Welcome to the exclusive More of Me to Love interviews with the poets of the Fat Poets Society in honor of the release of their new book Fat Poets Speak. This book has been released on International No Diet Day in honor of all those who are standing up against diets, saying no to body shame, and reclaiming their lives from this harmful practice, and embracing their size and themselves.
Without further ado, enjoy!
More of Me to Love: Well, hello and welcome. Let’s begin with a few warm up questions. Since you are a member of the Fat Poets Society, we must ask. Who is your favorite poet?
Kathy Barron: That’s a hard question for me to answer. I think I would have to say Audre Lorde. There are so many different poets and poems that appeal to me at different times. I adore the poets in the Fat Poets’ Society—and there are many more of us than are published in this first book.
MML: I like that you say “first” - a good hint of things to come! What about your favorite poem?
KB: Another hard question for me. I really don’t have one. Some poems make you laugh, some poems make you cry, some poems make you think, some poems make you feel desire, some poems are a battlecry—how do you choose a favorite? I like any poem that touches me, that inspires me, that makes me feel something.
MML: What is your favorite food? What is your favorite healthy food?
KB: I am amused that these are two different questions. There’s an assumption there that my favorite food wouldn’t be my favorite “healthy” food. LOL I don’t have a favorite food anyway. I highly value variety. I love fruit—almost every kind, probably pineapple and oranges and bananas the best. But I really like strawberries and melons and grapes and apples ... you know, the list does go on. I love salad and veggies. I like chicken, turkey and beef—and that’s pretty much it as far as meat goes. The only seafood I like AT ALL is cold tuna salad. I like cheeses, especially cottage cheese and strong cheddars. I like fresh baked breads (that approaches a favorite). I like most Ethnic foods, especially Italian and Thai. I like pizza. Burgers on the grill in the summer. Potato salad. Potatoes in all varieties, actually—I’m a big fan. Soups—especially vegetable. I collect cook books and love to experiment. I like to cook and bake—and also enjoy eating out (but not too much—I *really* need fresh, homemade foods or I start feeling not so well pretty quickly). Oh! Ice cream belongs on this list. And definitely chocolate. And a sandwich isn’t a sandwich without LOTS of lettuce. It all depends on my mood—and what my body is desiring in the moment. By the way, I don’t really eat Haagen Daas every day—only when I’m in the mood, which actually isn’t that often.
MML: Mmm. Great choices and variety is certainly important. Funny that you noticed the distinction between the questions because for all the other poets, that question lacks the second question about favorite healthy food. Since you ran a health food store, we decided to ask the questions separately. Not sure why but perhaps it is telling. But onto more probing questions. Your poems indicate that you embrace a free, healthy and sexual attitude about your fat. Is that a true characterization of you or do your poems reveal an unfulfilled internal yearning?
KB: I embrace a free, healthy and sexual attitude about everything. LOL. I didn’t realize how much of that my poems revealed until the book came out and I was reading it—and going, oh my! Many of my poems would fit nicely in an erotica collection. Don’t know how that escaped my full awareness before. I guess I’m “outed” now as a sexual person. Haha. To answer your question—that would be a true characterization of me—and just the tip of the iceberg, actually. And I feel like I need to point out that my attitude isn’t just about my “fat”—it’s about my body and my life. I’ve enjoyed my body at every size. Size is irrelevant. All bodies are warm and pulsing and responsive, right?
MML: Indeed they are! What advice would you give to other fat women, who repress their natural sexuality, in order to help liberate them sexually?
KB: Well, I’ve written a book on this subject called The Sexuality Reclamation Project for Women. I guess I should start thinking about getting that published!
