Perfectionism and Health at Every Size

When I teach dance classes, one of the things that I always talk about is that, while I’ll be giving choreography, it really doesn’t matter.  The dancing is all about enjoying moving your body, and getting the steps right isn’t important in any way.

Inevitably at the end someone will tell me that one of the things that made it really fun for them was that I gave them permission to make mistakes.

I’m going to tell you a secret…I don’t actually have any special permission giving abilities.  I can’t give anybody permission to do anything.  What I actually do is invite the people in the workshop to give themselves permission to screw up, and some of them take me up on the offer, and they generally have a better experience for it.

I risk public failure all the time.  Dance performance is, by its nature, an instantaneous art.  A painter works on a piece, starts over, adds to it etc. until they feel that it is ready. They put a sheet over it and take it to a gallery.  They take the sheet off and the painting looks just like it looked at home.  As a dancer I choreograph a piece, I rehearse for hours, but when I step on the stage there is no guarantee that it will look like it looked in the practice studio.

It goes by in nanoseconds that you can never get back. I could slip, I could lose my balance, I could forget the choreography.  I’m a perfectionist by nature and by choice. My mistakes haunt me and push me to improve, that’s who I am as a performer and I don’t apologize for that.

But everything is not a performance, and sometimes being willing to screw it up is more important than trying to get it right.  When I decided to move from a dieting lifestyle to a Health at Every Size lifestyle, I had to give myself permission to screw up.  No longer was my eating dictated by what came in a plastic bag of microwaveable highly processed food, or a packet of processed pre-digested soy protein shake.  I had firmly rejected the idea that Jenny Craig knew better than I did what my body needed.  I was not yet sure how to trust my body’s signals, and how to make choices..  It meant unlearning a lot of myths and lies that I had bought (and paid dearly for) and re-educating myself and that meant “screwing up” by my definition at the time – not eating enough and ending up hungry in the middle of a dance rehearsal, eating something that gave me heartburn or made me feel yucky etc. all kinds of “screw ups.”

Had I not given myself permission to do that, then I would probably still be confusing health and weight, hating my body, less healthy than I am now (physically and mentally), and hoping somebody somewhere would just tell me what to eat.  What I learned for me was that it’s not about right or wrong, there aren’t really screw ups – it’s a continuum of making decisions, learning things from the results, and then moving on.

Obviously, you don’t have to choose to practice HAES, your decisions about how to prioritize your health and the path you choose to get there are yours to make, and they are not matters of social commentary or morality.  If you do practice HAES you may never have the issues that I did, everyone’s experience is different and that’s totally cool.  But, on the off chance that you’re looking for an invitation to give yourself permission to screw up then here it is, knock yourself out!

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

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

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

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I have received a lot of great feedback from the Better Than The Bullies Project that I announced a couple days ago, and thanks to the people who got their submissions done in record time, and the amazing Golda Poretsky for solving some technical glitches, the site is live at www.betterthanthebullies.com

We’re definitely looking for more submissions and ideas to improve the site so feel free to get involved.

I received a few e-mails from people suggesting that I should not stand up to my bullies but rather try to reason with them and make them allies. Can’t we mend fences, they ask.  Can’t we all just get along?  First and foremost, this is a completely valid and legitimate approach to dealing with bullies.  If it is what you choose then I am hapy to support you, rock on. I think it’s also valid and legitimate to take a stand and say “No, I will not allow you to have power over me.”  I think it’s possible that different things are appropriate for different people and different situations.

There are times when I just ignore the bullies:  In my video for the BttB Project I discuss something that I haven’t talked about a lot- earlier this year I was the subject of a hate attack coordinated using at least 10 different forums that are supposed to be about health and fitness.  My blog got over 30,000 hits and over 5,000 negative comments in two days, over half of them telling me I should kill myself.  My response to this was to do nothing – my comments are moderated so they didn’t get on the blog, and I didn’t talk about it on the blog at all. So  I got a boost in hits but none of their comments made it to the blog – all that work and as far as anyone reading the blog could tell, nothing ever happened.

This situation is extreme but I get hatemail almost every day (I also get fanmail almost every day so it all works out in the end).  In the case of the hatemail I’m the only one they are annoying so I typically don’t engage with them, though I did create my hatemail page to give people a chance to see the kind of crap I put up with and also to give cathartic (what I think are) witty responses.

There are also times when I do try to reason with bullies and mend fences.  But I think that some bullies need to be stood up to.  Maybe they are making people scared to do activism work for fear of being viciously and constantly attacked.  Maybe they are keeping people from going to the gym or the pool or out to eat for fear of being shamed and stigmatized.  Maybe it’s an organization whose leader creates bylaws that make it impossible for him to be ousted then uses that power to bully others.

In my experience this kind of bullying is typically about power.  Some people don’t feel that they have control of the world at large so they focus on bullying a small community of people to feel like they have some power somewhere. There are people who feel horrible about themselves and so try to feel powerful by making other people feel weak. There are those who feel that nobody would choose them to be in power so they take power by force and bureaucracy.

So, having taken the long way around to answer the original question – no, I don’t think we can all get along, because I think that some behavior is deplorable and as long as someone is choosing to engage in those behaviors fences cannot be mended. That doesn’t mean that I have to fight (though I certainly choose to sometimes).  In my experience bullies feed on the reactions of the bullied.  So you can fight, but you can also refuse to bow to the pressure of the bullies,  refuse to change your behavior in response to bullies, leave situations and organizations that don’t make you feel empowered and valuable.  In that way you cut off the bullies fuel supply and often they shrivel and die.  To me the trick is to remember that it’s not about them – I can’t control other people’s behaviors and I don’t want to try, I do want to control my behaviors and I do not want to allow the bullies to affect me and so I choose my reaction to the bullies about how it’s going to make me feel about me.

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

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

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

Better Than the Bullies – Thank You Jennifer Livingston

In case you missed it today, a fantastic video has been making the rounds of the internet. A television news woman who received a bullying e-mail from a viewer stood up to the bully on air – the video is at the end of this post.

I get hate mail every day – so much that I created a separate page for it (trigger warning – it’s my hatemail and my hopefully witty responses to it) Let’s be super clear: this isn’t about our health, their tax dollars or any type of altruism or social improvement attempt. Anybody who says it is, is just trying to justify reprehensible behavior. It’s purely about people enjoying being mean, people being bullies.  They want hate us, and try to get us to hate ourselves.  What is wrong with these people?  Who knows – maybe they feel bad about their lives, maybe they think that their value lies in being thin and the fact that I don’t value being thin is a threat to their self-esteem.  Maybe they have that “complete and total asshole” gene that the researchers are all talking about.

What is important is that bullying has a crushing cost and it is fueled by the pain and shame of the bullied.  If we stop giving the bullies our lunch money their funding source goes away.  If we stop giving them our power, then they don’t have any of their own.  Of course it’s easier said than done – there are a lot of people who aren’t in a place to be able to stand up to their bullies, many people who even think that they deserve to be bullied.

But what about those of us who can stand up to the bullies?  What if we could help?  Provide an example, an inspiration, a little light in the dark?  Near the end of the video Ms. Livingston says “we are better than our bullies.”  That idea inspired me – not that we are intrinsically better but that we can take a higher road, behave better than our bullies and be an example for people who are struggling with bullying.

So I decided to start a “Better Than the Bullies” site.  It will be a website of videos showing people standing up to their bullies – telling the bullies, in their own way and words, that the bullies have no power over them. I started collecting videos today, the page will go up in the next couple of days.  You can join in if you want:

1.   Create a video of your own and post it to YouTube, then send an e-mail with the link to ragen at danceswithfat dot org

2.  Pass the word along about the project on Facebook/Twitter etc.

3.  Send me your ideas and suggestion to make the project better ragen at danceswithfat dot org

Here is the original video:

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and support my work):

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

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

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

Fat Victims of Experimental Medicine

I have never agreed to be a subject in a medical experiment and yet for almost 10 years I was, completely unknowingly, a fat lab rat.  Doctors prescribed me experimental interventions over and over again.  Then to compound their error they told me that the interventions were proven to succeed and they blamed me when they failed. And there are millions more like me.

Today blog reader superbadgirl told me that her doctor’s office joined a multi-level marketing weight loss company and then tried to sell it to their patients as an office health initiative via a mass letter. In this program anyone can pay money to become a “certified health coach” overnight and start selling it, despite the fact that they don’t have a shred of evidence showing that most people will lose weight or become healthier in the long term.

A couple days ago a friend was lamenting how her life might be different if she hadn’t been put on her first diet at 7 years old and continued to cycle diet at her doctor’s recommendation for 20 years, knowing now that the research shows that the earlier and more often you diet the fatter you are likely to become.

The government is considering requiring fat people to undergo intense counseling as a health intervention despite the fact that they admit “the panel acknowledged that one problem with its recommendation was that no studies have shown such intensive programs provide long-term health benefits.” (That’s ONE problem?  Besides not working, what other problems are there?)

What these things have in common, along with every recommendation of weight loss to make someone healthier or thinner, is that they are experimental medicine.  Weight loss interventions do not meet the criteria for evidence-based medicine – they are experimental at best, and could be considered to be contraindicated since studies show that the most common outcome of a weight loss attempt is actually weight gain.

Setting aside the evidence that weight and health are two different things and that habits are a much better determinant of health than body size, in order to show success by their definition those promoting weight loss would have to have statistically  significant studies in which a majority of people moved from what they consider an “unhealthy” weight to what they consider a “healthy weight”, and improved their health outcomes over the long term.  They are not even close on any count – studies show that almost nobody loses weight long term, there are no good studies that show that those who manage to lose weight over the long term have better health outcomes than fat people who practice healthy habits, mostly because not enough people have maintained long term weight loss to get a study together. There is no evidence basis for weight loss as a body size intervention or as a health intervention.

This is made worse because it’s combined with a lack of informed consent.  You can practice experimental medicine but you aren’t supposed to do it while telling the patient that it’s a proven solution. If a cancer treatment has a 5% success rate and 95% of people have the cancer come back and 60% of those people’s cancer gets worse then it is unethical to tell a patient that everyone who tries hard enough cures their cancer via this treatment and to say nothing about the astronomical failure rate or dangers.

Of course this is made highly problematic in that doctors often consider fatness to be a disease state when it is actually just a body size that has been linked to diseases.  Baldness has been linked to heart disease but that doesn’t mean we declare baldness a disease insist that bald men try to grow hair to help prevent heart attacks.  That wouldn’t work since it turns out that neither causes the other – both things are  likely caused by a third factor (hormones, heredity etc.) so giving a bald man hair plugs will, unsurprisingly, not reduce his heart attack risk. Changing someone’s appearance to attempt to mitigate health problems is a generally bad idea.

Since there are not fat-person-only diseases, and since we have actual evidence-based treatment that we give to thin people for all the diseases that people try to link to obesity, there is no reason to experiment on fat people by rolling the dice that they can be in the 5% who lose weight long-term and then hoping against hope that being thin will make them healthy.  We don’t need healthcare Vegas style  – we can just give fat people the same interventions that we give thin people, and use the same health measurements that we use in thin people to see if it’s working.  Duh.

The interventions that are part of the war on childhood obesity are making an entire generation of kids into lab rats.  Fat kids are being lied to about the likelihood of behavior changes leading to weight loss so they are dieting like they’ve never dieted before which may be why hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119%.  Thin kids are being lied to – given the idea that their body size makes them automatically healthy, but seeing their fat friends become combatants in the First Lady’s war makes them terrified of being fat so they are dieting too so maybe that explains the rise in eating disorders and kids who say they’d rather lose an arm than get fat.  Almost all kids are having supposed health aka “anti-obesity” interventions foisted on them with no more proof of safety and efficacy than I have that giving every kid a pony will make them healthy.

I think it’s time to say “Enough.”  Fat people are not lab rats, our fatness does not make us diseased, and we deserve evidence-based medicine and informed consent, including the ability to refuse to participate in experimental medicine – and we don’t have to wait for the world to give it to us, we can demand it right now.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and support my work):

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

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

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 BlueCross – Nobody Needs Your Dialog

BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota has jumped on the get-points-by-shaming-fatties bandwagon. They have created a series of ads that shame fat parents of fat kids by asserting that they are walking, talking stereotypes.

One of the ads shows two kids bragging about how much their dads can eat, and trying to one-up each other. A dad walks up, overhears and looks, with extreme guilt, at the tray of burgers fries and drinks.  Right – “My dad can eat more than your dad!” said no kid ever.  Another shows a fat mom putting junk food into her cart and then she looks back and sees her daughter putting the same junk food in her tiny cart.

There’s no news on who should be shamed if thin parents have fat kids or if fat parents have thin kids – maybe  it’s just more fun for BCBS to shame two fat people at a time.  Plus you gotta love the reinforcement of a prejudicial stereotype – there are no ads where thin parents who feed their thin kids fast food get shamed even though that happens everyday,  because everybody (especially a health insurance company) knows that you can look at people fully clothed and know everything about their eating and exercise habits and health. (Sarcasm level is a 10 out of 10)

Also, there’s research that shows that you just can’t shame people healthy.  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.

Hey, look over there – it’s a big flaming sack of duh! Marc Manley, the vice president and chief prevention officer of BCBS Minnesota and one of the architects of the campaign responded “Just because people like an ad doesn’t mean it moves them to action” There are only two reasons I can imagine that he thought this was a valid response –  he  is a moron with low reading/listening comprehension or he just forgot to eat his bowl of No Shit Sherlock Flakes that morning. In case he reads this blog I’ll break it down into words I hope he’ll find himself able to comprehend:  shame bad. Surely he must not understand the information because someone who cares about health – when presented with evidence that their intervention is likely to have the exact opposite effect of what they were looking for = will not react with vaguely tangential platitudes.

But it gets better – when pressed further Manley took a page from Children’s Healthcare for Atlanta when they were roundly criticized for a campaign that purported to shame fat kids healthy: When you’re caught doing something that is likely to have the exact opposite of its intended effect, which you should have known if you had done even the most basic research, just say your goal was to “Start a Dialog.”  Move the goal post and declare victory – nobody will even notice and you’ll get points for “bravely talking about” something that nobody in the entire world can shut the hell up about for five minutes.

Let me make this clear:  the dialog is already happening, the dialog is a massive problem already – fat people are shamed about their bodies 386,170 times a year.  If you think that that your 386,171st shaming is what someone was waiting for to really hate themselves healthy then you are too stupid to be a vice president and chief prevention officer of anything ever.  Seriously, you’ve done enough – way the hell more than enough – go sit down now, nobody needs your  intervention or your dialog.

Activism Opportunity

If you have thoughts you’d like to share with the good people at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, you can contact them at

centerinfo@bluecrossmn.com or Toll-free at 1-800-760-0052

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and support my work):

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

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

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