Holiday Resources

Holiday Biscuit
Biscuit the Pug and I wish happy, Body Positive, holidays to all who are celebrating, and a happy, body positive rest of the year to those who aren’t!

Every year, this is one of my biggest e-mail days – when I receive the most e-mails asking for help or support dealing with fatphobia during the holidays – from those who are celebrating and those who aren’t.  For some people, the 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 (or are discouraged from talking 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 re-post 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

This article was written for Queer people, and has good tips for everyone.

There is a past discussion thread about this over on Shakesville that has some really great ideas and discussion.

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.

If Gyms Were Honest

TruthAs the New Year hurtles toward us here in the States, gyms are beginning to (even more than usual) write checks that their actual results can’t cash. But don’t worry, when their promises turn out to be not worth the annoying postcards they’re printed on, they’ll blame you for failing, and try to sell you the same thing again next year.

Gyms will promise almost anything to get you in the door – weight loss,  a certain look (“long, lean muscles”, “sculpted muscles” etc.)  But they can’t provide a single study that shows that more than a tiny fraction of people achieve these results, let alone maintain them long-term.

If gyms were honest, I think they would say something like this:

Thanks for considering joining our gym. We want to tell you up front that we can’t guarantee anything, and any gym that says they can is trying to take advantage of you. Our bodies – including their size, shape, the type of muscle we build, health, abilities and athletic potential  – are complex and influenced by a number of factors, many of which are out of our control.

The evidence suggests that exercise is a good way to help increase our odds for health (which is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or guaranteed under any circumstances.)  If you’re just starting out, or starting over, that’s great.  No need to go too hard too fast – you don’t want to be the most fit person in traction. Besides, the research shows that even a little bit of movement can be beneficial and most of the benefits of movement can be gained from about 30 minutes of movement about 5 times a week. And it can be any movement, it can even be broken up into smaller bits.

We know that the research shows that internal motivation works better than external motivation, and that the first step to deciding how you want to take care of your body is realizing that your body is worthy of care, so you won’t find any body shaming trainers or messages here. We recommend that you find some movement that you really enjoy at a time that is as easy as possible for you to make.

You’ll notice that our gym has instructors, trainers, and pictures with positive images of people of all sizes, because of course “fitness” and “health” are not a body size.  You are not a “before” picture and there is no “after” picture, there’s just “during” and we’re glad that you are here.

That’s what I think gyms would say if they were telling the truth.

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.

 

Say Something Sunday – Say Nothing Edition

Say Something SundayAll year long we’ve been doing “Say Something Sundays,” a day dedicated (at least on this blog)  to activism.  I want to take today to remind you that activism is always an option, but it’s never an obligation.

It’s ok if you see or experience injustice/oppression/bullying and you choose not to do anything.  It might be because you don’t feel safe, or you don’t know what to say, or you feel too vulnerable, or you’re too tired, or literally any other reason. You are never obligated to be involved in activism.

You are allowed to respond to oppression and bullying that you experience in any way you choose –  you can express your anger, you can be patient and generous and explain, you can do nothing and just move on with your day.  You are not obligated to respond in ways that educate the people who are mistreating you, you are not obligated to respond in a way that is most comfortable for your bullies, or most likely (by anyone’s opinion) to lead to any outcome(s).

(I will note that I personally try to use a different standard when dealing with oppression leveled against a group that I’m not a part of, but want to work in solidarity with, because dealing with their oppression is far more exhausting for them than it is for me and so I try to be more patient and offer more explanation.)

If you take any time at all to educate someone and that bully/oppressor who you so generously attempted to assist doesn’t “get it,” that’s not on you, regardless of your tone of voice, level of emotion, or choice of words. (For more on the issues with Tone Policing, check out this great piece by from Everyday Feminism.)

So, while I will always support saying something, I will also always support saying nothing. Because each of us gets to respond to our oppression and bullying in whatever way we see fit, and if we choose activism we also choose the goals and the methods for each interaction.

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.

 

When the Dinner Table Becomes a Stage

Guilt Free EatingI wrote yesterday about people’s bad behavior around fat friends and family at the holidays.  I got a bunch of e-mails telling me that discomfort around food is the worst, so I thought I would re-post this piece examining the ways that our culture screws us up around food, and some things we can do about it.

I think that our current society seriously messes a lot of us up around food and eating, and that goes for people of all sizes.  One of the places where I often notice the results of that mess is the way that we talk about food.  I’m not talking about the way that we talk about liking or not liking food, or letting someone know what food allergies/sensitivities/needs one has, I’m talking about the way that we perform around food when we eat with others.

