What If I’m Not Happy With My Weight

Design by Kris Owen

Design by Kris Owen

A question I get from readers pretty often, especially readers new to Health at Every Size/Size Acceptance is some version of “I’m all for Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size for anyone else and I want to end weight stigma, shame, and bullying for people of all sizes,  but I still want to lose weight for [xyz reasons] – I don’t know what to do…”  I had several people ask some version of it today, so I’m re-posting this in case it’s helpful.

First of all, I think that people have a right to make choices for their bodies, so I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live.  I came to Health at Every Size in a roundabout way.  I had become frustrated with the diet programs my doctor was prescribing and, as a trained researcher, I decided to read the actual research to find the intentional weight loss method that was the absolute best. I was completely shocked when I found that there were no studies that showed any weight loss method that worked long term for more than a tiny fraction of people.  Coming to terms with the fact that long term weight loss was highly unlikely is one of the hardest things I ever had to do.  It meant that I also had to give up my addiction to the pursuit of being thin.

That didn’t mean that I never struggled with the idea of weight loss again – in our society thin is pushed constantly as the cure-all for everything, weight loss is pushed as something that everyone can do, that everyone should pursue, and as something to be celebrated on roughly the same level as curing cancer. As these thoughts came up for me I started to ask myself what I would do about each of them if becoming thin wasn’t going to happen for me.  Below is what I came up with for me, as always I can only speak for myself – your mileage may vary, and you are the boss of your underpants.

For My Health

The original reason that I wanted to lose weight was my health.  I had bought into what I am now certain is a myth that weight and health are the same thing and that weight loss was a path to health. Thinking about it I realized that health is multidimensional and not entirely within our control, and that thin people get all the same diseases as fat people so becoming thin could neither be a sure preventative nor a sure cure. Doing the actual research I found that habits were a much better determinant for health than body size and that if health was important to me (which is my choice and nobody else’s) my best chance (knowing that I’m not entirely in control) was behaviors that promote health and not an attempt to wrestle my body into a specific height/weight ratio.  Not to mention that long term weight loss is all but impossible based on the research – so even if being thin would make me magically immortal, graceful,  and never have another bad hair day, it’s not happening.

For Movement

At times I wanted to be thin so that I could be athletic/a better dancer.  What I found was that instead of waiting until I was thin to do the things that I wanted to do, I just went ahead and did them fat.  I recognized that every body, of every size, is different – bodies have various abilities, inabilities, and disabilities for many reasons and it’s about what we decide to do with the body that we have. So I decided to stop waiting for some other body to show up and start taking the body I had out for a spin.  Though there may be some things that I couldn’t do because of my weight, I made the choice that I would decide that was the reason only after I exhausted all of the other possibilities (For example, I found that strength training, pilates, and resistance stretching were, for me, the key to ease of movement).  I also decided that if my size was the reason that I couldn’t do something, then I would acknowledge my disappointment while working to be deeply appreciative of the body that I have and the things it can do, since without this body I would be pretty well stuck.

For Better Treatment

There were certainly times when I wanted to lose weight to escape the societal shame, stigma, bullying,  and oppression that I deal with as a fat person.  What I realized was that weight loss is not the cure for social stigma – ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma.  I had earlier insight into this because as a queer woman I heard the same arguments – if I would just stop being queer then the bullies would stop bullying me.  This is as much bullshit for fat people as it is for queer people.  It doesn’t matter why my body is the size it is, I have a right to exist –  I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body I have now.  Even if becoming thin was possible, giving the bullies my lunch money and hoping that they stop beating me up is not what I want to do or who I want to be – other people’s shaming, stigmatizing, and bullying behavior is not a reason to change myself.

