Shame-Free Self Care

I got an e-mail response to yesterday’s blog from a woman who asked “can you address the practical side of it? How do you deal with the sweaty, rubbing aspect of bodies, especially in the heat”

This is a big deal because we live in a society that tells us that our bodies, if they are fat, are not worthy of care.  We also get the message that the needs of a fat body are embarrassing and shameful.  We are in charge of whether or not we believe these things, and I do not.  I think my body is amazing and worthy of great care.

My first experience with this was when I decided to look for a solution to inner thigh chaffing (aka “chub rub”).  What shocked me most was that it wasn’t just fat women – there were thin women dealing with the same issues.  That’s when I realized that these aren’t just “fat people issues” it’s just that fat people are the only ones encouraged to be ashamed of them.

For me, it’s all about honoring the needs of my body without guilt or shame.  Here are some examples:

Chaffing

There are all kinds of cremes and powders to address this. There’s a thread about those here [TW - not a Health at Every Size Space].  Making sure that your clothes fit well is another part of it.  When I’m wearing skirts I often wear leggings under them (long length if I want them to show and bike short length if I don’t want them to show).  This also helps with the fact that I have a hard time remembering to sit like a lady and I have a tendency to just high kick for any old reason!  There are also cloth pads that you can buy that go under your bra or in your tunny fold to prevent chaffing.  I bought the bra ones because sometimes I dance in an underwire bra and that makes the skin under my breasts really sad.  The pads cleared the problem right up.

Showering

It’s possible that a combination of body size and/or arm length and/or inflexibility will lead to you know being able to reach your whole body when showering.  Consider using loofah or other sponges that have long handles, getting a shower head that separates.  While you’re at it, consider investing in a big, ginormous towel or two (I have found that it’s completely awesome to have a towel that matches my bodies proportions) and make sure that you dry off thoroughly.

Treats!

Your body is awesome and it can feel awesome to treat it well with special things and decorations.  It can be as simple as a scented lotion or a bubble bath, or as dramatic as a tattoo or piercing.

More of Me to Love, Ample Stuff, and My Size USA all offer products specifically to help people take care of their large bodies. (I don’t get paid by any of these sites, More of Me to Love was the major donor on the Billboard Project).

Regardless, if I let people shame me into not taking good care of my big amazing body then the shamers win and I’m the only one who suffers.

So, today is “ask me anything about self-care day”!  Leave a comment with your question, and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

I also wrote this week for iVillage about the Vogue article involving the mother who decided to make body shame part of her 7 year old daughter’s inheritance.  Feel free to read and comment if the mood strikes you!

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 6:05 am  Comments (57)  

When Every Body But Mine Was Beautiful

Picture by Richard Sabel

One of the most common e-mails that I get is from blog fans who say that, while they completely understand size acceptance for everyone else, and they find bodies of all sizes beautiful and valuable and awesome, they just can’t get there for their own bodies. I got an e-mail like that today and it really struck me because I’m preparing to be an Adiposer tomorrow. If you don’t know about the [NSFW] adipositivity project, you are absolutely missing out. It’s a project that “aims to promote size acceptance, not by listing the merits of big people, or detailing examples of excellence (these things are easily seen all around us), but rather, through a visual display of fat physicality.”  There are stunning pictures of fat people in various stages of dress and undress.  It’s amazing, I’ve loved it forever and tomorrow I get to pose for the project and meet its amazing creator, Substantia Jones, which in some ways is a culmination of all the self work I’ve done about this,  and wow am I rambling off topic right now.

For me, the thing that triggered the idea that I could ever be happy with my fat body was the realization that I didn’t feel about other fat bodies the way that I felt about my body at the time. I was trying to quit a diet program that had me eating less than I had with an eating disorder and wouldn’t allow me to exercise, and I was gaining weight.  When I told them I was quitting, they made me go into a little room with a little poster about not quitting and a woman brought in a binder with pictures of fat women, and she started flipping through it silently.  She said “You might not know it, but this is what you look like and these women will die alone eating bon bons in front of the television and is that what you want for yourself?”

