If These Bodies Could Talk

Splits Cropped
Photo of Ragen Chastain by Substantia Jones for the Adipositivity Project

I was trying to decide what to write about today and then I got a comment from Hera339 that absolutely inspired me:

“I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, but just found this post, Since finding SA 2 years ago, I have come to accept my fat body, but this post…this made me fall in love with it. I just want to give myself a great big hug now!”

So I’m reposting this piece from 2010 and hoping it will inspire others to feel the same way about their bodies:

I’ve read several places that 8 out of 10 women and 6 of 10 men are unhappy with their bodies. Virginia over at Beauty Schooled clued me in to a Glamour Magazine study which found that 71% of women “feel fat” (and presumably aren’t happy about that…)

It made me think – what would the bodies of those 80%, 60%, and 71%  say if they could speak for themselves?

If I were my body when I used to feel like those folks, I think I would have said:

“You’re complaining about my size and shape?  Are you freaking kidding me with this? Do you have any idea how hard I work for you? Breathing, blinking, cell division – millions of things every day that you don’t even ask me to do.  And don’t even get me started on the things that you DO ask me to do. Could you at least say thanks and go a day without complaining to someone that we have man hands…”

But our bodies never say that.  They just keep doing stuff for us.  Perhaps not to the level that we would like all the time, but you have your body to thank for being able to read or listen to this and I have mine to thank for typing it.

Go with me on this for a minute:  Imagine that your very best friend gets seriously injured and  needs someone to completely take care of them:  wheel them around, feed them, type for them etc., while constantly squeezing a bag to make them breathe, and performing chest compressions every couple of seconds to keep their heart going.  Now imagine that while you are doing all of this, your friend incessantly tells you that your nose is weird, your hair is too frizzy, the shape of your thighs is wrong, your stomach is too big, your upper arms are too loose, and your toes are ugly. Constantly.

Imagine that it’s been a week that you’ve been pushing them everywhere they want to go, feeding them, taking them to the restroom, breathing for them and doing chest compressions and all they do is point out  your “aesthetic  flaws”.  How long until you just want to scream at them?  How long until you start thinking about not squeezing that bag anymore?

We get to choose how we feel about our bodies,  so I’m thinking maybe we should take a minute to focus on all the completely awesome things about them, and thank them for all of the hundreds of millions of things they’ve done for us in our lifetimes.  And if there are things that our bodies can’t/don’t do (or things they do that we wish they wouldn’t) maybe we can say “That totally sucks” and then try to make it us and our bodies against a problem, rather than us against our bodies. No matter what goals you might have for your health and/or your body, or what you want to do in life, I’ll bet it will be much easier if you you are your body are a team.  What do you say?

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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

The Holiday Boundary Setting Song

Biscuit the Pug and I wish happy, Body Positive, holidays to all who are celebrating (and a happy, body positive, week to those who aren't!)
Biscuit the Pug and I wish happy, body positive, holidays to all who are celebrating, and a happy, body positive, end of the year to those who aren’t!

One of the most frequent questions I get during the holidays is about how to deal with people – especially family – who are behaving badly.

For me the secret is boundaries. I think it’s best to start by deciding what constitutes behavior that you will put up with. If it’s anything other than “anything goes” then I would consider setting some boundaries with consequences that you can follow through with. So, for example “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating. If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave.” and then, if they fail to respect your boundaries, it’s time to go.

I’ve done this, and I’ve heard from a number of people who have done this and the common thread seems to be that we only had to do it one time and then our families started respecting their boundaries. Of course your mileage may vary. I’ve written about dealing with the Family and Friends Food Police and Combating Holiday Weight Shame, but in another danceswithfat annual tradition, today we’re going to do this in song.

I’ve re-written the lyrics to “Oh Christmas Tree” to be an ode to boundary setting, .

Note 1: In order for this to work, it helps to pronounce boundaries as a three syllable word (BOUND-ah-rees) If this is an affront to your sense of poetic license I completely understand, I’ll be back tomorrow with a post sans song.

Note 2: At the bottom you’ll find two amazing renditions of this song by Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick) and Nadja. Please also feel free to add your own verses in the comments, and/or post a video with your own rendition.

Oh Boundaries (to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree)

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Don’t talk about my weight or food.
Why can’t you see it’s hella rude?

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

You know I love my family
But I will leave if you fat-shame me.

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

My body’s fine, I don’t need your rants
You’re not the boss of my underpants

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Don’t say a word to my fat kid
Or I’ll leave so fast, my tires will skid

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Yes I do “need” that second plate
It’s not your business what I ate

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Quit saying someday I’ll get sick
Last time I checked you were not psychic

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

The holidays are great family time
If you don’t shame, food-police or whine

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Two Readers (so far – hint, hint) have taken up the challenge of recording this piece, enjoy!

Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick) gave us an amazing opera/jazz rendition:

and Nadja killed it a capella in the middle of the night in her PJs:

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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

It’s a Lifestyle Change Alright

Success and DietsHarriet Brown wrote a fabulous piece for Slate called “The Weight of the Evidence:  It’s time to stop telling fat people to be thin.”  It is making the rounds on social media again and I shared it on my Facebook wall.  Immediately (and completely predictably) someone jumped in and attempted to win Diet Bingo all in one comment:

Diet Ad Bingo

She kept going back to the idea that weight loss doesn’t work if you go on a diet – it only works if you make a lifestyle change.  This is a line created by the diet industry to blame their clients when almost every single one of them fail at weight loss. It doesn’t matter whether you call it a diet, a lifestyle change, or a flummadiddle, the evidence still says that by far and away the most likely outcome is weight regain, with gaining back more than you lost coming in a close second, and long term weight loss a very, very distant third.

Now, this doesn’t mean that people aren’t allowed to attempt weight loss. What it does mean is that a doctor prescribing weight loss is failing to practice evidence-based medicine (and likely failing to give the patient the opportunity for informed consent by explaining to their patient that their prescribed treatment fails for almost everyone), and that’s an ethics breach plain and simple.

The diet industry manages to grow every year (now making over $60 Billion a year) despite the fact that their product is so terrible and ineffective that they are required to have a disclaimer that it doesn’t work every time they advertise it.

I think that one of the main reasons for this is that they know that most people will lose weight short term and gain it back long term. They’ve managed to take credit for the first part of this process, and blame their clients for the second part. Even though it happens to nearly every client they still manage to say, with a straight face, that it’s just that nobody does it right.  Dude. Even those outlying anomalies who do manage to achieve sustained weight loss often do it by making maintaining weight loss into a full time job.  From Harriet’s piece:

Debra Sapp-Yarwood, a fiftysomething from Kansas City, Missouri, who’s studying to be a hospital chaplain, is one of the three percenters, the select few who have lost a chunk of weight and kept it off. She dropped 55 pounds 11 years ago, and maintains her new weight with a diet and exercise routine most people would find unsustainable: She eats 1,800 calories a day—no more than 200 in carbs—and has learned to put up with what she describes as “intrusive thoughts and food preoccupations.” She used to run for an hour a day, but after foot surgery she switched to her current routine: a 50-minute exercise video performed at twice the speed of the instructor, while wearing ankle weights and a weighted vest that add between 25 or 30 pounds to her small frame.

“Maintaining weight loss is not a lifestyle,” she says. “It’s a job.” It’s a job that requires not just time, self-discipline, and energy—it also takes up a lot of mental real estate. People who maintain weight loss over the long term typically make it their top priority in life. Which is not always possible. Or desirable.

 

And it’s important to note that people dedicate this kind of time and energy to maintaining weight loss and still regain the weight.  So when people say “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change” what I hear is “It’s a lifestyle where you diet all the time” and it still probably won’t result in a thinner or healthier body.

In truth, you can choose to change your lifestyle in lots of ways that aren’t likely to lead to weight regain and diet industry profits, but may help you with your personal priorities:

  • Tired of you and your body being enemies?  There are  ways to foster friendship.
  • Speaking of relationships, if they aren’t joyful and comfortable, you can work on your relationships with food and movement as well.
  • If health is a priority for you (and it doesn’t have to be) you have the option to put the focus on health instead of body size for these eleven reasons and more…
  • Finally, you can remember that being treated with basic human respect shouldn’t be size or health dependent,  and that people who choose to engage of bullying and stigmatizing fat people are the ones who really need a lifestyle change.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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

What This Cat Teaches Us About Body Positivity

The world is messed up you are fineOne of my favorite things about the work I do is when people tell me that they finally “get it” that the world is messed up, but they are fine, and they always have been.  Sometimes I get e-mails from people who have had the revelation reading my blog or book, and the blogs and books of others who do this work, sometimes I get to see it happening while I give a talk – they get that surprised, happy look in their eyes, they start to nod their heads more and more  vigorously, they snap, or clap or say “Yeah!” when I point out that convincing us to hate our bodies from as early an age as possible is incredibly profitable in this culture, and that the beauty and diet industries are experts at it. While I’m always happy to see this, I also know that they are in a very precarious position.

I know that as soon as they click off my blog, close my book, or leave my talk, they are going to be bombarded with advertising that is custom-designed to make them forget everything that they just realized and go back to their old, ingrained habits of negative body talk and self-loathing.

