I’m Ok, You’re Ok – The Comment Quiz

Reality and PerceptionGreetings from York College in York, Pennsylvania!  I am loving the weather here and excited about my guest lecture tomorrow morning and talk tomorrow night!

In the meantime, one thing that frustrates me about a lot of the discourse on the internet is many people’s assertion that their experience is (or should be, or will be) everyone’s experience, and that others should feel obligated to make major health decisions based on their experience/opinions.

I hopped on this train of thought because of a comment I received It may be triggering for some, you can skip it and still understand the blog:

“I am overweight myself. But I understand this and accept the fact that it was my own overindulgence that created the situation. I have gone from 280 in 1990 to 150 in 2000 back to 280 in 2010. It was all of my own doing, and I know it was wrong. I would never make excuses about it. Facts are facts. You cannot deny it any longer.”

My issue is this: I feel like I am very clear on this blog that I am for a world where people are not shamed, stigmatized, bullied or oppressed for their size and, as far as personal choices go, I am not trying to tell anyone how to live – my goal is simply to demonstrate an inform about an option that people can choose if it makes sense to them.

Still, some people seem to respond to this vehemently – almost as if my choosing something different than they chose  is somehow threatening to them.  My best guess is that their self-esteem is based on what other people think.  Society values thinness over fatness, they are thin, therefore they are more valuable.  I, and everyone who agrees with me and does not value thinness over fatness, is therefore diminishing their value and a threat to their self-esteem.  That just my guess, who the hell knows?

You’ll notice that the commenter starts off talking about his/her experience but then veers at the end to tell me what I can and can’t do.  Since we’re not sharing a body, it seems like the only appropriate thing to say here is “I don’t agree with you and therefore don’t choose that path to health”.  That’s a perfectly valid life choice.  Saying:  “I don’t agree with you and therefore you must choose my path to health” is not okay, as you are not the boss of my underpants.

If you want to post comments on my blog telling me that you disagree with me that’s fine. If you want there to be a chance that I will approve your comment (though it’s never guaranteed), I suggest that you complete this quick exercise.

First, just read through a couple of examples to get the hang of it:

  • I think that the research shows that dieting doesn’t work so I don’t diet.
  • You think that research shows that dieting is the path to health so you do diet.

I’m ok.  You’re ok.

  • I think that weight loss surgery has a low success rate, lots of dangerous side effects and a low chance of any health benefits so I don’t have weight loss surgery, and I fight against institutions that provide it, but not against those who make it a personal choice.
  • You think that being thin means being healthy and that weight loss surgery will make me thin, so you pressure me to have weight loss surgery.

I’m ok.  You’re NOT ok.

  • I choose to concentrate on healthy behaviors to the exclusion of concentrating on my weight because I believe that it is my best option for supporting my health (understand that health isn’t a obligation, barometer or worthiness, completely within my control or guaranteed)
  • You choose to concentrate on being thin because you believe that it is your best option for being healthy.

I’m ok.  You’re ok.

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, you try one:

  • I find that a Health at Every size approach works great for me so I share my experiences on my blog.  If you disagree, I support your right to choose your own path to health.
  • You doubt the efficacy of the Health at Every Size approach, so you come on my blog and say that everything that I say is bullshit and that I need to think and act like you want me to.

If you guessed “I’m ok. You’re not ok.” then congratulations you are ready to comment!   If you got it wrong, go back to the beginning and try the exercise again, or feel free to peruse someone else’s blog – you never know who might be looking for health advice and body shaming from random people on the internet!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

 

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 5:19 am  Comments (20)  

Fun With Awkward Conversations

I'm ok you're okAh the joy of awkward conversations.  This post is inspired by questions from several DWF readers about how to deal with people who want to lose weight when you are practicing Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size.

Now, what happens when we are involved with people making choices based on poor information?  Should I be up in a dieter’s biz trying to inform them that they don’t need to shrink their body to have worth?

I have been there and I understand where you’re coming from.  The first thing that I would suggest is checking your assumptions.  Does the fact that you believe that it’s “poor information” mean that other people should have to believe that?  While it can be really difficult to watch a friend make choices that we wouldn’t make, I think that the first step in having our choices respected is to respect the choices of others (as long as those choices don’t infringe on the civil rights of others of course.)

When I’m struggling with keeping my opinions to myself it sometimes helps me to remember that if I tell someone that I know better than them what they should be doing with their body – then I’m doing the exact same thing that I complain about people doing to me.  People who tell me that I need to lose weight can be well intentioned and think that I’m working from poor information.  They are allowed to think that but I want them to keep that to themselves, so I do the same.

That said, even though people are allowed to choose dieting/weight loss etc. for whatever reasons they believe to be true, it’s perfectly ok to have spaces where diet and weight loss talk are not welcome.  If people are engaging in diet talk in a Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size space that I manage then trust that I will be deleting that.

How about a FA blogger who proudly proclaims their weight loss in the name of health, and hopes to diet their body out of plus-sized clothing soon?  Is it appropriate then?

I feel your pain on this one.  I know so many people (myself included many years ago) who went down a bad road with dieting using the justification that it was “for health reasons“.  But I have to remember that my experience is not everyone’s experience and I can’t extrapolate it to everyone else.

Although it can feel like a major blow when this happens publicly (especially if it comes off as a publicity stunt *cough* Jess Weiner *cough*) all we can do is move on with our own lives.

How do you deal with people who tell you about their weight loss and how happy they are?

When people tell me how excited they are about their weight loss it’s tricky because I know that there is an extremely high chance that they will gain the weight back.  I don’t want to say something like “you look so great!” (even though that’s what they might want to hear) because I fear that it makes it sound like I thought they looked bad before, and it’s doubly awkward if they end up looking that way again.  So I usually say nothing, or say something to the effect of “size doesn’t matter.”   While people are allowed to buy into the idea of weight loss as a good thing for whatever reason, we aren’t obligated to do the same.

I think that debate is an important part of HAES and FA movements, but when it comes to dealing with people’s personal choices there are more subtle things that I can do that are often effective.  Doing things like Talking about the Health at Every Size option whenever people are talking about diets.  When people are body snarking, you can talk about how much you love and appreciate your body.  Work it into the conversation and it will become an invitation for people to talk to you about it.  Just like I don’t think that people hate themselves healthy, I also don’t think that you can argue them into loving themselves.  I find that often when people want to fight with me about the validity of the HAES option, the entire thing is diffused because they want me to argue that my choices are better than theirs, but the only thing I’m arguing for is that we both have the right to make the choices that we think are best for us.  So if they choose dieting and I choose HAES then that’s ok, because they are the boss of their underpants and I am the boss of mine.

I try very hard to avoid doing to others the exact things I don’t want done to me.  That includes

  • Not confusing my experiences with other people’s experience
  • Offering options and respecting other people’s choices
  • Never making assumptions based on body size
  • Not snarking bodies of any shape or size
  • Not offering unsolicited advice

I’m certainly not perfect and I have my off days but in the end I think that what works best for me is not just talking my truth but living it as well.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 21, 2014 at 10:17 am  Comments (17)  

$200,000 to Check Our BMI?

WTFBMI (Body Mass Index) is a buzzword (buzzacronym?) that is all over – from the media, to schools, to workplaces and healthcare practitioners’ offices. Some people believe that it determines how fat someone is, or that it determines health. Neither of those is true, and the use of BMI for these things is deeply problematic.  BMI is actually just a simple ratio of weight and height (weight in pounds times 703 divided by height in inches squared). BMI has risen to such prominence in large part due to insurance companies – before Obamacare insurance companies used BMI to decide how much to charge people, and to refuse coverage to others (I was one of them ) All of that is to say that BMI has become such a popular “health” measure because it’s an incredibly cheap number to get.

Well, in partnership with the US government, Guodong Guo (an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University) and his team are working to change all of that.  They have received a grant of over $200,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a technology that can accurately predict BMI using 2D or 3D images.

Why are they doing this?  According to Guo “This research provides a theoretic foundation for developing a visual analysis system that can be deployed to provide convenient estimate of the BMI and related health conditions anywhere and anytime.”  So we are using over $200,000 to create a “theoretical foundation” to create something that can  give us an accurate estimate of a useless number that can currently be obtained easily with a scale and a tape measure?

In reading the grant abstract there is some stuff that would be hilarious if it weren’t such a ridiculous waste of money. In justifying this grant, the abstract states “A major reason of the prevalence of obesity is that many people are not aware of their BMI and the higher risks of various diseases associated with high BMI values.”

Of course there’s no proof provided that people are fat because they don’t know the ratio of their weight and height.  Also no research is provided to suggest that people are fat because they don’t haven’t heard weight and height erroneously correlated. This is what the obesi-panic has led to – people can say just about anything and, as long as they promise to help eradicate fat people, the government will give them money (see also:  The Let’s Move Campaign)

But this technology isn’t just to calculate BMI of someone in person, they are also trying to find a way to detect BMI from a picture, either of a full body or a face.  Why?

According to Guo it could be used “on online dating sites, where it could help you assess the BMI and state of health of people you might date.”  Sigh.  Once again, even if the technology worked the best it could tell you is the ratio of weight and height of the person you are likely to date. To me the only good use of this would be to help people eliminate dates who would use such a device.

But I think that the grant application tells us quite a bit more “The developed technology can also improve personal health care and quality of life, and public health surveillance.”

I think that the idea that people’s personal health care and quality of life will improve if they are  able to estimate their BMI from a picture rather than knowing exactly what it is by using a scale and tape measure is pretty questionable.  In fact, I think that personal health care and quality of life would be improved greatly if we never talked about BMI again. But that’s not what bothers me most about this. What bothers me are three little words:

Public. Health. Surveillance.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that those are three words that I don’t think should ever be put together, let me get this straight: we’re going to take pictures of people and use those pictures to estimate the ratio of people’s weight and height so that we can make assumptions about their health, to what end exactly?

To put on my tinfoil hat of conspiracy theory: the idea that we have to surveil people’s height and weight ratio as part of public health is seriously concerning.  The National Science Foundation program that this grant was given under is called ROBUST INTELLIGENCE (which I assume means “Intelligence” in the surveillance sense since there is nothing even marginally intelligent about continuing to perpetuate the use of BMI.)

So this is definitely a ridiculous waste of money, but whether or not it’s a dangerous waste of money is yet to be seen.

Activism Opportunity:

Want to say something to somebody?  Perhaps suggest a better use for $200,000?

Email Guo at Guodong.Guo@mail.wvu.edu

Contact the grant sponsor:  West Virginia University Research Corporation
P.O. Box 6845 Morgantown, WV 26506-6845  304-293-3998

Contact the NSF:  info@nsf.gov

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 10:54 am  Comments (43)  

When is Weight a Symptom?

Bad DoctorI received a question from a reader that I want to address :

Is there a point at which you think that it’s reasonable to view a person’s weight as an outward symptom of a health issue? …I don’t ask because I want to get into someone else’s business, but only because I’m trying to make sense of it as representative of the human condition. …I realize that there is a wide range of normal human size, shape, height, weight, and so on…. but there must be a point at which a person’s appearance becomes a concern. BTW, that goes the other way as well; how do we tell when someone is naturally thin, and when they may be anorexic and need help.

First and foremost other people’s health isn’t our business unless they ask us to make it our business, (or it is legally our business and even then I think we should be cautious to take people’s choices into account when we consider what is in their best interest.)

I think that there are times when body size can be a symptom of a health issue – several health issues have unexplained weight changes (both increases and decreases) as a symptom.  There are some health issues that cause weight gain and make even the short-term weight loss that most people are able to achieve difficult.  There are some health issues that cause weight loss and/or make weight gain very difficult. There are some health issues that can lead people to be very fat or very thin.

Of course there is no shame in any body size, health issue, or combination thereof. If someone is experiencing one of the issues above and wants to explore it, I don’t think it’s a problem to take it into account within the picture of their health, to do any necessary tests and see if there is a medical issue etc.

There are, however, a bunch of ways that this can, and often does, go wrong – like when we consider body size a definitive diagnosis.  When body size as a symptom gets reinterpreted as body size as the medical issue and medical professionals “diagnose” people as fat “prescribe” a diet. When fat people with health issues are told to diet first and that they will be given actual interventions for their health issues after they’ve lost weight.  When we believe in Size Acceptance and/or practicing Health at Every Size unless someone is “really fat.” When we (especially health professionals) confuse our stereotypes and preconceived notions about people of a certain size with what is true.  When we treat thin people with a health issue by giving them interventions that are shown to help that health issue, but we treat fat people with the same health issue by giving them a diet.  When other symptoms are ignored, or take a back seat, because the health care practitioner focuses on body size to the exclusion of anything else. When we understand that long term weight loss does not meet the criteria for evidence-based medicine since it only works for a tiny fraction of people, but somehow think that magically changes if people are a certain size and suggest that those people should go ahead and diet.

So, in short,  if someone hasn’t asked you to be involved in their healthcare, then their body size and what it does or does not mean doesn’t have a thing to do with you, so if you’re looking for your beeswax, you’ll need to look somewhere else.

If someone has asked you to be involved in their healthcare (or if it’s your health we’re talking about) then, while there are situations where body size or changes thereof can be a symptom, I would be very cautious about foregone conclusions (ie: at your body size [insert health issue here] must be an issue) or trying to treat health issues by attempting to manipulate body size.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff!

If you’re looking for some support taking care of yourself, Sunday is the LAST DAY to register for the   RASCAL (Radical Acts of Self Care) Challenge are good through October 8th (that’s today!). This program was developed by the Fit Fatties Forum in response to requests to find a way to help us take good care of ourselves through the end of the year and all that entails. Check it out here!

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 18, 2014 at 12:08 pm  Comments (11)  

Undress Success

I get a lot of e-mails asking me to promote clothes that aren’t made in my size.  I received an e-mail last week asking me to support a Kickstarter Campaign for a product called The Undress.  It’s a dress that is designed to help people change clothes in public.

Undress

I thought it was an incredibly cool idea – this is something that I would totally use in lots of ways – between workouts outside, after swims, at photoshoots etc.  So I clicked and found out that it didn’t go up to my size.  Sigh.  So I replied to their e-mail and let them know that I would love to use the Undress but unfortunately they weren’t making it in my size. I suggested that since they were starting from scratch it would be super cool if they could plan to include as many people as possible from the start and offered to support them in doing so.  I don’t know how many requests they received like this but I was pleasantly surprised to get an e-mail back:

Go girl go!! So excited for your IRONMAN event! Woooo Ragen! I’m so glad you brought up different sizes and that’s something that we are definitely working on and are embracing. You are absolutely right about including as many women as possible as that is our mission to provide The Undress to as many women as possible- no matter what size they are participating in athletic events. Thank you for bringing that to our attention. This Kickstarter campaign has been a huge learning opportunity for us to see what people want, what athletic people are interested in, etc.

Let me circle back with my team and keep you posted on further developments with The Undress. Thank you Ragen!! Be in touch soon!

Today they let me know that they had extended the line up to a size 28.  (This sizing happens to include me but obviously doesn’t include all people and I’ve sent another e-mail.)  It is a step in the right direction, and I spend so much time discussing companies that engage in fatphobia (and who, when we point it out and ask them to stop, double down on that fatphobia), I’m  excited to be able to talk about a company that made positive changes in response to a request. (Just to be crystal clear I haven’t received anything to blog about this – no money, promotional stuff etc.)

In a world with so much bullying, shaming, and stigmatizing directed at fat people, and especially in the world of fashion where brands use their exclusion of fat people as a way to show how “cool” they are it can seem almost impossible to make change. But we can, and we are, and we will continue to, create change that makes the world better for fat people.  Nobody is ever obligated to engage in activism, but if you want to, the first step is often to ask.

You can check out The Undress kickstarter here.

Or find them on Twitter @the_undress or Facebook

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 16, 2014 at 11:04 am  Comments (26)  

Dealing With The Anger of Fatphobia

Angry FrustratedOne of things that changed for me (and that others often tell me changed for them) when I became a Size Acceptance Activist was that I started to see all of the size-based stigma, bullying and oppression (that I used to think I deserved because I had a fat body) for what it was.  And then came the anger.  Recently a reader asked me a question about this:

Hi Ragen, I am a fat woman who has been following your blog for years now and I had a question. How do we keep the anger from hurting us? I’m talking about my anger at the world for treating me so badly for being fat. I have a major chip on my shoulder about this, but it’s not like I’m holding a grudge against someone who did something to me in the past. I’m angry at a world who treats me horribly every day. This anger can help with activism, but I am suspicious of others, less friendly and open, and just generally angry all the time. I know this anger and resentment is hurting me. Channeling it into activism seems to make it even worse – the more I focus on the injustice, the angrier and more resentful I get. How do you deal with this? How have others you’ve known dealt with it? Any help you could provide would be much appreciated!

Before I get into this let me be clear that these are the ways that I deal with anger, and your mileage may vary.  It’s also cool if you do something else – each person gets to choose how to deal with the oppression that comes at them.

The first thing that I do about anger is remember that it is valid.  It’s not in my head – the way I am treated as a fat person in this society is severely fucked up and it absolutely shouldn’t be happening. There are lots of ways to deal with anger but for me first and foremost it’s about not internalizing it and not letting it eat at me.

So the second thing that I do is put the problem where it belongs, which is with the entity doing the stigmatizing, shaming, and oppression, and not with my body. I constantly remind myself that the crap that comes at me on a daily basis is not my fault and that, though it can become my problem because I have to deal with it, I’m not actually the one with the issue here.

Once I have those two things sorted I have a lot of options and what I do varies depending on the situation, the person, my goal in that moment, the day I’m having, and any number of other factors.

Often I choose some form of activism – blog about it, write an email or letter to the offending party,  sometimes I discuss the issue with someone in person.  I might put it on Facebook and suggest that other people get involved etc.  The tone with which I do this also varies depending on the situation.

Often (especially in person) I go for the teachable moment  – taking their intention into account, finding compassion, looking for opportunities to build bridges etc. But sometimes my goal isn’t to help them overcome their bigotry and/or I just don’t have it for the teachable moment and in those situations I sometimes react with anger and I don’t apologize for that – anger is a completely reasonable reaction to shaming, stigmatizing, and bullying.  It’s important to remember that when we quell our anger at being mistreated and go for the teachable moment we’re not fulfilling some obligation, we’re doing a courtesy to someone who is behaving badly

In a similar vein, I think it’s important to understand the techniques that people will use to derail conversations about oppression, or in defensiveness when they are called out on bad behavior.  Everything from can’t you take a joke to I’m just concerned about your health to all the other ways that someone (or a company) who has just had their fatphobic behavior pointed out doubles down on that behavior. I may or may not decide to continue the conversation but I again go through the process: recognize it for what it is, correctly assign the problem to the person doing it and then make a decision about how I want to handle it.

The final thing that I do is remember that I have all the options available to me.  One techique that people who engage in fatphobia often use is trying to tell you what you have to do – that you have to do this or that, that you have to prove this or that, that you have to react a certain way or use a certain tone or say certain things.  I always remember that the truth is that telling people who you are actively oppressing what hoops they have to jump through to woo you into not oppressing them anymore is the veritable definition of being a complete jackass.  The people who are telling me to hate myself (and have no business doing that) are also not the people who should get to dictate how I deal with that oppression.  So whether I politely ask someone if they wouldn’t mind not oppressing me so much, or I go home and hit a pillow with a tennis racket, or something in between, those are all valid reactions.

For me one of things that I think is important if I’m going to use activism to deal with my anger is to make activism the goal in and of itself, and consider any change that comes from it to be a bonus.  I can’t control other people’s behavior so I engage in activism for what it does for me – because standing up against the oppression that I deal with helps me to feel good about myself and not buy into the negative messages that get pushed on my for other people’s fun and profit. That said, if you find that participating activism is harming you then one completely valid option is to take a break, surround yourself with supportive people and go to your happy place.

