Is It Really OK to Eat Whatever You Want?

Nothing to proveFirst a couple of  quick updates then we’ll get to today’s blog:

NAAFA has responded to the widespread concern about their most recent newsletter.  I’ve added my e-mail exchange with Peggy Howell to the original post. There is still time to send them your thoughts.

The Biggest Loser petition is getting more attention and I was approached by the doctor who is in charge of the kids on the show to have a phone call later this week, I’ll keep you updated.

Now for today’s blog:

I received a comment today that I wanted to answer here.  Though I have no idea the intention of the commenter, the comment itself could be extremely triggering – it includes concern trolling, and food policing, etc.  I you want to avoid the triggering language (and nobody would blame you!), you can skip the block quote and items in italics and still understand the blog.   Here is the original comment:

I agree that it seems that dieting (in a weight loss sense- but not in an eating to manage a health condition sense) serves no purpose in the newsletter. These would be better circulated via a group for the appropriate condition/situation involved of the individuals’ choosing.

I think there’s a problem with saying that its okay to eat whatever you like because you have, or should have, the freedom to choose.
Firstly, for some people, their food choices will cause weight loss for them. This could be because of health issues but it could be to move more easily or just because their previous eating pattern was so exaggerated. I sometimes feel that with HAES that this is seen as a less valid or taboo outcome and its okay to eat anything so long as it DOESN’T actively contribute to weight loss.

Secondly, what about the extremes of those ‘feeder’ women who are eating with, or without, the encouragement of others to eat so much food, regardless of their nutritional needs, to weight gain at both alarming speed and to alarming weights where they are deliberately self harming and making themselves physically dependant upon others for emotional reasons. Does standing by and going ‘its your choice’ make us accepting or implicate us in not questioning a toxic lifestyle which could be averted?

Can it truly be said that everyone’s entitled to eat whatever they want to eat? Even if the outcome is harmful to themselves or others?

I’m playing devil’s advocate but at the moment the statement on choice seems a bit too broad. But maybe I’m wrong? I don’t know.

I’ll answer all the questions here but let me start with this:

Yes, it is absolutely, positively, definitely, without a doubt, is the Pope Catholic, really ok to eat whatever we want.  Period.  Ok, let’s dive in to the comment.

Firstly, for some people, their food choices will cause weight loss for them. This could be because of health issues but it could be to move more easily or just because their previous eating pattern was so exaggerated. I sometimes feel that with HAES that this is seen as a less valid or taboo outcome and its okay to eat anything so long as it DOESN’T actively contribute to weight loss.

I can’t speak for anyone but me, but my understanding of HAES is that I make choices based on my health goals and my personal situation and allow my body weight to settle where it will.  So while people may gain weight, lose weight, or stay the same following changes in food choices, body size is not a focus or a goal.  Also, weight loss is no guarantee of moving more easily – I would request that you take great care not to confuse body size with things like fitness, mobility etc.  People of all sizes have various levels of fitness, mobilities etc. for lots of reasons, and that’s all ok.

Secondly, what about the extremes of those ‘feeder’ women who are eating with, or without, the encouragement of others to eat so much food, regardless of their nutritional needs, to weight gain at both alarming speed and to alarming weights where they are deliberately self harming and making themselves physically dependant upon others for emotional reasons. Does standing by and going ‘its your choice’ make us accepting or implicate us in not questioning a toxic lifestyle which could be averted?

It sounds like you are mixing up a bunch of different situations here.  In general I would say that it’s not our job to police the personal behavior of consenting adults, and that in the circumstance where someone becomes dependent, that is between them and their caregiver unless one or both of them asks for assistance.  I don’t generally think it’s for us to decide if someone’s lifestyle is “toxic”. (In specific you’ll have to make the decision whether you think it’s your place to intervene in any given situation.) I’m not venturing a guess as to this specific commenter’s intention but I think that this type of statement is often used to hide fat bigotry, since so often the person asking the question is only worried about fat people eating, as if people of all sizes don’t engage in behaviors that the person thinks are “unhealthy” or “toxic.”   That’s not to say that people of all sizes don’t have to deal with concern trolls, they certainly do.  I’m just pointing out that, as in the above comment,  often the person isn’t concerned with us intervening in the lives of people who, for example, don’t get enough sleep.  Their concern seems to be triggered by a specific body size and fed by stereotypes, myths and an over-exaggerated idea of their role in the lives of others.

Can it truly be said that everyone’s entitled to eat whatever they want to eat? Even if the outcome is harmful to themselves or others?

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, hell yes, fuck yes, damn skippy yes.  What other people eat and whether or not it is “harmful” is not our business. People should have access to true, unbiased, non-politicized information about food, they should have access to the foods that they choose to eat.  Then they get to make whatever choices they want within their personal situation. For many people their food choices are out of reach financially, but that’s a whole other blog.  As far as “harming others” goes,  unless a person is simultaneously eating a turkey leg and beating someone else with it, then the effect of their eating on others would be pretty difficult for us to judge even if it was our business – which I would argue is is not. The “they are costing me tax dollars” argument doesn’t hold up, and making determinations about someone’s situation is, as previous mentioned, a very difficult thing to do. I feel strongly that, since I don’t want someone else telling me what to eat and how to live, I should take a pass on telling other people what to eat and how to live.

