Transitioning from Dieting to Health at Every Size

It's Me!  As drawn by the fabulous www.tonitails.com!
It’s Me! As drawn by the fabulous http://www.tonitails.com!

I got a question from a reader today from reader Jeannie who said “I’m ready to get off the diet roller coaster and start focusing on my health instead of my weight, do you have any advice on the practical side of doing that?”  Indeed I do.

Before we go too far, I want to point out (for the first of several times) that health (including the pursuit of health by any definition) is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed regardless of one’s choices.

So, let’s start by comparing and contrasting the two methods:

A weight centered approach to health suggests that we try to manipulate our body into a specific height/weight ratio and hope that health comes along for that ride.  It suggests that we do something that nobody has proven is possible for a reason that nobody has proven is valid, and for which failure is a near statistical certainty.

Health at Every Size (HAES) is a health practice where the focus is on behaviors rather than body size, based on the evidence that habits are a much better determinant of future health than body size. (HAES is not to be confused with Size Acceptance, which is a civil rights movement that asserts that fat people have the right to exist without stigma, shame, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could/want to become thin).

HAES does not say that everyone can be healthy at any size – it says that body size and health are two different things and that people of all sizes get to choose how highly to prioritize their health and the path they want to travel to get there, and that the resources we need to support those choices should be available and accessible. With HAES the focus is on choosing behaviors, and allowing our bodies to settle at whatever weight they settle.

The transition from a weight-centered health practice to a health-centered health practice can be difficult.  The problem that I most often hear from people initially is how to set goals.  In a weight centered practice the scale is our judge and jury.  All eating and movement activities are centered around changing the size and shape of the body and the number on the scale.

For those who choose HAES, our activities are chosen based on our prioritization of our health and the path that we choose to get there, and are focused around nurturing our bodies and increasing our odds for good health, rather than trying to make them a certain size or height/weight ratio. Goals can be set around movement – for example, I want to be able to life my grandkid, I want to be able to walk around the block etc.  They can be set around the habits themselves – I want to get x minutes of activity a week, I want to eat x servings of vegetables a day etc.

There are lots of nuts and bolts to work out, and for most of us it’s an ongoing process – but for me the biggest step was deciding to stop hating my body for not fitting a societal stereotype of beauty or state-sponsored height/weight ratio,  and start appreciating it for everything it does and making choices as if my body and were on the same side, rather than “struggling” with my weight or seeing my body as the enemy.  I find that most people’s experience – including mine – is that once you make the decision to focus on your health and let your weight fall where it may, you’ve taken a huge step toward a HAES approach.

On your HAES journey you’ll try stuff – some things will be spectacular successes (like that time I took up dancing) and some may be spectacular failures and that’s ok. This is a lifelong journey and there is no right or wrong, there are just experiences and what you’re going to try next.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

If you’re looking for fun fitness stuff to do in the New Year without any diet talk, weight loss talk, or body shaming, but with lots of fun, flexibility, and body positivity, check out the Fit Fatties Forum Virtual Event Challenge!

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.

Marathon Update: Ch…Ch…Changes

26.2 miles  Marathon  It was all worth it in the end!
Looks like it will be a while longer until I get my next one!

So in October I logged onto the LA Marathon site to register for the marathon and I noticed that the website had changed. Most importantly to me, the sentence that started “Participants who cross the finish line after…” had changed.

When I decided to enter the LA Marathon that sentence had read “Participants who cross the finish line after 8:00:00 are not guaranteed to be recognized as Official Finishers and are not guaranteed a medal or finishing time.”

The sentence as it appeared that morning in October read “Participants who cross the finish line after 6:30:00 are not guaranteed to be recognized as Official Finishers and are not guaranteed a medal or finishing time.”

I had set a goal to finish the LA Marathon in 7:30:00, an hour faster than I had trained to finish Seattle.  Now I would have to take another hour off my time in 8 months, and considering how much I do well and truly suck at running, that seemed unlikely.

This created a weird situation since, by that point, I was involved in my IRONMAN training (in fact, the idea to do the IM came from some audiobooks that I was listening to trying to psych myself up to do this marathon.)

I’ve been working to increase my speed but it has become clear that it would be very touch and go as to whether or not I would be able to finish in 6.5 hours, and I have no desire to DNF a marathon I don’t have to do.

