There Are Diets, And Then There Are DIETS

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Fillyjonk’s tremendous post yesterday on intuitive eating and how it doesn’t always mean eating everything you’re “allowed” to eat — and the ensuing discussion that climaxed in the question, “What if you can’t stop eating things you know are bad for you?” — got me thinking. (Ooh, dangerous.)

There’s no universally “bad for you” food unless it’s food that has been tainted in some way that will make everyone who eats it deathly ill. We’ve established that. But teetering on the precipice of codgerhood, and having created more medical records than I can count where people are put on restrictive diets for one medical condition or another, serves to remind me once again that there’s also no universally “good for you” food either, and that some food encounters that are benign for some people are less so for others. C. has had kidney stones and isn’t supposed to have spinach (or at least not very much of it). My XH has hereditary hemochromatosis and is told to avoid leafy greens. Similarly, people on blood thinners like Coumadin (a very common medication for people over 70) are told that if they do eat greens, they must eat the same amount every day or not eat them at all, so that their medication can be adjusted accordingly. But the rest of us are told that there’s no such thing as too many greens, we can knock ourselves out, and can actually be given a hard time for not eating enough of them, especially if we’re fatasses.

Some people with diabetes can eat sugar and other carbs and as long as they don’t go bonkers, it’s not a problem for them, they just adjust their insulin dosages or tweak their diets in some other way and they don’t have blood sugar spikes. Some others with diabetes find that even eating one or two bites of candy made with sugar will make their fasting glucoses soar into the 300s and beyond, or even put them in a coma. Some people with diabetes need to have sugar at a particular moment in time if they are experiencing hypoglycemia; others never get hypoglycemia at all.

People with kidney failure are told to avoid all but minimal protein. People with dysphagia (trouble swallowing) have to have pureed diets. People who are treated for heart disease in the hospital are given “heart healthy” diets which are low in saturated fat. People with dental problems need soft foods only and probably have to pass up that pizza unless someone puts it in the blender first. (Pizza shake, yummm.)

And of course, some people have food allergies or intolerances ranging from severe anaphylactic reactions to vomiting and diarrhea if they have wheat, dairy, mushrooms, shellfish, peanuts, soy, or any number of other things they don’t feel well after (or can actually die from) eating.

Me, I have PCOS. If my eating is too heavily carb-weighted, I will get foggy and sleepy. I don’t avoid any particular food entirely unless I just don’t care for it, but I do consider how certain foods will make me feel and function after I eat them. The combination of pizza and beer, for example, is restricted by me to times when I don’t have to do anything at all after I eat, because it will make me stuporous. Sometimes stuporous is nice, but not when you still have four more hours of work ahead of you. And if I haven’t been having a lot of fiber, my digestive tract pays the price and my energy can go out of whack. So I sometimes do push myself to eat more of it even if it’s not what I’m craving. It isn’t so much, “Get the brown rice, white rice is bad for you,” it’s more like, “I’d rather have white rice, but brown will be more filling, and I’ll be able to sit in my chair afterwards without bouncing up and down in it.” And sometimes I’ll get the white rice anyway and take my chances, and sometimes that will be the right decision, too, especially if I’m going to be active immediately afterwards.

The older you get, the more the odds go up that there’s going to be something you used to love to eat which you can’t chew, swallow, digest, or process the way you used to. And even a lot of younger people have health conditions for which their eating is limited by something other than personal predilection. So if that’s true for you, does that mean you have to throw IE out the window? Of course not. Whatever particular food restrictions or requirements you have, you just incorporate into your fund of knowledge about how to feed yourself.

If you have a food restriction that will cause an acute reaction if you violate it, of course, it’s a lot easier to follow that; if you know you get hives the size of NBA basketballs after eating strawberries, you’re probably not going to want to touch them no matter how tasty they look. But it gets trickier when there are no immediate sequelae to eating something your body has trouble processing, at least in the amounts you’re giving it, but the sequelae show up later in the form of impaired insulin response or sluggishness or constipation or some other decidedly non-salubrious effect. What then? Does that mean you can’t be trusted to feed yourself and need a “don’t eat” sheet?

