Know Fat Chicks – Lessons from the Beach

Today was Take Back the Beach in Los Angeles – the beaches where the “No fat chicks” meme started.  Today was a combination activism and social event to celebrate size diversity, demand that the beach be safe to enjoy for people of all shapes and sizes, and have fun on the beach together. I learned several cool lessons today.

The first was from the beach itself.  Stick with me on this story I do have a point. I went out swimming in some decent sized waves – probably no big deal to people from SoCal, but to someone who spent the last 17 years in Texas, they were big.  I was trying to mimic the people who knew what they were doing – hop over this wave, duck under that wave, jump with your back to those waves and so on.  Big fun.  Then I misjudged and a big wave crashed down on my head hard and flipped me over – I touch sand with my back then my feet and tried to come up only to be hit by another wave.  I started to panic, realized that was a bad idea and used some quick self-talk to calm myself down “I can hold my breath a lot longer than this (even though I wasn’t sure I could), I know what to do, be patient, I’ve got this.”  The wave then threw me hard into the sand on my knees, I quickly put my feet in the sand and pushed up and out toward shore. I don’t know what the recommended safe level of ocean water to drink is – but I’m pretty sure I exceeded it, and my knees were cut up, but I was ok.  So go with me on this metaphor – as a fat person I get hit by waves of shame, stigma and oppression all the time, and it can be easy to panic and feel like I’m drowning in all of it.  So maybe it’s important to remind myself that I can deal with way more than this (even if I’m not sure I can), that I need to have some patience with myself, and that I’ve got this.

The second lesson was one about the nature of successful activism. There are a lot of different styles of activism and this event was about one of them.  Today was the coming out party of a new activist group, of which I am a member, called the Size Diversity Task Force.  This group was created to meet the need for an organization that is member-funded and member-run, where the work is done collaboratively, and where every person is recognized as having something of value to contribute, and everyone feels welcome.  This event was a tribute to that method – about 40 people showed up (even though we had major freeway closures the news was calling “Carmageddon” – gotta love LA), with a wide range of sizes, ages, and abilities. We hung out on the beach, did the menopause mambo (in support of menopausal women everywhere), a flesh mob (like a flash mob only fatter), went swimming, wore our Know Fat Chicks shirts and laid on our Know Fat Chicks towels, we roasted marshmallows on the bonfire. We also got lots of positive attention and interest from people of all sizes and ages.  The event kicked ass and it was a reminder to me of the power of collaboration and mutual respect.

The final lesson for me was about how working consistently on self-esteem and body image has paid off for me with a lot of hard work over a long time.  I wore a blue polka dot bikini and did a dance on camera and never once worried about looking fat.  If you had told 10-years-ago-me that I could do that I would have said it completely, utterly, and totally impossible.  So I go back to what I learned from the waves – I’m told every day in tons of ways that I should be neither seen nor heard until I am thin.  But if I just keep reminding myself that I’m strong, that I can do it; if I work as hard at loving my body as I  used to work at changing it, and if I have patience with myself, then maybe I can continue to opt out of that social construct and know what it’s like to truly love and be at peace with my body.  Ten years of dieting didn’t work, but ten years of size acceptance sure as hell did. Of course your results may vary but from where I’m standing (in my polka dot bikini) it was worth it to try.

Wishing you had your own Know Fat Chicks beach towel? You are in luck1  We have ten Know Fat Chicks towels left, they are $20 plus actual shipping, so if you want one e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org (all proceeds support the Size Diversity Task Force)

Activism Update:  Our petition to stop Barneys and Disney from making Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 super model to fit in a dress has over 1,000 signatures and was featured by Change.org on their Twitter.  Massive thanks to everyone who has participated so far!  It’s still growing everyday, please consider signing and publicizing – there are some things happening in the background that could really help us win this fight.  Click here for the petition.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

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 September 30, 2012 at 9:10 am  Comments (12)  

Are Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance the Same?

I’ve seen a lot of talk recently on the internet about Health at Every Size, specifically as to whether HAES is a fat activist movement or a personal health practice.  My name has been mentioned in a number of these conversations (and thanks to those who cited me and said nice things!) so I thought I would clarify my position.

