An Open Letter About the O Word.

I sent this out to my colleagues today after yet another meeting where I felt that familiar rush of discomfort. You know the one.

When someone drops the “O Word”


Dear Colleagues

I want to talk to you about the “O Word” – obesity.

This is a word of oppression and violence for me and many others.

It is a word that speaks to a medical/ pathological model of human experience – something that is no longer accepted when we speak about disability, sexuality and gender identity, or race.

It is a word that conjures up trauma for people who have been bullied, abused and denied access to healthcare, housing and employment because of their weight and the conflation of weight with competency.

It is enough that fat people have to live in world where we are constantly bombarded with diet talk, negative media portrayals and unsolicited opinions on what we should or shouldn’t do with our own bodies. It is enough that we are never believed when we experience sexual harassment and assault. It is enough that we have to navigate places that aren’t made to be welcoming, comfortable or accessible for us.

We don’t need to experience that exclusion at work too.

And yes, language does matter because it is a signal of what is valued and what isn’t. We can have a conversation about health that doesn’t use that word; considering that weight is only one of a number of indicators of health.

Let’s talk about health enabling factors instead like access to fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise, economic access and freedom from violence, discrimination and vilification. I’d like to talk about those things.

And finally, I don’t expect a response – just for you to reflect. But if you do want to have a conversation about body positivity, fat acceptance and how we can collaborate to send out a positive health enabling message – I would love to talk to you.

Also – if you need to talk about these issues with someone who has lived it and come to a place of body peace, I am absolutely here for you.


And that goes for all of you too.

And yes I felt sick when I pressed send as the heaviness of maintaining constant resilience made itself felt. But honestly, I am done with this bullshit.

Really, truly, done.

Go well fellow humans.

Dear Menz

I love men. I’m even in love with one of them – so much so that he lives in the same house as me.

My mister is the kind of guy that downloads The Bachelor for us to hate-watch together, who sends me links to feminist podcasts and silly pictures, and also makes cups of tea without me ever having to ask. A keeper if you will.

Unfortunately there’s a bunch of other dudes out there who are really un-woke when it comes to showing basic respect. Sadly I have to talk right to their faces and sometimes I don’t even get paid money to do so.

Today I was reading this article which talks about when women get harassed online and menz can’t deal with boundaries. It’s outrageous to me that ANYONE would spend actual time trolling women who dare to disengage from being disrespected in their own online spaces – but you know, people are jerks.

This made me think about all the other times women try to set boundaries and men just can’t respect them. So here is a handy list for all the things that I as a woman don’t owe you:

A smile – I’m generally a smiler. It makes the world a bit nicer and I think if we all smiled a bit more there’d be much less misunderstanding and assumptions about people. That said, I don’t owe you a smile. If I’m smiling at you it’s an attempt to be a decent human, it’s not an invitation to talk, nor is it some sort of veiled come-on. If I was coming onto you – you would totally know about it.

Telling women to smile is shorthand for trying to control us. Your capitalist patriarchy might want women to be smiling complicit sex robots, but even if we were robots, at some point we would be self-aware enough to be sick of your shit. Smiling is a choice not an obligation.

My time – Time is a very precious commodity. How I choose to spend mine depends on my priorities and how much space I have in my day. Like anyone with a brain, I am up for a mind-bending chat, a philosophical meander or even a gossip from time to time. However, if you’re the sort of man-ego who likes to download buckets of meaningless verbiage on me because you like the sound of your own inflated sense of self, please don’t expect me to fucking listen.

Conversation flows two ways – if you want to rant about something, start a blog – that’s what I’m doing right now.

My attention – Another precious resource in the hyper-saturated information age is one’s attention. Please don’t try and attract my attention; if I’m not coming at you with an open expression that’s willing to engage I’m probably thinking about something else that isn’t you or your need for validation.

An apology for taking up as much space as I do – This is in no way just limited to fat women, but I think we feel it more keenly than our smaller sized sisters. If I had just a dollar for every time some dude had invaded my personal space, made me feel like I needed to fold myself into a smaller space to accomodate them or had to shrink away to avoid an unwelcome touch, I would be set for life.

You can just assume there is a 1.5 metre radius inflatable bubble that I live in that you aren’t welcome to come into unless I ask. Pressing up on the train, in the coffee queue or the “accidental” brush of your hands where they are not welcome is not only gross but technically assault. Just stop.

Politeness – Being part of the working world requires a basic sense of the social niceties. I make it a point to be polite; it’s not only good customer service but it’s also good human behaviour. However if you are rude, racist, homophobic, talk over the top of me or just an old fashioned misogynist all bets are off. This isn’t exclusively the domain of menz, but don’t they get so emphatic about their right to have fucked up opinions?

I have opinions too – and you’ll hear all about them if you take my initial politeness as a sign you can drop your hateful little “truths” on me. I am a master of telling you you’re wrong while simultaneously being “polite”. It’s a gift, I know.

