Thursday, February 28, 2008

Foster kitty news!

Our last foster, Isaac, was adopted on Thursday of last week. His new family is very nice, and I hope that everything works out for them. They had a few issues with him interacting badly with their other cats, but I think he just needs more time in isolation, with some smells transferred back and forth. I recommended this book by Nicholas Dodman, as he has some good methods for introducing cats who don't initially get along.

On Tuesday afternoon, SP from the rescue called me and asked me to pick up a cat that had been trapped as a stray. Ms. G., the elderly woman who trapped her, lives four blocks from my home, so I drove over right away and picked up a lovely calico whom Ms. G. had named Pretty Lady. Pretty Lady was out in the cold, and had been taking shelter on the woman's porch, where Ms. G. had put a blanket out for her. Having no cats of her own, this kindly lady had fed the kitty a can of tuna while waiting for a volunteer to come over. As I was leaving, Ms. G. told me that she might be interested in adopting Pretty Lady after she is vetted and spayed.

Pretty Lady was absolutely filthy; parts of her looked tan where they were actually originally white. I let her settle in for the night after giving her a nail trim, to which she only objected vocally. She tolerated the trim with grace, not even needing to be restrained. I was able to take each paw and gently clip the claws. Pretty Lady purred and nuzzled, enjoying the attention. She was deeply grateful for the food I gave her, and also seemed grateful for the shelter and warmth.

On Wednesday, I gave her a bath. She vocalized her displeasure, but was otherwise docile, just like when I trimmed her nails. She actually seemed more annoyed by the drying off (with a towel) than by the bath itself. It's amazing how having the water warm enough can make cats less upset about baths. The bathwater was seriously nasty when I was done, and she smelled a lot better.

I really miss giving Teya baths; before she passed away, Teya was not able to groom herself properly, so I gave her occasional baths. I made sure the water was very warm (cats have a higher body temperature, so if the water is not warm enough, it's as uncomfortable to them as taking a lukewarm bath is to us), and she actually seemed to feel good as the water warmed her limbs and body. After the bath, I would comb her thoroughly, toweling her off as I combed. Once dry, she was extremely happy and comforted by being clean again. She appreciated my grooming, and, between that and the brushing I frequently gave her, we bonded very closely. She was chilly to me when I first moved in, being a one-person cat, and that person being Brian, so it was absolutely gratifying to have her finally warm up to me.

So, onward to the photos of Pretty Lady. In the first one, you can see how filthy she is:
Pretty Lady

Pretty Lady

And post-bath:
Pretty Lady post-bath

Her delightful personality will make her very adoptable, I think, and I am looking forward to her finding a good home!

300th post! Hooray!

Dear friends,
I have not yet worked on the blogroll expansion. If you would like to be added to the list of blogs in my sidebar, please leave me a comment with a link here.

To celebrate my 300th post, I want to share with you the snow sculpture I made yesterday while I kept my snow-shoveling housemate company.

Snow sculpture Snow sculpture

Snow sculpture Snow sculpture

My husband appreciated the surprise when he got home that evening. Don't worry; it's in the backyard, and the neighbors are all young non-childed folks like us :)

Guest Post from Down Under: Size doesn't matter

From Jes, in Melbourne, a good friend of mine on livejournal (by the way, Jes, if you want me to publish your username, I will be happy to edit this to do so; I didn't want to link to you and get you bombarded with trolls):

You know what I'm really over? People thinking they're something special because of what they look like.

No, seriously. It's stupid.

I mean, fine, yay, have body confidence, look after yourself, take a bit of pride in your appearance if it makes you feel good, keep up with the personal hygiene thing because that's a good idea-- but beyond that-- so what? Once you've slapped on some makeup and gotten some surgery, there's going to be a truth remaining-- whatever you are on the inside is still you. Same stuff that's going to be there as if you're several dress sizes larger or not wearing any makeup.

I'm sick of the "weight debate." I'm sick of the hysteria crisis about ZOMG Childhood obeeesity!OHNOEZ! I'm sick of being spammed for weight loss drugs whenever I open my email. I'm sick to fucking death of people who don't fall into the conventional standards of attractive not buying into the bullshit hate-your-body machine and then being paid out for it. I'm sick of watching people be bullied and shamed about food on The Biggest Loser, and then seeing the whole thing hailed as "healthy" and "inspirational."

I'm also sick of the misguided notion that being a certain size frees you from ridicule from the general public and internet trolls. I'm sick of seeing activists assume that unless you're over a certain size, you've never experienced crap about what size you are. I'm sick of the idea that only some people have been conditioned to hate their bodies. I'm sick of someone posting a rage about fat hatred and then some skinny person nosing in going, "Don't hate on skinny people," when it wasn't anything to DO with skinny people, but to do with discrimination and hatred. Thinking that larger people deserve to be treated like human beings, and raging about when they're not does not equal hating on skinny people.

And you know what else I'm sick of? Smugness about body size. Believe it or not, your body size does not define who you are. It says nothing about how much intelligence you have, what your feel passionately about, who you love, how you treat people, what you do for a living or how your family is. It doesn't define your worth as a human being. It isn't something to be proud of, just like being tall or white or a blonde isn't something to be proud of.

I mean, every time I hear someone smugly point out that they're some conventionally-revered body size, I think, "Congratulations! You fall into the socially-acceptable guidelines either because you conformed and dieted, or because you were blessed with genetics which no one had any control over! GO YOU!" I mean, really. Boasting about conforming doesn't make you anything special, and boasting about your luck in the genetic lottery is just stupid. It's like the idiotic little snobby fuckers who I went to school with who used to brag about their parents' cars, like those cars were their achievements.

So yeah, I see "Look at me, I'm a size two!" following a bunch of insults levelled at larger people a completely petty comment. Why show off about your size like it matters? Evidently, if you're leaving rude comments on someone's blog because they dare question the mindset of a society which rewards you for being a size two to the detriment of others, you've already proven yourself to have a pretty pathetic personality. And no diet, or genetic luck, is going to get rid of that.

And no, it's not about body pride. It's one thing to say, "I'm a size two and I like my body and I feel good," it's another thing to use it like it's some sort of insult or leveller after paying out larger people. It doesn't strike me as the behaviour of someone who feels good about themselves to do that shit, either... generally people with confidence don't go out of their way to find people to bully.

I think it's, that, for a lot of people, "size two" is all they have. They can be ugly or stupid or dislike themselves a lot, but if they're a size two, that's their inch, their piece of power in a world that they don't hold many cards in. Why shouldn't it be-- look how revered the size two body is.

And the thing is, if fat people start liking their bodies and feeling okay about themselves and not caving into the diet/hate-yourself industries, what happens? Suddenly size doesn't matter anymore. Suddenly your being a size two doesn't count for shit. It's just another body size, nothing special, you're not a unique and beautiful snowflake and all the rest of it.

And no, this isn't an attack on people who are size twos. (What is that, anyway? ...That's a six in Australian sizes, right? I'm currently in size eight Aussie clothing. And if I was a size two, I'd still feel the same way, btw.) It's an attack on people who think that "I'm a size two!" is a wonderful way to put someone else in their place, and that it makes them more worthwhile than someone who isn't a size two. It's an attack on "body pride" that only comes with insulting other people about the size of their bodies, as though being thin rocks because there are people bigger than you and you get to pick on them.

It's body size. Unless you're living in a society which tells you yours is wrong, wrong wrong, or you're a professional athlete or a bodybuilder or something, what is there to be proud of? (I can totally understand people who have the body pride thing in spite of being ostracised for what they look like, in the same way I can understand, say, gay pride. It's having pride in who you are in a world that doesn't want you to. I think that's cool.) But-- and this isn't an attack on thin people-- we need Thin Pride just like we need White History Month and The Penis Monologues and the Miss Able-Bodied Pageant.

Jes is responding to some comments I received from a troll, comments that I will leave up so that people can see just how cruel and disgusting our detractors can be. The troll had mentioned being a size two, as if that actually makes him/her/it superior. I'm sorry to say that a size two friend was upset when Jes mentioned that being a size two wasn't something to be proud of. Her intention was not to say that thin people are bad, but that your size doesn't mean that you are better than someone else, just like being white, able-bodied, or male shouldn't be a point of pride. It's especially offensive when a person is proud of the trait that puts them in the privileged class. To that person, I apologize that you misunderstood her intention, and I want you to know that I do not think ill of thin people--and I will be covering that subject in a future post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Open Letter To Those New To The World of Chronic Pain

Dear New Chronic Pain Sufferers,
Welcome to the world of chronic pain, a dark place where you may or may not get a definitive diagnosis or find treatment that helps.

I want you to know, first of all, that you are not alone. There are lots of us out there who have gone before you into this realm, who have been in it for years, and who have done our best to pave the way to make it easier for you. As you may be discovering, we have not made as much headway as we'd like. This is a difficult road, one where we have only just begun to be taken seriously, to have research done, and to have some therapies that work for some of us.