I believe that Health at Every Size and Size Acceptance should be two separate things with separate goals, and that’s because I do not think we should involve the concept of individual health in the fight for fat civil rights.

Let’s start with HAES.  There are lots of different ideas about what it means to practice HAES.  There are people who think there are things you have to do for your lifestyle to be considered “HAES” – some say you have to do intuitive eating, some say you have to exercise in a specific way, or that you aren’t allowed to do any kind of food measurement etc.  I think the definition of HAES should be any personal health practice that is health-centric and weight neutral.  So health is pursued through healthy habits and without an attempt to manipulate body size. People’s prioritization of their health and the path they take to get there is up to them and any health care providers they choose to consult.

I think there is activism to be done around HAES, especially as it relates to access.  Nobody is required to practice HAES or any other health practice, but if you want to practice healthy habits then there shouldn’t be barriers to that – you should have access to the foods you choose, movement options that you enjoy that are both physically and psychologically safe (so that you can, for example, go swimming at your gym’s pool without any fear of being shamed), and affordable evidence-based healthcare (so your doctor listens to you and gives you interventions proven to help your symptoms and does not bring up weight other than if there are unexplained gains or losses, or to prescribe a proper dose of medication.)  There is tons of work and activism to be done around access and it’s really important work.

I don’t think that we should use HAES as a platform to do size acceptance activism because I think that we should avoid even the intimation that some level of health or healthy habits is required for access to basic human respect and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  There is absolutely NO health requirement to demand your civil rights. You don’t owe anybody “health” or “healthy habits” (especially not by their definition, and not by any definition at all.)  You do deserve, and have the right to demand, respect and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body you have right this minute – whatever your size, health and dis/ability.

I am both a SA and HAES activist, but I approach my activism very differently.   I am a Size Acceptance Advocate – everybody deserves basic human respect and civil rights and that should never be up to show of hands or vote of any kind. Fat people have a right to exist, there are no other valid opinions about that. Our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not someone else’s to give, they are inalienable.  SA activism is not about asking someone to confer rights upon us but rather demanding that they stop trying to keep them from us through an inappropriate use of power.

I am a Health at Every Size Practitioner.  I practice HAES and talk about it publicly because there are so many people who aren’t even aware that a weight-neutral approach to health exists. I leave room for the fact that others choose different paths to health, and I respect those decisions as I want my decisions respected. I put my fat body on display (and therefore myself up for criticism) because I am a fathlete and I deserve to exist and tell my story; and because so many fat people tell me that they wanted to be athletic but didn’t think they could until they saw someone doing it, because the message they received from society again and again is that it’s not possible.  Along with fat fitness professional Jeanette DePatie I created the Fit Fatties Forum (which now has more than 2,500 members) so that people who want to can have a place to talk about fitness from a weight-neutral perspective.  But if you read this blog regularly you know that I constantly  point out that nobody has to do what I do and that doing what I do doesn’t guarantee that another person will have the same results that I have, or that I will always be healthy and athletic.  Nor does it make me better or worse than anyone else.  Health is not a moral high ground, it is multi-dimensional, never fully within our control, and our prioritization and health path are personal.

As always, I can only speak for me and this is what I think.  There are a lot people who disagree about this, many of whom I hold in the highest esteem.  I think it’s a good conversation to be having and I think that we can continue to do the activism work even as we have an ongoing discussion to clarify our beliefs around it, that is the nature of the stage of civil rights activism that our community is in.

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

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

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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 September 28, 2012 at 6:05 am  Comments (14)  

Never Too Much Body Acceptance

When it comes to body acceptance, this is the only balance I’m interested in striking. Photo by Richard Sabel

By far one of the dumbest things I hear is that we have to “strike a balance” between body acceptance and health.  The logic-defying idea here being that if you allow yourself to completely like your body you won’t hate it enough to make healthy choices.   That idea is precisely as ludicrous as it sounds. Of course when people are talking about “health” in this context they actually mean thinness.  So what they are saying is that if you allow yourself to completely like your body, you won’t hate it enough to try dieting again and again when, like almost everyone, you fail repeatedly at long term weight loss. Or perhaps they think that in the multi-dimensionalityof health self-hatred is a positive force.  In this as in so many other things I think that scales are a bad idea.This “strike a balance” idea is just diet industry manipulation for profit – it’s a way to give lip service to the myriad health professionals and experts who assert that positive body image is crucial to making decisions about our health from a good mental state, while allowing them to keep insisting that we need to buy their product so that we can change our bodies enough that we stop hating them.   This idea then gets repeated by people who either didn’t think it through or who actually believe that the key to health is juuuust enough self-hate.

