Stealing Our Dreams Back

Prejudice against people of size tries to dictate the things that we’ll never be – dancers,  actresses, athletes, pop stars, proud of our bodies, married, not on a diet etc. Remember Jennifer Hudson’s Weight Watchers commercial where she said “Before Weight Watchers my Whole World was can’t” when before WW she had been a finalist on American Idol, starred in a film and won an Oscar and a Grammy?

As a fat person, the message that I hear loud and clear is that the only thing society is interested in me achieving is weight loss.  This fat hating culture steals dreams, sometimes even before they can be dreamt.  Little fat kids like me who sing and dance for crowds of millions in our bedrooms are not encouraged to pack up our dreams and move to LA, we’re encouraged to pack a Lean Cuisine and hit the gym until we are thin and that then, and only then, can we start dreaming of anything else.

That’s why I love to see fat actors, actresses, athletes, dancers, and fat people who love their bodies – because they are stealing their dreams back, wresting them from strangle hold of prejudice, bigotry and oppression. Every time somebody refuses to base their self-esteem on whether or not they meet a cultural stereotype of beauty, every time a fat person wakes up and doesn’t hate themselves, every time someone refuses to acquiesce to the tremendous pressure to shut up and conform or at least acknowledge their “failure”, they start stealing their dreams back, and they become role models for others. Some of my favorite reader feedback is when someone sends me an e-mail to say that they took a dance or karate class, or tried something that they weren’t doing because they were fat.  This is one of the main reasons that I wanted to create the Fit Fatties Forum

If you had asked me three weeks ago I would have said that I’ve stolen all my dreams back, but it turns out that was a lie – I was playing it safe. Two weeks ago I took a trip to LA.  I traveled there to speak at CalTech which went really well, (I even convinced a Masters in Public Health group to change their focus from obesity prevention to health promotion).  While I was there I got to see Jennifer Jonassen perform and she was fantastic.  I got to see the amazing Jeanette DePatie give a great talk at her book signing.  I also got to meet Julianne and the awesome women from NAAFA‘s LA chapter who were inspiring in their support of each other, their work in the community, and their activism.  After I got home and started thinking about my trip,  I realized that I was cutting myself short on what I truly want in my life because I wasn’t sure if it was possible.

I’m extremely lucky in a number of ways.  I’m lucky that the things I love most (speaking, performing, and writing) are things that I’m good at, and fit well with the thing that I most want to accomplish with my life (fighting for civil rights and against weight bullying and oppression to make the world better for people of size).  So I made a decision.  I’m going to pack up my dreams and move to Los Angeles where I can continue my World Tour as well as looking for more opportunities to get on stage as a performer (where I love being more than anywhere else) and give people the chance to question their stereotypes about fat performers, and really steal back all of my dreams.

I’m looking forward to working with Jeanette, Jennifer, and NAAFA-LA and using the platform of LA to make a difference. (Thanks to every movie ever made about moving to LA and chasing your dreams, I know that you shouldn’t hide your money in a baggie in the toilet because it’s the first place thieves look – I’ve always wondered why those girls didn’t just get bank accounts).  Of course this means that I’m not moving to San Francisco and I’m sad about that because there are so many fantastic people there who I would love to work with.  But if I’m being honest, the truth is that I really want to roll the dice and see what kind of hell I can raise in LA.  Wish me luck!

Activism Opportunity

I’m doing a slideshow for iVillage called “Pictures of Health – Diet Quitters”.  It will involve a picture of you and answers to some questions about your experience going HAES.  If you are interested please E-MAIL ME at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

26 thoughts on “Stealing Our Dreams Back

  1. That’s fantastic Ragen, you go for it!

    I’m sure you’ve already heard about it but did you know the Huffington Post are inviting people to submit short films about “The moment I knew…”? Since they started the project a lot of people have sent in films of themselves talking about weight-loss, and the HuffPo have said that if they get enough submissions about “The moment I knew I had to stop dieting”, then they will run a piece on it in their Healthy Living section.

    I’ve done mine already and it was posted within a few hours of emailing them it, so get filming!

    Nina x

  2. You go girl! I’m so proud that you re-evaluated your goals and decided to change the location but not the goal. I believe that when you let your dreams die, something inside you dies too (coming from personal experience).

  3. Good luck with your move!
    Since you said it’s your favourite type of feedback to get, I thought I’d share: You inspired me to take swimming lessons.
    I had discovered HAES for a (short) while before finding your blog, so I was some way along the path to accepting myself and starting to like how I look. BUT, your blog made me realise that being physically active at my (“our”, I’m similar size to you I think) size doesn’t actually have to be uncomfortable!

    I have never been an athletic person, even when I was merely medium-sized type big. I wasn’t unfit, because I loved walking, but that’s about it. And a large part of it back then was feeling self conscious about how my body would look in movement. Then I went through a period that combined me being on/off depressed and moving to an area where there wasn’t much to walk to, and I just stayed in a lot of the time. Lost most of my fitness level, and also got significantly bigger than I was before. I live in a 4 storey house and people worrying about my joints and stairs scared me so much I basically spent 1,5 year going up stairs veeeery veeeery slowly.

