The Trouble with Proving It

Society hides people like me – fat, healthy people.  We don’t fit into the current idea that you can look at somebody and tell how healthy they are, we don’t make the diet industry any money, and we won’t just loathe ourselves like they want us to.  I’ve found that when people are faced with a real live healthy fat person they often try to solve their new found cognitive dissonance. In my experience they do this by:

Calling us liars.

Using the Vague Future Health Threat (aka the VFHT, this technique takes advantage of the fact that everyone dies to say that someday all fat people will die and even if we get hit by a bus they’ll find a way to blame it on our fatness and then say “see I told you so!”)

Unsupported Generalizations:

“The human body just wasn’t mean to carry that much weight.”  (You don’t know what my body was meant to do)

“It’s okay to be somewhat overweight but at some point you’re just too fat.”  (Are you serious?  “a little”?  “At some point?”  What you are really saying is “I have no clue, but I really want to put my 2 cents in and feel superior.)

Challenging us to “Prove it”.  And this is where I made my mistake because I am healthy and fat and athletic and I’m a great fan of evidence so I took up the challenge and started down a bad path.  Let me tell you how this went so that someone can learn from my mistakes.  This all took place on a listserve:

Someone posted information about me on a listserve of people who, at first, were being reasonable and curious. I was e-mailed and challenged to state my numbers.  I posted my cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure etc., all in the exceptionally healthy range.  People called me a liar and VFHTed me.  Besides, a random stranger on the internet asked, what could I do physically?

So I posted pictures of my strength and flexibility

Ragen Chastain: 5'4, 284 pounds. Photo by Richard Sabel

Ragen Chastain: 5'4, 284 pounds. Pilates Instructor: Kate Wodash, Mindful Body Center Austin

Ragen Chastain: 5'4, 284 pounds. Pilates Instructor: Kate Wodash, Mindful Body Center Austin

They said that my ankle must have shattered 30 seconds after the first picture was taken because how could I hold my 284 pound body up on on my toe like that? They said that holding that same 284 pound body up in an arch and doing suspended pull ups isn’t that hard.  They said I must be flexible because I’m all fat and no muscle. They asked why I didn’t show something more athletic.

So I posted a picture of me leaping.

Ragen Chastain: 5'4, 284 pounds. Photo by Richard Sabel

They said that if I did it twice I probably would have shattered bones in my foot.  (Never mind that I’m doing this on concrete and that it’s the 26th try because we were working with a new lens and my feet were fine.)  They asked can’t I post anything where I’m moving?

So I posted a dance video:

They said that it’s slow and that makes it easy (because they aren’t dancers).  They said that if I went any faster I would faint and be out of breath.

So I posted another, faster dance video:

They got mean. They called me a whale, they called me a hippo, they said that it doesn’t matter because I’m still fat.

And there it was, staring me in the face.  The truth.  The reason that “proving it” will never work and the proof that I was wasting my time. Their core belief is that accomplishments only count if you’re thin, so since I’m fat no amount of proving it will ever be enough.  Also, I realized that these are adults who resort to name calling and that I was spending a lot of my time trying to prove things to people for whom I have no respect.

I’ve said before that I’m much more concerned with fat people realizing that they deserve respect than with other people realizing that fat people deserve respect.  It turns out that the same goes for posting pictures or videos or numbers. Don’t like what I post?  Don’t believe me?  I don’t care.  This isn’t about you or for you, I’m done making that mistake.

This is about refusing to be hidden by society. This is because fat people deserve to see themselves represented as more than just a headless picture carrying a fast food bag and I can help with that.  When it comes to athleticism, there are fat people of all stripes – some are couch potatoes, some are active, some are hardcore athletes.  Lots of us are healthy and happy.  This is about showing an example of that.

If you have a picture or video of you doing something awesome, it would be awesome if you would post it in the comments.  I promise I’ll keep it safe from trolls so that you can get your appropriate props and people can see another representation of someone doing something awesome!

Published in: on June 17, 2011 at 8:08 am  Comments (168)  

168 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I don’t have a photo or video, but I cycle between 20-40 KM per day, every day, minus maybe 2 months of the year when the weather doesn’t permit it. And I am a size 22.

    Oh! I do have a video! This is on the third consecutive take (edited with parts of the fourth take). Enjoy pervs and haters!

    • Heck yeah! You go! You’ve got killer legs!

    • Awesome, thanks for posting this!

      ~Ragen

    • OH MY OH MY OH MY. This! This right here!!!!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

    • So does it mean i’m a perv if i thought you were damn hot in this??

      So great. Wish i could dance like that.

  2. I now refuse to be hidden. I wear bright clothes almost all the time. I do activities which put me very visible – I lead worship in my church, I am soon to be a volunteer lay chaplain. People pretty much know that I dont have an issue with my size, and so dont say things.

  3. You’re gorgeous. I never get tired of watching you dance in those videos.

    • Thank you so much :)

      ~Ragen

    • Me either. You’re so graceful! This is something I want to be when I grow up.

      I forget that you don’t have to be thin to be a dancer, even though one of the best dancers I know personally is a pretty sizable dude – 6’1″ and 300+ last I knew, and I was always surprised how light he was on his feet. I never feel that light, even though I’m not so far behind him in either measurement.

    • Thirding this. Dance is so much more than a specific shape and size — it really is about fluidity and strength and energy and form. Those videos show how much you have all of those things in spades.

  4. So spot on with how proving it really does nothing more than fan the flames of a troll’s hatred. For some there will just be no amount of proof out there capable of “redeeming” the existence of someone they have decided doesn’t deserve respect. As you say though; that is THEIR problem and the more often fatties are encouraged to just BE and be out there, the better I think!!

    This also really reminds me that I should get a few more pics and videos up on my own blog to keep that Visible Fats vibe going! :D

  5. How about a personal record-setting heavy hammer throw?

    http://static.photobucket.com/player.swf

    More pics and vids of highland games action here: http://s286.photobucket.com/albums/ll101/keysburg/highland%20games/

  6. I have nothing truly constructive to say here.. Just wanted to add a “hear hear!” and a general thanks for what you do.

  7. Dear Ragen,
    Your website has truly changed the way I feel about myself AND the way I look at others, which may be even more important! I wish your outlook on life had been available to me when I was younger, it would’ve saved me so much heartache. But your words inspire me now and I will be able to pass the internal peace and love of life that your website has given me, on to my kids. You have changed my family forever and I’m forever in your debt. Keep on, keepin’ on Miss Thang!

    • Wow, thank you so much for being open to different ways of thinking. For the record, I may have provided some information but you did the hard work of actually changing which completely inspires me so it’s a big circle of awesomeness!

      ~Ragen

  8. You are awesome! You do things in those pictures that I can’t do and I was a ballet dancer and I’m a Nia teacher now healing old dance injuries. The videos are great. Seriously if you haven’t tried Nia, track it down in Austen. I’ll go even farther to say you are a Nia teacher and you don’t even know it yet. You light up a room, kiddo.

    • Jean,

      Thank you so much! I actually have tried NIA and had a blast!

      ~Ragen

    • I just wanted to chime in real quick and say I’d never heard of Nia until I saw your post and then I went and Google’d it. I can’t wait until after our move in a couple of weeks so I can go try a class! =)

  9. You light the way for all of us.Thank you.

    • Frannie,

      Thank you so much :)

      ~Ragen

  10. Years ago, I attended a high school alumni dance. A video was shot of me and other people doing a line dance, I think it was the Booty Call. So somewhere out there, is a video of me, in pink capri pants, shaking my rolls on the dance floor. I don’t know if this video is on YouTube but it exists. I also have a video of me at my grandparent’s 40th annivesary party doing the Electric Slide and dancing to CC Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat.”

    You just can’t win with people. You could show them a report from the doctor and they would think you altered it. Those people are idiots.

