Your Weight at Work

Being fat at work can be really difficult to navigate.  There is already evidence that fat people get hired less often and paid less money than our thin counterparts.  Once you do have a job it can be really scary to make waves – even when you are faced with things like getting worse benefits than your thin counterparts, being charged more for insurance, forced to attend company Weight Watchers meetings and more.

I got this question from reader Mary on Facebook:  “I received an e-mail from my employer today encouraging all staff members to lose weight in an effort to raise money for charities. What would you say to that if you received it?I’ll answer this in a more general way but outlining what you can do when your employer suggests weight loss.  I would probably send a message to the person in charge of this (HR/My Boss/Whoever) making the following points and asking for a meeting:

  • As someone who practices Health at Every Size I am uncomfortable with my boss suggesting something that goes against the health plan that I’ve created with my health professionals since I don’t want to be torn between my health practice and looking like I’m not a team player at work
  • This could be triggering and dangerous for people suffering from, recovering from, or who have a propensity for developing, eating disorders (for me I could talk about this in the first person but even if I hadn’t recovered from an ED I would want to point this out.)
  • As a fat employee I’m very uncomfortable that my employer has a point of view at all about body size and weight loss rather than being focused on work performance
  • It is my understanding that studies show that the vast majority of people who attempt weight loss gain their weight back and many gain back more, so could they please provide an evidence basis for the efficacy of their weight loss recommendation?
  • All of the pitfalls could be avoided if the employer focused on health rather than weight.
  • I would provide lots of evidence for a HAES intervention, like this absolutely amazing article
  • I would offer to help in any way that I could including creating a committee to create an optional employee movement plan with weight-neutral shame free messaging that works for people of varying fitness levels and dis/abilities
  • I would ask for a meeting to talk about this further

Some employers choose to give better benefits to thin employees.  We talked here about that here.

Some companies choose to charge their fat employees more for the same benefits.  We talked about that here.

Finally there are the employers who insist that in order to keep your health insurance costs the same as your thin co-workers, fat people must join weight loss programs.   For this situation I would first and foremost ask for proof of  long-term efficacy and safety.  If it’s one of the programs like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, you could bring up the fact that they have been successfully sued by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive trade practices and ask your employer’s thoughts about that and the “results not typical” .

You could attempt to get notes from your healthcare providers indicating their support for your Health at Every Size practice and saying that dieting is not something that they believe is in your best interest.  Be aware that this situation is likely due to the “employee wellness” company with which your employer contracted (often owned by companies that sell the weight loss that they recommend but that’s a different blog) and so your employer may not be able to do anything with it.  I still think it’s worth it to let your employer know the issues with this.

Being fat at work can be tricky and being a fat activist at work can be a risk. How much you want to risk is a very personal decision- risk is the currency of revolution but you don’t necessarily have to pay that at work, or at all.  I think in general it’s good to try to make it you and the person you are working with against a problem rather than you against someone at work.  Again, it’s also totally valid to not deal with it at all and just get through your workday or do to activism around some things and not others.  If you have a story of how you dealt with a fat at work situation, I hope you’ll leave it in the comments.

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

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm  Comments (18)  

Three Common Fat Activism Myths

First they ignore youAs I talk to people who are interested in doing activism against the stigmatization, bullying, and oppressing of people based on their size, there are three really common myths that come up.

1.  Doing Activism is Scary and Risky

While it’s true that in civil rights activism many people will have to take risks and some people will risk everything, that doesn’t mean that all activism is scary or risky. You could make some HAES/Size Acceptance book marks and go to a bookstore and put them in books, or put them in magazines at the store (an idea I stole from awesome activists in LA).  You could put sticky notes with positive messages and website for resources on bathroom stalls. You could post fat activism things to your Facebook or Twitter.  You could tell an activist who you respect how much you appreciate their work. You could support a fat activism project. You could post a body positive comment in a thread of negative comments – not because you’ll change the authors mind, but because someone reading the comments might see it and be helped and supported in their body positive journey (you could join the Rolls Not Trolls community on Facebook if you’re interested in getting support to do this – message me on Facebook if you want to join)

You could do some work to love your own body more.  You could decide to stop saying negative things about other people’s bodies (of all sizes).