My policy is to let people make their own decisions, and don’t cry for me well-meaning concern troll.

Our Biggest Loser campaign is picking up steam!  Please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and re-posting it, remember this is a show whose contestants admit to dehydrating themselves to the point of urinating blood, participating in disordered eating, and admit that their trainers insist they ignore the advice of dieticians and doctors so that they can lose weight to win money.  Are these seriously the role models we want for kids?  The readers of this blog have accomplished a lot of things this year.  Let’s keep pushing on this and see what we can get done.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

These are the final days of the holiday sale!  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy (Book and/or the DVDs) plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm  Comments (70)  

Fat and Fit, or Not

Ragen Chastain 5'4, 284 pounds.  Photo by Richard Sabel.

Ragen Chastain 5’4, 284 pounds. Photo by Richard Sabel.

I’m going to talk about fitness and movement, and some cool things that are happening with the Fit Fatties Forum, so I want to preface this by saying that movement/fitness/whatever you prefer to call it is an option – it’s not a moral decision, it’s not a social or personal obligation. Choosing to be physically active, or to not be physically active as someone is able doesn’t make someone better or worse than anyone else. People choose lots of levels of physical activity, or lack thereof, for lots of reasons, including various abilities and disabilities, and all of those are completely valid.  [Edit: a blog reader let me know that my use of the term “choice” may be feel excluding for those who are disabled.  I apologize if it felt like that for anyone.  She suggested that I dd the phrase “as they are able”  which I have done.  It wasn’t my intention to be excluding but it seems that was the the result – I apologize.)  It’s not for anyone to judge anyone else’s  movement/fitness/exercise etc.

While I am adamantly against suggesting, in any way, that fat people (or any people)  have any sort of obligation to participate in fitness,  I think it’s important that fat people who are interested in fitness have the opportunity to speak about it, because we face everything from being ignored to being shamed and stigmatized, to being completely shut out just because we want to participate in movement while living in a big body.

This can be such a difficult and complex issue.  For example, I typically use the word “movement” because “exercise” is just too triggering for too many people.  In fact many fat people tell me that they resent the very idea of movement or fitness because it gets shoved down our throats as something that we “should” or “have to” or “need to” do to be a “good fatty,”  or because movement was used when they were kids and even as adults by authority figures as a punishment for being fat (because that’s the way to develop a lifelong love of learning? Wankers.) Gyms, diet companies, and the media can’t stop telling us that we aren’t “doing movement right” unless it makes us thinner. Meanwhile fat athletes are told that, like so many rainbow pooping unicorns, we don’t exist, or that our accomplishments mean nothing if we aren’t thin.

And while it’s totally cool if people know their options and opt out of movement for whatever reason, I get e-mails almost daily from people saying that they wanted to dance, or hula hoop, or take walks or whatever, but didn’t think it was an option for fat people at all until they heard about or saw other fat people doing it.  Meanwhile if you are fat and involved in movement and want support for anything from training programs to injury prevention it’s almost impossible without also getting weight loss talk and advice which can do everything from massively annoying you to making you want to quit altogether.

It’s one of the main reasons that I co-founded the Fit Fatties Forum.  I wanted a place where all kinds of people, of all abilities and movement types can talk, and get support without weight loss or diet talk.  Last year my forum co-founder, and super awesome fatty Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick), had an idea that we launched today: Fit Fatties Across America!  The idea is that forum members who opt to participate can send in their time or distance each week for whatever movement they are involved in, and then we’ll pool it and see how long it takes us, as a group, to travel across the US with fun graphics on the page to track our progress.

I’m excited about it for a bunch of reasons – it’s an opportunity for Health at Every Size activism,  it’s free, people of all sizes and abilities and movement types can get involved whether they are taking a 2 minute walk or running marathons, it creates a bunch of role models for people who may want to try out movement but think it’s not for them because of the constant drumbeat that fat people people don’t have a place in the fitness world, and did I mention we get to do fun graphics around it.

If this interests you, I hope that you will consider becoming involved  (if you aren’t a member you’ll be prompted to join at the link – it’s free and doesn’t commit you to anything)  Fit Fatties Across America  launches officially on January 1.

Also launching on January 1 are, by member request, training and support groups.  There are groups lead by fat certified fitness professionals for people of all sizes, abilities, and goals.  There is a group for those with a goal of 150 minutes of activity a week,  a group for those planning to participate in a fitness event this year, one for those who want to enjoy movement without tracking or structure, and then there’s Team Zombie.  People can join as many groups as they would like.  There is a small fee to be involved but it’s pretty cheap and it will be awesome.  You can find out more info here. (if you aren’t a member you’ll be prompted to join at the link – it’s free and doesn’t commit you to anything)

If these don’t appeal to you, of course that’s totally cool, just know that whatever movement you are doing or not doing is completely valid, and if you find that you are interested in movement from a weight-neutral perspective then you can  find support on the Fit Fatties Forum for free anytime.

