Enough

I think that one of the most damaging and erroneous messages that we are given by society is that unless you’re thin, you will never be enough.  Sure you won a Grammy for your first CD and an Oscar for your first film, but are you thin?  I understand that you are the governor of a state and that people want you to run for President, but are you thin? You’re thin now so we expect you to maintain that obsessively so that you are never not thin.  You eat nourishing foods and move your body regularly, but are you thin? You’re a great mother but are you thin?  You’re a successful business person but are you thin? You’re 4 years old but are you thin? You’re 90 years old but are you thin? You cured cancer but are you thin?

Enough.

Let’s all realize that this is an artificial construct.  Being thin is only valuable because of our culture at this time.  The body size that is valuable has been different at different times, and currently varies tremendously in different cultures and under different circumstances.

If your body doesn’t match the ideal body for the culture and time in which you live, that can be really difficult. You can try to change your body, you can try to change the culture, or you can live outside it (somewhere on the spectrum from deliriously happy to miserable).  But I’d like you to consider something.  Consider that doing any of those things doesn’t change one simple fact:  You are already enough.  Your intrinsic value is already beyond measure.  And you will not be more valuable if there is less of you or less valuable if there is more of you.

Imagine what our society would be like if we realized the value and beauty of all bodies.  Imagine how different our lives would be if we realized the value and beauty of our own bodies.  If we realized that we are already enough.

Dancing in My Irrelevant Jeans

Today I did the first stop on the Dances With Fat World Tour.  I taught a class on Lyrical Movement for Larger Bodies for PURE NYC.  They are an awesome group and watching them dance before and after the workshop was amazing and inspiring!  I highly recommend that you check out their stuff on YouTube as well.  They also travel so be sure to keep an eye out for them in your town. I took a phone, a flip cam, and my new video camera and I failed to get so much as a picture.  I will get better at this.

After spending time with the amazing women at PURE NYC it was time to hail my first cab.  I tried several corners but it seems like everywhere I went the taxis were somewhere else, or they didn’t see me or didn’t stop.  I started to try to think about what I would do if I couldn’t successfully get a cab. A woman stopped out and in a moment successfully hailed a cab and got in. Moments later I confidently raised my hand and was on my way in my first hailed cab – feeling mighty.

And a concept that I learned long ago in a psychology class came to mind – the idea that if you see a single person do something it suddenly becomes possible to you. I think that this is particularly important in a society where we’re told repeatedly (by industries who are trying to sell us stuff) that as fat people we’re practically immobile.  Idiots on the internet suggest that every obese person has difficulty to playing with our kids or riding a bike but no thin people do. I got hate mail the other day saying that fat people can’t run marathons.  WRONG!

And let’s not pretend that it’s just fat people, we’re told all the time that we’re limited by our age, because we’re parents, because we’re not parents, because we have grey/curly/no hair.  I actually heard people the other day making fun of someone because her jeans weren’t “relevant”. What does that even mean?

There are a couple reasons I think this happens. One is that marketers have found out that some people will buy anything if they can convince us that it will get us something we want.  I’ve seen commercials that looked like soft-core porn turn out to be for perfume. Then there are the people who want you to feel bad so that they can feel good about themselves.  Those are the people who will call your jeans irrelevant (I still can’t believe that’s a thing).  Sadly they’ll often also ignore your accomplishments due to an acute, debilitating case of But But But Syndrome. But this isn’t about them anyway, except to remind you that these people don’t have  our best interests in mind and we don’t have to believe what they say – we can rise above merely being some ad campaigns target demographic.

So remember that when you go about your life doing what you love to do and being who you want to be, you not only make yourself happy but you help open up options for other people that they didn’t even know they had. People who may have believed the lies that are told to us about ourselves, our limits, and our possibilities.

I think that’s what Marianne Williamson meant when she said “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  You may never know who identifies with you or why, and it doesn’t matter – it’s an unconscious act because we cannot be conscious of it unless the other person chooses to tell you.  And there’s no obligation, and it’s not about what you can’t do, but about what you can and want to do – just be you.

