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Friday, October 24, 2014

Gaining 50 pounds proves nothing to no one

So, more than a year after the Maria Kang debacle, I wake up to this on my newsfeed.

"Woman packs on 50 pounds to prove 'no excuses' for being overweight"

Apparently, a while back, Katie Hopkins decided she was tired of having people tell her she was "lucky to be thin" and blaming their obesity on things other than themselves. She got so tired of it that she decided to eat 6,500 calories a day until she gained 50 pounds, just to show that it's only caloric intake and lack of exercise that makes people fat.

The only thing her "experiment" proves to me is that Katie Hopkins likes to fat shame. A lot. So much that she would undertake a drastic change in daily habits--one that made her cry because she thinks eating that much is so disgusting--so that she could continue to fat shame. It's that important to her.

And, honestly, it's totally off the mark.

All Hopkins did with this little foray into the world of overweight was prove that she, as an individual, with a normal metabolism, no physical or mental ailments that would beleaguer her weight control, enough money to afford a good diet, her genetic makeup and a bunch of other individual factors that make her a candidate for weight control success--would be overweight if she ate larger quantities of food than her body is used to.

I'm pretty sure science proved that already, first of all.

And secondly, proving that you personally eating a lot makes you personally gain weight says absolutely nothing about the rest of the population. To get all academia, it's not replicable and it's not generalizable.

So, congratulations on making yourself cry and force feeding yourself to gain weight so that you could then go back to your normal diet, lose the weight, and continue to fat shame--now in your mind, justified.

Hopkins has also said, "I don't believe you can be fat and happy."

To which I point her to this Tumblr.

Maybe Hopkins can't be fat and happy. She proved that to herself (unnecessarily since she already knew that about herself), but just because she doesn't like the extra weight and had to put massive effort into gaining it does not make that true for literally anybody else on the planet.

We are all different.

Hopkins, of course, is going to lose the weight in three months time by again drastically altering her diet and upping her exercise levels.

And that's great. But it doesn't prove that other people can do it.

It only proves that you can.

So, now, you're not just a random ignorant person making other people feel bad because you lack empathy and education about the different factors in obesity. Now you're an active participant in tearing people down to make yourself feel better about your life, willpower, cultural situation and genetics.

Congratulations, and good luck on your weight loss journey.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moving on from National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day -- Guest Post

One week ago, I logged into Facebook to check on my friends for the day.  After spending only five seconds on the page, I logged out with the realization that I would be unable to cope with myself if I stayed online.  While that sounds a bit over the top, I had forgotten that it was a day of observance, and status messages and articles about the day took me by surprise.    It was either get off the computer, or begin flogging myself over events that were beyond my control. 

In the United States, October 15th marks ‘National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day,’ and it’s the one-day that everyone is cordially required to come forward, and share their stories and feelings about it.  Last week, however, I had no interest in remembering, sharing, or even commiserating with anyone.   I have survived multiple miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and a complicated pregnancy that resulted in a traumatic emergency cesarean section procedure- one that could have been prevented if my doctor hadn’t jumped the gun.   The whole ordeal of pregnancy and loss hits where it counts already.  I don’t want a designated day of observance to remind me of every detail yet again.

Don’t get me wrong.   Loss is a very serious issue that affects over 10% of women trying to conceive, or carry a pregnancy to term.  Miscarriage is more common than you think.  More, despite advances in medicine, thousands of babies die unexpectedly in the first year.  As for healthy babies, we are in the middle of a spectacular boom, and there’s no sign of it slowing any time soon.  So a day like October 15th should be a call for solidarity to those celebrating life, those mourning a loss, and those undergoing fertility treatments. 

But what happens on October 16th?  Or January 1st?  Or on the day your best friend gives birth to a healthy baby?  When your cousin’s son dies from SIDS? Or the fourth time you miscarry? If it’s not on October 15th, or not during Infertility Awareness Week, which occurs in April, no one wants to discuss any of it. 