    • If you find those videos I totally hope that you post it here :)

      ~Ragen

  11. I really do sincerely believe that people like these look for someone to hate and society has handed them a group on a golden platter. If it wasn’t politically correct to hate on the fat people, they would find someone else. People like these HAVE to feel superior and do that by elevating themselves over another group. I think too that society has really brainwashed people into believing that fat=unhealthy and skinny=healthy and no matter what you say, people are going to believe that because it is a cultural truth (just like certain so-called truths about women/blacks/Jews/insert group here). It doesn’t help that this cultural truth is aided with BILLIONS of dollars and commercial after commercial after commercial of diet ads and shows that do not show many fat people (and usually the ones that do show fat African Americans). I wonder too if some of it ISN’T racially/sexually based as the groups that struggle more with weight are women of other races. Then there’s the economic factor too as well as power. There are just so many factors to the hate, that it’s going to take a long to end it all.

  12. Ignorant people resort to factless insults when they feel defeated. Instead of understanding the proof and opening their mids, they got angry! I’m sure they were just upset that they aren’t as athletically inclined as you!! I’m also sure these are the same zombies that let the media and corporations dictate their lives!

  13. As long as you seek to PROVE yourself there will always be people to convince. The only opinion that matters for you to live a life of peace and acceptance is your own.
    Loving you from 290lbs in Houston!
    Juliana

  14. Here I am performing a tango at a cultural heritage event, while fat, and fucking sexy.

    (Tango, of course, is not Chilean or Salvadoran, but my city doesn’t have a big Argentine population so there was no Argentina display. Also, I’m not Argentinian, and neither is the guy I’m dancing with.)

  15. “I was spending a lot of my time trying to prove things to people for whom I have no respect”

    Nobody has ever pointed that out to me before. (APPLAUSE)

    Also, re: “what the human body was meant to do”: it was meant to adapt to its circumstances.

    One of my larger dancer friends recently had a body composition analysis and learned that she has 200lbs of lean body mass. That’s why she can rock the stage without her “feet shattering”: she can call on twice the muscle, bone, and organs of my sister the ballerina.

    When you treat it with respect and train it safely, the body steps up. If it wasn’t “meant to do that”, it wouldn’t. :) Also, um technique? Falling on your foot and leaping onto it with proper form produce two VERY different stresses.

    • Nadira,

      This is beautifully stated (about what the human body was “meant to do”). Thank you so much!

      ~Ragen

  16. This is my troupe’s first performance of this year’s dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRkLnaWI6Yk
    And here is last year’s dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=098s5x25Yx8

  17. Here is my YouTube video dancing with sharpened scimitars at a recital. No matter how much one gets on their sopabox and explains the physicality and health benefits… there will always be disbelievers… I am almost 50, 5’2″ tall, weigh at 170. have a damaged spine from working in landscaping for 17 years and now teach close to 40 hours a week.. sometimes from 10 am to 10 pm. Plus I am a mother of 2. Belly dance saved my health from averting spinal fusing surgery .

    • Wow, that rocks. I’m just your size and almost your age (I’ll be 47 on Sunday). I don’t dance but I work out vigorously 6 days a week. I’m healthy and fit; I took a fitness test on my elliptical yesterday, which put me in the “high” fitness category. My cholesterol and blood sugar levels are always fine. I go hiking with my family and in the summers we usually take a long camping/hiking trip somewhere cool (last year was Rocky Mountain National Park). Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I can’t hike a huge mountain, or even small one.

    • Fantastic performance! I’ve never seen the balancing sword on sword on chin trick before! Impressive!

      • Thank you Laurie. As far as I know, I am the first to create that move and the only one presently performing it.

    • Wow, your dancing is awesome and you look great. I hope when I’m 50 I can shake it like you can! ;)

    • Lisa,

      This is absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much!

      ~Ragen

  18. Thank you for this great post.

    For years I had the “prove it” mentality. For me it was mostly to prove to myself (and the medical establishment) that I was the “poster child” for fat and healthy. The problem with that is as I aged, certain age-related medical conditions started to catch up with me, making me question was it the fat or the age? The thing is, it doesn’t matter. I work at being as healthy as I can be – I need to stop believing that all the numbers have to be perfect for me to be considered “healthy”. Your numbers are only a reflection of where your own particular body is at any given moment, and they are the result of complex interactions with your environment, your genetics, your age, etc.

    As Marilyn Wann says, your mother got it right – Eat your vegetables and go outside and play.

  19. This is me doing a swordfight, and not just doing a swordfight, but doing it in 40 pounds of tapestry material, a corset, and a hoop skirt.

    http://www.pbase.com/lys1022/image/135648235

    Oh, and did I mention that this fight took place every Saturday and Sunday for 8 weekends in weather ranging from sunny to pouring rain, 40 degrees to 100+ degrees? Being fat doesn’t have to keep you from doing things in your life, despite what the naysayers want us all to believe. They WANT us to think that we have to hide, that we’re incapable of enjoying life and being active. Because if we listen to them, and hide away, then they’ll have been proven right.

    Don’t prove them right! Get out and do all of the things you’ve always wanted to do!

    • Well, that didn’t embed correctly. Please feel free to fix it! :)

    • Lis,

      I could not love this picture more – it is fantastic and you are clearly kicking ass :)

      ~Ragen

    • Wow, that rocks. You look so intense! Well, if you’re the one facing the camera. :-) In any event it rocks.

      • Sorry, Cathy S. I didn’t see this til now. Yes, I’m the one facing the camera, fighting with two swords. My opponent (and friend – off the board *grin*) is fighting with two daggers. Due to scripting of the Chess Match she actually won the fight (BOO! *LOL*) but it was a pretty darned good fight, we got lots of great feedback on it from people who saw it, and it moved VERY fast for a swordfight.

        Thank you for the compliments, on both the physical stuff and the intensity. It is important to put acting and character into our performances as well as the physical and mental aspects of wielding actual steel within inches of our friends. (Not edged, but still dangerous!)

        And, well, it’s also a blast! *wide grin*

  20. You are phenomenal, I’m so proud of you, their issues with you is actually fear and insecurity of themselves. You go girl.

  21. Really needed to hear exactly this. I’ve been trying to find activities that I enjoy and that are physically / financially sustainable, and for the last few weeks hit kind of a wall. Reading this, I realize that I’ve been feeling like I should be doing something, anything so that I’ll have some sort of comeback to the fat people are lazy, unhealthy blahblahblah bullshit. Well, eff that. Seriously.

  22. Those videos are so beautiful! And the songs are so appropriate.

    Ok, let’s see…I posted a picture to my LJ just for you! :)

    http://chinders.livejournal.com/73086.html

    Your blog makes me smile, and helps me remember to be as visible as I want to be. Thank you.

    • Aww, wicked! I miss climbing so much, but encountered too much negativeness from people when looking for people to climb with.

      Oh well. I hike more in the summer anyways – I have a list of peaks I’d like to explore, and hope to do some overnighters this summer. :)

      • If you happen to be in the Bay Area, I’d be happy to meet up to climb sometime! If not, perhaps you can convert someone who’s new to climbing and fat-positive – that’s more or less how I got my climbing buddies. But yay hiking and peaks! Go you!

    • Fan-freaking-tastic! You are awesome, thanks for posting here!

      ~Ragen

  23. So glad your proving days are over. Good for you.

  24. Let’s hope I’m doing this right:

    This is what my body can do. At 5’6″ and 230lbs (pre-pregnancy) it made this 9lb baby and birthed her, all without any complications or much discomfort. It also then made the perfect food for this little person for six months and counting.

  25. “I was spending a lot of my time trying to prove things to people for whom I have no respect.” WELL SAID.

  26. You are just brilliant. I have heard that some people are genetically programmed to be big. No matter what they do, they will remain as such.

