Carol Gwenn Interview

Carol emailed me after I mentioned BBW Magazine in a post to tell me she used to write for it!  I asked her to do an interview as someone who’s been around fat acceptance since the 70s…

Q: How would you introduce yourself?

I’m Carol Gwenn, former writer and lifelong big person. I’ve had numerous occupations, almost all of them in & around the entertainment industry (performer, writer, teacher, agent, etc.). I currently function as sort of caretaker/watchful eye over a building belonging to the owner of the company I work for. We use it as office space & I’m kind of the babysitter for the property.

Q: Are you comfortable with the word “fat” for yourself?

Sure – am confortable with “fat” for myself because it’s what I AM. Have never seen anything wrong with the word fat when it’s used for what it is: a descriptive word, like “tall” or “blonde”.

Q: How would you describe your body size?

I’d describe my size as fat-to-middling (5’6″ and a size 18, 1X ). I’ve been larger & smaller, but my current size (where I’ve been for the past 13 years or so) is comfortable for me.

Q: How has being fat affected your life?

Only as much as I’d allow it, which is VERY little. I always put myself out in the world as a great looking, sexy broad, and with VERY few exceptions that’s how I was perceived. Have always believed in the principle of mind over matter in many parts of life, and one of those things is that if I believe in my own value & in my own terrific looks, then that’s how the world will see me. The down side to that is that, now that I’m past middle age & into the stage of life where things are disintegrating before my eyes, trading on my looks is something that will no longer work: you can’t trade on something you no longer have. But it sure was fun while it lasted!

Q: How did you encounter fat lib/fat acceptance?

5. I came upon the fatosphere as an entity sometime in the late ’70s. There was an article in my local newspaper (the Los Angeles Times) about NAAFA and the Fat Underground, and shortly after that the original BBW Magazine started up & I began to write for it. The sad thing is that we don’t seem to have gotten terribly far in the past 40-off years: if anything, I see more rampant fat phobia out there then ever, people becoming more and more obsessed with being thin and regarding fat people as alien beings. Wish I could think of a way to fix this -suppose we ALL would like that – but there doesn’t seem to be one. There seems to be something in human nature that compels people to find someone to dislike and/or look down on. Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s us.

Q: What’s the worst part of being fat for you?

The worst part of being fat for me …all the people I’ve encountered in my life who persist in telling me that I’m somehow broken and that they can fix me, if only I would torture myself via eating disorders (i.e., diets) and crazed physical exertion to make myself smaller. The other worst part? It’s SO not legal to stomp those annoying people into little blobs on the ground.

Q: What’s the best part of being fat for you?

The best part of being fat for me…it’s that wonderful song title from “La Cage…”: ‘I am what I am!’ I wake up each morning & say “Thank you!” for my nice, big, healthy body that does so many nice things for me. Also – and this is SERIOUSLY important – being able to make use of as many teachable moments as possible when I encounter diet talk or fat phobia, trying to combat that attitude of “But YOU’RE not that fat…” Hey – fat is fat, however much of it we’re wearing this year, and it’s great to be able to put it out there that we ALL deserve the same respect.

Q: What’s your favorite place to buy clothing?

TJMR (That’s TJ Maxx – Marshall’s – Ross). I’ve been buying clothes at these stores for a LONG time, and have found a good selection of clothes at VERY reasonable prices in everything from my current size up to a 4X when I needed it. There’s a shopping center in L.A. that I refer to as heaven: the above-mentioned stores PLUS Nordstroms Rack, Off 5th, Target…ALL IN ONE PLACE! It’s not just fabric clothing I buy – am one of those gals with a need for shoes in a size not always easy to find – and Marshalls has been great about stocking the size I wear.

I understand that for someone my size, finding clothes is relatively easy – have shopped Macy’s, Target, etc. and there have always been items available . Friends who were much larger than I have told me how tough it can be to find nice things in sizes above 26 or 3X.

Hand Laundry Never Ends

As many women know, hand washing of bras is recommended to keep them in good condition.  This is not necessarily a huge burden!

Hand washing of pantyhose is also recommended. Thank heavens I don’t have to wear pantyhose.

And then came…compression stockings.

Compression stockings drying on towel rack

Compression stockings drying on towel bar

Compression stockings are often recommended for people who are on their feet all the time, who are flying, who have had lymph nodes removed, and to prevent blood clots.

In my case, I eventually realized that part of my left knee pain was actually located below my left knee.  Where there was also swelling, and which felt better if I wore tight leggings. My ARNP diagnosed likely blood flow issues and varicose veins, and referred me to a vascular specialist.

