Normalizing Obesity

Actual SizeDepartment store Debenhams decided to use size 16 mannequins to both reflect the average size woman and give her a shot at seeing what clothes might actually look like on her.  Queue hand-wringing and wailing.

Britain’s chief medical director, Dame Sally Davies, is concerned that the use of mannequins in a wide variety of sizes that reflect the sizes of women may normalize obesity. First of all let’s remember that obesity is a made up thing whose definition has been changed in the past by clever lobbying by the weight loss industry. Then let’s remember that, while there are no guarantees or obligations, behaviors are a much better determinant of future health than is body size. Finally, let’s remember that Dame Davies has not a single evidence-based way to make fat women smaller,whether there are fat mannequins or not . (see the bottom of this post for evidence about this.)

The hypothesis that Dame Davies seems to be working under, of course without a shred of evidence, is that fat people will all get thin if we never see anyone (including a mannequin)  who looks like us shown in a positive light.  I hate to have a Dr. Phil moment here, but we’ve been doing that for quite a while now – how’s that workin for ya? Junot Diaz said:  “If you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” That is exactly what Dame Davies is engaged in doing.

It turns out that most people aren’t motivated to take care of themselves by seeing only negative portrayals of people who look like them.  The message that fat people should hate our bodies and ourselves is phenomenally effective at convincing fat people to hate our bodies and ourselves.  The problem is that, in what I would call a stunning flash of the obvious, neither health nor thinness (two different things let’s remember) follow.  But heavens forfend we have a fat person shown in a positive (or even neutral) light – we’ll soon find ourselves accused of that most heinous (and completely ridiculous) of crimes:  “promoting obesity  a gateway crime to  “normalizing obesity”.

Again, the idea being that we must keep fat people in constant misery by only showing fat people in constant misery – or not showing them at all…and why?

Maybe it’s because people are actually so misguided as to believe that all fat people will become thin if the world simply refuses to allow us to see ourselves in it as anything but “abnormal” (of course being normal is the most important thing.) Or maybe it’s because if we stop shaming fat people then they might stop pouring money into the diet industry for a solution that almost never works, and they really like getting our sixty billion dollars a year.

I don’t buy the idea that showing fat people in a positive light will make other people want to be fat (because I don’t think this is a V8 commercial where people see a happy fatty, slap their forehead and say “I coulda been fat”), and I don’t think that a ceaseless stream of shame is doing anything good for fat people.  So let’s try a new experiment. Let’s normalize bodies of all sizes – let’s acknowledge that bodies come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and move on to focus on other things based on people’s own prioritization and goals.  Can you imagine if size was not an issue?  Movies with fat leading men and  ladies, magazines filled with people of all sizes, billboards with fat people selling dishsoap, a world without fat jokes, a world without articles about how Santa Claus promotes an unhealthy body image.

Take a minute to realize that everything fat people accomplish today is done in spite of the fact that we live under the under the crushing weight of constant social stigma. Imagine what fat people could do if we didn’t have to live with a ceaseless stream of societal oppression.

Peter Muennig’s research from Columbia found that most of the health problems that are correlated with obesity are also correlated with being under a high degree of stress for a long period of time (for example, the stress of constant shaming and stigma). Therefore, public health messages that add to the shame and stigma that fat people face may actually decrease health in fat people.

Muennig also found that women who were concerned about their size experienced more physical and mental illness than those who were ok with their size, regardless of their size. So public health messages that make fat people concerned about their body size may also have the opposite of the intended effect.

Imagine a world where there was no body shame and stigma.  Hey wait, we don’t have to imagine… we could  just stop shaming and stigmatizing bodies right frickin’ now!

Of course society isn’t coming along with my plan at the moment, but we can do something about it right now. I think that the best thing that I ever did for loving my body was looking daily at bodies that were outside the beauty stereotype  -I found that I had no problem with their bodies and I was eventually able to transfer those feelings to my own body.  I think you will do yourself a world of good if you seek out images of happy people who are outside the beauty norm every single day.

Here are a couple of places to start:

Fit Fatties Forum Phot and Video Galleries

The Adipositivity Project (NSFW unless your W is super cool)

(If you know of other places feel free to put them in the comments!)

You can also take pictures of yourself and get them out there for other fatties to see- post them on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram your blog,  post them in the comments of this blog – whatever.  Remember that bodies aren’t better or worse- just different.  The constant stream of thin bodies that we see can subconsciously condition us to believe that our bodies are wrong, but that’s just cultural conditioning, and that can be changed, and we can change it. Let’s be our own heroes and our own role models.

Activism Opportunity:  E-mail Debenhams to thank them (scroll to the bottom and click on “e-mail”)

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

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Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 5:31 am  Comments (31)  

This Isn’t a Tree, I’m Not a Kitten

Not a kittenI am so tired of this whole  “Save the Fatties” campaign thing.  Jillian Michaels thinks that it’s ok to verbally and emotionally abuse us because she’s “saving our lives”.  Doctors ignore our symptoms (sprained wrists, broken bones, rashes, intense back pain, cancer) and treat our body size because “no matter what’s wrong with us we’ll be healthier if our bodies are smaller”.  Perfect strangers feel like they should question our food choices, make assumptions and comments about everything from our habits and health to our fitness for parenthood because it’s “for our own good”.  People at the gym, including employees, assume that we are beginner exercisers and encourage us in our quest for weight loss without bothering to ask us how long we’ve worked out or if we’re even trying to lose weight because they want to “encourage us”. People, including journalists, actually think it’s ok to ask “Should we accept obesity?”  Seriously.  As if our fat bodies are someone else’s to accept or reject.

I won’t speak for any other fat people, but for me this needs to stop.  If you do one or more of the things that I just mentioned, then this is for you:

This is not a tree, I am not a kitten, you are not a firefighter come to climb your little ladder and rescue me.  My fat body is not a message to you that I am somehow incapable of taking care of myself or making decisions about my health, or that I am looking for unsolicited opinions about how to live my life.  As the brilliant Marilyn Wann has said, the only thing that you can tell from looking at my body is what size I am, and what your prejudices and stereotypes about my size are. Deal with them or don’t, that’s up to you; but I have no obligation to be the pillow that you beat with a tennis racket trying to work out your issues  – trust me when I tell you that “emotional punching bag” is not just another free service I offer.

I am perfectly capable of making decisions about myself, my food, my exercise, my health, and anything else about my life. If I want your opinion on how to live my life, I swear you will be among the very first to know – but it’s safe for you to assume that this fatty doesn’t need saving.

Like my blog?   Here’s more cool stuff!

The fabulous Golda Poretsky is offering a great class on Health at Every Size.  You can check it out here.  I’m a member of Golda’s affiliate program, so if you decide that the class is for you, you’ll support yourself, Golda, and me – win, win, win!

My 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 help keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 4:07 am  Comments (38)  

Because They Don’t Know

Wrong RoadYesterday we talked a little bit about presenting options as a form of activism.  Today I want to talk more about the power in that. My goal as an activist is never about telling other people what choices they should make for themselves.  My goal is to insist upon the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by our own definition without shame, stigma, or weight bullying, and it’s about letting other people know that they have the option to do the same.

There are people right now who actively hate themselves and their bodies because they don’t know that there is any other option.  People who are trying to lose weight because they believe it’s the only path to health.  People who believe that they don’t have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness until they are thin.  People who don’t know that they have the right to demand that they be treated with basic human respect while living in a fat body. It and affect all areas of fat people’s lives from self-esteem to healthcare to sexuality.

When we stand up, speak out, and refuse to buy into the current culture of self-hatred, obesity hysteria, and confusing body size with health, we don’t just model the option, we start being the option.  Being the option is about being the choice, the power, the reason:

  • The reason people start to see themselves and all fat people as human beings and not fat headless bodies like the ones pictured in almost every  article and news report about obesity
  • The reason people realize that fat people are far too complex and different to be shoved all together and called an epidemic
  • The reason people to start questioning the forces and money behind the messages about weight and health that get served to us on a platter 386,170 times a year
  • The reason people start to wonder how it is possible for the diet industry to make so much more money every year if their product actually works
  • The reason  people start to question the statistics that they see about weight and health
  • The reason a fat 12 year old on her 14th diet, being teased and bullied by other kids, her parents, and the First Lady of the United States, and considering suicide, realizes that she might be okay and that life might be worth living (all that’s from an actual e-mail that I received)
  • The reason that someone who is interested in supporting their health might choose to stop doing unhealthy things to lose weight in the hopes of being healthy and start doing things that nurture their body
  • The reason that someone takes that first step and starts replacing hatred for how their body looks with appreciation for what their body does

An acquaintance once sent me an e-mail after reading my blog.  He said that he believed in what I do but that I was wasting my “time, life, and a first rate mind”.  He said that this battle is “unwinnable” and that I should spend my time doing something else because the diet industry is so big and the beliefs are so prevalent that it “doesn’t matter what is true”.

Bullshit.

I don’t care how many people are shouting (and profiting from) a lie, it ALWAYS matters what is true.   There are people out there, right now hating themselves, starving themselves, not aware that the diet industry is lying to them about their chances of “success”.  There are people who believe what they have been repeatedly told –  that they can never be healthy, happy, loved, or successful until they are thin – and some of them will die trying to get it done.  I’m not wasting my time, life, or mind because it’s not about what effect I have on the diet industry or the views of the majority, it’s about giving people who are suffering a way out – another option. If enough of us change our own worlds, we will eventually change the whole world.

When we stand up to the diet establishment and thin-obsessed culture just by telling our truth, we can be the catalyst that sparks people to consider other points of view, start asking a lot of questions about the status quo, and consider an option where they actually love themselves and start making their own choices about health rather than just gaining the weight back from the last diet and then starting the next diet. We’re giving people an option, and they don’t have to take it – that’s not our business.  As a bonus by standing up and telling our truth we reinforce our self-esteem, body image and good health in the process.

It’s not about what’s easy or feasible or what people think is possible when it comes to changing the world. It’s simply that I believe that when it’s time to stand up, you stand up. Because when you stand, others get the idea that they can stand to, then we stand together and fight for change, and then we win, but it all starts with a new option.

Like my blog?   Here’s more cool stuff!

The fabulous Golda Poretsky is offering a great class on Health at Every Size.  You can check it out here.  I’m a member of Golda’s affiliate program, so if you decide to take the class you’ll support yourself, Golda, and me – win, win, win!

My 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 help keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 24, 2014 at 7:33 am  Comments (20)  

The Penguin Principle

First Grade Boy Steals Penguin

That’s what the stand up comedian I’m listening to said the headline was.  “True story” he said,” swear on my mother’s grave”.

As he told it, it would seem that the little boy was on a trip to the zoo with his class.  They were looking at the Penguin exhibit and the boy decided he just had to have one.  So, when nobody was looking, he evacuated all of the superfluous contents of his backpack (because who needs math and history when you’ve got a freaking Penguin!?) put the bag on the ground and opened it up.  And a penguin crawled out of its enclosure and into the bag.

The little boy zipped up the backpack and wore it around all day, all the way home on the bus.  Imagine his Mom’s surprise when she walked in from the kitchen to see a live penguin on her coffee table, staring her precious angel-faced baby boy right in the eye.

Of course she was in shock so we can’t blame her that the first question out of her mouth requested the least useful piece of information under the circumstances: “What is that?”

As small children tend to do, the little boy cut through the confusion and uselessness of his mother’s question and stated the simple truth: “He likes me!”

Now that the penguin is safely back in the zoo (although if he chose a black hole and a first grader over his zoo accommodations I have some questions) all of that is a funny story.  But then the comedian made a point that I’m making the point of this post.

First grade boy did not steal a penguin.  He didn’t scale a fence, swim a moat, and chase a penguin down with a net in an epic struggle of first grader vs. flightless bird.

First grade boy created a NEW OPTION.  He opened his backpack and the penguin ostensibly surveyed his surroundings, looked into the sincere face of a first grade boy and the backpack he was being offered and made a choice to try something different.

I think sometimes those of us who have opted out of the toxic culture of body hate, and come up happier on the other side,  want other people to have that so badly that we push too hard – trying to change other people’s lives or viewpoints; trying to “empower” people by force.  Or we can take ourselves too seriously and think that we are changing people’s lives – that we are empowering people – when the truth is that the only thing that we can ever do create a new option, and give people the chance to change their own lives.

With our day to day living and interactions, our blogs, our work, our personal choices, what we post to social media, we can introduce people to a perspective that they might not have considered before, open a dialog, and give them a choice they didn’t realize they had. To me the core of activism is to live from a perspective that works for you and share that perspective with others authentically and without any obligation.  They can take it or leave it – as long as they know that it’s an option, we’ve done our job.  We can never change someone’s mind – they have to do that, it being their mind and all –  but we may be able to expand it with a new idea, a new perspective, a new option and that is powerful.

EDIT:  Public Service Announcement:  Someone who studied law has pointed out in the comments that the boys actions did indeed constitute theft.  I meant the story as a bit of a parable but in case that wasn’t clear, I’m not endorsing stealing animals from the zoo.  Thanks!

Like my blog?   Here’s more cool stuff!

The fabulous Golda Poretsky is offering a great class on Health at Every Size.  You can check it out here.  I’m a member of Golda’s affiliate program, so if you decide to take the class you’ll support yourself, Golda, and me – win, win, win!

My 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 help keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 23, 2014 at 8:58 am  Comments (22)  

Anti-Bullying: You’re Doing it Wrong

WTFNine year old Grayson Bryce was being bullied for carrying a My Little Pony back pack.  He told his mom, she told the school counselor.  The school says “we take any allegations of bullying seriously and work diligently in all cases to resolve the issues in the best interest of students. We have programs in place to prevent, report and intervene to keep our students safe and protected.”  So what did the counselor do to intervene and keep Grayson safe and protected?  She told his mom that he should hide his back pack.

According to Grayson’s mom “She said that if you have something like this you’re asking for trouble.”  Later that day the principal called and said that Grayson had to leave the backpack at home.

Most of the fat people I know, including me, have had a similar experience – we’ve pointed out bullying that occurs because of our size and been told that if we don’t like being treated poorly for being fat, we should “do something about it” and become thin.

The idea here is that the problem is with the people being bullied – it’s obviously our fault because bullies wouldn’t target us if we weren’t asking for it by refusing to do or be what they think we should do or be.  So we should just give our bullies what they want and then hope they’ll stop beating us up.  If that doesn’t work we should just keep changing ourselves to suit them.

And that’s totally, completely, and utterly bullshit.

The problem with bullying is bullies, it’s not a nine year old boy with a My Little Pony backpack, it’s not fat people who refuse to self-deprecate, hate ourselves, diet or do whatever else bullies want us to do.   The cure for social stigma is not a new backpack or weight loss, it’s ending social stigma.  Suggesting that bullied people solve bullying by changing ourselves is, in and of itself, a form of bullying.  And it’s never, ever okay.

Activism Opportunity:

Sign the petition to support Grayson and his backpack!

Like my blog?   Here’s more cool stuff!

The fabulous Golda Poretsky is offering a great class on Health at Every Size.  You can check it out here.  I’m a member of Golda’s affiliate program, so if you decide to take the class you’ll support yourself, Golda, and me – win, win, win!

My 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 help keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 20, 2014 at 10:19 am  Comments (42)  

Congress on Obesity: Ego Over Accessibility

Congress for Obesity Angela Meadows from Never Diet Again UK posted this picture to the Rolls not Trolls community on Facebook.  In case you can’t read it, it says “Dear Guests In conjunction with the 12th International Congress of Obesity the escalators will not be operational from 09:30 to 16:00 hrs.”

This is posted in the Kuala Lampur Convention Centre. The ICO website boasts that Malaysia offers “world-class infrastructure and easy accessibility.” That may be true for Malaysia, but thanks to the ICO we can’t say the same thing about the second floor of the Kuala Lampur Convention Centre.

There is good research that shows that movement can contribute to health (though there are no guarantees and no obligations).  There is absolutely no research that says that the movement has to be stairs.

I’ve already ranted about self-important blowhards who feel the need to suggest that fat people shouldn’t have access to mobility aids. The ICO has taken things a step further and it’s posturing of the worst kind. What the International Congress on Obesity has done is to convince the Kuala Lampur Convention Center to make life more difficult for people with disabilities, limited mobility, balance challenges, injuries, etc. so that the ICO can posture and preen. (I assume there are still elevators – I can’t find where either the convention centre website or the ICO website discuss accessibility – but they’ll require people to travel farther, since they have to get to the escalators to see that they aren’t working, and now there is shame attached to using the elevators.) And they’ve done it for an idea with no basis in research.

I want to be clear and repeat that there is NO evidence that taking away escalators (or taking away escalators from 9:30am-4pm) as an option will lead to long-term weight loss, or increased health (and let’s remember that weight loss and increased health are two different things) either for individuals or the population at large.  The truth is, we have no idea whether more people taking the stairs will lead to better health, weight loss, or just more people falling down the stairs, but it doesn’t actually matter because this doesn’t really have anything to do with health, or stairs, or even weight loss. It’s about ego and posturing.

Note that the sign in the lobby doesn’t say anything about health, or what the ICO hopes taking the stairs will accomplish, they don’t even pretend to offer education because it’s just about the International Conference on Obesity wanting to show off and get their metaphorical fat-free low-carb cookie for their brave work confusing body size with health. If they weren’t so busy posturing they would have probably considered that people can still climb the escalators even if they are operational, so there’s no need to take away options for people with disabilities, limited mobility etc. This is par for the course in a world where the focus is on the ego of the person/people/organizations trying to get their “Save the Fatties Club” membership jacket.

When organizations pull stunts like this, the only thing at which they can possibly succeed is creating an environment that prevents people from, and shames people for, navigating the world in the way that’s best for them and their situation. I think it’s far more important that as many places as possible are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, than that some people are forced to take some stairs.

Activism Opportunity:

Let them know what you think on Twitter:  @WorldObesity and #ico2014

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My 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 help 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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Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 12:20 pm  Comments (45)  

Gwen Stefani’s Chubby Picture

Gwen Stefani Chunky PictureGwen Stefani tweeted a picture of herself from about 30 years ago getting an autograph from Sting, commenting “Chunky Me 1983…”  Then the internet exploded with comments like “Please don’t call yourself chunky. Too many girls and women look up to you for you to talk like that.” and “Come on Gwen chunky? Really?!!! Not cool-to many girls look up to you for you to call that a “chunky” pic!”

So I’m wondering, what about chunky girls who look up to Gwen Stefani?  If Gwen calling herself chunky is so absolutely horrific, what are those chunky girls supposed to think about themselves.

I sincerely hope that Gwen was using chunky as a neutral descriptor, in the same way that many of use use the world fat, but that may not be true.   I’m not interested in trying to be a psychic (I’ll leave that to the people who think that they can divine information about our eating, exercise and innermost thoughts from looking at us).

What I do want to suggest is that we be careful with the “don’t call yourself chunky/fat/chubby/etc.”  Whether or not Gwen in this picture meets your personal definition of chubby (we are all allowed to have such a definition, none of us is in charge of having THE definition, so there’s no point in arguing about it) the idea that she shouldn’t call herself chubby is problematic since it suggests that being chubby is a negative thing, which is not likely a point that  actual chunky people are going to miss.

We have to be careful that we aren’t suggesting that we protect thin girls from body hatred at the expense of fat girls. Suggesting that we shouldn’t call ourselves chubby or fat or whatever as a path to body positivity is seriously messed up.  Fat people face a ton of shame, stigma, and oppression – which for thin people often turns into an all consuming fear of being fat – and   I do not think that making fat people into Voldemort is going to help anybody out.  I think we’ll be much better off working to take the stigma away from descriptors than trying to ban them.

This is an especially big deal when we’re talking about kids since:

Researchers who studied the effects of “school based healthy-living programs.”  found that these programs are actually triggering eating disorders in kids.

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”.

A Canadian study found that eating disorders were far more prevalent than type 2 diabetes in kids.

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

The Journal of Pediatrics has identified bullying of overweight/obese children as the #1 type of bullying that takes place.

I think that the best thing that we can do for kids (and ourselves while we’re at it) is to give them access to a wide variety of foods and movement options and encourage them to see their bodies (and everyone else’s) as amazing and worthy, and that includes describing those bodies without fear or shame – skinny, thin, chunky, fat or otherwise.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My 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 help keep this blog ad-free, support the activism work I do, and get deals from cool businesses Click here for details

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

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 17, 2014 at 7:30 am  Comments (18)  

Fighting to Speak for Ourselves

Design by Kris Owen

Design by Kris Owen

Documentary filmmaker Alexandra Lescaze’s film “All of Me” about a group of women who have weight loss surgery is going to be shown on PBS’s Independent Lens.  As part of that she had the opportunity to create some documentary shorts, and she chose to do one about me and More Cabaret (an all plus-size cabaret dance company that I created in LA.)

The five minute video tells a bit about my story of becoming a fat activist juxtaposed with More Cabaret’s first show.  I think that she and her team did an amazing job and I’m really excited and grateful to be part of it. (The video is here and also embedded at the bottom of this post.)

One of the things that I think is incredibly important in Size Acceptance activism is the chance to talk about our experiences.  We know that all too often people are happy to substitute their stereotypes and preconceived notions for our actual experiences.

For those who are invested in the oppression of fat people – whether that investment is financial, emotional, because they get their self-esteem from tearing us down, or for some other reason – keeping the status quo is incredibly important.  Hence, when we do get a chance to talk about our lives, they have to jump in and insist that they are a better witness to our experiences than we are.

A perfect example is in a comment made by Duke Nukem which says in part “…it simply makes me sad for her to see how deep in denial she is about her eating disorder…”

A number of people including Alexandra, Deb on camera, Kevin on sound,  the editing team and the folks over at PBS worked very hard to give me the opportunity to speak for myself about my experiences, but apparently we needn’t have bothered, we could have just asked Duke Nukem and saved ourselves the time and effort because he knows better than I do about my life. Or, you know, maybe not.

Often oppression is enforced by replacing actual experiences of marginalized populations with the stories created about them by their oppressors.  But not for the next five minutes.

For the next five minutes I get an opportunity to speak for myself as a proud fat activist.  Obviously I don’t speak for all of fatkind, we are as varied as any group of people who share only one physical characteristic, I can only ever speak for myself as a proud and happy fat woman and activist.  I’m certainly not the only one, there are more of us every day and we will shout so loudly that our voices won’t be able to to silenced or replaced by Mr. Nukem and his ilk.

So feel free to check out the video, and if you’re in the mood to support it you could share it, leave a comment or a thumbs up (and many, many thanks to those who already have!).  No matter what you do, please consider that loving your body not a crime – it’s the world that’s screwed up, you are fine.

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Published in: on March 14, 2014 at 7:42 am  Comments (29)  

Fat Activist’s Pictures Stolen By Diet Company

Rachele Cateyes is a positive body image blogger and fat activist.  She blogs at www.nearsightedowl.com and last year she posted this fabulous photo of herself in a bikini to “send a powerful message about body positivity.”

Anchors away! I finally have myself a proper high-waisted fatkini. I took my body and put it on a beach and voila! Beach body! Wearing a bikini as a fat woman is an act of rebellion. I felt glorious and glamorous all at the same time. I wore my stretch marks as ribbons of honor and let the sun kiss my lumpy thighs and arms without a care in the world.

Rachele obviously rocks and so does this photo.  So imagine her horror when friends, fans, and even co-workers started reporting to her that they were seeing the photo used in ads for a weight loss product with taglines like “why women should never diet like a man”, or “how to cut down your body fat.”  Not just a couple of ads but, thanks to an affiliate program, the use of the picture was spiraling out of control.  Not just using her picture for profit without permission, but using it in precisely the opposite manner as it was intended.  Some even wondered if she had pulled a Jess Weiner,  giving up her fat activism and body positivity to pursue the profits of the diet world.

Rachele reacted like the rock star she is, going after them like a honey badger.  After posting her story on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter other activists started making complaints, and that helped her story get picked up by the media, and then she started to get some action – the leadership of the parent company has become involved with ferreting out the affiliates who are misusing the picture.

There’s still work to do here and you can help. Read the whole story in Rachele’s words here, and check out this video to learn how you can get involved:

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Published in: on March 13, 2014 at 6:34 am  Comments (17)  

Study Shows Schools Need More Body Positivity

grade on curveHere’s the phrase I want you to remember while we talk about a study that is getting some press:  “Researchers admit there are other influences that they did not measure including the students’ self-esteem, how much school they missed and what kind of school environment they had.”

A study of kids in Britain found that girls classified as “obese” tended to get grades in English, math and science that were the equivalent of a D compared to girls who are considered “healthy weight”  who got the equivalent of a C.

Obviously the concept of “healthy weight” is flawed since there are people with various health issues at various sizes and there is no size that you can attain at which you’ll be immortal unless you get hit by a bus. Still, let’s look deeper at the study.

The study subjects were all from the Bristol area.  They were assigned a body size value at 11, 13 and 16 and their national test grades were analyzed at those ages.

The study took socio-economic class and whether the girls’ mothers smoked in the first three months of pregnancy into account. But then there’s that paragraph: “Researchers admit there are other influences that they did not measure including the students’ self-esteem, how much school they missed and what kind of school environment they had.”

They chose not to take into account how living in an environment that tells girls that a fat body proves they are lazy, weak willed, immoral, and unhealthy might affect academic performance.  They chose to ignore the prevalence of appearance-based bullying and how that might affect girls (like distracting them, or causing them to stay out of school or skip class, or causing them to avoid drawing attention to themselves by doing things like participating in class or asking questions).  They chose to ignore research  that shows:

  • 47 percent of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures
  • 69 percent of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape
  • 42 percent of first-to-third grade girls want to be thinner
  • 81 percent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat

I wonder how many of the girls in the study are on diets and how being undernourished and constantly hungry might affect academic performance?  These seem like the kind of things that might affect grades.  The researchers ignored the fact that fat boys didn’t have the same correlation to lower grades and, instead of looking to a world that makes girls terrified of being or getting fat, they decided to blame the girls’ bodies:

Professor John Reilly of Strathclyde, the lead investigator, concludes: ”Further work is needed to understand why obesity is negatively related to academic attainment, but it is clear that teenagers, parents and policy-makers in education and public health should be aware of the lifelong educational and economic impact of obesity.”

What seems clear to me is that teenagers, parents, and policy-makers in education and public health should be aware of the lifelong educational and economic impact of body shaming, fat phobia, and so-called health campaigns that shame some kids for how they look, thereby support the bullying and stigmatizing of fat kids.

We can have a complete discussion about kids’ health without shaming any of them for how they look. By focusing on developing body confidence,  a life-long love of habits that support health, and a blame free, shame free approach to healthcare, we can support all kids to develop to their full potential and avoid a life of yo yo diets, body hatred, low self-esteem, and the relentless pursuit of a stereotype of beauty masquerading as health with all of the “educational and economic impacts” that come along with that.

Like my blog?   Here’s more stuff!

My 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

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

Fit Fatties Virtual Events:  If you’re looking for a fun movement challenge that was created to work just for you, you can check it out here.  There’s still time to get in on Early Bird Rates.

If you are uncomfortable with my selling things on this site, you are invited to check out this post.

Published in: on March 12, 2014 at 9:13 am  Comments (23)