You Are Too Much!

Actual SizeI’m not sure exactly where the phrase “You are too much!” comes from, but for those unfamiliar, it’s usually used when someone goes out of their way to help you, or says something really funny, or does something out of the ordinary.  “You are too much!” is typically a good thing, a compliment.

In our culture fat people hear that we’re too much all the time, but absent the complimentary nature. It’s not just those who describe our bodies as fleshy castles or whatever ridiculous fat bashing BS they’re saying.  It’s ingrained in our language – overweight, extra space, plus size.  The idea being that there are people who deserve to live in a world in which they fit, but at some point (a point which is pretty arbitrarily assigned and different based on who you talk to, or what plane you’re on) we lose that right.

In my blog a couple of days ago I talked about this phenomenon, including the fact that it’s acceptable for hospitals – which were built and stocked by people who know full well that fat people exist – are allowed to simply shrug and tell me that they don’t have beds, or blood pressure cuffs, or equipment, or chairs, or crutches, or wheelchairs, or whatever, that fit me. I saw in a fat hate forum someone say that I said that fat people should have beds that fit us in hospitals and that shows that we want the world to bend over backwards for us.

I’m here to suggest that we do not have to buy into, or feel bad about, this bullshit argument.  The question shouldn’t be “why does that fatty have the audacity to suggest that those who provide medical care to the community should have equipment to treat her?”  The question should be “How come I can go into any hospital and expect that they’ll have equipment to treat me, but fat people can’t?”  A nice follow up question would be “How can I help correct that?”

We are not too much.  The world is not yet enough.

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To the Creeper Who Was Staring at Me Running

Kelrick and I at the finish line with our hard won medals.
Kelrick and I at the finish line with our medals.

I did my first training walk so it turns out the rumors are true, I’m going to do another marathon.  I’ve already contacted Kel, who is going to do it with me because he is the best Best Friend ever, and “Team Never Again” is now team “Just One More.”  Los Angeles Marathon 2015 here we come!  Cross finish line, get medal, that’s still the goal.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is the idea of support, especially as it applies to the way that strangers say things that they think are supportive to fat people that are actually examples of preconceived notions gone wild. Recently this style of “inspiration” was brought into sharp relief in a Facebook post the someone wrote after watching a fat runner.  The post, like so much of this “inspiration” is based on the writer heaping their preconceived notions on the fat person and then applauding them for rising above preconceived notions that may not, in any way, actually apply to them.

I wrote about it for iVillage, and I want to reiterate that all fat people, whether we run or not, have the right to exist in the world without bullying, stereotyping or stigma. The rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and basic respect are not size- or habit- dependent. Fat people should not have to “earn” the right to live in the world without condescension, we should not have to run to “earn” basic human respect.  And that’s the major issue here.

I was thinking about this today and specifically the Facebook poster’s assertion that the runner’s gaze drops to their feet “every time we pass” and If you’d only look up from your feet the next time we pass, you’d see my gaze has no condescension in it.”  This person feels really comfortable making the assumption that the runner is not making eye contact because they are scared of condescension. It made me wonder about the Facebook post the runner might have written when she got home, maybe something like this:

Wasn’t feeling well today so I had to take a lot of rests but I made it through my run!   This creepy guy kept starting at me the whole time, I tried not to make eye contact because I didn’t want to encourage it.  Dude, I know I’m hot but it’s not cool to just stare me while I’m trying to get my workout in, pay attention to your own run.  Freaking creeper.

I am aware that expressing the fact that I don’t enjoy being an “inspiration” for rising above someone’s preconceived notions (that have nothing to do with me), and pointing out ways that this is problematic, will lead to people accusing me of being ungrateful, too sensitive, too PC, and suggesting that I should just be happy that they didn’t throw eggs at me. Fuck a bunch of that.

It’s not ok to celebrate being “inspired” by someone we know absolutely nothing about because they are “rising above” our preconceived notions and stereotypes of them. This serves to reinforce the idea that it’s totally fine to stereotype people based on how they look, and it further oppresses those who aren’t somehow “rising above” those stereotypes – which they have absolutely no obligation to do. It adds to appearance-based oppression and that’s not ok. It’s fine if other people aren’t bothered by this, and obviously nobody is obligated to take offense or speak out about this, but to me that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is problematic on more than just an individual level, but at a societal level as well.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

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If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Why Can’t You Just Be Positive?

fight backI got to be on the radio today with the fabulous Substantia Jones (when it’s up, the archive will be here!) One of the callers expressed a sentiment that I hear expressed to civil rights activists a lot “If you’re happy just live your life and don’t worry about what other people think!” Other iterations of this are “If you were really happy with yourself, you wouldn’t have to talk about it all the time” and “Don’t meet hate with anger just be nice and stay positive!”

As always, people are allowed to deal with their oppression and marginalization any way that they want and I’m not suggesting that any of these are inappropriate reactions, I think it’s important to realize that they aren’t obligatory and it’s not ok to tell someone who is dealing with oppression that the “best” response is to just ignore it.

I understand where they are coming from, it can be a bummer to hear about the oppression that happens.  I also think that there is absolutely, positively (see what I did there) a place for the positivity – including celebrating victories and creating our own spaces full of body positivity.

That said, I think it’s important to call out things that are oppressive, especially since it’s so easy for those who aren’t part of a marginalized group to ignore them – not because they are trying to or because their intentions are bad, but because they don’t have to deal with them every day.

I also think that it’s important to look at the balance of power.  The suggestion that if I’m happy I should just live my life and not care about what others say is a nice one, but I don’t think it takes into account the stereotyping, stigma, bullying, marginalization and oppression that fat people face, and the impact that has on our lives.  The government is encouraging people to wage war on me because of my size, people my size get hired less often and paid less than our thin counterparts, things like plane seats, restaurant booths, and waiting room chairs are not built for me and it’s acceptable for people to blame me for this and insist that I should pay more for the same service, bring my own chair, etc.

Doctors are allowed to refuse service to me based on my size, and it’s ok for them not to have equipment that will work for me – beds that won’t hold me, chairs the won’t fit me, instruments that are too small for me.  Until Obamacare it was ok for insurance companies to refuse to provide me health insurance (I now have insurance for the first time in 14 years.)  Medical practices, and other business, almost everywhere in the country are allowed  – and do –  refuse to hire fat people because our bodies “don’t fit with a representational image or specific mental projection of the job” regardless of our actual skills.

People who are dealing with oppression are allowed to ignore it, meet it with constant positivity, and carve out a life around it – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those choices, sometimes that’s how I react as well, but in general it’s not my style. Engaging in activism – including calling out oppression – helps me to know that I am doing something about the bullshit I have to deal with, and that helps me deal with it.   I think that ignoring bullies allows them to bully in silence without any push back, I want to end bullying and dismantle oppression and I think that starts with pointing it out.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My new column for Ms. Fit Magazine is out – I interviewed Virgie Tovar, Hanne Blank, and Rebecca Weinstein for the article “Jiggle is Hot:  Exploring Sex in a Fat Body

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

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

The Problem with Just

Success and DietsJust is a word that gets slung around by everyone from doctors who fail at practicing evidence-based medicine to the self-styled, self-declared (or is it self-deluded) internet health gurus in the comment sections who try to tell everyone how to live:

  • Just eat less and exercise more and you’ll get thin
  • Just send your kids out to play and they’ll be thin
  • Just lose [random number of pounds] and your [whatever health problem] will be solved

First of all, this is all about making assumptions. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been told to “eat less and exercise more” by someone who has literally no idea what I eat or how much I exercise.  It’s also condescending and insulting to be told to do these things after a lifetime of doing them and still being fat.

There’s also the problem that “just” connotes something that is both simple and guaranteed. But when it comes to the human body there is no such thing as simple and guaranteed.  There is so much that we don’t know and so much conflicting research.  When people say “you just have to eat less and exercise more” it’s because they erroneously believe that weight loss is simple.  The fact that almost nobody maintains long-term weight loss should very obviously call this into question.  Often it’s said by people who want to feel superior, or who haven’t done their research, or who haven’t thought things all the way through.  For example the idea that we can “just send our kids outside to play and they’ll be thin” ignores the fact that many children can’t do that safely and the fact that there is no guarantee that the activity will lead to weight loss. Saying “just eat less and exercise more” ignores the millions of people who have tried this advice and had short term weight loss and long term weight gain.

Whenever anyone says “Just…” and then tells you how they think that you should live, I would certainly suggest that you consider the source.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My new column for Ms. Fit Magazine is out – I interviewed Virgie Tovar, Hanne Blank, and Rebecca Weinstein for the article “Jiggle is Hot:  Exploring Sex in a Fat Body

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

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Diet Companies Say the Darndest Things

BullshitI don’t know why, but I’ve found myself spammed recently by a bunch of people asking me to write about all manner of weight loss crap on the blog.  At first I was annoyed, but now I’ve taken to e-mailing them back – asking about research, or the claims that they make.

I thought I would provide the write-ups they are requesting as an intermittent series on the blog to examine the veracity and people behind the claims in this type of marketing.  Here is the first installment, I’ve put the e-mails in order, redacted or changed information in an effort to avoid giving promotion to crappy products, and put the emails from the weight loss company  in italics so you can skip them if you’re worried about being triggered (though to be fair you’ll also miss some things that would be hilarious if they weren’t so tragic):

I’m Natalie the founder of the  App and my developer’s company name is Blah Blah Blah  as all of my apps will aim to encourage interaction. My app has already been released on google play, but has not yet been released on iTunes,  this will happen at the end of March. With an increasing risk in a many young children’s health and fitness levels my app solves the problem of obesity.

About My app

My app users to chance to learn fitness and health tips while playing an addictive game. So they are tricked into learning whilst playing. The idea of the game is to ovoid and jump over junk food such as chocolate muffins and chips. Just like in reality you can have a few of these treats but not too many otherwise you will be back at square one. (The start of the level) If you have two many junk foods (two) you are given a health or fitness tip. (pop up) the reason why this app is special and very different is that it is primarily aimed at parents with children. Either the parents watch their children play and read the health tips, or parents play whilst their children read the health and fitness tips.

I have serious questions both with the claim and the phrasing of “solve the problem of obesity” but I have more concerns about the issue with “healthy living” aps for kids when we know that these programs have been linked, not to thinner or healthier kids, but to increased eating disorders.  So I wrote back:

Have you done any research about the app as it relates to triggering disordered eating?

~Ragen

This is where things went pretty much off the rails…

I created this app with a personal trainer who has helped me lose a lot of weight and make healthier chooses. So yes I have carried out research. 

With kind regards,

Natalie

I.. I just…oh good grief.  I reached out again.

Hi Natalie,

What you described is not research. Research would, first and foremost, involve the use of the actual product you are marketing and the intended audience for that product (in this case, children). Also, ideally it would be conducted using the scientific method to test a specific hypothesis, seeking to find and control variables so that they are not confounding, include a representative and statistically significant sample, and follow up over time.

Without research, what you are doing is experimenting on children. Recently some research (see Pinhas et. al. for example) has shown that things that people think will help kids to be thinner or healthier may actually be leading to eating disorders (hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 are up 119%).

You should be aware that you are selling something that may well be putting users at risk for developing or furthering their eating disorder.  If you don’t have an answer for how you are mitigating this, then what you are doing is dangerous and irresponsible, you are putting people – specifically children – at risk for your own profit with no proof of efficacy.  This is a product that I’d like to review in my blog but before I do that I’ll need you to help me understand how you feel comfortable doing that.

Sincerely,

~Ragen

Now the responses become interesting in a “something different than I said before” kind of way.

Oh I get what you are saying now, and no no no the tips are not for children to follow the actual game play i.e jumping and throwing the water bottles part of the game is. The tips are for adults. (parents) 

My primary job is working with children under the age of five and their parents/careers. I’m an early years teacher so when I say the game is for children I meant that as it’s very easy for a young child to play and I say it’s interactive as parents can and do watch their children play the game rather then just leave them to it they can bond and watch them play and get a few health tips along the way. 

The tips are not for children to follow not at all. Im a mother to two children aged 1 and 8 so I would never let them follow these health tips. I’m also a teacher so my audience are parents who want to sit with their child and gain some health and fitness tips along the way. 

Thank you for getting back to me I will make a note so it’s clear.

With kind regards,

Natalie

It’s time to seek clarification:

Thanks for your response.  I apologize, but I’m now I’m a bit confused!  In the original e-mail you had said

” it is primarily aimed at parents with children. Either the parents watch their children play and read the health tips, or parents play whilst their children read the health and fitness tips.”

Are you intending that the kids read the health tips but don’t follow them?  I’m sorry if I’m being dense I just want to understand this before I write about it.

Thanks so much!

~Ragen

Now things are really changing fast:

It’s ok sorry for the confusion I should have wrote that it is for both adults and children but the health tips are for adults only. I have added a notes of this in the app description

I went to the website and she did add “*Please note that the health and fitness tips are for adults to follow and not young children”  but I’m not sure it makes up for the rest of the description:

Screen Shot Description

Isn’t there enough pressure on women who just had a baby to try to look like they didn’t just have a baby?  Also, “organic health bars?”  Mmmm, appetizing.

Also, this example screenshot makes me more than a little concerned about the promised “health and fitness tips”

Screen Shot Water BenefitsSo I soldiered on:

Hi Natalie.

Thanks!  Last question so that I can do the write up.  Your marketing says that your app “solves the problem of obesity”  Can you clarify the research that you have around that?  Thanks so much for your help and clarification, I really appreciate it.

~Ragen

And her response is what’s typical – people don’t feel that they need any real research or evidence to claim, for profit, that they can change people’s body size. including children:

I’m just a mum who works in a nursery so the people who I have told the app about said it helped them lose weight. Scientific research a along with a small group of people that have followed the tips and have also lost weight my self included. 

I.e one of the tips says to swap white rice with whole gain rice….Research from the government Would agree with this.

In London England we have this from the government which a lot of my advice is based around

http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/change-for-life.aspx

Also getting help from Nurses and a personal trainer who I’m married to.

There is not a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have lost weight longterm using any method (diet, lifestyle change, etc.) There is no proof that this app will live up to it’s promises, or that it won’t lead to unintended results like increases in disordered eating by encouraging the good food/bad food dichotomy and suggesting that people judge the success of exercise based on a change in body size.  This is what happens in a world where society lets people believe that not being fat, or managing the short term weight loss that almost every achieves and that typically becomes weight regain, makes them experts on becoming thin permanently, including for children.

Weight loss is always “buyer beware” and I find that becomes much more apparent the more you talk to the people selling it.  If this was an American company, maybe they could get more publicity as part of the next Federal Trade Commission deceptive weight loss practices bust.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My new column for Ms. Fit Magazine is out – I interviewed Virgie Tovar, Hanne Blank, and Rebecca Weinstein for the article “Jiggle is Hot:  Exploring Sex in a Fat Body

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

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Sex in a Fat Body

More Cabaret shows that sexy is for every size. www.morecabaret.com
More Cabaret shows that sexy is for every size. www.morecabaret.com

When I first approached Hanne Blank about being interviewed for an article I was doing for Ms. Fit Magazine on “fat sex” her response was “More than happy to talk about fat sex, or, as I like to call it, sex.”  Which re-confirmed two things for me.  One, that Hanne is awesome on a number of levels and two, that often things are “different” for fat people only because we are ignored and oppressed by our culture.  Sex can definitely be one of those things.

An excerpt from the article:

In 2010, blogger Maura Kelly had a piece published on the Marie Claire blog to discuss whether or not fat people should be allowed to show affection in public. Kelly said:

I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other…because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room—just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.

She followed it up by saying “don’t go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.”

See, some of her best friends are fat—everything is OK. The eagerness of this blogger, and other sizeist jerks, to share their bigotry out loud affects the ability of women of all sizes to take pleasure in sex, influencing us to think that we don’t deserve pleasure, or even that we don’t have the right to ask for what we want, whether it’s a sexual position or a condom. To delve further into this I spoke with three women who literally wrote the book on fat sex…

You can read the rest of the article here!

Regardless, I think it’s important to remember that when we are treated differently as fat people, it’s often not our fat, but our culture that’s the cause.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

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

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.