Gambling with Other People’s Health

A friend of mine alerted me to this article (trigger warning – weight loss talk, conflating weight and health etc.) The article tells two stories.  The first is of a women who is using a blog to keep her “accountable’ while she loses weight.   The article talks a lot about the bullying she’s undergone and how that motivates her to want to lose weight. Of course this woman is allowed to choose dieting, but as a society we need to understand that the cure for bullying is not weight loss, the cure for bullying is to stop bullying. Basically this is the typical weight loss story and obviously she’s just starting and we have no way of knowing if she is one of the 5% of dieters who actually maintain their weight loss.

The second story is about Priscilla Allen who lost weight when she stopped secretly binge eating and started exercising. It’s been 10 years and she has maintained the weight loss. Sometimes that happens, I’m glad that she is in a better place with her health, but this thing takes a pretty odd turn.

First of all the article says that she is now at “an extremely healthy weight” and I’d like to thank the article’s author for illustrating the ridiculousness of the concept of a “Healthy Weight” which in reality does not exist. I guarantee that there are people at the same weight as this woman who are extremely unhealthy.  If we weren’t so quick to conflate weight and health we’d stop making this dumb mistake.

Next it talks about how she is helping people lose weight, I did some digging and it looks like she is a certified personal trainer, although it doesn’t say who qualified her (there are vast differences in various programs.)

The article says that “Allen believes weight loss for many people is 80 percent emotional.”

This entire sentence sounds like the product of a rectal pull.  How many people is “many”?  How did she arrive at 80%?  Why does she have a precise percentage for the emotional component to weight loss but no idea how many people to whom that precise component applies?  Where is her research with a statistically significant sample size and properly controlled variables that proves the validity of her method?

I see this a lot – somebody loses weight and now they are a weightloss guru.

It interests me because I am a metabolically healthy obese person – statistically about 33% of obese people are metabolically healthy and we are considered “anomalies”.  Only 5% of people are able to maintain weight loss long term, but they are considered experts who can teach other people to lose weight. What the hell? Makes me think I need a bumper sticker “Stop losing weight now, ask me how!”

In order to believe that success at weight loss makes one qualified to help others lose weight, one would have to make the mistake of believing that all fat people are fat for the same reason, that this person’s ability to lose weight means that everyone is able to lose weight, and ignore the fact that we don’t even have one study showing a weight loss intervention that works for a majority of people.  Her method seems to be just another take on the “eat less exercise more” that has been such a spectacular failure in research.  Like so many interventions her advice would be good if it didn’t include the “…and then you lose weight” component, but because of the inclusion of the weight loss component it doesn’t meet the criteria for being an evidence based intervention.

However well intentioned they are, people who lose weight and then become “weight loss coaches” based on the idea that their experience can be everyone’s experience are gambling with other people’s health. And often they don’t even have a clue about the odds.  Their followers will lose weight at first but most of them will gain it back subjecting themselves to the health risks associated with weight cycling. Typically the guru will claim that their method works but that their clients failed, even though a thorough review of the evidence tells us that weight regain in 95% of people is exactly what we should expect, and that a focus on health is much more likely to produce a healthier body than a focus on weight.

This problem wouldn’t happen so often if we, as a society, hadn’t grossly overblown the health risks associated with obesity thus creating the mistaken belief that that the danger of being fat somehow outweighs the danger gambling with fat people’s health using completely unproven interventions (like creating billboards that shame kids under the guise of helping them be healthy – just as a random example…).  I vehemently disagree with this practice, hence my Behavior Centered Health lifestyle.  If I were to be looking for a weight loss solution (you know, in opposite world) I would certainly want to see some real scientific proof before I would allow someone to play roulette with my health.

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

Perception vs. Problem

I was flying today and I got stuck on one of those tiny two seater planes.  As I took my seat I had a conversation with the flight attendant, I was in the very back seat of the plane on the aisle so we had tons of time to talk while she was strapped into the jump seat (I don’t understand why they’re allowed to push around heavy carts full of soda while we’re in the air flying at 30,000 feet but when we’re on the runway they have to be strapped in like fighter pilots but some things are just not for me to know).  So anyway, the conversation goes like this:

FA: (in a conspiratorial whisper) Do you need an extender?

Me:  (in my normal speaking voice) No thanks I travel with my own [hold it up]

FA:  Why?

Me: It’s just easier and this way I don’t have to bother you and I can make sure that I have one if you run out.

FA:  Oh, I’ve never run out of extenders on a flight, even on a 747,  we never really need that many.

Me:  How many do you carry?

FA:  Three on each flight.

Me:  Even on a 747?

FA:  Yup, three.

I’ve had this conversation before with flight attendants.  For all we hear about how fat people are overtaking the airlines and making everyone uncomfortable, according to at least 5 flight attendants to whom I’ve spoken, no more than 3 people on each flight are actually larger than the plane’s seatbelts accommodate.  I started thinking about it and I realized that I was on over 100 flights last year and was never seated next to another fat passenger.  Guys with broad shoulders, guys who sat with their legs wide open in the middle seat, one douche who jammed his elbow into my side to work on his laptop , several people with cloying perfume/cologne that gave me a headache, people who reeked of cigarette smoke and gave me a sore throat, several people with strong body odor, several screaming babies, and one poodle in yappy distress for an entire cross country flight, but not a single other fat person.

So, I first have to ask how big a problem fat people on planes really is?  Is it overblown?  Is it actually that seats have become smaller and the rows have been compressed in a way that makes most average sized people uncomfortable, but they want to blame it on fat people?  Today the women who was supposed to be sitting beside me took an option to move up into a seat that reclines a couple of rows ahead of us.  I noticed that while she was freaked out about the idea of our shoulders touching, she was still touching the shoulders of the woman beside her and seemed to have no issue with that.

So is this really that big of a problem or is it a perception based on obesity hysteria – a general cultural prejudice that  fat is bad and so touching a fat person is gross, but touching a thin person is just part of being on a plane?  As I walked up the aisle of my second flight today I noticed how many people were touching the shoulders of the passenger beside them without any complaint, and without suggesting that they should both be charged extra because they didn’t have a complete bubble of personal space.

I couldn’t find stats of the number of people who marinate in cheap fragrance before heading to the airport, fly with angry puppies, eschew deodorant, or have loudly uncomfortable infants on flights everyday but unless I am the unluckiest flyer in the history of flying that number is high.  And I’m not complaining – challenging smells and sounds are all part of the joy of public transportation, people are not required to wear perfume to suit me, mom’s gotta fly and babies gotta cry.  I think that the whole flying fat people issue is unique because the problem is 100% solvable by the airlines.  They can’t make babies not cry, and they can’t make people skip the cologne,  but they could start to accommodate the simple fact that their customers come in a variety of sizes and they choose not to.

Airlines act like this problem is just so difficult as so be unsolvable but if they rarely need more than 3 seat belt extenders then how difficult would it actually be to solve it?

I don’t think that this is the only problem that has been overblown by perception (and sometimes for profit) when it comes to fat people.  Everything from how much we cost the workplace to the relationship between weight and Type 2 Diabetes, to how many of us there are.  So the next time you hear someone talk about a problem that is due to fat or fat people, take a step back and ask if this is a problem or just a perception?

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

Live to Comment Another Day

If you have been around the Fat-o-Sphere for long, you’ve probably heard the advice “Don’t read the comments”.  This is in reference to the fact that there are people who actually choose to spend their free time fat bashing on the internet, and that these people have a certain knack for making any article into a fat bashing fest.

I think that spreading a positive Size Acceptance message around the internet is a valuable exercise, but I’m not willing to give up my sanity to do it. So I ninja comment (get in, don’t read the comments, leave a comment, get out, never go back).  I started a Facebook group called Rolls not Trolls based on the suggestions of people around the blog.  The goal of the group is to share links in internet discussions that could use a little body positivity.  Today someone on the group asked for coaching on how to leave these comments, so here we are.

Here are my best tips for spreading some love around the internet with your sanity intact, of course you can take them or leave them and feel free to suggest your own!

You do not have to read the other comments.  I rarely read the other comments.  If the link is from RNT I typically already know what’s going on from the post.  Otherwise, as soon as I read one negative comment I stop.

I  don’t go in to change anyone’s mind.  I’m leaving my comment for the person who is reading the comment thread and might be helped in some way by reading something written from a Size Acceptance point of view.

I don’t reply specifically to anyone, even though it’s tempting.  The reason is that if I respond to someone specifically it’s more difficult for me to avoid going back.  I’m not looking for a conversation here – I’ve found it takes too much of my mental energy for not enough benefit and there are other things that I would prefer to use that energy for.

Remember who you are dealing with.  These are the kind of people who think that it’s a good use of their time to fat bash on the internet, and that should tell you everything that you need to know about them. They are entitled to their opinion but I don’t have to care what it is.

If you want to back up what you’re saying with fact, some of the people on RNT have started a very cool document with links to various studies, papers and facts.  Once you’re a member of the group you can click on 1 document at the top.  Any group member can add to the document as well so feel free to jump in.

Here are some sample comments that I often use:

In response to general fat bashing

It seems fairly obvious that you can’t hate someone healthy.  It’s a shame that people’s idea of blowing off steam is to hop on the internet and treat people disrespectfully because of the way they look – I would hope that we would be past that by now.