I have consciously opted out of this system.  I do not think that hating myself does any good at all – and trust me when I tell you that I gave it the old college try. Hating myself never inspired me to take care of my body and never led to a single positive outcome.  In fact, I got so caught up in hating my body for how it looked that I forgot to have even a second’s appreciation for what it does and that was no way for me to live.  Like everyone’s experience mine is just for me – it can’t be extrapolated to anybody else so I’m neither trying to tell you what to do or trying to tell you that your experience will be the same as mine. I’m just trying to give an option.

Right now your body is probably breathing and blinking and beating your heart and a million other things without you even asking because your body is just cool like that. And as a way of saying thank you for that you can say “Screw striking a balance” and fully appreciate the body you have now – total, 100% body acceptance.  Not because your body is “perfect” (as if there is such a thing) but because it’s your body, the only one you have.  You can choose your own health priorities and your own path to get there and you can do it all while loving  your body.  Health is never fully within our contorl and no amount of healthy habits guarantee health for anyone of any size, but for me everything in my life is better when I work from a platform of loving and appreciating my body.  My body does millions of things for me everyday and it deserves nothing less than my love, respect, and full throated support and anything less than that is out of balance.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

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 September 27, 2012 at 9:21 am  Comments (12)  

Weight, Health, and a Crowbar

I heard something today that I can barely even comprehend.  Reader Lisa told me that her husband went to the doctor because he had been exposed to the potentially fatal Hantavirus at work and was starting to show symptoms.  As the doctor started the exam, he patted her husband’s stomach and called it a “grocery tumor”.

This is egregious, it’s unbelievable, it activates my face punch reflex, and it’s also exactly what we can expect when we constantly and consistently conflate weight and health as we do in our society.

We have convinced our society that we can take a ratio of someone’s weight and height (BMI), or hell – just look at them fully clothed – and make determinations about their health, their cost to society, their habits, their worthiness, their morality and any number of things that helpful people on the internet love to tell fat people about us.

It’s absolutely wrong for several reasons:

Body Mass Index (BMI):  You may have heard that it’s not a good measure of health.  That’s not true.  The truth is that it’s not a measure of health at all – it’s a simple ratio of weight and height. If you know someone’s BMI then you know…wait for it…the ratio of someone’s weight and height.  It doesn’t tell you anything about body composition, habits, or actual health measurements. Body size, regardless of how it’s measured, can tell you a maximum of two things:  1.  What size someone’s body size is and 2.  What your prejudices about that body size are.

It also doesn’t make sense from an evidence perspective – there is not a single study where the majority of participants have moved from “overweight” and “obese” to “normal” weight, maintained it for five years and seen health benefits.  The idea that weight loss is possible for most people is completely unproven – and disproven by the evidence that does exist –  and the idea that if that weight loss happened it would make people healthier is also no more than a guess.  Meanwhile, plenty of evidence shows us that habits are a much better determinant of health than is body size.

And it leads to some horrible things. Like doctors diagnosing fat people as fat and prescribing weight loss while ignoring any actual symptoms they are having and giving them an entirely different treatment protocol than they would give a thin person with the same ailment. Or a so-called medical professional calling someone’s stomach a grocery tumor.  Or people making a full-time hobby out of going on the internet blaming fat people for everything that they can think of.  And on and on until we have a society that is so rife with size stigma and bullying that fat people spend all of their time trying to hate themselves thin and thin people spend their time trying to hate themselves not fat,  while our lives fly by and our bodies go completely unappreciated for what they do, as we risk our health for thinness instead of caring for our bodies and letting them settle into the same beautiful diversity of sizes that we see all throughout nature.

