Marathon Update: The Big Reason

So since I announced that I’m doing a second marathon people have been asking why.  Especially since I was so very, very miserable training and doing the first one.  I’ve just been saying “for reasons” which many of you found to be an unsatisfying answer – and I can’t blame you.  A big part of that was making sure that the main reason is actually something that I want to do.  And I’ve decided that it is and it’s time to tell everyone.

This marathon isn’t just another goal, it’s actually a small part of a bigger goal.- 114.4 miles bigger to be exact.

I’m going to attempt IRONMAN Arizona in November of 2016.  I haven’t really swum since I was in high school which is also the last time I rode a bike so I’m giving myself a little over 2 years to get it done with plenty of events in between.

The first question most people ask is What is an IRONMAN exactly?  It’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run, done consecutively in less than 17 hours.

The next question is typically “Why?”  The answer is complicated. Part of it is just because it’s there and if you finish it this guy named Mike Reilly says [Your name] YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! over a loudspeaker as you cross the finish line (and also, they give you a medal.)

Part of it is an extension of why I did the first marathon – to push myself out of my comfort zone (in this case way, way, way out of my comfort zone), do things at which I’m not naturally talented and see what lessons live out there.  Part of it is about my constant mission of insisting that fat people have a place in the fitness conversation – both so that we can have and be role models for others who are lied to about what is possible with a fat body, and because we can use the position of being athletes (and the privilege we get that we can’t give away) to speak out against the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy.

Part of it is just because a few months ago I was listening to a book about a guy who completed an IRONMAN and the thought jumped into my head (completely uninvited) “I wonder if I could do that?” and that thought just kept bouncing around in there, until I really wanted to know the answer.

So here I am, training for this thing. The next question is, how am I going to talk about it?  I decided to give it its own blog because  I really want to record my IM journey and I want to do it in a way that doesn’t take over this space (I know that a lot of people who read this blog get triggered when I talk about athletics and fitness and such so I want to keep it just to the Sunday Marathon updates.)

So if you want to follow my IRONMAN journey I invite you to www.ironfat.com!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Fat Discrimination Is Real Discrimination

WTFIn an absolutely ridiculous piece for The Mirror, Fiona Phillips tries to make the point that discrimination against fat people is somehow not “real” discrimination.

Now, obviously, we can’t really take someone seriously as a journalist when she says “overeating costs the NHS alone over £5billion a year and takes up beds that could be used by those who haven’t eaten their way to illness.”  Not only does she make a beginner statistics correlation vs causation error (assuming that body size causes diseases when there is no proof of that), the statistics she’s using are actually about a ratio of weight and height, not how much people eat – but somehow she thinks that “overeating” is actually interchangeably with body size. (Also, any argument that includes the cost of obesity/tax dollars is a ridiculously slippery slope.)   But just in case the obesity epi-panic is so out of control that her complete ignorance in this area isn’t immediately apparent and utterly discrediting, let’s break down her main argument:

Insults aren’t productive but comparing it to other prejudices is also insulting to those who suffer abuse and injury because they have a difference they’re born with.

The title of the article is “Anti-obesity is not the same as other types of discrimination.” I don’t do a lot of comparison of discrimination except in my own experience so, speaking just for myself as a queer woman, this argument sounds damn familiar to me.  I came out in the mid nineties and did a lot of queer activism work (I was the first official liaison between the Queer community and student government at the University of Texas, I was one of the small group who started the Safe Space program at UT etc.)  I remember very well the argument that discrimination against queer people was justified because we could just choose to be straight and then the abuse would stop.   Even if I didn’t remember those days, I wouldn’t need to because it’s still happening.  I’ve written before about the horrifying nature of the argument that if we can “blame” people for something, then we should be “allowed” to discriminate against them for it.

Yes, fat people are discriminated against.  Yes, discrimination based on size is “real” discrimination that’s worth fighting.  No, it’s not ok. Ignoring the fact that there isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have successfully lost weight (and success is generally defined as 2 to 5 pounds,) fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies without shame, stigma, or discrimination and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin.