To Better Fit in the World

I considered wanting to lose weight to fit better into the world-I would fit into the seats no matter where I went, the I would always fit in an airplane seat, that I wouldn’t be accused of taking up “too much space”, I would have more clothing options etc.  Thinking this one over I realized that the things that don’t accommodate me are wrong – there is nothing wrong with me.  Tall people hit their heads on things but don’t spend their lives trying to become shorter.  As a short woman I often can’t reach things, or my legs dangle uncomfortable from chairs but I never thought it was my fault for not being tall enough. This is the size I come in, and while it sucks that things don’t accommodate me, I will not try to solve that by changing myself.  I will work instead to change the world and ask that I be accommodated. I realized that asking for accommodations isn’t asking for a special favor – it is asking for what everyone else already has.  If everyone can walk onto the plane and be transported from one city to another, then when fat people ask them to accommodate us with seating that works for us, we are simply asking for what everyone else already has. My body takes up just the right amount of space, and as far as I’m concerned so does everyone else’s body.

While this process was at times upsetting and difficult, it has ended up being literally the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.  Freeing myself from the pursuit of being thin meant that I could actually have a good relationship with the body I have now.  I can’t even articulate how much bandwidth in my brain freed up when I stopped spending massive amounts of time,  obsessing about how I could get thin (not to mention the money and energy I saved.)  I gave away the clothes that didn’t fit me and stopped wishing that they did.  I stopped putting my life on hold until I looked different.  My life literally opened up. There are things that still suck – the world isn’t always built for me and there’s a ton of shame, stigma, bullying and oppression that still comes my way.  There’s plenty of work to be done, but it’s easier to concentrate on the actual problems when I realize that the problem is not my body.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 28, 2015 at 11:25 am  Comments (7)  

Keep Your Concern to Yourself

Concern Troll Venn DiagramReader Sara told me about some food-shaming dishes.  One of the plates says “It’s hard to be around you when you eat like this / Did you really need that second helping? / Please stop eating, we’re worried about you / For the love of God, stop eating.”

Let’s start with my answers in order:

1.  See ya.
2.  No, but at this point if I stop eating with this fork I’m going to stab you with it so bring on a third helping or get some gauze for compression.
3.  I can’t stop you from worrying but I can stop you from talking to me about it.
4.  For the love of god mind your own business.

We’ve already talked about the total bullshit that is the “Do you need to eat that” question. But of course it goes beyond that.

I’ve heard people suggest that it’s their moral obligation to tell fat people that we “need to lose weight”, exercise more, or that if someone sees a fat child they need to say something to the caregiver. I’ve been part of any number of conversations where people who had no business or permission to talk to me about my weight did so.  I asked some friends on Facebook who had spoken to them about their weight inappropriate.  The answers included:

Strangers, Dermatologist, Psychic, Coworker, Father, Sister, Gynecologist, Cop (while giving a speeding ticket), Grocery Store Checker, Dentist, Restaurant Owner, Airport Staffer, MY MOTHER (emphasis by the original author), Grandmother, Girl Scout Leaders, ER Doctor, Coworkers, Waiters/Waitresses, Gym teacher, Nutrition Professor, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig Employees (when I wasn’t enrolled in services), Softball Coach, Friend’s Parents, ROTC Leaders, Bagel Shop Employee, Other Kids Parents, Palm Reader, Obstetrician, Anesthesiologist, Photography Professor, Dermatologist, Chiropractor, Boss, Boyfriend’s Family, Dress Shop Employee, Massage Therapist.

Whoa.  That’s a lot of people who think that it’s their right to say something to us about our bodies.

I won’t speak for anyone but me, but my response to this is No. No no no.  World of no. Galaxy of no. Universe of no. No. First of all, how grossly over-exaggerated does your sense of self-importance have to be, and how big of a rock do you have to live under to talk to me as if I’ve never heard the opinion that I should lose weight.  Do you think I never see TV commercials? Listen to the radio?  Look the hell around?  By my count I get about 386,170 messages a year that my body is wrong.  So how about you trust me when I tell you that the three hundred eighty six thousand, one hundred seventy first time is NOT the charm.

I think that when someone feels this strong of a need to “save a fatty”, it’s often really much more about their own ego than the person they are supposedly so concerned about.  Like an ambitious relief pitcher, they want to get credit for the save.  I call this “Pulling a Jillian” as in Jillian Michaels, ego maniac from The Biggest Loser, who can’t stop talking about how she’s saving lives and she’s making people healthy, she’s doing this and she’s doing that blah blah blah. Newsflash Jillian, if you really cared about people we would be hearing a whole lot less about you.