What I realized in that moment was that I didn’t find anything wrong with those women’s bodies, in fact I thought that they were beautiful.  I didn’t expect that they would never find love (and I didn’t know what bon bons were but that’s another thing.) So it occurred to me in a rush: if I thought that their bodies were beautiful… and if I looked like them…then maybe it was possible to think that my body was beautiful.

Of course that was the beginning of a long process.  I started that process by focusing on what my body does instead of how it looks.  I made a massive list of all the things that I appreciate about my body – I included things like blinking and breathing, I included standing, walking, reaching,  hugging and any other action I could think of.  I included that I love my curly hair and my eyes that change color.  I wrote down anything that I could think of that I liked about my body, or that my body did.

Then I committed to really paying attention to my thoughts and every time I had a negative thought about my body I would replace it with a positive thought from the list.  Every time it crossed my mind I would thank my body for doing anything that I could think of  – hey, thanks for breathing! I appreciate you reaching for that!  Way to climb the stairs!  Whatever I could think of.

More than any work that I have done, this started to shift the way that I felt about my body.

At the same time I made a point of noticing something beautiful about every body that I saw.  When something about someone caught my eye because it was outside the stereotype of beauty, I focused on what was amazing about it.  When I had negative thoughts I reminded myself that I had been spoon-fed these ideas by industries that profit from my thinking them; and that if they didn’t serve me or didn’t feel authentic, then I was free to replace those thoughts with thoughts that I came up with on my own that did serve me and felt authentic.

I stopped engaging in body snarking altogether and I started to interrupt it when other people did it.

I actively sought out pictures of people who were outside of the stereotype of beauty.  Some places I can recommend for this are:

The Fit Fatties Forum Photo Gallery

The Adipositivity Project (NSFW)

The Flickr Athletes of Every Size group

Full Figure Entertainment Gallery

I looked for similarities between the people I thought were beautiful and pictures of my own body, and I reminded myself that other people were looking at me and seeing the same beauty that I saw in those women.

And I had a lot of compassion for myself.  Changing thoughts and patterns that are ingrained, and sometimes reinforced by the culture around us is really hard work.  It takes time, there will often be backslides and mistakes, and the best ways to NOT succeed are not having compassion for the learning process, not having patience, and trying to rush it along. I know for me I decided that I was going to get there, and then I held that thought all the way through.  Patience, persistence, and belief that I would get there were the keys to my success.

Like the blog?  Consider becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.

What do member fees support?  I get hundreds of requests a day (not including hatemail) from academic to deeply personal. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (and let me just give a huge THANK YOU to my members, I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

Are you looking for a way to do some fun movement this summer (and get prizes for it?)  Consider a Fit Fatty Virtual Summer Vacation!

My Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for detail

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post

 

Published in: on March 27, 2012 at 5:16 am  Comments (41)  

The Billboards Are Going Up Today!

When I first had the idea to put up billboards in response to the Strong4Life campaign of shame and weight bullying, people said that it was impossible.  They were wrong:

Thousands of people helped get the word out about the campaign  (Thanks everybody!)

1010 people donated their own money to the cause (Thanks to every donor!)

A corporate donor supported us with a $5,000 matching  donation (Thanks More of Me to Love)

$21,720.20 was raised (holy cow!)

6 billboards and 10 bus shelter signs are going up all over Atlanta today. (Thanks to Allan from Adout, Inc. for negotiating on our behalf and helping us through the billboard project)

The original goals of this campaign were to:

  1. Show Atlanta kids of all sizes that they are valued and respected and try to undo some of the damage of the Strong4Life campaign
  2. Assert that we can support the development of healthy habits in kids of all sizes (including a focus on providing access to healthy food and movement options that are culturally appropriate and that kids enjoy) without shaming or stigmatizing any kids at all
  3. Educate people about why shaming kids is bad for their health and about the Health at Every Size option

I feel like we are on our way to accomplishing those goals with the billboards, bus shelter ads, and the new website.  All of the pieces link to www.SupportAllKids.com  This website, beautifully designed by Sabrina Wilson of ThoughtBoxMarketing, includes the final version of the billboard, the 10 bus shelter ads, and information intended to help start authentic dialog and support people in learning more about Health at Every Size, Size Acceptance, and Fat Civil Rights.