    There’s a post that you mention you don’t have to weigh less, you have to strengthen your muscles enough to support your joints and that was hugely view-changing to me…

    So anyway, bear in mind that my starting point was quite significant unfitness, even walking on any sort of mild hill or for more than 30 minutes would leave me tired and with achey feet. In the past 4 months or so, I started weekly swimming lessons so I can swim for exercise, and also started going out for short walks with my DH (without the children, so no pressure to continue walking after it gets too hard.) Walks got progressively a bit longer and a bit hillier. These past couple of weeks, there’s been several occasions when I parked up a hill that looked to me to be steep enough that would give me a lot of trouble and then I went up it and it wasn’t much of a challenge after all. So I feel roud of myself now 😀 And I’m rocking my new bathing suit.

    My fitness goal is firstly to be able to take long walks like I used to some years ago (because I know that’s one type of movement I enjoy,) and after that, maybe next winter (when the baby I’m having in June is born and I’ve recovered my fitness enough) I want to take a belly dancing class that’s running fairly locally. I hope it’s still going by then!

    1. Forgot to mention, when I said I lost most of my fitness level and also got significantly bigger, that in my mind I thought I was so much more unfit than before BECAUSE I was bigger -that’s where you come in.

  4. I love the thought of you raising hell in L.A.! It’s going to be amazing to watch you burn things up. I’m so happy for you!

    I’m taking back my dreams by training for a half marathon.
    Don’t have an actual race in mind yet but I figure if I don’t find one in time I’ll just have my own,by myself,lol

  5. Rock on, Ragen! Now I’m multi-tasking with my emotions because I am so happy for/proud of/excited for you… but I am sad for me as it will be significantly harder to have another fun DFW fatty-friendly lunch. But mostly, the happy part is winning. 🙂

    And hey… if you ever need an awesome all-girl a cappella group for a project, you know who to call, right? 😉

    Get down with your bad self, and thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Y’all are the first all-girl a cappella group I woudl call 🙂 Thanks for the well-wishes and I will work extra hard to book gigs in Dallas so that we can having another lunch (bourbon bread and butter pickles – yum!!!!)

      Big Fat Hugs!


  6. Good luck, Ragen. L.A. probably needs you the most. This city is particularly rife with fat fear and loathing. I am barely even an inbetweenie, but in this town that qualifies me as pretty unacceptable in many circles. What an excellent opportunity to gain more visibility, shift attitudes, and get your message across on a broader scale. I live in Southern Cal and I will support you in any way I can. HAES all the way!

  7. Well, it’s a short flight between LA and SF so you can raise hell all over Cali! But really, if you’re a performer, LA is the place to be 🙂 Have a wonderful time and congrats on making such a bold decision! I also have some feedback for you. Since reading your blog, I have been able to calmly deal with all the comments about “losing weight after you have the baby” from my family and friends. I have pointed out that I’m more focused on health, managing diabetes, being able to move, etc. And if I do add some new routine, I definitely want it to be dance, which has always brought me joy! 🙂 So, thank you so so much!

  8. You inspire me to no end Ragan. I am recovering from bulimia, a disease that can kill me. It is well fueled by cultural bullshit that I internalized as a child. You my dear woman, are shredding the crap out of that ideal. May a million, trillion angels surround you always.

    1. What an incredibly sweet thing to say, thank you so much! And congratulations are in order to you for the fight that you are in, it’s not easy and I truly admire your strength and courage, keep fighting the good fight!



  9. Oh boy oh boy oh boy! I’m happy to hear you will joining the fab ranks of the fat superstars of NAAFALA. You are so courageous to make this change. Looking forward to seeing you soon! hug from Ronda

  10. Wow, what a big decision! Exciting. Best wishes on your move!

    p.s. Consider putting together a one-woman show about your experiences with weight bias and getting exposure for that. That will not only raise awareness in the theater community (immensely biased about weight) and general public (ditto!) but will also be a good marketing tool for your work as a performer.

    1. This is a good idea. Back in 1999 I was in grad school at UCLA and Danny Hoch came through with his “Some People” project – I think 6 different personalities. Clever, funny, and making points about our society. Don’t mean you should copy that completely, but in a creative way make it your own.

  11. This is why I need to also move out to Los Angeles. I live in the middle of nowhere in the midwest so it’s hard to be an activist here. If I didn’t have the internet as a tool to reach out to people, I’d be sitting here talking to the corn stalks across the street.

  12. Congratulations on your decision to make this move. I also congratulate you on know what it is you dream of doing — many people don’t. And congratulations on being such an important and inspiring writer. Have you decided yet who will “dress you” when it’s time for your walk on the red carpet at the Oscars? We’ll be watching and cheering.

  13. Hooray for L.A.! You won’t miss the humidity, that I can promise you. 😉 I sure wish I had come here with the confidence and focus you have, Ragen…I think my experiences in L.A. would’ve been much less difficult…or at least I’d have known how to handle them better. But shouldawouldacoulda…what’s done is done and I am who I am and that’s pretty kick ass, thank you very much! And if ever a town needed a fatty revolution, this one does! So this juicy Angelian offers you a big welcome. Hell…I might throw you a freakin’ party myself. LOL. 🙂

  14. Congratulations Ragen, I have been reading your blog for some time now and have always enjoyed your thought provoking posts. Living your dreams is heady powerful stuff and so delicious

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