Just in case all of this wasn’t ridiculous enough, Fiona then blames fat people for our own discrimination – the old chestnut that if you’re being bullied you should ask yourself “Is it possible to change myself in a way that might get my bullies to stop beating me up?”  And if the answer is yes, you’re somehow obligated to do that because, people like Fiona believe, the problem isn’t bullies, it’s that people won’t respond to their bullying with self-loathing and compliance.  The idea that the only type of discrimination that’s wrong is discrimination against people who can’t change themselves to suit their bullies preferences is incredibly problematic on every level.  And we’re back to things that I would hope that everyone, or at least everyone who is not Fiona, understands.

Perhaps the saddest part of this whole thing is that she wrote the article in response to a study that found that fat shaming is correlated with higher weights.  I think this study is problematic on a number of levels, but her understanding of the study means that, at its base, her argument is that even though she thinks being fat is bad, and even though the research shows that weight discrimination and fat shaming are correlated with people being fatter, Fiona is still wasting digital ink to argue that discriminating against fat people isn’t that bad. It sounds to me like a woman desperate to justify her desire to treat a group of people poorly based on how we look, but of course that’s just a guess. It really doesn’t matter why she does it, as long as we’re clear on how very wrong she is.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Too Fat for the Holidays

Angry FrustratedIt’s a special day for me – I just got my first e-mail from a company trying to make money by making me terrified that “the holidays” are coming and I’m somehow too fat for them.  Thus begins the next stop on the dieting Axis of Evil marketing tour  (the holidays are coming, New Year’s Resolutions, and Bikini Season is coming.)

Of course there’s the fact that ye olde diet company assumes that everyone celebrates holidays at the end of the year which is messed up. Then we have their wanton disregard for people actually enjoying the holidays.  The message they sent to me:”The holidays are just around the corner, will you have a body you can be proud of?” is a disgusting attempt to create insecurities and then play on them for profit.  Here I was nervous that I would have to call my mom 14 times and still screw up the holiday dinner and embarrass myself, now I’m supposed to worry that I’ll embarrass myself just by existing in a body that hasn’t been manipulated to some size I can be “proud of” which, based on the picture that accompanied the message, would require me to lose about 150 pounds  and grow 6 inches in the next two months.

If they were honest their ad copy would have read “The holidays are coming so it would be great if you would hate your body and make a desperate bid to change it that won’t work but will make us a boatload of money so that our last quarter numbers look good.”

Since I was a kid I’ve seen what now seem like unending permutations of the message “you’re too fat” delivered to me by those who hope to profit from my believing it. The holidays are coming and you’re too fat. It’s New Years and you’re too fat.  Bikini season is coming and you’re too fat.

Screw that.

We may not be able to stop the diet companies from trying to ruin the next three months (and the month after that with their New Year’s Resolution, and the months after that with whatever they try to use to create a giant chasm between us and loving ourselves) but we can decide that they aren’t going to succeed.  I recommend a secret little mantra that I’ve created that I say whenever I see diet industry ads.  My mantra is “HEY, THAT’S BULLSHIT!”  Works like a charm to remind me not to buy into any of this.

The holidays are coming and I’m just fine.  New Year’s is coming and I’m just fine.  Bikini season is coming and I’m just fine.  This diet industry that spends so much time and money oppressing me with a product that doesn’t do anything successfully except make them money,  runs on our time and money energy.  We take the fuel away and the machine stops.  It happens as one person at a time changes the channel, throws out the postcard, or rolls their eyes and says “No more. I’m done with this.”

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Things that Aren’t Bullying

Reality and PerceptionI was in a conversation where I was pointing out how completely screwed up I think it is to body shame strangers for sport on the internet, and someone responded to suggest that what I was doing was “the same thing I was arguing against” by speaking out against the behavior, and that I was “bullying” people for thinking that something (“something” here having the meaning of a video of a person none of us knew) is funny, and that they have a “right to their opinion.”  This is a common reaction to being called out on stigma, shaming, and bullying – try to paint the person who is pointing out your bad behavior as the bully.