The vascular team did an ultrasound of the veins in my leg. Leg veins have one-way valves which supposed to keep the blood going up my leg, back to the heart. It was confirmed that my valves are not all working well. In particular, the one-way valve just below the knee on my left leg – where I had swelling and pain – wasn’t really one-way anymore.  Compression was recommended to reduce the swelling and help the vein to move the blood to the heart where it belongs.

I didn’t realize at the time that this would mean the hand wash only laundry would never end.

I was prescribed 20-30mmHg, knee-high stockings. The mmHg is “millimeters of mercury” pressure, and 20-30 is about middle of the range.  I did go to a medical supply store to get fitted. I recommend it since you can get some knowledgeable advice on fitting and how to put them on without putting a fingernail through them.  If you wear a common size you may be able to wear them home. My size 14-16 friend got fitted with thigh-highs after her cancer surgery and wore them home.

Initially I didn’t fit anything over-the-counter due to the swelling in my calves; after wearing leggings daily for a week, the swelling reduced enough that I could wear a standard size instead of custom made. I wear Juzo Max knee-high stockings, which have more of a flare at the top of the calf than the standard knee highs, and which wasn’t in stock but could be ordered. I also pop for the “silicone band” of little silicone beads to keep them up.

Pros:

  • No below-the-knee pain.
  • Much less swelling in calves.
  • Legs feel less tired.

Cons:

  • Stockings are expensive (mine are $78.39 per pair).
  • Stockings require hand washing.
  • Stockings need replacing every N months. Currently N is 2 or 3 months. I know folks who go 6 months, others who buy them monthly.
  • None of my leggings fit right anymore.

All that said, the compression stockings have been a really positive thing for me. The below-the-knee pain is gone.  Walking is more comfortable. I still elevate my feet whenever possible, but my legs and ankles aren’t swelling every evening. These are all terrific.

Quote of the Day

In dealing with the “encouragers” who want you to eat less, move more, and maybe have a few organs amputated to lose weight:

These fat hating types don’t know you and they don’t want to. They don’t care to know if you are or aren’t doing sit ups or exercising or what you really eat. And they don’t care. Their objective is to make you feel bad for being fat. It’s that simple. They’re sadists and nothing but suffering satisfies them.

These assholes will scream “why don’t you get on a treadmill fatty!” even if you’ve just gotten off one. They’ll just shout, “Stay on longer until you’re thin, lard ass!” They don’t care if you just found out you’re 25lbs lighter, even. So long as you are fat, they hate you and want you to suffer.

But when you figure that out, things can come into focus. You can start understanding that you’re not gonna argue your way to them being lesser douchewads than they were. They will never not hate you. That makes them the one with something deeply wrong about them, not you.

The winning move here is simple (but not easy): live the happiest and best life you can right this minute, as you are. Be good to others and yourself, try your hardest, and enjoy as much as you can about being on this Earth while you are here.

Sadists hate your happiness, so I suggest cultivating as much of it as you can, as you are, right this minute, as you are.

Madame Thursday

It Came From The Search Terms

Seat belt extender, attached

Seat belt extender, attached

Once again, a post inspired by search terms used to reach my site.

how much does a woman who wears a 5x weigh

This probably depends on the woman’s height, amount of muscle, and how many limbs have been replaced with cybernetics.  Really, some of those are heavy.

what are the rules about having to buy an extra airline seat?

Depends on the airline – and you’ll probably want to call to book 2 seats.  Related posts are Day in the Life: Buying Plane Tickets and Flying While 400lbs.

alaska airlines seat size

Check out http://www.seatguru.com/

“do all overweight people”

I doubt it.

seat belt extenders walmart

No idea. I got mine from the dealer and Amazon.com.

im a 400 pound man is there a tool to help wipe bottom

If you’re reading this, I hope you look at the options at Amplestuff, Oversize Solutions, or Amazon.com. Amazon also has an option that works with toilet paper or a wet wipe, with a button release for sanitary disposal. There are also portable bidets available at Amplestuff and, again, Amazon.com. (This is FYI only, I don’t have actual experience with any of these devices.)

will i be too fat for the rides at disney world

I generally wasn’t, but it depends on your size & the ride. :)

Anybody watch the Bill Cunningham show?

This came in as a comment:

CW network national daytime talk show is looking for BIG people with BIG personalities who are fighting with a family member and need the insults to stop! Must be in conflict with a family member/partner and be available April 30th-May 1st!!! If selected you will receive an ALL EXPENSE PAID TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY!!!!

