It Starts with a Guess and Ends with a Revolution

It starts with a guess:  “I know that you don’t take care of your body because you are fat”

Then add an assumption: “You eat tons of junk food and don’t exercise”

Now make a judgment “You are lazy and don’t care about your body”

Confuse your experience with everyone’s experience:  “I once gained 10 pounds after I got in a fight with my boyfriend and I was able to lose it by drinking two chocolate shakes for breakfast and lunch and eating a tiny dinner.”

Draw an illogical conclusion:  “Since I lost 10 pounds on my first ever diet, you can lose 200 pounds on your 20th diet by doing what I did just for a longer period of time”

Confuse correlation and causation:  “Besides, if you don’t lose weight, you’ll get diabetes.”

Repeat something you’ve heard a lot but never taken the time to verify:  “Plus you cost the workplace billions of dollars –won’t somebody think of the tax dollars!”

Loudly misinterpret the concept of personal responsibility “You are personally responsible for looking how I want you to look and doing what I want you to do or there should be consequences!”

Make a broad sweeping generalization:  “Health at Every Size?  It’s just like a fatty to eat Twinkies all day and call it healthy.”

Try to tell other people what they need to do with their bodies: “I don’t know how much you’re eating or how much exercise you’re doing and I don’t care – you need to eat less and exercise more.”

Insist that we don’t get to tell you what to do with your body:  “It doesn’t matter that I partake in all the behaviors that I criticize in fat people, I’m at a healthy weight so as long as I’m thin I can do whatever I want.”

Ignore the facts and insult people:  “What do you mean there are unhealthy thin people and healthy fat people?  I don’t want to hear about these studies and this science – quit wasting your time justifying your fatness and do something about it.”

Become frustrated and call me names:  “Shut up, you’re just a big fat fatty fat pants.”

Repeat this conversation so often that people start to believe that it’s true.

I see this line of “logic” all the time and once you start to dig, you realize that it’s a house of cards built on a foundation of toothpicks.

First, if your argument starts with a guess then it doesn’t really matter what you say afterwards.  You absolutely cannot look at someone’s body and glean any information other than the size of their body, and what your feelings about that size of a body are.

Second, unless you are starting a campaign against Iron Man Triathletes, climbing Everest, sedentary thin people, and jaywalkers, (because none of these activities prioritize health) then you don’t get to pick on fat people.  Of course, none of it is actually your business at all.  You always have the right to remain silent, what you seem to lack is the capacity – maybe work on that.  Repeat after me:  Other people’s bodies are none of my business.

Most of this could be solved if people were self aware enough to honestly answer the question ” Do I actually know what I’m talking about or am I repeating things that I’ve never verified for myself” and “Would I want to be treated the way that I’m treating this group of people.” But most people either can’t or won’t be this introspective. So as a fat person this isn’t my issue per se, but it becomes my problem.  For me it helps to remind myself how utterly ridiculous this whole thing is and how much of it is based on someone guessing, assuming, misinterpreting, repeating without verifying, and just being an ass.

There is a revolution happening, but there are no guns or knives, and very few epic battles.  It’s a revolution of tiny acts.  In the culture we live in, every act of liking ourselves is revolutionary.  Get out of bed and don’t hate yourself – you are a revolutionary.  Go on a walk and enjoy moving your body (despite the possibility of having to deal with idiots)?  You are a revolutionary.  Enjoyed your lunch without guilt?  Viva la revolution!  Rest assured, all of these acts are adding up.  More people see what we are doing and choose to step away from the self-hate everyday, and soon all of the assuming, misinterpreting, repeating, asses in the world won’t be able to stop us.  It’s a fatty uprising, join in!

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Why Not Just Give Fatties Crack?

In this LA Times Article a judge sentenced a man to jail time for driving with a suspended license and then told him that she would let him out a day early for every pound he lost.  According to the article:

He had discussed his desire to lose weight with Miller in court while asking her to delay his jail stay for a week so he could retrieve his prescription medicine for high blood pressure.

