People Of Walmart

You know the pictures.  People in Walmart, very often fat people.  They might be dressed in tight or scant clothing, or their hair is in curlers etc.  Someone photographs them, puts them on a website for comment and then they get passed around Facebook where today I saw no less than four people who claim to be size acceptance advocates make fun of them.

Let’s look at what we know about the people in these pictures:

1.  They got dressed for the place they were going at the time they were going there- they had no intention to be photographed.

2.  They were probably photographed without their knowledge or consent.

3.  They have no opportunity to speak up on their own behalf unless they happen to find their picture and all the bullying, abusive, shaming language that is with it.

4.  They are people, deserving of basic human respect even if they make choices that are different than ours.

This is no different than the fat administrative assistant who goes to McDonalds to get lunch for her office and ends up in a picture without her head carrying twelve bags of McDonald’s food and getting ridiculed all over the internet.  Maybe the person in the Walmart picture can’t afford other clothes, maybe they had to rush their baby to the emergency room and they are at Walmart for medicine in what they were wearing around the house when the baby got sick, maybe that woman is sitting in a shopping cart because she is disabled and there were no scooters and she didn’t want to inconvenience her ride by making them wait until there was a scooter, maybe that’s just how that guy wants to freaking dress.

Regardless, why is it considered ok to take someone’s photograph without their consent for the express purpose of giving perfect strangers who weren’t there the opportunity to ridicule someone just because the way that person looks isn’t considered by some to be socially acceptable?  This seems especially significant for Size Diversity activists who ask that people please stop ridiculing us because the way we look isn’t considered by some to be socially acceptable. So I think it would be great if we were the ones who lead the charge against this practice.

Maybe when we see these photos posted we could stand up for the rights of people to be treated with basic human decency even if they make different fashion choices than we do, even if they they don’t look the way society thinks they should look or act the way society says they should act. Maybe we could stand up for a world where nobody is ridiculed for how they look, especially since we’d like to start being included in that group, and the road to respect is probably not paved with hypocrisy.

So when you see one of these on Facebook or Reddit or wherever, consider speaking up for someone who does not have the chance to speak up for themselves.

Some ideas of what you could say/do to get involved:

  • Comment:  I am for a world where nobody is photographed and shamed on the internet.
  • Comment:  I think it’s a shame when people get their entertainment by bullying and abusing others.
  • Suggest a possible story that humanizes the person in the picture.
  • Message the poster privately and share your concerns.
  • Post something on your own page against the practice.

Maybe we can get our Facebook entertainment watching  little pugs that can’t run or looking at pictures of kittens, not bullying and shaming other human beings.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 10:09 am  Comments (81)  

Will Our Fat Catch Up With Us?

This happens to me all the time:  I’m in a conversation with someone who thought it was appropriate to make random guesses about my health based only on my size.  I’ve quelled my rage, given them the benefit of the doubt, and asked permission to suggest another point of view – to which they’ve agreed. I’ve explained that there are other beliefs out there, I’ve explained about the science.  I’ve explained  Health at Every Size.  I’ve explained that there are plenty of people with the same food and lifestyle choices who have vastly different body sizes – both healthy and unhealthy.

Then it happens.  The VFHT:  The Vague Future Health Threat.  Today’s post is an oldie but goodie about what to do with the old “Your fat will catch up with you” cliche.

It sounds like this “Well, you may be healthy now, but it will catch up to you someday”.  They look triumphant because the VFHT is indefensible.

Now instead of completely quelling my rage and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’m just fighting the urge to set this person on fire. It’s not just the person I’m talking to -  it’s also that this is the the 10 zillionth time I’ve heard this over the past 13years.  I’m still healthy and I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be 102 years old and still pressured to diet so that it doesn’t “catch up to me”.

I find this to be paternalist, ignorant, unsupported, and annoying for the following reasons:

1. Typically this person has already inaccurately assessed my current health (ie “Nobody can be healthy at your weight”) but now they want me to believe that they can accurately predict my future health.

2.  What is this “it” that will catch up to me?  I am not outrunning my fat – it’s all right here – I am not a thin woman covered in fat, I am a fat woman who is also a very fit athlete. So what’s going to catch up with me:  my perfect blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose and triglycerides?  My working out and eating healthy?  My strength, stamina, and flexibility?

