You’re Not Fat

my name isCalling ourselves fat in a derogatory way seems to be part of the price of admission for being a woman in this society. We’re never supposed to be happy with our bodies and saying “I’m so fat” because we don’t fit into size two jeans, or because we do but they are tight because we just ate lunch is part of the way that women deal with the body image bullshit that comes at us all the time no matter what size we are.

It’s almost a form of self-deprecating humor – “I’ll say it first and then no one can accuse me of not hating my body like I’m supposed to.”  It can also be very real – it’s possible for a woman who is a size 2 and a woman who is a size 24 to feel equally as badly about their bodies.  Though there are absolutely institutional oppressions faced by fat people, self-loathing is not body-size dependent and our culture tells women of all sizes to hate ourselves, that we are never thin enough so we are all fat, and that fat is an absolutely horrible thing to be.

One problem that stems from this is that the “proper” response to the phrase “I’m so fat” is “You’re not fat!”  Being “not fat” is important in this society, so sometimes a woman will say “I’m so fat” so that someone else will say “You’re not fat” and she will be able to feel better about herself for a minute, or she’ll say “I’m so fat” because she knows that she is not fat by society’s standards and is reminding herself that she is “better” than fat people and in this way she can feel better about herself for a minute.  This is about how people survive in an effed up world where self-hatred is ingrained in us and an impossible stereotype of beauty is imposed upon us. It’s understandable.  That doesn’t make it a good idea.

The “I’m so fat!” “You’re not fat!” cycle reinforces the idea that fat is bad, so bad in fact that it’s important to immediately and emphatically insist that it’s not true to defend our friend’s honor.  When I describe myself using fat as a neutral descriptor (I’m the brunette, fat girl in the blue dress) very often someone will chime in and say “You’re not fat!”  The fact that nobody has ever said “You’re not a brunette” illustrates the problem – they are both physical descriptions but one has a had shame attached to it by our society.

So while I understand why it’s done, I’m still going to suggest that we stop – stop using the word “fat” as anything other than a neutral descriptor.  Say I’m fat if we think that we are, and not as a way to fish for compliments, as hyperbole, or because we just ate a burrito.  Stop using “You’re not fat” – when someone says “I’m so fat!”  and say something like “There’s nothing wrong with being fat” or “I wish we lived in a world where we could appreciate beauty at every size” or anything that doesn’t reinforce the idea that fat is bad (suggestions welcome in the comments).   One way to break down the stigma around being fat is by removing it from the word.

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If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Special K Thinks We’re All Very Gullible

Cookie Monster Special KOne of the great things about watching all of my TV on Hulu and Netflix is that I don’t see a lot of commercials. For the past couple of days I’ve been dog sitting two super cute pitbulls and so I’ve been watching cable, which means watching a ton of crappy weight loss commercials.  The only thing that’s stopped me from hurling something heavy at the television is that it’s not mine.

The most insidious examples right now seem to come from Special K. They are using a size acceptance message to sell weight loss.  It’s gross.  In some commercials they’ve stolen size acceptance tools like Marilyn Wann’s Yay Scale and Amanda Levitt’s Body Positive Measuring Tapes. Claire Mysko over on The Frisky did a great job of taking this down.

The one I keep seeing is this one:

As a catchy song about having a good day plays in the background, a woman is shopping for jeans and the tags all say words like Confident, Va Va Voom, and Ooh La La.  A voiceover comes on and says

Wouldn’t it nice if we focused less on the number…

Yes, yes.  Ye gods yes! That would be fan-frickin-tastic!

…and more on how the fit makes us feel?

Um, I guess – if you mean finding jeans that fit us – maybe this is going to be a commercial about how jean designers should make rocking styles in more sizes?

Take the special K challenge, drop a jean size in 2 weeks and slip into size sassy.

What the…?  Oh hell no.  You’ve just substituted “Size Sassy” for “Smaller size”.  Who is falling for this?  Replacing numbers with words doesn’t actually change anything, the message is the same:  You will be better when you are thinner.

