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Even More Letters to Radiance

Ed Note: In the Fall 1997 issue, we printed a few letters from readers who wanted to be pen pals. Since then, we have re-thought this service, and have decided that due to concern for privacy issues, we will not print your physical addresses in Letters to Radiance. If you want to be listed as a pen pal, weíll need either an e-mail address or a post office box. Thanks!

 

Positive Images

Dear Alice,

Iíd like to subscribe to Radiance . I read about it in When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies by Jane Hirschmann and Carol Munter. After checking out your Web site this morning, I have determined that this is definitely the kind of magazine I want to read!

I was amazed (and thrilled!) to discover that there is a magazine out there especially for those of us who donít have the culturally defined "ideal" body, a magazine that doesnít constantly preach the diet gospel or tell me that I am unacceptable because Iím not shaped like a starving supermodel or the half-naked babes on Bay Watch. Itís wonderful to find a place where I can see and read about other large women without cultural propaganda encouraging me to conform, lose weight, and hate my body.

I am anxiously awaiting my first issue and will be ordering available back issues as soon as I can.

Wendy Beavers
Lebanon, GA

Dear Friends,

Although I have just discovered your magazine, I feel as though I know you as "friends" after reading just one issue. I found out about Radiance from an article in the Columbus Dispatch, which also led me to group therapy for a binge eating disorder. I found your magazine at Borders Books and brought it to show the group. Iíve discovered that there are quite a few magazines for large women, but, in my opinion, yours is definitely the best! Therefore, Iím enclosing my check for a subscription and back issues.

Iíve found a new way of thinking about body sizes. Your magazine is just right for reinforcing that mindset on an ongoing basis. I am finding that, when I fill my head with positive messages and images, I donít seem to need to fill my mouth quite as often!

Thank you, and keep up the good work.

Beverly Hueter
Marietta, GA

Fat and Pregnant

Dear Radiance,

I have been a subscriber for three years now. It is so wonderful to read and enjoy a publication that is so inspiring. I have wept and laughed with the words I have read. I am like all of those other women who have written in to say that they read your magazine from cover to cover almost immediately.

I try to savor it, but I find that I cannot hold myself back! It is so refreshing to feel empowered. I donít have to feel "bossy" or "overbearing" just because I feel confident enough to stand up for myself. I have a history of trying to "disappear" into the surroundings. I have worn subdued colors and have kept my mouth shut. Through the influence of Radiance, Iím able to have people, including myself, look at me.

My husband and I have been married for two years,nd we want to have children. I am a supersize woman, and I would appreciate any information about being pregnant and fat. I am looking into the concerns regarding folic acid and obese mothers. Can a supersize woman have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? Is this realistic? I have to face my doctor with these questions in the near future. Thankfully, he is supportive and not fatphobic. You have my permission to publish my e-mail address with this letter,so that anyone who has some input can contact me.

Thank you, Radiance, and keep up the excellent and wonderful work.

Michelle E. Molash
(e-mail: spinningtails@juno.com)

Ed. Note: There is a on-line news group called "Big Moms" that is worth checking out. To get there ...

Childhood Memories and Health Alarms

Dear Alice,

Iíve been a regular subscriber to Radiance for about two years. What a help and a joy it is for me.

As a child, I was mocked and jeered at by the "regular-size" kids at my school and in my neighborhood whenever I participated in physical activities like kickball, softball, relay races, and so on, because my size slowed me down and made me less agile. Of course, I was chosen last and with great reluctance when the game required that sides be chosen.

Repeated humiliation and emotional rejection scarred me deeply, so that I learned to stay away from doing anything that would draw attention to myselfóprimarily running, jumping, or playing active gamesówhenever I could possibly avoid it.

On a positive note, I have always loved to sing, and perform regularly in the region where I live with my husband, having conquered my general fear of being in the public eye.

However, to this day, I instinctively fear doing any activity outsideóit really petrifies me. I know that there is little chance of harassment now, but I still feel there are invisible, mocking eyes all around me. Too, I dislike the feelings associated with exerciseósweat on my skin, breathing heavily, being flushed. It seems unbeautiful, emphasizing and advertising my lack of fitness; my lack of worthiness to participate.

I need help now, because of my knees. I hear them popping and they lock up sometimes. I fear the jointsí disintegration, but Iím repulsed by the activity I need to do for healing. Help! I really have to deal with my fears now.

I donít really expect you personally to reach out and do something, but I think this is probably a serious issue that faces a lot of heavy people. Please pay some attention to this problem in future issues of Radiance. It might be soon enough to help me heal my knees.

 

A second note from Becky: A friend of mine has been letting me use her pool on Fridays after work, and I awarded myself a new bathing suit and webbed gloves for the occasion. I havenít had the kind of knee difficulty or pain I wrote about to you previously, but Iím still aware of the need to strengthen my muscles in those areas. Iíve been walking here and there whenever I can.

Becky
Tryon, NC

(Ed. note: We will make an effort to increase our coverage of health concerns from people of size in future issues.)

Found Your Web Page!

