns to fight for. If anyone has anything to say, say it. Open a YouTube channel, it’s free, a blog on WordPress or anything and just say what you want to say but don’t blame others for taking your space when you don’t even create it.

Secondly, we need him. We need straight people to also speak for us because they know exactly what to do to convince them: be themselves – tolerant and happy. Having straight people to defend us doesn’t make us any weaker, or more dependent on them. The truth is that we are a minority so we do, somehow, depend on them. As of today, we depend on the people from the majority to also speak for us because there is safety and results in numbers. To call for the community to be the only one to be allowed to speak and defend itself is not going to get us anywhere.

Minorities and everyone who suffer discrimination in any form cannot afford to curl up in an armoured and restricted community that will be the only voice out there. We need people who, because of their gender, sexuality, skin colour, religious beliefs belong unwillingly to what is considered as the dominant group because they will be the first ones to be taken seriously by the said group and they will be role-models their peers will follow.

The first reaction we have in the face of someone else getting what we have is a feeling of self-defence so it’s dangerous to force the precept that we should only fight for our own privilege. It creates division and infighting when so much can be done by their free electrons to unite us under a common goal and make others understand that the fight for equality doesn’t deprive them of anything.

All these men – like me – who everyday explain to other men that women’s rights are not a personal threat to every living male. All these straight people I met at the gay pride who show the world everyday that gay rights are not a personal attack of straight people’s freedom. All these white people who campaign against racism. All these people who campaign for animal rights because they have no voice. History moves forward and our societies improve because people see beyond their own privilege, why stop them?

Where would the women of France be without the man who used his position of power to weather the storms of his sexist peers as he managed to convince them that contraception had nothing to with men but everything to do with women’s freedom to have control over their own body?

In South Africa, it took a white man to stop the Apartheid. Why? Because white people had the power but it doesn’t make Nelson Mandela and his life work irrelevant. De Klerk was a selfless force for good who saw beyond his own privilege and that’s what Mandela needed, what every black person in South Africa needed. People like him is what we all need.

Don’t let anyone restrict you to your own parish. You needn’t be a woman to fight for women’s rights, you needn’t be gay to fight for gay rights, you needn’t be fat to fight against body-shaming, you needn’t be discriminated to fight against discrimination.

If you want to help ring the bells of someone who, you know, is being ignored or discriminated, do it. If, for whatever reasons, the society has put you in a position of power and you want to use it to help others, do it.

Use your position to do good, we need all the help we can get.

The Health Inquisition – Dogmas and heresies

As outlandish as it may sound, I have been working on these few pages for months. Translating feelings into thoughts is harder than I imagined. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the religion behind our current Health Inquisition because, although they appear as one to name, shame and aim for the destruction of the likes of me, they are also akin to all mainstream religions: made of countless little sects, each with its own mind-set regarding how we should all be absolved, find solace and eventually salvation in the form of body-shape uniformity.

Let’s look at the different sects within the Food Religion, shall we?

Normality – Needs to be converted!
Atkins diet – Next, please.
Low calorie diet – What’s a calorie? Can I grow them myself?
Low fat diet – Sounds good but the pasta is pretty bland.
Low salt diet – Fish pee in sea water!
Low carb diet – My brain can’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes at once.
Low fibre diet – Hello, bowel cancer.
South Beach diet – Getting ready for Spring Break.
Gluten-free diet – I feel like gasworks.
Vegetarian diet – Are cakes alright? There’s butter and eggs in there…
Vegan diet – Look at my Instagram! I look great naked!
Organic diet – Is “fair trade” the same?
Locavore diet – It’s all about tending to my neighbour’s wallet.
Palaeolithic diet – Because life was so good back then, tape worm especially.
Juices cleanse – Eating is for weaklings!
Just cleanse – Let the settlers invade you and kill everything. Very popular in the US and Australia.

What do preachers, or “food experts”, say?

