Suing for Airline Fatty Policy

Last year Kenlie Tiggeman was told by a gate agent of Southwest Airlines that she was “too fat to fly”.  She is now suing Southwest Airlines.  She’s not trying to get money, what she wants is an industry standard for flyers who have to buy another seat, in her words “If you’re telling me I have to buy two seats, you should tell me at the point of purchase, not the day I’m flying when I check in at the terminal.”

I have tremendous respect for her taking action on this and putting herself out there.  I understand her frustration, nobody should be humiliated at any time, but especially by a company that they have paid for a service. However, I disagree with what she’s asking for.  I’m very concerned that this suit will lead to an arbitrary policy that won’t help anyone and will hurt a lot of people.

It’s all but impossible to tell if you are going to fit into an airline seat before you get on the plane.  For my speaking gigs I often fly twice a week taking 4-6 different planes.  I can tell you that planes are very different – seats are different sizes, seat belts are different lengths, depending on the size, type and age of the plane.

Also, it’s difficult to choose a standard by which to judge if you’re going to fit. Weight, for example, is not an indicator of body size.  I weigh almost 300 pounds but because my fat goes forward and back, and because a lot of my mass is muscle, I happen to fit into a seat.  There are people who weigh one hundred pounds less than I do who cannot fit comfortably in a seat because they carry their weight differently. Some people’s bodies will squish to fit between the armrests, some won’t.  Hip measurements have the same challenges – some people squish, some don’t.  My hip measurement is large but you have to take into account how the weight is carried.

The general argument about this goes that the airline is selling space and therefore if you don’t fit in a seat you should pay extra. I do understand this argument and why there is controversy about this. I disagree, stick with me to the end of the blog and if you disagree I’m open to that.   The primary reason I disagree is that the airlines are selling transportation to people.  This isn’t Priority Mail “if it fits it ships”, the airline industry is in the business of transporting actual people, and people come in different sizes and shapes, and therefore I think that the airlines are responsible for accommodating their actual passengers and not just those who are a specific size. We are all paying to get our bodies from one place to another.

I’ve seen flight attendants bend over backwards to accommodate a tall thin passenger, and if someone wants to use the ” tall isn’t their fault but being fat is” argument (thought I don’t agree with the premise),  then I’ve seen flight attendants bend over backwards for someone wearing a cast and using crutches and, having watched the show Jackass, I know that could very well be the result of doing something incredibly foolish.  At the end of the day, it’s about getting bodies from one place to another.  People come in different sizes, this is the size I come in, and I need to get from here to there just like everybody else who is getting on this plane.

Also, I would argue that this is thinly-veiled fat discrimination because nobody ever says anything about men (and sometimes women) whose shoulders don’t fit within their prescribed area – next time you get on a plane look at how many people’s shoulders are in someone else’s seat. We’re also not talking about people with body odor or people who have marinated in cheap cologne and make the flight unpleasant for a couple of rows of passengers – should they be required to purchase all the seats within smelling distance?

We keep hearing about how airlines are struggling financially.  You would think that if more than 67% of Americans are fat then it might make financial sense to court us for our business, not treat us like we are an unbelievable pain in the ass because we have the audacity to exist, and their refusal to actually accommodate us results in us bothering some tiny percentage of the 33% of people with whom the airlines actually seem to want to do business.

This is a problem, but the solution is definitely not to set some arbitrary weight at which people should have to pay extra, or to have people entering their hip measurements along with their credit card numbers.

Accommodating fat people is not rocket science.  Canada has a one-passenger one-ticket rule so clearly it’s not impossible.  Put us in the aisle – a lot of people don’t know that the aisle armrest actually raises.  You have to keep it down during take-off and landing, but for the vast majority of the flight you can gain a lot of space.  Choose which standby passengers get to fly based on who is willing to sit next to a person of size. Insist that your staff stop being bigots and jerks and work to accommodate people of size.

Quit bowing to passengers who are weight bigots.  If the person sitting next to you has their body in your seat but isn’t touching you, then you may have 99 problems but a fatty ain’t one, enjoy your flight. If the person sitting next to you is touching you, then welcome to the experience of millions of people taking public transportation every day, this may not be your favorite flight ever-it happens.  I’ve been seated next to a shrieking baby, in front of a kicking toddler, near people with some serious body odor, near other people wearing half a bottle of the world’s most noxious perfume. I’m allergic to cats and I spent 4 hours sitting (and sneezing) next to a woman with a sick cat in a carrier in her lap beside me.  None of these were fun flights, but in each case I can empathize.  Also, get a grip -  it’s a few hours out of your life, you don’t have to spend a month on this plane. If you don’t want to deal with other people in close proximity public transportation is not for you.

Fat people are in fact people.  We’re just like you, only bigger.  We deserve the same ability as everyone else to buy one ticket for our one body, get on a plane, and get safely to our destination without being the subject of bullying, harassment, or bigotry because of how we look.

