Illiterate or Disrespectful: A Case Study

WTF?

About an hour ago I received, out of the blue, an e-mail from someone who I met at a business networking lunch that I attend.  She is a debt settlement consultant and I think that we may have spent a grand total of 5 minutes talking to each other ever.

She asked me to share her information with my readers.  Well readers, here you go.  Let me preface this by saying that I’m aware that getting angry can backfire  because I subject myself to the “See, she’s just an angry fat girl” supposition. Well today I am an angry fat girl who has been disrespected one too many times, and this is my blog so people may suppose away!

(Warning, the excerpts from her e-mail may be a big triggering and/or rage-inducing, feel free to skip the italic parts if you don’t want to deal with it):

The subject line was “Your Blog”.  I think that one of most radical things that you can be is an optimist so I choose to assume, when reading subject lines like this, that the e-mail is going to be an interesting question, comment or suggestion from a reader, or a request for an interview or something.  Happily I’m right more than I am wrong but not today.

It started with her telling me about her weight loss over the last 60 days and how her clothes don’t fit anymore.  It should also be noted that she currently has cancer.

Do you want to know what the secret to losing weight

Had the e-mail stopped there, we wouldn’t have had a problem.   No I don’t, thanks for asking. But of course it didn’t…

not necessarily for you but for your readers who have resigned themselves to the weight they currently are?

Are you kidding me?  First of all, that’s just no kind of dichotomy.  Also… what????

She goes on as if she never said “not necessarily for you” making assumptions about what I eat, ending with:

Even for me, doing without something canned, boxed or bagged, when serving dinner to my boys, it’s hard…

“Even for me”? Upon what pedestal do you presume to be perched?  I don’t know a thing about you lady, and so far I gotta tell you I’m underwhelmed.

What’s interesting about weight loss at my age (54) is it doesn’t come off in the right places. I’m still in size 8/10 because my waist isn’t trim – I still look fat naked! I have a membership to Golds Gym, but I only go once every two weeks, but I walk my dog regularly for 2 miles.

What could you possibly be trying to accomplish by saying this?  Do you just feel that a good disrespectful e-mail should include a little internalized oppression and body shaming?  Do you think I’ll think “Oh, she’s fat like me – now we’ve bonded”?  What?

And then this little gem:

I share this with you because no matter how much you exercise, your body will remain toxic and eventually cause disease.

Fuck off.  How dare you – who do you think you are trying to instill fear into my healthy, body positive life?  Fuck right the hell off.

Someone is going to leave a comment that I’m being a bitch, over-reacting,  and that this person is well meaning and just trying to help me and I should take it in the spirit that it was given. (That’s probably what my mom would tell me, if she could figure out how to comment – Hi Mom, I love you!).

To that person (even if it’s my mom) I say:  Not respecting my very well researched and thought out choices is NOT trying to help me, it’s just disrespecting me.  Threatening me with future ill health and disease if I don’t believe what you believe is not trying to help me, it’s just threatening me.  It’s being paternalistic and patronizing and it’s not ok with me, go bother someone who will put up with this shit.  I covered this in  I’m Ok, You’re Ok the Fat version.

My full response to her is below but, in summary, I will never understand people who do this.  I don’t go out to weight loss blogs and tell people to stop doing what they’re doing and try health at every size, I never try to tell anyone how to live.  I’ve built a little corner of the web from which I do my best to present an option that has been amazing and effective for me and is backed up by the science that I’ve seen.  People can choose to read the blog or not and people can choose to take my option or not and that’s fine.   Why are some people incapable of respecting that?  Geez.

At any rate, here is my full response:

ML,

I think that your e-mail is completely inappropriate and disrespectful. I find it to be paternalistic in the worst possible connotation and I find that it makes inaccurate and baseless assumptions and claims about my health, my diet, the mental state of my readers, and the likely benefits of eating a diet free from processed foods. My health choices are very well researched and thought out and I did not ask for your advice on health or weight loss.  Indeed, since your subject line is “your blog” I have to assume that you either haven’t read the blog, lack the reading comprehension to understand it (especially the sections about realizing that your experience is not everyone’s experience), or lack the basic ability to respect my choices.  Regardless, I find you to be completely out of line.

I find it inappropriate to assume what I, or any of my readers, eat based on our weight – what is shiny and new to you I have been practicing for years which, along with genetics, access, and an uncanny ability to not buy into our society’s bullshit about weight and health, may explain why I enjoy perfect health.

I have no earthly idea what could have made you think that I would consider you qualified to inform me about foods or health or really anything with the possible exception of debt settlement as that is your chosen profession.

To answer the question that you answered for me by continuing with your unsolicited diatribe: No, I do not want to know your secret to weight loss.  Especially considering that you have an n=1, uncontrolled experiment that has lasted 60 days. 95% of people gain their weight back within 5 years; so when you have an experiment with properly controlled variables, a statistically significant sample size, and an impressive finding of causal success after five years, then I will be willing to review it.  Until then, I’ll be happy to maintain a pleasant professional relationship but I respectfully request that you refrain from entering into discussions with me regarding weight or health.

Please feel free to read this post for additional clarity:
http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/side-effects-may-include-weight-loss/

I will be sharing this with my readers.

Very Sincerely,

Ragen Chastain

Published in: on February 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm  Comments (55)  

55 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am so flabberghasted that she would do this. Flabberghasted and dumbfounded. I mean honestly! I will admit that recently I have had problems with the decision to respect other people’s choices when they are not the one’s I would make for myself, but even then I simply internalize it until my head can catch up with my heart and say “Hey, stupid! Cut it out! You’re doing exactly what you don’t want others to do!” That’s one very good thing about internalizing pretty much everything, it gives me time to tell myself to shut the hell up before I permanently lodge my foot in my mouth and swallow.

    I congratulate you on your civil disagreement with this woman. Her, well, she gets no congratulations from me. No gold star, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I don’t think she’s even playing on the same game board as the rest of us here.

    • Thanks for the support. I agree with you – people make choices all the time that I wouldn’t make for myself but I’m aware that it doesn’t make me those choices any less valid and if they aren’t asking for my advice then I’m certainly not doling it out.

      ~Ragen

  2. I know how much you like scientifically researched arguments Ragen, but I have to give you a health-based thing I feel… how can your perfect health not be suffering I little high blood pressure every now and again when you have to deal with the idiots?

    I also don’t understand how someone could be so antagonistic towards someone they were networking with: isn’t that the opposite idea of networking?

    Anyway, I also wanted to say that I’ve been floating around the Fatosphere for a while but I just found your blog and it’s great. I’ve been reading your archives :) Keep doing what you’re doing!

    • Welcome to the blog, I’m glad that you like it.

      Your comment is hilarious. I think I’m able to keep my blood pressure down by raging on my blog to you all!

      I can’t imagine sending something so personal to someone I’ve never even had a 15 minute chat with – I think she missed the boat on networking a little bit…

  3. Now I get the “triggering” warnings that come with some of your posts. Because something like this would send me into a momentary depression. I start to think that I am killing American with my disease ridden fat body. Although I have yet to find a correlation between obesity and autoimmune diseases. Still…

    I think your response was appropriate. No, it wasn’t the “nice” girl response we are taught to make. In fact, that intial email from ML was certainly not lady-like.

    Good on you! You do know how much I admire you, right?

    Xo Susie

    • Sorry to be triggering – you know it’s not you right – this is a media/diet industry/paternalism thing, it has nothing to do with us.

      Thanks for the support, I truly appreciate you :)

      Hugs!

      ~Ragen

  4. As I always suspected–chemotherapy will make you lose weight! You know, I’m suprised that the weight loss industry hasn’t yet found a way to offer chemotherapy as the latest weight loss miracle. After all, health is not the concern, only weight loss.

    • I don’t think she’s taking chemo but I’m also surprised it’s not yet offered at some clinic somewhere – I can see the ad now “who needs an immune system and healthy cells when you can be thin!!!!”

  5. About halfway through this post and onward, I just kept thinking, “Damnnn, she angry” (as an exclamation of awe and/or respect), but I definitely understand. The word “toxic” really bothered me. I would be pretty pissed if someone – especially someone who knew absolutely nothing about my actual health – described my body that way.

    • Hi Ellie,

      Thanks for understanding. Sometimes people just go too far for me to choose to be nice.

      ~Ragen

  6. You know, there are reasons to be nice to people beyond Jesus/warm and fuzzies/mommy. One of those reasons is not making your business associates think you are psychotic.

    • Agreed. Although I’m not certain if you feel that she might be seen as psychotic or I will…

      ~Ragen

      • Unsolicited weight loss advice vs. a 1183 word diatribe wherein you tell the woman to go fuck off. Also yours and your readers’ comments joking about chemo cancer patients.

        I’m saying don’t be surprised when she shows up to your next luncheon with this blog post printed out.

        • Dear A Reader, (I’m going to go ahead and assume that’s not your real name since you’ve also taken the time to use a disposable, anonymous e-mail address),

          First, I don’t feel that my readers were joking about cancer patients, only expressing disbelief that someone they believed was on chemo would be giving weight loss advice. I can’t find a single time when I personally made any joke about cancer patients. I did poke fun at the diet industry and I did correct commenter misunderstandings to make sure that the e-mails author was accurately represented.

          This blog is a snapshot of me and how I’m feeling about whatever I feel like writing about on any given day. People are welcomed to think that I’m psychotic or to think whatever they want. “Better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not” has always been a motto of mine – I’d rather be authentically angry than hide behind anonymity and a fake smile.

          Thank you for your concern (I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt since to me it reads as if you thought it was a threat) but my blog is often Tweeted, Facebooked, reposted, Tumblered etc. and so I never write anything I wouldn’t want to see posted all over the place, and her showing up to lunch with this blog post would be fine.

          I stand by what I wrote as my authentic feelings, and the way that you can tell that is because I wrote it under my real name. Thank you for taking the time to comment and run a word count on the post.

          ~Ragen Chastain

      • A Reader – calling out chemo as a weight loss treatment is no different to calling out tapeworms or any other ridiculous (and dangerous) method people try to lose weight in the name of “health”.

        Nobody is joking about cancer patients.

        • Thank you for always being a voice of reason.

          ~Ragen

  7. *Blink, blink…*

    She has cancer? So is the secret to weight loss chemotherapy?

    • Hi Jeanine,

      I don’t think she’s on chemo, I think that she radically changed her diet and has experienced the immediate weight loss that most dieters do in the beginning phases – but that’s just my guess.

      ~Ragen

  8. My jaw literally dropped when I read this. And then it lifted again into a big old smile when I read your response.

    Go get ‘em Ragen!

    • Thanks! I really appreciate the support(as always) :)

      ~Ragen

  9. Screw being polite and ladylike. I loved your answer.

  10. Ragen, you are AWESOME. As in, I am in awe of your ability to respond rationally to asshats like that rather than just flaming the hell out of them.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

    • Thank you! Also, points for the use of asshat, it is one of my favorite adjectives (or adverbs as in “That behavior is sheer asshattery”).

      ~Ragen

  11. I find this totally inappropriate and disrespectful Ragen.

    • Margie,

      I can certainly understand that you might feel that way. In truth I wish you had never sent me the e-mail, but you did, and I stand by my response.

      ~Ragen

    • Ragen and Margie,

      I met you both at the networking meeting referenced in this blog. Ragen and I are friends. I am a regular reader of her blog and believe this is my first comment. I do not know Margie as well. I did not know she had cancer and hope she kicks its butt!

      I can tell Margie’s email “meant well.” She stated her purpose was to share what she genuinely believes will help people should they choose to eat natural foods. I intuitively believe she is right that I would be better off if I ate less junk food. (Hold on. I will be right back. I am cooking mac & cheese, the kind in the great blue box.) I have no problem with Margie’s stated purpose.

      Where Margie went wrong was to link her beliefs to weight loss and suggesting Ragen share them with her readers and presuming they didn’t already have that information. Had Margie read this blog often she would have realized the message would not be well received here. The best analogy I can think of would be to send Sarah Palin a gun control brochure and ask her to share it with her followers. Sarah would likely ignore it. There was no chance Ragen would.

      I wish Ragen would have excluded the “personally identifiable data” from her blog. She could have made her point without “outing” Margie by referencing what she does for a living. There are probably a dozen people who recognized her from that reference and I am sure that embarrassed Margie. Some here have said she deserves it. I disagree, but since Margie has chosen to comment publicly, the point is moot.

      Now the funny part. I do not know what you see when you read Ragen’s blog. On my screen, the following ad appears below Ragen’s blog post:

      Ads by Google
      [a weight loss add. Edited to avoid being triggering]

      I feel a new blog coming….

      Mark

      • Hi Mark,

        The weight loss ads are totally annoying but I can’t control them, someday I’ll switch the blog over to a platform where that doesn’t happen. As for the blog, I understand your point about making it anonymous enough ( although I didn’t use her name, I didn’t state what networking lunch it was, there are more people who do what she does, and she didn’t request anonymity in the e-mail she asked me to share with my readers). I thought it was important to state her profession so that people understood that she wasn’t a doctor or nutritionist. Still I absolutely see you point and thanks for de-lurking to comment. All the cool kids are doing it :)

        ~Ragen

  12. Love it. Clear, to the point, and absolutely unequivocal.

    It’s interesting how the expectation and obligation to “be polite” only seems to apply to people on the receiving end of “you need to lose weight” advice. Why are some of the commenters here — on Ragen’s own blog, which is explicitly about health at every size and getting rid of bodypolicing — choosing to criticize Ragen for responding to a completely inappropriate unsolicited communication? Somebody was out of line in this exchange, but it wasn’t Ragen!

    • Hi Lexica,

      Thank you for the support. I thought the same thing – it seems like so often people can do whatever they want in the name of helping you, but if you firmly set your boundaries you are a jerk. I guess I’m willing to be a jerk under those circumstances…

      ~Ragen

  13. Hmmm… cancer, weight loss and an urge to start eating non-processed foods. My territory!

    I wonder if what’s happened is that this lady has had a terrible, life-altering shock to her system. Cancer does that to people. She’s found what she thinks is a solution – unprocessed food – and now she’s evangelical about it.

    A friend of mine often says that when people give advice, it’s never about you, it’s really about them. I’d put this into that category. It’s possible she’s just undergone the equivalent of a religious conversion and now she wants to spread the good news.

    From the references to unprocessed food and ‘toxic’ bodies, I’d bet she’s all wrapped up in alternative medicine at the moment. Alt med practitioners regularly claim that modern life has turned us all into walking pathology laboratories and the only answer is a so-called ‘clean’ diet, of raw and unprocessed foods.

    So, to put the best possible light on it, she may not be accusing fat people of having diseased/potentially diseased bodies. She may have bought into the view that we’re ALL gonna die from the toxin load and we ALL have diseased bodies.

    It’s also possible she’s not at her personal best at present.

    Nevertheless, people proselytizing about health is just as offensive as people trying to convert you to their religion – and having cancer doesn’t give you a free pass on this. I think your response was very articulate.

    • Thanks Alexie,

      This is a great reply. Thanks for gently representing the other side of the coin and still being respectful of my right to set boundaries.

      ~Ragen

      • I certainly respect your right to reply – and reply publicly! I don’t see how she can complain, when she specifically asked you to disseminate her ideas on your blog.

  14. Bingo!

    Just went to her blog and found this:

    “The reason I’m writing about this is because I’m on journey for a natural cure for cancer. I’ve rejected chemo, radiation and surgery. The doctors can poison, burn and cut all they want, but until we learn what the underlying cause is, it will return and I will just become a “managed” patient. I have taken responsibility for my outcome starting with nutrition.”

    Yep, she’s got the raw/unprocessed food religion.

    In all seriousness, I hope that her rejection of medicine in favour of the Food Religion doesn’t kill her.

    • The doctors can poison, burn and cut all they want, but until we learn what the underlying cause is, it will return and I will just become a “managed” patient.

      This is sooooo ironic, I understand the underlying point she’s making here but it’s way more applicable to fatness than it is cancer, in practical terms.

      The ‘managed’ person would be someone on a life long weight loss diet if that worked as it is it fails even that.

      Whereas with cancer not having the treatment available is liable to be mortal.

      It never ceases to amaze me the way people cease to understand what they believe in when it comes to fatness.

  15. @Alexie – that is indeed very sad. I actually can have some compassion for such a person. It sounds like she is struggling with severe health issues right now. I don’t know how I would react either in such a situation.

