If You Can Keep Your Head..

I was talking with my neighbor yesterday and he used the phrase “pitch and toss”.  I asked him if it was a Kipling reference and it turns out that “If” is one of his favorite poems.  It’s one of mine as well – I used to have it on my ceiling when I was growing up so that it was the first thing I saw in the morning, the last thing I saw and night, and the thing I saw if I let life overwhelm me and ended up laying in my bed feeling helpless and hopeless staring at the ceiling.

I’ve copied the poem in it’s entirety at the end of the post, but the first stanza makes an excellent framework for what was rattling around in my head today about this year – what I’ve learned, what I’ve confirmed and what I want to do and be moving forward.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

We live in a world where people are running around like Chicken Little screaming that “omigoddeathfat is coming for us and our children WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!” Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, we get blamed for everything from health care cost increases to Global warming.  We live in a world where someone who purports to be a health care professional tells us that eating junk food will make us healthier as long as we eat few enough calories that we become thinner.  If we are to pursue health- mental and physical- we have to see all of these for the hype, lies, and marketing tactics that they are and rise above them. Not easy, but possible and worth it for sure from where I’m standing.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

Sometimes it seems like the whole world is against those of us who are committed to a healthy lifestyle instead of a food-restricting weight-obsessed lifestyle:  The Vague Future Health Threat (VFHT) – custom created to make us believe that even though we’re fat and healthy, there’s no such thing as being fat and healthy;  Food Police asking us inappropriate questions at the dinner table;  “news” sources lying to and about us for a headline, doctors committing malpractice because they can’t see beyond our size; health insurance companies charging outrageous amounts (or denying us coverage) based only on the ratio of our weight and height with no actual knowledge about our health.

I recently made the mistake of making too much allowance for other people’s doubting and I’ve proven to myself (hopefully for the last time!) that  if I’m going to err, I want to err on the side of trusting myself too much.  I agree that we must take other ideas into consideration, but I suggest that we always consider the source of those ideas and give them their DUE respect and consideration.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

I believe that there will come a time when we  stop allowing the diet industry to lie to us and put us in a state of guilt, shame and fear that induces us to buy their products to the tune of $60,000,000,000.00 per year.  I believe that we will take that money out of the pockets of snake oils salesmen and start putting it toward actual health.  Until then, all we can do is keep telling our truth and letting people know that there is an option that will allow them to have their health, their self-esteem, and their hard earned money.

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

Jillian Michaels, authors of Skinny Bitch, everyone who is out there trying to feel superior by putting fat people down, or who thinks that we need and deserve abuse:  I can say in the same breath that I forgive you, and that I will not allow your abuse to go unchecked.  I will do everything in my power to create a world where no fat person will ever pay somebody to abuse them because they think it’s the treatment they deserve.

Speaking of talking too wise – I’ve also really learned a lesson about walking away quietly this year.  I used to think it was always better to speak your mind – always say what you think, confront the issue, talk things through -  and that not doing so was sheer cowardice. I’ve realized that, for me, some people just aren’t worth that kind of time and energy.  For those situations I’m learning to be more comfortable just letting go of all of it, choosing to make things easy on myself, smile and nod a little bit, and disconnect with class.

As I look back on this year, I’m really proud of what I and my fat activists friends have done this year, and I’m really excited about what’s ahead.  As The Doctor would say: Allons y!  (If you’re not a Dr. Who fan don’t worry about that last sentence at all!)

Here’s the full poem:

If

by: Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 7:24 am  Comments (11)  

Fat Bottom Cabaret

Edit:  My time with Fat Bottom has come and gone.  I wrote about it here.  I wish them the best of luck in the future.

 

I got an e-mail from Nikki M.  telling me that she is putting together a new cabaret act in Austin. Real singers, dancers and variety acts -  jugglers, hoopers (wait -are they called hoopers, hoopists, they who hoop?  Somebody tell me what’s correct!)  etc.  All size 14+.  It was perfect timing and I was totally excited about it.

I went to the first audition and the women I met were absolutely awesome. Fun, self-assured and talented. I got even more excited.

