Bullying For Our Own Good

credible hulkI was in a documentary called America the Beautiful 2 – The Thin Commandments (now available on Netflix.)  The director, Darryl Roberts, asked me for my thoughts on an e-mail he had received from someone who watched the film.  I think that it illustrates a lot of common misconceptions about fat people.  Darryl agreed to let me blog about it, of course keeping the author anonymous.  I’ve split the email up to answer.  It contains some highly triggering language, you can skip the indented sections if you just want to read just my commentary.  Of course I can’t answer for everyone in the film, or all fat people, or anyone other than myself, but here are my thoughts:

I was teased mercilessly at school. You can say that a more accepting society wouldn’t tease me, so this wouldn’t be a problem, but consider this: the reason that people tease, pick on, make fun of people that are different (and always have across cultures), is to help stop the behavior that makes the person different, and bring him/her more in line with societal norms. While obviously there are less mean spirited ways to help people fit in, in the end, the desire not to be teased motivated me very much to lose weight.

There’s a word for this behavior and that word is bullying and it’s not ok.  While the desire not to be teased motivated you to want to lose weight and you were lucky enough to be able to succeed in solving social stigma by giving your bullies what they wanted, consider this:  some kids can’t change, some don’t want to, and none should be forced to comply with their bullies demands in order to live life without merciless teasing.  Kids are different, that’s a good thing, and the notion that bullies are just helping out kids who don’t conform is desperately misguided. Consider this:  you were able to solve your bullying problem by giving the bullies what they wanted. Some bullied kids commit suicide.

Not to mention, we don’t know how to make fat kids thin and the experiments that are being tried are failing miserably. Instead of leading to thinner kids or healthier kids (two different things by the way) they are leading to eating disorders.

Research from the University of Minnesota found that: None of the behaviors being used by adolescents for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years for eating disorders rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006. There was a 15% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in all ages across the same time period.

A new study is looking at the effects of “school based healthy-living programs.” that were implemented without research about effectiveness or inadvertent harmful effects. This study found that these programs are actually triggering eating disorders in kids.

A second motivator for me was that I loved sports. I could never run as fast, jump as high, or play with the same endurance as the other kids because of the extra weight I carried.

The pillars of athletics are strength, stamina, flexibility, and technique which can be worked on by kids (and adults) of all sizes. We all have different athletic potential, there are plenty of unathletic thin people so being thin is not a guarantee of athletic performance.  There are over 2,000 members of the Fit Fatties Forum pursuing athletics at every level from just for fun to professional.  Considering that most weight loss attempts end up in the person being heavier than when they started, perhaps the best thing that we could do for all athletes is to encourage them to work on athleticism rather than body size.

Mostly though, the hardest part of being overweight for me was the lack of interest from the opposite sex. Undeniably, every society throughout history has evaluated the worth of partners based on looks, and humans are not alone in this (think peacock’s feathers). While a ripped physique may be tough to attain, it is not nearly as insane as the tiny bound feet found attractive by past Asian cultures, or the stretched necks and earlobes of the Masai in Africa. In fact, it could be argued that today’s beauty ideals are indeed the healthiest ever held.

When you talk about “today’s” beauty ideals, you are discussing the beauty ideals of a very specific group of people – there are places around the world with very different ideals.

Considering this culture’s increase in eating disorders, and the amount of money spent on the beauty, cosmetic surgery, and diet industries, it could also be argued that today’s beauty ideals are seriously unhealthy – based on a Photo Shop perfection that isn’t even attainable by the people in the pictures we’re trying to emulate. It’s also worth pointing out that the ability to attain a ripped body by various definitions is highly tied to genetics and also to socioeconomic status (having the time and resources to make a ripped body a priority over, say, working a third job to pay the electric bill) as well be willing to have a partner who only wants someone who fits into a very narrow stereotype of beauty. People are allowed to do all of those things but it’s not the only option.

I like that those who date me have shown the ability to perceive beauty beyond the stereotype that has been spoon fed to them by industries that profit from people’s desperation to fit in.  I also don’t live in constant fear that time or circumstance will change the superficial, causing my partner to go looking for the stereotype that I no longer am.  My friends who do fit the beauty stereotype constantly tell me about their frustration with being approached because they meet someone’s shallow beauty ideals with little care about the amazing women and men they are so I know that, at least for some, it’s not all rainbows and fuzzy bunnies on the lower end of the BMI scale.

I agree wholeheartedly that BMI is a ridiculous measure of health. Obviously it doesn’t adjust for skeletal muscle mass percentage compared to body fat percentage. Clearly the school in your film did not explain BMI clearly, because the students had no idea how it worked (being tall does not make you overweight, nor do you have to divide anything to calculate BMI). As much as we all hate calipers, I feel very strongly that body fat percentage does give you a much better indicator of health.

You’ve been misinformed. The formula for BMI is: weight in pounds times 703 DIVIDED BY height in inches squared.  The BMI calculation is also skewed against tall people because typically mass will increase with the cube of the linear dimension, but – as you can see from the formula – BMI uses the square which will skew to higher BMI’s for those who are tall.

