Fat Positive Birthday Bonbons

When I was just at the start of this journey I was trying to quit a terrible diet program. It was one of those “medically supervised” programs where food is extremely restricted and the only difference between the behaviors required by that program and the behaviors I had exhibited while dealing with the eating disorder I was recovering from was that on the program I wasn’t allowed to exercise. (Why yes, it absolutely is medical malpractice to prescribe a diet to someone recovering from an eating disorder – or, you know, at all since almost everyone regains their weight and the majority gain back more than they lost, but I didn’t know that then.) Despite following the program to the letter, I was still gaining (regaining, really) weight. So I went in and told them that I was quitting.

They escorted me into a small room with a big poster about not quitting (literally that kitten on a rope saying “Hang in there baby”) and a woman brought in a binder with pictures of fat women, and she started flipping through it silently.  I watched for a while and then she said harshly “You might not know it, but this is what you look like, and these women are going to die alone in front of the television eating bon bons. Is that what you want for yourself? And aren’t you tired of hating your body?”

I realized several helpful things in that moment. First of all – I was tired of hating my body, I was exhausted from hating my body. I had been hating my body like it was a job for years at this point and it hadn’t made me happier, or healthier, or thinner. It had just made me tired.

I also realized that I didn’t find anything wrong with those women’s bodies, in fact I thought that they were beautiful.  I didn’t expect that they would never find love or have bad lives. (And I grew up in very rural America so I didn’t know what bon bons were but that whole thing went right over my head.) So it occurred to me in a rush: if I thought that their bodies were beautiful… and if I looked like them as this woman had insisted as if it was an insult…then maybe it was possible to think that my body was beautiful.

Of course that was just the beginning of a long process, but it was a beginning!

Now, I told you that story to tell you this one…

My birthday is in October. (It’s also the month of my Best Friend’s birthday, his husband’s birthday, and their anniversary, so nobody in my family is allowed to date people with October birthdays or have any important events in October, but that’s another story.) Anyway, in my family we celebrate “our birthday month” so today a box with huge red “perishable” stickers showed up addressed to me. Inside were 12 MEA Fine Foods Exotic Bonbons. They were from my mom. Because my mom had heard me tell that story and thought that I should know what bonbons are.

And that’s the story of how I’ll be sitting on the couch, with the woman I love, eating bonbons from my amazing and supportive mom, still fat as hell.

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Dealing With Fatphobia At The Holidays

Halloween candy and costumes, family gatherings, work parties, New Years bashes, New Years Resolution, and a ton of diet ads… whether we celebrate the holidays or not, the holiday season can be a perfect storm of fatphobia and diet culture. This year the pandemic adds another layer of stress. All that diet culture can really get you down. In this workshop we’ll talk about tips, tricks, and techniques to help us deal and have a happy holiday season on our own terms.

Details and Registration: https://danceswithfat.org/monthly-online-workshops/
*This workshop is free for DancesWithFat members

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14 thoughts on “Fat Positive Birthday Bonbons

  1. You made my day!

    I used to have a group of October birthdays – now have only one left besides me, and we make a
    point of going out for something especially delicious to celebrate our days. This year, THERE WILL
    BE BON BONS!

    How fortunate you are to have a mother so smart & kind. If you’re over a certain age & still have a
    cool parent around, get them on the bob-bon train, too!

    Thanks so much for another great post..

  2. YAY! GOOD ON YOU RAGEN!!!!

    I think ‘bon bon’ cover quite a few sorts of deserty type food stuffs, I’ve seen it from chocolates to ice cream balls. Let me look up the word here:

    A bonbon is a small chocolate confection. They are usually filled with liqueur or other sweet ingredients, and sold wrapped in coloured foil.

    The word “bon bon” arose from the reduplication of the word bon, meaning “good” in the French language. Its use originated in the seventeenth century within the French royal court, and spread to other European countries by the eighteenth century. Bonbons began to be served in ornate containers by the middle of the eighteenth century, which would be given as gifts at festivals and on holidays such as New Year’s Day.

    Ah, from the French, meaning good. So “Good Good” equals yum yum, which is “No-No! Put that down!” in diet culture speak.

    So, yeah, have your Bon Bons, Shake your Bon Bon and have a Bon Bon, or even better Birthday, Ragen! Bon Anniversaire! From a July, in a family packed with Junes and Julys. Our one October is a great Aunt, she has always been plump, cheery and beautiful to me. And she always wore Pavi Elle. She just turned 90 and we did a drive by birthday celebration!

    When I first read the title, I read too fast. I thought it said “fat-positive balloons” and I was thinking you got little “Venus of Willendorf” balloons! Now, when can we get those?! Venus? We should change them to God. They want then to be “fertility goddesses, The thought that is what pre history people thought “God” was, too disturbing for skinny white male archeologists.

  3. I’m still absorbing the “medical assistant”. What a “care giver”. “You’re fat and ugly, you’re gonna die alone, like all these failed women here, and you eat like a child, gobbling all those goodies…all those tasty, oozing chocolate, creamy, decadent goodies….all those sweet, smooth, toothsome tasty goodies, the sweet creamy chocolate melting on your tongue, the warmth and sweetness caressing your mouth, your lips, the succulent goodness sliding down your throat and into your stomach, the luscious enveloping joy spreading through your….

    “No NO, Thought Stop! You’re bad. BAD! A bad bad girl!” Food Calories, fat FAT, BAD! Run away run away!

    Tee hee hee. Pass the Bon Bins…

  4. Ragen, I love this story so much. Back in the day when I started following your blog, it offered the first hint/suggestion I had seen for how to move into a new relationship with my body – exposure therapy! Now I imagine someone in a therapeutic setting being gently introduced to that big binder of fantastic *fatties* and being told, “Your body looks a lot like this, and these beautiful humans are living fulfilling lives just as they are.” What a different message that would be.

    I also love that this woman in this ‘thinspirational’ room somehow activated your fighting spirit and contrary nature – like, “Love the pictures but Fuck this Narrative!” She did us all a favour!

    1. Hi Faith,

      Thank you so much ❤ I love the reframe and that I know that there are practitioners out there giving people exactly the beautiful experience that you described! And yeah, I'm grateful for the experience, though I hope that woman found another, less toxic, line of work!

  5. Happy Birthday to a woman who seems to be as beautiful on the inside and the outside. Enjoy your Month!

    Peggy Norman, MS,RD,CDE |Health Promotion Coordinator
    Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
    Mary Bridge Children’s Health Network | MultiCare Health System
    Phone: 253.403.1256 | Fax: 253.403.4700
    Address: 316 North L Street | 316L-1_PWW | Tacoma, WA 98406

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