Pre-order my book and  get an autographed copy and free shipping! (Give a copy to the unpleasant passenger next to you on the plane!)

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   This is a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 6:54 am  Comments (47)  

Dealing with the Meme Roths

Yesterday we talked about working with the moveable middle, today we’re going to talk about dealing with the other side of the spectrum – the Meme Roths. [Trigger warning for diet and eating disorder talk.] What’s a Meme Roth you ask? Well, the original Meme Roth is a person who calls herself an “Anti-obesity advocate” and delights in spewing hate speech about fat people, splashing around like a joyful baby in a pool of unsupported assumptions, ignored evidence, and just making stuff up. Her core belief seems to be that fat people need to be constantly reminded to hate themselves, that they are ugly and, although she has admitted that dieting has a 95% failure rate, she believes that our lives should be consumed with becoming thin until we get there or die trying, and that somehow we all have an obligation to live like she thinks we should. Or she may not believe any of it, but she’s found it lucrative – it’s hard to say.

Meme is coming from an interesting place – she talks a lot about how she restricts calories (claiming, on various occasions, to eat 1600, 1300 and 1100 calories a day) while making sure that she runs 4 miles a day and “earns” any extra food.  About her wedding day she said “Most women I know commit fraud on their wedding days — they weigh-in for the walk down the aisle with no expectation of maintaining that weight year after year.”  Now, it’s Mimi’s right to heavily restrict calories while exercising a lot, and to believe that true love means never having to buy bigger pants.

But news outlets giving her a platform from which to talk to other people about health (suggesting, for example, that each person should eat 10 times their goal weight in calories as if there is a magical mathematical connection between the two) as if she is coming from a healthy place and has a firm grasp on reality with great advice to give is highly problematic.

Until yesterday Meme was really nothing to me -  just another example of the idea that if you can’t be a good example, you can be a horrible warning – a cautionary tale about the dangers of living a life of hatred.  But today she became real very quickly when I found out that two of my friends were going to be on television with her. Having seen her on TV I know that her debate style is to spew vitriol and  just to keep talking and not let anyone else talk.  I tend to view that as cowardly – I think if you are sure of yourself you can have a rational debate where everyone gets to talk, but that’s just me.

Meme has become a caricature of the kind of haters who, unfortunately as a Size Acceptance/Health at Every Size practitioner and activist, you are likely to run into. Here are some ways that we can deal with it:

  • Remember that every activist group has to deal with this. It doesn’t make it ok, but it’s sometimes nice to know that we are not alone
  • Celebrate the benefits of people like this- play your cards right and this person will highlight the rationality of Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size approaches
  • Resist, with conviction the urge to sink to their level or you lose the benefit we just discussed and then you just have two people screaming
  • Call it what it is – hate speech.  When you say that we need to say that fat people are ugly and that saying anything else is “dangerous” that’s hate speech.  Hate is not healthcare, humiliation is not healthcare.  It doesn’t matter what their intentions might be, people don’t get a pass on spewing hatred because they claim good intentions
  • Recognize the danger – what Meme and the Meme-ettes are recommending: severe caloric restriction, “earning” food through exercise, considering yourself ugly until you are thin enough, placing your value (as a bride for example) on your weight, are all red flags of disordered eating.  I have no opinion about Meme’s eating, but as someone who has recovered from an eating disorder and done a lot of work with people dealing with eating disorders, I have a strong opinion about suggesting that the path to health is to encourage these behaviors
  • Remember that they who scream the loudest and the most incessantly probably don’t have evidence on their side
  • Seek support – if you have a run in with a weight bigot you can always reach out to the SA/HAES community and we will support you.

I have to be honest and say that at the end of the day I just don’t get Meme and the Meme-ettes- I can’t imagine devoting my life to being an Anti-anything advocate.  I can’t even wrap my head around spending my life telling people that they should hate themselves unless they change their bodies.  I would rather create than destroy, I would rather be for than against. I believe that whatever you want to do in life, it will be easier if you like yourself first.  Your body, at whatever size you are, is amazing – the breathing, the blinking, the heartbeat, not to mention smiling, hugging, and a million other things – anybody who tries to tell you any different is trying to pass their issues off onto you, and you can always return that shit to sender.

Pre-order my book (for you and/or that food policing family member) and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   Don’t worry – you’re totally awesome, beautiful, loveable and going to get laid whether you buy this book or not!  This is just a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 7:43 am  Comments (45)  

Fat Activism and the Moveable Middle

Amazing Fat Activists Julianne Wotasik and Jeanette DePatie are going to be on the Dr. Drew show tomorrow night.  They already did a piece for Fox News and they were amazing,  and it has me thinking about working with the moveable middle.