Here’s the thing.  There is a vast difference between shaming, stigmatizing and bullying, and pointing that behavior out. (I certainly wouldn’t walk past someone bullying someone else and not intervene because the bully has a right to their opinion.)  Making fun of strangers for sport is not even close to  the same thing as pointing out why that is problematic. This is a tactic that is often used to try to shut down civil rights activism, or to silence those people who point out behavior that shames, stigmatizes or bullies other people.

Another excuse used in the conversation was that I was directly “bullying” people in person by pointing out that their behavior was hurtful, because they’re behavior of body shaming her didn’t hurt her at all.  The truth is that we don’t know the affects on this woman because we don’t know if she’s seen the body shaming that people are engaging in and if she did, how she felt about it. What I do know is that this kind of behavior reinforces a culture where women are punished with shaming and derision for existing in bodies that don’t meet a stereotype of beauty. It’s about the fact that people making negative comments about her body don’t just affect her, but everyone else who sees the comments and gets the message that some bodies are good bodies, and others deserved to be shamed and made fun of because of how they look.

You are under no obligation to speak out against this kind of behavior, but if you do, and the people engaging in shaming, stigmatizing and bullying someone try to suggest that you are the problem, you can speak out against that too.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

BELVIQ – Hilarious if It Wasn’t Horrifying

Bad DoctorI talked a couple of days ago about why I think it’s important to avoid supporting organizations like the Obesity Action Coalition. Today at the gym I saw an advertisement for the weight loss drug BELVIQ (whose manufacturer gave the OAC over $100,000) that reminded me why I think it’s so important. What I learned about BELVIQ was so ridiculous that it would be funny if it wasn’t completely horrifying:

What does it do to you?  (All of these quotes are pulled directly from their website)

Before using BELVIQ, tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, especially medicines that treat depression, migraines, mental problems, or the common cold. These medicines may cause serious or life-threatening side effects if taken with BELVIQ. Call your doctor right away if you experience agitation, hallucinations, confusion, or other changes in mental status; coordination problems; uncontrolled muscle spasms; muscle twitching; restlessness; racing or fast heartbeat; high or low blood pressure; sweating; fever; nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; or stiff muscles.

You read that right, taking BELVIQ with cold medicine could be life threatening.

It is not known if BELVIQ when taken with other prescription, over-the-counter, or herbal weight-loss products is safe and effective. It is not known if BELVIQ changes your risk of heart problems, stroke, or death due to heart problems or stroke.

There are some combinations that we know can cause serious or life-threatening side effects.  Everything else might do that, we really have no idea. Hell, this medicine might kill you on its own, again we just don’t know.  I mean, we can’t be expected to know everything right? Shut up and take the pill fatty.

BELVIQ may slow your thinking. You should not drive a car or operate heavy equipment until you know how BELVIQ affects you.

Maybe you remember that “joke” survey in which women were asked if they would choose to be smarter if it meant that they would have a bigger ass. The joke’s on us because that shit just got real.

Some people taking medicines like BELVIQ have had heart valve problems. Call your doctor right away if you experience trouble breathing; swelling of the arms, legs, ankles, or feet; dizziness, fatigue, or weakness that will not go away; or fast or irregular heartbeat.

I mean, who needs working heart valves, fitting into that size whatever is totes worth it y’all!

Taking too much BELVIQ may cause hallucinations, a feeling of being high or in a very good mood, or feelings of standing outside your body.

Careful, you may miss the signs that our drug is killing you because you’re too busy chatting with the purple spotted elephant.  But nobody would take too much right?  It’s not like it’s addictive.

BELVIQ is a federally controlled substance (CIV) because it may be abused or lead to drug dependence.

Oh, right, it is addictive.  Um… But you’ll be thin.  Yes, focus on that.  Thin thin thin thin thin thin. (Or, you know, probably not but we’ll get to that.)

BELVIQ may cause your heart to beat slower

Which, if you think about it, might help your heart valve hold out a little longer.  It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! (sarcasm level is a 10 out of 10 here)

BELVIQ may cause your red and white blood cell counts to decrease.

Are your current high blood cell counts making you look fat?  We’ve got you covered.

