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It’s that time again…

This week, repeat-offender Newsweek can’t report on David Cameron’s handling of the Murdoch Scandal without calling him fat. Twice.

“And when I look upon the slightly chubby, shapeless, ruddy face of British Prime Minister David Cameron, I can see Orwell’s prescience once again.” [emphasis added]

Let’s not even get into the fact that “David Cameron is fat” is total news to me. What do the words “slightly chubby,” “shapeless,” and “ruddy” add to this sentence (besides perhaps indirectly calling George Orwell’s looks into question as well)? What is the message here? Clearly, fat begets ugly begets political incompetence.

“The political right remains frustrated because Cameron simply doesn’t have the fire in his flab for demonizing asylum seekers or welfare cheats.” [emphasis added]

I love alliteration as well (also consonance – see what I did with the l’s at the start of this sentence?) but changing the phrase “fire in his belly” – which, being well-known, reads as “chutzpah” or “will” – to “fire in his flab” only serves to remind us that the author thinks David Cameron is fat.

To be absolutely clear: my response to this article has nothing to do with the politics of David Cameron – just like the repeated mentions of his perceived physical imperfections have nothing to do with the politics of David Cameron.

Apparently chubby, shapeless, ruddy flab (ew!) rather than knowledge and experience are the real measure of a leader.

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Fat in the Media

There’s one thing I notice when reading the news that jars me more than dropping the Oxford comma or using non-words like “irregardless” – superfluous mentions of body size. The first flaw can be chalked up to lazy copyediting. The latter is more insidious. I find myself saving pieces to read aloud to my friends and family; holding up pieces of journalism and making sure I’m not the only ones who sees these jabs for cheap filler or non-news. It’s become an obsession.

With that, I bring you a new series:

Each week, I will bring you a new needless, fat-phobic comment from the news. Get excited!

For starters, Newsweek. Now, this is old news by now, but Wills and Kate got married. I know you care/don’t care/have moved on to Kim Kardashian’s epic nuptials, but comments from the Newsweek coverage of said wedding still irk me. Let’s examine:

Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, … is now on his about-to-be third wife and looked almost as relaxed and cheerfully overweight as Elton John. [emphasis added]

Mmkay, so we start off ragging on Earl Spencer for being almost-trice married. Perhaps matrimony’s not his bag. Don’t know, don’t care. What makes my teeth hurt is the end of that sentence where his weight is – rather needlessly – thrown in and we manage to rope in an insult to the Crocodile Rock-er. Well played, Newsweek.

“Cheerfully overweight” tells me nothing about Earl Spencer. Granted, I don’t care to know much about him, but his body size has absolutely zero relevance in the story – especially given that any space given to describing the Earl Spencer’s physical being is space not devoted to our new pretty, pretty Princess.

To the extent I care to read about something like the Royal Wedding in a news magazine (read: very little), I’d prefer to learn the facts and related sociopolitical ramifications. Reporting on the body size tells me more about the reporter than the reported.

An Open Letter

Dear Person Who Found my Blog by Googling “I’m Dorky and I Want to Stop,”

First, congratulations on having one of the most-unique search terms ever to show up in my site statistics. Most people Google sends my way are looking for those damn Anthropologie Cork Balls.

But back to you. Who exactly is calling you dorky? If it’s someone else, rest assured that their opinion doesn’t matter. If it’s you, you need to knock it off. 

Your search probably led you to this post wherein I vow to never again describe myself as a dork for having unique interests. I’ll no longer apologize for being who I am, and I’d encourage you to do the same.

Now, you’ll notice that some people in the comments to that post argued that being a “dork” is not necessarily a bad thing. For the sake of argument, however, we’ll assume that you think it is, as you were looking to stop being it. Joking about being a “dork” is only funny when you have the self confidence to know that it makes you more, not less, interesting and is a part of your personality you should never look to shed.

Are other people fueling this self-doubt? Other people’s opinions of you just don’t matter. Trust me on this. The sooner you fully accept that, the happier I believe you will be.

I don’t know you, obviously, but I imagine you as a Junior High-aged girl unsure of herself and her place among her peers. Basically, me circa 1995. Junior High can be incredibly hard. I’ve been there. I know how it feels to think no one knows how you feel. I remember the frustration at being told to ignore the cruel remarks of my classmates. The very suggestion sounds like something that could only be issued from the mouth of an adult who’d completely lost touch with how overwhelming it is to be thirteen.

But I remember. I remember that being told not to worry about what people thought was like being told not to breathe. Other people’s opinions were omnipresent. I’d sit in dressing rooms in the mall and cry because I was unsure if the clothes I was selecting were “right.” I sat through math class one day unable to take notes because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself by getting up to use the pencil sharpener. I wanted – more than anything – to be completely invisible.

Slowly – and over the course of many years – I realized that the only opinions that mattered were my own and those of the people who loved me. The most clear manifestation of this epiphany is that now I’m able to dance in public.

By no means am I implying that I’m now the perfect role model for high self-esteem. I have my hang-ups. The thing that’s changed is my reaction to these hang ups. Now that I’m better able to weed out the noise of other people’s opinions, I feel more empowered to change the things that I don’t like about myself and ignore the things that other people don’t like. In short, I’m so much happier.