CALL OR TEXT THE SHOW’S PRODUCERS TODAY: 646-701-3207 OR 646-853-0549

***You must be in conflict with a family member/loved one due to weight***

Why do I think this is looking to turn into a family screaming / “intervention” and “Yes I will rededicate myself to becoming thin!!!” cryfest?

TSA Travels

I don’t fly very often. This is likely why it I didn’t go through a full-body security scanner until Friday and, again, today.  I don’t have strong opinions about the type of scanning used, although I do consider much of the airport security approach to be security theater. So I did the scanner instead of other measures.

image

Image from Wikipedia

These were the millimeter wave scanners. The opening is narrower than the machine. I turned sideways to get in. Otherwise I fit fine. Each time the machine flagged me for pat downs afterward on my thighs, just above my knees.  The second time also included pat downs of my tummy, back and bottom. I was always patted down by a woman – no waiting.

Other posts on flying:

Flying While Fat
Buying Plane Tickets (more seats than passengers)
A mid-flight conversation on flying while fat

Pursuing An Agenda

Earlier today, Melissa McEwan tweeted:

So, in response to the accusations that I have an agenda, yes -- yes I do. And that's what it is.

Scrolling back, I saw Melissa’s prior tweet was regarding Dylan Farrow: “I am speaking about this because it is wrong; I am speaking in solidarity with Dylan Farrow; I am speaking in defense of my own survival.”

This blew me away.

In retrospect it seems silly — of course people often have their own agendas on the internet! — but we often want to stay neutral and avoid “taking sides.”   Especially in matters of activism, we want to be one of the good guys, to avoid self-interest.  It’s not that I’m getting something out of this, it’s that it’s the right thing to do.

Self-interest is not necessarily wrong.  Yet people often try to put it aside, to derive credibility from their neutrality.  I’m one of them.

I’ve been accused of ignoring research that shows an increased risk of death among people with my BMI.  I don’t ignore it. I just don’t see how it changes the research showing that diets don’t result in long-term weight loss for the overwhelming majority of people.  Or that in the long term, weight loss efforts often result in regain (or net gain), loss of self-esteem, and are ultimately a waste of time.

Yes, I have an agenda in my choice to live life at my current weight instead of trying, yet again, to win the weight-loss lottery.  Yes, when I discuss weight-loss scams, it’s because I consider selling such frauds to be unethical, unhealthy, and wrong.  Yes, rejecting the decade-plus I spent dieting has done wonders for my mental and physical health.

So yes, if you’ve wondered what my agenda is in writing about weight — there it is.

This Shouldn’t Give Me A Headache

But it’s trying.

Dear,

My name is Lisa. I have been following your blog  from quite some time now and thoroughly enjoy every post of yours.

Well, after reading through your blog, I think you would be interested in having a look at our recently launched infographic America’s Battle With Obesity([link to typical FEAR The Obesity Epidemic Because We Said So FEAR Booga Booga removed – Ed]). If you find it helpful, then please consider it for sharing with your readers.

Thanks, and I hope to hear from you soon!
Best Wishes,
Lisa

My reply:

Dear Lisa,

I really don’t see how anyone who’s read my blog would think that graphic would be of any interest to the my readers.

Regards.

– LFP

In other goings-on, NPR reports “Hating On Fat People Just Makes Them Fatter”.   Of course they still do, as this eloquent tumblr post from The Mighty If points out.

Marianne Kirby wrote about working in plus-size retail in college, and how huge being able to buy clothing can be.  This is even harder for supersize or extended-size people.  I usually shop online because my brick-and-mortar store options are so limited.

[S]o many fat people lacked any experience of being treated with dignity and respect in a retail setting. It wasn’t just me. And if it wasn’t just me, then maybe I didn’t deserve to be mocked and harassed and made fun off. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be treated badly just because of my body.

And neither did anyone else.

And yet the lack of respect for fat people is constant.

Medical Equipment Size Limits

This article focuses on the weight limits of air ambulances, but it’s depressing anyway. The overall message of the piece is to lose weight (which we all know works so well! And immediately!)

Now, yes, most fat people aren’t very fat; most cutoffs are 300 or 350lbs; air ambulances appear to have lower-than-typical requirements.

But what can you do? Some ideas:

  1. Ask your local hospital about their equipment. 
  2. Ask you local doctor about their equipment.
  3. Ask local fat friends about their experiences.
  4. Research what is available and ask for it to be considered when new purchases are made.
  5. If there is an organization that fundraises for your local hospital, consider joining. 

