With Us or Against Us

I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately – I receive a lot of criticism for my “underpants rule” policy, especially when it comes to people’s right to make different choices about their bodies and health than I would make.  I think that my right to choose Health at Every Size is dependent upon someone else’s right to choose weight loss.  The most important thing to me is that people know that HAES and Size Acceptance are options that they can choose and that they have access to true information.

One thing I see sometimes is an attitude that “If they’re not with us, they are against us, so screw ’em.”  In this scenario, “with us” typically means that they are already where we are on their size acceptance journey, that they aren’t asking questions that we’ve heard a thousand times, that they aren’t still thinking that they might want to change their size and shape, or that you have to be thin to be healthy etc.

I sometimes see fat activists get frustrated with people who are at the beginning of their journey, asking questions that we’ve answered a thousand times.  I can absolutely understand the frustration, but I wonder if perhaps we’re forgetting that the first time we heard many of those questions was when we first asked them.   I think sometimes in our zeal we can forget that this is a process – that the world is constantly inundating people with the opposite message and that everyone may not have whatever confluence of events, circumstances and personality quirks allowed us to get to this place.

My philosophy for my activism and this blog (which is certainly not the only valid philosophy) is that “If they aren’t actively against me, maybe they’re with me.”  Based on where we are as a civil rights movement I do not think that Fat Activism has to be about everyone choosing the same things that I do. for their bodies.  I think it’s more about everyone believing in choice and respect.  So if someone believes that people of every size should be treated with respect, should be allowed to prioritize their health however they want and choose their own path to health; if they believe in ending size stigma, oppression and weight bullying then I think there’s a place for them in size acceptance.  Even if they make different choices about their bodies than I would not make.

Rather than telling people who are curious about HAES and SA but still want to try to change the size and shape of their body to go to hell, what if we  provided access to information, patiently answered their respectful questions, modeled options, respected their choices, and in turn demanded respect for ours.  If people are interested in helping to dismantle size stigma and bullying, then I think that there is space for them, even if they don’t choose to accept their own size at this time, and I think that being involved in the movement gives them plenty of opportunities to consider their options.

That does not mean that people who choose weight loss have to be given an opportunity to talk about weight loss in every forum.  It is absolutely ok for there to be spaces that are weight neutral, Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance  based etc.   The Fit Fatties Forum, for example (which the amazing Jeanette DePatie and I founded with the help of Jayne Williams), has very specific rules against pro-diet or pro weight loss talk and I don’t apologize for that –  there are plenty of places to talk about those things and it is absolutely possible to respect people’s personal choices about weight loss and still create boundaries for your space/forum/blog etc.

I think it’s important to remember that we are up against a massive and devastatingly effective propaganda campaign perpetuated by big businesses with big profit motives for maintaining the status quo.  Many of the people who find the fatosphere and contact us with questions  are still attempting to lose weight because they truly believe that it is likely to work and will improve their health.  They are following the orders of their doctor – a medical professional who they assume they can trust to give them good information.  There are people who hate themselves because they literally don’t know that there is another choice. People face astronomical pressure to lose weight from nearly every facet of society and they receive a tremendous social reward for whatever time they are able to maintain their weight loss.

I know that health and weight are two different things, I know that you can pursue health and happiness in the body you have now because many things and people came together in my life to allow that to happen. I want to pass that along and try to help people who are where I used to be.  Yes indeedy, I wasn’t always the body loving, size positive woman who is writing this today – I took part in Biggest Loser contests – taking pictures of myself in bike shorts and a sports bra, I did every diet you’ve ever heard of and probably some that you haven’t.  Even when I learned to love my body I still believed that I could never be healthy until I was thin.

I’ve been where these people are and so when they come to me at the start of the journey – confused, questioning and in disbelief about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, I work hard to summon the same compassion that people gave me (or more compassion than many were able to muster…). It doesn’t matter if it’s the fifteen millionth time I’ve heard the question – it’s the first time that they’ve mustered the courage to ask it and that’s a big deal.  If they are asking questions respectfully then they aren’t against me so maybe they are with me and, from my experience, how I handle that will be part of determining whether they become an ally, an activist, or an enemy.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Become a Member, Support The Work!

This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!

