Junk Food Obesity Tax is Junk Science

Reader Kerri alerted me to a new program in Ontario which calls for higher taxes on “junk food” and warning graphics on food that “lacks nutritional value” as a way to fight obesity. You can read the article here [Trigger warning:  Fat Bashing, conflating weight and health, many bad things etc.] I think that this article is representative of all of the mistakes that are being made in this area so I’m going to answer it bit by bit.  The (potentially triggering) quotes from the article are in block quotes, you can skip them and you’ll still understand the blog.

Physicians in Ontario are approaching the issue of obesity with renewed determination, calling for higher taxes on junk food and graphic warnings on food with no nutritional value.  “We need to treat obesity like the public health epidemic that it is,” Doug Weir, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said at a news conference Tuesday.

Obesity, as currently defined, is the end result of a mathematical equation – weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared.  Obesity is a ratio of weight and height, it is not a health diagnosis, it is a body size.  We’re also taller than we’ve ever been but physicians in Ontario are not attacking the “tallness epidemic”.  Healthcare treats health conditions, not body size.

The only way that you can call body size a health epidemic is if you are willing to ignore all of the evidence that shows that there are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people, and that people of all sizes get the diseases that are correlated with obesity, and ignoring a bunch of evidence doesn’t sound to me like something that a group of physicians should be doing.

The proposed anti-obesity measures– touted by the OMA  as some of the most aggressive to be suggested in Canada– include changes to legislation and the availability of junk food.

Being “Anti-obesity” means that the Ontario Medical Association supports the eradication of fat people with or without our consent.  I think that Medical groups should concern themselves with helping people of all sizes have options for health and healthcare, not trying to make us all the same size, or eradicating people of a particular size.

Among the proposed measures, the OMA suggests:

  • Limiting the marketing of sugary and fatty food to children
  • Placing information about obesity-related health risks on high-sugar and high-fat foods
  • Restricting access to junk food at sports complexes, and other recreational venues that children regularly frequent

Even if we assume for a moment that a junk food tax will cut down on eating junk food, unless these doctors believe that these foods are healthy for thin people who eat them and don’t get fat, but unhealthy for fat people, then the mention of obesity here is completely superfluous to any actual health message, and serves only to create stigma against fat people.  The words “obesity-related” are misleading.  What they mean is that these diseases have been correlated with obesity (meaning that they sometimes happen at the same time but are not proven to be caused by obesity.   This is observable since there are fat people who don’t have these diseases and there are thin people who do.  Murders and ice cream eating are also correlated – for a series of Augusts there were  more murders and more ice cream eaten.  Using the OMA’s approach, we would remove ice cream from store shelves and  expect the murder rate to go down. Without causation we don’t know if changing one thing will affect the other at all.

Health doesn’t need body size as a middle man.  In fact, it’s dangerous.  It gives thin people the message that they are healthy as long as they don’t get fat and tells fat people that they can’t be healthy unless they get thin.  That’s not what the evidence tells us at all.

Speaking of evidence, I’ve not seen any convincing evidence that this type of messaging on food has any measurable outcome on public health. I’m pretty concerned at the number of “anti-obesity” interventions that are passed off as public health interventions that have no evidence-basis.  This is how people become non-consenting victims of experimental medicine.

There is some evidence that I think Team Tax-the-Fatties is not taking into account:

Peter Muennig from Columbia University found that the stress of stigma and shame were correlated with the same diseases with which obesity is correlated.  Muennig’s research also found that women who were concerned about their weight had more mental and physical illnesses than those who were fine with their size, regardless of their weight.  So telling people to be concerned about their weight may be, in and of itself, dangerous to their health.

Shame and stigma create all kinds of problems.  For example, when doctors shame fat people for their weight, it leads to fat people not going to the doctor, they miss out on preventative care and end up not getting treatment until an issue is very advanced (which gives them even less time to wade through doctors who ignore their actual health issues and just tell them to lose weight, and some of them will die before they are able to obtain actual evidence-based healthcare.). When we shame people for getting sick, then they are too embarrassed to get the treatment they need.  We will never know how much shame and stigma affects fat people until we stop shaming and stigmatizing them.

From the comments: “if there was a new tax, charge it to the obese people”

This is a major consequence of health campaigns that focus on body size.  It encourages weight stigma and bullying including making it seem rational to some people to actually tax people based on a loose combination of how they look.