If you’ve ever done a project of this magnitude, then you know that they attract criticism.  Some, and possibly all, of that criticism will be absolutely valid.  One of the things that makes doing big projects with this many moving parts scary (and one of the reasons that people tell me keeps them from doing this kind of work) is that you know you are going to screw things up, you know that people will point it out, and you don’t know if they will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Any mistakes made on this project are my own and I take full responsibility and apologize.  I am already aware that, in retrospect, I absolutely could have done a better job of reaching out to communities including people of color, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and anyone else who may not feel that Fat Activism is welcoming to them or addressing the issues that are specific to their community.  I deeply apologize for that, and it’s something that I will continue to work on and improve. I learned a lot from this project and part of that is that I still have a lot to learn.

I think it’s important to continuously strive to be better activists, and I also think it’s important to celebrate our victories, and this project is a victory – More than 1,000 people got together and got something done.  Something massive.  Something that people said was impossible.  Thanks so much to everyone involved.  Congratulations and here’s to bigger and better things in the future!

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 26, 2012 at 6:10 am  Comments (34)  

As Long as We’re Healthy

I see a lot of people say some version of “I think it’s fine for people to be any size as long as they’re healthy”.  I think they usually think that they are being supportive, and are well intentioned (which we’ll deal with in a moment). First I want to explain why I find this to be faulty for a number of reasons:

First, the idea that other people should dictate to us what health means, how highly we should prioritize it, and what path we should choose to get there is deeply problematic in no small part because it quickly becomes a slippery slope.  I find that, for example, omnivores who want to police my health choices are typically much less excited to have their health choices questions by someone who believes that a vegan diet is the best for health.

Second, whether intended or not, this often has the feel of someone who sees themselves as superior and thereby empowered to dole out approval of my size and health plan.  I don’t recognize anyone else’s authority over my body and health – I have trusted advisors but I am the ultimate boss of my underpants.

Third, it makes it sound like they believe that I can be fat if I’m healthy (by whatever definition of healthy they are using) but if I start to have health problems then it’s time to get thin.  That is a trifecta of putting the ass in assumption, including:   1. fat is causing the problem 2.  becoming thin would solve the problem  3.  becoming thin is possible (It’s the third one that’s the real doozie – since there’s no proof that most fat people can maintain long-term weight loss, it doesn’t matter what becoming thin might do because we don’t know how to get it done).

So what do we do about this?  You all know that I don’t like to criticize without giving some suggestions so here are some options that I’ve personally used, just in case  it helps you.  As always it’s up to you and your mileage may vary:

This can be an opportunity to educate about Health at Every Size – “I’m not sure what path to health that person has chosen, but from my research, I see this differently.  I practice Health at Every Size which acknowledges that  health and weight are two separate things.  There are healthy and unhealthy people of every shape and size.  Since there’s not a single study that shows that weight loss works, regardless of my health I would still choose health interventions for health problems – rather than trying to change the size of my body.” or something like that.

If you’re not up to having a doing the whole education piece, maybe point out an option where people don’t make judgments about other people:  “I think that judging people based on their  size or their health is really pretty inappropriate.”

You can choose to disengage with an explanation “Actually, I’m not really comfortable with conversations that include body policing or healthism.  I’m happy to change the subject or to call it a night”

Or you can just go with short and sweet “You know, I don’t think someone else’s health or size is up for my approval or, really, any of my business”.

