Fat is Not the Worst Thing

I blog about body image and women’s health for NBC’s iVillage.  Recently that gave me the opportunity to interview the stars of the new Sundance reality series Push girls.   The series is about four women in LA who, due to accident or illness, use wheelchairs.

During the interview I asked Mia what she thought was the biggest myth/misconception that people have about those who use wheelchairs.  She said:

People feel like the chair is something that’s depressing to us or it’s our biggest hurdle or that we wish  we didn’t have to deal with. In fact it makes our lives a lot easier. and lets us be inspirational.  It allows you to connect with somebody – every single person has obstacles and they are all overcome-able.  If people saw that this is a positive thing that would be more accepting.

That really struck me, because – though I’m not comparing using a wheelchair to being fat – I feel the same way about my fat.

I despise the assumption that I must hate my body.  I am offended when people at the gym ask how much weight I’ve lost or what my weight loss goal is.  I become enraged when someone suggests that my body is something to be pitied or ashamed of.

First of all, my body is amazing.  Heartbeat, blinking, breathing, my body does a million things a day without me asking, and it does everything I ask it to from giving hugs to doing the splits.  My body deserves nothing less than my undying love and devotion. I am fiercely protective of my body.

Me and my fat body live an amazing life full of great friends and amazing experiences.  The only thing that interrupts my big fat fantastic life is the crap that comes at me from people who choose to give voice and form to their prejudices, preconceptions, stereotypes and bigotry about fat people.

When I do interviews I’m often asked “if you could be thin with no negative side effects, would you?”  My answer is always “No.  But if I had a wish, I would use it to end fat stigma and weight bullying – my body is fine, the world is messed up.”

Being fat is not the worst thing,  Being fat is not even close to the worst thing when you consider how awful it is to be a bully and a bigot, and that fat is just a body characteristic like being tall or short or brunette.

Our fat bodies are fine, the world is fucked up.  It’s not our fault but it becomes our problem.  That’s where fat activism comes in – to me fat activism is about sticking up for the body that I live in 100% of the time and that let’s me do every single thing that I can do. I don’t know about you, but I’m certain that my body deserves nothing less that my complete support.

Pre-order my book and get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Do Diets Fail or Do Dieters Fail?

I got a question from a blog reader that I wanted to talk about:

I have a question! I have non-FA friends who think that most diets don’t work not because of metabolism or anything like that, but because the actual dieter is weak-willed. They think that people regain the weight plus some because they stop doing the diet or attending Weight Watchers or whatever it is they have chosen to do. In contrast, I think that even if one stays on the diet religiously, still metabolism will change and the weight will be regained in the majority of cases. What do you think?

This is basic math.  Studies show that  the vast majority of diets fail.  Even Meme Roth says that the failure rate is around 95%.  Somehow people still believe that it’s because 95% of people just aren’t doing it right.

In truth, there is a lot of research about the physiological changes the body goes through in response to weight loss for the specific goal of weight regain.  An Australian research team studied people who had lost weight in an effort to understand some of these changes. A year after their initial weight loss:

  • A hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism – Leptin – was still lower than normal
  • Ghrelin, nicknamed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher
  • Peptide YY, a hormone associated with hunger suppression was abnormally low
  • Participants reported being much more hungry and preoccupied with food then they had prior to losing weight

A year after losing weight these people’s bodies were still biologically different than they had been prior to the weight loss attempt, desperately working to regain the weight – and participants had already regained about 30% of the weight they had lost.  One of the study’s authors characterized it as “A coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight.”

So it does appear that the body fights weight loss strongly. There are other studies that show the same things, as well as studies that show genetics play a large part.

What I want to point out is the fact that, regardless of why a treatment doesn’t work, if it fails the vast majority of the time (and has the exact opposite of the intended effect the majority of the time) then there is an problem with the treatment and an issue with meeting the criteria for evidence-based medicine, and that is the situation with dieting.

