Friday, October 5, 2012

Shame Spiral

Kenneth Kraus is fit.  He mountain bikes.  According to Katie Kindelan, of, he apparently has bulging biceps.  Another way to describe him would be the pretentious narcissist who felt it was his duty to email Wisconsin news anchor, Jennifer Livingston, to let her know how fat she is and what a terrible example for young girls she is setting.

You can view the whole email during this video reply from Ms. Livingston.

Kraus indicated that obesity is a choice and a poor habit to maintain. 

As if.

Her reply consisted of a four-minute rebuke of fat bullying, which resulted in a flood of support from family, friends, and fans.  In her reply, she owned her body.  She didn’t make excuses, she didn’t play the blame game, she didn’t back down.  She admitted to being overweight, even obese by a doctor’s standards (which is bullshit because everybody’s body is different), but also reminded Kraus that he “knows nothing of her but what he sees on the outside,” and that she is “more than a number on a scale.”

According to, Kraus stood by his email, claiming that Livingston can influence the children of her town to be physically and psychologically healthy by “transforming herself for all of her viewers…” How anyone can think that it is okay to assume anyone should transform himself or herself for anyone is beyond me.  Who the fuck does this guy think he is?  

I’m so glad that Ms. Livingston implied that people like him are raising children to bully fat people.  Even if his intention wasn’t to bully, he should have realized that his words were going to hurt, and when you hurt someone they feel bullied… so to that end, Mr. Kraus, you are a bully. 

The fact of the matter is, kids don’t understand intention.  They see their parent getting upset about something and then labeling that thing, the kid is going to automatically assume that anything that resembles that thing is deserving of that label.  Children emulate their parents; so if you don’t want your kid to be a dick, set a better example.

She's not laughing AT you, she's laughing WITH you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty thick chick.  I’m not gonna lie; I love food.  I don’t mean cheeseburger donuts or fried Twinkies food

Heart attack, anyone?
but deliciously healthful home-cooked foods with good (when I can afford it, organic) ingredients made with love and skill.  There are times when I will chow down on four slices of pizza and have a hefty portion of frozen yogurt, or some chicken hot dogs with thick, fluffy, multi-grain rolls and a beer.  There are even times, in a pinch, I’ll drive through somewhere like Del Taco and get a chicken burrito.  This is very rare these days, as luckily I have trained in the special art of healthful junk food (just ask, I’ve created a ton of recipes).  But for the most part I eat several small healthful meals throughout the day, and I work out three times a week. 

This is how I lived before I quit smoking (August 15, 2011), and even though I gained about 50 pounds since I quit smoking, I was still at least 40 pounds overweight while I was sucking on the cancer teat. 

He thinks he looks so cool.
I have spent most of my life working my ass off at not being fat.  Even eating a vegan diet and working out every other day, I still could not get down past 149.  I could barely squeeze into a size 11, and I know in my heart that my body is not meant to be anything less than a solid size 13.  I think that’s just fine, and so do a lot of people I know… but the majority of the world thinks even that is too fat. 

I do not choose to be fat.  I do not go out of my way to maintain obesity.  I have a super slow metabolism, and since I quit smoking it’s even slower.  Put me and ten other chicks in the same room together, 9 out of ten of us eat the same shit on a daily, and I guarantee 7 out of ten of us will be smaller than a size 13. 

Some people are just born to be overweight by society’s standards.  And even if you don’t have the so-called ‘fat gene,’ you might have other medical conditions making it harder to lose weight, like Jennifer Livingston (who also happens to be a tri-athlete and a runner) has.  According to her husband and fellow anchor, Mike Thompson, she has a thyroid condition that makes it hard to keep the weight off.  Had Kraus known that, would he have taken his stupid foot out of his big mouth?

It's not gonna fit...

I found a neat blog called The Fat Nutritionist from which I stole a quote about Livingston’s rebuttal:

Telling someone that they are fat, even when couched in expressions of “concern for their health” is not giving them any new information. It’s not helping them. And, especially when that person is a perfect stranger, it is mostly like a transparently aggressive maneuver to shame and put them in their place.”

Her tag line, “eating normally is the new black,” confirmed my notion that telling someone they’re fat is like telling a black person they’re black.  Like, no shit, asshole… what of it?  Why is it any of your personal concern?