When I came to the conclusion that I would no longer try for another child a few months ago, I was saddened by the decision at first.  I felt angry at my infertility.  Then I realized that I was okay with that decision, and my heart felt lighter.   I was no longer angry when people announced pregnancies, but genuinely happy for them.   When I met my sister’s newborn last month, I was relaxed, because the baton had been passed to someone else.   I was happy about joining the “No more kids” club, and I began to remember that I am more than a parent, more than a statistic, and much more than what I represented to the medical establishment.   I felt empowered and ready to move on with life.

Yet when October 15th arrived, I suddenly became reminded of the complete loser I was for suffering those many miscarriages.  Worse, I felt like a jerk for not wanting to feel like a loser anymore. I felt like a bad person for wanting to focus on parenting the child I have, rather than grieve the loss of the children I didn’t have.   Then it hit me.  What was supposed to be a day of solidarity and awareness had become a spectacle.  It was as if the world had decided to single us out to point out our shortcomings, our imperfections, our losses, and we were on parade.  Like it or not, it’s ‘Happy Look At Your Faults’ Day!  Step right up, and give us a show!

I get the idea that women everywhere should bond.  However, limiting that show of solidarity to one day, week or month can do more harm than good overall.   While the rest of the world moves on to observe other “National Days” without so much as a blink, the rest of us have to pick up the pieces and start the healing process again. 

My little epiphany from months earlier?  It’s actually somewhat in tact, but only because I decided that self-preservation was better than reopening old wounds.   Logging off and shutting my computer down was the best way for coping that day.   Because of that decision, things hurt a whole lot less on the 16th, 17th, and 18th

Perhaps instead of remaining tacit about pregnancy, and infant loss, save for one day, we should consider moving beyond reserving that token day of observance in favor of just talking about it whenever we need to.   For those of us who have lost, let us commiserate when we’re sad, and let’s applaud when we move forward toward acceptance.  For those who celebrate their pregnancy?   Celebrate it daily!  Why not?  

Let’s talk about these things on October 16th, January 1st, whenever!   Let us be happy for those who have healed from their loss, and let us offer support to those who haven’t.  Let’s do it any day, any time.  Not just when we’re obliged to on October 15th.


Jill Redding blogs at Pianissamma.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why are we always apologizing for expressing ourselves? -- Guest Post

Today I found out that I have Lyme Disease. It has already invaded my joints, judging from puffy tautness of my left hand knuckles and wrist. I have no memory of yanking a tick from my skin. But that’s beside the point.

Yesterday in my online journal I complained about how much my wrist hurt. Immediately after posting that I posted an apology for whining.

That got me thinking.

It’s a strange business communicating online. On Facebook we’re expected to put on public faces and post photos of our loved ones, or, save that, repost inspirational quotes or photos of cute baby animals. Online journals traditionally eschew that for intimacy with a handpicked built-in audience who will celebrate your joys, comfort you in your grief, help you solve an issue you’re currently experiencing.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how we’re apt to apologize for complaining online about something.

Doesn’t that sound weird to you?

If we want to vent, whine, or complain about something in our own space why do we suddenly feel the need to apologize? Is it because we shouldn’t express the, shall we say, less sunshiny sides of ourselves? Is it because we’re afraid we’ll alienate our audience? What if we can’t stop whining? Why do we feel we need permission to vent about an actual medical condition?

Maybe our support systems are too preoccupied to listen to our woes. Perhaps our friends live too far away for us to drop in for coffee and a chat.

Maybe we should just shut up, put on the proverbial big girl panties and deal.


I sure as hell don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been diagnosed with a disease which, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc not only with my nervous system but also with my short-term memory. I’m already past the too-tired-to-move stage.

As I said in my online journal, I know, in the greater scheme of things, Lyme is a mere blip and it boggles my mind that someone as relatively healthy as me has it.

I apologized in my own online journal because I didn’t want my friends – my audience – to think badly of me. I still have that tiny “what if they don’t like me anymore?” shred left over from junior high. I don’t want them to think I’m tedious or I’ve branded myself as The Woman With Lyme. Ergo, I apologize. In my own space.

Heck, apologizing can just be as tedious as whining.

