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.

The Michael Moore Walking Thing

Public HealthMore than 300 readers have sent me Michael Moore’s facebook post about walking, many asking what I think about it.  First of all, I am absolutely thrilled that he has kept a mostly Health at Every Size perspective on this, and that he is making an effort to speak to include people with disabilities.  For the most part I think it’s a really positive piece and there is good evidence that shows the general positive effect of moderate activity.  And it’s a relief to see a celebrity maintain a HAES perspective even after weight loss.

I would like to add to, and suggest some clarifications of, what he said:

First, nobody is under any obligation to exercise – even if there was definitive proof that 2 minutes of walking a day makes everyone immortal, nobody has to walk 2 minutes a day.  Someone’s prioritization of their health and the path they choose to get their is entirely up to them, they do not need to justify those decisions to anyone and the decisions should not be up for public comment or debate.

Next, if you decide that movement is something you are interested in, it doesn’t have to be walking.  Maybe you have a disability or health issue that makes walking not feasible or optimal. Maybe you just don’t like walking.  Feel free to choose an activity that you really love and that accommodates you in every way.  If there is no such activity then you get to make decisions about how to proceed – for example, you get to decide if you believe that the health benefits of movement are worth doing something you don’t love to do. Whatever choice you make is valid. It can change from day to day.

It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes.  You get to choose your goals around movement/fitness (if any), and how to pursue them.  I’ve definitely heard a lot that evidence suggests that 150 minutes of movement a week  is the “magic number,” but research has found health benefits with just 20 minutes a week.  Even the research that suggests 150 minutes also finds that you can break it up into smaller workouts (10 minutes at a time etc.) and there are still benefits.

I think it’s very important to realize that this is not the magical secret to weight loss or, necessarily,  the secret to changing your whole life. One of the things that concerns me about the Michael Moore piece is where he says (Trigger warning – food restriction talk, food moralizing skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid it) “Going for a walk every day will change your thinking and have a ripple effect. You’ll find yourself only eating when you’re truly hungry. And if you’re not hungry, go clean your room, or have sex, or call a friend on the phone. Without knowing it, you’ll starting eating like the French (there is no French word for “fast-food”) — and you will feel better…”

That’s not necessarily true.  There is no guarantee that movement will produce anything but the movement itself.  Your other behaviors may not change at all. And to be clear, evidence shows that movement is really good at increasing health and healthy outcomes, and really bad at producing long-term weight loss.  Marathoners drop dead of heart attacks – there is nothing that makes anyone immortal or immune to health issues. Healthy habits help us play the odds, but we must not forget that health is multidimensional and not entirely within our control – and there are no guarantees.

Mr. Moore mentions that now he sometimes walks twice a day and he’s starting other activities as well.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and I won’t attempt speak for anyone else but I personally have to be careful to avoid the trap that suggests that if doing something is good then doing more must be better.  I think that a lot of this comes from the mistaken, but often repeated, idea that movement should lead to weight loss – so if you’re not losing weight then you’re not doing “enough” movement, combined with the corollary that no amount of weight loss is ever enough so workout more and more and more.

If you find yourself getting caught up in trying to do the “exact right” thing  for the “exact right” time to get the “exact right” result, I suggest a different approach.  When I first started my career as an operations consultant, I got the following advice from a consultant who had been doing it for years:  “If you’re dealing with a mess and you just don’t know what to do, try something.  If it gets better, do more of that.  If it gets worse, do something else.”  I suggest a similar approach to movement – find a type of movement that you think you’ll like, that works for your situation, and try it for a duration with which you are comfortable.  If you continue to enjoy it and feel good – keep going.  If you don’t enjoy it or it doesn’t feel good, try something else.

While I generally like Mr. Moore’s post and agree with a lot of it, there’s a little bit too much breaking of the Underpants Rule for my taste in his post – a little bit too much telling people what to do  “get off the treadmill, ” stop eating this or that, don’t walk with me for these reasons etc.  I’m for a world where we each get to pick our goals and priorities, and we each of get to choose how to get there.

And if you’re doing movement, maybe you want to join the “Fit Fatties Across America” project – people of all sizes from all over the world who are doing fitness from a weight neutral  perspective are pooling our minutes and miles of activity to see how fast we can get from NYC to LA.  In the first 3 days we’ve gone 167 miles and we’ve got a way to go!  To participate, just log your activity on this form (if you’re not a member of the Fit Fatties Forum you’ll be prompted to join – it’s free and doesn’t commit you to anything) and then check the Fit Fatties Forum every Friday to see how far we’ve traveled.

While we’re on the subject of activism projects, 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)  Check it out here!

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.

I’m not F-ing Sorry

DefendThere’s something that I see happen a lot when fat people are defending ourselves or become angry about the way we are treated.  I see it on this blog in the comments and on other blogs, on Facebook, I’ve done it myself.  Someone will get upset, rant a little, perhaps swear a little then they’ll write “I’m sorry that I’m ranting” or “I’m sorry that I got angry.”

As always you are the boss of your underpants and if you say this or feel this way then that is totally cool.  I also think that it can happen because anger/ranting/profanity are sometimes not well received, they can make people uncomfortable: [Trigger Warning – there’s about to be a lot of swearing.]

For example, today I saw a  post whose author, responding to the fact that The Biggest Loser is trying to include kids this season, wrote  “WTF”.  People immediately attacked the use the acronym –  saying that they were going to stop reading the blog, un-friend the person on Facebook etc.  Several claimed that it was over-dramatizing to even use the term.

Ok look, they are putting kids on a show that contestants have described as a “dehumanization process.”  They are suggesting that kids should have role models who dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood in order to lose weight to win money.  They are suggesting that kids should look up to trainers who tell their clients to put their health at risk by ignoring the advice of doctors and dieticians because that advice might make them lose a game show and not win money.  The First Lady of the United States  thinks this is a dandy idea and many people, for reasons passing my understanding, think that is a good enough reason to do it.

As far as I’m concerned, “WTF” doesn’t even begin to cover it.  What the fuck?  What the fuckity fuck? What the ACTUAL FUCKING FUCK!  This is so severely messed up that there is not language strong enough to discuss it.  What will happen, not just to the three kids on the show, but to all the kids whose parents, teachers, authority figures etc. decide that this is the best way to treat fat kids? There’s an Ani DiFranco lyric that says “if you’re not angry, then you’re just stupid or you don’t care.”  I won’t go that far, but I do think that if ever there was a time for a little WTF, this is it.

Fat people face an absolute torrent of shame, stigma, bullying and oppression almost everywhere we turn.  We face it at home from friends and family who have been taught by society that we should be shamed “for our own good” in some kind of logic-defying effort to make us hate ourselves healthy. We face it at work when our company has a point of view about our body size rather than focusing on our work performance.  We face it at the doctor’s office when our actual symptoms are ignored and our health put a risk by doctors who diagnose us as fat and prescribe weight loss the minute they see us, never hearing a word we say.  We face it from well-meaning strangers who have been taught by society that a fat body is an indication that we need outside advice, especially that of strangers with no particular health training who think that being thin makes them an expert on how to become thin – like being a brunette makes them an expert on willing your hair to turn brown. We face it from not-so-well-meaning strangers who try to beat us down to make themselves feel better in a society that beats everyone down. We are certainly not the only group who faces this, but we face it nonetheless, and – like the trainers on The Biggest Loser – we are told by society that we should be thankful for the massive war being waged against us because their plan of eradicating the world of everyone who looks like us is a kindness, and we should say thank you and get on the treadmill.

I’m a very outcome-based activist and so I often find myself politely asking people to please stop oppressing me, and I don’t regret or apologize for that.  I also try to keep my cool during media appearances, talks etc. because I find it to be more effective in reaching my goals to calmly state my case,  and I don’t regret or apologize for that.  I use humor because I find that effective in getting my point across and I don’t regret or apologize for that.  And I definitely get angry sometimes,  and I certainly rant sometimes (as my regular readers can attest), and I certainly swear sometimes . Now when I find myself about to apologize for that, I rethink things.  It’s ok to get angry.  It’s ok to rant.  It’s ok to swear.  I’m not fucking sorry.

Listen to this post as a podcast

Our petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser is over 2,200 signatures – please consider signing it and passing it along.

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

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

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.

Being Fat at Work

End this warA lot of my friends are bemoaning their return to work today. Not because they dislike their jobs, necessarily, but because of what their work is likely to put them through because it’s the beginning of a new year.

Many companies start New Years Weight Loss initiatives. If your work is doing this, you have some options.  You can simply choose not to participate quietly.  You can not participate loudly (every time someone brings up their diet, bring up your HAES practice for example).  You can start your own HAES-based initiative – perhaps offer to help HR create this kind of initiative. You could also e-mail HR and say one or more of the following:

  • As someone who practices Health at Every Size I am uncomfortable with my superiors at work suggesting something that goes against the health plan that I’ve created with my health professionals. I don’t want to be torn between my health practice and looking like I’m not a team player at work
  • This could be triggering and dangerous for people suffering from, recovering from, or who have a propensity for developing eating disorders, (for me I could talk about this in the first person but even if I hadn’t recovered from an ED I would want to point this out.)
  • As a fat employee I’m very uncomfortable that my employer has a point of view at all about my body size as less suitable than other body sizes, rather than being focused on work performance
  • Suggesting that all of the employees who work here should be actively trying not to look like me makes this environment feel hostile to me.
  • Perhaps remind them that all of these pitfalls could be avoided if the employer focused on providing options  for health rather than focusing on weight or telling employees
  • Consider providing lots of evidence for a HAES intervention
  • Consider offering to help start a voluntary employee walk and roll plan with a weight-neutral, all abilities invited, shame free message
  • Consider asking for a meeting to talk about this further

Even if your company doesn’t do an official weight loss initiative, it’s certainly a subject that can dominate conversation at the water cooler. In this case you can walk away.  You can also answer diet talk with HAES talk. though I would not suggest doing this in an attempt to convert anyone, I have found it effective to talk about HAES in the same way that others talk about their diets.

Some people are forced to undergo tests of everything from BMI, to blood pressure, to cholesterol to see what their heredity might cost them in health insurance premiums. This is highly problematic and unlikely to succeed at any rate which may be something that you can delicately communicate to your HR department.

As a result of these tests many will have to choose between entering a program with absolutely no track record of success and a long record of failure – like Weight Watchers – or taking a stand and spending money they can’t afford (or could find better uses for) on higher health care premiums.  This is massively not ok.  Employe benefits programs built on healthism and ableism need to be stopped immediately.  Unfortunately the government seems to be jumping in with both feet.  Where are we going?  And why are we in this handbasket? Consider telling your employer something like:  It is my understanding that studies show that the vast majority of people who attempt weight loss gain their weight back and many gain back more, so could you please provide me with the evidence basis for the efficacy for your weight loss recommendation?

Size Acceptance activism at work can be really tricky and only you can decide what level of activism (if any) you want to be involved in at work. You don’t have to do any at all.  Whatever you decide, and whatever situation you are in, know that you deserve to be treated with respect, given what you need to do your job (everything from a chair that fits you to reasonable accommodations for any health issues or disabilities etc.)  Whether or not you actually do, you absolutely deserve to work in an environment that is free from fat-phobia, weight stigma, shame, or bullying.

Our Petition to Keep Kids Off The Biggest Loser is now over 2,000 signatures and I have a call with the doctor in charge of the kids on Friday afternoon. Let’s keep pushing on this – a reality show where people dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to win money for losing weight  is not a place where we should be placing kids.

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

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

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.

Thoughts on the Gym at New Years

back bend cropped
Ragen Chastain 5’4, 284 pounds, Photo courtesy of Kate Wodash and the Mindful Body Center.

A lot of people make a New Years Resolution to join a gym or to go to a gym more.. This is a, well, let’s call it a unique time of year to join because, at the moment gyms are  packed to the gills with people. It does die down however so hang in there.  By mid-February you won’t be waiting in lines for equipment, there won’t be a line at the front desk to check in, and you will be able to get a bike in spin class without showing up 2 hours early and tying people to poles in the locker room.

For many people the gym is a big scary place.  I’m a gym rat from way back so for me it’s really more like home.  All the sights, sounds, yes even the smells of the gym make me feel comfortable.  If you read this blog regularly then you know that I don’t think that going to the gym, or any kind of movement or exercise, is any kind of obligation – whether or not someone chooses to move their body within their ability is absolutely their choice and all choices are valid.  I just don’t want someone who wants to go to the gym to skip it because the gym seems so unfriendly.  Here is some stuff that might help:

Choosing a Gym

This is a matter of money, vibe and what you need in a gym. Typically more money means more amenities so decide what you want.  I once toured a gym that had a $10/month membership fee but didn’t have locker rooms.  Um, no.   There are gyms that are snotty, gyms that are laid back, gyms that are more based on group exercise and gyms that don’t even have a cardio room.  Some have a pool, some have a pilates center etc.   It’s worth it to take the time to check out the gyms in your area and see what’s available.  Some of them will have incredibly pushy salespeople who say that you can only get this special if you sign up Right.  This.  Second.  Ask to speak to a manager and ask what’s wrong with their gym that they don’t think it will stand up to a little comparison shopping.  Then ask for the deal in writing and two weeks to make a decision.  Be prepared to negotiate down to a week or so but this has always worked for me.

Being a Newbie:

First, try to have some old timer empathy.  Imagine if you shopped at a store 5 times a week every week for 9 months.  Then all of a sudden the store was filled with new people who don’t know where anything is, they start moving things aroundetc.  Suddenly your 30 minute shopping trip takes 2 hours and the things that you buy 5 times a week are all sold out.  Of course it’s nobody’s fault, but it is at least a little understandable.  I for one am glad that the newbies are there, as long as you follow some basic etiquette:

Take a deep breath, everyone around you was once a Newbie too – none of us was born knowing how to adjust machines that look complicated enough to require launch codes.  If your gym offers classes to help you learn to use the equipment, it may behoove you to take them.  If you aren’t sure how to adjust a machine:  Do ask a friendly looking person.  Do ask someone at the front desk for help.  Don’t ask a personal trainer who is in session – remember that someone is paying that person for their undivided attention.

Look around before you just start grabbing things and moving them around. Think of it as a new job, you learn the office etiquette before you start playing your radio, trying to make coffee, taking breaks etc. It’s the same at the gym–figure out what’s appropriate before you re-arrange furniture like it’s “Trading Spaces–the Weight Room Addition”.

When you go into a group class for the first time, it may behoove you to stand back around the edges for a little while to get the lay of the land, let the regulars get their spots etc.  (Some people get very possessive of their spots – trust me when I tell you, you don’t may not want any of that action).  Pay attention to things like how far apart people tend to stand – unless you want to tell your grandkids about that time you got kicked in the head in step class.

People might say stoopid things to you.  While it’s pretty rare that someone says or behaves in a way that is mean, plenty of people may behave in a way that is annoying.  Some people may congratulate you for starting an exercise program (even if you’ve had an exercise plan for the last 10 years)  or encourage you on your weight loss.  (This happens to me all the time)  While this is a very real concern, I personally think that if I stay home because people might be idiots, I’m the one who loses out in the end, so I strategize.

Of course it’s your choice how you deal with this: thank them, use it as a teachable moment for Health at Every Size/Size Acceptance, put Bengay on their sweat towel (that was a joke, please don’t go telling people I told you to do that).  I typically prefer teachable moments, but whatever you choose I would recommend deciding beforehand and practicing.  It’s harder than you might think to say what you intended to say when you are sweaty, exhausted, and surprised by a perfect stranger weighing in on your life choices.

Bring a water bottle and a towel.  If you are going to use the weight are and you’re going to forget something, forget the water.  The water is for you, the towel is for everyone who uses a machines after you.

Crap Old-Timers Try to Get Away With

Most old-timers are going be on a spectrum from awesome to at-least-they-leave-you-alone.  Sometimes old-timers will try to get away with the following behaviors.  Here’s what you might do:

Time limit?  What time limit?

This one is usually accompanied by a look of wide-eyed innocence.  Especially during this time of year many gyms put time limits on their cardio machines.  People who’ve been around awhile tend to try to get around this by:  putting their towel over the clock, restarting the timer every 10 minutes, just ignoring it thinking nobody will say anything.

You can handle this directly with them (excuse me, but can I take a look at the timer on your machine to see what kind of wait I’m looking at?  I’m sorry, you may not have noticed but you’re over the time limit).  Or you can tell the good people at the front desk.*

Opposing Muscle Musical Chairs

A lot of resistance training programs are based around working opposing muscle groups.  Some people like to alternate between the two (one set of biceps/one set of triceps, lather rinse repeat) so they will work on one machine and leave their water bottle and towel on the other.  This is not cool.

You can deal with it directly (Normally I ask “may I set in” (in other regions they say “may I work in”) but if someone is pulling this you can just say “I’m going to set in on this machine” or don’t say anything, just move their stuff and start working out, or ask the nice people at the front desk to deal with it.*

Mine. Mine.  All Mine.  My Precious.

Some theories of  weight lifting (pyramid sets for example) require the person lifting to use a number of different weights.  While that’s fine, it is NOT FINE to get 12 sets of weights and put them under your bench at  peak times at the gym.

Again, I typically come by and ask “Mind if I use this” indicating the weights that I need.  You can also talk to the people at the front desk.*

*A note on talking to the front desk people about your issues.  I don’t particularly recommend it unless someone’s behavior is egregious or they don’t respond to polite inquiry.  Most people will start to act like they’ve had some home training if they are gently confronted.

A last note:  I’ve noticed at my gym, it’s as if every year there’s a “newbie class” who meet each other and then wave and say hi at the gym forever.  It’s not that they all hang out or even chat very much, it’s just that in 2008 they all survived being gym newbies who work out around 6pm, and now they are bonded.  It’s pretty cool.  I’m an early morning or late night worker outer.  We seem to have a camaraderie all our own.  While we basically communicate only through grunting and pointing,  when you lift weights with someone at 3 in the morning a few times a week for a while, you’ve bonded.

A last, last note about the gym and Health At Every Size.  The gym is NOT the only path to fitness.  So if you think it would be fun to take water aerobics or spin class, if you love the elliptical or  the idea of getting strong through weight lifting then I highly encourage you to try the gym.  If you want to move more but you’d rather have a root canal than come to the gym then it’s completely cool for you to find a movement option that makes you happy!

If you want some help, the Fit Fatties Forum has created virtual training and support groups.  You’ll be part of a group furn by a fat fitness professional who can help you with everything from creating a program to injury prevention to support as things come up.  There are groups for those who plan to train for an event, for those who want to get 150 minutes in each week, for those who just want to have fun, and there’s even Team Zombie.  Check it out here.

Activism Opportunities:

If you want to get involved in an activism project around movement, the Fit Fatties Forum is inviting you to get involved with Fit Fatties Across America, this is a project where people of all sizes from all around the world will pool their time, their distance, from whatever movement they do to see how long it takes us to travel from NYC to LA.  Check it out here. 

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

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.

New, Review, and a Guinness World Record

Truth G Happy New Year to those celebrating!  In a minute I’ll review some of the awesomeness achieved by readers of this blog this year, but first I want to tell you about the first blog project of 2013 because it involves size-diversity activism, paper mâché, and a Guinness World Record so you know I’m excited about it.

After hearing about Angela Meadows’ fantastic idea to destroy our old diet books as part of a Size Acceptance revolution, I got the idea of  involving the Size Diversity Task Force.  This is an organization based in Los Angeles created this year by people, including me, who wanted to be part of a Size Acceptance Organization that is member funded, member run, and who celebrate the fact that all participants have something vital to offer and something of value to share.

I got the idea of destroying  not just any books that the group might have lying around, but also liberating diet books from resale shops (local businesses are supported, diet companies don’t make money.) I talked to another SDTF member, Jeanette DePatie, and, as she is wont to do,  she turned it into a genius idea:  to use the books to make a paper mâché sculpture. And not just any sculpture, but a size-positive sculpture that breaks the Guinness World Record for paper mâché!

Our goal is to collect 20,000 pages worth of diet books and use them to create a  Size Positive paper mâché sculpture that breaks the Guinness Book of World Records for paper mâché sculpture.  There are lots of ways for you to get involved, all of which are listed here!

And now a review of this year on the blog and the awesomeness that the readers of this blog were involved in:

I got my blog’s Annual Report from WordPress, I love how their stats people word things: “About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 1,000,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 18 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!” According to my stats page,  I’m just over 1.7 million hits for the lifetime of this blog.  I truly appreciate my readers – not just for reading the blog, though that’s exceptionally cool and very humbling, I appreciate the fact that the comments on this blog, especially those by regular readers, are intelligent and respectful.  I appreciate immensely how much activism my readers engage in.  Here are some of the ways we changed the world this year:

  • Facebook and letter writing campaign that resulted in Citizen’s Medical Center has ended their policy of not hiring people with a BMI over 35.
  • Petition and letter writing campaign that resulted in NEDA removing the STOP obesity Alliance from its list of partners
  • Responding to The Biggest Loser’s marketing that people can’t be loved until they are thin with our own kick ass video,
  • Letter writing campaign that got Disney to shut down the Habit Heroes ride.
  • Raising $21,000 in 8 days and putting up 6 billboards and 10 bus shelter signs in Atlanta to answer Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s child shaming, fat shaming,  billboard campaign and show kids of all sizes that they are valued and supported.
  • Letter writing campaign that got Planned Parenthood Northwest to remove obesity from a list of “health issues”
  • Minnie Mouse Petition, which was cut short due to Hurricane Sandy, but even so got over 145,000 signatures and resulted in Disney and Barney’s making significant changes to the plans that they had announced originally including a larger model version of Minnie  Mouse, less screen time for Skinny Minnie, and ending the film with Minnie in her regular form in the dress they had originally said she couldn’t wear because she “didn’t look good” in it.  We got press in almost every major National market and many of the regional markets, and even Internationally, and created alliances with reporters all over the world.
  • Lane Bryant changed their tune about whether they were offering their high-fashion line to women size 26/28
  • Letter writing campaign that resulted in NAAFA apologizing for newsletter language that many found offensive, and considering changes in the future
  • Our Biggest Loser petition now has over 1,600 signatures and has gotten enough attention that I was approached by the doctor in charge of the kids for a phone conversation later this week.  If you haven’t signed it now would be a dandy time.  If you are moved to pass it along through your internet channels, now would be a super-duper dandy time.

In 2012 we changed the world, and we’re going to keep changing and we’re going to succeed. I hope to give my readers as many options as possible to get involved in activism this year.  When it comes to 2013, paper mâché is awesome, and it’s just the beginning.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

Last day of the holiday sale!  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy (Book and/or the DVDs) plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!