So I try to give people activities that they can do to remember and reinforce what they just realized.  And one of those activities is to create a simple mantra that they can use when those tired old messages about self-loathing come at them.  My personal mantra is “Hey, that’s bullshit!” but that’s just me, people choose lots of other things. I just had someone e-mail me that after my talk at IvyQ at Cornell he had decided his mantra would be “Nope Nope Nope” and that it’s been working great.

I also suggest that people come up with a visual, whether it’s a Star Wars Reference “These are not the body image messages you are looking for.” or picturing themselves blocking the messages like Neo in the Matrix. Then I saw this cat gif and it occurs to me that it is exactly how I picture myself dealing with the messages that come at me from the diet and beauty industries, and so I share it with you in case it’s helpful.  Imagine, if you will, that you are the cat, the dresser is your world, and the things being put onto the dresser are messages created by the diet and beauty industry to make us hate our bodies:

And Now, Mr. Nom Comments on the "Fuck This, Fuck That... Cat" gif

 

Regardless of how you do it, if you want to opt out of a culture that encourages self-loathing and body hate (for profit!) it’s helpful to have a strategy for how you’re going to deal with those messages when you encounter them each and every day. I say, let “Fuck That Kitty” be our guide!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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

LA Radio’s “The Woody Show” Fat-Shames for Fun and Profit

What a Load of CrapThe Woody Show, the morning show on LA radio Alt 98.7, has a regular segment called “Fat Chick/Skinny Chick.” According to Allison Ficht, who blogged about this for the Ms. Magazine Blog:

The game starts with the DJs asking the participant a series of questions, and then filing the answers under a “fat” or “skinny” column. During one show, for example, they rationalized that if you’re married, you’re more likely to be skinny, while if you feel confident with your oral sex skills, you’re probably fat, since skinny girls “won’t do that stuff.” Listeners then text in their votes (fat or skinny) and the DJs open a picture of the participant and reveal whether they guessed “correctly

Charming. Who doesn’t want to wake up, turn on a show that says they  “talk about the things that are important to all of us” and hear tired stereotyping and fat-shaming being pedaled as entertainment. Oh, right, me. I don’t want to wake up to that.  And neither does Allison who contacted the show:

I emailed the producer and strongly suggested the station take it off the air. As a graduate student in the public health field who actively works to reduce stigmas, this show only perpetuates them. What does the impressionable 15-year-old girl, who might not be the skinniest, think after she listens to this? Does she need to start giving oral sex in order to get a boy to like her? Should she stop eating if she ever wants to get married? My email included questions like these, and urged the producers to use their show to encourage healthy lifestyles rather than perpetuate negative stereotypes about women.

So of course they got back to her, thanked her for her concern and said that they would make a stab a programming that is just a little less stigma and prejudice-based.  Just kidding!

At work the next day, I received an onslaught of texts from friends telling me to turn on the radio: The show was responding to my email on-air. The responses included the following: “Go make me some bacon and eggs”; “Get the fuck out”; “You’re either on-board with this kind of humor and take things with a grain of salt … or you’re not allowed to listen anymore”; “I’m not going to apologize for having the lowest common denominator simple kind of fun”; “Get that stick out of there”, and my personal favorite, “How do people like Allison get through life if they can’t understand nuance, subtlety and tone?” “The Woody Show” DJs further responded by posting to their Twitter account a screenshot of a Facebook post—from my private account—in which I express my frustration with the segment. The post exposed my full name and photo, and prompted the show’s followers to berate me for calling out their distorted idea of “fun.”

Ah, the old “Can’t you take a (mean-spirited, adding to the culture of oppression that you deal with everyday) joke?  As many of us have explained many times (like to George Takei, repeatedly) we can take a joke. but we shouldn’t have to – it’s seriously messed up that people feel so comfortable telling groups of people that they need to “toughen up” and become better at being stigmatized and made fun of without complaint, so that other people can laugh at our expense without having to feel badly or have their bullying behavior pointed out.

There are actions you can take, but regardless remember that this is bullshit, you are not the problem, radio shows that engage in stereotyping/bullying are the problem. Here are some activism options, and thanks to reader Brook let me know about this nonsense.

Sign Allison’s Petition

Contact The Woody Show on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheWoodyShow

Contact The Woody Show on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thewoodyshow/

Check out Allison’s excellent blog about this 

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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

Ridiculous Holiday Diet Tips

You Forgot Your BullshitThe “holiday season” means being bombarded with ridiculous diet advice (“The Holidays are Coming” being one third of the Dieting Axis of Evil along with “New Years Resolutions” and “Bikini Season is Coming”.)  Since you’re likely to have to deal with this whether you celebrate the holidays or not, in another DancesWithFat annual tradition I’ve compiled a list of so-called holiday diet tips from actual serious online articles, with thoughts on why we might be better off skipping these tips:

10 Diet Tips You’ve Never Heard Before!

You’ve totally heard these tips before. They still don’t work.

