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And More Letters To Radiance

 

Plus Size and Kicking Hard

Dear Radiance,

As a fat woman who has found great joy in karate and the martial arts, I was thrilled by the martial arts stories in your Winter 1999 issue. I was delighted with both the story on tai chi by Luuna Kenney-Law, and the article on movement by Carol Wiley (I own two of her martial arts books). I began studying karate four and a half years ago, just before turning forty. I am now a fifth kyu green belt, two tests away from brown belt and five from black belt. I am constantly discovering that there are a lot of us powerful fat martial artists out there. Keep on profiling us and weíll keep on kicking!

Cindy Jean Briggs
Detroit, Michigan
cjbriggs@juno.com

 

New Prom Memories

Dear Radiance,

I just read your article "Off to the Prom" and would like to say, Bravo! My daughter is eighteen years old and a size 22. She was determined to go to her senior prom. We searched shops from Oklahoma City to Dallas and everywhere in between for a dress. If a shop had anything in her size, the dress was usually hideous. No store we tried, no matter how large, had more than two or three dresses above size 16. With every shop we tried, I saw my daughter become more and more dejected. It almost broke my heart. We ended up having a dress made for her. Thank goodness for a local dressmaker who used a picture of a Jessica McClintock Cinderella-style dress as inspiration to create a beautiful gown in my daughterís size. The prom was a success, and now my daughter will have a lifetime of memoriesómemories that never would have happened had we not persevered. Your article was inspiring, as your magazine always is. Thank you very much and keep up the good work!

Debra Holster

 

Talking with Taunters

Hi, Alice,

I just got off the phone with you about ordering a bunch of your back issues. As I told you, a Weight Watchers friend of mine gave me the Spring 1999 edition of Radiance as a congratulatory gift for losing one hundred pounds. Iím still a very big woman (363 pounds, to be exact), and I still donít feel very healthy at this weight. I was in an automobile accident in October that changed my life drastically, and gave me an impetus to try to get some of the excess off. I am not a diet fanatic, and I donít think diets are for everyone, thatís for sure. Iíve lived a heavy life for a long time, and may never be a thin person, but I will be healthier. I work out in a warm-water pool six days a week for a minimum of two hours, and feel so much better for it.

I appreciate the time you took to give me the names of companies that custom make swimsuits. Bless you. I will certainly be calling each of these, and I will keep you informed on my choices.

Thanks also for your willingness to send my niece samples of your magazine. She, too, is a big, beautiful woman, and I think your magazine will really lift her spirits. She lives in Podunk, America, where clothes over size 16 are unheard of. She has to travel four hours to the largest city near her to find clothes that fit. I know she will make good use of the advertising in Radiance.

Itís so great that you show models in the magazine who have a variety of looks and who are all sizes of largeóthat helps us feel good about who we are, however much adipose we have. We are special people, created in the image of God as human beings, and I truly believe that the more we focus on the truth of our worth and educate the ignorant people who think that fat means grotesque or stupid, the better this world will become.

I am all for educating the insensitive medical professional, the snickering kid at the mall, or the bad-mouthed adult. Many times I have walked up to such a person and said, "Do you mind if I talk with you for a minute? Has anyone ever said something to you that you felt very hurt by? Where you felt totally misunderstood?" I then offer to buy them a soda so we can talk, so they can get to know the inner me. Some are too embarrassed and stutter themselves out of it. Some take me up on it.

Once they know me, I think they are educated enough to perhaps refrain the next time that the temptation to poke fun at someone comes around. To this day, I have a few friendships that started that way. Rather than slam the person for their ignorance or crudeness, I find that taking the mature role is the most satisfying, and, hopefully, life-changing for all involved.

I wish Radiance the best of success in the coming years. I, for one, will be a faithful subscriber. Thank you, Alice, for taking your personal time to chat with me and to welcome me to the Radiance family.

PeggyAnn C. Poss
Madison, WI
peggyann@chorus.net

 

Theyíre Not Gettiní My Money

Dear Alice,

Thanks, thanks, and thanks for your great magazine! It always makes my day to come home and see mail from the States, because I know itís from Radiance! Words cannot begin to express how important your magazine is for a lot of people, people like myself who do not fit into the "average" size population of the world. Luckily for me, in the Netherlands people are also starting to realize that humans, specifically women, come in all sizes. Still, being different is not an easy way to go through life. You have to be strong every day. You have to be very good at whatever you do in order for people to see past your appearance. And thatís very sad to me. The slim industry is still doing great business and has a lot of people still buying into their illusions. But who can blame them? They will keep making millions until people get it! Well, I can say that I do get it. The diet industry will not get any more money from me.

In spite of difficulties, life is great if you want it to be. If you feel good about yourself, people will notice and appreciate you for who you are and what you can doónot just for what you look like. What you think you are, you will be.

Josephine Schotborg
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

 

Teachers Who Know the Score

Dear Radiance,

My son is five-feet-four-inches tall and 230 pounds. He has Aspergerís Syndrome (considered a high-functioning form of autism). He has had the benefit of teachers who love kids, and who are strict about social skills. Teasing in any mean way is absolutely not allowed. He is now in middle school and has the same P.E. teacher that I had in junior high more than twenty years ago.

She has the same philosophy now that she had then. To her, oneís effort, behavior, and improvement in various skills are what count. When I was her student in seventh grade, we had to be weighed in P.E. class. The girls chattered until I was weighed; but when I stepped up to that scale, you could have heard a pin drop. They started to laugh, but the teacher immediately and sternly told them to be quiet unless they wanted to flunk her class. If I remember correctly, I got Bís in her class, and it was possible for the athletic ones to flunk if they did not participate properly.

My son gets Aís and Bís in P.E. because he has had teachers who want him to do his best, whatever that is for him. His principal, for most of his elementary school, put social behavior and self-esteem at the top of her priority list for students, and it has made an incredible difference for my son. Now he says he wants to keep his bigness! Imagine that!