BELVIQ may increase the amount of a hormone called prolactin. Tell your doctor if your breasts begin to make milk or a milky fluid, or if you are a male and your breasts increase in size.

Maybe you thought it was one of those hallucinations we talked about but nope, you’re lactating!

Let’s review:

This medicine may cause your heart and brain to slow down, your white and red blood cell count to drop, your heart to be damaged, and non specific life-threatening side effects.  And you may become addicted to it.  I’m sure the scientists accountants working on BELVIQ were relieved to find out that, even though the side effects might make people want to quit, there’s a possibility that they won’t be able to, and as long as they remain fat the drug is recommended for them and paid for by their insurance.

But what are we risking all of this for?

In a major clinical trial, people taking BELVIQ were able to lose weight and maintain weight loss up to 2 years. In the 2-year study, almost half of people who completed the first year continued on in year 2. All people regained weight but remained below their starting weight.

  • Almost half of people (47.1%) taking BELVIQ® lost 5% or more of their body weight after 1 year of treatment, compared with those using diet and exercise alone (22.6%)
  • Some (22.4%) lost as much as 10% of their body weight after 1 year of treatment, compared with those using diet and exercise alone (8.7%)

First of all, did you catch that HALF the people dropped out of the study at year one.  No news from BELVIQ about why – maybe they wanted to take cold medicine without risking their lives?  And nobody maintained their weight loss –  the most anyone lost was 10% of their body weight before they started regaining, which every single one of them did, even though they were still on the drug.

We know that almost everyone can lose weight on a diet and almost everyone gains it back within the next three to five years. So based on the research what we are seeing is the beginning of the weight regain that will eventually find around 95% of people regaining  all of their weight with many gaining back more than they lost, while perhaps becoming addicted to a drug with side effects that include death, or dealing with the long term consequences of taking the drug, which have not been studied at all.

We’re all dying to know, how does it work anyway?

BELVIQ® helps you feel satisfied with less food by targeting a hunger receptor in the brain.

Of course!  Feeding your body less food than it needs to survive in the hopes that it will consume itself and become smaller is difficult.  BELVIQ can help you become more adept at completely ignoring your body’s signals by messing with your brain. But exactly how does it do that?

The precise way BELVIQ® produces feelings of satisfaction is not fully understood.

And why would we bother to fully understand how it works? I mean, they’re just fat people, they’re barely human. We don’t know how this works, what we do know is that it seems to stop working between year one and year two, that it’s addictive, and that it may seriously harm or kill people. The diagnosis for who should take this dangerous, addictive, and poorly understood drug is a simple ratio of weight and height and as long as that’s in range insurance may even cover it!  Hey, let’s offer a free trial on our website – first one’s free!

Now, I’ve been joking around because that’s one of the ways that I deal with the absolute horror of things like this – but make no mistake, this drug is going to kill people.  People who could have lived full, happy lives in the bodies that they have now are literally going to die trying to be thin while this company rakes in millions, even billions, in profits. And if, like the victims of Phen-Fen before it, their surviving family members are able to get a settlement because of this company’s complete negligence, it will be cold comfort for them, and just a drop in the bucket of profits for Eisai pharmaceuticals.  Right now some doctor somewhere is probably recommending this to an unsuspecting fat person who will take it because they trust their healthcare practitioner not to put their life in danger for no good reason.

The “War on Obesity” is being fought whether we like it or not and, to me, is seems clear that they don’t care if they shrink us or kill us, as long as they don’t have to look at fat people anymore (you know, for our own good.).  If they want a war on obesity I will fucking give them one and for me that includes never, ever supporting these companies because it’s truly life and death.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

Write a Letter, Feel Much Better

You Forgot Your BullshitAs fat people in a fatphobic society, we deal with a bunch of ridiculous bullshit all the time, from family and friends food police to street harassment to businesses that don’t accommodate us, sometimes on purpose.   There are lots of ways to deal with all of these things, today I want to talk about the power of writing a letter.  I don’t mean letter writing campaigns – though they can be powerful – I don’t even mean reviews on site like Yelp  – though they can be effective as well.

What I’m talking about is dealing with discrimination/poor treatment where you decide not to fight back in the situation (which is a legitimate choice) and/or you still have more to say after it’s all over.  Maybe it’s because you decide not to go off on your fat shaming grandma at the family reunion, maybe it’s because you just don’t want to get into it with the nail salon owner who wants to charge you extra for being fat, or maybe the guys who threw eggs at you drove away like cowards before you could have that chat you were hoping for (about fat bigotry and also that dude’s terrible throwing mechanics…)

In cases like that I have found that it can be sometimes help to write a letter so that instead of dealing with internalized rage I get it out there.  To me there are three main parts to the letter:

1.  Name the party who wronged me specifically

2.  Place the problem where it belongs  – on the person who perpetuated the mistreatment (this can keep me from buying into the idea that social stigma is my fault because bigots insist that people who look me deserve mistreatment, or that the cure for social stigma is for me to change myself – essentially giving the bullies my lunch money and hoping they stop beating me up.)

3.  Take back my empowerment over the situation – explain how I will not allow them to affect me.

Here’s a little fill-in-the-blank example to get you started, but feel free to ignore it in lieu of whatever you like best (and feel free to write your own and publish them in the comments if you would like!)

Dear [grandma/manicurist/egg chuckers/jerk],

It was really [messed/screwed/fucked] up when you [did that bigoted/bullying/stigmatizing/discriminatory thing to me].  I didn’t appreciate it and [here is what I would like to say to you.]  I wish you weren’t such a [bigot/bully/jackass] and I may not be able to change you, but I’m sure as [heck/anything/shit] not going to let your bad behavior mess with my great life.  I’m going to sign this letter and [send/file/toss/burn] it and your bullshit fatphobia along with it.

Sincerely,

Empowered Fat Person

So there you go, just another little tool for being fat in a fatphobic world!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work by becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Why I’m Not Signing the OAC Petition

Company you keepOver the past few days I’ve received a number of requests to sign and share a petition.  On the surface the petition looks like a good cause – removing fat shaming apps for app stores.  On further inspection there are serious issues with this and, while I have tremendous respect for many of the people promoting it, and I think that they are very well intentioned, I also think what they are doing is a mistake that will have serious negative short and long-term consequences. And so, while I normally choose just not to participate in activism with which I disagree, this is really important to me and so I’ve decided to speak about it in my space.

The petition was started by the Obesity Action Coalition (Note: I’m not linking to the organization, I’m just am not interested in giving them traffic.  You’ll have to Google if you want to check them out for yourself.).  The problem with this group is that they lie, misinform, and make a profit on the backs of fat people by perpetuating the message that fat people are a problem that needs to be eradicated.  While I think there may well be limited situations where we can effectively use the power and privilege the OAC and groups like it receive for being fatphobic in a society that rewards fatphobia, I think that we should be careful to do so only where we can avoid actually promoting them or their message.

Let’s start with the lying.

They say “The OAC is the organization representing more than 93 million Americans impacted by obesity.”

This might give you the idea that they have 93 million fat members.  Not the case, they simply take an estimate of the number of “obese” people and claim to represent all of us. They sure as hell don’t represent me.  I’m know I’m not the only one but even if I was, this is still a lie.

Wondering who they really represent?  Let’s take a look at who funds them:

Companies that give $100,000 or more

  • Allergan – Manufacturers of the lap band
  • American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric [weight loss] Surgery
  • Covidien – “committed to better patient outcomes through bariatric surgery
  • Eisai – manufactures of the weight loss drug Belviq
  • Vivus – manufacturers of the weight loss drug Qsymia

In fact, it appears that every single member of the “Chairman’s Council” (those who give from $1,000 to over $100,000) is a company that profits from selling the promise of weight loss.  Is ending weight stigma so important to these companies that they are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the OAC?  Not exactly.  The OAC says that “Chairman’s Council members receive valuable exposure, such as a formal announcement in the OAC’s e-newsletter that reaches more than 30,000 individuals monthly, a listing in each issue of our quarterly magazine [which is called, I’m not even kidding here, “Your Weight Matters”], and a link on the OAC’s Web site which is a benefit only accessible through this level.”  It’s not exactly the 93 million people the OAC claims to represent, but make no mistake these companies pay the OAC to promote their products.

