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Open Book —

March 8, 2012
by

Yesterday was kind of a weird day.

I got a call from my mom around 9:30 am, asking if I wanted to go to lunch with her, something I don’t think we’ve ever done in all the five years I’ve worked at my office. We had recently been discussing her new blog and website, and she wanted me to help her figure out some stuffs.

But it seemed sort of weird timing because that very morning my brother sent her the full email thread of us bickering over the incident with my sister-in-law. He wanted to clear the air with my mom so she would be aware of our falling out prior to any family get-togethers.

And since my mom prefers to discuss difficult subjects in person (the day after I told my parents that I got my girlfriend pregnant at age 20, she drove three hours to Mizzou the next day to bring us a pair of booties and to show her support), I figured this was the real reason we were meeting.

And the thing is, I don’t really tell my family about my activism. I don’t hide it (Goggle my name and there I am), but I don’t talk about it because several people in my family are fairly judgmental about fat people and others are hard-core health evangelists. It already takes a significant chunk of my energy to deal with strangers on the internet without being worried about how my family will take my work.

So, I printed out a copy of the ads and braced myself for a difficult lunch.

Except it wasn’t difficult.

First off, she really was coming just to discuss her blog and website, and hadn’t checked her email yet. So, when I asked her if she read my brother’s email, I then had to explain the whole situation, including my blog and activism to her. She asked me if she could see my website and I figured, what the hell, why not.

She was a bit confused when I told her that I was often attacked for my weight as a kid, and that I recall our family nicknaming me Porky as a kid. She was mostly confused because, as I point out in my video, I wasn’t a fat kid. But she didn’t recall calling me Porky, which I would agree with.

My dad is the one with the penchant for nicknames (later in life he called me Eddie Haskell), so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was his idea to call me Porky and my brother Bones. I don’t begrudge him this at all. I don’t think he realized how much of an issue this would be for me, especially since I wasn’t fat. But because kids use “fat” as a catch-all insult for those they don’t like, it was just another brick in the wall, so to speak.

So, I explained to her how although I disagree about the causes of childhood obesity and the “treatment” society prescribes, that it should be a no-brainer that we don’t target children. Apart from the ad campaign itself, I wasn’t interested in condemning any of the resources or education that Strong4Life does. I only want the billboards to come down.

(Before anyone reads this as full support for Strong4Life’s campaign, let me say that the reason I separate the two is that ending the billboard campaign was a tangible goal with definite results… policing individual education campaigns is not as easy and our purpose is best served by invoking broader social change, rather than isolated attacks on individual anti-obesity campaigns.)

I went on to explain how disgusted I am with anyone who would justify the ad campaign, regardless of how they feel about childhood obesity. For me, this willingness to bludgeon kids with public messages in order to achieve their goal is about the most reprehensible thing anyone could do, or support. Learning that my sister-in-law supported these ads made me feel literally disgusted with her.

But even more important, I felt incredibly insulted that she would watch my video, know how strongly I feel about this campaign, and then throw her support behind Strong4Life. I felt that if she respected me, she would have contacted me privately first before appearing to take sides in this fight.

As any good parent would, my mom was disappointed that I had a falling out with my brother and sister-in-law over this, and she hopes we’ll resolve it soon, but she understood where I was coming from. And after we got past this most difficult part of the conversation, we moved on to talk about my blogging, my work, Health At Every Size®, and Fat Acceptance.

This is not a conversation I had ever expected to have with my mom, who, for as long as I can remember, has always been actively attempting to improve her health through diet and exercise.

We even talked about how she spent such a significant portion of her life attempting to lose weight, only to regain it, or to restrict herself from all treats, only to binge on them. We talked about how she was a fat child,  how her family tormented her about her weight (which is why she would have never done that to me, even if I had been fat) and how that affected her. We talked about HAES, and how she is essentially practicing that now, and how she is no longer a slave to the scale.

Then I told her about the book I’m working on and how I was on an hour-long debate on China Radio International and in the BBC for the letter I got from the National Institutes of Health. She gave me a high five when I told her the billboards are coming down this month, and teared up as she told me how proud she was of me. Then she reminded me (even though she didn’t need to) of how she always told me, “Someday your star will shine.”