Before I finish answering your question, I want to comment briefly on the meaning of sexual repression and liberation. Sexual repression is being untrue to yourself sexually; untrue to your sexuality, sexual desires, and sexual identity. Sexual liberation is being true to yourself sexually; true to your sexuality, sexual desires and sexual identity. That’s just a really brief definition. I want to make it clear because women have a wide range of sexuality, sexual desires and sexual identity. There is NO one “natural sexuality.” Just because a woman isn’t very interested in sex or has a low libido does NOT mean that she is repressed. Conversely, a woman who is acting out, very sexual—that woman might not be liberated at all. She may be doing what she’s doing in an effort to get approval or power, or doing what she believes is expected of her—and not being true to herself. She, between the two of these women, would be the repressed one. (Or, of course, the wild sexual woman could be being totally true to herself and having a great time!). I point this out because the question sounded, to me, like we should all be sex-pots and let our liberated selves all hang out and be free. Just like there is no thin woman inside every fat woman waiting to get out—there is also no sex-pot inside every fat woman waiting to get out.
Okay, so now an answer for the women who are feeling repressed and how do they get the confidence to embrace their sexuality? Also, it isn’t just fat women—truly, it is all women who have been disenfranchised sexually. It takes work and time to reclaim your sexual power and your sense of yourself as a sexual being with a right to enjoy all things sexual—as well as a right to say no. You can’t fully embrace your sexuality until you have good boundaries and the ability to say no—that allows you to be able to say YES and mean it!
I’ve spent decades reading sex positive books and books that discuss women’s empowerment. (Would you like a list of some of my favorite titles?) I still read and write sex positive stuff all of the time. Making sex a priority in your life—and claiming your right to do that is a good start. Kind of like saying “fat” helps you on your way to fat pride. Say the sex words—even if you’re alone in your house. Just start saying out loud what you’d like to experience or feel. Write it down. I used to be afraid, what if someone else reads this? And then I decided, so what? I claim this part of me! Also, pleasure yourself. Then you can teach your lover(s) what pleases you. You can also let them surprise you! LOL But it is good to know your own body and what pleases you. Buy some sex toys. I don’t know how anyone lives without a Hitachi Magic Wand. Seriously.
The more you do with loving and embracing your body and developing a happy body image, the easier it will be to liberate yourself sexually. The best thing I ever did for my body image was to become a nudist. Now, nudist resorts are NOT sexually oriented (at least, not the ones in AANR). But, you can become so comfortable with your nude body, and the bodies of others, that sex can become demystified, to an extent. Still super fun—but somehow, for me anyway, when you practice non-sexual social nudity, all things sexual seem to become more natural. You get more in touch with your body as a human animal, perhaps. I feel like I’m not explaining this well. Perhaps it’s that when there’s no shame in your body, there’s no shame in sex. At any rate, I highly recommend trying nudism. Floating naked in a pool awakens all of your senses. Being in touch with your body can definitely get the libido dancing.
MML: If our readers are taking their pants off right now then we know you’re messages are sinking in! But in all seriousness, that’s wonderful advice. Was there a defining moment in your life when you realized that there was nothing wrong with being fat? If so, what was it?
KB: Gosh, there was. But I can’t remember exactly what it was. I had played with the idea of size acceptance for years. I believed in the concept, but had still struggled with my own body image issues. I could totally see other fat women as attractive, but felt insecure myself as an attractive woman. And then one day, something just snapped in me. It was just a normal day—nothing special really happened. I’d just been building steadily toward it—and then there I was. It seems so silly to me now to think that anything is wrong with being fat. I can hardly relate to people who think that way. I have to dig way down in my patience level to try to help people to get to where I am. (It shouldn’t be so hard for me, since I was in that dark space for so long too—but it’s like everything changed and I just can’t relate to that thought-form anymore).
MML: Do you still read fashion magazines that tout thin as the ideal?
KB: No. Never.
MML: Given the opportunity, what would you say to children whose parents place an undue emphasis on being thin?
KB: “Tell your parents to stuff it.” LOL! No, just kidding. What would I say?
You are beautiful and precious just exactly the way you are. A lot of people are brainwashed into thinking that being thin is better and healthier—and I’m sorry that your parents are in that group. The truth is that all sizes of people can be healthy and happy and live wonderful lives. Size doesn’t matter. Trust your body. Take good care of your body and let your body decide what size it wants to be. Love yourself and your body whatever size you are—you are always the perfect you! And you are a gift to this world and to the many people who love you and who will love you. Enjoy your life—and don’t let anyone stop you from following your dreams. Stand strong inside of yourself and remember your own true worth.
