Answering HAES Critics and Questions

Later today (at 6pm Eastern) I’m doing a talk as part of Golda Poretsky’s HAES Masterclass (click here to register) called “But But But…Answering HAES Critics and Questions.”  Sometimes people ask why we should answer these questions and critics at all – why not just say that our health is our business, and every body of every size and ability deserves respect?  That’s an absolutely valid response.  It’s a response that I use sometimes.  For me it’s also important to answer these questions sometimes for a number of reasons.

First, because there are people who are genuinely misinformed (by a media machine driven by the 60 billion dollar a year diet industry) and giving well meaning people true information can change their minds and present new options. People come up to me after my talks all the time and tell me that they had no idea about the evidence that I presented and that it’s made them rethink health and the way that fat people are treated. When this much of the world is being actively and constantly misinformed, it’s important that someone gives correct information.  I believe that’s why Galileo stood up and said that the earth revolves around the sun.

One of the reasons that people suggest that we not try to challenge stereotypes is that it can hurt those who happen to be the stereotype and are seen as “living down” to the stereotype.  So if someone says that fat people can’t be athletes, there is a school that suggests that a fat athlete should say “it doesn’t matter if there are fat athletes or not, every body deserves to be treated with respect.”  Again, that’s a valid response.  It’s also valid for a fat athlete to point out that the stereotype doesn’t apply to them. Research shows that challenging stereotypes is effective in civil rights activism, and here is an example of it in real life.  Plus, dismantling the stereotype and pointing out that there are people of all sizes at, for example, all levels of athleticism or health, means that there is no stereotype to “live down to” and so can benefit everyone.  I think it’s important to combine the two – challenge stereotypes while asserting that whether people are the stereotype or not, that doesn’t make them better or worse, they still have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness including being treated with respect.

Next, fat people are told constantly that what we have to say is not valuable, that we are not the best witnesses to our experiences, and that we should allow thin people to speak for us.  So it is crucial that we be empowered to stand up to those who try to speak for us and who suggest that we not speak for ourselves.  Each of us can only ever speak for ourselves and fat people who practice Health at Every Size and those who choose to be athletes are allowed, and should be encouraged, to tell our stories.  Much of the most-often referenced writing about HAES is done by Linda Bacon, Lucy Aphramor, Paul Campos, Sandy Szwarc, and Gina Kolata.  These are all great writers producing important work. (I’ve had the honor to meet Lucy Aphramor and spend time with Linda Bacon and they are both fantastic.)  They are also all, as far as I can tell, “normal weight”/thin individuals.  This in no way negates their fantastic work, but when it comes to being a fat athlete or a fat HAES practitioner it’s important that we also make space for the experiences of people who are fat athletes and fat HAES practitioners to tell their stories in the first person.  This does not demean or negate the experiences of fat people who aren’t athletes or HAES practitioners, there is nothing wrong with being fat and not choosing HAES or athletics,  and everybody of every size, health, age, and ability does deserve respect and the world should hear the full depth and breadth of our stories.

Finally, I think it’s important to answer questions and critics because there are fat people out there who have only heard the stereotypes and the critics.  If someone suggests that it’s impossible to be fat and healthy and the only answer we ever give is that it doesn’t matter if fat people are healthy or not because every body deserves respect, then what those fat people never hear is that it IS possible to pursue health/healthy habits without pursuing weight loss.  Of course healthy habits don’t guarantee health for anyone at any size since health is multidimensional and not entirely within our control but at least once a week I get an e-mail from someone who believed that since they couldn’t get thin there was no chance of being healthy. You don’t have to want to prioritize your health but I think it’s important that people know all of their options, be allowed to make choices for themselves, and then have those choices respected.

Each of us gets to choose if/how we answer the critics and questions that come at us, and we may choose different answers in different situations for different reasons and that’s just fine.

Remember there’s still time to sign the petition to tell Disney and Barney’s that Minnie Mouse doesn’t need to be made into a 5’11 size 0 just to “look good” in a dress.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

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Check Out the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Hey Barney’s, Leave Minnie Mouse Alone

Disney is collaborating with Barney’s to create this year’s holiday window display.  But, says Barney’s Creative Director David Freed “When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion. The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress.”

So they gave Minnie a makeover.  David Freed says that they made her 5’11.  What he doesn’t say is that they made her very, very thin.  To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with very, very thin bodies.  I do think that there is something wrong with changing a beloved children’s character’s body so that it looks good in a dress that barely looks good on anyone.  I think this went wrong when they decided that Minnie didn’t look good in the dress rather than realizing the actually problem which is that the dress doesn’t look good on Minnie. The problem isn’t with Minnie’s body, it’s with a dress that only looks good on a woman who is 5’11 and a size zero.

That little girl who is going to become a 5’4, size 12 woman can’t just become 5’11, size 0 woman when she wants to fit into a dress that was designed by someone who chose to make a dress that only looks good on a very rare body type. Meanwhile, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics.

According to sources sited on the non-profit National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders website:

•47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.

• 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.

• 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

• 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

Girls don’t have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that they will never be thin enough?  Enough already.  Let’s give girls a chance to celebrate the actual bodies they have instead hating them for not fitting into a Lanvin dress.  Then maybe enough girls will get together and demand dresses that look good on their actual, non-digitally altered bodies and designers will just have to become talented enough to design a dress that looks good on lots of bodies, and wouldn’t that be refreshing.

If you agree you can sign the petition asking Barney’s and Walt Disney World to Leave Minnie Mouse Alone!

http://www.change.org/petitions/barney-s-and-walt-disney-world-leave-minnie-mouse-alone

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  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”

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

The Thing about Access

I talk a lot on this blog about access, specifically that I believe that those people who want to spend their time waging a war on fat people because of how we look might consider instead spending their time focusing on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose to et, safe movement options that they enjoy, affordable, accessible, evidence based healthcare and true information. Today I want to look deeper into what “access” really means and where the barriers are.

First,  if you read my blog regularly you know that I don’t believe that health is a personal, societal, or moral obligation, or a barometer of worthiness.  The choice of how highly to prioritize health and the path you want to choose to get there is an intensely personal decision that is nobody else’s business.  Health is multi-dimensional and includes aspects that are in our control and aspects that are out of our control and no amount of healthy habits guarantees health to anybody of any size. I’m not “promoting” any specific kind of “lifestyle”, I believe that people should have all of their options and that what they choose from there is nobody else’s business.  (If you’re wondering “but what about my tax dollars” head over to this post.)

Now let’s talk about access:

The first thing I talk about is access to the foods people would choose to eat.  Notice that I did not say the foods somebody else thinks that people should eat.  Food choices are personal and involve nourishment, taste, culture, and any number of factors for any individual person.  I don’t believe that it’s up to society to tell people what to eat, I believe it’s up to us to work to make a variety of foods accessible or affordable, and to give people access to good information about it.

Next is safe movement options.  To me this means that the movement that someone wants to do is accessible to them and safe both physically and psychologically.  So if someone wants to do water aerobics that would meant that they have access to a class that they can afford and get to, and where they can put on a bathing suit and walk around without any fear of ridicule, shame or unwelcome comments about their body, weight, health, etc.  So opening up a community center with a sliding pay scale on the bus lines is not enough.  That community center also needs to have policies in place and enforced that are fiercely anti-shame. It’s not enough to just have a walking trail or bike path, we need to create a society where nobody would think it was ok to yell insults out of their car at the fatty who is using the trail.

Healthcare is another place where access is tricky.  In order to be accessible healthcare has to be affordable – which means that the person who needs the care can afford to take the time off work, get to the facility, afford the care including medicine and follow up care.  But that’s just the beginning, once you get to the appointment you have to have a doctor who will provide evidence based care.  So it’s not enough to build a low cost community clinic, it means that the doctors who work there have to practice medicine a bit more sophisticated than just diagnosing someone as fat and prescribing weight loss (as has happened to me for strep throat, a separated shoulder,and a broken toe.) It also means that the doctor doesn’t prescribe weight loss without letting the patient know that it is an experimental treatment that fails the vast majority of the time, that often has the exact opposite of the intended effect, and that there is no evidence that it will lead to better health in any case.  As long as fat people are treated differently than thin people for the same medical issue, we have major barriers to healthcare access.

Finally is true information.  There is currently a major barrier to access here in that a sixty billion dollar diet industry has created a massive misinformation campaign for profit, Michelle Obama has declared war on fat kids, and told them to use people who dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to win a game show as role models for health. Meanwhile, actual research about health and weight gets shouted down by the same “everybody knows” type who told Galileo to sit down and shut up. Note that access means that people can find the information to do their own research if they choose, not that information is forced upon them.

Considering all of this it seems to me like there are some better uses for all that time money that we’re spending waging war against fat people, policing drink sizes in restaurants and paying the diet industry to lie to us for profit – it turns out that sixty billion dollars will go a long way

So to the people who harass fat people in the name of improving public health, let me  suggest that instead of trying to be the fatty whisperer, you instead start to work on these actual barriers to health access.  Then you can make choices for yourself and let others make choices for themselves.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  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”

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Asking For It

Reader Dayna asked me “Would you please address what to do when you’re making appointments for stuff? Like, when do we tell the person at the (doctor’s office, spa, conference center, realtor) that we’re fat and might need accommodations?”  I’m happy to!  My post yesterday talked about getting okay with being accommodated.  Today we’ll talk about how to ask for the accommodations that you need/want.

For me there are three basic principles to remember:

  1. I have every right to be accommodated, it’s not “special treatment”, it’s what the business should do to earn my money
  2. I cannot control the reaction of the person I are asking
  3. I can make decisions for me

There is a process that I go through that includes some or all of these steps depending on the situation and  how much I know about what I need.

  1. State that I am fat
  2. Ask for what I need
  3. Ask if there are other concerns that I haven’t thought about
  4. Put the responsibility on them (I often ask some version of  “Was [your business] created with a fat customer in mind?” If I don’t get the answer I’m looking for I often ask “What do you suggest to solve this problem?”)

Let’s do some examples.  I’m a big proponent of calling ahead whenever possible because I think that takes the stress off both the possible confrontation, and then when I’m traveling to whatever the thing is I’m not stressing out that it’s not going to work out or that I’m going to have to deal with drama.  Some call ahead examples:

If I am calling a restaurant I will say something like:

“I’d like to eat at your restaurant and I am fat so I’m just calling to make sure that you have tables with chairs without arms that will work for me.”

I almost always say that I’m fat because I consider it part of my activism but, as always, I’m just speaking for me.  You may not want to do that at all and that’s completely cool.  You could just call and say “Do you have tables with chairs without arms?”

If I’m going for a massage I will say something like:

“I would like to book a massage.  I’m about 300 pounds so I want to make sure that you have tables that will be comfortable and sturdy for me.  I also want to make sure that I get a massage therapist who is completely comfortable and enthusiastic about working with a fat person from a size positive perspective.”

To me this one is super tricky and I would probably not go to a massage therapist who hadn’t been recommended as size positive except in an emergency.  Regardless I would likely also talk to the therapist before we go back to the room  and double the table and his/her enthusiasm because I’m damn sure not laying mostly naked on a table and letting someone put their hands on me until I am CERTAIN that the table will be comfortable and they are qualified to work with me.

If I was going to a spa/resort etc:

“I’m coming with my friends for a spa day.  I’m very fat and so I want to make sure that your spa/resort has been created with a fat customer in mind. I’m specifically wondering about robes, massage tables, chairs for facial treatments and anything else that you can think of.”  I might also just say “I’m considering coming to your spa and I’m very fat and so I want to make sure that your spa has been planned with a fat customer in mind.  Can you share with me how you accommodate your customers of size?”

The doctor’s office I covered here.

So let’s talk a bit about how to deal with things that come up in real time, when you can’t call ahead.  You go to an office meeting and find out that there are no chairs that fit you, your friends throw a surprise birthday lunch at a restaurant full of booths etc.

You’ll have to evaluate the situation and decide what you want to do. For some people the discomfort of sitting on the edge of a chair that doesn’t fit them is much less uncomfortable than asking for a chair that works for them.  Some people get excited about this as an opportunity for activism.  It’s all up to you, remember that you shouldn’t have to do this – you did nothing wrong and you have every right in the world to exist in the exact body you have.  When confronted I would suggest asking for exactly what you need and putting the onus on them.

So let’s say you get to the concert, movie, sports event etc. and find out that there aren’t any chairs that fit you.  Find an employee and say, with great confidence “I need a chair that works for me.” If they push back consider something like “I paid for a ticket just like everyone else here – they all have a seat that fits them and I’m just asking for the same thing.”

If you are told that you can’t have what you want I would suggest putting the responsibility on them, saying something like “What do you suggest we do about this?”  or “How do you want to fix it?” If it goes terribly wrong I try to remember that I am not the jackass whisperer, and if it is at all possible I take my money somewhere else.

For me an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of drama so when I think about my schedule I try to anticipate and issues and call ahead.  For me asking for accommodation is another way to honor my body and everything that it does for me by requiring that it be accommodated and made comfortable.

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

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Accommodate Me!

Reader Jodi, talking about the post on Eating While Fat, brought up another aspect of the EWF experience:  “Of course, when I go into a restaurant, I first have to decide whether or not I will fit in a booth made to fit only skinny people or will I have to sit at a table. I have been in many embarrassing situations where the host doesn’t ask, and I go to sit in the booth, and I just can’t breathe… then have to ask to be moved.”

Asking for accommodations can bring up a lot of emotions – stress, embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, guilt.  I think that one massive problem is that we’ve been told that asking for accommodations is asking for some kind of favor or special treatment above and beyond what everyone else gets.  Also, as fat people, we are told that we are responsible for our fatness and therefore should simply get thin so that we don’t need the accommodations.

Let’s examine the situation: There is plenty of evidence to show that people are a variety of sizes for a variety of reasons which are not necessarily within their control and that we have no proven method to change size over the long term.  More importantly, it doesn’t matter why I’m fat or even if it was possible to be thin.  I have every right to exist in my body as it is and I don’t owe the world a body that fits in a restaurant booth. The same goes for people who desire or require accommodations due to physical or mental illness, disability or any other reason.

Asking a business for an accommodation is not asking them for special treatment. It is doing them a favor, and one you shouldn’t have to do.  You are granting them the courtesy of pointing out something that they probably should have thought of already, or at least should be grateful to know about now. The people who opened that restaurant know that fat people exist and eat out, so why didn’t they make sure to have chairs that fat people can fit in?  When the hospital opened to provide healthcare to the community they were aware that the community includes fat people; so please don’t act all surprised and inconvenienced when my fat ass shows up and needs a bed that fits me, you should have ordered that bed when you ordered all the rest of them. If people on the plane who aren’t fat have a seat they can fit into, then when a fat person asks for a seat they can fit into they are not asking for special treatment, they are asking for what everyone else already has.

So what can you do about accommodations?  First, realize that you shouldn’t have to ask for them and that if you do you aren’t doing anything wrong or asking for anything special, you’re doing the business a kindness. They should be embarrassed.  Second, you get to decide how this works. Let’s use restaurants for example:    If you want to be confrontational you can go into the restaurant and ask for a chair without arms and if they don’t have one then ask for the manager, raise loud hell, start a letter writing campaign etc.  Or, if you’re not up for a fight today you could call the restaurant ahead of time and ask if they have chairs without arms or pick a restaurant that you know works for you. (I would love it if you would share your strategies for this and other situations in the comments!)

You can tell the host/ess “Three for a table please” to avoid being seated at a booth. Is there a policy that parties of less than four have to sit in booth?  Well, that policy is for other people – how about we cruise on over to that six top so that I don’t have to eat with my boobs resting on the top of the table and my spleen being compressed, you can take away the three extra chairs.   Obviously this isn’t just for fat people – maybe you need a seat out of the sun or close to the entrance, somewhere to park your scooter, a table that works with your wheelchair, a place to sit in your class that is not a tiny chair with a connected desk, to not have to sit at a long bench with your table super-close to strangers.   You are paying this business money so making you comfortable should be a primary goal for them, not an inconvenience.  If it’s not, then you get to choose what to do. It turns out that fat money spends the same and so if a business isn’t interested in attracting and keeping me as a customer then I take my money to one that is.

It’s less than a week away!  Check out the Fat Activism Conference Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

Eating While Fat

I got an e-mail from a reader asking me “I have a really hard time eating in public because I feel that I don’t want to reinforce stereotypes about fat people and eating but I also don’t want to choose foods that make me feel, or give others the impression that I’m on a diet.  What are your thoughts?”

I think it’s an absolute shame that our culture around food is based on fear, shame, and attempting to assign moral value to food (sinful dessert, guilt free chips etc.).  The weight loss culture has also given rise to the belief that we cannot trust our bodies in making food decisions.  I’m told to believe that Jenny Craig knows better than me how much food I need and what type.

These things can combine to make choosing foods for ourselves incredibly stressful but when you add a public element it can send you right over the edge.  In addition to all of the pressures of choosing foods for ourselves, public eating introduces other people and their issues.  It can be super stressful to eat with someone who is constantly talking about “being good,” or their diet restrictions, or who has to comment about how every plate that arrives is “SO MUCH FOOD!” or that nobody could possibly finish it, or how nobody could want dessert after all that food, especially if you cleaned your plate and are eyeing that cherry cobbler.  It can start to feel like your dining companion is in charge of food morality and that you have to go to cherry cobbler confession.

I don’t know about you but that can be really frustrating for me to deal with.  It helps me to remember that I don’t know why they are behaving this way.  There are certainly always people who try to make themselves feel good by being The Best Healthy Eater Ever (TM) or believing that it’s their job to be your food conscience and that behavior is some bullshit. But we don’t know if that’s where this comes from and I think it’s worth it to remember that these people are also the product of a culture that is seriously, seriously messed up around food.  To me this is one of those boundary setting situations.  So I might say something like “I’m really dedicated to eating in a way that opts out of diet culture and food shame.  There are so many things for us to talk about, would you mind if we didn’t talk about food or food choices when we have lunch?” Or you could use it as a springboard to start a discussion about the ways that our culture screws us up around food.  Or you could choose to just model eating without talking about your food choices. Or you could just ignore it.

There’s also the issue of food becoming almost a political statement or revolutionary act for fat people.  Do I choose the salad so that my food choices aren’t judged?  Or because I want to show something outside the stereotype?  Do I choose the bacon cheese fries with ranch as an act of rebellion?  I personally try not to choose foods either to avoid judgment or to rebel – rather I try to eat the thing that I want, taking into what is available, how it will taste, how my body will probably feel after I eat it, and what I’m doing for the rest of the day (do I have to fuel my body through a six hour dance rehearsal or am I going to sit and write for the rest of the day).  That’s most of the time but sometimes I choose food because it looks delicious or it’s a rare opportunity or it just sounds amazing or because I kind of can’t turn down candy corn. And I’m ok with that and that makes it ok because this is my body and these are my food choices.  But that’s just me and my choices – you get to choose for yourself.

The bottom line is that you get to choose whatever food you want in whatever amount you want for whatever reason you want every time you eat.  Your food choices are for you alone and there is no morality to them – there is no choice that is inherently more or less virtuous and you don’t owe anybody anything when it comes to your food choices.  And you are allowed to make different choices from meal to meal or day to day and it’s absolutely positively without a doubt never anybody else’s business. [Edit for clarification:  One of the choices that you can absolutely make is to choose to moralize food for yourself, but please be clear that your food morality does not apply to anyone else. From my perspective there is no inherent morality in food or food choices. Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that this wasn’t clear in the original post.]

I think that, rather than trying to make a citizen’s arrest as a self-appointed member of the food police, people might consider focusing their energy on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose to eat and that everyone has access to good information about food so that they can do whatever research they choose and then make whatever choices suit them.

If you want support when it comes to specific food and eating choices you are out of my realm of expertise but I have been really impressed by Golda at Body Love Wellness and Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist.

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

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

My Big Fat Shoe Tying, Stair Climbing, Sex Having Life

I don’t typically rant two days in a row, but…I was lucky enough to be part of a panel yesterday on Alberta Primetime. The panel included obesity researcher Dr. Arya Sharma, and reality show personal trainer Paul Plakas.  You can see the entire segment here [trigger warning for fat bashing and headless fatties]. They were asking questions about whether it’s ok to be fat.  Let me answer that right now:  Yes, it’s ok to be fat.

Dr. Sharma spoke out strongly against stereotyping and stigmatizing of people of size and was honest that we don’t have interventions that are shown to change body size long term.  And then there was Paul.

Paul started out by saying [Note that the block quotes may be triggering, you can skip them and this blog will still make sense]:

When you’re like sort of class 2 class 3 morbidly obese there’s really no advantage to being that overweight and nobody is comfortable moving around on this planet at this weight cause they have to move against gravity and moving that size of body against gravity is very difficult. You are limited in the freedom of what you’re able to do and you lose basic function – life activities like having sex, tying your shoes, walking around the block or walking up one flight of stairs becomes vigorous…The people who are 100 pounds 200 pounds overweight it’s not so much just a health concern it’s also a quality of life concern they’re missing out on a number of things they be doing in this world.

I interrupted and said “What Paul is saying does not apply to me”

Then he interrupted me and said “I beg to differ.”

No, seriously. Paul disagreed WITH ME about what I SAID does and does not apply TO ME.  Note I wasn’t trying to speak for everyone else, just for myself.  Paul actually thinks that he is a better witness to my experience than I am, and he thinks it out loud.  Kindly note that he has never even met me. He went on to tell me more about me that I, apparently, don’t know:

There’s a lot of things you can’t do because of your weight.  [I mention that I’m a three-time National Dance Champion] You’re a three time national champion dancer at this weight?  There’s no way.  I’ve seen your videos on YouTube and I think you’re an average dancer at best. [Note: A search to find Paul’s accreditation as a ballroom dance judge yielded no results] I’m just saying that you’re missing out on a lot of things because of you’re weight and that surely there’s a lot of things you’ve encountered that you can’t do because of your weight.

So I thought that it would be nice to offer Paul some evidence that refutes his claim, speaking just for myself of course. (If you’re up for a little size diversity activism you are welcome to help me give Paul a chance to rethink his stereotypes and bigotry by e-mailing your fatty living life pictures to paul@paulplakas.com or post them in the comments here.)

Let’s start with the three things that he claims I can’t do:

Shoe tying:

I guess I’ll have to choose a shoe-tying method:

I can do the crouch, bend and snap, knee up, or start that barre work early. End result: one fatty – two tied shoes.

Stairs.  I live up two flights of them so there’s that.  Also, remember that time I climbed 180 stairs completely cold in a skirt and dress shoes?  Except that couldn’t have happened because Paul Plakas, celebrity personal trainer, says that just one flight of stairs is an effort for me and, of course, Paul knows me best. Of course if I could not climb stairs I would still be a good and worthy person and could still live a full life even though some idiot might think it’s ok to shame me for being disabled.

Sex.  Not for nothing, but I can do the splits – just sayin’.

Turns out people do make passes at girls with fat asses.

But what about all these “a lot of things” that Paul insists I’m missing out on.  I got to thinking if I was thin maybe I could (Warning – ego run amok to make a point for the rest of this paragraph) play Carnegie Hall, consult for a Fortune 100 company, win 3 National Dance Championships, be the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporate conglomerate, rehabilitate and re-home aggressive dogs, be hired to speak at Ivy League Universities, at Google, start my own dance company, start three successful businesses,  attend the New York and LA premieres of a movie in which I am featured, publish three books, be featured in National Magazines as a role model, be in a wonderful loving relationship, be part of a photo shoot where I do the splits on Wallstreet, write a blog that results in getting fan mail every day, go to the beach in a bikini, go to Disney World for a week with my Best Friend,  help start a Fit Fatties Forum that almost 1,000 people have joined, be one of the 2 in 10 women who actually like their bodies.

Then I realized – hey, I did/do all of those things already.  Wait – I think Paul Plakas is full of crap.  Then I remembered he is also the person who suggested that we take away mobilities aids that allow people of all sizes with disabilities to navigate the world, to make the world less easy for fat people.

So if people are missing out on life experiences maybe it’s because when they try to experience life some jackass shames them and tries to take away their mobility aid, or their shoe-tying aid, or whatever they need to navigate the word.  But I realize that Paul’s income depends on fat people hating their bodies and paying him for a solution that every study says will fail the majority of time in the long term, so I can see how he’s in a tough spot. Still that doesn’t mean that Paul gets to make shit up and replace my actual experiences with his made up ones.

As fat people there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there about us.  And many of them are perpetuated by people, like Paul, who profit from them.  We can do something about this.  We can go do the things we want to do, we can insist on being accommodated, we can love our bodies and our lives and we can talk about that and refuse to allow others to speak for us. And we can e-mail Paul pictures of fatties experiencing life at paul@paulplakas.com

We can also get support:

If you’re looking for support about fitness from a weight-neutral perspective, check out the fit fatties forum (it’s totally free)

If you’re struggling with the message that you aren’t worthy of love until you are thin, check out this video.

If you want support in spreading body positivity around the internet, check out the Rolls Not Trolls community.

If you are looking for a personal trainer or book and video about fitness from someone who is knowledgeable and not a jackass, checkout Jeanette DePatie of TheFatChick.com

Let’s support each other and if they want a war on obesity, let’s give them one.

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

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