She imposed a 29-day sentence and offered to assess his weight-loss commitment after 20 days behind bars. He credited his weight loss and nine-day reprieve to encouragement from detention deputies, bland jail food and Miller.

Put another way, in order to get out of jail, he went on a starvation diet (“he limited his intake mostly to vegetables on his dinner tray”) and lost 25 pounds in 20 days.  The judges response, contained in a personal note that she wrote to him upon release was a’Good job, Mr. McCovery!”

So I guess maybe the “vegetables on his plate” included tofu or legumes or something to give him protein over the 20 days, but it’s more likely that they were canned, devoid of most nutrients, and that a combination of starving and dehydration led to the weight loss.

How misguided is this?  Let me count the ways…

People want to get out of jail pretty badly – let’s not encourage them to starve themselves so that they can go home and act like we’re helping them with their health. And if we’re the detention deputies, let’s not encourage starvation.  And when they do starve themselves, let’s not tell them “hey, awesome job with that starvation, keep it up!”

This is what The Biggest Loser has wrought. We encourage and praise fat people as “working on their health” for the exact same behavior that we treat as a dangerous eating disorder in thin people.

This is what happens when we treat weight loss as the primary goal instead of as the possible, typically temporary,  side effect that it actually is.  Weight loss doesn’t cure anything.  Weight loss just makes you smaller, (and 95% of the time that’s temporary).  Weight loss is not the answer.  Health interventions improve your health (and may or may not have a side effect of weight loss that may or may not be temporary).

If  losing weight by any means necessary makes us healthier then we should just hand out crack to fat people.  It makes as much sense as starving us and injecting us with a hormone derived from preganant women’s urine. It also makes as much sense as acting like the hormone injections are what leads to weight loss and not the fact that people are on a 500 calorie starvation diet that would have a thin person in treatment for an eating disorder.

Fat is not a diagnosis and weight loss is not a treatment protocol and we should not prescribe for some what we treat in others.  Fat is a body size and weight loss is an attempt at changing that body size and starving is starving no matter what your weight.  That is why we don’t just give fatties crack and is exactly the reason why we need to take weight out of the discussion of public health and make health the topic of discussion around public health.

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Not a Leprechaun, Just a Fat Athlete

The athletic fatty – not a mythical creature. Photo by Richard Sabel who taught me the joys of taking off from and landing on concrete covered with a sheet.

I am a fit fat person.  When people find out about this they will typically do one of three things.

1.  Deny what is right in front of them.  I was being discussed in a fat hate forum and someone posted one of my dance videos.  Another person on the forum said – “She’s definitely a fattass [sic] but I think it’s probably difficult to spin that fast that many times in a row.” Not even able to accept this half and half compliment/insult someone replied “If she’s doing it, it can’t be hard”.  I have to admire their consistency and willingness to stick by a belief that is obviously wrong.  Wait…no I don’t. Bite me.

2.  Acknowledge that they’ve been stereotyping and re-evaluate their world view.  Ding! Ding! Ding! This is the right answer.  Although we would also have accepted minding your own damn business and keeping your judgments and stereotypes to yourself.

3.  Try to find a way to deal with my existence while hanging onto their stereotype.  This is the one I  want to talk about today.

I like to call this Leprechaun Syndrome (there are actual psychological terms for this but I just finished a 13 hour drive so we’re going with Leprechaun Syndrome – just roll with it).  It’s as if they’ve seen a creature that they previously thought was mythical.  They can accept that this one Leprechaun exists and maybe a couple more, but that’s definitely it – they are right about all the rest of them not being real.  It sounds something like this “Maybe you are fit and fat, but you are the exception – most fat people are lazy slobs who don’t exercise…blah blah blah”.

