Katie Hopkins is Bigot

OrganizeKatie Hopkins, a former contestant on The Apprentice UK, made news today saying that she would not hire an obese person.  Charmingly, she didn’t just make this declaration in general but rather chose to tell a woman who was sharing her experience of discrimination in her job search. Before the show Katie tweeted “A 24 stone individual does not ‘fit’ my business.”  See what she did there – with weight and the word “fit?”  Katie is oh so clever, which she probably credits to being thin.

Help me out, what’s the word that means making judgments about, and taking opportunities away from, people based on how they look? Oh right, it’s bigotry.  Pure and simple.

But wait…there’s more.

Katie explains that it’s not just her own bigotry that would make her deny employment to someone based on their size and regardless of their qualifications… it’s the perceived possible bigotry of her clients.  “Would I want to put someone in front of a client who looks like this? Do they look dynamic? Do they look disciplined? Do they look highly efficient? Well, no, speaking frankly. And therefore, Jay wouldn’t be someone that I would employ.”

Katie is really putting the ass in classy.  I have to wonder if her willingness to appease bigotry extends only to clients who are size bigots, or does it extend to other forms of bigotry as well?  Who else isn’t Katie hiring because she’s afraid that they will cause her bigoted clients to have to get over themselves?  Why is anyone in the world ok with this?

Even if someone believes that weight loss is possible and laudable, surely they don’t believe it’s possible overnight. By these people’s estimation are fat people are just supposed to stay unemployed until we reach a level at which bigoted people will perceive them as dynamic and disciplined? Digging through our couch cushions for money to pay for our Weight Watchers meetingx?  Or, regardless of our talents, education, and qualifications, should we find a job where nobody can see us until Katie thinks we look dynamic enough?

If you live in Michigan your state laws offer you some protection.  Almost everywhere else in the United States this type of hiring discrimination is completely legal.

People seem to think that this is ok because they have a negative view of fat people, and because they think that if they have a negative view of someone then that person deserves to be discriminated against in hiring situations.  And that’s a point of view that I think should absolutely terrify people.

Perhaps Katie is a common bigot and she is proud of it, or perhaps Katie is an attention junkie desperate for some media attention and she’s doing it on the backs of fat people.  I don’t believe that all publicity is good publicity, I do believe in calling out bigotry when I see it and man do I see it here.  I can only hope that this kind of bare, unadulterated bigotry will help people see why the way that we treat fat people needs to change quickly and completely.

If you are in the Massachusetts area you can come here me speak or take dance class with me – these are free and open to the public today (Thursday):

Every Body Dance Workshop @ 3:00pm in Recreation Center, UMass Amherst

The Positive Body @ 7:30pm in Student Union Ballroom, UMass Amherst

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details

Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

 

 

The BS of BMI Report Cards

grade on curveSeveral readers sent me news stories today about how Massachusetts schools are now testing the Body Mass Index (BMI) of students and sending letters home to parents letting them know if their child’s BMI is “too high” or “too low” and suggesting that they see a medical professional to help their child get to a “healthy weight.” Charming. Let’s look at some of the many, many reasons that this is a bad idea.

First of all, putting the focus on kids’ weight is a horrible idea. According to research from the University of Minnesota “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors.”  In the last decade hospitalizations for eating disorders for kids under 12 are up 119%.  Kids.  Under.  Twelve.  Kids are plenty focused on their weight – they don’t need the Massachusetts government’s help.  Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity research, said “I don’t think that it’s the role of the school to be the schoolyard bully. These six- and seven- and eight-year-olds who are going to get letters sent home, they’re not suffering from an epidemic loss of willpower. We’re not dealing with that here…Simply putting it on the kids is putting them at increased risk for bullying and increased risk for pressures at home.” I agree.

A focus on weight as a substitute for health does disservice to kids of all sizes because of the “healthy weight” fallacy.  When we try to make body size a middle man for health we tell fat kids that their healthy habits don’t make them healthier unless they make them thin (which is not what the evidence suggests), and we tell thin kids that they are healthy because of their size and regardless of their habits (which is also not what the evidence suggests.)