2.  Activism is pointless because those who are against us have so much more money than we do.

The truth about this is that a whole lot of money they have is ours – in addition to the government using our tax dollars to fight a war to eradicate everyone who looks like us, we are also directly funding our oppressors.  When we buy their products we give money to the people who are profit-driven to keep us down and keep reinforcing stereotypes about fat people and conflating weight and health.  I made a decision a while ago that I wouldn’t consume any product that was sold with a diet/weight loss message.  No diet soda, no gum that advertises weight loss, nothing.  I will absolutely not fund the war against me. You don’t have to do that but do realize that a lot of the War on Obesity runs on our time, energy and money – not fueling the machine that oppresses us is activism in and of itself. Fat activists are part of a long line of activists who are are winning against the odds.

3.  One person can’t make a difference

In fact, one person is the only thing that can make a difference.  A massive boycott only works because each individual refused to buy the product.  A big project only works because of each individual who donated money, posted, facebooked, tweeted, and e-mailed people about it.  A protest march helps to galvanize a community because each individual got up and got themselves to the march.  If every person waits for 100 people to go first then nothing happens. Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something.

I’m often asked what I think is the most important thing for the Fat Activism Movement and my answer is always that it’s more people doing activism at whatever level works for them.  Nobody has to be an activist but if you’re moved to make the world a little better by participating in activism – whether it’s fat activism or something else – I hope you do it.

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

Update: Remember when I told you that a screenwriter had created a script about my life as a fat dancer?  Well that movie is now in development!   You can go to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfatthemovie and like it if you are so inclined which will get you info as it breaks and help us build momentum!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

Published in: on July 26, 2014 at 8:59 am  Comments (10)  

Jokes, Both Sides, and the Devil’s Advocate

fight backYesterday I posted about an ad that uses fat jokes and age jokes to sell blinds.  Whenever someone points out that something is offensive they are subject to a number of responses that, intentionally or unintentionally, undermine the activism of speaking up.  I wanted to talk about some of them today:

Can’t you take a joke?

Anytime someone points out that an attempt at comedy may be hurtful, it’s almost immediately suggested that we lack a sense of humor, have a stick where normally there is none, that we need to learn to take a joke, etc.

I’m a fan of comedy, and I’m a fan of comedy that pushes boundaries and edges as a way to make social commentary, discuss things that are difficult to talk about, make people think etc.  I’m not a fan of people using stereotypes and stigma for cheap laughs and I’m not a fan of people using the institutionalized prejudices that are used to make fat people’s lives difficult to sell blinds. Nobody is obligated to celebrate humor made at their expense.

You need to choose your battles

Agreed, and the way you know which battle someone has chosen is that they have chosen it.  What the person saying this almost always means is that they don’t agree with the battle I’ve chosen, which is within their rights, but makes no difference to me.  Once someone has obviously “chosen a battle” the only reason to give them this advice is to suggest that they shouldn’t have chosen this one, which I think is crappy, and heading toward being a violation of the underpants rule.

You need to look at both sides of the issue

Nope, nope, nope.  I don’t think that there are two sides to bullying, stigma, or oppression. There’s inappropriate behavior, followed by justification of that behavior masquerading as “the other side.”  The fact that someone can justify something doesn’t make that thing ok, terrible things are justified all the time. While it may be interesting for some purposes to look at why someone who bullies, stigmatizes, or oppresses behaves that way, insisting that they stop inappropriate behavior does not require an analysis of the roots of that behavior.

I/my fat friends weren’t offended

No community is a monolith, including fat people.  We can each only speak for ourselves and those who choose to have us speak for them, none of of speaks for all of fatkind (or any other group.)  However as an activist who creates activist spaces,  I suggest that people who aren’t offended by something consider whether or not speaking up is helpful. If someone says that they are offended by something that I don’t find offensive, I will probably choose not to engage in activism around it, but I’m very unlikely to voice my opinion since I’m not really adding anything to the conversation and may actually be discouraging people from speaking up.

Let me just play devil’s advocate

Let me just stop you right there, the devil (whether used a metaphor or an actual belief) doesn’t need an advocate.  Maybe ask yourself why, in the face of stigma, bullying, or oppression, do you want to take the devil’s side? Either way, I’m not interested in what the devil might think.