We still have a lot of lousy doctors out there who are either not well-educated, or not compassionate. Most of us have been through several doctors, usually around 7 or 8, before finding one that is willing and able to help us. You may have to do the same thing, and while that is a huge pain in the butt, it is not worth your time to continue seeing someone who treats you poorly, doesn't take you seriously, or doesn't know what the hell s/he is doing. If your doctor is unable to help, and unwilling to learn more about your condition, then find a new one. If that one fails you, move on to the next one. Remember, you are not there to be a good, passive little patient. You have to advocate for yourself, and if the doctor expects you to just suck it up and do what s/he says? S/he does not deserve your time or money.

There's also an immense amount of quackery out there. Look out for doctors who promote snake oil or weird therapies. Especially look out for claims of a "cure"--that's the clearest indicator of bullshit. Guaifenesin, for example, works no better than placebo, yet there's a doctor out there making tons of money off of fibromyalgia patients with his quacky book that claims to cure the condition with guaifenesin. Look out for vitamin pushers; a multivitamin isn't a bad thing to take, but don't throw your money away on one that claims to be designed for your condition. Avoid magnetic products; they are quackery as well. Your best bet is to find a good online forum and communicate with other sufferers. Most veterans can tell you what works and what doesn't, which is very helpful in a realm where hucksters prey upon our desperation to make the pain stop.

Also know that everyone has a different set of symptoms, and different therapies work for some, but not others. It's important to have a lot of tests done, including Vitamin D levels, thyroid panel (full panel, not just TSH), Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis screening, and things like that. Rule out everything you can, and treat what you test positive for. Some people find that their pain is caused by celiac disease, and is helped by going gluten free. We all have to go through periods of trial and error to see what works and what doesn't. For example, many people get relief from Ultram, but it does absolutely nothing for me. I get relief from opiate pain medication, but that doesn't work for everyone. It takes a lot of time and effort to find the right diagnoses and therapies. You also will have to advocate for yourself a LOT, asking the doctor to let you try this or that, and if they refuse to listen, time to fire them and find someone who wants to help you.

Your family and friends are probably going to treat you badly over this. They may accuse you of being lazy, tell you that you just need to lose weight (chronic pain afflicts people of all body types), to suck it up, or that you're imagining it. They'll offer tons of unsolicited advice, and probably even get mad at you for not paying $100/month for a random herb that they read about in Reader's Digest. You do not deserve to be treated this way, and you do NOT have to apologize for your pain. You might just have to let go of some people, if they cannot get over your life change. You don't have to yell at them, but feel free to tell them that you are dealing with your condition, and it is between you and your doctor what therapies you try. If they can't handle that, then do your best to ignore them when they are behaving badly.

Finally, don't give up. Your pain is real. There is research showing the biochemical differences between us and normal people, and more going on even now. Therapies are being developed and improved every day. Keep a journal, either online or paper, and make it private. Write about your pain, your experiences, and what works for you. The information may help you or someone else someday. Network online with other people and share your experiences in communities; you will learn valuable stuff this way. Find a source of comfort, be it a spouse, friend, support group, cat, or dog; you need someone to hug you and be hugged by you. Finally, remember that you are not a bad person, and you don't deserve this. It's just a bad thing that happened to you, and, while it seriously sucks, there are more of us out here to help you find your way.

Welcome to chronic pain.


The O word

I hate the O word.

"Obesity". Yuck.

I had an instinctive reaction to it of nausea and anger. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, though, until I was reading Gina Kolata's book, "Rethinking Thin." I had to view the O word a couple hundred times, and it was making me more and more annoyed, so I examined the context in which it was used, especially when she was quoting anti-obesity proponents.

I realized that it's because it takes humans right out of the equation. Obesity is a "problem", an "epidemic". But, you see, chunks of fat aren't floating around out there on their own, pouncing on innocent thin people and eating them. It's not a parasite or microbe that is attacking people, either. It's a state of being.

You can have influenza without people, in a test tube. You can have arsenic and mercury in a test tube as well, with no people. "Obesity", however, does not exist separately from human beings. It is nothing more than a person having more fat tissue than some arbitrary cutoff point. You never see the panic-mongers say, "obese people" or "obese person", however. Yet, when they talk about fighting obesity, or obesity being a problem, they conveniently dehumanize the people that they're referring to.

I am a person, not an epidemic. Not a problem. Not a crisis. A person.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nearly 100 years of fat panic!

From Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, by Gina Kolata:
In her columns in the 1920s, Peters warned that three out of four Americans were seriously overweight.

Now, wait a second. If 75% of Americans were overweight in the 1920s, and the CDC is saying that 64% of Americans are overweight or obese now (and they are), then we're actually getting thinner, not fatter.

Or, maybe, like most fearmongering, this particular panic has been going on for decades, and, like many "the end of the world is nigh" cults tend to prove in the long term, time has demonstrated that fatphobia is baseless.

Indeed, throughout Kolata's book, she demonstrates how one diet craze after another proves to be at least worthless, and, sometimes, even harmful, but sanctimonious finger-wagging by elitist thin people keeps the sturdy-bodied masses running in circles trying to be socially acceptable.

How about we don't worry about what percent of the population weighs more than is socially acceptable--and instead, treat people as individuals instead of statistics? After all, the excessively adored BMI calculation is known to be flawed as a tool for determining who is fat. It does not distinguish between a fat person and a heavily muscled one, making it a fairly useless tool for its intended purposes of data mining and discriminating against fat people.

It makes a lot more sense to me for a person's health to be managed based on their individual needs; I can't see any real benefit for me to go to my doctor and have him tell me I've got to start dieting because 64% of Americans are considered overweight. My being fat isn't going to affect someone else, no matter what bullshit studies come out saying it's omgcontagious. My being fat isn't going to bring thin people over to bump up that 64% number. This is not an "epidemic", and it is not a NEW situation, and we need to stop acting like the sky is falling.

Kids & WLS, Part Three: Informed Consent

One of the biggest problems I have with WLS for children is that they cannot give informed consent. Not only can a minor not give consent, legally (their parents have to do it for them), but I don't believe that young people have the life experience and knowledge base to make that kind of decision.

There are a number of things that minors are not permitted to do, even with a parent's permission. They cannot get tattoos, drink alcohol, see certain movies, and, in some cases, have sex (especially with a partner who is not a minor). There are very good reasons for age limits on these things. In the case of tattoos, and some kinds of piercings, it is a way to protect that young person from doing something to their bodies that cannot be undone, and which may have negative consequences in the future.

Does that sound familiar? Now, to be fair, a tattoo is hardly comparable to WLS. After all, a tattoo is highly unlikely to leave you with diseases associated with malnutrition or kill you. Tattoos can be removed, albeit expensively, even years later. And, a tattoo does not require you to adhere to a strict daily dietary regimen that may be difficult for a young person to stick to. So, even if your mom gives you permission to have Tweety Bird tattooed on your ankle, it's only logical that you should not be legally permitted to do so until you are an adult, while she can happily sign off on getting your stomach amputated. Right?

Other types of legal restrictions exist to protect children from themselves, or from negatively impacting others around them. Young people need time to develop their bodies and minds. A 13-year-old who gets pregnant is more at risk than an 18-year-old, whose body is more prepared for pregnancy and childbirth. Young people need their decisions tempered with guidance, with veto power by a mature person, so that they are not punished for life by consequences of immature decisions (such as the aforementioned barely-teen mother). The same 13-year-old is also more at risk for getting an STD from a sexual partner, because she is not yet experienced or educated enough to take precautions. Why is it that these types of things are widely recognized as not age-appropriate for young people, but it's regarded as a-ok to have children undergo high-risk surgery to "solve" a problem that is not an emergency? If your daughter came home and said, "All the other girls are getting pregnant, and I want a baby of my own," you would do everything to dissuade her, and tell her that bowing to peer pressure to do dangerous things is a bad thing in the long term. Actually, you'd say, "If they were all jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?"

"Informed" is a key word in informed consent, as well. Not even adult patients get a proper education about the risks. WLS proponents are so gung ho to make a buck that they don't want to scare off their gravy train by telling them how it is. And while they can explain it to the parents, it isn't fair to foist the procedure on people who are too young to have the education and experience to put the information into context and understand the ramifications of WLS. A young person who is dealing with the social stresses of being fat will also be very eager to do anything to change that situation--even claiming that they are ready to make the rather intense lifestyle changes necessary to survive, but these same kids told mom and dad that they really truly would feed the hamster/dog/parakeet and clean its cage--and we all know how that turns out.

Simply put, it is not right or fair to have children undergo WLS when they are not even able to properly consent to having a tattoo because it is assumed that they might regret it later. I guarantee that if the tattoo and piercing industries started lobbying to eliminate age requirements, people would be in an uproar. WLS can have much scarier consequences, and the industry behind it is pushing hard and fast to get their hands on kids' bodies. If you are a parent, you SHOULD be in an uproar over that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kids & WLS, Part Two: Psychological considerations

Do kids really want bariatric surgery? A friend asked me this, and I was able to point to Meowser's comment on a previous blog post:
*I* probably would have wanted the surgery from the time I was 12 or 13 or 14 -- it will get me to stop eating so much! I'll be skinny! I'll be pretty! I'll have a boyfriend! A BOYFRIEND WHO LOVES ME!!! Where do I sign up? And I wasn't even "obese" then, just chubbier than what was considered "pretty," and I wanted "love" SO BAD, and I was utterly convinced that it was my fat ass standing in the way (noooo, it had nothing to do with the fact that no boy I had ever met then was capable of loving me the way I dreamed of, fat or thin).

