Three Steps to Loving Your Body More

NO Negative Body TalkNobody is obligated to love or even like their bodies, but I believe that everyone should have the option. We live in a culture that tells us that our bodies are not good enough and never will be. A culture that, as my friend CJ Legare says, works hard to steal our self-esteem, cheapen it, and sell it back to us at a profit.  I wrote about this yesterday and mentioned that, while they are selling, but we don’t have to buy.  Here are some practical steps to improve your relationship with your body:

1. Make a list of things that your body does for you, and things that you appreciate about your body (your awesome hair, your beautiful eyes, the curve of your whatever, the fact that your body breathes for you, allows you to think, moves all that blood around all the time, rolls your wheelchair etc.)  This should be a pretty long list. I’m serious – make a list, write it down.  I’ll wait….

Ok, now that you have a list (you do have a list right?  You didn’t just skip ahead):

2.  Start to notice the thoughts that you have about your body.

Really pay attention to when you think about your body and what you think about it.  When do you blame it, when do you give it credit?  When do you thank it for what it does, when do you accuse it of not doing enough?  When do you think that it’s beautiful, when do you think that it’s flawed.  Don’t judge your thoughts, just notice them.

3.  Start replacing negative thoughts with positive ones from the list that you created in step 1.

In my experience this will take some work in the beginning – you’ll have to pay attention to your thoughts and then make a concerted effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  It’s totally ok if you replace negative thoughts about one part of your body with positive thoughts about another. All that’s important is that anytime you think something negative about your body, you interrupt that thought and replace it with gratitude .  While you’re at it, start looking for opportunities to proactively appreciate your body. Soon, it will become a habit.

Bonus steps:

4.  Notice the things that you typically don’t like about your body.

5. Think of something (anything!) to like about those things.

For example, you might hate the shape of your ass – but you would have some problems if you didn’t have one at all so hey, thanks body for having an ass where an ass is supposed to be.

6.  Replace negative thoughts about parts of your body with positive thoughts about the same parts of your body.

7.  If there are things that you don’t like about your body,or things that your body doesn’t do that you wish it did, those feelings are completely valid.  One way to deal with this is to acknowledge that the situation sucks, and consider reframing it as you and your body against a problem, rather than you against your body.

Lather, rinse, repeat and start having a healthier, happier relationship with your amazing body!

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm  Comments (4)  

Lane Bryant’s Horrible Holiday Ad

Fat people are conWTFsidered a target market for all kinds of sleazy industries all year long (diet industry, beauty industry, surgeons who perform stomach amputations etc.)  There are even conferences that teach these people how to target us.

The holidays up the ante quite a bit since two of the three Dieting Axis of Evil events fall around this time (“The Holidays are Coming” and “New Years Resolutions”  with the third, “Bikini Season is Coming,” just around the corner) and this time of year can create stressful situations that can make people more susceptible to the kinds of predatory marketing in which those sleazy industries engage.

Today I got an ad on my Facebook from Lane Bryant – a store that sells clothing exclusively to “plus-size” people.  It said “Get the Latest Looks for Holiday.” I happen to know that there are a lot of “holiday” themed pictures on the LB site right now…

 

lane bryant holiday 3Lane Bryant Holiday 1lane bryant holiday 2

Not to mention 68 dresses for sale that are specifically labeled “Cocktail and Occasion Dresses”  But none of these appeared in the ad. What appeared was this:

lane bryant latest looks for the holidays
I looked this item up. It’s called the “Miracle Vest Shaper” and the description is as follows:

Designed to reduce inches from your waistline, lift the breasts and flatten the tummy, Squeem’s Miracle Vest is more than just shapewear – it’s magic! Squeem’s intelligent fabric technology offers a unique mix of triple-filtered cotton and natural rubber fused into a single-layer compression fabric designed to offer superior shaping results. As an added benefit, it provides excellent back support while improving posture. Exquisite details like flexible boning, adjustable bra straps and underarm Spandex puts you in total control, just the way you like it. Front hook & eye closure.
Expert Fit Tip: First, slip your arms through the straps with hooks facing forward. Firmly pull the bottom ends together and fasten hooks from the bottom up. Adjust the straps to your comfort level.

Oh, and it’s a #plusisequal Hot Pick! Because the belief that your body should be squeezed by a rubber garment to “look good” should be for all sizes amirite? It’s probably worth mentioning that, unlike a lot of Lane Bryant’s offerings (including 12 of those Cocktail and Occasion Dresses,) this garment goes all the way up to a 4x.

I am sick and tired of this shit. I’m a card-carrying member of the Fuck Flattering Club (or I would be if we had cards) but I am also a proud card-carrying member of the people of all sizes are allowed to buy and wear the Miracle Vest Shaper, or whatever clothes they want for whatever reason they want Club.  I’m not saying that this clothing shouldn’t exist or that people shouldn’t be allowed to buy it.

It does not follow that stores that cater to fat people need to highlight this type of clothing, choosing it to push it onto our Facebook feeds, and suggesting that it’s a “Magic’ “Miracle” that really tight rubber-infused cotton can squeeze our bodies into a shape that is more like the stereotype of beauty that is used to oppress us.

I expect it from the diet industry, but for a store that makes its money selling clothes to fat people to suggest that fat bodies will look better squished into another shape and size, and to use the holidays to do it, is incredibly disappointing to me.

Today is Say Something Sunday, so of course I’m going to give you the contact information for Lane Bryant. But I also want to give you a gentle reminder that you are not ever obligated to engage in activism, and that whether or not you say something out loud, it can help to have a little mantra that you say to yourself to remind your that you’re not imagining it – people are trying to make money by trying to make you hate yourself and your body – and that you can say no and opt out. My personal mantra is “Hey, that’s bullshit!” but of course you can use whatever works for you.

If you’d like to say something to Lane Bryant here are some options:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LaneBryant/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/lanebryant

Cutomer Service:  https://www.lanebryant.com/content_body.jsp?areaName=EmailUs

More Cool Stuff!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 29, 2015 at 7:32 am  Comments (14)  

When They Say Fat Like It’s a Bad Thing

WTF are you doingSometimes the insults that are flung at me just make me laugh (seriously – landwhale – seriously?  There are fat animals that live on land, there is no need to make up an animal just for the sake of sizeism.)  A couple common insults, however, always make me think “you say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Fat (see also:  Fatty, Fatso, Fatty McFatFat etc.)

I named my blog DancesWithFat. I named my other blog IronFat I regularly call myself fat.  If you are trying to insult me by calling me fat it’s time to up your insult game or gtfo.  (By the way, if you’re now going to suggest that you are saying “fat” like it’s a bad thing because being fat is unhealthy, you’ve just added healthism to your sizeism.  What’s the opposite of congratulations?)

If you’re curious, one of the reasons I choose to reclaim the term fat is because it lets my bullies know that they can’t have my lunch money anymore.  It’s also because I refuse to let people heap their size prejudice on my perfectly good adjective, and why I don’t participate in things like that whole “You’re not fat, you have fat!” meme.  I’m no more insulted by being called fat than I am by being called brunette.  Mostly I’m insulted by how lazy and tired this attempt at an insult is.

Social Justice Warrior

I don’t understand how this could ever be a bad thing.  I don’t mean to go all The American President on you, but for the record yes, I am a Social Justice Warrior, but the more important question is Why aren’t you Bob?

Nobody is obligated to participate in activism of any kind, but these people are seriously suggesting that social justice isn’t worth fighting for?  Are the people who say “Social Justice Warrior” like it’s a bad thing actually proud to be coming down on the side of social injustice?  I like how, with this one, they’re not just failing to insult me, they are effectively insulting themselves.  Good going y’all.

To me, the problem isn’t really that these so-called insults are ridiculous and embarrassing for those slinging them around (though they are,) it’s that insulting people because of how they look, or because they are attempting to make the world better, is ridiculous and embarrassing for those doing it. And I think that is a bad thing.

More Cool Stuff!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

 

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 9:23 am  Comments (20)  

Help Me Understand

You Cannot Be SeriousI received an e-mail from reader Jeany saying “When someone says something to me that’s rude, often the only thing that I can think to do is be rude in return, or I can’t think of anything at all.  Do you have some kind of “go to” phrase that can help start a conversation?”

First of all, being rude and/or walking away without saying anything are both completely valid options. Each of us gets to deal with the oppression and bullying in whatever way we choose- just like we don’t owe anyone else “thin” by whatever definition, we also don’t owe anybody else a teachable moment or a “polite” response.

That said, there is a phrase I have found helps start a conversation if that’s my goal.  The phrase is “Help me understand…”

Some examples:

A doctor tells me that I should lose weight to be healthier (or cure strep throat, a broken toe, or a separated shoulder).  I say “Can you help me understand what research you are basing this recommendation on?”

Someone comments on what I’m eating.  I say “Please help me understand what made you think I wanted your opinion about my food choices.”

Someone insists that I should stop talking about what a massive failure Weight Watchers is because they did it 6 times and it worked every time. I say “help me understand your definition of ‘worked’”

Obviously, this isn’t for all situations, or for all people – you get to decide what works for you. I like it because it puts the onus on the person who began the interaction.

It can also have a number of different connotations depending on what tone of voice I use.  In situations where I’m actually interested in an answer (like with the doctor) it can be a conversation starter and be less combative than, for example, saying “I don’t think that weight loss meets the requirements of evidence-based medicine.”  In the case where someone has just been inappropriate it gives them the opportunity to make that determination on their own and apologize, which I have found often happens.

If you’re going to do this, I think it helps to understand that you are inviting conversation – the person who commented on my food may come back with “your body shows me that you need somebody’s advice” and so I don’t use this unless I feel like I’m prepared to engage.  Also, please be clear that you are not under any obligation to engage in these conversations.

It’s perfectly ok to say “I’m not taking unsolicited opinions about my food choices” in a way that does not invite conversation. Being fat in a society where people are encouraged to participate in stereotyping, bullying, and oppressing people based on their sizes leads to a lot of effed up situations.  So to me, it’s all about empowerment and whatever makes each of us feel the most empowered in a situation that should never have happened. If you have suggestions I hope you’ll put them in the comments.

More Cool Stuff!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 23, 2015 at 7:01 pm  Comments (12)  

Health at Every Size Lies

You Forgot Your BullshitI see a LOT of misinformation being spread about Health at Every Size, sometimes by well-meaning but misinformed people, sometimes by those intentionally trying to discredit the concept. So today I thought I would clear up some of what I think are common misconceptions:

1. Health at Every Size says that if you love your body you will be healthy

First of all, “healthy” is complicated to define. More to the point health – by any definition – isn’t an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstance. To me, HAES is about putting the focus on habits and behavior that support our personal health concept (rather that putting the focus on trying to manipulate our bodies to a specific height/weight ratio.)

It’s also about acknowledging that we don’t have as much control over our health as we might like to think we do, and creating environments that are conducive to health (and I don’t mean fat-shaming and soda taxes, I mean creating environments that are free from stigma and oppression, removing barriers to access and information, making healthcare accessible and affordable for everyone, giving people the option to appreciate their bodies and think of them as worthy of care.

Finally, everyone has the option (though, of course never the obligation) to love their bodies regardless of “health” or anything having to do with “health.”  People are allowed to having complicated feelings when it comes to their bodies and “health.”

2. Health at Every Size is only for fat people

Nope-ity nope.  HAES is practiced by people of all sizes.  The reason that it’s most often talked about in conjunction with fat people is that fat people are typically told that the only path to health is to become thin (despite the fact that there are thin people who have all the health issues that fat people are told to lose weight to avoid) and so while many fat people find it while looking for an alternative to the intentional weight loss recommendations that have been failing us our entire lives, HAES is an option for those who want to pursue health rather than body size manipulation, it’s also practiced by people of all sizes who want a research-based health practice.

3.  Good Fat People Practice Health at Every Size 

The good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy is the idea that fat people who participate in “healthy” behaviors or are “healthy”  (as defined by the person who inappropriately and incorrectly thinks that it’s their right to judge) are better than the “bad fatties” who don’t practice “healthy” behaviors or aren’t “healthy” (by whatever definition.)

The GF/BF dichotomy is wrong and it needs to die.  Each person should have the right to define and prioritize “health” for themselves, and to choose the path that they want to travel -those are personal decisions and aren’t anyone else’s business (those wishing to make a “but muh tax dollarz!” argument can head over to this post) Public health isn’t about making fat people’s health the public’s business, or about creating healthism in the name of health, or about using “health” as a thin veil for fat bigotry.

4. I disagree with the science behind Health at Every Size, therefore I am justified in treating fat people like crap.

Noooooooo. World of no. Galaxy of no. No.  People are free to believe whatever they want about body size and health.  None of those beliefs are a “get out of Sizeism free” card.  Fat people have the right to exist without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression. Period.  What someone believes, or what is true, about Health at Every Size does not come into play here.

The seed for my HAES journey was reading the research about weight loss methods and realizing that there wasn’t a single study that would lead me to believe that future efforts at long term significant weight loss would have any different outcomes from my past attempts (which is to say, I had the same experience as almost everyone – losing weight short term and gaining it back long term, often plus more!)  Realizing that I had been sold a (massively profitable) lie about my size and health, I went looking for what the research actually said. And the research seemed pretty clear to me that, understanding that my health wasn’t entirely within our control, a focus on behaviors rather than body size was a much more evidence-based way to support my health.

There are people out there riding the weight loss roller coaster even though their experience, and the research, tells them that there is no reason to believe that attempting intentional weight loss will leave them thinner or healthier in the long term, because they want to be “healthy” and they don’t know that there is another option.  HAES is important because it provides a paradigm for personal choices and (perhaps more important) wellness care that doesn’t revolve around doing something that nobody has shown is possible for an outcome that nobody has proven is valid.

More Cool Stuff!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 20, 2015 at 10:41 am  Comments (2)  

You and the Underpants Rule

Here on DancesWithFat we have some posts that are annual traditions, one of them is this post about The Underpants Rule.

The Underpants Rule is simple: everyone is the boss of their own underpants so, when it comes to personal choices, you get to choose for you and other people get to choose from them and it’s not your job to tell other people what to do and it’s not their job to tell you what to do. To illustrate, if someone is considering saying something that starts with

  • People should
  • Everyone ought to
  • What people need to do
  • We should all
  • Nobody should
  • You shouldn’t
  • blah blah things that have to do with underpants that aren’t yours blah blah

then there is a 99.9% chance that they are about to break The Underpants Rule. Of course telling you that you should follow the Underpants Rule is, in fact, breaking the Underpants Rule which is pesky, so let me instead make a case for the Underpants Rule and then you can make your own choice.

I chose a Health at Every Size practice (knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control)  because I am a fan of research, logic and math.  I think that the research clearly shows that a HAES practice gives me a much better shot at supporting my health with way less downside risk than a weight loss- based health practice.

There are people who think the exact opposite of that.  I know that because they come here and tell me so – they say that I should make a different choice.  This blog is my little corner of the internet.  It exists only because I created it and I am thrilled to pieces that people enjoy reading it, that people get inspired by it, that it gives people information to make choices etc. I try very hard to make sure that I always follow the Underpants Rule and never tell anyone else how they have to live when it comes to their personal choices, and yet people come here and try to tell me how to live when it comes to my personal choices.  That’s annoying.

For this reason, I would never go onto someone’s weight loss blog and tell them all about Health at Every Size and quote research as to why I think it’s a better choice.  Those are not my underpants.

I do not enjoy (or believe them) when people tell me that I need to become smaller to be attractive.  Therefore I would never say that thin women need to become larger to be attractive.  Besides the fact that I don’t believe it, those are not my underpants. (Not to mention that the path to high self-esteem is probably not paved with hypocrisy so doing to someone else exactly what I don’t want done to me seems ill-advised.)

The war on obesity is an underpants rule breakdown on a massive scale. A group of government, public and private interests (with various profit and political motivations) has chosen a group of people who are identifiable by sight and is now trying to tell us everything from how we have to prioritize health, to the path we have to take to become healthy, to how our bodies have to look.  Who died and made them Underpants Overlord?  Nobody. (Another year has gone by and I’ve still not received my official fat person pony.)

My metaphorical underpants and my actual underpants have something in common:  if I want somebody else in them, that person will be among the very first to know.  I have definitely not invited the executives at HBO, Kaiser Permanente, the government, or the diet industry into my underpants.

Over the years, there have been some misunderstandings about the Underpants Rule – mostly confusion about what is and is not covered, I wrote about the limitations of the UR here.

Now, I’m not telling what to do (cause, you know, Underpants Rule) but I’m suggesting that if you don’t like it when people attempt to be the boss of your underpants, then maybe take a pass on trying to be the boss of someone else’s.  I’m fairly certain that “Do unto others exactly what you don’t want them to do to you” is the lead rule or the brick rule or something – at any rate a LOT of steps down from platinum and gold.

Remember, you are forever the boss of your underpants – occupy your underpants (with a nod to reader Duckie for that phrase)! I’m going off to see if there is a Guinness World Record for number of times the word underpants is used in a blog.

Underpants. Underpants. Underpants.

Underpants.

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 13, 2015 at 8:20 am  Comments (6)  

The “Thin Woman Inside” Lie

You Forgot Your BullshitThis picture has been making the rounds on Facebook again (thanks Natasha for bringing it to my attention!)  It’s an extra-disturbing iteration of the idea that there is a thin person inside every fat person. In this case it used to advertise someone’s fitness/weight loss business with the quote “Your TRUE potential is hidden deep within. It takes a lot of hard work and diligence to sculpt a masterpiece. But once you unmask it, it will last forever…” There are a number of ways in which this is super disturbing (I’ve intentionally made the image small, you can click to enlarge it or just skip over it.)

Disturbing statue

First, any fitness professional who suggests that they can guarantee you a body of a certain size, or a body that looks a certain way is straight up lying to you.  Body size, type, musculature, and even athletic potential are all complicated things, multifaceted, and not entirely within our control. They can’t even guarantee long term weight loss under the most basic definition, let alone control how many tendonis intersections cross your rectus abdominus, how uniform they are, and whether or not that can be seen (ie: having a four or six or eight pack.)

Next, it reinforces the social construct that bodies of some sizes are inherently better than bodies of other sizes and that fat people should be willing to (literally in this case) carve away at ourselves until we meet some social standard of beauty.This can take the form of dangerous dieting, taking pills that can kill us, getting our healthy organs amputated, and not focusing on, or being expected to have, any accomplishment other than weight loss. (Even if you believe, for example,  that being fat is less healthy than being thin, if you think it therefore follows that thin bodies are better than fat bodies, then you are engaging in healthism. Maybe work on that.)

It reinforces the idea that – knowing of course that fitness isn’t an obligation, or barometer of worthiness –  the only “good” or “right” outcome for for those who choose to be involved in fitness is to become thinner or getting closer to the stereotype of beauty. This, in turn, leads to the further stigmatization and bullying of fat athletes as if our bodies are an indictment against our fitness/athletics/movement programs.

The idea that manipulating our body to be closer to our current social stereotype constitutes finding our “TRUE potential” is super messed up and indicative of a culture absolutely obsessed with thinness. The idea that “it will last forever” is completely laughable when we’re talking about weight loss, especially since most people gain any weight they lost back withing 2-5 years.  The one thing for certain is that our bodies will change over time, and when we suggest that looking a certain way is our “TRUE potential” set ourselves up to come crashing down when we find out that societies stereotype of beauty is completely unattainable to us, or if they are unattainable they are not maintainable.

People are allowed to believe whatever they want about manipulating body size. People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including attempting to manipulate their bodies to look a certain way for whatever reason they want. What’s not ok is anyone who suggests that the choice to try to lose weight, or any success someone might have makes those people or their bodies, better than people who make difference choices or get different results. What’s not ok is people who suggest that anyone who doesn’t pursue thinness is wrong, inferior, or “making excuses.”

What’s wrong is telling fat people that we should think of ourselves as thin people covered in fat, a before picture, a perpetual potential future thin person, anything but a fully realized authentic person.  I’m not a thin person covered in fat, just like I’m not a blonde covered in brown hair, or straight-haired person covered in curls, or a green eyed person covered in hazel, or clinically under-tall – I’m a brunette, curly-haired, hazel-eyed, short, fat woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

What’s not ok is the suggestion that fat people who see a graphic of a woman literally hammering away at herself with a hammer and chisel, should find it to be inspirational or motivational, rather than seeing it as a clear sign that our cultural ideas about bodies are fucked up in very serious ways.

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 9, 2015 at 10:01 am  Comments (34)  

Proud (Diet) Quitter

I quitRecently I got the chance to be on Aron Bender’s show on KFI Los Angeles (a recording of the interview and pictures are below.)  Aron, Brent, and the entire team were amazing and we had a blast (if only I had video of the dancing!)  He asked me a question that I get asked a lot – is my choice to practice Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size about giving up?

Yes, in many ways it is. When I first read the research and found out that dieting almost never works long term, and that, in fact, by far the most common outcome of dieting is weight regain, I didn’t want to be a quitter. I wanted to believe that I could beat the odds if I just tried hard enough.

I believed the propaganda that people who didn’t succeed at diets were just weak-willed, I actually convinced myself that almost 100% of people were just doing it wrong. I convinced myself that I could lose weight through the sheer force of my will and by working hard enough.

I believed that weight was a simple matter of calories in/calories out.  I believed that if I could create a calorie deficit with a combination of calorie restriction and activity then I would lose weight, so I didn’t understand why I kept creating a deficit but didn’t lose weight. I’ve since learned that it just doesn’t work that way.  The body is much more complex than a calories in/calories out model.

That lead to another realization – this wasn’t just about hard work or force of will. This wasn’t just about my will, it was about my body.  A body that I hated because it wouldn’t get smaller, instead of appreciating for doing everything for me.

I started to do more and more research and everything I found turned up the same results – intentional weight loss failed most of the time, there was no proof that it would lead to health even if it succeeded, and self-loathing is not good for our health. However, weight-cycling (yo-yo dieting) was very hard on the body and studies were suggesting that it could lead to long-term health problems.  Dieting began to look more and more like playing Russian roulette with my health. Plus, for years I had been hating my body like I was getting paid for it, and it hadn’t made me thinner, healthier, or happier.

So I quit. I quit trying to do something nobody could prove was possible for a reason that nobody had proven was valid.  I quit being part of a social construct that supported a $60 Billion industry with absolutely no proof that their product works.  I quit fueling the machine that oppresses me with my time, money, and energy. As W.C. Fields said “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Then quit – there’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

I got off the diet roller coaster for good. Now I have a wonderful life and healthy relationships with my body, food, and movement. So when it comes to risking that on a minuscule chance of making my body smaller, I’m out.  Call me a quitter, I’m totally fine with that.

Here’s the audio from the show (my interview starts around 40 minutes)

And here are some pictures from my visit to KFI!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 5, 2015 at 12:42 pm  Comments (9)  

Yes, BMI Report Cards Are Bulls#*t

grade on curveI’ve had a number of requests recently from parents who are dealing with their kids getting weighed in at school, including one school that is doing it now and after the holidays to “inform parents and kids if dangerous holiday weight gain is happening” so I wanted to re-post this.   If you’re not familiar with this practice, kids are weighed in and then their Body Mass Index (BMI) is sent home in a letter to parents letting them know if their child’s BMI is “too high” or “too low” (or, ostensibly juuuuust right) and suggesting to some that they see a medical professional to help their child get to a “healthy weight.” Let’s look at some of the many, many reasons that this is a bad idea.

First of all, there is absolutely no research to suggest that this practice improves the health of children. In fact, according to research from the University of Minnesota “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors.”

In the last decade hospitalizations for eating disorders for kids under 12 are up 119%.  Kids.  Under.  Twelve.  Kids are plenty focused on their weight – they don’t need their gym teacher to get involved. Even Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who is a self-described obesity researcher, said “I don’t think that it’s the role of the school to be the schoolyard bully. These six- and seven- and eight-year-olds who are going to get letters sent home, they’re not suffering from an epidemic loss of willpower. We’re not dealing with that here…Simply putting it on the kids is putting them at increased risk for bullying and increased risk for pressures at home.”

A focus on weight as a substitute for health does a disservice to kids of all sizes because of the “healthy weight” fallacy.  When we try to make body size a middle man for health we tell fat kids that their healthy habits don’t support their health unless they make them thin (which is not what the evidence suggests), and we tell thin kids that they are healthy because of their size and regardless of their habits (which is also not what the evidence suggests.)

The use of BMI is another issue here. BMI is always problematic as a health measurement predominantly because it’s, well, not a health measurement – as a simple ratio of weight and height BMI doesn’t take into account any actual health measurements, body composition or anything other than weight and height.  So again, even if someone believes that being fat is bad, BMI would still not be a good tool to use.

It’s even more problematic with kids than with adults because it completely fails to acknowledge not just a natural diversity of body sizes and body compositions, but also natural fluctuations in kids’ weight. If a kid gets their BMI report card taken when they’ve put on weight before a growth spurt, and their parents take them to a doctor who puts them on an diet and restricts their calories, how does that affect the kid’s growth and health? Since dieting hardly ever works, these programs are using other measures of success, one of which is an INCREASE in kids who are indicating that they are concerned about their weight.  Just to be clear, they are suggesting that creating a preoccupation with weight is a good thing for kids.  There is, as you might expect, no research to support this as a path to either thinness or health in kids.

Even if someone believes that all fat kids would be healthier thin, we do not know how to get it done; and saying repeatedly that we do is just a lie that has been repeated so often that people believe it’s the truth. Dr.Freedhoff has called these “non-evidence based interventions.” The CDC has admitted that there isn’t sufficient evidence to recommend these BMI Screening programs.  There is not a single statistically significant controlled study where even a simple majority of kids were able to change their weight long-term.  Anything that is prescribed to kids for weight control is experimental medicine at best, and at worst it’s an intervention that’s been demonstrated by research to fail – and it’s typically prescribed without the consent to the child or the parent, violating the ethical principles of evidence-based medicine and informed consent. Basically, we’re experimenting on kids without their, or their parent’s, consent.

Can you imagine the uproar if kids who were actually sick were shamed for being sick, prescribed treatments that studies had shown to not work, often making the sickness worse, lied to that “everyone who tries hard enough” gets cured on these treatments, and then were blamed and shamed when the treatments didn’t work.  To be very clear, body size is neither a disease nor a diagnosis but if the medical establishment is going to treat it that way then the least they could do is practice ethical medicine.

Parents are typically allowed to opt-out but many are saying that they were not notified in advance and so kids were forced to submit to a weigh in at school that their parents would have vigorously opposed.

All of this is another dangerous example of people substituting what they think is “common sense” for actual evidence-based health interventions.  Let’s be clear about what’s happening here – lawmakers have decided that kids’ body size is such a big “problem” that they should just start “doing something about it” and what they should do is the first thing that comes into their heads – even if there is no evidence basis for it, even if evidence exists suggesting that it’s actually dangerous and likely to cause harm, they believe that their “common sense” is a better guide than science when dealing with the health of kids.  Yikes.

This entire thing is completely unnecessary. We could have a complete discussion about health and healthy habits for kids without even once bringing up weight.  There aren’t different healthy habits based on body size, and so there is no need to pull weight into the conversation, let alone force kids to participate in weigh-ins. We can work to create programs that help kids love and appreciate their bodies, we can help kids develop healthy relationships with their bodies, and food, and movement. We can work to be fiercely anti-shame in all of the messages that we give kids about their bodies.  We can do better than a useless at best, seriously harmful at worst, BMI report card.  Let’s.

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? 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

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

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

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

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

Published in: on November 4, 2015 at 9:36 am  Comments (24)  

HAES is Not Spooky, but Bad Research Methods Are

What Will you DefendI recently had the opportunity to speak at The University of New Hampshire.  I gave a talk to their healthcare and health promotions staff, taught a dance class, and then did two keynotes “Queer Bodies Great and Small” and “Athletes at Every Size.”  The morning talk and the dance class went great and I was excited about the evening keynotes.

I was also anticipating some mild form of nonsense because there had been the usual unsuccessful e-mail campaign trying to get my talks cancelled.

As the students filed in, one guy sat in the back row of the auditorium with a tri-fold poster board (the kind that you would use for a 6th grade science fair.) He had written something on it in thin marker, and the lighting wasn’t good in the back so I couldn’t tell if he had just brought a school project with him or if this was some sort of protest.  It turns out that he was going to help illustrate a basic error that is often made when it comes to Health at Every Size.

First let me start this like I started my talk.  Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are two different things. Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement, based on the fact that fat people have the right to exist without shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin.

Health at Every Size is an evidence-based paradigm for personal health and healthcare where, realizing that “health” is complicated, multi-dimensional, not a barometer of worthiness, not an obligation, and not entirely within our control, the focus is on giving people information and options and respecting their decisions about healthy behaviors, and creating environments that are conducive to health, rather than on manipulating body size as a path to health.

People are allowed to disagree with the research about Health at Every Size, but that disagreement does not affect the facts of Size Acceptance or give people a pass on treating fat people with respect. Fat people don’t have to practice HAES, or any health practice at all in order to deserve to be treated with respect. A health practice is a personal choice and doesn’t make someone better or worse than anyone else.  More on this can be found in this post.

After my first talk the dude picked up his science fair board and headed out of the room. Unbeknownst to me he tried to set up a protest, which is not allowed by the University.  The staff was awesome and asked him to leave and, when he refused, finally called the police to have him removed (thanks to the officer who checked in on my several times to make sure I felt safe!)

I later found out that his sign said “HAES is Spooky” (so a few points for holiday relevance I guess?) and then said “Obesity causes” and listed a bunch of health issues.  At that point I just felt bad that the hill this kid chose to die on was a first-day-of-research-class misunderstanding of correlation and causation.

This idea of insisting that fat causes health problems as a way to support diet culture – or protest the concept of Health at Every Size – is deeply flawed.

First is the the correlation vs. causation issue.  There is a reason that “Correlation does not imply causation” is the most basic tenet of research, taught on the first day of every research class. The problem with correlational research is that it only shows that things happen at the same time, it does nothing to prove that one thing causes the other. While having a certain height/weight ration (ie: Obesity) may be correlated with health problems, causation isn’t proven.  I explain this fully in this post.

Even if being fat is correlated with health issues, it does not follow that we should try to be thin to solve them. First of all, thin people get all of these issues so being thin can neither be a sure preventative or a sure cure and many fat people don’t have these issues so it’s obviously more complicated than size = health.

The idea that if we can make fat people look like thin people then they’ll have the same health outcomes is also on very shaky ground.  Male pattern baldness has a very high correlation with increased risk of cardiac incidences, but getting those bald men to grow hair, (and/or starting a government sponsored “War on Baldness”) won’t decrease their risk of heart attacks.  Because even though they are highly correlated, it turns out that they are both caused by a third factor.

There are variables that we cannot tease apart when looking at the difference between thin people and fat people and our health, like the fact that most fat people have a history of chronic dieting, and have a history of living with stigma, bullying and oppression, so when we study the effects of being fat on health, we’re also studying the effects of chronic dieting on health, and the effects of constant stigma on health.  It talk more about that here.

Not to mention that there isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people were able to maintain weight loss long term, and even a tinier fraction that were actually able to change their weight category and maintain it long term so even if we believe that making fat people thin would make them healthier, we have literally no idea how to get that done (and we really need to stop lying about that.)

Enter Health at Every Size.  Knowing that health and body size aren’t entirely within our control, people who practice HAES focus on behaviors that support health (things like getting good sleep, nourishing food, joyful movement, high self-esteem and body satisfaction, building strong supportive social networks etc.)  See – not so spooky.  In fact, not spooky at all.  It’s also worth mentioning that HAES is practiced by people of all sizes, not jut fat people.  If you’re looking for evidence about HAES you can check out this post.

But there was still a bit more excitement to be had.  My special snowflake had left the building (thanks to the campus police,) my next talk was starting and the fabulous Grace was introducing me when the fire alarm suspiciously went off.

As we were standing outside waiting for them to give us the all clear, I thought about how sad it is that our culture’s current irrationality and scientific illiteracy around body size and health meant that some people are willing to risk getting arrested protesting the idea that healthy behaviors support our health (and misunderstanding one of the most basic tenets of research.)

They let us back in, and the fabulous staff at the MUB apologized and told me that they would be happy to stay open late so that I could give my full talk. It actually ended up working in my favor since the controversy piqued people’s interest and more people came to the talk than had originally intended to come.

The talk went well and after I spoke to a number of super cool students who wanted a combination of advice, hugs, and selfies, a student who was covering the event for a journalism class asked me why I do the work that I do.  I told him that it’s because I hear from people every day who hate themselves because they don’t know there is another option, people who keep dieting even though they know it doesn’t work because they don’t know there’s another option, and that there are other options and people deserve to hear about them. When I got home from the talk, this e-mail was waiting for me:

Hello,

I was one of the students last night who attended your talks. Actually, I only attended your talk about athletes and body image because, before the fire alarm and spotting protesters, I had no idea the talks were even going on. Well, anyway, I wanted to thank you for the message you sent last night. I have struggled with body image distortion and related issues for so long that they have just become a part of whom I am, but I always appreciate and am inspired by hearing such outspoken people like yourself tearing into everything which you did last night. That’s all I really had to say, so thanks once again and keep singing your song 🙂

Huge thanks to Maria and Joelle, UNH Health Services, the MUB, and the mentors for all of their work bringing me to campus, to Courtney and Lisa for being so supportive, and to Grace for looking at me when we came back in from the fire alarm and saying, with conviction, “I’m reading your intro again!”

I’m not interested in telling other people what choices they should make for their personal health, but I’m very interested in making sure that people know that there are options besides a life of self-loathing and yo-yo dieting, and you better believe that I’ll keep singing this song!

Here are some pictures from the trip:

Published in: on November 2, 2015 at 1:39 pm  Comments (10)