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100 Days of Love and Hate - Day 67 [Jul. 26th, 2007|11:58 am]
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Fandom's Fatness

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.

Canberra weather

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!

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[User Picture]From: angriest
2007-07-26 06:05 am (UTC)
I think you're right on the money with overweight fans.
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[User Picture]From: jocko55
2007-07-26 07:42 am (UTC)
OK, I am fat, because I eat too much. I was fat before I joined fandom, but it doesn't help me loose weight, even though various fans seem to watch what I eat. (Phil w used to give me a drink, but never a biscuit, as i didn't need one--he was right.) I actually thought about dedicating my LJ to losing weight, you know, "today 144 kilos, walked for 30 minutes, tired"...sort of stuff, but I haven't. Perhaps I should--I have been reading LJs lately, but uninspired to write much. Winter does that to me.
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[User Picture]From: waylanderpk
2007-07-26 07:47 am (UTC)
Speaking as a fat fan, who happens to be on a diet, i think you might be under estimating the difficulty that some people have. People overeat for a number of reasons, but I think it broadly falls into two categories - because it either makes them happy, or they are punishing themselves.

For those of us with real food issues saying all you need to do is eat healthy and exercise is a bit like telling a depressive person to cheer up. If it was that easy then nobody would choose to put up with the social and health problems associated with fatdom.

Your points about fans undermining each other is well made, but I'm not so sure its purely a fan phenomena.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 08:45 am (UTC)
I don't think I'm under-estimating the difficulty, but I have under-stated it somewhat. Though, as I did say "If fitness and weight-loss were easy, most people would be lean and healthy."

I know speaking personally that while I was only slightly overweight (around 74 kilos) it took a reasonable amount of work to lose it, and I'm not a foodie. And when Tracy died, I suddenly lost 2 kilos, then put it and about 3 kilos more on over the next few weeks.

My main point was that as a part of our community, a person is more likely to find support and acceptance for being overweight than they are for a dieting and health routine. There are plenty of hurdles that need to be beaten with weight-loss, mental as well as physical, without fighting the constant background attitude of "there's nothing wrong with obesity."

Try telling various people that you've seriously broken your diet and make a note of the responses - how many only give sympathy, or say it doesn't matter, and how many actively encourage you to keep going, to start again immediately? That's one of the problems, people will try to make someone feel better for failing, without giving them a push to try again. So what reason is there to keep going if someone gets more 'positive' love and attention for failure?

The undermining is not purely a fandom thing, but it is very pronounced in fandom. As are shyness, a penchant for computers, and a lack of social etiquette.

You're on a diet, and seriously, good on you! You're actively trying to do something to change your situation. Success is important, but trying is just as important, as is not merely giving up when you strike a hurdle. Best of luck!
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[User Picture]From: dcrisp
2007-07-26 07:48 am (UTC)
Dear Mr Oz,

We regret to inform you that your Right To Abode Visa for Victoria has been canceled.

We have taken this measure after hearing of your Compliments of the ACT Weather.


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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 08:58 am (UTC)
That's a good point, there are definitely fewer physical activities compared to the old days... I had quite forgotten how much we used to get up to.

'Fandom sizes' are getting bigger, too. At each Continuum we would get a few more of the biggest sized t-shirt you could get, and they'd be gone within a few hours, with more people wanting them.

I've seen photos of the really big American fans... I've never seen an Aussie fan that big. Though I did know an Aussie who had to be gotten out of his flat by the fire brigade...
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2007-07-26 08:04 am (UTC)
Well written as usual, been waiting for another 100 Days post! Thanks!

Following the link chain led me to a BMI calculator...I have to lose another 7 kilos to get within the "normal weight range"? Bloody hell thats gonna be tough. I dropped 10 within a couple of months of getting the trike but I've levelled off since then.

I do like Canberra weather. Even at stupid o clock when its freezing out there and an ex-Perth boy having to own (and wear) gloves still seems surreal to me.
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[User Picture]From: nevryn
2007-07-26 08:56 am (UTC)
I have this theory I call the Conservation of Fannish Mass. The mass of fandom remain more or less constant, regardless of the number of individuals.

I say 'more or less', as I suspect there a lag factor on the weight of an individual.