The Dr. Drew show posted a Facebook discussion (Trigger Warning:  Horrible) asking “Is it okay to be fat?”

We know that the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes.  (If you’re confused about that, head to this post.

As an activist, the idea that a National television show hosted by a medical doctor thinks it’s ok to ask if people have a right to exist tells me a lot about where we are.

The posts in response to the question on Facebook are all over the place – there are the crazy fat haters, the misinformed who are spouting all kinds of numbers that they know nothing about, people who are suggesting that we all need to lose weight “for our own good“, and of course the activists representing for the Fat Side.

Whenever I have the chance to talk about fat activism I try to focus on the “moveable middle” (I can’t remember who I stole this phrase from – if it was you please remind me so that I can thank you properly.)  These are the people who are capable of rational discussion and able to listen and think about what they’ve heard.  Whether you are giving a public talk, commenting on Facebook, or talking about this with friends, here are some techniques that I’ve found successful in working with the moveable middle (of course none of these are a one size fits all and there is room for all kinds of activists, these are just ideas):

  • Be calm, rational, and pleasant – especially in the face of shrieking, hysterical fear mongers and bigots
  • State your case without equivocation
  • State particularly obvious things like they are obvious – like “Of course fat people have a right to exist” – stated with an unspoken tinge of  “of course, obviously, or duh” at the end.
  • Be clear about the difference between Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size.  Every person of every size has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness whether or not they choose to prioritize or pursue health, and regardless of what path they might choose to meet any health goals. Other people’s body size and their health is none of anyone else’s business.
  • Give people lots of simple things in the hopes that one of them catches in their mind and starts to create doubt.  Things like “Fat people have a right to exist,” “There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people,” “Healthy habits have the best chance of making a healthy body,” “Other people’s health is none of our business,” “People engage in all kinds of activities that don’t prioritize their health – singling out fat people is just bigotry” etc.
  • Be ready with evidence
  • In addition to evidence, be ready with your personal story  – whether it’s about how fat hate affected you, your HAES journey, or your SA journey, telling your story gives people something they can relate to
  • Remind people of the dangers of “everyone knows”.  Good examples are Galileo, Thalidomide, Heroin as a cough suppressant, etc.
  • Be ready for the “But your fat is your fault” argument
  • Remember that it’s not your responsibility to change people’s minds – in fact that’s impossible.  All you can do is give people access to information and options, they are the only ones who can change their minds.
  • Remember that you’re not just talking to the people who speak up, in fact sometimes those are the most likely to be the haters.  Remember the fat person who is sitting at home or in the audience listening to you – you are giving them the option for a whole other life and as far as I’m concerned that is why every single chance we get to talk about this is so important

Huge thanks to Julianne and Jeanette for being willing to put themselves out there for the good of all of us.  Kick some big fat ass ladies!

Pre-order my book (for you and/or that food policing family member) and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   Don’t worry – you’re totally awesome, beautiful, loveable and going to get laid whether you buy this book or not!  This is just a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 29, 2012 at 9:26 am  Comments (14)  

Self-Esteem: Not For Sale

I was talking to a friend about the fact that I’m not going to wear any make-up or have my hair professionally done when I tape my dance classes, and my friend freaked out that I would look unprofessional, that people would be able to see the fact that my face gets splotchy when I work out, that my face might be shiny.

It reminded me of the brilliant CJ Legare, who said something to me when we first met that has stuck with me ever since:   The beauty and diet industries work hard to take our self-esteem from us, cheapen it, and sell it back at a profit.  I’m want to break this down a little bit today.

The basic process is that first they make a normal human experience (wrinkles, eyebrows, cellulite, short eyelashes, large bodies) into a “problem”.  “Do you suffer from the heartache of short eyelashes?”

Some people will start to worry about this right away, others take more convincing.  That’s ok because the advertisers aren’t done yet, there’s a second level:

The goal of the second level  is to remind us that our bodies only have value in as much as men want to have sex with us.  (Men are subject to this kind of advertising as well but I’ll focus on women for the purposes of this particular post.) “Men love long, lush lashes.” Insert image of woman with long lashes in the arms of a man.

The idea here is to prey on our insecurity – to blame normal human conditions like being single, or going through a rough patch in a relationship, on something aesthetic that we can buy their solution to fix.

Then there is a final step that ups the ante.  Maybe it’s because the product doesn’t work (*cough* dieting *cough*), or because of the side effects (your lashes are longer so just ignore that permanent eye discoloration), or the risk (side effects include:  growing a third arm, homicidal tendencies and death).  For this, the products tend to tap into the big ideas that have been heavily cultivated over time, specifically:  if you’re not young-looking, thin and in a relationship you are a failure.  Then they create enough fear or pain to override the logic that might normally cause us to decide that the risks are not worth it (like perhaps getting a smaller body is not worth the risks of stomach amputation like permanent constant nausea, malnutrition, a high failure rate, and death.)