The thing that blew my mind when I realized it (thanks to the brilliant Deb Burgard) is that the entire basis of prescribing weight loss for greater health is built on a guess.  There is not a single study that shows that people who lose weight have the same health outcomes as people who were never fat, or better outcomes than if they had just engaged in healthy habits and stayed fat.  This whole thing is just a guess – so all the work and money going into figuring out how to make fat people thin so that we can be “healthier” may be a complete waste.

So it’s not just that it doesn’t appear that long-term weight loss is possible for most people – it’s also that, when it comes to health, weight loss may not even be a worthy goal.

What’s ridiculous to me is that it’s not being widely publicized that we have a mountain of evidence that shows that healthy habits are the best chance for healthy bodies of all sizes for those who are interested in that (and there’s no obligation).  Plenty of studies show that people who get 30 minutes of moderate movement 5 days a week get tremendous benefits without weight lossAnother study shows that people who get moderate physical activity, 5 servings of fruits and veggies, drink moderately and don’t smoke have the same health hazard ratios whether they are considered “Normal weight”, “Overweight” or “Obese”.

It’s important to note that our culture’s attachment to weight loss as the path to health is not based on evidence.  It is at best an “everybody knows situation” akin to the time when everybody “knew” that the sun revolved around the Earth (which could be why those of us who are pointing out the evidence are getting told to sit down and shut up faster than they put Galileo under house arrest).  At worst, our attachment to weight loss is a combination of profitability and pride.  The diet industry doesn’t want to give up the over 60 Billion a year it rakes in, doctors are enjoying lucrative weight loss practices, and others just don’t have the guts to admit that they’ve traveled so far down the wrong road and given so much bad advice to so many people.

So why do people who have all of this information keep trying to diet?  I think it has a lot to do with the potential rewards and  everyone’s belief that they can beat the odds.  I was watching a documentary about the Green Beret selection process (I’m a documentary junkie).  They know that 50% of people will fail but every man there is sure that he will beat the odds.  At one point one of the guys is so out of it that they ask him “Do you know where you are” and his answer is, I swear to god,  “hashbrowns”.  But as they drive him away to see a medic he keeps yelling that he’s fine, he can do it. Golda Poretsky at Body Love Wellness wrote a great post about this phenomenon as it pertains to weight loss.  I get e-mails all the time “I don’t agree with you because I’m losing weight right now and I’m just not going to gain it back.”  To which I want to reply “hashbrowns.”

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that weight loss almost always works short term, but almost always fails long term and the dieting industry has done a great job of taking credit for the first part of a biological reality and blaming dieters for the second part.  I get so many e-mails from people who say “I believe in HAES, but I’m doing [insert diet here] and I’ve lost X pounds so  it’s working!”   There is so much societal reward when people are losing weight that you can get a huge rush and it’s easy to forget that there is a 95% chance that you will be back where you were or even heavier in 5 years.  Of course everyone is the boss of their underpants and I have no problem with people choosing dieting for themselves, but I do not feel comfortable being part of the rush of praise that people who lose weight receive that makes the near-inevitable weight regain that much more crushing so I choose my words very carefully, and I’m certainly not recommending that people do something that nobody can prove is possible for a reason that nobody can prove is valid.

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!

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details

The Thing About Weight Watchers

Yesterday in response to a post that I made in which I said that Weight Watchers doesn’t work, reader Jen left the following respectful question:

“While nutrisystem and that medi-diet crap is prepackaged nonsense that REQUIRES you continue to buy, it appears to me that weight watchers is more about portion control and teaching appropriate eating habits vs insta-slim, freeze dried scams. The only ‘on’ you do paying attention to what you are putting in your body and how much, so being ‘off’ is…not paying attention? An unaccounted for buffet is just as bad for my obesity as it is for my crazy in shape, vein popping, bicep curling, best friend…. I’ve never done it, but if I understand correctly it is misleading to lump it in with the prepackaged ridiculousness of Jenny Craig or the fad diets of Atkins or Stillman. I think everyone’s goal is the slowest rate in which you die, right? I’ll take healthy over slim any day, which seems like what they promote. I have no personal interest in weight watchers, but am interested why this is treated the same or if I am totally off their concept all together. I would love some feedback! Thanks!”