As for body fat percentage, you are welcome to feel strongly about whatever you want, but there is plenty of research supporting behavior as a predictor of future health.  And once again, even if body fat was the best measurement, there isn’t a single study where even a majority of participants were able to maintain significant weight loss over time so if you think body fat is bad, then suggestion intentional weight loss attempts is statistically the worst thing that you could suggest.

Excess fat leads to all sorts of problems. While you can easily point to myriad professional athletes with high BMIs, you will be much harder pressed to find those with above average body fat (sumos and offensive lineman withstanding). Carrying excessive body fat slows you down.

I’m not sure that we should be using professional athletes as our models for health -many of them actually put their long term health in danger to pursue their sport.  If you want to focus on health, there’s good research that shows that those who do 30 minutes of movement 5 times a week get tremendous health benefits at any size. Consider that, if we choose to prioritize health, healthy behaviors are our best chance for a healthy body – though of course there are no guarantees.

As you carry more and more body fat, life gets harder and harder. It’s harder to go places. It’s harder to find comfortable clothes. It’s harder to clean yourself properly. It’s harder to play with your kids. It’s harder to get up off of the couch. Everything is harder.

There are people at all sizes who have good mobility and people at all sizes who have poor mobility for all kinds of reasons, none of which are a barometer of worthiness by the way.  As a fat person who has been both fat and thin I can tell you that bullying and stereotyping make my life much more difficult than extra weight does.  Not to mention that even if being thinner would make things easier we don’t know how to get that done.

Though some people are able to maintain weight loss long term they are statistical anomalies, the vast majority of people who attempt weight loss fail in the long term.  My life would be way easier if I could fly but I’m not going to jump off my roof and flap my arms really hard – and the chances of flying are only about 5% less than the chances of long term weight loss.

Multiple recent studies from highly credible sources have come out showing that underweight people (who eat extremely restrictive diets) may actually live longer than those with what we consider to be healthy weights.

Cite your sources please.  There is research that suggest that people who are in the “overweight” category actually outlive those in the normal weight category so obviously there isn’t scientific consensus on this.

For me, the real question is this: at what point does quality of life trump quantity of life? If you love eating more than you love playing with your kids, then perhaps morbid obesity leads to greater happiness for you. I think that most people would find the opposite to be true.

You’ve drawn a ridiculous false dichotomy here, relying completely on the stereotypes.  There are thin people who eat tons of food and don’t gain weight and there are fat people who eat a moderate amount of food and stay fat.  Body size is a matter of genetics, behaviors, and the effects of past behaviors (with past dieting predicting a higher body weight since most weight loss attempts end in weight gain.) It’s complicated and not entirely within our control.

The joy of eating is a very small joy compared to other joys for me. I have more fun riding my bike, competing in soccer and hockey, reading a good book, or spending time with my friends and family than I ever have eating.

That’s absolutely your choice to make. Plenty of fat people make the same choice. This is also not an either/or.  People can, and do, enjoy food and do all of the things that you mentioned.

Food should be viewed as fuel for life. You can put low quality fuel in a rental car because you are only going to have it for a few days, but your body is kept for life. For this reason, I choose to feed my body a healthy amount of high quality fuel to keep it running smoothly.

You are breaking the underpants rule.  You get to decide what you believe but you do not get to tell anyone else how to live or what food should be for in their lives. The belief that someone’s body size can tell you the quality of food that they eat is a myth.

I fear that half the message of your documentary was right. People can certainly yo-yo diet. Kids are teased because of being overweight. BMI is not a good enough metric for determining health. That said, I do not think that happiness comes from loving yourself as you are, and forgiving your shortcomings. Love yourself, certainly, but work on your weaknesses! Make yourself the kindest, happiest, healthiest, best person you can be!

You are welcome to view your body as a shortcoming or weakness, but nobody else is obligated to view their bodies that way.  My body is awesome and I’m not going to trash it just because it doesn’t meet some stereotype of beauty.  You are welcome to attempt to make yourself into whatever you want but it’s not your job to tell other people what to make themselves into, nor is it your job to dictate what defines happiest, healthiest, or best for others, or that they should strive for that.

Though I cannot agree completely with your message, I enjoyed the movie very much.

Cool

PS. I am not sure which character was more sad, the extremely fit real estate agent who obsessed over her weight, or the dancer that ate 10,000 calories a day. Both are pretty extreme examples of eating disorders, and neither seem healthy to me.

How sweet of you to mention me specifically.  I met the Real Estate Agent at several of the premieres, she seemed like an awesome person.  The second time I met her we laughed at how people do what you are doing here. I am curious where you got the idea that I ate 10,000 calories a day, or how you feel comfortable diagnosing either of us with an eating disorder.  It seems to me that you may suffer from an over-exaggerated sense of self-importance, but that’s just my guess, I could be wrong.