All of this mess could be avoided if public health work was focused around creating access – to a variety of foods, safe movement options, and evidence-based, stigma and shame free healthcare; and if public health messaging was about giving evidence-based information, about healthy behaviors rather than patting yourself on the back for creating the program that most aggressively stigmatizes a group of people for whom stigmatization may already be having negative health consequences.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

During the holiday season I get a ton of e-mail from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police or their partner’s office party. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year. All calls will be recorded so registrants can listen  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 6:08 am  Comments (9)  

Why Talk About Health at All?

I received an e-mail today that said:

I just read almost all of your blog posts and I notice that you constantly say that health is not entirely in someone’s control, that people’s health isn’t anybody else’s business, that they can make health whatever they want it to be, and that health isn’t obligatory.  If you feel that way, why do you bother to talk about health at all?

I’ll start by clarifying what this person paraphrased. Health is multi-dimensional and includes things within and outside of our control including genetics, environment, access, and behaviors.  Health is not an obligation, nor is it a barometer of worthiness.  Nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy behavior,”  and those who aren’t interested in health are not better or worse people than those who are interested in health.  Prioritization of health and the path that someone chooses to get there are intensely personal and not anybody else’s business.  The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not health or healthy habit dependent. People who have health issues should be given options for care and accommodation as they wish, not judged or asked to prove that their health issues are not their fault.

When I talk about health, it’s not because I am trying to tell people how to live.  I’m not attempting to make a persuasive argument at all.  I talk about health because there are people who are interested in being healthy, there is nothing wrong with that, and there is an unbelievably successful misinformation campaign happening that is harming people, and the way to stop that and honor those people’s interest in health is by talking about it.

Despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the misinformation campaign tells people that the only way to be healthy is to be thin, and that trying to be thin by any means necessary is healthier than being fat. This does a disservice to thin people who are misinformed that they are healthy simply because of their weight, and it does a disservice to fat people who are told all manner of nonsense.

Fat people are told to participate in behaviors that, viewed outside of our current obesity hysteria, would seem preposterous… Everyone else is told to eat whole foods, farm to table, slow foods etc. –  except fat people who are told to consume reconstituted soy protein shakes 5 times a day, or eat a diet comprised entirely of highly processed food that comes frozen in a plastic bag and is microwaved, or eat 500 calories a day while getting urine-derived injections, or amputating our stomachs.  When it comes to movement, fat people are told that if moving our bodies doesn’t make us thinner then it doesn’t make us healthier despite the massive amount of evidence that tells us that exercise is great at making people healthier and horrible at making people thinner.

I talk about health because I believe that people deserve an opportunity to make choices knowing all the options, including those grounded in evidence, reality, and logic. All I care about is that people have access to the information they need to evaluate all of their options. “To increase your chance for good health, drink reconstituted soy protein shakes all day and workout 2 hours a day whether you like it or now- unless you don’t lose weight then you should drink less shakes and exercise more” is a very different option than “To increase your chance for good health move your body 3o minutes a day, 5 days a week in ways that you enjoy and try to get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.” Of course I have no problem with those who have heard about Health at Every Size/Behavior Centered Health, had access to evaluate the evidence, and decided it wasn’t for them.  My concern is for all of the people hating their bodies and trying to lose weight by any means necessary because they want to increase their chance for good health and they don’t know that there is any other option.

I completely reject the idea that nobody should talk about health as an option just because it’s not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or an option that everyone is required to be interested in.  I believe that we should absolutely attack and destroy the social constructs that suggest that health is an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or an option that everyone is required to pursue – but not at the expense of conversations about health for those who are interested.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

During the holiday season I get a ton of e-mail from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police or their partner’s office party. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year.  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 11:06 am  Comments (14)  

Hell Yeah I’m Blogging about Bob Ross and Size Acceptance

Today would have been Bob Ross’s 70th  birthday. Did you ever watch The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS?  He was this gentle soul who loved painting and wanted to help everyone else love it too.  Stick with me, this is absolutely about size acceptance.

I have very vague recollections of seeing this show as a kid, but I’ve never been much for visual arts (I got excused from high school art class for sucking) so I didn’t pay much attention.

I was at a friend’s house and the show was on.  Before I could reach the remote to change the channel I was mesmerized.  He gave me a whole lesson on life while he created a beautiful painting in less than 30 minutes.