The use of BMI is another issue here.  BMI is always problematic as a health measurement predominantly because it’s, well,  not a health measurement – someone’s weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared is NOT a health measurement. BMI was created as a tool for statistical analysis of the average body size of large populations.  It was never meant to be used as a health measurement at all, let alone for individuals.  As a simple ratio of weight and height BMI doesn’t take into account any actual health measurements, body composition (Tom Cruise is obese based on the BMI scale), or anything other than weight and height.  So again, even if someone believes that being fat is bad, BMI would still not be a good tool to use.

It’s even more problematic with kids than with adults because it completely fails to acknowledge not just a natural diversity of body sizes and body compositions, but also natural fluctuations in kids’ weight. If a kid gets their BMI report card taken when they’ve put on weight before a growth spurt, and their parents take them to a doctor who puts them on an diet and restricts their calories, how does that affect the kid’s growth and health? Since dieting hardly ever works, these programs are using other measures of success, one of which is an INCREASE in kids who are indicating that they are concerned about their weight.  Since research by Peter Meunnig from Columbia found that women who were concerned about their weight had more physical and mental illness that those who were fine with their size regardless of their size, this seems like a pretty questionable measure of “success.”

Even if someone believes that all fat kids would be healthier thin, we do not know how to get it done; and saying repeatedly that we do is just a lie that has been repeated so often that people believe it’s the truth. Dr.Freedhoff has called these “non-evidence based interventions.” The CDC has admitted that there isn’t sufficient evidence to recommend these BMI Screening programs.  There is not a single statistically significant controlled study where even a simple majority of kids were able to change their weight long-term.  Anything that is prescribed to kids for weight control is experimental medicine at best, and at worst it’s an intervention that’s been demonstrated by research to fail – and it’s typically prescribed without the consent to the child or the parent, violating the ethical principles of evidence-based medicine and informed consent.  Can you imagine the uproar if kids who were actually sick were shamed for being sick, prescribed treatments that studies had shown to not work, often making the sickness worse, lied to that “everyone who tries hard enough” gets cured on these treatments, and then were blamed and shamed when the treatments didn’t work.  To be very clear, body size is neither a disease nor a diagnosis but if the medical establishment is going to treat it that way then the least they could do is practice ethical medicine.

Parents are allowed to opt-out but many are saying that they were not notified in advance and so kids were forced to submit to a weigh in at school that their parents would have vigorously opposed.

All of this is another dangerous example of people substituting what they think is “common sense” for actual evidence.  Let’s be clear about what’s happening here – lawmakers have decided that kids’ body size is such a big “problem” that they should just start “doing something about it” and what they should do is the first thing that comes into their heads – even if there is no evidence basis for it, even if evidence exists suggesting that it’s actually dangerous and likely to cause harm, they believe that their common sense is a better guide than science when dealing with the health of kids.  Yikes.

This entire thing is completely unnecessary. We could have a complete discussion about health and healthy habits for kids without even once bringing up weight.  There aren’t different healthy habits based on body size, and so there is no need to pull weight into the conversation, let alone force kids to participate in weigh-ins.  We can do better.  Let’s.

If you are in the Massachusetts area can come here me speak, these are free and open to the public:

Wednesday:

The Positive Body” @ 7:30pm in Gamble Auditorium, Mount Holyoke University

Thursday:

Every Body Dance Workshop @ 3:00pm in Recreation Center, UMass Amherst

The Positive Body @ 7:30pm in Student Union Ballroom, UMass Amherst

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details

Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Why Does It Have to Be About Obesity?

Public HealthJust like I’m tired of fat people having experimental medicine practiced on them without their consent, I am tired of people being encouraged to promote/sell/legislate whatever is in their heads as long as they say that it “fights obesity.” People are telling businesses what size of sodas they can sell, talking about taxing certain foods, suggesting a public shame campaign, suggesting that little kids have have a surgery that can kill them, all under the auspices of “fighting obesity” without much or any evidence to support that these things will change the people’s weight or their health.

I’ve recently been looking into some grants to help fund More Cabaret and I’ve been really disappointed at how many grants require that the program “fight obesity” in some way.  Why, for the love of whatever,  can’t we just create fine art using a fine arts grant?

Why is every health initiative marketed as a way to “fight obesity”? Increase vegetable consumption to fight obesity. Take a 30 minute walk to fight obesity.  WTF Dude? Vegetables are only good for fatties?  Walks are only for making people thin? Not only is it ridiculous based on logic,  it’s exactly the opposite of what the evidence supports.  Studies show that healthy habits, like vegetables and walking, can help increase the odds of being healthy (though of course health is multi-dimensional, not entirely within our control, and there are never any guarantees) but have almost no chance of creating long term weight loss.

This kind of messaging does a disservice to fat people, who are told that healthy habits don’t work unless they make them thin, and does a disservice to thin people who are told that they are healthy by virtue of their weight and regardless of their habits which, again, is not what the evidence tells us.

Can you imagine the kind of world it would be if public health messaging was actually based on evidence, and was about making options for health available to the public rather than making fat people’s health the public’s business?

To be very clear, health is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness – nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy habits” by any definition.  People of all sizes prioritize health in all different ways and that’s absolutely fine.  The prioritization of health and the path one chooses are intensely personal decisions and private decisions that should never be up for public discussion or debate unless someone asks for that.

I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live.  I’m asking a simple question: how would public health and health promotion be different if we took out the weight loss and “fighting obesity” rhetoric and actually created health messaging?  (Which would make sense since there’s no intervention that has been shown to lead to long term weight loss in more than a tiny fraction of people.

Maybe we could get correct information.  Instead of being lied to that the only way to pursue health is through weight loss, we could hear the truth – that simple, small, habits increase our odds when it comes to health.  That, for example, around 30 minutes of enjoyable movement around 5 days a week has shown to have tremendous positive effects on health

All of this anti-obesity messaging is completely superfluous – it’s not necessary at all for talking about health, and may actually do much more harm than good. So let’s just stop.

Imagine if you had only ever been given access to true information about health, and had been told that how you prioritize your health is your business .  What if you had always had access to a variety of affordable foods, safe movement options that you enjoy, and evidence-based health care, without even a trace of body shaming.  What if it has never been suggested to you that the purpose of food and movement was to attempt to manipulate your body size?  Would your relationship with the concepts of health, food, and exercise be different?  What else would be different for you? How would society be different?  I don’t know about you, but, for me, I’d like to find out.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details

Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Not Tiny, Not Working On It, and Not Putting Up With This

WTFA couple of days ago I got a lovely massage.  After two non-stop cross country flights, two 3- hour bus rides, and doing my workouts in the fricken freezing cold of New Hampshire, it was very welcome.  And it added to the rage I would have felt anyway when several readers let me know about a woman who had just finished a half-marathon was denied a massage because, at 250 pounds, she was “too fat” for the tables.  According to its website, at Natural Healing Center in Aurora, Colorado, the practitioners “are hand selected because of their training and ability, as well as their extensive experience and an innate gift as healers”  Innate gift here having the meaning of ability to fat shame.

They go on to explain that  “Healing is truly a “we” event. We build strong relationships with each patient so they have a partner in healing.”  Unless you’re fat.  Then you can you fuck right off.

My three hundred pound ass has had about a billion massages and never once was my weight a concern so I felt a bit confused when I read that Penny Wells, the center owner, claimed that a 165 pound man recently broke a table.  According to theaveragebody.com, the average American man weighs 191 pounds so it sounds like Penny needs to stop buying her massage tables a the 99 cent store.

What was even more upsetting to me was that, in the reports I saw, the lead quote was the woman saying “‘I mean I’m not tiny, I know that, but I’m working on it.”  Of course she is allowed to feel this way and do whatever she wants with her body.  I just want it made clear that  but it still it’s not just people who are trying to lose weight who deserves a shame-free massage. The truth is that everyone, of every size, deserves shame-free health and wellness care from a healing center where the uniforms aren’t “no fat chicks” t-shirts.

If you’d like to tell The Natural Healing Center what you think about this, you can shoot use this form to shoot them an e-mail.

Then I got a bunch of reader e-mails about “Dear Prudence,” Slate’s advice column, where a woman wrote in because she is concerned that someone else’s child is eating too much.  Of course, being prudent, Prudence told her that if she is looking for her beeswax, she won’t find it on someone else’s kid’s plate.  Just kidding!  She made a video where she illustrated the little girl as, I’m not kidding or hyperbolizing in any way, having a pig face.  I’m not linking or including the picture – you’ll have to google if you want to see this one.

Those of us who are mere mortals might suggest that, even if it was appropriate to food police other people’s kids – which it’s not – her snapshot view of this girl and her eating habits do not give this woman the information that she needs to make any kind of determination.  Luckily for Prudence, she’s a psychic who can tell the future so she let’s us know:

“Unfortunately, what’s going to be going on inside this little girl eventually is going to be broken down joints, a failing pancreas and clogged arteries.”

Wow, that’s specific. While you’re at it Prudie – I can call you Prudie, right? –  I could use next week’s lottery numbers.

But, Prudie says, don’t just keep your food shaming to yourself and an advice columnist, you’ve seen her eat two meals so go ahead and give her an eating disorder diagnosis and call the authorities (anonymously of course, since being a tremendous coward makes it easier to be all judge-y)

“And given that the parents seem committed to super-sizing her, I think it would be fair for you to contact this girl’s pediatrician. You can send an anonymous letter, and describe the compulsive eating. It might be helpful for an adult with authority to intervene.

Hell, why not just kidnap the girl and keep her in the basement on a diet of water and celery sticks – OMGDEATHFATZ ARE COMING FOR HER THE MOST HORRIFIC BEHAVIOR IS JUSTIFIED!!!!!!  Or, you know, not.

This is 100% not okay.  It is terrible advice, and I think it probably says more about Prudie’s own issues with food and weight than it says about how to deal with other people’s kid’s eating habits.

If you’d like to share any thoughts on this, you can contact Sarah Trankle at 212 445 5330 or nyoffice@slate.com

I’ll end today’s news trifecta with a little bit of win:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus chose to star in a commercial in which she first incorrectly guesses that a co-worker is pregnant and, when corrected, says ” “I would like to apologize to Betty for thinking that she was pregnant. Obviously she hasn’t dated anyone in forever!”

I have good news but I’ll give you a second to get over any pure rage you’re feeling at the idea that after mistaking a fat woman as pregnant the solution is to shame her by indicating the nobody would ever date her.

Good news:  the commercial was pulled from Israeli television after the Yedid Association for Community Empowerment wrote an official letter of complaint:

“There are a lot of weight-challenged individuals in Israel who are treated in an irreverent and hurtful manner. There is no justification to illustrate a stigma which suggests a larger woman is either pregnant or simply too fat for anyone to consider going out with.”

I do not love the term “weight-challenged” but let me just say big ups to the Yedid Association for Community Empowerment for doing their part to have some basic human decency since Julia Louis-Dreyfus couldn’t seem to scrape any together.

I just try to remember that each of these things is another opportunity for tiny acts of revolution and an opportunity for more people to realize how far we’ve gone down a very, very bad road.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details

Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Talented Fat People Are Not Actually Shocking

Reality and PerceptionI just saw another video on Facebook where I’m supposed to be shocked because someone who is fat, and therefore doesn’t meet the stereotype of beauty, can sing.  What the hell? Yes, in this society we very often choose our singers (not to mention actors and dancers) on their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty first and the ability to sing a distant second.  Thus, unsurprisingly, almost every singer is thin and stereotypically beautiful and many are aided by auto-tune, but we take it to the next level when we allow ourselves to assume that those who are not stereotypically beautiful are not talented.

There are more and more reality shows where people can get 45 seconds to display their talent.  Some of these shows make various attempts to find contestants who are stereotypically beautiful, but some do not.  So when a fat person risks the stigma, shame and bullying that so often come from just existing in public and go onto one of these shows  and turn out to be talented, I think we could live without a million YouTube videos and Facebook posts discussing how absolutely shocking it is that they have talent.

I would like to see a bunch of posts about how shocked people are that they allowed themselves to be lulled into the view that someone who doesn’t fit the cultural stereotype of beauty is unlikely to be talented, or thrilled that someone was able to overcome the prejudice and oppression to get on a stage in front of people and share their talent.  I would like to see a bunch of comments about how absolutely ridiculous it is that every time a talented fat person gets in the public eye we have to deal with people wringing their hands and shrieking about how they are “bad role models” who, they claim even more ridiculously, promote obesity (like people will hear them sing and think – I wish I could sing like that, I guess the first step is to get fat…) In a piece that was supposed to be about Adele and Kelly Clarkson’s performances at the Grammys, Fox news brought in a nutritionist who has never met either woman to speculate wildly about their health based on how they look, and wring her hands and suggest that if girls believe they can follow their dreams even if they aren’t thin then they might not hate themselves enough to be willing to pay nutritionists for weight loss solutions that never work.  Instead of being shocked that these women are talented, how about we be shocked that body shaming them and making blind guesses about their health and food choices on National Television constitutes news on the Fox Network.

This all leaves me to wonder, how many amazingly talented people are we missing out on as a society?  How many horrible actors and actresses do we suffer through because the industry chooses them for their ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty (either because of their size, their color, their facial features, or something else), before their ability to act?

Why, as a culture, do we ignore the actual abilities we are looking for and instead make the ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty our main criteria?  People come in all shapes and sizes and so it makes sense that talent come in all shapes and sizes. Why are we always so shocked when someone who isn’t traditionally attractive can sing?  What does one have to do with the other?  We’re so conditioned to think that talent only comes in a stereotypically beautifully package that we lose it when Susan Boyle stands up and belts out I Dreamed a Dream.  I don’t mean to shock anyone here, but how someone looks has literally nothing to do with their chances of being a good singer, or actress, or dancer, or anything else.  I think it would be just fantastic if we chose people based on their talent and not on their ability to walk a red carpet in a sample size dress, and even more fantastic if we were more shocked at our society’s prejudice than a fat person’s talent.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details

Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Fat Prisoners of War

End the war on fat peopleSadly I hear stories all the time about a fat person who has put their life on hold – they skip events, they don’t do things that they want to do, they don’t hang out with friends,  they don’t even attempt to date, so crushed are they by self-hatred derived by bullying and stigma, that their life is a living hell.  We are told (often by someone trying to sell us weight loss) that this person is a prisoner of their fat, that the solution to all of these problems is weight loss.  That weight loss will somehow free them from their prison of fat and allow them to live a full life.

I would suggest that they are prisoners – but not of fat.  They are prisoners of war – the war on obesity.  A war waged on them by the government, which is actively encouraging people to stereotype fat people and make wild guesses about our “cost” to society, and blame us for anything bad in their lives.  They are actively recruiting our bosses, doctors, friends, family, and strangers who interact with us to join in the battle.  The war on obesity has casualties. It also has prisoners.

When there is a movement of public and private interests to stigmatize people for the way they look – for a physical characteristic that they can’t possibly hide, then some will choose to try to escape the incessant stigma, shame and bullying by doing the only thing they can – hiding themselves, withdrawing from life.

And then they get shamed for withdrawing and blamed for the poor treatment that they are receiving.  Surrender, they are told, act the way we want you to act and look the way we want you to look and all of this pain will go away.  Never mind that there’s no proof that it’s even possible for more than a tiny fraction of people to become thin.  Never mind that the cure for social stigma and bullying is for people to stop stigmatizing and bullying people – not weight loss. Surrender they are told.  Surrender and pay the piper – the diet industry can’t make 60 billion (and rising every year) dollars a year without your contribution.

I say enough is enough.  I say it’s time to call for an end to the ridiculous notion that there can be a war on obesity without having a war on obese people.  That war can be waged on our fat but not on the “thin people” they claim, without evidence, live underneath it. It’s time to call for an end to the assertion that the casualties and prisoners of this war are acceptable collateral damage, so important is the goal of a world where everyone has the same height/weight ratio. Well, maybe not so much important as… profitable.

I used to be a prisoner of the war on obesity – spending my time desperately hoping that I could change my body so that I could start living the life that I wanted to live.  Even after I learned that there were options to fight back, to escape, I remained casualty for a long time – deeply damaged by the stigma, shame and bullying that were heaped upon me by family, friends, doctors, strangers and the government the seems to think that ‘inalienable rights” actually means “rights you’ll get as soon as you’re thin.”

Things are different now.  There’s still plenty of stigma, shame, and bullying. There’s still a war being fought against me for how I look. People are still trying to leverage an inappropriate use of power to alienate me from my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  I still have rough days.  But I’m no longer a prisoner, no longer a casualty.  I’m a combatant now. And If the government wants a war on obesity, I’ll damn well give them one. 

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

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

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs for Every Body Dance Now! Click here for the details

Become a Member, Support My Projects, and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

 

 

 

 

 

Bodies: Glorifying, Demonizing, Pathologizing

Ragen Chastain - superfat - picture by Substantia Jones for Adipositivity.com
Ragen Chastain – 5’4 284lbs  Picture by Substantia Jones for Adipositivity.com

As a society we have a lot of trouble accepting the fact that bodies come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and that every body is amazing. Instead we have a tendency to glorify one body size, demonize other body sizes, and pathologize body sizes.  Each comes with their own issues.

Glorifying a specific body size creates a stereotype of beauty.  That creates an automatic stigma against those outside the stereotype.  It also creates an environment where people determine their value based on their proximity to the stereotype.  Those who happen to fit the stereotype can develop a fear of losing that approval that can cause them to engage in unhealthy behaviors – especially if they’ve based all of their self esteem on getting approval for being part of the glorified group.  Stereotypes of beauty can become confused with health so that even healthcare professionals become confused and think that body size and health are the same thing.  It can also lead to a situation where people are chosen based on their ability to conform to a stereotype rather than for their ability to do a job (imagine how different our world would be if we chose actors and singers based on their ability to act and sing rather than their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty!)

žThe opposite of this is demonizing a particular type of body – as ugly, wrong, unhealthy etc. – and it causes another set of problem. First of all, shame and stigma are not great for our health.  Peter Muennig did research at Columbia University that found that being under the stress of constant shame and stigma over a long period of time was correlated with the same diseases with which obesity has been correlated.  He also found that women who were concerned about their weight had more mental and physical illnesses that those who were ok with their size, regardless of their size.  People don’t tend to take good care of things that they hate, so creating a situation where people are encouraged to hate their bodies creates also creates a situation where people start to view their bodies of unworthy of care.  Shaming people’s bodies “for their own good” in the hopes that they will hate themselves healthy is a questionable practice at best.  It also creates an environment where people who aren’t part of the demonized group can become terrified of becoming part of the demonized group and/or start to derive their self-esteem from stigmatizing and shaming those who are part of the demonized group.  Like glorifying, it can lead to people mistaking a body that society arbitrarily finds “unattractive” with a body that is unhealthy.
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That brings us to the pathologization of body sizes. When we start to make guesses about health based on what people look like we create an avalanche of issues.  It can lead to healthcare providers giving body size interventions for health problems.  So where a person considered a “healthy size” will be given evidence based interventions proven to help their health issue, those who are considered an “unhealthy size” will be told to change their size – even when there is no evidence that it will change their body size or affect their health issue.  It does a disservice to people of all sizes since those who are considered an “unhealthy” body size are given the message that the only path to health is to change their body size, and people who are considered a “healthy” size are told that they are healthy by virtue of their size and regardless of their habits.
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I believe the truth is that stereotypes of beauty are arbitrary and unhelpful. Bodies come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and every body is absolutely amazing. Neither evidence-based health interventions, nor healthy habits, are size dependent. Health is multidimensional, not entirely within our control, not a barometer of worthiness, and not an obligation – each person’s decision about how highly to prioritize their health and the path that they want to take to reach their goals is intensely personal and nobody else’s business.  There are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes for lots of reasons and there is no magical “healthy weight” that makes people immune to health issues because weight and health are two different things, neither of which is entirely within our control.  If I were the underpants overlord we would stop our current habits of glorifying, demonizing and pathologizing certain body sizes and start celebrating all bodies.

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