Start Our Program Now and Get a Head Start on Your New Years Resolution

If you start earlier, you can fail at weight loss sooner while giving the diet industry (who are fully aware of the massive failure rate of their product) a boost on their fourth quarter earnings.  Or, you know, not.

Eat a Big Bowl of Fiber Cereal and Drink Lots of Water Before A Party to Avoid Snacking.

Spend the party in the bathroom with your friends awkwardly knocking and asking if you’re ok while you miss out on delicious snacks.

Buy Your Party Dress a Month Early and a Size Too Small for Inspiration to Lose that Last 10 Pounds

Frantically search through your closet on party day for something, anything, that fits and is party appropriate, end up going to the party uncomfortable in a dress that’s too small.

Save Your Calories For the Party by Eating Very Little During the Day

Show up at the party absolutely ravenous, bribe a cater waiter to get your hands on an entire tray of shrimp puffs, scarf them in the bathroom.

Make low-calorie egg nog with skim milk, egg substitutes, and artificial sweeteners.

Oh…I just…I can’t even…Just…  Ok, by the underpants rule you can totally make this beverage if you want and I will support you in drinking it, as long as you support me in not drinking it.  Ever.

Only Eat Desserts that Are Truly a Sensual Experience for You

This author has a different relationship with food than I do…  I’m looking for desserts that taste good, not desserts that turn me on.

Don’t Taste The Food While You Cook – Those Calories Add Up

Serve your guests delicious-looking appetizers that taste like a salt lick, or like nothing at all, who knows?  If only there was a way to tell how the food tastes before we give it to other people…  The person who wrote this article obviously never watched Hell’s Kitchen or Chopped.

Choose Foods that Won’t Make You Feel Guilty the Next Day

Here’s the super secret trick to guilt-free eating:  Eat. Don’t feel guilty about it. Done.

Bring Fruits and Veggies to Parties and Work and Remind People About Their Weight Goals, They’ll Thank You!

They will not thank you.  They may, in fact, throat punch you. There’s nothing wrong with bringing fruits and veggies to the party, there may well be something wrong with being what we Southerners call a “superior sumbitch,” you may be able to avoid that by skipping the second part of this advice.  Instead consider “Bring fruits and veggies to parties and work and then shut up about it – find something more interesting to talk about than weight goals.”

Enjoy Fat Free Mock Versions of Your Favorite Holiday Foods, You’ll Never Miss the Full Fat Variety

I doubt that very much, and I do not think that the words “mock” and “food” should be put together, but of course that’s just me.

Divide Foods into Naughty and Nice

Use the holidays to ease yourself into a disordered relationship with food.

Don’t Read Articles About Holiday Diet Tips

You caught me, this one didn’t come from an article, it’s my advice – take it or leave it.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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

Sex Toy Company’s Failed Fat-Shaming Ad

Say Something SundayA sex toy company created an ad featuring a fat woman in a bra, panties and fishnets with the caption “Make the right decision.”  It turns out that people were not impressed with the idea a company would think it was ok to suggest that you should buy their toy rather than have sex with a fat woman.

Sex educator Sunny Megatron responded to their instagram post:

Considering the importance of body positivity and anti-shaming in the sex positive community, one would think you wouldn’t use these offensive tactics to get sales… Go rethink your marketing and your ethic
Others took up the cause and the hashtag #DONTgetfifi was born.  The company actually did make the right decision, pulling the ad and the instagram post.
 .
I’m not going to spend a bunch of time talking about why this ad is so completely and totally fucked up because I think it should be blatantly obvious. I’m telling you this because today is Say Something Sunday and I want to remind you that saying something often works.  And not just on the target.  In this case it worked swiftly and directly and the company took down the ad and instagram post. But saying something works in lots of other ways as well – many of which we never know about.
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Other companies see this kind of thing happen and decide not to run fat-shaming ads.  Fat people who aren’t sure if we deserve to be the but of jokes (spoiler alert – NO, WE DON’T) see these responses and get the message that they don’t deserve to be treated like this and that there are people standing up to this mistreatment.  People who aren’t yet comfortable standing up to fat shaming see other people doing it and are encouraged to add their voices. And of course there’s the fact that it can empower us to engage in activism regardless of the outcome.
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When we say something against injustices in the world we can’t know, or control, the results.  The only thing we can control is our own actions.  We are never obligated to say anything, and we may always choose to take a pass on activism for any reasons, but we can always choose to say something. So today I’d love for you to leave a comment about a time that you spoke up, and/or a time that you saw somebody say something against injustice and were positively affected by it.
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If you want to support a sex-positive project that is coming from a truly inclusive place, check out the Respect Our Sex campaign.
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More Cool Stuff!

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 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!

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information 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

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