3.  Everyone is going to die. There is a 100% chance.  I just happen to live in a culture where it almost doesn’t matter why I die – someone will blame it on my fat.  That doesn’t make it true.  This “it will catch up to you” claim is just not supported by the available science, and of all the people who’ve VFHT’d me in my life, NOT ONE has accepted my invitation to cite his/her research (including doctors).

4.  What if I changed the rules of the lottery so that if  you lost, you had to pay the lottery money as a penalty?  Now not only is your chance of winning infintesimmaly small,  but there is a near 100% chance that you’ll end up with LESS money than you had after you bought the ticket.  Would you play?  Now imagine that this isn’t your money we’re talking about – it’s your long term health.  There is not a single study that proves that any weight loss method is effective long term, but many studies indicate that weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) is less healthy than being obese.  Since diets have such an abysmal failure rate over statistically significant sample sizes, if I go on just 2 diets where I lose weight and gain it back (and I have a very high chance of doing just that both times), then I’ve likely damaged my current good health and endangered my future health on a roll of the dice that was obviously a losing bet from the beginning.  The person VFHTing me is asking that I do something they can’t prove is possible, for a reason they can’t prove is valid, with a very high percentage that I’ll end up less healthy at the end.  I’ll pass.

So what do you say to the VFHT?

Here are some possible responses broken down by category.  (As always, I never try to change someone else’s behavior. I ask for qualification and/or I set my boundaries and consequences. )

Quick and simple:

  • I find it inappropriate for you to make guesses about my future health.
  • My health is not your business.   (If, at this point, they bring up tax payer dollars or health care costs, I ask them for an itemized list of things for which their local, state, and federal taxes pay, or health problems that people develop for which causation cannot be proven;  broken down into categories of things they are happy to pay for, and things they don’t want to pay for. If they don’t happen to have that list on hand, I let them know that I’ll be happy to discuss it once they do.)

More detailed/scientific

  • I don’t know of a single statistically significant, properly controlled scientific study that supports that statement.  So, either cite your research or I’m going to assume that I know more about this than you do and you are just talking without actually knowing what you’re talking about.  (Or “talking out of your ass”, depending on my mood).
  • You have no way to know that.  Cite your research or I will assume that you are putting my health at risk by talking about things for which you have no actual knowledge or qualifications.  That is completely unacceptable to me.

The pointed response (feel free to mix and match questions/responses with boundary statements)

  • How dare you make assumptions about my health?  You may not discuss my health with me.
  • I find you completely unqualified to make that statement. Please keep your opinions about my health to yourself.
  • My health is not your business and you are not allowed to comment on it.
  • You will immediately stop making guesses and assumptions about my future health or this conversation is over.

The snarky responses (I don’t actually recommend these because I prefer some kind of productive conversation if possible, but it’s fun to think about)

  • I had no idea you could predict the future!   Would you mind giving me tomorrow’s lottery numbers?
  • Actually the fat doesn’t have to catch up with me – I keep it right here…unless you saw some back there that I lost?
  • I totally forgot that being thin makes me immortal – thank god you told me or I might have died some day.
  • I meant to tell you that I’m actually worried about you.  I read on a website that we are about to experience another ice age and without fat stores to keep you alive and warm, you’re absolutely going to freeze to death.  I know it sounds crazy but it was on the internet so you know it must be true and I’m going to tell everyone!

Remember that you get to choose how people treat you.  If you decide that they don’t get to VFHT you, then you just need to put that plan into action, set boundaries and consequences and get after it.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 9:45 am  Comments (29)  

Is Anti-Obesity the New Homophobia?

Paul Campos wrote a great article in Salon called “Anti-obesity:  The New Homophobia?” I normally don’t like to compare stigma and oppression between groups because so often it leads to a game of the Oppression Olympics, but I do think it’s an interesting comparison.  Paul’s article talks about how each condition was initially considered a “moral failing” but, at the turn of the century, both were pathologized into medical conditions with “treatments” available.  He also discusses the fact that, as the “cures” failed almost every gay and fat person, those suggesting the cures then insisted that we needed more radical, more dramatic interventions.  Paul’s article is fantastic and I highly recommend that you read it.