Nikki and I started talking about choreography and it was decided that I would be the choreographer for the group (woo freaking hoo!!!!).  Our first gig is in February and believe me when I tell you that I’ll be letting my blog readers know as soon as I have more details.

I’m so excited about this and of course I’ve been telling my friends.  Who am I kidding, I’ve been telling everyone I’ve ever met.  A couple people asked in some form or another if we were hoping  for fat fetishists as an audience and if I was excited about finding fetishists.

Um, no.

I’ve blogged about it before - of course I find it frustrating when people tell me that I’m the “perfect woman” except that they aren’t attracted to fat bodies, but  I find it creepy as shit when someone only wants me for the size of my body and doesn’t care about anything else.

So if I’m not hoping to find fat fetishists with this experience, what do I hope for?

First, I love performing (OH LOOK, IT’S A BIG FLAMING SACK OF DUH!)

There is so much lore out there about groups of women dancers cat-fighting and pushing each other down stairs, I’m really excited about the possibility of having camaraderie among a group of really cool women.

Third,  I hear a lot from other fat women that they don’t know many other fat women who love their bodies and think they’re sexy. Hell,  I don’t know many other fat women who love their bodies and think they’re sexy.  In fact, I don’t know many women of ANY size who love their bodies and think they’re sexy. I have a hard time c0ming up with women of ANY size who don’t tell me how they need to lose at least 10 pounds.

I think that what most people perceive as sexiness is actually confidence, and I wonder if the reason that we don’t see more women who love their bodies and  feel sexy is that our culture doesn’t tend to build up women’s confidence because marketers learned that if they could make us fear that we are too fat, look too old, are too short etc they could sell us more stuff.  And we bought into it.  When it comes to fat women, we live in a world where on top of the usual marketing BS, we’re told multiple times every day that we are unhealthy, unattractive, a drain on society, blah blah blah. Confidence isn’t just useful in being perceived as sexy, confidence is an asset in every part of your life.  So the idea of standing up with a group of fat women, dancing well, and being unapologetically confident and sexy is super exciting to me.

I guess that I feel that this Cabaret is an opportunity entertain and to offer another option.   An option for fat women to actually see women who look like them on stage NOT making self-deprecating  fat jokes and NOT talking about how they are struggling with their weight.  An option where  we could live in a culture where bodies, talent and sexiness come in different shapes and sizes.  I can’t wait!

Published in: on December 26, 2010 at 6:14 am  Comments (11)  

Two Steps Forward, No Steps Back

I found out some really exciting news.  Last year I did an interview with Abigail Mahnke on her local Austin radio show Inner Views.  It was near the beginning of my writing this blog seriously and the beginning of my wanting to take on a more public role as a fat activist.  It turns out that the interview is going to be picked up by KUT, which is the Austin NPR affiliate.  It’s going to play on their O’Dark Thirty show on January 2nd sometime between 12am and 3am Central.

I’m very excited about it, but it had been a while since the show (it was May 2009) and I thought I ought to listen to it just to make sure that I didn’t embarrass myself.  Except for two minutes that I would REALLY like to change (I didn’t want to get into a discussion about health and science because I didn’t have my sources with me so I babbled.  A lot.) I was pretty happy with it.  Of course, since then I’ve given it more thought and so if I did the interview today I could articulate my views much more clearly and concisely.  But what I liked about it was that it reminded me of what got me started on this journey.  I didn’t want to be a fat activist, I wanted to be a fat dancer. I wanted to be respected for my talent and judged on the merits of my dancing and not on the size and shape of my body, and it turned out that in this culture, I had to be an activist to get that done.  Of course the more work I do the more I realize there is to be done, but that was the seed.

The interview was in May 2009 and there has been progress.  I started my own dance company (Body Positive Dance) and we are competing for the second time in Philadelphia in May, this year I’ll pursue my first Professional World Title in partner dancing, and I’ve just recently become the choreographer and a dancer/singer in the new Fat Bottom Cabaret (more about this soon, for now we’re still looking for women size 14+ in Austin who can sing and/or dance and/or do something extraordinary – juggle hoop etc.  If you want more info, e-mail me!)

