Don’t Cry for Me Well-Meaning Concern Troll

Yesterday I revealed the super secret blog project that I’ve been working on  with some amazing people –  a video response to The Biggest Loser’s Campaign to love yourself only after/because you lose weight.  One of the responses that I saw a lot as it got posted around the web was “I’m glad that these people are happy but I’m concerned about their health”.

These people may be well meaning, but here’s the deal with this – my health is none of their business and is not discernible by looking at the size of my body. (Or for some of the serious whackadoodles who tell me all about my health without meeting me – from looking at pictures of me and reading my blog.)

This can be difficult to deal with because, since people seem well intentioned, we can feel obligated to appreciate what they are doing or accept it as ok.  Like everything, it’s your choice how to deal with it, but for me this is not ok.  People are allowed to be concerned about whatever they want, but it is not ok to unburden that concern onto me. Whatever my level of health, it’s highly unlikely that it will be improved by having people tell me over and over that they assume it’s poor. It can also be a quiet way to try to say that I am not a competent witness to my own experience, and let’s not forget that however well-intentioned it might be, this kind of “concern” is based on all kinds of myths, misunderstandings, and misinformation and conflates weight and health  in a way that is not appropriate.

There are lots of reasons that people may choose to express their concern.  There are some who are truly  well-meaning, for others it’s about feeling superior, feeding their ego, or just killing fatties with kindness.  It does not matter why someone does it, it does not fit within what I consider acceptable behavior.  The way that I handle this with people I care about is by setting boundaries.  Of course this is just how I handle it, there are many, many ways and they are all valid.  Take what you like, ignore the rest:

“I’m just concerned about your health”

Basic responses:

  • Oh, no need, my health is fine.
  • My health is great, thank you, and I’m not soliciting outside opinions.
  • My health is none of your business.

Data based responses, especially good for a teachable moment:

  • According to research out of Columbia, people who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illness than those who aren’t – regardless of weight.  So every time you try to make me concerned about my weight you may be putting my health in jeopardy.
  • Can you tell me how you justify your beliefs based on the findings of Matheson et al., Wei et. al, the Cooper Institute Longitudinal studies, and Mann and Tomiyama 2007 and 2013?
  • Are you aware that there isn’t a single study in which more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at longterm weight loss and that there isn’t a st single study where dieting is shown to lead to better long term health?
  • The most likely outcome of weight loss attempts is weight regain, so even if you believe that fat is bad, weight loss attempts are the worst thing that you could recommend.

The things I think but do not say when I’m having a bad day:

  • My path to health is something that I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching – are you an expert on this or can we just assume I know more than you about this than you do?
  • Really? Coincidentally,  I’m concerned that all of your worrying will affect your health.  Please feel free focus your concern somewhere that is else.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

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Love Yourself As You Are – the Super Secret Blog Project

Reader Hedda sent me this video (Warning:  triggering in every possible way).  It seems that the theme for The Biggest Loser Australia is “Love Yourself”. Of course, they mean love yourself after/because you lose weight.  I found the video and its message absolutely sickening – I had to do something.  I decided to recreate the Biggest Loser video but instead of “love yourself after you lose weight” the theme would be “love yourself as you are”.  I put the word out on Facebook that I had a super secret blog project and the responses started pouring in.

Below is the result.  My undying gratitude to Patricia Washburn (who also set up my hatemail page) who took all the stuff I sent her and created an amazing video,  Darci Monet who let me not only use her beautiful song, but cut it up and rework it to accompany the video, and to everyone who participated.

No matter what you want to do with your body, there is just no reason that you can’t love and appreciate it, as it is, in every moment.  Your body will change over time and if you base your ability to love your body, love someone else, or be loved on achieving and maintaining a specific weight, then what happens when time changes the superficial? You are the only person who is in charge of how you feel about yourself, and you can choose to love yourself as you are.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Ball of Behavior Confusion

It’s just vaguely possible that you might have noticed that our current culture has a teensy weensy tendency to use weight as a proxy for health.  That, in and of itself, is an incredibly bad idea. But I think what’s worse is that it leads to confusing weight loss behaviors with healthy behaviors.  So people get the idea that any behavior that makes you thinner must constitute a healthy behavior, and that behaviors that don’t lead to thinness must be unhealthy.

This causes a number of problems.  The first one that comes to mind is the idea that a fat body means that anyone can be the judge, jury, and executioner of our health because they know we aren’t eating healthy because, the false assumption tells them, if we were eating healthy then we would be thin.  It’s just not true. There are people who eat the same diet but have vastly different body sizes.  There are people who have the same body size but eat vastly different diets.