The way that he approached the painting was so carefree.  He didn’t say “now be very careful and think before you apply the paint”.  He said “Just brush it on – there are no mistakes here, we just have happy accidents”.

He talked about how anyone could paint and, sitting there on my friend’s recliner playing Scrabble on my iPhone, I began to actually believe him.  As he finished out the background I started to think that I wasn’t just an art class drop out, maybe this wasn’t completely impossible. I started to think that I could maybe do that…

Then he picked up some very dark paint with his knife and said that it was time to paint a mountain.  I could feel the fear well up – I was wrong.  I definitely could not do this.  I was about to ruin the imaginary painting in my mind.  There was going to be a big brown/black lump of failure on my imaginary canvas where a majestic mountain was supposed to be.

As he put it on he said “Be bold. Be fearless.   This is your mountain.  You can make it anyway you want.  You are in control”.  My fear and anxiety faded with his gentle assertions.  I could do this…

I looked him up on Wikipedia and it said that when asked about his calm, laid back demeanor he said:  “I got a letter from somebody here a while back, and they said, ‘Bob, everything in your world seems to be happy.’ That’s for sure. That’s why I paint. It’s because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news.”

I was also delighted to find that one of the criticisms against him was that “Ross tended to paint from his imagination, rather than from a careful study of nature. His trees, for instance, are not accurate depictions of real trees.”  Of course anybody who does anything is going to collect critics, but what a fantastic thing of which to be accused!

I talk a lot about loving ourselves and our bodies and creating an authentic life  which is not always the simplest path, especially for fat people who live in a culture steeped in weight bigotry and oppression.  Letting go of all of the negative messages that we got, ignoring the ones that we are getting; discovering, growing and protecting our self-esteem; living honestly and authentically, loving ourselves; appreciating our bodies, loving someone else; these can all be scary things that I hope to support people doing – somehow through his 30 minute show on painting Bob Ross made it all seem possible.

I didn’t “meet” Bob Ross until after he passed away, but he is a hero of mine. How amazing would it be to live up to his legacy –  that someone somewhere who thinks that liking themselves is impossible reads our work or hears us speak or sees us living authentic lives and thinks…”I could maybe do that…” that we could be the Bob Rosses of Size Acceptance.  That our critics will accuse us of creating our lives from our imaginations, rather than a careful study of what is (aka what “everybody knows.”)  I can think of few compliments or criticisms as great. So happy 70th Bob Ross, and thanks for the happy little trees, the happy little clouds, the happy little accidents, and the hope.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day.  During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year.  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 29, 2012 at 8:31 am  Comments (14)  

My Top Is Not Out of Control

So I’ve been shopping for clothes lately at ye Olde Fat Clothing Stores.  In one store I couldn’t find tights that weren’t “control top”, another only carries “control top” leggings.  I keep getting e-mails about “Tighter Tummy Technology.”  Padded sports bras promise “glamour” and “lift” but  wouldn’t hold my boobs down walking to my car, and yoga pants with spandex inserts to “tighten and flatten” abound.

The straw that broke the fatties back was on the Lane Bryant website, when I accidentally clicked shapewear instead of sleepwear (Trigger Warning: body shaming feel free to scroll past)

People are allowed to wear whatever clothes they want, my question is – must we have this constant drumbeat of advertising that as fat people if we aren’t going to lose weight we need to wear clothes that make us look like we did, or that makes us all look like fat hour glasses with flat fronts?

If you are someone who wears these clothes and shapewear then please hear me when I say that I totally and completely support you in doing that- this is just about my feelings about my body and the shopping experience that I want – I have no interest in telling anybody else how to live.  I will fight to the death for your right to wear whatever you want, I would ask if you are willing to get on board with stores that cater to fat people creating a shopping experience that is a little less easy to construe as body shaming.

In that vein, allow me to say this:

Dear stores that sell clothes to fat people,

My top is not out of control, my tush doesn’t need to be trimmed or toned, nor, while I appreciate alliteration, do I require Tighter Tummy Technology.  I don’t need Glamour or lift in a sports bra – I need to finish step class without two black eyes. I do not need the people who work at your stores to suggest shapewear to help me “look my best” wearing the dress that I’m no longer buying because the person working at your store suggested that I don’t look my best in it right this minute.  I am unwilling to trade my ability to take full breaths for super-duper slimming zoned compression of any kind. I would, in fact, be happy to die without ever again hearing or reading the phrases super-duper slimming, or zoned compression unless it is a new basketball defense.  I came here to shop for clothes at one of the very few stores that caters to people my size.  I did not come here to be bombarded with advertisement that suggests I should try to use the “miracle” of Spandex to smush my body into some other form – if I wanted to feel like crap about my body I would go to every other store that exists, turn on the television, or read the comment thread in almost any article that exists on the internet.

