The Metronome of “Tell Me I’m Fat”-TAL-PODSNACKS-ArtoftheDiet094 [Rebroadcast]

Raise your glass for a Toast:

“Champagne for our real friends and real pain for our sham friends.”• Francis Bacon

This is a rebroadcast from June, 2016 and February, 2017 that discusses episode 589 of This American Life: “Tell Me I'm Fat”. I encourage you to listen to the broadcast on the link provided below.

Also, I heard another podcast where Lindy West was interviewed over the Memorial Day 2017 weekend.  She said a phrase that has stuck with me through this past week and is the reason I am rebroadcasting this edition again. TAL also rebroadcast their own episode 589 over this past Memorial Day Weekend as well.

Honestly, I think we could listen to this once a month and we'd still find new empathy for ourselves and others.

She was hilariously (of course) rejecting the whole culture around fat people and in particular, the notion that “fat people are thin folks who have failed.”   Since the sense of failure permeates a weight watcher despite their successes, I think it sums up why it's never simply a health issue.

Plus, the photo for this episode is my favorite quote EVER by anyone.

The toast came from a recollection from the writer Julian Barnes speaking to Eleanor Wachtel on her weekly podcast, Writers & Company” on the CBC.  My favorite podcast ever by the way.

It just seemed to be the perfect toast for this episode because I’m trying to understand “the fat acceptance” movement that is out there and this week I listened to episode 589 of ‘This American Life” titled, “Tell Me I’m Fat” and I recommend you do, too.

One voice, Lindy West, a writer, columnist, blogger for “The Guardian”, has a new book called “Shrill”.  She has a distinctive voice and humor so I ordered her book.

They had a conversation with three women about weight and the impact it has on their lives: #1: Lindy West who is advising her friends to just call her fat and to stop thinking it's something she's ashamed of (she isn't) and PS don't try telling her you are concerned for her health because if you were really interested in her health, you'd be concerned about her mental health and her 28 years of being shamed and humiliated by people trying to help as well as the just plain mean and bigoted folks.

#2 was Elna Baker, a producer on the This American Life show, who lost 100+ pounds several years ago and has kept it off with periodic pharmacological help.  Now, as a thin woman, she has the job she always wanted and is newly married and has recently recorded a conversation with her husband about her belief that he would not have dated the “fat” Elna.  She ended her segment by admitting that she wasn't happy that she was still using the drug to help her lose the weight she periodically gains back.  She knows exactly how messed up it is, she said.   “I know that all of this is wrong. I don't like what I am. But I've accepted it as part of the deal.”  She mentioned Lindy West as a writer she admires as well as a book titled, “Dietland” by Sarai Walker. I ordered that book, too.

#3 Roxane Gay, a writer who wishes she could be more “fat accepting” of her “super morbidly obese” self  but simply mourns her lack of freedom to go and do what she wants to do as well as have clothes she might like if she were at least “Lane Bryant Fat”. Roxanne points out to Ira Glass, the moderator, that Lindy West is “Lane Bryant” fat, meaning absolutely no disrespect–but just pointing out that Lindy, at least, has a retail store she can go to find clothes that fit. I'm ordering one of Roxanne's books, too.

At 71, and as someone who has written about aspects of weight and weight management for almost 18 months, I heard ideas and concepts from these young woman (28-41) in a way I've not heard them discussed before and that made me nod my head, sigh with empathy for them, (for me)  and explanations for what I'd not identified but knew immediately when discussed.   In Lindy West's case, she can put it all in front of you hilariously, Elna's story was not the least bit funny, and despite being a “healthy” weight, one worries the burden and the disappointment of it is growing.   Roxane just puts the world in perspective and is weary from absorbing the daily challenges of being her size.  She'd like to be more fat accepting and wishes all well who can do it, but the realities of her life, the struggles to find a restaurant, the challenge of traveling–these limitations make her not accepting of her current size.

The three of them made me realize why some have decided to raise the white flag or third finger in protest to trying to get their bodies into so called “healthy” shape and to decide that accepting themselves first may be their healthiest option. They also demonstrated what strength, kindness, and wit it requires to be a fat woman in this culture.  Elna even admitted the “fat” Elna was the person she liked better than her current thin Elna.

In the 1950's and 1960's if there was an “opt-out” button for the preoccupation with weight, I might have taken it too. It was like being in prison for the crime of failure: failing at losing and keeping weight off.   At 71, I have too many preoccupations related to remaining independent (and out of the dependence prison that many elderly face) that fuel my decision to do be one of the “two” Lindy West mentions who is able to keep weight off.  PS. There's more of us, but “whatever”… I get her point. The majority are not successful for a variety of physiological, genetic, and psychological reasons.

There are more of us, though, than anyone ever writes or talks about.  The  reason I do this podcast, in fact.  We are out here, Lindy, trying to figure out life as best we can, too.

But, I am going to read these books and listen to these voices.  Their health decisions are their own– their rage, sadness, frustration?  It belongs to all of us regardless of what the scale says.

Besides, I want to keep track of someone who writes like this.  PS. This is where I  warn folks that the following material contain (to some) offensive words.

Lindy West:

But most importantly: I reject this entire framework. I don't give a {bleep} what causes anyone's fatness. It's irrelevant and it's none of my business. I am not making excuses, because I have nothing to excuse. I reject the notion that thinness is the goal, that thin = better—that I am an unfinished thing and that my life can really start when I lose weight. That then I will be a real person and have finally succeeded as a woman. I am not going to waste another second of my life thinking about this. I don't want to have another {bleeping} conversation with another {bleeping} woman about what she's eating or not eating or regrets eating or pretends to not regret eating to mask the regret. OOPS I JUST YAWNED TO DEATH.

If you really want change to happen, if you really want to “help” fat people, you need to understand that shaming an already-shamed population is, well, shameful. Do you know what happened as soon as I rejected all this {bleep} and fell in unconditional luuuuurve with my entire body? I started losing weight. Immediately. WELL LA DEE {BLEEPIN} DA.

Let me end on another quote from that conversation with Eleanor Wachtel and Julian Barnes. They were discussing one of his books about the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich. Mr. Barnes described him as someone who was impulsive and always living outside the “metronomic” lives of regular people and suffering for his outsider behavior.

The only time and place he felt really confident about his decisions was composing music.  He knew his decisions were good ones even if others questioned them musically.

He had this confidence. His own unique creativity metronome to live in as the world outside of him disapproved or judged him.

Just thought you should know this.  We can create our own metronome.  I suspect that is what Lindy West, Elna Baker, Roxane Gay are trying to do each in their own way. I am grateful to hear their stories and to learn more about them.

Lindy West's letter to Dan Savage:

She recommended this “thin privilege checklist” for all to read:

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