In general it seems that this person has fallen prey to the Galileo issue of our time – the idea that “everybody knows” that  a cursory glance at someone tells you everything that you need to know about their health and habits, and no amount of evidence can change their minds.  The truth is that there are people of vastly different weights with the same eating and exercise habits and people of the same weight with very different eating and exercise habits.  Body size and health are complicated, multifaceted and not entirely within our control.  When you make guesses about people based on the way that they look, that’s stereotyping.  When you attach judgments to those guesses, that’s bigotry.  To paraphrase the brilliant Marilyn Wann, the only things you can tell from someone’s body size are the size of their body, and your prejudices about bodies that size.

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Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 10:56 am  Comments (68)  

68 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So making fun of a person with Down Syndrome is just society’s way of hoping for a spontaneous cure? And I suppose you should just straighten your hair if people make fun of its natural texture. Weird logic she has.

    FWIW, the thing making it hardest for me to get off the couch is a bad thyroid. I probably could have had more getting off couch time had I been properly diagnosed and treated sooner. Instead I destroyed my metabolism by weight cycling and forcing my body to compensate further. Some days getting on the couch is an effort.

    Re: dancer eating 10,000 calories: I think she’s referring to the woman with the tuna sandwich ritual towards the end of the movie.

  2. I have just to comment and say how awesome you are! As a former dancer who developed an eating disorder to stay thin, I have so much respect for you. The class with which you handle yourself in this response is unparalleled. Thank you for showing that there is nothing “healthy” about dieting down to a size 2 if your body is not meant to be that. Keep up the amazing work. I am just beginning to explore the body positive movement and am just amazed by it all. Thank you!!!

  3. Obviously a clueless person. She didn’t say how long she had maintained her weight loss, but I bet it’s not been long. She will (95% sure of this), know what you are talking about very soon. I am the same as Ann Mouse above – thyroid, weight cycling – voila, here I am!!! If I hadn’t tried (time and time again) to force my body to be something that it wasn’t designed to be, I would probably be an average-size woman (size 14-20). Instead, I about killed myself with diet and exercise trying to be thin and am much larger because of it. Thank God for people like you, Ragen, who helped me to realize that I am fine just the way I am and, in fact, I can even be proud of myself! What a miracle!

    If they would just teach kids to accept themselves as they are and others as they are, how much better would life be for them? I cannot stand to see a child suffer as I did. It literally makes me sick. To have that many people against you – peers, parents, siblings, teachers, the first lady, etc., etc. – is just an unbearable situation to find yourself in. It’s hard enough when you’re an adult, but to be a child in that situation, I can tell you from experience, is just a pure living hell.

  4. I went to junior high and high school in the 1970s, what I see now in the schools is SO MUCH BETTER than it had been about bullying. A work in progress, sure, but at least some folks are getting clued in. With social media, including this blog, hopefully life will be better for our grandchildren. —-Jen

    • So much agree. I went to elementary and middle school in the ’80s, and high school in the ’90s, and at that time, bullying/being bullied was seen as a rite of passage. If you couldn’t cut it, you were seen as weak and needed to be culled from the herd anyway. The first time I heard about bullying being seen as a serious thing, I was dumbstruck and couldn’t understand why, simply because the predator/prey analogy had been so thoroughly ground into me. And this is from someone who tried to cull herself multiple times.

  5. It not just about the joy of eating, though I do enjoy eating. It’s also about what I consider to be the non-negotiable importance of feeling adequately nourished. This can include feeling mildly hungry some of the time, but no less food than that.

    • Indeed. Adequately nourishing myself fuels me and allows me to pursue excellence elsewhere, instead of stressing over when/what/how much I should eat. My energy is limited and any spent there is wasted!

  6. SO much of this made me angry, but I don’t want to address every single thing — after all, this is Ragen’s blog, not mine.🙂 But these were the worst of it:

    1. “Mostly though, the hardest part of being overweight for me was the lack of interest from the opposite sex. ”

    Sorry, but you really, really do need to learn to speak for yourself. I’ve been fat to one degree or another since puberty, and this has never been an issue. My personal belief is that the sort of self-hatred that comes with acceptance that you “deserve” to be bullied is a much greater barrier to finding a lasting relationship than any physical shape. It’s difficult for others to like you if you don’t like you.

    2. “The joy of eating is a very small joy compared to other joys for me. I have more fun…”

    Again, speak for yourself. You know what? I *LOVE* food. I love eating it, cooking it, sharing it, reading about it, and traveling places to try it. I prefer eating to exercising by a wide margin — but that’s not to say that I don’t do both in appropriate ways and in appropriate amounts.Sounds for all the world like this person has worked hard to convince him/herself that food isn’t important.

    3. “Love yourself, certainly, but work on your weaknesses! Make yourself the kindest, happiest, healthiest, best person you can be!”

    My weaknesses? I’m glad I haven’t met this person in real life, because they’d probably be treated to my real weakness — a short fuse combined with a big mouth. Who are you to decide who’s weak and how? And honestly, if you think being so judgmental is “kind”, your body wasn’t your biggest weakness, either.

    Again, sorry for the rant, but people with no concept of the Underpants Rule really get me going.

    • Hey, I think we share the same weakness! LOL

  7. Yeah, I know all that bullying in school really ‘solved’ my shortness, left-handedness, lack of athletic coordination, parentage, and relation to my older brothers. It also worked so very well for the kids who needed glasses, had skin that wasn’t pale pinkish, had learning disabilities, used wheelchairs, spoke with accents, or had allergies to common foods.

    But hey, the kid who waited for me every single day to beat the ever loving shit out of me on my way home from school from the fourth through the sixth grade? Clearly just wanted to make me a better person, right?

    Oh, and the only person I’ve ever heard about them eating 10,000 calories a day happened to be Michael Phelps as he trained to bring home a record-breaking bucketload of Olympic gold medals. Because you know what? It takes fuel to burn to accomplish something like that.

    • But that’s just the problem – where I live in Europe, one now tries to stop bullying for all the reasons you name, meaning bullying for all the reasons that can’t be changed. But fat shaming still seems to be ok, because that’s a thing the bullied person is supposed to be able to change. I even think it gets worse when this is one of the few things for which bullying is still “ok”

      • i think this is advanced anti-bullying: that it is not ok to bully people, PERIOD — not just regarding things they can’t change, but also for things they could conceivably change. people can change their religion, after all, and that gets respected more than many other choices.

        it’s similar to respecting homosexual people, no matter whether one believes sexual orientation is genetic, or whether a person might have some choice in the matter as long as one’s actions do not hurt others, people ought to leave it alone, and accord the person who differs from societal norms basic respect and dignity.

        i realize there is a grey line when it comes to self-harm, and i can see that line used by concern trolls, since supposedly fat people are harming themselves. but seriously, since when has shaming somebody ever actually helped the person stop harming themselves? even if one believes strongly that being fat is harmful, bullying the person is the wrong response.

    • Yeah, the bullies who gave me an anticipatory stomachache every morning and prompted me to choose a path through the woods where a bear was known to den because that felt safer were just trying to help. It couldn’t possibly have been that they were like so many cats “playing” with mice. How nice of them to give me a case of social terror (being noticed equals pain and speaking out equals being hunted down and manhandled, donchaknow) that impaired my ability to hold down a job! All the therapy I poured money into to get over their crap was just a cost of living in the world the bullies own.

  8. Brilliant response, Regan.

  9. I agree with all your responses. And you write one thing that I have just begun to think about lately

    “I also don’t live in constant fear that time or circumstance will change the superficial”

    I think finding beauty in all shapes and sizes and not following a beauty stereotype a great concept … but I also think it would be great if beauty wasn’t so important at all.
    I never thought of myself as very ugly or very fat, but never as thin or beautiful either. When I was young, I bought into the stereotypes of the media and wished that I would look different, better. But I had the luck that these things weren’t soooo important in my family, with my friends and even at my workplace. So getting older I could leave that behind me – I stopped dieting and desperately trying to be beautiful when I neared thirty, and I’m soooo glad did it … but it sure would have been harder if I had another sort of work and friends. I don’t think I ever got to the point where I found myself beautiful, it just wasn’t so important anymore, I got my happiness from other things.
    Now I’m nearing fifty, and I see soo many people around me struggeling with getting older, losing their beauty, their slimness etc – and I’m soooooooo relieved that I don’t have to struggle with these things so much – I don’t miss what I never thought having, so not having to be beautiful is a sort of freedom.

    So I wish that kid’s could learn today to find themselves beautiful and also that beauty isn’t that important anyway, that there are better things to spend one’s time and energy for.

    Ah, and being overweight automatically means “the lack of interest from the opposite sex”? She should meet me and my best friend – I (medium sized) am rather reserved and don’t find relationships easily, she – really fat – always has what her daughter calls her “harem of men” around her…. even if “everyone knows” that this isn’t possible🙂

  10. I loved cycling, reading, walking, roller skating and swimming as a fat teen (although I suspect I was just visually fat rather than high body fat percentage). I stopped doing a lot of those things for many years as I got bullied. Hell I even ran the 800m at school and hated every minute – short legs, large boobs and no real inclination towards running plus the snarky comments… I didn’t come last, they were cheering that person on…

    All bullying did for me is make me unfit, unhealthy and disinclined to deal with people face to face, all because I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who could change.

    I’m very glad my school had a zero tolerance policy on bullying or I’d be in a worse position now than I am.

    I hope this person makes peace with themselves and stops condoning bullying.

    • I’m disinclined to deal with people face-to-face myself. Once you’ve seen what humans really look like under that mask of civility, well… it’s a face you don’t forget, isn’t it?

  11. At the end it was like watching a horrifying train wreck. *Trigger warning* ” Love your self of course ,but fix the flaws society says you have. How dare you be happy with how you were made, when all those nice bullies put all that time and effort to try and kill your self -esteem” *sarcasm* All I could think was “Wow … just wow” and chuckle to myself.

  12. “Joy of Eating?” Did Bob Ross have a cooking show I never heard about?

    Srsly, there’s a lot infuriating in there, but it’s also creepy. The idea that people are obligated to conform to society even if society is objectively in the wrong is about as messed up as a philosophy can get, as is the insinuation any random physical characteristic society decides it doesn’t like magically becomes a character flaw a person must “correct” before they can legitimately be considered human. To say nothing of the “bullies just want to make you a better person” thing, but Twistie above dismantled that much better than I could.

    Fat is not the scarlet letter. It is not the physical manifestation of all the evil and malice that we would otherwise be able to hide from the poor unsuspecting people of the world. It’s tissue.

    Also, I don’t particularly like eating. I’m only bringing this up because the fact that the letter insists I do and expects me to be insulted is one weird-ass ad hominem, sort of like saying I play the trombone and expecting me to be UTTERLY SHAMED. I don’t play the trombone, and I don’t like eating, but if I did either… uh, so what?

    • I love your trombone analogy. The thing is, if a person went around to different gardens yelling “You like to smell flowers! Just stop! Don’t you want to be a better person?” or walking up to strangers in Barnes and Noble and saying “You’re buying too many books! I know you’re obsessed with reading, but stop being so weak!”, we’d say they needed mental health intervention.

      But tell a fat person they’re essentially disturbed because they enjoy food (which is actually necessary to live) and you’re being noble and helpful? I don’t think so.

      • Yes!

      • Love it!

  13. I cannot get over the part “bullies just want to make you a better person.” Um, no! I cannot think of a single redemptive quality of the taunting that was performed by the mean girls at my school directed at me and my friends. And I’m sure that my sister who was beaten mercilessly by a clique of mean girls and then had a nervous breakdown was better for it. HORSE SHIT.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

    • Amen, Tara.

      • Thanks, Helena. I’ve stopped shaking from rage…. no one deserves to be bullied.

    • Tara, I’m so sorry about your sister. I was bullied pretty mercilessly, too, but never beaten up, thankfully. I would like to think it’s because my tormentors were worried that I’d kick their kiesters, but I’m pretty sure it was because I wasn’t even worth THAT to them. Anyone who is bullied in any way suffers terribly, but it sounds like your sister had it worse than many and I’m so sad for her and you. I hope she’s doing okay now.

  14. “I was teased mercilessly at school. You can say that a more accepting society wouldn’t tease me, so this wouldn’t be a problem, but consider this: the reason that people tease, pick on, make fun of people that are different (and always have across cultures), is to help stop the behavior that makes the person different, and bring him/her more in line with societal norms.”

    Um. BULLSHIT. How does that explain teasing a kid for braces or glasses, or for the fact that his parents can’t afford to buy him expensive clothes? It’s NEVER about the “behavior” because it isn’t always behavior that’s mocked. And that sure as hell doesn’t explain why kids who are the goody-two-shoes get mocked for trying to do the RIGHT thing. What a load of bovine excrement!!

    • That was the bit that pissed me off too. Society used to condone slavery but that never made it right or OK. Yikes. What color is the sky in this person’s world?

    • Yep. People also bully others who are of a different race — just exactly how are you going to bring a person’s skin color “in line with societal norms”, and what would be productive about doing so if you could?

    • Preach it, Sister!

  15. oh, so much wrong here, so much wrong. and i feel deeply sorry for this person.

    clearly they had to twist their mind into some serious pretzel logic in order to deal with the abuse experienced as a kid and teenager.

    here’s something to wrap your mind around: the reason that people bully us so we fit in better with societal norms isn’t for OUR benefit; it’s for THEIRS. because being different challenges their beliefs, and many people don’t deal well with that (“if it’s hard for me it should be hard for you too”). look around you at some of the utterly stupid things societal norms try to enforce — and they vary by society, and keep changing to boot. if that’s what you use as a measuring stick, you’re up shit creek without as much as a bailing bucket.

    seriously, let go of this faux-comforting belief that the bullies did it to do you a good service. many people abuse others mercilessly — surely you wouldn’t think that bullying a person with a disability is for their own good? bullying is to be abhorred, and i think there is something much more seriously wrong with you than some fat if you condone it, and make excuses for it.

    as to the idea that nobody would date you when you were fat — sorry, but that was probably due to you hating your body and projecting that loud and clear. few people are attracted to those who loathe themselves. i’ve always been fat. i’ve also always been weird (geeky, polyamorous, transsexual), and yet i have also always found people attracted to me (and before you go there, no, they’re not losers who have had to settle — some are much more conventionally attractive than i). i actually consider my fat a very useful weeding mechanism — people who find me attractive are not likely to be caught up in shallow criteria for mate selection. so far (‘m almost 60) that has proven true, since i’ve not become more conventionally beautiful, *snicker*, but both my long-term partners show no signs of trading me in for a prettier, younger model.

    quoting some random study does not a scientific mind make. as far as i can tell (and i read a lot in this field), the people with the highest life expectancy are those who are somewhat “overweight” according to the execrable BMI (much abused and rightfully discredited). that also makes evolutionary sense — those people are more likely to survive a bout of famine, something with which we are now unfamiliar in the west, but which our species had to contend with for most of its existence on this planet. *shrug*. that does not actually affect how i live my life because i understand statistics, and my personal life is affected by a heck of a lot more factors than the unlikely occurrence of a famine. my personal genetics look good — long lived peasants on both sides of my family, always fat, the lot of them. and still, that doesn’t affect how i live my life (because even a genetic scan wouldn’t tell the whole story).

    nevermind the studies about weight — have you had a look at the studies about happiness and its effect on quality of life and longevity. do. it’ll make your eyes bug out.

  16. Ragen will this person get a link to this post? Because I think he/she needs it. (Seriously, I read it thinking a man had written it, but other commenters see it coming from a woman.)

    I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this person doesn’t love himself very much at all. It does sound like the idea of HAES is something that triggers him. Because people practicing HAES don’t have to conform? Because there are alternatives to society’s beauty ideals that he didn’t consider? Whatever it is, I hope he finds peace and acceptance.

    And I hope he’s not a bully since he thinks it is acceptable…

  17. Ragen,

    Okay so maybe I was the only one here focusing on the film as opposed to the remarks made by that emailer but I couldn’t help it. I totally enjoyed that film and really happy you posted a link to it, thanks! Also I wanted to say you were wonderful in it!!

    It was uplifting to me so as to why I probably decided after watching the film not to read all the remarks made by that emailer or will save it for a different day.

    Anyway, the film has helped me once again put on the armor and go out and fight that fight or just live my fat life! Sorry about being repetitive about “me” but I am a 53 year old RNY survivor who is now suffering from some physical problems that started to show up last March, chronic fatigue, headaches, and an under eye puffiness that would scare any child on Halloween!

    So I started a few months later with a visit to my primary who thought I just needed to de-stress but due to my insistence referred me to an ENT but suggested I also get my eyes checked and ordered the one-billionth blood work up for the year. So far normal, normal, normal.

    I then broke down and decided to see my bariatric group, not the surgeon but the PA or nurse there to see if it was due to my RNY surgery over 4 years ago. They noticed my 25 lb “gain” since my last exam 4 years ago but said nothing and couldn’t help me with my symptoms but would run blood work on me to see if I was lacking or deficient in anything. Later I was a little low in iron so they suggested one more iron pill. I take the required 4 Bariatric Fusion pills a day which is supposed to be all I need, plus of course food and water of which I have not dieted since my surgery and decided to eat intuitively as I’m 53 and “know” what actual dieting does to a body although not as wise when choosing this surgery, lol.

    So still no answers on my symptoms and they may not be all related and according to my primary it could be my gastric bypass and also my nurse practitioner said the same thing but there really aren’t specialist in that area. Once you have bariatric surgery unless your staple line bursts or you need a lap band fill or it comes shooting out your mouth they’re pretty much done with you.

    So I decided since I am also hypothyroid I would try to get an appt. with my endo which was from a group I didn’t like but they were the only ones willing to take me on and it was a dif doctor so I had “high” hopes! So one of the first things he says to me is “he’s not a fatigue doctor” making me feel like I must be a crazy woman who is looking for attention. And it dragged on like it’s not my thyroid but I’ll up your dosage of meds anyway and your iron is really low you need more iron and also added something about my 25 lb gain and that I should be exercising even through the incredible fatigue that I’ve been experiencing for months and he’ll run some blood work on me in six weeks. Note to self don’t go back to that group again!

    Saw my pulmo for my cpap machine etc. and that was fine, was tested for Lyme disease and that was negative. Finally my primary hooked me up with a neurologist for the headaches and he being very bright is testing me for things my bariatric people never have to see if I’m lacking in various minerals etc…and for some other things and I don’t have any signs of a brain tumor so that was a positive and it’s been over 10 days since the blood work but I’m patient as I’ve only been ill since 3/13!

    Sorry to drag it out but I’m frustrated and in denial due to the gastric bypass now showing it’s ugly head of making me feel like complete crap with no energy to do anything. Plus I look like crap and am in some pain and it’s a bit disconcerting to say the least. But anyway I go on because I have a family and a nurse practitioner who asked me to call her if things really go into the dumps, she’s a sweety! Anyway thanks for listening and posting and doing all you do!!
    Nan

    • {{{{{HUGS}}}}}

      Is there any way to get your RNY reversed? Do they have a good reversal rate?

      • First, Ragen read it and all I can say is Bravo!!! I wish I could come with words like you do!

        Secondly Susan, they can be reversed but I do not know the stats and don’t know if I could put myself through that ordeal unless I knew it was a life threatening situation, but thanks for your hugs, Nan.

  18. Dear Know-It-All Who Commented On The Film,

    Check your sources. The Maasai do not now or ever perform neck stretching. You may be thinking of the Kayan people of Thailand (and formerly of Burma – they got chased out/made the victims of genocide), and to a lesser degree, the Ndebele people of South Africa. And, no, you were not close. South Africa is most of a continent and several thousand miles from Kenya. If you thought you were close, well, there’s a word for that. It starts with r, and ends with acist.

    As for bullying fixing problems, go fuck yourself. Bullying sure didn’t fix my autoimmune problems. Or my early breast development. Or my high IQ. Or my undiagnosed – and grossly misdiagnosed – Asperger’s syndrome. Though I did have a lot of fun taking pills and cutting my wrists, thumbs, etc. in search of arteries starting in third grade. And I really loved all that time forgotten in mental institutions, doped up on Thorazine and Mellaril, once I got caught at age 11. Boy, who needs a childhood?

    And, quality of life, you say? Go fuck yourself harder. I take so many medications for autoimmune failure, arthritis, migraines, asthma, and psychiatric disorders as a direct result of the bullying I endured as a child and later that I’ll get to die of either liver or kidney failure. That is, unless the biological medications get there first and I die of lymphoma. I’ve spent every day of my life in pain so severe that it would make you wish for death. Yet somehow, I’m happy. I get up every day I’m physically able, and I do something I enjoy. So fuck you. Fuck you so hard you choke.

    A lifetime of rage, all for you,
    One Of The Girls Who Got Bullied

    (Sorry, Ragen. I’m really hard to trigger, but that guy did it. I figure ranting in a safe space is better than taking it out on the unsuspecting.)

    • *hugs*

      • *hugsback*

    • I love you.

      • Thank you.

  19. I’m seriously wondering where she got the 10,000 calories a day. I watched the documentary too, but no where did you mention how many calories you ate, Ragen. Was there another dancer?

    Sorry, but that line was the final nail and discredited the whole letter for me.

  20. I stopped trusting any sort of good intention this writer might have, when they said that the point of bullying is to change socially inappropriate behavior. There have been plenty of cases now of bullying continuing even after the victim has committed suicide (by continuing to make fun of them online).

    No, the point of bullying is to find people who aren’t socially accepted enough to have people to stand up for them, and then use them as an outlet for your own frustrations or sadistic urges.

    • And there it is: what bullying is really about. Small, weak people who want to make themselves feel stronger by ganging up on someone they’ve seen is not protected by the same rules that protect everyone else.

      But here’s the thing. I was bullied. I’ve mentioned one of the worst incidents before, but TW, I’m going to mention it again:

      Five or six children surrounded me and corralled me on my bicycle. When I slowed down to avoid mowing them over, they yanked me off my bike by my hair and stoned me with whatever they had on hand. Mostly (obviously) stones, but also garbage, pinecones… whatever they could get their hands on. I suffered other attacks just as violent, but we’ll stick with that one for now.

      If the purpose of this attack was to assert strength, who was stronger: the person who hid behind a crowd to throw rocks, or the person who took those stones by themselves, with no help, and then *got up and walked away?* Which of those things takes more of every single attribute defined as “strong?” Anybody can follow the violent whims of a mob. Real strength is standing up to the mob, even if you do that as simply and passively as continuing to exist in a body they irrationally hate.

      Bullies are nothing to admire. They’re the pinnacle of cowardice.

      • You are absolutely right! My brother was a daily victim of bullies in Junior High. One of them yanked his shirt so all of the buttons tore off (a common pastime) and my brother just snapped. He socked the bully in the head so hard that he knocked the kid clean out, AND broke his own hand. Later he noticed that the bully and all of his cronies were studiously avoiding him and it occurred to him that the bully was now afraid of HIM. I don’t condone violence, really, but I have to say I cheered for my brother that day!

        • Self-defense is not, in my opinion, violence. I think of it as an appropriately-leveled response to a violent act, but I do not consider it violence in itself, especially considering that it stopped future violence. Good on your brother!

          • I wish my classmates’ parents had thought like you. I didn’t get invited to a lot of birthday parties after “starting” the first fight.

            • *hugs* It bothers me that parents can’t see that their children can be bullies. I understand wanting to believe the best about your kid, but you HAVE to have your eyes open to reality and not some idealized world where your kid has no flaws. *sigh*

              • My son was bullied incessantly and I’ll tell you that the parents are just as bullying as the kids. The kids learn their behavior somewhere…

        • It’s not like the bullies left him much choice, is it? I’m with Helena Handbasket. Good for him.

  21. Everyone else has pretty much said everything I could say, but I just wanted to add how disturbing this email writer’s casual ableism and ethnocentrism was to me. Calling other culture’s practices “insane” is not cool. And while I’m not going to sit here and say that something like foot-binding was an A-okay, perfectly acceptable practice (sorry anthropology community, I’m not quite down with being THAT culturally relative), I also don’t think that modern Western beauty standards are any better. The violence perpetrated by the practice of foot binding is very obvious, yes, but I would argue that the modern Western emphasis on thinness is no better given the lengths it drives many people to. There was a story in the news the other day about a little girl in the UK who tried to take a knife to herself so she could be thin (if I remember correctly, her mother stopped her before she could actually hurt herself). Tell me again how the beauty standard that fed into that behavior is any better than the “insane” practices of past and/or present and/or non-European cultures. I’m guessing there’s a lot of racism involved in that evaluation and not a whole lot of actual logic.

    • It’s more possible to opt out of the demands to be thin than it was to opt out of foot-binding, though it’s still very difficult.

      • Yes, it’s easier to “opt out” in our society in that our girls have the power to reject our beauty ideals at some point, but there was no possibility of opting out for foot-bound women because the damage was irreversible, so I’m not sure we can entirely compare the two.

        Foot binding was inflicted, deliberate, physical torture and mutilation; something girls as young as four were forced to endure. They had NO choice in the matter. It’s much more akin to the sickening tradition of female genital mutilation. Nothing she can do about it. There is no opting out.

        Yes, we can say that girls in our era can “opt out” of our so-called beauty standards, but still most of them are simply unaware that they have the power to opt out. How can you do something when you don’t know the option exists? Instead of putting our children in physical restraints (foot bindings), we put them in mental restraints (airbrushed ads, swimsuit edition mags, Hollywood starlets in the media) and then expect them to figure out that they don’t have to abide by that.

        • I don’t know that I made it clear enough, but I never meant that beauty ideals = foot binding. That said, I would argue that while it might be possible to opt out of the actual beauty standard (i.e. by not being thin), and that for many people their bodies kind of force them to opt out of the standard whether they want to or not, there is a considerable amount of damage being done because of the standard. We might not be having our body parts mutilated against our will, but we ARE subject to a constant barrage of messages detailing how worthless we are because of our fat, people think it’s acceptable to express some extremely violent feelings towards us (whether in the form of words or actual physical assault), we can be denied appropriate medical care simply because our doctors are biased, and so on and so forth (I’m sure everyone here is pretty familiar with these things by now). Is the modern Western beauty ideal and the damage it causes exactly comparable to foot binding or similar practices? Of course not, and I feel like trying to draw an exact comparison is about as useful as a round of Oppression Olympics. But I do think that what the email writer was doing — i.e. trying to act like the modern Western beauty standard is acceptable because it is somehow less barbaric than food binding — willfully ignores the incredible amount of damage the beauty standard does to everyone. Both are horrible in different ways.

          • I agree with that completely. I don’t think I said things very clearly either.🙂

            • Or my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet :p Let us go partake of the glorious caffeinated beverage (or other beverages of choice) and reconvene to continue agreeing!

          • “We might not be having our body parts mutilated against our will…”

            I agree with you in concept, but I’d like to address this – because, while it’s not ubiquitous that our bodies are mutilated against our wills, it does happen, and far too often to be considered a one-off. Fat people, including fat children, have been forced and coerced into gastric bypass surgery (see: Two-year-old Saudi boy), and there is a new procedure gaining popularity in which parents have their childrens’ tongues mutilated so it hurts when they eat, done specifically with the goal of forcing them to eat less and thereby lose weight (relying on the debunked-to-infinity misconception that fat people are fat because they eat too much and that their bodies can be “solved” by forcing them to eat less).

            Other than that, I do agree with you in concept.

  22. Sometimes I wonder if we should just make everyone take anti-anxiety medication so people would stop feeling so insecure and maybe stop bullying.

    I know, I know, Underpants Rule. But I still wonder sometimes.

    • Mandatory anti-anxiety meds would probably violate more than the Underpants Rule.🙂 But I do see your point — if the alternative is to internalize the bullies’ demands as completely as the email writer did, it does start sounding less extreme in comparison.

  23. I can’t believe how angry I became while reading this.
    Who the fuck ever said that you or anyone else “loves eating more than playing with your kids?” The thing that really pissed me off is knowing deep down that this is how so many people really think.

    • That’s the one that got me, too! That and the implication that you can’t be the kindest, happiest, and healthiest person you can be and still be fat. As the letter went on it got more and more condescending – enough to maybe make me think twice about this whole pacifism thing. Grrr!

  24. What bothers me most about her letter is the idea that we need to be brought in line with societal norms in the first place. That’s an artifact of a society that values group moors over individual autonomy. Among educated members of western industrialized society, the tendency is towards granting more individual autonomy even if it is to the detriment of the group.

    “Because it has always been done this way” is never a good excuse for deplorable behavior. The fact that less developed, less educated cultures all “do it that way” should be an indication that “that way” is less evolved, and certainly not a behavior to emulate.

    For more info on the subject, check out Jonathan Haidt (“The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion”).

  25. Fantastic responses! I’m actually watching that documentary right now. The first part of it was a bit hard to watch, lots of fatphobia there, but it slowly is getting better. I got to the part with you dancing and I was like I READ HER BLOG!! And I kind of made a happy scream-like sound. I watched your part like three times, but was sad it was so short. I haven’t finished the documentary yet (still have about 20 minutes left to watch), but I just wanted to pause it and come on here to let you know that I LOVED your part of it and would absolutely adore seeing you more often in the media spreading awareness and killing the stereotypes.

    Btw, I think I figured out how that fatphobic bullying supporter that wrote the letter you are responding to here got the idea in her head that you eat “10,000 calories a day” *eyeroll*, you mentioned something about how you used to eat 1,100 calories a day and exercise for hours and hours. I think in her warped fatphobic brain, when you said 1,100, she turned it into 11,000 in hear head. Bigots have a real issue with selective hearing and warped perception. Her letter was so gross it made me feel like I need a shower to wash away the “yay, bullying” “yay self hate” disgusting fat-bashing crap she was spewing.

    Keep being awesome, Ragen!

  26. You don’t know me, and I just found your blog today, but I just want to say that I love you and I think you are such an inspiration and tremendous power of example.

    • Hi Shar,

      Thank you so much! (and welcome to the blog🙂

      ~Ragen


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