Dear Radiance,

I read an article about your magazine a few years ago, in the Press Telegram, in Long Beach, California. I cut out the article and carried it and an addressed envelope around, intending to subscribe but never actually getting around to it.

Now I found your Web page! Iím reminded of why I was so impressed with your magazine the first time I heard of it. So, without any further delay, hereís my check for a subscription.

Linda Riley
Lakewood, CO

Dear Radiance,

Iím not an extra large woman, but an extra large man, and Iím writing to tell you how much Iím enjoying your on-line magazine. To be honest, Iím not really sure how I got linked to Radiance in the first place, but now that Iíve found you Iím having a great time of discovery.

Originally, the interview with Rosie OíDonnell pulled me in. I just adore her spirit and genuine friendliness and Iím happy to report that I gained some wonderful insight to her true character while reading Gloria Cahillís piece. (Nice work Ms. Cahill!)

Iíve continued to admire Rosie reach time I hear of something else sheís done for someone else, but Iíd never really read any articles about her and certainly hadnít read any interviews with her.

Moreover, I was so taken by a few of the things Rosie said to Gloria, that I thought I might explore some more of what Radiance was about. Then I found another interview with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estťs, yet another woman I have great admiration and respect for, but knew very little about her personally. (My wife is a Dr. Estťs devotee and I came to her work through my wifeís readings.)

I read her interview and moved onto other articles and Iíve bookmarked your site to come back to again and again. My biggest surprise has been that even though your content is certainly geared toward empowering women who have struggled with body image most of their lives, as a forty-five-year-old man, I have also found your magazine both interesting and empowering as well. Thank you!

Mark Zingarelli
Pittsburgh, PA

(Ed. note: With each new issue of Radiance,we update our Web site and add new information, artwork, and photos, and make more articles and interviews available to read. Visit our site [often!] at http://www.radiancemagazine.com.

A Kid in a Candy Store!

Dear Friends,

I walked into Barnes & Noble on Friday night, and of course I went to the section of magazines which I call my section. The section for us big women, where there are so few publications to choose from. I was thumbing through the new BBW magazine, and I happened upon Mode (which I wasnít really impressed with), and then lo and behold I saw Radiance . Oh, man! I was like a kid in a candy store!

I quickly went and got a cup of coffee, and I was off! I sat there and just looked at the pictures at first; I was in heaven. These folks looked like me! Big, bold, and luscious! In all seriousness, I could identify with these women. I am supersize, and you actually had supersize women in the magazine. Yee haw! You also had great articles and a fashion section with swimwear photos to die for.

My hatís off to you, Alice. Radiance is wonderful. Thank you so much.

Grace
(e-mail: gsmith@evansville.net)

Diversity Education for Kids

Dear Radiance,

It has again been made abundantly clear to us that there is a real need for a well-designed size acceptance and tolerance program for elementary schools.

We feel that this effort would be best incorporated into a broader diversity education package; one for both students and educators (teachers, school nurses, administrators, and so on). Social attitudes are formed very early in life, and in the absence of any other information, children (as well as their families) adopt the systemic biases of our culture as it exists, instead of how it should exist.

Our lovely, chunky ten-year-old daughter (she has her motherís genes) came home the other day and wrote out her will and attached a suicide note. She is very dramatic as well as intelligent, enthusiastic, and empathetic. Needless to say, weíve tried to teach her our size-accepting philosophy (Doug has been active in NAAFA for almost twenty years), but the bombardment she receives isnít being "filtered" through any other supportive source.

Naturally, we called the school and arranged to meet with a "core team" of her teacher, the nurse, the psychologist, and several others. We proceeded to list our daughterís (many) strengths, her background (including our "peculiar" take on size issues), the "problems," and a plan. First, we were disappointed that few on the team really knew our daughter (her teacher came late), and then the first question they asked was, "Has she been seen by a nutritionist?"

The insensitivity of her tormentors (the latest incident involved a classmate calling her a "school bus" when she wore a yellow shirt) and the possibility of bias in the schoolís health curriculum were barely mentioned, except by us! The staff took the issues seriously but responded with skepticism, especially to the notion that dieting doesnít work and that people can be both fat and healthy. They also admitted that they had no official diversity program or training and that any efforts in this area were left to the discretion of the individual teacher.

We saw this opportunity our daughter had unwittingly presented us with as a chance to help her in a lasting way. Now we need your help. Weíve reassured our daughter of her value and our love. Her teacher is reinforcing this in the classroom, but what comes next? What about all the other children facing such onslaughts every school day without the support our daughter has? We want to help put a project together for students, teachers, parents, and educators.

Letís get this going now.

Dianne and Doug Zimmer
Woodinville, WA
(e-mail: dzimmer@grad.washington.edu)

(Ed. note: This is exactly the kind of situation that has prompted the Radiance Kids Project. Call, write, or e-mail us with your ideas, contacts, and expertise. We need your involvement and contributions as we work to implement size-diversity and size-esteem programs for kids, parents, and others who work with our youth.)