I am a grown ass woman making choices.  That is my right. Just like other people get to make choices for themselves.  You can decide that you want to eat a raw foods diet or fast food every day or anything in between.  I don’t get to decide how you live, it’s not my business.  I get to make choices for my body and you have no right to question those choices. (And if you’re even thinking about making a “but my tax dollars pay for fatties” argument, head over here.)

You are allowed to be concerned about whatever you want, you are not allowed to share your concern with me unless I ask. The bottom line here is very simple:  This is not a tree and I am not a kitten, so you can put your ladder away.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 27, 2015 at 6:44 am  Comments (9)  

Fat, Red Bull, and Unnecessary Middlemen

Bad DoctorA story is making the rounds about a woman who was drinking 28 Red Bull Energy Drinks a day (according to several of her quotes, as a way to try to keep up with her three kids).  She developed a health condition called “idiopathic intracranial hypertension.” I have no interest in villainizing this woman, and I have no idea about her circumstances.  What does concern me is that in every story I read about it, the health condition was blamed on her body size.  In fact, almost every article said that it was “caused” by her size.

That is odd for a number of reasons, first of all because people of all sizes get this issue, second because it presented after a period of drinking 28 cans of Red Bull a day, but predominantly because “idiopathic” literally means “of unknown cause”.  Still, everyone seems to be all too happy to blame her weight, and there seems to be little interest in what might happen if she stops drinking almost 2 gallons of Red Bull every day, but doesn’t get her stomach amputated in a dangerous (and highly profitable) surgery.

This is an extreme example of our society’s general tendency to turn weight into a “middleman” where none is necessary.  For example, let’s say a person changes their behaviors in an effort to support their health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstance) and they lose some weight (which of course they are almost certain to gain back) and become healthier. In our weight-obsessed society everyone from doctors to weight-loss companies to random people on the internet credit the health improvements to the weight loss, ignoring the behavior changes.

What research actually shows, is that behaviors that tend to have health benefits have those benefits independent of size or weight loss.  But in our effort to glorify making our bodies fit a fairly random height/weight ratio, we tend to overlook the very likely possibility that both the weight loss and the health changes are both side effects of the behavior changes (and that the health benefits may have been possible without whatever restriction was necessary to produce the – almost certainly temporary – weight loss.)

We see this on the other end of the spectrum when a fat patient and a thin patient present with the same health problem, and the thin patient is given an intervention proven to help the health problem, while the fat patient is given a diet.  This seems extra ridiculous given that, since thin people get all the same health problems as fat people, being thin can neither be a sure preventative nor a sure cure.

We can, and we should, have a complete conversation about health without making weight the middleman between our bodies and our health.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 6:47 am  Comments (21)  

Fat Ands Over Fat Buts

Picture courtesy of the fabulous Jodee Rose http://jodee.deviantart.com

Picture courtesy of the fabulous Jodee Rose http://jodee.deviantart.com

Someone shared a Facebook meme with me that said “I may be fat, but I’m fabulous!”  I’ve seen this in any number of iterations: I may be fat but I”m fit, or I may be fat, but I’m not lazy, even though I fat I’m still beautiful etc.

I’ve certainly done this myself in the past and while I’m not trying to tell anyone what to say or think, I do think that this may be worth looking at.

What I realized for me was that when I said  “I’m fat but…” or “even though I’m fat…”  I (however inadvertently) gave credence to stereotypes about fat people.  For example if I say that I’m fat but I’m a good dancer, there is a suggestion that the fact that I’m both fat and a good dancer is a surprise, or that I’m somehow overcoming my fat to be able to dance – which is not my actual experience.

I also felt that it made it sound like I was trying to make up for some kind of failing – like “I let myself get fat but I can still dance.” Worse, it can sound like I’m saying that “Unlike those other fat people…” which engages the “Good Fatty, Bad Fatty Dichotomy” which is complete bullshit and needs to die.