Deana Dean
Great Falls, MT
wdmddean@aol.com

 

Not Just a Magazine

Dear Radiance,

I am a new subscriber, and I want to tell you how thrilled and impressed I am with what you are doing. You are a precious source of support to me, and I am very lucky indeed to have discovered you. As soon as I got my first issue, I ordered a fat stack of back issues. I keep them on my nightstand and give myself a nightly dose of encouragement.

Reading Radiance is a way that I acknowledge to myself my desire to live large, a way to consciously reject shame and the limitations others and I have placed on me. Radiance is not just a magazine. It is an attitude, a philosophy, a way of life. It is a gift. Thank you.

Cynthia Campbell
Phoenix, AZ

 

Plus-Size Patterns

Dear Radiance staff,

Thank you for your prompt response to my inquiry about plus-size apron patterns. Since we spoke, I have learned that both Simplicity and Butterick will have apron patterns to size 32W by June 1999. See what a little bugging can do!?

Please note that Butterick also has come out with a new cover-up pattern to size 32W. The pattern is designed to be a salon coat that will double as a doctor visit or patient gown. I am proud to say that I acted as an unpaid consultant and helped to design the pattern. The pattern is designed to be completed in three hours, and has no darts, zippers, or buttons. It can be made by a beginning dressmaker. It is closed by ties and Velcro, so that one can wear it to X-ray. Also, the sleeves are loose fitting, so that one can get a blood specimen drawn from the antecubital area of the arm in comfort. There are a total of three pockets, including one on the sleeve. I hope this gown will help to decrease the stress levels of large persons during medical and salon visits. The pattern may be dressed up or down so that it can be unisex.

The Butterick pattern number is 6041 for plus sizes. There is a similar pattern (6042) for misses sizes, whatever they are! Thanks for passing this on to your readers. We plus-size people need all the support we can get!

Jacqueline Gibson Gazella
New York

 

Riding the Rivers

Dear Radiance,

Thank you for encouraging large women to live their lives, no matter what their size. We deserve to experience active adventures!

For our fortieth birthdays, my best friend and I took ten large women on a wonderful trip down the Colorado River with Sheri Griffith Expeditions, Inc. They specialize in trips for women. We even had women river guides, and they were very size friendly. The secret is being brutally honest about your size and needs when you book your trip! Their web site is www.griffithExp.com, or you may call them at 801-259-8229.

Keep up the good work!

Regina Woontner
Denver, CO

 

Hi, Alice!

Iím always delighted to receive Radiance. I just devoured the Summer issue and feel compelled to write my thanks for the river rafting story. Reading about physical activities that are enjoyed by large women is so mind opening and inspiring. Keep íem coming. At six feet and 350 pounds, I enjoy living life large, but I am always ready to add to the zest factor.

Also, please share with Nancy Summer, who penned the informative article "Surviving Summer: Donít Sweat It!," that a terrific powder to use in place of plain talc is Zeasorb A-F (anti-fungal). If you donít see it on the shelf, ask your pharmacist to order it. (I have never seen it just on the shelf.) It is designed to absorb much more moisture than other products and is more coarsely textured (it doesnít fluff into the air as easily). A doctor recommended it to me. Thanks again.

Judith E. Dacey, C.P.A.
Orlando, FL
e-mail: DaceyCPA@easyas123.com

 

Rejecting Ultrathin Ideal

Dear Radiance,

Whether or not I can really be considered fat is debatable. I am pretty much the epitome of the "average" American woman as far as size goes. But everyoneópeers, doctors, relatives, coworkersóhas been telling me I need to lose weight for as long as I can remember. After twenty years of succumbing to the lies of society, the medical industry, and the fashion magazines, I refuse to see myself as abnormal, inferior, or in need of change.

Iím a size 12, sometimes a size 14. I matured early (wore a bra at age ten) and have been "overweight" ever since. My mother, two aunts, and grandmother are all plus-size and all wonderful people who eat no more or less than the average person. Thus, it appalls but does not surprise me that they all take some kind of diet pill, either Xenical or Meridia. Weight, in my family and my life, has been an obsession for as long as I can remember.

During my childhood, my unusual height and weight earned me the nickname B.A., for my large behind. I excelled in ballet, but quit in 1986 after one skinny girl patted my round tummy and proclaimed, "Iíd rather die than be as fat as you!" I thought high school would be different, but my freshman year, a group of senior girls thought it would be fun to call me Magilla Gorilla and made grotesque noises as I ate my lunch.

After graduating, I had to move back home and contribute to the family income. All my friends seemed a million miles away. Sensing my unhappiness, my mom, who at the time was 300-plus pounds, loved to feed me, and I gained more weight.

It felt like everything was falling apart. People at workónot high school students, but adultsórelished leaving Weight Watchers pamphlets in my cubby or e-mailing me ads for weight-loss herbs and the like. Sadly, it took a bout of serious depression and an attempt at suicide to bring me to an important realization: I needed to take control of my life a lot more than I needed to take control of my weight!

And I did. I fulfilled my dream of doing computer graphic design with a small company, in addition to working in youth ministry. I also got my own apartment, dedicated my life to God, and started to incorporate physical activity into my life. It was in my period of self-determination that I met Teddy, the most wonderful man in the world. He is warm, intelligent, loving, and handsome, and he accepts me for exactly who I am.

There I was, pretty happy with who I was becoming. My weight was no longer a central issue. Then Teddy took me to meet his family, and his European grandmother suggested that I should "be more slender." After seeing a picture of my family, she also asked Teddy why all American women were so fat! Imagine! For Teddyís sake, I ignored it at the time and put on a good show, but when we got home that night, I demanded to know why he hadnít stood up for me and for my family. More important: why hadnít I stood up for myself?

What I really wanted to know was this: Why did so many people want me to change? What was so wrong with me, and with all the other beautiful girls and women out there whose bodies donít look like animated bamboo shoots?

I got angry at the weight-loss industry for exploiting womenís most fragile emotions. I got angry at whoever makes up those ridiculous height/weight charts and tells me I need to conform and be slender. They need to get a clue and realize that my 180 pounds, which includes muscle, bone, blood, and water as well as fat, are much different than those of someone of a different build and activity level. Our society must reject these feeble humanmade standards for the wonderful, efficient, complex body God has created.

