Here at Cranky Fitness, we get all kinds of readers. Readers who are large-sized and unhappy about it; readers who are a healthy weight but are trying hard to fit into their skinny jeans; readers who are whatever size they want to be and don't worry about their weight; readers who are big and voluptuous and totally content with that; readers who don't give a crap about weight loss one way or another and are just waiting for the next cat video or Natalie Dee cartoon.
So we are aware that not everyone who reads this post will have a Big Fat Ass. (You may, instead, have to contemplate embracing your Freakishly Freckled Skin, your Deeply Engraved Crows Feet, your Skinny Little Chicken Legs, your Frizzy-Ass Hair, your Pendulous Drooping Tits, or whatever other Perceived Personal Flaw you might bemoan).
But especially for those of you who do have Big Fat Asses and are not happy about it, we've got a special interview today with author Janette Barber, who is the co-author (along with Laura Banks) of: Embracing Your Big Fat Ass.
(And wait 'til you read Janette's bio at the end of the post--this woman has done everything, including winning six Emmy awards!)
Crabby: So what's with the "embracing" idea? Doesn't society insist that women with big fat asses devote every minute of their lives to eliminating their excess buttage?
Janette: The thing is, fat is still the one area where people can utterly revile you – so anyone who possibly can lose it would. People make fun of us, it’s harder to get jobs and we tend to hate ourselves. The truth is women with fat asses are already doing the best they can. We go from diet to diet thinking not of our health but how we can fit society’s visual ideal. There is a 50 billion dollar a year diet industry in the US that hawks every imaginable drug and product to make people lose weight with the message: You are NOT all right as you are. And the result of all of this is that American’s are getting fatter and fatter. Obviously, devoting every minute of their lives to losing the buttage isn’t working.
In Embracing Your Big Fat Ass, we say that self hatred is more fattening than fudge.
I have had weight issues all my life. (I weighed 115 lbs at age seven; 200 lbs at age twelve; 250 lbs at fourteen; and finally 275 lbs in my early twenties.) Hating myself never made me any thinner and never helped me to stick on an eating program. Learning to accept myself and even accept the fat – did.
I believe in eating as healthy a diet as I can and exercising as much as I can flog myself into doing – but I think when you change from self loathing to self love, when you see all of yourself instead of just a number on a scale, when you embrace yourself – good parts and flaws – you are then in a position where you can make changes.
How does one know if one has a Big Fat Ass?
Big Fat Ass is really a state of mind. You can be talking 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 20 pounds or a bubblebutt and you self qualify. If you loathe yourself and think you don’t deserve happiness because you don’t fit Hollywood’s standard of Kate Moss beauty then you fit the bill.
Our book is really about self esteem and empowerment.
Does it help me to hate myself for being fat? Does it make me thinner? No. Actually it makes me fatter!
We also have a useful quiz in our book entitled “How Big is Your Fat Ass?”
It goes like this:
1. Knock over freestanding displays in stores?
2. Often lose things in your pants?
3. Wear long shirts over everything you own including evening gowns?
4. Hate the idea of a rearview mirror even if it’s just in the car?
5. Refuse to date a skinny ass man, convinced you’ll look bigger in comparison?
6. Refuse to date a skinny ass man, convinced you might sit on him and kill him?
Score. Count your number of yeses
1-3 Your ass isn’t that big yet, but don’t worry, it will be.
3-5 Definitely a fat ass but still fits through turnstiles.
Over 5 Enjoy it, wiggle it, let it flap in the wind. You have a Big Fat Ass.
The point here is – go ahead and laugh about it. Our book uses humor to tackle a serious topic. And laughter definitely lightens the load and helps you to loosen up enough to see yourself through less jaundiced eyes.
I think it also helps to tell the truth and end the shame. On my blog I do a naked blog and I recently did one where I showed off my GIANT new underwear. A lot of people wrote in about how funny it was but also about how brave they think I am for doing it. But to me…if my underwear is a size 10 and 3 times the size of my boyfriend’s underwear – come on…that’s funny! I’m the same person when my underwear are size 8 as I am when they are 10. Today I weigh 171.2. People are ashamed to admit their weight. It makes me feel freer. I’m 54. I’m supposed to lie and say I’m younger. But why would I do that? That implies that there is something wrong with being 54. I am what I am. When you get there that’s a lot of freedom.
What are some of the biggest obstacles women typically face when attempting to Embrace their BFA's?
Believing other people and buying into the media image that anything above a size 4 is fat. It’s not always easy to think for yourself instead of going along with the pack. Our friends, family and media tell us we can’t love ourselves as we are. They tell us that we have to change and conform. I believe if you CAN’T love yourself as you are then you’re far less likely to be able to change.
The hardest thing is to let go of other peoples’ opinions and pay attention to your own. You are the one with the most power in your life – but many of us keep wanting to give that power away to other people.
How do you feel you fit in with the "Fat Acceptance" movement. Part of it? Coming from a different place?
I think we are part of it but we are ultimately talking more about self acceptance on all levels. We don’t say in our book that you should try to get fatter. We don’t say you shouldn’t lose weight if you want to. What we are saying ultimately is that how you feel about yourself, regardless of anything else, will have the biggest affect on your happiness. Love yourself and you will empower yourself to do anything you want.
