Tell the EEOC Not to Allow Workplace Discrimination

What Will you DefendThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which had previously filed lawsuits on behalf of employees negatively affected by “voluntary” wellness programs that force them to either turn over personal health information that their “wellness” program can use to further penalize them, or pay thousands of dollars) is now considering changing their protections to allow employees to be penalized up to 30% of the cost of employee only coverage for not participating in “voluntary” wellness programs and/or failing to achieve “health” outcomes which can include weight loss.  See the full EEOC text here.

First of all, these screening programs are supposed to be voluntary, but the cost of not “volunteering” can be thousands of dollars (in the Honeywell Case about which the EEOC lawsuit was filed, it was around $4,000) So it’s only really voluntary for those who can afford $4,000 a year to take a stand for their own civil rights (at my house we call this getting “volun-told”)

These programs measure things that are not completely within  – and sometimes not at all within –people’s control, and in some cases require people to enter into programs on their own time (Weight Watchers meeting at lunch anyone?) that not only don’t have a track record of efficacy, but may not be in keeping with the person’s health philosophies or the plan that they and their doctor created. If they refuse, they face monetary penalties.

These programs typically use BMI, a ratio of weight and height that isn’t a poor indicator of health so much as it its not in any way an indicator of health.

When we start messing with the acts that protect people from workplace discrimination on the basis of dis/ability and/or genetics we are at the top of a very steep slippery slope.

Not for nothing, but these programs don’t actually save any money (let alone make anybody any healthier.)

In the randomized controlled trials(RCTs) — the Gold Standard for research trials and the one exclusively used by the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate new drug applications — ROIs for the interventions studies had an overall mean value of -0.22. This means that for every dollar invested in these programs, 78 cents was returned. In other words, the programs did not pay for themselves.”

There is not one shred of evidence that a corporate wellness program can reduce the costs of your health benefit at all, let alone by more than the cost of the program.”

And the research itself is super sketchy for a lot of reasons.

The argument is that employees who lead “healthy lifestyles” shouldn’t have to subsidize those who don’t.  Neither body size nor metabolic numbers can tell you someone’s lifestyle, I also note that these programs don’t do anything about employees who participate in sports – including particularly dangerous sports – and are thus much more likely to cost the company money due to sports injuries. Apparently employees who don’t participate in sports are expected to subsidize those who do.

It seems to me that businesses aren’t necessarily looking at cost savings through employee “wellness” programs, but rather are looking at the fact that they’ll save thousands of dollars every time an employee stands up for their right to not literally turn their blood (and the blood of their spouses and children) over to their employer, not to mention making it easier to penalize employees for not meeting “wellness standards” that they cannot meet due to disability or genetics, and the EEOC is willing to weaken their protections of employees with disabilities to allow them to do that, and that is absolutely horrific.

These protections were put in place on purpose, to avoid exactly the kind of discrimination that this EEOC rule change would allow.

So what can you do?

Read this and sign this statement on behalf of people of size who will be affected by this. (Comments due by midnight on 6/18/15)

Read and comment on this ACLU statement on behalf of disabled people/people with disabilities. (Comments due by midnight on 6/19/15)

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Weight Loss as Revenge?

You Forgot Your BullshitIn response to my piece about those clickbait “nobody could believe what happened next” videos (where the only thing that happens is that a person who isn’t stereotypically beautiful is talented) I heard a lot of something that has now become a familiar refrain for people who want to find a way to bully me into weight loss.

They say “Wouldn’t losing weight be the best revenge?” I’ve seen it on talk show episodes where people who were bullies for their appearance and have snice dedicated considerable time, energy, and money, to becoming closer to the stereotype of beauty “confront” their bullies and demand to be acknowledged for the change they made.

While people are allowed to do whatever they want, this, to me, is no kind of revenge.  This is spending a ton of time, energy, and money to give the bullies exactly what they wanted, and then asking for their approval.  It’s like saying “give the bullies your lunch money, that’ll show ’em!”