I got angry at anyone who made me think I was less of a person because of my weight, and I got angry at myself for letting their pathetic opinions bully me into quitting ballet or loathing my reflection in the mirror. I got angry that I had not begun to love my body, and myself, a lot sooner.

Now I think itís due time for me to move through that anger to forgiveness and healthy self-love, wouldnít you say? I do love my body: my face, my hair, my strong legs, my chest, my little feet, my womanly roundness. It is part of the greater whole of who I am: Lisa the artist, the passionate thinker, the loving friend, the faithful servant of God, in whose image I was created. Writing this has helped me to sort through some of those feelings. Thank you for listening!

LisaRose Ferrara
South Orange, NJ
email: HunnyB171@excite.com

 

Beach Babes!

Dear old Radiance!

I always feel all soft and fuzzy when I think of Radiance; itís like a family to me (my own arenít so accepting of fat people). I received the Summer edition yesterday and have already read it front to back. How wonderful to see so many beautiful fat women enjoying themselves in your readersí "beach babes" photo spread! After seeing this, Iíve contacted Love Your Peaches Clothing Company for a catalog to be sent to me in Australia, as there is very little in the way of fashion for fatties here.

I would like to comment on the woman (NKS, New York) whose letter appeared in your summer issue. She wrote, "These tales Iíve been reading in your magazine and in BBW for years about how so many fat women eat normally have always struck me as an enormous outpouring of denial." Personally, I love food; I enjoy it a lot, and I guess I do eat when Iím sad or lonely, but so what? Iím a thirty-six-year-old fat woman who lives by herself (by choice) with two beautiful, fat, adoring pussycats, and Iím not going to waste anymore of my life worrying about my weight or the fact that Iím not married (two issues that seem to upset people). Anyway, I just wanted to say I understood NKSís letter (as Iíve been there), and Iím glad Alice and staff chose to publish it.

Thanks again for your wonderful magazine. I can imagine the amount of work that must go into producing itóso many, many thanks. By the way, the web site looks great. Cheers!

Anne Woods
Katoomba, Australia

 

Tired of Feeling Bad

Dear Alice,

I recently discovered your magazine when I did a net search on-line for the words "large women." Why? Because I had gradually become aware that I was tired of feeling bad about my body, and I wanted to find out what resources existed for women like myself. Well, I discovered that there were lots of women out there who felt good about themselves even if they didnít fit our societyís definition of beautiful. These women dared to wear bathing suits and colorful clothes, and they held their heads high. I was filled with admiration and envy. Could I become one of them?

The beginning of the change for me came when I accidentally saw my doctorís chart and saw the awful figure "204 pounds" (Iím five-feet-four-inches). I was in shock. In the past, I had somehow managed to see my body as much thinner, but I couldnít fool myself any longer. Iíd always struggled with weight. In high school, I really hadnít been fat at all, but I was still not acceptably thin to my peers. I never dated or joined in activities. Twice I got down to "normal" weight: in my senior year of high school and while living in Toronto, Canada. Both times I put the weight back on. Now, at thirty-nine, Iíve maintained a weight at around 200 pounds for two years, and I am finally accepting the fact that I am not going to diet, and I am likely not going to lose this weight, and this is me, love it or not.

Oddly enough, I have suddenly stopped hating my body. I donít know when this happened, but I think discovering the fat womenís movement helped me a great deal. It also helps that my husband, tall and thin, loves me just as I am. But it was the sisterhood of women that gave me hope. All of a sudden, I can say, "Yes, Iím fat," and not feel horror. All of a sudden, I feel rebellious about our cultureís narrow definition of beauty. For me to say "fat" is a big breakthrough. But I havenít yet made the next step: to wear shorts or bathing suits in public. For the first time, Iíve worn tank tops and bared my arms and feel okay about that. I actually bought my first skirt in years, a straight one that skims my legs and makes me feel both stylish and attractive. One step at a time!

I have come to realize that Iím not very big compared with many of the women you feature in your magazine. Iíve learned that in some circles, I would be too "small" to belong. There is a large-womenís swim here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but Iím not sure Iíd qualify. You have to be at least 200 pounds. Would the other women resent me for being "on the borderline"?

I assure you that I would adore the opportunity to join that swimóbut I havenít had the nerve to wear a bathing suit in public for years.

For those of us whoíve struggled with low self-esteem all our lives, even 180 pounds can seem unacceptable. I hope that the fat movement will realize that there are many types of people who can benefit from the lessons they teach, whether those people weigh 175 pounds or 400 pounds.

One more thought among all those flowing so quickly through my head: I am in a rather interesting occupation, given these issues. I am the author of six romance novels for Bantam books, a major New York publisher. While many smaller publishers are beginning to feature fat heroines, New York isnít ready for this.

In the few mainstream romance novels featuring a fat heroine, almost inevitably these heroines lose weight before they are allowed to "win." As a writer, I have to ask myself, Am I ready to imagine myself, a large woman, as the heroine of one of my novels? Many romance readers and writers are large women. I wonder how many prefer the fantasy of being thin by imagining themselves as the slender heroineóand I wonder how many would like a heroine more like themselves?

I do write about characters who must overcome obstacles before they can give themselves to love: heroines and heroes who are "outcasts" in some way, women and men who have been the object of either hatred or prejudice and have to learn to trust and become part of society again. This may be my way of working through my own feelings of being an outcast, someone who is different. One of my heroines is badly scarred and was rejected because of this. Another is the daughter of an alcoholic and was bounced from foster home to foster home, so sheís shut herself off from people. In all these books, the women learn to accept themselves and to reach out again. I do hope that my stories and characters speak to all of us with old wounds, no matter what our shape or size. I look forward to subscribing to Radiance. I truly believe that people who have suffered prejudice and hurt from others, and work past it, are those who develop the most compassion and ability to love.

Incidentally, I also subscribe to Mode and saw the comments by Bill Fabrey in the Summer issue of Radiance. I think thereís both room and a need for acceptance of all sizes but I also tend to think size 14 isnít very large! Itís been very enlightening and nice to see truly large models in some of the catalogs Iíve been receiving, and to observe how happy they are with themselves. No apologies!