Of course you are not obligated to open a dialog at all and despite your best efforts people may not choose to question their actions, but I believe that we can’t be responsible for other people’s reactions, all we can ever do is point out the issue and offer compassion, support, and education in whatever combination we believe is right.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

 

Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 8:36 am  Comments (12)  

Obesity is Not a Stunt Double

This post is not about my desire to do work as a plus-size stunt person when I move to LA (although I do and I am so if you need that kind of thing…call me :)

No, this post is about the way that people say “obesity” when they mean general or specific health problems.  Obesity is a poorly cast stunt double who gets called on set to stand in for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart  disease, eating  disorders and whatever other thing we’re confusing correlation and causation about this week.

Yesterday’s post about Planned Parenthood is a really good example of how this happens. They were trying to list three “critical health care issues” and they listed obesity, children’s healthcare, and suicide.  Unfortunately that’s actually 2 critical health issues and one body size. It’s the same as if they said “critical health issues like tallness, children’s healthcare, and suicide.”.

Tallness, you see, is also associated with a shorter lifespan and a higher risk for health issues, but that doesn’t mean we try to make tall people shorter (and remember that we the chances of making someone thin are less than 5% better than making them shorter).

Part of this is a massive correlation vs. causation error.  Correlation means that we can observe two things happening at the same time, causation means that we know that one actually causes the other and how that happens. If all we have is correlation, even if the two things ALWAYS happen at the same time, we still can’t prove causation until we know how one causes the other.  This is the most basic pillar of research.  If all we know is correlation, then we have to leave room for the possibility that the two things are caused by a third factor, or that they are unrelated.  If we fail to do that, we are incompetent researchers.

So, even if every August has the most murders and the most ice cream eaten, we have no reason to believe that if we stop selling ice cream in August the murder rate will go down.  Nor can we accurately state that we want to work serious crime issues like home break-ins, grand theft auto, and ice cream eating.  Ice cream is not a stand in for murder no matter how much they may be correlated. But that’s exactly the mistake we make when we call obesity a “health care issue”.

Obesity is correlated with diseases, but causation isn’t proven.  It’s possible that both things are caused by a third factor (for example the stress of constant stigma has also been correlated to many of the same diseases as obesity in Peter Muennig’s work).  There are some chemicals that are in food that are correlated to both obesity and the disease that are commonly correlated with obesity.  The point is that nobody has solid research about why bodies are the size that they are (and it doesn’t matter what “everybody knows”), nobody has a shred of evidence proving that they can make fat people thin for the long term, and so calling fat bodies a health care crisis is not an evidence based claim, and focusing on things that we could “cure” if we could make people thin is like focusing on things that we could cure if we could make people fly.  Even if it would work, we don’t know how to get it done.

Not only does it create a second class of citizens who are shamed and stigmatized because of their body size and can’t get evidence-based healthcare because doctors are too busy prescribing behaviors for us that they diagnose as unhealthy in thin people.  It also harms thin people, who get all of the same diseases as fat people but often can’t get a diagnosis because their physicians believe that these diseases only happen to fat people, and are sold a dangerously false sense of security because they are told that their weight makes them healthy, regardless of their habits.

I sometimes wonder if the focus on obesity instead of disease is on purpose since obesity is seen as something that the obese person is “responsible for” and has to deal with, but diseases are seen as something that deserves healthcare (although  I notice some people, especially in the United States, are desperately trying to make disease an issue of blame and fear as well.)

Regardless of why it’s done, obesity is not the stunt double for diseases with which it is correlated. Obesity is a ratio of height and weight and we need to stop confusing the two.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 7:18 am  Comments (25)  

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fat People

Update!    Planned Parenthood has responded and removed “obesity” from it’s list of health concerns.  Activism works!  Send a thank you to ppaction at ppvotesnw dot org.

I am a fan of planned parenthood so I was saddened to learn that In a post about about women’s rights in Alaska, Planned Parenthood Northwest stated:

Alaska should not be the place for the next frontier on the national war on women. As a state, we need to focus on continued revenue generation, addressing critical health care issues like obesity, children’s health care, and suicide, and ensuring that all Alaskans are afforded the rights put in place by our constitution regardless of their socioeconomic status.

So let me see if I understand this:

Planned Parenthood Northwest would like to shift the focus from inappropriate attention on women’s reproductive systems to inappropriate attention to fat people’s bodies.