Fat is bad for you – I knew that.
Sugar is bad for you – Don’t care!
Chocolate is bad for you – F*** you!
Bread is bad for you – What about toasts?
Milk is bad for you – Can I milk rice?
Water is bad for you – But…aren’t we made 75% of it?!
Alcohol is bad for you –  Yeah…My mum said the same about my boyfriend.
Fruits are bad for you – My doctor said that about apples.
Meat is bad for you – Even?…you know…
Fish is bad for you – Sharks don’t even eat them.
Vegetables are bad for you – What’s in guacamole?
Cooked food is bad for you – Too expensive to heat up nowadays anyway.
Raw food is bad for you – No mini sushis?! How not 2015!
Vitamins supplements are bad for you – Vegans are gonna die?
Proteins are bad for you – So I can’t swallow?
Products without the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what Glamour says.
Products with the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what the Guardian says.
Products without the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what my local farmer says.
Products with the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what his neighbour says.

What are the pillars of these sects? – Super Foods, with a big F…for fudge!

Superfruits – Scomiche! 😀
Supervegetables – Mister Peanuts for the win.
Superfat – Rude!
Supernuts – Starring Rocco Siffredi.
Supervitamins – Always buy one get one free.
Supermen – If only!…

Seriously, does anyone actually know what they are talking about?

Because frankly, it seems to me that we are living a world, the Western World, where we have completely lost touch with the reality of what food and eating is. Is it our living in endlessly-sprawling urban spaces where the only wild nature visible is in cages and the rest is constantly unrooted to make place for the neatly trimmed and the visually pleasant? Have we grown so far away from a field that we don’t even know what’s what and are left to the mercy of some experts with credentials they created for themselves as a mean to find health salvation?

When I hear urban people talking about food, it does seem like it. American Youtubers are the best, I have to say. They will believe absolutely anything and preach it the next day.

Every month, newspapers are filled with statements and counter-statements based on some research, all about the same things. Every month, there is a new food dogma we should all embrace for it will save our lives, or at the least add a couple of decades to our life-expectancy in our quest to immortality. We are buzzing: a new diet, a new way of life, always “better”, always “healthier” than the previous one, always calling the anathema on the heresy we had been happily following for the past 30 days. Until the next month, when yet another research shows we had all been fooled and heretics: this time, THIS is the real food dogma.

How have we become like this? How have we become so lost that even reasonable people are ready to believe that milk and bread are the sources of all our diet problems when that’s what humanity has been surviving on for the best part of dozens of millennia?

There is, first and foremost, the lack of education and our desperate need to fit in our society’s very tight jeans, bikinis and zero-size clothes. Desperation in the face of the everyday bullying and finger-pointing we enjoy so much will bring people to do anything: from genuinely believing that we can milk almonds to popping dieting pills that will burn your body to death. We have not become but remain completely gullible in the face of someone or something that promises the never-ending of social acceptance and who wants to be an ostracised heretic? So we go to the gym like our ancestors went to church and read dieting books like they read the Bible in latin. We don’t understand a word of it but it’s the only key to happiness. Apparently…

But then again, who to believe? All these scientists, doctors and researches, isn’t it their job to advise you, to guide us? Why should have we believed anyone critical of his findings when the name Atkins came with the title “Doctor”? It did not matter he was fat and obviously a clear case of “Do what I say but don’t do what I do’, all because stars were raving about the weight loss. And we all know that’s the key to making Earth an present paradise. The true believers don’t go to church anymore, they can fit in Victoria Beckham’s clothes.

We know now, Atkins was just another con artist who surfed on the wave of low self-esteem and desperation millions of us suffer from. You’d think we’d listen to those who have been telling us to stop with this fanatic nonsense and just be sensible. No, we just moved on to another diet coming from the findings of yet another research, another doctor, another scientist who, if you look closely, mostly turn out to be have been sponsored generously and selflessly, of course, by the food industry.