Thanks for giving me a chance to share my thoughts. I hope to locate a group of large women in my area: I make killer desserts, and would love to have people to share them with who wonít moan and groan about calories! Iíll be subscribing to Radiance as soon as my manuscript is off next week!

Sue Krinard
Concord, CA
e-mail: skrinard@aol.com

 

Dear Alice,

I turned to the article about Lynn McAfee right after telling my best friend on the phone about how angry I feel about how a lifetime of pressure to diet has ruined my body. At thirty-seven years old and five-feet-eight, I weigh over 350 pounds and wear a size 36. As a devotee of Hirschmann and Munterís Overcoming Overeating approach, I know full well that dieting and frantic exercise are going to have no positive effect on my appearance. I understand now how the years of dieting and eating disorder I endured beginning prior to puberty have given me the Venus of Willendorf shape I have today. Itís a shape I clothe beautifully (thanks, Love Your Peaches!) and am working hard to accept. But there are certains truths I face about myself that, so far, the size-acceptance movement seems to sweep under the rug.

For example, as a fat woman with a top-notch education, a successful career, good looks, brains, and charm, I find that the kind of men who are my social equals look right through me (or regard me, when they suspect my interest, as a joke, or with thinly veiled contempt). When Iím told (as I often am) that "there are men out there who like big women," I feel more and more that this is an insensitive, condescending assurance. Yes, occasionally I encounter those menóusually when one is accosting me leeringly on the street. I donít know any other women my size whoíve had a date in years either, let alone a relationship. My size renders me invisible to the kind of men Iíd like to attract. I also live with considerable physical discomfort: knee pain, foot pain, tiring easily when out walking. Even after working out regularly at a gym for a year, these problems havenít improved much. Due to my fat, I donít menstruate, and have to take medication to bring on a period.

And I am a compulsive overeater, and always have been! These tales Iíve been reading in your magazine and in BBW for years about how so many fat women eat normally have always struck me as an enormous outpouring of denial. Iíve never met a fat person who didnít have an eating disorder that caused them to be fat. My own is a result of my motherís incredible anxiety about my size and food intake from birth: eating and food choices were never unremarkable in my life, and I binged every chance I got, until a few years ago when I gave up the dieting philosophy for good.

Today I know that thereís nothing I can do for myself except work to accept and nurture my body as it is. Every prior attempt Iíve made to get smaller has made me bigger than ever. But even as I know this, in the back of my mind the urge to undertake some radical food/exercise plan does the tango with a white-hot rage about how my youth and beauty have been squandered and destroyed by my familyís, and societyís, obsession with controlling my size. As McAfee says in her article, the easier life I could have had never was, and never will be. And unless some kind of miracle happens, Iíll almost certainly spend the rest of my life single, living with an absence that good friends and a good dog canít assuage.

Thereís a lot of bitterness in this letter, and I know you prefer to publish positive outpourings. Iím very grateful for your magazine, but I think itís important to take our heads out of the sand. Acceptance is something I work for, and occasionally achieve, for a few days or weeks at a stretch. But I can no longer kid myself that at 350+ pounds, Iím really just like my thinner sisters if only I think I am.

NKS
New York, NY

 

Size Positive in Kidsí Plays!

Dear Alice,

I just came home from a group of plays at my niece and nephewís small elementary school, in Canyon, California (near Oakland), in which all seventy-three of the school kids were included. I was pleased at the intentional (unintentional?) fat-friendly emphasis.

In the play by kids in grades KĖ2, Winter with the Animals (written by a male teacher), the kids and animals sang: "Hurry, hurry, hurry, we must get fat and furry."

And the play by the third through fifth graders, the East Indian story of Ramayana (they are studying world religions this term), the "most beautifulÖfairest in the land" heroine, kidnapped from her husband (who had to compete to win her hand) by an evil king because she was

so beautiful, was a lovely, ten-year-old girlówho was probably the chubbiest girl in the school.

True, their teacher, my good friend, who wrote the play, is herself fat, so itís not that surprising that she didnít have any negative bias about choosing this girl for the part (or perhaps the kids themselves volunteered for each part: I didnít ask). But the fact that the other kids in the play kept referring to this childówith enthusiasm and in complete earnestnessówith such lines as, "Oh, there she is, the most beautiful woman in the land: perhaps she will consent to be my wife!" did my heart good! I know that often by this age, kids are already fat-hatingósome even dieting.

Nina Feldman
Oakland, CA
e-mail: Ninafel@aol.com

 

Exuberant & Charged for a Fight

Hello! And Good Day to You!

I just felt a strong need to commend you and your magazine. Mode and BBW feature smaller-sized BBWs (big beautiful women) in their magazines. I was, and still am now, as I am composing this letter, ecstatic to see a lady who is bigger than a size 14/16 in your magazine. Heck, even bigger than a size 20! You made my day! You did not depict her as raunchy. (That is the trend Iíve noticed lately: the bigger you are, the more smut pictures you get.) I am a classy young lady and take extreme pride in myself and my size. Whether Iím at a size 18 or a size 24, I am me and I love me! Confidence is sexy, donít you think?

Thank you again for your magazine. I will be going to your web site and reading as much as I can to get up to date on all the articles. I loved the Rosie OíDonnell and Camryn Manheim interviews (both of the interviews you did with Camryn, in fact!). Thank you for producing a wonderful product for women like myself! You have helped make a young woman who was feeling quite low about herself lately exuberant and charged for a fight!

Lori Bradley
Cleveland, OH
e-mail: WldIrshRs@aol.com

 

Snappy Comebacks

Dear Radiance,

I just picked up your Summer issue, and it is great, as always. I've gotten support from your pages for more than seven years now, and I thank you for it.

I want to respond to the article regarding upsetting and embarrassing public situations where people have commented on someone's size. With friends and family, I have little problem coming up with something as a retort (whether it's bitchy or cold or simply snobby). I do, however, have a problem with strangers. I'm working on it, though. I suppose it comes from a combination of being polite to all people and feeling as if I deserve it (even when I know damn well I don't). Amazingly, these uncomfortable situations seem to happen on days I'm already feeling sensitive about my weight. I think the confidence shines through the rest of the time, discouraging would-be fat-bashing idiots.