Planned Parenthood Northwest doesn’t want a war on women, but they’re cool with a war on obese people.

PPNW wants to makes sure that people get their constitutional rights unless they are fat, then the want to systematically eradicate us, even against our will.

[Trigger Warning - suicide talk] They list obesity and suicide as two critical health issues, ostensibly at the same level. This is not the first time I’ve seen them talked about as parallel, in addition to having people tell me that being fat is “committing slow suicide” This infuriates me for very personal reasons: I am obese, my brother committed suicide.  I live a fabulous life with amazing friends and wonderful experiences.  My brother does not live at all.  I’m not being flip about this and I hesitated to talk about it here at all, but I think it’s important to realize the distinction –  his death was a tragedy, my body is not.  His suffering and death should never be minimized by comparing them to something that wouldn’t cause me any suffering at all if it weren’t for the bigotry and stigma that I have to deal with, that is being reinforced in PP’s memo.

The Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  I’m ready to get me some of that.  I’m ready to be able to enjoy the world I live in with the body I live in without shame, stigma or humiliation.  I’m ready for the government to stop putting up walls and hurdles to block my pursuit of happiness.  Pursuing happiness and being the subject of a war whose goal is my eradication are competing interests at best. I’d like to live in a world where people challenge an industry that makes $60 billion selling a product for which they have zero proof of long-term efficacy, rather than giving them grants and telling me that I have to buy in or I’m not prioritizing my health. I think that my pursuit of happiness will become a lot easier at precisely the time that the pursuit of fat people as “the enemy” stops.

Activism Opportunity

Tell Planned Parenthood how you feel.  E-mail them at ppaction@ppvotesnw.org

Here’s an example from what I wrote:

I am a long-time support of Planned Parenthood.  As an obese woman who practices Health at Every Size and leads an amazing life, I ask you to reconsider your suggestion that we transfer inappropriate focus on women’s reproductive systems to inappropriate focus on fat people’s bodies. A war on obese people is no better than a war on women.   I would ask that you stop any anti-obesity language and instead support access to healthy foods, safe movement options, and affordable evidence-based medical care for people of all sizes.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 9:42 am  Comments (17)  

It’s Obviously Magic

I read a story once, I wish I could remember where, about a couple from the US who had been living in a very rural part of Africa when their two children were born.  When the kids were around 8 and 10 years old they brought them to the states for a visit.  Upon arriving at the airport in the US, the kids discovered an automatic door.  As the little boy stepped forward and back, opening the door over and over, the little girl stated matter of factly, “Well, it’s obviously magic.”

That made perfect sense to her, despite the fact that it seems like nonsense to the rest of us.  It’s not because she is not smart, but because that is the only conclusion that she can come to based on her current body of knowledge.  One can expect that with education she will understand that something she previous thought was impossible is actually easily explained. When given the information the young girl will have a choice:  She can accept the new information into her body of knowledge or she can refuse to believe it and go on believing that the door is magic. Her belief doesn’t change the truth, and she is the only one responsible for what she chooses to believe.

I think that’s how it often is with the Health at Every Size concept – people aren’t able to wrap their heads around it because there is simply nothing in their frame of reference that makes it seem possible that health and weight are two separate things. But once they have access to the information they can either add it to their body of knowledge or they can go on believing that weight and health are the same thing. Their belief doesn’t make it any more true. And we can’t be responsible for what other people believe.

I think it’s incredibly important to spread the word about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size.  Every time we post something on Facebook or Twitter, or bring up our Size Acceptance/HAES practice, we are giving people an opportunity to question their stereotypes and add to their knowledge base.  We ARE NOT responsible for what they do or do not choose to do with this opportunity, we can only provide the opportunity.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right-hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 21, 2012 at 8:00 am  Comments (4)  

Jumping to Conclusions is Not Great Exercise

When it comes to weight and health, our society has a tendency to get a little bit of information and then jump to conclusions that only seem obvious based on our stereotypes and myths about weight and health.  Let’s look at some examples:

According to studies from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, about 50% of overweight people and 30% of obese people are metabolically healthy. These fat healthy people are called a “paradox” and are ignored in discussions about health and weight.  According to basically  every weight loss study since 1959,  about 5% of people successfully maintain weight loss (and there is no guarantee that they are healthy). They are seen as proof that weight loss works, as successes,  and great effort is being made to study them to see how to make us all thin.  So we ignore 50% and 30% to study 5%.