Here’s a thought: Maybe, just maybe, if we all stopped apologizing we’d be more apt to accept ourselves as the flawed humans we are.

I have Lyme Disease which now explains all the niggling conditions I’ve had for the past few months.

As soon as I finish this I’m going to take my first dose of doxycycline and call it a night.

And I’m not apologizing for it.

Kathi B. is a writer and baker living in New England.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How to handle mean, baseless "reviews" -- Guest post

Last night the Twitterverse exploded around Kathleen Hale’s essay in The Guardian, Am I being catfished? An author confronts her number-one online critic. I’d read it a few days ago, thought it had a great ho-lee-shit quality about it, and scheduled a tweet for later in the week.

Little did I know.

If you haven’t seen it yet, a Goodreads user writing under the handle “Blythe” wrote a review of Hale’s book. Hale thought “Blythe” got it factually wrong, and took issue with the tone. “Blythe” harassed Hale via social media and did everything she could to bring down Hale’s ratings, including commenting on positive reviews of the book to say that reviewer had it wrong.

The We Hate Hale camp’s position is summed up nicely here.

And here’s a post on Bustle with a more nuanced view.

“Book bloggers,” which appears to mean anyone who has a blog and writes about books, or puts comments on other sites that write about books, are shocked—shocked!—that trashing people’s work on the internet as meanly as possible may well be free speech but is not in fact free from consequences.

The pearl-clutchers now terrified to post their opinions are laboring under the impression they are reviewers.

They’re not.

They’re hecklers.

This is not to say all comments must be positive. Or represent an in-depth engagement with the text leading to a thoughtful assessment of the positives and negatives and where within its particular canon the book should be placed (that would be a “review”). But little gems like

Fuck this.

are the moral equivalent of the guy yelling “you suck!” at a comedian. “Fuck this” doesn’t add anything to the dialogue. It’s not even a statement of opinion. It’s a deliberate, nasty jab intended to hurt the author personally and financially. And for those still heady with the power to depress sales and writers, it’s not as retribution-free as it looked.

As writers, we’re counseled not to engage with reviews. At all. Ever. And for thoughtful reviews—or even statements of opinion such as “Bad writing and it was a waste of time to read it”—that’s still the best policy. A genuine review by a qualified reviewer can, after the initial pain subsides, be tremendously helpful (it’s usually the first time we’ve heard from someone not already in our corner).

But for the assholes yelling “Fuck this”? Don’t engage as the writer with a reviewer. Squash them like a comic with a heckler.

 STEP ONE: The heckler must be loud enough to be heard by everyone else. 

If you can’t hear them clearly, nobody else can either, and putting down that heckler makes you look mean. For writers, this means don’t seek it out. If you can’t “hear” it, chances are most people outside that immediate community can’t either.

But if it’s coming across your social media, and other people have first identified it as mean, so it’s not just your tender sensibilities? Get on that shit.

STEP TWO: Only engage if you can win.

You’re not in this to be reasonable. You don’t want an apology, an acknowledgement, a recognition or to present your own case. You want to crush. Make them look like an idiot spewing meaningless vitriol.

Fuck this.

Mom, please stop using the Internet.

Craft your response like poetry. Cynical, funny, poetry. You know full well you’re poking an asshole with a stick, and isn’t that funny, gang, when we’re all in it together? The same jackasses who “Oooooooo” with the heckler will laugh at them—even louder, because you one-upped the guy who thought he was smart. The audience doesn’t actually give a shit about who’s “right,” and they aren’t smart enough to tell the difference anyway. (Individual audience members are plenty smart, but the pack is only as smart as the dumbest and most-easily-offended member.) They will side with whoever is the most entertaining, so be that person.

STEP THREE: Be prepared for even more fallout.

They might have more words in them. They might be smarter, or more obsessive than you. They might look you up online and trash you everywhere else they can.

Then again, you might get an essay out of it.

Yes, some parts of the Internet are elegant, intellectual salons. But most mass-review sites are little more than fanboys squeeing and high-school mean girls using authors as cannon-fodder. Every now and then someone says something worth hearing, if only by accident, but why wade through the pettiness to find it? Get a friend to scan for pull-quotes. Then go buy somebody else’s one-star book.