I wouldn’t expect any of these to have an immediate effect, and some are long-term commitments.  These are also biased toward people who have the  time, money, education, and (possibly) public speaking skills to succeed.

Finally, you can move to an area with more choices.  This is definitely a long-term choice, and one that may also be impossible. But it may work for some.

Other thoughts?

World Ending, Fat People’s Fault

It’s amazing what fat is used to justify. Besides the increased health risks associated with obesity, we’re told fat people harm national defense, make global warming worse, and decrease workplace productivity.*  The “Oh, but we need to do something about obesity!!!” is trotted out to sell organic foods, free range foods, Whole Foods, books, TV shows, spas, beauty products, workout systems, clothing, fat camps, school-based “interventions”, workplace “wellness” programs, and so on.

Now, some physical fitness instructors in Denver are upset that private property owners and city parks don’t want to have their open space used rent-free for fitness classes. And what is one of the justifications?

[I]n a country battling obesity and high rates of heart disease and diabetes, they say, governments should be doing everything possible to get people up and moving.

Note this dispute isn’t about a specific “anti-obesity” program.  This is about small businesses using public parks, or even privately owned areas open to the public, to offer private fitness classes.

Obesity isn’t the actual story.  The story is a clash between those who enjoy taking or offering open-air classes and those who’d like to enjoy the park without them.  It’s also about small businesses that want to offer classes  without having to rent space and the need for the parks to be available to all.*  The “but we need to fight obesity, heart disease & diabetes” is thrown in as an appeal to the public interest.   Why? Because being fat is assumed to be bad, to be wrong, to be against the public interest.

This is probably not how the writer intended it.  And yet.


*It’s assumed, of course, that all fat people get sick more often.  That said, it’s interesting to note that office equipment that fits the worker can improve productivity.

**”People will still be able to get together to play Frisbee or soccer. But if money changes hands, said Jeff Green, a Denver Parks spokesman, ‘you need to have a permit.'”

In The News

The AMA has endorsed the idea that “obesity” is a disease, not a “condition”.  (Personally I consider it a characteristic.)  Forbes states that this is “a move member physicians hope will spur better reimbursement for treating overweight Americans and create better health outcomes.”  Exactly how it’s supposed to “create better health outcomes” when commonly prescribed treatments do not work long-term or create good health outcomes is not addressed.

In good things, Shakesville’s Fatsronauts 101 series continues to hit it out of the park.

The NY Times does a piece on Melissa McCarthy that doesn’t focus on her weight.  That’s allowed?

The NY Times also reminds people go get some sleep.

Convenient Seat Belt Extenders for Cars

IMG_20130302_135115I’ve mentioned before that I have a seat belt extender for my car (provided by Toyota). In other cars I often use a shoulder/lap belt as a lap belt only, which is less safe, but the only way I can buckle the seat belt.   The friend I carpool with recently got a new car, and once again, the seat belt is too small — it was tight even with the shoulder belt behind me.

So I started googling and discovered there’s more available out there than the last time I checked.. In particular, there’s more alternatives to the “permanently install item in the car” items.   An important question for “click-in” extenders is the size and type of the metal tongue.  Type A  has a 7/8″ wide metal tongue.  Another is type B, with a 1″ wide metal tongue. Between the two they will fit most cars.

There are a few other types, including the tongue type used by Hondas and the tongue type for GM cars made 1968-1999.   They also come in a few different styles.

I ended up ordering a 2-Pack of Car Seat Belt Extenders, 1 type A and another type B.  Thanks to the 7/8″ extender I was able to wear the 3-point seat belt properly in my carpool yesterday.  I also intend to take them with me if I’m renting a car.

Update: Turns out my carpool buddy asked about extenders while buying the car at the dealership and picked some up today gratis.  :) I’m still glad I have some for travel but was definitely a nice move on the Ford dealership’s part.

Does It Matter?

Tonight I overheard some thin 20somethings discussing fat people as a group (nothing said about the 40ish couple at a nearby table). The terms and statements made were rather derogatory. There was laughter. Then their discussion moved to other topics.

Image courtesy of Stocky Bodies

Image courtesy of Stocky Bodies

This wasn’t pleasant. I tweeted about it. I then focused on dinner with the man of the house.

Why?

