It’s Not Because I’m Fat

Design by Kris Owen

I was with some friends talking about how society can tend to assume that everything that goes wrong in fat people’s lives is because we’re fat.  Single?  It’s because you’re fat.  Haven’t run a 5k yet?  It’s because you’re fat.  Stub your toe?  Blame your body size.  A friend of mine was telling me that she was in an appointment with her therapist when she had the realization that everything that had gone wrong in her life was not because of her fat – when her therapist told her that thin people sit on her couch with the exact same issues.

Let’s be clear – fat people are stigmatized, bullied, oppressed and discriminated against in our society and that has very real consequences.  But those consequences are not because we’re fat, it’s because people stigmatize, bully, oppress and discriminate against us – the problem is with them, not our bodies.  That’s why it’s crucial that we be clear that when someone suggests that we try to lose weight so that we can be treated better, they are working on the wrong end of the problem.  It is suggesting that we keep giving the bully whatever he asks for and hope he stops beating us up which is not a reasonable request.  The cure for social stigma is not weight loss. The cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.

It also means that we have the option to reject the societal idea that everything bad that happens to us is because of our fat.  There are a lot of situations where this really hurts us.  One is that people pursue weight loss with the belief that everything in their life will be better when they are thin – ignoring the fact that there are thin women who are single with knee problems.  Speaking of knee problems – this tendency bleeds into our healthcare.  I’ve happened to have had the same knee issues at two very different sizes and I got two very different treatment experiences.  When I was smaller I was asked very specific questions about the pain – when it started, where it was located exactly, and what type of pain it was. The asked about my activity, how I injured it etc. I got 4 treatment options from physical therapy to surgery and a referral to a specialist.

When I had the exact same issue but was fat, the doctor asked why I was there and I said knee pain.  He didn’t palpate my knee or ask any questions.  He turned around and left the room without saying a word. Ten minutes later a nurse came in with a piece of paper with a list that said “forbidden foods” (had they bothered to ask they would have known that I had recovered from an eating disorder, making this dangerous for me) and an exercise plan for taking 10 minute walks (at the time I was dancing and working out over 20 hours a week.)

We can insist that people start recognizing the stigma, shaming, oppression and discrimination that fat people face, acknowledge that being constantly treated poorly by every facet of society affects fat people negatively, and work on ending that stigma and oppression- never asking fat people to change ourselves.  We can also insist that people stop having the knee-jerk reaction of blaming things on our body size, especially since those things happen to people of every size.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (purchasing these also helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Fun classes for all levels!  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

Talking to Kids About Food and Eating

Recently I got an e-mail from the editor-in-chief of the Magazine New Moon Girls letting me know that I was in an article about  food and eating. Even though the article was by Dr. Katja Rowell who I know does amazing work because I know her from the fat-o-sphere and her site,  www.thefeedingdoctor.comI will admit that I had a bit of trepidation.  As a Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance practitioner I have grown accustomed to articles, no matter how HAES or SA they start out to be, always having the “even though it doesn’t make any sense section” – so an article might spend 5 pages talking about why dieting and weight loss don’t work for almost anyone, but on page 6 the author says “But I’m still going to fight the odds and try.”  Or an article talks about why it’s so important to focus on kid’s health rather than their weight for four pages, but on page 5 they  say “of course childhood obesity is a horrible thing and we should definitely make sure that fat kids know that there’s a war on against them.”  So as I started to read this article, called “Eat Happy – Forget the Rules and Have More Fun”, I was elated at the content and also waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But it never did.  The article is completely evidence based and free from all obesity hysteria.  It’s amazing – it’s something that I wish all kids could read and the First Lady would take to heart.

You can check out the article at:  New Moon Girl Body Language

If you are looking for resources for girls, I highly recommend the New Moon Girls website.  Their mission is to help girls, age 8 and up, discover their unique voices and express them in the world. (Nope, they aren’t giving me anything to say this, I’m just really impressed.)

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (purchasing these also helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Fun classes for all levels!  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

Giving Up Dieting Wasn’t the Hardest Thing

When I think back about my journey to Health at  Every Size, I sometimes think that the hardest part was giving up dieting, because by that point being on a diet had become a massive part of my life. But there was something that was harder to give up…

It was my addiction to the pursuit of being thin. This took a lot of forms but at the time there was nothing like the adrenaline rush of starting a new diet or a new weight loss challenge.  Every day was one day closer to having a socially acceptable body.  All the praise you get when you lose that first little bit of weight. I had the same yo-yo diet experience that most people will statistically have but the blow of weight regain was always softened by the high of starting another diet.  Weighing and measuring food, spending more and more time in the gym.

Another form that it took was my performance of dieting.  I was constantly talking about my diet, my exercise routine, why this diet was different because it was a lifestyle change and you have to make a lifestyle change if it’s going to work blah blah blah dear lord I must have been annoying.  Although I absolutely did need a lifestyle change, it wasn’t the one I thought I needed. No amount of changing my lifestyle would make me thin – in the hospital after collapsing on a treadmill due to an eating disorder, with such low body fat that some of my bodily functions had stopped working, I was still 15 pounds “over weight”.

I found Health at Every Size during what was supposed to be the search for the diet with the absolute best track record of success.  I had read hundreds of studies at that point and was honestly completely shocked to find that there wasn’t a single study that even suggested that dieting would lead to long-term weight loss for me.  Health at Every Size was an absolute no-brainer according to the research, but it meant giving up dieting and giving up on all the benefits of dieting – the addiction of the pursuit of thin, the high of the new diet, the approval I got as the fat girl who counts every calorie, skips every dessert, and is a model good fatty doing what is socially approved in order to get a body that is socially acceptable.  The idea, that I knew deep down wasn’t true, that all of my problems would be solved as soon as I was thin.

Looking back, my choice to celebrate the awesomeness of my body and take good care of it through healthy habits rather than hating how it looked and trying to make it smaller and hoping that would bring health, was absolutely the best choice I could have made and my life is exponentially better in terms of my mental and physical health because of my choice to pursue HAES. But in this case I had to sacrifice something to get something better and what I had to sacrifice was my addiction to the pursuit of thin, the “good fatty” approval I got for being the world’s worst dinner companion constantly blabbering on about calories, points,  and drinking enough water.

When I first started my Health at Every Size practice I would have “slips” where I would think about dieting – just one more time – then I would remember the rule about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  I had to quit cold turkey and fight through the withdrawal – I was never going to be thin and I was never going to get the approval that a fatty on a diet gets and, over time, that became completely ok because the peace  and freedom I got were worth far more.

If you’re having a hard time giving up the pursuit of thin or the diet mentality, I recommend checking it out. You can look at the blogs of Golda Poretsky or Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist  to get an idea about eating outside of the diet paradigm.  Check out the Fit Fatties Forum and see over 1,000 people of all sizes and fitness levels who are working on fitness from a weight-neutral perspective – look at the photo and video gallery and read to forum, and check out the blog of fat fitness professional Jeanette DePatie to start to get a sense of what it’s like to pursue fitness goals that aren’t about body size.  (And no, none of these people pay me anything, I recommend them because I like their work!)  Check out the research about Health at Every Size.  Then maybe give it a try, you can always go back to what you’re doing now if you don’t like it.  If you’ve tried diet after diet and nothing works, maybe it’s time to try not dieting.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (purchasing these helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Fun classes for all levels!  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

Maybe You Do Know You’re Beautiful

There is a catchy little tune right now called “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful”  which includes the lyrics “You don’t know you’re beautiful.  That’s what makes you beautiful.”  This puts into sharp relief an amorphous and pervasive idea, at least in American culture,  of the girl who is (the cultural stereotype of) beautiful but doesn’t know it.  I think that this is harmful in a lot of ways.

First is the idea that it’s a good thing not to see yourself as beautiful/to never affirm that you believe you are beautiful.  This would seem to suggest that low self-esteem, or at the very least the faking of it, is something to strive for  – and claiming or acknowledging your own beauty is undesirable. (bullshit)

Next is the idea that beauty is about what other people think of you.  That you’re not supposed to know that you are beautiful until someone tells you that you are.  Conversely if you don’t get outside confirmation of your beauty then you have to accept that you aren’t beautiful. (bullshit)

Then there’s the fact that this dynamic is almost always between a woman who doesn’t know she’s beautiful and the man who affirms her beauty, reinforcing the notion that women’s beauty is only achievable through the approval of men. (bullshit)

Finally is the issue that this is all based on a completely arbitrary, artificial standard of “beauty” that is unattainable by almost everyone.

The truth is that the only limit on what we see as beautiful are our own limitations of perception.  If you can’t see the beauty in someone and you think that the issue is with them, then you are working on the wrong end of the problem.

It’s not surprising that we get confused about this since the beauty and diet industries make tens of billions of dollars a year by artificially narrowing what we see as beautiful so that we will buy their products to fix our “flaws” and spend time and money chasing an unattainable, photo shop idea of beauty.

Imagine how different the world would be if we took all the time and energy that we currently spending judging people as beautiful or not, talking about what’s beautiful or not, reading articles about the best and worst bikini bodies etc. and re-purposed all of it trying to expand our idea of what’s beautiful.  Looking at sites that have people of all sizes shapes, colors, gender identities.  What if instead of saying that someone is unattractive we asked ourselves “what prejudice to I hold against someone who looks like that and how can I change it?”

Finally, there’s you.  You are the boss of your underpants.  You are the only person who is in charge of how you feel about yourself.  Nobody else can possibly do that. You get to decide if you believe you are beautiful or not,  nobody can take it away from you.  If someone suggests that you aren’t beautiful,  you can consider how sad it is that they have such a limited view of beauty, you can consider how unfortunate it is that they have such an exaggerated sense of self-importance that they think you should care about what they think.  You can also choose to realize that it has nothing at all to do with your beauty and everything to do with their limitations.
I think it’s a good thing to know that we are beautiful if we choose to see ourselves that way and say it out loud if we feel like it  I don’t know about you but I definitely don’t want to spend my time with someone who wants me to be unsure of my beauty and look to them for confirmation.

Still Time to Register!  The Happy HAES Holidays workshops continue tomorrow.  Listen online or dial in. Registration is name-your-own-price, and all of the calls have been and will be recorded so that you can listen to/download any that you missed or want to hear again. Workshops by: Marilyn Wann, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie, CJ Legare, Tanisia Smith, and me!.  Full details and registration here!  Tips, tricks, ideas and support to have you sailing through the holiday season and into the New Year.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (purchasing these helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Fun classes for all levels!  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

Fathletic Fairy Has Moves

Though I’m still in the midst of a fight with Disney and Barney’s about Minnie Mouse that I’ll update you about in a moment, I want to give credit when it’s due.  Today Deva posted a video from Disney Junior to the Rolls Not Trolls community on Facebook.  It’s a preview of the new Disney Fairies DVD called “Secret of the Wings – How to Skate.”  Mary the (Fat) Fairy has some serious moves:

Now, I’m willing to bet that some idiot somewhere is going to accuse Disney of promoting obesity with this video, so let’s have this out.  Having positive role models with whom they can identify is extremely important for kids of all sizes.  Unfortunately many fat kids don’t have role models who look like them because fat people aren’t often shown in a positive light due to the utterly ridiculous notion of “promoting obesity” as if it’s some V8 commercial wherein we see a happy successful fat person on TV and then millions of people slap themselves on the forehead and say “I coulda been fat.”  It is absolutely not ok that the only representation fat kids see of themselves in the media is encouraging a war on them, or shaming them for their size, or making negative assumptions about their habits, or reinforcing to them that every fat person is a walking stereotype and that happiness, health, athleticism, love, and just about everything they might ever want is only for thin people.

If these people actually want fat kids to move more then doesn’t it make sense to show them other fat kids having fun moving?  (By the way, there is no health advice that’s just for fat kids – I think we would do much better to focus on developing healthy relationships with food and exercise for kids of all sizes.)   All kids, including the fat ones, need to see themselves represented positively in the media and this is a great step in that direction.

A very different direction for Disney than their Model Minnie Mouse catastrophe with Barney’s. Here’s an update on that campaign: The awesome Shelby Knox at Change.org got involved, the petition we started on this blog now has 143,388 signatures.  The story has been covered all over the country including lots of regional and local news in addition to National venues like Salon, AP, Entertainment Tonight, and International media as well.  The campaign was joined by plus-sized models Robyn Lawley, Lizzie Miller, and CJ Legare; actresses Virginia Madsen and  Kristin Bauer, and Disney Heiress Abigail Disney.

The good news is that Disney and Barney’s are putting out joint statements saying things like:  the picture that was released of the 5’11, size 0 Minnie was just a sketch and isn’t the Minnie who is going in the film short, that the model Minnie is just a dream of regular Minnie and is only on screen for 7 seconds, and that they had always planned to end the film with Minnie in her regular form in the high fashion dress.

Since I’m an outcome-based activist I’m celebrating these victories, and I’m not even that annoyed that they basically called me an attention whore in a National press release as a way to draw attention from the problem, or that instead of owning up to the mistake they are just acting like it never happened and suggesting that those of us who pointed out the problem got it all wrong.

We’ve taken a break from this campaign as everyone deals with the aftermath of Sandy, but I feel like we made a ton of progress already and I’m excited about how many people “got it” and got involved, and about the changes that Disney and Barneys are making to this truly problematic situation. Stay tuned and in the meantime maybe you, like me, can take some solace in a fathletic ice skating fairy named Mary.

Still Time to Register!  The Happy HAES Holidays workshops continue tomorrow.  Listen online or dial in. Registration is name-your-own-price, and all of the calls have been and will be recorded so that you can listen to/download any that you missed or want to hear again. Workshops by: Marilyn Wann, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie, CJ Legare, Tanisia Smith, and me!.  Full details and registration here!  Tips, tricks, ideas and support to have you sailing through the holiday season and into the New Year.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (purchasing these helps support my activism work, which I really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Fun classes for all levels!  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

The Media’s Making My Friends into Jerks

The media is doing its best to make my friends and family into total jerks.  We talk a lot about how the rampant fat stigma, bullying and shaming hurt fat people, but it also harms our relationships with our friends and family when they act on all of the false information and bad ideas the media feeds them about how to interact with us.  Some examples:

Being Thin Makes you an Authority on How to Be Thin

Since the media says that being fat is completely the “fault” of the fat person, thin people often erroneously get the idea that being thin is all to their “credit” and that they therefore are experts who should be dispensing advice.  This is stupid on a number of levels.  The first being that body size is about much more than just choices – it also includes genetics, environment, metabolism etc.  Almost everybody knows a thin person who eats a ton of food but never gains weight – while that person is often treated poorly, typically people accept the situation as true.  But let a fat person say that they eat moderately and don’t lose weight and people can’t call us a liar fast enough. People come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and just like being naturally blonde doesn’t give you the ability to teach other people to be naturally blonde, being thin doesn’t give you the ability to teach other people how to be thin.

Every Fat Person is a Walking Stereotype – Make Assumptions and Freely Give Advice Based on Them

The number of people who have told me that I just need to start an exercise program – not as a question but as a statement – is astronomical.  When I explain that I am a professional dancer they express complete disbelief. A fat vegan friend of mine who cooks all her food from scratch mentioned that she constantly has people tell her “you just need to cut out the fast food and eat some vegetables.”  The media goes to great lengths to give only a single portrayal of fat people and often the repetition works and people believe that they know everything about our life and habits  from our body size.  What they don’t show us is that fat people have as wide and varied health practices and life habits as thin people.  The only thing that fat people have in common is our body size, other than that when it comes to variety of health practices, eating, exercising, habits or anything else, we’re just like thin people, only bigger.

Every fat person wants to be thin – encourage them

The tendency of the  media to use e-barrels of e-ink telling the stories of fat people who want to be thin lends to the belief that all every fat person wants in the world is to lose weight. Oh the joy of being congratulated on starting an exercise program (though I’ve been lifting weights since I was 12), being asked how much weight I’ve lost “so far”  (lest I make the mistake of thinking that however much weight I’ve lost is enough), or being told that I just need to keep it up and the weight will come off.  Then there are those who treat my ordering a salad as if it’s my first day of sobriety.   Here’s a little rule of thumb about people’s bodies and health – don’t guess.  Also, unless someone is asking for your opinion, keeping it to yourself is a spectacular idea.  Which leads us to…

Fat people need “tough talk” from you to make good decisions

We’ve all seen the stories in the news where the formerly-fat person thanks their friend, partner, or whoever for giving them the “tough talk” about their weight and health that they needed to lose weight. Then the “tough talker” praises the former fatty like they just cured cancer.   The reason we read these stories is because the media likes to tell them – not because it’s a good idea, or because it typically works.  What we don’t read about are the people who had a relationship destroyed because their friend, partner, or whoever couldn’t respect their boundaries and treat them like an adult capable of making their own decisions. What we don’t see is the awkward conversations that happen when, like almost everyone, that former fatty has gained the weight back and is a fatty once more.

A fat body is public property and a cry for help

Pictures of fat people without heads, fat people discussed as “epidemics” and “cost centers” leads to many people forgetting that fat people are, in fact, human.  This leads to people getting the idea that it’s ok to comment on fat bodies like they are cars, and that debating about fat bodies as if they are inanimate is cool.  Wrong on both counts. My body is also not a sign that I am incapable of making decisions for myself.  It’s not a cry for unsolicited advice.  This is not a tree, I am not a kitten.

You should abuse and shame fat people for their own good

Around this blog we call this “Pulling a Jillian” since Jillian Michaels has made a career out of being proud of abusing fat people. Shows like The Biggest Loser are teaching our workout partners, personal trainers, and fitness instructors that fat people need to be screamed at and treated like petulant children and that any amount of abuse is ok because you are “saving our lives.”  The only life to save here is your own – and you can do that by never treating any person like this.

If fat people say they don’t fit your stereotypes, they are liars

The media is full of stories of formerly fat and fat-but-trying-to-lose-weight people who admit to eating in secret and lying about their habits, and dieticians saying that it’s impossible to be fat if you “eat right.”  Again, they print this not because it’s the dominant experience but because it makes “good news” in the sense that people read it because it makes them feel somehow insulated from the possibility of ever getting fat if all the fatties are lying about what they eat and how much they exercise.  So people feel free to replace our actual experiences that we share with them with experiences that they make up in their heads based on stereotypes.  The truth is, people’s habits are nobody else’s business to begin with and if there wasn’t so much shame and stigma around being fat and eating (which we all have to do to survive) people would be less likely to eat in secret and assume that whatever amount they are eating is “too much” because they are fat.

If fat people ask for the same things you have, they are asking for special privileges

Thin people expect that when they get on the plane there will be a seat that fits them, that when they go to a mall they will be able to find clothes that fit them, that if they go to the hospital there will be a bed that fits them, that however much space they take up in any situation is a completely appropriate amount of space. But when fat people suggest that everyone else has a seat on the plane that fits them, so all we are asking for is what everybody else has; or when we suggest that the amount of space we take up is just as appropriate as anyone else, we are told that we are wrong and that we don’t get to make that determination.   The media perpetuates this idea with articles about how fat people are making people miserable on planes (rather than asking why the airlines aren’t accommodating all of their potential passengers), or how we have the audacity to suggest that the hospitals that have taken on the job of providing healthcare to the community have the proper equipment to take care of the fat people who live in the community (rather than asking why the facility was created as if they didn’t know that fat people existed when they built it.) Asking for the same things that other people already have is not asking for special privileges.

As a thin person you are better than fat people

The media depicts fatness as a moral failing, social irresponsibility, and a drain on society.  In contrast they tout thinness as a moral superiority and proof of social responsibility. In this way the media works to make fat people into second class citizens, assuring us that we can tell if people are good or bad by looking at their body size. I submit that any time we’ve ever attempted to categorize and judge people based on the way they look it was a massive mistake, and so it is with judging people based on their body size.

Speaking out against the media’s treatment of fat people isn’t just for fat people, it’s also for the people who know fat people and who are taking their queues on how to treat us from the media.  Of course you are never under any obligation to do any kind of activism, but if you are interested there are activism opportunities in commenting on stories and sending letters to writers who are perpetuating this nonsense. There are also activism opportunities talking to our loved ones about this as a way to stand up for ourselves and others.  We can help others to avoid following the media into a pit of fat bashing fueled by stereotypes and sensationalism.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – less than a week away – Name Your Own Price

6 Speakers, 2 days, all by teleconference! Registration is name-your-own-price, and all of the calls will be recorded so that you can listen to any talk that you missed or want to hear again. Workshops by: Marilyn Wann, Golda Poretsky, Jeanette DePatie, CJ Legare and Tanisia Smith.

Get all the details and register here!

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

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.

Weight Loss – Not the Solution

We’ve discussed why obesity is not the problem. As I talked about in that blog, obesity is scapegoated as the root cause of many problems so it then follows that weight loss is touted as the solution to all those problems and more.

I’ve heard people say that weight loss is the cure to everything from being single to having strep throat. That last one was from a doctor to me.  It resulted in me saying, with as much incredulity as I could muster (which, it turns out, is a lot), “You are trying to tell me that I have obesity induced strep throat?”  His response was “well, losing weight couldn’t hurt the strep”.  Let’s take a look at this phenomenon and why I think it’s the wrong way to go:

Weight Loss as a Cure for Social Stigma

People are told all the time that the way to get a job, get a partner, be happy is to lose weight.  Once again, I know unemployed, single, miserable thin people so right there I already know that my problems will probably all be waiting for me at the bottom of the BMI range.

I’m also not that interested in dating someone who wouldn’t date me as I look now. Since most people who lose weight gain it back within 5 year it seems like losing weight and getting married to someone whose love for you is contingent upon your body size sets you up for a pretty tragic scene 5 years from now.

In these arguments weight loss is a proxy for social acceptance.  The argument they are making is actually “Society stigmatizes you because you are fat, we think it’s possible for you to look the way that we think you should look, and so it’s your responsibility to do that and then we will stop bullying you find something else to bully you about. Otherwise it’s your own fault.”

In this case there are definitely some benefits that are gained from being aesthetically pleasing to society and I would never begrudge someone who is trying to reap those benefits.  But while it’s true that giving the bullies your lunch money may save you from some beatings, the cure for social stigma is not weight loss.  Instead of all fat people losing weight, all people who have a bias against fat people could pull their heads out of their asses and it would have the same effect.  Also, while there is no intervention proven to lead to successful long-term weight loss, a colo-rectal head extraction does seem possible for most people.

Weight Loss as a Proxy for Healthy Behaviors

Healthy is multidimensional, not entirely within our control, not a barometer of worthiness, not an obligation, and not anybody else’s business. In the much exaggerated case against obesity, weight is used as a proxy for health.  Similarly, when people prescribe weight loss as a cure for something, they are typically using weight loss as a proxy for behavior change.

For example:  Four women go to the doctor and present with elevated blood glucose. They are told that they need to lose weight.

The first woman goes on a crash diet and drops her calories but eats mostly carbohydrates, she goes a long time between meals and doesn’t eat regularly.  She may lose weight (at least initially) but it’s unlikely that her glucose would be controlled.

A second woman gets liposuction.  She would lose weight but would not likely see a change in her blood glucose.

A third woman becomes addicted to Crystal Meth.  She loses a ton of weight, but this intervention helps only in as much as her blood glucose level is now the least of her problems.

The fourth woman changes her eating habits in ways that support blood glucose control.  She also increases the amount of movement she does.  This may result in no weight loss, or in a bit of weight loss that she regains over time, but we would likely see a positive change in her blood glucose levels.

Weight loss (making your body smaller) is not what has an effect on your health. It’s the changes in actual behaviors that can can create health changes.  Weight loss is a possible, but not guaranteed, and in almost all cases short term, side effect of these behavior changes.

Additionally we need to take into account factors such as past behaviors, environment, stress level and genetics and realize that our health is not entirely in our control. We also need to realize that measures of health, not weight, are what determine if a health intervention is working.  Using weight loss to determine the efficacy of a high blood sugar intervention is the exact same thing as using weight loss to judge how successful a round of chemo is.  It makes no sense to do that when we can clearly measure the health impact of  the intervention.

Let’s Talk About Joints Baby (to the tune of Salt N’ Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex”)

Ok, cheesy 90’s songs aside, this is one I hear a lot – the body can’t take this much weight, at some point if you’re fat you’re going to have joint trouble, I have to lose weight to solve my knee pain etc.

First, let’s realize that thin people get joint pain and are not prescribed weight loss, so if I’m experiencing joint pain I’m going to ask how they would treat it in a thin person. Joints do not work alone, while you can try to put less stress on them by losing weight, you could also strengthen the muscles around them, correct any muscle imbalances or issues (like a tight IT band) that may be pulling them out of alignment, and work to correct movement patterns that put undue stress on them (interventions that, unlike weight loss, actually have a good chance of actually working).

Besides, Weight Loss Rarely Works

Every time I talk about this here someone leaves a comment that says “Please stop saying that, everyone knows that weight loss is possible if you just eat less and exercise more” which I delete because if the internet had existed in the 1600’s I’ll bet that Galileo would have been a blogger and would have had to deal commenters saying “Shut up Galileo, everyone knows that the sun revolves around the Earth” and I would hope that he would have deleted those comments and continued with his work. While I’m no Galileo, I think that it’s extremely important to point out areas where our conclusions don’t match our data.

When I say that weight loss rarely works, that’s not me guessing, or my uninformed opinion, or stuff I’m saying just to irritate the fat haters (that’s just a side benefit).  It is my understanding as a trained researcher who is looking at the actual research. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out this great article featuring the brilliant Dr. Linda Bacon in More magazine. She talks about the case against weight loss as seen in the research, and why the idea that weight loss “couldn’t hurt might help” is erroneous and dangerous.

So it turns out that instead of weight loss being the cure for everything, it’s actually not the cure for anything.  To me the bottom line is that we need to remove weight from the health conversation.  The only people benefiting from the conflation of weight and health are the Diet Industry who make 60 billion dollars a year selling a product that almost never works.  I’d like to see us take our health and money out of their wallets and accomplish some other things with 60 billion dollars a year.

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

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  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.

Speaking Schedule 2013 – I am now working on my speaking schedule for next year.  If you would like me to give a talk at your university, job/company, or organization just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll talk about the options to make it work for your situation and budget.