The State of Things – Weight and Health

Talking NonsenseIt’s been a rough couple months y’all. Several family members and friends (in several different states) ended up in the hospital and between that, other work, training, blogging, special projects, and regular life, something had to give, and it was blogging. I’ll put links to some of the stuff I’ve been up to at the bottom of this post, but I’ve been meaning to tell you about an interview I did on the show The State of Things North Carolina Public Radio.

I was asked to be on the show to discuss size-based oppression. They told me that there would be a researcher coming from a similar perspective, and that they would like me to share my personal stories, especially as they related to me being a fat athlete. No problem, as long as there is someone doing the science I’m happy to tell stories about discrimination with humor that helps bring people’s defenses down – funny fat activist coming right up!

It turns out the “researcher” was Penny Gordon-Larson. She is employed as a “professor and associate chair for research in nutrition” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and the only thing that I think she did in the interview was show how embarrassingly poor the state of “research” on weight and health is.

Penny, it turns out, is a past president of the “Obesity Society” which is another one of these so-called advocacy organizations that tries to normalize dangerous – even deadly – “treatments” for “obesity” (while perpetuating weight stigma,) all the while profiting from those same “treatments.” Just check out this year’s disclosures – you’ll find people who make money from Nutrisystem, Medifast,  a device where you pump food you just ate directly out of your stomach and into a bucket, the manufacturers of dangerous drugs that put fat people’s health and lives at risk, and more.

Penny is also one of those people who (in what would be hilarious if it wasn’t so horrifying) claims that she is trying to decrease the stigma around being fat. As if the message “I want to rid the Earth of people who look like you, and prevent any others from existing” can be delivered in a way that is not stigmatizing. But I didn’t realize that was her point of view when I took the interview, my bad.

When she started out by calling fat people “obese” I knew that we were going downhill. When she started perpetuating misinformation and calling being fat a disease I took off my “personal story” hat and put on my “let’s talk about the research” hat (I’m not about  be the funny fat girl while some fatphobe yammers on.)  At one point when I was talking about the indisputable statistics around the almost certain failure of intentional body size manipulation (aka diets,) Penny actually tried to use the National Weight Control Registry claiming  – seriously and out-loud – that it shows there are “just so many successes.”

At that point I almost felt bad for her – anyone who reads my blog could have successfully debated her on this. Unfortunately, she did it right before the break, so I made it my new life goal to bring it back up and talk about how this illustrated exactly how poor the research around weight and health is, and exactly the kind of doomed-to-fail, worse than a crap-shoot “interventions” that so-called “experts” are trying to sell to fat people.

It took me a little while to work it into the conversation, but when I finally did I pointed out that 10,000 “successes” out of over one billion attempts is hardly proof of anything, and shows just how embarrassingly poor the research is around this. (I’ll point out here that it is especially true considering the first time I wrote about the NWCR in 2012 they claimed to have 10,000 successes and as of today they claim to have…wait for it…10,000 successes. The attempts go up by about 45,000,000 per year, but the successes stay the same.  I think it speaks volumes about the state of health research that someone with a PhD who is employed by a college as a research chair is claiming that 10,000 successes out of over a billion attempts, with no increase in the number of successful cases over 6 years, constitutes proof of a successful intervention. Really?)

Like any interview, there are plenty of things that I wish I had said, or wish I had said differently, but I was grateful to counter the weight-based oppression that Penny was spreading as if it was science.

You can listen to the interview here

If you want to look at what the evidence around weight and health, this is an excellent (and exhaustively cited!) place to start

Heres’ what I’ve been up to while I haven’t been blogging:


Love It!: 234 Inspirations and Activities to Help You Love Your Body
I published a book with co-authors Jeanette DePatie and Pia Schiavo-Campo and illustrator Toni Tails and 13 other body love experts! It’s available in soft-cover and Kindle versions!

US News & World Report:

These Higher-Weight Female Athletes Are Shattering Myths About Fitness

Too Fat for Fitness? Lessons from a Plus-Size Athlete

Better Humans: 

The Complete Guide to Overcoming Gymtimidation

The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Medical Advocate


Kombucha With A Side Of Fat Shaming

My work is paid for by the people who get value from it (and not companies that are willing to kill fat people for profit!) If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

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Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
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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!

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 or on Instagram.

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

10 thoughts on “The State of Things – Weight and Health

  1. wow, well you handled it well and glad you were there to set the record straight. she may have even learned something that day. a good example of what people are dealing when dealing with these people and showing your audience how to respond. besides all that, good to see you again –

  2. Ragen, I was starting to worry, both for you personally and also for me and not having this wonderful blog to read and feel human with! I really was missing it!

    It sounds like you handled the fat shamer Phd. in the only way that didn’t involve spitting. People are going to think what they want to, even if you had an expert on your side bigots will just tune them out and add ammo to their already bursting magazine. As long as just one person heard you and HEARD you, you have done a tremendous good! For all you know, it may have saved a life, let a glimmer of light in to a dark room.

    Socially sanctioned bullying AND a pay check, what self-exalting physician wouldn’t give their soul for that opportunity. Sad.

  3. I loved the show so much I listened to it twice. I’m honestly amazed the other guest recognized fat people are legitimately afraid of going to the doctor but failed to realize the “weight first” treatment approach she’s so enthusiastically promoting is exactly why. What fat people NEED are doctors who will, excluding adjustments in equipment size and medication doses, treat us exactly like they treat their thin patients. Doctors who let their obsession with turning us into thin people get in the way of their usual diagnostic procedures are the reason things like this happen, and things like that happening are the reason fat people think it’s less painful and dehumanizing to suffer quietly at home than drag ourselves to the office on our knees and beg and beg and beg and prostrate ourselves and humiliate ourselves and plead and beg and beg and beg some more for help… and then not get help, because for all that, we’re still fatties, and Everyone Knows the only thing wrong with fatties is that they are fatties and the only treatments they need are weight loss products. Never mind the kidney infection that’s fast becoming sepsis, have you ever considered bariatric surgery?

  4. My goodness. I’m always trying to get in a word for the resistance in short call-ins to KPFA. But the Bay Area is ground zero for soda taxes, and there are a lot of fans, inside and outside the station, of Marion Nestle and Robert Lustig, who by now have almost everyone convinced that any doubt about the rationale for soda taxes is being sown by the beverage industry. If course, the beverage industry didn’t exactly help matters when they threatened to put every conceivable local tax measure campaign in a straightjacket unless the California legislature outlawed any future local soda taxes. Intercapitalist rivalry, ain’t it grand! With us lowly proletariat in the crossfire as usual. At this point I’m just biding my time until five years out from these soda taxes’ passages to ask Nestle or Lustig whether there are actually any epidemiological data being taken to verify whether the children of these cities are have any less blood glucose or adiposity than when the measures passed, given the track record of 97% failure rate and the special place in the FTC for weight reduction products’ failures and injuries.

    One more heartening lead from the left wing: an artist named Colleen Tighe, whose art appears in the communiques of the Democratic Socialists of America. I heartily encourage all to search her name on the web for some really beautiful and powerful work. Actually another: the fat and fierce National Director of DSA, Maria Svart, on whose watch a number of electoral victories were just celebrated out of last week’s primaries!

  5. I’m so happy you shut that shit down. I haven’t listened to it yet. Even though I know you refuted the bullshit, it can be hard for me to hear it. I guess triggering would be the right term. It’s shit I grew up hearing and believing and in the grand scheme of things it’s been a very short time since I started to look at it differently thanks to people like you. I’m still struggling with it, but on good days I can listen to a bad ass refute the nonsense ♥

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