In addition to promoting weight loss methods that have been shown to be ineffectual and dangerous – even deadly – all to the tune of billions of dollars in profit, they also promote BMI as a way to judge health,

This group is for the eradication of fat people and the lip service they pay, in things like this petition, to not stigmatizing fat people is cold comfort.  I do not think that you can reasonably say “I profit from promoting the elimination of you and everyone who looks like you, but, you know, in a non-stigmatizing way.”

About that petition, let’s see what we’re signing onto when we support it.  This language comes directly from the petition:

30 percent of girls with excess weight and 24 percent of boys with excess weight report being teased by peers at school

Along with serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and more, obesity carries the burden of being the last acceptable form of discrimination in today’s society.

Couching fat bodies as wrong with terms like “excess weight” shames the children they are pretending purporting to care so much about.  There is no shame in having a disease and suggesting that simply being fat or having any of the health conditions mentioned is a “burden” is a stigmatizing message.  Body size and health are two different things and by using language that constantly conflates the two, the OAC makes appearance into a disease which diverts funds from the research and treatment of actual diseases, and creates more opportunities for their high paying members to profit from their products that don’t work – leading to fat people being further stigmatized when we’re blamed for the failure of their products.

Also, Obesity is not the last acceptable form of discrimination. Saying this (especially when, like the OAC, you do it for profit) is an affront to the many, many people who experience discrimination in forms including racism, sexism, ableism, classism, homophobia, trans*phobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Let’s be very clear – every time someone promotes this petition they are suggesting that people read those words, and they are lending their support to them, including the idea that fat people are a problem that needs to be solved.  They are also sending people to the OAC’s website where they will be further indoctrinated with anti-fat, pro-diet culture. I think that couching this partnership as coalition building is a misapplication of the concept because, while there may be compromises to be made in building coalitions, I don’t think that promoting extremely well-funded organizations whose stated goal (and main form of profit) is eliminating you, constitutes a reasonable compromise.  Also, creating a coalition between a community that is fighting for the civil rights of a group of people and an organization that is for suppressing those rights (you know, in a non-stigmatizing way) by spreading misinformation for profit is not, to me, a worthy goal.

While I agree that fat shaming apps are a problem (though I don’t think they are nearly as much of a problem as partnering with the OAC) I think that a single point of agreement is not a good enough reason to create a partnership or even the appearance of one – I think we also have to consider downside risk.  If we give the OAC legitimacy as being part of, or friendly with, the Size Acceptance and Eating Disorder communities by helping to promote some of their work (work which is, in and of itself, deeply problematic), then we help to promote all of their work/agenda and give it legitimacy within our communities.

In fact I think that promotion of the OAC’s work can serve to drive more fat people who are exploring Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size to them, because they will believe that if we support them, then the OAC and their message (fat bodies are require treatment to become thin in order to be healthy) are part of Size Acceptance/Fat Activism/Health at Every Size. Those fat people will then be “educated” that, while they should “not be stigmatized”, their bodies are definitely wrong and bad, and need to be changed, preferably by buying the products sold by the members who donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the OAC so that they will market them.

There are plenty of people and organizations that I agree with about one thing, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to lend my name to their cause and I think that’s exactly what we do when when we promote a petition created by the OAC .

I think that suggesting that all people who look a certain way should be eradicated IS stigmatizing.  So  I do not think that it’s possible to be truly against weight bias and simultaneously support an organization that has, as its platform, the goal of eradicating fat people and preventing the future existence of fat people, in a way that creates billions of dollars in profit for their high paying members.

Civil rights work is difficult, and sometimes it seems like we should take progress where we can get it, but I don’t think that we are so desperate that we must partner with groups that have our eradication as their stated goal.

Activism Opportunity:

You can speak out against the apps without speaking up for the OAC and its oppressive mission and work.  Below is contact information for each organization (with thanks to Lizabeth at BingeBehavior.com for the research)

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