I am aware that other women want these products and I celebrate their right to purchase them, but it seems to me that if they want that they’ll be looking for them so you could tone it the hell down because right now your campaign to tone, tuck, tighten, and trim me really puts the “b” in subtle if you know what I mean.

I’ve already talked about my feelings regarding the concept of “flattering. I wear clothes for a lot of different reasons – to cover my body, to decorate my body, to keep my boobs smashed down at the gym and for many, many other reasons. I do not wear clothes to make my body look like a different body, I do not believe that I need to mold my fat into some different size and shape.  I am not asking you to stop selling these items, I am asking for the ability to find clothes that don’t try to “control” any part of my body, and I am asking for a shopping experience that seems a little less like the constant body shaming I get from people and businesses that aren’t trying to get my money.

Thank you.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day.  During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year.  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 27, 2012 at 10:22 am  Comments (53)  

Hospitals, Healthcare Costs, and Fat People

Reader May sent a question regarding wider social applications of The Underpants Rule, specifically as it relates to how much fat people “cost”. Here are my thoughts. (The block quote may be triggering although I don’t believe that was May’s intention. You can skip it and you’ll still understand the blog.  I choose to leave the actual question because I think that it makes it easier for some people to relate since they may be asking the same questions themselves.)

As much as I want to fight for the rights of the big beautiful folks (myself included), I do realize that there does come a point when some personal choices do cost others money. Did you know hospitals now have to have much wider beds and chairs (politely called “bariatric chairs”) for their very large patients? More hospitals also have electric lifts and slings to move a patient. And that ambulances have had to get specialized equipment to be able to move the obese? So my honest question is : who do you think should pay for these upgrades?

First, I think that those who take on the job of providing healthcare for the community should be looking for ways to remove barriers to healthcare, not trying to justify them.  The hospital needs equipment for all kinds of reason – to work with premature babies, to have an intensive care unit, to work with children, to work with people who use wheelchairs, and to work with people of size.  They signed up for this when they agreed to provide healthcare to the community.  The idea of “blaming fat people” for being fat as a way to justify not having the equipment that they need to give us healthcare is simply not-very-thinly-veiled bigotry.  Just like they should provide the equipment that people who use wheelchairs need – not ask them why they are in a wheelchair and then deny them help if was “their fault.”  Also, just for the record, they don’t need a “polite” name for a chair that fits my fat ass, they can just call it a chair – that’s what we call it at my house.

There is a sentiment here that body size is a choice and that it is changeable, and that people can choose whether or not to “accept” fat bodies, with which I disagree.  It is absolutely true that bodies come in many different sizes for many different reasons, there is evidence that weight is as heritable as height and research suggests that body weight is almost impossible to change long term.  In the end, it doesn’t actually matter why someone is fat – the hospital has taken on the job of providing healthcare to the community and they knew that the community included fat people when they took on that job, and so my question isn’t should they get the equipment they need to treat fat people.  My question is why wasn’t this factored into their business plans and cost of doing business in the first place?   I believe that they are responsible for having equipment to treat their patients of all sizes and needs.

I think that any time we try to identify a group of people based on how they look and then calculate their “cost” on society and/or figure out what we can blame them for,  we are going the wrong direction.  Our culture has taken to attempting to calculate the cost of individuals and figure out what we can blame people for as an excuse to deny healthcare or services in order to create the highest possible profits, even if that means that some people are completely unable to access healthcare. Next will they refuse to treat people whose issue can be considered their fault – they didn’t follow proper ladder safety, they were thin but sedentary,  they tried to do their own electric work etc.

I think our time and energy would be better spent working on access –  helping make sure that everyone has access to food options, safe movement options if they want them (that includes physical and emotional safety – if every person can’t go to the pool in a swimsuit with total certainty that they will not be shamed or bullied then we are failing to provide safe movement options,) and access to evidence-based healthcare that is affordable for each person.  At the end of the day, I think it’s important to remember that if equal rights and access seem to inconvenience others then it’s typically safe to assume that those other people have very likely been benefiting from the current situation, and that includes hospitals that have higher profit margins because they simply didn’t purchase what they need to serve patients of all sizes.