Sit at a restaurant (or holiday) table for 20 minutes and I can almost guarantee that you’ll hear some version of each of these (possibly triggering) phrases:

  • This is SO MUCH FOOD, there’s no way that I could eat it all!
  • I’m going to have to do two hours on the treadmill to make up for this cookie.
  • I skipped lunch so that I could eat here tonight.
  • I’ve been so good, so it’s ok for me to cheat and eat this.
  • I exercise because I like to eat!
  • I did an extra mile on the treadmill this morning, I deserve this!
  • This fits into [my weight loss diet] for [these reasons].

All of these things might be true and I’m not trying to tell people what they should/should not feel or do around their food.  The ideas of “earning” food through exercise, or why we make food a moral issue (sinful, guilt free etc.) is the topic for another post.  My question today is more about why we feel the need to talk about this out loud.

We make lots of personal decisions every day without talking about them out loud.  Many people who would think nothing of saying or hearing any of the above phrases at a business meeting with a catered lunch would never be comfortable in the same meeting hearing or saying “I kind of have to pee but I don’t have to go that badly so maybe I’ll finish this TPS report and then head to the bathroom.” or “I really have to poo but I’m hoping the bathroom will be empty so I’m going to wait until the meeting breaks up and people get off this floor.” (Some people might be very comfortable with these things and of course that’s totally ok, I’m speaking from a a cultural perspective.)

I think that a lot of it is the way that our society places value, even morality, on food – “sinful” dessert, “guilt free” baked chips, eating “clean” – leads to us treating decisions around food as a public performance that justifies our choices often at the expense of (purposefully or inadvertently) shaming or triggering others others.

If I get a plate of food and I decide that it’s more than I want for whatever reason, that’s fine.  If I decide to vocalize that, I may inadvertently shame the person next to me who ordered that same plate of food and does intend to eat it all for whatever reason, and I add to a world where food decisions need to be justified and rationalized out loud and I’d rather not be a part of that.  Just like I don’t want to engage in negative body talk, I also don’t want to engage in negative food talk.  I want people to be free to make their own decisions about food for their own reasons without feeling like they need to justify those choices to anyone.

At the end of the day I think that since I never know what’s going on with the people around me  (lots of people are dealing with disordered eating and eating disorders, food sensitivities and allergies, health issues etc.), I would rather be safe than accidentally triggering or shaming.  So while it’s happy to talk about food – what we like, what we don’t, allergies and sensitivities, recipes and preparations etc.,  It’s ok for us to  eat what we eat for our own reasons and not feel the need to talk about those reasons at the meal. Besides, there are lots of other (more interesting, I think) things to talk about!

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.

How to Not Ruin the Holidays for Your Fat Friends and Family

WTFI spend a lot of time helping fat people deal with the bullshit fat shaming that comes our way daily, and that often escalates at the holidays (whether we celebrate them or not.)  I try to be clear that these things are not our fault, even though they become our problem and that the problem isn’t fat people, it’s fat shaming. So today I wanted to take a second to talk directly to fat shamers, accidental fat shamers, and potential fat shamers – however well meaning they may be – about how they can stop the problem before it even starts at the holidays, and all year long!

Don’t give a weight loss or “health” gift

Don’t give a gym membership, diet club membership, “healthy meal” delivery etc. unless the person has very specifically asked for it.  Including and especially if you’re only assuming that they don’t already do or have these things because of your stereotypes about fat people, or as a passive-aggressive hint that you think they may “need” the gift.  Instead, if you want to give a gift, consider choosing something based on the person’s actual likes and interests rather than stereotypes and fat shame. Or maybe a nice gift certificate.

Don’t be the food police

Don’t monitor, comment on, or concern yourself in any way with fat people’s (or any sized people’s) food choices at parties, holiday dinners or, hey, ever.  If we need the food police, we’ll call Pie-1-1. If you feel like you might have to deal with the Family and Friends Food Police, here are some tips.  If you want some ideas to help when you see this kind of food shaming, check here.

Don’t give a fat shaming card

Way too many fat people get cards with some version of  “We love you and we want you to lose weight because we want you to be around a long time.” If you honestly can’t figure out why “Happy Holidays! Please don’t die of fat because mourning you would be a major bummer for us” isn’t an appropriate message for a holiday card, then please just take my word for it this is a bad idea. The person to whom you deliver this little Hallmark moment may be able to defend themselves in court successfully with “Your Honor, he needed a killin'” This happened to my partner a couple years ago and we chose to cut ties with the relatives completely, about which it seems they are upset. Bad behavior can have undesired consequences for everyone, don’t put your fat friends and family in this position.

