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.

Tell Me Who’s Your Bogey Man

I found some old CDs and among them were several by Ani Difranco that I hadn’t listened to in years.  I thought about doing an entire blog of her lyrics that apply to size diversity activism but instead I decided to focus on just one for now:

Tell me who’s your bogey man

And that’s who I will be

You don’t have to like me for who I am

But we’ll see what you’re made of

By what you make of me

Fat people have been made into a bogey man of society.  People attempt to group us by how we look and calculate our cost on society as a way to figure out what they can blame us for.  Exercise classes full of people are told that they should work out for the sole purpose of not looking like us.  The media colludes to keep positive representations of us hidden under the ridiculous guise of not “promoting obesity” and in doing so constantly reinforces to us and everyone who interacts with us that we are walking, talking stereotypes who deserve to be ridiculed, judged and treated badly because of how we look.  People even try to suggest that our fat is actually contagious  so that not only do people not want to look like us, they don’t want to be around us either. Absolutely everyone is being told that looking like me is the worst thing.

I am well aware that I’m the bogey man – that people dedicate many hours and even more money trying to keep from looking like me, that writers are proud to write articles about how glad they are that their kids don’t look like me.  I know that regardless of who I am or what I accomplish almost everyone I meet has been heavily encouraged by the media – and even the government – to stereotype me, make assumptions about me, and judge me based on those assumptions before they ever meet me.

I think it’s important to be clear that the way people react to a fat person says nothing about the fat person, and everything about the person doing the reacting. Are they willing to accept us as the best witness to our own experiences or will they insist upon trying to replace our actual experiences with their stereotypes and fabricated ideas of what it’s like to be us?  Are they able to see the pattern of fat bigotry in our society?  Are they able to rise above them? Are they willing to challenge them?

Fat people can choose to educate and/or do activism around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, but if we do it’s a courtesy – we aren’t obligated to do it. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not size, health, or healthy habit dependent, and they come with no obligation of activism – they are inalienable, not contingent. When a fat person chooses to do something, and that thing happens to challenge someone else’s stereotypes, preconceived notions, or bigotry, we are not asking for their approval, we are doing them a favor.  We are giving them the opportunity to question their stereotypes.  Their choice to stick to those stereotypes and prejudices, or to challenge them, is entirely on them.

We didn’t make ourselves the bogey man – factions of society did.  This is not our fault but it does become our problem, and each of us gets to choose how to deal with that and every person’s choice is valid. If you choose to become involved in activism and education around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size it can be helpful to remember that we can control the message that we give, but we can’t control how that message is received.  We can make being the bogey man about providing an opportunity for people to break out of a cycle of shaming, stigmatizing and bullying us and perhaps even become allies and activists in their own right.  We can reclaim the bogey man identity – be the bogey man on our own terms – and see what people are made of by what they make of us. But it’s always our choice.

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.

The Real Complications of Obesity

Tragedy struck when Yolanda Reese-Brooks passed away.  Tragedy struck again when the story hit the press.  Officials claimed that she died of complications of obesity and health professionals at the scene estimated her weight at 500 pounds, and removed a sliding glass door to get her out of the house to the hospital.  I know that because every story mentioned those details before they mentioned her name.

Things that many of the stories forgot to mention or buried:  Her actual weight was 360 pounds.  She was bedridden because of a crushed pelvis and ruptured bladder from a traffic accident in 2011. Her name was Yolanda Reese-Brooks, she was a wife, mother, sister and daughter

There are complications from obesity involved here but it’s not about Yolanda Reese-Brooks’ weight. The complications are about how quickly medical professionals will blame body size for everything, how police and fire officials overestimated her weight by  140 pounds – almost 40%.  My girlfriend and others I know weigh more than 360 pounds and fit through a regular door so why did they need to remove a sliding door to get her out and how was it newsworthy if they did? How completely insensitive the news has been in reporting the end of a life.

A journalist with courage would report this at the tragedy it is and start asking questions –  Why didn’t this woman didn’t get the healthcare she needed? Could she not afford it?  Did a very justified fear of being mistreated by a healthcare provider keep her from getting healthcare?  Did the constant shame, stigma and bullying that is heaped on fat people in our society make her think that her body wasn’t worthy of care?  Did rampant ableism make her ashamed to get the mobility aids that she needed?  Was mental illness involved? Are the other reports about this de-humanizing it because that’s what people need to feel ok about flocking to stories about fat people dying to see if they had to cut out a wall or use a special ambulance? If a 400 pound man can run a marathon,  why are we so quick to assume that a 360 pound woman died from being fat?

Some people seem to forget that fat people are indeed human.  We deserve human respect.  When we die we deserve more than a headline that says “Obese, bed-ridden Warren woman’s death was accidental.” (I’m looking at you Detroit Free Press)

The fact that the news of someone’s death could be treated so poorly is the product of the confluence of a number of problems we have in our society – the conflation of weight and health; the acceptable and even encouraged stigmatizing, shaming, and bullying of fat people; the stubborn refusal of the medical establishment to treat fat people’s health issues using evidence-based medicine rather than treating their body size; rampant healthism and ableism; the media’s willingness to use fat people as objects to sensationalize; the government’s comfort waging a war against citizens (including children) for how they look, and encouraging others to do the same; and the ways that this constant treatment leads some fat people to believe that they deserve this treatment until and unless their body is a different size.

Society tries to demand that we solve social stigma through weight loss and says until we do that we deserve to be treated incredibly poorly by every facet of society.  We can reject that and  demand that society solves social stigma by ending social stigma. Yolanda Reese Brooks deserved better and so does every other fat person – we have every right to demand it and to fight for it.

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.

Lifting, Boiling, and Being Fat

Big ass stock pot was a gift from Julianne. Now I get to try making stock!

Before we start I just want to be clear that I’m not going to suggest that you learn to cook, or lift weights, this blog is about what those things taught me and how that might help other people, whether or not they ever cook or go to the gym.

This week I  joined a new gym.  I got involved in competitive sports in fourth grade and have been in the gym ever since and my comfort in the gym has really served me .  The gym is comfortable to me.  Even though I sometimes have to deal with people saying obnoxious things to me, assuming that I’m a beginner exerciser etc. they can’t take away the fact that I know the machines, that I can put together a free weight routine for any purpose, I can create an interval training set at the drop of hat –  I feel competent at the gym and that provides some armor.

About a year ago I decided that it was time for me to learn how to cook. My lack of culinary skills meant that eating whole foods was pretty much confined to roasted meat and steamed vegetables.  When I got sick of that it was time to eat something with directions that included “dissolve sauce packet in boiling water.”   So I didn’t want to learn to create flavor profiles and be a contestant on Chopped, I just wanted to become a competent from scratch recipe assembler.  A year later I can put together a lot of simple recipes, a few complicated recipes, I can cook some things without recipes and I’ve even baked a couple of things from scratch.  I didn’t realize how this had changed me until I was in the produce section of the grocery store today.  A year ago I would have known how to steam a few of the veggies and that’s about it.  Now I know a number of ways to prepare a lot of them, how to use them in various recipes etc.  It realized that I hadn’t just developed cooking skills – I feel competent in the grocery store.  My cart is no more or less “healthy” to the nosy observer than it was before I learned to cook so people will likely judge me the same, but the way I look at myself changed and that helps protect me from people who are laboring under the misapprehension that their beeswax is located somewhere in my grocery cart.

That’s also how I feel about my Size Acceptance and HAES choices.  I’ve done the research, I’ve thought it though.  I am certain that I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body that I have now, and I am certain that includes not having war waged on me by my government for how I look.  I am confident in my choices about my health and I am certain that my health is nobody else’s business.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t deal with all the crap that society throws at me.  But it gives me some armor.  I feel good about who I am and the decisions I make and I will not allow the world to steal my self-esteem and cheapen it just so they can try to sell it back to me at a profit (a concept that my amazing friend CJ Legare first pointed out to me.)

In the end what I learned from lifting, boiling, and being fat is that how I view myself really changes the way that I view the outside world, the way I relate to it, and the way I deal with so much of the crap that comes my way from it so it’s worth taking some time to really clarify how I feel about things and how I feel about myself.

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.

The Sandy 15? Spare me.

Reader Tara brought this concept to my attention today and I have to say that when I first read her comment I was hoping it was just one goofy local news thing.  But it wasn’t.  If you’ve banked some Sanity Watchers points this week you can Google Sandy 15 and see what I mean.  In case you don’t get the clever, clever reference joke, the Sandy 15 is a reference to the freshman 15 (the idea that college students gain 15 pounds their freshmen year).  The idea of the freshmen 15 is problematic on many levels including but not limited to putting a focus on weight at a time when girls have a high chance of developing an eating disorder.  The Sandy 15 is just stupid and not just because it’s only been a couple of days, not a year.

My blue ribbon loser article was by Fox [Edit:  Reader A Elizabeth corrected me – the article is by the Associated Press, Fox picked it up as did many other outlets.]  The article talks about a woman who went to the grocery store with “good intentions” of buying cucumbers and apples.  But since there was, you know, a freaking hurricane, her store hadn’t received new supplies.  So she *gasp* bought chips and salsa, and Oreos.  She even “sheepishly” admitted to eating boxed macaroni and cheese. I’ll say it again because it’s so distressing that you may not have been able to process it the first time – this woman ate boxed mac and cheese.  Oh the humanity!

A dietician even made a punny – calling the combination of a lack of fresh foods, people baking as an at home family activity, and having Halloween candy around for trick or treaters as “the perfect storm.” Get it – perfect storm…hurricane – get it?

The article actually says “Even fitness trainer Simone de la Rue gave into a burger, french fries and margarita on Tuesday – for lunch, no less.”  For lunch.  FOR LUNCH!  We should strip her of her fitness certification, or we should maybe just kill her and put her out of her misery. No wait, later in the article they say that she is “making up for her indulgences with a few extra workout videos streamed on her iPad.”  She can live to fitness train another day.

Our genius dietician suggests household chores with vigorous scrubbing (seriously) and that next time people should be ready with some low-sodium bean based soup in the pantry.

So let’s review – there was a massive natural disaster, people died and there may be more, some people have lost everything and are living in shelters,  people are literally dumpster diving for food, but let’s make sure that people with internet access should know that they should feel ashamed of what they are eating, and more shamed if they aren’t overcoming whatever emotions, tragedies etc. they are dealing with to scrub something in their house vigorously enough to feel like they’ve burned enough calories to assuage the guilt that there is no need for in the first place.

The fact that anybody thought this article was ok to write and that a major news outlet was willing to print it tells me that we have gone far, far over the line when it comes to confusing healthy eating habits with a relationship with food that is built on what eating disorder specialists consider disordered eating patterns.  When it comes to our ideas about eating and health, our culture is massively messed up. When people who are dealing with a natural disaster are most worried about calorie counting, there is a problem.

Imagine a conversation about food without the concepts of guilt, good, bad, evil, sinful, etc.  Where eating is not used as a way to manipulate body size.  Where the discussion is about, as Linda Bacon says “Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety and appetite.”

So what can you do?

  • Opt out of this for yourself.  There are lots of resources to help you find new ways of eating, I recommend Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist and Golda at Body Love Wellness for a start.
  • Speak out against this when you hear about it – leave comments on articles, comment on conversations, speak about your HAES practice like others speak about their diets
  • Sign the HAES pledge

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

During the holiday season I get a ton of e-mail from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police or their partner’s office party. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year. All calls will be recorded so registrants can listen  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

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.

The Diet Company Trifecta of Doom

By Jodee Rose

An industry whose product is legally required to state that it doesn’t work every time they try to sell it doesn’t make sixty-billion dollars a year without some pretty good marketing.  You might think losing every deceptive trade practice lawsuit that has been brought by the Federal Trade Commission would slow down sales a little bit.  But the diet industry has managed to slap a “results not typical” label on all of their stuff and just keep raking in the dough.

Part of it is because the diet industry knows that biology dictates that almost everyone can lose weight short term and almost everyone will gain it back long term, and they’ve done a tremendous job of taking credit for the first part and blaming their client for the second part –  though neither is accurate. This is what leads fat people to argue vehemently that Weight Watchers works because they did it six times and they lost weight at the beginning every time – of course they also gained it back but they don’t associate Weight Watchers with that. Part of it is because fat people are subject to a tremendous amount of shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression and so people are desperate to find a way out of that and if they can’t lose weight, at least they might get partial credit and a temporary pass if they are perceived as “trying to do something.”