In response to a “fat people are so expensive/tax dollars” argument

This strikes me as a thinly veiled excuse to fat bash and here’s why:  our tax dollars pay for all kinds of things that we don’t like and that’s just the way it goes. That doesn’t make it someone else’s right to say what size I should be any more than it makes it my right to tell people that they aren’t allowed to drink because my tax dollars will pay for their cirrhosis (even though I don’t drink), or that they can’t drive anymore because they don’t use their turn signals and my tax dollars pay for the stoplights that are damaged in the crash (even though I use my turn signals), or that thin people who eat poorly and are sedentary have to change their diet and start working out because my tax dollars will pay for their future diseases (even though I eat a healthy diet and exercise).   The fact that, out of everything someone’s tax dollars pay for, they have singled out fat people seems to me to basically say “I like to fat bash, and this excuse is flimsy but seems plausible enough to let me do it.”

When every commenter thinks that they are a medical genius

There is a mountain of research (Gaesser, Bacon, Wei et.al., Blair etc.) that shows that healthy habits are our best chance for a healthy body.  The use of weight as a proxy for health hurts everyone, since it misleads fat people into thinking that healthy habits don’t make us healthier unless they also make us thinner, and gives thin people the dangerous misconception that their weight makes them healthy regardless of their habits.  Health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control but the best thing that we can do for our health is practice healthy habits and let our body size take care of itself, and not be stigmatized by the people around us.

When people are commenting on a article about someone who challenges their stereotypes:

It’s always interesting to watch people desperately try to hold onto their prejudices, even in the face of direct evidence to the contrary. Thank you [person from the article] for giving people the opportunity to rethink their stereotypes and bigotry.  You are strong and beautiful and appreciated!

Of course you are under no obligation to join the fray, I didn’t for a long time and some days I just don’t feel like it and that’s totally fine. If you feel like doing some activism this is just one option!

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

Who’s Justifying Anything?

The wonderful Deb Lemire, President of ASDAH, let me know that some people have missed the point of Marilyn Wann’s beautiful I Stand Campaign People have put these brave, beautiful people on their websites (like Tumblr and Pinterest) and written rants about how Health at Every Size doesn’t work, talking about how it’s all about justifying fatness and bad behavior, and saying all manner of ugly things about them. I want to talk about how to deal with this practically because the more we put ourselves out there and challenge people’s prejudices, the more this is going to happen.  But before I get to the practical responses, I hope you’ll allow me a paragraph to rant.

How over-exaggerated must these people’s sense of self-importance be to think that we are putting our pictures on posters as a way to justify ourselves to them? Bitch please.  That is some ego run amok right there.  We aren’t seeking the approval of anyone  – we are giving them the opportunity to see that they are operating under prejudice, bigotry and stereotypes and to stop doing that. They have so thoroughly missed the point that I’m worried about their reasoning abilities. If you are one of these people and you are reading this, let me break it down:  We are saying “I Stand for myself and others” not “I kneel for your approval”.  Where you got the idea that anybody needs to justify anything to you I don’t know, but you’re dead wrong.

So what do we do about it?  I can speak from my experience because unfortunately this happens to me all the time  – I’ve had my face photo shopped onto whales and elephants, I’ve had someone diagram my body with all of their perceived “flaws”, I’ve had my image captioned to say a bunch of really unfortunate things.  It’s not something that I’ve gotten used to, it hurts my feelings every time.  It doesn’t make me feel bad about my body, but it does make me feel sad to live in a world where this is how people spend their time. There are several options that I use to handle this type of thing (if you have others it would be awesome if you would drop them in a comment below.)

Ignore it completely. I often choose this if it’s in one of the forums that exists for the purpose of fat hate, where a core belief is that fat people aren’t human. These people have chosen the path away from intelligent dialog and I have no interest in engaging them.  I know that other people do choose to engage them and that’s awesome, it’s just not for me.

Appeal to humanity:  I often do this if someone is talking about me as if I don’t deserve basic human respect.  Often I’ll send an e-mail or leave a comment that says something like “Hi, I’m the person in the picture.  You may not know that I’ve recovered from an eating disorder, or that I chose Health at Every Size as the best path to health for my situation based on extensive research.  While I’m always happy to share my research and answer questions, I would never tell anyone else what they should do for their health.  I think it’s fine that we disagree, but I’m still human.  I think sometimes the internet makes us forget that there is a real person on the other end and that’s how I felt you treated me.  That’s all I wanted to say, best of luck to you.”

Education: I use this if someone is giving their opinions as if they are facts.  I say something like “Hi, I’m the person in the picture. It’s ok if we disagree but I wanted to point out that there are definitely two sides to this story.  Many highly educated people think that Health at Every Size is a valid and successful lifestyle choice.  Some places to start are http://www.haescommunity.org/ (created by Dr. Linda Bacon, a Ph.d with three post graduate degrees), http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/55.full (an article written by five experts).  Again, I completely respect if you don’t choose HAES for yourself but I wanted to let you know that it is based on solid research.”

Rant:  See above.  I typically confine this type of ranting to my blog – If I don’t feel like I can open some kind of decent dialog I typically don’t bother giving fat bashers my time or energy.

Get Help:  If you see this kind of thing online another option is to let the Rolls not Trolls Facebook group know about it.  We are a group who make fat positive comments on fat negative articles and comment threads (with an emphasis on ninja commenting – get in, don’t read the comments, leave your comments, get out, never go back).  The goal isn’t necessarily to change the mind of the person who wrote the article or left the negative comments, but for the person who is reading through and might be affected by seeing another point of view. You are welcome to join the group or you can send the link to me and I’ll post it.

Most of all remember that it’s not you, you are amazing and beautiful and worthy of respect and love – I know that for sure.  Whatever their intentions might be, these people are living from prejudice and stereotypes and bigotry that is causing them to be misguided in their action, but you don’t have to buy into that, and you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.

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

Not Just for Kid’s Sake

They said it couldn’t be done.  If you haven’t heard already, exactly a week and a day after we started the Georgia Billboard campaign we have 1010 donors and $21,721.20.  Enough to launch a good campaign in Atlanta.

When I first mentioned this on the blog I got the following comment:

Bare minimum cost for a bilboard is about 3K. While it is a fine idea I seriously doubt it will come to anything and I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time working on it.

We already talked about how to ignore naysayers and making our Big Fat Impossible Dreams come true. Today I want to talk about something different.

I’ve been talking to reporters and one of the questions that they all asked is “Why now?  Why this issue?” I was going through the comments that people left on the GoFundMe site and lots of people talked about the fact that kids are involved. I think that’s what was pivotal -they went after kids and we will fight for the kids.  Allow me to suggest that we deserve to be fought for just as hard as we’re fighting for kids in Georgia.  Every Body Deserves respect.  Not just thin bodies, not just children’s bodies, all bodies deserve respect.  YOUR body deserves respect

The fundraising was a massive victory (and not just because we raised 7 times more than my naysayer said was an impossible amount.)  When we put up our billboard campaign, it will be another massive victory. All of the amazing I Stand posters are a massive victory.  Getting a letter from the NIH denouncing the Strong4Life campaign was a massive victory.  First let’s take some time to celebrate all of these victories.

There are more fights to come and many of those will be fighting for adults (including ourselves) and I want to use the opportunity to suggest that those fights are just as valid, and just as worth fighting.  I saw several people on the GoFundMe site say some version of “They can shame and stigmatize us but stay away from the kids”.  We don’t have to think that way.  We can stand up and say  “You absolutely cannot shame and stigmatize us or the kids, and we will fight you if you try!”

There are going to be a lot of fights like this and we’re going to gain and lose ground and some days it will feel like we’re nowhere and we never will be, but I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that if we fight all the fights, not just the ones that seem possible, but all the fights that need fighting, we will win.

Huge, massive thanks to everyone who was involved with the fundraising!  We are now accepting design ideas from the community, for submission guidelines check out www.SupportAllKids.com.

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

Sick of Being Somebody’s Cash Cow?

People have moo’d at me and called me a cow, and that’s annoying, but not as annoying as the number of people, businesses, and industries who call my fat friends I cash cows. That cash may not be coming to us since statistically we get paid less than our thin peers and are less likely to be hired.  Ironically that’s part of a mass hysteria and prejudice that is perpetuated by a group of people and industries who make Billions of dollars off our backs. Now, people who I respect believe that the people behind the diet industry and Big Pharma have the best of intentions and truly believe that what they are doing is best for people’s health.  I have a hard time believing that. Here are some reasons why:

Despite the fact that the American Diabetes Association tells us that most overweight people will never get diabetes, the concepts of obesity and diabetes have been so conflated that the term “diabesity” has come into vogue. Except it’s not by crazy random happenstance – the term “diabesity” was  trademarked by a group called Shape Up America. According to their website, they are supposed to be “high profile national initiative to promote healthy weight and increased physical activity in America”.  So why do you think for-profit diet companies like Weight Watchers International, Jenny Craig and Slim*Fast, not to mention pharmaceutical companies including Wyeth Ayerst, Ortho-McNeil, and Novartis, have donated millions of dollars to this initiative?  An initiative  which, if they thought it would actually work, would put them out of business?  Do you think it’s possible that they know that the fat panic created by Shape Up will drive them customers who will have a 95% chance of failing and then becoming their customers again?

Speaking of diet companies, it wasn’t their idea to put disclaimers up every time they say that their product works.  Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and other weight loss companies have been successfully sued for deceptive trade practices by the Federal Trade Commission, and their disingenuous practices have lead the FTC to create regulations specifically for their advertising. So they didn’t change their very profitable behavior of selling a product that they know has limited success,  they just disclaimed it.

Weight Watchers in particular has been caught doing some really shady research. Counting people as successes twice when they lost weight, gained it back, then lost it again, making it seem like people who succeed on their first diet to lose the 10 pounds they gained after a break-up prove that people on their 20th diet can lose over 100 pounds, counting people as “successes” for statistical purposes as soon as they lose 5% of their body weight, even if that leaves those people in the same BMI category in which they started (and therefore, based on their own literature, at the same health risks as when they started.)

The Strong4Life campaign put up billboards, bus shelter signs and commercials showing healthy confident fat kids acting like unhealthy unhappy fat kids who don’t have clothes that fit them, with slogans like “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid”.  They claimed that it was necessary to shame, stigmatize and humiliate fat kids in order to make them healthier.  The program is the brainchild of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  They are a not-for-profit organization and in addition to taking donations from Waffle House, IHOP, and Dairy Queen while denouncing the food that they serve, they also took over $145,000 in donations from Coca-Cola and Pepsi.  I notice that on the Strong4Life campaign’s Quick Start tips page, they caution against drinking juice, but say nothing about soda. Is it because the juice companies could not come up with $145,000?  They are also running a weight loss clinic for kids including performing partial stomach amputations for weight loss in children despite the fact that the practice is considered highly questionable.

If these are their best intentions I’d hate to see their worst. Here are some of the many companies, industries, and people that benefit financially from the conflation of weight and health, the stereotype of thinness as beauty that lead to stigma and shame being heaped on fat people in our society, and from making sure that we focus on weight and not health:

  • The diet industry – Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, MediFast,Slim*Fast, Jess Weiner etc.
  • Pharmaceutical Companies that manufacture weight loss drugs
  • The Biggest Loser Franchise (advertising for the show, DVDs, supplements, soundtracks, t-shirts, and more)
  • Women’s magazines who depend on a staggering number of weight loss articles to sell issues
  • Weight loss surgery centers, weight loss surgeons
  • Companies, like Allergan, that sell weight loss surgery implements
  • Doctors who specialize in weight loss
  • Researchers who specialize in researching weight loss (to the exclusion of other health practices)
  • Publishing companies who publish books about weight loss
  • Authors of weight loss books
  • And more…

One of my favorite things about the Support All Kids billboard campaign is that it gets money flowing in the other direction.  It makes me happy to buy books about Health at Every Size and take workshops about Health at Every Size because it sends my money in the other direction.  It makes me happy when I or one of my colleagues is paid as a speaker by universities and by those who attend our workshops. I am happy whenever I see that someone has created a product to help people live a HAES life because it allows people to get good information, and send their money in the other direction.  I can’t stop everyone from calling me a cow, but by voting with my wallet I can stop being a cash cow for industries that perpetuate hysteria about, and shame and stigmatization of, my friends and me all the while claiming that it’s “for our own good”.

iVillage Update

I did a piece for iVillage about Stacy Irvine, the girl whose collapse from anemia and breathing problems led to the discovery that her diet consisted almost entirely of chicken nuggets. Every article mentioned that she was at a healthy weight, although you would think that the situation would help them see that there is no such thing as a healthy weight.  Anyway, you can find the article here,  it is unapologetically HAES without the usual “of course, obesity is still  bad blah blah blah” paragraph and so publishing it was a kind of a bold move for iVillage –  so if you feel like reading and commenting then go for it!

Georgia Billboard Update

Speaking of that Georgia Billboard Campaign, we are only 98 donors away from hitting the 1,000 that we need to unlock our $5,000 More of Me To Love matching grant.  At that point we’ll close donations and begin implementation.  If you haven’t donated there is still time to stand up for bullied kids and be part of this. If you have donated then consider asking a friend to donate.  You can link to  https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/enough-is-enough-the-big-fat-money-bomb/      to give them all the details and the donation links, or send them directly to the solidarity dollar site at http://tinyurl.com/solidaritydollar.  It would be awesome to get this done today!

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

Hey, Get Off My Foot!

Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled against California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.  The basis of the ruling is that the ban unconstitutionally singles out gays and lesbians for discrimination.  One thing that really struck me was an argument made by those in opposition that federal judge Vaughn Walker (now retired) should have stepped aside and let another judge hear the case. Walker is the judge who found Proposition 8 unconstitutional in 2010.  After he retired he came out as gay and in a long-term relationship, and so Proposition 8 advocates argued that he should not have heard the case.

Their belief, then is that in order for a group to get civil rights, everybody but the oppressed group gets a vote, but the oppressed people must recuse themselves from the fight for their own civil rights. To paraphrase the brilliant Dr. Deb Burgard, that’s rather like saying that if someone is stepping on your foot in an elevator, the rest of the people in the elevator should be polled to see if the person should stop. It’s even more problematic than that since typically the oppressing group is gaining something from their behavior.

That’s not how civil rights work – no oppressed group has ever won their civil rights by waiting for everyone else to decide to stop oppressing them, treat them with respect, and give them their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It breaks my heart to see fat people who believe that they deserve the shame and stigma that are heaped on us by society, that they deserve to pay more for insurance, to get lower wages than their thin counterparts, an dbe discriminated against in the hiring process.  I don’t need polling data to know that I deserve better than that. In fact, I don’t care if 99% of people think I don’t, someone is stepping on my foot and they need to get the hell off, period.  If we want to be treated better, we have to be the first ones to stand up and say that we deserve better, and then demand it.  You are, of course, under no obligation to become a fat civil rights activist.  My point is that you can if you want, you don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission.

Speaking of insurance and workplace benefits (see what I did there with that segue…) I did an article for Texas CEO magazine about the dangers of “carrot and stick” benefits programs that punish employees who are perceived as unhealthy because of their body size.  You can check it out here if you would like! (And as always, comments are appreciated because they make me look popular!)

The Georgia Billboard Project is SO CLOSE – We just need 169 people to find $1.00 in the couch cushions and these kids get $5,000 worth of support from the More of Me to Love Match donation. Large billboards, small billboards, bus shelter signs and tons of media to support these kids are all just 169 donors away. If you haven’t donated there is still time to stand up for bullied kids and be part of this. If you have donated then ask a friend to donate.  You can link to  https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/enough-is-enough-the-big-fat-money-bomb/      to give them all the details and the donation links, or send them directly to the solidarity dollar site at http://tinyurl.com/solidaritydollar.  It would be awesome to get this done tomorrow!

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

 

Sure Could Use a Little Good News

And I have some! This blog is a bunch of cool things, really not very related to one another. Read on because I’m about to reveal the super secret blog project that we’ve been talking about for a couple of months, I also have some cool news about levels of obesity.  But first, as I write this (and remembering yesterday’s blog) I’ve just finished  watching a show called “NFL Films – In Their Own Words”.  It’s a show for which they have compiled clips of a player being mic’ed on the field, being interviewed etc.  I’m watching it because I  like anything that has to do with athletes and this episode is about Warren Sapp.  At 6’2 and 330 pounds I watched him him run drills and play in games and he is amazing! His explosiveness off the line, his agility, his strength and speed are all impressive for an athlete of any size.  A reporter asked him about his size and he said “I don’t have to look like some kind of god.  It’s about going out and performing for three hours, it’s about your will.”  You tell ’em Warren.

So, the good news that I wanted to write about today is that studies are showing that, despite the crazy doom and gloom ohmygoddeathfatzarecomingforeveryone predictions that we will all be obese within the month or whatever and how horrible that is, in actuality rates of obesity are leveling off.  Now, let’s not forget that part of the rise in obesity happened when a panel of people with strong financial ties to the dieting and pharma weight loss industries were able to convince the National Institutes of Health to lower the weight that is considered “normal”, making about 25 million people overweight overnight.  Also, it’s interesting that the articles about this leveling off are finally admitting that nobody knows what caused the rise in obesity and nobody knows why it leveled off.  Of course there were also reports that it had leveled off between 2003 and 2008 so the whole thing is highly questionable (especially when the conversation is driven by those who profit from a weight centered approach to health, and obesity hysteria). Now, we know that bodies come in all sizes, and I don’t actually care whether there are more, less, or the same number of obese people. What makes it good news to me is that every article that I’ve read about this has mentioned that dieting has not resulted in thinner people.  What I am excited about is that maybe this will halt some of the obesity fear mongering and cause a retrospective look at the last 10 years, which I think will show the epic failure of the dieting industry and hopefully that will lead to people to being open to a discussion of a health centered paradigm.  A girl can dream.

Super Secret Project Revealed!

You may remember me asking for pictures of fatties doing cool physical things.  Here’s why.  I became really frustrated with the lack of active online conversations about fitness where I felt comfortable.  Forums about fitness ranged from subtle fat bashing to outright hostility, even in the best of circumstances I had to wade through a ton of weight loss talk to get to the actual fitness advice, and there was no advice to be had by people my size.  At the same time I get a whole bunch of e-mails from people asking for fitness advice – everything from weight training questions to what do to about chub rub.  I started thinking about what I could do to solve this problem so I talked to a couple of the awesome women who I’m lucky enough to know – Jeanette from The Fat Chick and Jayne from Slow Fat Triathlete – and we hatched a plan. On March 3rd we will be launching the Fit Fatty Forum.  This is for anyone, of any size and any ability who wants to talk about fitness in an environment free from weight loss talk.  Whether someone’s goal is to walk to their mailbox or run a marathon, there will be a place for them on the Fit Fatty Forum.  This will be free to use, moderated to be a safe space, and will include discussions, a picture gallery, a video gallery, and an Ask A Fit Fatty section where you can ask your questions to an expert.  I’m super excited about this.  I’ll be giving you more information as the launch date comes up.

Support All Kids Billboard Project Update

Y’all we are so close to getting that $5,000 More of Me to Love Matching donation which will pay for small billboards in downtown Atlanta and signs at bus shelters. We just need 217 more individual donors.  Today is “Ask a Friend Day”.  If you’ve already contributed, consider asking a friend to donate a Solidarity Dollar  (or posting http://www.SupportAllKids.com on your Facebook and/or Twitter) and asking people to Stand Up for these kids.  I know is that when our giant billboard and all of our posters go up to support the kids of Georgia who’ve been shamed, stigmatized, and humiliated for the last 9 months, I will be so proud and grateful to have been part of it.

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

Wilfork is an Athlete, Hunter is a Hack

When I saw the name of Paul Hunter’s article my blood immediately started to boil “Are very hefty NFLers like Vince Wilfork real athletes?”  This is right up there with “Can you be fit and fat?”  as questions to which the answer is “Yes. Spend 10 minutes researching on Google, and stop asking”.

First let’s tease out the four different things that this article seems to think are interchangeable. Stereotypical beauty,  weight, athleticism, and health. These are four separate concepts and people can be any combination of the four including all of them or none of them.

Let’s start with stereotypical beauty.  We shouldn’t even have to mention this since the article is supposed to be about being an athlete but when Hunter chooses to quote a TSN football analyst saying “From the outside, not being derogatory, this guy looks like a fat pig” then we have to talk about it.  One wonders what Chris Schultz would have said if he WAS being derogatory?  In this article an elite athlete who keeps up a training tempo that most people couldn’t possibly match is also called “he poster boy for those who look like butter sculptures”.  Why do these reporters persist with the belief that everyone in the world need to fit their stereotype of beauty?  Vince isn’t asking Paul Hunter a date, he’s an elite athlete who is at the top of his game. I counted 12 fat jokes in this article. Try harder Paul.  Stop talking about his looks – it’s disrespectful and has nothing to do with anything.

Weight.  This is a big flaming sack of who cares.  The article comes very close to accusing him of lying about his weight. Let’s keep our eye on the ball here people – Vince can run the 40 in just over 5 seconds.  Go ahead and try to match that time, I’ll wait. Most people will not make it. Athletes come in all sizes, this is the size that Vince comes in.  Back off.

Health. The article does say that he does not have diabetes.  Other than that we don’t know anything about his health.  There is some talk about how when these guys stop playing they become much less active but eat the same amount of food and have health problems.  That seems to speak to the need for some optional transitional coaching to help these guys figure out life after football, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not he is an athlete.  There are athletes of all sizes and all abilities with all kinds of health issues.

Athleticism:  Let’s get this into perspective.  He can run a 5 second 50, he is one of the .2% of high school football players who ever make the NFL, and he is one of the even smaller group whose team made the damn Super Bowl.  What else do you want from this guy? Happily amidst all the fat jokes are quotes from people who actually know what they are doing who say that he and other athletes his size are unequivocally athletes. Hey, look over there, it’s a big flaming sack of Duh!

Throughout the article various “experts” call athleticism in people this size “puzzl[ing], absolutely stunning, shocking, really amazing, inspirational in some ways.” These are examples of weight bias. These things are only shocking because people have incorrect preconceived notions of what people of size can do.  If you’re struggling with this concept, try to imagine the feedback to an article that said “in spite of being women, they were really good at math.  It was shocking, puzzling, and inspirational in some ways.”

This is another example of the bullshit idea that the only “correct” outcome of exercise is thinness, when in fact many studies show that exercise mitigates most of the health issues correlated with being fat, but is not likely to make us thinner.

