If You’re Concerned For Your Fat Loved One’s Health

Concerned puppy is very concernedThis is a question I get a lot, and I got it five times yesterday so it seems like it’s time to blog about it. It goes something like this: “We love our fat [loved one], but we’re concerned about their health. We think they need to lose [insert number of pounds.]  How do we tell them that we love them as they are but we are afraid for their health and we want them to be around for a long time?”

I know that most of these people have the best of intentions, and I know that they are living in a society that encourages them to do this. Still, I think it’s something to think over very, very carefully.

First, consider that there is not a single study of any weight loss method where more than a tiny fraction of people actually lose weight, and the weight they lose is typically a few pounds. The odds of actually losing a lot of weight and maintaining that are basically lottery odds, gaining back the weight is a near certainty, and a majority of people gain back more than they lost, so even if you buy into the idea that thinner is healthier, suggesting that they attempt weight loss would actually the worst possible advice that you could give.

To take that a step farther, I would suggest that everyone who wants to be involved in this intervention ask themselves the following: why do I think that this adult isn’t capable of making decisions for their own health?  Have they asked that folks comment on their body size/health/choices? Do I think they haven’t heard the (highly questionable) messages that thinner is better? Do I feel that I have some accurate expert information that they haven’t heard before? (Hint:  The answer to this last question is almost certainly “no.” If you’re planning to quote Dr. Oz, you’re making a horrible mistake.)

How are you going to bring this up?  Say your intended script out loud – have someone say it to you. I think you’ll find that there is really no way to say “We think you’re going to die if you don’t do something that nobody has proven is possible for a reason that nobody has proven is valid,and that would really be a bummer for us” that isn’t offensive or hurtful.

If you are still thinking about speaking with with this person, I would think long and hard about what information/options you think you can actually offer that they haven’t already heard, and if  your unsolicited advice in this matter is really likely to do anything other than rack them with guilt and shame that may be with them for the rest of their lives, or lead them to do something truly dangerous (and possibly deadly) like drugs, stomach amputation surgery, or medical contraptions, or worse. If your discussion drives this person to dangerous or self-harming behaviors, how will you feel about that?

Are you really prepared to accept the consequences, and your responsibility for them? Remember that you can’t take this conversation back. Once you tell someone that you have a problem with their size (even if it’s “just about their health”) you’ve let them know that you are judging them for the body they live in 100% of the time and for what you perceive their habits, behaviors, and health to be. It’s possible that, no matter how good your intentions, this may drive a wedge between you as they now assume that every time they see you,  you are judging their body/health/behaviors, and it may create a situation where they are no longer comfortable being around you. That’s a completely valid response on their part to you choosing to share your judgment, unsolicited opinions, and inexpert advice with them.

Be aware that you may ruin your relationship with this person, and if that happens it’s on you for busting out the unsolicited, unwanted judgment and advice.  From a personal perspective, I am “Type 3 – Super Obese” It’s as fat as you can get on the BMI chart, a category above “Morbidly Obese” and if my family members came at me to tell me that they had made up a number of pounds they thought I needed to lose to be healthy so I didn’t bum them out by dying, suggesting the same things that I’ve heard and tried already, I would be pissed off, and it might ruin those relationships completely.

I know that there is nothing wrong with being fat, but even if I was still buying into the sizeism and healthism that our culture encourages, I would still assume that if someone actually wants my opinion about their size, health, habits, or anything else, I will be among the very first people to know. Until then, I don’t make it my business.

No amount of time is ever guaranteed with any loved one, I would recommend enjoying the time you have with someone, and not jeopardizing your relationship for a conversation that’s not likely to have any benefit, and could do some serious harm.

RUSH REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a truly kick ass line up of speakers, and there’s only one day left to take advantage of our Rush Registration – if you register before 12:01am on June 24th you’ll get the best rate for a Platinum Pass, and special bonuses. (If you’re a Dances With Fat member, check your e-mail for your member deal.)

Click Here to Register!