Every child should have an adult that they can talk to who will support them in feeling good about themselves and their bodies.
MML: What is your number one nutritional recommendation for those seeking to start a life of healthy eating and good nutrition - but not dieting?
KB: Just one? You know I’m not a fan of choosing. LOL I think that preparing foods using fresh, natural ingredients is really important. If I don’t have enough fresh fruits and veggies each day, I don’t feel good. Pay attention to how different foods feel in your body—how they feel in your tummy, if they give you energy or make you feel tired. People respond differently to different foods, so it is really about getting to know what makes you feel good. Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you are satisfied (not uncomfortably full, but comfortably satisfied). The way that I beat both the “clean plate club” and the “restricted eating syndrome” was to either put way more food than I could possibly eat on my plate—so that I would have to throw some out—or to put way less food than I thought I’d want, so that I could get seconds if I was still hungry. For me, it was about overcoming being on autopilot from prior training and learning to really feel my body. Now, I just enjoy food and don’t worry about it. I pay attention to what I crave or desire and eat to satisfaction.
MML: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Kathy!
Kathy Barron has a B.A. in English from the University of Michigan, ran her own health food store, worked as a bodyworker, energy healer and caregiver, and now is pursuing her dream of writing.
MML: Welcome, Coach Anne. Let’s start with the same question we asked Kathy: Who is your favorite poet?
Anne Kaplan: I have enjoyed several of Mary Oliver’s poems, especially The Journey.
MML: What is your favorite food?
AK: I have several, and they vary with the season and my mood. Currently, one favorite is these 4-grain crackers made in a popcorn-popper-like machine at my grocery store, spread with soft cheese and maybe a little cinnamon. Especially good with a fresh mug or good coffee. Another is my hubby’s eggplant parm. In the summer, I often have a salad of chopped tomatoes, cukes, olives, scallions and cottage cheese. And of course, there’s my “famous” chicken soup—that’s good year-round.
MML: That all sounds good, but I’m sure we’d all love to try your famous chicken soup! Now, you’ve rewritten the fairy-tale Rapunzel. When you chose to explore this topic poetically did you consider a variety of fairy tales?
AK: Actually, it was the other way around. Frannie asked us (in the NAAFA workshop that was to become Fat Poets’ Society) to choose a favorite fairy-tale. I couldn’t at the time, but a least-favorite popped into my head. So I explored why I disliked it so much. Rapunzel (and many other fairy-tales) deliver the message to girls that their job is to attract a male to “save” them, and to boys that their job is to be strong for the weak girls in their lives. NO WAY! So I re-wrote it.
Now, you may ask, what does this have to do with being fat? On the surface, nothing. Boys & girls, women & men of all sizes need to know and rely upon their own power, even when sometimes they need to ask for and be able to accept help. Yet there is some relationship between gender empowerment and size empowerment. It’s rejecting the “you’re not good enough” message, and replacing it with a feeling of pride and strength - very relevant to living life large.
MML: I know that you are a spiritual person. Do you consider yourself a religious person as well?
AK: I’m not religious in the traditional sense, though much of my cultural identity is related to my Jewish upbringing.
MML: How does your spirituality inform your own understanding of self-acceptance in the context of fat-acceptance?
AK: I believe that every person is a unique creation of the divine, and we each have a spark of that divine within us. Our specialness is unrelated to size, and our divinity is expressed through the size of our heart, not our body. Seeing yourself as a magnificent and special being goes a long way toward self-acceptance and beyond, and that helps you ignore the negative “You’re not OK” messages fat people are bombarded with constantly, which helps you feel even better about yourself. It’s an upward spiral that begins with recognition of self as a unique, magnificent essence.
MML: Who is your inspiration for a body-positive mentality?
AK: I have many, including clients, friends, and colleagues. A few I’ll name are Marilyn Wann; Susie Gillis; Judy Sullivan; the late Linda Smith; Mary Ray Worley; and my Fat Poets Speak co-authors, each in her own way.
MML: When can the public look forward to the release of the new AmpleAliveness?
AK: It’s not going to be an all-at-once release. The website will be up in the next couple of months, and then features will be added over time. AmpleAliveness exists to support people in their size-acceptance and self-celebration journey. It is also my own rather tender and vulnerable journey into greater service than I’ve ever offered before. Sometimes such a journey takes longer than expected.
MML: Please tell us a little bit about AmpleAliveness and your goals for your clients.
AK: I’ll answer the second part first, because it’s what I want for fat women that shapes AmpleAliveness. So, my goals for my clients include:
~ That they never again sacrifice their bodies and spirits on the altar of the false god “thin”.
~ That they make peace in their lives, with their bodies, with food, with themselves.
~ That they find what resources they need for self-healing, peace-making, and overcoming beliefs that no longer serve them.
~ That respect for self and others, and gratitude for all that’s good, become constant and positive forces in their lives.
~ That they grow the resilience to withstand the senseless hatred and abuse aimed at fat people, and the strength to do something about it.
~ That they come to know themselves to be special human beings who don’t need to become something or someone else to be loved and valued.
AmpleAliveness is being created as a safe space where people can take baby steps (or huge leaps) towards those goals. I envision it as an evolving journey-space, where people can explore, try on new attitudes and perspectives, learn some new skills, and interact safely with others traveling that same road. Some of the offerings along the way—roadside amenities?—will likely be articles, resource listings, tele-classes, guided visualizations & other audios, group and individual coaching, and a private forum. And whatever else my clients and my own journey may inspire.
MML: Thank you so much for being here, Coach Anne.
Anne S. Kaplan is a Certified Personal Business and Life coach, a “recovering scientist” with a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and a former computer programmer and consultant.
MML: Hi, Corinna! So, who is your favorite poet?
Corinna Makris: I was very fortunate to grow up with my mother for a mother! She loves books and always encouraged us to take anything off the shelves and if we were interested, we should read. I discovered the poetry shelf when I was about 9 years old. Dorothy Parker, Elizabeth Barret Browning and Kahlil Gibran have all been a source of inspiration and comfort. I think they all have wit and social observation in common.
MML: What is your favorite poem?
CM: The very first thing that comes to mind is the poem by Dorothy Parker, “Men don’t make passes / at girls who wear glasses.” I think that poem has probably influenced me more than I even realize. It is social observation and snark, wit and sadness in only nine words. How amazing is that?
MML: It’s wonderful, and we’re glad it was such a ‘sharable’ size. What is your favorite food?
CM: About 4 years ago I started a small organic garden in my backyard, and so that is definitely the food that I most look forward to enjoying as a meal. There is nothing better than fresh picked tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, scallions – and even some peaches from my trees – all tossed simply with some lemon and lime juice and a pinch of salt.
MML: We agree 100%. Home grown and organic, if you can, are the ways to go!. If you had 60 seconds to deliver one message to every 16-year-old girl in America, knowing that you had their undivided attention, what would you say?
CM: You, yes you, right now, I want you to look in the mirror and say out loud, “I am beautiful,” because you are. Looking exactly the way you look, your face, your eyes, your nose, your belly, thighs and hips – you are a perfect being. I don’t know if there is a supreme being but if there is one – I know it looks like each of us.
You’ve heard people tell you that you have to be skinny to be pretty and you have heard people tell you that looks don’t matter and you should focus on being a good person. I believe that both are important. Of course you want to look in the mirror and feel pretty. Of course you want to know that you are a smart, kind, person that people like. Here is how you achieve both – it begins with you, looking in the mirror and approving of what you see.
MML: That’s a wonderful message. We hope they hear you. What do you believe it means to “be healthy?”
CM: I believe in the Health at Every Size (HAES) viewpoint on health. The Association on Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) has a beautifully written list suggesting ways to relate with your personal health. Certainly health is multi-faceted and includes more than just your height and weight and includes physical, social, spiritual, occupational, emotional, and intellectual aspects.
MML: At what point in your life do you officially consider yourself to have gotten off the diet wagon? Have you ever considered getting back on since then? What has kept you off of it?
CM: I must admit that I still struggle with feeling good about my body, and I spend inordinate amounts of time admiring myself naked in front of full length mirrors telling myself, “I like my eyes,” “I like my knees,” “I like my hips,” “I like my belly.”
I have no doubt that if I stopped doing what I call “mirror exercises” I would be wallowing in body loathing in no time. I want every human being to love the skin they’re in and in my heart I know that this means ending a cultural obsession with unhealthy dieting and body loathing.
MML: How would you feel if tomorrow morning you woke up with the slender body that you’d striven for throughout your dieting years?
CM: I’d be very worried about how much money I’d have to spend on a whole new wardrobe!
But seriously, I think your question is great because it brings up a viewpoint that many people have – doesn’t everyone want to be thin? Wouldn’t it be great if you could just take a pill and wake up thin tomorrow? But the reality is that you are still you no matter the size of your body.
So many thin beautiful women refuse to look in mirrors because they can’t stand their own reflections. We hear reports of families struggling to get help for a daughter, mother, or sister with an eating disorder because as long as they are thin they are thought to be healthy.
The concept of “loving the skin you’re in” isn’t just a mantra for fat acceptance, it’s an opportunity to consider that fat is not a medical issue as much as it is a social consciousness issue. If we are going to have a healthy society, one that honors our similarities as well as our differences in politics, religion, and ethnicity then that must include the possibility that health and beauty come in every size and shape.
MML: You mention the importance of having fun as being a part of living life to the fullest. How do you live life to the fullest now? What do you do for fun?
CM: What a great question! I am having a great time running my company, This Lush Life (dot com), which is a plus size web boutique. My company motto is “Live the Life you Love, Love the Life you Live.”
More than just selling clothes and accessories, I also want to create a culture of responsible hedonism. I want to encourage women who have been marginalized from the fashion industry, refused admittance to fun events, even denied their own experience of sensuality, to feel good about themselves. I want women who wear larger than a size 12 to know that they have as much right to wear sexy, flirty dresses and bathing suits as anyone else.
If we could realize that there is nothing to fix, nothing at all, not our shape, or our viewpoints – then everything we are could just be there for our enjoyment. I believe in the inherent rightness of life and that my personal happiness and interest in the world makes an imprint that improves the world by my being here.
I am not saying that it’s just a “me me me” world but that it is really about making sure that we each do whatever it takes to ensure that our universe pleases us. If we all did that, we’d make sure it was a nicer world. The way you give and take happiness, love and joy is the biggest most important contribution you can make to society, your family, your friends and most importantly to yourself.
What do I do for fun? I tell people that the way to live a life they love and love the life they live is to enjoy their lives. Having this conversation makes me very happy!
I really enjoyed this interview and I hope we get to do this again sometime. Thank you.
MML: Well we’re so glad you enjoyed it and so glad that you joined us for this. Thank you so much!
Corinna Makris is the proprietress of ThisLushLife.com, an online plus-size clothing/living resource.
Lesleigh J. Owen
MML: Welcome, Lesleigh. Let’s start with our standard opening question: Who is your favorite poet?
Lesleigh Owen: At risk of sounding like an undergraduate English Lit major, I can’t honestly say I can narrow down my favorite poets. My favorites depend on my mood and my current life situation. However, the (non-FPS) poets whose writings speak most powerfully to me as a woman and a person of size are Sylvia Plath and Susan Stinson.
MML: What is your favorite poem?
LO: I have no single favorite. I get chills every single time I read Elizabeth Bishop’s The Man-Moth. I also adore Sylvia Plath’s Daddy (its power shocks and moves me but yes, I am aware that it uses [and arguably abuses] Holocaust symbolism), Child, and Mirror. Another one of my favorites is Frannie Zellman’s I Sing the Fat Self.
MML: What is your favorite food?
LO: I feel very conflicted about answering this question. On the one hand, given sizeist assumptions about fatties’ eating patterns, I’m reluctant to discuss food. On the other hand, I think fat people deserve the right to reclaim food and eating on our own terms. I guess my short answer is cheese. ;)
MML: Great answer! And at More of Me to Love, we don’t make assumptions about fatties’ eating patterns. Food is to be enjoyed! On a different note entirely, what are your thoughts about The Beauty Myth? To recall your bio, is beauty a myth or simply a far broader category than Hollywood allows our culture to explore?
LO: Interesting you should ask about this. I used this book pretty extensively in my dissertation. I honestly think I could write my own book on this question. Let me see if I can briefly answer this question.
I think beauty is both myth and expandable category. It’s a socially constructed ideal that needs to be interrogated, maybe even destroyed the way my NAAFA chapter pulverizes scales every May 6 (International No-Diet Day). In theory, I have no problem with the concept of beauty, since in my mind, beauty can be anywhere and in anything or everything. In reality, though, “beauty” becomes a possession, a weapon in the hands of media and businesspeople. Popular conceptions of beauty are never benign; they’re designed to serve as unattainable ideals. In this way, “beauty” is a myth and should be exposed and, ultimately, destroyed.
After deconstructing beauty, I would like to see us reconstruct it to include multiple, even boundless, forms and expressions of beauty. As for me, I have quite intentionally and painstakingly deconstructed popular beauty ideals and replaced them with ideals of my own. Is having a beauty hierarchy, even one designed by me, my ultimate goal? No; however, current, anti-fat beauty ideals now exist and I am working in my own quiet way to subvert them by offering up alternatives. Expansion first, deconstruction second, and inclusive reconstructions third. :)
MML: You come off as the member of the Fat Poets Society who has been the most comfortable in her body for the longest. Have you always loved your body or have you ever had body-image issues?
LO: I’ve always been politically active regarding body issues but no, I wasn’t always thrilled with my body size. I don’t think I hated myself the way all-too-many people seem to, but I experienced my share of body dissatisfaction and childhood and teen diets. Thank goodness I attended college right out of high school and got immediately involved in feminist activism!
MML: At what age did you first think, “I’m fat”? When you thought it, was it a negative realization, a positive one or just a fact of life?
LO: I remember starting to understand the negative implications of my larger-than-average body size at the way-too-tender age of four. At age five, I remember crying to my mother about feeling different. At age seven, my mother put me on my first diet.
Because no one around me thought it was acceptable, the f-word didn’t strike me as positive or even benign until I was in my early-20s.
MML: You recently received your Ph.D. and finished a very impressive dissertation (congratulations! by the way) on fat people’s perceptions of their own fat. Did you study people who are proud, self-hating or both?
LO: I tried to interview both groups and everything that lies in-between. Because of who I am, the circles in which I run, and the severely rare occurrence of fat-hating fat people who feel comfy discussing their body size, my dissertation was skewed toward body-positive folks.
MML: Do you find that people can be both proud of their size and fat-hating at the same time or are these mutually exclusive adjectives? In your experience can people fluctuate between the two?
LO: Absolutely! I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who feels purely celebratory all the time. In this culture, we’re taught to revile fatness. It’s extremely difficult for women and men to emerge from that fog of hatred and condemnation and declare ourselves beautiful, strong, and empowered. Even after we peek over the fog, the struggle for body positivity continues; in fact, it’s a constant, tiring, and uphill battle to fight all those cultural and interpersonal voices that tell us we’re ugly, unhealthy, and stupid. I think fluctuating among body love, ambivalence, and dissatisfaction (sometimes all at once!) is so common as to be almost universal.
As for me, I try to block those voices and love myself all the time. I do this in part by carving out a definition of beauty that not only doesn’t exclude me but privileges my body size and shape. It doesn’t always work, but it often does, and I find I generally feel very good about myself, body and mind.
MML: As a proud, fat woman, what would your advice be to those who do not yet love and respect themselves as beautiful people?
LO: Start reading some body-positive and anti-dieting books and perusing fat pride and body-positive websites. Limit your exposure to popular media and surround yourself with people who celebrate you as an entire person. Perhaps most importantly, start thinking about who has the most to gain from your body hatred and realize you can thwart them by not buying into body dissatisfaction.
MML: We hope people listen to that wonderful advice. Thank you so much for speaking with us, Lesleigh!
Lesleigh J. Owen is a Ph.D. in sociology, a college instructor, and a social activist.
MML: Congratulations on editing this wonderful collection, Frannie. Your leadership in the Fat Poets Society begs the question, who is your favorite poet?
Frannie Zellman: Celia Dropkin, whose poems I translated from Yiddish when I was taking Jewish Studies courses at the University of Pennsylvania. She accessed amazingly sensuous images from deep parts of her own soul and consciousness. Just reading her made my thoughts -and body- dance.
MML: Ah, a Quaker. Do you have a favorite poem?
FZ: The Last Hiding Places of Snow, by Galway Kinnell. It discusses the author’s angry, reluctant and encompassing love for his mother, who had just died.
MML: What is your favorite food?
FZ: Pizza and chocolate.
MML: Mmmm. What do you do when you’re not championing the cause of fat rights and fat acceptance?
FZ: I write. I think. I argue.
MML: What do you feel the place of thin people is in the Fat Acceptance movement?
FZ: Thin people who really and truly believe that fat people deserve the same rights and sense of entitlement to fairness, happiness and sensuality as they possess are indispensable to the Fat Rights movement. They demonstrate that fat rights is a humanitarian issue as well as a size-related one.
MML: Is there a particular moment in your life when something happened and you first recall thinking, “there’s nothing wrong with me,” or was it more a process of realization resulting from reading Radiance and being an active member in NAAFA?
FZ: There were many moments in my life when I would think to myself, “Isn’t it strange how I feel nothing is really wrong with me, even though some people keep saying there is?” Especially but not only when I was walking my slimmer friends into the ground. But these moments did not begin to make sense or receive validation until I started to read fat acceptance books and poems, especially in Radiance Magazine, and then of course as I wrote poems pertaining to fat acceptance. From there it was a short step to joining NAAFA. But that short step took years because I had to learn on my own that dieting was not only harmful, but ineffective, and that it was actually better for me in so many ways simply to be and learn to live happily in my fat self.
MML: If you could see NAAFA accomplish one tangible thing in the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
FZ: I would wish that NAAFA could become a voice on every “Obesity” group or “task force” so that these bodies could hear the points of view of fat people who are not ashamed of themselves or their size.
MML: Is NAAFA taking steps to do that, at least with certain key groups? If so, how is it going? If not, how do you think that something like this could go about being implemented?
FZ: To my knowledge NAAFA has not done this. However, I would love to see them contact these “Obesity” task forces and conference groups, just to show that they/NAAFA are on the map, so to speak. If NAAFA is not invited to such gatherings after they make themselves known, it will be a clear sign that the supposed “Obesity” groups know that they are not representing the views of the people they purport to serve.
MML: Do you have any hopes that the new presidential administration will affect change for the better when it comes to fat rights?
FZ: There is one hope I continue to hold for this administration, which is simply that more fat people will be covered by insurance and thus will be able to get medical care closer to when they need it. Also, as more NIH findings surface about the questionable effectiveness of certain drugs and the corporate influence behind the studies that approved them, I hope that supposed fat-fighting drugs will come to be exposed for the dangers that they are.
MML: Is fat acceptance a grass-roots movement that must be cultural - i.e. a social revolution - rather than a movement that comes from the top?
FZ: Movements that succeed and effect permanent changes in social landscapes always do so as cultural and social revolutions. But they must be complemented by legislative support as well - laws that forbid discrimination against fat people in the workplace, in medical facilities, by airlines. The two work together in any movement for lasting social change.
MML: Beautifully said, Frannie. Thank you so much for speaking with More of Me to Love.
Frannie Zellman received her MFA in creative writing from Boston University and is the author of the novel FatLand, also published by Pearlsong Press (January 2009).