It’s easy to fall into this, I’ve certainly done it.  It’s not the same as buying red lipstick because you love red lipstick – it’s going through all the foundations desperate to find one that will hide the redness in my cheeks, until I remember that there is nothing wrong with the redness in my cheeks.

Once our self-esteem has been cheapened it’s hard to rebuild the value.  So I think the trick is to interrupt the pattern at the beginning.  There is an old Simpsons episode where the advertisements come to life and Lisa figures out that the solution is to just not look at them -when they stop getting attention they cease to be alive.  She even sings a little song and I tried to find it for you guys but my Google-fu has failed me.  It’s pretty straight forward, the lyrics are:  Just don’t look.  Just don’t look.

The secret here is that they can’t have our self-esteem unless we give it to them.  We can make decisions to purchase based on what we truly enjoy rather than the fear that we won’t be enough without a product.  We can choose to spend our money on products that advertise to us without trying to make us buy their products through fear or self-loathing.

We can also decide that there is nothing wrong with aging, short eyelashes, or bodies of every size. These companies that treat us so poorly and sell us products that don’t work or have horrible side effects only exists because we give them our time and energy and money.  We can make it stop and each person who opts out makes a difference, every dollar we don’t spend on their products is a dollar that they can’t spend marketing self-hatred back to us.  I don’t know about you, but they can have my self-esteem when they pry it from my cold dead hands – it is not for sale.

Pre-order my book (for you and/or that food policing family member) and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   Don’t worry – you’re totally awesome, beautiful, loveable and going to get laid whether you buy this book or not!  This is just a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Become a Member, Support The Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 8:55 am  Comments (24)  

Fatty Family Holiday Survival Guide

This Memorial Day weekend in the US, families will gather to thank our Veterans. Those family BBQs often come with an unhealthy side of body shaming and food policing.  If you’re headed to a family feast for the holiday, here’s an oldie but goodie post to help you through:

Your body is amazing – it breathes for you, pumps blood around all the time and does all kinds of cool things.  It deserves respect and admiration. If people don’t recognize that, it’s 100% their problem and a big flaming sack of not yours.

Everything that people say to you is a reflection of where they are in their life  – if people are engaging in body shaming, food policing or other inappropriate behavior, remember that it’s about them, not about you. You do not have to take it personally or internalize it.

That doesn’t mean that you have to allow it to happen either.  You decide how people treat you and then you teach them how to treat you that way.  Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and consequences and then follow through. It’s ok to stand up for yourself, it’s ok to leave the room, it’s ok to leave the State.  It’s also ok to just get through it, but if you take that path may I suggest that you spend a lot of energy making sure that you aren’t internalizing those messages.

Good intentions do not negate bad behavior unless you decide that they do.

People are allowed to be on diets, but if they feel the need to be incredibly vocal about it consider that they may have some issues that they are dealing with.  Again, this is a big flaming sack of not your problem.  Other people’s choices do not invalidate your choices, and vice versa.  Some dieters have a hard time with this – they need everyone to buy into dieting so that they can feel comfortable about their decision.  That doesn’t obligate you to buy in.

Once more with feeling:  Your body is amazing – it breathes for you, pumps blood around all the time and does all kinds of cool things.  It deserves respect and admiration. If people don’t recognize that, it’s 100% their problem and a big flaming sack of not yours.

If you need some comic relief there’s new hate mail (with my witty retorts) up on my hate mail page.  Enjoy!

 Pre-order my book (for you and/or that food policing family member) and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   A book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 10:03 am  Comments (15)  

Can We Really Change Things?

I get a lot of e-mails and comments from people who are discouraged by the amount of fat hate that exists, and how intense it has become.  People sometimes ask if really I think that we can change anything. I also get lots of e-mails and comments from people asking what we can do to help create that change.  Today I want to talk about both questions:

I do believe we can change things, because I’ve seen it happen.  If you read this blog you know I rarely compare oppressed communities because I prefer to avoid playing the Oppression Olympics.  I’m not trying to say that the Queer community and the Size Acceptance community are the same, but hear me out on this one:

In the summer of 1969 GLBT people had a mountain of prejudice in front of them. They were kicked out of public places in sweeps made by the police. Homosexuality was listed in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical manual as a sociopathic personality disturbance. Lists of “known homosexuals” and their friends were kept by the FBI.  Those who went to gay bars risked arrest and those who were arrested had their identities published in the newspaper.  The Post Office tracked addresses to which queer-themed publications were sent.  GLBT people were publicly humiliated, physically harassed, fired, jailed, or institutionalized.  Until June 28th of 1969, GLBT civil rights groups had been using a non-confrontational educational approach.

Then, on June 28th, 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a group of the most disenfranchised members of the GLBT community decided that they had had enough.  They picked up beer bottles and bricks and spiked heel shoes and rioted. For the first time in history, GLBT people fought back.