That’s my issue with these research papers. We do have genuinely independent research published by various institutions and they pretty much say all the same thing: Mutatis mutandis. Everything is poison, nothing is poison, the dose is poison. You can eat everything as long as you remain sensible about it. Get your 3 liters of water, whichever, your 5 to 7 fruits and veg every day, whichever, 20 to 30 minutes of exercises, even walking the dog in the park, avoid processed meals, and prepare your own food. Even burgers, as long as you don’t go to McDonalds to buy them, don’t eat them everyday and prepare them yourself, you’ll be fine.

Why isn’t it enough then? Why don’t we do just that and go on with our easily accessible and sound healthy living? Because this is not religion, this is sensible advice and that’s how it is advertised. No sensationalism, no celebrity so where’s the dream, the impossible? The fast weight loss? The promise of a better sex life?

So we turn to “the research from an American university” published with a parade in every newspapers and all languages. The issue is that most of these various research papers are not independent: they serve a purpose. A company or someone trying to cash in on our needs for a quick solution and the avoidance of having to take responsibility for our own problems. If it doesn’t work, we’ll hang them by the feet in the main square anyway.

Look carefully and you’ll find out that behind an American research on how bad fat is for you often lays the money of a soft-drinks and sweets company. And vice versa with a research on the terrible effect of sugar sponsored generously, and selflessly, by a butter-producing giant. It’s not just our naivety or wilful ignorance that’s the reason, it’s also that food is now a battlefield on the constant wars of neo-capitalism. Everyone is riding the wave on its own boat trying to shoot everybody in sight with pseudo-science for it’s the first who can land on the shores to preach to the hurdled masses.

You think we were desperate to fit in, not as desperate as the food industry to cash in on whatever and whoever we decide to believe is good for us. Food giants will to any length to make us believe that they are the healthy option. I mean Nutella is advertised as a healthy option for breakfast for the kids and no one sees a problem in that!

The issue is the food industry and everything that comes with it. First, the language: we blame the food rather than everything they are allowed to put in or on it to make it grow faster, stronger, better. “Bread is bad” but it’s not bread that is bad or gluten, it’s the pesticides we spread the wheat with that are the real problem. And the alternative? To genetically modify it. What a treat! So yes, bread and gluten seem bad, and for some people they are, because we can’t process it anymore.

It’s the same with the milk, the eggs and the meat. They have been the base of our eating habits and have allowed us to develop our brain, make our bodies stronger and more resilient, to expend our life expectancy. The food itself isn’t bad. Unlike all the chemicals the food industry has been lobbying to make legal so we can feed the animals we keep in terrible conditions in the modern farms at the lowest costs.

Then we are back to us, who are now consuming food like we consume everything: the more the better but in a world where everything costs, we want meat for nothing and, cheap meat will make you sick or/and fat.

I understand the fact that we are blaming some foods while calling other “superfoods” which no one actually fathoms. I understand that we have to start somewhere when it comes to changing our habits and unfortunately, we are born and bred in this fundamentally Manichean society built on monotheism where there is no time for sensibility, only knee-jerking preaching. The debate has become solely about pitting something against something else, about dogma against heresy. Fat vs sugar. Meat vs fish. Fruits vs vegetables. Cooked vs raw. Milk vs vitamin supplements.

As the language of food is now akin to the one of all religions, one needs to consider its countless holy scripts with a pinch of salt, or sugar if you prefer. Except for actual poisons, there is no bad or good, black or white, healthy and unhealthy because even the healthiest can become dangerous when consumed without moderation. It’s called orthorexia and like all orthodoxies, it does more harm than good in the long term.

Orthorexia divides, creates new boxes, new barriers, new prejudices as we are working toward brining all the others down. Right now, the divide between “healthy” and “unhealthy” seems to be for the greater good, but all divides and categorisations were until we realise they are helping no one except a tiny minority, the ones who benefits from the apartheid: “the ones on the right side”.

Fat-shaming

Fat-shaming does exactly what you would expect, it’s in the title. It makes someone feel ashamed, it makes them feel bad about themselves, it makes them feel disgusted about themselves. It makes them hate themselves. And for someone to do the incredible amount of mental and physical changes that are required to lose a tremendous amount of weight, they have to at least give a shit about themselves. And it’s terribly difficult to love yourself when the whole society tells you what a worthless piece of shit you are because you are fat.