As a fat queer woman there are some other parallels that I see.

As a queer woman I’ve often been told that being queer is a choice for me and that if I try hard enough I could be straight, and then I won’t have to deal with bullying, oppression and I can get legally married and get all the government benefits that straight people already get..  I submit that the cure for social stigma is not becoming straight, the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma. Also, I am a better witness to my experience than those who are not me, and so the fact that I do not believe that I made any choice to be queer should be pretty high on the list of things that we consider when contemplating whether or not I made the choice to be queer. That said, I do not need to prove a biological root in order to get my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So it doesn’t matter why I’m queer, I should get the same rights as other citizens, and I should get to live a life free from oppression and bullying.

As a fat woman I’ve often been told that being fat is a choice for me and that if I try hard enough I could be thin, and then I won’t have to deal with bullying, oppression and I can buy one seat on an airplane, find lots of clothes that fit, and get all the benefits that thin people already get.  I submit that the cure for social stigma is not losing weight, the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma. Also, I am a better witness to my experience than those who are not me, and so the fact that I am telling you that I’ve made every effort not to be fat and it didn’t work and I’ve learned through experience and research review that almost nobody who is fat ever becomes thin should be pretty high on the list of things that we consider when contemplating whether or not I should attempt weight loss yet again. That said, I do not need to prove a biological root in order to get my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  So it doesn’t matter why I’m fat, I should get the same rights and access as other citizens, and I should get to live a life free from oppression and bullying.

I don’t know if fatphobia is the new homophobia but I do believe that both are about people who have the audacity to believe that they know better than we do about our lives and bodies – that they are a better witness to our experience than we are – and who think that they should be in control of our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that doesn’t work for me.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 29, 2012 at 10:54 am  Comments (21)  

Yes Virginia, BMI is BS

BMI or body mass index is a number that is generated by dividing someone’s weight in pounds by their height squared and multiplying the result by 703.  This simple ratio of weight and height is now used as a measure of health.  And that’s a problem.

Belgian polymath Adolphe Quetelet devised the BMI equation in 1832.  He created the formula to be used as a statistical tool across large populations, he never intended for the number to be used as a measure of individual health.  When people say that BMI is a poor measure of health, that’s not accurate.  The truth is that BMI is not a measure of health at all.

The idea that there is an “ideal bmi” is called into question by the fact that in 1998 the “ideal/healthy BMI” was changed.   Three members of the committee responsible for making the recommendation had direct ties to pharmaceuticals that manufactured diet pills for profit.  A fourth member was the lead scientist for the program advisory committee of Weight Watchers International.  This committee advocated dieting for everyone who had a BMI more than 24.  They shaved 15-20 lbs off the definition of “ideal/healthy weight” which made about 29 million Americans “overweight, ” and thus “unhealthy,” overnight.  It also gave those making the recommendations 29 million new potential clients.  Now there is talk of lowering the BMI again. So it’s difficult to defend the idea that, even if there was an “ideal height/weight ratio”, we have any idea what it is.

Beyond that, the research linking a higher BMI with diseases is correlational, meaning that they happen at the same time.  That doesn’t mean that you can assume that BMI causes the diseases or that you can assume that decreasing BMI will cure or prevent those diseases.  Often in August the most ice cream is eaten and the most murders take place, but we can’t assume that taking ice cream off the shelves will decrease the murder rate.  Correlation never implies causation because it’s possible that the two things are unrelated or that a third thing causes both issues (in this case maybe heat increases the propensity for murder and the chances that people eat ice cream?)

People often ask me how I can “ignore” all of the correlational evidence that having a high BMI is unhealthy.  I’m not ignoring it, I’m simply putting it to the scientific rigor that it deserves.  It turns out that the same diseases that are correlated with high BMI are also correlated with being under a high degree of stress over a long period of time.  Like, perhaps, the stress of living in a society where the government wages war on you for the way you look?  Either way, this issue is absolutely not as cut and dried as we are lead to believe.