Another problem is that people are lured to participate in behaviors that  that, if they were viewed outside of our current obesity hysteria, would perhaps not seem like such a great idea… Consuming reconstituted soy protein shakes 5 times a day with a small meal at night? Eating 500 calories a day and getting urine-derived injections? Partially amputating a perfectly good stomach?

This also gets me into discussions that I can’t even deal with – where I explain that I focus on whole, nutritious foods, lots of veggies etc. and somebody tells me that I should give that up and drink a thin chocolate beverage that can have a laxative effect, or eat a cup of diet breakfast cereal with skim milk for 14 out of 21 meals a week.

Of course everyone is free to choose whatever behaviors they want, for whatever reason they want to choose them. I’m simply suggesting that it might be important to realize that behaviors that are meant to lead to thinness (however fleeting or unsuccessful that attempt might be) are not necessarily – and are sometimes precisely the opposite of –  behaviors that can actually support, create, and/or improve health.

Project Update:  Georgia Billboard Project

This is a go.  We are going to put up a billboard in Georgia next to one of those horrible fat kid shaming billboards. I’m in the research phase now, once we know how much money we need to raise and the specs we’ll start the fundraising and design phases.  Right now I need to know the location of those billboards in Georgia – if you happen to know where one is (specifically) please let me know.  More details to follow…

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Fat Vacation Deathmatch: Universal Studios vs Disney World

I have now ridden every adult ride at Disney World and I fit comfortably in them all.  Feeling confident from that experience we went to Universal Studios because my best friend really wanted to do the Harry Potter Experience.  We got there and, after going through Olivander’s Wand Shop, we got in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

We waited for about an hour and a half and as we were waiting the gentleman in front of us (who was at least 6’5) was pulled out of line by an employee so that they could see if he would fit in the seat.  I looked directly at her, assuming that if there was any question about my size she would pull me too.  She just smiled and walked away.  When it was time to board I got in the ride and fit comfortably width-wise.  Then the park employee pushed down the restraint and it became obvious that I was to wide front to back to fit the ride. He said “We are unable to accommodate you safely” and asked me to step off the ride.

As soon as I stepped off the ride every employee knew what was going on and I was directed to an area I’ll call the FGHA (Fat Girl Holding Area) where I joined 7 other women waiting for their friends to get off the ride.  Oddly, everyone but me was offered passes to get to the front of the line in other rides. I have no idea why they weren’t offered to me.

My best friend, his husband, and I decided that we weren’t interested in spending our time or money at a park that wasn’t interested in my experience and we headed to guest relations.

First let me say that I certainly could have done a better job researching this.  I absolutely would have researched this further but I fit into all the rides at Disney World with so much room to spare that it didn’t occur to me that it would be a problem.  In researching it now I read articles that said that there were some seats made to accommodate larger passengers but this wasn’t offered as an option to me.  When we got to guest relations Samantha let us know that there were test seats available.  Unfortunately they were being blocked by a tour group and we didn’t realize that they were test seats at all (and the employees are told not to point them out to fat people).

The policy, as explained to us, is that employees can pull tall people out of line to test them in the seats, but they cannot even suggest to fat passengers that they do the same. So if you are fat and miss the test seats, nobody will say anything to you until you are sitting on the ride and an employee is pushing a restraint into your gut. Again – I could have researched it further and the tests seats would have saved 90 minutes of waiting but would not have changed the overall outcome.

Samantha in guest services, a larger woman herself, was extremely empathetic and kind.  She offered to tell me which rides she thought that I would fit on, but I politely explained that I wasn’t interested in giving the park any money or time since they had chosen not to give me the full experience.  She went to bat with her manager and we received full refunds for our tickets and meal passes. So, what have I learned?

I think that this illustrates well the issues with attaching shame to horizontal body size that is not ascribed to vertical body size.  The cast is allowed to pull people who are too tall out of line, but not allowed to even suggest test seats to passengers who may be too wide. The women in the FGHA with me were all embarrassed and ashamed but the tall dude was just annoyed when he was pulled out of line after waiting.  If we correctly acknowledged that bodies come in different shapes and sizes then 1.  all the people who Universal doesn’t bother to accommodate on their rides would be treated the same and fat people wouldn’t have to wait until they are on the ride to get kicked off and  2.  People would rightly place the blame on the park for choosing not to accommodate them, and not their own bodies.  Some of the women in the FGHA were talking about diets but the tall guy never once talked about trying to be shorter, even though our heritability and likelihood of changing our body size is roughly the same.