The website is worse, “It’s not about the number on the tag; it’s about how a pair of jeans can make you feel:  Sassy, confident, even fierce.  Special K has a variety of free plans to help you slip into a size sassy.”

If it wasn’t about the number on the tag then couldn’t ANY size jeans be Size Sassy, including the size I’m wearing right now?  I couldn’t help but notice that they suggest that for EVERY woman Size Sassy is one size smaller. (So for me, sIze 24 would be Size Sassy, but my friend Donna would have to be a size 000.)  Of course, if you become a size smaller and watch their commercial you’ll learn that Size Sassy is – you guessed it – one size smaller.  I think I have a new theme song for Special K (sung to the tune of “Tomorrow” from Annie)

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’ll wear Size Sassy, tomorrow, It’s always a size away!

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s because they can make a lot more money if they can convince every single woman that she needs their weight loss bullshit.

How did this happen? Is it possible that women have been so thoroughly bombarded with messages that we should all hate ourselves and hate our bodies (by advertising from the diet industry including Special K  – I haven’t forgotton their “you can’t pinch an inch” campaign) that it’s not working any more?

It looks like this goes back to the start of the “What will you gain when you lose” campaign Special K developed after a study that they commissioned from Edelman Berland, a markeing and PR “research” firm, that  found that “a positive attitude toward weight management might actually help you succeed.”

Fascinating.  It turns out 9 out of 10 women who report that they think positively about weight management also reported either losing weight or maintaining weight in the past year compared to “only about half” of women with a negative approach.

How is this study highly suspect?  Let me count the ways.  There’s the aforementioned choice of research firms.  Then there’s the methodology – they interviewed “more than 1,000″ women who described themselves as “weight conscious” to find out just what they think about their success or failure. Ok, dude. Self-reported information on dieting by people who describe themselves as weight conscious talking about what they believe led them to succeed or fail at dieting does not a strong study make.  Then there is the fact that they are looking at only a year – we know that most people can lose weight in the short term, but most gain it back within 2-5 years so using a one year period doesn’t really tell us anything about long term weight loss. Also, comparing 9 out of 10 to “about half” seems suspicious. Why not give us the actual number?  If they interpret 7 as about half then this is quite a bit closer than it might sound.

So, says Special K, we should all focus on how the “fit makes us feel”.  Well, that and two special K meals and 2 special K snacks each and every day – if you stay on the diet for a year you can consume 1,460 Special K projects – can’t wait.  They say that the average weight loss is a 4-8 pounds (or roughly the weight you could lose if you loofah’d regularly for two weeks.)   And remember the study they commissioned wasn’t about people who did the Special K diet, just women who describe themselves as “weight conscious.”  As with every diet plan, they have absolutely no proof that this plan will lead to long term weight loss, nor that it will lead to health.  They do seem pretty certain that it will lead to profits.

I’m definitely interested in how the fit of the jeans makes me feel.  And if I don’t like it, I change the jeans – not me.  I have a positive attitude – I’m positive that based on the evidence the vast majority of people who lose weight on this program, or any diet/lifestyle change/etc. will gain it back, and many will gain back more.  I’m positive that was my experience when I dieted (though of course that’s not extrapolatable.)   So I’m positive that I’m never going back to a dieting lifestyle and the willful suspension of disbelief it would require.  I’m positive that I’m a Size Sassy whatever jeans I wear.  And all that without spending a dime on products that market to me based on the idea that I’m too stupid to figure out that the new marketing is the same as the old marketing.

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If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

 

Who Gives a Crap?

