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.