Working with stereotypes is tricky because whatever the stereotype is, and whoever the stereotype is about, there are going to be people who embody it and people who don’t within the stereotyped group. The problem is with the fact that we are stereotyped in the first place, not with whether or not we happen to embody a stereotype that has been created as a way to bully and stigmatize us.

There are many different ways to deal with stereotypes but one of the ways that I deal with them is to make the conscious effort to never speak about my fat body as if it’s a flaw, or speak about my accomplishments as if they are in spite of my fat body. Instead I tell the truth about my body in a way that acknowledges and honors the amazing body that I have. I’m fat and a good dancer, I’m fat and athletic, I’m fat and fabulous. I’m fat and, not fat but.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 8:20 am  Comments (9)  

That Sad Little Fat-Shaming Photoshop Project

Before After

Malia the pug knows that all bodies are good bodies, no Photoshop necessary.

Recently some of the pathetic trolls from the usual internet troll playgroups have cooked up yet another fat-shaming project, and today I reached 100 requests to blog about it, so here we go.

In this project, they photoshop pictures of fat people including singers, actresses, models, and activists (they’ve e-mailed me two pictures of me that they used and altered without my permission) to make us look thin. (Though  perhaps the only thing more appalling than the project are the photoshop skills of the trolls – I’m considering creating a gofundme to get them some classes, good lord they are terrible.)  They also used pictures without permission by creating fake accounts to generate fake requests to be photoshopped.

A little bit of reading on the thread behind this shows just exactly how 12-year-old-who-watches-too-many-spy-movies this project is:

troll planning

In case you’re blissfully unaware, SJW stands for Social Justice Warrior – which they use like it’s a bad thing, not a shock when you consider that these are people who would rather oppress people than fight oppression.

A lot of people who wrote to me about this were really upset, and that’s understandable – it’s part of a sustained campaign of terrorism that is perpetuated by these people and it’s perfectly natural to be upset and angry when you and your community are the victims of this kind online bullying.

As regular readers know, I have been dealing with things like this every single day for years – from silly things like having my picture photoshopped, to an ongoing campaign to use my brother’s suicide to hurt me, so I have some experience with this, and so I thought that I would try to provide my perspective.

First of all, we’re fighting back and we’re succeeding. Many people, including members of Rolls Not Trolls, have successfully worked with Facebook to have this project deleted (despite their attempt to keep putting it up under different names.) Even better, the media has picked it up.

I know sometimes people feel like it’s better for them not to get attention and that’s a completely valid opinion, but let me suggest this – these people aren’t doing this stuff for us, they are doing it for each other.  They don’t care about outside attention – they are substituting fat hate for actual achievements and so they are showing off for each other with their fat hate, like someone who actually has talent would show off their painting, or quilt. We can use them to help us fight oppression and weight stigma, and that’s what this kind of media does.

It’s important to remember that the people who do this are a relatively small group of people who are very vocal and apparently have a lot of free time (though I imagine there’s a lot of attrition as they graduate middle school and face the demands of high school.)

When they do things like this and the media picks it up they rush to add comments (using the multitude of fake accounts that they’ve created) to make it seem like lots of people feel like they do.  But the truth is that most people find this appalling, and every time they pull something like this I get a ton of e-mails from people telling me that they didn’t understand what I was talking about when I talked about fat shaming, but now they understand what we’re dealing with and that they want to help.  When I work with organizations to help them with Size Diversity  and inclusion, I use these types of projects to show the end result of a society that allows size-based stigma (whether justified under the guise of “health” or not) and it really helps people to “get it.” So, though of course their behavior is terrible, know that many of us are using it to help the fight against weight-based stigma.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this kind of thing shouldn’t happen. We are not the problem – they are – and this isn’t our fault though it may become our problem.  Each of us gets to choose how we deal with this – some will choose to engage with the trolls, some will choose to ignore them, some will choose to fight it in their own way – and all choices are valid. We may choose to handle the same things in different ways at different times based on how we feel at any given time and that’s ok too, I think it’s really important that we support each other in the different ways that we choose to deal with these unfortunate people.