Anyway, a year and a half later I’ve made progress as both an activist and a fat dancer, and the reasons that I became an activist still hold up – I just realize now that they are much broader than I thought they were when I started:   I want to walk through the world without being stigmatized and judged for my size. I want to be surrounded by people who love themselves and their bodies.  I want to be  respected for my talent and judged on my merits and not the size and shape of my body, not just by audiences and dance judges, but by everyone from strangers to doctors, and it turns out that in this culture, I have to be an activist to get that done.   So let’s go…what’s next?

By the way, if you want to listen to the interview but don’t think you’ll be awake for the NPR broadcast, you can listen to the Inner Views archive here.

If you’re celebrating a holiday this weekend I hope that it’s fabulous.  If you’re not then maybe I’ll see you out at the movies!

Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm  Comments (12)  

Advice for Flying Fat

Ahh the holidays.  Before your family can ask “Do you need to eat that?”  you have to get to them.  For a lot of us that means flying.

For many fat people I know, jumping out of a plane is less scary than trying to board one. The fact that I fit in a seat is, oddly, not the end of my fear.  For most airlines, whether or not I’ll have a problem on the plane is based on the ground personnel’s opinion and that means that I have anxiety when I fly (and not just whether or not PETA thinks I’m a babe in my TSA Scan).  I fear being embarrassed by airline personnel.   I have the financial fear that I might have to pay for an extra seat at the last minute. There is no way to definitively find out if you’re considered “over-sized” until you get there and so the “safe” choice according to the airlines is to buy two seats and trust them to refund one if you don’t need it.  That’s certainly an option, but it’s not one that I want to take since I don’t need the seat and don’t trust the airlines.

The Policy

When it comes to charging large people more my understanding of airline policy is this: The airline is selling space – the amount of space is one seat. Space is at a premium on an aircraft and the carriers have created a price for that amount of space. It’s very much like the Postal Services flat fee “if it fits it ships” priority mail. You can mail as much as you can fit in that container for a flat fee, but if your stuff doesn’t fit in that container, then you have to pay extra. You wouldn’t say that the postal service is discriminating against people who had larger objects to mail and that they should pay the same price to mail a larger item. Thin people are justified in complaining  about overcrowding because they paid for one seat, just as the fat person beside them did, but they are not getting what they paid for because the person next to them is taking up more than that for which they paid. You are paying the airline not just for passage from one destination to another, but also for the amount of space on the plane. (As evidenced by the price difference between first class and coach, as well as the optional upgrades to larger seats in coach that some airlines offer.)

There are plenty of good arguments made for changing this policy.  However, since this is the policy right now and we would like to fly right now, I propose the following argument:  If that is their policy then it must be applied across the board. I notice that’s it’s only those whose middles spill across the seat who have a problem. If you are traditionally thin but your shoulders are too broad to fit in a seat and they end up in the seat(s) beside you, that’s fine -  the people around you just have to deal with it.  If you have a smaller body but long legs, you will not be asked to pay for two seats, even though your legs will end up in the space your seatmates paid for.  In fact, on a recent flight I was asked to vacate the aisle seat that I had gone to great pains to secure and move to a middle seat so that a gentleman with long legs could be more comfortable. If I am ever asked to pay more or -and heaven help the flight attendant who does this- asked to leave a plane because of my size, then you better believe that I’m going to be looking around  and counting the number of people whose shoulders and legs are crossing the line and insisting that they pay up or get off the plane with me.

There are plenty of other pitfalls to flying fat. In the end,  at least for me, the goal of flying is to get where I’m going with my dignity, sanity, and sense of humor intact.  Here is some of what I’ve learned to help me do that:

The truth about airplane seats

The average coach airplane seat measures between 17.2 and 18 inches across, so you’ll probably feel squeezed if your hip measurement is more than 36 inches (I’ve read that the average American woman’s hips are between 44 and 46 inches and the average American men’s are 38 inches, but I that info hasn’t been heavily verified so don’t quote me on it).

One thing that is less talked about but may be more important is pitch – the measurements between seats as they are aligned in rows. This has changed quite a bit as airlines have added additional rows and small pitches mean less leg room.  In first class the typical pitch is about 80-inches. In coach it’s usually about 31 inches.

If a person is over six feet with hips greater than 36 inches, they are probably going to feel very squished (that’s a technical term) both vertically and horizontally in a coach seat.  There are some airlines that offer some seats (typically at a higher price) with more legroom – you typically have to book them ahead of time, but you can also ask when you check in for your flight.

Know your airlines

Hie thee to Google!  Use search terms like “Fat friendly airlines”,  “[airline name] oversize passengers”  “[airline name] fat passenger” etc. and see what you get.  I typically fly Continental and I’ve also flown American and haven’t had any problems.  After the Kevin Smith incident I’ve been too angry and too scared to board a Southwest flight so I can’t say about them.

Be Early

If you’re going to be hassled you want to know sooner rather than later.  Get to the airport early so that you have time to talk to a manager, make an adjustment etc.

BYOB – Bring Your Own Belt

Seat belt extenders can be purchased reasonably cheaply online (I got mine for about $40 but I’ve seen them cost a little more and lots less – especially on Ebay).  There are two types, conveniently named Type A and Type B.  Type A are used for most commercial airlines, Type B are used predominantly for Southwest Airlines. Although I don’t always need an extender, I always travel with one.  Typically planes only carry 3-4 and I don’t want them to run out.  Also, I don’t particularly want to worry about how much the flight attendant will judge me if I need one. Having my own extender is just awesome and I highly recommend it.

Back Up Plan

Decide what you will do if you are asked to purchase a second seat.  Write out and practice what you’ll say.  Then you can either start saving early and be ready to pay, or be ready with another way to get to your destination, or cancel your trip.  I hate situations like this because I can end up feeling powerless – in my experience you’ll feel more powerful if you are prepared for what will happen.

Be friendly and empathetic

You deserve to be treated with respect in every interaction, including when on a plane.  Realize, though, that while it’s not your fault that the seats are small and the pitch is narrow and the airline perhaps can’t accommodate you properly, it’s not the fault of the person/people in sitting beside you either. Recognize that if the person next to you fits in their seat and you do not, their view is likely to be that you each paid the same amount for space and you are taking up more than your fair share, so they aren’t getting what they paid for. I suggest that you insist on being treated with respect, but do be empathetic. Decide if you want this to be a moment to start a dialog or you just want to put on your head phones and get through the flight.  As always, it’s your choice.

Happy flying!

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm  Comments (8)  

I’m Not Overweight – Fat Ballerina Part 2

This is really a continuation of my post yesterday about the ballerina who was criticized for looking like she had eaten “…one sugarplum too many…”.

I think that this is a horrible thing to have happened to her (especially since she has a history of anorexia).  I support her in whatever way she wants to handle the situation.  I’m telling you that because I want you to know that I’m not criticizing her when I mention that in every interview I’ve seen and heard from her she has said “I’m not overweight”.

The reaction of a lot if not most of the comments I’ve read about it have been “But she’s not overweight”.

I submit that a discussion of if she is overweight is not the most important discussion to have. To me the question isn’t “Is she overweight?” – as if there is some weight at which one deserves to be the butt of jokes – I think the question is “Why is this important?”

Jenifer Ringer can leap in the air and has enough hang time to do a perfect split with beautiful extension – and she is SMILING while doing it.  Feel free to try it at home.  I’ll wait…

Go ahead and grab an ice pack, I’ll still be here when you get back…

Seriously, why is flying through the air in perfect splits not enough?   Why is it important that she be thinner while she does it?  It makes me think that this is not about the dancer’s issues, but about the viewer’s issues.