There are any number of reasons that people question or attack someone who has spoken out about mistreatment – from genuine concern to a blatant attempt to derail activism or to keep us from speaking up in the future.  We each get to decide how to deal with that, but for me speaking up is worth it.

Update: Remember when I told you that a screenwriter had created a script about my life as a fat dancer?  Well that movie is now in development!   You can go to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfatthemovie and like it if you are so inclined which will get you info as it breaks and help us build momentum!

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

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 9:37 am  Comments (20)  

Blinds to Go Doubles Down On Offensive Ad

Wrong RoadA few days ago I told you about a Blinds to Go ad that used sizeism and ageism to sell blinds.  Many people wrote to Blinds to Go to tell them that the ad was offensive and why. Rather than apologize and fix it, they’ve doubled down by apparently sending everyone – regardless of what they wrote – the same form reply full of more offensive bs.

From: kwentworth@Blinds-To-Go.com
Subject: Blinds To Go
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:21:45 +0000

Dear [redacted],

Thank you for your comments and concerns. We would first like to apologize if we have offended you by any means. This was in no way our intent. We have been servicing customers for 60 years and strongly value diversity of all types.

Advertising is an art and we have a very short span of time to get our message across to the consumer. The yoga man commercial was intended to illustrate the lack of privacy one might have without a window covering. It is meant to be funny, and we believe it is not cruel because clearly the embarrassment of the unintended encounter is felt by both the yoga practitioner and by the couple.  A vast majority of our viewers have seen it this way as well.

The actor hired to play “yoga man” is not overly fat but actually quite fit and athletic but yes, he has a ‘stocky’ build.  In our view, stocky does not equate to fat… the actor would not see himself this way and neither do we.

Again, we apologize to anyone our ad may have offended; this was not our intent.

Thank you,
The Blinds To Go Marketing Team

Let’s start with my favorite bit – the pretend apology:  We’re sorry, we strongly value diversity, it wasn’t our intent to be offensive, now let us spend the rest of the e-mail further devaluing your experience by justifying our behavior and explaining why you’re wrong to be offended.

The reason the commercial works in a “very short span of time” is because it relies on deep rooted prejudices that exist in society allowing the joke to be told in “shorthand.”  There are lots of ways to display a need for privacy that don’t rely on stigmatizing people for how they look, but they require a marketing team to that is talented, creative, and not looking for a lazy way out.

“We believe it is not cruel because clearly the embarrassment of the unintended encounter is felt by both the yoga practitioner and by the couple.”  Translation:  If we can get an actor to portray someone who has self-hate/internalized oppression, then our use of the way he looks to imply that he should not be seen or want to be seen – even by those peeping through his windows (and should, in fact, buy our product as a way to hide himself from the world) is perfectly fine.  Those who are offended should try a little harder to develop self-hatred about their size and/or age so they can understand that they should want to hide themselves from the world – preferably with our products.

“A vast majority of our viewers have seen it this way as well.” Translation:  If we say that the vast majority of people agree with a prejudice, then that prejudice is not only valid, but ripe for our use to sell our products. We don’t know how you would get the idea that because you’re part of the group that we are stigmatizing your opinion is somehow valid or important in this discussion.

 “The actor hired to play “yoga man” is not overly fat but actually quite fit and athletic but yes, he has a ‘stocky’ build.  In our view, stocky does not equate to fat… the actor would not see himself this way and neither do we.”

Oh what in fat hell, are you serious?  “Overly fat” What is that?  And when did the Blinds to Go Marketing team become the decider of who is what body type and who is “overly” anything?

And are they actually trying to say that they didn’t use his size as part of the supposedly hilarious idea that he should spend money so that people looking into the windows of his home don’t see him?  Do they actually want us to believe that they put out a call for “A man who is quite fit and athletic to do yoga?” and that they chose this actor, not even noticing his size or age and not even aware that, because of rampant sizeism and ageism, the way he looks might be considered part of the joke they created in which seeing him do yoga is horrifying?  Is Blinds to Go also opening a real estate office to sell ocean front property in Arizona? I might be more offended that they think I’ll believe that than I am at the ad.

Nobody is obligated to exercise, and participating in fitness doesn’t make people better or worse than those who don’t, but there are plenty of fat people who participate in fitness and athletics and we often get abused, stigmatized, and bullied for doing so, so it’s really problematic to reinforce and participate in that by using the notion that people shouldn’t want to look at us (and that we should be mutually embarrassed at being seen) whether we’re “stocky” or “overly fat” or would identify ourselves as fat, and regardless of of fitness level. Responses like that of Blinds to Go are a big part of the problem.

Also, note that they are comfortable speaking for the actor (not “the actor doesn’t see himself” but “the actor would not see himself”)  Whether or not he sees himself as fat, whether or not he identifies himself as fat, whether or not the Blinds to Go Marketing team mistakenly thinks this is ok because he’s not that fat, or that fat and “fit and quite athletic” are mutually exclusive, does not change the fact that they are being told by people that it is offensive and their response is sorry, not sorry we are going to keep making jokes at your expense to sell blinds because we think the actor is cool with it.

And I notice that they don’t even bother to address the ageism issue.  Since I wrote the original post,  people have asked me how I know it’s a fat joke, or an age joke.  Here’s my sophisticated test:  If the joke doesn’t work without a fat person, then it’s a fat joke.  If a joke doesn’t work without an older person, then it’s an ageist joke. If the joke doesn’t work without a person who happens to conform to the stereotype of beauty, then it’s an appearance-based joke.  And if it does work without using fat or age or appearance, then let’s do that, because those groups already face a ton of stigma and oppression so how about we don’t add to that by making a joke at their expense just to sell some blinds. Blinds to Go isn’t too far down the toad to turnaround – they should pull the ad and apologize.

Activism Opportunity: Let them know how you feel 

Leave a note on their Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/blindstogo

Tweet about it:  https://twitter.com/blindstogous @blindstogous

E-mail kwentworth@Blinds-To-Go.com and let him know how you feel

Contact customer service: or e-mail through their website:  http://www.blindstogo.com/en/contact-us

Update: Remember when I told you that a screenwriter had created a script about my life as a fat dancer?  Well that movie is now in development!   You can go to the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/danceswithfatthemovie and like it if you are so inclined which will get you info as it breaks and help us build momentum!

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

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 9:24 am  Comments (19)  

Can I Question My Healthcare Provider?

Ask QuestionsOne comment I often get when I teach workshops or write blogs about participating in the discussion about our health, is that people aren’t sure if they are allowed to question their doctor/healthcare provider.  I’ve had people suggest that if I don’t have a medical degree I don’t have the right to question a doctor. Except this is my body we’re talking about – my health.  The issue shouldn’t be that I’m asking questions, it should be that my doctors don’t have answers.

I don’t think that body size constitutes a health diagnosis but if doctors are going to treat it that way, then we at least have every right to expect that they practice ethical medicine which includes evidence-based interventions and informed consent. Doctors who recommend weight loss as a path to health are suggesting that over 60% of the population undertake intentional weight loss as a medical treatment.  So you’d think that if someone asked questions like “is there a single study that shows that this is likely to be effective” they’d have the answer at the ready.  People are allowed to do whatever their doctor says without questioning, but you don’t have to have a medical degree to expect that your doctor can support his or her treatment plan with evidence.

I understand that doctors are under a tremendous amount of pressure, that insurance can make money and time spent with patient tighter, and that they don’t have as much time as they would like with their patients, I know that not all doctors are sizeists, and I mean them no disrespect; but that does not mean that they are above answering my questions,  or that I give up my right to evidence-based medicine or informed consent.

In order for medicine to be evidence-based, there has to be a reason to believe that it will work, with an understanding of any potential harm it might do.  These two things can and do vary greatly with the severity of the illness and the risk of the treatment.  One balancing factor here is the concept of informed consent – doctors have to give the patient true information about how likely the treatment is to work, what the side effects may be etc. so that the patient can make an informed choice.

So if a cancer treatment cures people completely 5% of the time but 95% of the time the cancer comes back – often worse than before – then a doctor cannot ethically tell a cancer patient that everyone who tries hard enough with this treatment cures their cancer.  But that’s exactly what they do with weight loss.  Studies show that nearly everyone who attempts weight loss gains the weight back. That seems pretty obvious, yet doctors tell us that everyone who tries hard enough can lose weight and that weight loss is the key to health.  And that’s despite the fact that there is good evidence that healthy habits, and not body size, are the best predictor of health (knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, completely within our control, or guaranteed in any circumstance.) (The research is here)

Here is a highly dramatized version of how this might play out:

Doctor:  What seems to be the problem?

Me:  I’ve severed my arm.

Doctor: What are you doing about your weight?

Me:  Arterial blood is spurting out of my am, could we keep our eye on the ball?

Doctor:  Have you considered bariatric surgery?

Me:  Not interested in having my stomach amputated thanks. Do you really think weight loss will cure my severed arm.

Doctor:  Weight loss will solve all your problems.

Me: Can you show me evidence of a weight loss intervention where the majority of people lost the amount of weight that you want me to lose, maintained the weight loss, and became healthier long term?

Doctor:  No.

Me:  Do thin people ever get severed arms?

Doctor:  Yes they do.

Me:  Ok, let’s treat my severed arm just like you would treat a thin person’s severed arm and then I’ll be happy to send you those studies if you would like.

Doctor: Treats my severed arm and sends me on my fat merry way.  I have a re-attached arm and a renewed sense of empowerment.

We are each allowed to interact with our doctor in any way that we choose for any reason that we choose (sometimes we might choose to do activism, sometimes we might just want to get the diagnostics or medicine without any extra stress. Both are completely valid choices as is whatever else you choose.)  You are allowed to believe whatever your doctor says and you also have the right to ask questions, especially when it’s your health on the line.

Looking for more skills to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office and beyond? Check out the Fat Activism Conference.  Three days, 40 speakers, 30 workshops, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, recorded so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Published in: on July 22, 2014 at 11:39 am  Comments (25)  

Marathon Update: The Insurance Policy

Insurance PolicyThis marathon is different in a number of ways, not the least of which in that it was about a year away when I decided to do it. My first marathon was only 20 weeks away which means that this one is over twice the training time.  In the beginning of summer that was pretty easy -most of the people who book me are Universities and so in the summer there’s less travel and my schedule is more open since I’m writing and working from home. Now as we get closer to the school year I’m getting booked at colleges and planning my travel which means that I’ll be in unfamiliar places on set schedules which means more challenges to getting my training in. I’m not complaining by any means, I love speaking and it’s totally worth it, it’s just something that’s on my mind.

Whether it was playing clarinet, playing high school sports, dancing, or now running/walking, I’ve always looked at practice as “play insurance.”   Now, success is never guaranteed with these kinds of things.  It’s one of the things that I find interesting as a comparison of performance vs. visual arts.  Both are super cool in their own way, there are just differences and as a dancer who has had to compete with the flu (it’s the only time my partner and I didn’t win outright – we tied for first place) I’ve sometimes envied the artist who takes the sheet off of their painting at the gallery to find it looks exactly as it looked when they finished it!  When things happen in real time anything can happen.  You can practice figure skating every day of your life and then fall in the Olympics.  You can rehearse with your community theater group for six months and then forget your lines.  You can have a really bad day on the marathon course and fail to finish, or take four hours longer than you trained for (see my last marathon).

So the only thing to do is put in the preparation that you can.  With this marathon, depending on the week of my training program, it’s 3-4 days a week running/walking and 2-3 days of cross-training, and for me there’s lots of added flexibility training (since I’m not naturally flexible and I don’t want to lose my splits and flexibility for dancing.)  Especially as a slow runner that means a lot of time dedicated to putting one foot in front of the other while listening to the run playlist on my iPod.

So over the course of a year of training there will be 312 opportunities to decide that there’s a reason not to do my run/walk or crosstraining, and there may be some reasons that are compelling enough to cancel.  To me it’s about remembering that each time I skip my training I chip away at my insurance policy.

Fat Activism Conference

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

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Published in: on July 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Can You Do HAES and Still Want to Lose Weight?

Success and DietsIt’s a question I get a lot, especially from people who are new to the blog.  Is it possible to practice Health at Every Size and also try to lose weight?  There are a couple of different ways that this question manifests itself. Before I get too far into it I want to be clear that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, completely within our control or guaranteed no matter what you do. I also want to be clear that nobody is obligated to practice Health at Every Size (or any other health practice), in order to be part of Size Acceptance, they are separate things with different, though sometimes overlapping, goals.

One iteration of this is when people ask if it’s still Health at Every Size if they are using it as a weight loss tool.

I’m going to say no on this one since I think that the two are diametrically opposed. HAES is about putting a focus healthy behaviors and letting body size settle wherever it does.  Weight loss is about manipulating  body size by feeding the body little enough food that it consumes itself and become smaller.

HAES focuses on healthy habits as a path to health, weight loss focuses on manipulation of body size as a path to health.  HAES is based on the research that shows that, when we take behaviors into account, those behaviors are a much better predictor of future health than body size,and people of different body sizes have similar health outcomes.

Given the lack of evidence of the success of intentional weight loss, and the lack of evidence that even those who manage to achieve long term weight loss have better health because of it (see, as a start, Mann and Tomiyama 2013) HAES holds that manipulating body size as a path to health is not an evidence-based approach, but practicing healthy habits as a path to health (though of course health is never guaranteed or completely within our control) is an evidence-based approach.

So while of course people have every right to believe what they want about weight and health and do whatever they want with their bodies including pursuing weight loss, in my opinion it’s not possible to practice Health at Every Size as an attempt to lose weight.

But sometimes what people are asking is if it’s possible to  practice HAES and still wish you could lose weight either because it would make things easier either socially or even physically.

Having thoughts about not wanting to be fat in a society that stigmatizes, shames, and oppresses fat people is perfectly normal.  For me, besides the fact that we are pretty unlikely to change our body size, there’s also the fact that I believe the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma – not changing myself to suit those who are stigmatizing me – essentially giving the bully my lunch money and hoping he stops beating me up.  So I think that it’s important that no matter what we choose we are clear that the problem is the stigma, shaming, and bullying and not our bodies.

As far as physical issues, even if my body size were to cause issues,  I consider that the equivalent to my frustration that some things are out of my reach because I’m short (note the just as I’m fat – not overweight, I’m short – not undertall).  All bodies have, and create, limitations and benefits (I can’t reach the top shelf but I also never hit my head on door frames or low ceilings.)  I think that the difference is that society doesn’t give me hundreds of thousands of messages a year that try to blame everything bad in my life on my height and suggest that I should solve problems by changing my height.  Since I know that my weight is basically as unchangeable as my height it means that even if something is because of my weight I find a way to mitigate it that doesn’t include trying to change my body size, just like I get a step ladder to reach the stop shelf instead of trying to wish myself taller.

We are each allowed to make our own choices about our bodies and the way that we prioritize and practice health, it’s also ok for spaces to exist where diet and weight loss talk are not allowed or are heavily moderated.  The choices are each of us to make.

Fat Activism Conference

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

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on July 19, 2014 at 10:01 am  Comments (6)  

Blinds To Go No No

fight backBlinds to Go has a new commercial, I’ll not be linking to it. It starts with a man who is gray-haired, hairy, and fat doing yoga in his home with the windows open, interspersed with shots of a couple walking and chatting outside.  Then the couple happens to look in the window and sees the man doing yoga and everyone is horrified.  The announcer chimes in with “You need blinds. Now” After the sales pitch it cuts to a final shot of the man doing yoga with blinds on all the windows, looking happy and relieved.

This is severely screwed up. Blinds to Go is betting that more fat people will buy their product based on the fear that we are not sufficiently ashamed of ourselves and hiding ourselves away from society in our own homes (and that thin people will think this is funny and be inspired to purchase their product,) than will refuse to be customers because we believe it’s despicable to use sizeism to sell blinds (or anything else.)

I am really disappointed in Blinds to Go for using sizeism/ageism/lack of conformity to the single stereotype of beauty to sell their product, instead of finding a way to advertise the need for privacy that doesn’t suggest that some people should hide themselves from the world because of how they look.

