Lesley Kinzel is a writer and has been writing on the topic of body politics, fat acceptance and social justice for many years. Currently a senior editor at xoJane.com, Kinzel also spent a lot of time at Fatshionista both as an online community member and later coming on as moderator.
Even more exciting is the release of Kinzel’s first book next month, cleverly titled Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body, published by Feminist Press. The book is an amazing (and quick!) read, blending both touching memoir and practical how-to guidelines easily. The stories Kinzel provides about growing up fat are moving to say the very least. Her book challenges popular opinion around fatness and obesity, including critiques of The Biggest Loser and Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity campaign. Without a doubt, Kinzel forces readers to unpack lifelong-held beliefs about self-identity, acceptance and, most importantly, the size of jeans you own or the number on the scale. This is an issue that plagues everyone universally– no matter where you lie on the size spectrum. Kinzel’s book is absolutely relatable to anyone that has ever felt insecure about their body or the way they look– so, pretty much everyone.
I hope you all pre-order your copies of Two Whole Cakes, not only to challenge your own notions of body size and acceptance, but also so we can begin to alter public discourse around the topic. Eventually, we can force a cultural shift, normalizing all different body types and move our focus from shaming to celebrating.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Lesley Kinzel.
Anna Sterling: What pushed you to write this book?
Lesley Kinzel: Mostly I still write for myself. I work stuff out by writing it down. I’m an extreme introvert. Writing is one of the ways I process. It’s almost therapeutic. I had a pretty successful blog for a while there and I’ve had so much great feedback from people. I’d get a lot of emails from people saying, “I’m not fat, but your blog means a lot to me.” Here I’ve been thinking the only people that would relate to this would be people with directly similar experiences to my own and yet, it has turned out, apparently, a lot of people relate to it who have had different experiences. That was a motivating factor to get this out to a larger audience because if people are connecting to it and it’s helping them then that makes me very happy.
AS: How would you respond to someone saying, “Well, I’m just concerned about your health!” in terms of fat acceptance?
LK: We call that concern trolling. It’s a fairly popular response. It’s imposing your opinions or judgment or shaming on someone under the guise of doing it for their own good. That kind of reaction actually hurts people more than it helps people. That’s usually what I tell people in that circumstance where you have someone who is saying, “But I just care about your health!” Generally speaking my response is, “Well, you need to listen to me when I tell you what makes me feel healthy and if I tell you that continuously dieting and being obsessed with weight loss is incredibly unhealthy for me, you need to take me at my word that that’s true and you don’t get to say, ‘Well, you’re wrong if you feel better when you’re not dieting.’” Other people don’t get to tell you how to conduct your body and that’s actually true in a lot of arenas.
AS: What advice do you have for our readers who may be struggling with fat acceptance and/or body acceptance?
LK: Get rid of your scale! It’s only gonna make you unhappy. There is basically nothing useful from knowing that number. If you’re interested and you really want to feel good and healthy and awesome about yourself, you don’t need a scale to do that. If you’re not entirely happy with yourself physically right now, you can change your diet or become a vegetarian or not if you don’t want to. You can do more exercise if you find exercise that you like. We all have to explore and figure out what makes us feel the best that we individually can feel without ranking it by saying, “Well, this only counts if I’ve lost 15 lbs. I need that number to validate all the activity that I’ve been doing.” If you’re doing a physical act that you like, that’s going to have health benefits regardless what the number is. Lets just trust in the fact that if we’re doing things that make us feel physically good, then those are things that are good for us.
AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
LK: I’m gonna say Ramona Quimby because she is completely unbound by social constraints. I admire that in a person. I like people who are true to themselves even when that makes them a pain in the ass to everyone else
Real life heroines? Pretty much everyone who blogs on fat acceptance including, but not limited to, Marianne Kirby, Kate Harding, and Hanne Blank. This underworld is creating this cultural change, even though it’s slow moving and it’s going to take a while to really take effect. By representing ourselves, we are putting out there the idea that fat people are not these horrible trolls who are miserable and don’t deserve to be seen. All of those people are my heroines.
AS: You’re going to a desert island and you get to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
LK: Fresh raspberries because it’s basically my favorite thing in the world to eat. I’ll say coconut water even though they’ll probably have that on the island. For feminist, I’m trying to think of someone who would know something about survival. Hmmm. I’ll stick with Emma Goldman.