Not hardly, say I. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with allowing the part of your brain that knows your particular body well to have final say over what goes in your mouth. For most people, that takes the form of, “You don’t want to be fat, do you? You’d better not, piggy.” But over here, where we practice earth logic rather than superstition, nobody voluntarily goes hungry to fit a certain pants size, not least because that will completely mess up your hunger responses and make you crave things (and amounts of things) you might not otherwise want. I’ve seen women on diets completely helpless in the face of a tray of day-old Costco muffins: “Get those carbs away from me!” And me, I look at the day-old Costco muffins and see…day-old Costco muffins, gag, no thanks.

The thing is, those it’s-bad/I-shouldn’t/I-want-it-even-more effects can persist for years — decades — after you cease trying to lose weight. (Remember the Ancel Keys semistarvation study? It doesn’t take much calorie restriction, or too long a period of time doing it, to potentially screw your head up but good.) That’s why not everyone can practice IE out of a book, or a blog post, without outside support (and why people with full-blown eating disorders can especially find it problematic). And that’s also why your particular brand of IE can involve your left brain as much as your right. Only it’s a matter of training your left brain not to make this about your looks or about your food choices as caste markers, so much as saying, “Is there something my body could use more of? What do I have access to right now that could satisfy that?”

It gets dicey, of course, when your access to foods your body wants is limited by finances. Sometimes I really, really want those white anchovies, but my bank account says, “Forget it.” That’s when my left brain steps in and says, “Here’s some canned sardines, you like those, too, and they’re a lot cheaper.” Maybe I won’t like them quite as much as the white anchovies, but it’s at least in the ballpark. Similarly, your life circumstances may not allow you (or whoever you live with) to do much cooking or food preparation or shopping, and sit-down restaurant meals may be a rare treat. It’s admittedly much more difficult to get a lot of dietary variety under those circumstances. In which case, I say screw it, you can only do what you can do, and you don’t owe anybody the last of your health and energy to find and chop cauliflower.

The last thing I would ever want to see is for intuitive eating principles to be something people think they’re “failing.” The whole point of doing this is to quit punishing yourself already! You don’t have to eat the exact thing that pops into your head, and that thing that pops into your head doesn’t have to be something “healthy,” or you flunk. Nobody flunks, okay? It’s perfectly understandable that some people will have to go about things a little differently for one reason or another; when you’ve had shit pounded into your head about right and wrong food from the time you were a little kid, those idees fixe can be pretty damn difficult to dispense with, especially if they’re mixed with genuinely appropriate reasons for you to avoid or restrict certain foods that your particular body has trouble with.

But maybe you can gently nudge yourself to start thinking in terms of addition rather than subtraction. C. isn’t supposed to have peanut butter either, which he loves, at least not as often as he used to have it. But he doesn’t clobber himself when he gives in and buys it and eats it more often than his doctors would approve of. Instead, he says, “What can we get next time that I can spread on bread, so I won’t automatically go to the peanut butter?” That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about here. Not forcing yourself to eat stuff you really don’t like, because as we know, you don’t get as much nutrition out of food you don’t care for. But I think you’re allowed to feel “meh” about what you’re eating and have it anyway, because that’s what’s there or because you genuinely need it for the sake of balance. If this is about loving every single bite you eat, and always picking the “perfect” thing and the “perfect” amount of it, I flunk too, believe me.

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My Seat, Your Seat, His Seat, Their Seat

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

I’m a fatass, but I have skinny partner privilege. If you are a fat woman with a thin partner, you probably have some inkling of what I’m talking about. The fact that C. is thin (and yes, neurotypical, albeit geeky) means there are probably a lot of people who think better of me on first meeting than they would if my partner was also fat. If he likes her, maybe she’s not so bad, I can hear Nice People thinking. (I suppose there are some douchehoses who wonder what’s wrong with him that he has to “settle” for me, but I put them in a separate phylum of dungbrain.)