  27. These haters can’t accept contrary evidence because of an common error in thinking, called “confirmation bias”. It’s a tendency to look for and pay attention to info that confirms our beliefs, and to ignore, distort, or avoid info that contradicts our preconceptions. This bias works to strengthen our beliefs over time, and it’s something we all tend to engage in at times, unconsciously. The haters have so thouroughly absorbed the “fat is bad” message that they simply can’t hear contrary evidence. For a fascinating discussion of this, check out this link: http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2007/12/inquiring-minds-want-to-know-when-are.html

  28. Are these the people who are related to the large percentage of Americans who still don’t believe that Obama was born in the States and who are also convinced that he’s an “Ay-rab Muzlim”?

    • You misspelled that. It should be “Muslin.”

  29. Your turns are gorgeous.

    • Thanks Maureen, there are a lot of hours of practice in those turns :)

  30. One of my dance teachers was surprised that my turns were so strong and powerful. Because having a large belly would through off my center, right? I’m a really public person most of the time. Either out dancing (performing or just socially) and then there’s my work as a wedding videographer. I never really thought much about it until just now. I think just by living in NYC, I still feel the need to prove it all the time. Here’s a video of me performing- I do a lot of turning in this one!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7jhSKN03Gw

    And at work!
    http://gallery.me.com/amystaub#100062/amywork2&bgcolor=black

    • Lovely! Very well done!

      ~Ragen

    • And your dynamics on the veil flourishes are fantastic too.

    • My turns are all crap but I think it’s not so much because of the belly as much as it’s the not-so-well-restrained tits. I don’t have much luck with sports bras.

      • Have you tried The Enell brand sports bras? Mine keep my 42K puppies in check ont he dance floor and in mosh pits scarily well. and, they last forever

      • Mari Harju, for some reason I can’t reply to your reply. Anyway, I’ve never heard of Enell Sports Bras but I just googled them and will save the link in my folder of useful stuff. Thanks for the head’s up.:)

      • Well, damn! I guess I could reply to you. The position of the “reply” button made it look like I was replying to myself… Never mind.

  31. I totally want to post that second pic of you– when you’re doing pull up’s in the bed– in my wall of power in my gym. Can I facebook you my e-mail address (or maybe you have it now) for an e-mailed copy of it so I can make it larger? So much love to you!
    Amy

    • Hi Amy,

      That would be complete awesome. I do have your e-mail so I’ll send it to you.

      Thanks!

      ~Ragen

  32. Here’s me doing some Kung Fu – specifically Plum Blossom Spear Core Form, during my red belt test in March. Not my best work – the forms come at the end of the test when we’re already wiped out, but it’s mostly right. :)

    • Wow, fabulous job! Thank you so much for posting it :)

      ~Ragen

  33. For the first time ever today, I recorded my yoga practice. (Because I was seeing such awesome stuff here.) This is only a small piece of it — probably more will come in a blog post of my own later — but here’s my camel pose:

    • Um, so clearly I messed up that embed code. But the link should still work.

      • Hi Tori,

        The link does work and you kick so much ass. Thank you for recording and posting it!

        ~Ragen

  34. You have excellent timing Ragen, I’ve had a post along these lines mulling about my head this week waiting for me to be well enough to sit down and put it into words. (Damn cold!) This post will feed beautifully into the one I am currently writing.

    You (or I, or anyone else) do not owe anyone “proof”. We don’t need to DO anything. What is important about us putting our voices, about us being visible, is that we continue to BE. By simply being ourselves, and not allowing the haters, trolls and disbelievers to silence us, we are doing exactly what is needed. We are being visible to those who NEED us, not for those who hate/disbelieve us.

    I actually think that if it hadn’t been for my stumbling into the fatosphere, I probably wouldn’t be here today. People doing the very things you and I do now are the ones who helped me get out of that dark, frightening place of self loathing and shame, and helped me step out into the world, the confident, strong woman I am today. Now I do it to give back, to those who follow behind me and need it like I did.

    My dearest Ragen, awesome woman that you are, you do not need to prove you are a healthy fatty, a great dancer, a formidable athlete, an incredible woman. You just need to continue being all those things that you are, and those who need it will benefit from it.

  35. I have to say brava to everybody who can stand up to the people who want to tell you how horrible and horribly unhealthy you are just because you’re fat. And all of the dancing, swordplay (that’s awesome!) and other activities you all do? Again, awesome.

    I’m not at a point yet where I like trying to talk to others about FA or how I’m finally starting to feel comfortable with how I am. Whenever I get into a conversation with somebody and they pull out the VFHT or those lovely generalizations, I just freeze up. It’s like the argument is so non-specific I can’t think of a way to counter it without using the incredibly eloquent “nuh-uh!” defense.

    • “Thin people will die someday too. I may get hit by a bus tomorrow. In what time I have left to me, I’m going to do what I must in order to do what I want, and I’m the only one who gets to define that. I’m not interested in further discussing weight with you.”

      “Well, it’s your funeral.”

      “Actually, I won’t be attending my funeral. Busy that day. Being dead.” *wink*

      It’s easier to think of things to say when you’re sitting in front of your computer. It helps me to write it down and practice in the mirror, and then maybe imagining the person you’d need to say this to.

  36. Ragen, you are AMAZING! You have finally put into words what’s been going through my mind for quite some time. I feel that you are my voice and the voice of all the women everywhere, regardless of their size and abilities. Most of all, I love how reading this blog makes me feel. It makes me feel accepted and loved.

    I have one story and one question, though, that I’m not sure if you’ve answered here before (I’m still a danceswithfat newbie :) ). The thing is, I’ve recently joined a water polo practice with around twenty girls aged 9-15. I’m 25, and they’ve accepted me as a team-mate really well. After one practice, the girls started talking about body weight and size, and then almost all of them started berating their bodies, telling each other how they hated that they were fat and that they would really love to lose weight. All this coming from strong, athletic and powerful girls who have 4 practices plus one match a week! I jumped in, telling how every girl’s body is beautiful, and that it’s also super-awesome because it does such amazing things. And then, a girl specifically asked me, if I had any new diet she could try. I was floored. I didn’t expect that! I said something along the lines “yes, I have one simple diet, consisting of three simple steps – 1) eat when you’re hungry 2) eat what you want to eat, 3) stop when you’re full.” I tried to explain it, how it’s the best thing for every one of us if we’d just listen to what our bodies need, and she laughed as though she didn’t take it seriously, and left. And it all made me really sad and disappointed in our grown-up society – what are we if we manage to make super-active, brave and tough girls hate themselves because of their size?

    Now, here is the question, or rather asking for advice – do you have an idea what a caring, slightly older, team-member such as myself could do or say, to try to maybe change their minds? Should I bring up the conversations? Should I be more pro-active? How can I make them see that beauty, not just health, comes at every size and that they are all amazing and awe-inspiring? (seriously, seeing a 9-year-old half my size kick my butt at the pool is nothing if not awe-inspiring!)

    • Hi Ksenija,

      Thank you so much for your comment and kind words. You kick so. much. ass. for playing water polo! And then you kick even more ass for being a bastion of body positivity in a sea (excuse the pun!) of body hate. Your questions actually inspired my blog post today: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/explaining-health-at-every-size/

      I would also say that, at least for me, the first step was learning to be grateful to my body for what it did for me instead of constantly complaining that it wasn’t the right size or shape. Maybe you can start by stealthily getting them to have appreciation for what their bodies can do? I’ll be interested in your thoughts and if there is anything that I can do to help just let me know.

      ~Ragen

      • Ragen, you are amazing!
        First the thoughtful comment, now the blog post. This is really so much material to build upon and to use as reference, so thank you for doing this for me, and in extension, to the w p girls. We appreciate it!

