Monday, August 24, 2009

Boundaries with Family; The Sister Chronicle

So My sister and I got into it a little about my health tonight. I haven't set up a boundary with her about health and weight discussions before as I didn't think they were necessary. Tonight's experience with her made it clear to me that while we have been able to talk about my health and weight in the past that setting a boundry with her is going to be necessary. She, like my stepmother is blinded by her concern for me. Unlike my stepmother, she has better self management.

Here is how it went down.

We had a dinner plan near my apartment which at the last minute my sister and our friend changed to a more trendy place two blocks away. The place is usually crowded and the only chairs without arms are in back room. I told her that I'd go there, but we would have to wait for a table in this room. She said no problem we could have a drink at the bar while we waited. I am not comfortable sitting on bar stools nor was I comfortable with the idea of standing. Normally, I'd have no problem standing in a bar for a table, but I have had two difficult days with the asthma and the humidity has been intense so standing in a crowded bar seemed difficult to me.

When I told her I'd have to wait outside on my walker, she got very upset and in a tone that is hard to describe.... a cross between her yelling at me in an angry way and a very frightened outburst... she said, "What walker, Your using a walker, oh Ivan." To which I said, Marjorie, I am gonna pass on dinner, you go out with Shawn. She then said, That's not fair, just because I am upset about you using a walker doesn't mean you get to keep me from seeing you. I told her to let me get off the phone for 10 minutes while I decide what to do. She sent me a text saying, " I won't deny my sadness about your physical state, but I miss u & want 2 C U. I'm on my way. Please come.

In hindsight, standing at the bar would have been doable, but the last minute change of venue threw me.

I went there without my walker, just a cane. I planned to take a cab for the three blocks, but when I got outside it wasn't humid so I walked there. When my sister arrived, she didn't bring it up, and we just visited and enjoyed each other. ( see her ability to self manage in play here )

As I sit here and write this, I am feeling sadness as I realize I am going to have to set a similar boundary with her. She and I have always said the we were the closest to each other. We are the were the two black sheep in the family. I am still the big fat sheep while she has married, bought a beautiful home and is making a nice life with a super guy I really like. I realize tonight that I have to move my sister out of the "closest person in my life" to the column with my stepmother in it. This makes me very very sad (as I tear up typing this last sentence) It feels very scary and very lonely to symbolically send her off on her way to a place where there are limits to what we can talk about. (more tears, throat tightening up)

It is sad, but it is necessary. I do not want to hear that she is sad about my physical condition. I do not want drama when we decide where to go to eat ( if we ever do this again ) I want to be able to tell my sister anything, anytime, just like we could when we were growing up.

The truth is that my growing up in my new space of Fat Acceptnence is sending her into the column with my stepmother. It is much harder giving her these marching orders that it was to give them to my stepmother.

I said that I would divorce myself from relationship with my parents if they wouldn't honor my boundaries, and I just can't, in this moment, with these tears, and this choked up throat, say that I could do that with my sister.

I love her too much.

Wow this really, really hurts.

What about the kids?

Some very smart folks from Canada put together a website to teach kids about size acceptance and HAES. It is called "The Student Body" and this description appears on the "about" page: "The Student Body training modules are designed for elementary school teachers who work with children in grades 4, 5, and 6. This is a primary prevention resource designed to help children develop positive body image and reduce their risk for developing unhealthy eating behaviors."

