Forced Walks for Fatties

fight backAn insurance company recently forced fat customers to choose between paying up to 20 percent more for health insurance (up to $2,000 a year) or exercising more and having their movement electronically monitored.  A study was just released touting the “success” of this program because “After one year, nearly 97 percent of the enrollees had met or exceeded the average goal of 5,000 steps a day – including the most resistant participants who disagreed with the financial incentives and found the program “coercive.”  They concluded that “Wellness interventions like this clearly hold significant promise for encouraging physical activity among adults who are obese.”

How fucked up is this?  Let me count some of the ways.

First of all, even if it was ok to coerce people into physical activity for the sake of insurance premiums (and I’m going to say that it’s not, but that’s another blog post)  it’s absolutely not ok for this to only be applied based on people’s physical appearance. If you’re an employee who is fat then it doesn’t matter if you run marathons in your free time, your physical activity has to be monitored by a pedometer connected to the internet or you have to pay 20% more than your completely sedentary but not fat coworkers.  If they are going to do this then the 20% discount (or, as I like to call it, 20% penalty) should be applied to everyone.

They don’t appear to have tracked these employees’ physical activity to begin with.  When they claim success, they are assuming that fat people didn’t walk the 5,000 steps before.  You can do that, but you shouldn’t call it research or science, you should call it bigotry because that’s what it is.

Exceptions were allowed if people got a doctor’s note.  Thank the gods that doctors are so careful to listen to what their fat patients are telling them and give them what they need. What’s that you say? It’s not opposite day?  Oh, in that case you’re probably screwed in the doctor’s note department.

The suggestion is that this needs to be done to save health care costs though health changes.  They admit that they don’t have any idea if this will lead to either. The study’s lead author states “Comprehensive evaluations are needed to determine whether participation in these programs translates to meaningful changes in health and costs of health care.”  So let me guess this straight, fat people are being forced to either pay 20% more than thin people or have their activity electronically monitored, and that program was implemented BEFORE anybody  even bothered to see if it will have any benefits?

Let’s just get super clear – we have reached the point where it is acceptable to people to say:  if you look like this, then you have to submit to electronic monitoring  or pay more for insurance than people who don’t look like that.

People who are ok with this because it’s only happening to fatties should really think again.  Not getting enough sleep is seriously detrimental to health – what happens when employees are told that they can either wear sleep monitors to assure that they are getting enough sleep or pay $2,000 more?  What about twice daily breathalyzers to make sure that an employee isn’t drinking too much?  Tests for nicotine?  How much electronic monitoring are you willing to submit to based on the guess that it will in some vague way save someone money?

People still scoff at the idea that fat rights activism is necessary – I imagine those are the people who aren’t asked to pay up or submit to electronic monitoring.

Pssst!  This is super secret – tomorrow I’m going to be launching the fundraising for my new project – In Our Own Words – A Fat Activist History.  If you want to be ahead of the curve, you can check it out (and maybe even support it?!) today:

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53 thoughts on “Forced Walks for Fatties

  1. This kind of thing appalls me – and it’s often people who would go to the barricades for reproductive rights who are happy to go along with the idea that bodies that don’t conform to some external ideal are up for mandatory interventions.

    Also, just yesterday I was reading that movement has actually gone UP in many places in the US, possibly in response to public health campaigns, but BMI levels haven’t changed. What a shame they didn’t measure things like fitness and see if there was something to celebrate.

    1. Do you happen to have the link to that article? I’ve been collecting such research (that exercise/movement today is higher despite higher weights).

        1. I love how in the webMD summary they basically say “okay so people are exercising more and they are still getting FATTER so they must be eating too much”. I’m paraphrasing there but that is basically the essence of the article along with some more b.s. about how fat is related to all sorts of health problems and higher medical costs (seriously, haven’t any of these so-called “experts” heard of HAES or Linda Bacon? really??? I have a hard time considering them experts if they are not willing to be open to all sides of the weight/health paradigm). In any case, I find it disheartening that even in the face of research that shows increased physical activity does not result in decreased BMIs, these fat-phobic people are still going to insist “well if exercise doesn’t make people look like we think they should, then they must be doing something else to make themselves so freaking fat. We don’t know for sure what that something else is but we’re gonna keep plucking shit out of thin air until something sticks. After all if you’re fat, it’s your fault. Everyone knows you fatties have no self control so obviously you’re doing something to make yourselves to freaking huge!” *sigh*

  2. Man, part of me wishes I’d had that pedometer on during the recent Relay for Life I participated in. I walked at least twelve miles (just on the track) in under 24 hours. Then there was the running around the camp site, and the hauling good/equipment, the boogieing down… their heads would have exploded seeing those numbers while I remained super-duper fat!

    If you want to get the idea across to people outside the fat community, it can be useful to suggest something similarly invasive and pointless be done to another group… preferably one they belong to. It’s funny how quickly people start getting the message when it’s pointed out how easily their ox could be the one being gored. Not that most of them will believe it actually could be, but every twice in a while you find someone who has the potential to learn to logic.

  3. Other studies have found wellness programs to be completely ineffective at reducing healthcare costs. Not only is this grossly invasive, it’s also–as you pointed out–accomplishing absolutely nothing. I (foolishly) didn’t save the links, but it’s hardly hidden knowledge.

    Also, what kind of unscience are they trying to pull? Lol, look, we made fatties walk 5,000 steps a day! What’s the increase in walking per measure? No idea because we didn’t do measures of before the intervention or use a control group!

  4. This is life. I pay 150% insurance premiums to Aetna based solely on my BMI, even though I provided a physical from a doctor that indicated that all of my health numbers (blood sugar, blood pressure, glucose levels, etc.) were completely within the normal, healthy range. Since I don’t have the benefit of group insurance, I was unable to obtain an individual policy from other companies at all. Aetna was the only one that would approve me, but with the 150% caveat. Frustrated? Yes. Yes, I am.

  5. You saw the Rand study that found wellness programs don’t reduce costs? Anyone subjected to pedometer fascism should learn from schoolchildren who were told to get more steps a day while using pedometers. If you shake a pedometer by hand for a few minutes, it’ll record thousands of steps. That said, I also think it’d be good fun if anyone wants to share outrage directly with Caroline R. Richardson, MD, scientific advisor to WalkingSpree and unpaid consultant to Blue Care Network. (I.e., the forced-walk fascists.) Her email:

    1. My first thought when reading about the requirements in the opening paragraph was “dryer on air fluff for a couple minutes”. }:]

    2. I “walked” a couple of hundred steps driving a stick shift across town once.

      What about people who do activities that aren’t easily pedometerized? I’m thinking specifically swimming, as you wouldn’t generally wear one in the pool. Maybe weight training? Power yoga? I don’t know if cycling (my addiction) registers on a pedometer or not.

  6. First of all, I think forced exercise is wrong all the way around, but if walking the only option, I’d have been doubly mad. I’m a fat hoopdancer. I do that activity because I love it not because it will make me healthy or cause me to lose weight. I don’t like to walk (boring for me), but I love to hoop dance. I’d hate to have to give up my hoop dancing time which is already limited to do an activity that I don’t enjoy as part of some “corporate wellness program.”

  7. Something I am wondering. How much protection, if any, is there from employers finding out this information and using it to discriminate in hiring, raises, termination, etc.?

  8. I knew a kid who had a pedometer with pokemon on it, and the pokemon got happy when you walked around enough. She didn’t like walking around that much so she just shook it with her hands and the pedometer counted it as steps. Pedometers aren’t that smart, and I would bet that most fat people are willing to shake a stupid pedometer to save 20% on their health insurance. There is no way to adjust for fraud.

  9. This isn’t the first time in history walking has been used as a tactic to eradicate a group of people…..and we never look back at those previous instances and think, “That was a really good idea!” We look back at it in shame and heartache. Like my foremothers, I will be hiding in the hills when the time comes.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. They didn’t use the resources of the land (ie. trains) to move the people, just walking.

      He wasn’t such a bad guy after all, he just wanted to reduce their impact on society and slim them down. Ugh.

  10. I think all of this is crazy and unconstitutional at best, but just a side note, the insurance companies are doing blood tests and lung capacity tests to make sure people who say they quit smoking and qualify for the “non smokers discount” really did quit. My daughter was telling me about the exam she has to get to keep her rates where they are.
    And since she is “obese” although she is in good health, (no high blood pressure or high blood sugar) she eats all the “right” foods, and works out several times a week, they are encouraging her to have bariatric surgery.

  11. I am dealing with lingering inflammation in one ankle due to tendonitis developed during pregnancy (with a child who is now three and a half–gee, thanks, body). I exercise as much as I can, but the walking part has to be strictly limited or I will damage myself. If my employer made me wear a damn pedometer, you can be sure that I would shake it as hard as I could for a couple of minutes in between freeweight exercises.

    But because I am visibly fat, I MUST BE sitting on my ass all the time, yup.

    Now back to shoving two couches around so I can put the covers back on them. Then I get to strip the beds and bathe two children. What do these bigoted asses think we do all day anyway?

    Never mind, I know.

    1. Hey, Jennifer, we’re women and women’s work does not count as exercise — some asshole sitting in a chair somewhere did a study and determined this. I always wanted to get him over to my house to do some vacuuming, mopping, woodwork scrubbing, etc, then ask him after four hours if he thought he had gotten any exercise.

      1. Ha! I *did* ask my chiropractor exactly this when I put my back out (on the job, moving furniture so I could clean the floors!) and he started talking about me needing a gym membership.

        I pointed out that the daycare center I was responsible for (that his kid attended, so he should have known better!) was 9 rooms downstairs, 3 upstairs, 4 bathrooms, plus a kitchen, all of which I swept, vacuumed (with a industrial-strength backpack vacuum, not a model that put the weight on the floor), scrubbed, and mopped, five days a week. It never took me less than 2 hours of very physical work from start to finish, so what was 30 minutes a day in a gym supposed to add?

        And surprise — ten-plus hours a week of physical work and my weight didn’t budge. I’m so very shocked.

      2. . . . carrying full baskets of laundry up a flight of basement stairs, scrubbing pots with burned-on rice or pasta in them, scrubbing God knows what off the floor under where the kids eat, moving mattresses and couches around, lifting wriggling toddlers hither and yon, pushing a stroller loaded with a tired child, a bag of groceries, and another bag of library books up two hills, cooking from scratch every day (chop beat whip stir fold knead), lifting bags of trash out of wastebaskets, hauling them across the vacant lot, and lifting them into the Dumpster, taking full catboxes into bathrooms to pick out the poo and flush it down, hauling bags of groceries downstairs, hauling the damn stroller upstairs because downstairs is where the front door is, *walking the stroller downstairs with the kid in it because if I try to take him out first and he wakes up he will scream all afternoon,* but it doesn’t involve exercise gear and shiny weights so it isn’t “really” effort.

  12. I really like your blogs & they have made me see things clearer in regards to your posts. I hope you continue your fight. However, I believe you would be even more successful if you left out the foul language. The offensive language I anticipate I will read in your posts are the one things that makes me hesitate to read them. Should I decide to read them… I love your attitude towards overweight people…..I am immediately stopped in my reading tracks once the foul language is come upon. Your posts should be shared with all….I, however, cannot pass along a post I find to include unnecessary foul language to my friends, loved ones, co-workers, etc. because they too would be offended. I ask you to think about posting w/o foul language so I can continue to support your blog & to share it with many people who really need to read it & receive the information you so well provide. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for your comment, I am sure that it is well intentioned and I appreciate that.

      First let me say that I support you in choosing to be offended by whatever words you want to be offended by. It is absolutely your right to choose to take offense at whatever you want, including the language on my blog. If you want to be stopped in your reading tracks by certain words, that is your right and I support your choices 100%.

      That said, I’m not willing to change the way I express myself based on what words you, or anyone else, want to deem offensive. When I am paid to write for magazines, online journals, anthologies etc. I am sometimes compelled to change the style of my writing or my word choices based on my agreements with the publisher and I’m fine with that. One of the reasons that I have this blog is so that I can express myself precisely as I choose, and I choose to use all of the vocabulary available to me.

      I value my readers tremendously and it’s always difficult to hear that I might lose one over something like this, but I’ve thought about it long and hard and authentic self expression is, at the end of the day, more important to me because if I lose that then it doesn’t matter who is reading my work.

      I do understand that you believe some of the words I use are unnecessary and that you wouldn’t pass along the blog to those who also choose to be offended by those words. Of course that’s completely your right and, at least from my side, there are no hard feelings about that either.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.


  13. If employers are so concerned about “health” (which is how they put it instead of ZOMGTHEFATTIESAREGOINGTORAISEOURRATES!), why don’t they create jobs where people (and I mean EVERYONE) aren’t just sitting behind computers all day? That helps NO ONE.

    I kind of like that treadmill/computer thing I saw a while back and would do it just so I’m not sitting in some horrible squeaky chair laden with the farts of 1000 tuna sandwiches, risking blood clots and muscle cramps. If a company had a gym, I’d totally use that too–in fact, the first school where I taught had an “ER” (Exercise Room) with donated equipment, and I used it nearly every day after school. And gym memberships are expensive.

    Open it up to everyone. Have a tracking device on EVERYONE’S ankle for a few weeks and see who really needs the movement.

  14. Please don’t alter the way you write. I really hate the crap about language, it’s part of a society that wants to pretend piss and shit don’t exist. (I’ve never figured out why Anglo-Saxon words bother these folks so much.) I think one reason fat people are despised is because they are obvious BODIES and we live in a culture (civilization) that wants to pretend we are not bodies, not animals, don’t eat, digest, and excrete, and we certainly never engage in sexual activity (except for procreation). I love your writing, Ragen, and I hope the woman who wrote above can clean up her mind.

    1. i was kinda thinking it’d never help with the language in the comments anyway! someone’s prudishness only prods me on.

    2. My immediate though on the issue was, “Since when have revolutionaries been known for clean language?” Yes, it may turn some people off. However, it’s also a signal to others that we’re angry about a genuinely harmful and discriminatory situation, one with heavy doses of sexism, racism, and classism irrevocably blended into the fabric.

      Heck is not hell; darn is not damn; and sure as shootin’, that F in FUBAR ain’t “fouled.” Cursing exists for good reason, and frankly, what we’re doing is a valid use.

      1. Exactly, exactly, exactly, Cie! When people know how to express their anger and frustration verbally, they are much less likely to punch someone. Did anyone ever die from having someone yell “Fuck you!” at them? (I suppose now I’ll hear from someone who did.)

  15. As always, this is very well stated and I hope those that have to do this start suing their employers for discrimination. Thank you, Regan for staying on top of stories like this!

  16. I think it’s hilarious that they asked people whether it’s coercive. It’s coercive by definition. Coercion is the point.

  17. I have to say, this is an indication of things to come. Not just for fat people, for everyone. To let big business and big government tell us how to look, how to exercise, or not, and make threats that affect our lives and income is wrong. No one but ME knows what, when and how I need to live, and I refuse the take the bullshit being thrust upon us!

    1. I don’t really want to get very political here,, but I have to say we don’t really haave “bbig government” — it’s all big business — bought and paid for. In this country, if we still had a separate govt, I would like to think it would stand up for our freedoms.

      1. Trying very hard not to find the “agree” button. (Dear self, you are not on Ravelry right now, even if knitting in this day and age is something of a minor revolutionary act in and of itself.)

    1. Honestly, I’m a big proponent of the legalization of marijuana, especially for medical use. I want it for pain control and as an appetite stimulant–I take Adderall to counter the sedative effects of my other medications, and it’s decimated my appetite to the point that I’ll go an entire week without taking in more than maybe 2500 kcals total if I’m not careful. However, as I told my pain specialist, I refuse to touch it before a doctor gives me a prescription, and it’s still illegal in my state.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing a full study on the effects of marijuana on insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance. It could be a real boon for Type II diabetics and people with insulin resistance. That said, I don’t want to see it turned into some kind of cure-all for fat. Other factors, like history of dieting and body type, need to be taken into account with regards to users.

      Also, I just have to say, as with opiates and opioids, cannabinoids don’t necessarily leave the user high. Where there’s medical need, such as in pain or cancer patients, it’s possible to moderate one’s dose so as to find relief without becoming high. There’s a trick to it, and it takes some experimenting since dosage isn’t measure in milligrams, but the medical users I’ve spoken to usually say that somewhere between one and three puffs smoked is about right. Others make tea (NASTY) or cannabis butter (also nasty, but able to be cooked into things like brownies or garlic bread); those who make tea or butter often just know how much to make, how long to steep, and either shut their eyes and gulp, or take one spoonful of butter, then chase it with another of hot sauce. In any case, they learn the dose they need, and they take it one way or another.

      (For the record, I’ve never touched the stuff due to asthma and a very possible allergy. I walked through a cloud of the smoke in a dorm when I was in college, and I had to curl up in a friend’s room until the wheezing and pounding headache went away.)

      1. I agree; I was being sarcastic. Marijuana has the same effect on me as it does on you (except with bonus intense nausea), but I still think it should be legalized even though I personally can’t use it.

        My point was that all the research about the legitimate medical uses for marijuana would take a backseat if it MIGHT CURE OBESITY! The concerns of people who fear it would be abused would be overruled if it MIGHT CURE OBESITY! (I wish I could do the super-deep dramatic movie announcer voice via keyboard.) Marijuana would not only be legal, but added to salads and marinades and yogurt if it MIGHT CURE OBESITY! And, last but not least, anyone whose body doesn’t fit the socially acceptable standard should be forced to do whatever random thing MIGHT CURE OBESITY!

        1. Wasn’t cigarette smoking promoted because it was an appetite suppressant and made ppl thinner? And now they’re getting us to quit?

          Those 2 don’t jive.

        2. I actually live in a state with legalized medical marijuana, and you can actually buy marinades, lol. Among other “edibles.”

          I have a medical marijuana license, but since my state also just recently legalized for personal use, it will soon be available like alcohol. I’m really excited to live someplace where they are actively part of a paradigm shift.

          But you’re right. I wonder if Michelle Obama might publicly support it now. 😛

  18. How about an electronic monitor of stress (a proven killer)? Then they penalize the employer…. I know still an invasion. Exercise never made me thin and I used to do a lot of it. Now, it’s very difficult for me. I worry that my employer will try to embrace this…. they are really into the weight loss= wellness paradigm. 😦

  19. This is ridiculous…

    1) Activity is not a cure for fat. If you think it is, please check the workout logs of myself and other fat folks and get back to me. Plenty of fat people get lots of exercise and are still fat!

    2) But thin people get a pass, despite the fact that they might not exercise at all? No matter what their health status is?

    If a workplace must encourage people to do activity (and it’s very arguable that it’s none of their beeswax anyway) simply encourage everyone, and stop tying it to weight.

  20. There are links among certain ethnic groups and certain medical conditions. What do you think would happen if employers went, “oh, you’re black, and that means you have a higher risk of heart disease, so we have to monitor you or you have to pay more?” Somehow, I don’t think that would fly. Or if they told female Asian employees, “welp, you’re more likely to get osteoporosis, so you need to take calcium supplements and get bi-annual bone scans because of that, or we’ll charge you more.”

    It would be called racism (rightfully so),there’d be outrage (rightfully so) and it would be the same basic thing as this obesity insurance surcharge so few are outraged by, where based on someone’s outward experience, and the fact that SOME people of African descent are more likely to get heart disease, and SOME women of Asian descent are more likely to get osteoporosis and SOME fat people have diabetes or heart disease or whatever else they want to blame on our appearance. It’s not a definite thing and it’s not right to interfere with someone’s personal health care choices at ALL, let alone based solely on outward appearance. It’s bigotry masked as “concern” for someone’s “well-being” at BEST and just plain old unabashed bigotry at worst.

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