One not-so-quick (I'm wordy) story for you: I had been substitute teaching until recently. Normally, I don't have students make comments about my weight in a voice I can hear. (I'm sure some of them poke fun in private.) One day, I was waiting for the bell to ring so I could start a seventh grade math class. I was sitting at the desk looking over lesson plans while kids came in to take their seats. A boy and girl directly in front of the desk were talking to each other in voices just loud enough for me to hear, and taking discreet peeks at me. I heard comments like "She's a sow." "No, she's a cow." "A sow is a cow." And so on. I didn't know for sure that they were discussing me, but I figured they shouldn't get away with this line of discussion anyway. Finally, I said to them, "Look, a sow is not a cow. It's a pig. If you're going to talk about people, at least get out a dictionary and learn the words." I didn't hear comments from them ever again. It may have gone right over their heads, but I was able to get through the class without being too bothered by their fat bigotry.

Good luck in your continuing support of fat people everywhere!

Kris Allen
Warren, MI
e-mail: krisfaith@aol.com

 

Dear Radiance,

Please renew my subscription for three years and use the balance as a donation to your Radiance kitty. Your magazine is a bright spot in the lives of many, not only when it arrives in the mailbox, but as an understanding friend that sits on the bookshelf where you can pick it up anytime for a reread.

I'd like to see a helpful hints sort of column in which ideas could be exchanged. For example, how do you handle heavy perspiration on warm days? And sharing names of products or vendors would be helpful, too.

And every issue should list or repeat those "comeback remarks" ("Rude Remarks and Right on Rejoinders," Summer 1998 Radiance), so that I'll remember them when I need them!

Maria Gloria
San Francisco

Ed. Note: Just a reminder that our ads, as well as our fashion features, contain information on many useful products and services!

 

Dear Radiance,

As a dietitian working in size acceptance, non dieting normalization of eating (if there is a problem, sometimes there isn't), and body image/self esteem, I was extremely delighted with my first issue of your magazine. (I found it through materials from NAAFA and immediately subscribed.) Loved the snappy comebacks to the rude remarks! I do have a response to some of those who shared comebacks, especially to bake4me@aol.com.

The woman she encountered was not only rude, she was also wrong and teaching her children tons of misinformation. A great study to quote is that of Dr. Stunkard (recognized expert) in 1986 involving 5455 Danish adopted children. (Stunkard, M.D., Albert, J., Sorensen,T., et al: "An adoption study of human obesity." New England Journal of Medicine 314 (1986): 193-197. It found a clear correlation between the weight of the adoptees and their natural parents and no correlation between the weights of adoptees and their adoptive parents!

Most people, including health professionals, use their own experience to judge others. (This was also supported by a study). This is a common formula: "I'm this size, and I eat this much. This person is that size so he/she must eat that much" method of analyzing others. Common sense tells us we all have different hair colors, eye colors, skin tones, cholesterol levels, body shape, and talents. So why should we have the same body size? Unfortunately, as they say, common sense isn't so common.

Weight is multifactorial. People need to know this. For example, many genes are being evaluated regarding energy balance, satiety, appetite regulation, and adipocyte differentiation. (Commuzie, A.G. & Allison, D.B. "The search for human obesity genes." Science 280 (1998): 1374-1377. Other factors can include chronic dieting, emotional stress (some eat more, some eat less), and medications.

It shouldn't be up to people of size to do all the educating, but when we have an opportunity, why not take it?

Millicent Lasslo-Meeks, M.S,.R.D.
Memphis, TN

 

Enjoying My Curves!

Dear Radiance,

I have always admired William Fabrey's column and his writing style. His column in Radiance is perhaps my favorite feature of the magazine, well, maybe the letters to Alice, well, maybe his column.

Anyway, a paragraph in his Summer column really struck a chord with me. He wrote, "One idea might be to not only accept ourselves, but to take pleasure and joy in the beauty and diversity of our curves and abundance." Yes! I found myself having advanced to this stage just a little while ago when I admitted to myself that I actually like the shape of my legs (most of the way up, anyway), and my shoulders, and the curve down my side through the in and out of my waist to my hip, and I felt kinda funny trying to find the words in my own brain for this tactile self-liking. What do you call this?

Even skinny people often won't admit to liking their own bodies, touching themselves in a nonerogenous, way and enjoying the shape and feel. Why not? What's wrong with us? We seem to spend our whole lives, and most of our social energy, trying to find someone else to tell us we're okay and not believing it when we hear it. Why is it acceptable for someone else to like our bodies but not us?

I admire the look of my legs from a certain angle and bought some sexy espadrilles that tie up the ankle just to show off the shape of my calves under a sundress. This is definitely a positive action, different from a passive indifference. That previous "stage" when we stopped bashing our images and stopped caring what other people thought was a major triumph for most of us. Well, I sort of care again, but now I think I might actually be attractive. At least, I'm willing to walk out in a sundress.

I love the pictures of women in Radiance. They're beautiful, all of them. By the way, I have always loved the look of large men, since I was in high school. Every single date I have had as an adult has been with a guy at least six feet tall and round in the belly. I like thick, hairy chests, too. I don't know why I got programmed differently from other women.

Love and respect, and keep up the good work as long as it feels good!

Alice Johnson
Cedar Rapids, IA
e-mail: ajwhite1@ccr.net

 

Gettin' Stronger

Hello Alice,

Again I've received a copy of your wonderful Radiance magazine. We don't have this kind of good magazine in my country! There are some, but they are full of advertisements, and the articles are not interesting, not really for large people.

Today I did something I'm very proud of, and it's thanks to Radiance that I did this! For the first time in my life I sent a protest letter to Chrysler, the American car company. This company put an ad in our newspapers a few weeks ago with an unflattering picture of a large woman lying on her belly on the beach. The text said, "Your sister-in-law can finally go with you for the holidays" because you have bought this new car, a Chrysler Grand Voyager. The way the text was made, it felt to me very humiliating. So I've written them a letter saying that I don't agree with these types of advertisements. I'm waiting for their answer now.