Don’t engage in diet talk or negative body talk

This suggestion isn’t just for fat guests, but also for guests who may be dealing with eating disorders, or guests who are interested in conversation that isn’t boring as hell. Find something else to talk about than why you are or are not eating what you are or are not eating.  Skip the 5 minutes soliloquy on what you feel you have to do to punish yourself for eating pie, and ask somebody at the party to tell you about themselves instead, or go watch TV, or play on your phone, whatever.

Don’t comment on body size changes

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like knowing that your relatives are monitoring your body. You might think it’s a compliment to ask if someone has lost weight but that question is super loaded – perhaps they’ve lost weight because of illness, grief, medication, an eating disorder, or something else unwanted or unintentional. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with having their body size made into a topic for discussion (maybe because it’s hella inappropriate…) Perhaps they haven’t lost weight and, however well-intentioned you may be, they take it as backhanded or passive-aggressive. (Or perhaps you intended it to be backhanded or passive-aggressive in which case you’re being an ass,  won’t you please be a dear and knock it the hell off.)  If you want some suggestions for wading through the tricky world of weight loss compliments (like what to do when someone tells you’ve they’ve lost weight and then looks at you expectantly), you’ll find that here.

Don’t stage some kind of weight loss intervention

This should be a big pile of obvious in an obvious box, but every year some asshat who wants to be thought of as “brave” writes an article about how the holidays are the perfect time to fat shame your relatives “for their own good.” First of all, people’s weight and health (two different things) aren’t your business unless they ask you to make them your business. Even if you don’t believe that, the holidays are definitely not the time to do this.  And if you feel that you have to do this at the holidays because it’s the only time you see that person, then consider how relevant you really are in their lives and whether you have any business doing this at all.  Then don’t. Just don’t. Do Not. Don’t. Trust me when I tell you, you are not The Fat Person Whisperer.

If y’all can think of others please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.

 

What If You Hate Exercise?

CS 4
ChadShannel is going to sleep in and skip the gym today.

I got this e-mail today: “I’m thinking about my New Year’s resolutions and I want to make exercise one of them (not for weight loss, I know that doesn’t work) but because I understand that it’s good for my body. The problem is, I absolutely hate it so I don’t know if doing it fits in with my idea of Health at Every Size. I hear people talk about “joyful moving” but there’s nothing joyful about it for me!”

This is a question I get a lot.  First, there is a mistaken notion out there that because I talk about my life as a fathlete, and I talk about what the research says about fitness, that I am “promoting” exercise or I think that people “should” exercise.

Sometimes this happens because I haven’t written things as clearly as I should have, sometimes I think it’s because people have issues around exercise and just seeing discussion about it triggers them which is totally understandable given how much it gets shoved down our throats and the horrible experiences many of us have had (President’s Physical Fitness Test – I’m looking at you.)

Let me take this opportunity to clarify – I do not care if anyone else exercises. I am fully aware that there are people who don’t enjoy exercise, in fact my partner is one of them, and I have no judgment about it at all.

The short version of why I don’t care is that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not exercise dependent, and other people’s choices around exercise, including whether or not it fits into their personal prioritization of their health and the path they choose to get there, are none of my, or anyone else’s damn business. The long version can be found here.

So if you hate to exercise, that’s completely cool and understandable, lots of people do.  Even if exercise has health benefits, that doesn’t mean that anyone is required to do it, or that exercising creates some sort of health guarantee wherein you are now immortal unless you get hit by a bus- that’s just not the case.  Besides, there are lots of things that are shown to improve our odds for health and we aren’t all obligated to do any of them, and we couldn’t possibly do all of them.

When we insist that people “owe” society healthy habits it very quickly becomes a slippery slope.  If we “owe” society exercise do we also owe it 8 hours of sleep a night?  A vegan diet?  A paleo diet?  To quit drinking? To not go skiing or play soccer or anything else that could get us hurt?  Who gets to make these mandates?  I recommend that people not try to tell others how to live unless they are super excited about someone else telling them how to live.