Let’s take a minute to examine this lose/lose scenario:  If we are fat they make fat jokes about us and tell us to exercise.  If we exercise and become successful professional athletes but fail to become thin, then we have to deal with articles that ask if fat people can be called athletes and a barrage of fat jokes, (instead of what should happen which is an apology and respect from people who are seriously rethinking their stereotypes).  Did anybody else see the movie “War Games”?  The only way to win is not to play.

But that doesn’t mean don’t move your body if that’s what you want to do, or give up on being an athlete.  It just means to remember that Paul Hunter and writers like him are hacks who go for the cheap fat joke, and those who choose to maintain weight biases are bigots and they can do that but we don’t have to buy into it.  We’ve already discussed the ridiculousness of the idea of a dancer’s body or a swimmer’s build, this is an extension of that.  If you want to be healthier, most studies say about 30 minutes of moderate exercise (which you can absolutely break up throughout the day) about 5 days a week will do it. If you want to take it farther and train for a sport, let me suggest that you ignore idiots and jerks, focus on your training and athleticism, and let your body size sort itself out.

Billboard updates:  It’s Manic Monday!  We only need 280 more people to donate (in any amount) in order to get our $5,000 More of Me to Love Match. That gets us our big billboard in a high traffic area, small billboards in downtown Atlanta, and plexi-glass covered back lit signs at bus stops so that as many kids as possible can see them and know that they are respected and valued.

Please consider giving 1 minute of your time to donate 1 dollar to stand up for these kids, a donation in any amount brings us closer to our goal of 1,000 individual donors which gets us our $5,000 MOMTL Matching donation.

DONATE A Solidarity Dollar NOW!

If your donation is more than $5.00  it is also greatly appreciated and you’ll donate through our GoFundMe site.  Click Here!

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

Exercise and Instant Gratification

I had a weird day.  Sometime around 4am the adrenaline rush of the last 2 days wore off and I became aware that I had fallen asleep at my computer.  I went to bed and, I thought, very carefully set my alarm to get up at 9am so I could make a 10 o’clock meeting.  You know that feeling when you wake up and realize that you are way too rested for how much sleep you were supposed to get?  That was me.  I look at the clock, it’s 10:14. Alarm was set for 9pm.  Damn.

On the other hand my day has been really awesome. You all kicked the fundraising campaign for Georgia kids in the ass.  We raised over $12,000 on our first day and at this moment we’re only 356 individual donors away from unlocking the More of Me to Love Match grant of $5,000.  In addition to a big billboard we’re going to be able to do small billboards in downtown Atlanta as well as backlit, plexiglass covered bus shelter posters that we’ve heard from people in Atlanta are the most hurtful.  Plus we’ve got a major national news show and BBC news making inquiries already and we got a write up in SF Weekly.  (If you want to get involved you can donate a Solidarity Dollar here!)  We’re going to positively affect a lot of people, including a lot of kids, with this and I’m so proud to be a part of this community right now.

So I’m having this weird day and I kept thinking of reasons to postpone working out or not to work out.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a workout, but I also had this feeling like I wanted to go.  I had skipped yesterday to coordinate the campaign and so I really thought that my body might like to get out and move around today.  So at 1am I got dressed and headed to the gym.

I did a light workout and my body did feel good, and I felt happy that I had gone. It started me thinking about the different ways to measure success of movement. When I was in a diet mentality I would do a workout designed to burn a specific number of calories. It didn’t matter how I felt, I did the entire routine every single day, sometimes more.  Then once a week, always at the exact same time, I got on a scale to see if my exercise had “worked”.  If the number was right, I could be happy for a minute but it was short-lived since the cycle started all over again for the next week.  If the number wasn’t what I hoped for, then that meant a week of feeling bad, guilty, and spending the next week punishing myself.

Dieters are warned not to expect “results” too soon. I remember seeing a poster at the gym that said “If the gym was meant to make you feel better right away, it would be called a bar”.  I guess it was supposed to be motivational, but I wonder – why do you have to feel bad about yourself to start out with? One of the best things about my Health at Every Size (r) practice is that I get to like myself whether or not I work out.  I move because I feel better when I move but I like myself on the way into the gym, I workout based on my dance goals but also based on how my body feels on any given day.  I celebrate my physical accomplishments, but I also celebrate the fact that I worked out.  There’s no scale to consult, I get to claim victory immediately.

One of the things that I love about HAES is that you get to have success early and often and I think that success breeds success.  I used to have the experience of not getting the number I wanted to the scale and thinking “Why do I even bother?  If this is how it’s going to work I’m just going to quit!”.  Now I move my body and I say “I moved my body, yay me!” and then I do my instant gratification butt-shaking happy dance.

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