Last thing about the forum, – More of Me to Love, an awesome company that sells fatty-focused products from the useful to the whimsical, and who you may remember because they were the $5,000 sponsor of the Georgia Billboard Project, has come on as the title sponsor to the forum.  We’ll be adding other sponsors as well throughout the year. This is awesome because we’ve been paying for the forum and development costs ourselves so far and this allows us to keep it free to all the members, to spend more of our time working on the forum, and to keep expanding to do more things. If you’re interested in being a sponsor, you can e-mail me.  If you’re interested in supporting the people who are supporting the forum, you can check out More of Me to Love.

Finally,  I do sometimes get questions and push back about things that I charge money for so I wanted to address it up front.  I blogged about that here if you are interested.

Now, speaking of wankers who are ruining fitness for kids,  we’re over 1,500 signatures and going strong on our petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser!  Please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and re-posting it.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

These are the final days of the holiday sale!  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy (Book and/or the DVDs) plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm  Comments (23)  

The NAAFA Diet?

Fad Diets

Scroll to bottom for updates:

In the past few days I’ve received a number of e-mails from readers concerned that “NAAFA has a diet in their newsletter.”  If you’re not familiar, NAAFA is the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance.  I found it odd that they would include a diet since my understanding was that they were against promoting weight loss.  The newsletter was forwarded to me and then I understood the issue.  The article is called “Fabulous Fakes”  and the text is below, there is an e-mail at the end of this post to share your thoughts if you would like [Trigger warning - possible diet talk]:

Due to a doctor’s visit about three years ago, my husband and I realized we needed to make a change in our eating habits. We decided that in an era where everything is synthesized, including food, we needed to “eat smart”. Our goal was to limit sugar and starch (carbs) as much as possible. It is NOT about losing weight. It IS about eating great tasting food and, in the spirit of HAES precepts, promoting healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle.

I thought I would share some of the Fabulous Fakes we have come up with and invite you to share your Fabulous Fakes. Try the recipes and tell us what you think. Send your Fakes to share to [author's e-mail address]; each month a Fake will be selected to publish in the newsletter. [Followed by a recipe for "Fake Pumpkin Pie" that uses artificial sweetener in place of sugar and other low carb ideas]

I wanted to go directly to the source with my concerns and get clarification so I e-mailed the NAAFA board the following e-mail:

Dear NAAFA Board,

I often receive e-mails from readers asking me to address something in my blog (www.danceswithfat.org) In the past couple of days I’ve received a number of e-mails from my blog readers who are concerned with the “Fabulous Fakes” section of your newsletter and are asking me to take some action.  I don’t receive the newsletter but it was forwarded to me and I share the concerns.   I’m certain that you meant well and that you didn’t intend to post something that is triggering or was perceived by so many to be diet talk, so I wanted to contact you directly with the concerns before I blog about it tonight:

I won’t attempt to speak for anyone else, but my concerns are:

  • Despite what I believe must have been good intentions, it sounds jarringly like diet talk – it is very common to hear “it’s not about weight loss, it’s about health” when someone is trying to suggest a weight loss diet, to have “fake foods” suggested as replacements for standard recipes as part of a weight loss diet, or have low carb diets and artificial sweeteners suggested as weight loss diet tools (Atkins etc.)
  • While these recommendations may absolutely make sense for the HAES practice of some individuals, especially in concert with healthcare providers, HAES principles as I understand them do not include the general recommendation to restrict a food group, substitute artificial sweetener for sugar, or eat “fake” versions of food.
  • NAAFA’s stated purpose is to be “a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to ending size discrimination in all of its forms.” I am concerned, especially based on my reader feedback, that many of the people who receive the newsletter are recovered and recovering dieters, recovered and recovering from eating disorders, and may not be prepared to be triggered by this kind of diet talk in the newsletter of an organization that they are expecting to focus on their civil rights.  I also think that it is extremely important to be vigilant in avoiding the creation of this kind of triggering diet talk within a community so many are recovering from being hurt by it.
  • I read the phrase “It is NOT about losing weight. It IS about eating great tasting food and, in the spirit of HAES precepts, promoting healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle”  as a broad recommendation/promotion that healthy eating is achievable for everyone through food restriction and artificial sweeteners, rather than a statement of what the writer and her healthcare providers have decided is best for her specific situation, which I find problematic for the reasons stated above and because it makes it sound like these recommendations are one-size-fits-all.
  • I find it problematic that she is encouraging newsletter readers to submit exclusively “fake” recipes, but not to submit delicious recipes of all kinds – normalizing the idea that everyone is/should engage in eating “fake foods” as part of a healthy lifestyle, which I don’t believe to be part of the tenets of HAES.

Again, I’m sure that you had the best of intentions but due to the issues stated above, I am respectfully requesting that you please consider removing the section from the current newsletter and canceling plans to include it in future newsletters.  I absolutely think that there is a place to talk about healthy eating and how specific behaviors apply to specific situations.  I think it’s very important to do that in context, and to do our best to avoid doing it in a way that is triggering or sounds like diet talk (or at least include trigger warnings),  and avoid one-size-fits-all promotions of behaviors, as well as avoiding the conflation of eating to manage a health issue with healthy eating in general.  Finally, I would encourage you to consider getting the perspective of some of the many amazing health and wellness professionals with a HAES focus, I’m happy to connect you to those who I know.  If there is anything that I can do to help please just let me know.

Thank you for your consideration.