Some of them DO want it, and who can blame them? Fat kids are ostracized by just about everyone around them--peers, families, teachers, even other fat kids (who'd rather be seen as trying really hard not to be a fat kid than teaming up with other fat kids for solidarity). Every waking moment is filled with reminders that they are less than human because they are fat. They are bombarded with media telling them that they are GOING to die ANY MINUTE NOW unless they become thin. With the cruelty they face every day, and the hysterical messages they don't have the experience to filter out, who can blame them for wanting a procedure that promises to give them the one quality that keeps them from participating normally in society, when that procedure's slick marketers hype the positives and downplay the very real and dangerous risks?

Before, I discussed the physical health concerns unique to growing bodies; now I am going to discuss the possible psychological problems that would be especially influential on youthful minds.

For a young person, WLS prevents the development of a healthy and normal relationship with food and eating. If a child's eating patterns are disordered in the first place, such as binge eating disorder, then inducing the other end of the spectrum in disordered eating does not really address the core problem; it simply trades one form of disordered eating for another. To survive after WLS, the patient's life MUST center around food--planning meals at certain times, figuring out what foods don't make the patient ill, and making sure to get enough nourishment to maintain basic function. This is not a responsibility a child should be dealing with, especially when mistakes can be harmful or deadly. Disordered eating patterns should not be dealt with by physically changing the body to keep a child from binge eating; such problems should be dealt with by mental health professionals with experience in helping young people overcome eating disorders.

The pervasive idea that worth is tied to physical attractiveness is reinforced by WLS. The "Fantasy of Being Thin", in which the fat person imagines becoming thin will make them more valued by society, and will result in having friends, boy/girlfriends, and stopping bullies from torturing them. What happens when being thin does not change their social stigmas, though? What happens when a young person comes to believe that they only need to change the way they look, and they don't mature emotionally or mentally because they are tied up in their quest for external beauty? Furthermore, what happens when, after they lose the weight, and have their dreams come true, they regain it, bringing back the "old self" they never learned to accept? It is completely unfair to ask young people to undergo the risks of WLS just to receive social acceptance; it would be far more fair to end tolerance toward bullies and shaming.

Kids are so frightened of being fat that they would rather lose a limb (there's a study...I'll find it and link to it) or die than be fat. Rather than caving in to this phobia by carting them off to the surgeon to have their guts rearranged, it seems more reasonable to have a phobia treated as a mental health issue. Instead, fatphobia is encouraged and legitimized by the rabid "health" officials who are selling a disease and procedure--the same people who give us ridiculous "good food/bad food" video games to install in school computers, and show us headless fat bodies on television, along with video footage of fast food on trays.

WLS is an expensive, and, in the long run, ineffective way to protect children from the growing fear of being fat. Fat happens. WLS patients regain the weight. People have genetic predispositions, and many medical conditions and medications can cause weight gain. Rather than responding to the potential of becoming fat with terror and shame, children would be better off if they were taught coping skills, tolerance, and self-worth based on things not related to physical appearance.

Finally, I want to say this loud and clear: WLS for kids is child abuse.

For already abusive or controlling parents, WLS can give an even greater degree of control. Perhaps it is too horrible for most people to even consider, but knowing what I do, I can envision abusive parents withholding food from their de-stomached children, making them eat food that causes them to vomit, and forcing them to eat more than they are safely able to eat. Of course, that is the extreme example, but there are less direct forms of abuse that I can imagine arising from approving WLS for kids. For example, what if the parents want it done, but the child says no? Who wins? It can be used as a threat to punish kids for not losing weight, or for not getting good grades, or, well, use your imagination. In just as bad a scenario, a child could be opposed to the idea, but too fearful of the parents to say no. Also, if the kid DOES want WLS, the promise of bariatric surgery (and thin fantasy fulfillment) can be used to torment and manipulate, even when the parent has no intention of allowing it to happen.

WLS is a last resort for people who have no other options left, and who truly feel they are unable to otherwise have any quality of life. As long as any underlying health problems are being concurrently treated, and the person is able to make the decision with all of the facts, it really is a matter of personal choice. What we're seeing, however, is WLS foisted onto young people as a solution to their social problems and psychological issues--young people who can't even consent to a tattoo, yet are expected to undergo a major irreversible rerouting of their internal organs. I do not believe that this is a wise thing to do.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Kids and WLS, Part One: Introduction, and Physical health concerns

There is a growing movement on the part of the bariatric surgery industry to get approval for performing weight loss surgery on children in the US--and to get insurance companies to pay for it. Currently, if a minor wants WLS, they go to Mexico and pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for the procedure. I am going to state unequivocally that I believe that performing bariatric surgery for the purpose of weight loss on children is physically and psychologically harmful, and its approval in the US could lead to disturbing social implications. Because this topic is so involved, and so important, I am going to break it up into separate articles dealing with the various factors.

Physical health is the most tangible reason to oppose WLS for kids. Disturbingly, while it is potentially very physically harmful, WLS is frequently regarded as necessary for a fat person's health. Fat people are told that they will die unless they get bariatric surgery. Parents are told that their fat children will die before they grow up unless they receive bariatric surgery. Not only is this just plain bullshit, it's deadly bullshit.

First, there's the possibility of death and complications arising from the surgery itself. I am not going to rehash everything that Sandy wrote, but I want to say this: Considering that nearly five out of every one hundred people who get bariatric surgery die within a year afterwards--five people that would have been alive a year later (barring accidents and other random factors) had they not been convinced that it was better to be dead than to be fat. Maybe an adult can make the decision to take that risk for his or her own life, but allowing a child to take that risk is abominable.

Let me put this very, very simply: Children are not going to die "of fat" before they reach the age of consent.

"But, Rio, what about the 300-lb eight year olds we heard about on the news?"
What about them? For a kid that age to be that size, there has to be an underlying factor that caused them to be that size. Bariatric surgery is NOT going to solve that problem, and will likely just complicate their health problems further. Why are doctors so eager to carve children up and wreck their digestive tracts instead of, oh, I don't know, testing them for celiac disease, hormone problems, kidney disease (which can cause fluid retention--no amount of bariatric surgery will stop you from retaining water), or any number of issues that can cause abnormal weight gain? And if the child is found to be healthy, then why are we chopping out healthy stomachs because the children aren't the "right" body size?

So, let's set aside the problem of WLS itself being inherently dangerous, and the reluctance of doctors to see past fat tissue and find real medical conditions, and think about growing children.

Kids grow. At least, they should--and if they aren't growing, most people would regard that as a serious problem. Children who has been malnourished are often stunted and have developmental problems. Girls who don't get enough to eat often don't have periods, because their bodies are trying to conserve energy for survival purposes, saving their lives during a famine so they can reproduce when there is plenty of food. Also, if adult WLS recipients have a high rate of osteoporosis (and they do), then what do you think happens to children whose bones are still growing? Do we need to induce beriberi, chronic vomiting, peripheral neuropathy, and malnutrition, all possible consequences of WLS, in children?

Next, I want to tell you that you are a fathead. No, really: Your brain contains a great deal of fatty tissue--about three pounds of it, in fact. The neurons in your brain have protective sheaths made of fatty tissue, and that's just a part of the fat content up there. Research is indicating that deficits of certain fatty acids in the brain (DHA, for example) can lead to mental imbalance, brain diseases, and impared cognitive ability (that means lower IQ, y'all). Babies who are breast-fed get more fatty acids in their diet, and studies indicate that they tend to have higher IQs and better problem-solving ability.

Your brain, all by itself, has the capacity to burn up to 2000 calories per day. (Edited to add: That is a high estimate, please read comments) Imagine, then, a young person who has undergone WLS: They are not only getting enough food to fuel the continuing growth of their brains, they aren't even getting enough for proper functioning of their brains. How do we expect them to learn and grow on the miniscule amount of calories a WLS recipient can ingest? I suppose, however, given the current climate of "Intelligence isn't important; only people with perfect bodies have any value", having underdeveloped and undernourished brains isn't considered to be a negative thing.

Long story short, the physical risks of performing WLS on people who are still growing and learning are much too high to warrant the relatively superficial benefits. Kids aren't going to die from being fat if they don't get WLS, and any doctor who says otherwise is looking to make a buck off of the parents. Kids do have a serious increase in their risk of dying young if they get WLS, though, and that should be enough to convince parents to say NO to WLS for their kids. It isn't, though, and that's why I will continue on with this series. Next up:

Psychological health concerns.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rape can happen to anyone, and it isn't the victim's fault

A powerful guest post from livejournal friend aebhel, on physical appearance and rape:

Seriously, if I hear the phrase "too ugly to get raped" one more time, I am going to flip the fuck out.

For the all the ignorant misogynist morons out there,

1. Ugly women get raped. Pretty women get raped. Toddlers and grandmothers, women in wheelchairs, women with mental handicaps, bitchy women, smart women, stupid women, drunks, sluts, and nuns--they all get raped. Rapists do not go after women because they were so overwhelmingly turned on that they just couldn't help themselves. They go after women because they hate women and want to humiliate them, and raping a woman is a pretty good way of telling her that she's worthless as a human being.

2. Every single rapist is capable of stopping. Whether it's the stranger who jumps out of the bushes or (more likely) the guy who's had a few too many getting his date alone, they're all capable of stopping. If a policeman or the girl's parents wandered onto the scene, you can bet your ass he'd be able to stop. The fact that he doesn't stop when he's told to means that he doesn't want to, not that he can't.

3. Pretty women don't deserve to get raped because they 'must know they turn guys on'. Ugly women don't want to get raped because 'there's no other way they're going to get laid'. Having a rape fantasy does not mean that a person wants to actually be raped, any more than being into BDSM means that a person actually wants to be tortured.

4. You cannot and should not try to define a woman's worth on the basis of whether or not complete strangers are interested in jerking off to her pictures.

5. And finally, even handsome men can be rapists. They don't rape women because they can't get laid in other ways (many of them have wives or girlfriends), they do it because they're sick, fucked up individuals.

I can't believe any of that actually needed to be said, but the evidence all suggests that it did.

Meow! Fabulous Foster News!

Our foster kittens Chloe and Clarence were adopted on Saturday by a wonderful family! The two siblings were much happier together than they were apart, so I am so glad that they were adopted together. Clarence, who was painfully shy, actually came out of his shell more by watching more-confident Chloe interact with us. We brought them to the adoption clinic at noon on Saturday, and when we were on our way out (after shopping for some items), we noticed some folks cuddling the two of them. Being nosy about my little darlings' future, Brian and I went over to talk about the sweet babies.

The folks were dealing with a terminally ill cat, and they weren't sure if it was right to bring home kittens yet. We related our experience with Teya in December. We were fostering Ollie, Kukla, and Fran at that time, and Ollie and Fran actually curled up with and gave comfort to Teya when she was ill and in pain. They knew she was dying before we did. She was normally a bit short with kittens, but they made her feel better with their love and purrs. The family was glad to know that it wasn't disrespectful to adopt the little ones at that time, and Clarence, who never liked being held, was cuddled right up in the woman's arms like he never had a problem with it. Meant to be.

So now we have Isaac, an adult male tabby who was one of eleven cats living in a warehouse. An elderly gentleman was feeding and looking after the little colony, but he recently passed away. The property owners enlisted the rescue in helping to get the cats vetted and rehomed, and I was one of the few foster parents willing to take in adult cats. Isaac is an intact male, so the room is pretty musky (and he is good about the litter box), so I can't wait for his neuter appointment, which is tomorrow.

Isaac's petfinder page is here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

As promised: My wedding gown story

The first time I got married, I was hoping to put together a non-white ensemble, preferably in green or purple, in medieval style clothing, because my ex and I had met in an online RPG. His mother, however, really wanted me to wear the floofy white gown, and she offered to purchase it, so we went down to his hometown one weekend to visit bridal shops.

At the first shop, the fiftyish woman who "helped" us looked down her nose at me and sneered, "I don't think we have anything in your size. She sighed and frowned, and made irritated noises while she dug out a couple of extremely ugly dresses. She had me strap on a longline bra that did not fit--I was an H cup, and the bra was a C-cup. When I pointed this out to her, she told me that I would have to make it work, because there wasn't anything larger. After about fifteen minutes of being treated like that, we got out of there.

The next shop was a little friendlier, since the women running the place were plus size themselves, but they kept trying to push me toward an A-line dress "because they are slimming". I don't know where they got that idea, considering that anything hanging straight down from my breasts made me look enormously pregnant. They told me that there wasn't much they could do, on such short notice (we were planning to get married in three months), so I'd have to take what I could get. They strapped me into this gaudy mess of pearls and sequins, left me to admire my mirrored image, and I whispered to Mama Ex that we needed to get the hell out of there before I strangled someone. She agreed.

Our last ditch effort, without which I was planning on a Betazoid wedding, was a large chain bridal store. Now, I believe in supporting small businesses. I understand how frustrating it is for a good small business to have to compete with larger chains for pricing--and that is why the small business MUST make up for it with superior service and knowledge. The small shops failed me, though, with their snobby behavior. How dare I think I was worthy of marrying someone? And how dare a fat girl think she deserves a traditional wedding? We should be slinking through the back door of city hall to apologetically ask a judge to take pity on us and consent to trapping some poor man into wedlock with our disgusting selves.

So we walk into Big Chain Bridal, and we are immediately assigned a consultant. She was a tall, slender Italian woman in her forties. She was brisk but friendly, and I told her that we'd had trouble finding anything in my size elsewhere, and did they have Size __ there? She smiled and took us to a whole AISLE with probably a hundred or more gowns in my size!

She then asked, "Have you considered an A-Line? They are very slim-"

I cut her off by pulling my shirt tight against my body, showing her my curves. "I don't want an A-line; I want something that shows my curves, not hides them."

"Ah, you definitely should not have an A-line! You have a waist and lovely curves!"

I found an absolutely gorgeous gown that I loved. While I was trying it on, with Mama Ex's help (she was awesome; I wish her son had turned out more like her than his dad), the consultant found a longline strapless bra in my size and helped me into it. She was kind, friendly, but businesslike--very matter of fact about what I needed. She guided me through the stuff I would be needing, helped me make appointments for fittings and final pick-up, and, best of all, was congratulatory about my upcoming wedding. No sneering, no meanness, no pushing me toward things I didn't want. And really, was that too much to ask?

For my second wedding, I decided to bypass the whole mess of dress shopping. Brian and I had purchased a beautiful cream-colored gown at Goth in a Box (not the real name), and it fit what we wanted for our wedding very well. It was a simple but lovely wedding, and I was spared a great deal of the condescension of dealing with the wedding industry because of it. The dress was a great deal more comfortable than a traditional gown, too. I wanted to enjoy my wedding instead of being preoccupied with the binding, chafing misery of traditional frippery, and I am glad for the choice I made.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wedding Gowns

A friend has brought to my attention a TV show where brides race to lose weight so they can fit into their too-small gowns in time for the wedding. The gowns were purchased too small on purpose, as an incentive to lose weight. I am told that this is a common tactic people use to trick themselves into weight loss--buy really cute clothes, and then have them hanging in your closet, making you hate yourself for not being able to wear them, until you are willing to starve yourself or run on a hamster wheel to change your body to fit your clothing.

Well, I'm sorry, but that's really stupid.

First of all, how much money do you have to throw around that you can afford a wardrobe of clothing that you can't even wear? If you don't have the money to spare, and your too-small clothes are really great while your wardrobe that fits you is not so great, then stop throwing your money away on things that are just hanging in your closet, silently accusing you of being unworthy of them. Live for now, and get stuff that fits your body. If you lose weight, whether on purpose or not, larger clothes can be taken in (and if you can afford a double wardrobe, you can afford the seamstress fees).

Secondly, there is nothing wrong with being the size you are. If you accept your actual size instead of squeezing yourself into clothes that don't fit, or staring forlornly at the still-tagged items hanging uselessly in the closet, you will be happier and healthier. You won't have inanimate objects indicting you every time you are trying to decide what to wear. You will be able to breathe after eating lunch. You will enjoy the pretty items that you CAN wear instead of longing for the ones you cannot. You will have removed a constant source of anxiety and depression from your wardrobe, replacing it with items that nurture you by making you feel good about your appearance.

Third, when you are purchasing something as expensive and important as a wedding dress, an item that is very difficult to substitute on short notice, it is foolish to buy a smaller size than you currently are! Wedding gowns generally have a "final fitting" before they are pressed and brought home anyway, so if you have lost weight, it can be adjusted very easily. Adding sizes to a too-small gown, however, is tricky at best. Don't fool around and try to force yourself into a smaller dress.

Finally, people do NOT notice that the bride has lost two dress sizes; they will see the person they have always known in the standard poofy dress. If you're a fat girl, like me, they'll just see the same fat person they always do. If you're thin, they see the same thin person they always do. If your guests are really such shallow jerks that they talk about the bride being fat? Then that's their problem, and they need to grow up. When I go to a wedding, I look at the gown and how pretty it is; I don't snicker because the bride didn't change her body to look different for the ceremony. It is ridiculous to even expect this of the bride. She's the same person, just dressed up a bit. Why isn't her normal body size good enough?

Tell yourself, "No more clothes that don't fit! I deserve to wear nice things that I enjoy, and there is no reason to torture myself because of the number on the tag!"

In a day or so, I'll tell the story of wedding gown shopping (from my first marriage). It's a doozy!


I will post at length about this topic later, but I want to open it up with a preliminary statement:
Having children undergo bariatric surgery is a bad thing. It's irreversible (even the banding becomes irreversible after a while), and growing young people need to absorb their nutrients for proper development of their bodies and brains.

There are very, very few, if any, situations where a child needs to undergo bariatric surgery to save his or her life--where it is such an emergency that they cannot wait until they are old enough to make a proper decision and give informed consent.

Is there anyone out there who cares about this issue? Or am I lone voice on this matter? I want comments, lots and lots of them, telling me how you feel about this!

I will discuss this after collecting some opinions from others who are interested in this topic.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fibromyalgia and the variability of its sufferers

From my Livejournal friend Liz (ma_petite7263):

Something got me started thinking about pain and illness and how individuals deal with it in their own lives.

