If You Can Keep Your Head..

I was talking with my neighbor yesterday and he used the phrase “pitch and toss”.  I asked him if it was a Kipling reference and it turns out that “If” is one of his favorite poems.  It’s one of mine as well – I used to have it on my ceiling when I was growing up so that it was the first thing I saw in the morning, the last thing I saw and night, and the thing I saw if I let life overwhelm me and ended up laying in my bed feeling helpless and hopeless staring at the ceiling.

I’ve copied the poem in it’s entirety at the end of the post, but the first stanza makes an excellent framework for what was rattling around in my head today about this year – what I’ve learned, what I’ve confirmed and what I want to do and be moving forward.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

We live in a world where people are running around like Chicken Little screaming that “omigoddeathfat is coming for us and our children WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!” Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, we get blamed for everything from health care cost increases to Global warming.  We live in a world where someone who purports to be a health care professional tells us that eating junk food will make us healthier as long as we eat few enough calories that we become thinner.  If we are to pursue health- mental and physical- we have to see all of these for the hype, lies, and marketing tactics that they are and rise above them. Not easy, but possible and worth it for sure from where I’m standing.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against those of us who are committed to a healthy lifestyle instead of a food-restricting weight-obsessed lifestyle:  The Vague Future Health Threat (VFHT) – custom created to make us believe that even though we’re fat and healthy, there’s no such thing as being fat and healthy;  Food Police asking us inappropriate questions at the dinner table;  “news” sources lying to and about us for a headline, doctors committing malpractice because they can’t see beyond our size; health insurance companies charging outrageous amounts (or denying us coverage) based only on the ratio of our weight and height with no actual knowledge about our health.

I recently made the mistake of making too much allowance for other people’s doubting and I’ve proven to myself (hopefully for the last time!) that  if I’m going to err, I want to err on the side of trusting myself too much.  I agree that we must take other ideas into consideration, but I suggest that we always consider the source of those ideas and give them their DUE respect and consideration.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

I believe that there will come a time when we  stop allowing the diet industry to lie to us and put us in a state of guilt, shame and fear that induces us to buy their products to the tune of $60,000,000,000.00 per year.  I believe that we will take that money out of the pockets of snake oils salesmen and start putting it toward actual health.  Until then, all we can do is keep telling our truth and letting people know that there is an option that will allow them to have their health, their self-esteem, and their hard earned money.

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

Jillian Michaels, authors of Skinny Bitch, everyone who is out there trying to feel superior by putting fat people down, or who thinks that we need and deserve abuse:  I can say in the same breath that I forgive you, and that I will not allow your abuse to go unchecked.  I will do everything in my power to create a world where no fat person will ever pay somebody to abuse them because they think it’s the treatment they deserve.

Speaking of talking too wise – I’ve also really learned a lesson about walking away quietly this year.  I used to think it was always better to speak your mind – always say what you think, confront the issue, talk things through –  and that not doing so was sheer cowardice. I’ve realized that, for me, some people just aren’t worth that kind of time and energy.  For those situations I’m learning to be more comfortable just letting go of all of it, choosing to make things easy on myself, smile and nod a little bit, and disconnect with class.

As I look back on this year, I’m really proud of what I and my fat activists friends have done this year, and I’m really excited about what’s ahead.  As The Doctor would say: Allons y!  (If you’re not a Dr. Who fan don’t worry about that last sentence at all!)

Here’s the full poem:


by: Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

11 thoughts on “If You Can Keep Your Head..

  1. I love this blog, it’s uplifting and makes me think.

    I hate going to see new doctors. They always take my blood pressure at least 3 times! They EXPECT me to have high blood pressure. (mine is fantastic) Below 120/80!

  2. I weigh 275 pounds. My blood pressure is normal and I don’t have the oft-threatened type II diabetes. It isn’t my youth holding these things in check–I’m 45 years old.
    You’re a better woman than I am if you can forgive Jillian Michaels for her vile behavior. I hate that bitch!

    1. Awesome, I love to hear stories like yours! As far as Jillian goes, I have no idea how she got so broken, but I take all the energy that I would normally use to hate her and just pour it in to speaking out against her 🙂

  3. I remember reading this poem in a book my grandmother had when I was about 14. It gave me chills then, and it still gives them to me today. I’d forgotten about. Thank you for reminding me!

  4. Oh I had forgotten that poem. Thank you for bringing it back into my life as I say goodbye to 2010, and thanks for putting it into context as to what we do.

    Happy New Year Ragen, thank you for coming into my life this year.

  5. Hi Ragen,
    I have subscribed to your blog for a while and it is the first thing I open when I pull up my e-mail and see it in the inbox!

    I want to thank you for this particular posting. A great way to start the new year. With your permission I would like to share it on the ASDAH listserve.

    ASDAH, The Association for Size Diversity and Health, is an amazing community of advocates, professionals and educators promoting the HAES(SM) principles.

    I also invote you to explore our website at http://www.sizediversityandhealth.org and would like to personally invite you to consider membership. You would be a tremendous addition to our efforts.

    Thank you again for your inspiring work!


    1. Hi Deb,

      Thank you so much, I’m so glad that you like the blog! Feel free to share it with the ASDAH listserve. I checked out the website and love what the group is doing – I am officially a member, please let me know what I can do to help.



      1. Well my dear since you are a member (yeah!) I hope you start sharing your stuff on the list serve!

        I will get it started by sharing this one. Glad to have you on board. We are planning our upcoming Conference in SanFran in August. Details will come soon and I hope you are able to join us so we can meet in person. I am a performer as well so we will have stories to share!


  6. Ok, this is a bit eerie, but I literally woke up with this poem running through my head. It’s my hubby’s favorite poem, so it may not be that strange, but to come here and read it after trying to remember it because it was in my brain is a bit…well, strange, LOL!

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