Just to show you and the whole Radiance staff that your super magazine gives strength and courage.

Diane Van Hoof
Belgium

 

Dear Radiance,

You women are wonderful! You help me to keep the strength to argue with my doctor about stomach stapling.

T.S.
Sudbury, VT

 

Art as Reminder

Dear Alice,

Thank you for meeting with me last week and for generously providing me with articles for my Women and Sexuality class. I am so impressed with your magazine and have shared my enthusiasm with friends.

Although my physical body is thin, I grew up in a fatphobic family and culture, and internalized many negative body thoughts. I am healing. Being at the Radiance office the other day was transformative, to be surrounded by colorful, creative images of full-figured women was an extraordinary and new experience. I am inspired to bring some women-of-substance art into my own living/work space to remind myself of the acceptance, compassion, and beauty that is in all of us, regardless of size.

Thank you again and blessings to you. When I gave my friend Mindy her gift subscription at her wedding shower, every woman in the room oohed and aahed over the magazine, the clothes, the articles, the political statements, and we were all inspired. Your work is appreciated. You are appreciated.

Kate Parkinson
Oakland, CA

 

Found Your Web Page!

Dear Radiance,

When I found your web page, I cried. For the past eighteen months, I have been 230 pounds. Prior to this, I was 132 pounds, and thought I was all that and a bag of chips!

Until a few months ago, all I felt for myself was hatred. I thought I would never be happy again unless I was bony. I couldn't understand how I'd given birth four times and never kept on an ounce and now this was happening. I honestly felt like I just wanted to die. Then I read Well Rounded: Eight Simple Steps for Changing Your Life, Not Your Size by Catherine Lippencott (Simon & Schuster Pocketbooks, 1997) and started seeing a good therapist. In addition, I started walking a bit, getting out of my house, and dressing sexy again! As I told a friend recently, a short time ago I was hurt because men never whistled at me anymore. I thought it was my weight! Wrong! As soon as I started feeling better about myself and realized I was a heck of a lot sexier with curves, the men certainly noticed me again! In fact, they like the extra 100 pounds!

I have never read an issue of your magazine, but I look forward to it more than you know! Please tell me how I can purchase a sample of the latest issue. If I love it as much as I think I will, I'll march right out to my local stores and demand they carry it! Thank you.

Margie Wilson
Beaverton, OR
e-mail: maggilou@starleague.com

 

Dear Radiance,

I couldn't believe it when I found your magazine on-line! A magazine for fat people! I am so excited! I couldn't believe you'd been around for fourteen years and I'd never heard of you. The very first Radiance I picked up was your swimsuit issue! I love it!

I had often wondered why there weren't any two-piecers for "us," and now I find out there are! I don't know why I haven't heard about you before, but now that I have, you haven't heard the last from me! Thanks so much for existing!

Lillie
Wenatchee, WA
e-mail: dog4max@aol.com

 

A Favorite Quote

Dear Radiance,

In my latest issue of Radiance, I saw that you were looking for favorite book recommendations. The best book I ever read on loving myself and my physical body was a wonderful book by Carolyn Hillman called Loving Your Looks: How to Stop Criticizing and Start Appreciating Your Appearance (Simon & Schuster/Fireside Books, 1996).

The book is crammed full of wonderful stuff! One of my favorite quotes is on page 163:

Learning to love your body and your looks is not about fooling yourself into believing that you meet some arbitrary criteria of beauty. Rather, body love is about throwing these standards away (they're artificial anyway), opening your heart to yourself, and giving yourself acceptance, support, approval, appreciation, tenderness, and caring.

Wow!

Maggie King
Sheridan, OR
e-mail: maggieking@onlinemac.com

 

The Wisdom of Kids

Dear Radiance,

I recently had a wonderful discussion with my six-year-old daughter that I want to share with you. While driving her to camp one morning, she asked me if I wanted to be a child again. "No," I told her, "I'm very happy now as a grown-up."

"Why don't you want to be a kid again?" she pressed on.

Suddenly my eyes misted up, and my chest tightened with all the pain of my youth. I had a choice to make: tell her the truth or avoid the question. "Babe, you know how Mommy is round and soft and fat? Well, I was fat as a kid, too. A lot of the other kids used to tease me and call me names like Bertha Butt and even worse."

"Why, Mom? Why were the kids mean to you? You're so nice!" My sensitive daughter was getting upset.

"Babe," I explained in a soft, calm voice that was just the opposite of how I felt, "some people are mean to other people who look different from themselves. They think that different skin color, or eye shape, or body size makes the others bad or less than themselves. This is called prejudice."

"But that's just dumb!" my daughter cried. "What's on the outside doesn't matter. It's what people do that's important, not what they look like." Such wisdom from a soon-to-be first grader. What could I say?

"You're absolutely right," I told her.

I pulled into a parking spot at the camp and let my daughter out of the car.

"Have fun today," I told her as I hugged her good-bye. "And I love you very much."

We, Radiance readers, bodacious babes that we are, owe it to our children (outer and inner) not to allow fat bashing. We have learned the hard way that we are beautiful, no matter what number the scale says.

As I watched my daughter walk away, I was filled with pride, at the remarkable girl that she is, and at the remarkable woman she has made me.

Robin Margolin
Ewingville, NJ

 

Yeah, Lands' End!

Dear Alice,

Five "RADS" for the clothing company Lands' End! I just got their catalog today, and not only are they carrying some large sizes for women now (one or two RADS just for that!), but they claim to design each size individually rather than just adding a couple of inches to the sideways measurements, leaving the sleeves too tight or the shoulders too broad (another RAD for the thought).

They also offer their women's trousers custom hemmed, just as respectable men's clothiers have done for decades. Nobody assumed that men were all the same shape, or should be.