Forty three years later Will and Grace was a hit. We have openly gay politicians, actors, singers, comedians. People from Jay Zee to the actor who plays Captain America have come out in favor of gay marriage.  As a member of the queer community I understand that we’re not there yet, but the Queer community has made tremendous strides in a relatively short time.

They didn’t give up using education and non-confrontational approaches, but they stopped pretending that everything was fine when it wasn’t, or that it was ok for people to “compassionately” put them into mental institutions.  They stood up, they fought back. That’s how we make change. Nobody is required to be an activist, but if you want to work for change the good news is that there are lots of ways to fight, and it doesn’t have to be complicated:

The first thing we can do is just live.  By doing what we want to do (shop, go to the gym, eat, take a pottery class whatever) in our fat bodies we help to normalize the fact that bodies come in a variety of sizes for a variety of reasons.

Be vocal about loving your body.  Be vocal about choosing Health at Every Size.  I think that talking about my SA and HAES is important and I don’t feel bad about it because I have to hear about weight-loss and diet constantly. We deserve a voice and at least equal airtime.  They may not give it to us, but we can take it for ourselves.  For tips on talking about these things check here, here, and here!

Speak out against weight bullying, body shaming and stigma whenever you hear or see them. If your employer sends out a weight loss e-mail, send an e-mail asking them to provide evidence, or telling them how it affects you negatively.  When you see fat hate on the internet leave a reply – even if it seems like you are the only one or that you’ll never change the mind of the poster or other commenters, you’re not necessarily posting for them.  You’re posting to put another tangible piece of HAES/SA into the world and for the person like you who is reading the comments and will now have another point of view.  (Then you can post it to the Rolls Not Trolls community on Facebook and we’ll ninja fat bomb it with positive comments!) If you hear a fat shaming comment speak up, if you’re feeling non-confrontational you might try something like “I wish we lived in a world where people saw the beauty in bodies of every size” or something similar.

Be a big fat role model for whatever you love to do – it gives other fat people the idea that they can be a big fat role model.  Tell anyone who says you’re “promoting obesity” to fuck right the hell off.

But it starts with just you, by yourself somewhere, deciding that you have had enough, that’s it’s time to pick up a rock and throw it – not because you’re sure it will change the world, but because you’ve had enough and it’s time to  fight back and that if they want a war, you will give them one. As for me, I refuse to become collateral damage in the war on obesity – I will be a Size Acceptance warrior and together we will change the world.

There’s still time to Pre-order my book and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   A book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, you can  become a member (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a you can support my work with a  one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 25, 2012 at 6:02 am  Comments (13)  

Dieting and Logic Make Poor Bedfellows

There are a couple of things that I see used as “proof” of why we should continue to cling to the idea that intentional weight loss is a good idea that involve some seriously questionable logic.

The first and most obvious issue is that, while most people can lose some weight on almost any diet, almost everyone gains it back in the long term. We have no idea how to make people permanently thin. But we get fooled into believing that if temporary weight loss is possible then permanent long term weight loss must also be possible by just doing the same things for longer, or forever.  There’s absolutely no reason to believe that. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite.

The evidence we have says that nearly everyone regains the weight within 5 years no matter how they lost it.  So a lot of studies stop follow up after a few months or a year and say “See, look – it worked!”  I’ve actually seen studies where the researchers said “we assume that if the weight stays off for a year then it will stay off permanently.”  That’s a completely ridiculous thing to say in general for a researcher, but especially when the data we DO have says that weight is regained in 2-5 years. The diet industry has refused to study long-term efficacy of dieting because it would be “too depressing for their clients”.  That’s like giving women thalidomide for morning sickness but not tracking the incidence of birth defects because it’s “too depressing for future moms.”  How is this defensible?  If you can’t get funding for a study with 5 year follow up then any study that you do on weight loss at this point is a waste of money.

The next faulty logic they employ is the belief that losing weight will make people healthier. This weight loss = health idea is based on the assumption that becoming “normal weight” is the same thing as having always been “normal weight”.  There’s no proof that’s true – that assumption has never been tested.  People come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons.  In some cases illness causes weight gain, or medication, the person’s natural body size, or something else. Not to mention that the weight loss/ weight cycling process itself could cause health issues, weight loss causes a host of physiological reactions that change the body’s metabolism and athletic potential, sometimes permanently.

By far the most common outcome of weight loss attempts is weight gain, that much is clear. Weight loss attempts have the exact opposite of the intended effect a staggering percentage of the time.  It’s possible that fat people have shorter life spans than thin people, or have more illness than thin people (though I think the evidence shows that is mitigated by healthy habits, and we don’t know what the numbers would look like if fat people didn’t have to deal with so much shame and so many barriers to getting good evidence based healthcare) but if being fat is bad for us then dieting is the absolutely LAST thing anyone should be recommending since the most likely outcome is that we’ll be fatter. It’s like saying that the only way we know how to help joint pain is for people to fly, so everyone with some knee pain should grab a sheet and jump off their roof.  If they don’t want people to be bigger than they are now, then recommending weight loss is the worst idea.

