Plenty of Problems to Pick From

I was on HuffPo Live today on a panel talking about the petition to ask Barneys and Disney to please not make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 just to fit into a designer dress for Barneys holiday window.  The segment went really well and, with the exception of the fashion designer, all of the experts on the panel agreed that Disney and Barneys are sending a dangerous message to girls. They also agreed that we should take weight out of the conversation about children’s health.  As reader Isabel said “Wow. There were so many people making sense in that conversation that I got really confused and thought I was dreaming maybe??”

See the Segment here:  HuffPo Live: Skinny Minnie

One of the things about the interview that stuck out to me was a reminder about the derailing technique that people use when they say that you shouldn’t work on this problem because there are other problems.  This happened a number of times in the segment and it’s something that happens to almost anyone who tries to make a change in the world or address a problem.  People who do animal rescue are chided that they could be helping people.  People who help starving adults are chided that they could help starving children. As I said in the segment, the fact that there are other problems does not negate the fact that this thing is also a problem.  This is an extension of what I call “never enough” activism – the idea that no matter what you do it will never be good enough. In this version we are told that we shouldn’t try to solve a problem that we are passionate about because there are other, bigger problems in the world.  This goes wrong because if we decide that we are all only going to work on the biggest problem, then what will actually happen is that we will spend all of our time arguing about what the biggest problem is. Also, let’s remember that the “bigger problems” may well be bigger because people were told that they shouldn’t bother to address them when they were small.

I’m telling you this by way of saying that I hope that if you want to get involved with activism you will pick a change, or a problem, that you are passionate about and work on that, whether by leading work or joining work.  I hope that you will not be dissuaded by those who try to tell you that your best isn’t good enough or that your problem isn’t big enough. It’s nobody’s job to address every problem that exists – none of us can do everything, but everyone who wants to can do something.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Charging Fat People More for Health Insurance

With more talk about the new health care plan come more people are asking if fat people should be charged more for health insurance  I posted about this a couple years ago so I’m reposting that with some updates today:

I was in line at the grocery store when I noticed the woman behind me eyeing my enchiladas.  Always one to make conversation I said “They are actually really good for frozen food, no preservatives or weird chemicals, and they’re tasty.”

She sighed, in what I’ve been taught to recognize as longing”, and said – “I can’t, I’m on Atkins”.  She paused,  smiled wryly and said “sixth time’s the charm…”.

I must have made a “huh” face because she went on “my work charges me extra for my insurance if I’m overweight – it costs me about $600.00 a year.  I’ve been on and off every diet and I’m heavier now then when I started.  I’ll lose 30 pounds and gain back 35, lose 20 and gain back 40, it’s a vicious cycle but $600 is a lot of money to me so I have  keep trying, right?”

Now, this is something that I’ve heard of but don’t know much about.  Since I run my own business, I am not covered by a company policy.  I am literally too fat to qualify for private insurance but that’s another blog.

So I went to a  friend who I know is charged $50 per month extra for her insurance.  I asked her how it works.  For her company if her BMI is over a certain number OR if her BP/Cholesterol/Glucose does not meet a certain standard, she is charged $50.  She meets the BP/Cholesterol/Glucose standard but her BMI is too high so she gets charged.

Whether you call it additional premium for large employees or “incentives” for small employees (like the ridiculous Whole Foods policy), companies and their insurance plans that charge more for fat people are penalizing their employees for failing to do something that nobody can prove is possible, for a reason that nobody can prove is valid, with a probable outcome of leaving their employees less healthy than they were when they started.

It’s not just size discrimination, it’s ludicrous.   You’ll hear that size is a matter of personal responsibility.  I think that personal responsibility includes not trying to find a way to justify participating in widespread discrimination.

These yearly weigh ins encourage unhealthy behaviors as employees trying to “make weight” participate in all kinds of unhealthy and dangerous crash diets, many knowing that they will gain the weight back but needing to save the money.

It also sets a dangerous precedent.  When these fat penalties stop being fun money for insurance companies, what group will they target next to increase revenue?

Why not charge employees who bike to work an extra premium because their sun exposure increases their risk for skin cancer?  Charge people who eat a lot of fish since high mercury levels in fish correlate to health issues.  What if they find out that people who live in a specific zip code tend to get the flu more often – can they be charged more too?

Currently the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act precludes charging more based on the results of genetic testing.  In reality though, isn’t that just only until the Insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies go to work?  They’ve managed to lower the threshold for obesity as well as the numbers that indicate high blood pressure and high cholesterol to help bolster their profits. They are already charging based on outcomes that can be genetic in nature (like cholesterol and body size) so I can’t imagine that working on charging based on genetic predisposition is far behind.

This is an extremely slippery slope that should concern everyone.  There are serious problems with healthism and ableism in the way that we charge for insurance in general but when you look at charging fat people more – which would be a bad idea even if it was supported by the evidence, it is not: Despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence that shows that weight is not changeable for most people, and that habits are a much better determinant of health than body size, companies are currently charging more for insurance based upon how someone looks.   It’s not right, it’s discrimination, and it needs to stop.  Right now.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

 

Apocalypse Now! Love Your Body Day

Today was Love Your Body Day (decreed by the National Organization for Women.)  It’s a day to take a break from the constant drumbeat of body shame, body hatred and weight stigma and bullying and love our bodies, and perhaps thank them for all the things that they do for us.  Like breathing.  And blinking.  And heartbeat.  If your heart is beating and you are blinking and breathing then consider that you may have some things to love your body for.

Of course anytime someone dares to suggest that we stop hating ourselves for five seconds, we have to hear from the people who insist that we must not tell people that they should love their bodies or everyone will abandon all healthy habits and we’ll have a healthpocalypse.  These people hopped off the logic train a couple of stops too early and so they actually argue that if we are allowed to love our bodies we might not hate them enough to take good care of them.

I think that the single most profound moment of my life happened around this very idea.  When I started to recover from my eating disorder I gained a lot of weight very quickly and so my doctors, who knew I was being treated for an eating disorder, told me that I needed to lose the weight as quickly as possible for my health.  Yeah, I know. So I was on the failing side of what was my, at least, fifth medically supervised weight loss attempt – being called a liar and a failure for having the exact same experience that I later found out almost every has with dieting – when I had a revelation.  I had spent so much time in the last three years hating my body for how it looked, I hadn’t bothered to spend even a second appreciating it or thanking it for what it did for me. My eating disorder involved compulsive exercise and very little food and so I was pushing my body well past its limits every single day.  I ignored and worked through each and every signal my body had to tell me to stop until I finally simply collapsed on a treadmill – my body unable to go on.  And I spent hours and hours berating my body for falling down that one time,  and not even a second – not a second in three years – thanking it for all it had done to keep me standing up.  That moment, that realization, changed everything for me in every moment since and my life is immensely better for it.

So when I hear someone suggest that we shouldn’t encourage people to love their bodies, I become filled with an intense rage. A rage that isn’t helped by the fact that it’s almost always about profit.  They aren’t worried that we’ll stop healthy habits if we start loving our bodies.  They are worried that we’ll come to our senses and stop buying their ridiculous products.  Weight loss products that are legally required to have disclaimers explaining that they hardly ever work,  beauty products and creams and solutions whose ads get taken down because that youthful glow is actually photoshop.  All the things we buy to help us try to attain an unrealistic ideal of perfection that only perfect in the utterly arbitrary social construct of the ideal. It’s about money and I wish that they would kindly stop pretending that they are trying to convince me to hate myself for my own good.

Loving your body will not suddenly and automatically cause you to take less good care of it.  Loving your body will not kill you. It is un-possible.  There is how you feel about your body, then there are the choices that you make about taking care of your body, and then there are the things about your body and health that you can’t control. They are three separate things.

I think that people don’t tend to take care of things they hate and that includes their bodies, so I also think that if Captain Obvious and No Shit Sherlock had a love child, its first words would be “People don’t hate themselves healthy.”

Look at it this way.  Let’s say that a friend suffered a horrible accident and they only bodily function that they were capable of was talking.  So you are in charge of squeezing a bag every few second so that they can breathe, doing chest compressions every few seconds, opening and closing their eyes to blink every few seconds, pushing them everywhere they want to go, talking them to the bathroom, bathing them, cooking for them 24 hours a day. And let’s say that they spend all day, every day telling you that you don’t look good when you help them, that you are the wrong size and shape, and never once thanking you for the tremendous amount of work that you are doing to keep them going.  How inspired are you to take good care of them?  How much different would it be if they thanked you for your hard work?

So feel free to give loving your body a try.  If you missed today, consider declaring tomorrow your own personal “love your body day”.  You can try this little project to get you started (it’s really simple but had more effect on the way that I feel about my body than anything that I’ve ever done.)   If a day seems like too much, maybe try an hour, or a minute.  Just give yourself a single breath to thank and love your body for what it does without reservation or qualification.  This can be really difficult to do considering the world that we live in but standing on the other side of it now I can tell you that, for me, it was worth the effort. Besides, if loving your body doesn’t work our for you, you can always go back to hating it, but at least you can say you tried.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and 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.

What’s the Deal with Healthy Lifestyle?

We hear so often about a “healthy lifestyle” but what does that mean?  I know that when I started my Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size practice “health” was basically a dirty word for me – the whole idea had become so intertwined with weight loss that I was unable to separate the two and wanted to reject both of them. I was finally able to separate the two, but then I was stuck trying to figure out what health really was and what constituted a healthy lifestyle and if it was something that I wanted to pursue.

The usual disclaimer (which is always interesting since I get about the same number of complaints saying either that I don’t say this, or that I say it too much):  Health and the path to it are intensely personal decisions.  They are not a personal, social, or moral obligation. The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not health or healthy habit dependent. Nobody owes anybody else health/healthy/healthy lifestyle by any definition.  Health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control.  Health is not a barometer for worthiness and is nobody else’s business.  Public health should be about making options available to the public not about making individual’s health the public’s business.

Ok, so let’s say that you’ve made the decision that health is something that you want to pursue. The concepts of “health” and healthy lifestyle can still be really tough.

As far as health goes, I completely reject the idea that health is the absence of disease.  I think that health is a moving target and that it’s about what you experience within the structure of your body and your situation (genetics, behaviors, environment, access, goals, priorities etc.).  But that’s a pretty difficult target to hit since it’s not only moving but also in turns sticky and oozy.

I actually think that the idea of a “healthy lifestyle” could be helpful, and I’ve used the phrase before, but in the end I find that it’s just been too co-opted.  Weight loss proponents often use it constantly to mean “living in a way that other people think will make you thinner/not fat.”  The conflation of thinner and healthier is deeply problematic since, for example, becoming addicted to crystal meth is very likely to make me thinner and very unlikely to improve my health.  Then there are people who don’t understand that comparison is for shopping and try to use the phrase to mean “living in a way that makes me better than those non-healthy people.” The funny thing about that is the way that, like drivers who think that anyone who drives faster than them is a maniac and anyone who drives slower is an idiot, the person claiming “healthy lifestyle” like it’s a badge of honor always seems to think that those who do more than they do are health nuts, and those who do less are lazy and unhealthy – they themselves being, of course, Goldilocks perfect.

For me, I think it’s about letting go of all of the social crap that exists around health and getting clear that this is only about me and my body. In my experience a “healthy lifestyle” means being able to shrug off the shame, stigma, and oppression that I have to deal with because society is screwed up about health and weight – and that includes misuses of the idea of health and a healthy lifestyle.  After that it’s about what makes my body feel good, what supports what I want to do with my body, what options are available at various times and any number of other variables.  I learned the very, very hard way that for me health isn’t about perfection or right and wrong and it’s not about a body size or a “lifestyle” to be lorded over anyone else – I felt my most superior when I was deepest into my eating disorder.  It’s not about a set of rules, or trying to put moral value on food or exercise.  It’s about a state of being in cooperation and appreciation with my body and that works for me.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and 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.

And Size Acceptance for All

One of the most pervasive myths about Size Acceptance is that it is about fat people “justifying our fatness.”  Not only is this untrue, it derails a conversation that I think should be happening about why Size Acceptance is important for everyone.

First, let’s address the idea that Size Acceptance is about justifying fatness. The truth is that it’s about just the opposite. Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement – it’s about the fact that nobody, of any size, needs to justify their body to anyone ever.  Size Acceptance practitioners and activists aren’t seeking anyone’s approval  – we are demanding our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which include the right to live in the bodies we have without shame, stigma or oppression.  We are saying “I stand for myself and others” not “I kneel for your approval”.  (Anyone who wants to make a “but my tax dollars pay for blah blah blah argument is welcome to head over here and find out why that argument doesn’t hold water.)

So to understand why Size Acceptance is for people of all sizes, let’s examine the current situation.  Currently we are told hundreds of thousands of times a year that fat bodies wrong (often by industries like the diet industry which makes money to the tune of sixty billion dollars a year peddling this message.)  As a society, we are encouraged not only to stereotype fat people based on how we look, but to attempt to calculate our “cost” on society and then try to blame things on us, all because we share a physical characteristic.  Unbelievably, we haven’t figured out through our history that this is an astronomically bad idea.  The truth is that the only thing you can tell from looking at someone’s body size  is what size they are and what your personal prejudices about that size are.

This obviously harms fat people. Living in a constant barrage of shame, stigma, and oppression is not great for you and it turns out that if you bombard people with the message that they should hate their bodies, they will often do exactly that. People don’t take good care of things that they hate and that includes their bodies so attempting to shame and hate people healthy defies all logic and, as we’ll see in a moment, research.

But it’s not just fat people who are affected. It is estimated that the current beauty ideal is attainable by only 1-5% of women, and studies have shown that up to eight out of ten women are dissatisfied with their bodies (and again, body hatred is not the path to happiness and health.) Those who don’t spend their lives hating their bodies can end up spending them obsessed with not getting fat. Women start dieting earlier (4 years old!) and stop later (or never). Some develop disordered eating. Some develop an unhealthy relationship with exercise.  Some lose their lives on the operating table getting fat sucked out of them for nothing more than a nearly unattainable cultural stereotype of beauty.

Not only does logic tell us that a world full of body judgment and shaming is a mistake, the research tells us as well.  Peter Muennig of Columbia found that satisfaction with body weight was a better predictor of health than actual body size. Even those people who think (incorrectly)  that other people’s health is their business are out of touch with the research when they choose actions that make people feel shamed and stigmatized- Rebecca Puhl’s research out of Yale found that:

People feel much more motivated and empowered to make healthy lifestyle changes when campaign messages are supportive and encourage specific health behaviors.  But when campaign messages communicate shame or blame or stigma, people report much less motivation, and lower intentions to improve their health behaviors.

A mountain of research shows us that there are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people and that habits and not body size are the best determinants of health.

Health, including prioritization and path, is a very personal decision and it is not a personal, societal, or moral obligation.  So if someone truly wants to support public health then I would suggest that they support things that make health accessible and then respect other people’s decisions as they want their decisions to be respected. Working for access includes access to the foods that people would choose to eat, safe movement options that people enjoy (including physical and psychological safety), and access to affordable evidence -based health care.
It also includes ending body shame, stigma, and judgment to give people the opportunity to like their bodies and consider them worthy of care which is what Size Acceptance is all about.

Ending all the body shaming and stigma isn’t just about making fat people’s lives better (although that alone is absolutely a worthy goal), it’s about making everyone’s lives better.  Imagine a world where we could all approach our relationships with our bodies purely from a place of love and appreciation.  A world where we don’t waste time and energy hating ourselves, where we celebrate the diversity of body sizes. A world where people can make choices about their health and happiness rather than making choices based on the terror of facing massive social stigma.

We all deserve to live in that world. And we can all do things, right this minute to get us there.  For example:

1.  Stop body snarking.  All of it. Right now.  There is just no reason in the world for you to comment negatively on someone else’s body.  Get your self-esteem elsewhere (how about intrinsically?)

2.  Interrupt body snarking and fat stigma whenever you hear and see them – whether it’s in your own mind or in public about your body or someone else’s.

3.  Consider approaching your own body from a place of love and appreciation.

4. Understand that almost everyone in our society is hurting because of unceasing body shame and stigma. Even that person who you might think has “everything” – the perfect body, the perfect face –  may be living his or her life in terror of losing that.  Look for ways to support other people and lift them up.  It can absolutely be little things:  at the bank I saw a woman with beautiful long, curly silver hair (exactly the kind of hair I plan to have someday).  I told her that I thought her hair was awesome and she started crying.  CRYING. At. The. Bank.  She hugged me and told me that her friends said that you can’t have long gray hair and that she should cut it.

We can do better. Let’s.

Reminder!  Monday is the last day to pre-order dance class DVDs and get free shipping!  Click here for the details

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Become a Member and 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 Little Things Aren’t

I can finally tell you that a couple of weeks ago I was approached by change.org about our petition asking Barney’s and Disney to not make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 super model just so she can “look good in a Lanvin dress.”  Today change.org started promoting it and at this moment there are 91,885 signatures.  I’m incredibly grateful for the attention it’s getting because I think that this is such an important issue and so representative of the mistakes that we make as a society that harm girls, women and eventually everyone.

Of course the criticism followed (though, to be clear, I received way less negative feedback than positive feedback on this one).  One of the biggest critiques I received was that this is just a small thing – why aren’t I working on getting treatment for people who have eating disorder?  Who cares about the Barney’s window.  One person even said that “Barneys already discriminates against fat people so making Minnie Mouse skinny is actually consistent with their beliefs – this is not big deal but even if it was they should be applauded for sticking to their guns.”

Look, here’s the deal:  the little things help us see where the big problems are.  Just as a random hypothetical example, Barney’s and Disney think that it’s ok to completely change the body of a cartoon character who they know is beloved by children, including lots of impressionable young girls, and has been for 84 years so that character can look good in a dress that almost no women can fit into.  They think it’s ok to suggest to little girls that instead of insisting that designers make dresses that fit them, or making their own dresses, they should instead drastically alter their body by any means necessary.  That if they  don’t fit into a high fashion dress then they should change their body.

That is indicative of some major problems in our society.  Not the least of which is that Disney – a company that caters to children – doesn’t care that this is the message they are sending to little girls. I’m not arguing that every little girl will take this message but how many little girls set up for a life of hating their bodies is too many?  How many little girls’ self-esteem are we willing to sacrifice for fashion? I say one little girl being injured is way too many for some fashion statement.

The little things aren’t little. If we call them out early and often, if we put the pressure on, then we can stop the little things before they become big things.

How would a world without body shame affect eating disorders? How would it affect our overall health?  How much time, energy, and money would we have back if we had never once been given the message that our body should look like somebody else’s body?  I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.

Reminder!  Monday is the last day to pre-order dance class DVDs and get free shipping!  Click here for the details

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Become a Member and 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

IMPERFECT Urchins

I’m back from the fabulous Birthdacation that my awesome girlfriend Julianne took me on.  In addition to hiking over rocks to get to amazing beaches (pictures up soon on the Fit Fatty Forum picture gallery), viewing the stunning coastline of Northern California, and marveling at Big Sur, we went to a very cool shop in Morro Bay called The Shell Shop.

They had shells from all over the world.  I was admiring the beauty and differences between all of the shells when I was jarred by a piece of paper that said, in big blog letters “IMPERFECT”  It turns out that there was something wrong with these urchin shells, and so they were less valuable.  Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this.

It occurred to me how sadly human that perspective that is.  The idea that there is one right way for a sea urchin shell to look and anything outside of that is somehow less valuable is a uniquely human idea.  Happily, since there are no under the sea fashion magazines or photoshopping these urchins probably had no idea that they were IMPERFECT – they likely lived very full lives with no idea that some slight imperfection meant that their shell would someday be less “valuable.”

I wish that we, as a society, could shift our perspective on this.  The whole “there’s only one right way to have a body” perspective doesn’t help anyone as far as I can tell.  Most people will never achieve that look but  many will spend their whole lives, and a large portion of their time, energy and money trying.  Those who do happen to have the “perfect” body can spend their whole lives trying to keep it, terrified of losing it.  People are allowed to choose to do that if they wish, but imagine how different things would be if we lives in a world where all body sizes were celebrated:  Where you turn on the television and the fat leading lady get the guy or you go to the movie where the fat dude is the hero.  Where Disney and Barneys demand a designer talented enough to design a dress for Minnie Mouse, rather than trying to make Minnie into a 5’11 size 0 .  Where there are models who are 5’4 and nobody worries that their body will prevent them from being appreciated for their talents. Where we choose actors based on acting ability and singers based on singing ability and people of every size see themselves represented in all aspects of culture.  We could create that. Here are some ideas and options for how:

Opt out of it for ourselves.  Stop all negative body talk about our own bodies and assert that there is nothing wrong with the bodies we have. Here’s an idea to get you started.

How about an end to body snarking as we know it – no more “fat” as a negative descriptor, no more “she needs to eat a sandwich” when we see very thin women.

Stop confusing weight and health – no more making guesses about people’s health based on their weight – absolutely no assuming that fat people have health problems or that very thin women have eating disorders.

Stop concerning ourselves with other people’s health and stop using health as any kind of barometer of worthiness or sucess.  Health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control, health is not a personal, or societal obligation and other people’s health is none of our business which is cool because it means that our health is nobody else’s business.

Stop allowing these behaviors to go unchallenged.  You can engage directly “Body snarking is just not ok” or say something more gentle like “I wish we lived in a world where we could see the beauty in every body” or whatever resonates with you.

Stop giving time and money to places that perpetuate this ideal – don’t buy fashion magazines, don’t buy anything with a weight loss message, stop clicking on “worst bikini body” links.  This system is fueled by our time and money and we can make it run out of gas.

Of course these are just ideas, there are lots of ways to opt out of the system (feel free to add your own in the comments!)  So maybe you love the current system where one body type is seen as “right” and the rest are “wrong” – you have every right to feel that way. But if you’re not having fun here, then let’s make here someplace else.

Reminder:  Monday is the last day to pre-order dance class DVDS and get free shipping!  Click here for the details

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Become a Member and 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