And nowhere am I more acutely aware of skinny partner privilege than I am on an airplane. When I fly with C., I don’t have to worry that I will get stuck next to Fatphobius jerkwadius who will howl to the flight attendants that OMG HER FRIGHTENING SADDLEBAGS ARE TOUCHING MY SUPERIOR LEG MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP. Only now, I’m planning my first trip on a plane without him in about eight years, at a weight about 20 pounds higher than it was the last time I did it. (I’m going to Pittsburgh to scout out locations for a possible move; he’d be moving, too, but he’s been there already and figured it would be cheaper if only I went out this time.) And all this BS with United’s “fatties pay double and wait endlessly on standby for the privilege maybe for days, and you’ll have to book a hotel room at your own expense too if you’re stranded overnight, fatass” policy has me quaking in my 18-inch-calf boots, lemme tell ya. Even if I avoid booking United, which I plan on doing unless this meatheaded nonsense gets chucked out the window in the next week, I’ve been to Seatguru and checked it against my vintage 1997 copy of Judy Sullivan’s Size Wise. And guess what?


Yes, that’s correct. If you encounter any paid media news accounts of this story, they will tell you that airline seats have stayed the same size since 1960, while we’ve just been snarfing our way into bigger and bigger sizes. (Okay, they haven’t worded it quite that way, but you know they want to.) The paid media won’t tell you this lest the lose their airline ad business, but unless they had eensy-beansy seats in 1960, which was before my time — in which case they got bigger by my first flight in 1972 before getting smaller again — I can tell you that the statement that airline seats haven’t gotten any smaller over the years is hooo-eeeee. From Size Wise:

Airline seats vary from 18.5″ to 23″ wide, depending on the aircraft and its configuration….the 727, 737, and 757s have a 3/3 configuration with 19″ seats. Airlines with 3/3/3 or 3/4/3 configurations use an 18.5″ seat.

According to Seatguru, all the major domestic carriers today use planes with 17.0″ or 17.2″ coach seat, with the exception of Jet Blue, whose seats seem positively generous at 17.8″. In other words, the chances are good that in just the last 12 years, your seat got an entire 2″ smaller. And as commenter liz said on the SP “FUnited” thread, “And it further allows them to make the seats even smaller because the problem will always be the fat ass (no matter how skinny) and not the seat.”

Exactly. I want to say to all these people who think this plan is such a hot idea: “What on earth makes you think you won’t be next?” They’ve already chopped 2″ off the seats, what’s stopping them from chopping even more and then getting to double-charge even more people? (And almost all of them female people, as Kate astutely put it, since a woman needs only wear an average pants size to be in danger of not fitting, whereas a man of average height usually needs to be going on about 400 pounds in order to have any part of his body not fit in a single seat.) All this dribbledrool of YOU CAN’T EXPECT US TO RETROFIT THE PLANES WITH BIGGER SEATS FOR THE FATASSES BLAAARGH MONEY MONEY MONEY is exactly that — dribbledrool. They already did it in the other direction. (Newsflash: Some planes already have bigger seats in them, and they could easily fly those aircraft instead. They know this. They are pulling everyone’s superior legs.)

And once again, this is coming down to — hiss, boo, groan — the very idea of the alleged “choice” involved in being a horizontally gifted individual. I personally don’t think civil or social rights have jackall to do with “choice” — I don’t give a damn if you were born Jewish or you converted, we both get to stay out of the pogrom. But unfortunately, a lot of people who have a lot of clout do use that standard for determining people’s rights, and I’m beyond certain that that is the dynamic that is happening here. Elsewhere on the “FUnited” thread (over 400 comments and counting! way to go, Shapelings!), commenter Sue reports calling up United and asking some more questions about the two-seats-for-fatties policy:

I am so angry. I just called United and politely asked if I had to have two seats and how would they know it… They said yes blah blah blah. Then I asked what about a person in a wheel chair that takes up a lot of space…would they have to buy two seats as well? He said no. I then went on to say if I got a wheelchair, then I would not have to pay for two seats? He said that was correct. I then lost it. I am shaking with rage right now.