So I’m definitely doing another marathon before the IM, but it’s not going to be LA this year. At this point I’m not sure which one, I’m looking at options and working with my coach – there is a lot to take into account including location and travel, my race schedule leading up to the IM, do I want to find one with a longer time limit sooner, or give myself more time to pick up my pace etc.

Meanwhile I’m happy that I’m making really good progress on the spin bike, and my first attempt at swimming laps went way better than I had hoped!  The running is still by far the most difficult thing for me, but I’ll get there. I’m sad not to run the LA marathon this year but I’m excited to finish a marathon, an IM, and everything in between.

Since the marathon training is getting swept up into the IM training, I’m going to move all of the updates to the IronFat blog, so if you are interested in keeping up with my progress you can check out (and even subscribe if you want) www.IronFat.com. Thanks to everyone for your continued well wishes and support, it really does mean the world to me!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

If you’re looking for fun fitness stuff to do in the New Year without any diet talk, weight loss talk, or body shaming, but with lots of fun, flexibility, and body positivity, check out the Fit Fatties Forum Virtual Event Challenge!

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 

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.

 

 

 

The True Public Health Threat

WTF are you doingA small study found that fat women who like their bodies have better sex than fat women who don’t.  I spent some time trying to muster surprise but I just can’t find any.  One of the things that I will never understand is these people who insist that not only do we have to be thin to be healthy, but that the only way to do that is to hate the bodies that we have now.  The concept of hating ourselves healthy and or thin (two separate things, let’s remember) has always seemed ridiculous to me.  In fact, the concept of attempting to make any choices from a basis of self-loathing seems like a terrible idea.

We live in a culture where people consider weight bullying to be everything from a public service to a super fun past-time, and where billion dollar industries make their money by convincing us that we are not good enough and that we should be terrified of never being good enough (and that we should buy their products to try to get better or at least keep from getting worse.)  People of all sizes internalize that message and that’s a problem because people don’t take good care of things that they hate and that includes their bodies.

One of the things about Size Acceptance that I think is undervalued for people of all sizes is the option to like yourself right now, exactly as you are, and then make choices for your health and your life. The idea that you can build a life from a perspective of liking and appreciating your body, rather than hoping that you can do something, buy something, be something – anything – to just hate yourself a little less.

If we, as a culture, really want to look at public health threats then I think that we should take all of the time, money and attention that is currently focused on body size and instead focus it on those who spread a message of body shame and self-loathing – from the weight bullies to the “for your own good-ers” These people are the true public health threat.  They try to convince us that our bodies are unworthy, and if they succeed it means that people often believe that their bodies are unworthy of care.  They create an environment where people are scared to move their bodies for fear of shaming, scared to go to the doctor for fear of being ignored, shamed or made the non-consenting subject of experimental medical treatments.  They create an environment where our food choices are moralized and scrutinized by strangers,  and we are told that our own bodies can’t be trusted and should be ignored in lieu of advice that seems highly questionable.

People who perpetuate self -loathing and who engage in weight bullying (under any guise including “trying to help” or “for your own good” or “for the good of society”) are a real and direct threat to public health and it’s time to stop focusing on the bodies of other people and start focusing on changing a culture that encourages self-loathing as the gateway to the good life.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

If you’re looking for fun fitness stuff to do in the New Year without any diet talk, weight loss talk, or body shaming, but with lots of fun, flexibility, and body positivity, check out the Fit Fatties Forum Virtual Event Challenge!

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.

Resources for the “Holidays”

Fatphobia ToolboxToday I’ve received several hundred emails from people who are dreading the holiday because their families treat them poorly because of their size – which is bullshit, obviously. For many people, holidays are filled with fun family get togethers and happy memories and festivities. For many people, it’s very much not.

People for whom “the holidays” aren’t so happy often don’t feel like they can talk about it, which makes it extra suck.  So I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that and let you know that this is a safe space, and to provide some resources:

Dealing with family and friends food police

Combating holiday weight shame

The Holiday Boundary Song

Dealing with people who can’t handle you setting boundaries

There is a discussion thread about this over on Shakesville.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

If you’re looking for a fun fitness stuff in the New Year without any diet talk, weight loss talk, or body shaming, but with lots of fun, flexibility, and body positivity, check out the Fit Fatties Forum Virtual Event Challenge!

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.

But What Will People Think?

Haters Walk on WaterYesterday in response to my post about boundary setting for family and friends food police, I suggested that one option for creating a boundary with a consequence attached was to say “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating. If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave” and then, if they fail to respect your boundaries, it’s time to go. I got the following comment in response, I think it’s a question that lots of people have and I want to address it:

But, if you just get up and leave, they will likely say that you are doing so because you “can’t handle the truth”, are “lying to yourself”, etc. If they don’t say it, they may at least THINK it. How would you and/or your readers deal with a possibility such as this?

One of the benefits of having so many haters so obsessed with me is that I get criticized for nearly every single thing I do or say – every blog post, Facebook post, Youtube video, etc. If I say that I like tea, there will be a thread on Reddit within 5 minutes about how I’m a liar and I really like coffee. This can actually be a really good thing since, though I don’t think I’d give into it, I’m never tempted to behave in a way that I think could avoid criticism, since I’ll be criticized no matter what I do. It has also solidified my answer to my commenter’s  question from yesterday, which is this:

They may well think or say those things.  If there’s anything that I’ve learned from my haters, it’s that people will go to any length to justify their prejudice to themselves and anyone who will listen.  I cannot control what people think of me, nor can I control their behavior.  I don’t care what people think, I care how they treat me in my presence.

So when I say “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating. If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave.”  I’m not trying to control what people think – they can think whatever the hell they want, I am stating clearly what behavior I will and will not tolerate, and what I will do if they continue the behavior that I find offensive.

If they continue discussing my weight or eating and I leave, it’s not to control what they think – it’s to remove myself from a situation that is outside of what I will put up with.

If people want to spend time with me they have to treat me a certain way, which includes not body shaming or food policing me.  So while they are allowed to think whatever they want about me, my body, and my food choices, they are 100% responsible for keeping those thoughts to themselves if they want to spend time with me (and they are under no obligation to want to spend time with me, of course.)

Most of the people in my life with whom I’ve had to set this boundary have been able to pull it together and behave appropriately.  There are a few who haven’t, and they don’t get to spend time with me anymore.  I don’t know or care what they think about me, as long as I don’t have to put up with it. Of course your mileage may vary, but I’ve found that – when it comes to family and friends food police – if I stop focusing on what people think and start focusing on what I want, things become better right away.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

If you’re looking for a fitness challenge in the New Year without any diet talk, weight loss talk, or body shaming, check out the Fit Fatties Forum Virtual Event Challenge!

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.

The Holiday Boundary Song

Biscuit the Pug and I wish happy, Body Positive, holidays to all who are celebrating (and a happy, body positive, week to those who aren't!)
Biscuit the Pug and I wish happy, body positive, holidays to all who are celebrating, and a happy, body positive, week to those who aren’t!

One of the most frequent questions I get during the holidays is about how to deal with family who are behaving badly.

For me the secret is boundaries. I think it’s best to start by deciding what constitutes behavior that you will put up with. If it’s anything other than “anything goes” then I would consider setting some boundaries with consequences that you can follow through with. So, for example “It is not ok to talk about my weight or eating. If anyone says one more thing about my weight or eating I’m going to leave.” and then, if they fail to respect your boundaries, it’s time to go.

I’ve heard from a number of people who have done this and the common thread seems to be that they only had to do it one time and then their families started respecting their boundaries. Of course your mileage may vary. I’ve written about dealing with the Family and Friends Food Police and Combating Holiday Weight Shame, but today I thought I would do it in song.

To serve as a reminder, I’ve re-written the lyrics to “Oh Christmas Tree” to be an ode to boundary setting, and the post is now a Dances With Fat tradition.

Note 1: In order for this to work, it helps to pronounce boundaries as a three syllable word (BOUND-ah-rees) If this is an affront to your sense of poetic license I completely understand, I’ll be back tomorrow with a post sans song.

Note 2: At the bottom you’ll find two amazing renditions of this song by Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick) and Nadja. Please also feel free to add your own verses in the comments, and/or post a video with your own rendition.

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Don’t talk about my weight or food.
Why can’t you see it’s hella rude?

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

You know I love my family
But I will leave if you fat-shame me.

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

My body’s fine, I don’t need your rants
You’re not the boss of my underpants

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Don’t say a word to my fat kid
Or I’ll leave so fast, my tires will skid

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Yes I do “need” that second plate
It’s not your business what I ate

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Quit saying someday I’ll get sick
Last time I checked you were not psychic

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

The holidays are great family time
If you don’t shame, food-police or whine

Oh Boundaries! Oh Boundaries! You help me deal with family.

Two Readers (so far – hint, hint) have taken up the challenge of recording this piece, enjoy!

Jeanette DePatie (aka The Fat Chick) gave us an amazing opera/jazz rendition:

and Nadja killed it a capella in the middle of the night in her PJs:

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

If you’re looking for a fitness challenge in the New Year without any diet talk, weight loss talk, or body shaming, check out the Fit Fatties Forum Virtual Event Challenge!

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.

Is “Obesity” a Disability

DefendToday in a landmark decision a European Union court decided that “obesity”in and of itself does not constitute a disability, but that if it creates a situation that meets the criteria of disability (where, “under particular conditions, it hinders the full and effective participation of the person concerned in professional life on an equal basis with other workers“) then employers must treat it as a disability.

Being the internet, everyone agreed that this is a completely logical decision and moved forward to make appropriate reasonable accommodations for fat employees who meet the definition.

JUST KIDDING!

People freaked out about how unfair it is for employers to have to make reasonable accommodations for qualified fat employees instead of just firing them or refusing to hire them in the first place, how being fat shouldn’t constitute a disability because it’s fat people’s own fault that they are disabled and they could lose weight, and the always popular argument that this would promote obesity (because apparently unemployment – and really, making fat people’s lives generally terrible –  is the key to future thinness.)

Let’s talk about why this court decision makes perfect sense. For those of us in the States, the ADA definition of disability is very similar to that of the EU:

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

When it comes to asking whether obesity constitutes a disability, we have to examine the definition of “obesity,” which is someone whose weight in pounds times 703, divided by their height in inches squared is greater than or equal to 30.  That definition includes Tom Cruise, The Rock and me among many others.  Obviously, not everyone who meets the definition of “obese” (which is deeply problematic in and of itself) is going to meet the definition of “disabled/person with a disability” as defined by the ADA.

This is another area where we find intersectionality between ableism and sizeism. Many fat people may meet the definition, not because they have an impairment but because they are “a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” which is to say that people make all kinds of wild guesses about what fat people are capable of according to their appearance-based stereotypes and bigotry.  Also, fat people who have unrelated disabilities often find their disabilities blamed on their body size which can further complicate things.

Let’s examine the common arguments against the court’s decision, starting with the idea that body size can’t be a disability because it is the fat person’s “fault.”

Ignoring the complexity of body size, importantly, nowhere in the ADA definition does it say “unless the impairment is the fault of the person, in which case no accommodations shall be given.”  I assume that’s because the idea that we should try to determine if a person’s disability is their fault before providing  accommodations that allow them to be a welcome part of society is absolutely horrifying.

Are those who suggest that body size can’t be a disability because it’s the person’s fault also suggesting that we deny accommodations to people who were disabled by car accidents that were their fault?  People whose impairment is the result of choosing to be an athlete?  What about people whose disabilities are the result of elective weight loss surgery gone terribly wrong (as it so very often does)?  If someone meets the ADA definition of disabled/person with disabilities, then they should be covered and there shouldn’t ever be a discussion of fault.

Note that the idea that fat people could lose weight and thus shouldn’t be considered disabled also does not apply here.  First, because there isn’t a single study where even a tiny fraction of people have been able to maintain weight loss that would move them from the “obese” category to “normal weight” or even “overweight” long term.  But also because the ADA rules apply to the person standing in front of you who meets the definition right now, not the person you think they might someday be who would not.

Finally, onto the “it’s unfair to employers” thing. The idea of providing “reasonable accommodations” is actually about the fact that buildings and businesses are built by people who, either through ignorance or choice, create them as if disabled people/people with disabilities and, often, fat people, don’t exist.  Then many of them have to be forced by law to accommodate those who they ignored. And then many of them complain about it and do the bare minimum required by law, thereby missing out on amazing employees and contributing to a society that excludes many people.

So when someone asks me whether or not I think “obesity” is a disability, my answer is basically the same as the EU court.  If someone meets the definition of disabled/person with disability, then they should be given reasonable accommodations.  Moreover, I would love to be part of a society where businesses (and everyone really) were working hard to destroy the barriers to employment/participation in society, not working hard to justify them.

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.