Marathon Update: On Being a Runner

If you run you are a runnerBetween preparing for the marathon and the IRONMAN, my workout schedule is 6 days a week with a few days that include more than one workout (fricking early morning swimming)  In addition to swimming, biking, plyometrics, and core work, my workouts include plenty of runs – tempo runs, interval runs, and long runs, all of various speeds, distances, and ratios of running and walking.

I’ve hesitated to call myself a runner. I wasn’t when I did my first marathon – I was very clear that I was walking that marathon, I signed up for the walker division, I walked it.  Now, though, I’m doing lots more running, but I’ve still been unsure about calling myself a runner.

But I’ve been spending more time on forums for runners and triathletes which has given me new perspectives on lots of stuff.  I talked about this on the IronFat blog as it relates to the different concerns that I have as a fat athlete, but it’s also given me perspective about what is means to be a runner. Plenty of the people in these forums struggle with running exactly like I do, they do intervals of walks and runs exactly as I do, and they are comfortable calling themselves runners.

One of the things that I’ve noticed in the sport of running that is very different than what I experienced in ballroom dance is the contempt of some of the high level/serious runners for beginners, casual runners, or those who aren’t very good at running.

In the dance world this was not my experience (which, of course, isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen to others) – when I was a beginner, pros and judges and people far better than I was asked me (and others like me ) to dance, they got up early to cheer for us, they encouraged us. As I got better I passed that along and even when I was dancing in the more advanced and professional divisions in the afternoons I still got up early to watch the beginners at 7am (because nobody should have to do East Coast Swing before 8am without a cheering crowd.)

Many of the runners who I’ve interacted with personally have been super cool and supportive, so I certainly don’t intend for this to apply to all runners, but it seems like there is a very vocal group of runners  whose self-esteem is so fragile that they actually have to create a “cool kids club” and then insist that other people can’t join it as a way to try to feel ok about themselves.  And that’s sad, of course, but it’s also a big flaming sack of not my problem. (This group is separate from, but similar in message to, the people who send me hatemail who only ever run as far as the bathroom, but want to criticize what I do)

A big part of my activism when it comes to fitness is about insisting that nobody of any size is obligated to participate in fitness, but that everyone of any size who wants a place in the fitness world should have one.  And that includes calling ourselves runners even if we don’t do it the way that the self-appointed “cool kids” think we should.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out for a run. You see, I’m a runner.

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Ridiculous Researchers Run Rampant

WTF are you doingThe Lancet published a piece by Stuart W. Flint and Sophie Reale called “Obesity Stigmatisation From Obesity Researchers”   The authors attended the Association for the Study for Obesity conference and were “surprised at the stigmatising comments of some of the presenters”

So-called “renowned” “professional” researchers in the field of “obesity” presenting to their peers and making fat jokes from the stage. Jokes about fat people and sex, public transportation, and all manner of stereotypes and stigma that the research they are involved in has shown to be rampant, and harmful.

The authors were surprised by this, but I am not. There is no way that  “researchers” who do not hold their subjects in complete contempt could possibly produce the type of drivel that comes off the “obesity” research line:

A study of the fuel costs of fat people that uses body size information from the 1960s and doesn’t have any information about how many fat people have driver’s licenses or what kinds of cars we drive.

A “study” of the cost of fat people to businesses that so debauches research methods in general, the scientific method in specific, and statistics, that it would get a first semester freshmen banned from taking any future classes on research or statistics.

Dietetic literature on weight management [that] fails to meet the standards of evidence based medicine. Research in the field is characterised by speculative claims that fail to accurately represent the available data.

The incessant use of a number (BMI) that has been shown to be deeply problematic, not to mentioned lowered at the recommendation a committee driven by people with financial ties to the diet industry.

Not to mention the massive conflict of interest that happens when most of this highly questionable research is funded by companies that profit from the highly questionable conclusions. Pair this delightful group with a media that wants eyeballs and is willing to stereotype and stigmatize fat people to get them, and you have a perfect storm to create the fatphobic, sizeist society in which we now live. Where billions of dollars are made off our backs.

Where the government encourages appearance based bullying from not just government entities, but employers, individuals and healthcare practitioners – in fact waging “War” on every citizen whose weight in pounds times 703 divided by our height in inches squared is greater than 35. Where the FDA and pharmaceutical companies want to eradicate obesity by either making fat people thin, or killing us and they don’t seem to care which, where political groups that received hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies that profit from weight loss actually think they can fool us into supporting them by suggesting that they want to eradicate fat people from the Earth, but are against stigmatizing us while they do it, and they say it with a straight face.

I live in this world and deal with the consequences of it each and every day so imagine my complete lack of shock that the so-called researchers who purport this shaming, stigma, bullying and oppression hold appearance-based prejudice against the people on whom they focus . My appreciation goes out to Stuart W. Flint and Sophie Reale for publicizing the truth about this and reminding us that sunlight is the best disinfectant.  I only wish they had named names.

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Elly Kellner is Decent

Stand up speak up fight backYesterday we talked about the ridiculous notion that fat people shouldn’t be role models, appreciated for their talent, or seen as attractive.  Today we’re going to talk about those who say that maybe it’s ok for fat people to be appreciated for their talent, but only if they do certain things to make people who are uncomfortable with fat people more comfortable.

Singer/Songwriter Elly Kellner contacted More of Me to Love to get the word out about a song and video that she had written in response to dealing with this kind of asshole.  They told me about it, and now I’m telling you because I’m completely inspired by her story, her song, and her video.  Let me be perfectly clear that this sort of thing SHOULD NOT HAPPEN, she should not have to deal with it.  But it did and she did and she’s asked that her story be told and I want to do help with that, so here is her story in her own words:

My name is Elly Kellner, singer-songwriter and creative human being. After a recent concert I received feedback from a man and woman about my choice of clothing. I usually get feedback about my music, my lyrics and how people are touched by my songs but this time it was all about my looks. First I listened to what they wanted to tell me but in the end I just stood there crying…

Two strangers told me they were very distracted by my dress, was the back of the dress longer than the front!? And what sort of a legging was that!? And those shoes!? They assured me they only bothered to tell me all this because they thought my music was really good. But if only I wore a small heel, spike heels weren’t necessary, but a small heel and a sleeve then I would have been so much bigger in music already. The way I was dressed now distracted them too much from my music. I could take Ella Fitzgerald as an example. She was a big lady too and she wore beautiful garments!

I am and I will remain just a girl. I am overweight, I suffer from chronic pains, I exercise, I eat healthy, I eat unhealthy, I go from black-white to grey and all the colours of the rainbow, I love wearing dresses in my own way, I sometimes wear make-up and sometimes I don’t. I’m totally allowed to be here. And I’m all for positive body image! 🙂

The negative words that I heard after the performance kept ringing in my head like a negative mantra. Then I wrote a song about it… Then I wanted my friends to join me in dance… Then it was suddenly called ‘Ellybellyrep’… Then I wanted to make a video for it, so that’s what I did… Then I wanted to send it out into the world and this is how I came to your facebookpage. I made English subtitles to the Dutch song ‘Deugdelijk’ (Decent). I approached it with humor but my message is clear: “This is my body, I am thankful that I have one and I am the one that decides what clothes I put on it. Everybody gets to be themselves!”

PS: I am also wearing the outfit that started all of this, in the cow scene. Although I didn’t wear rubber boots on stage 😉

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The Healthy Role Model Myth

Bullshit FairyWhen I was doing research for my post about the most recent obsession with Melissa McCarthy’s weight, I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments. There I saw something that I see whenever a fat person is shown being successful at something other than weight loss – that people shouldn’t consider her a role model, or appreciate her talent, or find her beautiful, because her size makes her unhealthy.

Today I’m not even going to go into the fact that health and body size are two different things,  because this doesn’t actually have anything to do with that.

Let’s start here – In order to agree with the idea that fat people make poor role models because they are unhealthy you have to believe a couple of things. First, that you can tell someone’s health based on their weight, and second, that people who aren’t healthy shouldn’t be role models. Both of these are totally wrong.

First of all, you cannot tell how healthy someone is based on their size.  There are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes, for lots of different reasons.  But even if someone is so misguided as to believe that body size is a reliable indicator of health, this “bad role model” idea is still bullshit.

I don’t think that people who suggest that fat people shouldn’t be role models because they think we’re unhealthy actually care about our health, I think that they are trying to use healthism as a cover for their fatphobia.

Health is not an obligation or a barometer of worthiness, it’s not entirely within our control or guaranteed in any circumstance, and “health,” by whatever definition, should not be a prerequisite for being a role model or acknowledged for one’s achievements. The idea that someone, of any size, should have to meet some level of “health” in order to be appreciated for their talent or be a role model is horrifying, and is the definition of healthism.

Even if people believe that fat people are fat because we engage in behaviors that they think are unhealthy, that still doesn’t justify this.  We can look up to people for their achievements, appreciate their talents and their beauty, we can make them our role models based on their accomplishments, even if we don’t agree with every choice they make about their personal health – because those choices are between them and their doctor and whomever they choose to include.

So every time you see someone comment on an article about a fat person being celebrated for their achievements with some crap about their health, you can choose to acknowledge to yourself that this is sizeist, healthist, and total, unadulterated, bullshit.  If you want to go a step further, you can leave a comment saying so.

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

Dealing With Family and Friends Food Police

Don't Judge just nomThis post is a danceswithfat tradition, offered for those who may have to deal with inappropriate friend and family behavior during this “holiday season” (whether they are celebrating any holidays or not.)

Ah, is there anything more fun than being under surveillance by the Friends and Family Food Police?  There are only a couple of things that I can think of – root canal, shaving my head with a cheese grater, a fish hook in the eye…

This happens to almost all of my fat friends, but to be clear it happens to thin people too – food judgment and shaming happens to people of all sizes and it’s never ok.

I think that we need to remember that fat hate and body shaming is modeled for people all over our culture, fear of being fat is a driver of a lot of behaviors.

First, I always suggest that you be prepared for boundary setting when you go into this type of situation.  Think about what your boundaries are, and what consequences you are willing to enforce.   So think about what you would be willing to do – Leave the event?  Stay at a hotel?  Cease conversation until the person can treat you appropriately?  Be sure that you know what you want and that you can follow through.

As an example, I’ll use that age old shaming question “Do you need to eat that?”

This is such a loaded question. What do they mean by “need”? Are they asking if my glycogen stores are depleted? If I am near starvation?  If my body at this moment requires the precise nutrients that are delivered by cornbread stuffing and gravy? Or do they feel that fostering a relationship with food that is based on guilt and shame is in my best interest?

This question is custom-made to make someone feel ashamed.  I think it’s asked for one of about three reasons:

Judgment

The person asking the question has decided that it is their job to pass judgment on your activities.  Being too cowardly to directly state their opinion, they use this question as a mode of passive aggression to “make you admit it to yourself”.  This is one of those situations where they would probably claim to be mistreating you for your own good, also known around this blog as “Pulling a Jillian“.

If the person asking this question truly cared about you and your health (however misguided they might be), they would talk to you about it in person, alone, at an appropriate time, and they would ask a question that invited dialog, not try to embarrass you in front of people while you’re eating what is supposed to be a celebratory meal. That right there is some bullshit.

Power/Superiority

Remember that some people never psychologically got past Junior High and nothing makes them feel so powerful as judging someone else and then making them feel like crap. Maybe because they are drowning in…

Insecurity

The person asking the question perhaps struggles with their weight, their guilt about eating etc. and since they feel guilty for enjoying the food, they think that you should feel guilty about it too, or they want to deflect attention from their behavior to yours.

The degree of difficulty on discerning someone’s intent in this sort of thing can range from “of course” to “who the hell knows”. Here’s the thing though, from my perspective it doesn’t matter why they are asking it:  I am not ok with being asked, and I get to make that decision.

So you’re at a holiday meal, you take seconds on mashed potatoes and someone asks the dreaded question:  “Do you need to eat that?” It seems like the table falls silent, waiting for your reply.  What do you say?

If it’s me, first I quell my rage and resist the urge to put them down (Yes, I do need these mashed potatoes.  Did you need to be a total freaking jerk?)

Second, as with so many situations where people lash out at you, remember that this is about their issues and has nothing to do with you.   If emotions well up, consider that you may be feeling embarrassed and/or sorry for them, and not ashamed of your own actions.

Finally I suggest you find your happy (or at least your non-homicidal) place, and try one of these:

Quick and Simple (said with finality)

  • Yes (and then eat it)
  • No (and then eat it)

Answer with a Question (I find it really effective to ask these without malice, with a tone of pure curiosity.  If you’re not in the mood to have a dialog about this, maybe skip these.)

  • Why do you think that’s your business?
  • What led you to believe that I want you to police my food intake?
  • I thought that you were an accountant, are you also a dietitian?

Pointed Response (be ready with a consequence if the behavior continues)

  • I find that inappropriate and offensive, please don’t comment on my food choices
  • What I eat is none of your business, and your commenting on it is not ok
  • I have absolutely no interest in discussing my food intake with you
  • I’m not soliciting opinions about my food choices.

Cathartic (but probably not that useful if you want to create an opportunity for honest dialog)

  • Yes, because dealing with your rudeness is depleting my glycogen stores at an alarming rate
  • If I want to talk to the food police, I’ll call Pie-1-1
  • I’m sure you’re not proud of the completely inappropriate behavior you just exhibited, I’m willing to forget this ever happened
  • Thanks for trying to give me your insecurities, but I was really hoping to get a Wii this year
  • No, but using my fork to eat helps to keep me from stabbing you with it

I don’t believe that guilt is good for my health and I’m definitely resisting arrest by the Family and Friends Food Police.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Did Melissa McCarthy Lose Weight?

Several readers let me know about an Entertainment Tonight article titled “Did Melissa McCarthy Lose 45 lbs?”  The article says that she looked “a touch slimmer” was “noticeably thinner” and “It’s being reported that McCarthy has lost an estimated 45-50 pounds.”  Reported where or by whom is undisclosed.

The pictures in question are:

 

I’m not convinced that these pictures show weight loss – I think that what they may show is how people can look different weights in different outfits, hairstyles, and angles.

In researching this, the “news” reports (which appear everywhere from Perez Hilton to CNN to Yahoo Australia) seem to be a game of round robin wherein sources site each other for reporting the weight loss (speculating everything from the amount of weight lost to her diet) but nobody has a quote from Melissa McCarthy to verify.

In fact, most articles quote her discussion about just the opposite, like the time she told People Magazine that while she’s been aware of the criticism about her weight, she’s “never felt like I needed to change. I’ve always thought, ‘If you want somebody different, pick somebody else…It’s like I’m managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction. Would you ever put that in the headline for a male star?”  Or talk about how she was discriminated against when she tried to get an Oscar dress.

I think a lot of this has to do with people who have joined the cult of thin who aren’t happy unless everyone joins with them.  These people put all of their self-esteem eggs in the thin basket, so when someone says that they don’t value a thin body over a fat one, that they don’t envy thinner women, that they aren’t interested in spending their time, money, and energy trying to manipulate their body size, it’s a direct challenge to the value system from which those who are in the cult of thin derive their self-worth.  So they want fat people to believe in the cult of thin, but let’s be clear that we certainly aren’t being invited to the compound (note that they report that she’s lost 45-50 pounds and call her “a touch slimmer.”  I seriously doubt that if they were reporting that she gained 45-50 pounds they would call her “a touch heavier” considering that when Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds for a movie role she was called “unrecognizeable” and when Vanessa Hudgons gained 15 pounds for a role they called it a “shocking transformation.”)

I think it’s super unfortunate that as a culture we feel the need to ignore the accomplishments of actors (especially women) as they relate to their craft and instead discuss their weight, clothes, hair, makeup and jewelry, reinforcing all of this by behaving like talented people who don’t fit the hollywood stereotype are somehow shocking.

So did Melissa McCarthy lose weight?  Don’t know. Don’t care. Can’t imagine how it’s any of my business.  I’m much more interested in the performance an actor gives in a movie than I am in how they look going to the movies, regardless of the color of the carpet.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

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

Combating Holiday Weight Shame

You Forgot Your BullshitThe article “Tell Loved Ones They are Overweight This Christmas” is making the rounds again. I will not be linking to it because I have no interest in driving traffic there. I will say that should my loved ones take this advice the follow up article will be “I Told My Loved One She Is Overweight and She Told Me to Sit Down, Shut Up and Mind My Own Damn Business.”

The article says that in a poll of more than 2,000 people, 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds would not tell a loved one they should lose weight because of a fear they would hurt the other person’s feelings.

According to the article, this suggests that ” too many people shy away from the issue”.  According to me this proves that 42% of 18-24 year olds have common decency and/or realize that it is impossible for a fat person in our culture to not know that society has a negative opinion about our size.  Stated another way, 58% of 18-24 year olds did not eat their bowl of No Shit Sherlock Flakes on the day that the poll was taken.

According to their so-called expert (who works for an organization that appears to make money pretending that they successfully make fat people thin), “if someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life.”

No, it won’t.  Discussing it with them will do nothing for their health but may very well ruin their holiday and your relationship, so there’s no need to put on your “Concern Troll Man” tights and cape and self-righteously pretend that you are the super hero who saves fat people from ourselves.

Every person who deals with this kind of bullshit (whether it’s holiday related or not) gets to decide how they want to handle it. You are, as always, the boss of your underpants.

Let me suggest that you don’t have to put up with weight shame (during holidays you celebrate or any other time). You don’t have to put up with body snarking, body stigma, or concern trolling. You don’t have to allow a running commentary on your body, health, or food choices from anyone.   You don’t have to accept treatment you don’t like because people are your family, friends, or because they “mean well”.  And you don’t have to internalize other people’s bullshit, you don’t have to buy into the thin=better/healthier/prettier paradigm or be preached at by people who do.

Loving your body is an act of sheer courage and revolution in this culture. Instead of another article about how to avoid holiday weight gain, here’s what I would like to see all over Facebook, and hear on the radio, television and at gatherings all over the world during the holidays and every other time of year:

My body is not a representation of my failures, sins, or mistakes. My body is not a sign that I am in poor health, or that I am not physically fit neither of which is your business regardless. My body is not up for public discussion, debate or judgment. My body is not a signal that I need your help or input to make decisions about my health or life.  My body is the constant companion that helps me do every single thing that I do every second of every day and it deserves respect and admiration. If you are incapable of appreciating my body that is your deficiency, not mine, and I do not care. Nor am I interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter so, if you want to be around me, you are 100% responsible for doing whatever it takes to keep those thoughts to yourself. If you are incapable of doing that I will leave and spend my time with people who can treat me appropriately.  Please pass the green beans.

As always I think that preparation is the best friend of the fatty. If you suspect that you may be the victim of holiday weight shame then I suggest being prepared.  Here are some ideas:

Know what your boundaries are and decide on consequences that you can live with ahead of time.  Don’t threaten things that you won’t follow through on.  So try something like “My body is fine, your behavior is inappropriate. If there is one more comment about my weight, I am leaving.”  Practice it before you go so that you are ready. The common thread among my friends who have done this is that they’ve only had to do it once and then their bodies (and wishes) were respected, and they all report feeling incredibly empowered.  As always, your mileage may vary.

Consider talking with members of your family who have been repeat offenders prior to the holiday.  Or send out a holiday newsletter e-mail explaining your commitment to Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size and that comments about your weight are not welcome.  Remind yourself (as often as necessary) that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you – their concern trolling behavior is inappropriate.

Do what it takes to take care of yourself, have a friend you can call for support, create a mantra, or keep an index card or note on your phone with inspiring quotes.  Keep putting the problem where it belongs – which is on the concern trolls and not on your body.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become 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.  Click here for details

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

Book Me!  I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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

I’m training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

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