I also think it’s important to remember that some of the most powerful activism we can do is to just live our lives – take that dance class, go to your kid’s soccer game, go to the waterpark in your fatkini, lead your knitting circle, whatever your thing is go do it. Of course this isn’t the only way we need to address fat hate, and it’s completely optional –  nobody should have to deal with duress just to step out their door – but it is one powerful way that we can fight back. In the meantime, do what you need to do to take care of yourself from people like this and their bigotry and bullying behaviors.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 24, 2015 at 8:36 am  Comments (19)  

Lessons from a Salad Bar

facepalmI had to have the AC in my car worked on today so while the car was in the shop I went to a local salad bar to have some lunch and do a little work.  I had some… interesting experiences;

Broccoli is corruptible apparently

The restaurant has a delicious salad with broccoli, cashews, onions, and bacon.   When I sat down with my plate, including the broccoli salad, I found a flyer at my table:

naughty broccoli

A picture of the broccoli salad with the caption “Healthy Meets Naughty” and the description “We take freshly harvested broccoli and corrupt it with salty cashews, red onions, smoky bacon, and a sweet tangy dressing. It’s decadent, nutritious and delicious

Oh for pete’s sake.  At least they’re not participating in the ridiculous messages that the nutrition of vegetables is “ruined” by the addition of things like dressing, but we’re seriously using the word “corrupt” here, as it relates to broccoli salad? Broccoli is not corrupted by the addition of vegetables, nuts, bacon, and dressing, and I like my food without a side of moral panic thanks, I’ll leave it to Santa to decide if broccoli salad is naughty or nice.

They are confused about what processed means

never processed

A chalkboard drawing says “All natural and never processed”

“Processed food” is one of those food moralizing buzzwords, but what does it actually mean? I googled it as I ate my delicious cup of clam chowder with bacon. Technically anything that changes food from its natural state – including cleaning, chopping, heating, cooling, etc. could be considered processing, a more conservative definition comes from the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) processed food is food that has “undergone a transformation from the raw form either to extend shelf-life — such as the freezing or dehydration of fruits and vegetables — or to improve consumer palatability of raw commodities — such as transforming grain and animal products into bakery and meat products.”

In other words, if my clam chowder was never “processed”  by the USDA definition, it would contain raw milk straight from the cow, no butter, no cream, no bacon, no clams (unless they were fresh),  and no salt or pepper.  By the technical definition the potatoes would be whole, the clams would be in the shell, and the whole thing would be room temperature – never heated nor cooled. You know, never mind, it’s too hot for soup anyway.  These kind of buzzwords, often used passive aggressive food choice one-upmanship helps no one. If we want to have a discussion of health we need to do a little better than buzzwords and broad generalizations.

People Can still Be Ridiculously Inappropriate

As I finished my lunch and got out my computer, a gentleman who was with a small group at a nearby table came up to my table. And then this happened:

Him:  I’ve been watching you eat and can I tell you something?

Me: Maybe, can I ask you something first?

Him:  I guess…

Me:  Why were you watching me eat?

Him:  You were just sitting in my line of sight.

Me: (looking around) There are 5 or 6 of us in your line of sight, is it just me or are you monitoring all of us?

Him:  (getting irritated)  Look, I just wanted to say that I see that you’re choosing healthy foods and that you’re making a change in your life.  I was trying to give you a COMPLIMENT!

Me;  No sir, you don’t know anything about my life. You have stereotypes about fat people, you monitored my behavior because I’m a fat person, and you are congratulating me on rising above your stereotypes.  That’s not a compliment – it’s creepy and it’s rude and what other people eat is not your business.

Him:  You’re the rude one if you can’t take a damn compliment!

WT actual F?  In what world is it appropriate to go up to perfect strangers and comment on their food choices?  I’m just trying to eat my naughty broccoli salad and processed soup here. This idea that people should monitor the behavior of fat people and then comment on it has got to stop. I’m lucky that I think and speak and write about this stuff all the time so responding is almost a reflex at this point, but people shouldn’t have to practice rebuttals and prepare for battle just to go have some lunch.  The biggest lesson from my lunch – we have got to do better than this.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 21, 2015 at 9:23 am  Comments (42)  

A Little Inspiration

IMG_1212

Painted by the amazing girls at the We Are Girls conference.

The fight for fat acceptance is a going to be a long haul, so today I thought I would post about inspiration.

I am unrepentant inspiration lover:  inspirational quotes, cheesy songs, this is one of my favorite videos:

Here is another favorite video – this one is from the Fit Fatties Forum

Some people I know make fun of me good-naturedly.  They say it’s silly, they say that they are too jaded for such cheesy things to motivate or inspire them.  They imply that I am perhaps a bit ridiculous for deriving motivation and inspiration from Michael Bolton singing Go the Distance from Hercules. They may well be right and as usual I’m not saying anyone else has to crank up the Michael Bolton.  So maybe I am kind of cheesy and ridiculous when it comes to this.

I.  Do.  Not.  Care.

We live in a world where we can get 386,170 negative messages about my body every year and so those of us who choose to love ourselves and our bodies, and those of us who want to let other people know that they can do the same if they choose not only have to actively reject every single one of those messages but then find the energy to shout new messages at the top of our voices.

One of the things I want is a world that embraces bodies of all shapes and sizes and I’m willing to fight for that. The catch is that in order to do that I have to deal with a lot of crap from a lot of trolls and haters, and companies that profit from making us feel like crap about ourselves.  So send in the quotes, the theme from Greatest American Hero, If by Rudyard Kipling, whatever it takes to get us through.  We may be cheesy, but we’re cheesy and kicking ass.

Do you have a favorite thing that inspires you and helps you when the negative messages from a fat phobic society get to be too much?  Feel free to post them in the comments!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 6:47 am  Comments (17)  

The “Healthiest Possible Body” Myth

Bad DoctorOne of the ways that those who wish to promote fatphobia argue against Size Acceptance is to say that it doesn’t “promote health”, suggesting the only way Size Acceptance could be legitimate is if it was shown to “promote health”.  This is very messed up in many ways.

I’m thinking about this today because I was quoted (along with the always fabulous Jeanette DePatie in a piece on Healthline called “Does the Body Positive Movement Promote Health” I think that parts of the piece are very good, and the writer was a joy to work with.  I was, however, disturbed by the section in which Leslie Heinberg, Ph.D, a woman who makes her living promoting the (highly profitable) mutilation of fat people through surgery, said the following:

Part of loving yourself is taking the best care of your body. That should be part of that same goal, versus ‘I love myself just the way I am.’

Body acceptance is really about accepting the body you likely have but still striving to have the healthiest body you could potentially have.

No, body acceptance is really not about that.  And someone who makes her living promoting dangerous weight loss methods doesn’t have any business defining “body acceptance” for anyone but herself. First of all, even if I believed that what she said was true, I do not believe that the types of organ amputation that she promotes and profits from come anywhere close to the “best care” I could take of myself.  But it’s more than that.

A massive multi-billion dollar industry depends on us believing this crap – first that as fat people we aren’t allowed to like ourselves until we are thin, or unless we are constantly “striving” to have our “healthiest body,” making that our top priority, and second, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that their bullshit weight loss products and surgeries are actually a good way to do that. So I understand why Leslie is so keen to repeat this message, but it’s still firmly rooted in fatphobia and is totally bullshit.

Nobody is obligated to “strive for their healthiest body.” In fact, in our culture we often celebrates those who don’t:

People paint everything from their faces to their homes in celebration of their favorite professional football players – who very often suffer grave injuries and health problems during and after their careers.

We cheer for rock stars and celebrities with their incredibly demanding schedules that lead them to end up in hospitals suffering from exhaustion.

We cheer for daredevils who jump motorcycles over school buses, or jump out of helicopters to ski dangerous slopes, or participate in the X games, or are cast members of Jackass.

People are allowed to do all of these things, but none of them promote the healthiest body they could potentially have.

Nobody is obligated to (and I’d venture to say that very few people of any size actually do) prioritize “striving to have the healthiest body you could potentially have.”  Even if you are someone who chooses to prioritize your health, what an incredible mindfuck the concept of “healthiest body you could potentially have” is.

First of all, “healthiest” is pretty difficult to define, second, this kind of striving would lead to some serious stressing pretty quickly – I only have 8 hours until I have to get ready for work – should I follow the recommendation to get 8 hours of sleep, or short the sleep and follow the recommendation to do 30 minutes of activity a day? Various people say that raw foods vegan, paleo, low carb, high carb, low fat and high fat diets are the healthiest – how am I going to choose?  Does this mean that I can never have another piece of birthday cake?  If I’m really hungry and the only food available doesn’t fit my idea of “healthiest possible food” should I deprive my body of food or eat something that I consider sub-optimal? What is the exact precise amount of water to drink for optimal health? Someone who is a PhD and still says something this ridiculous should probably not be in the field of health at all. I’m left to wonder if she didn’t even consider these complexities because she is deluded into believing that “healthiest potential body” simply means “thinnest potential body.”

Not to mention our tendency as a society to participate in the oppressive behavior of suggesting that health should serve as a barometer of worthiness, further acting as if “promoting health” and “promoting weight loss” are the same thing and that health is entirely within our control.

It’s time to be honest  – if we really wanted to “promote health” (and not just sell weight loss) we would be talking about things like ending oppression – racism, classism, ableism homophobia, transphobia, sizeism and healthism among others have seriously detrimental effects of health at every level.

We would be discussing how to make sure that everyone has access to excellent healthcare that they can actually afford (instead of suggesting that some people deserve good healthcare and some don’t), making sure that people earn enough money to afford the food they want to eat, get enough sleep, and build the strong social and community bonds that are so important to good health and well being.  We would be crystal clear that health is about mental and physical health and that bullying and stigmatizing people is unacceptable.  We would be making sure that people have access to safe (physically and psychologically safe) movement options that they enjoy (if every person doesn’t have the ability to show up at the gym in workout gear, or the pool in a swimsuit, and know that they won’t be harassed, then we aren’t doing enough.)

We would realize that public health isn’t about making fat people’s health the public’s business, but about giving people of all sizes access, options, and good unbiased information and then recognizing and respecting that people get to choose their own priorities and path when it comes to their own bodies, even if those choices are different than the choices that we would make.

So let’s break it down:

You have every right (but no obligation) to love your body as it is right this minute.

You have every right to make decisions about your priorities, including what health means to you, how highly you want to prioritize it, and what path you want to choose to get there.  Realize that your choices may be limited by outside forces including lack of accessibility, oppression etc. and that those things are not your fault even if they become your problem.

You have a right to make choices for your body – you can choose to practice Health at Every Size, you can choose to practice intuitive eating (and yes, you can choose to try to manipulate your body size,)  you can choose not to follow or align yourself with any particular health philosophy.

Let me just say this one more time:  You do not have to let Leslie or any other weight loss peddler define Body Acceptance for you – you have every right to love your body as it is right this minute, period.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 19, 2015 at 9:34 am  Comments (15)  

When Bad Euphemisms Happen to Good Fat People

Small - Things you can tell by looking at a fat personI see a lot of mistaken euphemisms for being thin or, said another way, being “not fat”. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being thin, just like there’s nothing wrong with being fat.  There are no bad bodies.  There is something wrong with making assumptions based on body size. Let’s take a minute to clear some of this up:

Fit:  This one is personally annoying to me as a fathlete.  The idea that “fit” is a body size is ludicrous.  Obviously there are people of all sizes who are involved in movement, athletics, etc and there are people of all sizes who aren’t and all of that is fine.  We each get to choose how and if we engage in movement, our choices don’t make us better or worse than anyone else, and it’s nobody else’s business.

Takes Pride in Their Appearance: I’m told by reliable sources that this one turns up on want ads and job descriptions as a way to say they want someone thin and stereotypically attractive which almost made my head explode.  As if the only way to take pride in our appearance is to adhere to a social stereotype of beauty.