This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

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 Be A Worthy Fat Person

enoughOne of the ways that size-based oppression is created is by sizeists setting up an endless series of hoops for fat people to jump through in order to feel worthy.  This typically takes the form of vague things we “need” to do, with ever-changing definitions, and at the end of this rainbow they tell us we’ll find a pot of decent treatment.

Do we “take care of ourselves,” are we “living our healthiest life,” are we trying to manipulate our body size, are we self-deprecating, are we cruel to other fat people, are we at least eating salads in public, are we buying into and perpetuating the good fatty/bad fatty dichotomy, are we willing to risk our lives on dangerous drugs, stomach amputation surgeries, and contraptions to not be fat?  They add intersectional oppression – ableism, ageism, healthism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and more, but always with the promise that if we just do all the “right” things, we’ll finally get to be treated with basic human respect.

Except that it’s a set-up, a no-win situation. Because the true goal isn’t to create a process by which fat people can “prove” our worthiness (which would still be total crap, the only qualification to be treated with basic human respect should be a pulse.)  No, the goal is to create a system where fat people can never be thought of as worthy – and are never supposed to be allowed to think of ourselves as worthy, as good, as good enough.  And that’s total bullshit.

I’m here to tell you: no matter what you eat, no matter what you wear, no matter how you look, no matter if you work out, no matter your current health, no matter your current dis/ability, no matter what size you are, no matter why you think you are that size, no matter if you can or can’t change your size, no matter if you do or don’t want to change your size…

You Are Worthy.

You Are Worthy Right Now.

You Are Worthy No Matter What.

Anyone who is trying to tell you anything else is peddling hateful bigoted BS.  They can sell all they want, but we don’t have to buy.  You are worthy, right now, no matter what.

RUSH REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

Y’all I am so excited about this year’s speakers and topics!  And, if you register before 12:01am on June 24th you’ll get the best rate for a Platinum Pass, and special bonuses. (If you’re a Dances With Fat member, check your e-mail for your member deal.)

Click Here to Register!

This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

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.

 

Her Big Fat-Shamed Wedding

Mzznaki Tetteh, who lives in Accra, Ghana, recently got engaged to her boyfriend Kojo Amoah. She posted fabulous engagement photos, as many brides do, to her Instagram account.  But unlike many brides, she had to deal with strangers who showed up to fat-shame her, claiming reasons from being concerned about how she’ll look in her wedding dress, to being concerned about her partner, to the ubiquitous “just concerned about her health.”

We’ll talk about how these things are bullshit in a second, but right now I want to be clear that even if these people aren’t just pathetic internet trolls (though obviously they probably are,) and even if they actually have strongly held personal beliefs that the things they are typing are true, and even if they think that despite the fact that she is a nurse she needs health advice from strangers on the internet with no qualifications, how on earth would they think that it would be appropriate to bring these things up IN RESPONSE TO HER ENGAGEMENT PICTURES. Seriously, what the fuck?

That said, let’s be clear that this is totally bullshit. Not allowing fat people a moment’s happiness or peace is not, and never will be, a path to supporting our “health” and well being. These people seem to think that the fact that they view fat people as nothing but a “before” picture justifies their abhorrent behavior. But they are wrong.  We aren’t under any obligation to think of ourselves as “before” pictures.  And we don’t owe anyone their idea of an “after picture,” and they have no right to demand it of us, it is not their place. We may not be able to immediately stop pathetic trolls from trolling, but we can all be clear that their actions lack any legitimacy.

This also sheds light on another issue that I want to bring up, which is the misinformation that gets repeated quite bit that suggests that Black women, either in the US or in other cultures, have some cultural protection from sizeism and fat phobia. As Sesali B.point out in her excellent piece “STOP EXCLUDING BLACK WOMEN FROM FAT ACCEPTANCE MOVEMENTS” which I highly recommend you read in its entirety:

It is oft cited and mentioned that studies show that Black women have higher self-esteem and body image. However, high self esteem does not equal less fat-shaming, fatphobia, or other violence against fat Black women. For one, even if it were true that Black communities were more accepting of their fat women (which it isn’t), Black women don’t live in a cultural vacuum where they only engage and are affected by other Black people!