One of the marketing ploys that the Diet Industry uses is the Dieting Trifecta of Doom.  They have set up three “seasons” a year to market around that allow them to constantly remind us that we will never look good enough.   The events are:

  1. The holidays are coming
  2. The new year is here
  3. Bikini season is coming

Right now we are in “The holidays are coming.”  I know that because I received an advertisement from a local diet company affiliate that suggested that I might want to lose weight so as not to embarrass my husband at his company Christmas party.   Looking past the fact that it’s not 1950, I have a girlfriend, and we’re both self-employed, this one seems like a particularly low blow – it sounds like they realize that more and more of us realize that beauty, health, and happiness come in sizes that include ours – so they  want to make us fear that we’ll be an embarrassment to our partners so that we’ll buckle and give them our money. I guess this is what you stoop to when your product doesn’t work.

Soon we’ll start hearing about weight loss New Year’s Resolutions and every diet company in the world will run some sort of special.  When that wears off we’ll start hearing about how we have to get ready for bikini season. When summer is over it will be “the holidays are coming”  all over again.

I think it’s important to notice that the diet industry has purposefully created a cycle of three artificial seasons to make us spend the whole year sure that we don’t look good enough now and terrified that we won’t look good enough for the next artificial season.  Happily, we can opt out of the cycle. For example, it’s November, I’m fat, and my body is already “bikini season ready” and the way I know is that I have both a body and bikini, so there you go. I will not be sucked into the vortex of the Diet Company Trifecta of Doom.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

During the holiday season I get a ton of e-mail from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police or their partner’s office party. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year. All calls will be recorded so registrants can listen  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

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.

Mamamia – What a Bigot

An article that I will not be linking to called “There, I said it…I’m Glad My Kids Aren’t Fat.” by Alana House appeared on Australian website Mamamia.  While I appreciate the ability to pack that much punctuation into the title of one article, the rest leaves something to be desired.

To summarize – she’s glad that her kids aren’t fat because then they would have to deal with the actions of bigots like her.  She talks about shuddering at the sight of fat kids.  She doesn’t understand the difference between correlation and causation but she’s happy to make completely incorrect declaratory statements predicting doom anyway. She goes on and on about wanting to lose 10kg, swearing that she will lose it even though she’s promised “sooooo many times before, but I really mean it now”. She assigns moral value to gnocci (it’s evil, in case you were wondering) and she freely admits that her kids eat junk but since they stay thin that’s just super cool.

It’s everything that this ridiculous war on childhood obesity leads to – it’s overstating, hysterical, completely based on “everybody knows,”and dangerous to kids.  It would be nice if, instead of wringing their hands and screaming “WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN,” someone would actually think of the children.

Newsflash Alana:  If you let your kids eat what you describe as “junk,” then you call that food evil, your kids are likely headed toward an unhealthy relationship with food.  If you obsess about your own weight, promising over and over again that you are going to lose “that last whatever the hell number of pounds” and you never feel that you are thin enough, that’s what you are modeling to your kids.

If you feel like being proud that your kids aren’t part of a group of people who are stigmatized and oppressed “feels like some shameful secret” then maybe instead of writing an article full of bigotry and assumptions, it’s time to stop and think about why it feels shameful.  I’m just spit-balling here but maybe it’s because you’re a massive bigot and, try as you might to justify it as “concern for health” or whatever, deep down you know that you are a bigot – that you are contributing to the shame, stigma, and oppression that is heaped onto fat people because of how we look and you’re teaching your kids to do the same. Maybe, just maybe, if feels shameful because it IS shameful.

We must, we must, WE MUST remove weight from the discussion about health, especially kid’s health. We have to stop trying to build public health on a foundation of stigmatizing, shaming, and oppressing a group of people for how they look. Bigotry is the opposite of public health, not the foundation of it.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

During the holiday season I get a ton of e-mail from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police or their partner’s office party. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year. All calls will be recorded so registrants can listen  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

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.