The Narwhal Factor Revisited

You know the phenomenon. It’s the thing that happens when you first learn about something or someone. Perhaps it is a new word. Then over the next week or so EVERYWHERE you go…voila! The word you just learned is in the crossword puzzle the next morning. You are on the phone with a friend and they use the word in a sentence, you are eavesdropping on a conversation at the coffee shop and they are discussing the nuances of the word.

My step-mom and I called it the Narwhal Factor. She and I were talking about a children’s book that my son had just received as a gift for his third birthday. It was a POP-UP alphabet book where the picture for the letter N was a narwhal.

Narwhal, a whale with a long horn extending from its forehead
What the hell is a narwhal??

“What the hell is a narwhal?”

I explained that it was a whale that had a unicorn type tusk coming out of its forehead. “Well I’ll be damned,” she said, “never heard of it.”

The next day she called me from New York, “You’re not going to believe this! I was flipping through the channels and I swear to god, there was a documentary on NARWHALS!” We laughed and chalked it up to coincidence.

She called me three more times that week. Once from FAO Schwarz Toy Store in Manhattan where they had a display of stuffed whales the centerpiece was, of course, a narwhal. The cover of the National Geographic in her Dentist’s office”¦narwhal”¦ A book review in the New York Times about”¦well you get the point. We decided this was something that needed a name and so we dubbed it “The Narwhal Factor.”

Well, today, I want to be your narwhal which may not be easy considering that most of you who are reading my blog or have found my website are:

  • Already active in fighting size-ism.
  • Clinicians, therapists, and professionals looking for resources to use with clients who are bravely working on their relationships with their bodies and food.
  • Educators looking for curriculum to use in the classroom while training future therapists, or providing CEU’s to already practicing clinicians.
  • People exploring options to work on their own personal self-acceptance and have seen the Leftovers DVD trailer.
  • My father and my sisters.

But perhaps a few of you may just be learning about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size(r) and for you, perhaps, my Facebook page, Blog, or Website will be integral parts of your Narwhal Factor experience. And your timing couldn’t be better! There is an up-swell of Size Acceptance activity going on all around us right now partially due to the efforts of BEDA and the upcoming Weight Stigma Awareness Week soon to be followed by N.O.W.’s Love your Body Day in October. I know these events don’t garner the same media attention as the “Obesity Dilemma” or “The Biggest Loser,” but trust me, the narwhals are out there doing exceptional work in changing the way people feel about themselves and how society portrays and judges fat people. They are scientifically proving that self-acceptance and health can be attainable at any weight and bravely spreading the word that:

Dr Seuss-style cartoon narwhal impaling two other animals on its horn, captioned Stabby the Narwhal
I hate The Biggest Loser!
  • Stereotyping fat people is wrong.
  • Ignoring the kids that are bullying kids who are too scrawny or too fat or too anything is wrong.
  • Believing that diets work when in fact eating disorders can be caused by dieting is wrong.
  • Believing that all fat people are unhealthy is wrong.
  • Hating yourself because you are too fat is wrong.

For me, being part of another person’s Narwhal Factor is an honor and one of the missions of my work. Who knows? Maybe if someone hears about Health At Every Size (HAES) for the first time here, then everywhere they go for the next week they will be seeing and hearing HAES this and HAES that. Perhaps if they read about FAT! SO? here”¦.the next thing they know they will be reading an interview with Marilyn Wann cheerfully chiming in with her signature, “Wheeeee!” and showing you her YAY scale.

Pink scale with "YAY!" written on it.

Before they know it, they may take the baton and become part of another person’s Narwhal Factor. It is a process that feels invigorating, enlightening and inspirational; and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

And I’m not the only one. For a list of fellow narwhals CLICK HERE!

Green, flowery narwhal
I want to be your narwhal!

Have you had a narwhal factor experience that you’d like to share?

Til next time!

Dr. Deah

By Dr. Deah Schwartz

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders and Body Image. Deah is the Co Author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” Deah believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to point out and eliminate size discrimination even when it means battling the mainstream media, and even worse, family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at

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