Allison K Williams is a freelance writer and editor based in Dubai. Her previous work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Brevity and the New York Times. She blogs at and edits at


Monday, October 20, 2014

Yoga Phrases for the Competitive Mind

I'm basically the worst match for yoga in the history of ill-fitting romances. I'm not one to just "let go of what I'm holding". I need that shit. Also, I'm not satisfied to just be present in my body. That body has things to do, and I still haven't quite reconciled that fact with me allowing it to lay still for fifteen minutes "softening." When I "follow my breath" I follow it to the ground. It took me two months to figure out the instructor meant follow it into your body, not follow it after it leaves your nose. In class, I compose frenetic to-do lists, figuring out how to best compose my day after this basically groundless excuse to stretch for an hour while listening to Gregorian chants.

You could say I'm an anxious sort of person. Which is why I started doing yoga. So…well done?

I'm not quite ready to "receive the effects of the postures" and I thought maybe I'm not the only one who hears something other than what is said during this hour of "being present."

With that in mind, here's a short run down of how yoga terminology translates to in the competitive, scattered mind, and how one might react to such phrases:

There is no achievement, there is no goal.

Achievement right now would be doing a correct pigeon, thank you very much. Actually, that's the goal, too. There is achievement and goal, right here! Why are you lying to me?

Discover who you are without struggle.

Without struggle I am...nothing. Well, that's depressing. Let’s quickly move along, shall we?

Find your edge.

Actually, I'm interested in finding your edge, instructor. That's why I'm here. To be as good at this as you are.

Be curious about where you can go.

Can I jump right over my edge? That's where I'd like to go, please. This edge is kind of in my way.

Doing the posture will not make you a better friend or neighbor.

Good thing I'm not here to be a better friend or neighbor. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm trying to force my knee to the floor with my mind, and you're interrupting The Force, here, lady.

The worst that could happen is that you fall.

That will never ever happen. Like neve--WHOA! Well, shit. That was embarrassing.

Think about crawling your fingers back.

Crawl your damn fingers back. Now.

You might even hold onto your foot with your hand.

You will hold onto your foot with your hand if it kills you. God, I hate my edge. HAND. GO TO FOOT. HAND. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO. TO. FOOT. I COMMAND YOU.

If you are struggling, let it go.


Suffering is not required.

Thank God it's still optional, then. Because until I am my most beautiful tree, you can bet your ass I'm going to suffer.

Breath, relax, think, feel and allow.

So…I have a grocery list to compile right now, if we're just going to stand here for a sec.

Let your body move any way it's asking.

Is it my fault my body always asks to cross its arms, slouch and look at the instructor impatiently? I think not. I'm just doing what she said.

Soften the space between your eyes.

What? There is a skull there, dudes.

Without lifting your head, lift your ears.

What in the hell even?

This is a beautiful place to practice.

Translation: You totally suck at yoga. Don't hurt yourself, big guy.

Let go of what you are holding.

Um, no? That is a really scary prospect, and if you don't mind, I'll just cling to it, lest it get away from me and then ambush me later.

Be in the present moment.

But, like, the present moment is kind of boring, though. I'm pretty boring, to be honest. Can we be somewhere else? I hear zen is pretty rad. Let's go there.

Consider deepening the twist.

Deepen that motherfucking twist, right now.

Let your hands come to wherever they rest.

Touch. The. Floor. Without. Bending. Your. Knees.

Honor your edge.

Translation: Hahahahaha, I see you failing this pose. Give up now before you humiliate yourself.

One side might want something different than the other.

Translation: Man, you really suck on the left side, huh? I guess that side just wants to lie down. Maybe eat a bonbon.

Nothing to do, nowhere to be but in this moment.

God, why am I such a privileged piece of shit? All the other people have things to do and places to be. TRY HARDER. AT EVERYTHING.

Of course, I am fully aware that you are not supposed to think these things, but I don’t care.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a book to write, a marathon to run, two children to raise, dinner to cook, school to go to, manuscripts to edit--omg. Where's the coffee?



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