I am sad to live in a world where this ad got made  – where nobody stopped the process and said “we don’t want body shaming to be the image of Blinds to Go.”  It is a seriously messed up society that concern trolls fat people in one breath insisting that we have some obligation to exercise and that no matter how much exercise we do it’s not enough unless we get thin, and in the next breath suggests that the idea of seeing fat people exercise is so horrifying that we should feel obligated to spend our money to protect people from the sight of us – as if we are responsible for accommodating both other people’s beliefs about how we should behave, and their bigotry about how we look.

I am also frustrated by arguments I’m seeing that suggest that this man shouldn’t be fat shamed because he is exercising, rather than the truth which is that he shouldn’t be fat shamed because fat shaming is never ok.  Screw the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy.

Many fat people do yoga at home not because they choose to but because of the very real possibility (or past experience) of being fat shamed at a yoga studio, so screw Blinds to Go for trying to convince us that if people can see us in our own homes then we haven’t done enough to hide ourselves from the world, and that we don’t have the right to do yoga in our homes with the sun shining through our windows.

Inevitably it will be suggested that those who speak out against fat people being used as the butt of a joke for someone else’s profit are too sensitive, need to get a thicker skin, or learn to take a joke. As if we should think that the idea that looking at us is horrifying, and that we are responsible for fixing it by hiding ourselves, is hilarious.  The suggestion that we should be willing to participate in our own oppression to avoid being accused of lacking a sense of humor is, in and of itself, oppressive.

Fat people who are being fat in public (or in our own homes without blinds) are fine as we are and it doesn’t matter if we are exercising, or eating, or just hanging out.  The people who are wrong are those who are laboring under the misapprehension that they are owed “aesthetically pleasing,” “beautiful,” and/or “fuckable,” by their own definitions from everyone they meet including everyone whose windows they peer into, and that people who they don’t want to look at should hide themselves.  I’ve said it on this blog before and I’ll say it again – Don’t like the way I look?  Feel free to practice the ancient art of…wait for it…looking at something else. You can do it, I believe in you.

Activism Opportunity – Tell Blinds to Go what you think: http://www.blindstogo.com/en/contact-us

Fat Activism Conference

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

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on July 18, 2014 at 12:24 pm  Comments (23)  

Don’t All Fat People Want to Be Thin?

Splits on WallstreetLast year when I was training for the marathon I would often see a woman in my neighborhood walking her adorable dog.  I would pet the dog and we would chat, it was always lovely. For the first time since the marathon I saw her again last night on my run/walk and we had this conversation:

Her:  How did your marathon go?

Me:  I finished it!  It took me almost 13 hours! (I almost always round up my age, weight, and marathon time.)

Her:  How much weight did you lose?
Me (in my head):  WTF?
Me (outloud):  None.
Her:  Oh, I’m sorry.
Me:  Why?
Her:  Well, you did all that walking…
Me:  Yes, to finish the marathon.  I have no interest in losing weight, I wanted to finish a marathon and I did.
Her:  [looks really confused]  Well, congratulations on your marathon…
Me:  Thanks!

The idea that all fat people want to/are actively trying to lose weight is extremely common.  You may remember that in my debate with Dr. Howard Shapiro he became downright aggressive about it. While I understand how the deluge of advertising that we get from the diet industry could certainly give people this idea, and I understand people’s kneejerk reaction that I should try to solve the stigma, bullying, and oppression that comes at me as a fat person by changing myself and I try to take that into account when I deal with this because I understand that this is the product of a messed up society, the truth is that the cure for stigma, bullying and oppression is ending stigma, bullying and oppression – the solution for me is not to try to change myself and hope that the bullies will stop taking my lunch money.

I despise the assumption that I hate my body.  I am offended when people at the gym ask how much weight I’ve lost or what my weight loss goal is.  I completely reject the idea that  my body is something to be pitied or ashamed of.

First of all, my body is amazing.  Heartbeat, blinking, breathing, my body does a million things a day without me asking, and it does so many things that I do ask it to –  from giving hugs to doing the splits.  My body deserves nothing less than my love and full-throated support. I am fiercely protective of my body.

Me and my fat body live an amazing life full of great friends and fabulous experiences.  The only thing that interrupts my big fat fantastic life is the crap that comes at me from people who choose to give voice and form to their prejudices, preconceptions, stereotypes and bigotry about fat people, whether ill-intentioned or not.

When I do interviews I’m often asked “if you could be thin with no negative side effects, would you?”  My answer is always “No.  But if I had a wish, I would use it to end fat stigma and weight bullying – my body is fine, the world is messed up.”

Our fat bodies are fine, the world is seriously screwed up.  It’s not our fault but it becomes our problem.  For me that’s where fat activism comes in – to me a big part of my fat activism is about sticking up for the body that I live in 100% of the time and that let’s me do every single thing that I can do. I don’t know about you, but I’m certain that my body deserves nothing less that my complete support.

Fat Activism Conference

The schedule and workshops descriptions are out for the Fat Activism Conference! Three days, 38 speakers, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on July 16, 2014 at 11:19 am  Comments (28)  

When They’re Concerned About Your Health

Bad DoctorIn response to my post about dealing with body shamers I had a number of people ask me how to deal with concern trolls – ie:  those who say something like “I think it’s fine that you like yourself, I’m just concerned about your health.”  These people may be well meaning, but here’s the deal with this – our health is none of anybody else’s business unless we choose to make it their business. The difference between education and concern trolling is request and permission.  If we don’t ask someone for their opinion about our health, and we don’t give them permission to discuss it with us, then they are allowed to feel concerned (or anything else) but they’re going to have to learn to self-soothe.

This can be difficult to deal with because, since people seem well intentioned, we can feel obligated to appreciate what they are doing, or accept it as ok.  Like everything, it’s your choice how to deal with it, but for me this is not ok.  People are allowed to be concerned about whatever they want, but it is not ok to unburden that concern onto me. Peter Muennig from Columbia did research about body size and shame and found that women who are concerned about their size have more mental and physical illnesses than women who are fine with their size, regardless of their size.  So, being incessantly barraged by the message that I should be concerned with my size is contraindicated for improved health.

And let’s not forget that however well-intentioned it might be, this kind of concern is based on all kinds of myths, misunderstandings, and misinformation that conflates weight and health. Health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, guaranteed regardless of behavior body size or anything else, or anyone else’s damn business.

There are lots of reasons that people may choose to express their concern.  There are some who are truly  well-meaning, for others it’s about feeling superior, feeding their ego, or just killing fatties with kindness. For some it’s a knee jerk reaction from tons of programming that they’ve received about body size and health.  But if it doesn’t fit within what you consider acceptable behavior it does not matter why someone does it.

So when someone says “I’m just concerned about your health,” here are some options for dealing with it.

Basic responses:

  • No need.
  • I’m not currently soliciting opinions about my health.
  • My health is none of your business.

Responses for a teachable moment if you want one:

  • I practice Health at Every Size, if you want more information I’m happy to send you some resources.
  • According to research out of Columbia, people who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illness than those who aren’t – regardless of weight.  So every time you try to make me concerned about my weight you may be putting my health in jeopardy.
  • Can you tell me how you justify your beliefs based on the findings of Matheson et al., Wei et. al, the Cooper Institute Longitudinal studies, and Mann and Tomiyama 2007 and 2013?
  • The most likely outcome of weight loss attempts is weight regain, so even if you believe that fat is bad, weight loss attempts are the worst thing that you could recommend.

The things I think but do not say when I’m having a bad day:

  • My path to health is something that I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching – how about you?
  • I’m concerned that you don’t understand what is and is not your business.
  • I’m confused – what was it I said that made you think it was appropriate to make wild guesses about my health?
  • So it seems like you lost your beeswax, sorry I but haven’t seen it.
  • Are you feeling ok? I think you just hallucinated that you’re my doctor.

Edit:  It has been suggested that the last bullet point was ableist – disparaging to those with mental illness that cause hallucinations.  I wrote it specifically to avoid this since hallucinations can be caused by so many things (dehydration, lack of sleep, ingested substances etc.) and aren’t a definitive diagnosis of any mental illness. That doesn’t mean it’s not ableist but I wanted to leave it with discussion  and my apologies rather than simply deleting it and acting like it didn’t happen.

For more tools for dealing with a fat-phobic world, check out the Fat Activism Conference.  Three days, 38 speakers, teleconference style so that you can listen on the phone or computer from wherever you are, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible (THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

Published in: on July 14, 2014 at 7:56 am  Comments (36)