Lands' End is treating their female and male customers alike! Five RADS for this wonderful company, even though their clothing is just beginning to get stylish. Their Web site is www.landsend.com

Alice in Iowa
e-mail: ajwhite1@ccr.net

 

Positive Messages

Dear Alice,

Wow! When I e-mailed you my change of address, I didn't expect a reply from you, yourself! I read your letter at the beginning of each issue of the magazine and am always touched by your openness and eloquence. You seem to share so much of yourself with us, your readers, even though you've never met us. Thanks so much for Radiance. Sometimes it's the only positive message coming into my head from outside to balance out all the ugly prejudice people spew at me about the way I look.

Thanks, Alice, and continued success to you and to Radiance. I'll always be a grateful reader!

Raven Moore
Boulder, CO

 

Creating a New Mindset

Dear Radiance,

I feel strongly that, as women, we put too much pressure on ourselves to "be" (look like) what society expects. We feel obligated to try to be something that we just might not naturally be. We end up feeling like failures and chasing rainbows with the hope of finding acceptance and love. Love and acceptance are not to be found externally. They are the result of a lot of introspection, spiritual sovereignty, and an independence from the opinions of others. Our "pleasing" habits lead us to value the thoughts others have about us more than the thoughts we hold of ourselves. We let others determine how we feel about ourselves. What a scary, dependent, endless, and fruitless struggle!

We need to let our love for ourselves, including our bodies, flow from within. We can't please everyone, but we can please ourselves. In the beginning of my journey to fat/self-acceptance, I started out by really looking at the fact that I hated myself and my body and that I was living with this mentality of, If only I could lose weight or When I lose weight. . . . I truly thought that nobody could love me the way I was. You know what? It was true. My resulting life was an exact expression of my thoughts. No one did love me the way I was, primarily myself. How perfectly the universe delivered exactly what I expected my life to be!

I began examining my conditioned mind-set and began to tear it to pieces. I had fifteen years of dieting behind me and knew that dieting was no longer a choice. I started to challenge society's ideas that women should and can look a certain way, and began to reject the expectations of others. I started to treat myself the way that I hoped a lover would: speaking very gently to myself, buying lots of flowers and good books for myself, taking very good care of my heart and soul, sticking up for myself, and learning to just be okay with the here and now. I began to read magazines like Radiance that celebrated who I was, not what I wasn't. I began a beautiful love affair, with myself.

And along the way, I met the most amazing man. This, I really feel, was an indirect benefit of my inner work. We have now been together for over seven years. My weight has gone up a lot since we first met, the result of not starving myself endlessly. He loved me then and loves me now. This is a man who cuddles me for hours on end, adores the parts of my body that I am not quite in love with yet, and is my very best friend. He treats me like a queen, and, you know, I am one. I am constantly marveling at his incredible sweetness, commitment, sensitivity, and affectionate loyalty. It feels good and I am worth it.

Happiness does not exist outside ourselves. I would be as happy alone as I am with my sweetie, though I would probably deeply miss his companionship and support. I really mean to stress this point: We have to be whole before we can share parts of ourselves with any sanity and sovereignty. Our lives are an outward expression of inward beliefs. Change your beliefs and your life will be the most amazing demonstration of love.

Radiance, you have been a very big part of my journey. It helps so much to be surrounded by images, stories, and ideas that represent a life more similar to mine, not a supermodel rainbow fantasy. Radiance makes me feel like a beautiful and dignified goddess, a feeling that affects every other area of my life.

Thank you.

Kelly Marie
Olympia, WA
e-mail: Rubyfleur@aol.com

 

Weighing Children

Alice,

After reading Jane Hirschmann' interview in your Fall 1998 issue, I feel that the following "letter to the editor" is in order.

I hate to disagree with one of my heroes, Jane Hirschmann. It was her book, Overcoming Overeating, that opened my eyes years ago, and gave me the tools to help so many others. However, as someone who works in a health care system, with its rules and regulations, I don't see that a mother would be able to have a physician not weigh her child as part of the clinical evaluation.

Weighing children is important to measure growth and development. If a child is gaining too little or too much weight, a physician needs to be able to quantify this information. It is significant to know how rapidly the weight is gained or lost, as well as where on the growth chart a child fits. There are physical and emotional reasons that can lead to weight gain or loss in children. Children who, for example, are depressed because of family problems or have been sexually abused often turn to food as a way of dealing with their emotions. Weight loss may be indicative of poor food availability due to the mother's drug use or perhaps a child is gaining weight due to being upset about the mother's abusive boyfriend. Younger and younger children are developing anorexia and bulimia as well as compulsive eating behavior. Thyroid or hormonal disorders can affect weight, and fluid retention that shows up as weight gain could warn of various, possibly serious, conditions.

In this age of managed care and fifteen-minute office visits, a physician may hardly know her patients, let alone remember significant facts about height or weight that are not in the chart. In addition to having adequate clinical data to make appropriate medical decisions, he/she would certainly be open to lawsuits if a medical or emotional problem was not identified because the doctor relied only on the mother's ability to determine whether the child was gaining weight appropriately. A mother who sees her child every day may not notice weight gain or loss if it happens gradually.

All of the above assumes that you, as the mother of a child who is healthy but larger than norm, are a good mother with your child's best interest at heart. You may feel that you know what is best for your child, and you may. But your physician cannot afford to take that chance.

As a "size-acceptance, non-diet/weight loss" promoting dietitian working in an outpatient setting, I chose not to weight my patients until my supervisor instructed me to. Our physicians are required to obtain weights and heights on all patients. When I work with the patients, I try to turn weight back into "just a number" which can indicate, for example, improvement or worsening of glucose control or excess salt intake causing fluid retention. To me, it is not weight the patient that is the problem; it is what you do with that number. If a physician and office staff handle weighing appropriately, it does not have to be a bad situation. Many of my adult patients were mercilessly humiliated as children by unknowing and sometimes uncaring physicians or other office staff. Sadly, most physicians still are not educated thoroughly about disordered eating, body image, and self-esteem. Studies such as Stunkard, Albert, and Sorenson's "An Adoption Study of Human Obesity" (New England Journal of Medicine 314, pp. 193–197, 1986), can go a long way toward educating your physician about, for instance, the role of genetics in obesity. Other information can be obtained from NAAFA or the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination.