Some people are able to move past it, live with the pain and not let it affect them at all. It doesn't change their lives. They don't have to give up anything or struggle.

Some people have to make small changes.

Some people have to make big changes.

Some people are completely disabled by it.

Regardless of where any of us lie on the continuum, none of us should be treated as if we all fall in the first category. We'd all like to be there, but a lot of us aren't, and we should be made to feel like lesser beings just because we have to make adjustments.

I think this goes hand-in-hand with the concept of invisible disabilities. Because we have no outward signs of being ill, others automatically assume we're making it up. Then they lump us together and say that "So-and-so does just fine with illness X" or "Whosmadoodle bathes in the blood of infant platypi and now they're doing great!" as if we're all the same person, with the same illness, with the same symptoms, with the same abilities and pain thresholds and mental states.

What people don't seem to understand is that we're all different. A lot of us with chronic illnesses also suffer from mental illness, primarily depression. You'd be depressed, too, if you woke up in pain everyday or felt like your body was just giving out on you. You'd be depressed, too, if you knew there was no cure, and the things you can do to alleviate symptoms don't work for everyone. You may be one of the unlucky few that is on an eternal fruitless search for relief.

I know there are people out there who have more debilitating diseases like MS and lupus, or spina bifida, or had to have a tumor removed from their brain. More power to them if they've been able to take it in stride and not let it affect them. But just because they can do it doesn't mean we all can.

The ones who seem to hold this belief the firmest are those who haven't been afflicted. The perfectly healthy can blather on as much as they'd like but it comes down to the fact that they have no clue what they're saying.

Liz captured something that's been rattling around in my subconscious very eloquently. Many of us who are chronically ill are beset by people who "know someone who got better after they did x", and we get treated like recalcitrant children for stubbornly refusing to magically get better just because our problems are inconvenient for others.

I know that it's probably frustrating to view a fibromyalgia sufferer from the outside. Here's this person who looks okay, and they can't be plugged into a machine that will give a precise measure of illness, yet they are always saying they are in pain, and that they are tired. To some, it might appear to be an excuse to slack off, to be lazy.

Let me tell you something: Nothing could be further from the truth. I would love nothing more than to be working sixty hour weeks, keeping my house really clean, and being able to have a normal social life. Why am I not getting better? Because medical science hasn't found a cure for this. No one knows how to fix it--and we're just barely learning how to manage the symptoms decently. Some people are lucky and found a simple solution, but the rest of us are waiting for science to catch up with our suffering. We've only recently even been able to find medical professionals to take us seriously enough to give us decent quality of life; many of Dr. Kevorkian's clients were fibromyalgia sufferers.

So, look, maybe it's not convenient for you to have a friend or family member with this condition, but something that pushes many of its sufferers to commit suicide rather than continue a life of relentless pain and fatigue? Not something we chose, wanted, or enjoy. If you think it's so awful to deal with us, just be glad you aren't one of us instead.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Got a flu shot? It might not be enough.

The flu shot is only effective against 40% of the flu bugs going around this year.

If you've had the vaccine, don't rely on it to protect you--wash your hands with soap and hot water, using a clean towel to wipe them off. Wash them frequently. If you are in a public place, don't touch your face--hand-to-face contact is how you get sick. Hand sanitizer is next to useless, by the way. Real soap, hot water. Clean towel.

If you are a manager or boss, don't be an ass: Let your sick employees stay home instead of coming in and infecting everyone. Productivity isn't helped by making a sick, miserable worker stay and make everyone else sick and miserable (and unproductive). A couple days for them to fight it off will be better than their bodies dealing with the stress of work while rallying against the virus.

As a customer, it looks bad to me if your employees are serving me while they are sick. It tells me that, not only do you not care enough about your workers to give them the time off they need to heal, you also don't care if they come in and spread the disease around to your customers.

Good luck everyone, and stay well.

Migraine, Migraine, go away

I've spent the past few days on a migraine rollercoaster. The first one hit me on Tuesday evening. I took an Imitrex, which helped, but I felt fragile all of Wednesday, and Thursday, it blossomed into bright, agonizing pain again. I don't get the usual migraines; I get cluster headaches, which are worse (I've experienced both).

Thursday, my beautiful husband picked up some Imitrex samples from my doctor. I discovered that the samples are 100mg, while my prescription was for 25mg. The 100mg helped, and I basically melted into the bed, a puddle of "huh?" when spoken to. I didn't dare move. I slipped into sleep, and I apparently needed some major healing, because my body slept for a very long time while an electrical storm raged in my brain. I had bizarre dreams and several periods of waking with sleep paralysis still in place (I hate that SO much).

If I had health insurance, I'd probably ask for my brain to be scanned or something.

I awoke around 2pm today, still a bit fragile, but much, much better. I think that, if I'd had the higher dose on Tuesday, I would have nipped this thing in the bud. As it is, I had a great deal of myofascial pain while the storm raged.

Let me describe myofascial pain: I felt like I had a network of very fragile, brittle material, like blown glass, or ice, just beneath my skin, all over my body, limbs, and head. The material felt like it cracked and crunched when I moved certain parts, especially the helmet of it over my head. There is no actual material, just nerves giving bizarre and incorrect feedback to my brain.

So I had a really miserable time for one of my favorite holidays--I adore Valentine's Day. My sweet, wonderful husband was so kind to me--he brought me cupcakes from the bakery near his work, which has the very best cakes and frosting in the area (Cinnamon Stick in Clifton Park Center--trust me on this one, you'll never get a birthday cake anywhere else!). He also framed a small print of "The Ravishment of Psyche" by Bouguereau, one of my favorite paintings. I was delighted! I had managed to make him some homemade batter-dipped mozzarella sticks, which he and my roommate enjoyed very much. I was planning on making him a wonderful dinner, then having dessert (I got him some key lime pie) in the bedroom. That was ruined, and I feel really ripped off. Screw you, trigeminal nerve. Screw you, myofascial pain.

I hope others were able to enjoy Valentine's Day. I wouldn't wish my experience on anyone else!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reduced price: Lortab print!

Now discounted to $15; was previously $18!

Generic Lortab, pretty pink happy pills! They're matted to 11x14, which is a standard frame size.

I will also be posting a couple of special items soon, hopefully tomorrow!

Made her cry

Several years ago, when I was still living in my hometown, I was working in a restaurant. I enjoyed the actual work, and most of my coworkers were pretty cool, but there was this one girl who did nothing but whine about how fat she was.

She was a high school student, a cheerleader who was tall and very thin. She had two friends working there, and they would rally around her and tell her how non-fat and beautiful she was.

Now, at the time, I was not as fat as I am now, but I wasn't thin either. I was in the process of becoming the size I am now, because I was willing to eat regular meals. Once I started doing that, my wrecked metabolism responded with glee, piling on stored energy like there was no tomorrow (or at least, no tomorrow that had food available). So, most people can imagine how aggravated the constant "OMG I AM SO FAT" was to me.

I finaly snapped one evening. I had heard it one time too many, and this time, she said it to me instead of to her ass-kissing friends. I said, "Look at you, and look at me. When you run around all day complaining about how fat you are, then what the hell are you saying about me? Do you even think about how it makes other people feel when you do that?"

She ran off, crying. Her friends came up and told me that I shouldn't have been so mean to her. I told them that I was tired of her insulting everyone else who was fatter than she was with her constant complaining, and that I wasn't sorry for telling her that.

After that, I noticed that she had stopped the behavior, which was a relief to other non-thin workers as well. I guess getting her to look at someone other than herself for a change gave her a much-needed reality check.

I want to add that, yes, maybe she was suffering from an eating disorder, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Maybe I could have been more sensitive to that. In my defense, I was much younger then, and didn't know about BDD; she sounded whiny and selfish to me, and having at least one person working there recovering from an ED, we just didn't want to hear it anymore.

I would not say the same things today--I'd probably be nicer, and take her aside and ask her if she's talked to her doctor about her self image. And maybe one could say that it wasn't any of my business to do so, but when someone is making their mental health issues everyone else's problem the way she was, it became our business.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fat-hating doctors

Someone asked me to write about this topic, and they linked this article about the doctor survey where a bunch of them admitted to severe prejudice against fat patients. At that friend's request, I am going to give my opinion about this topic.

"...I had one doctor who blamed me and told me I got PCOS from being fat."

The blog First Do No Harm contains story after story of people, mostly women, who have been treated so badly by doctors because of their fat that, in many cases, it took years for them to get a real diagnosis and treatment.

A recent survey of doctors showed that they had very negative attitudes and feelings toward their fat patients:
When researchers asked more than 400 physicians to name patient characteristics that provoked feelings of discomfort, reluctance, or dislike, one-third of the subjects mentioned obesity, making it the fourth most-common condition named after drug addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness. The subjects also linked obesity to negative qualities such as poor hygiene, hostility, dishonesty, and noncompliance with prescribed treatment. Another survey of family physicians found that two-thirds said their obese patients lacked self-control and nearly 40 percent characterized their obese patients as lazy. Nurses expressed similar attitudes—nearly half reported that they were uncomfortable caring for obese patients and 31 percent told surveyors they would prefer not to care for obese patients at all.

