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500 Spartans —

October 14, 2014

Weight LossFat HealthMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

As it happens, this is my 500th post for Fierce, Freethinking Fatties, the community blog I started five years ago with good omens. At the time, this blog was a reaction to my anger and frustration with what I saw as a provincial, judgmental movement that had no place for me. As with every endeavor I have ever undertaken, I expected to spark a revolution and change the way we talk about Fat Acceptance.

But a funny thing happened on the way to building the forum: this blog and its readers changed me.

Looking back through my archives, I see a lot of commenters who are no longer active here and I can only assume that one of the many, many controversies I sparked became the straw that broke the camel’s back. But for those few who have been with me from the dark, early beginning on my personal Blogger account from 2009, I have no doubt you’ve seen me progress from trenchant, Fat Spartanunapologetic, privilege-spewing asshole to a person struggling to do better.

I’m not quite so graceful at adapting and have burnt down a great number of bridges in that struggle over the years. As a result, I’ve often felt like this blog has become an island in the Fatosphere. Likewise, I often feel isolated from the Fat Acceptance movement as a whole, having betrayed the confidence of so many. The result has been a steady decline in my confidence as a blogger.

Yeah, I talk a good game, but inside I’ve often become overwhelmed by exhaustion and a sense of futility. Between the activists who have disowned me, the trolls who swarm like clusterflies, and the Sisyphean task of altering public perception, sometimes I feel a bit agoraphobic on the internet. I want to be like the beautiful, free spirits I see celebrating self-acceptance, but I’m racked with guilt and remorse over the many mistakes I’ve made.

Of course, this is where people say, “You can’t dwell on the past,” but oh you can. My philosophy has always been to learn from the past, but unlike the cut-and-dried formula of reconciliation in Catholic confession, there’s no redemption on the internet. On the internet, your transgressions merely harden your reputation like plaque and become part of your identity.

Some days I just want to start over. Wipe the slate clean, adopt a new identity, do what I’m doing now, but without the emotional baggage that follows me everywhere I go. I feel like 500 posts is enough and that if I were to start anew, I could achieve so much more than I currently can.

And yet, starting over would mean breaking away from all the accomplishments of which I’m enormously proud: my interviews with experts and thought leaders in On Hold with Atchka! and Big Ass Questions; my commitment to ending the rancid Strong4Life campaign; my exhaustive takedown of the fourteenth season of The Biggest Loser.

What I’m most proud of, however, is the fact that I have maintained my commitment to intellectual honesty. To this day, I still hold Health at Every Size® (HAES) to the same standard that I hold mainstream medical positions on weight loss. I’m just as likely to call out a HAES advocate who cites shoddy science as I am to call out a weight loss guru. Above all else, I am committed to evidence-based medicine, regardless of how many friends or enemies it makes me.

And this is what has made my task as a blogger, as well as Chief Fatty of this blog, so difficult. I feel compelled to pursue the truth, wherever it leads me, even if it results in me running over the toes of people who would otherwise support me. The result is that in my search for truth, whether regarding HAES or privilege, I have broken many relationships because I lack the social skills to run over toes with tact and grace.

I can’t divorce myself from the good and bad things that I have done. More importantly, I don’t want to. My entire life has been one, long, frustrating attempt to blend in and be valued for who I am, but with one of my socially-awkward hands tied behind my back. It’s who I am, for better or worse, and I would be cheating to edit away those hard-earned truths so that I can start anew with the insights and understanding I have gained over the past five years.

The fact is, I’m tired. After five years of proofing posts every day and writing nearly a post a week, I am simply, utterly exhausted. It’s not that I’m burnt out and have nothing more to say, I just feel overwhelmed by my commitment, both to this blog and to my ideals. I often feel like Tom Lehrer’s “Selling Out”:

It’s so nice to have integrity
I’ll tell you why
If you really have integrity
It means your price is very high

Part of the reason this particular post is titled “500 Spartans —” is because I wanted to commemorate about my 500th post, which reminded me of the movie 300, which was about Sparta and my high school mascot was the Spartans (and yes, this is the kind of stream of consciousness that goes into all my post titles). One of the things my Catholic high school emphasized was integrity, and it’s something I latched onto immediately. To me, having integrity means being true to yourself, regardless of the outcome.