~Ragen

I received the following response:

Ragen,

Thank you for writing with your concerns about the article in the newsletter.  You are correct in your assumption that the writer had good intentions.  It was her desire to share a sugar free, gluten free recipe for those people who can’t normally eat desserts on holidays because of diabetes and other health concerns.  Maybe that should have been clearer in her message

I am curious why people would write to you about this issue and not to the NAAFA board or the newsletter editor.  At any rate, we will discuss this in our next board meeting.  Hope you have a happy new year.

Looking forward,
Peggy Howell

Public Relations Director, NAAFA

I do believe that this was well-intentioned, and I also personally think it was a mistake.  I’ve certainly made my share of well-intentioned mistakes, this blog is full of things that say some version of “Edit: [I screwed up]“.  In my opinion what’s important at this point is how they handle it.   I certainly hope that NAAFA will make the decision to change this section of the newsletter – even if it seems innocuous to some – since some of those who don’t find it innocuous find it harmful.

I think that it is crucially important that organizations working with fat populations keep it top of mind that those populations are coming from a society that systematically shames and stigmatizes them and pummels them with diet advice; and so I think it is critical that we be hyper-vigilant in avoiding anything that even seems like diet talk, or seems like a recommendation of what all people in a specific situation “should” be doing, or mirrors in any way the food policing and concern trolling that many fat people experience so often.  (For example people who are diabetic are allowed to take whatever path they choose and I think it’s important to avoid even the appearance of  suggesting that there is a “right way” to live with diabetes, or a “right” definition of healthy behaviors.) I also think it’s important to completely avoid perpetuating the falsehood that body size is a diagnosis by conflating behaviors that are one option for managing disease with behaviors that are for general health.

I definitely believe that there is a place for all types of discussions – I just think that discussions that include food restriction and substitution as health advice, or anything that could be perceived as diet talk etc. should take place in spaces where people have specifically opted in for that type of discussion, or at least behind a trigger warning, rather than on the general newsletter of a national fat civil rights organization.

As always I love to get your comments and your e-mails, and at Peggy’s request I encourage you to also e-mail her directly with your thoughts at naafa_pr@yahoo.com so they can have consider those thoughts at the next Board Meeting when they discuss this.  I’ll keep you posted as to their decision.

UPDATE

I received the following e-mail from Peggy Howell, NAAFA’s PR person:

In our most recent newsletter, one of our members presented an article with a recipe that was intended to be inclusive for people who can’t typically enjoy desserts during the holidays because of health reasons, (i.e. diabetes, allergies, etc.) to enjoy a pumpkin pie without sugar or gluten.  Because the recipe was presented as a “fabulous fake” and recommended the use of artificial sweeteners, some people have expressed that the framing of this article triggered a negative response for them.

It was never anyone’s intention to cause problems for people who are triggered by talk of limiting or excluding any foods.  We apologize if the article caused any one difficulties or created misunderstandings.  We appreciate the constructive feedback.

For those who may not be familiar with NAAFA, we encourage a visit to the website to read information about the organization and the many resources to support, educate and advocate for the rights of fat people. NAAFA does not support any method designed for the purpose of weight loss.  For over 40 years, NAAFA has been on the front lines on a daily basis fighting for Equality At Every Size©.

I responded:

Thanks for sending this, I’m really proud of you and the NAAFA Board for responding to the feedback and apologizing.  So that I can update my readers fully let me ask a couple of follow up questions if I may: Was this e-mail sent to the same list as the newsletter?  And have you decided to make any changes to the current newsletter or the plans to feature  a monthly “Fabulous Fakes” recipe, or is that still pending discussion at the next board meeting?

Peggy responded:

Thanks for getting back to me.  The email has been sent to people who wrote directly to NAAFA about the article, posted on the NAAFA NewsGroup and will be included in the next newsletter.  We will discuss in our next board meeting whether or not to continue with a recipe exchange article.  If we do, it will appear under a different title.

So it sounds like they are leaving the current newsletter as it is, and still planning to discuss this at the next meeting.  if you are so moved, you can send your feedback to her at naafa_pr@yahoo.com.  I’ll keep you updated.

As the year comes to a close, NAAFA wishes everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

If you’re in a writing mood, we’re over 1,500 signatures and trucking along on our petition! Please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and reposting it.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

These are the final days of the holiday sale!  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 28, 2012 at 11:36 am  Comments (48)  

National Weight Control Registry – Skydiving Without a Chute

Reality and PerceptionAt least once a week someone contacts me to  tell me that the National Weight Control Registry Proves that long term weight loss is possible for those who “try hard enough”. Let’s take a closer look at the NWCR and these claims of success.

First of all, who started it?  Rena Wring, Ph.D who is the Director fo the Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center at the Miriam Hospital and James Hill, Ph.D. who is the Director of the Center for Human Nutrition, and has his own diet program and diet book.  To sum up, it was started by people who make their money researching, discussing, and selling weight loss.

What are they?  They call themselves “the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance.”  Let’s look at that:

In order to be a “success” on the registry one must lose 30 pounds – which they consider a “significant amount of weight,” and keep it off for one year – which they consider a “long period of time.”  It’s worth noting that most people gain their weight back in years 2-5, so the NWCR has given themselves a four year efficacy cushion.