Based on the weight loss industry’s numbers, the more dieting we’ve done the bigger we’ve become (since they tell us that obesity has increased at the same as their profits)  Yet the recommendation that we keep hearing is that we should keep trying to lose weight.  This is just nuts!  Anyone can see that it’s not going to work.  Putting bunches of people on diets sets us up for years and years of “obesity epidemic” rhetoric since dieting will reliably create bigger people.  The only people who benefit from this are the ones selling the diets…hey, wait a minute – you don’t suppose that’s what this is about do you?  They have over 50 years of data to say that their product will work in the short term, fail in the long term, but that people will just keep coming back from more.  Plus they get to use the money we paid them for the product that didn’t work to sell it to us again (including celebrity endorsers who get paid more than 30,000 a POUND to lose weight) to sell the product back to us. What the hell?

I wonder how much encouragement of weight loss there would be if we all stopped giving money to the weight loss industry.  No weekly Weight Watchers fees, no $20,000 stomach amputation surgeries.  If we de-funded the diet industry there wouldn’t be anyone left to spend millions of dollars (to make billions of dollars) selling us magic beans that, in billions of tries over half a century, have never reliably produced beanstalks.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, a slideshow that a number of us have been working on for a while is finally up on NBCs iVillage!  Thirty Three women who said “I quit” to dieting and are happier and healthier for it!

Don’t Forget to Pre-order my book and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   No diet tips, no magic beans.  Just  a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 24, 2012 at 7:36 am  Comments (14)  

Girl Scouts – Cookie Sales and Calorie Counting?

The Girl Scouts of America made a massive misstep by partnering with the profit-motivated Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation and misappropriating $250,000 to teach Girl Scouts weight control tricks, the most likely outcome of which is an unhealthy relationship with food and disordered eating…

Or that’s how the press release should have started. When I read the actual release (which is from November, 2011 but has recently been recirculated) it struck me that they seemed strangely proud of the fact that they are touting Calories In/Calories Out, otherwise known as “energy balance” theory.  In fact the title of the press release is “Fighting Obesity with Calories In Calories Out.”  I think I can explain that (and I will in a moment) but first let’s take a look at how many ways this is wrong:

First, “Simple Calories In/Calories Out” is probably the most prevalent and persistent myth that exists when it comes to health and weight. Even if they are suggesting it as a method of “preventing obesity”, the main problem is that it’s so difficult to figure out the calories out part of the equation.  Almost everyone knows someone who eats tons of food never works out and stays thin.  On the other side, almost everyone knows a fat person who eats healthy and exercises but doesn’t lose weight (although, curiously, the calories in /calories out proponents typically say that the former is perfectly normal and the latter is impossible).  There is no evidence to suggest that this works.  Worse, it tells girls not to trust their bodies and hunger but to count calories and focus on their weight – a dangerous combination according to studies.

Surely they’re not suggesting it for weight loss since  it’s been studied repeatedly since at least 1959 with consistent results:  utter failure.

In fact, encouraging weight control in kids is highly suspect, perhaps even dangerous.  Over the last decade (since we’ve been focusing on kid’s weight) the number of hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under twelve is up 119%.  According to research from the University of Minnesota “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain.”  And yes Virginia, that includes “energy balancing”.

I think that the biggest problem with this completely overblown “OmigodChildhoodObesity Panic” is that it has given way to the idea that we don’t need to test interventions because there’s just. no. time.  So we’re experimenting on a generation of kids.  And we’re doing multiple experiments at the same time – their school has some untested, unproven interventions.  Their doctor has some unproven, untested interventions.  Their extracurricular activities are apparently getting in on the mix.  I got an e-mail from a read who was watching the Armed Forces Network and they had a commercial where a little girl was a role model because she was taking things off her friends trays and telling them what to eat.  Where’s the evidence that little girls bullying little kids results in greater health or thinner kids. If I tried to get IRB approval for this I would get laughed out – it’s dangerous and inappropriate.

So how did this go so wrong?  Who is the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation?

Let’s start with the information that it’s President is also on the board of the Girl Scouts.  She has an impressive brand management resume but absolutely no background in health or scientific research.

The board chair is the chairman and CEO of PepsiCo.  Impressive business resume, not a single health qualification, or research background.

The Board Chair Emeritus is the CEO of Kellogs. No health qualifications, no research background.

The Vice Chair is the CEO of Hy-Vee (operates more than 230 retail stores in eight Midwestern states). No health qualifications, no research background.

