I don’t typically rant two days in a row, but…I was lucky enough to be part of a panel yesterday on Alberta Primetime. The panel included obesity researcher Dr. Arya Sharma, and reality show personal trainer Paul Plakas. You can see the entire segment here [trigger warning for fat bashing and headless fatties]. They were asking questions about whether it’s ok to be fat. Let me answer that right now: Yes, it’s ok to be fat.
Dr. Sharma spoke out strongly against stereotyping and stigmatizing of people of size and was honest that we don’t have interventions that are shown to change body size long term. And then there was Paul.
Paul started out by saying [Note that the block quotes may be triggering, you can skip them and this blog will still make sense]:
When you’re like sort of class 2 class 3 morbidly obese there’s really no advantage to being that overweight and nobody is comfortable moving around on this planet at this weight cause they have to move against gravity and moving that size of body against gravity is very difficult. You are limited in the freedom of what you’re able to do and you lose basic function – life activities like having sex, tying your shoes, walking around the block or walking up one flight of stairs becomes vigorous…The people who are 100 pounds 200 pounds overweight it’s not so much just a health concern it’s also a quality of life concern they’re missing out on a number of things they be doing in this world.
I interrupted and said “What Paul is saying does not apply to me”
Then he interrupted me and said “I beg to differ.”
No, seriously. Paul disagreed WITH ME about what I SAID does and does not apply TO ME. Note I wasn’t trying to speak for everyone else, just for myself. Paul actually thinks that he is a better witness to my experience than I am, and he thinks it out loud. Kindly note that he has never even met me. He went on to tell me more about me that I, apparently, don’t know:
There’s a lot of things you can’t do because of your weight. [I mention that I’m a three-time National Dance Champion] You’re a three time national champion dancer at this weight? There’s no way. I’ve seen your videos on YouTube and I think you’re an average dancer at best. [Note: A search to find Paul’s accreditation as a ballroom dance judge yielded no results] I’m just saying that you’re missing out on a lot of things because of you’re weight and that surely there’s a lot of things you’ve encountered that you can’t do because of your weight.
So I thought that it would be nice to offer Paul some evidence that refutes his claim, speaking just for myself of course. (If you’re up for a little size diversity activism you are welcome to help me give Paul a chance to rethink his stereotypes and bigotry by e-mailing your fatty living life pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them in the comments here.)
Let’s start with the three things that he claims I can’t do:
I guess I’ll have to choose a shoe-tying method:
Stairs. I live up two flights of them so there’s that. Also, remember that time I climbed 180 stairs completely cold in a skirt and dress shoes? Except that couldn’t have happened because Paul Plakas, celebrity personal trainer, says that just one flight of stairs is an effort for me and, of course, Paul knows me best. Of course if I could not climb stairs I would still be a good and worthy person and could still live a full life even though some idiot might think it’s ok to shame me for being disabled.
Sex. Not for nothing, but I can do the splits – just sayin’.
But what about all these “a lot of things” that Paul insists I’m missing out on. I got to thinking if I was thin maybe I could (Warning – ego run amok to make a point for the rest of this paragraph) play Carnegie Hall, consult for a Fortune 100 company, win 3 National Dance Championships, be the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporate conglomerate, rehabilitate and re-home aggressive dogs, be hired to speak at Ivy League Universities, at Google, start my own dance company, start three successful businesses, attend the New York and LA premieres of a movie in which I am featured, publish three books, be featured in National Magazines as a role model, be in a wonderful loving relationship, be part of a photo shoot where I do the splits on Wallstreet, write a blog that results in getting fan mail every day, go to the beach in a bikini, go to Disney World for a week with my Best Friend, help start a Fit Fatties Forum that almost 1,000 people have joined, be one of the 2 in 10 women who actually like their bodies.
Then I realized – hey, I did/do all of those things already. Wait – I think Paul Plakas is full of crap. Then I remembered he is also the person who suggested that we take away mobilities aids that allow people of all sizes with disabilities to navigate the world, to make the world less easy for fat people.
So if people are missing out on life experiences maybe it’s because when they try to experience life some jackass shames them and tries to take away their mobility aid, or their shoe-tying aid, or whatever they need to navigate the word. But I realize that Paul’s income depends on fat people hating their bodies and paying him for a solution that every study says will fail the majority of time in the long term, so I can see how he’s in a tough spot. Still that doesn’t mean that Paul gets to make shit up and replace my actual experiences with his made up ones.
As fat people there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there about us. And many of them are perpetuated by people, like Paul, who profit from them. We can do something about this. We can go do the things we want to do, we can insist on being accommodated, we can love our bodies and our lives and we can talk about that and refuse to allow others to speak for us. And we can e-mail Paul pictures of fatties experiencing life at email@example.com
We can also get support:
If you’re looking for support about fitness from a weight-neutral perspective, check out the fit fatties forum (it’s totally free)
If you’re struggling with the message that you aren’t worthy of love until you are thin, check out this video.
If you want support in spreading body positivity around the internet, check out the Rolls Not Trolls community.
If you are looking for a personal trainer or book and video about fitness from someone who is knowledgeable and not a jackass, checkout Jeanette DePatie of TheFatChick.com
Let’s support each other and if they want a war on obesity, let’s give them one.
Like the blog? Here’s more of my stuff:
Interviews with Amazing Activists!! Help Activists tell our movement’s history in their own words. Support In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History Project!
Become a member: For just ten bucks a month you can keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details
The 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