As for the name-callers, I don’t have any witty retorts for you because honestly, the greatest comeback is to move forward and be the best possible you – to find hobbies and people who truly interest you and to let go of anyone or anything that holds you down. Are you rolling your eyes at me? That’s fine. I know how eye-rolling that comment sounds. Plus, I was a champion eye-roller back in the day.

Surround yourself with people who love you for being a “dork” and would never see such a label as a bad thing. Try your best to ignore the haters and never let yourself sink to their level. And finally, don’t ever, ever, change yourself for someone else.

Bitter Body Image, Part 2

Yesterday, the problem. Today, my attempts at a solution.

Previous Attempts:

I don’t exactly have a list of diets I’ve tried as I’m loathe to even try anything too rigid.

I wouldn’t consider something carb-vilifying as brewing and drinking beer with my boyfriend is one of my favorite pass-times. Plus, sometimes I come home to fresh-baked bread. Any woman who comes home to fresh-baked bread and refuses to eat it because of the carbs it contains is no friend of mine.

I’ve had brief spats of I’m-not-eating-anything-until-I’m-thin! but they usually last about 12 hours and end with a headache and a box of animal crackers.

I tried Weight Watchers and had great success at the start, but wasn’t able to keep up with logging my food. Perhaps once I get an internet-enabled phone and fully join 2011 I’ll give it another go.

If the first trick to success in any great endeavor is to know oneself, I know that I can’t (and won’t) stick to any food plan that’s too glum. I drink beer. I love cookies. I know that to make these statements and then lament my waistline seems a little ignorant, but I know that food-restriction is not the answer.  (Ok, moderation may be part of the answer, but if I can’t have a beer and some cookies on the weekends, I quit).

The Plan:

While I know I can’t give up treats, I know I can work harder in the gym – or rather, to be cliché, work smarter. I’m blessed in that I build muscle tone rather easily (I come from good stock – my mother is a strong, toned former farm girl), but, left to my own devices, I am loath to pick up anything heavy. I get bored and distracted rather easily.

Solution: Personal Training.

Why haven’t I tried this before? Well, it’s kind of expensive, and I’m loathe to spend money on such things. Lately though, with Will’s help, I’ve realized that I’m worth the investment.

Today, I’ll be going in for my initial assessment. Training will start the week of the 11th (as I’m out-of-town for work the week of the 4th) and will consist of two sessions a week for the next six weeks. That, mixed with cardio done on my own, should give me a good jump-start. After that, I should know some tricks to keep myself going. I’m going to reassess every six months and reach out to a trainer again should I need more help.

I’m excited to start training and, well, a little proud of myself for not completely giving in to my inner critic. I’m sure her voice won’t be completely silenced; I’m not trying to suggest I’ve found some magic solution to body image issues. I’m excited to start training, though. Small victories.

Bitter Body Image, Part I

While I try not to dwell on it – publicly, at least – I struggle with my self-image. I know the idea of a woman wishing she were thinner is nothing revolutionary, but there you have it.

I was a very active child. I started in dance classes and moved to competitive swimming when the requisite grace of the former never came. There also seemed to be no end to my growth spurts. I was tall, lean, and could eat whatever I wanted. I remember sitting down to breakfasts that consisted of four full bowls of cereal. Sometimes, after swim practice, my sister and I would eat these horribly-processed blueberry pie-type treats that came pre-packaged into slice-size portions. While I vividly remember wishing I were shorter (all my friends in grade school had pixie-like proportions and lacked my lanky legs), I remained blissfully unaware of my weight.

I even managed to skip any “Freshman Fifteen”-esque weight gain that I was assured would come with my first year away at college. Weight gain – and it’s related anxiety – didn’t come until after grad school.

I started working in downtown Chicago in August 2005. I joined a gym down the street from my office the following month and quickly became a regular. I started running more and entered races to fuel my old competitive spirit. Twice a week I attended a weight-lifting class with and instructor I adored. I was slimmer than I’d been in my adult life, fit into laughably small sizes, and was generally quite pleased with my shape and tone.

But slowly, things changed. The instructor I loved left for another gym. I had a falling out with the girl I considered my exercise buddy. I was put on different projects at work that required long business trips and unhealthy room service dinners eaten alone in random hotel rooms. Fewer work-outs, frequent treats. My doctor mentioned the increasing number on the scale, but really, she could have saved herself the trouble. I was well aware of every inch of space I consumed.

Currently, I’m thirty pounds heavier than I was when I moved here six years ago. I wear a pant size that is twice what I wore back then. While I know, at some level, that my self-worth shouldn’t be derived from numbers stitched inside my clothing, it’s been very difficult. I feel defeated. I’ve cleaned out my closet twice: first to get rid of the size sixes, next to get rid of the size eights. Some of the size tens don’t fit all that well, but I’m holding on to them for now.

My weight gain is constantly on my mind. When heading to work, I use my purse or gym bag to hide my stomach from the other commuters. I’ve become almost afraid to shop as I fret about what will fit. I’ll spare you the Dear Diary-type drama and just say that my current weight situation makes me very uncomfortable and quite sad.

But wait! Don’t cry for me just yet – there is a silver lining to this self-image storm cloud, I promise. I’ve never been one to stew in my sadness (hello, the very reason the blog was originally started). Tomorrow, I’ll share what I’ve done so far and my big, exciting plans going forward.