We don’t owe our bullies anything, least of all manipulation of our bodies.  Oppression takes a lot of different forms, and oppression against people who are believed to be able to move out of an oppressed group often leads to people feeling vindicated in their suggestion that the best way to solve social stigma is for stigmatized people to change ourselves.

As a queer woman I’ve been told that if I don’t like being the victim of homophobia I should date a dude. As a fat woman I’ve been told that if I don’t like being the victim of fatphobia I should become thin.  In both cases it doesn’t actually matter if it’s possible to change myself, because the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma – not for stigmatized people to try to squeeze ourselves in a mold someone else created for us.

The problem here isn’t that I’m fat, it’s that people treat me poorly because I’m fat, and I don’t care about revenge, but I do demand social change.

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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Five Phrases for Size Acceptance Self Defense

Fatphobia ToolboxIn a world that is consumed with “thin” as the ideal of both beauty and health, and where many mistakenly believe that public health should be about making fat people’s bodies the public’s business, practicing Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size can mean dealing with conversations that are everything from irritating to downright insulting.

Sometimes I have the time and energy to open a dialog and sometimes I don’t.  Here are five phrases that I keep in my back pocket for when I want to end an inappropriate interaction quickly and move on with my day.

I’m not soliciting opinions about my [body/health/food choices etc.]

I’ve found this super useful when dealing with concern trolling of any kind. It’s not a response that people are expecting, it doesn’t take me down the road of buying into the idea that this person is owed an explanation, and it shuts down further conversation.

Random person at grocery store:  Should you really be buying that ice cream?

Me:  I’m not soliciting opinions about my food choices.

or if the advice is particularly bad, I might add a touch of snark:

Random person at the running track:  At your size, you really shouldn’t run, it’s bad for your knees.

Me:  I’m not actually soliciting bad advice from random strangers.

I can’t imagine why you would think that’s your business. 

Works for concern trolling, works for inappropriate questions, works for people who are under the mistaken belief that my body is somehow their business.

Random person at random place:  You would be so much prettier if you just lost a little weight.

Me:  I can’t imagine why you would think that’s your business.

I have absolutely no interest in weight loss.

Great for whenever somebody assumes that I’m interested in weight loss, or that I’m doing something with weight loss as a goal. I used to add “My body is perfect as it is,” but I found that led to people concern trolling me (ie: Oh, of course you’re beautiful but I’m just worried about your health blah blah blah…) so now I just stick with the single sentence, said with finality.

Random person at a lunch event:  You should try this [insert ridiculous weight loss scam here]

Me:  I have absolutely no interest in weight loss.

Person at the gym:  I see you here all the time, how much weight have you lost so far?

Me:  I don’t weigh myself. I have absolutely no interest in weight loss.

How are your bowel movements?

I use this to respond to especially inappropriate personal questions about my body, food or exercise. When people look confused I often append it with “I thought we were asking each other inappropriate personal questions.”

Person at a restaurant:  Do you need to eat that?

Me:  How are your bowel movements?

Show me your list…

This one is more involved, but I have found it to be worth it.  I developed it specifically for people who give a “But muh tax dollarz”  defense of their weight bigotry.

Some jerk: Your body is my business because muh tax dollarz!

Me:  Show me your list.

SJ: What?

Me:  I need to see the list of things your tax dollars pay for, broken down into things you do and don’t agree with, and the interventions you are involved in for everything you think makes your taxes too high. Otherwise, I’m going to assume that this is a bullshit excuse for engaging in weight bullying and this conversation is over.

Remember that each of us gets to choose how we deal with the oppression we face, sometimes that might mean opening a dialog, and sometimes that might mean ending the conversation and walking away as quickly as possible.  These phrases are just more tools for toolbox.

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Everyone Should Have Expected What Happened Next

facepalmYou’ve seen them.  Videos with clickbait titles that say things like “Nobody expected what happened next!”  or “Everyone was shocked by what happened next” when the only thing that happened is that a person who doesn’t meet people’s stereotypes of beauty is talented.  This hit home for me again when someone shared a video of one of my favorite dancers  on Facebook with the comment “Nobody expected what happened next – People didn’t expect much when he walked out, but what happened next shocked everyone!”