As for myself, I could stand to lose a few more kilos. Not enough exercise, and a diet that could have a few less carbs in it.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 09:02 am (UTC)
The next time you visit, I shall grab a pair of sugar tongs and chase you around screaming "I'm a pirahna!" in an effort to help you lose weight.

You may need to pause occasionally so I can catch up and get my breath back.
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[User Picture]From: _aaronj
2007-07-26 10:22 am (UTC)
Nice post Danny.
I Agree with the weight thing, but I'd like to come at it from the point of view of one on the thin side of the wedge.
I've always had real trouble gaining weight, and I know that will amaze some people, but right now, at 65kg, I'm the heaviest I've ever been.
So I do sympathize with people who are struggling to loose weight.
I will point out that the most people in this country eat way too much, the human body simply does not need the amount of kilojoules that most people put into it each day.
With regard to the exercise thing, it's not just fandom that fails to support people in their efforts to attain physical fitness. I'm in training to run my first marathon at the moment and about 90% of the people I tell that to mock me and deride my choice to test my body and spirit in such a way.
I will finish the 42km. I may not make it within the time limit, I may not be moving very fast at the finish line, but I will do it because I want to do it.
I just don't think many other people want to put in the effort to finish their own personal marathons.
One last point, I have a suspicion that most people don't know how to prepare healthy food for themselves and it's very easy to buy fast food that is very sugary and fatty in our country. This is maybe a bigger cause of obesity than peer pressure in fandom.
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[User Picture]From: rendragon
2007-07-26 10:43 am (UTC)
Good on you for finding a challenge and going for it! I hope that 42nd km gives you the best feeling of satisfaction and achievement you've ever had.
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[User Picture]From: cheshirenoir
2007-07-26 10:49 am (UTC)
Excuse me? Sex life?


What can I say except I am a little disappointed by this post. I won't be reading your blog any more. I think you have said some hurtful thing under the guise of being "Hard hitting".
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 12:08 pm (UTC)
The majority of my partners have been overweight, one I would class as obese. Most of my friends are overweight, too. Speaking personally, being just 10 kilos overweight impacted noticeably on my sexual performance.

I know of more than a few people who have talked about the difficulties they've had with sex with someone with a serious weight issue. And, as I said "I'm not saying that being overweight means you can't have fabulous sex..."

I don't think I've ever consciously tried to be 'hard hitting' in my 100 Days posts, in fact the only thing I strive to do is not to self-censor, and to talk about things I wouldn't always feel free to talk about. Some of these posts are a four-hour ordeal of writing and editing on the fly, trying to get the post to say what I'm really trying to say in one hit.

I don't claim to be right, I only claim to have an opinion. If someone wants to argue the point, I'm happy for them to do so, and when I'm given a good rational arguement that I can believe in or understand, I like to think I'm willing to concede that point. I wrote about this to some degree in my Knee-Jerks/Change of Mind post. Might I suggest re-reading it, assuming you get/see this reply?

This is not the first post where I've been well aware that some of my friends may take it as a personal attack, even though there were no specific people targeted by it, or in mind when I wrote it. I haven't let that stop me from posting before, and I didn't this time either. When I come to write some of my other posts on fandom, it will no doubt happen again.

Given how many touchy subjects I've written about in 100 Days, and how (sometimes brutally) I've layed myself and my personal life, emotions and insecurities open to public scrutiny (not to mention the potential for ridicule and attack), I find it very disappointing that you would choose to stop reading because of one post out of sixty-seven, but that choice is yours.

I never know whether to open or close with an apology. My gut response is to open with one, but I'm aware that in a case like this I'm going to follow it up with 'here's some points I'd like to make...' which feels like I'm apologising only to then attack.

If I apologise at the end, it comes after I've sat there making lots of points backing up my arguments and reasons, and seems (to me) a little like an afterthought.

Regardless, I'll apologise here for hurting your feelings. I hope that you would at least understand that that wasn't my intention.
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[User Picture]From: thinarthur
2007-07-26 11:03 am (UTC)
Gail Adams had detailed ideas about this called "The Bloaton Theory" which was a feedback system involving an direct ratio between lack of exercise, TV watching and food consumption, hence someone really keen on TV didn't move much at all and kept growing larger like Lazy Tok.