In leading this blog, I have tried to hold myself to a certain level of integrity and intellectual honesty that would leave our readers knowing that the information we share with them is not grounded in the shallow roots of convenience or expediency. Rather, I wanted a place where readers could follow us as we pursued the truth, wherever it took us. And in my own personal pursuit of the truth, I have gone through some very dark days of self-doubt and insecurity from which I am slowly beginning to emerge.

My belief is that adversity provides a trial by fire, and like the sword forged in the blacksmith’s furnace, that fire will strengthen us for what lies ahead. Like the largely-apocryphal story of King Leonidas and his small band of Spartans, I feel like I appear weakened by circumstance. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak, so to speak. But I have multiple projects that I am working on to strengthen our defenses and to continue the fight we began five years ago.

Recently, I was reminded that exhaustion is normal in this line of “work,” when I realized that Shapely Prose, the vanguard of Fat Acceptance when I first started blogging, was around for just three years before their writers retired the blog saying they were “busy and tired and cranky about moderating, which you’ve probably noticed on account of how we’re always talking about being busy and tired and cranky about moderating.”

This blog is a labor of love. Contrary to popular troll mythos, we don’t get paid for doing this. Never have. Can’t say never will because if the opportunity arose, I might just take it. But for five years, we have been churning out near-daily content because of our love of the subject, nothing more.

I didn’t mean for this post to be discouraging. If anything, I wanted to pat myself on the back for reaching this milestone. But truth be told, this milestone marks a difficult stage in my writing. But looking back, reflecting on where I’ve been, helps me keep my current feelings in perspective.

We all need to look back from time to time and acknowledge the progress we’ve made in our lives, and to that end, I have a wonderful song that I have probably shared before — “How Far We’ve Come” by Dawes.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCjohYiiMP4%5D

Many thanks to all our readers and our bloggers for standing by me throughout the life of this blog. I cannot wait to see what the next five years brings to Fierce Fatties, and to each of us, as we continue to fight the culture of self-loathing that bears down on each of us like blood-thirsty marauders.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2014 12:43 pm

    Thanks for everything you have done. I KNOW how hard it is, and your work is very much helpful and needed in a world where many struggle with their very being.

  2. October 14, 2014 1:36 pm

    Thank you for being here. You and all the Fierce Fatties and Fierce Freethinking Fatty Fans have been and continue to be an invaluable source of knowledge and wisdom for me as an ally. Thank you.

    • October 14, 2014 1:37 pm

      Oh, and ’cause OF COURSE I forgot: Happy 500th!!!

  3. Heather permalink
    October 14, 2014 3:19 pm

    Congratulations on 500 posts and 5 years of FFF. I’ve been reading and lurking from the beginning and have very much appreciated this blog. I used to read many FA blogs but this is the only one I’ve stuck with all these years – which should tell you something! Thanks for all your hard work. 🙂

  4. Len permalink
    October 14, 2014 4:27 pm

    Speaking for myself, Shannon, I’ve always appreciated your efforts. I think the ability to accept the occasional slip-ups and dark times that we all have, and to openly acknowledge and learn from them, is the truest integrity.

    I especially enjoy it when you really go to town on a nasty weight-loss guru. Sometimes when I’m having a bad day I recall your legendary stouche with MeMe Wossername, and cheer right up. It is good to remember that anger can be justified and it’s okay for somebody who suffers oppression to show emotion. It does not ‘detract’ from the message. It strengthens it.

    Congratulations on your 500th post.

  5. Dizzyd permalink
    October 14, 2014 7:14 pm

    Len – “It is good to remember that anger can be justified and it’s okay for somebody who suffers oppression to show emotion. It does not ‘detract’ from the message. It strengthens it.” Amen! And Atchka, thank you for all you do. This site is a safe place where we can come and let our hair down, so to speak. And we can grouse and grumble and gripe and people will just pat you on the back, tell you everything’s okay, and to keep going and not let things get you down. Thank you for all you’ve done the last 5 years, and here’s hoping to at least 5 more.

  6. Laura permalink
    October 15, 2014 9:55 am

    Thank you and happy 500th, Shannon. I seldom comment, but I always appreciate your work, as well as that of the other bloggers at FFF. You have given me many sanity watchers points over the years.

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