Boogie2988 on Youtube, Re: Dear Fat People

The lump of fat

I met a person. A type of person that I have seen before, watched before, heard of before but never met, or at least never had a full conversation with. An Irish colleague to whom I was introduced before the lemon cupcakes I made that day were. She first started by telling me that it was not the way her mother was doing it, then telling me that, if I were a proper Englishman, I would have added some decorations. I said that as a Frenchman, unlike the Brits, I prefer minimalism and to let the taste speak for the cakes.

Little did I know that, when it comes to looks, it is everything to her.

I was finding her frankly overbearing and went back to my work, she anyway carried on by telling me that she doesn’t eat cakes anymore anyway. So what was all that criticism all about then? She told me that she had “found the way”. She had “realised it” and, putting her hand on my shoulder, that now she helps people lose weight.

I always have good come-backs and I am never speechless but I just looked at her with a blank eye. She said that she can help me, that like me, who is a true baker in the heart (Okay then…), she has another calling and it’s to help people to clear their deep psychological blockage. She was on a mission to make me thin although we had barely met, I never asked anything, I did not complain and she knew nothing but my first name.

That was the first time I met someone like that: the thin proselyte who, like a born-again Christian, has made a mission to convert the fat people to their search for ultimate yet healthy twigginess.

And the whole experience was truly terrible to be honest. I came out of it extremely angry, feeling like shit, feeling like I was beneath her, I was just weak and pathetic because what these people really are is absolute bullying wolves in sheep clothing. At first, they are very nice, want to be helpful, seem understanding and sympathetic when in fact, they are just terribly insulting and their eagerness to shove your own face into the fat-swelling rawness inside of you is disrespect beyond the pale.

My anger came from me being put in a position of inferiority by this “holy” person but also my inability to really fight back. First, I did not think for a second that after everything I have achieved in my life, I would still have to justify myself for looking fat, which I found demeaning at the best of time. But it is also because we cannot attack these preaching bullies without becoming the executioner in the eyes of others. What outside people see is a very friendly, softly-spoken person who is selflessly sparing a couple of very sensible advice for your own good but the intrusion into your private space makes you want to punch them out of it or just tell them to “fuck off!” or even just be cold. But you think: “Am I proving you right by retaliating?”

I was stuck between her friendly claws wrapping closer around me and being unprofessional by bluntly telling her off. And also, she hadn’t mentioned me as such at this point so one could have easily blamed me for being touchy about being fat in the first place. “She was just making conversation; I was the one who made it about me.”

I did not know what to do and let myself being controlled into deeper self-loathing.

“I remove deep blockage” is what she said then. I felt more and more vulnerable and on the defensive side. My brain was screaming “Who are you to presume and question my mental health just by looking at me? How can you stand there and basically tell me that my physical appearance is saying all that needs to be known about my deep self?”

The worst with these people is their phoney empathy. She tried to show that she does understand by attempting to relate to me. The more she was blabbing about her ability to help the fat, the greater my need to dismiss her became so I bluntly said I had been overweight for the past 20 years and frankly nothing would change overnight. That’s when she pulled the relating trick where you show the other you identify with them. You are not yet another thin person who lectures, you suffered as well so she replied:

“Me too. I used to be obese then I found it and went from 68 kilos to 62 in two months!”

There was a silence.

Whatever “it” might be, that attempt to relate to my obesity was once again one of the most insulting thing I have ever been told. If 68 kilos from 1m60 is obese, what am I with my 120 kilos for 1m76?

I am obviously a monster that needs saving asap and that’s why she was here, right now.

In my silence, she started to throw words and phrases like “the teachings of Chinese medicine”, “the rules of Indian philosophy”, “the meaning of Asian religions”. It became more and more vague and the word “oriental” popped out more and more until it was virtually attached to every single of her abstractionisms. She is clearly one of these Westerners who have never lived anywhere near Asia and reduce it to what some pseudo gurus have let slip through our borders and books.