        My first step towards loving my body was exactly that – appreciating the fine machinery that goes into the making of ME :)

        Thanks for the thoughtful blog post and, for this I can’t thank you enough, thanks for being a wise older sister to us!

  37. I love and appreciate what you have said here! Years ago, with a previous doctor, he was shocked and stunned that my readings were all more normal than his. But you are right, trying to convince the haters otherwise is a waste of breathe. Just continue to be a shining example to others. Sending lots of love and thanks! Michelle

  38. If you really don’t care about what people say – why set your youtube comments to ‘pending approval’? You’re the only FA blogger I’ve seen that implements that.

    • I don’t care what they say but I’m not obligated to give them a forum in which to say it. I put my videos on YouTube in the hope that people who see them will be inspired to chase their dreams, not reminded that there are idiots who will criticize them no matter what they do. Those idiots can start their own blog and develop their own readership and say anything they want about me. Thanks for asking.

      ~Ragen

      • Amen!

      • “I don’t care what they say but I’m not obligated to give them a forum in which to say it.”

        THIS. On everything, really.

    • I know that this question was posed to Regan, but I’d like to mention that I am a fat activist and I often choose to screen my YouTube comments, as well. It’s not just me that experiences those comments, and I would rather not any other good person come across them and feel marginalized by a hateful diatribe. I would prefer not to get comments that are just spam, either, so that is another reason why I screen (for spam).

    • I too have a “pending approval” on my YouTube and I am also a FA blogger. I have them EVERYWHERE someone can comment.

      Because there is enough fat hate published online, without it happening in MY spaces.

  39. Great post – puts me in mind of something I read awhile back at therotund.com :
    Why should I accommodate those that hate me? I weigh 260+ and I commute to work by bike 3 days a week. That’s 20 miles, round trip. It’s a ridiculous catch-22: why don’t your work-out fatty… but not where you can be seen. I get tons of cat calls and negative comments when I ride, and lots of laughs. I guess a big fat person riding a bike is hilarious. they cannot stop me though. they will never stop me.

  40. I am so very grateful to you for posting this, Regan, and for the ways your (prior) approach has resonated deeply with my (prior) approach to being fat, which included a lot of model-fatnority behavior (being a “good fatty,” or “proving things,” or other self-justificatory things).

    There’s a lot of photos, video, and audio out there of me doing awesome stuff, but here is one of the most awesome things in the whole world: being in love with someone wonderful.

    http://riveraphotoblog.tumblr.com/post/1488677048/anniversary-austin-and-zac-boston

    Those photos were taken on our third wedding anniversary.

    I weigh about 280# and my beloved clocks in at around 250#. Health At Every Size and Love At Every Size are inextricably linked for me.

    • Hi Austin,

      The one where you are making the heart with your hands to frame your kiss is amazing! Congratulations and thanks for posting!

      ~Ragen

  41. it is kind of sad that folks have so little to value in themselves that they have to attack others…

    I am also fat and very fit (I cycle, swim, dance, lift weights, etc) and my stats are gorgeous, etc

    but as we are fat we are guilty and in way can’t we prove ourselves innocent.

    and we obviously are very very lazy – because that is why we are fat right?

    it doesn’t matter that I ride to and from work on my bike (tho not as often as I would like due to outside obligations) that I lift weights, that I walk at a minimum 5 miles a day, that I love to dance for hours on end

    nope, none of that matters because if fat, than lazy.

  42. Amen! Wonderful blog!!

  43. No video (we took some, but the computer ate it), but I do have one semi-action shot from my black belt test. I’ve just finished tossing Mike – who’s about 8″ taller than me, over my hip. I’ve straightened up, and he’s still rolling across the floor. Test Photo
    In this shot, I’m 40 years old, 5’7″, and about 215 pounds.

  44. I’m not sure if you can see this without logging into facebook, but:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1874134059215&set=a.1874127859060.2112940.1417103609&type=1&theater
    (I’d post it elsewhere, but I’m not the copyright owner.)

    I’m the one dancing on the drum.

  45. Ragen, that’s what happens when you blow people’s minds – they blow their tops.
    I’ve been in places on the net where I’ve gone toe to toe with some trolls. I’ve learned a few things, and one is that you can’t convince them of anything, not with the most reasonable arguments, not with photographs and videos, not with respectable medical evidence, nothing.
    Another thing that doesn’t work is flaming. They and you will just be going at it forever with no resolution.
    What worked best for me was a good dollop of sarcasm and wit. The cardinal sin on the internet is being boring. Throw their requests right back at them. “Let’s see a video of YOU dancing en pointe. Bet you can’t!” I know many people think that engaging with trolls is a waste of time. However, it gave me a thicker skin and a way to test out various approaches, which to me was not a waste. Also, I learned a little psychology while I was at it.
    I’m happy to see your and others’ photos and videos. They’re really inspiring and I’d bet they’d do a lot more to encourage fat people to be active than a thousand Stop Obesity ads.

  46. First of all, Regen, I love this blog! It’s an inspiration, and funny as well. Keep it up! n.n

    Here is a video of my boyfriend and I fencing. Both of us are considered overweight, I’m 5’4″ 175, hes 5’11” 290. Both of us are active, and in fact he’s in better health then I am despite being considered ‘obese’. I’m not even sure if the video will work or not without signing in, but here it is =) This was at a renaissance festival.

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150433257650241&comments&set=t.845630577&type=1

    • ZOMG I love the balloon-head fencing! What a great idea for sparring!

      I fenced a little in high school, and my husband and I are talking about getting into the rapier group with local SCA folks (this way he’s not doing heavies – we’re doing something together).

  47. “Also, I learned a little psychology while I was at it.”

    I hate this…right here. People thinking they know something about a science by dealing with trolls. Seriously? I minored in Behavioral Science when working through biology, there is a lot more to psychology than you realize. Knowing a ‘little psychology’ as you say isn’t anything. It’s called being social and shutting people down with come backs. Go be a self-smart person gah…you’re as bad as your proposed trolls.

    • Hi Fenix, I have a couple of comments. First, you missed the Reply link in the comment you are responding to, so it looks like you are responding to Ragen’s original blog post when you are actually responding to Mulberry’s comment.

      Second, psychology is a Latin word meaning “the study of (-ology) the human mind (psyche)” which is an activity one can engage in as an amateur. Observing human behavior is psychology in it’s most basic form.

      I’ve had some entry level psych courses while at college too. That doesn’t invalidate information gleaned by the self taught. Mulberry was not making any kind of diagnosis other than “you can’t convince [trolls] of anything” which is hardly controversial.

  48. I dare any of these haters spend a day in a mosh pit with me…. A proper german style ebm one, that is. My fat ass takes being bodychecked by guys built like american football players pretty damn well. and, pushes back!

    Alas i have no photos or video of that, but maybe after next sat i wll have some of me ‘just’ industrial dancing my ass off at the local club ;)

  49. Wow, girl…. I wish I could do what you do. I’m so glad you don’t let anyone tear you down because you bring some real beauty to the world :)

  50. You kick ass all over the place, lady.

    Here is my salsa team from Christmas 2010–
    We were all sorts of different shapes and sizes,
    none of us had “dancers’ bodies”,
    and it didn’t matter. :)

    • Beautiful! However, I would say that ALL of you have dancers’ bodies, because you’re all, you know, dancing.

      • True that!!!

        I just loved that we were all different ages,
        fitness levels,
        sizes.

        It’s a happy thing.

  51. This isn’t mine, but I think it’s amazing! I have no idea who these people are, but I came across this on YouTube and liked it immensely. Not only are they breaking the mold of what we expect when we see bellydancers, but they use music and costumes which are not your run-of-the-mill bellydance type, either.
    Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbKurmvd5Ao

    • I should also add– these ladies are just plain TALENTED as well! :0D

    • They’re doing a style called Tribal Fusion, which started in the late 90s / early 2000s. (There are a bunch of sub-genres and spin-offs, so they may use a different term.) Their costumes and music are not typical of old-school belly dance, but are very typical of TF.