Also, instead of focusing on injustices, you can focus your activism on supporting other fat people.  There are a bunch of fat people out there who are angry at their bodies instead of the people that stigmatize, shame, and oppress them because of their bodies, and while I have no interest in telling them how they have to live,  I want to make sure that they know there is another option.

So that’s me, as always other ideas are welcome in the comments!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 14, 2014 at 11:33 am  Comments (12)  

Just Say No…And Yes

DefendKeeping fat people feeling terrible about ourselves is big business.  The diet industry makes well over 60 Billion dollars a year selling a product that doesn’t work.  But we aren’t just oppressed for profit. We’re also often oppressed for other people’s self-esteem, or for their sport.

It sucks but there are sad people who base their self-esteem on being better than someone, and in current society fat people are easy targets for this.  There are also seriously messed up people who think it’s fun to be hurtful jackasses for sport.  These are the people who jump on the chance to say something terrible about a fat person any time we become visible for any reason.

So fat people stay out of the public eye.  Not because we want to necessarily, but because we don’t want to be publicly humiliated (which is a completely legitimate fear.)  So we don’t run for city council, take that class, go to the gym, go for our Ph.D to become a professor, we turn down that opportunity to speak at a local organization.  Again, not because we don’t want to do these things (which is a completely legitimate choice), but because we fear the junior high school teasing that we know all too well can come along with it.

This is one of the many negative outcomes of a society where we use body size as a proxy for health, and where we think it’s ok to judge people for their health.  Taken separately both of those are horrible ideas but together they create a toxic society where fat and the fear of being fat chip away at self-esteem, happiness, dreams, and eventually for some, physical and mental health.  This is not fat people’s fault, but it can quickly become our problem.  We do have options for activism around this. It may mean discomfort, it may mean sacrifice. The thing about social change is that to create it a lot of people have to be a little brave and make a few sacrifices, some people have to be brave and make a lot of sacrifices, and a few people have to be incredibly brave and risk everything.  To be clear, none of these people have to be you – nobody is obligated to do activism of any kind ever and choosing to opt out of being treated horribly by jerks is a completely valid life choice.  There are lots of options for activism and one of them is in the power of choosing when to say no and when to say yes:

No, I will not allow my life choices to be limited by your ridiculous juvenile bad behavior.

No, I do not care what you think of me.

No, I am not interested in losing weight.  No, I’m not interested in your thoughts about that.

No, you will not succeed at bullying me into quitting [insert activity here.]

No, you cannot live in my head rent free.  Hell, you can’t live in my head even if you paid rent.

No, I will not give you the power to hurt me or limit me in any way.

No, you cannot have my lunch money any more.

Yes, I love to dance so I’ll see you in class on Saturday.

Yes, I’d love to talk about how I xeriscaped my lawn at the homeowners association meeting.

Yes, I love myself and my body and it’s awesome.

Yes, I am running for Congress, vote for me!

There is power in yes and no and the ways we choose to use them.  (Feel free to put your yes and no statements in the comments!)

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

 

Published in: on October 13, 2014 at 9:42 am  Comments (13)  

Marathon Update: Me and My Feet a Love/Hate Story

Duck feetI have duck feet.  To be more specific I have duck feet 3.0.  My maternal grandmother had duckfeet 1.0 – they are short, wide, with high arches and a narrow heel.  My mom has duckfeet 2.o, shorter, wider, higher arches, narrower heel.  My feet are womens size 5.5 EEEE with arches that you could do the limbo under, and super narrow heels.

Not only are the feet passed down, so are the jokes.  I can’t remember a trip to the specialty shoe store (that only sold ugly blocky leather shoes) where someone didn’t say “just keep the shoes and give her the boxes.”  Hilarious.

There are many things I love about my feet.  They are super strong – almost any time I get a foot massage, or a regular massage that includes my feet, the massage therapist always comments on how strong they are.  The high arches give them a lovely toe point and as a dancer I was known for having “good feet” which means that they moved smoothly through the five basic foot positions which I’ve noticed that small feet and high arches can make having “good feet” easier.  I’ve never been tempted to participate in the culture of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for cute shoes, since nobody who makes cute shoes makes them in my size. I’m secretly hoping that their semblance to flippers will help me in the swim for my IRONMAN.

Still, finding shoes can be super frustrating.  My feet stopped growing around 8th grade and they looked exactly like they do now.  In my teens and twenties I considered finding out if there was a surgery that could make them more narrow  – not because there is anything wrong with my feet but because people with my size feet are not a market that most shoe companies are interested in pursuing apparently.  I don’t care about cute shoes so much but finding shoes for the activities I want to do is a pain in the ass.  I never had dance shoes that weren’t way too tight on the ball of my foot (and often too loose on the heel) and too big, and since New Balance changed their running shoes to have a more narrow toe box there are no running shoes that fit me.  My current choices are good fitting cross trainers with running insoles or running shoes that are 2.5 sizes too big and still not quite wide enough. Fruatrating, yes.  But I’m certainly not going to let it stop me.

So while I have been in a great place with my relationship with my fat body for a such a long time so that it’s almost on autopilot, I have to put more energy into my relationship with my feet, especially as I’m looking for running shoes for the marathon, bike shoes for my upcoming triathlons etc. There are three things that I do consistently to stay friends with my feet.  First is being really grateful to my feet for everything that they do for me – like carrying me around whether it’s in releve, or pedaling a bike, or running.  Also, just like when I’m frustrated with the clothes available in my size, it’s important to remember to put the problem where it belongs – in this case with the lack of shoes that are available in my size – not on my feet which are absolutely fine the way that they are.  Finally, I make it a point to take super good care of my feet, stretching them, rolling out the arches, massages, pedicures etc.

If you have a body part that you’re having some trouble finding the love for, maybe try some of these things. As for me, I’m off to put my feet up.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 12, 2014 at 9:53 am  Comments (19)  

It’s Not An Obesity Epidemic

DefendAh the obesity epidemic.  The media can’t get enough of talking about it. But what are we fighting against? Trumped up charges of fat people causing additional health care costs, or how much we cost the workplace?  People who decided that we’ve have strayed too far from the stereotypical beauty standard?

And what are we fighting for?  A world without people whose weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared is greater than 30?  A world where we find a group of people who we can identify by sight, decide that they are too expensive, and systematically attempt to eradicate them through means that hardly ever work but generate tremendous profits across multiple industries?

What weapons do we have?  The first study that showed that weight loss fails 95% of the time happened in 1959.  Since then the same result has been repeated in hundreds of studies and has never been disproved by any study.  We have no idea how to make fat people thin, the thing that we suggest fails 95% of the time, and up to 2/3 of the time actually has the OPPOSITE result when people gain more weight than they lost.  Yet the war on obesity encourages us to throw good money after bad on odds that I wouldn’t take on a hand of dollar blackjack.

Weight loss has been failing for 50 years and we’re still blaming fat people?  The tool that is most often wielded is shame.  Doctors, teachers, family and friends are encouraged to shame fat people, to make them feel horrible about themselves, hate the body they live in 100% of the time.

What we are really experiencing is not an obesity epidemic.  It’s an size bigotry and shaming epidemic.

We know that shame/stigma is correlated with the same diseases as obesity.  We know that concern about body weight was a stronger predictor of mental and physical illnesses than BMI (said another way, women who were concerned about their weight had more mental and physical illness than women who were fine with their size – regardless of their weight.  We also know that, while there are no obligations or guarantees,  healthy habits have been shown to increase of chances of health much more successfully than trying to manipulate our body size.

It’s not just that shame doesn’t work. The problem is that shame, like weight loss, often results in the opposite of the intended effect. We know that movement can be an option to support our health for people of all sizes.  However, in addition to the negative effects of shame mentioned above, the fat shame and weight bullying that are encouraged in our society mean that many fat people don’t engage in sports/fitness/movement that they want to try because of a well-justified fear of being mistreated. Fat kids grow up hating their bodies and feeling like they aren’t worthy of care because they are shamed by family, teachers, students and sometimes the First Lady of the United States.