Right. Because if you are a wheelchair user, or you have other medical equipment that causes you not to fit into a single seat, the airlines’ official stance is that it’s not your fault and you shouldn’t be punished. If they see you with an assistive device at the gate, they don’t ask if you need it because you started a barfight, or because you huffed a couple of spray cans of Aqua Net and plowed your Harley into a giant redwood; most assistive-device users need their equipment for reasons other than that, so the few with self-inflicted injuries aren’t separated out and treated unequally. (Although, of course, fatasses with assistive devices routinely get accused of having eaten their way into disability, most airline personnel will keep schtum about such thoughts even if they have them.) Probably a lot of this has not so much to do with them having the utmost respect for PWD so much as recognition that U.S. law will not be on the airlines’ side if they deny a medical equipment user equal access.

But bottom line is, people feel okay about punishing us fatasses who don’t have medical equipment, because the default assumption is that we chose to ascend to the highest possible BMI category by being oh-so-careless with our diet and oh-so-slothful with our movement. Like choosing the fries over the salad makes a difference of a hundred freaking pounds or more. Even if you are the kind of extreme binge eater who did put on serious weight bingeing, it’s still not a matter of conscious choice, for cat’s sake. You still have to have the genetic capacity to become the size you are, fries or no fries, binge or no binge. (Not to mention that you also have to have the genetic capacity to binge.) And as with the medical equipment, you can’t tell by looking who needs it because they just do and who needs it because they fucked themselves up horribly, and frankly, it shouldn’t matter anyway.

O Canada, why do you have to keep proving again and again how much smarter you are than your blowhard egotistical neighbor to the south? One person, one fare — no, that does NOT mean a 600-pound person gets to sit on you for five hours, what it means is that someone whose width, or other reason for not fitting in a single seat, is sussed out ahead of time and comped the extra seat. Yeah, that’s right. They just give it to them, pending presentation of official documentation of said physical condition at check-in. None of this mix-in-a-salad-if-you-don’t-like-it crap, which always seems to come from people who mix in a fuckload less salad than I do anyway. And anyone who thinks a second seat is just the ginchiest gift from God should be forced to be strapped against a seat divider on a cross-country trip and feel that thing digging into their back the whole time. Ow, ow, owwww. Nobody wants to be crunched up against that seat divider, trust me. It’s just that sometimes shit happens and it’s necessary.

But it’s just bewildering that people would choose to hate on us instead of unloading their frustrations on the airlines for being so incommodious. Speaking of which, that woman on Kate’s segment, who complained about her 2-year-old paying full fare? Does she know that they used to only charge kids 2-11 half fare? I know this, because when I was 12 years old circa 1975 (probably before this woman was born), my parents begged me not to wear any jewelry or makeup to the airport so I’d look younger than 12 and they could save some money. I refused. (Does any 12-year-old girl want to be mistaken for 11?) But undigressing, why would they resent us so, unless we thought we could Do Something About It? Yeah, I’ll tell you what I could do about it. I could go off my meds again, and eventually fit into one 17″ seat with canola-oil ease. That is, if I didn’t commit suicide before becoming appreciably smaller. If someone got stuck next to me when I was seriously depressed and having screaming/crying jags, even if I got to be a size 8 they’d still be lodging complaints.

And no, I’m NOT just going to stay home, either. Not all the time. Add that to the list of things I don’t owe Fatphobius jerkwadius.

What Our Ears Have Been Missing

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

As some of you know, I sing sometimes. Here’s why I don’t do it in public very much these days: I’m a wuss. Being snickered at and visually picked over by people half my age or less is generally not how I choose to spend my spare time. I sing at home, I sing in the car, I sing in the shower. I could probably get the entirety of my four-octave range back if I really practiced. I haven’t ruled out taking music more seriously one day and finally tapping into the potential I have as a singer and a drummer (I got high praise from drum teachers for my natural ability during my initial lessons a few years ago). But at the moment, it’s kind of asleep for me, although I write down song scraps whenever I think of them and occasionally fashion a new song out of them.

But unlike Susan Boyle, who I assume you’ve all heard about as the great Cinderella story from Britain’s Got Talent, I haven’t yet reached the point where I just can’t stand it any more and I have to let it out where people can see. That’s what I saw when I first looked at her, someone who just finally snapped, someone who said, “Fuck it, I don’t have all the time in the world left. I don’t care if they laugh, let them. Give me that damn microphone already.”