That phrase, “Someday your star will shine,” ranks up there with “It takes a lot of shit to grow a rose” as one of the most influential mantras in my life. Growing up, I dealt with a lot of negativity and a lot of humiliation, mainly because I was just as obnoxious, opinionated and in-your-face as I am today, but in a smaller, more concentrated formula.

Because my mom gave me her undying support and perpetually reinforced my self-worth in the face of a relentless onslaught of criticism, I was able to see myself as pretty damned awesome and others as the clueless fools who didn’t know what they were missing by rejecting me.

So, if you are a parent of a child who gets bullied for their weight, or anything really, then take a page from my mom’s book and my experience: defending and reinforcing your child’s self-worth is the best thing that you can do during the trials of childhood, adolescence and beyond.

I spent waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more time at lunch with my mom than I had intended (we only get a half hour!), but I’m so glad that we did because now I don’t feel like I have to hold back my opinions, or accomplishments, in Fat Acceptance from anyone.

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    March 8, 2012 11:52 am

    Dude, I am so glad that you and your mom were able to talk about all of this and that she believes in you. That is just freaking awesome! Your mom deserves props for how she raised you and how she supports you – she rules!

    • March 8, 2012 12:19 pm

      Thanks vesta, she definitely does. And I’m glad we got to talk too. It feels so much better being open.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  2. March 8, 2012 11:58 am

    What an awesome mom you have, and I have to say that she sounds a lot like my mom. Yay, good moms!

    • March 8, 2012 12:20 pm

      You don’t know the half of it. On my original blog, I wrote about how my mom donated her kidney in the first 8-way kidney transplant of its kind. She didn’t know anyone who needed it, she just volunteered. And that’s just one of her amazing deeds.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  3. March 8, 2012 11:59 am

    I teared up, I must admit. I am so happy that your mom is so supportive! YAY MOM!!!

  4. Tom Anderson permalink
    March 8, 2012 12:23 pm

    Wait, I thought you said she did support S4L but not their ads? Your earlier page had a quote, which I thought was from her, said, “I am not defending their ads. As I said in a previous post I do not agree with all of their tactics they have used to get their point across. What I am for is the fact that they are trying to do something.” Doesn’t sound like support for the billboards, or a reason for you to be disgusted with her, especially when you yourself say above that, “Apart from the ad campaign itself, I wasn’t interested in condemning any of the resources or education that Strong4Life does. I only want the billboards to come down.”

    • March 8, 2012 12:31 pm

      Tom,
      You don’t have access to the full conversations that I had with her. And in the end, she was defending the ads because they were doing “something.” As I continued to clarify my position that this was just about the ads, she kept defending them as justifiable because they were doing “something” which is BS because there are tons of other “somethings” that could have been done.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Tom Anderson permalink
        March 8, 2012 12:42 pm

        A difference of opinion certainly sounds like a reason for the adjectives you describe to your relatives who disagree. Reprehensible? Come on…

        Not exactly the kind of actions that facilitate a reasonable debate.

        • March 8, 2012 12:52 pm

          Defending a campaign that attacks children is reprehensible. And you have absolutely NO idea what went on behind the scenes, or the conversation we had in private. Seriously Tom, you get points for chutzpah, but that’s about it.

          Peace,
          Shannon

  5. Tom Anderson permalink
    March 8, 2012 12:26 pm

    Also, with regard to your post about taping your conversation with the doctor in ATL, did you actually consult with a lawyer about the “single party consent” issue, or just do a google search of the law and come to your own conclusions about what it “really” means? If your legal research has the same problems as your medical research, you might want to call a lawyer. “Single party consent” does not apply to the party who wants to do the recording, otherwise, the cops could be one of the parties when they “consent” to record a private citizen.

    • March 8, 2012 12:48 pm

      Yes, Tom, I have consulted with a lawyer and my ducks are in a row. As far as my medical research goes, I’d like to offer you a warm glass of shut the hell up. You have no idea what medical research even means. You posted a link to an unsourced claim on the Surgeon General’s site and ignored the actual research I provided. Your inherent trust of any and all medical claims from government sources, and your unwillingness to verify those claims, shows just how clueless you are.

      But that’s for worrying about me. Obviously you’re still reading our blog, so there must be something here you find of value.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Tom Anderson permalink
        March 8, 2012 2:20 pm

        Dr. Shannon,
        Wow…”clueless.” Thanks for the personal attack. Very enlightening.
        I didn’t realize your extensive–though ironically, undocumented– background in medical research. Doctors literally spend years, sometimes decades, learning how to do it and actually doing it. I, foolishly, defaulted to the Surgeon General of the United States. But I’m sure your background is just as thorough.
        The first rule of research is that it has to be open to the possibility that your hypothesis will turn out to be incorrect. You, on the other hand and in violation of this principle, have simply disagreed with someone else’s conclusions, and cherry picked data to support your claim. That is not research by anyone’s definition.

        • March 8, 2012 2:55 pm

          Please show us where the data is cherry picked, Tom. I’m waiting. I strongly disagree with some of Shannon’s methods, but this isn’t one of them.

          • March 8, 2012 7:48 pm

            Thanks CC. I strongly disagree with some of your methods too. 😉

            Peace,
            Shannon

    • March 8, 2012 2:59 pm

      Tom, you shot first, my friend, by taking a swipe at my researching skills which you attempted to discredit, but could not, so you go the lazy route and accuse me of cherry-picking, rather than actually reading the research I presented. It’s so easy to point and say, “You’re cherry-picking!” when you have no idea what my research, or any other research for that matter, says. And I don’t care if God comes down and says, “Obesity kills at least 5 people a year,” without citations, it’s not credible.

      To hide your ignorance behind the assumption that the Surgeon General must be right is not how science works. And where have I ever said I’m not open to the fact that I could be wrong? Just because I’m confident of my opinion doesn’t mean I don’t realize how wrong I could be. But I ask that people back up their claims of my wrongness before I concede.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  6. sky permalink
    March 8, 2012 5:53 pm

    How many obese individuals walk into a SSA office everyday to file an obesity related disability claim? MILLIONS. Just because you don’t have any problems with your weight now doesn’t mean you won’t later. Many of the people here have weight related disabilities. Also, it’s impossible to eat healthy and be overweight. You can’t get overweight from eating lean protein, fruits, veggies and unprocessed carbohydrates.

    • March 8, 2012 7:47 pm

      Okay, before I respond to all of your comment, I want you to back up your claims that MILLIONS of obese people are on disability. I’ll wait. Thanks.

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Kala permalink
        March 8, 2012 9:33 pm

        Even better, not only are there millions, million apply every.single.day. So within a year, all of America is on disability. I wonder where my SSI check is at.

        • March 9, 2012 10:08 am

          No crap, I’m leaving this shitty job today and becoming a professional fat mooch.

          Peace,
          Shannon

    • March 9, 2012 10:19 am

      i disagree. my fat farmer great grandma, in pictures from civil war area, didnt eat processed food (unless you count butchering your own meat and then cooking it processing, or baking grain YOU raised and then got ground and then made into bread processing). she had like 3-4 apple trees and 3-4 pear trees as well, and fresh veggies in the summer from the garden. Also, tall and fat, just like EVERY. OTHER. FREAKING. WOMAN. IN. MY. FAMILY. fat is 80% genetics, just like height. but these facts, which can be found in reputable peer reviewed academic journals, get drowned out by the 60 billion dollar a year weight loss industry.

      find me a study NOT sponsored by a WLS clinic or the weight loss industry in general that supports the whole “You can’t get overweight from eating lean protein, fruits, veggies and unprocessed carbohydrates.” idea. im not arguing that you wont be healthy. you WILL be healthier, and it is awesome to be healthier. but you wont necessarily lose weight. study after study show that weight loss, call it a “lifestyle change” a diet, a cleanse…what have you (yes even WLS long term!) have a 75-95% FAILURE rate. and what they call success? 10% of your body weight. so for a 250 lb person? that’s 25lbs. 25lbs to make a diet successful on a 250 lb person. that doesn’t even take me down a size. IT doesn’t make people stop calling me fatty. it doesn’t stop the sneers. But that is what all the diet companies call a successful diet.

