Anonymous Coward Bullies Children On Halloween

The jerk whispererI woke up to over 500 readers who let me know about a woman in North Dakota who has taken it upon herself to visually identify children as “moderately obese” and, instead of the candy she is giving to other children, giving them letters to their parents stating, in part,

Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.

My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.

So first it can’t be said early or often enough that tactics like this don’t make kids thinner or healthier (two separate things).  Let’s remember that we don’t know how to make fat kids thin, and the untested “interventions” that have been launched  actually are now being shown to lead to eating disorders but not to thinner, or healthier, kids. 

One wonders how she can determine body weight with all that costume attached (and, it’s freaking cold in North Dakota so many of the children will wear costumes over many layers of clothing, including (at least when I was a kid living in Montana) snow pants and parkas.

My heart is ripping open and crying for the kids who will have their Halloween ruined by this – especially since I’m concerned that other adult bullies will choose to follow in her footsteps.

One wonders why she used the term “moderately obese” and what that means to her.  Do kids who are, in her completely unqualified opinion, severely obese get candy?  Or does she just shoot them to put them out of her misery?

If she wants to talk to parents, why doesn’t she actually do that?  Follow the fat ones home to give the letter to their parents, chase after the school bus and at least try to be a respectable busybody, judgmental, bully.

Since she – as an amateur doctor, nutritionist, child psychologist, parenting expert and psychic with the ability to diagnose health issues, and know kids eating behaviors by looking at them in a costume for 10 seconds at her doorstep – is such an expert on health, why not dole out snacks that she thinks are healthy for all kids? Isn’t she afraid that the candy that she hands out to kids who she does not deem “moderately obese” might *gasp* make them fat and thus deserving of her fat bullying letter next year.

For those (like one cardiologist interviewed about this  [trigger warning for unsubstantiated obesity panic, and incompetent doctor being quoted]) who say that giving a fat kid candy is like giving heroin to a heroin addict – what the hell is wrong with you?  A fat body size does not constitute an addiction at all, nor a specific candy addiction, and If you think that candy and heroin are comparable then you probably shouldn’t be allowed to be a doctor anymore.  This line of argument is completely ridiculous.

Also, why be anonymous?  If you are proud of your actions, then stand behind them with your name.  She’ll know that I stand behind what I’ve said here because I put my name on it, despite hate mail and death threats.  She’s so interested in children experiencing what she believes are the consequences of their actions, she should experience the consequences of hers.

Fat kids aren’t in need of  “tough love” and even if they were, this isn’t it.  When we make assumptions about people because of the way that they look, that’s not “love” it’s bigotry.  When we treat one group worse than another because of the way that they look, that’s not “love” (tough or otherwise), it’s bullying.  Fat kids don’t need bigotry and bullying from strangers making guesses about their health and eating habits on any day, let alone a holiday they’ve probably been excited about for months.

If you are a fat kid reading this, I’m truly sorry that there bullying jerks in the world.  I wrote you a letter here if you are interested.

EDIT:  There are several people saying that this is a hoax.  If so, it’s a good hoax that’s been reported in most major media outlets.  That said, if it is a hoax I’m happy, but still concerned that others will read about it and think that it’s a good idea  – so even if it’s a hoax, I’ll let this post stand as a message to any of those folks.

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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

Our Bodies Our Selves

Wrong RoadOne of the many issues with the idea of the “War on Obesity” or “Preventing Obesity” or talking about “the Obese” is that it defines people entirely by their body size.  The government is waging war against a body size.  Society talks about people with the same body size as if they can be defined and understood completely by the mathematical equation that defines us as “obese” – a definition that has been changed by the very people who profit from it.

Billions of dollars are being spent fighting a war against bodies whose weight in pounds times 703 divided by their height in inches squared is greater than 30, based on the incredibly shoddy research that suggests that the things would be cheaper if there are no more bodies that meet that height/weight ratio.

This idea of “The Obese”  ignores the fact that the only thing obese people have in common is our height and weight ratio. Fat people are as varied in behavior as any group of people who share only a single physical characteristic (and the shame and stigma that currently comes along with it.)  Not to mention that this group includes people who are very muscular, as well as skewing with height.  Kate Harding’s BMI Project gives us a visual representation of how arbitrary these categories are.  The arbitrary categories of “overweight” and “obese” are separated by a few pounds, but we are supposed to believe that those four pounds create a major different in disease outcome and life expectancy regardless of behaviors, genetics, or body composition?

The CDC table says that in adults a BMI of “30 and over” is considered obese.  So, based on health risks that are attributed to “the obese” at my height I would be at the same risk if I weighed 174 pounds, or if I weighed 1,074 pounds.  Even the charts that include “classes” of obesity have a category of “x weight and up” (which is my current category – “Class 3 – Super Obese” which, it turns out, does not come with a cape and a secret identity as it sounds like it should,)  which means that if I believe this whole BMI/body size = health thing, I have same risk at my current weight of around 300 pounds, or if I doubled or even tripled my weight.

When the US Surgeon General announced that “Obesity is the terror within. It is eroding our society. It will bring a disease burden we can’t afford,”  he starting a campaign encouraging people (friends, family, bosses, doctors, and employers of fat people) to fear, blame, and stigmatize a group of citizens based on nothing more than how we look. To reduce fat people to our bodies, suggest that those bodies are failings (though I vehemently disagree with this), and that being fat is such a massive failing that it should overshadow anything else that we do or are – it doesn’t matter what we accomplish or who we are, you can tell by looking at us that we are domestic terrorists eroding society.

Bullshit.

When medicine substitutes body size for health, they are being lazy and cheap – trying to use an easy and inexpensive method to determine health instead of  the complicated work of treating the actual patient in front of them.  We can treat each individual as such, use basic testing to get information, listen to them when they talk about their bodies and what they are experiencing, and only discuss weight when it becomes medically necessary (for example, large unexplained weight fluctuations.)

Rather than assuming that fat people’s health issues are all caused by their fatness but the exact same health issues in thin people are caused by something else, rather than studying body size and making guesses about what would happen if we could eliminate certain body sizes (which we have no idea how to do),  we could study health issues, and interventions that can help people of all sizes.

Rather than pouring money into a War against the result of a mathematical calculation, rather than wasting billions of dollars in anti body size campaigns that have absolutely no evidence to suggest that they will succeed at changing body size or health long term, research and medical science could stop being so ridiculously lazy and start actually looking at health.

This society tells people that, if someone is fat, our bodies define us – that they knows everything they need to know about us with just a cursory glance, and that the news is not good.  This is why size acceptance activism is necessary – because people and societal institutions define, stigmatize, bully and oppress us based on our size – all sanctioned, even encouraged, by the government – based on stereotypes, assumptions and bigotry.  Our bodies are amazing, but they are not all that there is to us, and my activism is working toward a world where, though I will always be willing and happy to advocate for my fat body, there will be no need to do so.

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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

Taking Up Too Much Space

IMG_9103 - CopyOne thing that fat people often tell me makes them uncomfortable is the idea that they take up too much space.  Here’s what I think about that.  I think that our bodies take up just the right amount of space, whatever size they are.  If they get bigger or smaller they still take up just the right amount of space.  Because they are our BODIES.

It is ridiculous for people to think that they, and anyone smaller than them, take up “the right” amount of space, but those bigger than them take up too much. Spare me.

Nobody takes up too much space just by virtue of existing.  Tall people don’t take up too much space.  People in wheelchairs don’t take up too much space.  Fat people don’t take up too much space.  If you are on a crowded train and you sit with your legs completely splayed out sprawling across as much space as you can, then an argument can be made that you are taking up too much space, but it is impossible that your body takes up too much space just being your body

There are things in the world that are made to fit only people of a certain size but that doesn’t make all other bodies wrong.  It means that when they manufactured those things, they either pretended that bodies outside of those sizes don’t exist, or they simply made the decision not to accommodate people of all sizes.  When I encounter these situations I can choose activism, or not.  If I go into a restaurant and I’m not comfortable in their booths or the arms on their chairs pinch I have a few options.  I can say nothing and suffer through, or I can leave immediately.  I can let the management know about the problem and give them a chance to accommodate me, or I can just decide that if they wanted my business they would have made different choices and so leave and never come back.

Regardless of what I choose the problem resides with the booths and the chairs and not with my body.  I take up exactly the right amount of space and I believe that you do too.

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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

Suffering from Obesity

Belly Bump with one of my heroes - Marilyn Wann
Belly Bump with one of my heroes – Marilyn Wann

I decided to repost this blog based on a few conversations I had and saw in the last few days.  I see people talk a lot about how we need to “do something,” and how abusive and exploitative things like The Biggest Loser are justified  because so many people are “suffering from obesity”.  I won’t presume to speak for everyone but I will say that while I sometimes do suffer because I’m obese, I’ve never suffered from obesity.

I’m suffering from living in a society where I’m shamed, stigmatized and humiliated because of the way I look. Where I’m oppressed by people who choose to believe that I could be thin if I tried (even though there’s no evidence for that), and that I am, in fact, obligated to try to be thin because that’s what they want me to do – as if personal responsibility means that I’m personally responsible for doing what they think I should do and looking like they think I should look (though this does not seem to be a two way street as none of these people has ever invited by commentary and suggestions on their life and choices.)

I’m suffering from doctors who have bought into a weight=health paradigm so deeply that they are incapable of giving me appropriate evidence-based healthcare.  I’m not just talking about diagnosing me as fat and giving me a treatment plan of weight loss (which is using a completely unreliable diagnostic and then prescribing a treatment that has the opposite result 95% of the time).  I’m also talking about the two doctors who tried to prescribe me blood pressure medication without taking my blood pressure or looking at my chart to see that it is always 117/70 (which means that taking blood pressure medication would have been dangerous).  I’m talking about a doctor trying to get me to lose weight to treat me for Type 2 Diabetes when I actually had anemia.  I’m talking about a doctor telling me that my strep throat was due to my weight. I’m talking about people who are supposed to be scientists abandoning science and research in a way that strongly resembles the time when the Catholic church told Galileo to sit down and shut up.

I’m suffering from a societal witch hunt where instead of putting me in a river they put me on a scale.  People look at my body and feel comfortable blaming me for everything from global warming to healthcare costs despite a lack of evidence for either. People send me ridiculous hate mail, say nasty things to me at the gym (although making fun of a fat person at the gym is something I will never understand).  People who are drenched in thin privilege try to use that position of privilege to make me feel bad about myself.

I’m suffering from the misinformation campaign that is led by the diet industry, weight loss pharmaceutical industry and surgeons who profit from mutilating people who look like me, none of whom are willing to be honest about the risks or horrible success rates of their interventions long term, and some of whom just don’t seem to care.

I am suffering from living in a society that tells me that the cure for social stigma, shame, humiliation and incompetent healthcare is for me to lose weight, when the truth is that the cure for social stigma is ending social stigma.

What has lessened my suffering is that I now realize that this isn’t my fault – although it becomes my problem. One of the reasons that I choose to pursue a life of social justice work is that nothing makes me feel better than knowing that I am doing what I can to fight this and making some kind of difference – whether it’s in the lives of individuals or in society, or just in my own life.  I deserve better and so does everyone else and I and lots of others are fighting for it and we’re going to win.  But to be clear, we shouldn’t have to.  Nobody should have to fight to be treated with basic human respect.   And that’s what I find so sad – all of this suffering of fat people could end right this second and nobody needs to lose a pound – society just needs to stop trying to shame, stigmatize, humiliate and hate people healthy.  We can work on access to healthy foods, we can work on access to safe movement options that people enjoy, we can work on making sure that people have access to appropriate, evidence-based healthcare.  If we give up being a horribly failed example for making people thin, we could be a successful example for giving people options for health.

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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

Tom Hanks’ Doctor Might Be Totally Incompetent

Bad DoctorTom Hanks recently announced to the world that he has been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D).  Let’s get the first thing straight – he, like Paula Deen before him, was under NO OBLIGATION to do so.  Celebrities do not owe us every detail of their lives.  Tom Hanks is an actor, his job is to portray a character, not to disclose all of his health issues to the general public.  Can you imagine if your plumber told you that she’d been diagnosed with T2D four years prior and you were completely angry and indignant that she didn’t tell you sooner?  So, though he was under no obligation to do so, Tom Hanks went public as is his choice.

In an interview with David Letterman he said “My doctor said, ‘If you can weigh what you weighed in high school, you’ll essentially be healthy and not have Type 2 diabetes.”  If this is true, if Mr. Hanks did not misunderstand or misspeak, then his doctor is dangerously misinformed.  His weight may have nothing to do with it. Some have suggested that it may be related to the major weight fluctuations he underwent for films like Philadelphia and Castaway.

Before we go too far into this, let’s talk about another issue:  The best thing, the only thing that I believe is ethical, that we can do once someone has been diagnosed with a health issue is provide shame-free, future-oriented care.  Though disease prevention is a reasonable thing to work on in general, it’s not reasonable to talk about it to someone who has a diagnosis already.  At that point what matters is providing options to the patient moving forward that are evidence based, creating a treatment plan (or not) based on informed consent, and never ever blaming or shaming the person for their illness. Nothing good comes from blaming or shaming people about their health issues.

Prescribing weight loss as a T2D intervention is highly problematic.  Choosing a random weight (just as a hypothetical example – what one weighed in high school) is ludicrous.  Tom Hanks did a good job of pointing that out when he said that his response to his doctor was  “Well, I’m gonna have Type 2 diabetes because there is no way I can weigh as much as I did in high school,” which was 96 pounds.

There are many reasons that weight loss as a prescription for T2D is problematic, not the least of which is that weight loss doesn’t work long term. so even if weight loss would cure T2D we would first need to know how to make weight loss successful.  The second issue is that some methods of weight loss will actually cause blood sugar to become higher or to swing dangerously high and low.  When weight loss is credited with improving T2D, typically it is an observation over a short period of time that inexplicably ignores the fact that behavior changes preceded the weight loss and the metabolic change, and so the weight loss and the change in metabolic markers are likely both caused by the behavior changes (thus the weight loss wasn’t the cause of the health improvement, but a side effect of the behaviors that led to the improvement.)  This is significant because it’s likely that the weight loss will be short term and the weight will be regained, but the behavior changes can often continue to help the T2D.

I’m not going to get into treating T2D in this post other than to say that there are many options, that people of all weights get T2D, that there are definitely interventions that don’t involve weight loss, and that the best things I think we could do from a public health perspective is to eliminate shame and blame around it, stop prescribing weight loss as an intervention, and focus on creating behavior-based treatments plans based on patient goals and desires (including medication and “alternative therapies.”

Tom Hanks gets to do whatever he thinks is best to deal with his diagnosis, but let’s remember that he is an actor and his doctor is clearly just practicing medicine.

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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

Even if Weight Loss Would Solve it All

BullshitWeight loss is touted as a miracle cure.  We’re promised that it will make us healthier, happier, more attractive  – that the life of our dreams is just a diet away. We are told that being fat is the cause for everything bad in our lives – single and want to be in a relationship?  It’s because you’re fat.  Have mobility problems?  It’s because you’re fat.  Have diabetes?  It’s because you’re fat.  Hit by a truck?  It’s because you’re fat.  Abducted by aliens?  It’s because you’re fat.

For today let’s put aside the fact that there are people of all sizes dealing with health challenges, unwanted singleness, diabetes, auto accidents and alien abduction.  Let’s set aside that there isn’t a single study of people who have lost weight long term showing that they were healthier for it.  Let’s not even get into a discussion about alien abduction (it’s beyond the scope of this blog).

Even if becoming thin would solve every single problem in every single fat person’s life, the truth is it doesn’t matter.  Because we don’t know how to get it done. The belief that we know how to help people lose weight and that weight loss leads to greater health is the Galileo issue of our time -widely believed, fervently defended, and unsupported by the evidence.

Let’s talk about what would define successful weight loss.  If we are going to buy into the idea of “healthy weight,” “overweight and “obese” categories (and this may be the only time on this blog that I suggest doing that) then successful weight loss would have to move someone at least one category lower than they are to make them more healthy, and preferably into the “healthy weight” category, otherwise their risk – based on this system of categories- doesn’t really change.

We are nowhere even close to knowing how to do that.  In studies of long term weight loss the vast majority of participants regain all of their weight long term, and many regain more than they lost.  Many never lose enough weight to change categories.

The Nutrition Journal published a review of studies used to prove that dieting works called “Validity of claims made in weight management research: a narrative review of dietetic articles”.  Here are some of the findings:

  • [studies included] claims of non-specific ‘health benefits’ which are not substantiated
  • It appears that beliefs about weight and health acquire a truth status so that they circulate as intuitively appealing ‘facts’, immune from scrutiny and become used, and accepted by editors, without supporting references
  • Dietetic literature on weight management fails to meet the standards of evidence based medicine.
  • Research in the field is characterized by speculative claims that fail to accurately represent the available data.

This information is even more fleshed out in the same journal in the piece “Weight Science:  Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.”

When I first started reading weight loss literature, it was amazing to me how many studies cite an extremely low success rate (between .17% and 5%) but then assert in their conclusions that it’s still a good idea to set a weight loss goal and use the method that they just showed almost never works.

Weight Watchers own numbers show that the average person maintains a 5 pound weight loss after 2 years (a feat I feel could be accomplished by regular exfoliation and without paying a small fortune to Weight Watchers.)  Representatives from WW once said that they wouldn’t do longer term studies because it would be too depressing for their clients.

Weight loss is the snake oil of our time – promised to “cure what ails ya”, no matter what that is, when in truth there is basically no more research to support weight loss than there is to promote good old fashioned snake oil. There isn’t a study that shows that weight loss is possible for the majority of people, and there isn’t a study that shows that if it was successful it would make people healthier.  This entire thing is based on everybody knows.

Almost everyone who attempts weight loss fails.  Yet doctors keep prescribing the same things and blaming more than 95% of people for not trying hard enough or not doing it right. Can you imagine if Viagra only worked 5% of the time and we blamed 95% of the guys for just not trying hard enough?  It’s completely ridiculous.  But when I point this out people roll their eyes and say “everybody knows” that you can lose weight if you really try.

Let me say it again – even if weight loss would solve every problem, it doesn’t matter because we don’t know how to get it done and my opinion, based on the research that exists, is that it is a massive waste of time, money, and resources to keep suggesting, marketing, prescribing, and pursuing weight loss.  (Especially when there is good evidence that there are other ways to pursue health if that’s a priority.)  If people want to keep researching weight loss methods that’s fine, it’s also fine if they want to keep researching ways to help people fly like superman, but I certainly won’t be dieting or jumping off my roof and flapping my arms at least until someone has figured out that it’s possible.  For now losing weight to get healthier is doing something that nobody has proven is possible for a reason that nobody has proven is valid.

Talking to Your Doctor

There are two spots available for the online class “How to Talk to Your Doctor – Be Your Own Medical Advocate” class on Monday the 28th from 3-5pm Pacific. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/medicaladvocate or get more information at https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/workshop-talking-to-your-healthcare-provider/ (The paypal button is inventory controlled so it won’t let you register unless there are spots available.)

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

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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

Imagine If It Was Really About Health

Ask QuestionsI was pondering today what might happen if everybody who said that they cared about health (and not just about body size) really did care about health (and not just body size)? Health is multifaceted and not entirely within our control, the definition can be completely arbitrary and nobody is obligated to prioritize health, and it is definitely not a barometer of worthiness.  But since there is a virtually inescapable national dialog around the subject, there are some things that I wonder about it.

What if we stopped conflating the two separate concepts of weight (and the body size that a culture happens to value aesthetically) and health (the way that bodies actually work in terms of metabolic health, strength, stamina and flexibility that is complicated and not entirely within our control)?  What if the conversation about health was actually about public health and not public thinness?

How would the $60,000,000,000 we currently pay to the diet industry every year be used?  Sustainable organic farming that could bring down the price of organic food?  Parks and playgrounds that will allow kids to have safe places to play and move? Programs to make food and safe movement options available and affordable?

Would fat people who go to their doctors with a health issue actually be treated for that health issue instead of getting diagnosed as “fat” and prescribed a smaller body? Would we never again have someone’s life and health endangered because their doctor diagnosed them as fat instead of properly diagnosing and treating their real health issue?

Would scientists and the government spend their time and our money studying what things could make us healthier instead of spending all of their time and money (and the diet industry’s money) trying to make us all smaller?

Would fat people be healthier simply by virtue of not living in a society where we are constantly stigmatized?

What would the people who are obsessed with leaving me hate comments do with all of their new-found free time?

Would people still sign up for a contest giving away a surgery with a less than 20% success rate and a massive negative side effect rate that  includes death?

How would the world, and our relationships be different if the 8 out of 10 women who are currently dissatisfied with their bodies actually liked themselves?

What would happen if fat people were seen as people who live in large bodies, and weren’t assumed to be lazy, unhealthy, unattractive etc?  Would we stop missing out on hiring really smart, really capable people who are currently not hired simply because of the bigotry that exists around our body size?

What truths would we learn about health options for fat people if doctors and scientists studied healthy fat people instead of just calling them an anomaly or a paradox, or telling us that no matter how healthy we are – it won’t last?

Would eating disorders among kids under twelve be up 119% in the last decade if we didn’t have “war on fat kids” and if kids didn’t start yo-yo dieting as early as age 8?

Would we learn to celebrate the diversity of body sizes the same way that we celebrate the rest of the diversity in nature?

I don’t know the answers, but I’d damn sure like to find out…

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

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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