Healthcare should be about health not about finding ways not to provide healthcare.

Happy HAES Holidays Teleconference Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price – Nov 13 and 15

Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day.  During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season and into the new year.  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 26, 2012 at 11:12 am  Comments (23)  

Many Things are Not About Fat People

One thing that I find really upsetting is when someone wants to draw attention away from a discussion, they play a game of “look at the fatties.”  I’ve been thinking about this because  the petition to get Barneys and Disney to abandon their plans to make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 Super model has received over 137,000 signatures and a number of celebrity endorsements.  It is getting a lot of media coverage and eating disorder experts, child psychologists, and body image experts and others are talking about how images like this and the unattainable photoshop beauty that girls are under a crushing pressure to attain are dangerous for girls’ health.  But often one of the first comments is “What about obesity?”

I’ve seen this won’tsomebodythinkofthefatties technique used in discussions from global warming to contraception to politics.  It goes like this – someone writes a blog or article that says  “here is my well thought out opinion on this issue that has nothing to do with fat people.”  Then someone literally leaves a comment that says “But what about obesity?”

What about it?  Dude, this has nothing to do with obesity.  You might as well have said “What about the new Smurfs movie?” It’s exactly as relevant. Besides which, obesity is a body size – it’s not an eating disorder, it’s not a diagnosis, it’s not the problem, and it’s not part of the  discussion. It’s a body size.

The first problem with this is that it’s derailing – even if you massively don’t get it and believe obesity is a problem, there are other problems and it’s ok to talk about those problems with absolutely no mention of other unrelated problems. If you don’t want to discuss whatever the actual issue is that is being discussed, feel free to go find a forum to talk about whatever you want to talk about.

What’s worse about using obesity to derail a discussion is that obesity isn’t the new Smurf’s movie, nor is it an abstract concept, it’s people.  People who are ceaselessly shamed, stigmatized and bullied in our society for how they look. People who should have a reasonable expectation of being able to engage in a dialog on the internet without someone suggesting that they are a worse issues than whatever is actually being talked about, or that they somehow compound every problem by their mere existence.  It seems like some people take joy in the idea that they can bash fat people all they want and justify it because, hey, that’s what everyone else is doing.  There are people who just want to take every opportunity to treat a group of people poorly with little fear of repercussion.  Look – making assumptions about people and/or attempting to blame them for things based on how they look is bigotry, straight up, there is nothing that can justify it.

Fat bashing for the purpose of derailing a discussion is still fat bashing and it has to stop.  If you’re up for a little armchair activism, you can always call that out when you see it.  Either way, if you’re fat know that it’s completely inappropriate.

I’m Putting on a Happy HAES Holidays Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price

Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day.  During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season.  Details and registration are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 10:34 am  Comments (6)  

Calling Obesity a Problem is the Problem

Every time someone dares to suggest that society should stop trying to shame fat people “for our own good” in the hopes they we will all hate ourselves healthy, someone has to wring their hands and say “we don’t want to be irresponsible and say that obesity isn’t a problem”.  The truth is that it is absolutely irresponsible to say that obesity is a problem.

When people talk about the Obesity Epidemic or the Obesity Problem, what they are trying to do is make body size a proxy for health, and then make health a societal obligation and barometer for measuring worth and that’s wrong on both counts.  Body sizes aren’t really a problem. A label of obesity is the end result of a BMI calculation and it’s ridiculous to suggest that my weight in pounds times 703 divided by my height in inches squared constitutes any kind of health diagnosis, or that my health is anyone else’s business. We’re also taller than we’ve ever been but nobody wants to scream about the Tallness Epidemic or how they have the hot new thing to make everyone shorter.  (And isn’t it interesting that we’re okay with bodies coming in different heights, but not in different widths?)

Body size is not a diagnosis and we need to stop acting as if we can look and someone and tell what they eat, what activity they do and how healthy they are, or that how healthy they are is anyone’s business.  It also does a disservice to those who are interested in health – it tells fat people that healthy habits don’t matter unless those habits make us thin, and it tells thin people that they are healthy just because of their size. Both of those statements are dead wrong. This hits home even more when we realize how much this issue has been exaggerated – for example the CDC originally told the media that 400,000 deaths a year were caused by obesity – when they were pressed they admitted that the number was actually less than 30,000 deaths but they purposefully chose not to disclose their error or the correct number to the media or change their approach of trying to convince people to get thin as a way to prevent 370,000 deaths a year that they know are non-existent.