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 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

 

 

Nobody Wants to Eliminate Obesity

I know that with all of “war on obesity” stuff you hear it’s hard to believe, but stick with me here for a minute.  First let’s clarify who the War on Obesity is actually against. It would seem to be against obese people, but that’s not quite true.  “Obesity” as currently defined is the result of a mathematical formula involving a ratio of weight and height called “BMI”  We’ve discussed before why the BMI is BS.  Part of the reason is that there are so many exceptions to the rule. When people talk about eliminating obesity they don’t typically mean that world class athletes should drop muscle mass so that their ratio comes into line, or that very tall people should be underweight so that they have an “acceptable” ratio of weight and height.

When people talk about eliminating obesity, they typically mean eliminating people who are visibly fat.  The war is not against a ratio of weight and height that’s greater than 30, it’s against people who don’t fit the stereotype of beauty.  And the front lines of this war are everywhere we look and listen – magazine covers, billboards, commercials, infomercials, ads on the internet, random strangers on the street, health care and wellness professionals, talk show hosts etc.

Knowing that, today I’m going to ignore the mountain of scientific evidence that says that  intentional weight loss doesn’t work.  I’m going to ignore all of the evidence that Health at Every Size does work.  I’m going to ignore the many healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people who exist and disprove the efficacy of conflating weight and health.  My question today is: Even if we would all be healthier if we were thin, is the War on Obesity a good idea?

Have you ever had something that you hated: a purse, some shoes, a knick-knack that was a gift from someone?  Did you take good care if it?  Were you inspired to dust it and polish it and keep it beautiful.

Me neither.

The war on obesity has branched out to cover not just the appearance of bodies, but also their health, intelligence and worthiness. The War tells us that if our bodies are fat then they are unhealthy, ugly, unattractive and not worthy of love. We are told that we are not thin because we are lazy, don’t make healthy choices, and lack will power.  We are told that thin is the same as healthy and that we can’t have health without attaining a “healthy weight”.

The vast majority of dieters gain back all of their weight plus more within five years. Yet if we are part of this vast, vast  majority, we are shamed and called weak failures.

The war on obesity tells us to hate ourselves.  Then it says that we have to take good care of ourselves.  Then it says that it doesn’t matter if we take good care of ourselves, we have to lose weight or we should keep hating ourselves until we hate ourselves enough to take good enough care of ourselves to lose weight.

It’s ridiculous.  It’s a system that sets us up to fail, actively participates in our failure, then makes us feel horrible for failing, all the while profiting the diet industry to the tune of almost $60,000,000,000 (yup, that’s sixty billion dollars) a year.

So back to my original question:  Even if we would all be healthier if we were thin (and I don’t think we would be), is the War on Obesity a good idea?

I think that the answer is a resounding no. There are absolutely no circumstances in which a war on all people who look a certain way is a good idea.  Here’s are some steps to fight back…

  1. Notice how often these dangerous messages happen  Tomorrow notice how many messages you get about obesity – from television, the radio, the internet (how many diet ads are on the pages you look at) etc.  Notice how many of those messages are created by someone who either wants you to buy their product or has something to gain by maintaining the status quo (ie: they derive their self-esteem from being “better” than fat people)
  2. Appreciate your body! Your body is amazing – think of all of the stuff that it is doing for you right now:  you are breathing, your heart is beating, you are blinking, the list goes on and on.  Your body deserves to be loved and appreciated.  Just as it is.  Right now.  Right this minute.
  3. Do things that make you and your body feel good.
  4. Stop judging others by their weight. Stop assuming that very thin women have eating disorders.  Stop assuming that fat people are lazy or unhealthy.  Strike words like “skinny bitch”, “fat pig” etc. from your vocabulary
  5. Don’t push your idea of health onto other people.  Make choices for yourself and stop telling other people how they should live unless they are asking directly for your thoughts or advice.  Your experience is just that – YOUR experience.  You get to make decisions for you based on your experience but nobody else is required to take your experience into account in their decisions.  Don’t confuse your experience for everyone’s experience.
  6. Speak out when you see other people partaking in these negative behaviors.  Every time someone says something like this they are reinforcing to someone else that they are unhealthy, unattractive and unworthy.  The idea of making someone hate themselves healthy is ludicrous.
  7. Tell your story.  A lot of people don’t even know that Health at Ever Size is an option for them.  That’s the entire point of my blog. I don’t want to tell people how to live, I just want them to know that there are options for happiness and health with the body they have now.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Become a Member, Support The Work!