I’ll break this all down, but let me start here:  Weight Watchers markets and sells weight loss. Their success at that is abysmal.  And they know it.  One study showed that participants lost around about 10 pounds in six months and had regained half of that two years later (after which they just stopped tracking them, I imagine so that they could avoid having to talk about how they eventually regained it all.) Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer of Weight Watchers International at the time, said: “It’s nice to see this validation of what we’ve been doing.”

 

 Their chief scientific officer said: “It’s nice to see this validation of what we’ve been doing.” I

after which they just stopped tracking them, I imagine so that they could avoid having to talk about how they eventually regained it all. Their chief scientific officer said: “It’s nice to see this validation of what we’ve been doing.” If they are so comfortable with those numbers, why doesn’t their advertising say “Join Weight Watchers and you have a decent chance of being 5 pounds lighter 2 years from now?

 

So if they are so comfortable with those numbers, why doesn’t their advertising say “Join Weight Watchers and you have a decent chance of being 5 pounds lighter 2 years from now?”

It seems to me that they are trying to have their Weight Watchers Brand One Point Cake Square and eat it too.   First, they take credit for the short term weight loss that almost everyone can accomplish on almost every diet and then they blame their customers for the long term weight regain that almost everyone experiences.  They promise that anyone who tries hard enough can lose weight, and when they are challenged with the fact that their product almost never does what they say it does, then their messaging is “we’re just about health and portion control.”

Giving people options for healthy eating is fine, but then the diet companies add “...and then you lose weight.” Not because they have any proof or reason to believe that will happen long term but because people are willing to pay for the promise of weight loss without caring about the proof (or lack thereof)  Interestingly, one of the reasons that people will pay for it is that Weight Watchers has spent billions of dollars in marketing and advertising to convince people that they need to be thin in order to be attractive or healthy, and that anyone who tries hard enough can be thin.

There is not a single study where any weight loss method is shown to be successful over the long term.  Not a single one. Not one.

Yet I have witnessed the following:

  • The college’s Dietician tells a group of students (who have come to hear a panel on eating disorders) that diets fail 95% of the time because people lose the weight too fast, and that people can keep the weight off if they lose 1/2 pound a week.  I asked if there was research on that and she reluctantly admitted that there wasn’t. But if I hadn’t been there those students would have probably believed that, as a professional, she was giving them advice based on evidence.
  • Weight Watchers and other diet companies have been successfully sued by the Federal Trade Commission for Deceptive Trade Practices, and yet they continue to sell weight loss because people ignore the legally required disclaimers
  • Personal trainers claim that they have the secrets to weight loss even those research shows that while exercise will likely lead to better health, it probably won’t lead to weight loss.

Anyone who says that they know how to help people lose weight and keep it off is lying.  (At least I consider telling someone that you can get a result that you know only happens 5% of the time time to be a lie.)

I think everyone’s goal is the slowest rate in which you die, right?

I don’t agree.  I think that this is demonstrably incorrect (and dangerously close to breaking The Underpants Rule.)  It’s totally cool if that’s what you want to do but there are plenty of people who choose something other than the longest possible life as their priority.

I’ll take healthy over slim any day, which seems like what they [Weight Watchers] promote.

I do not think that is what they promote – I think that they promote weight loss.  I think that because every commercial  they air is about weight loss, because I get postcards from them once a month telling me how many dress sizes I can lose before the next event in the Diet Axis of Evil (Bikini Season, the Holidays are Coming, New Years Resolutions).  If they were promoting health, their name would be Health Watchers, I would not see commercials with Jennifer Hudson saying “I lost weight and you can too!”, they would not do weigh ins, and people would not win prizes for meeting weight loss goals or be chided for not meeting them, and their marketing would not conflate weight and health or weight and beauty.

if I understand correctly it is misleading to lump it in with the prepackaged ridiculousness of Jenny Craig or the fad diets of Atkins or Stillman.

I disagree.  First of all, although their clients aren’t required to eat it,  Weight Watchers has a ton of pre-packaged food.  But mostly I think that they should be lumped together because all of these diets encourage using food as a way to manipulate body size and all of these diets have the same abysmal success rate at doing that.

There’s a term for a health program that actually focuses on health by the way – it’s called Health at Every Size, it’s what I practice and I chose it based on my love of research and math.

So that’s my take on it Jen, thanks for asking!

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My new column for Ms. Fit Magazine is out – I interviewed Virgie Tovar, Hanne Blank, and Rebecca Weinstein for the article “Jiggle is Hot:  Exploring Sex in a Fat Body

My Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Me and Hillary Clinton

Yesterday I found out that I will never be a Glamazon.  If you aren’t familiar, they are an amazing burlesque and pop girl group based in New York City. I learned about them when they were on America’s Got Talent and they are the reason that I wanted to be in a fat cabaret in the first place.

So yesterday they posted an audition call and though I had no plans to audition (I’m moving to the opposite coast and starting a plus size cabaret of my own), I was disappointed to learn that I am not even eligible to audition.  It turns out that their cut-offs are 30 years old and a size 20.  According to producer Meryl Sherwood “I’ve been doing this for over 11 years, and even though the plus size industry has grown since I started, bookers can be very closed minded. I would love to include anyone and everyone but I’m only one person trying to sell a product”.

I totally understand where she is coming from and I’m not judging (she certainly knows far more about it than I), but I was sad to find out that when it comes to being a Glamazon I am both too old and too fat.  I was even sadder when I found out that according to Ed Klein, former New York Times magazine editor and Clinton biographer, Hillary Clinton and I have that in common.

You see, Mr. Klein went on Fox to talk about the idea that Clinton might make a 2016 run for President. Did he talk about the job she’s done as Secretary of State?  Did he talk about her work as a Senator?  Her recent Bangladesh visit or speech about tensions in the US?

No! Don’t be ridiculous nobody cares about those things.  He talked about her age and her weight. (This falls hot on the heels of the “scandal” in which the Drudge Report wasted space on the internet – which is difficult to do – to let us all know that Ms. Clinton had appeared in public with no make-up other than lipstick, about which Hillary seemed to give exactly zero fucks.) This time, speaking of a possible 2016 run, Klein said:

“She’ll be 69 years old. And as you know — and I don’t want to sound anti-feminist here — but she’s not looking good these days. She’s looking overweight, and she’s looking very tired.”

Out of curiosity Ed (can I call you Ed?), what would you have said if you DID want to sound anti-feminist?  Just a suggestion but maybe instead of worrying about sounding anti-feminist, you might consider worrying about actually being anti-feminist or, you know, a complete jackass.

Comments on articles about this ranged from people who said that Ms. Clinton should get colonics to people who wish that Ed Klein would just STFU (in case you aren’t sure, I’m in the latter group).

I think that it is extremely unfortunate that, as a society, our desperate fascination with unattainable photoshop perfection means that we care more about how women look than what they can do.  Like those of us who aren’t supermodels are supposed to say “I’m sorry please forgive me, I’m just smart, hardworking, and talented – I don’t know how I could have thought that was important.  I don’t know what came over me that I expected you to be able to celebrate my unique beauty or at least care a little bit about whether or not I’m good at what I do. I’ll just go curl up fetal and hide my unphotoshopped face from the world.”  No, wait.  On second thought Ed, how about you fuck right the hell off instead.

We can’t make Ed do anything (that would be an underpants rule violation), but we can change things ourselves, so let me take this opportunity to highlight the option of opting out of this part of our culture.  Some ideas are:

  • Stop making negative comments about other people’s bodies, faces, make-up or clothes
  • Interrupt that kind of talk when you hear it and suggest these options to people
  • Stop buying fashion magazines that use photoshop
  • Stop buying anything that someone is selling you through marketing intended to generate fear or self-loathing.
  • Participate in Functional Girl’s No make-up Mondays
  • Don’t click on that link about who has the best and worst bikini bodies or whatever
  • Stop negative talk about your own body.  Here’s some support for that.
  • Admire and compliment women on their talents and likes and dislikes, not their looks (for example, compliment their fashion sense instead of their clothes…)

This system that keeps us down is fueled by our time, energy and attention  – we take those things away and the system will runs out of gas and stall out.

Announcing the Los Angeles Fat Cabaret Auditions!

The Los Angeles Fat Cabaret (soon to have a better name) auditions will be on July 22nd from 1-4pm in North Hollywood.  If you have rad fatty friends in LA, please feel free to let them know, you can send them to our Facebook page.

For the record, I completely understand and respect the Glamazon’s decisions and policies but we’re going to do it a bit differently.  The auditions and group are open to all plus-size women age 18 and up.  There will be opportunities for dancers of all abilities who want to do the work to be part of this – if you want to do this and work hard, I will find a way to get you on stage and make sure you look good.  If people won’t book us we’ll put on our own shows and develop our own fan base.  It’s going to be awesome!

Time is running out to pre-order my book and get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann, is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

The Underpants Rule and You

I have found  there are rules that, if I follow them, usually steer me in the right direction. There’s the Golden Rule (treat others as you would like to be treated) though I prefer the platinum rule (treat others as THEY would like to be treated).  But my most favorite life rule is The Underpants Rule and not just because I named it, and not just because its widespread implementation would end about 90% of the jackassery and fuckwittery that happens on the internet, and maybe 50% that happens in the real world.

The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do. To illustrate, if you’re considering saying something that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that you are about to break The Underpants Rule. The only “exception” to this for me is about Civil Rights because they are not to be voted on or conferred, they just are, therefore everybody needs to respect everybody else’s civil rights.

Of course telling you that you should follow the Underpants Rule is, in fact, breaking the Underpants Rule which is pesky, so let me instead make a case for the Underpants Rule and then you can make your own choice.

I chose a Health at Every Size practice because I am a fan of research and math.  I think that the research clearly shows that a HAES practice give me a much better shot at health with way less downside risk than a weight loss health practice.

There are people who think the exact opposite of that.  I know that because they come here and tell me so – they say that I’m making a “dangerous choice”, they quote research and tell me that I should make a different choice.  This blog is my little corner of the internet.  It exists only because I created it and I am thrilled to pieces that people enjoy reading it, that people get inspired by it, that it gives people information to make choices etc. I try very hard to make sure that I always follow the Underpants Rule and never tell anyone else how they have to live and yet people come here and try to tell me how to live.  That’s annoying.

For this reason, I would never go onto someone’s weight loss blog and tell them all about Health at Every Size and why I think it’s a better choice.  Those are not my underpants.

I do not enjoy (or believe) it when people tell me that I need to become smaller to be attractive.  Therefore I would never say that thin women needs to become larger to be attractive.  Those are not my underpants.

The war on obesity is an underpants rule breakdown on a massive scale. A group of government, public and private interests (with various profit and political interests in the issue) has chosen a group of people who are identifiable by sight and is now trying to tell us everything from how we have to prioritize health, to the path we have to take to become healthy, to how our bodies have to look.  Who died and made them Underpants Overlord?  Nobody.

My metaphorical underpants and my actual underpants have something in common:  if I want somebody else in them, that person will be among the very first to know.  I have definitely not invited the executives at HBO, Kaiser Permanente, the government or the diet industry into my underpants.

Now, I’m not telling what to do (cause, you know, Underpants Rule) but I’m suggesting that if you don’t like it when people attempt to be the boss of your underpants, then trying to be the boss of someone else’s is pretty hypocritical .  I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the lead rule or the brick rule or something – at any rate a LOT of steps down from platinum and gold.

Remember, you are forever the boss of your underpants – occupy your underpants (with a nod to reader Duckie for that phrase)! I’m going off to see if there is a Guinness World Record for number of times the word underpants is used in a blog.