Her voice really is extraordinary. Not only didn’t she drop a note, she made every single one felt. Even most professional singers aren’t that good. And carrying off a difficult, rangy musical-theatre ballad like “I Dreamed a Dream” means that Susan Boyle has been practicing her ass off, probably for decades. (I don’t know if I could sing that song myself without serious training, even in a lower key. It’s tough.) She didn’t just wake up one day and decide to do this on a lark. She’s been growing this talent, in her shower, in her car, in her anywhere that people couldn’t destroy her desire to sing by making fun of her weight and her hair and her age and her awkwardness, for years and years. It was only a matter of her getting to the point where she just had to have that microphone or it would kill her.

What really flattens me is the fact that as soon as Boyle opens her mouth — I mean, on the very first line — the audience just goes NUTS. The very same people who’d been poking each other and gigglesnorting before the music started up, they just start screaming and applauding in waves. It’s like they wanted to be wrong about her. It’s like they were relieved that their prejudices were total BS. Maybe some of them were thinking, “I guess this means I can do it too, and who cares if my boobs are too small or my nose is too big or my teeth are too crooked or my skin tone isn’t luscious or what-the-hell ever, I WANT THAT MICROPHONE TOO.” This wasn’t just a performance, it was an opening of the floodgates, the “physically imperfect” among us (if only if in their own minds) deciding that it was fucked up beyond belief that we would tell a woman she shouldn’t be heard unless she looked like a model and had the world’s most finely tuned self-marketing skills.

But why should anyone have been that shocked? Don’t we all know people who are WOW talents, who nobody’s ever heard of but us and maybe a handful of others? Do people really assume that if someone hasn’t been on television, they couldn’t possibly be worth knowing about? In this day and age? Look, every city in America (let alone gods knows how many other countries) is just teeming with talent. Just oozing with it. The average person is far more talented than they were when I was a kid. When I was little, every other mom didn’t have a three-octave vocal range, every other dad couldn’t play a killer guitar solo, everybody didn’t have a cousin or two with a screenplay that could blow every movie in Hollywood clear off the screen, everyone’s aunt wasn’t making an award-worthy documentary in film school or printing up a chapbook of brilliant poems. Now — oh, man. We couldn’t possibly fit every stunningly gifted person in the world on television, even with 200 channels, and that’s not even getting to the people who haven’t begun to develop their nascent talents yet.

It was interesting to hear BGT judge Amanda Holden say after Susan’s performance that it was a “wake-up call.” You wonder, though, what the take-home lesson will be. “Anyone can have WOW talent no matter what they look like” is a good start, but for me it goes beyond that. I wonder if they’re ever going to get around to asking, “How much vocal richness are we missing out on by insisting all our female singers be super young and super thin and super waspy-cute?” It’s not just that someone like Susan can have a great voice in spite of her age and build and looks and the vicious social snubbing she’s experienced all her life; it’s that those things made her the singer she is. Physically, certain sounds can only come from certain bodies — not that thin young women can’t be great singers, but their tone is different, and how Susan has lived is the source of her soul.

When did audiences become totally unwilling to accept sounds made by anyone who wasn’t young young young and hot hot hot? It hasn’t always been that way. Perhaps part of it is that the gene pool has created more “pretty” people than ever and that is what we are used to seeing (check out what “stunningly beautiful” women on television or in movies or magazines looked like in the 1960s and 1970s, and then look now); perhaps Photoshop and plastic surgery have made us ever intolerant of “flaws” or even obvious markers of ethnicity; perhaps the youth culture that started up in the 1960s has made “never trust anyone over 30” such a credo that even most people over 30 buy into it. Or something else, I don’t know.

But I keep thinking about the sounds from nearly a century ago that are at the roots of much of today’s contemporary music — folk, blues (which morphed into rhythm and blues, then rock and roll, then rap, and a kajillion other things) and hillbilly (which morphed into country/western, then just plain country). Even a lot of vaudeville performers weren’t dishy young things. Now granted, most of the people who performed and recorded that stuff had the shit exploited out of them and usually weren’t compensated fairly, but they weren’t expected to be young young young and hot hot hot, either. (And even “hot hot hot” didn’t necessarily equal “no visible flesh” then, either.) In fact, if you wanted credibility in any of those music forms you couldn’t look like you had it all that easy (which people would instinctively assume if you were very young and very pretty), or no one would believe you.

Now everything’s turned on its head. You need youth, looks, thinness, and money, and lots of it, or people will openly mock you when you take that microphone in your hands. Even if your band has that scruffy boho look, your instruments and equipment have cost plenty and so has your rehearsal space and your computers and everything else you’re using to make your noise and get it out there. It’s almost impossible to be a poor, homely middle-aged singer or musician with no “fashion sense” (read: $$$$ that also has to look like you didn’t spend $$$$) now. It doesn’t occur to people how much is being missed by insisting on young young young and pretty pretty pretty, always always always. We’re missing not just the voices, but the songs, the stories from people who have really lived, not just from some cute telegenic white guy whose idea of “suffering” is not being able to get the blonde AND the redhead to sleep with him simultaneously.

And that’s just in music. Think about all the other art forms that applies to.

Are we really ready to throw all that in the trash as a society? Can Susan Boyle do that much? Or will Susan herself get sucked into the Great Prettifying Machine, being operated on and dieted down and endlessly primped to the point where she’s indistinguishable from dozens of other middle-aged celebrities, like so many others before her? That wouldn’t take away any of her considerable gifts as a vocalist, of course, but it would make an awful lot of people miss the point of her success — again, dammit, again. Let’s hope it doesn’t get lost. My own microphone can only gather dust for so long.

More Fatasspie Stuff

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Posting has been kind of light around here because I spent most of last week writing a huge sprawling epic (over 7000 words, or a little under three times as long as the longest post I’ve ever put up here) about Asperger syndrome and how the diagnosis changed my thinking about….well, everything, pretty much, but especially the degree to which I had internalized “normalcy fetishism” and used it as a club to beat myself about the head. And Liss put it up on Shakesville on Tuesday, in its huge sprawling entirety! And people actually read it! More than the three I would have expected to get through the whole thing.

And it’s a tribute to the kind of community Liss and company have built over there that I’ve had over 160 comments on that piece excluding my responses, and not a single commenter was abusive or nasty, even though the entire piece was very pro-neurodiversity. Maybe they’re just ace trollzappers and I never saw any of the nasty ones, but in any case, it was all very gratifying. I could feel a few minds changing, and boy, that was exciting. If you don’t have time or inclination to read it, I totally understand, it is quite the river of verbiage. But I thought I’d pull one paragraph and talk about it here a little bit, because it’s about fat:

And there’s nothing like being on the autism spectrum to remind a fatasspie that all this “last socially acceptable prejudice” stuff WRT fat really is bunkum. There is no such thing as someone who loves and respects every kind of person in the world and draws the line only at fat people, because fat means something to the hater. And what it usually means is, “we can accept people being a little different from the WASPy/able-bodied/standard-brained/sexually binary/male-identified/upper-caste/heterosexual/monogamous/youngish norm (am I leaving anything out?)…but not that different. Not different enough to make us squirm.”

I actually think being aspie made it really easy — possibly unusually easy — for me to embrace fat acceptance when I first encountered it circa 1996. Even if I didn’t know then that I was aspie yet, I still instinctively knew that being thin would never make me “normal,” would never get me invited to all the cool parties (or any of the cool parties I wasn’t invited to as a fatass, really), would never make me socially acceptable, would never make me feel like the members of my peer group of “choice,” even if my peer group consisted of other “outsiders.” I had been much thinner, and none of that had ever come close to happening to me. So I had long since let go of that part of the FOBT, since I knew it wasn’t happening. I just didn’t know why yet, exactly, and wouldn’t until I found out about the Asperger’s.

I’m also starting to realize that being aspie is one potential reason I haven’t gotten anywhere close to the rations of shit that other fat white women have reported. Some shit, yes, but there are women my size and even smaller who have been subject to far greater abuse because of their weight than I have. I used to think it was some kind of flukish accident…but who knows, maybe it isn’t. If I’m aspie, I’ve already flunked White Womanhood, in the sense that I’m not going to live up to most people’s expectations of how white women are “supposed” to think and react no matter what weight I am, so why bother giving me a hard time about it? As it is with age removing me for good from the wolf-meat category, and thus not attracting anywhere near the amount of panting commentary from strange men that I used to get (and I don’t miss it, believe me), male-identified people are going to be roughest on you if they can convince themselves that if you just did things “right” (like diet your brains out), you’d be attractive and appealing enough as a white chick for them to want you around — as a friend, lover, employee, client, whatever. If you are too old, or too odd (or other too-something-elses I’ve not experienced) for that to be happening anyway, your fat ass is less likely to register with them; they’re going to notice the other “too whatevers” about you first. Privilege sometimes runs on a weird-ass track, let me tell you.

And I’m going to say something here that might surprise some of you. If you asked me which has stigmatized me more, being fat or being aspie, I’m going to say that overall, being aspie has, because it’s been there every minute of my life and impacted every minute of my life whether I was fat, thin, or in between. And if I contracted a wasting illness in my old age that cost me a bunch of weight, enough to make me “normal size,” aspiedom would still be with me. You might ask, then, well, why is she blogging about fat if she thinks that?

And it’s a good question. I started blogging here before I got my diagnosis, but it’s kind of an interesting deal that I knew I was fat when I was 8, but didn’t know I was aspie until I was 44. You just don’t hear about autism-spectrum issues with the relentless frequency and intensity that you hear about fat, fat, fatfatfat, from every blithering corner of the planet. Every goddamn magazine and newspaper and anywhere else they sell advertising isn’t plastered with ads about “how to get rid of your Asperger’s.” Television isn’t littered all frigging day long with “here’s how I became neurotypical and so can you if you try hard enough” stories. (“How I made my kid NT” stories are another deal, of course, but even they haven’t attained wallpaper status, not yet.) The autism-related issues are mostly kind of buried, underneath the surface, hidden in the matrix of human interactions and behavior. I’ve never once had anyone say to me, “I don’t want you around because you’re aspie” or anything even remotely like it; it was always more like, “God, but you’re strange, I can’t figure it out.” Fat was something I couldn’t help but know about; you’d have to literally be raised by wolves without electricity not to, and kids are getting the message these days even younger than I did. People on the autism spectrum are often blamed for not trying hard enough to pass for NT, but not so much for not actually becoming NT. Big difference.

But getting thin, as far as I’m concerned, is just another form of “passing.” Just because you can temporarily force your body to look like that of someone who maintains a much smaller size eating and exercising more like the way you used to than the way you do now that you have to frigging starve, doesn’t make you biologically all that much like that thinner person. Straining to force your weight down is very, very different from being a lower weight naturally (or even attaining a lower weight simply by eating in a way that works better for your body), and it boggles my mind that fat people are actually expected to live that way if they want full personhood. And probably the fact that my aspieness makes physical discomfort magnified about tenfold just makes me dig in my heels even more about wanting to prevent as much of it as possible for as long as possible.

Furthermore, I’m sure that if they really did come up with a special diet that rendered non-NT people temporarily NT, kinda Flowers for Algernon-style, and achieved temporary but dramatic results for millions of us, they’d start shoving it down autistic people’s throats too, and getting pissed and resentful at us for refusing it. Don’t you want to be normal? What’s the matter with you? What’s that old proverb again? “The only thing worse than missing paradise is a short trip through it.” Even if it really WAS all that and a travel mug of Super Sauce to be “normal,” which I don’t believe anyway, wouldn’t losing your supply of Super Sauce just feel that much worse than never having had it in the first place? When you’re starving, you don’t sit there and sigh with happiness thinking about the most awesome meal you ever had, do you? If you’re desperately lonely, you don’t sit around smiling about when you were voted Homecoming Queen all those years ago, right? Of course not. That runs counter to every instinct we have. So why would I want to knock myself out, risk what’s left of my physical and mental health, trying to get my fingers on something that’s just going to slip through my grasp anyway? That just sounds kinda…dopey. At least it does to my admittedly unusually-wired noggin.

Brain difference, body difference. Body difference, brain difference. It all kinda works together, doesn’t it?