Not so much. John and Stephanie are champion dancers, known for being really entertaining. Everyone there who knew them was pretty sure this was going to be amazing. Anyone who didn’t know John, and didn’t expect much because John is fat, is a size bigot who has some issues to work out.

This is super frustrating not just because of the suggestion that a talented fat person is somehow shocking, but because it re-writes an experience that wasn’t full of fat bigotry into one that was chock full of it.

Actual situation:  a multiple time world champion swing dancer takes the floor, everyone is excited to watch him dance because he and his partner are known to be fabulous and entertaining dancers, they are awesome, everyone cheers.

Re-telling:  It’s the middle of the highest division in the competition.  Some fat guy walks out, of course everyone knows that fat people can’t be good dancers so we all assume it must be the drunk beer delivery guy who just stumbled out onto the dance floor because.. no…wait…he’s actually a dancer.  Holy crap, he’s a good dancer. NO FREAKING WAY!  People faint from shock. A truly benevolent person writes it up and posts a video that focuses not on his dancing but on fat bigots’ reactions to it.

Bonus bullshit:  Anyone who complains about this has to deal with people saying “why can’t you just be grateful that they are posting the video?”  Oh, I don’t know, maybe because it’s stereotyping, weight-based bigotry and total bullshit?! But I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here.

Yes, in this society we very often choose our singers, actors, dancers etc. based on their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty first and the ability to sing, act, or dance, a distant second.  Thus, unsurprisingly, almost every singer/actor/dancer is thin and stereotypically beautiful. But we take it to the next level when we allow ourselves to assume that those who are not stereotypically beautiful are not talented.

There are more and more reality shows where people can get 45 seconds to display their talent.  When a fat person risks the stigma, shame and bullying that so often come from just existing in public and go onto one of these shows  and turn out to be good at what they do I think we could live without a million YouTube videos and Facebook posts discussing how absolutely shocking, shocking I tell you, it is that they have talent.

I would like to see a bunch of posts about how shocked people are that they allowed themselves to be lulled into the view that someone who doesn’t fit the cultural stereotype of beauty is without talent.  I would like to see a bunch of comments about how absolutely ridiculous it is that every time a talented fat person gets in the public eye we have to endure people wringing their hands and shrieking about how they are “bad role models” who, they claim even more ridiculously,promote obesity (like people will hear them sing and think – I wish I could sing like that, I guess the first step is to get fat…)

This all leaves me to wonder, how many amazingly talented people are we missing out on as a society?  How many horrible actors and actresses do we suffer through because the industry chooses them for their ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty before their ability to act? If we chose singers based on their ability to sing first would auto-tune even exist?

We’re so conditioned to think that talent only comes in a stereotypically beautifully package that we lose it when Susan Boyle stands up and belts out I Dreamed a Dream.  I don’t mean to shock anyone here, but how someone looks has literally nothing to do with their chances of being a good singer, or actress, or dancer, or anything else.  I think it would be just fantastic if we chose people based on their talent and not on their ability to walk a red carpet in a sample size dress, and even more fantastic if we were more shocked at our society’s prejudice than a fat person’s talent.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey atwww.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Kelly Clarkson and the Obesity Epi-Panic

WTF are you doingIn Touch Weekly is not a paragon of ethical, responsible journalism.  But their recent article about Kelly Clarkson is a prime example of the way that the obesity epi-panic plays out everyday in popular media.

Body Positive Click Bait Title

Check. The piece draws you in with a title that is makes it seem like it’s a positive article “Kelly Clarkson is All Smiles – She’s Not Letting Her Weight Critics Bring her Down.”  Good for Kelly Clarkson.

Doctor with no attachment to professionalism or ethics

Check. “Dr. Stuart Fischer — who has never treated the star — estimated she weighs more than 200 pounds. He speculates that she’s gained nearly 100 pounds since her American Idol days.”