How many “successes” do they have?  There seems to be some confusion about that. Not only don’t they give an exact figure, but the “Success” page currently says “more than 5,000″ while the home page says “over 10,000.”  Remember that this is a site that wants us to count on it for research accuracy.

Now let’s get some perspective.  Let’s take the high number and round up – we’ll say that they have 11,000 “successes” since 1994 when they started.  In order to get a sense of proportion, how many diets have there been since 1994?  I found estimates from 45 million to 80 million.  Let’s take the lowest number and go with 45 million.  So since 1994 that would be 810,000,000 diets.  And 11,000 of them have succeeded.  A .001% success rate. Now, even if the estimate is off by half and there were only 405,000,000 diets, that is still a .002% success rate.

But wait, you say… That’s not fair since many of those 810 million diets were undertaken by the same people (since dieting hardly ever works long-term.) Fair enough.  Let’s say that the exact same 45,000,000 people went on diets every year – so we’ll assume that there have only been 45 million total dieters since 1994.  And 11,000 successes. Now we’re up to a whopping  .02% success rate. Stop the presses.

So they are studying, at best, .02% of dieters with a four year efficacy cushion to find out how to diet successfully, and then we’re supposed to put our health on the line to mimic them.  That’s like studying people who survived skydiving accidents where the parachutes didn’t open and then, armed with that information, jumping out of an airplane with no parachute.  Or, statistically, studying powerball winners to see how to become a mulit-millionaire and then, armed with that information, quitting your job to play powerball full time.

Still, for the record let’s look at what they find are the “secrets” to “successful, long-term” weight loss:

    • 98% of Registry participants report that they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight.
    • 94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking.

Those who maintain weight loss:

    • 78% eat breakfast every day.
    • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
    • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
    • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

My question is this – how many of the between 44,989,000 and 809,989,000 failed dieters did these things as well?  How many of those who regained the weight were doing these things? How many fat people do these things? Unless we know that, this information is completely useless. If all powerball players eat breakfast, would eating breakfast make your odds of winning powerball better?

I don’t want to just point out a problem without offering a solutions so I would like to suggest an alternative. First, as always, nobody is required to care about health and health is intensely personal, but for those who are interested in pursuing health:  According to a study by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine “51.3% of overweight adults and 31.7% of obese adults were metabolically healthy.’   So I propose we study the 51.3% and 31.7% of metabolically healthy fat people to see if we can find some information about being healthy and fat, rather than studying the .001% – .02% of “successful dieters” to see if we can figure out how to jump out of a plane without a parachute make everyone thin  (especially since there are no statistically significant studies that show that people who maintain weight loss are healthier.)

Wait – we already have a number of studies that show that healthy habits lead to similar outcomes regardless of weight, remind me why the NWCR has any kind of relevancy at all?

I know that the often repeated 95% failure rate of dieting is controversial and maybe this is why:  The National Weight Control Registry would need 2,239,000 (if we go with 45,000,000) or 40,486,600 (if we go with 810,000,000) more success stories just to get to a 5% success rate, and let’s not forget that it is the “LARGEST prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance.”

Finally, many of  the people in the NWCR who have discussed their lives participate in eating and exercise behavior that qualifies as disordered. So again, this isn’t a train I’m excited about jumping on.

People survive falling from a plane without a parachute, people win powerball, and people succeed at long-term weight loss.  But I’m going to wear a parachute, continue working, and practice healthy habits – because I’m a fan of math and logic.  Of course everyone gets to choose for themselves.

We’re over 1,500 signatures and trucking along! Please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and reposting it around the web.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

It’s the final days of the holiday sale!  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 12:38 pm  Comments (17)  

Shame – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

ShamelessReader Kathryn sent me an article called, and I am not kidding,  “Tell Loved Ones They are Overweight This Christmas”. Should my loved ones take this advice the follow up article will be “I Told my Loved one She Is Overweight and She Told Me to Sit Down, Shut Up and Mind My Own Damn Business.”

The article says that in a poll of more than 2,000 people, 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds would not tell a loved one they should lose weight because of a fear they would hurt the other person’s feelings.

According to the article, this suggests that ” too many people shy away from the issue”.  According to me this proves that 42% of 18-24 year olds have common decency and/or realize that it is impossible for a fat person in our culture to not know that society has a negative opinion about our size.  Stated another way, 58% of 18-24 year olds did not eat their bowl of No Shit Sherlock Flakes on the day that the poll was taken.

According to their so-called expert (who works for an organization that appears to make money pretending that they successfully treat obesity), “if someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life.”

No, it won’t.  Discussing it with them will do nothing for their health but may very well ruin their holiday and your relationship, so there’s no need to put on your “Concern Troll Man” tights and cape and self-righteously pretend that you are the super hero who saves fat people from ourselves.

We decide how other people treat us, either by setting boundaries or by not setting them.  I respect however you decide to allow people to treat you.  You are, as always, the boss of your underpants.

But let me suggest that you don’t have to put up with holiday weight shame. You don’t have to put up with body snarking, body stigma, or concern trolling. You don’t have to allow a running commentary on your body, health, or food choices from anyone.   You don’t have to accept treatment you don’t like because people are your family, friends, or because they “mean well”.  And you don’t have to internalize other people’s bullshit, you don’t have to buy into the thin=better paradigm or be preached to by people who do.

We are not the first group of people who have been treated like second class citizens in a wave of public hysteria.  But no group of people has ever risen above this by buying into the mistaken belief that they are inferior.  Loving your body is an act of sheer courage and revolution in this culture. Instead of another article about how to avoid holiday weight gain, here’s what I would like to see all over Facebook, and hear on the radio, television and at gatherings all over the world this holiday season:

My body is not a representation of my failures, sins, or mistakes. My body is not a sign that I am in poor health, or that I am not physically fit. My body is not up for public discussion, debate or judgment. My body is not a signal that I need your help or input to make decisions about my health or life.  My body is the constant companion that helps me do every single thing that I do every second of every day and it deserves respect and admiration. If you are incapable of appreciating my body that is your deficiency, not mine, and I do not care. Nor am I interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter so, if you want to be around me, you are 100% responsible for doing whatever it takes to keep those thoughts to yourself. If you are incapable of doing that I will leave and spend my time with people who can treat me appropriately.  Please pass the green beans.

As always I think that preparation is the best friend of the fatty. If you suspect that you may be the victim of holiday weight shame then be prepared.  Here are some suggestions:

Know what your boundaries are and decide on consequences that you can live with.  Don’t threaten things that you won’t follow through on.  So try something like “My body is fine, your behavior is inappropriate. If there is one more comment about my weight, I am leaving.”  The common thread among my friends who have done this is that they’ve only had to do it once and then their bodies were respected, and they all report feeling incredibly empowered.  Contrast that with saying “if you say one more thing I’m never speaking to you again” but then not following through.  Now you feel like a failure, and you’ve taught people that your boundaries aren’t real and that your consequences are idle.

Consider talking with members of your family who have been repeat offenders prior to the holiday.  Or send out a holiday newsletter e-mail explaining your commitment to Health at Every Size and that comments about your weight are not welcome.  Remind yourself (as often as necessary) that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you – their concern trolling behavior is inappropriate.  Have a HAES buddy you can call for sanity checks. Be brave, be strong, and  teach people how to treat you appropriately.

To listen to this post as a podcast, click here.

To listen to the two readers who did amazing recordings of my holiday song re-writing the lyrics of O Christmas Tree to be an Ode to Boundary Setting, click here!

We’re over 1,400 signatures and picking up steam, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and reposting it around the web.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

I’m having a Holiday Sale.  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 11:21 am  Comments (22)  

Girl Look at that Body

Ragen Chastain 5’4 284 pounds. Chilling at the Barre, photo by Stephanie Diani.

Ok, I know I’m late to the party on the Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle song (also known as “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO.)  I was told by a friend in fat acceptance a couple of days ago that I HAD to see the video.  I checked it out.  The song it not without its problems but there are people with a variety of body types shown in various states of undress, all being super confident about their bodies which is awesome.

With the way that a single stereotype of beauty is shoved down our throat 24/7, I think it’s so important to put other bodies out there.  I think a really important part of my own journey of Size Acceptance has been actively seeking out positive representations of fat bodies.  I won’t speak for anyone else but no matter how clearly I understand that bodies of all sizes are amazing and worthy and, in my opinion, beautiful, being constantly barraged with a single image of what is beautiful, wears on me.

Early in my journey I heard somewhere that you should look at yourself naked in a full length mirror at least 5 minutes per day and look for positive things you could stay about your body . Cheesy though it may sound I did it.  And it really did help.  But it’s hard to overcome the all the images of women who look like me shown without heads spilling over the edges of a chair that is too small for them. Rising above this kind of stereotyping when it occurs constantly everywhere you look can be really difficult (and, as an aside, I strongly believe that it is damaging to public health.)

Finding places where I could look at positive images of bodies that looked like mine – even just bodies that look like mine that have heads, really helped me, and continues to help me.   One of my proudest moments as a Size Acceptance Activist was when I got to be part of the Adipositivity Project and that is because, for me, one of the most revolutionary things that I can do is put my body out there without shame, and as a way to “pay it forward” for all the beautiful fat bodies who helped me along the way.  It’s also why having a photo and video gallery were so important to Jeanette and I when we created the fit fatties forum.  So here are some examples of sites that I look at to this day to see positive representations of bodies of all sizes. If you know of others I hope you’ll add them to the comments, though I would ask the you avoid anything that includes thin shaming/suggesting that fat bodies are better than thin bodies etc.  (For the record, I don’t get payment of any kind from any of these, I just think they are awesome!.)

The Adipositivity Project (possibly NSFW) by Substantia Jones (I’ve been an Adiposer a couple of times!) She even has an awesome Calendar (I’m Miss May!)

The Fit Fatties Forum has photo and video galleries

More of Me to Love has cool things  in their fun stuff section (and they do a monthly deal for my members)

VoluptuArt has amazing pieces to look at and buy.

Jodee Rose’s artwork (NSFW) is phenomenal (and she has a regular deal for my members) Her pinup work and Her portrait work are both amazing and she did the logo for More Cabaret!

Uppity Fatty on Tumblr (NSFW)

Pink by Aerosmith is a really cool video of lots of different bodies and ages.  Possibly NSFW.

We’re over 1,400 signatures and picking up steam, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and re-posting it.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

I’m having a Holiday Sale.  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm  Comments (18)  

And I Feel Fine

social-changeWith all this talk of the world ending, all day I’ve had the lyrics to an REM song running through my head “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…” I wasn’t actually worried about the world ending today (especially since I got early information from my readers overseas in different timezones telling me that we’re good.)  But I have been reflecting on the idea I hear so often that being fat is somehow the end of the world.

I recently went to the doctor with my girlfriend for a follow up visit and she was furious to find that at the top of her chart in addition to the actual medical diagnosis the doctor had written “morbid obesity” – a diagnosis that the doctor made by sight since they never took her weight or height.  I was extra furious because that’s not even correct.  Morbid obesity is also known as Class 2 Obesity.  Both both my girlfriend and I are class 3 – Super Obese (which I think should come with a cape and a secret identity, but that’s another blog.)  I was irritated because if the doctor is going to make a bullshit diagnosis based entirely on looking at someone fully clothed, at least it could be a factually correct bullshit diagnosis.

Everywhere I look I get messages that being fat is just the end of the world.  From people who spend tons of their time, money, and energy desperately trying not to look like me, to fear mongerers who try to sell me their weight loss crap by suggesting that I’m one McNugget away from dying of OMGDEATHFAT, to those who insist that no matter what I say about my life, they know better than I that being fat means an end to everything – no love, no happiness blah blah blah.  I’m as fat as you can get on the BMI Chart, and I feel fine. I’ve never suffered from obesity, I have suffered mightily from the shame, stigma, and oppression that I deal with in our society.  It has to stop – I am ready for the end of the world as we know it as far as public health goes.

Let’s create a world where public health no longer means that fat people’s health is the public’s business.   Let’s create a world where public health means giving all people options for foods they want to eat that are available and affordable,  movement options they enjoy (that are both physically and psychologically safe with absolutely no bullying, teasing, etc.), and healthcare that is accessible and affordable. Let’s create a world where we acknowledge that shame, stigma and oppression are awful for people’s health and so a major public health initiative, maybe run by the First Lady, is ending all shame, stigma and oppression – including that based on body size.  A world where people’s choices about their health are treated as personal and not up for public comment. Where we realize that people of all sizes get sick and, when they do, we don’t waste a second trying to figure out if they can be somehow blamed for being sick but rather get them the care that they desire.

I’m very ready for an end to the world as we know it, but in the meantime, I’m fat and I feel fine.

To listen to this blog as a podcast, click here!

We’re over 1,200 signatures and picking up steam, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and reposting it around the web.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

I’m having a Holiday Sale.  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm  Comments (9)  

A Fat Holiday Song

Shameless(If you’re here to listen to the recordings of the song, scroll down to the bottom!)  One of the most frequent questions I get during the holidays is about how to deal with family who are behaving badly.  For me the secret is boundaries.  I think it’s best to start by deciding what constitutes appropriate behavior.  If it’s anything other than “anything goes”  then I would consider setting some boundaries with consequences that you can follow through with.   So, for example “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating.  If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave.”  and then, if your they fail to respect your boundaries, it’s time to go.  I’ve heard from a number of people who have done this and the common thread seems to be that they only had to do it one time and then their families started respecting their boundaries.  Of course your mileage may vary.

To serve as a reminder I’ve re-written the lyrics to “Oh Christmas Tree” to be an ode to boundary setting.

Note 1:  In order for this to work, you have to pronounce boundaries as a three syllable word (BOUND-ah-rees) If this is an affront to your sense of poetic license I completely understand, I’ll be back tomorrow with a blog sans song.

Note 2:  You’ll notice that there is no podcast of this blog.  That’s is because I cannot sing.  What I would love is for some of you to record the song (maybe on YouTube?)  and send it to me for me to put up here. Please also feel free to add your own verses in the comments…

Without further ado (and with special thanks to the members of More Cabaret for their input between full-speed run-throughs at rehearsal today)  here is my fat holiday song:

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

Don’t talk about my weight or food.

Why can’t you see it’s hella rude

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

You know I love my family

But I will leave if you fat-shame me.

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

My body’s fine, I don’t need your rants

You’re not the boss of my underpants

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

Don’t say a word to my fat kid

Or I’ll leave so fast, my tires will skid

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

Yes I do “need” that second plate

It’s not your business what I ate

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

Quit saying someday I’ll get sick

Last time I checked you were not psychic

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

The holidays are great family time

If you don’t shame, food-police or whine

Oh Boundaries!  Oh Boundaries!

You help me deal with family.

Two Readers (so far – hint, hint) have taken up the challenge of recording this piece, enjoy!

Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick) gave us an amazing opera/jazz rendition:

and Nadja killed it a capella in the middle of the night in her PJs:

We’re over 1,000 signatures and picking up steam, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and reposting it around the web.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

I’m having a Holiday Sale.  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm  Comments (25)  

Too Fat to Be President My Ass

WTFOn her interview of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as one of 2012 Most Fascinating People, Barbara Walters admitted that she was uncomfortable but went ahead and asked Chris Christie why he is fat.

Perhaps the reason that she was uncomfortable is that it’s a totally bullshit question.  Why does it matter?  What she implies by asking is that he better have a damn good justification for the body he lives in.  I don’t think that’s how it works – I don’t think any of us owe anyone else any kind of explanation for our bodies and it doesn’t matter what we do for a living.

