If These Guys Can Get Healthcare

Bad DoctorIn response to my blog about “really fat people“, many people commented, e-mailed and facebooked me to let me know that they had an experience where a doctor refused to treat them because of their BMI and insisted on weight loss prior to working on them. Many people who contacted me were told that it was simply impossible to properly diagnose someone of their BMI, or that treating them is a “waste of time” since they are likely to re-injure themselves anyway.  One woman was told that, at 5’4, 250 pounds, she was simply to big to get an MRI.

I find that interesting because last week the following people received the absolute best medical  treatment, including in some cases MRI,  with no discussion of weight loss at all:

6’2, 308 pounds   – knee injury – “class 3 obesity” (Super Fat!)

6’4, 285 pounds – arm injury – “class 2 obese”

6’4, 263 pounds – ankle injury – “class 1 obese”

6’3, 260 pounds  – achiles injury – “class 1 obese”

These are, in fact, just a handful of “obese” people who were afforded evidence-based medical care for injuries without being required to lose weight and despite the fact that they are very, very likely to re-injure themselves. These people are Jerel Worthy, Justin Smith, John Abraham and Terrell Suggs and the thing they have in common is that they all play in the National Football League.  As of 2012 there were 352 players over 350 pounds. Every week during football season hundreds of guys who meet the BMI qualifications for being obese, including “super fat”, are given high quality medical treatment.  Apparently if you can  play football we can find an MRI machine that will fit your 6 feet tall 350 pound ass but if you’re a 5’4 250 pound woman we just can’t get it done.

Now, I’m not suggesting that there is no difference physiologically between a professional athlete and someone who is not a professional athlete, regardless of size. I am also painfully aware of the amount of money that people are willing to pay for medical treatment of professional athletes versus those who do something other than throw, catch, kick, and run for a living.   My goal is simply to point out that a doctor saying someone’s BMI category makes them untreatable, or that a risk of re-injury is a contraindication to treatment, is disingenuous.

I also think it highlights some of the major issues that stem from the amount of weight bias among doctors and those planning to become doctors.  I would personally like to see more healthcare professionals at the forefront of activism to help fat patients.  I would like to see more of them railing that they have sick patients and they don’t have the tools they need to treat us.  I would love to see them fighting for the right to use whatever MRI is used for the defensive tackle on the nearest NFL or College Football team.  I would like to see a word where fat people and our healthcare professionals are fighting against the problems that prevent us from getting good treatment, not healthcare professionals insisting that fat patients are the problem.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

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, Support My Projects, 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.

But What About REALLY Fat People

Ragen Chastain Class III - SUPER OBESE Photo by Richard Sabel
Ragen Chastain  Class III – SUPER OBESE Photo by Richard Sabel

Often I get comments that say something like “but what about people who weigh [usually some random amount of weight that seems really high to the commenter from 300 pounds to more than 1,000, or some life circumstance, illness, or disability that seems like a big issue to them], surely in these situations weight loss, including drastic measures (like stomach amputation or an at home stomach pump) should be taken.” or “Studies show that very fat people tend to die younger, what do you say about that?”

Let me start by saying that I am a “REALLY fat person”.  I am Class III – Super Obese, as fat as you can get on the BMI charts. When I first found that out, I ran to the mailbox for weeks hoping to receive my cape and secret decoder ring.  I’m still waiting – it turns out that it doesn’t come with a secret identity but it does come with a bunch of shame, stigma, and concern trolling.  I want my  freaking cape, but I digress.

As far as studies that say that very fat people (Class II and Class III) die earlier, that’s not as cut and dried as it sounds.  To clarify some things: this “class system” of obesity is based on BMI and its many, many problems.  Class III Obesity is defined by the World Health Association as a BMI of 40 or above. To use me as an example – I am 5’4 so anything over 232 pounds makes me Class III Obese.  I weigh 284 pounds. If I weighed 2,284 pounds I would be in the same class in study’s conclusions about weight and health, lifespan etc.  This does not exactly smack of stringent science.

It also doesn’t take into account that there are health issues and medications that cause weight gain and may also shorten lifespan as a side effect, or treat illnesses that shorten lifespan.  Nor does it take into account that many people who are super fat spent most of their lives dieting and, considering statistics on weight regain and the dangers of weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting), it’s entirely possible that this lifetime of dieting is the source of their current size, their health problems, and a possibly shorter lifespan.  It doesn’t consider the dangers of being under the stress of constant stigma and shame and how that can affect someone’s health (Peter Muennig out of Columbia found that women who were concerned with their weight had more physical and mental illness that those who were ok with their size, regardless of their size.).

It doesn’t take into account the difficulties super fats can have getting proper healthcare – doctors who don’t listen to a word we say and suggest stomach amputation as a cure for everything from strep throat to near-sightedness, the dangers of being put on drugs for health issues we don’t have based on the idea that we might get them someday (I once had a doctor try to prescribe blood pressure medication before having my blood pressure checked – it was 117/70), and other issues including not being able to get proper treatment because machines aren’t built to fit us.  Then there are people who avoid healthcare because of the shaming, stigmatizing, bullying experiences they’ve had,  the fact that medical students don’t practice on fat bodies in gross anatomy classes and the first time surgeons see the inside of a fat body it will likely be when that body belongs to a sick patient, the fact that when we are sick, super fat people can be under-medicated because the amount of medication is based on someone much smaller, or over-medicated because the amount of a medication doesn’t necessarily depend on body weight etc.  So acting like body size=early death and the only solution is thinness is a massive oversimplification.

I also think that the larger someone is, the higher the temptation to suggest that whatever issues they are dealing with would be solved if they were just smaller. In truth, neither how fat a person is, nor the abilities and disabilities they may live with, change the fact that weight loss almost never works.  In fact, weight regain is the most common outcome of intentional weight loss attempts, so  even if someone is arguing that high body weight is dangerous, the worst advice they could possibly give is to try to lose weight. In study after study after study weight loss has not been shown to be successful at changing body weight or making people healthier.  In fact, the only thing that weight loss interventions are shown to be highly successful at is causing long term weight gain. Weight loss does not meet the criteria for evidence-based medicine, and a fatter patient doesn’t change that simple fact.  So even if someone thought it would solve all health problems if everyone was thin, we don’t know how to get it done.  But we could stop stigmatizing fat people, thereby solving many of the issues I talked about in the last paragraph, and we could do it today.   We’ll never truly know how much healthier fat people could be without all the shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression until we end it.

As always, people are allowed to make whatever choices they want about their bodies and health.  From my perspective a Health at Every Size approach makes the most sense regardless of size, health issues, or ability, based on the evidence – there are no guarantees and my health is never fully within my control but I think the evidence says that healthy habits give me the best chance at my healthiest body.

To me, Health at Every Size is about each of us prioritizing health for ourselves and then, if we want to set goals, setting them based on health/habits rather than body size.  And it’s about treating health issues with health interventions, not body size interventions.  So no matter what I weigh, I would set my goals based on what I want to be able to do within the parameters of my body’s abilities and disabilities and my situation, and I let my body weight do whatever my body weight does.

And no matter what I weigh, I would deal with any health issues using health interventions.  Let’s say I developed joint issues.  I would likely be told that weight loss would “cure” those issues.  You know what else would “cure” them?  Being able to fly – which is about as likely as losing weight, so I’ll start dieting to fix joint pain right after I jump off a roof and flap my arms really hard.  Or I could insist on being treated for my joint issues using interventions that are shown to actually help joint issues.  I know that those interventions exist because thin people get joint issues as well and they aren’t told to lose weight, but they are treated.

People of all sizes deserve to be treated with respect and those of us who are “really fat” are in no more need of concern trolling, stomach amputations, or at home stomach pumps than anyone else.  Everyone deserves access to foods that they choose to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy if they want them, affordable evidence-based wellness care and a life free from bullying, stigma, and oppression. Yes, even if we’re REALLY fat.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

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, Support My Projects, 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.

Once Upon a Fat Time…

Once Upon a TimWe talked a couple days ago about The Biggest Loser’s ridiculous claim that they are starting the dialog on childhood obesity.  That claim had already been made under pretty questionable circumstances by Michelle Obama and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.   Reader Malinda pointed out a headline that said “Most Americans Don’t Know the Dangers of Obesity.”  I’ve seen articles about how doctors don’t talk to their fat patients enough about weight loss, how fat people don’t know they are fat, that nobody is brave enough to talk about obesity.

What the hell are they talking about?  Are these surveys based on 9 out of 10 people who live under a rock?  All of those sentences should start with “Once upon a time” because they are fairy tales.

Magazines at the grocery store can’t stop talking about weight loss.  I, and the readers who e-mail me have literally never been to the doctor and not had my weight brought up and that includes, in my case, three occasions when doctors suggested that I should lose weight to cure my strep throat, separated shoulder, and broken toe. The media likes to interject this idea into their stories so that people don’t call them out for reporting the same “everybody knows”  crap in multiple stories day in and day out without checking the evidence or, you know, asking questions as journalists might be expected to do.

The big problem happens when people believe this story and think that fat people are wandering the world oblivious to the fact that everyone from the media, to healthcare professionals, to them wants to stereotype us based on how we look, or that god forbid we don’t hate ourselves and spend all of our free brainspace, time, and money trying to be thin –  and they think it’s somehow up to them to disabuse us of these notions, or remind us that if we’re not giving all of our efforts to self-hatred then we’re just not trying hard enough.

The fairy tale is based on another fairytale:  Once upon a time, we got the idea that other people’s bodies were our business.  And we all lived miserably ever after.

Until we called bullshit on these fairy tales, made public health about providing health options to the public instead of about making people’s health the public’s business, and chose to respect and appreciate people of all shapes and sizes.  Maybe it’s not happily ever after, but it’s a damn good start.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

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, Support My Projects, 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.

Attraction, Bigotry, and Al Roker’s Wife

Design by Kris Owen
Design by Kris Owen

In my blog yesterday I said that when Al Roker’s wife told Dateline that she wanted him to amputate his stomach because “I just wanted to feel more attracted to him.” it was her “fat bigotry getting in the way of being attracted to her husband.”  Commenter Jill responded:

I think it’s perfectly fine that his wife was not attracted to him fat becasue attraction is a personal thing. I don’t necessarily think the lack of attraction is fat bigotry.

For example: My mom thinks Viggo Mortensen is the hottest thing on two legs and, while I objectively agree that he can be attractive, I find him too… pointy and angular. I don’t think I have a bias against pointy, angular Norwegians the man just doesn’t do it for me.

So I don’t see the fact that Mrs Roker was not attracted to the fat Al as a problem. The same way I don’t see someone not being physically attracted to the fat me as a problem. It is what it is.

Shaped by society or not, if you’re not attracted to someone you’re not attracted. There is absolutely ZERO shame in that and I don’t think anyone should be called to task for their personal preference – no matter what the source.

I think that this is an interesting discussion and, as always, there are lots of points of view on this, and mine is just one of them.

I understand not finding a specific person attractive.  But if someone finds every single person with a single specific physical attribute unattractive, does that not constitute a form of bigotry?

I believe, for me, that the ability to perceive beauty and attractiveness is a skill, not something that is ingrained and unchangeable.  So, for example, while I may find a specific man who is bald unattractive, if I notice that I find all men who are bald unattractive because they are bald, then I believe that constitutes a prejudice.  I would choose to examine that (does it come from what society tells me about  men who are bald? Unpleasant experiences with certain men who are bald?  etc.) and work to expand my ability to perceive beauty and attractiveness to include bald men, rather than insisting that it’s just a personal preference and no matter why I feel that way it’s just how it is.  But, of course, I can only speak for myself.

So while I am happy not to date someone who finds all fat women unattractive, I believe that they are operating from a state of bigotry and that they have the option to examine that and work to change it if they choose (preferably BEFORE marrying a fat person).  The Mirriam-Webster definition of bigot is “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.”  That, to me, includes stubbornly insisting that nobody who is a member of a group with a specific physical characteristic is attractive to them.  Or, in Mrs. Roker’s case, that she dated and married her husband fat, yet was certain that she would find him more attractive if he were thinner.

I think this is important because the idea that fat people are subjectively unattractive is used as a method of oppression – we are told that we shouldn’t be seen in certain clothes – patterns, colors, shapes etc. – and sometimes that people don’t want to see us at all.  We are told that we should value our bodies based on whether or not stereotypically beautiful members of the opposite sex want to have sex with us (regardless of our own sexual orientation.)

We are told that proof that being fat is “bad” can be found in the “fact” that the majority of people in our culture aren’t attracted to us, and that they should not be called to task for that, and that there is nothing that they should do about it.  That it doesn’t matter if it stems from a (very profitable for some) social construct of beauty, or the bigotry of our current society, it just is and there is no shame in that.  I think the source of what we find attractive is worth examination – as is the resulting concept of attractiveness, and the way that concept is used against those deemed “unattractive.”