In terms of fandom sizing up, that in part was due to the average fan age increasing, once you get into the 30's the metabolism changes and people who could burn off the booze & hamburgers find it sticks to the ribs. In terms of illnesses I was just visiting a well known fan who had just had some more heart surgery, it is very alarming.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 12:10 pm (UTC)
My friends are getting sicker... Yes part of it's age, but many of them are also overweight. I have this nightmare vision of a future fandom filled with people I know all with adult onset diabetes.
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2007-07-26 11:40 am (UTC)
thank you for this post. seeing friends get so fat that they have all sorts of problems is not fun.

i hate that compartmental attitude of SF and no sport; it's as though people want acceptance in a little group because they're so narrow minded that nobody else wants them.
I value my uniqueness and won't let anyone take it away from me.
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[User Picture]From: dazzler42
2007-07-26 11:57 am (UTC)
I was already in fandom when I put on weight - but I always put it down to the combination of leaving school, initially working part-time at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and then full time in a 7-Eleven owned by my parents.

Congratulations, Danny, on one of THE best articles I've read ANYWHERE this year. This deserves to be reprinted in fanzines, blogs and sent in emails to fans around the world.

And Jocko - dude, how good is it to see you here?
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 12:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks matey, glad you liked it :)
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[User Picture]From: bunnikins
2007-07-26 12:14 pm (UTC)
Not denying there are a lot of fat fans, or that you have some very valid points, but you know what? I personally have much less of a problem with the 'enabling' attitude you were talking about than I do with the mindset so readily found elsewhere, the one that assumes if you're female, and over a size 8-10, you must be on a diet, or at least ashamed of the fact you're not. And that if you are overweight, that's bad not for health reasons, but because you don't look like they assume you want to look - and clearly would rather be skinny so you can wear the latest fashions.

Fandom might not be a supportive place if you're on a diet, or trying to get more exercise, but it's also one of the few places you'll see people wearing what they want, costuming as their favourite character or just whatever clothes they like personally, and not being judged for it on the grounds that fat people should go out of their way to hide their lumpy selves. I'm not saying that's always a good thing either, I've seen some spandex abuse at cons that'll be seared into my brain forever, but even if I don't like how some people look dressed as $character, I like that they like how they look that way. Am I making any sense?

I see a lot of this at work, so it's kind of a sore point - I'm sick of being congratulated when my pants are loose and having pretty girls tell me mournfully about a dress they really want but they have to lose a few more kilos to even think about buying it.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-26 12:51 pm (UTC)
Women's fashions are nuts, and the 'ideals' that women are expected to reach for are crazy. It pushes everything to the opposite extreme of wanting women to be unhealthily underweight. Yes, starve yourself down to a size 8, don't worry about the long-lasting health effects of doing that to your body.

Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 by the standards of her time, with the adjustments to dress sizes in the intervening period, she comes out as a 12-14. But todays fashion mags would doubtless consider her something of a porker.

Elizabeth Hurley claimed that if she was as fat as Marilyn, she'd kill herself. I wish she would after that comment.
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[User Picture]From: purrdence
2007-07-26 04:16 pm (UTC)
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?"

You've been speaking to my mother, haven't you?

I think the hardest bit of dieting is support, or lack of. I dieted before my wedding, while I still lived with my parents and in the first couple of months my mother was enthusiastic. She was the one who made the food choices, cooked etc in my house and started off doing healthy stuff, and would exercise with me - until it got 'too hard'. Not surprisingly, my progress after that point went downhill. Then there was Dad getting offended if I didn't want Coke or ice cream. Apparently I was some freak.

It's really hard doing it by yourself.

There are the places that promise 'support' if you join their program, but they're expensive (especially when one is in the process of selling their soul to a government-run fiance organisation ;p)

Sometimes I wish people would stop saying 'you're fine the way you are!' because I'm not. It's not fine that I have a ridiculous time find decent clothes that fit. It's not fine that I have to either spend obscene amounts of money for something that costs a third cheaper on someone 4 sizes smaller or order them in from the freaking USA. It's not fine being uncomfortable in theater seats or having to get the belt extender on the plane. It's not fine going to a doctor - for a completely unrelated thing - and get told I'm a perfect candidate for stomach banding. It's not fine going to the clothes swap at Swancon and there being *nothing* I fit in AND end up missing Kaneda proposing to Ju because I'm back in my room in tears. It's not fine that Drhoz couldn't carry me over the threshold when we got married because he would have hurt his back doing so. It's not fine that I've gained nearly 40 kilos since I met Drhoz. It's not fine that the more one puts on, the more asexual one is seen - ESPECIALLY by an awful lot of the guys I know in fandom (There's been studies that have shown overweight women have higher libidos... but from my observations, it seems the larger you get, the less sex you get too, regardless of your partner situation.) It's not fine that if I'm on the bus, I'm usually one of the last people people will sit next to. It's not fine that I've lost out on parts in plays, or the better roles, because god forbid we should have a fat lead (unless it's the comic role, then its perfectly ok because we all know fat people are jolly *sarcasm*). It's not fine that I'm automatically seen as out of control because obviously if I can't control my weight, I can't control anything else in my life.

I hate being this fat. Not that I want to be 'skinny'. Ha. When I did Weight Watchers when I got told my target weight (which would have gotten me down to half the weight I was then) it was all I could do from not laugh in the leader's face. I think this is similar to the Christina Ricci situation - some people just look horrible at their so-called 'target weight' (the WW leader for instance would have looked a lot healthier with a little extra weight), and I like being voluptuous, but what I'm now isn't voluptuous. I know I will have people argue this, but all bar one of them haven't seen me without clothes on and I am no way voluptuous. (it's amazing what a good bra and a flattering skirt can do).

I don't really feel that sexy anymore. I don't feel attractive. I wonder how much that is to do with being in a relationship - there have been studies that marriage makes you fat (or being in a long term relationship for that matter) partly because you're no longer on the pull and, especially with women, you try to fit in more with your partner's habits. A lot of women I've met fail at diets because their husbands revolt when having to change his meals or insisting she cook two separate meals. It's easier to give in.
I keep telling myself 'yeah, I should start exercising more' and when it comes to the crunch the enormousity makes me curl up in a metaphorical ball of fear. It's like being in a big pit and the top is too high to reach by myself, so why bother? I hate this feeling.

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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-27 02:04 am (UTC)
Thank you for one of the most brutally honest and open replies I've had to a post. That's one of the issues isn't it? You don't feel happy with your situation, but you have people telling you that you are fine, when what you're wanting to do is change.

So, I suppose the question is, is there anything your friends/community can do to help you? What sort of support would you find most helpful?

There's been studies that have shown overweight women have higher libidos... I've somehow missed those studies, but from personal observation I'd say it was on the money. I wonder what the various psychological and physiological factors that influence that are?
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From: gutter_monkey
2007-07-27 12:47 am (UTC)
>I'm not saying that being overweight means you can't have fabulous sex, but it does reduce the scope for variation and experimentation.

I remember when I got my first girlfriend and started having regular sex. I lost a LOT of weight quite quickly. Sex is great exercise!

Who wants to sexercise with me? It's not quite so effective on your own. (If it was I'd be borderline anorexic.)
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2007-07-27 02:11 am (UTC)
With all our solo workouts, all we would need is a piece of coal held in the palm while we exchanged our firmest handshake, and between us we could do Superman's diamond trick!
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[User Picture]From: logansrogue
2007-07-27 07:31 am (UTC)
Interesting post. When I first entered SF fandom, it was Westrek and I was a lovely fifteen year old girl (who was probably far more hyperactive than was socially acceptable). I was pretty lanky as my body hadn't even begun to grow its curves yet. This combination, along with my over-eagerness, made it damn near impossible for me to really connect with my fellow fans. I think they all wondered what I was doing there. There were plenty of reasons why I wasn't accepted, but I have to wonder if me being slim had anything to do with it. I was one of the only slim girls there, I think. There were a couple of skinny boys, but you know how that goes. Usually so skinny they could slip through a door jam. God bless nerds!

To make it clear that I'm not entirely up myself, I think I grew out of my prettiness after my early twenties. Age has not been kind to me, I don't think. And neither has ill health. I've put on a few kilos as a result and it's thoroughly depressing. Before the endometriosis, I'd make sure my weight stayed below a certain point.
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[User Picture]From: angriest
2007-07-27 08:10 am (UTC)
I think I grew out of my prettiness after my early twenties.

Don't be silly, cutie pants.

I had no idea you went to Westrek. I went there for a few months, but then me and some friends got so annoyed with how they ran it we set up the Neutral Zone in opposition.
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