If you go take that belly dancing class that you always wanted to take, or play with your grandkids at the park, or ride your bike through the neighborhood, or wear horizontal stripes, or whatever your thing is you are giving people who identify with you the option to change what they believe is possible for them.  It’s not about trying to prove anything to anyone. taking risks for the sake of taking them, or ignoring reality. It’s about realizing and testing our own limits rather than allowing them to be assigned to us by critics and marketing experts.  It’s about finding a way to do what we love to do instead of what we’re told is possible or appropriate for us.  It’s the simple but immensely powerful fact that, just by being us, we can change the world.

Who Speaks for My Body?

Today I went to the doctor for my annual exam. When I booked the appointment I told the receptionist to please put in my file that I have recovered from an eating disorder, that I practice Health at Every Size, and that it was not appropriate to weigh me or counsel me about my weight – I explained that I would understand and respect if they didn’t want to work under those boundaries and that if that was the case I would just not schedule the appointment.  She said it was no problem and that she would put it in my file.  Easy squeezy.

I reiterated this to the person who called to confirm that appointment and she said that it was no problem and that it was in my file. I reiterated it to the nurse at the front desk who showed me that it was clearly written in big, bold, black letters in my file, verbatim as I had requested. I relaxed and sat down.

The nurse took me back less than 10 minutes later and the following conversation took place:

Nurse:  Let’s get you on the scale.

Me:  What?!  No. I refuse to be weighed.

Nurse:  (looking me up and down disapprovingly) Well, your body is a concern.

Me: No, my body is amazing.  Your lack of care for me as a patient and inability to read my file is a concern.

Nurse: Reads the file, sighs and says “well, what am I supposed to do?”

Me: How about you apologize and move on.

Nurse:  Starts to take my blood pressure (with no apology)

With how angry I was I would have guessed that it would be 999/999.  It was 121/82.

Nurse:  See, due to your weight you have dangerously high blood pressure and I would bet high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes as well.

Me:  Are you serious?  I’m barely in the pre-hypertensive range and that’s after you’ve completely pissed me off and stressed me out. You either don’t understand blood pressure – making you incompetent, or you are purposefully lying to me to terrify me about health conditions I don’t have – making you a monster.  Either way you don’t deserve me as a patient, I’m leaving and I’m not paying for this.

My body does so many things for me.  It breathes, pumps blood, blinks, runs, dances, does push-ups, it does millions of things for me –  some without me even asking, some every time I ask.

If someone said nasty lies about my best friend you better believe that I would say something. Why would I not do the same for my body?  I speak for my body because my body deserves an advocate and I’m the best person for the job.

Epilogue:

I wrote the clinic director an e-mail explaining what happened, my credentials, and offering to do a training for the staff on working from a Health at Every Size (r) perspective.  I’ll let you know what I hear back.

World Tour Update

I should really be asleep right now, my flight leaves in 8 hours and by this afternoon I’ll be in New York City for the first let of my tour.  I am so excited!!!!!!!

Inferior Superiority Complex – A Rant

Fair warning, it’s an angry, ranty day.

I saw this as it went around Facebook the past couple of days (with this picture):

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:
“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

It made me smile for a moment.  And then I started to read the comments.  I was drawn in by the first couple that were really positive, but then it went downhill, and when I got to the one that said “It’s time to get real and get healthy. You fat people need to learn that life is not only about eating” I got angry.  Really angry.  Angry like I don’t often get.  And I have a policy of not posting comments in places like this so I’m going to work it out here:

I got angry because for those of us who are fat in this culture there are people who feel like we don’t deserve even a MOMENT’S reprieve from the constant drumbeat of fat hate: fat is unhealthy, fat people are lazy, all we do is eat, blah blah blah.  There are people who want to make sure that we don’t even get one Facebook post to consider that it might be ok to not hate ourselves, or to opt out of the cultural standard of beauty. People who inexplicably claim to believe that we will somehow be healthier if we are tortured with a ceaseless stream of stigma until we look the way they think we should look – which, even if we wanted to do it, may be completely impossible.