      And I agree, these ladies are awesome!

    • OMG! I am going to do that some day…that does it I’m finding a belly dance class! Awesome awesome awesome…

  52. Can I just say …
    High-fucking-five.

  53. Great post! This is something I struggle with as well. I’m a runner. I run long distances. People often don’t believe it. I think it is awesome though.

    I wrote a post awhile back in response to a vile “article” in a magazine:

    http://phrassiemama.blogspot.com/2010/10/it-is-kind-of-fun-to-do-impossible.html

  54. Slow. Clap.

  55. Thank you thank you THANK you for this post. I have so much self-criticism of my body, and it takes such a toll on me. Reading your words and seeing all the amazing people in the comment thread has brightened my whole day.

  56. (Came over from Shakesville)

    OMG, you are a fantastic dancer!! I am in awe of your smoothness!
    I am an amateur ballroom/latin dancer myself and struggled in the past few years with feeling like I was too fat to dance anymore, and I went without longer than I can believe. Dancing to me is pure joy like nothing else – I can’t wait to check out more of your posts!

    • Chi,

      Thank you so much! It’s always awesome to meet a fellow dancer. Are you back dancing now?

      ~Ragen

  57. Hi! Just found your site. Decided I would share. I’m 5’6″ and I weigh 245 pounds. I wear a size 38 G bra. I refer to myself as a Fat Chick, and I don’t care – my doctor once told me to “get out of here and come back when I have something interesting wrong with you, you’re boring.” I’m healthy, aside from a few minor, non-weight related road bumps, I’ve paid relatively VERY little to the medical profession :)

    Here’s my video, and for once, I apologize that you can’t see more than my hand, and occassional glimpses of my forehead, glasses or nose…

    This is what I do – art stuff. I’ve just started making these little time lapse videos (there are 6 currently available on my you tube channel).

    I love your site, Regan – LOVE LOVE LOVE and will be sharing it wil some of my customers at work – I have a few big girls that would really benefit from reading this, it’s just what I’ve been talking to them about – Stand up, and be the cool person you are, that’s so much more important that how much you weigh.

    • Wow, you are really talented! I couldn’t draw those if you gave me from now until the end of the world. Thanks so much for your kind words, I’m glad that you like the site, and thanks for sharing it with people – that is awesome :)

      ~Ragen

  58. I don’t have anything to share, but just wanted to say thank you to Ragen for this amazing space and post, and to let everyone know that they look and are amazing =)

    • Hi Justira,

      Thank you so much :)

      ~Ragen

  59. The real question is… how do you manage to not get dizzy with all that twirling?

    At any rate, it was a beautiful dance. Congratulations to you both.

    And the strangers on the internet who needed “proof” are not worth engaging with.

    And this comment thread is awesome.

    • Hi Mary,

      I am so excited about all of the awesomeness in the comments, I can’t even tell you. Thank you for your kind words, and the answer to your question is a dance technique called “spotting”. If you look closely you’ll notice that I whip my head around to a fixed point each time. Hey, now that I think about it, I bet that question was rhetorical… feel free to ignore that entire explanation.

      ~Ragen

      • Hi, Ragen, thanks for replying. My question wasn’t really rethorical, though I have to admit that I believed your capacity to not get dizzy was due to inborn talent. Though I’m sure you must have some special talent for being able to twirl so fast for so long, and so gracefully. It is not an easy thing to do, believe me!

        Keep up with the beautiful dance :)

  60. I get this at every doctor visit. I get my stats and almost always get compliments on my BP and get told they wish their numbers were as good. Then they procede to tell me I need to lose 90 lbs because I’m going to cause irrepribale damage to my organs and skeletal structure.

    It doesn’t make sence to me so I’m just trying to keep healthy and doing my thing.

  61. So this is me at 23, weighing somewhere around 182 pounds at 5’7″ish:

    This was after 12 lessons and I’ve been loving it ever since.

    I totally agree that fit fat people seem to blow peoples minds. I still struggle with accepting that the things I do are worth something, because so many people seem to minimize them because of what I look like. Even more so now I’ve got an injury that necessitates me walking with a stick. Do people care that it’s because of an injury? No. It’s obviously because I’m fat.

    Anyway, thank you for this post. I think it’s something I’m gonna come back and read next time I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

    • And I failed the embed, but hey, the link still works :)

  62. Thank you for this brilliant post. It just goes to show that people are less interested in the truth and more interested in perpetuating fat phobia oppression. There, I named it. Fat people, like POC and persons who are LGBTTIQ are devalued, judged, and oppressed because of who they are. Health is the new fat phobia mantra and anyone who is fat and dances, lifts weights, runs (etc) and notices the strength and power in their bodies knows damn well thin doesn’t equal healthy.

    I write on my blog a fair amount about fat phobia and thin privilege (there is a link on the right hand side with all of the topics) but I basically outline my trip into disordered eating and self perception. I weighed around 200 and while I kicked ass at the gym (weights, could do hundreds of sit ups and push ups without breaking a sweat) and was a go to grrrl when it came to lifting stuff at work, stress kicked in and I dealt with it via anorexia which made my mind and body weak. Naturally everyone wanted to know how I dropped the weight even though it was clearly unhealthy (80 lbs in 6 months?) and sadly I was in the world of thin privilege. I could buy potato chips without “those” looks at the grocery store; people assumed I was healthy even though my blood pressure dropped dangerously low, I couldn’t concentrate and those weights iifted were just a memory.

    I have to try and not spew venom on those who would suggest one body size fits all. It’s a battle

  63. You are so graceful, Ragen. Thank you for posting. I’m amazed at what you can do. I’m the same height and weigh less than you, but I can’t do any of that stuff!

    In my search for my healthy body post-pregnancy, I’m suffering under the burden of the “use-to’s”. I use to wear this, I use to be able to do that. I’m having a hard time finding my way in terms of what is healthy and right for my body. Thank you for providing a perspective I hadn’t considered – that the number I weigh doesn’t dictate my health and no chart or table will determine that. I determine that by doing the things I enjoy, working out to be strong, eating well to be clean and enjoy delicious things and focusing on feeling good, regardless of the number that results.

    Thanks so much.

  64. GAWD. Your unison with your partner is fricking amazing. The precision of your movements is mindblowing. I’m training for a marathon and my BMI puts me at obese.

  65. Thank you for this post. I am a former ballroom dance instructor and I had a couple of my students teach me this lesson. I am 5’9 and 280 pounds or I should say I was at that time. Me and one of my former students and good friends of mine dancing a silver level foxtrot.

    And I had a student that was quite a bit shorter than I am, a different body type than I am, and she was FAR more fearless than I am. I am so proud of her and her partner for teaching me to be more comfortable with not being a skinny-mini dancer and for starting to make me believe that size doesn’t matter and I can do anything I can put my mind to. This is one of their first performances Choreography is mine with a lot of suggestions from the two of them. Its a slightly different style of Night Club 2 step than yours.

    • They are fantastic, thank you co much for posting them! You probably know this already but the NC2S that you guys are doing is the original timing that came out of the swing world (Buddy Schwimmer is said to have been the originator). The style that we do has evolved as one of Country Western’s eight competitive dances.

