This is something I was going to write about ages back, and have now been prompted to by this interesting piece from New Scientist about how if your friends are overweight, it may increase the chances that you'll end up being overweight.
I've certainly noted a number of people who were in the ordinary weight range when they joined fandom, only to have packed on the pounds within a few years. Stop and think about it for a moment - how many people have you known that, once they joined active fandom, put on a fairly noticeable amount of weight?
There is a social acceptance of fatness in fandom. In fact, people will argue for their right to be overweight. They will loudly proclaim their excuses - "I've always had weight problems," "I can't exercise," "Nothing works," and of course "I'm just big." And there will be many people who will support these statements. That some of these reasons are true, I have no doubt. However, many are simply excuses for not getting off their arses. It's easier to whine, make excuses and do nothing - to stay the victim - than it is to work hard to achieve change. If fitness and weight-loss were easy, most people would lean and healthy.
Now fans are a subculture built of people who haven't fitted in, so we generally tend to be very forgiving and supportive of all but the most extreme behaviour. The problem is, we're also supportive of bad, rude, and unhealthy behaviour. In most cultures it's considered the height of rudeness to publically correct someone, in fandom people are aching to be first to shout out at a panelist's minor error of wording.
That's one example. I've seen people be very supportive of their friends trying to lose weight and/or get fit. The problem tends to be that many people are actually more supportive of failure. Someone trying to get fit or healthy fails, and there are a multitude of people helping them come up with the excuses. Not only that, but a lot of the attitude is "Well you've failed now, so there's no point to starting again, is there?"
I've seen people saying to their friends who have announced they're going on a diet, "Why bother?" More commonly the reaction is to explain to the diet-er how diets "don't work for me." That's fine they don't work for you... how is this relevant to someone else trying to lose weight, other than to make you feel better about yourself? Oh, and of course there is the regular, "You don't need to lose weight."
I've watched people who are on diets pushed by their friends to eat junk food. A lot of this sort of unintentional sabotage goes on in fandom. People are essentially selfish and thoughtless, they want the extra Timtams but feel guilty eating them because they know they shouldn't, so they push their friends to eat them too. If eating with friends is a shared experience, eating crap in fandom is the same thing cubed - no one should be left out because then someone else may feel a bit like a pig - so we will push everyone to join us at the McDonald's Memorial McTrough.
Yes, I'm talking in harsh generalisations. But fandom is a community and that is both its strength and weakness. Communities have ingrained ideas - the same community that supports you can also hold you back. The same community also uses harsh generalisations.
One example of that is the attitude fans tend to display towards people who enjoy sports. If you like or, God forbid, participate in sports, then you have to deal with a fair amount of negativity. There are a lot of fans who are into sports who just don't mention it because they're sick of having to defend themselves. So why would you tell people you're exercising or working out to get fit when the reactions you get towards other exercise pursuits treat it as if you're doing something unpleasant?
I understand a lot of people in fandom were picked on at school, often by people who also loved sports. Or they were forced to join in on sports when they weren't very good at them. That they have a dislike of sports is not surprising. But you know, if someone's in fandom, they already like the same stuff (in a broad sense, at least), so why are their other likes being attacked? Why are they being made to feel at best uncomfortable, at worst, attacked?
You don't have to be fat to fit into the fandom community, but it helps. That's another problem. There's always someone fatter to point to so you can feel better about yourself. "Well yes, I'm overweight, but at least I'm not as fat as them!"
The cruel irony is that even as there is a push in fandom that big is always beautiful, as soon as someone comes along with a body that is reasonably lean and healthy, they become an object of lust to dozens of fans. So while many (not all) people proudly proclaim their rights and reasons for being overweight, or whine, make excuses and do nothing about it, those same people often lust after the ones who are physically fitter than many of those around them. Often their preference, if given the choice, is to go for the healthier, thinner people, while at the same time doing nothing to improve their own body.
Of course, after a few years, there's a reasonable chance that the newbie will have put on weight too. And be lusting after the thinner fans.
My Dad and his sister Gwen were both solid types, while the rest of their siblings were all outrageously thin. They all grew up in the same household, eating the same meals. Some people are naturally thin, some people are naturally rounder. But there's a difference between having a naturally heavy body, and being fat. Christina Ricci has a gorgeously Rubenesque figure that suits her frame. When she lost a lot of weight, because by Hollywood standards she was fat, I thought she looked really, really unwell.
I know a couple of women who, by most societal standards, would be considered quite overweight. Except I don't think of them that way. Their body shape is one that is clearly down to genetics. Oh they might have a few extra pounds on, but they would still be big, round girls regardless. And to me they have beautiful bodies. My stated preference has always been slender women, and that's true, but I just like a body that looks nice. A naturally curvy body does look nice. And healthy.
But most fans aren't naturally curvy or healthy. Most fans will avoid a long walk. Most fans avoid taking the nearby and obvious set of stairs and choose instead to use a lift go up or down a single level.
One of the things I simply don't don't get is this - many fans have broad and varied tastes, are very sensual and sexual people - the more weight you pack on, the more difficult sex becomes. Layers of fat build up over your pubic area making access and penetration more awkward. The extra weight means sex is physically harder, more tiring, and more limited in scope. I'm not saying that being overweight means you can't have fabulous sex, but it does reduce the scope for variation and experimentation.
Am I alone in thinking that a great and varied sex life is worth eating a bit better and going for walks?
The main reason I hate the fatness of fandom is this - it fucks up the lives of my friends. Some will go to early graves due to various related ills, others live lives that aren't all they could or should be physically or psychologically because of their issues with weight.
Fandom makes it okay to be fat, unhealthy, and unhappy because you're surrounded by people who will always support your failure to be fitter than they are.
The longer I'm here, the more I like it. Seriously, the A.C.T. is a great place to live. Okay, the winter is cold, really friggin' cold. We got told by locals that the heating gets turned on on Anzac Day and turned off on Labour Day (October in Canberra) and you know, they're pretty much right.
But Canberra winters are also really lovely. For a start, the sun is out most days. Okay, it's not warm, but you can see it, feel it, and there's beautiful blue skies. So, while the lack of cloud cover helps keep things cold, it also means you have lots of lovely sunlight to enjoy. I'd rather the sunlight than the cloud cover.
And I have a love of frost, probably left over from my droving days. There's just something magical about the ground being all silver and white in the morning sunlight that I find breath-takingly lovely. We're also very near the snow, which while I've yet to go and see it, thrills me with its closeness. I've stood on the rise over the road and looked out at distant hills with snow on the peaks. That to me is kind of amazing and magical.
Now everyone goes on about Canberra's cold, they don't mention summer though. I really prefer Canberra's summer over my old Melbourne summer. Not because it's cool, it's not, it's warm and sunny. More importantly, it's consistent! In Melbourne you'll get a 34 degree day, followed by a 37, a 29, a 40, a 28, a 38, a 20(!), a 30, and finally a day that gets to 38, then has a storm with a cold (not cool) wind and the temp drops to 18.
Canberra you'll get two weeks of 30-35, a 40, a few days around 37, another couple of weeks at 35... But most of spring and summer was mid-to-high twenties/low thirties. You know what you're going to need to wear. And the lack of cloud cover helps things to cool down in the evening.
And we got way more thunderstorms in one summer than I've seen over a decade in Melbourne. And I'm a thunderstorm slut.
So yeah, all up I'm lovin' the Canberra sun, cause it's there all year 'round!