Been Through It All

From one Alice to another,

Iíve been reading this "rad mag" for more than ten years. I have evolved, of course. You wouldnít believe my journeyónarcotics addiction, invasive tissue disease with daily pain, arrests, therapy for mental illness, lots of counseling (good, bad, indifferent, and finally wonderful!), recovery from childhood abuse, back to school, back to work, development of a career in computers, marriage, divorce, and more.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see a fat woman. More often, I am examining my feelings so that I may affect them positively. Although I suffer from depression and disabling disease, I am strong enough that I can change how I feel. I now have a life. I have recently discovered a spiritual side to myself that is life giving.

You told me, Radiance, over and over, that I am a real person. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And now a word for your newer readers: Itís your love for others that makes you whole. But first, love yourself. Itís not only possible, itís required.

Love to you, Alice. Filling up and spilling over.

Alice
From Iowa

Not Even for God

Dear Radiance,

Iím a recent subscriber to Radiance and I truly love it. It always seems to come at the right time.

Right now, itís 10:30 p.m. and Iím watching Primetime Live. The topic is the new diet pills. When will this insanity stop? It took me a long time to stop beating myself up over my size and the food I eat. It seems that everywhere I turn, someone says they have a miracle cure for being fat.

If one thing truly makes me mad, itís the rise in the use of God to sell diet plans. My mother has one of the tapes! On the cover of the cassette it says, "How to weigh what God wants you to weigh based on his plan." I have read the Bible, and nowhere does it say that being fat is a sin. I could swear that God loves me just the way and size that I am. If I am to understand what this tape is saying, I will be going to hell for being fat. Well, if being fat will send me to hell, so be it. I will not change my size for anyone but me. I am starting to enjoy my life without dieting.

Thank you for providing a magazine that encourages women to be whole people, whatever their size.

Tracy Omagbemi
Menlo Park, CA

P.S.óAlice, I am doing an exercise to find out what I admire about certain people. Youíll be on my list, followed by the word determined.

 

(Ed. note: Thanks, Tracy)

Singiní Loud íní Proud!

Dear Editor,

Hello from Missouri! Thank you for the opportunity to express ourselves and sing loud and proud of our size blessings. I am an avid reader of Radiance . Iím a twenty-three-year-old BBW from Kansas City. Iíve been large and in charge all my life, but along the way Iíve had the same struggles as my plus-size sisters. Iíve heard all the catch phrases from well-meaning people about how pretty Iíd be if I would just lose weight. I went through all the yo-yo dieting, eating nothing at all, exercising like crazy, and just plain bingeing.

Finally, I quit it all. I just stopped, looked in the mirror, and decided that I wasnít going to die to be thin. My world became full. I found inner peace and a resolution to work on myself. There was nothing wrong with me, I was just fat. Did you hear me? I said I was fat and I was okay! I was no longer going to accept the mold society had put me in.

So Iím doing it my way. I sing loud, I dance hard. I fooled around and fell in loveówith myself and two months ago, with my husband! Some of your readers may think, Well, she is young; of course she can be sexy and sassy, but not me. Stop! I have been crunched into seats too small, felt the stares at restaurants when I have ordered more than a salad, and have had people (complete strangers) come up to me with unsolicited and usually cruel "good advice." And I took it. I let the demons of Madison Avenue rule my thinking.

But no more. I am ready to share the world with my plus-size sisters as well as my average-size sisters. Part of this letter is a message: whether I am a size 2 or a size 42 is my business, not societyís. The other part of this letter is a howdy! I want to say hi to all my sisters in size in the world! I have a desire to bring us to the forefront, and Iíd like to start getting to know my sisters. Iím getting involved in organizations to help bring people of all sizes together. We large people deserve to be recognized, and magazines such as Radiance and others are paving the way. We are not a force to be sold to the diet industry or criticized into therapy. We are a force to be reckoned with and respected. To all my sister-friends at Radiance and across the world, a big hug and lots of love from the Midwest!

Sacheen Mobley-Davis
Kansas City, MO

A Matter of Perspective

Dear Radiance,

You made my day when I opened my stack of back issues and found the post-it with "Enjoy" written on it.

You may find it curious that I am reading your magazine (with great relish), as I am only a size 12. Three years ago, at five feet, ten inches, I was model thin at size 6Ė8. "---- happened." First, I lost my best friend, my mom, within two days of my husband being downsized from his job of twenty-three years. Two days after her funeral I found a breast lump and had to have surgery. It was just a cyst, but my life fell apart to clinical depression and instant menopause (I was forty-eight). I had a doctor who put me on so many tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants that I became a zombie. I have just gotten rid of the last pill this month. I have also sent to a consignment shop all my size 6 and 8 clothes and bought all new size 12ís. I donít care to look like a model any more for a number of reasons, mainly because of my health and all that time I spent thinking and worrying about my body and my weight. Quite frankly, what years I have left are going to be used in a much better and more satisfying way!