Her response was just as perfect as her pictures:

Still confident…your rubbish comments ain’t ruining my happiness…thanks to all for the compliments and best wishes…am honored

Just in case it’s not crystal clear: When a fat woman posts her engagement pictures, your options for response should be to say “congratulations” or to keep quiet – including and especially if you are nothing but a stranger on the internet.

Congratulations to Mzznaki Tetteh and Kojo Amoah!

 

RUSH REGISTRATION IS OPEN FOR THE FAT ACTIVISM CONFERENCE!

This year we have a truly kick ass line up of speakers, and there’s only one day left to take advantage of our Rush Registration – if you register before 12:01am on June 24th you’ll get the best rate for a Platinum Pass, and special bonuses. (If you’re a Dances With Fat member, check your e-mail for your member deal.)

Click Here to Register!

This is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

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.

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.

Prescribing Daily Stomach Pumping to Fat People

WTFThe FDA has approved a device called the AspireAssist, in which a thin tube is placed in the patient’s stomach that connects to a button on the outside of their stomach.  After each meal the patient uses the tube and a handheld device to pump up to 30% of the meal out of their stomach and into the toilet. I’m going to address the claims on their website, but first I want to talk about a misconception

[Trigger Warning – Eating Disorder talk for the next two paragraphs] The company that makes it claims that it isn’t an “assisted bulimia” device because they say in their fine print that it shouldn’t be used by people with bulimia.  That is, of course, ridiculous and it’s certainly possible that this device my be used by people dealing with bulimia and/or my perpetuate the development of bulimia.  But it should be clear this isn’t actually medically induced bulimia.  Bulimia, like all eating disorders, is a complex bio/psych/social illness.  Purging is one of the behaviors associated with Bulimia as well as other eating disorders, but it shouldn’t be confused with the illness itself and purging in this way, rather than through the use of vomiting, creates different possible issues/side effects.

My concern here is that this is another example of  prescribing to fat people what we diagnose in thin people. If someone says that they are evacuating food after every meal we shouldn’t treat it like a red flag for thin people, but a good idea for fat people – it should be considered a red flag behavior for someone of any size. Eating disorders are often confused for simply behaviors, or people become more “fascinated” with the behaviors/symptoms than they are compassionate to the person with the ED, so I think it’s important not to reinforce those misconceptions and issues because it leads to difficulties for people with EDs being taken seriously, getting treatment, and getting that treatment paid for.

I also want to be clear that I’m not against the people who individually choose to use it – their body, their choice.  I’m against the fact that a for-profit company is misleading people about what this device can do, and will be making money off the backs of anti-fat panic, not concerned with the fact that one of the side effects of their contraption is death.

Now, let’s talk about what the company who created these devices says, and what is actually true:

The AspireAssist has been studied in hundreds of patients in both the US and in Europe. In a large U.S. clinical trial with 171 participants, people using the AspireAssist lost 3 times as much weight as people who received only lifestyle counseling. The most successful patients – those who aspirate regularly and learn to make healthier choices – have lost 100% of their excess weight with the AspireAssist and have maintained that weight loss for more than four years so far. Compared to other approaches, the AspireAssist has similar results without requiring invasive alterations to the anatomy or digestive process

Sources: US PATHWAY Study (n=171): Data presented at Digestive Disease Week, May 2016 by C. Thompson; Pending publication; Completers only. European data collected from Sweden, Spain, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy. N=80 at year 1 and n=25 at year 2 (ongoing studies, completers only included).

Here they use two of the most common tricks weight loss companies use to mislead us about outcomes. The first is to only study patients for a short time (from a few months to a couple of years) but define that as “long term” when, in fact,  most people are able to temporarily change their weight during a year, and then they gain the weight back between years 2 and 5, often regaining more than they lost. That US Clinical trial they talk about only studied the first year.

The second trick is to only include those who completed the trial so there is no follow up with those who dropped out (and possibly didn’t lose weight, or began to regain, or had side affects so horrible that they didn’t think any outcome was worth it.)  They cite a two year study that included 80 people in the first year, but was down to 25 people at year two, that means that almost 70% of the group dropped out, but they want us to be convinced by the average of what happened with 31.25% of the participants and ignore what happened to 68.15%.  As to their claim of people who have lost 100% of their “excess weight” and maintained it for four years, I can find absolutely no research anywhere on their site or anywhere else to back up that claim. I left to wonder if they are holding up a couple anomalies as the norm, or just completely making stuff up.

The AspireAssist allows patients to remove about 30% of the food from the stomach before the calories are absorbed into the body, causing weight loss. You’ll also need to chew carefully and eat mindfully, which helps give time for the fullness signals from your stomach to reach your brain.

Because aspiration only removes a third of the food, the body still receives the calories it needs to function.

First let’s realize that they are just assuming that fat people don’t need the nutrition from 30% of what we eat, regardless of what we eat, how much, our physical activity level etc. Well, either that or they just think it’s fine for us to be malnourished as long as we’re becoming thinner.  Second, when they say you need to “chew carefully” it’s because the tube is only 6mm  and larger chunks of food can get stuck in the tube which, if the patient can’t clear it with water, requires another trip to the doctor.

In addition to the machine, people also get “lifestyle counseling”

This therapy is used in conjunction with lifestyle counseling. This program combines one-on-one counseling and group support meetings to encourage healthier food choices, smaller portion sizes, and increased physical activity.

There is not a single study that suggests that this type of counseling leads to long term weight loss or better health, but that doesn’t matter since they can just blame the fat people when it doesn’t work. In the US a panel that recommended this type of therapy also acknowledged that “One problem with its recommendation was that no studies have shown such intensive programs provide long-term health benefits.” and yet the Federal Task Force still recommended it.(One wonders, if one of the problems is that there is no reason to believe this will work, does it really matter what the other problems are?) But none of that is getting in the way of Aspire charging $8,000 to $13,000 for it according to Aspire spokeswoman Christy Kaupinen.

Consider your schedule at work, at home, on weekends, and with your family or friends. Although missing an aspiration occasionally is OK, the most successful patients aspirate three times per day, almost every day.

You have to wait 20-30 minutes after each meal, and it then takes 5-10 minutes to drain the food into the toilet (after people gain competency, it takes longer in the beginning,) which they recommend patients do three times a day.  That’s 7.5 to 15 HOURS A MONTH that a patient will spend in the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been sitting around thinking “Man, I have 7.5-15 hours a month that I would love to spend in the restroom.” Plus there’s the time and expense of having to go back to the doctor every 5-6 weeks because the device is created to stop working until you replace a part that is designed to wear out for this purpose.

Let’s talk about side effects:

 

Here’s what the FDA press release said:

Side effects related to use of the AspireAssist include occasional indigestion, nausea, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea.

The endoscopic surgical placement of the gastric tube is associated with risks, including sore throat, pain, abdominal bloating, indigestion, bleeding, infection, nausea, vomiting, sedation-related breathing problems, inflammation of the lining of the abdomen, sores on the inside of the stomach, pneumonia, unintended puncture of the stomach or intestinal wall and death.

Risks related to the abdominal opening for the port valve include abdominal discomfort or pain, irritation, hardening or inflammation of the skin around the site where the tube is placed, leakage, bleeding and/or infection around the site where the tube is placed and device migration into the stomach wall. All have the potential to necessitate removal of the device. After device removal, there may be a risk of persistent fistula, an abnormal passageway between the stomach and the abdominal wall.