Be your child's advocate. Insist that he or she is weighed without it being announced or the mention of weight loss, and so on. Educate your physician with evidence that diets don't work but in fact cause disorders and weight gain. It could make a difference in the lives of your child and of other children. If your child is naturally big and healthy, teach her that there is nothing wrong with her and give her the tools to defend herself against societal prejudice. If your child is using food for emotional reasons, get help from a size-friendly psychologist. But don't insist that your physician not weigh your child. You are going to lose a potentially good physician with whom you might have been able to otherwise build a good working relationship.

Millicent Lasslo-Meeks,M.S.,R.D.
Certified Eating Disorders Specialist
Memphis, TN

 

Radiance Kids Project

Dear Radiance:

I believe in destiny! A few weeks ago I was searching and searching for resources concerning obesity in children. My ten-year-old daughter (like her mom) is obese and has been subject to horrendous ridicule from peers at school. We were at a loss as to how to deal with it. During a recent trip to a local bookstore I glanced upon your magazine, having been drawn to the cover. I had thought, up until that time, that I was a subscriber to all of the large women's magazines. Much to my delight, yours was one that I had not seen before.

After purchasing your magazine I devoured every line and every article with my usual voracious appetite. I was ecstatic to discover that your article "Working with Fat Children in the Schools" by Michael Loewy, Fall 1998, dealt with exactly the same issues I wanted to address. At a meeting with my daughter's teacher, vice principal, principal, and counselors, my husband and I presented a copy of the article for their perusal. I truly believe that it made all of the difference in the world. They are going to distribute the article to the entire staff in an attempt to curtail the fat prejudice in the school.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I look forward to your next issue.

Teresa A. D'Agostino
Ontario, Canada

 

Dear Alice,

The last e-mail you sent to some of us on your online mailing list about the Radiance Kids Project reminded me of two customers who came into my store a few years back. A young girl of eleven or twelve came in with her mother. The girl's body was growing from girlhood to womanhood and she probably weighed about 350 pounds. She wore very baggy clothing and looked raggedy, as if she didn't care about herself and was trying to avoid being noticed. Her mother was perhaps all of 100 pounds, very made up, and well dressed. She did not spare the money on herself.

As the daughter began trying to find something that fit her, the mother sat and critiqued her in every outfit. "It clings," she would say, or, "You know that you won't wear that," or "It pulls on your chest." I looked into their eyes: In the daughter's I saw numb pain. In the mother's, an aloof disgust. Still I'm sure that the mother believed she was doing right and being loving and helpful.

So thank you, Radiance, for your focus on children of size. Maybe one child's mother will read some of your kids project articles and understand. As I tell my little girl, "Stand tall! Stand proud!"

God bless and keep you,

Charlotte Bradley
Baby Becoming
Cumberland, RI

 

Fat and Much More

Dear Alice,

I saw my first copy of Radiance probably ten years ago, when I was waiting for an appointment with a counselor. As a lifelong large woman who spent all her child and adult years WEIGHTing to be thin to pursue the things I loved, you can imagine my joy when I found your wonderful magazine! I couldn't wait until my next counseling appointment to read the magazine again! I still wait anxiously for Radiance to show up in my mailbox! Today, I no longer let the ways of the world influence my perception of myself adversely. I have a rich and full life, and your magazine has helped me in my journey. Yes, I am fat, but I'm also so very much more. Thank you.

MaryAnne Pratali
San Rafael, CA

 

Making a Difference

Dear Alice,

I've been wanting to write and thank you. Yesterday I returned from visiting my family. As always, my mother's attentions focused almost entirely on my body size, and its supposed reflection of my failings. Although the nagging is tiring, I am able now to respond to many of her jibes by citing information I've gained from Radiance. For this I thank you.

Even more so, thank you for the Winter issue that met me in my mailbox when I came home! It never fails! When I need some cheer and support the most, that's when Radiance appears. Did you know that you're a fairy godmother?! You make a difference.

Anonymous

Dear Radiance,

I am a thirty-six-year old mother and college administrator who has recently had the privilege of reading your magazine. I admire and appreciate your gutsiness and flair. Bravo to you, Radiance, for representing the majority of vivacious women in this country. We are many and it should be let known that we are beautiful, successful, talented, sexy, and creative spirits who WILL be seen and heard. There is still much to be done to represent the female majority in this country, but your magazine is definitely a milestone. Keep up the excellent work and thank you!

Doreen Stuart
Bedford, MA
e-mail doreen.stuart@gte.net

 

Network of Support

Dear Radiance,

I received the Winter 1999 issue. After going through the usual denial and ridicule that I reserve for myself and all fat people, your magazine included, I picked it up again and read the article about Lynn McAfee. What struck me was how incredibly brave and determined she must be. I know I would not have the courage to keep on representing large people's problems like she does. I am quite amazed by her.

I'm not going to tell my whole story here. I'm only going to say how lonely it is without any support network of my own. At age forty, I am still denying the way I look and continue to hope for that day when I can look like other people. I guess I'm just overwhelmed by society's stereotype of large people. Thank you for your magazine. Besides showing so many women they are not alone, you also show us that we are loved and that we don't have to be unhappy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sarah Mahany
Washington, DC
e-mail SMAH10@aol.com

 

More Health Activism

Dear Radiance,

The two articles in your Winter 1999 issue, Medical Activism and Discovering the Truth (by and about health activist Lynn McAfee), were among the best you have offered so far. This is useful stuff, so much more helpful to me than just reading about fat discrimination. Please, more articles like these.

To combat "Doctor Power," I think it would be helpful for your readers to know that there are many very qualified, advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) serving as health care providers. Usually ARNPs take more time and are alot more understanding than MD's, who are more rushed for time. I have found that ARNPs practice a "kinder and gentler" type of health care. I am a five-foot-nine, 240 pound, gerontological nurse, and always ask to be seen by the ARNP in my MD's office. I have also advised them both "not to go there" when it comes to the subject of my weight!

Thanks again for the informative words of encouragement.

Wendy Koana Stevens, RN, BSN
Pt. Townsend, WA

More Letters And More And Even More


 

 

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