Ever since I was a little girl I was horribly teased for being fat even though I wasn’t considered medically overweight until I was fifteen.  I was a wiry girl, who loved tomato soup and eggs, who ran everywhere and climbed trees.  When I hit puberty I had hips and breasts, and all the little boys (when they weren’t trying to molest me) called me fat.  They cried, “boom-ba-ba-ba, boom-ba-ba-ba,” when I walked.  They cried, “don’t sit on me!” when I would become upset at their taunts. 

In reality, I was not a fat kid.  I wasn’t a fat pre-teen, and I certainly wasn’t fat up until tenth grade (thanks birth control!). I look at pictures of myself from back when I was totally ashamed of my body and I see that I was gorgeous. If only I had enjoyed it when I had it. 

Ten years ago I went to my ten-year high school reunion and the brother of a close friend made it a point to tell me how all the girls had gained weight, except for me.  He praised me for losing so much weight, and that I looked great.  The totally hysterical thing about that is that I weighed exactly the same thing as I had when we last saw each other in high school.  

Unfortunately I did (and still tend to do) what Ms. Livingston warns us all not to do, I let my self-worth be determined by bullies.  What’s especially sad is that some of those bullies were parental figures that should have been teaching me to love myself no matter what, not stigmatizing food and sending me into a shame spiral that would haunt me the rest of my life whenever I sought to enjoy something tasty.   

Today my bully wears the face of the media.  My bully shines at me from the coat hanger shoulders of anorexic models in fashion magazines (who, to be fair, are also bullied by the same magazines into being anorexic in the first place).  My bully lies in the rudeness of the man who will open the door for the tall, skinny blonde and let it shut in my face because he didn’t even see me over the glorious perfection of slenderness.  My bully mocks me from the shapeless, over-sized tunic with the large flower print that only seems to be sold to women of my size.  It’s like the rest of the world is doing whatever it can to show me that my fat and I aren’t welcome. 

Kraus, like many other people, thinks his perception of health and beauty is (and should be) a reality for all.  That is an unrealistic expectation and, now that the government has taken to supporting this type of behavior, I don’t know if we’ll ever truly be free to be ourselves. 


  1. Brilliant. And not just because I love you. :)

    I'm doing my best (which I sometimes fear is nowhere near good enough) to raise a daughter on the fine line between "eat healthy" and "just be yourself". I know that I would a thousand times rather have a great relationship with an obese adult daughter who is well-adjusted than have her grow up fighting the scale every day, keeping lean by pure determination, and hating herself and me every step of the way. If I could go back to her infancy and start over there are a few things I would probably do differently, but in the absence of a time machine I just have to go from where I am and... do my best. Your post helps. Thank you. :)

    1. Thanks, that means a lot coming from you!

      I think all parents have to do it set a good example. I think if my mother encouraged healthful eating in a positive way (she would bake cakes and I would be the only one who couldn't eat any; she put a padlock on the refrigerator; she rewarded me with junk food), and didn't clearly hate her own body to the point of starving herself and riding her stationary bike 20 miles a day, I wouldn't have turned out this way. For as long as I can remember my mother had me believe that the key to my happiness was to be beautiful and the only way I could manage that was to make sure I never got fat.

      What I try to do is to only stock my fridge with healthful foods (you can have healthful junk food around, too - I am a big fan of sugar free chocolate pudding, and instead of ice cream next time, try gelato! It's super creamy and has way less sugar and fat.) That way, if I want something bad, I have to actually get up and drive to go get it, which I'm more than likely NOT going to do because I'm lazy ;-)

      I think you're doing a great job with your daughter. She seems healthy, and clearly she's still growing. How tall is she?


    2. Also, physical activity makes a huge difference. I'm not a fan of sports and I hate the way some parents shove it down their kids' throats, but if your child happens to show an interest in a sport, by all means that should be nurtured. It's healthy to be active, and it teaches teamwork. If they don't, try to get them interested in some kind of activity. I know y'all walk a lot and do a lot of physical labor outside, so your kids are probably growing up strong, just like you :-)

  2. very thoughtful.
    it's interesting to notice how gendered these interactions usually are. morally superior males dictating to females how they should appear. those coming from a place of power setting the standards for those beneath them. obviously i'm generalizing here but see how unapologetic this guy is? he feels his right to tell other people how they can and cannot appear supersedes the right of "fat" people to exist.

    seriously. fat people have the right to be fat. people have the right to appear however they want (within the bounds of our laws and/or financial arrangements).

    bodies can be any shape and still be healthy. i wish people would seriously consider Shutting the Eff Up when vocalizing statements that begin with "You Should..."

    1. You know, I'm medically obese, but as far as my physical condition goes - according to my doctor I'm healthy as a horse (aside from some mildly high cholesterol). I want to lose weight because I want to take up less space. Because I know that in the future I will have complications if I remain fat. Because there are certain types of clothing that aren't made for fat people, so I have to shrink in order to fit into them. I'm not doing it because the rest of the world thinks I should.

      I see this guy (and people like him) as totally insane and narcissistic. He's so full of himself that he truly believes he is in the right and that his views are more important than someone else's feelings. That's kind of sociopathic.

      Additionally, it's not just morally superior males that need to stop worrying about how females appear, but mothers need to raise their daughters to not give a shit about what those men think of them.

    2. Zealots of all kinds are terrifying. If you consider the tone of his email, he doesn't seem ignorant or stupid (which are my immediate assumptions about the kind of person who would complain about an overweight person being on television). He seems like a perfectly intelligent guy who has taken to heart one of society's biases, and rationally worked out in his mind an excuse for his hateful prejudice. It is frightening what horrors the mind can accomplish when it is simply set on the wrong course.

  3. this is totally true. it is very ingrained in me to compliment a little girl on her looks. "what a pretty dress/shoes/necklace/hairdo/fill in the blank".

    obviously we need to teach our kids about nutrition but shaming the fat is so far away from this goal that it's pointless.

    that's another thing. there's a whole epidemic's worth of health problems from poor nutrition that have little or nothing to do with obesity. the "fat" are an easy target because narcissistic sociopaths like Kenneth Kraus think they can diagnose the cause just by looking. that's like saying someone's a schizophrenic because you spotted them talking to themself.

  4. Veganista brings up an interesting point much of our behavior are we not even aware of OR perhaps we choose not to be aware of because it would illuminate the need to change and progress takes EFFORT. Is there some ingrained automatic that is triggered when we meet a "beautiful" thin little girl as opposed to an overweight average faced child? What are the comments we make to fill in the silences-- such as what a pretty dress, you're so pretty, what beautiful hair you have, etc. and when expressing the latter in front of another child and leaving their physical attributes out--what is the consquence of this???
    Why didn't she or he say I have a pretty dress or hair? We need to be aware of how and when we address the physical female form, particularly to little girls. This behavior destroyed my middle sisters self esteem as my older sister was the traditional "beauty" and my middle sister had a larger nose, body, etc. She constantly lived under the umbrella of how beautiful her older sister was....

    I also see it all the time now with my two neices--one is big boned, not overweight, but large athletic frame. It's alway been that way since the time she was little. When you hug her you feel a strong healthy body. She's also tall for her age -13 and already at 5'8 with long athletic legs. My sister and my brother in law are both large boned athletic framed adults, so it makes genetic "sense" they wouldn't have a wispy child.
    My other neice is skinny and likewise she's always been that way. When you hug her you feel a tiny petite frame. She took after my sister in law's family of long lean bodies and she also was born with a distaste for most food albeit pizza :). The combo has produced a VERY thin (actually underweight) child. She also happened to be born with certain physical attributes, such as very thick wavy auburn hair, big lips and a petite nose that makes her very pretty to most observers. I happen to think they are both equally beautiful just in unique ways.

    However I constantly observe people including members of my family remark how beautiful one is or how she is destined to be a model and 'steal all the hearts' while my other neice for purposes of this blog I shall call her Elizabeth is standing right there! I know it affects both of them...

    I see how they are both treated unfairly in school.
    They are both scrutinzed by other kids one for being "big" and the other for being "skinny and pretty". The alienation works both ways.

    I only hope they will grow up to feel the value of their humanity and not in the size of their jeans.


I will not censor anyone, but please, in the spirit of open communication and respect for others - don't be a douche bag, or else I will rip you a new one.