The reason I talk about the research around fitness is that I believe we are constantly lied to and I think we have the right to review the research ourselves. We are told that exercise will lead to weight loss when the research suggests no such thing.  Lied to that exercise won’t make us healthier unless it makes us thinner.  Lied to that we have to do hours of specific things in order to get benefit from it.  Those things aren’t true – the research shows that about 30 minutes of moderate activity about 5 days a week can have many health benefits for many people, and that even 20 minutes a week can benefits.  That still doesn’t mean that we owe anybody exercise, and, again, it doesn’t give any guarantees when it comes to health.

So back to the original question:  If you hate exercise, you have lots of choices.  One choice is just not to do it.  Another option is that maybe you decide that you believe what the research says about the health benefits and you want those benefits so you find some forms of movement that you hate less than other forms of movement and do them.  You may believe what the research says and choose not to exercise.  You may decide that you think the research is crap.

Maybe you get a local pharmacy or clinic to take a baseline of your metabolic numbers, do the movement for a couple months and then see if there’s any change in how you feel or your numbers.  Maybe you work toward a specific goal (picking up a grand kid, walking to the mailbox.)  If you and exercise had a messy break-up, you can try to kiss and make-up.  Or not.  All the choices are yours and none of those choices are anyone else’s business.

I also wish people would stop encouraging us to set unrealistic goals about how we’ll feel about exercise. I think that way too many athletes think that everyone must feel like them – since they love to exercise everyone else can learn to love it too!  I think that’s bullshit. People might learn to love exercise, or they might not. I, for example, hate long distance running.  I always have.  I’ve heard people talk about getting a “runner’s high” but the only runner’s high I ever get is when I get to stop running.

That said, I want to complete an IRONMAN traithlon so I do a lot of running.  It’s not joyful movement for me but just because Health at Every Size encourages joyful movement does not mean that we can’t participate in movement for other reasons.  Still, even though many people learn to love running through this journey, I don’t think that’s a realistic goal for me.  My goal is to cross the finish line and get the medal and if I have to run to do it then that’s how it goes. My body, my goals, my relationship with movement, my choice.

If you hate exercise and you decide to do it anyway, you can try to make it suck less by picking activities you don’t hate or hate less (gardening? dancing in your living room?  weight lifing? video game that incorporates movement? window shopping?), changing activities frequently, playing music, watching television, reading a book, talking on the phone (when I do flexibility training I often do several of those things at the same time to try to stave off the boredom) but you may never learn to love exercise, and what you choose to do about that is your business and nobody else’s.

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.

Til Weight Do Us Part

What Will you DefendA man wrote a letter to Dear Prudence saying that he had “zero feelings” for his wife of 25 years, and mother of his three kids, as she had gain 50 pounds in the last 10 years which he referred to as a “major turnoff.” You can see his full question and Prudie’s answer (which I thought wasn’t too bad) here.

I was recently asked a similar question at a live event.  The woman said that she had gained weight and her husband said he no longer found her attractive,  and that she felt like it was her fault because she was thin when he married her. She asked me what I thought she should do.

I explained that I couldn’t tell her what to do, I could say what I think I would do.  I would never marry someone who told me that they only wanted me if I was thin (or fat, or any thing other bit of physicality that might change over time.)  But what happens if you’ve built a life with someone and then find out that they somehow believed that you wouldn’t change over time?

To Dear Prudie’s credit she did not suggest weight loss as a solution, but I’ve definitely seen this suggested before – as if we owe our spouses thinness. Many people say some form of “love and cherish each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” but they get tripped up on simple physical changes.

How about some therapy for the spouse whose narrow view of beauty – and apparent delusion that their partner would always look the same as when they married them – is negatively affecting the marriage? What else is a divorce-able “offense”?  Grey hair?  Wrinkles?  Disfigurement from an accident? Hair loss?  Twenty-five years, three kids and a life built with someone, and this dude is still stuck on thin=beautiful, shocked that after 25 years and three kids, his wife looks different?

Some people may choose to stay, to try to change their picture until it fits their partner’s frame, and they are allowed to do that. Some people are not in a position to leave such a relationship for any number of reasons. Anyone who deals with this situation gets to make their choice for their reasons (and for some there really isn’t much of a choice), and that’s not for any of us to judge.

As for what I would do? Even if I had complete control over my body size, if someone I was in a relationship with told me that they were no long attracted to me because my weight or appearance had changed, I would likely offer to support them if they wanting counseling/therapy to deal with that issue and, if they wouldn’t or couldn’t work it out, I would leave as soon as possible and never look back.

Like this blog?  Here’s 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.