The saddest thing is that we could end all of this tomorrow with one simple step.  We have to take a crowbar and separate weight and health permanently.   Take weight out of the health discussion completely.  Give people of all sizes the same treatment protocol for the same health issues.  Immediately cease any and all health messaging that could create shame, poor body image, or stigma.  End all messaging that seeks to make people feel guilty for their choices or bad about their bodies.  Start giving people information and true access – to the foods they want to eat, safe movement options they enjoy, and affordable healthcare.

We need to be clear that health is a very personal thing and that people get to prioritize their health and choose their path, and that the job of public health promotion is to give people information and options and then allow them to make their own choices without shame or stigma.  Just look around and you’ll see the result of conflating weight and health –   unhealthy relationships with food and exercise, people who think that their bodies are unworthy and therefore unworthy of being cared for,  eating disorders, people trying to hate themselves healthy and failing everyday.  Newsflash:  It’s.  Not.  Working.  We must now perform the most noble act of science: admit that we’ve been very wrong and declare that we’re going to move ahead on a different path.  We are never too far down the wrong road to turn back and the sooner the better.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

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 September 26, 2012 at 9:29 am  Comments (11)  

Fat People are Not Political Punching Bags

We already know that the cultural stigma, oppression, and bullying of fat people is extremely profitable to the diet industry and that people like Jillian Michaels, Steve Siebold, and Paul Plakas have made millions off of fat bullying and oppression – trying to solve social stigma through weight loss which is essentially just giving the bully your lunch money and hoping he beats you up less. Obviously I think this is disgusting.

What I see more and more of is politicians using fat people to gain political points. It seems to go like this – the politician wants to do something that scores them points and avoids having to spin a possible downside. Since the country is already whipped  into a fat hating frenzy, they just go after fat people with some random untested policy that promises to rid the world of us whether we like it or not. Luckily for them the diet industry has spent years convincing people (including fat people) that we should not be trusted to tell our own stories, so this works out great for them.

So New York City Mayor Bloomberg supports a ridiculous law saying that people in restaurants can’t buy sugary drinks more than 16 ounces.  No word on how much ice has to be in the drink and of course people can add as much sugar to their giant coffee or tea as they want, and it doesn’t affect convenience stores so you can go across the street from the restaurant to a 7-11 and buy a quintuple big gulp 2 gallon barrel of  Mountain Dew (and I’m not shaming you if you do it, I’m a writer – I’ve been there).  It apparently doesn’t matter that there is not strong evidence that the ban will do anything for health outcomes of anybody, or do anything other than cause restaurants to pay for an extra cup and straw for people to buy 2 drinks putting more garbage into circulation. But what the hell, he gets to say that he is “doing something about obesity.”   To show how foolproof this is, Mayor  Bloomberg announced the initiative on the same day that he went around celebrating…wait for it… Donut Day. So he spent half the day saying that businesses should be limited in the size of drinks that they can serve because of big bad fatties, and the other half of the day getting photographed eating donuts.  And people still cheered his “hardline stance” on obesity. Nice spin if you can get it.

Michelle Obama makes the probably well-intentioned but absolutely horrible decision to wage war on fat children. She does this while simultaneously supporting an anti-bullying campaign and sees no dissonance between the tw0 (even though appearance, including weight, is the number one reason that kids are bullied.) Then she goes on notorious weight bully Dr. Oz’s show and says that fat people are the greatest threat to national security, then gets credit for working to end this greatest threat.  That’s like me saying that I think that lack of hummus is the greatest threat to National Security, then saying “Hey, I just made hummus so everybody praise me.”  What the hell?  And she does it knowing that the media is unlikely to call her out on it, not because they don’t agree that she is wrong or out of touch, but because they don’t want to point it out and risk their relationship with the White House.