It surprises a lot of people to find out that the diseases that are very often linked to fatness have never ever been shown to be caused by fatness – only correlated.  And those diseases are also correlated with being under long-term stress.  It makes sense if you think about it – if obesity was really the cause of medical problems then we would expect that most obese people would have those medical problems and very few thin people would.  But that’s not the way it works.  There are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people. There are people of every size with the medical conditions that get erroneously blamed on body size.  If thin people get a disease then it stands to reason that being thin is neither a sure preventative nor a sure cure.  If thin people who have these diseases are given treatments that do not include weight loss, why are those interventions not given to fat people?

There is definitely a problem (several actually), but it’s not obesity.

Stigma is a problem.

According to research from Dr. Peter Muennig, a health professor from Columbia:

“Women who say they feel they are too heavy suffer more mental and physical illness than women who say they feel fine about their size — no matter what they weigh.”

When you say that body size is the problem then you are telling people to have a problem with their bodies – betting that they will somehow hate themselves healthy. Knowing what Dr. Muennig’s research found, and knowing that we live in a world where people spend their time making sure that we get a ceaseless stream of body hatred, it would make more sense if people of size did suffer more mental and physical illness. But if that’s the case then the issue is not obesity, it’s social stigma, and weight loss is not the cure for social stigma.  Ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma.

Speaking of stigma, Dr. Muennig also tells us:

“Stigma and prejudice are intensely stressful. Over time, such chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.”

Like the stress of being constantly stigmatized by everyone from jerks on the internet to doctors perhaps?  How about we give ending social stigma around body size a try?  Couldn’t hurt, would probably help.

Making individual health the public’s business is a problem

Someone’s health, their prioritization of their health, and the path they choose to reach any health goals that they may choose are intensely personal and not a matter for public consumption.  Health is not entirely within our control.  Health is not a barometer for worthiness, it is not a societal obligation, it is not anybody’s business.  Public health should be about providing health options to the public, not about making the individual’s health the public’s business.

Access is a problem

We’re spending so much time buying and selling thin, that we’ve forgotten about actual health.  Sixty billion dollars went to the diet industry last year.  How many local, sustainable farms could we have supported?  How many community health centers could we have built.  How many food deserts could we have eliminated?  Instead we gave sixty billion dollars to an industry with a less than 5% success rate that has been sued repeatedly by the US Trade Commission for deceptive trade practices and LOST EVERY TIME.  We thought that was the best use of our sixty billion dollars to improve our health?  Seriously?

Studies show us over and over that healthy habits, not weight, are the best predictor of future health. Health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control – it includes genetics, access, stress, past behaviors and current behaviors, and health is never guaranteed.  Everybody is going to die and if you don’t get hit by a bus it’s pretty likely that things will go wrong with your body, and there is no magical weight that will stop that from happening.

Focusing on body size misleads people about health habits.  It also gets in the way of the proper treatment of actual health issues in people of all sizes.  Doctors neglect to do basic diagnostic tests on thin people because they assume that they are healthy, and people of size aren’t properly diagnosed because doctors are too busy giving a diagnosis of fat and a treatment protocol of weight loss. We can do better than this.  There is nothing to be achieved by a war on obese people that couldn’t be achieved by an initiative for providing access to healthy foods, enjoyable movement options and affordable evidence-based healthcare to those who want them.

Calling obesity the problem is the problem.

I’m Putting on a Happy HAES Holidays Workshop – Registration is Name Your Own Price

Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day.  During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season.  Details are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 24, 2012 at 8:44 am  Comments (30)  

Coca-Cola – Giving You Better Nails and Skin Since…Wait, What?

My readers in France may be particularly interested to know that this fall Coca-Cola will begin a small pilot program there for a new beverage that they’ve created in partnership with French drug manufacturer Sanofi. The pilot will contain four drinks made of mineral water, fruit juice and “nutrition additives” that they claim will “help strengthen hair and nails, embellish skin, lose weight, and improve vitality.”

Apparently Coca-Cola has gotten over the sting of Enviga, a green tea drink manufactured in partnership with Nestle that they claimed would burn more calories than had, which inspired a couple dozen lawsuits that ended with settlements and a disclosure disclaiming all weight loss benefits.

More concerning to me is the partnership with Sanofi.  They are the firm that manufactured the weight loss drug Rimonabant (aka Acomplia, Zimulti et al.). When reports surfaced that the medicine had serious psychiatric side effects they did the corporate version of sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling “I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, you can’t prove anything, la la la la la la la.”

They continued to refute the reports as the European Medicines Agency issued a press release stating that the benefits no longer outweighed the risks for the drug based on data that patients had twice the risk of psychiatric disorders as a group on a placebo  and Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits de Santé found five suicide deaths among patients participating in a rimonabant trial, and just one suicide in the placebo group of that study.  Sanofi-Aventis “remained committed to rimonabant, and said it was working to provide “additional evidence for the reevaluation of the benefit/risk profile.” Weeks later, Sanofi finally gave in, saying they had made their decision “in light of recent demands by certain national health authorities. As a result, the feasibility of the global clinical development program has been compromised.”  Keep it classy Sanofi.

Of course we’ve been hearing these claims for years.  We look back and laugh now at the diet advertisements of the past. Ads that promised the exact same things that the diet advertisements of the present promise. Same old, same old.  No evidence, no corporate responsibility  – just a quick buck from people desperate to move out of an oppressed group – to solve their social stigma with weight loss that the actual evidence says is not going to happen, at least not long term.

I’m going to guess that, unlike old New Coke which just lied about not sucking, the new New Coke may be lying about a lot more.

I’m Putting on a Happy HAES Holidays Workshop – Name Your Own Price

Normally I get between 100 and 200 e-mails a day.  During the holiday season that climbs to 200-300 from people asking about everything from how to set resolutions that aren’t about weight loss to how to deal with the family food police. I’ve put together a group of speakers to give you information to support you through the holiday season.  Details are here, registration is name your own price.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 9:57 am  Comments (3)  

This Just In – Fat People are Human

Design by Kris Owen

I received a Facebook message today from Laura, who I met when I gave a talk last year at the University of Florida.  She is in a community online that is supposed to be about safe, healthy foods but they are posting fat shaming things.  She wrote a beautiful response here [Trigger Warning - she shows the fat shaming graphic upon which she is commentating]

She writes “I am so upset right now. Not only does this DISORDERED CULTURE violently bully, shame and humiliate people of all sizes, but the local food movements forget to welcome people of all walks of life into their communities. I AM SO CONFUSED! AREN’T WE ALL TRYING TO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR EVERYONE?”

I think a big part of the problem here is that the media, the government, and the diet industry have systematically dehumanized fat people.  When you see picture after picture after picture of fat people with our heads and faces removed so that we are no longer a person with a face, then the world doesn’t look into our eyes,  it stares at our asses. Happy fat people are kept out of view, forcibly if necessary, under the utterly ridiculous premise that if you show a fat person as anything other than miserable and desperate to be thin then you are promoting obesity (in the same way, I suppose,  that putting gymnasts on talk shows promotes shortness.)  So first they spread the stereotype that all fat people are miserable, unsuccessful, un-athletic, unloveable etc. Then they purposefully hide all the evidence to the contrary under the guise of not “promoting obesity”, then they use the lack of evidence, that they created, to “prove” that all fat people are miserable, unsuccessful, un-athletic, unloveable etc. This doesn’t just affect fat people, it also affects people who feel that they are fat, and those terrified of becoming fat.  It also means that it’s extremely rare for anyone, of any size, to see a happy successful fat person and that further serves to dehumanize us and reduces us to a stereotype, even internally.

The portrayal of fat people as miserable and desperate to be thin leads people to assume that any and all efforts to make us thin is somehow a good and worthy deed and so instead of realizing that it is unthinkably rude and inappropriate to comment on our exercise or the food in our shopping carts, people think that they are doing us a favor; mistakenly believing that our fat bodies are some kind of sign that we need external guidance from complete strangers at the grocery store.

Further, we are consistently being told the story that fat people are an expensive drain on society – and so people are lead to believe that they can look at us and know that we are responsible for all manner of problems and financial issues etc.  This is in large part a result of confirmation bias – people decide that fat people cost more and then go about trying to prove it – we could do this with almost any other group: athletes, tall people, big families etc. We could, if sufficiently motivated, figure out how almost any group costs more than any other group.   Now, for example according to the US governments own numbers fat people are NOT responsible for the rise in healthcare costs.  But more to the point, when has it ever been a good idea to find a group of people identifiable by a single characteristic, attempt to calculate their cost on society, and then encourage society to blame that group of people for their problems?

So all of this stereotyping and dehumanization leads to people to think of fat people as the enemy – deserving to be shamed “for our own good” at best and, at worst, deserving to be hated and attacked simply for existing in fat bodies.

We are told that the cure for all of this stigma, bullying, and oppression is for fat people to lose weight.  Give the bullies our lunch money, we are told, and then hope they stop beating us up.

Of course the cure for social stigma is not weight loss – it’s ending social stigma.  There are lots of ways to combat this.  The first part, to me, is to constantly remind ourselves that the problem is with society – not fat people.  That fat people are human and, as such, deserve the same human respect to which everyone is entitled which includes the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That these rights are inalienable, are not weight or health dependent, and that we are not asking anyone else to confer these rights – we are asking people to stop trying to take them away by an inappropriate use of power.

Another option we have as fat people, is living our lives out loud.  Providing an example of what it’s like to be fat and happy, fat athletes, fat actors and singers and dancers, fat people in love, fat people who knit, whatever –  insisting on our right to be the best witnesses to our own experience and to tell our own stories.  Refuse to let our actual experiences be replaced by someone else’s fabricated ideas of what it’s like to be fat (remembering that these fabrications are often created for profit.)  Claiming our right to make decisions for ourselves, our bodies, and our health without any kind of unrequested assistance or interference. Insisting that the fact that a body is  fat does not mean that body is public property or up for public comment.   If you are a thin size diversity activist, then you have the option to stand up for people of size in all of these respects and, of course, to tell your own story.

Finally, we can speak up when we see these things happening, as Laura did.  If you want some support doing that, you might consider joining the Rolls Not Trolls community on Facebook.  The community started from this blog and now has 626 members working on the specific purpose of posting body positive comments in body negative spaces on the internet so that those reading through the comments are presented with another option.  There is never an obligation and, of course, you get to choose the opportunities you take; but every time we see fat people being stereotyped, bashed, blamed, stigmatized, bullied or oppressed, we have a chance to stand up against that behavior if we choose and every little bit really does count.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 22, 2012 at 7:41 am  Comments (11)  

Plenty of Problems to Pick From

I was on HuffPo Live today on a panel talking about the petition to ask Barneys and Disney to please not make Minnie Mouse into a 5’11 size 0 just to fit into a designer dress for Barneys holiday window.  The segment went really well and, with the exception of the fashion designer, all of the experts on the panel agreed that Disney and Barneys are sending a dangerous message to girls. They also agreed that we should take weight out of the conversation about children’s health.  As reader Isabel said “Wow. There were so many people making sense in that conversation that I got really confused and thought I was dreaming maybe??”

See the Segment here:  HuffPo Live: Skinny Minnie

One of the things about the interview that stuck out to me was a reminder about the derailing technique that people use when they say that you shouldn’t work on this problem because there are other problems.  This happened a number of times in the segment and it’s something that happens to almost anyone who tries to make a change in the world or address a problem.  People who do animal rescue are chided that they could be helping people.  People who help starving adults are chided that they could help starving children. As I said in the segment, the fact that there are other problems does not negate the fact that this thing is also a problem.  This is an extension of what I call “never enough” activism – the idea that no matter what you do it will never be good enough. In this version we are told that we shouldn’t try to solve a problem that we are passionate about because there are other, bigger problems in the world.  This goes wrong because if we decide that we are all only going to work on the biggest problem, then what will actually happen is that we will spend all of our time arguing about what the biggest problem is. Also, let’s remember that the “bigger problems” may well be bigger because people were told that they shouldn’t bother to address them when they were small.

I’m telling you this by way of saying that I hope that if you want to get involved with activism you will pick a change, or a problem, that you are passionate about and work on that, whether by leading work or joining work.  I hope that you will not be dissuaded by those who try to tell you that your best isn’t good enough or that your problem isn’t big enough. It’s nobody’s job to address every problem that exists – none of us can do everything, but everyone who wants to can do something.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out (and you can help support my work which I would really appreciate):

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

Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 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 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.

Published in: on October 20, 2012 at 10:39 am  Comments (15)