These people with their superiority complexes who actually believe that from my body size they already know what I eat, how much I exercise, and my mental state. Because, goes the argument, all fatties, think, and act, and eat the same and thank the gods that these people are here to tell us what to do and cheer shame us on and save us all never mind that we don’t want or need their saving.

How dare they presume that they know anything about us let alone what’s best for us.  What makes it more crazy to me is that if you believe the statistics more than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. We are an oppressed MAJORITY – and these people take every opportunity to try to push up down.

I could explain that there are healthy people of every shape and size, I could give facts, figures, studies and logical arguments.  And I will do exactly that tomorrow.  But I’m not going to do it today because today I’m angry – because it is not difficult to comprehend the idea that nobody hates themselves healthy.  It’s a curb two inches high and somehow there are still people who can’t step up onto it, so I’m thinking that if these people were capable of logic, or intelligent thought,  or actually cared about anyone they would never be trying to torture people healthy to begin with. Or trying to disguise their inferiority complex with a superiority complex. But that’s just for today so never fear, tomorrow when I go to the doctor for my annual exam I will patiently explain it all again.

Somebody left a comment  saying that they really like my work but that I’m not going to get anywhere because I’ll never change these people’s minds.  That’s ok because I can’t change anybody’s mind – I can provide information but what other people do with their minds is on them.

More importantly, I don’t write for the kind of people who spread hate around the internet. If they find me and choose to think differently that’s great, but I don’t write for them.  I write for the intended victims of their hate.  For the majority who they are trying so hard to oppress, who deserve a couple minutes to read blogs in the fatosphere and realize or remember that it really is ok to love yourself and your body as you are, and that the herd may be stampeding in the wrong direction, and that it’s ok to step to the side and let them go by.

I don’t apologize for getting angry now and then.  I think that it’s a natural and healthy reaction to a situation that is this crazy.

But in the end I am happy because everyday there are more of us standing up and saying “enough”.  Because I am part of a civil rights movement and history tells me that we can win, and I believe that we are making a difference in the insanity that is our culture’s attitude toward people of size and health right now.  Because I love my life, and the only way that I can lose that is to let somebody take it away from me, and I have no intention of surrendering my happiness to someone who can’t grasp the concept that a constant torrent of hate and stigma doesn’t d0 anybody any good – including them.

And, because I saw this on Facebook today too:

If I Agreed with You, We Would Both Be Wrong

I am a fan of Linda Bacon. her work introduced me to Health at Every Size.  The first time she commented on my blog I called my best friend and my mother.  I have met her in person and she was just as awesome in person as online.  Recently at the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo, Dr. Bacon debated John Foreyt, PhD an obesity researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Sadly I was not at the debate.  Janet Helm, a registered dietician, was kind enough to  blog about it and it’s her interpretation that I want to discuss today,  because what she wrote is the type of problematic thing that I hear from a lot of people:

Round 1 Winner: John Foreyt
I don’t think it serves Linda Bacon’s position well to deny the health consequences of obesity. She spent so much of her time sharing data that the obese live just as long as normal weight individuals and downplaying the health risks of being obese. Why go there? I think that’s why some people just shut down and never hear what this movement is all about.

I don’t think it serves Copernicus well to deny that the sun revolves around the Earth.  He spent so much time explaining the evidence that shows that the Earth revolves around the sun.  Why go there?  I think that’s why some people just shut down and never hear what this movement is about…

This is the main issue – there is a lot of evidence that goes against the traditional thinking about obesity, and it gets suppressed by “everybody knows” arguments (and you know how I feel about those).  If someone who has earned her doctorate in physiology, specializing in weight regulation, holds graduate degrees in psychology, specializing in eating disorders and body image; and kinesiology, specializing in exercise metabolism, and has professional experience as a professor, researcher, psychotherapist, exercise physiologist, and consultant starts talking about evidence – you should maybe listen instead of discounting her because what she is saying goes against traditional thinking.