The use of BMI is cheap, lazy, bad medicine.  We don’t need BMI to be a middleman between us and our health, because we can measure metabolic health, we can measure strength, stamina, and flexibility and we can work on those things if we want to without trying to change our body size or shape.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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

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

Published in: on August 27, 2012 at 9:02 am  Comments (13)  

The Real Public Health Threat

A small study found that fat women who like their bodies have better sex than fat women who don’t.  I spent some time trying to muster surprise but I just can’t find any.  One of the things that I will never understand is these people who insist that not only do we have to be thin to be healthy, but that the only way to do that is to hate the bodies that we have now.  The concept of hating ourselves healthy has always seemed ridiculous to me.  In fact, the concept of attempting to make any choices from a basis of self-loathing seems like a terrible idea.

We live in a culture where people consider weight bullying to be everything from a public service to a super fun past-time, and where billion dollar industries make their money by convincing us that we are not good enough and that we should be terrified of never being good enough (and that we should buy their products to try to get better or at least keep from getting worse.)  People of all sizes internalize that message and that’s a problem because people don’t take good care of things that they hate and that includes their bodies.

One of the things about Size Acceptance and Heath at Every Size that I think is undervalued for people of all sizes is the option to like yourself right now, exactly as you are, and then make choices for your health and your life. The idea that you can build a life from a perspective of appreciating your body and wanting to take care of it rather than hoping that you can do something, buy something, be something, anything, to just hate yourself a little less.

If we, as a culture, really want to look at public health threats then I think that we should take all of the time, money and attention that is currently focused on body size and instead focus it on those who spread a message of body shame and self-loathing – from the weight bullies to the “for your own good-ers” These people are the true public health threat.  They try to convince us that our bodies are unworthy, and if they succeed it means that people often believe that their bodies are unworthy of care.  They create an environment where people are scared to move their bodies for fear of shaming, scared to go to the doctor for fear of being ignored, shamed or made the non-consenting subject of experimental medical treatments.  They create an environment where our food choices are moralized and scrutinized by strangers,  and we are told that our own bodies can’t be trusted and should be ignored in lieu of advice that seems highly questionable or replacing actual food with a chemical shitstorm of highly manufactured food substitutes.

People who perpetuate self -loathing and who engage in weight bullying (under any guise including “trying to help” or “for your own good” or “for the good of society) are a real and direct threat to public health and it’s time to stop focusing on the bodies of other people and start focusing changing a culture that encourages self-loathing as the gateway to the good life.

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country and I’d love to give one to your organization. (I’ll be in Northern New York and Central Pennsylvania in the next couple of months if you are in those areas and would like to add an event to those trips.) You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and even testimonials here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  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. 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 (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

Fat Activism Conference.  Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recorded so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

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

 

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 7:42 am  Comments (9)  

F*ck Flattering

Photo shoot Out-take. Photo by Richard Sabel

I saw a t-shirt that said “F*ck Flattering” and it got me thinking.  We all know that if beauty was a mountain the summit would be nearly unattainable.  Our stereotype of beauty is incredibly narrow and often involves digital assistance and so the idea of “flattering” generally means dressing so that we look closer to that stereotype.  Fat women are told early and often that beauty is not attainable for us, but we are still encouraged to always try for “flattering” – to look thinner than we are, more of an hourglass – bigger boobs, smaller waist, dark colors that hide our rolls, shot with “Fat Girl Angles” with the camera positioned high and our necks positioned strategically to hide our double chins. Ye Olde Fat Girl Clothing Store sells pants with something called “Tighter Tummy Technology” that promises to smash our stomachs into some different and inexplicably “better” shape.  Photographers guarantee that they will make us look “10 years younger and 10 pounds lighter”.

I’ve heard a fashion commenter criticize a fat actress who wore a beautiful light colored dress saying that she “doesn’t like to see big girls in anything but black or navy” because it’s “just not flattering.”  I’ve heard a fat actress admonish fat women to wear shapewear to “put our curves where they should be”. As a dancer I’ve been encouraged to prioritize a stomach that appears to be roll free over breathing.  I have heard fat women say that they “don’t want to see bare fat [insert body part]” as if the solution to that wasn’t just for them to look away.  When I was photographed for a magazine and said that I didn’t want the pictures to be re-touched the editor said “But don’t you want to look your best?”  When I said that my best does not include digital retouching she said, completely perplexed “I don’t understand.”

They’ll never allow us to reach the summit you see, but they want us to keep climbing anyway.

Look, you get to dress how you want for whatever reason you choose.  You can pick clothes because you like them, because you think they will gain you social approval, because they highlight your shape, because they disguise your shape, because your significant other likes them, because your mom hates them, because you think they are flattering, because you think they are unflattering, or for any other reason.  It’s your body and they are your clothes and you are the boss of your underpants and also the boss of your regular pants.

We do have the option to stand at the base of the mountain of beauty, throw off our jacket, and give flattering the finger with our arm fat waving unrestricted in our tank tops, our breasts comfortable in a bra that neither lifts nor separates, our skirt showing every roll of our stomachs, and our leggings showing every dimple of cellulite on our thighs.  That is a completely and totally valid option and those who do not like it are welcome to practice the ancient art of looking at something else or, you know, getting the hell over themselves.  We get to choose how we dress our bodies and why, and we do not owe the world flattering.

Like my blog?  Here’s more of my stuff!

Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

Interviews with Amazing Activists!!  Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words.  Support In Our Own Words:  A Fat Activist History Project!

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

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

If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 8:23 am  Comments (45)  

Save Me From What “Everybody Knows”

I get so very, very tired of hearing all kinds of things about my fat body and my health from people who think the phrase “everybody knows”  is actually the same as “it’s been scientifically proven beyond a doubt.” To be clear, I’m talking today about statements regarding weight and health, which is a separate discussion from the fact that people deserve to live free from oppression, stigma, and bullying and that is not size, health, or habit dependent.

I often talk about how Health at Every Size (the assertion that people of all sizes can pursue health through healthy habits and without pursuing weigh loss)  is a “Galileo issue” because “everybody knows” that fat=unhealthy and thin=healthy and that weight loss is just a matter of “eating less and exercising more” and is possible for almost everyone.  Except that’s not what the evidence says at all.  But try to have an intelligent, evidence-based conversation and you’ll soon find yourself buried under a mountain of “everybody knows” arguments.  I thought I’d take this opportunity to point out some of the things that “everybody knew” at one time or another:

  • The sun revolves around the Earth
  • Heroin is non addictive substitute for morphine and a fantastic cough suppressant
  • Plowing the land will cause it to rain
  • Lysol is a great douche for that “not so fresh feeling”
  • Germs don’t cause disease so there is no reason for doctors to wash their hands
  • Heavy objects fall faster than light ones
  • Thalidomide is a good choice to deal with morning sickness

Remember that in their time “everybody” – including medical professionals and world leaders- defended these ideas as absolutely true, completely obvious, and beyond reproach.  And they were dead wrong.  That’s what I think is happening right now with the rampant anti-fat sentiment.  People want to shout “Fat is bad” with the same zeal that they would have shouted “The sun revolves around the Earth” just a few years ago  and pretend that it’s not possible that they’ve got it completely wrong.  But history and the evidence points in another direction:

Habits, not weight, are the best determinant of health.

Fat people are not the cause for the rise in healthcare costs.

Intentional weight loss almost never works in the long term.

You can absolutely be fit and fat.

Those who espouse Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are just the new Galileo on the block.  It wasn’t easy for him either but the fact that he was put under house arrest and told to sit down and shut up didn’t change the fact that what he was saying was true.  It’s up to us to keep reminding people that “Everybody” very rarely knows anything and that if your arguments are based on what “everybody knows” then it’s time to check your sources.  In the meantime, we can employ strategies to deal with this emotionally and decide that if they want a war on obesity, we’ll give them one!

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

 

 

Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 7:35 am  Comments (21)  

Exclusion in Size Acceptance

My blog received a comment on Facebook that addressed something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while – whether or not Size Acceptance is exclusionary or unfriendly to thin people and whether or not it should be.  The original question said:

She has deals for “Size Positive Businesses” if you join her membership. If she is truly an advocate of health at EVERY size why do only the bigger girls get price breaks? That right there made it feel like an exclusionary movement. Maybe I don’t get it. Isn’t this a movement to get society to change their views AND to get ALL women to concentrate more on their health than their weight? Does she only expect large women to read her blog? If so…FAIL.

First, to me the Size Acceptance movement is about creating a world where people of all sizes are respected and live lives free from stigma, shame, bullying and oppression, and the Health at Every Size movement is about recognizing that health an be pursued through healthy habits by people of every size without pursuing a specific body size or shape.

Second, I’m confused that to this person “Size Positive” means only “bigger girls”.  The deals to which she is referring include clothing that is specific to plus-sized women but also things that would work for people of all sizes and genders.  And that’s where I think some of the confusion about “exclusion” comes in:

There are some ways in which exclusion is really not ok to me.  Saying that we are for size acceptance and then putting down thin women or saying that fat bodies are better than thin ones is, in my opinion, never, ever ok for any reason.  Sayings like “Real women have curves” “Skinny bitch,” “Eat a sandwich” “Nobody wants a bone when they can have the meat” etc. are not okay to me. First because size acceptance means all sizes.  Second because the path to civil rights and self esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to others the exact thing that you want them to stop doing to you doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me.

However, there are some things that could be considered exclusionary that I think are totally ok:

Businesses, for example plus size clothing companies, that produce products strictly for fat people are, in my opinion, ok and do not make the size acceptance community exclusionary.  The entire world is set up for people who are not fat. Seats, public transportation, hallways, aisles in stores, clothes etc – almost everything is set up for people who are not fat. One of the benefits that “straight sized” women have is that if the airport loses their luggage they can go into any store that sells women’s clothing and find clothes in their size. That’s not the experience of fat people.  I have been in massive malls where there is not a single piece of clothing would fit me.  Businesses that cater to fat people are targeting to an under-served market where there is a need and less competition and that’s a completely legitimate business choice. Every business does not have to cater to every person.

I also think it’s totally ok for there to be spaces where there is no pro diet talk or weight loss talk allowed.  I think that people are allowed to choose weight loss just like I’m allowed to choose Health at Every Size, but just like it’s not ok for me to go to an Atkins Diet support group with a piece of cake and a soda, it’s not ok for people to talk about their weight loss practice in a Health at Every Size Space. We each get to make our personal choices and every discussion that exists does not have to accommodate each of us and our beliefs.  The fact that every discussion doesn’t involve the beliefs of every person does not make the Size Acceptance community exclusive, it makes some discussions exclusive and that’s ok.

Fat people are an oppressed group of people who are fighting for our civil rights which means that, while we need and truly appreciate allies, we also need the ability to create spaces that are safe for us, creates products that serve us, and advocate for ourselves; and doing that means that not everyone is included in everything and I think that our true allies understand that and support it.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month and giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or who just want to  support the work that I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them and your contact info always stays completely private.  (If you are a size positive merchant who wants to do a member deal just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll get it set up)

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 21, 2012 at 9:29 am  Comments (36)  

Moving from Dieting to Health at Every Size

I got a question from reader Iroshi asking how to discuss the transition from a weight centered approach to health to a Health at Every Size approach.  I’ll absolutely give my opinion about that but first let’s take it all the way back and discuss why someone might want to do that in the first place.

In a weight centered approach body size is used as a proxy for health – assuming that a thinner body will be a healthier body and so if someone is above what is considered a “healthy” weight, weight loss is advised to increase health.  There are several issues with this:

  • Weight is correlated with some diseases, but weight is not causally related.  There are no “fat people” diseases and so using weight as a proxy for health instead of using the simple tests for actual health means that people are either misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.  I once had a doctor try to prescribe blood pressure medication before taking my blood pressure (which was completely normal).  I have a friend who was begging to be tested for Type 2 Diabetes (which it turns out that she has) but her doctor told her that it was impossible for a thin person to get T2D.
  • It gives fat people the incorrect message that their healthy habits won’t make them healthy unless they make them thin.  That is not what the evidence like Matheson et. al, Wei et. al. and The Cooper Institute studies tell us.  In Matheson et. al. for example, fat people who practiced healthy habits had the same hazard ratio as thin people who practices healthy habits and a dramatically better hazard ratio than thin people who didn’t practice healthy habits.
  • There is no statistically significant study that shows that people who lose weight have better long term health outcomes that those who stay fat but practice healthy habits or those who were never fat.
  • Even if there was proof that weight loss makes us healthier, there is not a single study that shows that weight loss is possible for most people long term. The vast majority of people regain their weight within five years and many gain back more than they lost, even if they keep up their diet habits.  (Increasingly the evidence shows that the body has a multitude of mechanisms that are designed to regain and maintain weight that is lost.)   Weight loss fails the vast majority of the time and often has the exact opposite of the intended effect, and there is no proof that it will make us healthier even if it does work.  Weight loss simply does not meet the criteria for evidence-based medicine.

A prescription of weight loss suggests that we do something that nobody has proven is possible for a reason that nobody has proven is valid, and for which failure is a near statistical certainty.

Health at Every Size (HAES) is a health practice where the focus is on health rather than body size, based on the evidence that habits are a much, much, better determiner of health than body size. (HAES is not to be confused with Size Acceptance, which is a civil rights movement that asserts that people of every size deserve to be treated with respect and live free from shame, stigma, oppression, and bullying due to their size).  Health at Every Size acknowledges that health is multidimensional, some aspects of which are within our control and some aspects beyond our control. Health includes genetics, effects of past behaviors, current behaviors, and access to things like healthy foods, safe movement options and affordable evidence-based healthcare.  With HAES the focus is on practicing healthy habits and allowing your body to settle at whatever weight it settles.

The transition from a weight-centered health practice to a health-centered health practice can be difficult.  The problem that I most often hear from people initially is how to set goals.  In a weight centered practice the scale is our judge and jury.  All eating and movement activities are centered around changing the size and shape of the body.  In HAES our activities are focused around nurturing our bodies and giving them their best chance for health. Goals can be set around movement – I want to be able to life my grandkid, I want to be able to walk around the block etc.  They can be set around the habits themselves – I want to get 150 minutes of activity a week, I want to eat 5 servings of vegetables a day etc.

It should be noted that HAES is an option, not an obligation, and that health is a very personal thing and so people get to choose how highly to prioritize their health and what path to take to get there and it’s absolutely none of anybody else’s business.

I think that movement is the easiest place to start. A lot of research shows that 30 minutes of moderate movement 5 times a week is the magic number. It doesn’t have to be 30 minutes all at once, you can spread it into 3 10 minutes sessions and it doesn’t have to be miserable.  Choose whatever makes you happy – walking, gardening, dancing around your living room etc.   If  you haven’t exercised in a decade then 5 minutes of exercise might be a great starting goal – you don’t have to run a mile tomorrow and you probably don’t want to be the healthiest person in traction.  I’m a fan of getting a baseline (what can you do now without wanting to die) and then working and setting goals from there.  If you’re looking for a resource, my friend Jeanette Depatie (aka The Fat Chick) is a certified fitness professional who has a book and DVD for beginners or those getting back into exercise.  (DancesWithFat members get a special discount on either or both).  If you want support on your journey, check out the Fit Fatties Forum which has over 900 members of all levels of fitness, and includes discussions, groups, and a photo and video gallery.

Figuring out how to eat in ways that nurture your body rather than in ways that try to change your body’s shape can also be tricky.  I started with intuitive eating, I also kept a food journal (after I had worked through issues so that it wasn’t triggery) so that I could track how I felt after eating certain foods.  This is a place that is far beyond my expertise and where I think it’s definitely good to get some help.  I just saw today that Golda Poretsky is doing a special deal this weekend on her “How to Heal from Emotional Eating” home course, and Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist has tons of awesome information.  (In the interest of full disclosure – none of these people compensate me in any way, I just happen to think that they are awesome.)

So there are lots of nuts and bolts to work out but for me the biggest step was deciding to stop hating my body for not fitting an artificial, impossible societal stereotype of beauty,  and start appreciating it for everything it does.  This simple thing did more for my journey to health, happiness and body love than anything else that I’ve done. Once you make the decision to focus on your health and let your weight fall where it may, you’ve taken a huge step toward a HAES approach.  After that it’s all about trying things. Years ago I was talking to a business consultant friend of mine about how he gets “unstuck” when he’s working with a client and he’s not sure which path to take and he said, quoting someone else I’m pretty sure: Try something, anything.  If things get better then do more of that, if they get worse try something else.

So on your health journey you’ll try stuff – some things will be spectacular successes (like that time I took up dancing) and some may be spectacular failures (like that time I tried to overcome the fact that I despise distance running) and that’s ok. This is a lifelong journey and there is no right or wrong , there are just experiences and what you’re going to try next.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month and giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or who just want to  support the work that I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them and your contact info always stays completely private.  (If you are a size positive merchant who wants to do a member deal just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll get it set up)

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on August 17, 2012 at 9:17 am  Comments (14)  

Size Acceptance FAQs

As size acceptance activists we often get asked the same questions over and over.  Typically, in my experience, they are asked respectfully by people who are new to the movement and trying to wrap their heads around what we are about.  I thought I would take a stab at  creating some answers to frequently asked questions.  To be clear I am not speaking for the movement, or for anyone but myself with my answers.  I got us started with a few that I hear a lot, if you have ideas about questions that aren’t here leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the post. If you have answers other than what I’ve given feel free to leave those in the comments as well:

Isn’t fat unhealthy?

No. Weight and health are two separate things – there are healthy and unhealthy fat people and healthy and unhealthy thin people. The confusion of weight and health does a disservice to fat people because people (often including doctors) think that they can look at us and determine our health, it also does a disservice to thin people who are told that they are healthy simply because of their weight and that isn’t what the evidence shows. In fact, the evidence shows that people’s habits are a much better determinant of health than their size is.  Body size is not a diagnosis.  I call this a Galileo issue – “everybody knew” that the sun revolved around the Earth and so Galileo’s statement that the evidence showed that the Earth revolved around the sun was considered heresy.  Now “everybody knows” that fat is unhealthy and so statements to the contrary, even though they are fully supported by evidence, are considered heresy. That doesn’t make them any less true.

Isn’t Health at Every Size just giving up?

Health at Every Size is a choice to focus on healthy habits as a way to improve health rather than focusing on body size as a way to improve health.  Studies on long term dieting show that the vast majority of people regain their weight after 5 years, many regaining more weight than they lost – dieting does not meet the criteria for evidence based healthcare.  Health at Every Size is about opting out of a social construct, perpetuated by a 60 Billion dollar a year diet industry, that takes our money to solve a problem that nobody has proven is valid with a solution that nobody has proven is effective or even possible for most people.  Health at Every Size does involve giving up on some things, including the hope of getting the societal approval that comes with being thin.  But the cure for social stigma isn’t weight loss, the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.  Health is a very personal thing – each person gets to choose how highly they want to prioritize their health and the path that they take to get there.  For me it’s about the best I can do with the amazing and unique body I have which just happens to be a fat body.

How is it fair that my tax dollars pay for the healthcare of fat people?

While people may not realize it, this argument is thinly veiled bigotry.  Tax dollars pay for all kinds of things and unless someone has a list of everything that their tax dollars pay for broken down by what they do and do not want to pay for, then this is just about prejudice against fat people.  This is a very slippery slope – should those of us who don’t drink get to opt out of our tax dollars paying for any alcohol-related health problems? Should vegans get to opt out of their tax dollars paying for the healthcare of non-vegans?  There are some military projects that I’m not thrilled to pay for.  This whole argument collapes under scrutiny.  Also, just to bring some facts to the table, the Congressional Budget Office, and anyone who has actually looked at the numbers has concluded that fat people are barely a blip on the healthcare cost radar.

How can you say it’s ok to be fat?

Because nobody needs anyone else’s permission or approval to live in, and be happy with, their body.  Fat people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that includes the right to live life in the bodies we have without our government waging war on us or having other people tell us that we need to do what they think we should do until we look the way they think we should look. It is absolutely, positively, completely ok to be fat.

Remember if you have questions that you would like me to answer, you can leave them in the comments!

Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 5,000 e-mails from readers each month and giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and/or who just want to  support the work that I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them and your contact info always stays completely private.  (If you are a size positive merchant who wants to do a member deal just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll get it set up)

So if you find value in my work, want to support it, and you can afford it, I would ask that you consider  becoming a member or supporting my work with a  one-time contribution.

The regular e-mail blog subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is always completely free. If you’re curious or uncomfortable about any of this, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book.  The E-Book is “Name Your Own Price”!

I wanted everyone to be able to afford Fat: The Owner’s Manual – Surviving a Thin-Obsessed World with your Health, Happiness, and Sense of Humor Intact  so it  is now available in soft cover and e-book which is “name your own price

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 8:15 am  Comments (37)