Underpants.

Pre-order my book and get an autographed copy and free shipping! (90% less underpants talk than this blog, guaranteed!)

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Are We Doing Enough About Obesity?

Today for the roughly elebenty gabillionth time I saw the headline “Are We Doing Enough About Obesity?” These types of articles often ponder such important ideas as:

  • Are we shaming fat people enough?
  • Are we ostracizing fat people enough
  • Are we oppressing fat people enough
  • Are doctors doing a good enough job of ignoring fat people’s actual health issues and focusing on their body sizes?
  • Are we making fat people feel horrible enough about themselves?
  • Are we stereotyping fat people enough?
  • Are we doing a good enough job of conflating weight and health?

The answer seems to almost always be “No, we could be doing more.”

Look, if you are one of these people, I imagine it must be very stressful to constantly try to take responsibility for, and worry about, the business and bodies of so many people who aren’t you, so let me help you out:

You have done enough; more than enough even. It’s time for you to go look for your beeswax at your own home and in your own mirror.

If you want to make the lives of fat people better, the absolute best thing you could do is leave us alone.  I have been thinner and I can tell you that it didn’t improve my quality of life even a fraction as much as not being constantly stigmatized, stereotyped and oppressed would.  Seriously, trust me on this – you’ve done enough, go sit down now.

I know this may be hard to wrap your head around, so feel free to read this sentence a couple of times:  Fat people’s bodies are not a signal that we require your interference in our lives.  No, really – it’s true.  You know how you can make decisions for yourself about food, exercise, health without people giving you 386,170 negative messages about your body every year? You know how you manage to make choices for yourself without being the subject of a war based on how you look?  Well, fat people are just like you, only bigger! We are capable of doing our own research and making our own decisions about our health and bodies, so you are totally off the hook. Isn’t that great?! Aren’t you just so relieved?!

If you are interested in public health, then it would be great if you would focus your efforts on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose, safe movement options that they enjoy (and that means physically safe and also emotionally safe so that they know that they can put on a swimsuit and walk around without even the thought that they would be treated poorly or shamed about their bodies), affordable evidence-based healthcare, and true information.  Then you can make choices for you and let other people make choices for themselves.

I promise – you’ve done enough about “obesity.”  Please return to your homes and the policing of your own bodies only. Thank you.

I’m “obese” and I approved this message.

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!

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

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Beware the Dangerous Fatties

Huffington post ran an article by Sue Thomason called “We’ll Look Back and Laugh That We Went On Diets to Try to Lose Weight.” You can read the original here (Trigger warning:  possible conflation of fat and health, Eating Disorder talk, comments that defy logic – though the Rolls Not Trolls community has done some good Ninja fat bombing.)

One of the really interesting things that I notice in the comments here and elsewhere is that when someone simply points out the research – that diets fail 95% of the time, that healthy habits have been shown in studies to have a much high chance of creating healthy bodies than dieting, people respond by saying that what we are saying is “dangerous”.  And it’s that specific world “dangerous”.  As in “You need to stop spreading these dangerous lies.”

I always want to say: Well, I’m talking about research and you’re talking out of your ass so remind me again which one of us is telling dangerous lies?

I often notice that that word “dangerous” is used to try to shout down ideas that are progressive. Letting gay people get married is “dangerous”, people questioning the banks is “dangerous”.  This has happened before – suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun was “dangerous”, women’s suffrage was “dangerous”.

Of course the idea is to use fear to interrupt logical, intelligent discussion and progress.  Historically it works for a while but the thing about evidence and science is that it doesn’t matter if people call them dangerous or ridiculous or stick their fingers in their ears and scream la la la la la or whatever, at the end of the day the truth is still the truth.

Considering how many people have been hurt mentally and physically by dieting and our obsession with thinness (let’s not forget that this war on obesity has casualties including fatalities) I’m not so sure that we’ll laugh about it in the future, any more than we’ll laugh about doctors giving pregnant women thalidomide, or prescribing heroin as a cough suppressant or using lysol as a douche (trust me, nobody is laughing about that one).

What astounds me is that this has happened repeatedly in our history.  Scientists have made myriad discoveries that disproved what “everybody knew”, doctors have prescribed things that ended up not working or causing heinous side effects, yet somehow there is a vocal group of people who seem to think  it’s not possible for that to have happened again.  And so instead of learning from the past, noticing the mistakes faster and changing course with more agility and speed, they cling to a purported “solution” that is not defensible based on the evidence and call those who disagree with them dangerous.

One of my favorite quotes is from Marie Osmond who said “if you’re going to look back on this and laugh, you might as well laugh now. ”  Since without a stage I’m just kind of an awkward klutz, that advice has served me well in many situations, and I think that it can serve in the battle for Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size. Please note, this isn’t for everyone or for every situation – it’s just another arrow for your SA/HAES quiver if you want it.

The first use is when someone suggests that you should go on a diet. Try giving them a look of disbelief, a quick snort of a laugh and saying “Are people still peddling that? I thought everybody knew that weight loss doesn’t work.” Or shake your head disapprovingly and say “Wow, the computer era makes the evidence so accessible and people still don’t bother to read it!”

Or someone says “You need to weight loss script blah blah blah”.  Laugh and shake my head with a little eye roll or a look of disbelief. (That typically gets them to stop mid-sentence.)  Then I ask “So, how do you reconcile your pro-diet views with the findings of Matheson et.al,?”  That gets a confused look.  So give a confused, slightly disbelieving look back and say “Wei et. al.?” Another confused look.  Say, with a decent amount of surprise “Really?”  (as if you were certain they’d know about that one,) then continue “Bacon and Aphramor, Mann and Tomiyama, the Cooper Institute studies?” Be prepared to have conversations about these but so far in my experience the people I’ve spoken to, including doctors, haven’t heard of them so then I just say “I’m sorry but it sounds like you haven’t done enough research to be qualified to give me advice on this.  I’ll be happy to have a conversation about  it though.”

I’ve found this to be effective with doctors. If you want to know more about the research just scroll to the bottom of this post.

I don’t think that a multi-billion industry built on lies, stigma, bullying, repeated failure and physical harm is particularly funny, but having the ability to laugh in the face of all that crap makes can be a way to move the goalpost a little and declare another small victory. Those small victories add up to bigger victories and before you know it we’ve made major progress (and I guess that makes us very “dangerous” people – I feel like we should have jackets and re-write the “When You’re a Jet” song to be “When you’re a Fat” or something.)

So anyway, we’re probably not going to look back at this and laugh – but we can go ahead and laugh now.

Pre-order my book and get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Shameless Inspiration

The fight for fat acceptance is a going to be a long haul, so today I thought I would post and oldie but goodie about inspiration.

I am unrepentant inspiration junkie. The theme of Greatest American Hero is always on rotation on my iPhone. “Believe it or not Iiiiiiiiii’m walking on air… ” (I always loved that show.  Just a normal guy who got a suit with some gifts he didn’t understand – he overcame his fear and made the most of it.  Awesome.)

I have vision boards with pictures of what I want and words like “Inspire” and “Change Reality” all over my house.

I have a blue box with hundreds of motivational quotes that I painstakingly wrote on index cards from the time I was in middle school.

This is one of my favorite videos:

 

Some people I know make fun of me good-naturedly.  They say it’s silly, they say that they are too jaded for such cheesy things to motivate or inspire them.  They imply that I am perhaps a bit of a simpleton for deriving motivation and inspiration from Michael Bolton singing Go the Distance from Hercules.   They may well be right and as usual I’m not saying anyone else has to crank up the Michael Bolton.  So maybe I am kind of cheesy and simple when it comes to this.

I.  Do.  Not.  Care.

We live in a world where we can get 386,170 negative messages about my body every year and so those of us who choose to love ourselves and our bodies, and those of us who want to let other people know that they can do the same if they choose not only have to actively reject every single one of those messages but then find the energy to shout new messages at the top of our voices.

For me – I want to stand on top of the mountain and see the view of a world that embraces bodies of all shapes and sizes and the beauty in every person, and I’m willing to fight for that.

You know how every 18 year old thinks they and their friends can change the world? Now that I’m 35 though…

…I’m absolutely CERTAIN we can.  For me, I want to see who can I be, what difference can I make  if I do everything that I possibly can.

The catch is that in order to do that we have to avoid buying into all those negative messages.  We have to conquer fear after fear after fear.  We have to fail spectacularly and not let our failures get us down.  We can’t become jaded and bitter, no matter how many life experiences we have that make jaded and bitter seem like a reasonable things to be. We have to be honest and authentic  and avoid settling, even when things are hardest and an easier, safer option seems like a good idea; and no matter how many people would find us less weird/obnoxious/cheesy/intimidating  if we did.  Maybe we’ll be cheesy simpletons, but we’ll be cheesy simpletons who are KICKING ASS!

Pre-order my book and get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

 

 

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

 

Sixteen Ounces of Ridiculous

New York City government is proposing a ban on large-size sodas.  If the measure passes, restaurants would be fined $200 for serving a “sugary drink” more than 16 ounces.  It was not made clear how they would deal with refills, or if they would be policing the amount of sugar someone puts in their tea or coffee.

Mayor Bloomberg tweeted “More than half of NYC adults (58%) are overweight or obese. We’re doing something about it.” He also claimed that the city  spends $4 billion a year on medical care for overweight people.  Lord only knows where he got those figures or how they were counted (my money is on a dart throw or rectal pull).

A statement from his office said “The single largest driver of these alarming increases in obesity is sugary drinks, which have grown in size.” My favorite line in the CNN article says “It was not immediately clear what that assertion was based on.”

What was also not immediately clear was if there is any evidence basis in the world for doing this. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest that limiting restaurant sodas to 16 ounces will have any effect on obesity. It’s not like they even commissioned a pilot study, they just made something up and now they are working to pass a law. The only thing the mayor can actually claim to be “doing something about” is the size of sugary drinks that restaurants are allowed to serve.

If you’re curious about just how the city government feels they have the legal right to tell restaurants what size of drinks they can serve, Bloomberg has this brilliant piece of political rhetoric:  “This is something we think we have the legal authority to do. We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do something; we’re simply making it different for them in how they do it.” Um,  right.

I think that telling businesses what size food they can serve starts us down any number of slippery slopes.
The one that is most pertinent to this blog is that we continue to put limits and bans and taxes on things that people say make other people fat, as long as someone can say so convincingly and with feeling.  Then thin people start to feel that it’s not fair to punish them because of fat people and someone will suggest that we just limit what fat people are allowed to buy or just tax fat people (For the record Mississippi already tried to make it illegal to serve “obese” people in restaurants.)
The restaurants I go to have plenty of drink choices – sodas, diet sodas, water, milk, juice, tea etc. It’s my body and if I want to fill it with Mountain Dew I have as much right to do that as someone else has to throw their body off the side of a mountain while BASE jumping, or jump out of a helicopter wearing skis or a thousand other things that don’t prioritize their health.
At the end of the day, I think that this is being pushed as an issue because of widespread fat bigotry which makes it a “safe” issue with which to score points while distracting from the things they’re not regulating – like oh, I don’t know….banks as a random hypothetical example.
I don’t really care about personally being able to get a soda larger than 16 ounces, however I care very much that the obesity epi-panic has become so widespread that a city government is comfortable regulating what a business can sell based on someone’s guess (with no evidence backing it up) that doing so will in some completely unspecified way, “do something” about obesity.  That’s not the same thing as, say, insisting on a cleanliness standard for public health.  This is saying that anything that may have anything to do with obesity is fair game for government regulations as a way to control the way that people look, and I think that’s dangerous.

Pre-order my book and  get an autographed copy and free shipping! (I’ll try to keep the book less than 16 ounces.)

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen