Marathon Update: Running as Stress Relief?

Go running they said, it’s great stress relief they said. I know a lot of people for whom running is fabulous stress relief.  Athletics have certainly been stress relief for me for a long time. In high school it was sports, in college it was classes and lifting at the gym – like the time I found out that if you buy a sack of potatoes and leave them in your pantry in Texas for a long time, bugs will get in them.  Upon learning this (the hard way) I promptly closed the pantry door and went to the gym.  “Time to go to aerobics!” became a joke among my friends about how I dealt with stress, including but not limited to, horrific bug invasions.  Later in my life  dancing, and the workouts that accompanied dancing, were always a great way to deal with stress.

Then last year I focused on walking a marathon, and this year run/walking another one.  I just assumed that as I changed activities the stress relief would follow.  I’m still waiting for that magical moment.  I like the accomplishment of running – doing my hill repeats faster every week, beating my times from last year’s workouts, or last week’s workouts.  My mantra is still the same as it ever was: cross finish line, get medal.  I remind myself that I’m not not running/walking because I love it, I’m doing it because I want to cross the finish line in this marathon and get the medal that comes with that.  Everything else is about what I need to do to meet that goal.

Some people have asked how I can talk about engaging in joyful movement while simultaneously engaging in movement that I don’t really enjoy. As always, it goes back to my underpants.  None of us are under any obligation to engage in any movement at all. Many people’s choices about movement are limited by access, disability, and other life circumstances.  Those of us who do choose to engage in movement and have the privilege to do so get to choose what kind of movement we want to engage in, and get to choose our goals – if any – for that movement.

I think it’s a shame that so many people have messy break-ups with exercise because they’re told that if they’re not miserable they’re not doing it right, or because they’ve never been given the opportunity to explore movement without shaming, stigma etc.  so I think it’s really important to make it clear that movement we enjoy totally “counts.”  That doesn’t mean that I can’t engage in movement that I don’t find “joyful” by some definitions for other reasons.

Still, for me it’s important to have methods of stress relief to replace the ones I lost when I switched to distance walking/running, so I make sure that at least some of my cross-training is stuff that I really like, and I’m cognizant of the fact that even if I don’t feel less stressed after a run/walk it’s likely done my body some good, and I look for other methods of stress relief (like a computer game where I get to smash inanimate objects with hammers.)

Maybe someday I’ll have something really stressful happen and think “I’m going for a run!” and maybe that will never happen.  I’m cool with it either way, to me the important thing is staying in touch with my goals, make sure they still work for me, and understand how those goals, and the things I do to reach them, do and do not affect me.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on June 29, 2014 at 11:13 am  Comments (16)  

As Long As You’re Healthy

Bad DoctorI see a lot of people say some version of “I think it’s fine for people to be any size as long as they’re healthy”.  I think they usually think that they are being supportive, and are well intentioned but that doesn’t make this any less problematic.

First, the idea that other people should dictate to us what health means, how highly we should prioritize it, and what path we should choose to get there is deeply problematic  seriously messed up in no small part because it quickly becomes a slippery slope.  I find that, for example, omnivores who want to police my health choices are typically much less excited to have their health choices questions by someone who believes that a vegan diet is the best for health.

Health is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness. Nobody owes anybody else health regardless of our size.  Health is also never guaranteed and never entirely within our control.  In addition to genetics and the effects of past behaviors (like repeated dieting attempts!) can affect our health.  Access plays a major part – that includes many things including the ability to afford what we want in terms of our healthcare, to availability in our community, to  the ability to find competent healthcare practitioners.

Second, whether intended or not, this often has the feel of someone who sees themselves as superior and thereby empowered to dole out approval of my size and health plan.  Nooooooo. Nobody has authority over my body and health – I have trusted advisors but I am the ultimate boss of my underpants.

Third, it makes it sound like they believe that I can be fat if I’m healthy (by whatever definition of healthy they are using) but if I start to have health problems then it’s time to get thin.  That is a trifecta of putting the ass in assumption, including:   1. fat is causing the problem 2.  becoming thin would solve the problem  3.  becoming thin is possible (despite the fact that there’s no proof that most fat people can maintain long-term weight loss, it doesn’t matter what becoming thin might do because we don’t know how to get it done).

So what do we do about this?  You all know that I don’t like to criticize without giving some suggestions so here are some options that I’ve personally used, just in case  it helps you.  As always it’s up to you and your mileage may vary:

You can try something like “I think that judging people based on their  size or their health is really inappropriate.”

You can say something like “Maybe they practice Health at Every Size – that’s what I do.  I think that healthy habits – not manipulating my body size – give me my best odds for health.”

You can choose to disengage with an explanation “Actually, I’m not really comfortable with conversations that include body policing or healthism.  I’m happy to change the subject or to call it a night”

Or you can just go with short and sweet “You know, I don’t think someone else’s health or size is up for my approval or, really, any of my business”.

Of course you are not obligated to open a dialog at all and despite your best efforts people may not choose to question their actions so, as usual, your mileage may vary. I think the most important thing to do is to put the problem where it belongs, and that’s not on our bodies.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on June 28, 2014 at 9:34 am  Comments (15)  

How Dare You Have Rules

Reality and PerceptionThere are a number of  Fat Activism, Size Acceptance, and Health at Every Size spaces that I moderate. This week people in several of those  spaces have expressed frustration that I don’t allow diet or weight loss talk.   They ask why they aren’t allowed to try to lose weight if they want to.  The short answer is that they are.  It’s none of my business. I respect the decisions that other people make about their bodies just like I want mine to be respected.  I fight against the industries (for example I fight against the diet industry and weight loss surgery and those who shill for them) and I fight against people who try to tell me what I have to do.

But I also understand that the question is deeper than that.

No matter how much we love our bodies, fat people face a lot of stigma for our size, and thinness confers tremendous benefit. I can understand the desire to try to solve social stigma through weight  loss, or to try to lose weight to solve the issues with getting clothing in our sizes, or buying into the idea that manipulation of body size is the path to health. People are allowed to do all of these things.

For my part I think it’s important for people to have access to information not paid for by the diet industry, including information regarding their odds of failure so that if their attempts fail it softens the self-esteem blow.  People are allowed to believe that manipulating their body size is the key to being healthy and feel that they need to lose weight for health reasons. I think they should have access to true and correct data about health and weight.  I don’t think that they are required to do any research or justify their choices in any way, I just think that they should have easy access to the information.

To me social change is more important than social approval.  I think that the cure for social stigma is to end stigma, not to insist that members of the stigmatized group change themselves.  In my experience when you try to change yourself to change the behavior of others or gain their approval, you soon find it’s never enough -there’s always something else that somebody wants you to change. If I was offered a pill that would make me into the perfect stereotypical beauty I wouldn’t take it. That doesn’t make me worse or better than those who make different choices. Our bodies – our choices.

People are allowed to want to, and try to, lose weight. However, where people get tripped up is in the belief that they should be allowed to talk about that in Fat Activist, Size Acceptance, and Health at Every Size spaces.  Nope nope nope. It is ok to have spaces that don’t allow diet or weight loss talk, it is ok to have 100% body positive spaces, it’s ok to have a policy of “absolutely no diet talk” or “absolutely no negative body talk.”  The spaces that we create – be they our homes, blogs, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Youtube, or Instagram accounts – are ours.  They exist because we created them and we have every right in the world to moderate them.

I notice that with most bullies, their bodies left junior high school but they left their brains behind, and so they’re still using every schoolyard bulling technique that exists.  From calling us “chicken” to creating some twisted logic, to trying to do it by force.  We get bombarded by negative messages about our body every single day, and we have every right to create spaces that support us and our choices, even if that means excluding people who want to be in those spaces but refuse to respect the rules of the space, regardless of their reasons or intentions.  Our bodies, our choices.  Our spaces, our rules.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on June 26, 2014 at 9:25 am  Comments (20)  

It’s Because It’s My Body

Photo by Richard Sabel.

Photo by Richard Sabel

It seems that a thread today on a fat hate site suggesting that people e-mail me and ask why I don’t support airline tickets being based on passenger weight.

Setting aside the fact that some particularly muscular and/or tall people would likely flip out, assuming that this wasn’t meant for them but was only supposed to be a means of punishing fat people, and the impracticality of having everyone weight in when they get to the airport with their bags to get the final charge for the flight (and how would they handle people with mobility assistance devices – do you have to pay extra for your wheelchair?) , there’s the fact you can’t tell whether or not someone will fit in a seat by their weight, so it wouldn’t do anything for people who complain that about having to sit next to a fat person.  But those aren’t the real reasons that it’s not ok.

The real reason is that we are not self-loading freight, we are people, customers, and we all deserve the same experience – travel from one place to another in a seat that accommodates us. The airlines have done a great job of creating a problem (having planes built that ignore the size of their actual customers, then creating shared space (like the armrests in the middle, then shrinking the size of the seats and the distance between them, having planes with different seat sizes and seatbelt sizes) and then convincing passengers to blame each other rather than the airline for the problems the airlines created.

That doesn’t chance the fact that it’s not luggage.  It’s my body.

While we’re at it:

It’s not a representation of greed or capitalism or any other metaphor.  It’s my body.

It’s not a picture without a head to accompany yet another OMGDEATHFAT article.  It’s my body

It’s not a stand-in for my physical or mental health.  It’s my body.

It’s not for you to judge. It’s my body

Do you get it?  It’s my body. So back off.

My body is far too valuable to be treated like a car whose worth is lowered because of some wear and tear.  It’s far too astounding to be a metaphor or a political statement.  It’s far too complicated to run on the same formula used to fuel a lawn mower. It is far too profound to be reduced to a ratio of weight and height.  And it is far too amazing to be judged by anyone.

Because it’s my body.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 10:54 am  Comments (37)  

The Fear of Not Dieting

This is courtesy of hatemail from someone who clearly didn't understand how much it would make me want to buy a castle and change my name.

This is courtesy of hatemail from someone who clearly didn’t understand how much it would make me want to buy a castle and change my name.

We live in a world where people think personal responsibility for fat people means that we should feel personally responsible for doing what they think we should do.  Eat what they think we should, weigh what they think we should, and act how they think we should, and never be happy until we achieve their goals for us, regardless of what we want. I participated in that for a long time and it never made me thinner, happier, or healthier.

When I first considered doing something other than dieting, generally hating my body, and feeling like the only success that mattered was achieving thinness, I realized that it scared me.

So I wrote out a list of what I was scared would happen if I loved myself exactly as I was and stopped trying lose weight. What I had observed was that you’re often seen as a “Good Fatty” if you are always trying to “do something” about your weight. It’s not that it’s easy to be a good fatty, you still do plenty of bullshit, but in a culture where 8 out of 10 women are dissatisfied with their bodies, at least the Good Fatty gets some support for an endless string of diets and gets some “points for trying”.

But when you choose to stop trying to lose weight and love your body as it is, you’re often seen as a Bad Fatty.  You’re costing employers billions of dollars, and ruining health insurance, obviously not taking personal responsibility.  Sometimes people who are in the diet cycle and frustrated with their lack of success and how much they hate their bodies are offended by the very existence of people who won’t buy into this cycle.  If you’re an “out”  Bad Fatty, they will lash out at you. Until you get the hang of it, you might think that this has something to do with you (when in truth of course it’s all about their issues and what you represent to them).  At any rate, Bad Fatties do not fit in. (The good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy needs to die, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

Knowing this, I made my list of fears. Things like feeling uncomfortable for being so different, wasting money and time on classes and books that didn’t work, losing friends, getting talked about behind my back, feeling isolated, people not liking me because I wouldn’t play with them in the sandbox of shitty self-esteem any more, even dying an earlier death, and on and on.  It was a huge list.

Then I imagined what would happen if everything on the list came true.  I mean I took some time to really visualize each of them, really try to  feel the pain of each thing.

Then I imagined spending the rest of my life as I had spent it so far – always unhappy with my body, trying diet after diet, feeling like a failure, feeling sick and exhausted all the time, believing what other people told me over what I knew in my mind and gut and heart to be true, trying so hard to be a self-deprecating Good Fatty who made sure everyone knew that I was trying to lose weight so that I could fit in and be accepted, living 100% of the time in a body that I hated.

I realized that the third scenario – the one where the next diet was actually the one that would work, was not scientifically sound.  There isn’t a single study in the world where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed, and even those who “succeed” in studies often do so by losing only a couple pounds.  There is no study anywhere of people my size becoming and remaining thin.  I realized that contemplating diet success was like contemplating surviving a skydiving accident if my parachute didn’t open, some people had done it but that didn’t mean I was going to go jump out of a plane with no chute.

Once I was done contemplating both scenarios the decision was clear. I knew that no matter what it took, I was going to learn to love myself.  No matter how many books I had to read, classes I had to take, no matter how weird people thought I was, how many friends I lost, or how long and difficult the road might be I was not going to stop until I got there.

That was the turning point.  It wasn’t about how I was going to do it – I had no freaking clue how to get there at the time.  But in the moment that I chose to remove myself from diet culture and the self-hatred that came along with it, the moment that I decided to learn to love myself no matter what the hell it took, everything changed.

Now that I’m there, I’m certain that it was worth it.  Even though along the way, every single thing on my list of fears happened to me.  Some have happened several times.  Some happened today.  But I have found that when my priority is loving myself and being sure that I am in integrity with me, instead of trying to get everyone to love you by being who they want you to be and taking on their issues as your issues, things shift dramatically.

I received an e-mail today that so inspired me that I had to share it (with the permission of the author).  It read, in part:

Recently, I’ve found myself really struggling with body image and acceptance. The pressures to fit in have been mounting, and I found myself reverting back to the easy way out. But what is ‘easy’? The diet pills make me so sick that I throw up, and the over exercising 3 hrs a day leave me in bed aching.  After a ridiculous amount of swallowed pills, and feeling disgusted and horrible, I decided to pop in and read a post. Which then turned into two, three, four.  I just flushed down the rest of my pills, and have decided to just try my best at being healthy. Healthy thinking, healthy eating, healthy exercising.

How incredibly brave.  To me that’s what it’s all about.  Realizing that a way of life isn’t serving you, and choosing to start reaching from that dark place for the light.  We all live in a seriously screwed up society with tremendous pressure to fit a certain mold, surrounded by people who hate themselves and want us to hate ourselves so that they don’t feel so bad, topped off by an astronomical amount of bad information being thrown at us every day by people trying to sell us stuff.  But we can make a different choice. Loving being weird is far better for me than hating fitting in was.  It’s a choice and it’s always in my hands (though to be clear that’s one of the privileges of my current neurotypicality).  There’s a great quote by Les Brown that I think of when I think of this journey: “No matter how bad it is or how bad it gets, I’m gonna make it!”

So chins up you body-loving fatties and skinnies and in-betweenies, you non-conformists, non-dieters, Size Acceptors, and Health at Every Sizers. And be strong those of you who are on the way there. We are gonna make it.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 7:55 am  Comments (31)  

The Oversensitive Fatty

Angry FrustratedYour good friend just posted a fatphobic joke on Facebook.  Your uncle just made a fat joke at family dinner. Your co-worker just said something nasty about the fat UPS delivery person.

So you confront them. Maybe you are very direct and angry in your response.  Your maybe today you take the approach of setting aside your anger and calmly say (or type) something like “Dude, that’s really not cool.”  They respond “What’s not cool?” you, again setting aside your anger and perhaps at this point having to overcome your eye-roll reflex, say “Making jokes about people based on their size” or “saying nasty things about fat people.”  You’ve done what you can, you stand there ready for the teachable moment or the recognition of wrongdoing and apology.  But instead you get some version of “You’re just being oversensitive.”  Oh for fucks sake.

Let’s examine the situation.  The person started by making an inappropriate joke or saying something nasty about someone who looks like us, and decided to follow that up by telling us how we are supposed to react to  it. Who died and put them in charge of our feelings?  Oh wait, nobody.

Also, let’s be clear that what they are indicating is that they care more about telling their little joke or making their nasty comment than they do about our feelings.  For me, when I tell someone they’ve hurt my feelings and their response “well your feelings are clearly wrong” that’s a really good indicator that it’s time to reassess my relationship with them.

Or, the absolute worst, they claim that you are trying to infringe on their right to free speech. I’m embarrassed for the people who make this argument, as it is patently ridiculous.  The First Amendment of the Constitution states

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It does not state

You should be able to say whatever offensive bullshit you want and nobody is allowed to be offended by it.

This isn’t about trying to force someone to give up free speech, it’s about asking them why they aren’t willing to temper their free speech with a little empathy.  Again, is that fat joke really more important than your friend who is hurt by it, or your friends who might be hurt by it?

So how do we deal with this?  As always, each of us gets to choose how we deal with this kind of crap including trying to educate people, refusing to educate people, trying to create allies, and saying what we want to even if it alienates people.  With that in mind, here are some ideas on responses:

  • Congratulations, I didn’t realize that you were named the grand judge of what is offensive! Was there a ceremony?  Was it nice?
  • So do I understand correctly that you care more about this joke than you do about my feelings?
  • Isn’t it also possible that I’m being just the right amount of sensitive and you’re being a massive jerk.
  • You’re allowed to act like this, and if that’s your choice then I’m going to [insert consequence you can actually follow through with – leave the conversation, leave the room, leave the state, have to unfriend you, etc.]
  • Now that’s funny!  I mean, you’re joking right? There’s no way that you’re actually trying to tell me what should and should not offend me…

Have other ideas? Please feel free to put them in the comments. One thing that also helps me is to have an inner mantra that I can use regardless of the conversation that I’m having, mine is “This is bullshit!” of course your mileage may vary.  Whatever you do I think it’s important to remember that the problem isn’t our bodies or our feelings, the problem is that someone wants to be a jerk with impunity, and that’s something I definitely find offensive.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Published in: on June 23, 2014 at 8:57 am  Comments (46)  

Marathon Update: Marathon vs Health vs Fitness

Nothing to proveTraining is going well – my transition from walking to walk/running is coming right along, and I’m about to try out some new shoes that will hopefully work better than my current ones (the shoe thing is a whole blog post for another time.)  I’m consistently doing the last hill repeat of each week faster than the first hill repeat from the week before. I’m feeling pretty good about where I’m at in the training.

The hatemail keeps pouring in – they are a cranky bunch.  One of my haters favorite things to do is to make up something, say that I said it, then work themselves up into a lather talking about what a horrible person I am for saying it.  It’s pretty hilarious to watch it happen, but sometimes they hit on some things that are actual issues.  Recently one of the popular things that my haters pretend I said is “Ragen takes over 12 hours to do a marathon and claims that proves she’s healthy.”  Not so much.  But there is a ton of confusion around the concepts of health, fitness, and athletic events and I think it’s worth trying to clear some of that up today.

Health:  According to the World Health Organization “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  This seems pretty black and white and I think that health is a lot more gray – does this mean that if someone has a stubbed toe they aren’t healthy? If they have anxiety they aren’t healthy. If someone is born with a permanent medical condition does that mean they never have a chance at health?  I think that health should be multi-dimensional, I think it’s also important to be clear that it’s not entirely within our control (things like genetics, access including income, environment and more can effect our health) and that it can be a moving target, and based on each individual’s body, circumstances, and situation.

Fitness:   There are a ton of definitions here, one of the most widely accepted is from University of Oregon professor of Physical Education H. Harrison Clarke, Ed.D. “The ability to carry out daily tasks (work and play) with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies.”  There again, this is a moving target that depends on what kind of daily tasks you want to/have to participate in, what kind of leisure-time pursuits interest you, and what emergencies you might deal with.  I’ve always been taught that fitness is built on four pillars:  strength, stamina, flexibility, and technique in various proportions based on what you are trying to accomplish/what sport you are trying to play etc.

Athletic Event:  This would be a test or application of some form of fitness.  In my case a marathon, it could also be a 5k, hike, yoga competition, whatever.  It could be organized, or just by yourself in your house, neighborhood, gym etc.

These three things have some things in common – none of them is a barometer of worthiness, none of them is entirely within our control, and none of them is an obligation.

While these three things may have some stuff in common, be connected in some ways, they aren’t the same, nor are they interchangeable.  A person could meet the WHO definition of “health” having never done anything “athletic.”  A person could have tremendous fitness in one area but not in others – for example someone could be incredibly strong but have very little cardiovascular stamina, or be able to run long distances but have limited flexibility and not be able to touch their toes.  There are people who don’t even come close to the WHO definition of health who complete serious athletic events. There are people who are seriously engaged in fitness who never choose to participate in an athletic event. Again, none of these are a reason to judge someone, they are all perfectly cool ways to be.

This becomes particularly important when it comes to athletic events. My completing a marathon was proof that on that day and under those conditions I could successfully complete 26.2 miles in about 13 hours.  That’s all it was proof of – it doesn’t prove that I’m healthy or that I’m not healthy,  it may or may not be representative of my overall fitness.  Lots of people who were capable of completing the Seattle marathon much faster than I could have possibly completed it didn’t finish the marathon at all. That doesn’t mean that I’m more fit or healthier than they are, or that there is any shame in their attempting and failing.  Athletic events depend on fitness and preparation but also on lots of factors on any given day many of which aren’t within our control.

The problem here isn’t people’s health, or levels of fitness, or decision to be involved in athletic events – or not. The problem isn’t even really the confusion of these three things.  The problem isn’t my marathon time.  The problem is people who feel the need to judge other people based on these factors and the way that tends to discourage people from participating, and how much that sucks and how many people are dissuaded from taking part in athletics because they don’t want to deal with this kind of bullshit.  It’s one of the big reasons that I continue to be so public about my participation in athletics, and to create safe spaces to talk about health, fitness, and athletic events, and to advocate for inclusivity in athletics for anyone who wants to be involved (while being very clear that there is absolutely no obligation to do so) for people of all sizes, dis/abilities, fitness levels etc. – and to invite the haters to drink a big steaming mug of suck it.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on June 22, 2014 at 8:42 am  Comments (6)  

How Can You Say Weight Loss Doesn’t Work?

Success and DietsThis is one of the most common questions that I get.  For people who’ve been steeped in diet culture – even if they’ve personally had the experiences of short term weight loss, long term weight regain, and yo yo dieting – it can be really difficult to believe that successful long-term weight loss is something that almost never happens.  That’s certainly how I felt when I first started to read through the research.  I had a really tough time believing that the idea that I could and should become thin to be healthy – which was promoted and sold to me more aggressively than any other concept or product in my life – was not only not based on research, but actually directly contraindicated by it.

The issue here is two-fold. First even if we believed that weight loss would improve health (though Mann and Tomiyama 2013 suggests that it doesn’t) there isn’t a single study in existence where more than a tiny fraction of people were able to achieve long term weight loss using any method. Statistically the most common outcome of intentional weight loss attempts (whether they are “diets” or “lifestyle changes” or any thing else that is an attempt to manipulate body size through diet and/or exercise) is weight regain.  The thing that seems to cause the most confusion is that almost everyone loses weight short term, and we mistakenly believe that if we can lose weight short term then we can lose weight long term and maintain that weight loss.

The truth is that the vast majority of people regain their weight and the majority gain more than they lost (see Mann and Tomiyama 2007) So even if we think that being fat is a problem, given the current research, recommending weight loss is the worst advice we can give. Weight loss simply does not meet the ethical requirements of evidence based medicine since we don’t have any evidence that suggests that it will work for more than a tiny percentage of people and we don’t have any evidence that is able to link decreased weight to better health, controlling for behaviors. In fact when people decrease weight without changing behavior (as in the case of liposuction for example) we don’t see changes in health.

In fact, what we see over and over is that when people change their behavior, their health often improves and often they lose weight short term. We then inexplicably credit the weight loss with the improved health rather than crediting the behaviors. When studies control for behavior we find that people of different sizes with the same behaviors have the same health hazard ratios and risks of all cause mortality (see Wei et al, Matheson et. al, and the Cooper Institute Longitudinal Studies to start.)

Given the fact that we have no evidence that supports a weight loss intervention either for change in body size or a change in health, but we have a great deal of evidence for increased health through behaviors regardless of starting weight or weight change associated with the behaviors, the ethics of evidence-based medicine require that we prescribe healthy behaviors to those interested in improving their health, or that if we give a weight loss intervention we practice informed consent and let them know that almost everyone who attempts that intervention has the exact opposite of the intended result, and that we have no evidence that, even if the person is in the tiny minority who succeed, their health will be improved.

We should also be very clear that neither health nor healthy habits are an obligation – nobody owes anybody health or healthy habits by any definition.  Everyone gets to choose how they prioritize their health and what path they want to take to get there.  Also, regardless of habits, health is never guaranteed and never entirely within our control.  Finally health is not a barometer of worthiness, and our health isn’t anybody else’s business unless we make it their business.

People are allowed to disagree with this, but let’s not pretend that disbelief, however indignant or authentic or well meaning, is the same thing as evidence-based conclusions. The idea of weight loss creating health is what I call a Galileo Issue – it’s widely believed, fervently supported, it’s heresy to suggest that it’s not true, and yet it is not supported by evidence. We have to start basing our interventions on evidence over “everyone knows” if we hope to actually give people accurate information.

UPDATE: Awhile ago I told you that a screenwriter had written a screenplay based on my time dancing.  Well, you know that game where you try to decide who should get to play you in a movie about your life?  That game just got very real for me.  The screenplay has been optioned and, per one of the members of the team “we are going to make the hell out of this movie!”  And it all started with a connection made by a blog reader (Thanks TS!) It’s super exciting, and a little weird, and super exciting.  I’ll keep you updated as there are more details!

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

Published in: on June 21, 2014 at 8:16 am  Comments (15)  

Dr. Oz: Scam Artist

You Forgot Your BullshitYou may have heard that the US Senate called Dr. Oz to Capital Hill for a spanking, because he has made it a habit to sell snake oil under the guise of being a medical professional.

“Thanks to brand new scientific research, I can tell you about a revolutionary fat buster, It’s called Garcinia cambogia.” ‎he said in front of a huge screen with the words “No Exercise. No Diet. No Effort” written on it.

The chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, Sen. Claire McCaskill, said  “The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles’, I don’t get why you need to say this stuff when you know it’s not true..”

Dr. Oz responded “My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience, and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I want to look, and I do look everywhere, including in alternative healing traditions, for any evidence that might be supportive to them.”

Kind of makes me wonder what else he’s willing to lie about so that he can put being a cheerleader for what people want over being a competent medical professional promoting evidence-based medicine. Also, let’s be clear that he’s not willing to look everywhere, even if it’s literally right in front of his face.

A few years ago Dr. Glenn Gaesser successfully campaigned to get on Dr. Oz’s show to talk about how wrong Dr. Oz is about weight and health.  I did a video discussing the fact that Dr. Oz, who makes millions of dollars selling weight loss in one form or another, was “flabbergasted” to find out that there is research that disagrees with his medical opinion  cheerleading.

If he was really going to “look everywhere” he would look into the studies that find that habits are a much better predictor of future health than body size (knowing of course that health isn’t an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, guaranteed regardless habits, or entirely within our control.)  But where’s the profit in that?   He is a scam artist and he can’t be trusted -the sooner everyone realizes this the sooner he goes off the air and we can replace him with a show that has more integrity, like Real World Bachelor Jackass Millionaires (with 10 points to readers who get the song reference.)

Oh Mehmet, can I call you Mehmet?,  you’re an embarrassment to your profession and a danger to your listeners, how about you just shut it down and go on home now.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

Published in: on June 19, 2014 at 7:46 am  Comments (47)  

Not a Moment of Peace

ConcernRecently I re-posted my blog about being comfortable in a swimsuit to Facebook in response to a day in which I had been barraged both by ads for diets that counted on my being  terrified of wearing a swimsuit, and companies trying to sell me bathing suits by suggesting that I would look less like me if I wear them (though who, precisely, I would be trying to fool with a suit that makes me “look 10 pounds slimmer” is difficult to say.)  It got a lot of views (hi new readers!) and many people re-posted it to Facebook (thanks y’all!)  One of the common responses to the post was something like “Body acceptance is ok, but we can’t ignore the health dangers of being obeblah blah blah blah concern troll blah blah blah.”

I think this idea – that we can’t say anything in appreciation of fat bodies without someone making an unsolicited comment about our health – is deeply problematic. There’s often a predictable trifecta of concern trolling – VFHT (vague future health threats), erroneously conflating body size with health, and confusing body size with behaviors/eating disorders (ie:  I would be just as upset if you were glorifying anorexia…)

Peter Muennig from Columbia University did research around weight and stigma and  found that women who were “concerned about their weight” had more physical and mental illness than women who were fine with their size”, regardless of their size. He also found that the stress of the stigma that fat people face was correlated with the same diseases with which being fat is correlated.

So this hand-wringing, wailing insistence that fat people never be allowed, even for a moment – even for a single facebook post – to appreciate or be happy with our bodies without unsolicited opinions about our health may not just be incredibly irritating and indicative of a person with boundary issues, it may be actively harming us.

Studies of weight and health that take behaviors into account (Wei et. al, Matheson et. al, Cooper Institute Longitudinal studies etc) have found that habits are a far better predictor of future health than body size, and that people with similar habits had similar risk of all cause mortality and health hazard ratio regardless of their body size.

Meanwhile researchers are finally being honest about that fact that there is not a single study for which weight loss worked for more than a tiny fraction of people (which means that it doesn’t meet the requirements of evidence-based medicine) and that even among those who did lose weight there was no correlation to better health that could be credited to the weight loss independent of behavior changes (Mann and Tomiyama 2013) Sometimes when people change their behaviors, their health improves and sometimes they also lose weight. We often erroneously credit the weight loss, rather than the behavior, for the health changes but the above research shows that healthy habits, not the manipulation of body size, are what are likely to support health (though of course healthy habits are not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or a guarantee.)

Body size is not health, it’s not behavior, and it’s not a diagnosis of any illness – physical or mental. To paraphrase Marilyn Wann the only things you can tell from someone’s body size are the size of their body, and your particular prejudices and preconceived notions about their body.

But even if all of that wasn’t true, even if the concern trolls were right about whatever they believe about our health – and setting aside the questionable idea that if they convince us to hate our bodies we’ll somehow take better care of them – we still have every right to refuse to put up with concern trolling.  Because our bodies and our health are our business, and so is who gets to comment on them. Contrary to some people’s beliefs, public health should be about making information and options available to the public, not making the individual’s body the public’s business.  We don’t have to allow anyone to comment on our health, not even if they are well meaning.

We each get to deal with this in any way that we want.  We can let people say what they are going to say and just let it go in one ear and out the other, we can try to educate them, we can tell them to drink a big steaming mug of shut the hell up.  Regardless, I think it’s important to be clear that our fat bodies are not the problem, the problem is people who insist that we shouldn’t have a moment of peace living in them.

Like this blog? Consider supporting my work with a donation or by  becoming a member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you. I get paid for some of my speaking and writing (and do both on a sliding scale to keep it affordable), but a lot of the work I do (like answering hundreds of request for help and support every day) isn’t paid so member support makes it possible ( THANK YOU to my members, I couldn’t do this without you and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!)   Click here for details

Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

 

 

Published in: on June 17, 2014 at 7:49 am  Comments (40)