      People cant lose weight for a number of reasons…..for me it was YEARS of bulimia destroying my metabolism (this is coming f rom my doctor people so….) combined with a pretty nasty drug i HAVE to take or i get SEIZURES. They make it so that, even though i eat really well (honestly about 1500 calories a day) , in fact i struggle to MAKE myself eat enough after 15 years of eating disorders, I STILL weigh over 250 at 6 foot 2inches tall. And since low blood sugar and puking and dehydration seem to kick my seizures off what do you suggest i do? restrict FURTHER? skip breakfast? skip lunch? get rid of the protein that keeps my blood sugar from dipping too low? and then end up in a hospital room because i had 6 grand mal seizures again?

      Hell im a stay at home mom who is poor. i live within walking distance of a farmers market. my dream is to own a food truck doing farm to table fare. (very fresh and unprocessed) i PROMISE we eat mostly veggies, its cheaper if i eat in season from the farmers themselves. we love stir-fry, homemade chili, from scratch pasta sauce (im learning how to make my own noodles!), corn chowder. in hte summer its salads and fruit, all dy long. i have an awesome vinagrette dressing recipe if you want it.

  7. dufmanno permalink
    March 8, 2012 9:41 pm

    sigh. I miss this place when I’m away too long. Also, for the record Shannon I like my glass of *shut the hell up* cold.

    • March 9, 2012 10:09 am

      Eeeeeeeeeew! Iced “shut the hell up”? No thank you. Give me a steaming mug of the stuff any day. 😉

      Peace,
      Shannon

  8. my view permalink
    March 8, 2012 10:25 pm

    Still chuckling over the millions of obese people that apply for disability everyday. At least we are still walking in, there was an obvious opening to say we ride our scooters in. Even if these hordes of fat people applied for disability everyday, so what? People get disability for many things that are influenced at least in part by lifestyle. Some things that might cause permanent disability: cigarette smoking, reckless driving, riding a motorcycle, jaywalking, running, biking, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, the list goes on….

    Anyway I’m glad you can share your activism with your mother. Sounds like a very productive lunch.

    • March 9, 2012 10:13 am

      Oh, man, you need to offer yourself as a joke writer for this troll. They obviously need help.

      You’re dead on with your assessment too… I once worked with a guy who had a traumatic brain injury because he wrecked his car while drinking and driving. He’s still just as responsible for his paralysis, but people don’t line up to say, “Hey, you’re costing the taxpayers money with your terrible choices!” This is all about finding a folk devil to blame our perceived problems on (in this case the cost of entitlements), and fatties are always a convenient scapegoat.

      And thanks, it was a very productive lunch, and I’m glad we can have this conversation now.

      Peace,
      Shannon

  9. March 9, 2012 9:51 am

    I think your star is already shining!

  10. Fab@54 permalink
    March 9, 2012 11:43 am

    Shannon, you have a wonderful mom. Hug her for us all. 🙂
    I’m not having a good day today (or week really). My best friend in the world for more than 40 years, the sister I never had, passed away on Monday and her memorial service is later today. She was 54 and it’s heart-breaking.
    Cheryl was a warm, caring, loving person who affected everyone around her in the most positive ways. She was a naturally small, petite person herself, yet never EVER made me feel “fat” or ugly. Never criticized me or anyone for their looks. She was really unappreciated by her own (very dysfunctional) family, and that is a shame that can never be un-done.
    But anyway, It was so nice to read of a mother and child relationship (like yours, Shannon) that is always evolving and improving. Brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing; it gives us all hope and incentive to try to work, in positive ways, with the people around us who influence us the most, before it’s too late and they’re gone …

  11. March 10, 2012 9:30 pm

    I just have to say hearing about your talk with your mom just warmed my heart. I am so glad it went well for you. You deal with a lot of crap for the work that you do and I am glad you have support from some of your loved ones. I totally understand tending to keep this part of your life separate from personal life as I tend to do that myself but I am so glad that you got to have a great and uplifting talk with your mom! That is awesome!

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