…and death.  …and death.  …and death. Once again it seems that in the “War on Obesity” they want us thin or they want us dead and they don’t seem to much care which it is, as long as they can make a tidy profit along the way.  And since the approval came on the basis of a study that only included 111 people using the device and 60 in a control group, who knows what side effects we’ll find if, heaven forbid, this thing gets into wide use.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can stop buying into the idea that”thin by any means necessary” is the same thing as healthy.  We could refuse to participate in so-called “health interventions” that are extremely profitable for others, and potentially deadly for us.  We could insist that the discussion be about actual health – with all of its facets and complications – instead of about risking our actual health and even our lives in an attempt to manipulate our body size. We could say enough if enough and that, as long as they want a “war on obesity” we will give them one.

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.

 

 

Sometimes It’s The Little Things

As a Queer woman, I’ve been spending a lot of the last couple of days trying to come to terms with what happened in Orlando (and what might have happened at Pride in Los Angeles – an event I almost attended and that many of my friends did attend.)  My heart goes out to the victims and their loved ones, and to my community which is once again reminded that despite the civil rights gains that have been made, we are still not safe.

I’m struck and saddened at how quick people are to respond to this with the same stigma and erasure that perpetuates this kind of violence in the first place –  Ignoring (and suggesting that everyone ignore) the fact that his target was, in fact, Queer and Trans people, ignoring the fact that he didn’t just attack a Queer and Trans gathering place, he attacked a Queer and Trans gathering place on a night specifically dedicated to celebrating Latinx culture, and how many of the victims were Queer and Trans People of Color, who experience violence at higher rates. I’m frustrated and angry with people trying to use this to stoke the fires of dangerous Islamophobia including an attempt to pit two oppressed groups against each other, completely erasing the existence of Queer and Trans Muslims in the process. This is why it’s so important to do our activism from an intersectional perspective.

I’m also  frustrated and angered at politicians and others who, today, tweet their sorrow about the victims, while they spend their time, energy, money every other day working to keep Queer and Trans people as second class citizens, trying to convince people that our mere existence is a threat to society, to “traditional” families, and to people in restrooms. As if that message doesn’t perpetuate this kind of violence. Do me a favor – keep your sorrow, change your behavior.

As a fat queer woman I see parallels between my treatment as a queer person and my treatment as a fat person, and one of those is in the ways that, as both a queer and fat activist I’ve often been told that a problem I’m bringing up is not worth talking about – that it’s too small to worry about, that the activism isn’t worth doing.  And that’s crap. First of all, I don’t think that discouraging activism is a helpful ever, but we need to remember that the small things are what creates an environment that allows the big things to happen.

We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the “big things” – being hired less and paid less, receiving sub-par medical treatment,  being the victims violence and more – aren’t the naturally occurring consequences of living in a society, including a government, that suggests in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that some of us should be treated as second class citizens, that calls us threats to the “traditional” family, and “epidemics,” that wages war (encouraging everyone to join in) against citizens because of our size, that suggests that some of us are deserving of shame, stigma, bullying, and harassment, that it’s actually for our own good, and the good of society.

When we tolerate these messages, when we tolerate the cyberbullying that is absolutely rampant, when we tolerate any small bits of bigotry,  we are helping to create an environment that breeds ever larger, more dangerous demonstrations of that same bigotry. Nobody can do everything, nobody is obligated to do activism of any kind, but every bit of activism is valuable and important, and doing that activism intersectionally is critical.

If you want more support and information, I recommend the Queer Body Love Series that is kicking off on June 16th. It’s free to listen and  I’m honored to be one of the speakers and so grateful to Elizabeth for putting it together. Click here for more information!

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.

 

 

 

WTF Rainbeau Curves – Say Something Sunday

You Cannot Be SeriousThanks to all the readers who pointed this out to me (currently 107 of you.)  Rainbeau Curves is a company that sells plus size active wear.  On Monday they decided to try to sell that using diet language and very questionable science – in what I’m sure was a well-meaning piece, written by a well-meaning blogger – called “Ditch the Yo-Yo- How to Maintain a Healthy Weight.”

The piece is heavily influenced by diet propaganda, starting with a picture that includes a scale, a tape-measure, three pieces of fruit and some pills.  It includes food moralizing, it includes confusing “taking care” of your body with attempting to manipulate its size, it trots out tired tropes about “emotional eating” and it actually includes the phrase “Eat to live, don’t live to eat” which made me roll my eyes so hard that I think I saw my brain.