Allow me to translate “I can’t deny your existence, but I don’t want to question my stereotypes because I like them.  So I choose to believe that you are a rare exception to the fatties who I will continue to stereotype, judge and shame because I so enjoy it (or because I just accept other people’s stereotypes without question, or because it makes me feel better about myself…whatever).”

First of all, you have no idea what “most fat people” do, you are making that up in your head.  There are a bunch of active fat people – we are not mythical creatures. we don’t all have pet unicorns that poop rainbows on our lawns.  We’re just active fatties.

If you’re confused about this I understand.  When I first found out that I was “Type 3 – Super Obese” according to the BMI chart, I eagerly checked my mail everyday for a month waiting for my cape and secret identity to arrive.  That never happened – it turns out that I’m just fat.  And it turns out that fat (even “Super Obese” is just a body size and not conformity to a list of negative stereotypes, or a lack of kinesthetic awareness, proprioception, or general athleticism.  My body is big, so by looking at me you can tell that…wait for it… my body is big.  The only other thing that you can ascertain is what your judgments and stereotypes about people my size are – but that’s for you to deal with.   I’m still thinking about making that cape and wondering if I could rock Clark Kent glasses…

If I’m an exception it has much less to do with my body size and much more to do with my ability to persevere in being active despite all of the negative messages that I’m constantly given about my body – that I am obviously  lazy and un-athletic, that the same people who insist that I should exercise to lose weight then claim that they don’t want to see me work out.  Then there’s the guessing – I was visiting my mom last week and so I worked out at a gym in her town and took a “dance fit” class.  The front desk attendant showed me to the workout room and then said “Be sure to tell the teacher that you are new to exercise so that he can help you modify.”  “What would make you think that I’m new to exercise?” I asked?  She gave me a perplexed look and then gestured to my body.  “So,” I said, slightly raising my voice, “We’re just looking at people and making guesses now – you couldn’t have asked me a question?” She just said “Have a good workout” as she speedwalked away.  Now, I got my revenge at the end of class when students came up to compliment me and one of them jokingly asked for my autograph.  But that doesn’t take away from how unbelievably frustrating it is to still have people assume that I’m new to exercise when I’ve been doing it consistently since I was in the 4th grade, or to have people “encourage” that if I stick to it I’ll  “definitely lose that weight”, or to have some idiot in a coffee shop tell me that my size makes it too dangerous to dance. Even from a purely practical standpoint, it’s next to impossible for me to get affordable decent workout clothes in my size.  If I’m an exception it’s because I’m willing to play against a stacked deck, not because I can haul my fat ass around the dance floor – plenty of fatties can do that and plenty more could if given a chance to enjoy it without fear of being shamed or ridiculed.

Most of the thin people I know struggle to fit movement into their busy schedules.  Imagine having to do that while buried under a constant stream of negativity.  It may well be a miracle that fat people are choosing to be active  but it has nothing to do with our fat and everything to do with the social stigma that gets lobbed at us from every side all the time. And we know that weight loss is not the cure for social stigma.  Ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma.

While I invite people to rethink their stereotypes about active fat people, as usual I’m much less concerned about what other people think of fat people being active and much more concerned with what fat people think about fat people being active.  If you want to do more movement or be more active, then find a way – over, under, around, or through the completely whackadoodle criticisms and stereotypes that you SHOULD NOT have to deal with.  If you want to be an active fatty but you let these idiots stop you from enjoying moving your body, you are the only one who is missing out. Dance in your living room, get a group of friends together to dance in your living room or go for a swim or do yoga or take a walk – whatever you want to do. Check out Jeanette DePatie, Abby Lentz, Anna Guest-Jelley, Kelly Bliss, and Tiina Veer.  ( By the way, I’m still looking for music for my online dance classe sso  if you know of a singer/songwriter, band etc. who has the rights to their music and would like them used for my classes pretty please send them my way ragen at dances with fat dot org).

When it comes to moving our bodies,  judgmental morons only have as much power over us as we give them. These people are like evil Tinkerbells – instead of needing applause to live, they need our pain and our shame.  I say we stop giving it to them, taking our happy fat asses out for whatever movement that we enjoy, and see what happens. Bees die without their stingers, maybe judgmental assholes (or at least their judgments) do too.  I’m willing to find out.

EDIT: Sometimes people  read my work and interpret it as somehow suggesting that in order to deserve respect, or to be part of size acceptance, one must choose health or healthy habits or fitness. Of course people are allowed to choose to interpret my work as they wish and I’m not interested in telling anyone how to think.   Though I have now addressed this subject very specifically a number of times,  I did not always  do a good job of expressing it in earlier blogs like this one. If you are wondering about my views on this subject I suggest the following post as a start:

https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/health-and-size-acceptance/

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Not Yours for the Metaphoring

I have had about enough of fat bodies being used to represent everything from  greed to laziness to a supposed health crisis.  Pictures of headless fatties – who were typically not compensated or asked for their permission – litter the internet accompanying articles about rising healthcare costs (even though the CBO’s independent report showed that we’re not the issue), representing over-consumption of fast-food, even though there is no proof that fat people eat any more fast food than people of other sizes.  Our bodies are freely used for whatever the negative metaphor, comparison, or representation of the day is.  As if we have no feelings about seeing people who look like us constantly used to represent everything bad in the world, as if those feelings aren’t important.

People don’t take care of things that they don’t think are worthy of care, and so I consider the use of headless fatty pictures – which are designed to show fat bodies as shameful and bad –  to be detrimental to public health.

Our bodies are not yours to photograph and throw all over the internet as a metaphor for anything.  We are PEOPLE, these are our BODIES, and EVERY BODY deserves respect.

Of course we each get to choose how to deal with our oppression and nobody is under any obligation to do it as I’m suggesting.  I propose a little bit of simple at-home activism.  Every time you see a picture of a headless fatty on the internet representing something negative, leave a comment like “No More Headless Fatties – Every Body Deserves Respect!” If you want to take it one step further send an e-mail to the source of the story – tell them your personal story, send them this blog whatever, but let’s teach people that this behavior isn’t ok.  Also, I’ve found that this kind of activism can reframe this issue for me – now instead of feeling angry or hurt or ashamed when I see a headless fatty picture, I can look at it as a chance to educate and stand up for myself.

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

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Different Dreams

I’ve spent this Thanksgiving with my Mom, which is a great reminder that I have the absolute best Mom every in the history of moms. She has always supported me in doing whatever I wanted to do.

When I gave up the opportunity to go to school for pre-law and decided to see if I wanted to be an orchestral clarinetist (the answer turned out to be no) my Mom didn’t even blink before supporting me.  Contrast this sharply with my friend’s moms, some of whom had actually refused to pay for my friend’s school unless they studied something of which the parents approved.  It happens reasonably often that parents have different dreams for their kids than the kids have for themselves.

The brilliant Virginia Sole-Smith from the Beauty Schooled Project sent me this article [trigger warning – weight loss talk] about a woman who was a very accomplished yogi who turned to a personal trainer to be thinner for her wedding.  I started processing through all of my feelings about this article, basically a lot of the feelings that I have whenever someone I know chooses weight loss.  I realized that what it boils down to, is that I have different dreams for these people than they have for themselves based on what I believe to be true.  And while it’s fine for me to ponder that in my head, it’s not my place to tell them that their dreams for themselves are wrong.

And I think that this is what happens a lot when people feel the need to tell me that I should lose weight, that my path to health is wrong, that my life be easier if I were thin, or whatever.  These people have different dreams for me than I have for myself because of what they believe.  And it’s ok for them to believe whatever and have those different dreams for me, but I’m not ok with them to unburdening their dreams on me – they either need to get on board and support my dreams, or learn to live with [silent] disappointment.

It turns out that dreams are like underpants – you are the boss of your own and nobody else’s.