    Even so, it is not OK to completely disregard another person’s boundaries. I suspect she only read a few bits of your blog and did not take the time or open her mind to try to understand it. This is very sad all-around.

    Also,

    I share this with you because no matter how much you exercise, your body will remain toxic and eventually cause disease.

    Yes – this is exactly what must have happened to my grandmother when she died……at age 100.

  16. Ragen, you are my hero. I would have used a lot more colorful language in a response to an email like that. She has ZERO right to tell you or anyone else for that matter that the should lose weight or they will become “toxic.” Unless she has a PhD in doctory type things and know the in’s and out’s of your health she has no buisness commenting on it.

    Keep up the amazing HAES work you’re doing, you’ve been a great inspiration to me, and from the looks of the comments, many others. Many kudos to you and your awesomness.

    • Thank you so much for your support, I really appreciate it. I’m really glad that you like the blog and that it’s inspiring you – that’s so awesome to hear!

      ~Ragen

  17. Ragen, I think you are the most awesome person ever! This is completely fantastic, as are all your posts, actually. Thank you for existing!!! :)

    • Hi Elisabeth,

      Wow, thank you very much! I’m so glad that you like the blog and thank you so much for your comment :)

      ~Ragen

  18. SNAP. Good for you for calling this out. Commenting so personally on a person’s body and what you guess for no reason to be their habits and health levels is an act of aggression. I applaud you for refusing to allow it.

    Funny how she titled the email about your blog even though it wasn’t. In a way, it was, because your “offense” was being fat, healthy and completely happy about it in a public space–which you do both through your blog and your everyday life. And that’s such an affront to the mainstream culture as well as to the alternative one she seems to have bought into.

    I wish her well with her cancer battle.

    • Thank you so much for your support. I did this it was odd to reference my blog but who knows.

      Thanks,

      ~Ragen

  19. I came here because Sarah linked to you on http://www.sauceome.com & this was the first post I read.
    (1) Fuck that self-important woman. Stellar response.
    (2) Awesome blog, great post.

    • Welcome to the blog! Thank you for the support, I’m glad that you liked the post!

      ~Ragen

  20. Ragen, I would be willing to bet that even your mother couldn’t find fault with how you handled the self righteous and inaccurate spewing that was directed at you in this blog. As always your response was spot on. Can we make a Ragen ring tone…with some of you top ten retorts? To use in those moments where we find ourselves in one of those situations and get tongue tied for a response other than projectile vomiting pea soup at the person talking to us? You are amazing.
    Warmly, Deah

    • Thank Deah,

      I’ve never been a ringtone – that would definitely be kind of awesome. Thank you so much for all of the support and your own awesomeness!

      ~Ragen

  21. Ragen wrote: “That’s probably what my mom would tell me, if she could figure out how to comment – Hi Mom, I love you!”
    I figured out how to comment and I would never have said that. She was just rude……Love Mom!

    • Yay Mom!

      Welcome to the blog comments section. You are definitely the Best. Mom. EVAR!

      Love,

      ~me

    • Awww, your Mom is commenting! Hello Ragen’s Mom!

    • Um, my mom is already totally awesome, but can I adopt yours too? :-)

  22. Wow, I’d be annoyed if that email were from someone in a medical profession, but it’s even worse that it came from someone who presumably knows very little about the physiology of fat, or medicine. Furthermore, why is your physique this woman’s business? It’s not!! Also, it’s evident from the content on this blog that your readers are not interested in what she’s peddling. You were absolutely right to let her know how she overstepped, and you didn’t seem too angry at all. I wonder how she’d feel if I contacted her and tried to tell her how to be a better, more respectful person? At least my concern for her character would be based on something other than tired old assumptions and internalized prejudices.

    • Thanks so much for the support and yeah, it was just out of control innapproprate. Hopefully she knows that now.

      ~Ragen

  23. How enraging!

    I just recently found your blog. Hi! :-) I am looking forward to reading more.

    • Hi Sizzle,

      Welcome to the blog!

      ~Ragen

  24. Thank you for voicing this. I am so sick of people making reference to my husbands and my weight. I believe that food and exercise choices are personal and that the dialogue should only occur between patient and doctor and only in a respectful manner.


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