Not to brag, but I have a decently impressive business background as well as research and fitness credentials so let me float a theory:  These people are interested in promoting “energy balance” because it takes to focus off the quality of the food – which is an area where they would otherwise be heavily scrutinized.  They get to say that they are “doing something” about childhood obesity while taking the attention off of their food, and they are doing with with government money and, unbelievably, public donations which they are comfortable asking for on their website (minimum donation – $50)

I don’t actually care what their major malfunction is, they have absolutely no right to run for-profit/CYA experiments on kids.

Whatever your beliefs about the so-called “Childhood Obesity Epidemic”, it’s important to know that we have no idea how to change kid’s weight (or whether a kid’s extra weight is due to their upcoming growth spurt, their body’s natural size, or something else).  There is no proof that teaching calorie counting to Brownies and Girl Scouts makes them healthier or less likely to be fat.  There is plenty of evidence that suggests that teaching calorie counting to Brownies and Girl Scouts makes them more likely to develop eating disorders and an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. There is no reason in the world to risk it. If someone is suggesting an “obesity prevention” initiative for your kids (or for you) demand to see the evidence that it works long-term and that it doesn’t do harm.  We do not have to be the subjects in a grand (and highly profitable for everyone but us) anti-obesity experiment.

Pre-order my book and  get an autographed copy and free shipping!

My book Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   No diet tips, no sleight of hand.  Just  a book about living life in the body that you have now, making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book was written to provide the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 23, 2012 at 6:07 am  Comments (37)  

Oprah – It’s Time to Turn Around

I don’t have strong feelings for Oprah one way or the other as a TV personality.  But I was sent an article from her website today called “Weight Loss Advice You Haven’t Heard Before” (Spoiler Alert – you’ve totally heard it before) and that created some strong feelings.

I would give almost anything to have an hour to sit down and really talk to Oprah.  I would ask how she can constantly encourage her fans to keep trying to lose weight when she has made a series of diet gurus and their ensuing books rich and famous (Bob Greene, Geneen Roth, Dr. Oz, Rosie Daley, Kathy Freston, Dr. Katz, Dr. Phil, Optifast, Carbohydrate Addicts Diet, and more) without ever achieving permanent thinness.  She has hired personal trainers, personal chefs, and has near infinite resources and yet has not been able to obtain permanent thinness.

If Oprah wants to keep dieting that’s absolutely her right, but I would ask her if she knows that the evidence shows that most people (about 95% of those who diet) have the exact same result as she had and that there are physiological changes that the body makes for the specific purpose of regaining weight.  I would ask if she would stop saying that she knows the weight regain is all her fault and that despite her experiences to the absolute contrary, anybody can lose weight permanently if they try hard enough.  I would ask if sh would stop saying  she’ll “never diet again” when what she means is “I’m totally dieting again.”  I would ask if she would stop posting “easy ways to lose weight” on her website when she more than anyone should know that it’s not “easy”, and as far as her experience shows it’s not even possible.

So now she’s giving us tips we’ve “never heard before” like

  • Don’t eat in front of the computer (Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this?)
  • Don’t trust yourself  – in fact you should tell your wife that if you eat a dried mango she should donate $1,000 to the Nazi party (ok, I’ll admit I haven’t heard the second part before, but I’m going to say it’s because it’s freaking stupid.)
  • Check the serving sizes on labels – a 1/4 second spray of Pam might be fat free, but a 1 second spray probably isn’t blah blah blah (This is oft-repeated and obvious to anyone who ate their fat-free No Shit Sherlock Flakes this morning)
  • BEWARE THE EVIL TRIGGER FOODS (Dude, you’re seriously pedaling this as new?  Fun fact: this one is credited to the President and CEO of Weight Watchers, a company that has been successfully sued for deceptive trade practices so often that they are required to give a disclaimer any time they suggest that their product might work.)

Oh joy, that article links to Dr. Oz’s Diet Tips.  Dr. Oz is a cardiologist who has admitted to having almost no knowledge of the research in the fields of weight and health, so I don’t know where he gets off giving diet tips, except that Oprah keeps giving him a forum. (In fact, the “Health” page of her website includes articles about Dr. Oz’s cleanse, diet, and 20 minute workout.  What the… The man is a cardiologist - when I want tips on performing heart surgery he’ll be the first to know.)  His tips are the same tired thing that we’ve been hearing – but don’t take my word for it when you can buy yet another diet book that has absolutely no research to back up that it works – or even that it won’t do the dieters harm.

What in fat hell Oprah? Millions of people go out and buy what you tell them to buy, eat what you tell them to eat, listen to the “diet gurus” and “diet tips” that you publish. What if you decided that it was your responsibility to investigate the long-term efficacy of these things that you are recommending and be honest about what you find out?

Please consider giving up being a failed role model for thinness, and choosing instead to be a successful role model for access to health for every body.  Based on the evidence that exists on weight and health the only evidence-based, responsible course is to focus on healthy behaviors for our healthiest body and let our weight take care of itself.  How about you say that you’re “never dieting again” and this time you mean it. There’s a whole community of experts to support you.

Finally!  My Book is Available for Pre-Order – get an autographed copy and free shipping!

My book Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Navigating a Thin-Obsessed World with Your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact, with foreword by Marilyn Wann is now available for pre-order.   You won’t find any new diet tips, you won’t find any diet tips at all.  Just  a book about living life in the body that you have now, and making decisions about what you want in the future, and how to get there.  Whether you want to change your body, fight for size acceptance, just live your life, or understand and support your fat friends and family, this book provides the insights, aha moments, humor, and hard facts to help.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 8:16 am  Comments (30)  

Strong! Fat! Happy!

Chery Haworth, Julie Wyman, and me in the middle – it was my job to pass the microphone between them and not turn into a geeky fan girl.

Last night I had the joy of hosting a screening of Julie Wyman’s amazing film Strong! about three-time Olympian Cheryl Haworth.

I met Julie through the HAES community and the way she conceptualized and handled this move was so deft that I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to bring it to Austin.

Julie and Cheryl both came to the screening and I was really impressed with how honest and open they both were.  Cheryl talked openly about her struggles with body acceptance and about how the fact that her body made her successful at her sport didn’t make it easier to live in our culture as a big woman.

That really struck me – one of the things that I thought would be a big positive about the sport of weightlifting is that they get weight divisions and can acknowledge the advantages of having a bigger body.  (In my sport (dance) we definitely don’t have that) But the truth is that nobody is immune to the massive fat-phobia that we are dealing with right now.

The reason I really wanted to bring the film to Austin is that it is so important for fat people to have role models who look like us and Julie gives us that opportunity.  Seeing Cheryl and knowing that a large woman is representing our country in the Olympics is such a huge motivation for me as an athlete and I wanted other people to have that experience.

This film flies in the face of the ridiculous notion that showing a successful athletic fat person “promotes obesity.”  As if people will see us and say “I want to be an athlete – I’ll start by getting fat”.  The whole idea of promoting obesity is utterly stupid (does showing Mary Lou Retton promote shortness?) and serves only to keep positive fat role models out of the media which means that lots of fat people don’t think that fitness is possible for them, or believe that the only “correct” outcome of fitness is weight loss because every fit person they see is thin.

Of course you know that I don’t think anyone is obligated to  exercise, but I find it heartbreaking that so many people of size are turned away from doing movement that they would love to do because they believe they have the “wrong body” (this is bullshit by the way, if you want to dance then you have a dancer’s body – if you want to swim then you have a swimmer’s build), or they don’t think it’s possible since they’ve never seen a fat person doing it – though  there are probably fat people rocking whatever activity it is, but they aren’t shown because of the stupid irrational fear of “promoting obesity”.

There were a lot of moments of the film where I felt a kinship with Cheryl and one of them was when she is in a store and can’t find her size of clothes and she jokes that she finds solace in the fact that she could probably beat up everybody in the place.  I know that one of the reasons  I walk around the world happy and confident is that I’m fit.  I know that however people may be stereotyping me, they probably can’t do half of what I can do physically.  I love walking around in a body that is strong and fit.  When it comes to knowing that I can beat people us (though I never would) there is solace in the fact that I can do a switch-leap which basically makes me a 300 pound flying fatality.

One of the most annoying questions I’m often asked is if I think I’m an “anomaly” among fat people – meaning that I’m active but most fat people aren’t.  My answer is that I’m an anomaly in almost any room I walk into no matter what size the people are, that I think  there are a lot more fat people who are into fitness than people’s stereotypes indicate, and that even if I am an anomaly it’s because fat people are never given fitness role models who look like them, they face stigma and shaming when they do exercise, and they are told the lie that exercise will make them thin when the truth – based on all the evidence – is that it will make us healthier but won’t make us thin.

If there’s some kind of movement that you love, why not try it now and if you don’t have a role model, you can become one!

If you’re interested in getting some support please feel free to join us at the Fit Fatties Forum.  It’s a free forum for people of all sizes to talk about fitness from a HAES perspective. It includes photo and video galleries, discussions and groups for Newbies, Oldbies, Strong Fatties, Runners, Belly Dancers, Yogis and more.

If you want to bring a screening of Strong! to your town (the process that we used was super easy), e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org  and I’ll get you hooked up with the right people.

Join the Club, Support My Work!

I do HAES and SA activism, speaking and writing full time, and I don’t believe in putting corporate ads on my blog and making my readers a commodity. So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, please consider a paid subscription (it works like a fan club – you get extra stuff, discounts, and you’re always the first to know about things) or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free. If you’re curious about this policy, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on May 19, 2012 at 10:39 am  Comments (5)