      ~Ragen

  66. HI, I feel a bit out of place but I’m actually exceptionally curious about how often you eat/ what your meals consist of. I have an insanely high metabolism and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to gain weight, discovering as you clearly know that most people are absolutely bonehead stupid when it comes to “dieting’ or knowledge on the subject. I am trying to eat about 4 meals a day with no fast food and a high calorie & protein intake. You are clearly in great physical shape despite carrying around 100 pounds more then me at 4 inches shorter. The thing is you’ve created a conundrum in my dieting theory, which I base solely around metabolism setting. Everyone who can dance like you do that I know has a higher metabolism as a result, and their body fat turns to muscle (their weight doesn’t change drastically). Obviously if you’re not interested in losing fat (I see nothing wrong with this, people seem to have an unhealthy obsession with it, models are disgustingly unhealthy) it doesn’t really matter, but I’m super curious now about what keeps your metabolism slow and I can’t ask because then I’m the prove it guy :(

    • Hi Spike,

      Thanks for asking respectfully, I’ll answer the best I can, but if you turn into a douche about this I’m going to be really sad.

      A couple misconceptions from your comment that I want to clear up:
      1. The human body cannot change fat to muscle. We can store or burn fat, and we can lose, create, or maintain muscle.
      2. Models are not necessarily disgustingly unhealthy. I feel strongly that I don’t want people to look at my body and make judgments and guesses and I assume that extremely thin women would prefer the same courtesy. Even if they don’t, I’m not a fan of hypocrisy.

      I will start by saying that I heat a healthy diet of predominantly whole foods but I don’t consider any foods “off limits”. I practice intuitive eating and I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I don’t eat enough calories to maintain my weight based on a typical calories in/calories out model using a standard basal metabolic rate calculation. I’ve always been bigger despite being active and not eating a lot. I also dieted a lot when I was young (starting around 12 years old) and I had an eating disorder around the age of 18 that hospitalized me so it’s possible that I genetically have a slow metabolism or that I simply messed up my metabolism with all of the dieting and over-exercising that I did. At any rate, my body is incredibly efficient when it comes to not using the calories I give it. I actually think that the idea of calories in/calories out is extremely questionable because it is so difficult to determine how many calories someone’s body will burn. I blogged about it here: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/calories-incalories-out-science-says-no/
      I have been smaller than I currently am but I’ve never been as healthy (based on metabolic measures as well as strength, stamina and flexibility) as I am now and so I don’t have any interest in changing my body other than to continue to build strength, stamina and flexibility and achieve my goals as a dancer and athlete.

      Hope that helps,

      ~Ragen

      • Ha, good catch on the hypocrisy, you caught me hedging against getting lynched by your fans. I had to do a bit of quick brush up research to learn the correct terminology to express my conclusions since you got me on the fat-to-muscle simplification as well.

        Let me begin by saying most of my interest and knowledge stems from the fact that my mother has serious thyroid problems. We both have trouble maintaining blood sugar so I am careful about what I eat and when – I definitely do not subscribe to intuitive eating, mostly because I don’t have any intuition(when it comes to eating). I will literally just suddenly be starving 5-6 hours since my last meal, barely able to function and pissed off about the most trivial problems.

        As a result of research & experience, we now mostly eat protein, fruits and vegetables, completely avoiding carbohydrates, especially processed carbohydrates like you would find in little debbies snacks, fast food and what have you. It’s to the point that I don’t want cake, that’s gross and will put me to sleep, I want broccoli, that stuff is what dreams are made of. Now. Obviously I have had to do battle against the world on the subject of training and fitness and body fat and blah blah blah. What I find is that %100 percent of them fail to do the one thing most effective at increasing your metabolism – regular exercise.

        You don’t just exercise regularly, you are an athlete. If you tell me hey, I’m super in shape but never drop under 280 (at 5’4″), the only reasonable explanation that comes to mind for me is thyroid issues. I guess you can try increasing the iodine in your diet according to the internet. Judging from the seriousness of your dieting issues in the past you briefly mentioned though, it might take drugs to change your weight, and I don’t like taking drugs to change stuff about myself at all, so I can reasonably suppose you don’t want to either. Especially since you specifically mentioned you are only interested in increasing strength, stamina, and flexibility. And then there are always unreasonable explanations.

        Anyway, thank you for answering my questions. I appreciate that you still took the time to explain your situation to someone who you don’t know despite encountering so many people irrationally defensive about their uniformed opinions on health.

        • Hi Spike,

          I’ve been tested for everything and my thyroid, along with everything else, performs perfectly. You are spot on that I wouldn’t take drugs to change my weight. Especially since I’m healthy to begin with so I wouldn’t see a point. I’m really glad that you’ve found a path to health that works for you and I absolutely support you. Thanks for engaging in a respectful dialog!

          ~Ragen

      • Just one more thing to add in response to Spike–
        You mentioned that you would be ravenously hungry if you hadn’t eaten in 5-6 hours. Now, I don’t know your exact blood sugar levels, or how quickly they drop, but I think it’s safe to say that MOST people would find themselves very hungry after going 5-6 hours without eating! Or, at least, a large percentage of people.
        I work with people with eating disorders, and we always recommend letting no more than 3-4 hours pass between meals or snacks.
        I’m no doctor, and I don’t want to pretend I know more about your situation than you do, but based on your description of your nutritional status, I wonder if you need to eat more frequently??

      • Hey Ragen – I think what Spike means is that if he tries to eat ‘intuitively’ he is not hungry at all and then suddenly develops a raging hunger and irritability at about 5-6 hours. Since he says he eats 4 meals a day he must be eating every 6 hours on average. The same thing happens to me. If I don’t force myself to eat I find that I’m not hungry at all for 5-8 hours. Then I’m suddenly very weak and tired. It makes the whole ‘intuitive’ eating thing a bit tricky.
        For Spike – I’ve found that if I ‘jumpstart’ with a small, healthful snack, I develop a normal appetite within 15-20 min. I can then eat relatively intuitively. The only problem with this is that it makes planning meals and cooking a bit tricky. It works well for eating out, though.

  67. Does anyone know how to embed a picture? I am not the most tech-savvy, lol! I have a picture that I would love to share with you from a snowshoe race for the cure that I completed last March. It was my first time snowshoeing, and it was so much fun! I can’t wait to do it again next year. I have a great picture of myself at the finish line! It was a big accomplishment for me, and was much harder than I thought it would be, so I am very proud of it. Thanks!

  68. I don’t have videos but I work out several times a week – zumba, water aerobics, curves, curves zumba, dog walking, yard work, and home belly dance tapes to name a few things. I’m about 235 pounds. I work out because I like the way I feel, it helps reduce my allergies, and I needed to strengthen my muscles/improve my knees. I’ve always been active and my weight has veried. My workplace offers wellness time where we can take up to two and half hours off of work time if we are doing fitness activities and I am always one of the few who uses my time up. I live in an area where there aren’t any “meat rack” kind of gyms. all We have in a fifty mile radius are a couple of curves and a couple of YMCAs. So in general people of all sizes and ages are in the mix together and it doesn’t feel awkward. I’ve certainly had my share of wyrd comments tho…like the curves person who tried to fix the scale when I went for my weigh in and she thought it was broken because “you can’t be that heavy” (because she sees me working out there all the time), or the doctor who I saw for a sprained ankle after stepping off a curves recovery board wrong and his comment was, “you just did too much too soon” (assuming I had just started working out because of my size). But in general no one seems to think much about my size and my coworkers of all different sizes often ask me for advice about nutrition and fitness. So I offer my kudos to all of you our there living your life the way you want to and trying exciting new activities no matter what other peoples preconceptions may be. Who knows? Maybe you will find, like I did, that no one around you even has any dumbass things to say. And much love to Ragen for this blog! Fantastic.

    • The “congrats on starting an exercise program” people always crack me up. You are a rock star fathlete. I love what your work does, that is fantastic. Thanks for being an awesome example, I’m really glad that you like the blog!