As I looked through the site (it is amazing) I thought of myself in grades 4, 5, and 6. It was an awful time for me. I was the fattest kid in school. I was ashamed of my body. I loathed gym class where I would have to change in the locker room with the other boys, who would tease me about my size. I was the slowest kid. The gym teacher, Mr. Engman, a short, stocky, typical ex military type would bark at us to do this or that. To this day I can remember the start of one gym class where he sent the entire class out to run around the field behind the school. I remember as the last of the kids left my line of sight and I was alone out there, huffing and puffing, making my way back to the gym. As I walked passed the windows of the classroom I wondered who was looking out at me, seeing my utter inferiority and dreading the fact that my tormentors, the kids, would use this embarrassment against me for days. As I made my way inside, the teacher had all 50 or so kids sitting in the center of the gymnasium giving them some sort of lecture. As I sat down I scanned at light speed all the kids eyes looking at me, seeing my fatness and my slowness and my not good enoughness. As I sat down in the back, the teacher told the class that we have the fastest kid in the school (pointing out Billy McCarry) and he paused and then he said "but we also have the slowest" and the kids burst out in laughter. It was my bucket of blood over my head from the movie "Carrie" moment. I can see in my minds eye all the kids now laughing at me in slow motion. I feel such love and sadness for that little me.

As I looked through this amazing Canadian website I thought about all the little fat boys in elementary schools all over this nation walking around in shame of their bodies and their physical abilities. I feel awful for these young boys as many of them are not only ashamed of their size and abilities but, like I was, ashamed of who they are. This shame is reinforced by all the Fat Hating stuff that if you are reading this blog you are all too familiar with.

I always thought that I might find myself back in those schools as a teacher or a therapist or a public speaker sharing with kids about the evils of Fat Hatred. Training teachers to be sensitive to the special needs of kids who were suffering from the same stuff I suffered from. (not that anyone would want a fat guy in the schools as an example of anything other that what you do not want to become)

At the convention I was chatting up a flight attendant who was at the hotel bar the same time I was ordering something and she told me that her son was upset because the teacher he was assigned to for second grade was fat and none of the kids wanted to be in her class because she didn't take care of herself. If our fat hating culture has captured the minds of first graders, I wonder if grades 4 5 and 6 which the program targets might be too late.

If the war on obesity has positive effects at the expense of crushing the self concept, self esteem and sense of worthiness of (being conservative) 1000 young boys, would not that be considered institutionalized child abuse?

What is wrong with us that we can let this happen?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Boundaries with Family

Well I need some help with what seems to me to be a difficult situation. I could use some help with this before I decide what action to take. I'd appreciate the thoughts of anyone willing to comment.

I got this email from my stepmother today responding to my reinforcing my boundary that we should not talk about my food, my weight and my health.... it read, "interestingly, once again i reread your communication and i totally understand your apprehension concerning discussions that might lead to disagreements causing you anxiety that you would rather avoid......i too like to avoid anxiety..

therefore i will share with you an apprehension of mine that creates anxiety for me.

it seems to me that when we take you out to dinner, you frequently order excessive amounts of booze and food and somehow i am put in the position of enabler by your maneuvering me into feeling that it is inappropriate to comment on or discuss.

i too want to avoid anxiety....does this mean we cannot eat out together??

Simple enough. I guess I will send her an email agreeing that we should avoid going out to eat together.

Then all the questions stared flooding my mind. What about the upcoming Jewish New Year dinner? Do I ask her if I am still invited to the Holiday dinner? If I do go, do I edit what I eat at the meal to make her feel better? Do I restate my boundary before the dinner. Does she find when we eat at her house different than when they take me out to a nice restaurant? If there is a family meal happening at a restaurant, do I decline the invitation knowing that she is monitoring what I order?

Do I say something to her to the effect that I would prefer that she not invite me to join them for dinner if what I order upsets her or do I say that I prefer she not invite me to a meal where she feel she is not able to honor my boundary.

I spoke with my brother about this today and he pointed out that there is no way to avoid uncomfortable situations

I have a boundary with my family that we not discuss my weight or my health. For the most part, my Father and Stepmom have honored it. I set the boundary in an email last October or September and my folks agreed and we went on for many months enjoying each other's company.


7/09 I spent two days with my parents at their home in the Berkshires the week before the ASDAH/HAES conventions. We had a great time. My stepmother pushed my boundaries a little with comments about my portions sizes. I also broke my own boundaries by trying to explain to them HAES and FA. This was a big mistake. I was feeling that initial excitement about how much finding this community seemed to be a complete game changer for me and my self concept. I quickly realized that finding a place where my parents and I can meet on the HAES concepts is not gonna happen.

On the 8/14 I got this email from stepmother:

so i was watching tv on the fitness channel which your father arranged to be the first thing that comes on when you turn on the tv.......and since i was busy with the computer, i didn't change the channel immediately...sometimes i like to imagine exercising from

my prone position in bed

anyway, to the point i heard this nutrition program where they gave you alot of excellent information

it concerned what to cook, how often to eat and talked about an exercise program... the name of the show was ultimate goals

and ps.. fyi...they talked about diet soda and it was a definite no no

because it contains aspartame which has the same effect as sugar on your system the drink of choice was water

so i thought i would share with you

love, e

I responded with the email that follows reinserting my boundaries.

> Eileen,


> I think it is fortuitous that you sent out an email to me today as I just got home from a "check in" visit with Dr. Kim that she and I agreed would be a smart thing to do every 3 or 4 months.


> Guess who was one of the topic's of discussion? You're right, it was you.


> I really do appreciate your concern. I also think that we should stay away from this subject of discussion. When I visited you guys recently, I realized that I have too much emotionally vested in wanting your support and approval and when it comes to my food, weight, and exercise, it just can't happen cause we have different ideas about what is best for me.


> I like what we have going on and I think opening the door to discuss what and how I am handling my health decisions is just too dangerous a road for us.


> I'd love to tell you all of the great things I am doing for my health since I saw you last so that you can be proud of me and not worry about me. I also know that it can only turn into a debate about the difference in what your thoughts and my thoughts are about my health decisions which will lead to other unpleasant exchanges, and that would lead to me withdrawing and I like talking and hanging out with you.


> I will let you know that Dr. Kim and I are in total agreement with my course of actions and we plan to see each other for another "check in" in a few months.


> Let's find stuff to talk about like our Beloved President who is right now taking the podium for another "town hall" How can you not be happy to have such a wonderful President! am i right of what?

My stepmothers response to this was "about the president, we agree!!!!!"

Well at least my boundary was back up. She implied she disagreed with my boundaries but I felt I could count on her to respect them.

Then a few days later, I got this from her..

hi again

i reread your message and i am sure you are right about sticking to safe topics to save all of our feelings

i hope you are having a great day


Great, right? I'm feeling good. We are going to move forward with our awesome relationship.

Then the email that I started this post came this morning...

Prior to this I sent a great email last october that put up the boundary making discussion of my eight, food and health off limits. It worked really well for all of us until this past month.

here it is.


While I am not great, I am okay. Getting back to work is a good thing (getting out of the apartment each day, etc) More good things will come, in time.

The work situation is a disappointment, the team there is unmotivated, the branch location is out of the way without a lot of new business coming in, the leaders in the branch do not follow direction from the Market Leaders. So a lot of the things I loved about the Job before I left, aren't part of the Job in this slot.

I do enjoy the day to day interaction with the customers. I do also know that I am lucky to have a job. The ability to move around and get back and forth to and from work is amazing.

I still see Dr. Kim as needed.

There is nothing you can do for me to speed up any part of my recovery or health. Nothing you can do about my weight, my job situation, my moving from okay back to great. Only I can do that. Only I can find the motivation, the willingness to do more.

I wish that every time we see each other didn't trigger in you concern and worry, but I know that this is not possible. I wish there were things for you to be happy about, excited about. Hopefully soon.

I hope we can find a way to hang out and see each other and enjoy each other's company.

I know you are concerned, worried and want to see me doing something more than I am doing. I will do more in time. Right now, giving myself credit for getting back to work and showing up there everyday has got to be enough. I cannot get down on myself right now. Only bad things can come from me delving into regret and disappointment in myself. I will not go there.

Discussions and communications between us about why I am not doing more, or suggestions of what I can do next can only lead to frustration and heartache, and, ultimately to me avoiding you guys. I don't want that.

Let's just hang out or get together when we all feel we can focus on things other than what I am going to do for myself, or how you can help me feel or do better. We all know that this road leads to nowhere good.

I like the email chess exchange, it is a nice way to stay in touch and enjoy something together.

I am hanging in there, showing up or work, expecting good things to come my way.

I love you and am very grateful for your Love and help and concern.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Fat Hatred, Bigotry and Forgiveness?

Re: An economist discusses whether fat people should pay more for health care

I have been thinking a lot about the heart surgeon, Dr. Cosgrove who is the CEO
if the Cleveland Clinic. On August 16, 2009, in the New York Times Magazine
article titled, "Fat Tax" he said that if it were up to him, if there weren't
legal issues, he would not only stop hiring smokers. He would also stop hiring
obese people.

My initial reaction to this was defensive. Just another attack in the war on
obesity. I read a satirical letter written from the perspective of the Doctor that pointed to all the hateful, discriminatory aspects of his views.

I posted and I tweeted my concern about the Fat Hatred. I imagined writing a
letter to every board member of the Cleveland Clinic about the hateful, bigoted
stance of their CEO.

Then I thought about the good doctor. A Heart Surgeon who leads the best Heart
Surgery Center in the country. I thought about his world view. I thought about
the fact the his religion is Heart Surgery. I thought about all his years of
dedication to the human heart. I thought about the the times that he had a
patient die in front of him while he was trying to save their life. I thought
about how in his world view, the behavior of overeating being the variable that
tipped the scales preventing him from saving lives.

I thought about all the hearts this Doctor has repaired. The impact he and his
Cleveland Clinic has had on heart surgery world wide. I had to conclude that
the world is a better place because there are heart surgeons. In the religion
of Heart Surgery, this guy is a Pope.

I felt like I need to give this guy a pass for his beliefs about me and my fat
community. I had an internal shift inside myself about being disappointed with
his perspective, but forgiving him for it. Really, doing what he does every
day, how could he think any differently.

I still think that we should speak to the negative effect that his comments have
on our movement. Unlike, my initial reaction when I first read the article, I
am not angry at him for making the comments. I understand that the magnitude of
good this guy and others like him bring to our world need to frame the way I
look at the comment he makes.

I then thought about the insolent twit that did some ugly fat bashing in the New
York Times early last week when reviewing the opening of JCPenny's in New York
City. I attacked her fat bigotry with an angry letter to the editor for her
hate mongering. As you can see from my "insolent twit" comment I do resent her
for making the comment. What I see though, is that when I attacked her in my
letter to the editor, I diminished the actual message I wanted to convey, which
was that her editor should have had her dial back the hatefulness of her
comments about the size selection in JCPenny's. I wonder if we as members of
the Fat Acceptance movement have areas where we need to dial back the tone of
some of our messages. Then I wonder if we need to dial them up. I am still
learning and trying to figure this stuff out for myself.

The new vision of myself from the perspective of Fat Acceptance as been somewhat
of a rebirth for me. Divorcing my worthiness from my size and eating behaviors
is a revolution in my self concept. I have a new hope for a happy life that I
never had before.

When I see something that threatens this new found sense of worth and hope I
want to attack back. I just wonder if it is okay to attack some pasty skinned,
dead in the eyes fashion reporter for her comments and allow that one of the
nation's leading Heart Surgeons erroneously thinks that obesity is simply too
much food and not enough movement.

The way markets and the economy of the south were structured in the 19th century
made many otherwise good people blind to the fact that slavery is intrinsically
wrong. I wonder if the hatred of fat is intrinsically wrong and our markets and
economy make otherwise good people blind to that possibility.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My First Letter to the Editor of the NY Times

I sent the letter below in response to this in the times yesterday: CINTRA WILSON CRITICAL SHOPPER | J.C. PENNEY Playing to the Middle Published: August 11, 2009 To the Editor: I found Ms. Wilson's hate mongering comments about people of size offensive. Disguised as clever, these comments show Ms. Wilson's true colors as a member of the media who ignorantly buys into a hatred of all who do not physically conform to her own, small minded, perception of who deserves respect and civility. This kind of hatred is analogous to racism. While I can't know if Ms. Wilson is a racist it is evident she is a mean spirited snob. Shame on the Ms. Wilson and the Times for such ugliness. Ivan Greene New York City

Monday, August 10, 2009


Since I became involved in the FA movement, I began trial prep. As I contemplated accepting myself as a fat man, most of my thoughts were, sadly, not about how my life would improve by living in a FA space, but how can I defend myself from the opposition to taking on this new point of view.

Opposing council represented many constituencies. My family who were blinded by their fear and belief that I am going to die from eating. The primary school teacher's messages about how bad my weight was for me had an impact on my self concept that reared its ugly head even today. The constant message via the media about the obesity epidemic gave rise to questions of my moral character.. The cultural messages about the unlikely (if not impossible) prospect of me finding a woman who could see past my fat to the Man I am.

I was much more concerned about how everyone except me would react to my decision to accept myself than how accepting myself would feel. All my life I have had to interact with the world outside myself with varying levels of denial, apology, and justification for being the size I am. Looking outside myself for validation of my choice to accept myself was of course the first place my mind went to.

No where in my life was this more crippling than in the arena of dating and socializing. As I entered adolescence I was so convinced of my unattractiveness (translates to unlovability) that I never got to develop a sense of virility, of my own masculinity. I just bought in to the message that no woman wants to be with a fat guy.

Meanwhile, I worked with my strengths to create a life for myself. I didn't finish college due to depression, severe Crohn's disease, and my shame for being utterly unappealing. I made my way in the work world with my brain which is pretty impressive by most standards. I could create rapport with practically anyone very quickly as long as I accepted the reality of not being a romantic prospect for anyone. I could always endear myself to the folks who made decisions about promoting me and did relatively okay for a guy without a degree.

My social life was pretty much centered in the rooms of overeater's anonymous. For those of you in the know, this is not a bastion of mental health and even if I had a great self concept about my virility, most of the dating that goes on in those rooms in centered in dysfunction. So while I never got physically intimate (save one nice 6 week tryst) I did develop a lot of friendships with the women in these rooms. There was the scent of romanticism in some of these friendships, but I was so convinced of my unattractiveness that I never made "the move" even though as I look back there were probably some opportunities to do so.

I was the proverbial incomplete package. Great on paper, Family, Money, Smart, Romantic, Emotionally Intelligent, and then there came sex. I was so ashamed of being Fat. So ashamed of my body and I was so convinced that no one could ever want to be with me that I never tried, I never made that "first move".

So now I am steeped in the FA movement for several months and I can see that there is a chance for a happy life in all areas. I still work on my "legal briefs" to address the concern of my family. I still am worried about the inevitable attacks by the Fat Hatred Movement as I "out" myself as a Fat man. However, I am also coming to see that part of living in FA is learning to navigate through the fat hatred, the fat propaganda, and now with the volatile Health Care debates going on, I need to be able to navigate my way thought the moral and political opposition.

So I am glad that there is a Fat Acceptance Movement. I am glad there is a Fat Studies movement. I am glad to be wired in on the internet. There is a place for me to live a happy life that includes dating, and hopefully a mate.

I wish there were more men willing to "Out" themselves as FA guys.. I wish there was a brotherhood if Fat men in the same way there is a Sisterhood for Fat ladies. I feel the support from the women in the movement. Most of the men in the movement are there because they Admire fat women.

I get that as a man I have had more opportunity than women to advance in the work arena as a very Fat person. If this was the also the case in the social/dating arena, it certainly eluded me.