A combination of medications and menopause made me gain weight. After going over my meager diet, my doctor says there is absolutely nothing I can cut out. It seems I semi-starved myself for years to stay thin and young-looking. No one ever guessed that I was over forty. But guess what? Now they think I am even younger. The loose skin on my neck, arms, and derriere has filled out. Everyone keeps telling me I looked greatóeven better than beforeóbut I couldnít see it at first. I was overtaken by a state of panic. It has taken a lot of reading (magazines such as yours, Emmeís new book, Carol Johnsonís book, and several others on self-esteem and health) to realize that I look good and healthy. I have had to change my entire way of thinking and looking at myself. I look at the beautiful women in your magazine, and they are radiant. Yes, radiant. And after all these years of the dark night of the soul, I know my mom would want me to move on and be radiant, too, and proud of this body that she herself gave to me.

Thank you. Please remember that almost all women have a body-size problem. Your magazine can help all of us. One of my very best friends is plus-sized and she is gorgeous. And a famous author. She has been, and continues to be, my role model. She is also the best friend a person could have. She has seen me through dark days when I didnít care whether I lived or died. And now she rejoices with me that I am well and off medication, and laughs at me for feeling big. It is all a matter of perspective, everything is relative. To me, I felt big, and that made me feel a failure. Thank God, I know now that every day is a new beginning. I finally am finding some genuine self-esteem, not the kind that comes from looking like an underfed model.

I am a musician, an artist, a writer, have two gorgeous daughters about to get their Ph.Ds from Vanderbilt and Notre Dame, and a husband of thirty years. Am I not blessed? Sometimes we just donít see what is before our very eyes.

Love to you, for being so thoughtful as to put that little note on my first magazine.

Gail Froelich
Huntsville, AL

 

Proud As I Am

Dear Radiance,

How exciting to receive your Fall 1997 issue (the first of my new subscription!) and see an article on my favorite designer, April Cornell. It is wonderful to see recognition for a Canadian designer as well. I have worn the designerís olive velvet skirt to several cultural events, like the ballet and the opera. It was my first time to either of these events, and it improved my confidence to be wearing beautiful clothes. The April Too plus-size line is the first Iíve seen that really expresses my personality as a BBW with a penchant for Victorian-style clothing.

I also enjoyed your Big News column. Iíve been waiting for information on actress Camryn Manheimís role in The Practice. I think she is a great actress who plays a BBW with realism. She has a complex personality, unlike many large-size characters portrayed on TV who have only one-dimensional lives.

I canít begin to express my appreciation for your magazine. Obtaining a subscription was a big step for me in my size acceptance. No longer will I put off living my life "until I reach my goal weight." No longer will I listen to weight-loss "experts" who tell me to visualize myself at my "ideal" weight. Now I will visualize myself as I amóproud to be me at a size 24, wearing glorious clothes, and actively doing all the things Iíve put off my whole life. Thank you so much.

April Morelli
Drumheller, Alberta, Canada

 

Life with Father

Dear Radiance,

When my mother died twenty years ago, I felt I barely knew my father. Yes, he had been the faithful (sole) provider throughout my traditional 1950s upbringing. But most of the time, I just did my best to stay out of his often angry way.

Dad was a child of the Depression, when it was practically a sin to be fat. Being fat meant you had plenty of money for food, something lots of families lacked in that dismal tims. In the past I have tended to use this to excuse my fatherís negative attitude and comments to me about my weight.

Not long ago I helped my father find his half-brother, whom he had not seen in more than thirty years. At lunch at my uncleís homeóonly my second time I had ever met him and his wifeómy Dad remarked, "Yeah, Ritaís fat. She should lose some of that weight." To me, this was a first-rate betrayal in front of a virtual stranger.

Later on as we drove home, I told my father how severely hurt I felt by his comments. My father responded by minimizing my hurt and anger, telling me "thatís enough," trying to shame me into just letting the matter drop. That was the moment I realized, Yes, Dad, that is enoughóenough from you after all these years I have tried to be the dutiful daughter. In that moment I empowered myself to never again let my fatherís comments about my weight go by without confronting him. From that moment, I have refused to let his comments about my weight stand unchallenged.

There is no "happy ending" here. My father feels the way he feels about fat; that hasnít changed. But what has changed is my own ability to speak up for myself with my father, to love him and to be grateful for the one parent who is still in my life, but to never allow that love and gratitude for Dad to stop me from speaking up for Rita.

Rita Michalski
Eugene, OR

 

Circle of Support

Dear Radiance,

So do you ever get tired of people telling you and all the staffers at Radiance how great you are and how much you mean to us? I sure hope not.

The road to self-love is long and winding and every now and then it goes through a dark forest. Mine came the other day when a casual acquaintance approached me about purchasing Herbal Life products. He allowed that he was "shocked" at how much weight Iíd gained since he last saw me. What he doesnít know is that when he knew me two years ago I was at an unnaturally thin weight maintained by what horrific practices I donít even want to say.

I stood up for myself and said politely, "No, thanks. You know, at this point in my life I donít think dieting is the answer to my problems. Iím spending energy on my insides instead of my outsides."

I was glad for what I said, but all the things I didnít say started to nag at me:

  1. So you seem to think thereís a problem with my weight? Well, I donít.

  2. How dare you examine and pass judgment on my body.

  3. And as long as weíre at it, how dare you, a person with whom I barely have a passing acquaintance, presume to discuss something as private as my body with me.

  4. So,f drinking a milk shake would make me thin and keep me thin, donít you think Iíd have done it by now?

  5. Where have you been? If youíre going to sell this crap, youíd better be prepared to answer to what even mainstream doctors are starting to sayóthat dietís donít work.

  6. The real problem here is that you seem to have a problem with my weight, so why donít you just drink the blankety-blank milk shake?

But of course, I didnít say any of that. Iíve always been a good girl, and Iím getting pretty darn tired of her. Under the cloud of all the stuff Iíve never said but wanted to, the forest got darker and darker and the thorny vines started growing over the path, and it was getting ugly in there.

Radiance magazine to the rescue! I got out my precious dog-eared back issues and every size-positive piece of literature in my house. I read a little every day, and it was like being surrounded by a circle of big, warm, soft sisters and mothers, hugging me and gently reminding me that Iím okay, better than okay. Slowly, I made it through the forest and am pleased to say that the sun is shining and itís a fine day.

Sharon Allen
Martinez, CA

 

Spirit Soaring

Dear Radiance,

Thank you for creating such a fine publication. You have dared to be frank and do it with finesse.

After a lifetime of being a large woman, I have stopped apologizing. I am very healthy in spite of my supersize frame. As I near age forty, I have finally pitched my diet books. I eat a healthy diet and I feel good!

I am the same size as my mother, and her mother. I refuse to subject myself any longer to the ignorance of the rest of the world. I do admit that I have lost 170 pounds this yearó170 pounds worth of an abusive husband! I also just completed a very intensive paralegal program (which I put to use to handle my divorce without an attorney!).

I found your magazine while I was in Washington, D.C., for an interview. Radiance was an inspiration to me and reinforced my outlook. I am so much more than just another pretty face. In my own quiet way, I have proven to those around me that I am a worthwhile person. I am finally rediscovering myself. I am strong, despite my gentleness. I was created by the same supreme being as everyone else. My body is a temple, a vessel of godliness, just like those of my thinner sisters. I no longer hurt at the stupidity of less enlightened souls. After all, when I am snubbed or criticized, I know that my 350-pound body is just fine. The critics are the ones missing out, and frankly, missing what is important in life: to love and accept the good in one another.

My spirit has taken flight. I only needed to change my attitude and follow my heart.

Susie Slater-Powers
Damascus, MD

 

With a Steady Hand

Dear Radiance,

In June of 1997 there was a small notice in one of the Sunday supplements about an upcoming article on fen-phen It said that the author was looking for people who had taken these drugs and had good or bad experiences to share.

Since I had taken these drugs for nine months beginning in May of 1995, I decided to respond. I sent a postcard with a short list of the negative side effects I had experiencedótrembling, short temper, agitation, sleeplessnessóand noted that while I had lost 40 pounds, I had regained the weight, and more, after I quit. I got a call from the writer and was asked why I quit the drugs.

I told her about the day when I really lost it, when I responded very sharply (read bitchy) to a simple question from a coworker. After this interaction, I found myself shaking. It wasnít a mild tremble. Over the past few months I had gotten used to the constant shaking of my hands and had virtually given up the fine needlework I enjoyed. This was an all-body shake. I had also gotten used to not needing much sleep, not an entirely negative side effect since I was too jittery to feel tired (and lots of housework can be done at midnight!). I explained to the writer that I had gotten a clear view of what the drugs were doing to me, and I didnít like what I saw.

At the time I first stopped the drugs, I still did not throw the pills away. Not yet. Somewhere in the back of my brain I was thinking, "Maybe it will wear off. Maybe after a couple of weeks I can start taking them again. Of course I want to lose weight, itís the right thing to do." But after a few weeks, when my own patient, friendly nature had returned, when I again had the patience and motor control to sew the tiny doll clothes I like to work on, I did not start taking the drugs again. I found a new appreciation of myself and my life, just the way it was, even though the weight was slowly coming back. I bought and made new clothes, adjusted my attitude, and got on with my abundant life. But I still kept those bottles of pills.

And then one day, months later, Radiance arrived, and as usual, I began to devour it from cover to cover. I came to the Big News column and found a list of side effects for the drugs I had stopped taking and, as I read the list, I was nearly ill. And definitely scared. Brain damage jumped off the page. I went back and read that paragraph again. Then I got up and found every pill bottle and dumped them all in the trash.

It was a few months after this that the notice I described above appeared in the Sunday magazine. I knew people who had good responses to the drug would respond. Who wouldnít want to let the world know they were "succeeding," at least by societyís standards? I wondered how many negative responses they would get, and decided to make sure they got at least one. Two weeks later the writer called and asked permission to use my name in the article, and I said yes.

A short time after the article appeared, a local talk show decided to do a segment on the negative side effects of diet drugs and called me to participate. I enjoyed doing the show. The hosts were obviously professionals, and knew exactly how to put guests at ease and prepare them for the interviews. But I was nervous anyway. In fact, after agreeing to do the show, I got out all my past issues of Radiance and combed them for information on Phen/Fen and other nasty diet drugs. I even wrote index cards so I could review all the information I had gleaned; I wanted to take advantage of any opportunity to further inform the world that diet drugs are very risky. I hadnít written note cards since college!