      ~Ragen

      • I love it. Please keep blogging! :0) much love. leslie

    • Yay someone who does Zumba! :-) I do it 4 times a week and it’s so much fun. I was lucky to find a really good instructor who is super supportive – she let me lead the class in a dance to a song I found – when I do it again I will try and get my friend to video it so I can post it here.
      Since finding this site I am having a conflicted relationship with Zumba – on the national/ as-a-business level, it comes across as a fad exercise class disguised as a fun activity (I was actually going to write to Ragen and ask her about her thoughts on it as a phenomenon i.e. infomercial/news stories, is on video game consuls etc.). But the local class I take is very supportive and laid back w/ no judging…*except*…sigh…
      Well, maybe I’m being paranoid/self-conscious but sometimes the compliments I get from the other girls sound like the hidden-insult/ignorant pity kind. Like it’s *amazing* I’m doing this because I’m fat and they’re so proud that I’m moving and *trying* because usually fat people can’t move etc. etc. Not that they say it like that, but their compliments always seem laced with disbelief (or maybe compliments are just too alien to me and I don’t know a genuine one when I hear it through my own personal self-esteem bias/filter?). Then today, a woman (not what I’d call skinny herself but not big either) asked me if I had lost weight doing the class. Like that was the important thing. Oye. I don’t know how I would have responded BDWF (Before Dances With Fat). However, having filled up on Ragenblog goodness recently, I replied “I don’t know but I have more energy and that’s what’s important to me.” Ha! Go HAES! :-) Our teacher also likes to tell new students how much weight she lost doing Zumba. Meh. Whatever. She’s still awesome and the music is awesome and I love shaking my (very generous) hips to the rhythm!
      Hooray for *fun* healthy activities!

      • I get compliments like that too and I always say “I’m just another fatthlete” in an attempt to show that there are lots of us and it’s not uncommon. I love your response and it makes my day that my blog had anything to do with it :) Have fun at Zumba!!!!

        ~Ragen

  69. Ragen, you are marvellous.

    If we took classes at the same gym, I’d be hugely tempted to film myself and a friend doing the same body balance, yoga and pilates routines as a comparison piece. I may weigh much less, but she can pull off movements that I can’t manage. Similar diets, similar lifestyle – we just have different bodies, both of which are healthy for us and I really think that her body provides benefits in that workout which mine cannot (especially strength and flexibility).

    Not that even that would convince the haters, but then again, they would have to be worth convincing first…

  70. You look great!! What courage you have to post this. I am in the same boat as you. I am very healthy. I eat right, I’m active and I work out. My cholesterol is great, my A1C is good. I’m just not tiny. My doctor calls me fat but fit. I am working to lose some weight for my joints’ sake as I get older, but that is it. Keep going! You are doing an awesome job!

  71. For the past few days, my self esteem’s been pretty blown over my weight.
    And then I see you and all you can do and it just makes my entire week.
    Thank you.

  72. Gosh, you dance beautifully, it’s such a pleasure to watch: you made my morning feel happy. Thank you for posting.

  73. By the way Ragen, I think you dance very well. You are more graceful and coordinated at 5’4″ and 284lbs then I am at 5’3″ and 120 lbs and way more brave. No way could I go out in front of a large group of people and dance. I think it’s awesome that you love and accept yourself for who you are and not for who other people think you should be. I’m sorry if that came out badly, just I feel kinda out of place writing a comment when I myself have never experienced the negativity that you have. Keep up being awesome and graceful!

  74. Thanks for a wonderful post. While nobody can ever win arguing with trolls, it is possible to show a lot of good people hope and pride. Thank you! – Peter

  75. “Too fat” is when your body weight prevents you from doing what you want to do. By that definition, none of the commenters here are too fat. (Note: If something else can’t handle your body weight, e.g. if you are trying to walk on stilts and they can’t support your body weight, that is not “too fat”, that’s “bad design of equipment”.)

    It’s interesting though; I’m about medium weight and yet my body prevents me from doing all sorts of things I want to do, for example by being not very heat-tolerant, or having a lousy digestion. Yet no one gives me flack for those things.

    • I agree with most of what you said here, especially the idea of bad equipment design, but I would say that “too fat is designated by each person for themselves. What’s interesting to me is that if your body was bigger they would blame both of those issues on your body size. Thanks for the great comment!

      ~Ragen

      • Totally agreed. I think my definition allows for that, though – that’s why I wrote “what *you* want to do” rather than putting in specifics that might not apply to an individual. (Maybe I should have said “what you most want to do”, though. We all have idle wishes that aren’t really factors in how we run our lives. I would have liked to be able to buy clothing that fit when I lived in Taiwan, but I didn’t care enough about it to ant to change my body, especially as I am much healthier at this weight than I was when I weighed less in high school and college.)

    • I have to be honest that I don’t agree with trying to blanket-define the term “too fat” in any way, because although this particular definition seems wide enough, it still communicates that it is acceptable to use the term “too fat,” which is not something that I feel needs to remain in the common parlance. I feel that this phrase treads too closely, in particular, to the dis/ability community.

      In addition, it is often very difficult to tell what is “[preventing] you from doing what you want to do.” Is it fat, or is it fibromyalgia, for example, that prevents a person from doing everything they want to do? Is it the fact that a person is fat, or is it the fact that the person has cancer, CFIDS, post-partum depression, cystic fibrosis, a place in the human aging process, or a subscription to the laws of physics? Is it the fact that a person is fat, or is it how that person FEELS about being fat (or how fat they are at any given time) that prevents a person from doing what they want – or is it how that person feels about all kinds of things (aging, having a different number of limbs than most of the folks in their life, being a certain gender, et cetera)? The answers to the question of “why” are not easily determined by even the most savvy, self-knowing smartypants, and asking for external input is not always something that provides a person with anything but fat panic.

      • I have to put my two cents in here because I have been working on the whole accepting my(fat)self thing and I guess where I’m stuck is this: Does accepting yourself mean you don’t ever want to change anything about yourself? With regards to the idea that someone’s fat is holding them down (no pun intended)…
        My friend is thinner than me but less flexible. It’s funny/sad that sometimes she seems to think she should be more flexible than me because she’s smaller. I’ve learned that flexibility is a combination of genetics and training. I am fairly flexible but I have run into some stretches/yoga poses where my fat (specifically my belly) literally gets in my way. I can see no way to improve my reach without losing weight. So I am not driven to lose weight by societal pressure or a doctor’s lecture, etc., but I do still see it as a part of my overall health. I want to be healthy, not thin (if thin = healthy than anorexia wouldn’t be a disorder). But it seems that being a little thinner would be a little healthier for me…*but* the message of these sites is that I can be fat and healthy…and my health is more important to me than my waist size…
        Bottom line is…I guess I’m really confused right now. :-P
        Any thoughts?

        • Hi Pauline,

          I can’t tell you what to do for yourself, I can only say what has worked for me. Basically, I did a lot of research and didn’t see anything that made it seem like dieting worked so I decided to focus on healthy habits and let my body be the size that it wants. I don’t think that body size and health are the same thing so if I want to be healthier then I would try to be healthier, not thinner. Again, that’s just me, you’ll have to research and make your own decisions, if there’s anything that I can do to support you just let me know.

          ~Ragen

  76. I don’t have a specific interest in fat acceptance, but I do have a general interest in rationalism, and on those grounds I find what you have to say interesting.

  77. I swam the Tiburon Mile in 2009 (in 1.25 hours). This is an Olympic qualifying open water swim in the san franciso bay (you can see the golden gate bridge from the water…it’s rather cool). I hope to do it again at some point (once I heal from a back injury) and hopefully improve my time!

    My wife made a video of it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcvCwn5zB0M&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    (I that doesn’t work look up “Gina Pond Tiburon Mile” on youtube and you’ll find it.)