There are lost of issues in this complex arena. I know that dating is only one of them. I feel like I have a chance at a fulfilling, complete, & happy life (including a love affair/ happily ever after thing)

Accepting myself exactly where I am right now is here is starts.



Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Moral Dilemma?

Well I was diagnosed with an acute case of Asthma yesterday. I have been having problems with getting winded that seemed to come out of nowhere about 6 weeks ago. God Bless the PPO, I had to wait 5 weeks for an appointment. At least I have the coverage.

Being fat to the degree that I am, 380lbs/ 5'8; I tend to blame a lot on my weight. Even when I get a legitimate diagnosis like yesterday's, I feel like I brought it on myself, or that I am being punished for not taking care of my weight.

When my " I wonder what they are thinking about me" radar is on (getting better at shutting this off) I feel ashamed of my breathing, if I get winded I really feel ashamed at not taking better care of myself.

As I walk the road of Fat Acceptance, I see more clearly the self induced pain that comes from my beliefs about my fat. I am getting medication for my Asthma, I am doing my internal work. My Doctor understands the complexity of my fat and that loosing weight is not going to happen anytime soon.

Still, I am on the end of the spectrum where health related issues are a statistical reality. This brings up moral questions for me as I decide to live with Fat Acceptance instead of the constant self loathing that always accompanies my failed efforts at loosing weight.

Do I have a moral obligation to lose weight? Is my pursuit of happiness turning my focus away from a moral failing that contributes to the Health Care Crisis.

Am I a horrible person who is selfish and doesn't care about anything except what's for dinner?

I see from these ramblings that there is nothing mean spirited that could ping on my "what do they think about me" radar that could come anywhere close the thought of guilt and shame that I am earnestly trying to work through.

Time for breakfast! :)



Thursday, August 6, 2009

Turning off the Radar

Armed with the good will showered upon me at the recent NAAFA and ASDAH conventions I have been enjoying my neighborhood (one of the nicest in New York City) with the aid of my rolling walker. I had been using a cane only to get around. Honestly I was ashamed of the way I looked with the walker. I worried about people shunning me for getting to fat to walk by myself. Since walking with the cane was much harder than using the walker, I walked a lot less. Now with a new found courage to be out in the world I was able to enjoy a spontaneous Karaoke mob form in Union Square Park and a few minutes later I listened to an amazing drummer who drew a crowd of about a hundred. I tapped my foot and shook my butt while I leaned on my walker enjoying with everyone around me.

There may have been people there who were off-put by my appearance but they didn't show up on my radar because I decided to turn the radar off.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I am new to FA and I also am in that Limbo period of learning about FA and standing in my certainty of my own self acceptance. Having spent this past weekend at two conventions with more FA folks I came away with some new ideas about this limbo period.

FA is such a complete shift in my self perception, that just deciding to accept myself as a fat man is not going to happen. I need to investigate, understand all the implications, check out the opposing viewpoints, cross reference every blog and medical study, speak with my therapist, navigate through my family's reaction to my FA and that's just off the top of my head.

To top that off, I can find, see, blog with, and meet many many awesome women living their life in FA but, even at a convention for FA, I could only find three other FAT guys in who were living in FA. (sorry to wine about that, not very manly, huh??)

One of the fat guys at the convention really had his head together and I think I may have found a mentor and role model. I am happy for that.

In talking to him and with his help, I came to see that at some point, the analysis and trying to find logical justification for being okay with being a FAT MAN holds me back from being okay with being a FAT MAN.

I agree that that analysis has to be tabled and there has to be some fake it till you make it in the process.

At some point I just need to own that my own sense of self worth needs to come from within and I must disregard all the opposition to my FA whether it be from my family, my media, or (and this is the toughest one) that inner voice that is actually a representation of all those outer forces.

I have to stop trying to get to "living in FA is right or wrong based on this or that" and stand in the truth that Living in FA is my best chance at a life of happiness and fulfillment.

I'd rather be happy and wrong (in others eyes) than miserable and in sync what those outside of myself believe and perceive.