Reality and PerceptionYesterday I posted about a picture that’s become quite popular on Facebook (over 130,000 likes and over 10,000 shares.) I discussed why I thought it was problematic and gave people the information that they needed to get involved.  There was a good discussion going in the comments and then runbunny  chose to add this to the discourse:

Who gives a crap? It was a dumb photo posted by an arrogant little girl that pissed off some people. How about ignore it? Or, instead of getting on a soap box, laugh at it? Yeah, she’s pretty fit and all, and her question was arrogant, but that’s the culture she’s involved in. Some gyms have that prevailing message. She’s allowed to her viewpoint, as you are to yours. (The moderators are so not gonna post this, but I’ll try anyway.) I looked at the photo, read the comments and thought ‘whatever’. To me there far bigger injustices out there to get mad about than some girl that works out alot and posts macho No Fear-esqe captions. Anyone remember the phrase ‘no pain no gain’? In 5 years or so, she’ll probably be doughy anyway. And like a wise woman once told me, ‘a little weight on a woman never hurt nobody.’

First of all, I’m completely tickled that people think there are mods on this blog.  It’s just me y’all, hence my getting behind in approving comments. I decided to leave the comment up because it provides a perfect example of a couple of the great fallacies in activism, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to address it since, if you’re going to engage in activism, you’ll likely deal with attitudes like this.

First is the idea that the injustice in question isn’t worth addressing because there are “greater injustices.” Following this logic we should only ever work on the greatest injustice, so instead of participating in activism we can all spend our time arguing about what the greatest injustice is, and criticizing other activists for not picking injustices that we would have fought. Then again, maybe this isn’t the best idea.

Second is the idea that if something isn’t important to someone, the appropriate response is to criticize those to whom it is important, convince people that it shouldn’t be important to anyone, and insist that it shouldn’t be addressed at all. Simply put, this is bullshit (not to mention a clear violation of the underpants rule). If someone is concerned about greater injustices, one option would be to stop complaining about the ones that other people choose to address and go ahead and start working on the ones that are, in their estimation, worth addressing.

If someone believe that something I talk about should be ignored, I invite them to ignore it. If they think it should be laughed at, I invite them to laugh. I happen to think it’s worth addressing and I don’t think it’s funny, so I wrote this blog post about it. Even if addressing this had been a waste of time – I’ve already wasted the time. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t take back the time it took to write the post and address whatever someone think is more important. I would hope that people who engage in this behavior are able to suss that out, so I guess maybe they are into wasting even more time by commenting on it? Or maybe this kind of comment makes them feel superior and important – there are people who become critics because it makes them feel powerful in some way.  Or maybe they actually believe that their priorities are what should drive everyone’s activism, and that their reactions to things are the only valid ones, in which case now I am laughing.

Regardless, there are plenty of opportunities for activism and we can each address what is important to us. People are, of course, allowed to make their own choices, but I might suggest spending time criticizing the people, institutions, and societal structures that oppress and stigmatize us, rather that complaining to activists who are addressing oppression and stigma that they didn’t pick the right thing.

The saddest thing to me is that these kinds of comments can serve to discourage activism by making people afraid that engaging in activism means that, in addition to all the stigma and shame they get from society, they will be stigmatized and shamed by people within the movement for their activism being “not important enough” or some such bullshit. So if you’re thinking about becoming an activist or you are an activist already, whatever you are doing is important.  I absolutely commend you, I support you, and I sincerely apologize if you have to deal with bullshit like this.

It’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week and BEDA has put together an awesome week of chats, blog posts, and contests (I’m a meme hunt!).  Check it all out here!

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If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

 

What’s Your Excuse?

facepalmReader Annie sent me a link to a Facebook post by Maria Kang.  It seems Maria put some time and effort into looking like the cultural stereotype of beauty, then took a picture of herself wearing gym clothes with her three sons.

Ok, that’s fine, I’m glad that she is happy.

Then she put a caption on it…“What’s Your Excuse?”

Nooooooo. Nonononono.  This is not cool.

Just to recap, Maria decided to use her time, energy and money to try to make her body look a certain way and she happened to be successful at it while raising three boys.  Now she wants us to ask ourselves what our excuse is for not doing so.

How about this, I don’t need an excuse.  What’s your excuse for having such an unbelievably over exaggerated sense of self-importance that you actually think that everyone should aspire to the same things that you do?

Oh but it gets better.  Some people pointed out to her that her post was fat shaming and added to the unrealistic ideals that women face.  Her response (which she called an apology, which makes me think that she doesn’t actually know what that means)  was to talk about how hard weight loss was for her for oh so many reasons, then say

Obesity and those who struggle with health-related diseases is literally a ‘bigger’ [see what she did there – obese and bigger – Maria is a comic genius] issue than this photo. Maybe it’s time we stop tip-toeing around people’s feelings and get to the point.

And then repeated “So What’s Your Excuse?” because Maria is just too bad ass to respect people when they tell her that her actions are creating stigma and shame.

Also, I don’t know who the hell these people are who are trying to tip-toe around my feelings, but if she could point me in their direction that would be a refreshing change from the people who yell “HEY FAT BITCH” and throw eggs at me. Just saying.

She then created an FAQ page where the justification parade begins:

All the cool kids are doing it

I often saw posters of grandmothers running in marathons, paraplegics competing in the Olympics and even a father performing a pull up with three kids in tow – all with the same caption: “What’s your Excuse?

Yeah, these are problematic as well, especially if they are made about someone without their permission.  That grandmother might not want to be held up as an example, people with disabilities may not want to be used as teaching and motivational tools.  Also, just to review, nobody needs an excuse to not run in marathons, compete in the Olympics, do pull-ups with some kids hanging off of them, or anything else.

I didn’t mean it that way

This one is my favorite:

My intention was not to ask, “What’s your Excuse for not looking like me?” My intention was to imply, “What’s your Excuse for not exercising?” However you interpret the message is dependent on your emotional state when you read the caption.

First of all, maybe it’s time to deal with the fact that your intention is not working out.  Maybe it’s because you put a picture of yourself in a sports bra and boy shorts under the phrase “What’s Your Excuse?”.  Again, I’m for Maria, and anyone else, wearing whatever they want to wear.  But if people are telling you that your image is shaming to them and creates an unrealistic image (which may have to do with all the photoshopping of the image) then may I suggest that instead of speculating about their emotional state, you take some time to think about how all of this went wrong and why you might want to fix it.  Also did I mention that people don’t need excuses to not exercise?  Because they really don’t.

I didn’t mean it that way either

For those of you who have legitimate excuse then that’s your excuse! I’m not saying there isn’t one. I’m saying that for the majority of people out there who use multiple kids (or just one), a job, lack of time, lack of support – as an excuse, then maybe you can take my story and my image and use that as a source of inspiration.

Well thank you for your permission, but the premise is still bullshit. Nobody.  Needs.  An. Excuse.  We especially don’t need to worry about having a “legitimate” excuse. And, not for nothing, but I think you might find out that it’s cooler if you put your thoughts and story out there and let people choose you as their role model, rather than trying so hard to guilt/shame them into it.

One more time: nobody needs an excuse for making different choices than you, or for making the same choices but looking different. All bodies are amazing, there is no single body size or shape that represents actual beauty, fitness, health, or anything else.

Obviously this issue is bigger than Maria’s post – she is part of a much bigger problem wherein people get confused and think that their choices are THE choices and that if others want to make different choices they owe some kind justification.  Um, no.  People are allowed to choose to spend their time, energy and money trying to make their bodies look a specific way. What’s not cool is to suggest that everyone should want/have to do that.  What’s not cool is to suggest that if they can do it, anybody can, or should. What’s not cool is for those people to try to make their achievement feel more important by shaming people who make different choices, or who make the same choices but look different than they do.  What’s not cool is to ignore people who tell them that they are stigmatizing other people.  There’s just no excuse for that.
If you have some thoughts for Maria, you can find the image on her Facebook page here.

It’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week and BEDA has put together an awesome week of chats, blog posts, and contests (I’m a meme hunt!).  Check it all out here!

Want to support my work?

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

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!

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

If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

The Last Acceptable Prejudice

Nothing to prove“Fat is the last acceptable prejudice.”  I see someone say something like this at least once a day either in an online forum, in person or, as happened yesterday, on this blog.  I’d like to make a case for never saying this again.  I’ll put forth two arguments.  First, that it’s not true.  Second, that even if it was true, there is nothing to be gained by saying it.

My first argument is that it’s not true.

At this moment people are trying to make an all white town in North Dakota.  A couple of years ago the Arizona legislature passed, and the governor signed, a law that allowed anyone who  the police thought looked like they might be an illegal immigrant to be forced to show proof of citizenship at any time.  The Supreme Court had to tell them that this was not ok.

As recently as July 18th of this year, the Baton Rouge police have been running a sting operation arresting gay men for setting a date to have sex in a private residence, with no money changing hands, with a police officer who started the conversation by denying that he was a police officer.  They are charging the men based on Louisiana sodomy laws that were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003. The police used justifications from the suggestion that gay people should not be allowed to ask each other out in parks, to “won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children”.

California just became the first state to pass a law giving trans* students equal access to facilities and activities consistent with their gender identity.  Forty nine states do NOT have such a law.  When I posted this to my FB the first question I got was “does this mean we have to allow them in women only spaces?”  When I said that I certainly hope so since they are women, the argument I got was that we’d have to agree to disagree.  Um, no, I don’t have to agree to disagree on basic civil rights and none of us has the right to say who is and who is not a woman.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, trans* phobia, ableism, ageism, and fat phobia are just some of the prejudices that happen all the time, often in combination (intersectionality!)   They are all acceptable to some people or they wouldn’t happen.

I think that often when people say this, they mean that there aren’t a lot of legal protections for fat people.  That’s true, but it doesn’t make it the last acceptable prejudice.  In Michigan, for example, you can’t be legally fired for being fat, but you can be fired because you are gay. The citizens of a number of states have voted that consenting adults of the same sex should not be allowed to marry each other.

Sometimes when people say this they are speaking to how institutionalized fat oppression is.  That’s true, but it doesn’t make it the last acceptable prejudice.  When criticized because the vast majority of people targeted by the NYC stop and frisk policy were Black and Hispanic, Mayor Bloomberg said that it was because Black and Hispanic people were more likely to be criminals.  Prejudice against lots of groups is accepted at the institutional level in lots of ways.

My second argument is that even if it were true that fat is the last acceptable prejudice, I don’t think that there is anything to be gained by saying it, or by using our time and energy to argue for it.

It’s divisive and moves the conversation from fighting oppression to arguing about who’s being oppressed more and why.

It invalidates the experience of people in other oppressed groups who are telling us that they do experience their oppression as acceptable.  I know that I insist that I’m the best witness to my own oppression and as such I have to believe that other people are the best witness to theirs.  If people from other marginalized groups are saying that the prejudice they experience is acceptable, then I believe them.

I just don’t see any good reason to make this claim.  It seems like we can fight every facet of fat oppression without making any sweeping generalizations about the nature of it as compared to other oppressions, which also assures that we avoid negating the experiences of the members of other oppressed groups.

This doesn’t mean that it’s not appropriate to have spaces and discussions specifically about fat oppression, to me it just means that I think we are better off if these discussions focus on fighting the oppression rather than comparing it to others, and that we are best served if we also have conversations about intersectionality and how we can support other marginalized groups both within and outside of fat acceptance.

I’ve never been a fan of the Oppression Olympics – I would rather fight oppression than argue about who has it worst.

Like my 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

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

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If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

The High Cost of Weight Stigma

2013WSAWparticipantbadgeIt has become quite a popular practice to calculate the “costs” of obesity. (As if it’s ok to decide that a group of people with shared physical characteristics should be eradicated to make things cheaper.) There are many, many problems with the calculations, but I think it’s important to realize that in our society fat people live under intense, constant, stigma and oppression.  That means that any calculation about the “cost” of fat people is actually a calculation about the cost of that stigma and oppression.

Let’s start with healthcare costs since that’s one of the most popular things for people to calculate.  Studies from Yale showed that over 50% of doctors find fat patients “awkward, ugly, weak-willed and unlikely to comply with treatment” and 28% of nurses said that they were “repulsed” by their obese patients.   Mary Huizinga of Johns Hopkins found that “The higher a patient’s body mass, the less respect doctors express for that patient.  And the less respect a doctor has for a patient the less time they spend with that patient and the less information he or she offers.”

This leads to increased healthcare costs in a number of ways:

Fat people are treated so poorly by health care professionals – given no respect, called liars, told that all of our problems are due to our fat, lectured extensively about our weight regardless of the reason for our visit – that some of us start avoiding the doctor.  This leads to us not getting early intervention and, for some, only going to the doctor when the situation is more advanced and therefore more expensive.

When we do brave the poor treatment, discrimination and bigotry and go to the doctor our actual complaints are often ignored and whether we have tendonitis, strep throat, or a broken toe we are told that the cure is to eat less and exercise more.  Thin people get all the same health issues as fat people but they get interventions that have been shown to effectively address their health problems. Fat people are given an intervention intended to change our body size, which not only hasn’t been proven to effectively address health issues, but hasn’t been shown to effectively change our body size.

Because of fat stigma we are denied evidence-based care which means that instead of taking part in interventions that address health issues, those issues continue unabated while we try to change our body size because our health care provider tells us that is miraculously curative.  So sometimes we don’t get evidence-based healthcare until our health issues are in the advanced stage (and therefore much more expensive) and sometimes we never get evidence based healthcare and we die trying to lose weight.  Then all of those costs are chalked up to our fatness rather than the fact that we aren’t able to access good, evidence-based medical care.

Because our society enjoys blaming people for their health, there is shame and stigma attached to diseases that can often be effectively treated – like Type 2 Diabetes.  That shame and stigma are especially bad for fat people since despite the fact that thin people get these diseases, and despite the fact that a thin person and a fat person can have the same eating and exercise habits but very different weights, we are told that these are brought on by being fat, and that our fat is our fault.  Because of this stigma and blame, fat people are often too ashamed to seek medical care and so we don’t get good early treatment, and delayed treatment means higher costs and worse health.

Nobody is obligated to prioritize health.  However, for those who are interested, a mountain of evidence has shown that healthy habits are the best chance for healthy bodies, and yet medical professionals ignore this evidence and instead tell us that if our healthy habits don’t make us thin then they aren’t making us healthy.  So fat people give up on healthy habits because they almost never make us thin.  So because stigma leads to misinformation, our health hazard ratios go up along with our purported “costs”.

Although eating disorders are dangerous and in some cases deadly, fat people who present with disordered eating are often encouraged to continue and even escalate the behaviors. The fat stigma that these professionals hold means that they mistakenly believe that becoming thin by any means necessary is better than being fat.  Then all the costs that ensue from the disordered eating are chalked up to body size.

The costs of weight loss attempts, especially those that are “medically supervised”  are often folded into people’s calculations of how much fat people “cost society”.  The problem is that these interventions should never have been recommended in the first place since they do not meet the requirements of evidence-based medicine.  The people supervising these programs do not have a shred of evidence that would lead them to believe that the intervention will succeed, but they keep prescribing it and taking money for it, and in the end the fat people who are victims of a scam also get blamed for the cost of the scam.

Even when we lose weight and gain it back, which studies show us is the most likely outcome, we are encouraged to diet again. This leads to weight cycling (also known as yo-yo dieting) which has been correlated to the same diseases as obesity.  So again, bad medical advice can lead to health issues but they get charged to the accounts of the fat people who were poorly advised.

Now let’s look at the cost of societal discrimination, bigotry, oppression and stigma:

Movement is beneficial for everyone’s health, and though nobody is obligated to exercise, when fat people who are interested in it attempt to engage in physical activity we often find ourselves the subject of ridicule.  Being “moo’d” at in the gym, having people throw thing at us from cars, and being humiliated for wearing a swimsuit are all things that are reported by fat people as regular occurrences.  A lot of my “normal weight” friends complain about having trouble finding the time to exercise, imagine how much harder that is when carving out time to exercise also means carving out time to be ridiculed and humiliated.