I do not want to let this go without comment.  Fat people are people, we deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and that includes not being used to score cheap political points.  Let’s put an end to fatty hunting season and let’s do it now – when you see this kind of thing consider speaking up, pointing it out and telling your actual story.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

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 September 24, 2012 at 10:29 am  Comments (14)  

Size Acceptance – It’s a Different World

A couple things today got me thinking about this. First, I had a couple of friends who have started to learn about Health at Every Size (HAES) and Size Acceptance (SA) who are going through the stage where they struggle with the concepts – they’ll agree one minute, and the next someone says something to them that they don’t have, or don’t remember, the answer for and it shakes their belief.  Second, I’ve received several e-mails this week from people who are either frustrated or seeing fat activists be frustrated with people who are asking basic questions repeatedly or who seem to get it but then slip back into a weight = health belief system, or into thinking that fat people are somehow obligated to try not to be fat or try to be fitter or whatever.

If you read the blog regularly then you already know that Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement that states that everybody deserves respect and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body they have now and it doesn’t matter if they are fat or why they are fat.  Health at Every Size is an evidence based health practice where the focus is placed on healthy behaviors as a path to better health rather than changing someone’s body size.  Health and choices about the path to health are a personal decision and not a barometer of worthiness and obviously healthy habits don’t guarantee health for anyone of any size.

If you read this blog and/or other SA or HAES blogs regularly, then you are also living in a slightly different world than everyone else because you are getting the concepts of SA and HAES reinforced on a regular basis.  That’s not the case for everybody.  Our friends hear about SA and HAES from us and then go back out into a world that tells them the opposite thing 386,170 times a year  so it’s pretty likely that they are going to come back to us with the same questions again and again.

To be clear, nobody is required or obligated to answer these questions.  I choose to answer them because I think it’s important that people have someone to whom they can ask their questions and I don’t mind giving the same answers over and over again. (I even created an FAQ in case that’s helpful)
If you are dealing with people who seem to struggle with “getting it” when it comes to HAES or SA, remember that they are being given the opposite message by almost every facet of society.  The diet industry along with the media  has been highly successful at whipping our society into a massive fat-hating frenzy and everybody is basically soaking in it.  Excuse the geeky reference but I sometimes feel like this is the fat Matrix (without all the leather – it’s all chaffing and hot) and at this point only a few of us have unplugged. I’m a very outcome-based person and my desired outcome is that everybody accepts the truth that people of every size deserve respect and a life free of weight bullying, stigma and oppression, and that we each get to choose how highly to prioritize our health and the path that we want to take to get there.  To me that’s basic common sense and human decency but in reality that’s massively different than what society currently says. So I think that asking someone to shift their view is asking a lot, though I don’t think that’s fair.  So, just for me, some patience is in order and I’m willing to accept baby steps and answer lots of questions over and over again as people get it.  That’s just me and it’s certainly not the only way to handle things, nor does it make me better or worse than those who choose something different.

I just find it helpful to remember that when people give me push back about SA and HAES they are telling me what the media tells them everyday, what their work tells them, what their doctor tells them.  I try to remember that when Galileo pointed out that the Earth really does revolve around the sun, it didn’t matter that the evidence was on his side- society told him to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms.  That didn’t change the truth and today everybody can tell you that the Earth revolves around the sun, but it took time and explanation to get there. When we say that people of all sizes deserve respect and that you can pursue health without pursuing weight loss, that’s heresy to some people and so we find ourselves told to sit down and shut up in no uncertain terms, but that doesn’t change the truth, but it does, for me, require patience, persistence and empathy.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are now available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out my Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: “Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!”  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

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 September 22, 2012 at 9:27 am  Comments (8)  

Obesity and Eating Disorders

Today during my talk as part of the awesome Golda Poretsky’s HAES Masterclass Brittany asked about how we deal with eating disorders and weight.  Our culture has a disturbing tendency to forget that “obesity” is defined as a ratio of weight and height and that eating disorders are a complex combination of physical and mental symptoms.  I recently saw a study that compared brain circuits of obese women with brain circuits of women with anorexia.

This is essentially comparing apples to bowling balls, fat is not the opposite of anorexia nor is it the diagnosis of  an eating disorder. Our cultural tendency to conflate weight and health can be deadly when it comes to eating disorders.   Eating disorders happen to people at all sizes.  Unfortunately when a fat person develops an ED they are often encouraged to continue and even step up the behaviors, even if they can get to the point that they are aware that they are sick and are actively asking for help.  Our society is so convinced that thin by any means  is better than fat, that sometimes I’m a little surprised they don’t just pass out cocaine to all the fat people.