You’re right, Linda, perhaps this shouldn’t be “war,” but I don’t see how you can dismiss the health risks associated with obesity. And there are certainly quality of life issues (not being able to play with your kids, ride a bike, etc.). I just don’t think this is the question we should be asking. Our priority should be discussing what we do about obesity — not debating if there’s even a problem

Allow me to try to paraphrase: I prefer to think of fat people as miserable people who need me to fix them- I don’t like it when you challenge that view.  Why can’t we confine our “debate” to things that don’t make me uncomfortable?

There are people of all sizes who have issues playing with grandchildren and riding a bike.  There are people of all sizes who DON’T have trouble playing with grandchildren and riding a bike.  Seriously, enough with the Save the Fatties Campaign.

I fully agree with the woman in the audience who asked the last question during the session. She ended with “why can’t you both kiss and make up?”  Good question.

No, it’s really not a good question.  The only way that it’s a good question is if our goal is to make everyone comfortable and avoid the conflict that is inevitable between two diametrically opposed views to an issue that affects millions of people. Linda’s comment on the blog really summed it up for me. It reads, in part:

There’s no question of “making up,” really, because there’s no “fight.” What there is is a vast and unbridgeable difference in opinion and outlook. It’s not just desirable but required of us — as professionals and thinking people — to tolerate such differences, weigh the evidence and reach our own opinions.

We don’t ask climate change researchers to “make up” with global warming deniers, do we? … This is where the broad acceptance of the obesity paradigm proves so pernicious: How can we consider evidence that counters what we “know” to be true? (Copernicus’s opponents “knew” that the sun that the sun revolved around the Earth.) It seems to take time, as evidence builds and sinks in, for most paradigm shifts to happen. For the sake of the majority of Americans who struggle with weight, it can’t happen soon enough.

Amen to that Dr. Bacon.

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What’s Really Unhealthy?

Sometimes I just need to put in perspective the crazy stuff that people tell me would make me healthier.  For today’s blog I thought we would play a little game of “what’s really unhealthy”. It’s sort of like the S.A.T.s…maybe we should call it the F.A.Ts:  two choices, you decide which one is truly unhealthy:

Loving movement for the joy of it or hating exercise but doing it because I have to

Eating a balanced diet or eating 500 calories a day and being injected with hormones extracted from urine

Feeling like a success because I did my healthy habits or feeling like a failure because those habits didn’t lead to weight loss

Eating whole foods or eating low-fat and non-fat versions that are full of chemicals

Eating to nourish my body or eating to starve it so that it gets smaller

Doing the best I can with the body that I have now or getting my stomach amputated in an effort to make my body do what it will not naturally

Appreciating my body for how amazing it is or hating my body because it doesn’t meet a culturally arbitrary standard of beauty

Here’s my perspective: Health is not a moral, social, or personal obligation.  People can choose to prioritize and pursue health but that neither guarantees it nor makes them better than people who don’t choose to prioritize or pursue health. Health has both physical and mental components.  Hating yourself isn’t good for either.  Most of what gets sold to us by the diet industry is the exact opposite of healthy. Weight loss isn’t the same as healthy habits, thin isn’t the same as healthy, and loving your body will never steer you wrong.

Oh What in Fat Hell?

An anonymous reader turned me on to a website for “Obesity Advocacy”. There is no way in hell I’m linking to it so don’t ask.  It is a website encouraging people to get involved in convincing Congress to recognize obesity as a disease and “support legislation to provide greater access to and acceptance of all effective treatments, including weight-loss surgery.”

The group sponsoring this is called CHOICE – Choosing Health Over Obesity and Inspiring Change Through Empowerment.

Let me check these words against my card…Woo Hoo I just won bullshit bingo!