Height Weight Proportionate:  This is just annoying.  Proportionate to what?  This is one of those online personal ad euphemisms for people who lack the intestinal fortitude to be clear that they they only want to date someone who is not fat. Sometimes it’s helpful though, since it rules out people for those of us who would never want to date anyone with so narrow a view of beauty not to mention lacking the guts to at least be honest about it.

Takes Care of Themselves: Another charming personal ad euphemism (charming here having the meaning of “bullshit”), this one plays on the oh-so-tired stereotype that you can tell everything about a person’s habits by looking at them.  It also perpetuates the myth that taking care of yourself leads to thinness for every person and that’s just not true.

Healthy:  Perhaps the most common and the most damaging.  Individual health is not a body size, is not completely within our control, is not a barometer of worthiness, is not up for public discussion, and can be a moving target. This one does a disservice to fat people by giving them the idea that the only way to be healthy is to become thin, and does a disservice to thin people by giving them the idea that they are healthy simply because of their weight, neither of which is true based on the evidence.

The theme here should be pretty clear – you can’t and shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on their size.  As the brilliant Marilyn Wann has said, the only things that we can tell from someone’s body size is what size they are, and what our prejudices and preconceived notions about people that size are.

Whenever you see or hear one of these it’s an opportunity for activism.  Many people don’t even realize that they are engaging in fat bigotry when they say these things and I’m a big fan of doing people the courtesy of giving them the opportunity to realize and change their prejudices.

One way that you can address this is by asking a global question, something like “I always wonder why people say fit when they mean thin, especially when there are plenty of fat athletes and plenty of thin couch potatoes.” or try some humor “Isn’t everyone’s height and weight in a proportion?”

Regardless, we don’t have to internalize these messages of stereotypes, ignorance and bigotry.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 18, 2015 at 8:33 am  Comments (21)  

You’re Not the Fat Person Whisperer

You Cannot Be SeriousI do not know what the deal is with people who feel the need to make unsolicited comments/suggestions etc. to fat people about how they think we should live our lives, but my readers have told me about everything from strangers at restaurants making food suggestions to people trying to pray their fat away (something that I experienced all too recently.)  Seriously. I wanted to write an open letter in case any of these people read this blog or in case such a thing would be helpful to some of my readers, and because I’m just irritated.

Dear Possibly Well-Meaning but Completely Misguided Person,

I’m not sure what led you to make your unsolicited comments to me about my health/weight/size/food choices etc.  It’s not something that I would ever do and so I just don’t have any concept of how you could possibly think it is in any way appropriate.  Let me assure you that it is not.  I am not interested in your opinions or suggestions about me, my body, or my health, and the way you know that is that I didn’t ask for them.  If I ever want your opinions or suggestions about me, my body, or my health, you may rest assured that you will be among the very first people to know.

There is no discussion to be had about who is right or wrong here.  Not only can’t you tell anything about my health or behaviors by looking at me, even if you could those things are not a barometer for my worthiness and are absolutely not any of your business.  I do not accept your authority when it comes to me or my body. l don’t owe you (either personally or as a member of society) anything when it comes to my body- I don’t owe you a certain body size, I don’t owe you any behaviors, I don’t owe you your, or anybody else’s, definition of health or healthy behaviors.

As I elaborated on in this post, the only thing that is required in order to have the right to demand basic human respect is a pulse.  The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not size, ability, or health dependent, nor are they dependent on looking or acting the way that someone wants you to look or act.  In that sentence “someone” refers to you, oh person who makes unsolicited comments.

Let me state this as clearly as possible:  I am not a poor sad fat girl waiting for you to come along and give me the words of wisdom/encouragement/shame that change my life.  I love my life, and I loved it just a little more before you started giving suggestions about it and I’ll love it that much more once you stop, so how about we speed that process along.  You are not the fatty whisperer.  Back the hell off.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

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!

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development, you can follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on August 17, 2015 at 10:32 am  Comments (13)