Not exactly all the news that’s fit to print, the operative terms here being “never treated”, “estimated”, “speculates”.

Gratuitous before and after picture.

Checkity check.  Ten years ago before she had her baby and when she was not a big star yet and likely under tremendous pressure to suppress her weight, beside a picture from 10 years later, post baby, and based on her responses to her haters in a place where she doesn’t give a crap what people think of her body.

Dire predictions 

Check. “But Dr. Fischer worries that if she doesn’t change her health habits — she may not be around to see River grow up. He says, “Obesity shortens life by 3 to 5 percent.”

Let’s be clear that he is saying that she should “change her health habits” with absolutely zero knowledge of what her current health habits are.  This is reflected in the experiences of countless fat people whose doctors tell us to “eat less and exercise more” without ever asking how much we eat or exercise.  It’s lazy, incompetent, unethical medicine.

Besides that, even if you believe the statistic (and I would love to see the research that led a medical professional – such as he is – to feel ok stating this as if it’s a fact in National media) his math is questionable. Kelly Clarkson is 33 years old. Her daughter, River, is one year old.  The average lifespan for a Female in the US is 82.1 years old (at a record high, even with the so-called “obesity epidemic”) and that’s the lifespan of a female who isn’t super rich with the best of everything at her disposal.  But let’s go with 82.1 years old.  5% of that is 4.1 years.  So instead of dying at 82.1 when her daughter is 49, she would die at 78 years old when her daughter is 45 years old. And that’s the worst case scenario. I wouldn’t classify that as not being around to see her daughter grow up.

But how many times have we heard these dire predictions as if all fat people (and especially fat parents) are going to drop dead tomorrow of chronic being fatness. Predictions that aren’t only not backed by any kind of good research, but aren’t even backed by basic addition and subtraction.

It seems like the title of this article should have been “We can’t get Kelly Clarkson to buy into body size hysteria so we got a doctor to freak out and make shit up.”

I’ve talked about how any article about the science of weight and health is reader beware, but I’m started to think that if we greeted every article about body size and health – from “scientific” reporting to tabloids – by yelling “That’s bullshit!” and clicking on something else, we’d probably be better off (and better educated) than if we read them.

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey atwww.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Too Much Public in Our Public Health

A study looked at the public’s willingness to accept legal strategies when it comes to public health interventions found that:

There was much support for strategies that enable people to exercise healthful choices—for example, menu labeling and improving access to nicotine patches—but considerably less for more coercive measures, such as insurance premium surcharges. These findings suggest that the least coercive path will be the smoothest and that support for interventions may be widespread among different social groups. In addition, the findings underscore the need for policy makers to involve the public in decision making, understand the public’s values, and communicate how policy decisions reflect this understanding.

I have a number of concerns around this, but first and foremost I think that we need to be sure that public health is about making information and options available to the public, while taking care not to make the individual’s health the public’s business.  When we reward and punish people for “health”  and “healthy behaviors” we create an environment that ignores the complexities of health, dis/ability, individual circumstances, and individual choices, creating an environment of shame and blame that are the precise opposite of the goals of public health.

It also encourages people to deputize themselves into the “health police” which only serves to exacerbate these issues since, like drivers who think that everyone who drives more slowly is a slow-poke and everyone who drives faster is a danger,  but their driving is perfect, these people tend to suggest that everyone who does more than them is some kind of health nut, everyone who does less than them is lazy and their health practice is “Juuuuuust right.”

The danger of taking a vote on how we treat people in public health is exacerbated when we choose to equate public health with how people look, and can quickly slide down the slippery slope of hypocrisy. Public support for public health measures is not the same thing as evidence-based public health and even if 99.9% of people supported public health policies based on size bigotry, that still wouldn’t make it right. The other questionable premise is the fact that this study, like many others, freely switches out “poor diet and physical inactivity” for “fat” which always brings the scientific rigor of these studies into question.  Body size is not a behavior, or a set of behaviors (and any belief otherwise is just stereotyping), it is not a diagnosis, it is not a disease.  This kind of thinking does a disservice to fat people by promoting weight stigma.  It also does a disservice to thin people suggesting that if you are thin your diet must be “healthy” and you must be doing the “correct” amount of physical activity which is also demonstrably untrue and dangerously misleading.