Christie said he didn’t know but if he could figure it out he would “fix it.”

Of course that’s his prerogative but I wonder if, given a choice, he would choose to “fix” his body or would he choose to fix a society that shames and stigmatizes him for his body size.  I think it’s a shame when we encourage people to solve social stigma by changing themselves, rather than changing society.

Barbara followed that up with  “There are people who say that you couldn’t be President because you’re so heavy. What do you say to that?”  Christie dismissed the idea as “ridiculous.”

Thank you Governor Christie. What the hell?  Do those “people” Barbara alludes to also think that during the next election cycle we should replace one of the debates with a talent and swimsuit competition?  Apparently it’s not enough to find a President they want to have a beer with, now they’re  looking for a candidate who can rock a marimba and a bikini.  Our country doesn’t have enough problems, we want to turn the Presidency into the new Mr/Ms America competition?

Barbara then said “I think they’re worried about your health.”

Ah the last bastion of fat bigotry.  When someone alludes to, or flat points out, that someone else is being a fat bigot,  they can always pivot to this gem.  Then we’re supposed to thank them for their concern.  Here is what my friend Stan calls a “blinding flash of the obvious”:  If they were concerned about his health they would be talking about his health, not his body size.  Making assumptions about health that are based on size is still bigotry, plain and simple.

Christie answered “Well, I’ve done this job pretty well and I think people watched me for the last couple weeks and during Hurricane Sandy doing 18-hour days and getting right back up the next day and still being just as effective so I don’t really think that would be a problem.”

I understand that as a Presidential hopeful has to answer any number of questions that are inappropriate and I appreciate that he didn’t back down.  If I were Underpants Overlord he would have mentioned that there are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes and that making health assumptions based on sizes is just bigotry, but that’s just me. I was happy that he stuck up for himself.

While Chris Christie and I do not agree politically on many things, I can feel his pain for having to answer these questions.  The idea that it’s ok to call fat people’s ability to do anything and everything into question because of our body size is a massive problem.  Studies have already shown that hiring discrimination based on size is a serious issue. Parents ability to raise children has been called into question.  I actually saw a Facebook post suggesting that Santa couldn’t possibly be fat and get around the world in one night- seriously? Someone took time to make a graphic about this?  So let me say Thank you, Governor Christie, for taking this opportunity to stand up for your abilities in the body that you have now.

We’re over 1,000 signatures and picking up steam, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser and reposting it around the web.

If you would like to listen to this post as a podcast, click here!

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

I’m having a Holiday Sale.  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

Published in: on December 18, 2012 at 10:23 am  Comments (35)  

Funding Our Oppression

Fat MoneyThere is a quote by Anna Lappe that says “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”  As an activist, that rings really true for me – the way that I spend my money is a form of activism.  I can spend money in a way that supports companies that support me, or I can fund companies that do something between ignoring and outright oppressing me.

First, to be clear I’m not talking about a boycott -  boycotts have absolutely proven to be effective tools in the right circumstances, but this is something different than that.  This is about making choices for how I  spend my money regardless of how anyone else spends theirs.  These decisions aren’t easy,  they are rarely cut and dried, and they typically involve sacrifices. They are also personal decisions for each of us, and it’s not anybody’s job to tell us what to spend money on and our choices don’t make us better or worse than anyone else.  I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live, it’s just something I think is worth talking about, so I’ll confine the discussion to me.

A few years ago I made the decision to stop buying or consuming anything with a weight loss message.  It occurred to me that I spend a great deal of time trying to counteract weight loss messages and that when I give them money they use that money to put our even more weight loss messages that I then have to try to counteract.    It eliminated a lot of drink options, a lot of food options, there are stores where I don’t shop, and items that I don’t buy, but when I make the oatmeal from the brand that took me 10 minutes to find and cost $0.50 more, I feel good that I’m not paying for more labels trying to terrify people into eating oatmeal so they don’t look like me.

Of course this leads to all kinds of judgement calls – I don’t want this to become a thing that overtakes my life but I do want to feel that my purchases are in integrity with my beliefs.  Sometimes it is cut and dried for me -  I simply refuse to fly Southwest Airlines – I’ll either pay more or not travel if I can’ t afford it, because their treatment of fat people has been so abhorrent (Trigger Warning – fat shaming, and many bad things) that I simply will not give them money. Then there are some others that are much more judgment calls – does Sweet and Low count? It is sweet and low calorie but is just saying “low calorie” the same as a weight loss message? For me it’s easy to overthink, and worry about being perfect but, just like the rest of civil rights, for me it’s important to take, and celebrate, small steps.

If you haven’t yet, please consider signing the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser.

To listen to this post as a podcast, click here.

Like the blog?  Check this stuff out:

Holiday Sale – Book and DVDs

I’m having a Holiday Sale.  You’ll get 20% off whatever you buy plus an upgrade from media mail to priority shipping in the US.  Support my work, get cool stuff, win-win.  Click here to check it out.

The e-book is still name your own price

Become a Member (not on sale, but still pretty cool!)

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  Members are the first to know about new projects, get to see things before they are released, get “Member 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.  Join Now!

 

 

Published in: on December 17, 2012 at 10:37 am  Comments (19)