  78. i’m 42 years old, 5’4″, 210 lbs.
    i’ve been a fat girl for half my life – since i was pregnant with my oldest son.
    As a fat girl, i:
    * had an unmedicated out-of-hospital birth with my oldest son
    * made and had to defend many unpopular parenting choices (homebirth, no circumcision, delayed vaccination, “extended” [sic] breastfeeding, homeschooling, vegetarianism, alternative healthcare when feasible, etc.
    * trained and practiced as a doula, an herbalist, a direct-entry midwife, a Reiki Master/Teacher, and a massage therapist
    * had an unassisted pregnancy and birth (no testing, weighing, poking, prodding, scanning, etc. – i didn’t even pee on a stick to “confirm” the pregnancy. the birth was just me, my baby, my older son, and their father in our living room)
    * divorced my kids’ lying, cheating father (OOOH YAY GO ME!) and learned to stand on my own two feet to support my sons
    * created a network of interpersonal relationships that has supported me emotionally through some really awful times; helped me craft some really wonderful times; provided me with friends, chosen family, and lovers
    * ran my own small business
    * volunteer with multiple local organizations for sustainability and food security
    * was a sex worker on and off for 7 years
    * sold my car and walked or rode an adult tricycle (http://flic.kr/p/TozH9) anywhere from 5 to 20 miles daily (and am working on recovery from Rape Trauma Syndrome and associated agoraphobia so i can do this again)
    * survived a brutal rape
    * wrote a cookbook
    * do an hour of yoga daily
    * fell in love with and married the most amazing person i’ve ever known, and got an awesome teenage son in the deal
    * am back in school at 42, studying psychology with a focus on supporting sexual abuse/assault victims and survivors like myself through recovery

    i think ALL of that is awesome.

    Oh, yeah… This is me: http://flic.kr/p/a5HFkA

  79. I’ve read recently about superdigesters – we all have gut flora that assist with digestion, and some of us have far more efficient gut flora than others. This results in the ability to basically extract far more calories from the same food than others with less efficient gut flora.
    I believe the theory was that one could share these gut flora by sharing body fluids like saliva, which might help explain why couples are often chubby together.
    This doesn’t have anything to do with anything other than a sort of counterpoint to the idea that the calorie is god. We’re not all clones or manufactured in a clean room; genetic and environmental diversity would seem to lend itself to the idea that we handle those calories differently.
    Ragen, I envy your dancing skills! I have very poor balance.

  80. Had a completely drug free homebirth even though 5 midwives turned me down without ever having met me on BMI alone.

  81. Let me just start off with saying that i’m 5’7″, 125lbs, and nowhere near as athletic, flexible, or fit as you. My numbers in terms of my triglycerides and the whole panel are all good– but in terms of endurance and flexibility, it’s clear you are leagues above me. I am pretty much always dieting, avoiding foods, limiting my intake, and sticking to foods that are typically considered ‘healthy’ (although it seems like what’s ‘healthy’ is always changing).

    I am extremely curious of how intuitive eating works for you–I know if I listened to my body’s intuition, I’d be eating pizza, ice cream, coca cola, and chocolate all the time. And I also find that the more frequently I give into these cravings, the more I crave them.

    Additionally, I’m a pretty thin person– and along the lines of what someone else was saying earlier; my body prevents me from doing things I want to do all the time. I love hiking and running, but my fairly young joints are always giving me problems– something that if I were heavier, people would probably blame my size for.

    I could obviously take a few pointers from you in terms of fitness.

    • Hi there!

      Intuitive eating is different for everyone (or at least was for everyone I know) but one thing most of us had in common is that we all thought that if we gave ourselves permission to eat anything we would just never stop. I know one person who told her therapist – “No, I mean I’ll eat ALL the ice cream – like, there won’t be any left anywhere.” What I found was that things shifted when I really gave myself permission to eat anything I wanted. It meant that I didn’t have to eat something that I didn’t feel like because I “had to have it now before I start my diet tomorrow”, it also removed all guilt which removed “cravings”. I went through a period of eating a lot of stuff that I had denied myself but it evened out for me and now what I value most is how much free time my brain has because I’m not obsessing about food all the time and I find that I can really notice how I feel when I eat and I can honor that, but when I eat stuff that’s not the most nourishing, it doesn’t cause crippling guilt or digestion issues or whatever like it used to. That’s just me, other people may have different experiences and it’s never a bad idea to get the support of a counselor or therapist as you go through the process. Please feel free to let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you.

      ~Ragen

      • Hey em just wanted to put my two cents in about cravings and what we choose to eat. All of the below is just my humble opinion and personal experience with food. The most important thing I have learned since trying to eat more intuitively is to balance my own intuition with outside knowledge. If I am craving something, I try to figure out why. Sometimes it is an emotional craving like I’m stressed so I want chocolate or some other comfort food. If I know that’s where it’s coming from, I can either work through it and ignore my desire for that food, or indulge my craving and move on. Therapy has helped me see all my food choices as simply the choices I need to make for myself and not ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Berating yourself for eating the ‘wrong’ thing never helps. If you need chocolate you need chocolate. The world won’t come to an end if you have a piece. Hell, the world won’t come to an end if you have a whole bag of it. But you may feel pretty sick afterward. Feeling bad about feeling bad is pointless.

        I have found it to be very counterproductive to ‘deny’ myself food. Writer Anthony de Mello says that “the moment you renounce something, you become tied to it even more tightly.” Reverse psychology. The minute you say “I’m never having chocolate again”…well, guess what you’re craving 24/7? Then you’re just bitter and driving everyone nuts because you’re obsessing about food and what you can and can’t have. My friend used to turn into an absolute b**ch when she would go on a diet. Now she’s eating alternatively (more whole foods to deal with a possible allergy) instead of restrictively (fat/carb/sugar obsessing and calorie counting) and she’s much more happy and balanced.

        Also, I noticed that I don’t crave as much refined or high fat food now that I am more physically active. After a dance class I crave fruit and lean protein. So it seems like taking care of yourself in other ways may bolster your efforts to take care of yourself nutritionally.

        Lastly, some cravings have been shown to be signs of nutritional deficiencies (http://www.naturopathyworks.com/pages/cravings.php). I was fantasizing about chicken strips and onion rings for weeks, but every time I got them they didn’t taste that good so I couldn’t figure out why I thought I wanted them. Turns out craving oily, fatty foods may mean you have a calcium deficiency – I had stopped drinking milk because of a slight dairy allergy. I started taking calcium supplements and I stopped craving the fried food.

        Bottom line: You just need to find what truly nourishes you. Trust yourself, trust your body, don’t be afraid of food.

  82. Wow, that’s such a stark example of people’s ignorance and confirmation bias. I mean, you satisfied every one of their requests, and when they couldn’t request you do anything else to prove your athleticism and health (because you already had, over and over again), they resorted to name-calling and their basest instincts. It makes me sad, but it’s really eye-opening.

    As far as the invisibility of fat athletes like yourself, it reminds me of what my education teacher used to say. When we discussed literature that’s used in the classroom (particularly with younger children), she would always stop and ask us, “Whose voices are being privileged?” And quickly you start to see the holes in children’s literature, how it’s catered to kids from idyllic environments, and that finding a book about a Mommy who’s an alcoholic or someone who’s fat but happy is next to impossible. Anyhow, long story short, that class has since made me often stop and wonder whose voices are being privileged, and whose are being silenced. Because, sadly, someone’s always being privileged, and at the cost of someone else’s voice.

  83. I am 5’0 and what society would consider ” A little on the heavy side”.
    I was Captain of my drill team in high school and can do anything a girl only half my size can do. I’m glad that you are also a dancer. A lot of times I blamed my weight for not being able to do a move or improve technique. Thankfully I am growing out of that because I know I can do it. I know I can do anything regardless of how much I weigh. Thank you for posting this, it has made me realize that I am not alone in this. (:
    Here is my photo:
    [IMG]http://i59.tinypic.com/mjp8pd.jpg[/IMG]


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