Public health interventions that are focused on body size are extremely problematic and wholly unnecessary to an actual conversation about public health. We’ve already talked about that. 

I think it’s fine to present people with information (including the evidence to back it up and the limitations thereof) and I think it’s a good thing to work hard to give people access to options like the foods they choose to eat, movement options that are both physically and psychologically safe, and affordable evidence-based healthcare.  I think that we should do that while being fiercely anti-shame in all of our messaging and  remembering that nobody owes anyone else “health” or “healthy habits” by their definition or any other, that health is multi-dimensional, complicated, and not entirely within our control, that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable and not size, health, or healthy habit dependent, that our bodies are our business unless we ask for somebody else’s input, and that nobody is obligated to choose to try for the longest life and public health should be about giving everyone the same access to information and options and then allowing them to make their own choices, not about making the individual’s health the public’s business.

Check out the Fit Fatties Fight Song!

I’m super excited to share this video with you.  Nobody is obligated to exercise, and being involved in fitness should not be a barometer of worthiness or lead to better treatment. The good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy is bullshit.  So is the fact that fat people who participate in fitness face everything from online bullying, to street harassment, to physical violence.  So the FIt Fatties Forum made this video montage to remind the world that fitness/sports/movement is for Every Body who wants to participate:

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey atwww.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

The Healthy Size Lie

What a Load of CrapI was in a waiting room reading a supposed health magazine full of “the best diet tips.”  I started to read them out of morbid curiosity and they spanned the gap from completely disproved, to ridiculous, to patently offensive. One that stuck out at me was “Buy an outfit in your healthiest size and put it on the door for motivation.”

What with the who now?  Your healthiest size?

Of course the idea that there is a “healthy weight” – as if there is some weight at which you will be immortal until hit by a bus – is a ubiquitous myth.  But the idea that you know ahead of time what size clothes you’ll wear when you get to your “healthy weight” adds a charming air of the ludicrous to an already tired myth.

First of all, there are healthy and unhealthy people at every size, so reaching a certain body size can neither be a guarantee of health, nor a sure preventative or cure for health issues.  Body Size and health are two different things and people can, and often do, pursue one without the other.

This comes up sometimes in talks I give and people will tell me “Well, I know that when I’m a size x I’m healthier, my body is happiest at a size x”  When I ask them how they know that they will typically point to a time in their life when they were that size as proof.

Often they say it’s the size they were in high school and that’s when they felt the best they ever felt.  Ok, dude… in high school you were 17 years old – you could eat tupperware and your body would feel great, (10 points for the TV show reference) your body size was probably not the magic ticket to the fact that you felt better and healthier 30 years ago.  And therein lies the problem with this method of “evidence.” It assumes that the only reason someone felt healthier in the past is that their body size was different, and that’s a seriously shaky assumption

Sometimes it’s not high school but a specific time in their lives.  Often if I ask a few questions, people will talk about how their food or movement (or their entire relationship with food or movement) has changed since then, how they are under way more stress now than then, how they hate their body now, how they’ve had four kids since then, how they are treated poorly because of the weight they are at now. All of these things and more can affect health, especially when we are talking about how healthy we subjectively feel/felt.  There’s also the tendency to romanticize the past and that can certainly come into play here.

Regardless, I think that trying to attain a specific body size in a effort to be healthy/healthier is putting a middle man where no middle man needs to be.  I think that the research is pretty clear that, knowing that health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control, and not an obligation or barometer of worthiness, if we are interested in pursuing health then healthy habits are the best way to increase our odds for good health, rather than chasing a body size and hoping that we’ll find a bucket of health at the end of the weight loss rainbow.

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become 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.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey atwww.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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