If you’re not going to accommodate guests of size, how about you let us know before we spend our money. The test seats should be in the front – before I pay or enter.  The website should give me the height, width, depth and any other possible measurements that each ride fits.  At least there could have been an employee pointing out that the test seats were hidden behind a large tour group,  but even if I had known about the test seats I still would have had to pay for the cab to Universal Studios, pay for a ticket, and walk all the way through the park to find out that they didn’t care if I got to ride the ride.

I’m confused about why Universal didn’t just make the seats more accommodating.  I can understand if a ride uses a lap restraint that goes over a group of people, that having it accommodate those with large thighs can be a problem (since then the lap bar is then too high for the rest of the passengers).  But this was a single person restraint so it seems like it could have been made to fit a wider variety of people.  It can’t be an issue of weight and physics since a person of my weight with a different frame could have fit on the ride.  If Disney World can make all of their coasters work for someone my size, why can’t Universal?  Or why won’t they?

One thing that I was very happy about was that I did not feel embarrassed, ashamed, or bad about my body or go into dieting thoughts as I would have in the past.  I was crystal clear that the park had decided that it wasn’t interested in giving the full experience to guests of my size –  the park is wrong for me, I am not wrong for the park. All of this work on body image and HAES is really paying off!

It was obvious when we went to Guest Relations that this had happened before.  I don’t know how often (although I do know that there were eight of us in five minutes in the FGHA) but my Best Friend was so excited he had planned to spend what he called “an embarrassing amount of money”.  He fully intended to buy every food and drink and a ton of clothing and souvenirs – basically any clothing that was available  and other toys and trinkets as well.  Instead we stood at guest relations while they refunded over $300 of our money and we didn’t buy so much as a butter beer.

My research shows that the park has been aware of this issue since before the ride opened, so I wonder if they did a cost benefit analysis and found or bet that most fat people would be too embarrassed or ashamed to make a fuss, and would spend their time and money in the souvenir shops and food court anyway.   I’m guessing that there are fat people who can’t fit into the rides and happily make the decision to stay and spend money at the park and that’s certainly their valid choice.  As for me and my house, we will spend our money at places that have proven that they deserve it.  I believe in hitting a fat-hating company hard in the checkbook and then kicking them in the bank account when they are down.  I had a fantastic experience at Disney World (my one regret about Disney was that I couldn’t find any merchandise with the dancing hippos from Fantasia. That jackass editor really made me want to collect stuff with them on it but it looks like they are out of vogue.), other than that everything was fantastic, they obviously wanted me to have the full experience, and that’s who will be getting my money now and in the future.

Blog Poll: I talked yesterday about the Georgia Body-Shaming billboard campaign, and  the brilliant Well Rounded Mama gave me an idea.  What if we did some fundraising and put up a billboard or two with our own slogans (for example instead of “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid” something like “State-sponsored bullying and stigma takes the fun out of being a kid”.  We could even have a design contest and include a url to a resource list. I would be willing to coordinate the project, I just want to get a sense of the level of interest (if any) in supporting something like this before I do a ton of research.  What do you think?

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Georgia, Disney, and the Wave on My Mind

Perhaps you’ve heard of the ads about Georgia’s Strong4Life “anti-childhood obesity campaign.”  If not, suffice it to say that it is pictures of fat kids with sayings like “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not” and “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid”.

First of all, I’m 5’4, 284 pounds, and 35 years old and I dare you to tell my Mom that I’m not her little girl.  So surely other people can get past the idea of little in little girl not necessarily being dependent on body size.  And I was a fat kid and had lots of fun, and I know other fat kids who have lots of fun.

Maybe the ads should say “It’s hard to be a little girl when the state of Georgia is shaming and bullying you.” and “Being the victim of state-sponsored bullying and body shaming takes the fun out of being a kid.”

I saw the play “Beauty and the Beast” at Disney’s Hollywood studios yesterday (stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this).  In the play, Gaston convinces the townspeople to kill the beast – who had been living there for years without anyone trying to kill him – but giving a speech about how he was going to come after their kids.  I’ve seen this used in other political fights as well.  Can’t whip people up into a big enough frenzy about two consenting adult men who love each other?  Just say that they are coming after your children.  I worked on the No on 9 campaign in Oregon in 2000.  The ballot measure Prohibited “public schools from providing instruction on behaviors relating to homosexuality and bisexuality in a manner that encourages, promotes or sanctions such behaviors”.  They trotted out teachers who said that gay teachers were infiltrating schools and teaching kids to be gay and people lost their minds.  The phrase “Won’t somebody please think of the children” is iconic.  When kids get involved we have to be careful to hold onto rationality.