I didnít really get a change to further world education. Just a few words added to other peopleís descriptions of how such drugs affected them. Maybe someone who saw the program will hesitate if their doctor offers them these drugs, maybe someone wonít ask for them. Iíll never know. But I do know that I did something: I threw a few more drops of truth into the bucket of antidiet/and diet drug information. And I know that the only way to combat the oceans of skinny-is-good propaganda is by raising our hands and saying that it isnít true. And now, when I raise my hand, it doesnít shake.

Thank you, Radiance, for your Big News column. Thank you for being there as I gave up dieting and increased my appreciation for myself the way I am. Thank you for every pro-size article and interview you do, and for every advertisement for wonderful clothing and accessories you print. Thank you for every notice of size-friendly services and professionals, for the stories about artists like Dari Walker, Dan May, and Joyce Mudd, and the ways to buy their art. Thank you for your t-shirts that get the message "out there" (all entendres intended!). Thank you for giving me a glimpse of how other large women live their large lives. Thank you, Alice, for answering the phones, for writing editorials, for organizing trips, and for printing the pictures.

Thank you.

Kate Slaminko
Tukwila, WA

 

Whatís Wrong with the Word Fat?

Dear Alice,

I placed a personal ad at a Web site and used the headline "Fat Christian Chick." It seems that my using the word fat upset a number of people. One person responded with, "Fat is an ugly word; be nicer to yourself." She signed herself "Pleasantly Plump."

Why is fat an ugly word? I believe itís because of overzealous conditioning in our society. I have had friends who barf up their food and take pills to have loose stools: this keeps them slim. Many might call them "healthy and trim." I call them "sickly and dying." I am talking only bout those people who abuse their bodies to stay thin, not people who are actually healthy and treat their bodies like the temples of God that they are.

I am fat and I am a very proud and confident young lady. Why should I be ashamed of being fat and call myself "pleasantly plump," watering it down to get people to like me and accept me, when I already like myself? I think itís interesting to read an ad like mine.

Another person didnít like my using the word chick. I say, who says a chick cannot be a lady? Chick is the female equivalent of dude, is it not? I am a lady, and I am also a chick. I feel young and hip.

Yet another person said, "If youíre a Christian, then you should love yourself just like Christ loves you." Now, where did I write the words "I do not love myself"? This reader assumed I donít like myself because I wrote the word fat? On the contrary, I love myself enough to accept myself as the big, beautiful woman I am.

Melly
(e-mail Melly@ididitmyway.com)

 

Loved the Winter Issue

Dear Alice,

The Winter 1998 issue of Radiance is the best ever! I have subscribed for about eight years, have bought back issues, and have occasionally written for Radiance . The thrill I felt when I first read Radiance is still with me.

Iíve shared Radiance with lovers, relatives, friends, and coworkers, in hopes that they would have enough self-esteem to subscribe, to treat themselves to the faith and facts that nurture celebration of oneself. In keeping with that sentiment, enclosed is my renewal for another two years and another check for a T-shirt.

I loved the history of the Fat Underground in the Winter issue and the photos of these pioneering sheros. Itís courageous to be the first to challenge any ism, to develop and support facts contrary to biases so ingrained as to be accepted as incontrovertible scientific-medical "reality."

Thanks also for the excerpts from Losing It by Laura Fraser. Iím going to buy the book and use it. It was also cool to have the perspective of a book review in the same issue. And tell Alison Luterman to write a book! Her style pulled me along as if she were giving me a ride in a little red wagon. I want to read more of "Letís Eat Greece!"

The scuba diving article by Viktoria Tinberg was perfect. Scuba diving is my dream. My first snorkeling foray in Mexico was so exciting that I would snorkel every day if I could! But I have been afraid to take a diving class because of my shape and size, and because of declining physical strength as I age. Tinberg inspired me to take my fifty-one-year-old self and all my wobbling sags to a scuba class.

Along those lines, thanks to Pamela Kay Polvi for her story of approaching a gym to start regular workouts (Fall 1996 issue). Iím gonna do that, too.

The wonderful paintings in Winter by Sandra Bierman were terrific. Biermanís personal story was fascinating, and your telling of it was beautiful.

I love William J. Fabreyís newsy updates in his Big News column every issue, too.

In radiant fat sisterhood,
Jaqi Asghedom
Richmond, CA

 

Dear Radiance,

I love the Winter 1998 issue! I have been a lifelong dieter. At age eleven, my mom called me fat and made me wear a girdle. At age twelve, I lived on water and popcorn for a week. During my twenties, the boys I dated commented on my weight if I got above 135 pounds. I started exercising profusely and eating just enough to get myself through the day as a special education teacher. I had gotten so thin, my students would pick on me because, as they put it, I didnít have the fanny or chest to get a man.  By age thirty, I had dropped below 130 pounds from drinking coffee and existing on diet popcorn cakes.