If someone is challenged by looking at snakes, the “cure” is to either avoid  snakes, or get therapy/hypnosis etc. to deal with the phobia.  The person with the challenge typically claims and owns that the issue is theirs – they don’t ask snakes to try to look more like bunnies.  However, if someone is challenged by looking at a fat performer, the “cure” seems to be that the performer should change their body.  It is not a perfect comparison but I think for many people the belief is that being repulsed by a warm-blooded, human fat performer is the natural course of things and therefore requires far less introspection, self work, and respect than if they were experiencing the same feelings in the presence of a cold-blooded reptile.

The reality is that in order to be successful as a fat dancer we have not just to dance beautifully, but we also have to somehow find a way to overcome other people’s stereotypes and preconceptions.  When people see us they often expect us to be slow, imprecise, and lumbering, and so they are training their eyes on us looking for those things.  Because that’s what they expect we have to work doubly hard to overcome their preconceptions.  There is also a tendency (especially among judges and coaches who aren’t my coach – the awesome Rowdy Dufrene) to blame every mistake on weight and to assume that every dance technique problem could be solved by having a smaller body.

We also have to overcome or at least circumvent the audience’s projected body image issues – for which we become unwitting targets just by walking on stage.  It makes some people severely uncomfortable and even angry that they are “struggling” with the 10 pounds they think they need to lose, even sometimes hating their bodies and wanting to hide them, while we are happily dancing through life flaunting a body that is 100 pounds heavier than theirs. Again, these are issues that lie squarely on the lap of the viewer and therefore typically constitute a big flaming sack of not-my-problem…

…except that, as a society, we can do better.  And there is a fat little girl out there right now who loves to dance and is scared to because of what people like Mr. Macauley will say.  So keeping that little girl in mind, I would suggest that the next time you hear someone make a comment about someone else’s weight, don’t ask yourself “Is that person really overweight”, ask them “Why does it matter”?

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 8:09 am  Comments (9)  

Fat Ballerina?

Thanks to Sabrina for her comment and everyone who e-mailed, Tweeted, Facebooked, and texted me about this today.

If you haven’t heard the story: in writing a review of a performance of the Nutcracker, New York Times critic Alastair Macauley wrote:  “Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many,”

Full article here:  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40639920

Ringer, who has dealt with eating disorders in the past, said “As a dancer, I do put myself out there to be criticized, and my body is part of my art form,” She also said “I know there were 2,000 people probably out there. He got to put his opinion in the paper, but everybody else had a different opinion.”

I struggled with what to say about this.  She seems pretty adjusted about it and I support anything she does.  Thinking of it from my perspective as a dancer is what really gave me pause.  For reference here are our bodies side by side (lest you be confused, I’m the one in black :).  (My photo here is un-photoshopped, taken by the brilliant Richard Sabel.  I am coming down out of the move that she is performing so beautifully, obviously with different arm position).  I am working on getting her fantastic extension on the split leap, frustratingly I can do it on the floor but not in the air at the moment.)

I think the main reason that I struggled with my response it that I sometimes feel so far outside of what is “acceptable” that this kind of comment doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me.  If people thought that I was 10 or 20 pounds too heavy, I might be harder hit.  But once people start to think that you should be 100 pounds lighter, you just feel like you are completely outside the whole discussion.  I remember being in a cha cha lesson where the teacher showed us a trick with our hip position to make us look 5 pounds thinner.  When I laughed and told her that at my weight 5 pounds wasn’t worth the effort she looked confused for a moment but didn’t argue.

I don’t know why Jenifer Ringer dances but I dance because:

  • I have things to say that I think can best be expressed through the movement of my body through space
  • I love music and think that dancing gives it another layer of expression to affect an audience, and I want to be part of that
  • I love the way it feels to work my body in this way – the power, the flexibility, and the grace of it.
  • I love the discipline of seeking perfection of technique
  • I love the way that excellent technique allows the freedom to say what I want to say unhindered
  • I love entertaining people – making them feel something, making them think, telling a story, expressing something in the music
  • I love the way that dancing my own choreography allows me to create my own world and then live it it.  It’s like The Sims with toe-point.

I don’t believe that as dancers we put our bodies out there to be criticized.  I think that we put our bodies out there to express things, to tell a story, to entertain.  But because they are out there, people choose to criticize them,  I assume for the typical reasons that  I talked about in my blog about arm chair critics.