There are all kinds of articles out talking about a study that found that fat doctors don’t talk to their patients about their weight (thanks to reader Lyn for sending this along).  Everyone jumps to the conclusion that this is a bad thing and that the doctors aren’t discussing weight loss because they are embarrassed of their size.  But what about the possibility that these doctors are living the abysmal success rate of weight loss.  Consider that doctors who don’t recommend weight loss are the only ones who are practicing evidence-based medicine.  You see, when it comes to weight loss there is not a shred of evidence that would lead those doctors who are pushing it to believe that it would work.  But hey, let’s jump to conclusions and criticize fat doctors for not giving people a prescription that fails 95% of the time?

Another one we hear a lot is how many fat people have type 2 diabetes.  What they don’t tell you is that doctors test fat people early and often for diabetes based on diagnostic criteria that have been recently lowered.  On the other side, thin people are not tested until they have severe symptoms and some doctors even mistakenly think that it’s not possible for thin people to get type 2 diabetes.  So, if Group A gets tested for a health issue very earlier and very often, and group B doesn’t get tested unless they have severe advanced symptoms,  how is it news that more people in group A are diagnosed with the health issues.

We have to rise above “everybody knows” and the way to do that is to question the status quo (in the wise words of Dr. Horrible,  “the status is not…quo.”)  The thing that makes great thinkers great is their ability to look at the world with a fresh eye.  We all have capability to do that – to look at the evidence and consider everything that it might be suggesting rather than just jumping to conclusions.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right-hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 17, 2012 at 7:59 am  Comments (21)  

Excuse Me, Can I Get This Validated?

Long time readers know of my undying love for Kung Fu Panda. Today I watched the sequel again and, in what may be my favorite scene, (very minor spoiler alert) Po’s master, Shifu, says that when Po was name the Dragon Warrior it was the worst day of the Master’s life.  But then Shifu realized that the problem was with him and not with Po and that allowed him to work through it. (end very minor spoiler alert)

And wouldn’t it be just dandy if everyone had that kind of self-awareness?  But that’s something we’re still working on as a society.  In the meantime there are still people who think it’s their job to decide who else is worthy. And we buy into every time we look to someone else to tell us if we’re beautiful or sexy.  Y’all, let me suggest that parking is the only place where you have to look to someone else for validation.

My lovely blog wife Karen (once in a fit of liking my blog she asked me to marry her in the comments and I accepted) posted an awesome quote from Gabourey Sibide “People always ask me, ‘You have so much confidence. Where did that come from?’ It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl.”

I think that’s the deal.  You give power to the posers every time you ask them if you’re pretty enough or if you’re sexy.  I’m not saying that it’s not cool to have people who tell you that you are beautiful and sexy, I’m suggesting that you let those people restate what you already know for sure. I’m ok if people don’t find me attractive, that’s not my thing to decide or change.  There are people who think I’m attractive and sexy and I will live alone with a herd of rescued Great Danes before I’m in a relationship with someone who doesn’t.

If you don’t claim and own your awesome, you leave your self esteem in the hands of the kind of people who try to make you feel bad to make them feel better and that doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.  If it’s not my parking slip, nobody’s validation is required.  If they can’t see that we’re beautiful and sexy. I think that’s sad for them.  If they figure it out then that’s great for everybody but all that is extraneous to us realizing it for ourselves.

I think that one of the things that can really help this along is noticing the beauty in other people.  When I started my journey it was easier to realize that other women who looked like me were beautiful and sexy and then it just started to seem dumb that I could see it in others but not myself and one day it just clicked.  Like “Oh, right …I’m beautiful and sexy.  Cool”.  It didn’t stick 100%  right away but the more I could see the beauty in others, the more I could see it in myself. I suggest trying it, if you decide you don’t enjoy feeling sexy and beautiful and appreciating the beauty and sexiness in others, you can always stop.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right-hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 16, 2012 at 5:16 am  Comments (23)  

Stealing Our Dreams Back

Prejudice against people of size tries to dictate the things that we’ll never be – dancers,  actresses, athletes, pop stars, proud of our bodies, married, not on a diet etc. Remember Jennifer Hudson’s Weight Watchers commercial where she said “Before Weight Watchers my Whole World was can’t” when before WW she had been a finalist on American Idol, starred in a film and won an Oscar and a Grammy?

As a fat person, the message that I hear loud and clear is that the only thing society is interested in me achieving is weight loss.  This fat hating culture steals dreams, sometimes even before they can be dreamt.  Little fat kids like me who sing and dance for crowds of millions in our bedrooms are not encouraged to pack up our dreams and move to LA, we’re encouraged to pack a Lean Cuisine and hit the gym until we are thin and that then, and only then, can we start dreaming of anything else.

That’s why I love to see fat actors, actresses, athletes, dancers, and fat people who love their bodies – because they are stealing their dreams back, wresting them from strangle hold of prejudice, bigotry and oppression. Every time somebody refuses to base their self-esteem on whether or not they meet a cultural stereotype of beauty, every time a fat person wakes up and doesn’t hate themselves, every time someone refuses to acquiesce to the tremendous pressure to shut up and conform or at least acknowledge their “failure”, they start stealing their dreams back, and they become role models for others. Some of my favorite reader feedback is when someone sends me an e-mail to say that they took a dance or karate class, or tried something that they weren’t doing because they were fat.  This is one of the main reasons that I wanted to create the Fit Fatties Forum

If you had asked me three weeks ago I would have said that I’ve stolen all my dreams back, but it turns out that was a lie – I was playing it safe. Two weeks ago I took a trip to LA.  I traveled there to speak at CalTech which went really well, (I even convinced a Masters in Public Health group to change their focus from obesity prevention to health promotion).  While I was there I got to see Jennifer Jonassen perform and she was fantastic.  I got to see the amazing Jeanette DePatie give a great talk at her book signing.  I also got to meet Julianne and the awesome women from NAAFA‘s LA chapter who were inspiring in their support of each other, their work in the community, and their activism.  After I got home and started thinking about my trip,  I realized that I was cutting myself short on what I truly want in my life because I wasn’t sure if it was possible.

I’m extremely lucky in a number of ways.  I’m lucky that the things I love most (speaking, performing, and writing) are things that I’m good at, and fit well with the thing that I most want to accomplish with my life (fighting for civil rights and against weight bullying and oppression to make the world better for people of size).  So I made a decision.  I’m going to pack up my dreams and move to Los Angeles where I can continue my World Tour as well as looking for more opportunities to get on stage as a performer (where I love being more than anywhere else) and give people the chance to question their stereotypes about fat performers, and really steal back all of my dreams.

I’m looking forward to working with Jeanette, Jennifer, and NAAFA-LA and using the platform of LA to make a difference. (Thanks to every movie ever made about moving to LA and chasing your dreams, I know that you shouldn’t hide your money in a baggie in the toilet because it’s the first place thieves look – I’ve always wondered why those girls didn’t just get bank accounts).  Of course this means that I’m not moving to San Francisco and I’m sad about that because there are so many fantastic people there who I would love to work with.  But if I’m being honest, the truth is that I really want to roll the dice and see what kind of hell I can raise in LA.  Wish me luck!

Activism Opportunity

I’m doing a slideshow for iVillage called “Pictures of Health – Diet Quitters”.  It will involve a picture of you and answers to some questions about your experience going HAES.  If you are interested please E-MAIL ME at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right-hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 10:24 am  Comments (26)