An explanation of my mood – Yes, I’m the first one to admit it, I’m kinda moody. I have days when it’s best for everybody if I just hunker down with headphones and not talk to anyone at all. In fact, I’ll generally make an announcement that it’s a grumpy day just so there’s no misunderstanding about my behaviour, lack of interaction or directness.

Some of us have a finite amount of emotional energy and we choose to save it for the things that matter. That said, we don’t owe you an explanation about why we are in a certain mood, nor do we want any commentary about it. Men have an out when it comes to showing emotion in that they’re not expected to display any. I think that’s dumb too, but men get to be silent, distant, angry and blunt without anyone accusing them of being “moody” or “difficult”.

In the end my dear menz, all we women really want from you is respect. Respect for our boundaries, respect for our intelligence and respect for our autonomy to decide what we want from other humans. Whether it’s deleting an unwelcome comment on our Facebook page or just refusing to engage in another round of “justify your existence/ opinions/ moods/ actions” – back off and settle down. You have better things to do and be.

D-Day

I started writing this blog post two weeks ago – in the time in between a lot of things have been happening in my personal  and professional lives that have prevented me from finishing it until now.  

The lesson is that managing a new diagnosis and the accompanying change happens alongside life; it’s not something you get to think about too much before it just IS. And life is messy and complicated, some times more than others….

Last week I sat in a waiting room a lot less pleasant than this one waiting for a day I had waited for, for a very long time.

That day was D-Day – the day I would finally get a Diagnosis.

There’s a few thoughts that go through your mind when you’ve waited this long for an answer that might explain all the seriously weird things that have been happening in your body.

What will it mean?

Why is this happening?

Why has it taken so long?

When it comes, it’s a relief but it’s also an opening up of a whole lot of other questions that may not ever have answers.

And so I sit in another waiting room for another bunch of tests and I know that I will be waiting here every two weeks for the next few months. It’s heartbreaking and confusing and some other feelings I can’t yet name.

And sitting here I think about the different “performances” of health that we are required to make in order to be taken seriously enough to get that diagnosis. I have suffered years of pain that has come and gone without explanation, without knowing what it is I am doing or not doing that is the root cause. Although I know now that what I was developing was a Psoriatic type Arthritis (or PsA), and that the pattern and progress of the disease was fairly typical; I can’t help but be frustrated at the hundreds of false flags that were attributed not to the disease that was quietly robbing me of my vitality but to my weight or to assumptions about how I eat or exercise.

The prejudicial treatment of people who are fat, isn’t just confined to the medical professions.

Just last week, when I was talking to a colleague about getting back into yoga and how that mindfulness was supporting me to be a more effective leader, she made comment that “yoga is really great for weight loss”. Her face when I told her that “I go to FAT YOGA, and no I don’t think that being FAT is a bad thing and I go to yoga for my mind more so than my body and isn’t it just a force of capitalism to make us feel bad so that we buy into commodified health” was part shocked and part dismayed that her advice and assumptions weren’t welcome nor were they news to me.

Similarly a conversation with just about anyone garners some form of advice about how I should manage MY condition. This “concern trolling” is just another form of abuse. If you wouldn’t yell “cripple” at someone using a wheelchair, you probably shouldn’t suggest “helpful advice” either. Trust me, if/ when you have a chronic illness of your own you will be doing your own research about how to best cope with it.

Like the original  D-Day, mine is also an invasion. A diagnosis is a call to arms, it signals the beginning of a campaign against an unwelcome disease, a series of battles which will be won or lost, but not without some collateral damage.

This war is not just with one’s own body, but also with the tides of conflicting advice. At some point the only sensible action will be détente; an acceptance that war is a mutually assured destruction, and finally peace, where minimal intervention coupled with understanding can sustain harmony.

The takeaway is this: if you care or have concern for another, ask yourself, are you an ally or an enemy?

Why I sold my Nutri Ninja

Wellness is a loaded term for those of us navigating the complex worlds of intersecting illness and fatness. There’s something almost defensive about our right to just exist without a whole lot of interventions being suggested – usually without actually asking anyone for an opinion.

At work I’m surrounded by people in various stages of “self improvement” whether they’re the slim-shakers, the life-coachers or the tinned tuna eaters. What they have in common is a total immersive commitment to the langauge of whatever fad they have pledged allegiance to this time around in their “change journey”.

Enter the Green Smoothie Brigade.

You know them, wandering about with cartoonishly large bottles full of gritty kale concoctions. So wholesome, so self-congratulatory that they have transcended mere eating to become greener within and without.

I too have swallowed the kale mush flavoured kool-aid in the hopes that it would be the answer to all of my internalized self-hatred/ woes/ existential crises.

Spoiler – it doesn’t help. 

I jest, but I also think it reveals something deeply disturbing about how twisted our ideals of what health is have become. I see the green smoothie as a symbol of everything that is wrong with “wellness” positioned as a product extension of the highly capitalistic weight loss industry.

It is some seriously toxic thinking to believe that the pathway to good health (or even enlightenment) is to shove as much “nutrition” down your face in the shortest time possible. It’s also completely bogus to think that pulverizing your food somehow makes it more “bio-available”. If anything drinking your food makes it more likely you’ll grow to see it as something joyless and utilitarian and not an opportunity to experience the physical and psychological benefits of nourishing yourself fully.

Food has an emotional and cultural resonance. It is a way to express care for others and for yourself. There is a reason it is a focus of our social rituals and why it is the great leveler between cultures.

Yes food can cause addictive and destructive behaviours – like anything that brings pleasure there is a potential for mis-use and abuse. Trust me; I am no stranger to bad habits when it comes to eating, and it is made much worse by the bullying and judgement that comes with eating while fat. Vicious cycle.

But, when eaten mindfully, food is a meditation on the cycles of the body and nature. It is our connection to the earth and its ability to sustain us. It requires deep listening and acceptance of what our bodies need and what we need from our bodies.

This might sound esoteric and perhaps it is, but this intention in how we eat also sets an intention for the rest of how we live. Are we treating ourselves like products in the race for expediency in our “health” – something that is just scheduled amongst the extreme business of our lives? Or, do we slow down and connect with our food, feeling its sustenance supporting us to live well.

You are what you eat – but on a deeper level you are how you eat also.

When I cook or prepare my lunch, or shop for fresh fruit and vegetables I am thinking about the moment between hunger and satiety. That moment where I allow some time and space to set an intention for how I want to take care for myself and the ones I love. It is an act of radical self-love to eat with intention and without judgement.

I look at the Green Smoothie Brigade and I wonder about their intentions and whether they might need my care. As a fat person I’m often the one who people will confess their guilty food secrets too, as if my fatness gives them absolution, and maybe it does.

Or maybe green smoothies work for them – it’s not for me to judge. But I was glad to see the back of the Ninja and everything it represents even if it does also make margaritas (so I’m told).

Note: This post was written in the outpatients at Footscray Hospital.  Forgive the hints of sarcasm – it had been a long wait. 

This Invasion Day

The further I get towards “unbecoming” everything I’ve been taught to become, the more my thoughts turn to what is really important.

Each year, this day for us Australians is a reminder of just how much our collective psyche is built on someone else’s suffering.

It’s not up to me to make a grand statement about what date we should change it to or whether a national day of celebrating being “Australian” is something that we should do at all.

What I do know is this:

Pride should be a positive force not a divisive one and certainly not rooted in the genocide and suffering of amazingly resilient and generous peoples.

It’s misguided to fight off Islamaphobia by crowdfunding advertising that reinforces this day as a day of celebration at all.

Claiming nationalistic pride is somehow a celebration of diversity is some seriously deluded Orwellian “alternative truth”. Especially when we have representatives elected  on the sole platform of stirring up hate for the “other”. 

Instead of hanging our political overtures on this day we should sit down, shut up and listen. 

 

Always was. Always will be. 

 

 

Staycationing.

So are you going anywhere? 

Each year, somewhere around early December, the holiday talk starts to happen. This ritual occurs around kitchenettes, lunch rooms, meeting spaces and hallways. Each participant feels the imperative to share their plans, almost like they need validation from one another that their “escape” is worth the hours put in at a job that they may or may not like that much.

For those who enjoy travel, that is awesome for you.

I view a break as just that – a break. It is a time out from needing to be anywhere in particular, and from any set of external expectations. This is not to say that there are no plans, in fact a break is when I hit my peak creativity, peak motivation and when I get a chance to step back and recalibrate.

There is an implication in holiday talk that the experiences available to us in our everyday are somehow less than. If we are seeking experiences that enrich us, give meaning to our lives, enhance our sense of self or give us some perspective we can get that from any vantage point. Meaningful experiences start with an intention.

“The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”
― Alain de BottonThe Art of Travel

Alain de Botton asks us to question the why in our collection of travel experiences. Disappointment is easy when our expectations about what the experience will bring have been packaged and sold to us so convincingly by the travel industry. Add to that the constant stream of other people’s carefully curated and styled travel updates on social media and one might feel that familiar fear of missing out.

But what are you missing out on exactly?

These quiet times are when I focus on developing an intention for the year ahead. It’s when I catch up on those small acts of self care that get lost in the cycle of work/ sleep/ repeat. It is when I can move at a pace that allows greater space. When I can invest time into new habits, when I can read, make art or just sit and think.

It helps me to refine my vision of where I am going through many small, intentional journeys in thought and place.

In this sense I am going somewhere, but that conversation needs more than just small talk at the kitchenette to satiate the desire to escape.

Image: Williamstown Beach with Bailey #staycation