I think that if we really thought it through, we would realize that shaming and stigmatizing fat kids is not the way to go.  You cannot have a war on childhood obesity without having a war on obese kids.  We can be for healthy kids without being against fat ones. Being for healthy kids means that we avoid the double whammy of giving fat kids the erroneous idea that healthy habits don’t “work” unless they make you thin, while giving thin kids the dangerous idea that they don’t need to worry about being healthy because they are thin. With hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 up 119% we can do better for our kids’ health than bullying them, shaming them, and making them terrified of their bodies and of the state-sponsored bullying and shaming that will be heaped upon them if it decides their body is the wrong size.

I saw something else at Disney’s Hollywood Studio that gave me hope.  We were at the fireworks show.  Like many of the over 1500 people crowded into the standing room only space, we were hungry, exhausted, freezing cold, and cranky.  Five kids two rows below us decided that they wanted to start the wave.  They tried repeatedly but only ever managed a five person wave.  They stopped for a while and then one of them said “let’s try again”.  They did a couple more 5 person waves and were about to give up when someone a row behind us yelled “Do  it again!”. This time it was a 10 person wave.  The person who yelled had caught the attention of people two rows below the original wave group.  Now they joined in.  Within a couple of minutes the ENTIRE STADIUM did the wave.  But them something amazing happened – it came back around.  The kids who started it went NUTS, they were so happy they could barely form words except to say “Let’s do it again!” and again it went all the way around the studio and them came all the way back.  In the space of less than 5 minutes, 5 people influenced 1500.  To me it was the perfect example of grassroots activism.  A small group of people can make a difference.

So if you agree that the Georgia campaign against fat kids is wrong, there are some things that you can do:

Sign the petition

Contact the people involved:

Kevin McClelland (PR Director of the campaign)

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Stephanie Walsh (medical director, handling interviews)

Children’s Foundation
1687 Tullie Circle NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
Fax: 404-785-7355

Tell other people what’s happening and let them know what they can do to get involved. The key word in activism is “active”  We can make a difference.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

When Good Friends do Bad Diets

Greetings from Disney World!  If you have sent me an e-mail, facebook, twitter, or have a comment in moderation I’m very sorry – there was an issue with the internet in my hotel and I’ve been offline for over 24 hours.  I didn’t think I was going to make it- it was touch and go there for awhile- but never fear, it’s solved now and I’ll catch up somehow.  I talked a bit about my New Years Resolution Revelations a couple of days ago, today I want to talk about what to do when our friends make resolutions that don’t make sense to us.

I have a lot friends who are on diets.  Friends who read my blog and tell me how much they like what I say. Friends who are smart and good at math.   Friends who read the research on dieting (for a bunch of research you can check out this post.) I have friends on food restriction diets, reconstituted soy protein diets, weight watchers, Atkins etc.  One of my Size Acceptance friends asked me if it bothers me.

Not at all.

We hear a lot about taking the road less traveled by –  which is the one I’ve decided to take. You can also take the one that is (currently) most traveled by – and that, too, will make all the difference. Either way it’s always our choice.

I’ve talked in this blog about my take on inspiration.  You can read the full post here – basically I believe that you can never really inspire or empower anyone.  All that I think any of us can do is present an option (or embody an option) and  people can choose to walk toward it or away from it – in essence we can provide the stimuli but then people do the hard work of inspiring/empowering themselves. So all I ever want to do is present an option.  I’m not a fan of telling people that I think their dieting choice is wrong, because I don’t find it appropriate for other people to do that to me.  Size Acceptance is a different thing to be – it’s a civil rights issue and to me civil rights are not up for debate or a vote – every body deserves basic human respect, and basic human respect means all humans – not just the humans who behave the way you think they should.  The Health at Every Size option, however, is not a civil rights issues. It is a health practice that people can take or leave.

I do think it’s important that people have access to the facts.  If they have the ability to find out that dieting gives them only a 5% chance of being thinner (and that there is no guarantee that better health will accompany that thinness) and that there is a 95% chance that they will end up less healthy and as heavy or heavier than when they started, and if they still think that intentional weight loss is a good idea, then that’s their business and I support their choice – not because I think it’s smart or makes sense, but because it’s not my job to make that choice for other people  I expect my choice to practice HAES to be respected whether or not other people think it’s smart or makes sense.

In the spirit of presenting an option (since this is my blog), I ditched the diet and weight loss mentality and started to live from a Health at Every Size perspective (which is, in a nutshell, focusing on healthy behavior and not on weight) and, based on my experience, here is my option:

  • You could love yourself, right now, as you are.
  • Your relationship with your body could be healed.  You could start being grateful to your body for everything it does instead of buying into a bunch of marketing designed to make you feel like that you are the wrong shape and size and that you are flawed and unattractive.
  • You could reject the diet industry and the message that makes them $60,000,000,000  a year and decide to pursue health through healthy behaviors, and stop worrying about what shape or size it comes in.
  • You could stop confusing health and weight, and you could stop trying to solve health problems with body size interventions.
  • You could take the time to learn what food and drink and movement and how much you and your body like (by trial and error if necessary) instead of allowing someone else (Jenny Craig?) to decide that for you.
  • You could decide that you are the only person who gets decides how you feel about yourself.  It’s called SELF-esteem.  Not my-mom-esteem, or my-boss-esteem…
  • You could love yourself right now.  Right. This.  Second.
  • You could decide that there is nothing in the world that can stop you from loving yourself and your body because that’s what you choose to do and because you are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

That’s my option.  It’s not easy at first – or at least it wasn’t for me.   It’s been a journey I have found it richly worth it, in terms of both my physical and mental health.  You could try it out and if you don’t like it, you could go back – you could choose something else.  I’m not about making other people’s choices for them.  My choices have lead to a place where I have health, happiness and where I love my body, and I love how I look naked and I am happy.  I hope everyone else’s choices get them exactly where they want to go.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Awesome Fatties on Parade

Belly Bumping my hero Marilyn Wann was a definite highlight of my year!!

Happy New Year!  I hope that this is the start of the exact year you are hoping to have!  I want to let you know about a series of really cool telesummits that the brilliant Golda Poretsky is coordinating that I am part of.  But before I do I want to talk about something really cool about the fat activist community.  I’ve done a lot of activism with a lot of communities and one of the things that has really struck me about the this community is how unbelievably friendly, open, and supportive everyone is.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet Marilyn Wann, Dr. Linda Bacon, and Dr. Deb Burgard who are straight up heroes of mine and they were all welcoming and supportive.  In other communities I’ve worked in, people like Linda, Marilyn and Deb have been more worried about protecting their “territory” than the work –  and I’ve seen those communities suffer for it.  The willingness of people in the SA and HAES communities to set their egos aside and work together for change is really powerful.

Here’s a perfect (and relevant!) example:  I am scheduled to be on the health panel for Golda’s telesummit with Dr. Linda Bacon.  When I first found out I freaked out a little bit – the woman has three post graduate degrees and wrote one of the books that first taught me about the Health at Every Size (r) concept. So I was talking to two of my amazing fat activist friends (Jeanette DePatie  of The Fat Chick and Jayne Williams of Slow Fat Triathlete) and I said that my main concern was that, since these discussions take place on the phone, people would think that I wasn’t there since my plan was to smile and nod while Dr. Bacon talked. The two of them were super supportive and immediately gave me an awesome little pep talk and now I’m excited instead of freaked out.

So as we all move into the next year, I wanted to stop for a second and say thank you to the people I had a chance to meet and/or work with this year:  Dr. Linda Bacon, Marilyn WannDr. Deb Burgard, Jeanette DePatie, Jayne Williams, Golda Poretsky, the women of Big Moves San Francisco,   Darryl Roberts, all the people I met at the film premieres and fatty n’ friends meet-ups, all my blog readers and commenters, and anyone I’m forgetting! Thank you!!!

And while I’m at it a huge thank you to all the fat-o-shere bloggers, everyone who is out there standing up to fat stigma, challenging stereotypes and refusing to buy into the notion that our worthiness is weight-dependent, everyone who passes size acceptance and HAES stuff along on Facebook and Twitter, participates in social activism projects, and inspires me.  We are making a difference and we’re doing it together.  So awesome!

Now, without further adieu, here is the schedule for the 2012 Body Love Revolutionaries Telesummits (all times are Eastern Standard)

Register for access details at

Tuesday 31 January, 8pm EST
Peggy Howell, Amanda Levitt and Marilyn Wann.

Thursday 2 February, 7pm EST
Linda Bacon and Ragen Chastain.

Tuesday 7 February, 8pm EST
Marie Denee, Rachel Kacenjar and Yuliya Raquel.

Thursday 9 February, 8pm EST
Hanne Blank and Virgie Tovar.

Thursday 16 February, 8pm EST
Marianne Kirby, Margitte Leah Kristjansson, and Brian Stuart.

Tuesday 21 February, 8pm EST
Jeanette DePatie and Anna Guest-Jelley.

Thursday 23 February, 3pm EST
Bevin Branlandingham, Jessica Jarchow and me.

Tuesday 28 February, 8pm EST
Paul Campos and Amy Erdman Farrell.

Register for access details at

If you want to let people know about this stuff you can add yourself to the Facebook Event and use it to invite your friends, you can Tweet about it using the hashtag #blrev

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen