Fat is Not Evidence

Small - Things you can tell by looking at a fat personConsider the following true stories:

A doctor tells a fat patient that they need to exercise more without asking them how much they exercise.  When the patient says that they do exercise instead of asking for details the doctor says “That can’t possibly be true.”

A fat person goes to a personal trainer, explains that they practice the Health at Every Size method and want to increase their strength, stamina, and flexibility. The trainer ignores their request and chooses a plan that they think will create weight loss.

A fat person is out for ice cream with their thin friends.  Ignoring the fact that the thin people are eating the same thing someone walks up and tells the fat person “This is why you’re fat.”

Paula Deen eats a hamburger on a cruise and a website puts up a poll asking if that’s “ok” or if she “should only be seen eating healthier foods”

What do all of these situations have in common? If you answered “They are all effed up” you are totally right but it goes beyond that.

Fat bodies are seen as “evidence”.  People try to claim that our bodies are evidence of unhealthy behaviors, lack of willpower, lack of self-care and any other appearance-based stereotypes they enjoy believing and perpetuating  Then they claim that this evidence is compelling enough to make it ok to target fat people for for shame, stigma, bullying and humiliation “for our own good”.

Even more damaging, fat people start to internalize this message thinking “If I’m fat then I deserve to be treated poorly and have my body and choices treated like public property.”

This is just not true.  Fat bodies are not public property, they are not evidence, and they are not a sign that we need someone to step in and tell us how to take care of ourselves. First because nobody can tell what our habits are based on our body size.  Second because our habits are our decision regardless of what size we are and health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness or entirely within our control, and that our choices are limited by the resources that are available to us. (Those interested in making an argument about fat people costing tax dollars are welcome to head over to this post.)

Fat bodies aren’t evidence of anything except that fat bodies exist.  Claiming to be for health while running a ridiculous “A healthier world one shamed fatty at a time” campaign is evidence that someone isn’t so much interested in improving health as they are in being a bully and then blaming the bullied, while being seriously mistaken about the location of their beeswax.

It’s less than a week away!  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, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

 

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 9:58 am  Comments (46)  

Fighting Bigotry with Confusion

WTFRegular readers are very aware that I’m a fan of the snarky come back.  But it’s not right for every situation.  Case in point:  this situation that reader Kim e-mailed me about (reprinted with her permission of course)

I work in an office and there is a large candy bowl at the front desk where I sit. My boss fills it with all kinds of sugary goodness. It by no means bothers me that it is there and I don’t feel guilty eating some when the mood strikes. My problem is that at least a few times a week, customers make comments like “Don’t to eat it all” or “Save some for me!” or some other comment about me, the diabetes that I MUST have and how I have to struggle with my self-control because of the damn candy bowl. I find it incredibly rude that because I’m fat, automatically I’m a glutton for candy and have health issues.

One of the issues here is that this is a professional environment and so the reply that we use has to be professional.  Another issue, at least for me, in replying to any situation where someone is using humor that perpetuates bigotry is that I don’t know if they are doing it on purpose. Regardless, any response where I point it out is likely to lead to them becoming defensive and/or trying to make me the problem – either insisting that it’s not bigotry, or that I need to learn to “take a joke.”  One method that I often use in these situations is to act like I don’t get the joke at all.

This method works because this kind of “humor” requires that everyone be “in on” the joke – in this case the stereotypes about fat people and why it’s “ok” to make fun of them.  If someone has to explain the joke it’s like pulling back the veil on their bigotry and nobody wants to do that – it typically either forces people who didn’t realize that they were being an ass to come to that conclusion on their own, or if they were trying to be an ass it deprives them of the opportunity to do it under the cover of humor.  If they really didn’t consider that it would seem like they were making a joke at a fat person’s expense (for example, if they would have said the exact same thing to someone of any size) then I haven’t accused them of something that they weren’t doing.

So in this example it might go like this:

Them:  Save some for me!
Me:  Blank stare, saying as sincerely as possible “I don’t understand”
Them:  You know, don’t eat it all, save some for me!
Me:  (smiling, still acting confused and sincere) Why wouldn’t I?
Them:  Well, you know, you look like someone who likes candy!
Me:  Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.
etc.

The trick is to play it completely innocent – as if you really have no idea why this makes sense or would be funny.  Of course it’s not fullproof (sadly no method of dealing with bigotry is) and “success” usually includes them mumbling something and walking away, I an only hope that they will reconsider their behavior.  I find that this is great for a professional situation because while you can be accused of being humorless, you cannot be accused of being rude.

I find that this works best when dealing with attempts at humor that perpetuate bigotry, of course this is not for every situation and may not be for every person, and that’s totally cool.  For me it’s just another tool in my activism/dealing-with-bullshit toolbox.

Speaking of activism toolboxes, if you’re looking to add to and sharpen your tools, 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, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

 

Published in: on August 16, 2014 at 7:32 am  Comments (15)  

O Captain! My Captain!

DPSI was barely a teenager enjoying something that I hardly ever got to do – I was at the movies.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Usually I got bored at the movies but this time, for maybe the first time in my life, I was being truly affected by what I was watching.

You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!

My first “activism” happened in kindergarten. I got my class to boycott nap time, pounding our little fists on the desk chanting “We want to learn!  We want to learn!”  My teacher sent home a report card that said “Ragen is an excellent student, but she leads small revolts.”  I explained to my mom that I involved my whole class so I didn’t see how it could have been any bigger, and my poor mom had to explain that the teacher wasn’t suggesting that my revolt was too small. I was constantly getting in trouble for standing up for what I believed in, standing up to bullies, standing up for other kids, wanting to try to do things that adults insisted were impossible, and generally displaying characteristics that would have been valued if I was 20 years old instead of 6. My long suffering mother was at the school what seemed like every other week until I graduated – supporting me, defending me, showing me how to be an advocate.

Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,”that’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Sitting in that theater, watching that movie, it all came crashing in – the kind of person I was striving to be, and why.

O Captain! my Captain!

As I sat in the dark theater, sobbing as the credits rolled, I knew for sure that I wanted to spend the rest of my life standing on desks, inspiring others to stand on desks or, preferably, doing both at the same time.  I went home and wrote down the quotes I could remember on index cards, starting with these two:

Oh to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted.

To mount the scaffold. to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect nonchalance!

It was the start of a collection of quotes that would eventually be stored, handwritten, on hundreds of index cards.  I would add to it whenever I heard something that inspired me – poetry, a passage from a book, a famous quote, song lyrics, whatever.  I would read them when living in small towns with small-minded people where I never really fit in became overwhelming, and then in college when the work I was doing as a young queer activist seemed too daunting, too dangerous, or simply impossible. I have them, and read them, to this day.

The movie, Dead Poets Society, was also my introduction to Robin Williams, whose talent I was awed by. I became a great fan of his work – acting, comedy, late show appearances, Saturday Night Live – I would watch anything with him in it.  He was on my dream list of people to take to lunch. When I heard that he passed away I was incredibly sad. Even more so when I learned that it was suicide likely linked to depression. Sadder still when I saw people discuss it in ways that suggest that they don’t understand depression. To me it’s a reminder of what can happen when we as a society ignore, blame, stigmatize, and fail to make treatment options accessible to, people dealing with depression and other mental illnesses.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams, and thank you.

Looking for more tools, perspectives and discussions about activism?  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, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, tools for everything from armchair activism to marching on the White House only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm  Comments (22)  

Fat Lives on Hold

holdYesterday I discussed some absolutely horrible advice that Dear Abby gave to a reader in which she perpetuated the idea that the best thing for fat people is to never ever be happy with ourselves, never be comfortable in our skin, always hide our bodies, live in constant shame, have low self-esteem and poor body image, have strangers make constant assumptions about our health and habits, be constantly stigmatized, stereotyped and bullied, never have even a moment of peace unless and until we become thin.  This is a message that has made weight loss companies lots and lots of money – over 60 Billion a year and rising – and one of the reasons for that is that they’ve been so successful at getting so many people to regurgitate their marketing language as if it’s the truth.

Many fat people, having heard this message over and over again, eventually buy into it and put their lives on hold while they attempt to lose weight. I was one of those people for a number of years.  I was always going to do the things that I wanted to do – dance, date, perform, wear a bathing suit, wear a bikini, wear clothes I liked etc. – just as soon as I lost the weight.  I get e-mails every day from people who have been putting their lives on hold waiting for weight loss.

My life changed drastically and dramatically for the better the day I decided to stop waiting for another body to show up and just take the body I had out for a spin. I arrived at that decision when, having yo-yo dieted for years, I decided to do the research and find the best diet.  After reading every study I could find about weight loss, I was shocked to find that  there wasn’t a single study where more than a tiny percentage of people had lost weight, and “success” was typically defined as having lost 2-5 pounds.

Based on the research (rather than the constant drumbeat of “everybody knows,“) the truth was (and is) that being thin will probably never happen for me, or most fat people.  So was I supposed to live a joyless life subjected to constant bullying, stigma, stereotypes and oppression all of which I should accept because I deserve it for being fat, hiding my body in shame, putting my life on permanent hold?  Screw that.

I’m here today to suggest this:  If you are putting your life, or aspects of your life, on hold until you lose weight, then whether you decide to practice Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size, or try to manipulate your body size for whatever reason, consider taking your life off hold, starting right now.  Start today!  Do something that you’ve been waiting to do.  Or start planning to do something that you’ve been waiting to do.  Or start asking questions – like where you got the message that you should wait to do things that you want to do until your body looks different (was it by any chance from people who are profiting from that message?), if those messages serve you, and if you want to keep buying into that.

I think that this is so important because as we take our lives off hold, we show other people  that it’s an option.  I’m never interested in telling anyone how to live, but I have dedicated a significant portion of my life to making sure that people know all of their options and that they include the option of living a full, amazing life in a fat body.

Want more support in living a fabulous life as a fat person in a fatphobic world?  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, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

 

Published in: on August 12, 2014 at 10:03 am  Comments (16)  

Dear Abby’s Epic Fail

WTFSo egregious was this “Dear Abby” column that over 500 readers contacted me to ask me to write about it.  I think it’s a helpful example of everything that is wrong with the way that we talk about weight, health, self-esteem, and body image. Here are the original letter and answer, then I’ll break them down bit by bit:

DEAR ABBY: I’m a 24-year-old plus-sized woman (60 or 70 pounds overweight), but very comfortable in my own skin. When swimming in public, I wear a one-piece bathing suit because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention. When I’m home, I have a bikini top and shorts I prefer to wear. This is because I don’t like being covered up like it was in the 1950s, and I feel good when my curves are properly accentuated.

When I go back to see my family and swim, I wear a bikini top and black shorts. Recently, my mother said, “When the family comes over, you can’t wear that. It makes people uncomfortable.”

I was shocked, and we had a huge argument. Most of my cousins are fine with my attire, as are my aunts. Only Mom has a problem with it. I asked if she’d feel the same about a large man swimming without a T-shirt. She said it’s different for women.

Am I wrong for wanting to be comfortable in my childhood home? Mom should be proud to have a daughter who accepts herself as she is. Who is wrong here? — OFFENDED DAUGHTER IN CHICAGO

DEAR OFFENDED DAUGHTER: You are not wrong for wanting to be comfortable. But please remember that when you visit someone else’s home, that person’s wishes take precedence — even if it used to be your childhood home.

While you say you are comfortable in your own skin, it would be interesting to know what your physician thinks about your obesity. I suspect that your mother would be prouder of you if you were less complacent and more willing to do something about your weight problem.

Let’s break this down, bit by horrible, offensive, inappropriate, bad advice, bit:

You are not wrong for wanting to be comfortable. But please remember that when you visit someone else’s home, that person’s wishes take precedence — even if it used to be your childhood home.

If this had been the whole reply, my response would have been “ok.” I would personally think long and hard about spending time with someone who would body shame me, lie about the way other’s feel about my body to try to back up her own bigotry, and tell me what I’m allowed to wear when with my own family, but that’s just me and it’s ok for Abby and I to disagree on this.

While you say you are comfortable in your own skin, it would be interesting to know what your physician thinks about your obesity.

It’s only interesting if you think that what a doctor thinks about someone’s health should impact what they are allowed to wear. Can you imagine if someone wrote in because their mom has forbidden them to wear yellow clothing and Abby’s response was “It would be interesting to know if you have any health problems.”  Her statement above is exactly that ridiculous, and the only reason it may not seem that ridiculous is because rampant prejudice against fat people has created a world where the question “How do I deal with a body shaming and a gender double-standard” is answered with “what assumptions does your doctor make about your health based on your body size?”

Look, if someone thinks that they can tell how healthy someone else is by their body size, then they are mistaken.  But even if they were right, if they suggest that people who aren’t healthy shouldn’t be allowed to be comfortable in their own skin or wear clothing that they like, then they are being a horrible person.

Perhaps it’s too much to expect that Abby would do any research to make sure that she’s not harming people with her advice concern trolling, but if she did she would find studies have linked the stress of shame and stigma like this to the same diseases to which obesity has been linked, and found that women who are concerned about their weight have more physical and mental illness than women who are fine about their size, regardless of their size.  So Abby could have harmed the health not only of the woman to who she gave terrible advice, but to every fat person who reads the drivel she wrote and buys into it. But of course, it’s for their own good.

I suspect that your mother would be prouder of you if you were less complacent and more willing to do something about your weight problem.

Notice that Abby has gone from wondering about what the woman’s physician thinks to just assuming that she knows her health, and her behaviors around her health (since she knows both that she has a “weight problem” and that she’s “complacent”.)   If I were a psychic doctor I probably wouldn’t spend my time being an advice columnist but that’s just me.  Or maybe Abby isn’t so much a psychic doctor as a bigot who is happy to visit her stereotypes and prejudices upon anyone who will listen.

I’m also wondering if she advises children who are being bullied to blame themselves and  give the bullies whatever they want in the hopes that the bullies will stop beating them up. The problem here belongs to the mother and her issues with fat bodies.  It’s not the daughter’s fault but it becomes her problem when her mother decides to enforce her issues on her daughter via a dress code.  The daughter gets to choose how to deal with this, but let’s put the problem where it belongs – on the mom’s issues, not the daughter’s body.  I hope it goes without saying that the idea that she should have to change her body to deserve her mother’s pride is abhorrent.

Abby is perpetuating the idea, the absolutely horrifying idea, that the best thing for fat people’s health is to never ever be happy with ourselves, never be comfortable in our skin, always hide our bodies, live in constant shame, have low self-esteem and poor body image, have strangers make constant assumptions about our health and habits, be constantly stigmatized, stereotyped and bullied, never have even a moment of peace unless and until we become thin. And what about the fact that being thin will probably never happen for most fat people?  Well then, according to the Dear Abby’s of the world, we should live a joyless life subjected to constant bullying, stigma, stereotypes and oppression, hiding our bodies in shame as penance for having a body that isn’t socially acceptable.

Fat people are not the problem. Fat people in bikinis are not the problem. Fat prejudice is the problem.  People who think that public health means making fat people’s health the public’s business are the problem.  People who advise fat people to internalize the shame, stigma, and bullying they (shouldn’t have to) experience are the problem.  Dear Abby is the problem.  And that’s true whether you think fat people are healthy or not.

Activism Opportunities

Write to Dear Abby (I’m thinking “Dear Abby, I can’t stop being a victim-blaming weight bigot – can you help?)

Leave a comment here

Want more support dealing with a fat phobic world?  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, recordings so you can listen live or on your own time, only $39 with a pay-what-you-can-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

Published in: on August 11, 2014 at 10:00 am  Comments (74)  

Queering Fat Embodiment – An Interview

Queering Fat EmbodimentI am interrupting our usual Marathon Update Sunday because this blog is a stop on the online  tour for the new anthology Queering Fat Embodiment (2014, Ashgate).  For this I did something I’ve never done before and interviewed the lead editor, Cat Pausé who writes Friend of Marilyn:

What made you decide to edit an edition on queering fat embodiment?

One of my co-editors, Samantha Murray, held a Fat Studies conference in Sydney in 2010. After she recovered from everything that comes with running an international conference, she approached me and Jackie Wykes about this edition. Sam knew that Ashgate had a Queer Interventions series, and thought that a book about fatness would be a great edition to the series. Jackie and I agreed, and we moved forward with crafting the book proposal. We pitched it to Ashgate, and were given a contract.

I’m editing The Politics of Size: Perspectives from the Fat-Acceptance Movement at the moment; I’m aware of the amount of work that goes into a work like this…

Oh my goodness, yes. There’s a joke that working with academics is like herding cats, and it is so true. All of the authors that contributed chapters to our collection are amazing, but trying to be in charge of ensuring things are submitted on time, and all using the same referencing style, and what order will best present the material – it was trying at times. Lots of late nights; lots of overnight Skype chats between myself and my co-editors. Once it was done, though, I was ready to go again. I’m thinking an edition about fat and the family might be my next editing project.

Can you explain what it means to queer fat embodiment?

Queer is a heterogeneous and multidisciplinary practice aimed at ‘bringing forth’ and thus denaturalising the taken for granted, the invisible, the normalised. And queering is a methodology (or method) of disrupting the norm. This collection seeks to challenge and destabilise existing ideas of fat and fat embodiment both outside of and within the emerging field of Fat Studies. In queering established ideas about fat bodies, and presenting challenging inquiries/inqueeries into these notions, this collection destabilises established ideas about fat bodies, making explicit the intersectionality of fat identities.

What do you like most about the edition?

I love the variety in the contributing chapters – we have established academics, like Katie LeBesco and Robyn Longhurst, and PhD students, like James Burford. We have pieces, like Katie’s, that are really challenging and complex (I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of size f*cking!), and then other chapters, like mine, that are less theoretical; more applied. I wish we would have been more successful at ensuring that the collection was more intersectional, but I am proud of the final product.

And I understand that you’re promoting the final book through a variety of ways?

We kicked it off with a global launch in Google Hangouts on Air, which was a cool way to have participation from many of the contributors across the world. It also allowed anyone to attend the launch with us online. After the launch, we embarked on a social media book tour. You can find the tour spots (to date) here, and we are adding more every couple of days (if anyone reading would like to be a spot on the tour, just let me know @FOMNZ). We’ve had spots on Facebook, Tumblr, blogs, online magazines, YouTube, etc. It’s been a great way to promote the book across the World Wide Web from the comfort of my couch! J

How can people get their hands on the book?

Honestly? It’s an academic text, so it’s super expensive. You can get a copy of the Introduction Ch by Jackie Wykes on the publisher’s website. It’s a great read and gives a great overview of the topic and the chapters. If you want to read the entire thing, I’d recommend asking your local library to get a copy.

So, what’s next for you?

It’s really exciting to see all the movement in both fat activism and fat studies scholarship. I edited the newest issue of Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society; it’s a special issue on the theme of intersectionality. And I’ve got chapters in two upcoming fat studies edited collections. The first is Fat Sex: New Directions in Theory and Activism, being edited for Ashgate by Caroline Walters and Helen Hester. The other is The Fat Pedagogy Reader: Challenging Weight-Based Oppression in Education, being edited for Peter Lang Publishers by Erin Cameron & Connie Russell. On the activist front, I’m really excited about being a speaker at the upcoming Fat Activism Conference. It’s going to be an amazing three days!

So that’s the interview! What do you think awesome loyal readers – did you like the interview format?  Did you not?  Let me know in the comments!

Speaking of the Fat Activism Conference, it’s going to be epic! 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-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

Published in: on August 10, 2014 at 4:21 pm  Comments (5)  

Dressing Isn’t What’s Ruining Our Salads

Fad DietsI was talking with a friend about vegetables, specifically that in looking at the research eating vegetables is consistently shown to support health but she was struggling with eating them.  The usual disclaimer applies – health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed no matter what we do.  We each get to prioritize our health and choose the path we want to get there and those choices can be limited by things like socioeconomics, access etc.

So she asked me how I get vegetables and I said that one way was salads because I like them and they are fast and easy to prepare.  She said that she likes salads but there’s no point in eating them because she only likes them with dressing.

And that, y’all, is how the diet culture messes us up. In talking with other people who’ve recovered from diet culture, this kind of mentality was a big obstacle to overcome.  The diet world tells us that nothing is ever enough unless it’s the “absolute healthiest” and that we should sacrifice anything and everything without complain, for the chance of becoming thin.

It is in this way that a meal with chicken, roasted root vegetables, salad, and a brownie becomes a minefield. Is that white meat?  Was that chicken cooked with the skin on?  It wasn’t cooked with added fat was it?  Were the vegetables roasted in olive oil? Is it possible to just get them steamed. with no salt? Is that cheese on that salad? Oh god is that ranch dressing?!  Do you have some red wine vinegar and Mrs. Dash?  And do you have some fruit instead of the brownie, actually the fruit probably has too much sugar.  Screw it, I’m going to try to survive on the energy of the universe and the dew from a single leaf. (And a reader has now earned a million points by correctly identifying the source of that quote!)

I’m not interested in telling anybody else what to eat, ever.  I am interested in examining the messages that we get around food from diet culture and the way that those messages affect us.  Going back to my original conversation with my friend, she had bought into the idea that you “ruin a salad” with dressing.  In truth, vegetables have a nutritive value that is not “ruined” or reduced by adding dressing to them.

I think we would all be in a much better place around food if we weren’t told that health is  “all or nothing” and always about “the absolute healthiest” thing. I think that we would be in a better place if  we focused on making supporting our health an additive process rather than a restrictive one.   I think we’d be better off if we looked at supporting our health as a series of choices made for various reasons that are personal and nobody’s business but our own (and those we choose to include.) I think we’d be better off if we stopped confusing the concepts of health/healthy with weight/weightloss.  It’s not the dressing that’s ruining our salads, it’s the messed up diet industry messages around food.

Want more support dealing with a fat phobic world?  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-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

 

Published in: on August 8, 2014 at 8:19 am  Comments (44)  

What Fat People Have to Do

Public HealthAll kinds of things are being floated as things that fat people should have to do either by social pressure or government edict until we are thin (at which point we can ostensibly do whatever the hell we want as long as we don’t get fat again.)  I’ve seen it suggested that we should be forced to exercise, forced to undergo mandatory counseling, forced to have our food and exercise monitored by the government etc.  The media publishes studies with highly questionable research methods funded by corporations which directly benefit from their findings as proof that fat people can’t be trusted to make decisions for ourselves.  It is suggested that completely untested interventions should be made mandatory for all fat people.  That’s how fat people become often unwitting- sometimes obligatory – participants in experimental medicine, sometimes with some truly horrible results and almost always without success.

This is all done under the guise that”fat people need to be healthier for the greater good”.  But upon even a light inspection this falls apart.  First of all, fat is not a behavior or set of behaviors – it’s a body size.  Just like thin isn’t a set of behaviors – it is a body size.  Just like there are fat athletes there are thin couch potatoes.  You can’t look at someone and tell from their body size what their habits are. or how healthy they are.

Upon examination the choice to focus on fat people is, at best, the result of people being incredibly lazy and trying to find a group that is identifiable by sight to study blame things on.   At worst it is simply thinly veiled bigotry.  Anytime we take a group of people who we can identify by sight and then attempt to calculate their cost on society, then create an initiative to eradicate them we are going down a bad road.  Researchers take “everybody knows” size prejudice and solidify it using poor research techniques and confirmation bias.  As Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor found when they reviewed the research around weight and health “Researchers have demonstrated ways in which bias and convention interfere with robust scientific reasoning such that obesity research seems to ‘enjoy special immunity from accepted standards in clinical practice and publishing ethics’”

Researchers base their work on “everybody knows” assumptions without even an attempt to provide proof of these assumptions.  Researchers claim to calculate how much fat people cost in extra fuel, when they don’t even have basic information like how many fat people own cars, and what kind.  The media continues to report that fat people are causing massive increases in healthcare costs when the evidence is clearly to the contrary.

Even if you believe that you can tell that fat people don’t prioritize our health just by looking at us, focusing on fat people is highly questionable when there are so many people who don’t prioritize their health who we celebrate.  We love Olympic athletes, but going 80 miles an hour down an ice track face first does not prioritize health.  We love pro football and basketball players but look what they do to their bodies.  We love our pop stars but the schedule that they keep to go on tour and all the publicity that they do to sell tickets does not prioritize health.

Not to mention that plenty of people don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, don’t look both ways before they cross the street, eat soup while driving, and any number of things that don’t prioritize health, and that for every fat person you can find a thin person with the exact same habits but a different body.  The research shows that healthy habits are the best chance for a healthy body, note that there isn’t a war on sedentary people or a war on people who don’t eat their vegetables – it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that this isn’t about health, but about body size.

Hey, I’ve got an idea – how about if we don’t have wars on people at all.  How about if stop acting like it’s our job to tell people what they “have to do” for their health for the greater good, because that becomes a slippery slope pretty fast. Who gets to dictate what healthy habits fat people, or people in general, “have to” practice – the person who eats paleo?  The one who eats raw foods vegan? The person who believes that people shouldn’t be allowed to play sports because they cause unnecessary injuries?

This is exactly why public health should be about providing options, information and access and not about saying that all people who look a certain way should have to do this or that. Let’s remember that health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control, and that health and healthy habits are not an obligation nor a barometer for worthiness.   Let’s make sure everyone has access to the foods they want to eat, any movement options that they may choose, and affordable evidence-based healthcare.

Then let’s start to spread true information, like the fact that 30 minutes of moderate movement about 5 days a week provides tremendous health benefits to most people but will likely never lead to weight loss.  Of course nobody’s obligated to exercise but it would be nice to have true information about what “exercise” means so that we don’t get fooled by posters at the gym that suggest that we have to be miserable for hours every day to get any health benefit, when the truth is that three 1o minutes sessions a day of dancing around the living room in our underwear would get the job done.

Let’s quit assuming that we can look at someone’s size and know anything about them other than their size and our prejudices about their size.  Let’s stop trying to dictate what fat people “have to do” based on assumptions of what fat people do and don’t do as if that’s not just stereotyping and bigotry.  Let’s start giving everyone options, information, and access, and then respecting people’s individual decisions about prioritization and path for their health.  Voila – public health.

Want more support dealing with a fat phobic world?  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-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

Published in: on August 7, 2014 at 11:12 am  Comments (16)  

Me and My Food

HatersToday a reader alerted me to one of the most ridiculous reddit threads about me that I’ve seen (and in a group that includes lively conversations about my gastrointestinal health and bowel movements, that’s saying something.)  The thread is called “What Does Ragen Claim to Eat” and when I looked at it there were 92 comments.  The thing that makes this particularly ridiculous is that the first comment makes it clear that I never talk about what I eat, but the discussion went on for 91 more comments – some wild speculation, some lies, and a random video of a fat woman who isn’t me cooking something thrown in for good measure.

This is a question that I get a lot, from several groups of people:

Sometimes from the trolling “prove it” crowd whose exaggerated sense of self-importance leads them to believe that I owe them a food log.

Sometimes from people who want to know what I eat because they think I’m an example of doing Health at Every Size “right” and they want to do what I do.

Sometimes from people who are genuinely just curious because what they hear about thermodynamics doesn’t agree with what they experience or see.

It doesn’t matter what their intentions are, it’s still not something that I’m going to discuss.  There are plenty of reasons.

The most simple reason is because it’s not anybody’s business and I’m not required to discuss anything ever.  But I do talk about plenty of things that aren’t necessarily anybody’s business, so why don’t I talk about food?

Because it typically leads to food policing which I have no  interest in dealing with, in large part because it just takes away too much time from activism work that I want to do. Sometimes people who don’t have to deal with internet trolls on a daily basis naively think that talking about what I eat will prove something or somehow shut them up. It’s a nice thought, but it’s not how trolls work.

Because I don’t want to take part in our society’s insistence that we make eating into a performance, up to and including subscribing to a code of morality around food that I don’t think is healthy.

Mostly though, it’s because my personal food choices are just that – personal, not political.  They are based on my tastes, my history with food and eating,  my nutritional needs, my access, and my privileges. So are everyone else’s and, as such, I’m not that interested in what other people eat unless they want to share a recipe or a bite of something awesome, or I can help them get access to information or food.  The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not food log dependent.

We each get to make choices about what food we eat (choices that can be limited by our situation, income, access etc.) and those choices shouldn’t be anyone else’s business unless we choose to make them their business.

If you are looking for support around food and food choices from a Body Positive, Health at Every Size Perspective, there are lots of professionals to choose from, Golda at Body Love Wellness, Michelle at The Fat Nutritionist, and Soolman Nutrition and Wellness are a good place to start that work with people using online programs. (I’m sure I’m missing some great folks, please feel to leave them in the comments as long as you are SURE that they are from a FA/HAES perspective).

I think that when it comes to nutrition we should confine ourselves to making decisions for ourselves and, if we are interested in helping others then we can work to make sure that people have access to neutral, unbiased information and access to the foods that they would choose to eat.  And while we’re at it, we can work to dismantle our culture’s messed up messages about food.

Alternately, if you want to spend your time wildly speculating about what I eat, there’s always reddit…

What does Ragen Chastain Claim to Eat

 

 

 

Want more support dealing with a fat phobic world?  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-afford option to make it accessible to as many people as possible.  Check it out!

Book Me!  I give talks all across the country about self-esteem, body image, health and wellness for people of size and more, and I’d love to speak 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 reviews 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 

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

Published in: on August 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm  Comments (35)  

Refusing to Feel Bad

Kelrick and I at the Seattle Marathon finish line with our hard won medals.

Kelrick and I at the Seattle Marathon finish line with our hard won medals.

One of the common tactics that people use to bully fat people – whether it’s for fun or profit – is to make sure that we never feel good about anything – not our bodies, not our achievements, nothing, ever.

One way this is done is by insisting that there is “no excuse” for not prioritizing the manipulation of our body size.  Sometimes this technique is about “aesthetics” (like the way that we choose so many of our singers, actors, dancers, administrative assistants etc. based on their ability to approximate our current stereotype of beauty first and their talent second.) Sometimes it’s used with a side of concern trolling (as in “I’m just concerned about your health so I want to make sure that you hate yourself and never have a moment’s peace, you know, for your own good.)

Another way that this is done is by trying to downplay or negate any and all of our achievements.  You see this a lot with internet trolls on any post where a fat person dares to be successful at something other than weight loss.  What made me think about this today was a series of posts from my trolls on my Facebook trying to make me feel bad about my marathon time, and a series of e-mails that were sent to me depicting pictures of people more flexible than I am, I assume trying to make me feel bad about the fact that I can do the splits and a standing heel stretch? My haters are usually pretty pathetic in their attempts, but I’ve seen it happen time and again to fat people who talk about something that they’ve achieved, that they are excited about, that they are proud of, and the onslaught of trolls insisting that fat people don’t deserve to be happy or proud of anything ends up souring the whole experience.  I’m not interested in giving those kinds of people that kind of power.

I think it’s important to remember that these are people who their bullying and stigmatizing of fat people for profit (people who hate themselves are more likely to buy things that promise they will confer self-love) or because putting other people down makes them feel better about themselves, or for some other reason – it doesn’t really matter why.

There is a solution that I’ve found to be quite effective – I just refuse to feel bad. I’m proud that I finished a marathon, I was dead last, it took me almost 13 hours, and I’m still very proud.  I’m proud of my splits and standing heel stretch and the fact that there are people who are more flexible than I am doesn’t take away from that.  I almost always round up my age, weight, and marathon time just to subvert the message that I should want all three of those numbers to be as low as possible.

Knowing that we live in a world that bullies, stigmatizes, and oppresses fat people I make the conscious choice that I don’t care how many messages I get that I shouldn’t love or take pride in my body until it looks a certain way, I love my body, I’m proud of my body and I’m never, ever going to let anyone harm that relationship, and I’m proud of my achievements.

We may not be able to stop people from trying to shame, stigmatize and bully us, but we don’t have to buy what they’re selling, and by refusing to care what they say or think we take away their power.  So the next time you find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to make you feel like crap, maybe try this little mantra “I see what you’re doing, and I refuse to feel bad.”

Want more support dealing with a fat phobic world?  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-afford 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

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!

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 August 4, 2014 at 8:30 am  Comments (14)