I do think the fat acceptance movement is important. It’s very hard to go it alone on this. When you are overweight and buying into society’s views it’s hard to be strong. The fat acceptance movement gives people hope that there can be somewhere where they can feel good and belong.
We are starting our own B-FAB Society. This is really based very much on the Chubb Club that we did years ago on Rosie except this isn’t about losing weight. We are encouraging B-FABs to join our social network on our website and also to bond with other B-FABs in meetings where instead of focusing on what’s wrong – you get a chance to celebrate yourself and each other. Sometimes what you can’t do alone you can do with the strength of others.
Here at Cranky Fitness we love the word "ass." We stick it in sentences where it doesn't even belong, just because we like it so much. However, we're aware not everyone shares our enthusiasm. Have you run into any problems publicizing your book because of its title?
Yes we have. The world has become very PC and apparently "ass" is seen as a bad word. Although the FCC will let you say "ass" on TV. (I think they say it at least once in every Two and a Half Men!), not all media outlets will take that risk in a PC world where they want to offend no one. We were turned down for the Today show because of the title. We were turned down for First for Women Magazine (where I wrote a column for a year) because they were afraid their readers would be upset by the word. Several times on radio I’ve had to say Embracing Your Big Fat Assterisk instead of the actual title.
But we stick by our title. We wanted a title that would hit hard – because this issue hits us hard. "Us" being all B-FABs (Beautiful Fat Ass Babes).
I think it’s a sad state of affairs for freedom of speech in America.
How about the concept behind the book itself, have you had any negative reactions? Either to the self-acceptance messages, or to the blatant acknowledgment that many women actually do have Big Fat Asses?
We’re having an extraordinarily positive reaction. For many readers it seems to be a relief to actually be able to acknowledge it and even entertain the idea that a BFA doesn’t make them less than.
I had an email from a woman who has lost 100 pounds but is obsessed on a daily basis with her weight write me that, for the first time in years, after reading the book, has been able to actually stop thinking about it and feel better about herself.
I had an email from someone telling me they love the book – they love the humor but that reading it she realized she didn’t have a big fat ass. She did however, she said, realize she has an eating disorder. She is anorexic -- but loves the book because it’s really about self esteem and self acceptance.
I’ve had emails from young women, breaking my heart, saying that they hadn’t thought self-acceptance was even an option.
It's been reported you've been great friends with Rosie O'Donnell for like, ever. Any gossip you can share?
Yes I’ve known Rosie for 21 years now. We were both stand up comics on the road – I met her exactly one month before she became a VJ on VH1. She had moved from LA back to NY and we became friends. I didn’t have a mother and neither did she and besides we just clicked.
Rosie wrote the forward to our book and told a great story about how when she was a kid she always thought she was so fat. Then one day on the old Rosie show she brought in a picture of her and her best friend going to the prom – she saw and realized that when she thought she was so fat, she was actually thin. We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations on this because – it’s just like BFA being as state of mind. It doesn’t actually matter what you look like. It really matters what you think you look like.
Rosie has always been a role model to me in the self acceptance. She doesn’t wear Spanx and obsess about her looks. She acknowledges her weight but doesn’t define herself by it.
What's next? Are you working on other interesting projects?
Right now I’m co-writer on a Broadway bound musical called Cassandra’s Angel. (John McDaniel the band leader from the Rosie show is doing the music.) We’ll workshop that next month.
I’m also known for cooking – I had a show on the TV Food Network called Lighten Up. My signature is that I take fattening dishes that we B-FABs (Beautiful Fat Ass Babes) crave and make them over to be lighter and healthier and less fattening while still having satisfying taste and texture. My thinking behind it is that when you’re overweight people always say – if you’re hungry have a carrot. My reply was – if I wanted a carrot I wouldn’t be fat in the first place!
I am currently in development with ElmLife on creating a web-based, interactive, artificially intelligent software guide. An animated version of me will host the guide and interact with users to help them develop better, healthier eating habits.
In September I will be a spokesperson for EyeCare America supporting eye health nutritionally.
With all your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
I am very proud that through perseverance and self acceptance I have lost over a hundred pounds and kept it off for decades. (Less than 1% of people who lose that much weight maintain the loss.)
The other thing I’m most proud of is that, as a volunteer, I’ve participated in three humanitarian disaster relief airlifts to war torn countries. I produced pieces that we aired on the Rosie O’Donnell Show and we raised well into 6 figures for continued efforts. I am now on the board of directors of The Bridge Foundation – an international disaster relief agency.
I’m proud that I beat the odds. I grew up as a fat, isolated and abused child – came into a competitive field with no connections or knowledge and have been able to build a successful career. I do a motivational speech called Life Lessons where I share what I did that worked.
Thank you so much, Janette!
Bio: Janette Barber is the former 5 time Emmy Award winning supervising producer of The Rosie O’Donnell Show. She just received her 6th Emmy for her work as Hot Topics Writer on ABC’s The View. Janette produced and co-hosted her own show, Lighten Up, on the TV Food Network which featured ways to turn fattening favorites into healthier alternatives. Janette is the co-author of a best selling book, Breaking the Rules, Last Ditch Tactics for Landing the Man of Your Dreams (Career Press). Her newest book, also co-authored with Laura Banks, is Embracing Your Big Fat Ass (Atria).
And be sure to check out her book and her blog!