Puhl and Brownell found documented evidence that health professionals' deeply held negative stereotypes adversely affected their clinical judgment, diagnosis, and the quality of care delivered to obese patients. A survey of more than 1,200 physicians revealed that most were ambivalent about caring for overweight and obese patients, and did not intervene and treat them with the same determination they displayed toward normal-weight patients.

I'm not making this stuff up. These are the things that medical professionals actually admitted to thinking and feeling about fat patients. And I have this to say:


I read the doctor blogs. I see doctors complaining that their patients get information off the internet and come in with a request to be tested for this or that. You know what, guys? Look at the above quoted paragraphs and tell me that we don't need to advocate long and hard to receive proper care when the only diagnosis many doctors can come up with is "fat", and the only treatment is "eat less and exercise", when someone is suffering from excruciating bursitis, appendicitis, or Cushing's disease.

It is malpractice to refuse to treat a person's medical condition(s) because you don't like how fat they are. It is arrogant to think that they aren't capable of seeing through your bullshit eventually, and figuring out that you caused them harm by withholding treatment. It's doubly arrogant to assume that, because you have a medical degree, that you know more about everything than a "common person". The less informed will not realize just how badly you're harming them, while the well-informed are not going to stand for this. If you are a doctor, and you dismiss fat patients as not worth your time, then you do not deserve the title. It's childish and cruel, and you fucking know it.

Also, this whole thing about doctors being gods who know all? Look, I worked in aquarium stores for over 10 years. Aquariums, being a luxury item, are a frequent purchase for doctors, and, that being the case, I had a number of them as regular customers. I have to say, for people whose job is knowing the functions of the human body, most of these guys had such a limited grasp of the very basic biology required to keep an aquarium that it really scared me to think that they were actually charged with the task of keeping humans alive and healthy. If I can explain how to keep fish to a high school dropout, and have that person be very successful at it, then it's damned frightening for someone with a medical degree to tell me repeatedly that they don't "get it" when I explain for the 10th time why their methods are killing their fish.

I do understand that many of today's physicians are overbooked, undereducated, and not well-compensated. I'm sorry for that, and I hope that something happens to change that situation. My last doctor wasn't too bad, really, but because he had all of three minutes to listen, talk, diagnose, and write prescriptions, things got overlooked--one of which ended in surgery that may have been prevented with earlier intervention. He was nice, and he was actually pretty realistic about my being fat. I happened to meet someone else, though, who charmed me into his practice by being a fantastic aquarium store customer, and chatting with me about how he treats fibromyalgia patients (he also happens to be partnered in his practice with THE fibro doc in this area, so he has a great resource if he needs to find anything out).

I'm very lucky; my doctor is down-to-earth, caring, and actually gives a damn about his patients, no matter what they look like. He is also an expert aquarist--and, when I gave him cat advice, we were able to talk about pheromones and their different functions, and he was able to talk about it intelligently*. I suppose he has a bit of an edge, though; he was a high school biology teacher for a while before he decided to become a physician and go to medical school. He really knows his stuff with treating fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, depression, and anxiety. He was the first one willing to do the full thyroid panel instead of just telling me that my TSH was "fine"--and, when I told him the TSH numbers I'd had with a previous physician, they apparently weren't fine.

This has rambled a bit, and I'm sorry for that, but my experiences have been difficult. Prior to both of the above mentioned doctors, I had some pretty stupid experiences, including one doctor who told me that my asthma was just anxiety, and that I needed to "learn to relax". Well, asthma is something that can be empirically measured on equipment. Did he do that? No. Have I had it done since then? Yes, and I don't think I need to tell you that the results were that I have moderate asthma. Anxiety is not something that can be measured, but it's also not controlled by "learning to relax". I apparently wasn't worth that guy's time, though, so I was dismissed and ignored. That's unacceptable. It's irresponsible. And it has to change.

* About doc and the cat advice: He was having trouble with his cat engaging in inappropriate urination. Since the cat tested negative for UTI or crystals, he thought it might be some anxiety due to family stresses in the house. The vet recommended Feliway, and Dr. D asked me why a pheromone would change inappropriate urination. I explained that it was a synthetic version of their cheek pheromones, which are calming to them. They're different from the pheromones used for marking territory or attracting mates. He was thrilled to have this explained, and I was thrilled that he was curious about the subject. He's pretty busy most of the time, and is really more into fish, so he isn't familiar with every cat product on the market. I've used Feliway in the past for a nervous kitty (she lives with my ex), and I use it in the foster room to help the scared kittens settle in.

Canadian Healthcare Myths

I can't say it better than this, so I'll just provide links:

Why the lies you hear about Canadian health care are false
Why the best Americans can do is still undeniably worse.

The Inevitable

My ex-boss, the one who threatened to disown his fat sister if she didn't get a gastric bypass, was (and is) married to a woman who was obsessed with nutrition and fitness. She was a very nice person, and she was very smart (a microbiologist at a hospital), but she was a little overboard with the whole diet thing. She made home-cooked meals every day, setting aside a specific amount for her husband's lunch the next day. Meals were planned to be low-fat, low-sodium, and the conventional idea of "healthy". She also made sure the store was well-stocked with plenty of fruit for him, and kept some fat-free organic yogurt there. The surgeon general would have an orgasm over this guy's diet. The wife also exercised the man like a dog, making him go on long walks every day, regardless of the weather, and making him do other things like sit-ups and biking as well. He wasn't skinny, but he was about average weight for a fiftyish man.

So imagine his reaction when his doctor called to tell him that his "bad" cholesterol levels were through the roof! Talk about a total freak out! He ranted and raved about how he does EVERYTHING RIGHT, and it's just not fair, and he couldn't imagine what went wrong.

Now, I never learned to keep my mouth shut around the guy, because I'm just not capable. So I thought it would make him feel better if I said that there was a strong genetic component to cholesterol levels, and that it wasn't necessarily anything he was doing wrong.

Well, you'd have thought I'd suggested he copulate with a two-headed goat or something, he was so mad. "What, you mean I don't have any control over this?! That all the dieting and exercise has been for nothing?!"

Control. The magic word--it became immediately clear to me that people want more than anything to have control over their own fates, and he was a huge control freak to begin with. He'd rather have been responsible for having bad health than have good health based on simple luck. He was also annoyed that he'd had to diet and exercise all this time, only to feel like it was for naught over one surrogate endpoint. I didn't continue talking to him about it, but I could have pointed out that cholesterol isn't an absolute indicator of health, and that it could be managed (at that time, I didn't know that statins were pretty much useless).

No matter what you eat, no matter how many crunches you do, no matter how many pounds you lose, the biggest risk factor for death is being alive. Treat it badly, treat it well, whatever you do, your body will eventually wear out, have a part go bad, or get crushed by a falling piano. And now that we're learning that conventional wisdom about weight loss, dieting, and exercise prolonging our lives is not necessarily true, people are starting to question whether they'd rather spend the time they DO have running on a hamster wheel and weighing portions, or doing things that are more enjoyable. The cool thing about Fat Acceptance is that it frees us to think more carefully about how we want to live our lives. Once you realize that you get what anybody gets--a lifetime--you can consider what would make that life well-spent.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Formerly Fat, and their hatred of FA

It amazes me that some of the angriest comments come from formerly fat people. Fat acceptance bloggers often experience these folks marching into their blogs and leaving behind vitriolic remarks on all manner of subjects. Some say that fat acceptance is wrongheaded and dangerous, while others deny that being thin confers social benefits based on discrimination. Yet others just leave nasty insults with no real clue as to what they're disagreeing about.

So I have to wonder: Why are they so upset by us? Was becoming thin not the panacea they'd hoped for? Are they afraid we'll succeed in our quest to make life better for fat people?

One formerly fat person* was extremely agitated by the suggestion that thin fat-haters are threatened by the idea of fat acceptance. Yes, she came in here, huffed about being absolutely NOT being threatened, no sir, no way. What's that line about protesting too much? If you're not threatened by us, then why do we upset you so much? Why seek us out to berate and insult us?

I have to wonder if formerly fat people lost all that weight, only to find that it didn't make their lives perfect. Losing weight is something that you never stop doing once you get started. If you do manage to stay thin, you have to put a tremendous amount of time and effort into it. You are fighting against your body's very nature, battling hunger and pain to prevent the storage of energy in the form of fat tissue. Many people will never be satisfied; they'll always want just five more pounds, or they'll fret when they gain a little bit, because it feels like backsliding. Becoming thin is difficult, and many people go through hell and take significant risks to get there.

Why would a person put forth so much effort into becoming thin? Well, partly because the social rewards for doing so are enormous. If you are fat, you are treated really badly by other people. You're judged for eating, you're judged for not spending every spare moment running on a hamster wheel, and you're judged for just taking up too much space. It is really difficult to put up with that kind of pressure, and a lot of people choose weight loss over social stigma because of that.

So now, someone has put themselves through a gastric bypass, spends all of their free time exercising, and cannot eat anything larger than an iPod shuffle, if that. They've lost the weight and have a socially acceptable body. The rewards are often immediate and immense. And then, they find this whole group of fat people who think they ought to get for free all those things that they worked so hard to achieve. It just doesn't seem fair--those fat folks should have to put forth the effort that the formerly fat did in order to reap the reward of basic common decency. What's more, if the fat acceptance movement succeeds, then those in the currently privileged class will find themselves losing their advantage over that class. It's a lot easier to get ahead if you always have an oppressed group to which you will always be favorably compared.