The media giving fat people tons of negative messages about our bodies, and having those messages reinforced by everyone from our parents to our doctors to strangers at the gym is an effective way of convincing fat people to hate our bodies.  It also turns out that people don’t take good care of things that they hate, and health issues and costs ensue.

To be crystal clear, it is not ok to find a group of people you can identify by sight, calculate their cost on society, and then have a national campaign to eradicate them because you’ve decided things would be cheaper without them.

But since that’s what’s happening let’s understand that until we end stigma, oppression and bigotry against fat people it is impossible to calculate the costs (if any) of our body size separate from the cost of our stigmatization.

Thus, any attempt to calculate of the cost of being fat will, in fact, be a calculation of the cost of being stigmatized and oppressed for being fat.   Therefore, if the current cost calculations about being fat indicate that it’s the “greatest threat to public health”, then the actual greatest threat to public health is fat stigma and oppression, making people like Meme Roth a public health threat.  This is actually good news since we have no idea how to make people thinner but we do know how to stop stigmatizing fat people and we could do it right now.

Of course when you point this out you are told that the cure for social stigma, oppression and bigotry against fat people is…wait for it…weight loss!  Yes, people actually suggest that the problem isn’t that we’re being bullied, the problem is that we aren’t giving the bully our lunch money.  In other words, if we do what our oppressors want us to do and lose weight, they promise they’ll stop oppressing us.  The cure for social stigma is not weight loss, it’s ending social stigma, and I, for one, will not have the cost of the bigotry, hate, stigma, and bullying that I deal with charged to my account.

For a list of the research used in this post, go here and scroll to the bottom.

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If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Toddler Gets Weight Loss Surgery

Bad DoctorA toddler  – a toddler, a child of two years old who cannot yet walk with proficiency – in Saudi Arabia was given irreversible gastric sleeve surgery.  That shit actually happened (It’s definitely a swearing day, you’ve been warned.)

What the fuck?  What the fucking fuck?  What the actual fucking fuck?  The kid was two years old and his stomach has been amputated and his digestive system redesigned by a surgeon who has literally no idea what this means for his future or what is likely to happen as he, we hope, grows up.

What they do know is that he was put on a series of diets before age 2.  At 14 months old he weighed 46 pounds and his parents took him to an endocrinologist who, finding nothing wrong with him, put him on his first diet.  He gained 17 pounds.  They assumed that the parents hadn’t followed the diet and put him in a clinic on a medically supervised plan.  He gained 18 more pounds.

They did testing and could find nothing out of the ordinary.  They had no idea why he was gaining weight on these diets, so they decided the next logical step was just to go ahead and perform a dangerous and irreversible surgery that has never been done on someone so young.  Why bother to do the work to diagnose an issue when you can just cut up a toddler, I mean what do we think this is, an episode of House?

Let’s also remember that in order to have even a hope of absorbing enough nutrition to grow he will have to keep up with a nutrition plan and supplements.  They are entrusting this to the same parents who they didn’t believe could follow a simple caloric restriction diet.

In fact, they found that during the 2 year follow up period:

The parents of the child did not comply with the provided instruction/s and more often showed a tendency to miss appointments and hence a regular time bound follow up was not possible.

And yet they still concluded

[Laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy] may be used in very young children provided they have co-morbidities and no improvement with medical and conservative multidisciplinary management. In our patient, the weight reduction was significant and his associated symptoms resolved with time indicating its safety and efficacy.

Even if the parents had followed every instruction and made all of their appointments it would have been completely ridiculous to draw this conclusion from one study on one kid with a two year follow up. By the way, his “associated symptoms” were sleep apnea and bow leggedness.  For that we have risked this boy’s life. Apparently it’s far more difficult to make a cpap mask to fit him than to hack up his guts.

I’ve called it a dangerous surgery but in truth I only have an idea of how dangerous it is for adults. Neither I, nor his doctors, can speak to the dangers of doing this to a child who is still rocking a bib and sippy cup. EDIT:  The following information is for gastric bypass, gastric sleeve is a newer surgery that does less rearranging of the digestive system.  There is not a lot of data yet on the procedure, but it is generally agreed to have less risks than gastric bypass:

The largest examination of mortality rates following bariatric surgery found chilling results: nearly 3% of the patients died after the first year and 6.4% at the end of the fourth year. Of those who had surgery in 1995 and had at least 9 years of follow-up, 13.0% had died. Of those who had the surgery in 1996 and 8 years of follow-up, 15.8% had died, and of those who had surgery in 1997 with 7 years of follow-up, 10.5% had died.
Sandy Swarzc, on the Junk-food Science blog, compared these rates to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, matching Americans of the same age and BMI and concludes: “By best estimates, bariatric surgeries likely increase the actual mortality risks for these patients by 7-fold in the first year and by 363% to 250% the first four years. (from Linda Bacon’s Dreams on the Operating Room Table (Bariatric Surgery)
How could anyone who has access to those numbers justify doing this to a toddler?  And if he does live, and is somehow able to absorb enough vitamins to grow, let’s talk about the side effects he can look forward to [TW: Gross]
adhesions and polyps, massive scar tissue,advanced aging, anemia, arthritis, blackouts/fainting, bloating, body secretions (odor like rotten meat), bowel/fecal impaction, cancer (of the stomach, esophagus, pancreas, and bowel), chest pain from vomiting, circulation impairment, cold intolerance, constipation,depression, diarrhea, digestive impairment due to heavy mucus, digestive irregularities, diverticulitis, drainage problems at incision, early onset of diabetes, early onset of hypertension, electrolyte imbalance, erosion of tooth enamel, excessive dry skin, excessive stomach acid, esophageal contractions, esophageal erosion and scarring, feeling ill, gallbladder distress, gynecological complications, hair loss, hemorrhoids, hernia, hormone imbalances, impaired mobility, infection from leakage into body cavities (peritonitis), infertility, intestinal atrophy, intestinal gas, involuntary anorexia, irregular body fat distribution (lumpy body), iron deficiency, kidney impairment and failure, liver impairment and failure, loss of energy, loss of muscle control, loss of skin integrity, low hemoglobin, lowered immunity and increased susceptibility to illnesses, malfunction of the pituitary gland, muscle cramps, nausea, neural tube defects inyour children, neurological impairment (nerve and brain damage), osteoporosis, pancreas impairment, pain along the left side, pain on digestion, pain on evacuation, peeling of fingernails, potassium loss, pulmonary embolus, putrid breath and stomach odor, rectal bleeding, shrinking of intestines, stomach pain, sleep irregularities, suicidal thoughts, thyroid malfunction, urinary tract infection, vitamin and mineral deficiency, vitamin and mineral malabsorption, violent hiccups that persist daily, vomiting from blockage, vomiting from drinking too fast, vomiting from eating too fast,
vomiting from eating too much (more than 2 ounces) . . . and best of all—weight regain (from Linda Bacon’s Dreams on the Operating Room Table (Bariatric Surgery)
If he could read any of this I’m sure he’d be just thrilled.  How is he going to feel about the people who did this to him when he can understand it?  Considering the results of being malnourished from such a young age, it seems like being bow legged might start looking pretty good.
This is completely, utterly, out-of-control, indefensibly ridiculous.  I’m not entirely sure that these types of surgeries meet the requirements of ethical medicine for anyone  considering the mortality rates and side effects and that they are often prescribed to solve health problems that haven’t happened yet and/or are controllable through other means, or advised simply to make someone’s body look different.  I am sure that it’s not ok to give this surgery to someone who isn’t able to understand the possible repercussions (and let’s be honest that, at this point, NOBODY understands the possible repercussions of doing this to very young children) or consent to it – especially if they can’t consent because they’re still trying to grasp the concept “don’t hit, use your words.” Make no mistake, this is not ok.

Like my 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

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

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!

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

If my selling things on the blog makes you uncomfortable, you might want to check out this post.  Thanks for reading! ~Ragen