Some eating disorder diagnoses require very specific criteria which includes weight and that has led to a group of diagnoses known as “EDNOS” or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.  This is important because a fat person who develops an under-eating disorder can die before becoming underweight and so if we assume that someone who is fat can’t suffer from an under-eating disorder then we make a very grave error.

Even professional are susceptible to this mistake.  I have taught dance and movement at a number of eating disorder treatment centers.  At one that worked almost exclusively with patients who were very thin and dealing with undereating disorders.  I happened to come in the day that they got a fat patient, one of the therapists said “I’m glad you’re here, [first name] really needs to exercise.”  I asked her how much exercise she had been doing previous to starting treatment and she responded that she assumed none. I insisted on a work-up.  It turns out that the girl had been overexercising for a long time and, based on her profile, had she not been fat they would have immediately recommended a period without exercise. I’ve also had a Binge Eating Disorder specialist tell me that, in her “vast experience” there was nobody who got to my size without suffering from BED.

We all know the adage that if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.  We also know that when a healthcare professional sees a problem repeatedly in their patients they can inappropriately extrapolate to everyone who looks like their patients (like when Dr. Oz says that every fat person he operates on has heart problems and tries to say that means that all fat people have heart problems.  Of course in reality one would hope that every person he operates on, fat or thin, has heart problems, otherwise what is he doing cracking their chest? Just like people come to him for heart problems, people come to a BED professional for BED treatment.) But I think this goes deeper.  I think that this is what happens when society tells people incessantly that you can and should make assumptions about what people eat and how much they exercise just by looking at them.

Eating disorders can be deadly so we have to get this right.  Eating disorders happen independent of weight.  There are fat people who have anorexia and bulimia, there are thin people who have binge eating disorder.  There are very fat people who do not have an over eating disorder.  There are very thin people who do not have an under eating disorder.  Calling someone “anorexic” is not a substitute for calling them very thin, and while we’re talking about this how about we just stop talking negatively about other people’s body sizes altogether?

I think that the best thing we can do when it comes to eating disorders, and healthcare in general, is take the focus off of weight and put it on treating people based on what is actually happening – their symptoms and situation. It sure beats a treatment plan based on just making guesses based on body size.

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

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

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

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

Published in: on September 21, 2012 at 10:23 am  Comments (13)  

Answering HAES Critics and Questions

Later today (at 6pm Eastern) I’m doing a talk as part of Golda Poretsky’s HAES Masterclass (click here to register) called “But But But…Answering HAES Critics and Questions.”  Sometimes people ask why we should answer these questions and critics at all – why not just say that our health is our business, and every body of every size and ability deserves respect?  That’s an absolutely valid response.  It’s a response that I use sometimes.  For me it’s also important to answer these questions sometimes for a number of reasons.

First, because there are people who are genuinely misinformed (by a media machine driven by the 60 billion dollar a year diet industry) and giving well meaning people true information can change their minds and present new options. People come up to me after my talks all the time and tell me that they had no idea about the evidence that I presented and that it’s made them rethink health and the way that fat people are treated. When this much of the world is being actively and constantly misinformed, it’s important that someone gives correct information.  I believe that’s why Galileo stood up and said that the earth revolves around the sun.

One of the reasons that people suggest that we not try to challenge stereotypes is that it can hurt those who happen to be the stereotype and are seen as “living down” to the stereotype.  So if someone says that fat people can’t be athletes, there is a school that suggests that a fat athlete should say “it doesn’t matter if there are fat athletes or not, every body deserves to be treated with respect.”  Again, that’s a valid response.  It’s also valid for a fat athlete to point out that the stereotype doesn’t apply to them. Research shows that challenging stereotypes is effective in civil rights activism, and here is an example of it in real life.  Plus, dismantling the stereotype and pointing out that there are people of all sizes at, for example, all levels of athleticism or health, means that there is no stereotype to “live down to” and so can benefit everyone.  I think it’s important to combine the two – challenge stereotypes while asserting that whether people are the stereotype or not, that doesn’t make them better or worse, they still have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness including being treated with respect.

Next, fat people are told constantly that what we have to say is not valuable, that we are not the best witnesses to our experiences, and that we should allow thin people to speak for us.  So it is crucial that we be empowered to stand up to those who try to speak for us and who suggest that we not speak for ourselves.  Each of us can only ever speak for ourselves and fat people who practice Health at Every Size and those who choose to be athletes are allowed, and should be encouraged, to tell our stories.  Much of the most-often referenced writing about HAES is done by Linda Bacon, Lucy Aphramor, Paul Campos, Sandy Szwarc, and Gina Kolata.  These are all great writers producing important work. (I’ve had the honor to meet Lucy Aphramor and spend time with Linda Bacon and they are both fantastic.)  They are also all, as far as I can tell, “normal weight”/thin individuals.  This in no way negates their fantastic work, but when it comes to being a fat athlete or a fat HAES practitioner it’s important that we also make space for the experiences of people who are fat athletes and fat HAES practitioners to tell their stories in the first person.  This does not demean or negate the experiences of fat people who aren’t athletes or HAES practitioners, there is nothing wrong with being fat and not choosing HAES or athletics,  and everybody of every size, health, age, and ability does deserve respect and the world should hear the full depth and breadth of our stories.

Finally, I think it’s important to answer questions and critics because there are fat people out there who have only heard the stereotypes and the critics.  If someone suggests that it’s impossible to be fat and healthy and the only answer we ever give is that it doesn’t matter if fat people are healthy or not because every body deserves respect, then what those fat people never hear is that it IS possible to pursue health/healthy habits without pursuing weight loss.  Of course healthy habits don’t guarantee health for anyone at any size since health is multidimensional and not entirely within our control but at least once a week I get an e-mail from someone who believed that since they couldn’t get thin there was no chance of being healthy. You don’t have to want to prioritize your health but I think it’s important that people know all of their options, be allowed to make choices for themselves, and then have those choices respected.

Each of us gets to choose if/how we answer the critics and questions that come at us, and we may choose different answers in different situations for different reasons and that’s just fine.

Remember there’s still time to sign the petition to tell Disney and Barney’s that Minnie Mouse doesn’t need to be made into a 5’11 size 0 just to “look good” in a dress.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Dance Class DVDs are (finally!) available for pre-order  Click here for the details

Check Out the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here to order

I’m excited to say that my book was just endorsed by Linda Bacon: Whether you are fat or thin, Fat: The Owner’s Manual will educate you about life in a fat body. It includes top notch information, solid science, support, and general inspiration to help all of us navigate a world rife with size prejudice and weight stigma. Ragen’s style is to provide ideas, without moralizing – and she does a particularly good job of separating the civil rights movement of Fat Acceptance from the health practice of Health at Every Size. Highly recommended!  Dr. Linda Bacon, professor, researcher, and author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

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 September 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm  Comments (11)  

Hey Barney’s, Leave Minnie Mouse Alone

Disney is collaborating with Barney’s to create this year’s holiday window display.  But, says Barney’s Creative Director David Freed “When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion. The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress.”

So they gave Minnie a makeover.  David Freed says that they made her 5’11.  What he doesn’t say is that they made her very, very thin.  To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with very, very thin bodies.  I do think that there is something wrong with changing a beloved children’s character’s body so that it looks good in a dress that barely looks good on anyone.  I think this went wrong when they decided that Minnie didn’t look good in the dress rather than realizing the actually problem which is that the dress doesn’t look good on Minnie. The problem isn’t with Minnie’s body, it’s with a dress that only looks good on a woman who is 5’11 and a size zero.

That little girl who is going to become a 5’4, size 12 woman can’t just become 5’11, size 0 woman when she wants to fit into a dress that was designed by someone who chose to make a dress that only looks good on a very rare body type. Meanwhile, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics.

According to sources sited on the non-profit National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders website:

•47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.

• 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.

• 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

• 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

Girls don’t have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that they will never be thin enough?  Enough already.  Let’s give girls a chance to celebrate the actual bodies they have instead hating them for not fitting into a Lanvin dress.  Then maybe enough girls will get together and demand dresses that look good on their actual, non-digitally altered bodies and designers will just have to become talented enough to design a dress that looks good on lots of bodies, and wouldn’t that be refreshing.

If you agree you can sign the petition asking Barney’s and Walt Disney World to Leave Minnie Mouse Alone!

http://www.change.org/petitions/barney-s-and-walt-disney-world-leave-minnie-mouse-alone

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  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 September 18, 2012 at 10:18 am  Comments (28)  

The Thing about Access

I talk a lot on this blog about access, specifically that I believe that those people who want to spend their time waging a war on fat people because of how we look might consider instead spending their time focusing on making sure that everyone has access to the foods that they would choose to et, safe movement options that they enjoy, affordable, accessible, evidence based healthcare and true information. Today I want to look deeper into what “access” really means and where the barriers are.

First,  if you read my blog regularly you know that I don’t believe that health is a personal, societal, or moral obligation, or a barometer of worthiness.  The choice of how highly to prioritize health and the path you want to choose to get there is an intensely personal decision that is nobody else’s business.  Health is multi-dimensional and includes aspects that are in our control and aspects that are out of our control and no amount of healthy habits guarantees health to anybody of any size. I’m not “promoting” any specific kind of “lifestyle”, I believe that people should have all of their options and that what they choose from there is nobody else’s business.  (If you’re wondering “but what about my tax dollars” head over to this post.)

Now let’s talk about access:

The first thing I talk about is access to the foods people would choose to eat.  Notice that I did not say the foods somebody else thinks that people should eat.  Food choices are personal and involve nourishment, taste, culture, and any number of factors for any individual person.  I don’t believe that it’s up to society to tell people what to eat, I believe it’s up to us to work to make a variety of foods accessible or affordable, and to give people access to good information about it.

Next is safe movement options.  To me this means that the movement that someone wants to do is accessible to them and safe both physically and psychologically.  So if someone wants to do water aerobics that would meant that they have access to a class that they can afford and get to, and where they can put on a bathing suit and walk around without any fear of ridicule, shame or unwelcome comments about their body, weight, health, etc.  So opening up a community center with a sliding pay scale on the bus lines is not enough.  That community center also needs to have policies in place and enforced that are fiercely anti-shame. It’s not enough to just have a walking trail or bike path, we need to create a society where nobody would think it was ok to yell insults out of their car at the fatty who is using the trail.

Healthcare is another place where access is tricky.  In order to be accessible healthcare has to be affordable – which means that the person who needs the care can afford to take the time off work, get to the facility, afford the care including medicine and follow up care.  But that’s just the beginning, once you get to the appointment you have to have a doctor who will provide evidence based care.  So it’s not enough to build a low cost community clinic, it means that the doctors who work there have to practice medicine a bit more sophisticated than just diagnosing someone as fat and prescribing weight loss (as has happened to me for strep throat, a separated shoulder,and a broken toe.) It also means that the doctor doesn’t prescribe weight loss without letting the patient know that it is an experimental treatment that fails the vast majority of the time, that often has the exact opposite of the intended effect, and that there is no evidence that it will lead to better health in any case.  As long as fat people are treated differently than thin people for the same medical issue, we have major barriers to healthcare access.

Finally is true information.  There is currently a major barrier to access here in that a sixty billion dollar diet industry has created a massive misinformation campaign for profit, Michelle Obama has declared war on fat kids, and told them to use people who dehydrate themselves to the point of urinating blood to win a game show as role models for health. Meanwhile, actual research about health and weight gets shouted down by the same “everybody knows” type who told Galileo to sit down and shut up. Note that access means that people can find the information to do their own research if they choose, not that information is forced upon them.

Considering all of this it seems to me like there are some better uses for all that time money that we’re spending waging war against fat people, policing drink sizes in restaurants and paying the diet industry to lie to us for profit – it turns out that sixty billion dollars will go a long way

So to the people who harass fat people in the name of improving public health, let me  suggest that instead of trying to be the fatty whisperer, you instead start to work on these actual barriers to health access.  Then you can make choices for yourself and let others make choices for themselves.

Like the blog?  Check Out the Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual.  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 September 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm  Comments (7)