This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!

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 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

Say What You Need to Say

I was on a blogging panel yesterday and one of the audience members asked us if we ever shy away from topics because we are afraid that we’ll upset our readers.

I said that I say what I think needs to be said whether or not I think it will be popular – and that’s true.  But I’ve been thinking about it a lot today and there are more layers than that and I want to be honest about it.  I often write something controversial and then wait a few days to publish it (usually I lead the blog with that information)  I do it because it does feel kind of scary for me to write something that I feel is going to be unpopular or cause people not to want to read the blog, or to attack me personally.   But that’s just how it goes.  Risk is the currency of revolution.  And I want revolution.

It also occurs to me that my being honest behind my computer and across the internet is certainly much easier than what so many fat people face every day to talk to their families and friends; to stand up to an often hostile world; to consider that we and our bodies might just be ok; to state that we deserve our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that includes the right to live in our bodies without attack or being combatants in a war perpetrated against us by our government because of how we look.

So let me suggest, with no obligation, that it’s very often worth it to take the risk.  Say what is true for you.  Say what you feel.  Speak truth to power.  Say things that you truly believe will make things better, and then let it ride.  I bet you’ll be better for it, and I’ll bet the world will be better for it. Viva la Fatty Revolution!

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Become a Member, Support The Work!

This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!

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 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

 

 

 

Get Your Inner Critic Drunk

Today is the first day of the NAAFA convention but there isn’t much that goes on before 6pm so  the LA chapter created Body Fabulous Friday, a day of workshops and events to get things kicked off. The always brilliant Jeanette DePatie was doing an art project about inner/outer critics and she mentioned that her room is connected to the room with the supplies for happy hour.  She suggested a cocktail before the project and Marilyn Wann joked that we should get our inner critic drunk.

It struck me as a great idea. I don’t know about your inner critic, but speaking for mine I can remember when she very seriously needed to have her horizons expanded.  Really listening to my inner critic and what she was saying to me was a massively important part of my journey to loving my body.

At first it was hard work to separate that inner critic out but once I did and I really evaluated what she had to say and  whether or not I thought it was true.  I was honestly shocked to find out that everything that my inner critic said came from external sources and not from me at all.  I realized that I had never truly disliked my body or been unhappy with it at all, I never believed that my body was unhealthy or anything less than awesome – those were things that people told me that I had taken bought into subconsciously.  At that point I had to ask myself if I really wanted my self-concept to be based on the ideas of a prejudiced world?  Did I really want to make those beliefs my own?  Were they serving me?

I’ve noticed over time those who are bigoted against fat people keep changing their message – first they don’t want us to assault their eyes with our fatness, when someone explains the ancient art of looking at something else,  then they started to say that it was for our own good because of “our health”, when we explained that our health is really our business, then it became that they don’t want to have to pay for our health care with their tax dollars.  The fact that it’s completely baseless doesn’t seem to matter so much and I think that may be because, for many people, the point of all this is to feel good about themselves by making us feel bad.  They work hard to engage our inner critic in this process because it means less work for them.  But that’s just speculation.

The reality is that each of us is the only person who can decide how we feel about ourselves.  There might be work to shift how we feel, we might have to get our inner critic drunk and have a talk and start to get on the same page, but I can say that deciding to like myself was the start of almost everything good in my life and it was totally worth the cost of a couple of martinis for my inner critic.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Become a Member, Support The Work!

This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!

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 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

Wishbone and Backbone

I recently heard the phrase “Never put your wishbone where your backbone ought to be”.  The same day I read that, I got an e-mail from a woman telling me about how she doesn’t know what to do because her friends and family are so mean to her about her weight.  She said that they treat her horribly, always say nasty things to her etc.

A lot of us have been there – with families, friends, strangers –  we can be subjected to all kinds of poor treatment because of how we look.  This is a situation that requires backbone, not wishbone.  As people of size, hell as people at all, if we want to be treated well we can’t wish for it, we have to demand it.  Here’s one way I’ve found to do that:

Step 1: Decide what your boundaries and standards are

You get to decide how people treat you – you are in charge.  How are you willing to be treated?  Do strangers get to make comments about your size without you saying anything?  Do your loved ones get to nag you about what you eat?  How does your mom get to talk to you?  Think about it, make a list, write it down. (This doesn’t just apply to size either – you decide what your standards for treatment are in all areas of your life.)

Step 2:  Decide on the consequences

I have found that this can be tough and that being realistic is extremely important –  there’s no point in having boundaries and standards if you’re not going to enforce them and setting boundaries and then not enforcing them will likely end up making you feel powerless and teach people that you don’t mean what you say.

Personally I typically go with a teachable moment, then a warning, then a walk away.  Sometimes I give more than one warning but in the end  I’m absolutely willing to walk away from anyone who doesn’t uphold my standards for how I get treated …better alone than in bad company. I have disowned family members because they refused to treat me in a manner that was in accordance with my standards.   But that’s me. You may not choose to walk away from family or friends or you may not be in a position to right now.  Neither is better or worse, we just have to know ourselves and our situations.  The main thing to remember is that you can’t threaten to do something that you’re not actually going to do.  So if you’re not going to walk away from your mom no matter how badly she treats you, then you need to come up with a different set of consequences – maybe she doesn’t get to see you (or the grandchildren if any) for a certain period of time or until she apologizes.  The point here is to start to reclaim our power in how we get treated.

I hesitated a little to use the word consequences because I am concerned that there is a connotation of punishment and that is not my intention.  For me this is not about punishing people – it’s not about other people at all.  This is about you choosing how people in your life treat you.

Step 3:  Practice

You have to be ready, otherwise you will have a pretty decent chance of falling apart.  Practice in your head, practice in your car, and around your house.  Imagine what is likely to happen and practice your reaction.  Do it out loud, write it out if that’s your thing.  Just be ready.  Create an affirmation around it, maybe “I insist upon being treated with respect in ever single interaction.”

Step 4:  Engage Backbone

Stand up for yourself.  Consider though, that empowerment may not be about screaming at people, and I submit that it’s most definitely not about controlling the behavior of others.  I have found that being empowered is mostly about being calm and assertive and enforcing your own boundaries, rather than trying to dictate the behavior of others.  So not  “You have to behave [in this way]”, but rather “If you continue to do [this] I will do [that]”.

This may mean that it’s time to have an honest conversation with people in your life who currently aren’t living up to your standards and treating you as you deserve to be treated.  Explain that their behaviors (be specific) have not been appropriate for you and be very clear about what you expect of them moving forward.  Explain the consequences.

They’ll probably be surprised.  It’s reasonably likely that they’ll try to make it a debate – to negotiate.  You get to decide if this is a debate, a negotiation, or simply a transfer of information.   You can expect push-back on this, stay calm and remember that you get to choose how people treat you all the time.  They may try to make it about you – tell you that you haven’t been meeting their standards.  If that’s the case offer to have that as a separate conversation and give them the same respect that you want to be given, but make sure that you accomplish your mission of clarifying your boundaries and standards and the consequences for violating them. Watch for derailing behavior like trying to say that you are asking too much or, trying to give their opinion third party validation by telling you that “others” feel like they do.

Step 5:  Stick to It

For me, this is where the work really begins. Over and over again you’ll have to decide if upholding your standards is worth whatever the consequences are for doing so.  I personally find that the consequences for standing up for myself and what I deserve are always preferable to the consequences of being inauthentic or not standing up for myself, but that’s just me. [edited because my first try made no sense. Thanks to reader Peregrin8 for pointing it out!]

I notice that my ability to set boundaries is about realizing that:

I never:

  • Control all of my circumstances
  • Control the behavior of others
  • Control what others think of me
  • Control who I’m an example to

I always

  • Choose to take responsibility for my reactions to circumstances
  • Choose how I will deal with behaviors that don’t meet my standards
  • Choose what I think of me
  • Choose what I’m an example of

Civil Rights activism isn’t all about sit-ins and boycotts.  A lot of it is about standing in our lives and saying “No more, never again, will I be treated this way without speaking up.”

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Become a Member, Support The Work!

This month’s member deals come from More of Me to Love, Jodee Rose, The Fat Nutritionist, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie and of course me. If you are a member and haven’t received the e-mail with details and passwords just let me know!

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 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