Let’s get a few things straight.  You can’t choose health over obesity for a couple of reasons.  First, they are not opposites, they aren’t mutually exclusive. You have your body weight and you have your health, two different things.  Secondly neither of those things is just a matter of choice.  Both your body size and your health are multi-dimensional and include things that are and are not within our control including things like past behavior, current behavior, genetics, stress, environment, and access.

Calling people’s bodies “diseased” based only on what you can tell by their weight and height is not inspiring or empowering. Sadly, it’s also not change.

So I call shenanigans on their slogan. But let’s look at the meat of their argument:

In their list of the truth about obesity they include:

  • People do not choose to be obese — medical research now indicates obesity has more to do with science and the biology of fat, rather than willpower or discipline.
  • By dieting alone, many people affected by obesity regain as much as two-thirds of the weight within one year, and almost all of it within five years.
  • For adults affected by obesity who have at least one obesity-related health condition, like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, weight-loss surgery, in combination with diet and exercise, may help them overcome obesity and live a longer, healthier life.

True. True. What?

First let’s be clear that “obesity-related” means a condition that has been correlated with obesity – which is to say that it sometimes, but not always, happens at the same time as obesity.  This is not to be confused with conditions that are proven to be caused by obesity, of which there are almost none.  To give an example: Men who are bald have more heart disease.  They are correlated, but they are not causally related:  baldness doesn’t cause the heart disease and growing hair won’t prevent it.  However, if the people at the CHOICE campaign were working on heart attacks, they would be trying to advocate surgery to grow hair as a way to prevent heart disease and I’m guessing they’d be stumped when it didn’t work.

Also, once again we are saying that we recognize that large bodies are part of human diversity, and yet we want to treat them as a pathology and make them go away. Let’s not forget how well and truly we do suck at making bodies smaller (as they mention in their own material), but somehow it’s still an incredibly lucrative field. Moving on…

Under misconceptions they included:

  • People affected by obesity choose to be this way — they’re lazy and they lack willpower.
  • Exercise and diet should do the trick for everyone
  • Weight-loss surgery is a last resort or a sign of failure.

True.  True.  Run that last one by me again?

What is with the random surgery references?  Oh.. I see, CHOICE is actually Allergan – the makers of the LapBand.  And they have signed up over 16,000 people to lobby Congress to create a problem that they will then sell their product to fix. This reminds me of that time when several people who were affilitated with weight loss companies got to lower what the CDC considers a healthy BMI.  Then the next day they got to recommend their product to solve the problem that they just created.

Truthfully, nothing that Allergan does surprises me anymore.  Let’s look at their greatest hits:

Paying for a study with abhorrent research methods that “shockingly” found that obesity costs the workplace $73 Billion a year, and then using that study to convince health insurance companies that it’s cheaper to pay for lap bands than to have fat employees.

Holding a CONTEST where you could win a lap band which you could take yourself or, I am not kidding, give to a friend or family member.

And this is a big deal because their surgery isn’t that safe.  Over one third of patients require follow up surgery.  Try to imagine the outrage that would occur if  more than 30% of people who had an apendectomy required a second surgery where the doctors went back in to correct potentially life threatening issues, and those people had to pay for the second surgery. And that doesn’t even include the plastic surgery to remove loose skin that often isn’t covered by insurance, or the follow up that often isn’t covered by insurance.

Plus many people who have the lapband regain their weight, and then there are the dangers of slipped band (The Band has to be dissected out, all the sutures removed, and the position of the stomach made right), band erosion (when the band actually erodes into the stomach), concentric pouch dilation, esophogeal dilation, and a host of other complications.

Yet Allergan wants to push Congress to get behind their product while they are also pushing to be able to do the surgery on younger and lighter patients despite all of the side effects we just talked about and the fact that people die from this voluntary, elective procedure. Their stock is down and apparently this is their idea of marketing.

To be clear, I don’t believe in telling anyone how to live so if people want to get a lap band I support their right to do that.   However, they can absolutely cut out the “obesity advocacy” message because I don’t want or need these people as my “advocates”, and I would appreciate it if they would  refrain from getting my existence declared a “disease” by Congress in the process.