As for me, while I feel grateful that I have the opportunity to challenges people’s stereotypes, I would dance if I were naturally thin as well. I dance because I have something to say – something to express – not because I care to hear what people think about my body or its size.  It’s certainly other people’s prerogative to get so caught up with how my body looks that they miss the point of my performance, but that right there is a big flaming sack of not my problem.  Technique is technique and expression is expression and if people can’t see the technique and expression because they are so distracted by my size then I think maybe they have some issues to work out, but I just can’t bring myself to care.

To speak about the specific incident, I think I would have more respect for his critique had it been outright instead of trying to be cute with a joke about eating sugarplums.  If he had said something like “Ms. Ringer appeared to have difficulty with [speed, lift, lightness, etc.] perhaps caused by her weight”, it would seem less like he was selling her up the river because he wanted to make a funny.  When considering how much credence to give Mr. Macauley’s opinion, we may do well to remember that for whatever reason, this man sought out a job in which is he paid to criticize others full-time. I’d personally  rather create than tear apart, so I guess that’s why I dance and he criticizes.

Best of luck with all of that Alastair.  Here’s what I’m doing with my time:

Published in: on December 14, 2010 at 4:19 am  Comments (19)  

Really Jillian?

This post talks about weight loss and unrealistic weights and how bat-crap crazy I think Jillian Michaels is.  It is intended as a commentary on how out of control the diet industry has become.  However, if this kind of talk is triggering for you, then you may want to check out some of my other posts instead.  Happy Friday!

I got a pop-up window for the Jillian Michael’s Weight Loss Plan.  It was one of those deals where you enter your current height and weight and your goal height and weight, click continue, answer some questions, and then get sold stuff.

Of course the ad activated my eye-roll reflex but  as I went to close it I suddenly wondered – what would happen if I gave answers that indicated that I might be at risk for, or suffering from, an eating disorder?  My general impression of  Jillian Michaels is that she is an ego-maniac who will do anything for a buck and doesn’t particularly care about anyone’s health.  This seemed like an opportunity to see how responsible she is in her practice.  And so I began my research.

I typed that I am 5’7, weigh120 pounds, and that my goal weight is 90 pounds. BMI is a crap measurement but just in case you’re curious, that would give me a BMI of 14.1 – very underweight.  For perspective, a BMI of 17.5 is considered an “informal indicator” of anorexia nervosa. I also told it that I liked every kind of exercise and had every kind of food issue.

Below is the page that came back.  It says that my “reasonable weight is 121-153lbs”.  Note that the current weight I gave it is LOWER than the lowest reasonable weight.  But it lists my goal weight as 90 pounds, no problem, and then gives me the beginnings of my weight loss program.  Later on she makes sure to tell me that because of different body types there is a 10 pound leeway in both directions (remember that my goals was still 21 pounds less than that). and that “No, not everyone has big bones”. Thanks Jillian!

Then she goes on to tell me her triple threat plan to getting me to my very likely unhealthy, unrealistic goal weight.

Researcher that I am, I became curious as to how far I could take it.  It turns out that 5’7 and 90 pounds is the lowest it would let me enter.  Otherwise I would get a red message that said “enter a realistic goal weight”. Further research showed that 90 pounds is the bottom limit for every height that I checked – whether you’re 4’10, 5’7 or somewhere in between, it seems Jillian is pretty ok with you weighing 90lbs.

My favorite phrase in her ad is: “I’m going to help you lose weight so you look and feel healthier!”  Notice that she doesn’t say that I will actually BE healthier, just that I’ll look and feel this way. I’m guessing that’s because she preaches caloric deficit dieting which we know has a scientifically abysmal success rate. She does take the time to give me misleading information about the correlations between upper body fat and heart attacks.  Good use of time and typing there Jillian.