I understand the frustration. I really do. But the fact that you worked hard to conform to a fucked up system does not mean that the system does not need to change. One person's past struggles should not hinder the progression toward a fair and just society.

Formerly fat folks, I am sorry that you feel that fat acceptance invalidates the struggle you underwent. I am sorry that the idea of people shedding their body issues in favor of self-acceptance reminds you that you could not do the same. But times are changing, as they absolutely must, and, regardless of your personal history, they should change for the better. Bigotry and oppression, whether based on physical characteristics or cultural ones, should always be fought against--and if you surrendered in the past, it is never too late to change your position.

* And you know, I've just done my best not to give this person the attention she craves, because she is so self-absorbed as to believe that I was referring to her in a post, when the information she was responding to could not even slightly be construed as to apply to her. I was talking about having written a thank-you note to someone (a donor), and mentioning one of the things I'd written in that note. Somehow, this paranoid, delusional fatophobe thought I was talking about her(?!) and a snotty comment she'd written to me in a previous post--when my response to that comment had been simply to delete her comment, and say something to the effect of, "Not getting enough attention lately?" Talk about your wackos.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Silliness: Anya the kitten!

Day 36

The box has EARS!

Anya likes to sleep in this box, which is on top of my dresser. My dresser is taller than I am, so she has to jump from the bed to the aquarium, and from the aquarium to the dresser. She then opens the box with her mouth and paws, slithers inside, and lets the flaps close over her. She doesn't always have ears sticking up, but it's hilarious when she does. Sometimes the flaps on the box will be totally flat, and then she'll come bursting out of the box when I didn't know she was in there! She's very silly.

Owl the foster kitten is back

Brian and I went to Petsmart to meet the woman who had adopted Owl so we could pick him up. I also had to get some items (kitten food for Ptera and Anya being a priority) and get the spay/neuter clinic binder from Sue, as I am doing the clinic on Valentine's Day morning--with someone who hasn't been trained yet, so I have to really know my stuff! Fortunately, Sharon was a great teacher when we worked together last month at the clinic, and I am confident that it can be done correctly and efficiently. The other experienced volunteer had to cancel, so I get this opportunity to teach someone. I love teaching!

So, we wait for Owl to arrive, and some absolutely gorgeous cats and kittens come in from their foster homes, including little Chloe, who is Calvin and Clarence's sister (they all look alike--little black kittens with some white coming out of their ears). There were also some adult cats that were already there whom I noticed were polydactyl! Several kittens showed up with polydactyly too, so I squee'd and melted over them. My little Ptera is polydactyl, which is how she got her name. Brian heard me say she was polydactyl, and, well, you can guess the rest. This is what happens when men are involved with naming cats. He wanted to call her fluffy sister "Brontosaurus", and I made him settle for Charlotte Bronte-saurus; Anya I'd wanted to name after the Buffy character, so I justified it as Anyankalosaurus (The character's full first name is Anyanka). Boys. They're ridiculous. At least we haven't named any of them after Transformers. Yet.

So Owl showed up, and was all hiss growl in the carrier. I unzipped it and pulled him out, and he nestled right into my arms and was a little trembly (it was kind of a madhouse at Petsmart today), but was obviously happy to be with me, and looked around curiously. I had Robin give me some ear mite treatment for him, because I looked in his little ears, and they're in bad shape, and we took him home. Amazingly, he seems to have doubled in size; he was small for his age, but has caught up, and is almost as big as Ptera now (and she's a big girl, eats lots, grows fast).

When I put him down, he ran upstairs, straight into the bedroom, and jumped on my bed, lying in his favorite spot there. He knew exactly where he was going, and he was absolutely relieved to be "home". He did jump down for a while, but eventually I hunted him down and took him to bed with me. I had a headache, so he sprawled out next to me, pressing his back against my chest, and we stayed that way for a while. I had a phone call from my aunt, and he was undisturbed for the entire 40 minutes we talked. She eventually took mercy on me and my vicious headache, and Owl and I napped together for a couple of hours before he eventually left me to go do cat things.

His adopters said that he would do nothing but crouch under a recliner and growl and hiss at them. The kitten that lay next to me today was very relaxed, happy, and completely without fear. He was also completely exhausted from his ordeal. He let me fondle his little paws, back and front, seeming to actually enjoy it. We have some cats here who hate it when their paws are touched (and Teya would get really mad at me), and a couple who enjoy it (Aakhu and Ptera). Owl didn't seem to care what I did to him at that point, as long as he could be safe and loved in a place that he felt comfortable.

He is a very special little boy, and I am going to be very picky about who adopts him. I had a lady call me earlier today with questions about him, and I asked her if she'd heard about his personality quirks, as I called them. I was very honest about his behavior, and that he needed to be worked with patiently and slowly. I don't want him getting treated like a yoyo--this experience was really hard on him, and I don't want to see him get adopted and returned repeatedly; it will break his brain.

So now he's running around, playing with the girls, and being cute and happy. I'm not sure what his future holds at this point (the foster coordinator asked if we wanted to keep him), but I will do everything in my power to make sure he has a good life.

Friday, February 8, 2008

News: What's up with me lately

First, I know I asked y'all to give me your blog links, and I still haven't updated the blogroll yet. I WILL get to it, I pinky swear! I've been a combination of busy and not feeling great, with a skewed sleep cycle, but it's in my mind. Meanwhile, if you haven't given me your info yet, feel free to do so in a comment on this post so I can add you.

Next, We have a new foster. Calvin's brother Clarence has come to stay with us. Clarence seems like he's going to be a harder nut to crack; very shy, but not mean. We got him last night, so we haven't had time to work with him very much yet.

More foster news: Owl will be coming back to us tomorrow (Saturday) at noon. His new family wasn't a good fit for him, and he isn't happy there. He will stay with us for as long as necessary to find the right home.

Finally, I wanted to thank those who sent donations. Every bit helps, and I appreciate it so much. I have a button up on the left hand side of the blog if anyone else would like to donate. If you'd like to purchase something instead, my Etsy shop contains photographs, mostly of animals.

Bio-geekery: The Giant Isopods

I had no idea this group even existed until today, but here they are!

The Giant Isopods!

Here's a photo I took of some small, terrestrial isopods (you know them as pillbugs):

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The fat-hating boss from hell

The job was tempting because it offered full-time work, at a wage equal to what I was getting, and health insurance kicking in after a few months of employment. I was getting tired of my other job because, well, it sucked. Another story, another day. The employer seemed reasonable, his store was beautiful, and I did have a great time for a while. I loved most of my coworkers, except the European girl who treated me like garbage because I wasn't constantly on a diet like she was. She actually gave me a chocolate bar for a Christmas gift, saying, "You'll like it, because it's food." She also hated Americans, finding them disgusting, rude, and irritating. No, don't ask me why she immigrated here. I don't know either.

The worst part of that job, though, wasn't the snotty dieter, but the boss, who had a nasty temper, and would lose his shit at the smallest thing. I was screamed at--obscenities and all--for being too polite to a customer that he didn't like. He threw objects at his employees--if something didn't have a price tag, for example, he hurled it at the nearest person, screaming and accusing us of being lazy idiots. If something was too complicated for him to understand, we took the brunt of his rage--and it was ten times worse if we were able to figure it out. I got the shit end of that stick, having more experience than he did in the subject, and having been educated as well.

The worst part about this man was not just his abusive, nasty temper; it was his bigotry. He would say, "I'm not racist," then turn around and use the n-word to describe a black person he didn't like. He was one of those people who really thought that he wasn't racist as long as it was only the bad black people that he called n-word. He also called my Jewish doctor, a wonderful, intelligent, compassionate man (which made the boss hate him soooo damn much), a schmuck to his face, but he claims he didn't know what it really meant. Whatever.

Even that, however, pales in comparison to what he did to his sister. She was a very large woman who lived on the other side of the country. The boss was disgusted by his sister's size, and firmly believed that she was going to die within the next week if she didn't stop being fat RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

Now, let me sidetrack for a moment and talk about some customers we had. They were a married couple, both very fat, who had both undergone gastric surgery. They both had the "safer" band surgery, and boss-man thought this was the greatest thing. He talked to them at length about it to find out all kinds of information. About a week after he talked to them, one of them, then the other, ended up in the hospital with complications. They both had to be cut back open, and one had a pretty serious infection. They were absent from the store for quite a while because of this, and the item they'd had on layaway had to be postponed, then cancelled with money back because of their health problems. The boss did not even acknowledge that the gastric surgery had been problematic, and he was nicey nice to their faces when they came to get their money back, but skewered them behind their backs for being irresponsible with money, because he'd lost the sale. Yeah, the guy is a real schmuck.

Back to his sister, though! After getting hyped up about gastric surgery because of those two customers, he proceeded to write his sister a letter. He told her in this letter that it was time she did something about her weight, and that he wasn't going to let her ignore the "problem" any longer. He then said that if she did not get gastric surgery, he would disown her and never talk to her again. He then sent the letter Certified Mail so that she could not claim that she hadn't received it, and awaited her response. I did foolishly point out that gastric surgery had a lot of risks, and had a high rate of complications and death, but I should have just kept my mouth shut; I was pooh-poohed and told that the banding surgery was TOTALLY SAFE, and it was worth the risk for his sister to do it. And yes, he did do all of this letter writing and bitching behind the counter at the store, where we were all working, using his employees as an audience for his anger.