I think it’s also important for those of us who are fat to realize that when someone says that they could never find a fat person attractive, what they may be saying (either consciously or subconsciously)  is “I’m operating my love life from a base of bigotry, and I’m cool with that.” At any rate, we are not the  problem and we don’t have to look to anyone else to validate our beauty an attractiveness.

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Pants Pooping, Stomach Pumping, and Other Alleged Health Practices

WTFIf your internet has been down for a couple of days you may not have heard Al Roker’s Dateline interview confession that, following his stomach amputation, “I’m walking to the press room … I gotta pass a little gas here. I’m walking by myself. Who’s gonna know? Only a little something extra came out…I pooped my pants. Not horribly, but enough that I knew.”

Jezebel ran an article about it that includes the substantial list of possible complications – many of which make fecal incontinence sound like walk in the park.  The article also discusses that Roker’s decision to have his stomach amputated came after his father’s dying wish was that he become thin. And his wife, who started dating him when he was fat, told Dateline “I just wanted to feel more attracted to him.”

Al Roker is the boss of his underpants. If he describes it as “not horrible” he’s the best witness to his experience.  He’s allowed to not divorce someone whose marriage vows are “for better or for worse but not for fat,” and he can choose to amputate any of his organs for any reason he wants as far as I’m concerned.

I think the problem is with a world where a father’s dying wish is that his son change his body size, and a wife feels comfortable telling Dateline that her fat bigotry gets in the way of being attracted to her husband – and she feels that’s his problem to fix.  It is this kind of world that makes someone think – hey, let’s just amputate fat people’s stomachs, or where people say let’s sell a diet pill that requires those who take it to carry around extra pants,  and it is that kind of world where [Trigger warning: eating disorder talk] having fat people pump the contents of their stomachs into a bucket is a fabulous idea. Oh yes, a company has filed an application to sell an at home stomach pump (It’s not yet FDA approved thank all the gods.)  Emptying the contents of your stomach after every meal sounds more like an old and dangerous eating disorder than a fun and exciting new health practice.

This is more of the ridiculous notion we’ve talked about before where someone tries to convince us that things considered unhealthy and dangerous in thin people are somehow medically advisable and healthy for fat people.  To be clear, bulimia, like all eating disorders, is complicated and multidimensional and far more than just a behavior.  What I’m saying is that if I overhear someone saying “empty the contents of the stomach after every meal” at the doctor’s office, I hope to hell it’s a patient asking for help, not a doctor giving a “treatment” protocol.

When will it end?  What bridge will be a bridge too far?  If it’s not at-home stomach pumping and out-patient stomach amputations then what the hell is it?  When will the medical profession follow the evidence and tell people that, if health is important to them, there are no guarantees, but simple healthy habits are a much better predictor of health than body size?  I suspect it will happen when doctors can’t get twenty grand to redesign someone’s digestive system in a way that causes them to poop their pants at the White House, or causes them to die.

There are options – we can focus on our actual health. we can practice Health at Every Size. We can say no to stomach pumping, stomach amputations, diet pills with warnings about wearing dark pants and all the rest of this mess.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

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.

Biggest Loser’s Dangerously Wackadoodle Fantasy Land

Think of the childrenI told you last week that Joanne Dolgoff, the doctor in charge of the kids on this season of The Biggest Loser, had reached out and offered to have a telephone call with me about my concerns with having kids on TBL this season.  A couple hours before the scheduled call she cancelled with an e-mail that said:

Something has come up at work and I am unable to do this phone call today.  But in thinking about it further, I think the show itself is the best evidence of our intentions and approach. So I think it’s best if you can tune in to “The Biggest Loser” on January 6 to see that the kid participants on the show will follow an age-appropriate program that emphasizes getting healthy rather than numbers on a scale.  As you’ll see, the kids are handled with great care, support and encouragement to help them live a healthier lifestyle.  Thank you.

It turns out that she had offered to have calls with a number of people who had similar concerns, which she also cancelled.  It also turns out that her e-mail to me is just a copy and paste of the public statement that TBL made about the concerns regarding the kids.  She deleted all of her Twitter exchanges with those who have concerns.  My guess is that she is has so thoroughly drank the “this is a good idea Kool-Aid” that she honestly could not believe there was a backlash.   I do find it disconcerting that, despite a number of people asking, she never produced any evidence for her intervention’s safety or efficacy, even though that she repeatedly claims in the media that her program has a “proven 96 percent success rate”  Marketing people throw the word “proven” around a lot, of course one would hope that no person of science, for example a medical doctor, would do so, especially when kids’ health is at stake. People trust medical doctors and so when they toss around words like “proven” people tend to assume that they are speaking as a scientist, and not a PR and marketing firm.  Maybe I just missed the statistically significant, replicated studies printed in a peer-reviewed journal?  I don’t know because, like every other request for evidence that people made to her,  Joanna failed to produce anything.

What isn’t in her e-mail is that they are trying to call their inclusion of kids on the show “bravery” for talking “about something that nobody else is talking about”.  Executive producer Lisa Hennessy called it a necessary first step in starting a national dialogue about childhood obesity.  So I have to ask, how pissed off is Michelle Obama right now?  She has made her entire stint as First Lady about focusing on the weight of children, even unbelievably. calling Biggest Loser contestants good role models for kids, and here comes TBL taking credit like nobody has ever put the words childhood and obesity together before.

And not for nothing but is Lisa Hennessy the Executive Producer of Fantasy Land?  I just Googled childhood obesity and got  “about 9,990,000 results in 0.25 seconds”.  Let’s review:  they have a self-described “childhood obesity specialist” who refuses to share proof of efficacy and safety for an intervention being used on kids, and meanwhile is absolutely shocked that there is a backlash against putting kids on a show where people dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to lose weight so that they can win money; and we have an Executive Producer who doesn’t know that she got scooped 9,990,000 times and wants credit for being brave and starting a discussion about a subject that nobody can shut up about.  Yes, these are people with whom we should entrust children.  (Sarcasm meter is a 10 out of 10 here)

This would be hilarious if it wasn’t tragic because, don’t forget, they put freaking KIDS on a show where people dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to lose weight so that they can win money, while their trainers emotionally abuse them and insist that they ignore the advice of doctors and dieticians (another reason why I don’t think having a doctor on the show for the kids means that they are safe.)  Not to worry they tell us, they would NEVER treat kids the way they treat adults.  And if that’s the case, shouldn’t it give us pause? I would wager that, given the laws for working with animals, they wouldn’t treat a group of dogs like the treat the adults – because it would be against the law to treat animals that way.

They also tell us that, for the kids, is just about healthy habits and not weight loss.  The pictures of the kids wearing “The Biggest Loser” shirts with tape measures on them makes me think that this is unlikely.  Also, it’s not just these three kids I’m worried about.  It’s the fact that no matter how they treat the kids, if you want to see them you have to watch the rest of the show.  A show which, in the first 30 minutes of  the season premiere, had contestants vomiting, falling off the treadmill, and one requiring paramedics, while so-called trainers shrieked at them that they are weak and need to keep going.  Quick honey, come in here and bring the kids – we don’t want them to miss these role models for health (and the sarcasm just keeps on coming.)

Does anyone remember Lisa Simpsons “Just Don’t Look” campaign to get the scary homicidal advertising mascots to stop.  Yeah, that’s an option here:  Stop watching The Biggest Loser.  Stop patronizing their sponsors.  Stop being part of this problem.  You can click here to see the list of sponsors and sign the petition to boycott The Biggest Loser.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

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.

What if I’m Not Comfortable With My Weight

I'm ok you're okA question I get from readers pretty often, especially readers new to Health at Every Size/Size Acceptance is some version of “I’m all for Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size for anyone else and I want to end weight stigma, shame, and bullying for people of all sizes,  but I still want to lose weight for [xyz reasons] – I don’t know what to do…”

First of all, I think that people have a right to make choices for their bodies, so I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live.  I came to Health at Every Size in a roundabout way.  I had become frustrated with the diet programs my doctor was prescribing and, as a trained researcher, I decided to read the actual research to find the intentional weight loss method that was the absolute best. I was completely shocked when I found that there were no studies that showed any weight loss method that worked long term for more than a tiny fraction of people.  Coming to terms with the fact that long term weight loss was highly unlikely is one of the hardest things I ever had to do.  It meant that I also had to give up my addiction to the pursuit of being thin.

That didn’t mean that I never struggled with the idea of weight loss again – in our society thin is pushed constantly as the cure-all for everything, weight loss is pushed as something that everyone can do, that everyone should pursue, and as something to be celebrated on the same level as curing cancer. As these thoughts came up for me I started to ask myself what I would do about each of them if becoming thin wasn’t going to happen for me.  Below is what I came up with for me, as always I can only speak for myself – your mileage may vary, and you are the boss of your underpants.

The original reason that I wanted to lose weight was my health.  I had bought into what I am now certain is a myth that weight and health are the same thing.  Thinking about it I realized that health is multidimensional and not entirely within our control, and that thin people get all the same diseases as fat people so becoming thin could neither be a sure preventative nor a sure cure. Doing the actual research I found that habits were a much better determinant for health than body size and that if health was important to me (which is my choice and nobody else’s) my best chance (knowing that I’m not entirely in control) was simple healthy habits.  Not to mention that long term weight loss is all but impossible based on the research – so even if being thin would make me magically immortal, graceful,  and never have another bad hair day, it’s not happening.

At times I wanted to be thin so that I could be athletic/a better dancer/have easier movement.  What I found was that instead of waiting until I was thin to do the things that I wanted to do, I just went ahead and did them fat.  I recognized that every body, of every size, is different – bodies have various abilities and disabilities for many reasons and it’s about what we decide to do with the body that we have. So I decided to stop waiting for some other body to show up and start taking the body I had out for a spin.  Though there may be some things that I couldn’t do because of my weight, I made the choice that I would decide that was the reason only after I exhausted all of the other possibilities (For example, I found that strength training, pilates, and resistance stretching were, for me, the key to ease of movement).  I also decided that if my size was the reason that I couldn’t do something, then I would acknowledge my disappointment while working to be deeply appreciative of the body that I have and the things it can do, since without this body I would be pretty well stuck.

There were certainly times when I wanted to lose weight to escape the societal shame, stigma, bullying,  and oppression that I deal with as a fat person.  What I realized was that weight loss is not the cure for social stigma – ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma.  I had earlier insight into this because as a queer woman I heard the same arguments – if I would just stop being queer then the bullies would stop bullying me.  This is as much bullshit for fat people as it is for queer people.  It doesn’t matter why my body is the size it is, I have a right to exist –  I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body I have now.  Even if becoming thin was possible, giving the bullies my lunch money and hoping that they stop beating me up is not what I want to do or who I want to be – other people’s shaming, stigmatizing and bullying behavior is not a reason to change myself.

I considered wanting to lose weight to fit better into the world-I would fit into the seats no matter where I went, the I would always fit in an airplane seat, that I wouldn’t take up “too much space”, I would have more clothing options etc.  Thinking this one over I realized that the things that don’t accommodate me are wrong – there is nothing wrong with me.  Tall people hit their heads on things but don’t spend their lives trying to become shorter.  As a short woman I often can’t reach things, or my legs dangle uncomfortable from chairs but I never thought it was my fault for not being tall enough. This is the size I come in, and while it sucks that things don’t accommodate me, I will not try to solve that by changing myself.  I will work instead to change the world and ask that I be accommodated. I realized that asking for accommodations isn’t asking for a special favor – it is asking for what everyone else already has.  If everyone can walk into the theater, sit down and enjoy the show, then when I ask them to accommodate me with seating that works for me, I’m simply asking for what everyone else already has. My body takes up just the right amount of space, and as far as I’m concerned so does everyone else’s body.

While this process was at times upsetting and difficult, it has ended up being literally the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.  Freeing myself from the pursuit of being thin meant that I could actually have a good relationship with the body I have now.  I can’t even articulate how much bandwidth in my brain freed up when I stopped spending massive amounts of time,  obsessing about how I could get thin (not to mention the money and energy I saved.)  I gave away that clothes that didn’t fit me and stopped wishing that they did.  I stopped putting my life on hold until I looked different.  My life literally opened up. There are things that still suck – the world isn’t always built for me and there’s a ton of shame, stigma, bullying and oppression that still comes my way.  There’s plenty of work to be done, but it’s easier to concentrate on the actual problems when I realize that the problem is not my body.

Activism Opportunity

The project to create the Guinness World Record paper mache sculpture – made entirely out of pages from diet books – is on!  There are  tons of ways to help (even if you don’t have diet books to donate) Y Check it out here!

You can also check out the video for our new initiative that will help the paper mache project, the planet, and local businesses.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

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.