Even with her cute customized graphics and hilarious puns (apparently I’m an apple but I can “pare down…” he he he)  I’m going to have to say that I find this to be really irresponsible.  I think that anyone who works for people’s health should make it their priority to consider both mental and physical health, and to be certain to assist the client in fostering a healthy relationship with food and their body.  Measured by that ruler, Jillian falls far short.  Not to mention the lawsuits she’s involved in because of her diet pills, and the verbal and physical abuse she heaps on contestants of the Biggest Loser.  Why people allow themselves to be treated so poorly by this woman I will never understand, but as always I’m happy for people to choose whatever life experience they want.  I just suggest that you think twice about following someone who, a preponderance of the evidence suggests, cares this little about what she is putting out into the world or what effect it might have on people.

Want to see for yourself?  Some screenshots for you viewing displeasure.  Again, this could be very triggering – if you think it might bother you feel free to skip it.

 

Published in: on December 10, 2010 at 1:30 pm  Comments (14)  

Dying of Fatness?

There are some reports coming out now that claim to prove that fat people die sooner.  The studies that I’ve seen are deplorable science and maybe I’ll break that down here eventually but that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about what happens if I’m wrong and they are right.

In science, we always have to leave the possibility that we might be wrong.  There were times in our history when the best of science “proved” that the Earth was flat, that giving pregnant women thalidomide was a good idea, and that small objects fall more slowly than large objects.

Speaking of large objects….  I’ve examined a lot of scientific evidence about weight and health, and I’ve decided that a preponderance of the evidence points to a health at every size approach.  The fact that no study on weight loss has ever been successful, the fact that over 95% of everyone who diets fails, Linda Bacon’s work on Health at Every Size and a host of other information has lead me to what I believe is a sound scientific decision that healthy behaviors are more likely to lead to a healthy body than the lifelong pursuit of a specific height to weight ratio.

But just like I believe all of those people pushing the idea the thin = healthy are wrong, I know that I might be wrong as well.  It’s possible that I would live a longer life if I just kept trying diet after diet in the hopes that I would find one for which I am in the magical 5% who can achieve weight loss.

I also realize that even if I’m not wrong,  thanks to the drivel that passes for science these days, almost everything that you can die from has been correlationally related to being fat at some point, by someone.  (Including swine flu, no seriously…swine flu.)  I’m pretty sure that if I died because a giant flock of geese dropped a piano on my head, the report from the coroner would probably say that I died of fatness.

I digress.  I saw a great interview with Will Smith, of whom I have long been a fan,  in which he said “You have to say…this is what I believe, and I’m willing to die for it.  Period.  It’s that simple… You have to be willing to die for the truth.”  I agree with him 100%.

Here is what I think is true:

  • While many things have been correlated to obesity (with some really questionable science), almost nothing has been successfully causally related (despite numerous attempts)
  • Even if they could prove that obesity caused health problems, there is not a single thing that has been proven to actually succeed at creating long term weight loss (despite even more numerous attempts) so there is no “cure”.
  • The cycle (yo-yo) dieting that occurs when the vast majority of people fail at one diet and then move on to the next is being shown to be more harmful than just being fat
  • Health is not a barometer of worthiness, never guaranteed, and never completely within our control.

But what if I’m wrong?

There is a 100% chance that I’m going to die so I don’t think it’s about that.   I think it’s about how I lived.  I spent almost all of my childhood, all of my teens and a decent chunk of my 20s  buying to the diet industries’ version of truth and I was sick and miserable and still fat.  I know people who are in their 40′s, 50′s, 60′s and older still living a life of guilt, shame and weight obsession, crippled by their low self-esteem because they choose to buy into the diet culture and believe that they aren’t worthy until they are thin.   I live a life of health and joy, people tell me that I help them, and if I die immediately after pressing “Publish” on this blog, I will be happy with the life I gave.  I seriously doubt that I’m going to die of fatness, but if I’m wrong then my truth is that when I was trying to be thin my life was miserable and I wouldn’t want three or five extra years of that. If I am wrong then I choose to live a joyful, short life. But I think I’ll stick around to see if they are still VFHT-ing me when I’m 102.