Let’s be super clear about this – health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances – including at any weight.  There is actually no such thing as a “healthy weight.”  Regardless of how one is defining “healthy,” there are healthy and unhealthy people of every size. There is no weight or height/weight ratio you can achieve at which you will remain immortal unless and until you get hit by a bus.

It’s common for people to suggest that a “healthy weight” is the weight you’ll reach when you’re engaged in healthy behaviors (by whatever definition they are using for healthy behaviors,) but this is just another example of our cultural tendency (created by the diet industry) to involve weight in every discussion of health. There are actual health issues that involve weight (ie – people with certain heart issues need to weigh themselves to be aware of levels of water retention, and those who experience unexplained changes in weight may want to seek out a health care practitioner – hopefully one who won’t diagnose them as “fat” and prescribe “weight loss.) But the idea that there is some weight at which attempting weight loss becomes a good idea is a fallacy. This idea that the path to health is through body size manipulation has made a lot of money for a lot of people and industries, and is part of the “everybody knows” culture around weight and health, but is not backed by science.

In a piece for Huffington Post, researchers Mann, Tomiyama, and Ahlstrom explain that the suggestion that a certain percentage of weight loss will improve health is based on a series of failures leading to another “everybody knows” statistic that isn’t supported by evidence:

Eventually, the medical community settled on the current standard of losing just 5 percent of one’s starting weight, despite having no scientifically-supported medical reason for doing so.

If Rainbeau Curves bloggers want to talk about health there are so many topics they could choose from – getting enough sleep, the research about how enjoying food may help people absorb more nutrients from it, how to protect ourselves from dangerous diet messages, the health implications of stigma and what we can do about it, Health at Every Size and more. There is a world of health discussion that doesn’t parrot the messages that make the diet industry billions (mostly from repeat business.) So, I’m not about to give my money to a company that tries to sell me clothes with a side of diet talk and body shame.

Activism Opportunity:

Since it’s Say Something Sunday, you probably saw this coming.  You can contact them here.

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.

Defending the Marathon – A Response to Daniel Engber of Slate

Marathon Finish
Kelrick and I at the Seattle Marathon finish line with our hard won medals.

Daniel Engber is a Slate columnist.  He has a friend who decided to run the New York Marathon.  In response to this, Daniel had the journalistic equivalent of a full-toddler-tantrum-meltdown (or an ingenious idea for clickbait) which he then published under the title “Don’t Run a Marathon, You have better things to do.” Let’s take a look, shall we:

Have we devised any greater waste of time and energy than the running of the marathon? I’m asking for a friend. This friend will soon be training for the New York City Marathon, and he’ll be going at it for a span of 20 weeks. When he’s finished all his workouts, iced his injuries and prepped his body for the brutal course, he’ll be ready to achieve a goal that has no meaning in itself and offers benefits to no one.

Bitter, party of one…your table is ready.

So my first question is  – why are you asking for this friend? This friend has made up his mind to take on this challenge and, one might assume, decided that it has meaning and benefit to him. Daniel doesn’t even mention that his friend asked him if he wanted to train with him, or that he suggested that people who do marathons are better than those who don’t (which is total, unadulterated bullshit and would be deserving of scorn.) So basically from what I’m reading, his friend told him “I’m excited about this personal goal I’ve set for myself!” and Daniel responded “Let me use my platform as a journalist to demean you, and everyone else who chooses this goal, in front of as many people as possible.”

Some will read this as a #slatepitch, and say it’s just a way for me to troll for clicks, as if calling runners foolish were like saying pie is overrated or that constellations suck. But the logic goes the other way: It’s the runners who have gone against the grain; it’s the runners who have tried to make a virtue of their quirky point of view; it’s the runners who demand attention for all the time they spend on worthless locomotion; it’s the runners who are trolling all the rest of us. The marathon must be the biggest #slatepitch of all time.

Ah, the old “I’m not a bully for bullying you about your personal choices, you’re a bully for making personal choices” argument. The only people who buy this argument are internet trolls. Honestly, I hope that this is #slatepitch because otherwise it’s just super shitty.

Consider all the other things we could accomplish in those hours spent in training.Half a million Americans could speak a little Arabic. Half a million Americans could learn computer programming, maybe well enough to start a new career. Half a million Americans could devote themselves to helping out in soup kitchens, or fortifying dikes, or memorizing sonnets, or playing Google Image Labeler. Half a million Americans could do something truly beneficial for themselves or for their neighbors or for the country as a whole.

Out of curiosity Daniel – do you speak Arabic? Do you know computer programming well enough to start a new career? Where do you volunteer? What dikes do you fortify?  What sonnets have you memorized?  And if you do – why do you assume that the ways you choose to spend your time are the ways that everyone should spend their time? Can you make chainmaille? Do you speak every language? Do you play the tuba?

Let’s recognize that we don’t know that runners aren’t doing these things. Then let’s recognize that this argument is sheer, unadulterated slippery slope bullshit. Because in the time that Daniel spent memorizing sonnets, he could have volunteered at a food bank, how dare he be so selfish with his time? We each get to choose what to do with our bodies and our time and the idea that Daniel – who spent time writing this piece of drivel – should be the arbiter of how we spend that time is absolutely laughable.

I hope it’s not that people run in marathons to improve their health. All the evidence goes the other way..

Even if this were true, it’s a healthist argument.  The idea that we have some obligation to do things that are “healthiest” by the definition of the person who has appointed themselves the judge of such things is nothing but another dangerously slippery slope, often used by bullies as a tool to bully people whose behaviors (or body sizes) they don’t like. Health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.  Unless you are excited about having someone else tell you what you are and are not allowed to do with your body, you should probably take a pass on doing it to others.

The sport isn’t merely dangerous; it’s extravagant. It costs more than $250 just to enter the New York City Marathon and to have the chance to chafe your nipples alongside 50,000 other people. Meanwhile, humanity’s oldest form of exercise has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry in footwear.

Dude, trust me, I get not getting it. I get asking yourself -bleeding nipples?  The fuck are you doing? (Though if the nipples are freaking him out, let’s not tell him about the toenails, or where we put the Vaseline…) What I don’t get is thinking that your not getting it creates a solid platform from which to dole out advice and judgment.

This is actually the start of a good argument, but then it goes sideways. Accessibility is a major problem, but I don’t think that the answer isn’t to end the sport of running. Nobody is obligated to participate in athletics of any kind, but athletics should be as accessible as possible to anyone who wants to participate.

I like companies like Mainly Marathons that are not only affordable, but also highly inclusive of people of different speeds. There should be clothing and shoe options that are affordable.  And not just for running, but for any movement options that people might want to be involved in. That includes not just physical accessibility (though that’s obviously really important) but also psychological accessibility.  People should be assured that they can participate in movement without shame, stigma, bullying, or harassment.

I get the feeling that marathoners think of themselves as gritty, motivated types, who would rather train and get things done than sit around watching videos on Facebook. Indeed, they’ll often note the fact of their accomplishment (we might think of this as “showing off”) on social media.

Here Daniel takes a break from ranting in order to make up things about other people’s self-concept based on the fact that they talk about their accomplishments on social media.  Here again, I’m wondering if Daniel would be ok with them posting to their social media if they were learning a new language, computer programming, fortifying dikes, or memorizing sonnets?

Should we all be writing letters to Daniel to ask permission to choose our hobbies and post about them to our social media? Now, healthism is an actual thing and so if people aren’t clear that running is their hobby and that it doesn’t make them better than anybody else, then that’s a problem.  “I ran a marathon this weekend”is fine.  “I have kids and I still found time to run a marathon, what’s your excuse?”  is healthist bullshit because nobody needs an excuse not to do a marathon, or any type of movement.

For them, the pursuit of running 26 miles may have less to do with any functional reward than merely having gone through training in the first place. It’s an exercise of will, not one of purpose; the marathoner views achievement as a virtue of its own—like climbing Everest because it’s there.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but so the hell what? People are allowed to view their achievement as a virtue – whether they ran a marathon, or knit their first tea cozy (I don’t even know what a tea cozy is, but I want one.) The problem happens when society views it as a better thing than what other people do. If we think it’s more virtuous, or makes people deserving of better treatment, if they train for and complete a marathon than if they are involved in other hobbies, then that’s a problem. Working towards athletic goals is an option (though not an option for everyone for lots of reasons including everything from illness and disability to income and more,) but it is never an obligation or a barometer of worthiness.

It’s telling that this monomania gets rewarded—every single time, with cheering crowds and Facebook likes—despite its lack of substance. (At least Everest has a view!) I guess the form itself excites us: We’re so starved for ways to show self-discipline, and to regiment our time, that any goal will do, even one so imbecilic as the marathon. This only calls attention to the wasted opportunity: If we want to celebrate the act of building up to something hard—if we’re ready to devote ourselves, for at least 100 hours, to regimented training—then we should strive for something better. Instead of spending all that time purely for the sake of having spent it, let’s pursue a goal that has some meaning in itself.

Last call for bitter, party of one – last call – your table is ready, go sit down now Danny. When did Daniel become the judge of what is a worthy pursuit for everyone? Was there a ceremony?  Was it nice? Does it involve a cape? A gavel?  Where can I buy my “Daniel Engber is the boss of me” commemorative t-shirt and mug? Nobody is forcing Daniel to do a marathon, or to follow the social media of his friends who are doing marathons, so why in the world is he whipped up into such a  frenzy about the people who are? How is this affecting his life in any way?

That’s the spirit of the Anti-Marathon, introduced this week at Slate. We’re hoping to reclaim the idea of working hard, so the energy that goes into running marathons can be put to better and more lasting use.

The original article (which you can read in its entirely here) has a link to the ‘Anti-Marathon” program which includes an invitation to pay to join Slate Plus for extra content.  I will say that the notion that you can master swing dancing in 22 weeks gave me a much needed laugh after all this mess.  I will also point out that it’s not an “anti-marathon” as much as it is a “parallel marathon” doing the same things that  marathoners do, but for hobbies other than running (and, ostensibly, more acceptable to Daniel.)  Let’s also be clear that knowing how to swing dance (as I do) is no better than completing a marathon (which I have.)

At this point you may be asking “Why is this woman, who was so slow at her marathon that she and her Best Friend finished in a dark alley, so concerned about defending the marathon?”  Clearly, it’s not like marathoners are an oppressed group of people, indeed we are privileged by a healthist society.

This concerns me because as a fat person who has completed a marathon, is now training for an IRONMAN, and hears all kinds of opinions about my choices, I experience Daniel’s type of argument as just another part of the “We’ll Tell You What To Do With Your Body, And Why To Do It” Police. The argument that insists that I have some moral obligation to exercise (which is total bullshit), that the only “good” outcome of exercise is a thin body (also total bullshit,) also insists that I have some moral obligation not move my body “too much” or in the “wrong ways” (again I say, bullshit.)

Obviously there are lots of different types of privilege at work here and doing athletic things as a fat person both offers me “good fatty” privilege, and opens me up to types of harassment and oppression that I wouldn’t experience if I wasn’t involved. I want to keep reminding people that we get to do whatever we want with our bodies, for whatever our reasons are, and that participating in athletics doesn’t make someone better than anyone else – completing a marathon and watching a Netflix marathon are morally equivalent and both totally valid uses of a Sunday.

I wish that people, like Daniel, who want to focus on the physical activity choices of others would confine themselves to trying to dismantle the healthism that’s rampant in our society, and helping to create accessible, inclusive options for the types of physical activity that people might  want to do, instead of judging people for doing, or not doing, it.

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.