I'm sorry to say that I don't know how this resolved, because I quit very soon after that. I'd had it with his cruelty and hatred, and couldn't take it anymore when there was a final straw (long long story, and I promise to share it eventually). I do hope, however, that he made good on his promise to never speak to her again, because, if he were my brother, I'd consider it to be a blessing. Boss's sister, if you're out there, I want you to know that it's not your fault that he's a giant asshole, and you did not deserve what he did to you. Being fat is not a crime, and it is not an excuse for being treated inhumanely.

The Well Behaved Fatty

The hatred and derision I face as a fat person is painful. I admit to a knee-jerk reaction to some of the things thrown at me--a reaction of trying to show them that I'm not what they say I am, I'm not lazy, or gluttonous, or stupid. The social ape part of my brain wants me to do whatever it takes to be accepted, to stop being excluded from society. I know that this is a natural desire, and that it's not wrong to want to fit in. The problem, I eventually realized, was that, in trying to fit in, I was legitimizing the exclusion of others.

Maybe I don't eat a lot, and being able to prove that makes my fat more socially acceptable than someone who does. Maybe I have a thyroid condition (I do, and it sucks, and not because of the fat, but that's another entry another day), and that gives me a "free pass" for being fat. Fat Girl On A Bike exercises as much as an Olympic athlete, which proves that not all fat people are lazy, so she gets permission to eat food sometimes.

You know what though? That's all a bunch of CRAP.

I don't need an excuse for my body size. It doesn't matter if a person eats "too much", eats "the wrong stuff", doesn't exercise, is not very bright, doesn't have a glandular condition. You don't have to be a good little fatty who does all the right things and just can't lose weight. You're a human being, and that should be enough reason for someone to treat you as one. There shouldn't be a NEED for a "free pass". Thin people can be lazy, gluttonous, and stupid, and nobody attributes it to anything except individuality.

So screw it. If you see a fat person eating ice cream? That's their business. You see a fat person watching television? So what? Lots of people watch television. Fat people don't have to apologize for their bodies being fat. Everyone, fat or thin, should face the same consequences for being lazy or gluttonous (stupid isn't necessarily a malleable attribute). If you're lazy, you might have a dirty house, you might have a crappy job, or you might have a half-finished 7-foot-tall trebuchet* in your garage. If you're gluttonous, you might have a huge food bill. Big deal--those are the choices we make in our lives. They don't mean that a person doesn't deserve to be treated like a human being.

Similarly, a fat person who is not actively trying to become un-fat should not be regarded as a better person than one who has accepted his or her body and chooses to spend time and energy on other pursuits. Yet, I constantly hear, "At least I'm DOING something about my weight!" as if it is a virtue. Choosing to lose weight doesn't make you better; it just means that you have a personal preference to not be fat. Non-dieting fat people, though, are considered to be reckless fools who are responsible for the downfall of Western civilization. Meanwhile, the hate spewed in their direction for not being "well-behaved" seems a bit, well, uncivil to me.

* I am joking, honey, you are not lazy. For those who don't know, my dear husband enjoys building medieval siege weapons. We have a mini trebuchet that can be used to throw small objects, like cat toys. The 7-footer is designed to be taken apart and fit into his car so it can be tested at remote locations (we're good neighbors). The counterweight basket is not yet finished, though, because I moved in and took up all of his attention and time before he got to that part.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Guest Post: The things you learn about people... or don't.

One of my livejournal friends, shaysdays, had a wonderful post today, and I was generously granted her permission to post it here.

My first issue of "Good Housekeeping" arrived today. It's a gift from my mom- a whole year of the magazine she says I always flip through at her house. I probably do, but that's because I read like people watch TV- if it's there, I will look at it.

There is something vaguely creepy about this magazine. Creepy besides Dr Phil snuggling his rather diamond-bedecked wife while offering marriage advice. Let me give you the headlines:

The Makeover Issue- 122 Quick Changes for your health, body, home and happiness

Lose 30+ lbs Without Trying 9 Easy Food Changes

Save $100s on heating bills (and stay cozy)

ReDo a Room in 48 Hours On The Cheap

Look 5 Years Younger, Fast! No Diet, No Surgery

Dr Phil and Robin Share 5 Secrets of Happy Couples (Yes, you can fall in love again!)

In other words- you can totally be someone better, thinner, younger, and more organized... without any investment of real time or effort.

But well, it was a present. And so I sat down to read it.

Every article is telling yoiu you're not _____ enough, or that you need to ______. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't really call them articles, for the most part. They're bossy advice pieces.This magazine is so insidiously horrible I'm amazed women don't burn it in effigy so they don't have to actually touch one.

This is a direct quote from "5 years younger:"

Look closer- who's that lurking under all those dark, shapeless layers? "It's sort of an unwritten rule in New York that you wear black," says Linda, and this self-described utilitarian is totally with the program (we didn't try to talk her out of it- just persuaded her her to go for a tp with a little more shape, opposite). More colorphobia: she never wanted to cover her gray hairs, even though they made her mane frizzy and unmanageable, and had never been big on color cosmetics, tending to leave her beautiful face bare."

Y'ALL I AM SMACKING MY HEAD AGAINST THE PIANO. (I moved the computer to on top of the piano for Superbowl.)

Let me reword that paragraph the way it plays in my head:
Who's that frumpy little thing? Awww... look! You picked up one style trend, let's work with that so it looks like you're actually dictating things. Now, that streak of gray hair in front you've got? That's making your hair unmanageable. It's not that you have naturally curly hair. (Let's straighten that, which takes about 10 minutes, add some hair color, that's an hour and half every few weeks) Also, we'll give you props for having a beautiful face, but no makeup? That is a crime against nature (and our advertisers) so let's slap some pigment on your beautiful (BARE!) face.

Seriously, this magazine is like an abusive boyfriend- it gives you just enough compliments to build you up, then with the other hand, whallops you with diet, 'fashion' tips to 'minimize your figure,' and a healthy helping of, "relationships, home, and children are pretty much all on you." At least Cosmo has the decency to give tips on orgasms. The closest thing to sex here is a note about their new (online) sex columnist talking about how she'd rather have a good night's sleep than sex.

NEXT MONTH IN GOOD HOUSEKEEPING: How to vacuum in pearls.

Okay, it's not all bad- I found three things I like. One, is a nice picture of Jaimie Lee Curtis with a haircut I'm going to steal. (A gray haircut, by the way! How they didn't airbrush it blonde is beyond me) A recipe for Balsamic Chicken and Pears that looks really good. And there was a piece on how to stop procrastinating, which, although it didn't actually include the phrase, "Limit Livejournal Time," was still relevant to my interests.

So I don't think I'll cancel the subscription. I'm sure my mom meant well. I just can't help but be angry that Cosmo gets blamed for making women hate their bodies and change their lives to fit some gender construct, when they're not actually giving you tips on how and why to do it- all these housekeeping magazines seem to be less about the house and more about the keeping- a man, your 'figure,' your sanity,' and most importantly- your status quo.


A while back, I posted about thin privilege. I've had at least one person try to deny thin privilege by saying essentially, "Just because you are discriminated against, doesn't mean that I benefit from it."

Many of you just had the logic circuits in your brains overload. For those who don't get it, though, I will try to explain privilege, and how it affects everyone, for good or ill.

If the world is predominately run by people who regard a characteristic (in this case, fatness) as a reason to not hire someone, throw rocks at them, give them bad service, or otherwise treat them badly, then the people who do not have the characteristic (thin people, in this case) directly benefit from this situation by having reduced competition in all things. Thin people get included, while fat ones are excluded. If you don't consider being included in the "possible employee" pile of resumes to be a benefit over the people whose resumes go into the circular file based solely on the fact that they are fat, then I'm not sure how much plainer I can make this.

You also benefit by not having to carry the burden of being discriminated against based on your weight. If I need someone to believe that I am hardworking, smart, efficient, or experienced, I have to work twice as hard, because I first have to overcome the immediate perception that fat people are the opposite of those things. It is also believed that I am not entitled to desserts, or sometimes food of any kind, or taking the elevator, or being in a wheelchair. A thin person who is using any of those things is not questioned, while a fat person is judged negatively for doing so.

I'm not telling anyone that they should feel guilty for being thin. I am suggesting that we should work toward a more just society, and that starts with the individuals. When you find yourself in a grocery store, and you see a fat person using a motorized cart, think about your immediate reaction. Lots of people think, "Maybe if they would walk, they wouldn't be so fat." Some of them even say it, usually as anonymous online forum participants. Stop yourself, if you think that way, and consider the fact that you don't know that person, you don't know their history, and it isn't fair to judge them. Think about whether you'd judge a thin person the same way. Then ask yourself why a thin person is assumed to have a real disability, while the fat person is judged as lazy, and too stupid to know that walking is "healthy"?

Keep yourself honest. Be aware of the way you think, and aware of the things you may or may not gain from your privileged status as thin, white, male, wealthy, or whatever else gives you that advantage.