I found myself having to justify that I was indeed not just spending my life on my couch eating burgers. I felt like a child having to prove his parents he was not a total failure. I still cannot believe I ended up telling her I was going to the gym five times a week, was making an effort to only eat cereals in the morning rather that cakes, and that from now on, every morning, I was taking out seven to ten fruits and veg as well as 3 litres of water and a litre of whole milk that needed to be eaten and drunk by the time I go to bed. I suddenly watched myself trying to prove someone that my life was indeed a shameful mess of fat but I was trying to clear it up.

I concluded by saying that I was doing yoga and pilates to which she patronisingly replied that it was good for my condition. My “condition”, that was it. I am sick. In her mind, as long as I need to wear XL clothes, I will never be anything other than a lump of fat. I am just like a pack of butter and frankly I felt like one and became almost apologetic for it.

These thin, know-it-all-about-healthy-living proselytes want to help? They trigger nothing but greater self-loathing and a feeling of failure.

I became so fed up with her self-righteousness and her Christian-like attempt to force her newly-found, perfect way of life through every crack of my life and soul that I eventually stopped working, faced and told her that being fat has never stopped me from making it to where I was today, from leaving France with just a suitcase to live and work for 7 years in a country where I had no friends and no family, to making it as a teacher to one of the oldest and best school in England with nothing.

My being fat is irrelevant. She was not convinced.

Of course, she was not. Her self-loathing when she was “obese” will never allow her to see me as a person. For her, nothing I have and would ever say, nothing I have and would ever think, nothing I have and would ever do, nothing I have and would ever achieve will be good enough to gain her full respect because I do not look the part. I am not thin, therefore not happy nor fulfilled.

Had I been thin, we would have never had this conversation and I would not have had to list my life achievements and emphasise that being fat does not make suicidal and has not stopped me from having a life like everybody else.

The fact is, the self-righteousness she caged herself in has disabled her ability to have actual empathy for people she had made a mission to save. When she did put on weight at some point in her life, she had already digested and interiorised some prejudice about people who put on weight: that we are weak, with no self-control, that when our eating leaves my marks on our bodies despite the XL clothes, it means that we have deep psychological problems that remain unresolved.

Who hasn’t? You needn’t be fat to have problems! There is a brilliant Tumblr that display mugshots of criminals and if you just judge by their looks, they should have healthy minds. I mean some of them are handsome, thin, athletic and yet they robbed, battered, raped and killed. Being fat doesn’t say anything about you or your ability but she cannot see that because when the kilos piled up, she got scared, started to doubt herself and had found “oriental” solutions she is now preaching to whomever looks fatter than they should. Which, by the way, goes against actual Asian philosophies.

Today, she is just projecting on every fat person her personal experience. She has never been able to accept herself as someone with a bit more flesh. She hated herself then and she never managed to respect that person. Now she cannot possibly, truly respect us too and unfortunately, her views are becoming the mainstream in every aspect of our society. We did have Jamelia saying that fat people should be ashamed of being fat. Nice one, love! That’s going to help us move on with our lives…

Like all other thin, smug, Nazi-style or Evangelical-style healthy living proselytes, she doesn’t understand that force-feeding me with her phoney psychological help is not going to make me lose weight. On the contrary, her and her fat-shaming ilk are one of the biggest part of the problem and unlike them, I will never consider being thin a life achievement therefore a life goal.

And frankly, I am getting tired of my being fat being constantly shoved in my face and having to apologise for it, justify and prove myself on that sole basis day in, day out.

When I went back to my lesson planning and we parted, she passed in front of the cakes I spent hours making and, to add insult to injury, said proudly:
“Look, I am resisting. I have not eaten any of your cakes.”

I couldn’t take it anymore and with all the wisdom of a school playground, I replied:
“And I have not cared for anything you have been telling me.”