There is a possibility that all of the “negative” health effects that are correlated with obesity will end if we simply stop shaming fat people, if we create a world that respects a diversity of body sizes and provides access to the foods that people would choose, movement options that are enjoyable and safe (which includes physical safety and also psychological safety – like the ability to go to the gym, pool, beach, ride a bike etc. without even the idea that we might face shame, stigma, and bullying), and affordable, accessible, evidence-based healthcare.

Instead, we have government-sanctioned shame, stigma and bullying. The government encourages people to look at fat people as scapegoats for the Nation’s ills.  Which is pretty convenient for the government – as long as we’re shaming and blaming fat people they don’t have to address real issues like a lack of access to healthy foods, safe stigma-free movement options and affordable evidence-based healthcare or the fact that the dieting that they’ve been pushing doesn’t work.

We’ve been trying weight loss for more than half a century and the best we have been able to do is 5% success. Which is exactly what all the evidence in those 50 years said would happen. I don’t believe that obesity is a disease, but since weight loss is considered a medical intervention, ask yourself this:  If we were having a “war on cancer” and were trying the same treatment protocol and 95% of the time all the Cancer came back and 2/3 of the time the cancer got worse; on year 53 would the government declare a war on cancer using that same treatment?

It’s obviously time to try something different.

If we really feel the need to have a war as it relates to fat people, let’s wage war against shame. Against stigma.  Against bullying. Against the suggestion that everyone who looks like us should be eradicated from the Earth and prevented from existing in the future.

I think a world free from shame, stigma and size bullying is a world worth fighting for.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 10, 2014 at 10:07 am  Comments (25)  

I’m Not Blogging About This

Actual SizeDespite the offers I get (some stranger than others), I don’t write blog posts for money, or allow people to write posts and pay me to post them, or put ads on my blog.  The reason for this is that if the people paying me do something problematic, I don’t want to be in a situation of choosing between paying my rent or calling them out.  (Hence my membership program) But today I got an offer that was harder to refuse.

I was offered $125 to blog about an athletic wear/dance wear company.  The offer said “It doesn’t really matter what the subject is as long as you feel it would be the best fit for your site and audience.” Upon looking at the site the largest size was XL which, according to their size guide, is a US size 12.

I think that one of the ways that you can teach people a lesson is through their wallet, and $125 would buy some nice athletic wear from a company that does sell my size, so I toyed with the idea of doing the post and taking the money.

I decided not to for several reasons. First because the request came from an SEO company representing the actual company so the actual company probably had nothing to do with it and I’m not sure it’s fair to punish the company because their SEO dude is incompetent. Also because whether or not the company knew about it I didn’t want to (as my friends who actually know about SEO assured me I would) help their Google position by linking to them in my established blog, and finally because I thought of an option that I decided was both more fun and at least a little more likely to open a dialog.

So I sent the following e-mail to the company:

Hello,

My name is Ragen Chastain, I’m a blogger who was contacted by Sirius SEO on your behalf. They offered me $125.00 to to blog about your product. (I run two blogs – www.danceswithfat.org and www.ironfat.com, as well as co-running the Fit Fatties Forum and Facebook page with a combined following of 23,272 people.) I checked out your site and your clothes are super cute.  Unfortunately, as a size 26/28 you don’t carry any clothing to fit me. I decided to send you this e-mail and see if we might open a dialog about carrying clothing for athletes and dancers larger than a US size 12.  Please contact me if you’re interested, I’d be happy to put together a group of women to discuss it with you.

Sincerely,

~Ragen

I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.  Until then if you’re looking for plus size workout-type clothes, there is a discussion here – the comments have some great suggestions as well.

For those of you size diversity activists who wear smaller sizes, one option for activism is to buy your clothes at places that also sell clothes for people who wear plus sizes (or, as I like to call them, sizes.) That way, we reward companies that are inclusive and when companies choose to ignore fat people it’s not just our money that they miss out on.  Of course, what activism you engage in is always up to you.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Take Care of Yourself! The Super Earlybird rates for the RASCAL (Radical Acts of Self Care) Challenge are good through October 8th (that’s today!). This program was developed by the Fit Fatties Forum in response to requests to find a way to help us take good care of ourselves through the end of the year and all that entails. Check it out here!

Become a Member For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 9:32 am  Comments (16)