When I went home for a visit, my father once yelled at me because I put a whole banana in the blender for a mixed drink: he said I would get fat. I refused to go to my high school reunion because I had put on some weight after starting a certain medication. At age forty, I was a size 22 and joined a support group called Wonderful Women of Size, a nondieting, like-yourself-as-you-are group. Now Iím finally at a place where I can eat real food and order iced tea with sugar. I have more confidence than before, and I see and accept myself as I am. Iím a freer person.

Radiance shows me real women, powerful women, beautiful women, cerebral women. Thank you.

Evy Ellis
Charlotte, NC

 

The Grandness of Nature

Dear Radiance,

I want to thank you for a super magazine. I especially enjoyed the article about artist Sandra Bierman, "Painting It Large." Ms. Biermanís Earth mothers are exquisite, and it is wonderful to see large womenís bodies honored in such a way: soft, nurturing, beautiful. I love nature. Often when I look around, I almost cry with intense pleasure. At these times, at the beauty and grandness of the land, I feel that I am the Earth mother herself, reaching out my arms, gathering all life to my great bosom.

Again, I want to thank you, Alice, for the support and encouragement that you give me in every issue of Radiance óto be myself and live life to its fullest. I would enjoy hearing from other Earth mothers. My email address follows.

Big and Bountiful,
Marlene
Fall River, MA
(e-mail Sidmarn@Juno.com)

 

Brave and Buoyant!

Dear Alice,

I just received my Radiance magazine and was quickly drawn to the scuba diving article by Viktoria Tinberg (Winter 1998 issue). Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! She shared all the feelings and experiences that Iíve had with regard to body size and the ocean! I love the ocean and all the marine life in it. I was certified as a scuba diver in my teens, but only made a handful of dives. I always felt like a whale in my wet suit. Iíve always had body image problems, and my fear of being teased by others has kept me from enjoying my passion for the ocean. What a waste for someone born and raised in southern California!

Recently, I won a best speaker award at a technical conference. They send the winner to Sydney, Australia, to speak at a conference there. As I was preparing for the trip, I thought about my dream of snorkeling or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I was bound and determined to do it, no matter how I felt about being in a bathing suit. So, thanks to mail order, I found a suit that fit, and after the conference, I took two weeks and traveled around Australia, ending my journey in Cairns, the jumping-off point to the Great Barrier Reef.

I checked out several options for reef tours and decided to go first class all the way. The first day, I went out on a 350-passenger hydrofoil-type boat. I had no trouble getting around the boat or even the restrooms. However, I am a diabetic and have neuropathy in my feet. I wasnít in excellent shape, so I decided not to scuba dive. But I snorkeled for about three hours the first day! It was incredible: absolute serenity. The ocean burst with color: the corals, the fish, the anemones, the sea cucumbers, and all the different types of sea stars. The water was an amazing 82 degrees. I was in heaven. I am so grateful that I was willing to put on the bathing suit and, as the jingle says, Just Do It!

The next day, I went out on a 100-foot Brigantine wooden sailing ship and went to another part of the reef. I snorkeled some more. I was the first one out of the ship and the last one back on! When Tinberg talked about ladders in her article, it reminded me of how surprised I was (as was the crew) when I easily crawled over the side of the ship and down the ladder into the dinghy, and then back up on the return trip. Even the "normal-sized folks" had some trouble with the ladder.

All in all, my time at the reef was a life-changing experience. It taught me that I am much more capable than I used to give myself credit for. And the reaction of the people on the boats was never negative or demeaning. In fact, I became friendly with some Cairns locals and keep in touch with them. I joined a gym and have begun to work out a number of times a week. Maybe itís time to plan a trip to Cancķn for the spring! The health club offers scuba lessons. Hmm, now thereís a thought!

Lori Shapiro
Anaheim, CA

 

A Couple of Concerns

Dear Alice,

I feel compelled to write to you and let you know how much I enjoy Radiance. Recently, I stopped by Barnes & Noble to buy my husband a little reading material and took a peek at the magazines. To my delight, Radiance was there. I found myself reading every word, twice! I have not read the magazine in years (shame on me), and it is so nice to get reacquainted with it.

I especially enjoyed the article on scuba diving and am now investigating the possibility for myself!

Hereís my question. In a future issue, would you address relationships with regard to big beautiful women and their mates? I ask this for selfish reasons. In just a few days, my husband and I will be celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary. Because I am fat and he is thin, we suffer discrimination, and I would love to hear how other couples handle various situations. I do not have any specifics in mind, but some general categories might be travel, social outings, family gatherings, children and schools, and other activities where one might encounter prejudice. For the most part, I believe we handle these situations well. However, othersí experiences could prove to assist us or at least give us the validation that we are not alone.

Again, let me commend you on this awesome magazine.

SK
In Florida

Editorís Note: I invite readers to write a letter to Radiance or a personal essay on your experiences in relationships. Thanks, SK,  for bringing up this important topic.

 

Do It Now!

Dear Radiance,

I feel like Iím writing to an old friend. I read Radiance with pleasure before I touch my other mail. Please renew my subscription.

I share my copy of Radiance with others in my large womenís swim group. We meet on Saturday mornings for an hour, and then we all go for breakfast. We have been swimming together for fourteen years. The group is an offshoot of Large as Life, a group started by psychologist Kate Partridge with the theme, "Do what you want now. Donít put off doing what you dream of until you lose weight."

Our acceptance of ourselves has been interesting to observe. I have since joined the Master Swim, an competitive adult swim group, and I appear on deck and swim, seldom thinking about my size, only about how well I will do in the meet. I accept myself, and therefore others do the same. The guilt and fear are not there; it is a real treat.

Claudia Savage
New Westminster, BC
Canada

 

Fat-Friendly in Montana

Dear Alice,

Hello! First, let me tell you what a relief it is to receive your magazine! I discovered your Web site by accident and was enthralled with the idea of a magazine for large-size people. I sent off my check and have just received my third copy.

For so long Iíve maintained the "jolly" image, being the one person whom people can count on at work and in private. Yet those same people who enjoy me at work make no attempt to know me in private. My self-esteem is smarting but improving daily. I really would love to meet a kind, lovely single man with a sense of humor and wicked passion. But for the time being, I live in Montana. While this is an exquisitely beautiful state, men who admire large women are few and far between. Heck, I moved here in April, and Iím still looking to meet nice, fat-friendly people!

I would also really appreciate your devoting some time to a problem that concerns me: I would like your magazineís and your readersí assistance on the subject of small breasts. I am a supersize woman, shaped like a pear, and am unable to fill a B-cup bra on a water-retaining day! My clothes donít fit me correctly because most large-sized clothing is designed for well-endowed women. Forget finding a sexy, much less well-fitting, bra or sexy lingerie. I canít wear any V-neck sweaters or tops because the V extends to my bra and accentuates my lack of cleavage. I have been unable to find a company that makes custom-fit lingerie or clothing for us. Iíd appreciate some input from your readers.

Thanks again for a wonderful magazine!

Elaine Falevitch
Billings, MT
(e-mail ElaineNV@aol.com)

 

Girl Power!

Dear Ladies,

I am a size 22Ė24 woman. I have never been one to care what magazines tell me about fashion, though I have had teasing about my size from childhood through today. Of course, the taunts have hurt, and some of them stay with me as emotional scars. I have learned, however, that I can put them aside.

The usual fashion magazines have always had extra-thin models who showed nothing that I would care to display on my body. Nor have these models shown how clothing would look on my body. So I have always worn what I wanted and ignored or fought back when taunted by anyone. But I have always felt badly for young girls, many of whom feel horrible that they arenít a size 2. I know that teasing, especially about size issues, can have dangerous consequences for some children. I have wished that these young girls had places to see variety in style and size. Radiance does this. I thank you on behalf of those young girls, and on behalf of the multitudes of large women, including myself.

A. L. Livingston
San Angelo, TX

 

Turned Off by Womenís Magazines

Dear Alice,

For the past five or six years, I havenít read "womenís" magazines. They really turn me off. The main idea behind most of the articles is that none of us women measure up. We can never be good enough because we are disorganized, too fat, too old, or too sick.

Fortunately, these magazines tell us, there is help. We can devote our lives to the quest for improvement, a two-step process. First we need to follow the instructions provided in each issue for everything from making our hips look smaller to making our eyes look bigger. Then we have to buy the products the magazines advertise, be they better bras, laxatives, glass cleaners, or mascaras.

Such magazines regularly resort to scare tactics to make us behave. If you arenít a good little girl, everything could fall apart. Your children could drop out. Your skin could break out. Your husband could walk out. Your butt could hang out. Better behave and sit like a lady, taking up as little space as possible.

So, Radiance, what did I see when I looked through my first issue? Bust loose. Be yourself. Stop watching your weight and starting watching whales and polar bears. You show us women who live their lives as works of art, who arenít anxiously on the lookout for the next improvement or product or gimmick. The women in Radiance celebrate who they are, here and now. They donít take marching orders from anyone but themselves.

I realize that size acceptance is an important message in your magazine. But every woman, whatever her size, can benefit from the role models you offer and the mindset you exemplify.

In closing, thank you for catching us women doing something right and for supporting our doing it!

Ms. Lee Pelham Cotton
Locust Hill, VA

 

Dear Alice,

Just a little note to wish you and the wonderful Radiance staff my congratulations on your thirteen years in print! I have recently received my third issue of this incredible magazine, and I canít wait to read every word! Since getting Radiance, I feel so much better about being a fat woman with "such a pretty face"! Now I know (or have I always known?) that thereís nothing wrong with the rest of me.

I love all of the clothing ads: you mean thereís life beyond Lane Bryant?! My girlfriends bother me until I loan them my copy of Radiance . Itís not just for large women; itís a magazine for all women who are tired of the popular womenís rag fluff. How many times can Cosmopolitan run articles on how to please your man? Big yawn. Well, enough of a Jersey girlís ramblings. Radiance is wonderful. Enough said.

Jennifer Lateano
Lyndhurst, NJ

More Letters And More And Even More


 

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