In the microcosm of this hour and this room, their comments did not necessarily have to affect me.  Their opinions did not cause me to lose my job or my home. And their finding fat people unsexy doesn’t undo what we did this morning. ;)

At the same time, however, the anti-fat views expressed by a group at a bar  encourages and reinforces anti-fat views at the societal level. Society’s view that anyone can lose weight, and that fat people are stupid or in denial or lazy to not be thin,  makes it less likely that I will be hired than a thin person with my qualifications. Or that I’ll be paid as well as a thin person. It’s also part of why medical professionals view fat people as non-compliant and deficient, since we are “willfully” avoiding thinness. Etcetera.

Does it matter to me what a random stranger thinks of fat people?  Individually, maybe not. But society’s view of fat people matters a great deal.

Things To Read

From Dani Kelley’s “The body I have”:

I stopped eating in the eighth grade.

People complimented me on how much weight I was losing, how much prettier I looked, how much better I was.

They didn’t know something was wrong until I started passing out. And when my eating disorder finally came to light, it was largely seen as me going through a phase to be popular or noticed, much like with my cutting and suicide attempts.

Because, you know, depression and suicide and self-harm and eating disorders are only a phase.

From The Nearsighted Owl comes remakes of diet ads  with fat-accepting messages:

Courtesy of The Nearsighted Owl

Courtesy of The Nearsighted Owl

And Closetpuritan has a thoughtful discussion of whether fat acceptance is a “denialist” movement.

Fat Acceptance proponents range from those who think that the link between fat and “obesity-related” diseases is overhyped and not looked at critically enough, to those who flat-out say that fat does not cause any diseases. (One problem with the latter statement is that just as correlation does not prove causation, it doesn’t disprove causation either; saying we don’t know for sure that fat causes* something does not mean that we know for sure it doesn’t cause something.)

You may guess from her parenthetical, and my including the parenthetical here, that I happen to agree that the link between fat and health is overhyped and not looked at critically enough.  I also think that links between fat and health are questionable at lower sizes of fat (which are most fat people).

I do probably face greater health risks than someone of “normal weight”.  

However: I do not think those risks make weight loss any easier or any more likely to last.  There’s no proof that maintaining weight loss improves health in general (unlike quitting smoking or starting to exercise).  And, finally, the pursuit of health is not an obligation we owe to the world for existing.

Update: Closetpuritan has posted another post on this topic, exploring “denialism” and “skepticism” regarding Fat Acceptance/Fat Liberation and HAES. 

Fat Demographics

I ran across some interesting US data from the CDC recently.

Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in Adults

It might add some illumination to the assumption that fat people are all poor.

Related:

What If You’re Too Big For Lane Bryant?

Ah, the eternal question.  What if you’re too big for plus size stores?   In the US, LB is one of the most common plus size stores, going up to a US size 28.  I’m too big for most of their clothes.

Today I’m going to not just talk about places I can buy clothes. I’m going for places that someone larger than I can buy clothes.  I’m going to skip the stores where I’m at the top of the size range and highlight ones that offer a few sizes larger than mine. I also welcome reviews and suggestions in the comments. 

In Myles Ahead sizes, I’m a 2 or 3x.  Their sizes go up to 5x.  They also have items in more conventional sizes up to 10X.  Mostly casual and dressy clothes, along with some accessories.

Plus Woman goes from 1X-10X, with fairly conventional sizing for most things.  At 4 or 5X, I’m in the middle of their range.  They’re located in North Carolina and make a LOT of things to order and so you can customize size, fabric, and colors quite a bit.  It can be more expensive.

I’m a 3x or 4x in Big on Batik clothes. Most of their clothing is available to 6x but some are 7X+,  including swimsuits.

And, of course, there’s Making It Big.  I’ve been buying their stuff for over a decade now.  There’s casual, dressy, activewear, swimwear, outerwear …. and none of it is cheap, but it’s consistent and much of it is American-made.   I’m a G/H (or 4X/5X) in their sizing, and they run up to size L (8X).   As I type this Wednesday night I’m wearing a pair of brown size H corduroy pants I got from MIB years ago with a red “simple tee” in size G; yesterday I wore size H black relaxed knit pants with a purple “perfect tee” in size H; Monday I wore the same brown cords with a top from, gasp, a different company.   No, they don’t pay me to advertise, and yes, I’ve paid for all my MIB stuff (some secondhand on eBay).  (And if they don’t come out with the cords again I may need to clone the ones I’m wearing, damn it.)

So there is it — the list of stores that I know carries at least 2 sizes larger than my size.  What have I missed?  Got any warnings or reviews?  Have at it.

Update: Ghastly G. Rotto reminds me through Twitter that Woman Within goes up to 7X in some things. I’m a 4X or 5X in their clothes, so Woman Within also fits the “2 sizes larger than I” rule even if they do use thin models.