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Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm  Comments (17)  

Way Too Up to Back Down

I received the following comment on my post “The Truth About Diabesity“:

Today my mom emailed me the link to that abc article because omgdeathfat is upon me (or some such nonsense) and in-turn I emailed her the link to this blog post. She responded with “well obviously this girl read the ada site wrong and is just tired of being picked on for being fat. If she would just try harder she wouldn’t have that problem.” My head met my desk briefly then I told her to read your “about” section which was met with the usual VFHT and the “fact” that all overweight people are unhealthy. How do you explain to someone so obviously thick-headded that they are wrong?!

It’s a really good question, and one I get asked a lot.

First let me clarify some stuff:

ADA quote:  the quote that she is referring to is from the American Diabetes Association,  “Myth:  If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes…  Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.”  It’s directly from their website, you can find it here. You have to appreciate the dedication that would lead someone to suggest that I misread that.  That’s a special kind of stubborn.

VFHT:  Vague Future Health Threat.  This is what happens when you say you are fat and healthy and people come back with some form of “you’re healthy now, but it will catch up with you”.  It’s the idea that no amount of being fat and healthy is proof that you can be fat and healthy – because someday you will not be healthy and it will be because of your fat.  I blogged about this one here.

Back to the question at hand “How do you explain to someone so obviously thick-headded that they are wrong?!”

The short answer for me is that you probably don’t. It can be extremely frustrating when other people don’t respect our decisions about our personal health.

Other people have a right to their opinions just as we have a right to ours. I like dialog, but it’s very difficult to have a discussion with someone who has stuck their fingers in their ears and is yelling LA LA LA LA LA. So I think that it comes down to our right to decide how people treat us.  Choosing to opt out of the diet culture can illicit a strong reaction for one of several reasons:

Good Cop:  People are genuinely concerned

We are exposed to thousands and thousands of thin=healthy messages everyday.  Many of us, upon a thorough review of the evidence, have concluded that this information is erroneous.  Other people haven’t done the research, or they looked at the evidence and drew a different conclusion.They are genuinely worried about our health.

Bad Cop:  Jealousy/Envy/Threat/Immaturity

Unfortunately for some people, their bodies made it out of Junior High School but their brains were left behind. Some have bought into the diet culture wholesale, and the fact that you don’t bothers them.  Some people need to convince other people that they are right in order to feel good about their own decisions.  Some people feel the need to feel superior.  Some people can only feel good about themselves when they are putting someone else down.

Regardless of why they are acting like this, you can choose how you are treated.  I heard the lyric “way too up to back down” today and it captured exactly how I feel.  When I was dieting, trying desperately to be thin so that I could be healthy, I ended up being anything but healthy – physically or mentally.  Now I enjoy perfect health without obsessing about food and exercise. I’m way too up to back down on this issue. Unless someone has some serious evidence to present then I’m not interested.  So what do you say to people who are giving you an “everybody knows…” answer:

Discussion

If the person is important to you, then consider a conversation.  Decide ahead of time what you want.  Are you open to a discussion?  If so what are the ground rules?  You get to decide.  Maybe this is something that you and this person just don’t talk about.  If they’re unwilling to comply with your wishes, you need to know what you’re going to do.  Are you prepared to walk away?  Listen to these things in the future and take what they have with a grain of salt?

Disconnection

Typically I’m a fan of dialog but I’ve come to realize that sometimes the person in question just isn’t worth it.  If that’s the case, then you might want to consider disconnecting from them and moving on.  You can still be pleasant, just pull away quietly. Do it with class but consider the idea that you have a finite amount of time and attention to give, you get to choose who you give it to, and some people do not deserve your time and energy.

Confrontation

You can certainly go with the yelling, screaming approach.  In my experience – and I don’t think this is fair, it’s just been my experience – becoming emotional often makes the argument seem week and makes me feel powerless in the situation.  Your mileage may vary so if it feels good to get it out, then by all means do what you want.

Regardless of what you do, I highly recommend building a network of people who will support you.  If you can’t do it in person, then start looking online but finding a group who you can trust and being there for each other is incredibly helpful.

Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm  Comments (7)