This blog is supported by voluntary reader subscription rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription. The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Fat with a Side of Mixed Messages

As a fat person today, we live in a culture that gives us an unbelievable number of mixed messages. Some are nuanced and some are obvious but they are all correctable. Let’s look at some.

Your body makes you unattractive and unhealthy. You should be ashamed of the reflection that you see. Now, go take good care of your body!

I think that this one is the most prevalent. People don’t take care of things they hate whether it’s an ugly gift from their mother in law or their bodies. People don’t hate themselves healthy. People don’t care for something that they don’t think is worthy of care. Shut up already. Everybody is beautiful and amazing and if you disagree please feel free to apply your beliefs to your own body and leave the rest of us alone.

We are fighting a war against you. Say thank you, it’s for your own good!

Around here we call this “Pulling a Jillian”. Abuse is never, ever, called for. Wars have casualties and if you are fighting in the war against obesity then you’d better be ready to accept responsibilities for the injuries (mental and physical), deaths and collateral damage you leave in your wake. Or, you could fight for healthy options instead of against fat people all the while making choices for yourself and letting other people make choices for themselves.

When you go to the doctor they will humiliate you and provide subpar treatment. Now stop being such a drain on the healthcare system.

According to research from Yale over 50% of doctors find their fat patients awkward, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment. This leads to fat people getting less time with the doctor and less respect. Often doctors will ignore whatever we came in for, do absolutely not diagnostic work, diagnose us as fat, give us a treatment protocol of weight loss and send us on our way.  I’m not too worried about being a drain on a healthcare system that treats me like yesterday’s bedpans.

If you don’t work out, we will complain that you are sedentary.  If you do work out, we will make fun of you for how you look working out.  Now, go out there and exercise because it’s good for your health!

Why is it always the same people who assume (outloud) that I don’t exercise who also have a problem with how I look when I exercise?  I would prefer that they just shut up but at minimum they should probably choose one or the other.

Speaking of shutting up, if you’re one of the people giving these mixed messages, how about doing that? You are not the Underpants Overlord so if you spend a whole lot more time being the boss or your underpants and a whole lot less time trying to be the boss of other people’s I’ll bet everyone will be happier!

This blog is supported by voluntary reader subscription rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support the author’s work and activism, please consider a paid subscription. The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading!

Dating Fat

When Darryl Roberts interviewed me for the documentary America the Beautiful 2 he asked me a lot of really good questions to which I had ready answers, but he asked me one that I stumbled with  – he asked me if dating would be easier if I were thin.

The answer I gave him was that it was a good screening process.  Those who want to date me have overcome the cultural brainwashing that says that “fat is bad” and I think that’s a big deal because I don’t want to date someone who will just follow the status quo.  It means that I won’t date someone who treats women like a prize, these idiots who say that they “deserve” a hot girl (where “hot” means fitting the cultural stereotype of beauty).  It means that when I find my future partner I’ll have a really good chance of avoiding that thing that happens when someone’s “perfect wedding body” changes as the marriage moves forward.  Those are all true and they are all upsides but there are also some difficulties and I think it’s important to get them out in the open and talk about them.

Let’s preface this with the fact that I know plenty of thin people who struggle with dating.  I don’t think that being thin is the magic bean that grows the marriage beanstalk.  But there are some issues that happen with fat dating that I want to talk about.

As a fat woman I know that my potential partners live in a culture that tells them that no amount of achievement, education, personality, flexibility etc. can overcome the supposed sin of having a large body, a culture that suggests that you can tell by looking at me that I am lazy and weak-willed and unhealthy.  I also know that this standard is arbitrary since when my mom was in Mali, West Africa with the Peace Corps she received marriage proposals for me almost every day, and men promised her everything in the world to try to convince her that I should marry them. Were I born in another time or place, I would be the standard of beauty.

So I think it’s important to realize that there is a nothing wrong with our bodies that a little culture shift can’t fix. Still here we are, with a dating pool inundated with the message that fat=bad.

Recently a dating company exclusively for married people looking to have an affair posted an ad with a picture of a fat woman that said “Does your wife scare you at night?” with their slogan “Life is short, have an affair.” The model, who was “under the impression at the time that people purchasing these photos from the photographer would be doing so for their own personal use”, said “I am mortified that my image and likeness would be used as advertisement for two things I am so vehemently against: namely cheating and, to an even greater extent, body shaming.”  But there’s this dating site, trying to profit by telling men married to fat women that they “deserve” an affair.  Keep it classy.

I imagine that all of this makes it Christmas every day for the diet industry since it likely drives people back to them time and again, people who might otherwise look at their 5% success rate and say “Thanks but no thanks”.  I wonder how far this idea that you must be thin to get a mate sets the Health at Every Size movement back?  I know people who have admitted to doing unhealthy things to their bodies to be thin in the hopes of finding a partner.  (And I worry that if they succeed they are setting themselves up for heartbreak in five years when they’ve gained the weight back).

But the culture doesn’t just affect potential dating partners, it affects us as well.

A recent scene from Glee illustrated one of the issues (note, if you haven’t seen the episode The First Time you might want to skip this paragraph for spoilers.)  Shannon Bieste is the large, not stereotypically beautiful football caoch played by the amazing Dot-Marie Jones.  She is a 40 year old virgin.  A traditionally attractive male recruiter is interested in her and keeps trying to ask her out but she doesn’t realize it.  When he finally very specifically asks her on a date, she is immediately suspicious that someone has “put him up to it” and can’t imagine why he wants her when he could have “any pretty woman he points at” and ends up crying.

When people who look like you are used as the to show what is unattractive and a reason to cheat, it can mess you up around dating,  and make you suspicious of someone who wants to date outside the cultural norm.  I know fat people who’ve been asked on dates as jokes.  The classic “wing-man” story is the guy who “takes one for the team” and spends the night with the fat friend.  The dating site that must not be named would like you to believe that having a fat wife is a good reason to break your marriage vows.  It’s not paranoia if they’re actually after you, and so those who want to date a fat person in this culture may have to be ready to work through some of that, and those who are fat in this culture might do well to examine how it is affecting them.

Then there are our own standards when we decide who we date.  I’ll speak for myself on this one.  I will not date anyone who is interested in me in spite of my body. I was part of a dating experiment that a grad student was doing and we self-selected into one of three groups.  A group who made being fat the first thing that they talked about on their profile, a group who made it part of the profile but not the first thing, and a third group who avoided telling people that they were fat until it became unavoidable.  In discussions that we had, the women in group three believed that their only chance was to get someone to fall in love with their personality enough to overlook their bodies.

If it works for them that’s completely cool, but before I will date someone who feels that my body needs to be overlooked I will get a bunch of rescue Great Danes and grow old as the crazy dog lady, you know what I saying?  On the other hand I’m not willing to date someone who only loves me for my body.  With some regularity I get e-mails from guys (I’ve so far only received them from men) saying something to the effect of “I didn’t read the blog but I saw your picture and you are just so damn hot, let’s get it on”.  Um, no.

So my truth is that being fat may indeed make dating harder.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m trying to get thin. My options are to try something that fails 95% of the time and is most likely to leave me less healthy than I am now in the hopes of getting a mate who wouldn’t consider dating me as I am and then rolling the dice that they won’t leave me if I am one of the 95% who gains their weight back. Or, I can hold out for someone who is interested in all of me.  I choose option two.

By way of inspiration, if you’re in an awesome relationship then today might be a great day to leave a comment and tell us about it!  Also, check out the Museum of Fat Love (thanks to reader Petra for finding the link!)

This blog is supported by voluntary reader subscription rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support the author’s work and activism, please consider a paid subscription. The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading!