Portland Trip – Days Three, Four and Five

I’m back home after an amazing trip to Portland. If you missed out on the report from days one and two, you can find that here! I should mention that days three and four were separated by spending the weekend visiting my family!

Day 3:

Day three kicked off at the Hazelden Betty Ford Center, speaking to practitioners about Fatphobia in Client Care – the ways that weight stigma can wheedle its way into client care and disrupt recovery. The room was packed, the practitioners were really into it, and they asked great questions. Extra special thanks to Lindsey for all of the work she does around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, and all the work that she did putting the talk together, and also a shout out to those who came in on their day off for the talk, and to Body Positive Personal Trainer Gillian who came for the talk! (There are no pictures, but for once it’s not because I totally spaced it, but because pictures on campus are strictly forbidden due to privacy issues.)

I headed to the beautiful space at The Gem to give a talk and then take a Body Love Yoga class with Anna Chapman. The talk was a casual Q&A style and we talked about all kinds of stuff – from fathletes to blogging to dealing with fatphobic friends and family. Then it was yoga time. My body was tired from lack of sleep, lugging 100 pounds of luggage around (#OverPackersUnite) and climbing around and posing the day before, and Anna’s gentle class was exactly what I needed.

 

Day 4:

This was going to be a long day. I had traveled to spend the weekend with some family and so I had to start driving at 6am in order to make it back for my first talk of the day at the Oregon Food Bank. This is an exceptional organization that offers hunger relief by distributing food through a statewide network of 21 regional food banks and approximately 970 partner agencies that serve all of Oregon.

I gave my Public Health for Every Body talk, during which we discuss how to create public health messaging that is intersectional, inclusive, fiercely anti-shame and  effective.  The group is committed to doing excellent work and so I was glad to be able to give them some new information and perspectives to support what they are already doing. We identified some ways that I may be able to help support them moving forward so I’m extra excited about that. Big thanks to Heather and Johnnie for all of their labor to put the event together, Joshua for all of his support (technical and otherwise), and to everyone who came including the CEO. It’s always helpful to work with an organization where the top levels of leadership are committed to the work, and it was an honor to be among a group that is committing to helping solve such a difficult and serious problem.

IMG_7166
I took this picture on the way in, totally forgot to take pictures after, sorry y’all!

Next it was time for lunch with Sarah, of Resilient Fat Goddess. We talked about all things fat activism over delicious food by a roaring fire (I miss the fireplaces now that I’m no longer in Portland.) There are no pictures because I always forget to take freaking pictures!

Then it was time for dance class at SomaSpace. I had worked with KT from Body Home – Fat-centric Dance Classes KT was already teaching a series of classes so we decided that I would teach my class, then we would do a Q&A, then she would teach her class from the series. I was worried about how tired I would be – my class started more than 13 hours after my day had begun but being in that space with those amazing people infused me with energy, and I got my second wind and felt great. KT generously let me take her class, and it was fun and powerful and wonderful. We all stayed and talked for a while afterward.

 

As I got back into my car the fatigue hit me all at once. I still had to check into my hotel and lug my stuff to the room before I could go to sleep. In an effort to save money I had booked a bargain hotel. I hauled my stuff up the stairs, but as I walked into my “non-smoking” room it smelled like people had been smoking there since the 50’s, the bedspread was stained and the curtain was falling off the wall. My lungs were protesting and my throat was immediately sore. I called Julianne, whose superpower is finding deals on travel. Within 10 minutes she had gotten my money back from this hotel, and booked me into a much better hotel for less than I had paid for the bargain place (why didn’t I just have her book my travel in the first place? That’s a really good question. Lesson learned.) At that point I realized I was also super hungry – it had been over 8 hours since lunch. I grabbed some dinner, checked into my hotel and collapsed into bed. I was hoping to wake up early so that I could spend some time walking around the woods, but I set my alarm for the last possible minute so that my body could get sleep if that’s what it needed.

Day 5:

I woke up at the last possible minute. I met DeAun, co-founder of the Do No Harm podcast for a live recording of the podcast. We hung out in her fabulous house (glass doorknobs!) and talked a ton before we officially started recording. We focused on healthcare for fat patients that meets the requirements of ethical, evidence-based care and informed consent (which is to say – not a weight loss recommendation) We finished up with a lovely dinner at a local restaurant and I headed back to the hotel happy and exhausted.

IMG_7175

I’m glad to be back home with Julianne and our dogs (Bu and ChadShannel) but I miss the weather, woods, and wonderful people of Portland. I hope to get the chance to go back again soon!

The Bundle Up! Sale is on! – bundles that include books, online programs, and DVDs to get your year (or the year of the people you’re gifting them to) off to a great start, and save you some money!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

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 (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com or on Instagram.

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

Days One and Two Of The Portland Mini-Speaking Trip

I’m currently in Portland for a mini speaking tour, and I’m having a fabulous time so far!

Day 1:

I arrived in the afternoon and it was COLD (that will be a continuing theme.) It’s also beautiful – Portland is basically made out of woods – like, you can trip off a curb and you fall into the woods. Regular readers know that I’m a pretty indoorsy person generally, but I’m more outdoorsy in situations where there are beautiful wooded areas, and it’s not 6,000 degrees like it seems to be all the time at home.

I got to start my trip having dinner with the amazing Allisa Sobo, of www.IsItAmple.com which is like Yelp for marginalized bodies – an intersectional, international review site that helps people find establishments of all kinds (from restaurants, to theaters, to doctors) that accommodate marginalized bodies. I’m beyond excited about the project and want to work more with her on it.  We had such a great, deep conversation about Ample, and fat activism in general.

I packed up my possible outfits for my photoshoot and went through the PowerPoint for my talk and went to bed under many, many blankets.

Day 2:

Woke up early and got ready for the photoshoot which meant hair and make-up. Met up with the amazing Lindley Ashline from Sweet Amaranth Photography who scheduled this photoshoot with me even though the subscriptions for her Body Love Box launched today! She was already all organized and we went through the possible shoot locations and looks and decided to start at the Rhododendron Garden.

To say it was stunningly beautiful is to understate it. To say that it was freezing cold is probably technically overstating, but maybe not if we make a rule for people from Southern California and Austin. My first look was a dress and Lindley was amazing and supportive, both in the body positivity of her approach, and in her willingness to let me cover anything that wasn’t in the shot with my coat to try to stay as warm as possible, meanwhile, I tried to smize through the shivering. Highlights of the first location included picking my way along stepping stones so that I could get closer to a waterfall (successfully avoiding plunging my feet into freezing cold water!), balancing and turning around on a rock that was not nearly as flat as it looked, and a whole lotta ducks.

Here are a few of my decidedly unprofessional pictures of the first site!

For our next location we chose a place with no actual address and with “directions” that include looking for a “weird cedar tree. But Lindley found it like a pro and we went up. It was absolutely beautiful. It was justs a few yards (and one muddy embankment!) from the highway and it felt like we were deep in the woods. We did a couple different outfits and some really fun poses making use of a chair that’s there, and then lying down on stone. (I got nature in my hair, but I’m ok now.) Lindley was again super amazing in her understanding of how to work with a fat body, in her unending positivity about working with me and my fat body, and in being entertaining and hilarious even as she too was freezing and setting up shots and dragging equipment around. The shoot was fun and body affirming and did I mention fun?  #PretendModel

Here’s the second location from the view of my phone!

Here’s a sneak peek from the shoot –  a fun shot, completely rough and unretouched!

Lindley Ashline Shoot Preview Picture

Then it was off to Jan’s Paperbacks for a talk about being an athlete at any size.  First of all, Jan’s is an amazing space. (I liked it better than Powells.) They have a genius system where they put the bookshelves on wheels so they can move them around, leading to event space in the middle:

Picture of a bookstore a white woman with short brunette hair in a red shirt and jeans stand in the middle of a room with green carpet with her arms up and out. There are chairs behind her, and bookcases surround the outside of the room.
This is Lori, she owns Jan’s Paperbacks and she is a hyper-organized person who took care of literally everything for this talk except actually talking. She is amazing and you should go check out this bookstore because it’s fabulous. (Also, Lori and I both like to do big arms!)

We were a small but mighty group, everyone asked great questions and we laughed a lot!

Now to practice my talks for tomorrow afternoon and  (I think there are still a couple tickets left to the combo talk/body love yoga class with Anna Chapman tomorrow night.) And then the many, many blankets are calling me.

Oh, and the Bundle Up! Sale has begun – bundles of books, online programs, and DVDs to get your year (or the year of the people you’re gifting them to) off to a great start, and save you some money!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

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 (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com or on Instagram.

 

 

 

What Is Internalized Fatphobia?

internalized fatphobiaIn my piece about weight stigma and airlines I mentioned internalized fatphobia. On Instagram, @samolotus asked “could you expound upon what internalized fatphobia is?” Yes. Yes I can.

Internalized fatphobia is a form of internalized oppression, which is basically when oppressed people buy into the message of their oppressors. In terms of fatphobia, it happens when fat people don’t believe that they deserve the same things or same treatment that thin people get.

Internalized fatphobia can sound something like “If I take up more than one seat on a plane then of course I should pay for two seats!” Often this is a (conscious or subconscious) way to gain a modicum of approval from oppressors – the hope being that they think “well, she may be fat, but at least she has the decency to be self-loathing,” and that this attitude will lead them to better treatment to these fatties who are willing to fight for their right to be second class citizens.

We live in a culture that rolls out fatshaming messages to us from infancy, so the fact that fat people suffer from internalized fatphobia isn’t exactly a galloping shock. It’s not our fault, it’s about discovering the ways in which we have internalized the stigmatizing and oppressive messages we’ve heard, and then rethinking them, and then deciding what to do about what we actually deserve. (For example, realizing that what is considered “a seat” by the airline is arbitrary, that we deserve to be transported from point a to point b for the same prices as the thin person beside us, and then maybe getting involved in some activism around that.)

I want to be clear that there are people who would argue that it isn’t internalized fatphobia, that they simply believe that, as fat people, they should be treated as second class citizens. Often their justification are that being fat is their fault, and/or that they could be thin if they wanted to, and/or that fat people existing is an inconvenience to thin people (and, for some reason, they believe that thin people’s feelings and desires should be centered and accommodated but it definitely isn’t because they’ve bought into a fatphobic society, because that would mean that they are dealing with internalized fatphobia…)

Regardless, I have no need to argue with fat people who think like this, they are allowed to believe whatever they want. What’s important to remember is that, first of all, their belief that they deserve to be oppressed is NOT a justification for oppressing other fat people. I’m happy for these people to have the option to pay twice as much for the same plane ride, but by no means does that mean that any other fat person should be required to. Moreover, if they are trying to visit their ideas on other fat people (ie: insisting that we don’t deserve space on a plane, or healthcare facilities that accommodate us, etc.) then we’re no longer talking about internalized fatphobia. At that point its just the same old, regular, garden variety, fatphobia that is harming others and should be fought.

As long as we live in a fatphobic society, there will be people who deal with internalized fatphobia, and some of those people will argue vehemently for their continued poor treatment. But you don’t have to be in that group, you can insist that you deserve to be treated with equality and respect. Because you do.

Did you appreciate this post? If you like the work I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Portland Area Readers: I’m coming to Portland, OR! Join me for talks, dance, and yoga!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

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 (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com or on Instagram.

Worst Holiday Diet Tips Ever

Guilt Free EatingThe “holiday season” means being bombarded with ridiculous diet advice (“The Holidays are Coming” being one third of the Dieting Axis of Evil along with “New Years Resolutions” and “Bikini Season is Coming”.)  Since you’re likely to have to deal with this whether you celebrate the holidays or not, in another DancesWithFat annual tradition I’ve compiled a list of so-called holiday diet tips from actual serious online articles, with thoughts on why we might be better off skipping each of them:

10 Diet Tips You’ve Never Heard Before!

You’ve totally heard these tips before. They didn’t work then, they don’t work now, they will never work.

Start Our Program Now and Get a Head Start on Your New Years Resolution

If you start earlier, you can fail at weight loss sooner while giving the diet industry (who are fully aware of the massive failure rate of their product) a boost on their fourth quarter earnings.  Or, you know, not.

Eat a Big Bowl of Fiber Cereal and Drink Lots of Water Before A Party to Avoid Snacking.

Spend the party in the bathroom with your friends awkwardly knocking and asking if you’re ok while you miss out on delicious snacks.

Buy Your Party Outfit a Month Early and a Size Too Small for Inspiration to Lose that Last 10 Pounds

Frantically search through your closet on party day for something, anything, that fits and is party appropriate, end up going to the party uncomfortable in an outfit that’s too small.

Save Your Calories For the Party by Eating Very Little During the Day

Show up at the party absolutely ravenous, bribe a cater waiter to get your hands on an entire tray of shrimp puffs, scarf them in the bathroom.

Make low-calorie egg nog with skim milk, egg substitutes, and artificial sweeteners.

Oh…I just…I can’t even…Just…  Ok, by the underpants rule you can totally make this beverage if you want and I will support you in drinking it – whether it just sounds good to you or it works or food allergies/sensitivities, whatever – as long as you support me in not drinking it.  Ever.

Only Eat Desserts that Are Truly a Sensual Experience for You

This author has a different relationship with food than I do…  I’m looking for desserts that taste good, not desserts that turn me on. I would change this to “only eat desserts that you want to, and that aren’t expired or poisonous.”

Don’t Taste The Food While You Cook – Those Calories Add Up

Serve your guests delicious-looking appetizers that taste like a salt lick, or like nothing at all, who knows?  If only there was a way to tell how the food tastes before we give it to other people…  The person who wrote this article obviously never watched Hell’s Kitchen or Chopped.

Choose Foods that Won’t Make You Feel Guilty the Next Day

Here’s the super secret trick to guilt-free eating:  Eat. Don’t feel guilty about it. Done.

Bring Fruits and Veggies to Parties and Work and Remind People About Their Weight Goals, They’ll Thank You!

They will not thank you.  They may, in fact, throat punch you. There’s nothing wrong with bringing fruits and veggies to the party, there may well be something wrong with being what Southerners call a “superior sumbitch,” and you may be able to avoid that by skipping the second part of this advice.  Instead consider “Bring fruits and veggies to parties and work and then shut up about it – find something more interesting to talk about than weight goals.”

Enjoy Fat Free Mock Versions of Your Favorite Holiday Foods, You’ll Never Miss the Full Fat Variety

I doubt that very much, and I do not think that the words “mock” and “food” should be put together, but of course that’s just me.

Divide Foods into Naughty and Nice

Use the holidays to ease yourself into a disordered relationship with food.

Don’t Read Articles About Holiday Diet Tips

You caught me, this one didn’t come from an article, it’s my advice – take it or leave it.

Did you appreciate this post? If you like the work I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Portland Area Readers: I’m coming to Portland, OR! Join me for talks, dance, and yoga!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

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 (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com or on Instagram.

Taking Pics Of Fat People On Planes

fatphobia while flyingUSA Today has released a video suggesting that people should “discreetly” take photos of fat people seated next to them on planes, and post them on social media if they don’t get the desired result from their initial complaint to the airline. [Edit, after people complained, they “discreetly” edited their video, but did not issue an apology or any kind of retraction.]

The indisputable fact here is that even though plane manufacturers and airlines know that fat people exist, they continue to build planes, buy planes, and create policies about planes as if we don’t.

What USA Today’s video puts into sharper relief is the discriminatory way that this is handled. The focus is only on the experience of thin people, even though fat people are also made uncomfortable by being forced to be squished next to people who may or may not be total fatphobes who would take pictures of us and post them to social media, but USA Today is not suggesting that we get any relief.

Only by dehumanizing fat people could you reach the conclusion that thin people who aren’t happy with the fact that airlines discriminate against fat people should “discreetly” take pictures of fat people and post them online. (Which I’m wondering is possible how, exactly, when they claim to be so squished that they feel they should lodge a complaint? It seems like if you have room to discreetly take a picture, you have room to STFU and get to your destination.)

Perhaps most tragically, this problem is easily solvable. It could, in fact, be solved tomorrow. Southwest airlines has already done it – fat people can get as many seats as they require for free, and those seats are treated as one seat (so if the flight is oversold, the fat people still get their seats, and Southwest follows their overbook policy.) That way people who need space around them can get it (to be clear, there are disabilities that can make being seated without space around you a serious issue, and folks with those disabilities should be accommodated,) and fat people can get the same service that everyone else on the plane is getting.

While there can certainly be hiccups, my partner and I have used this policy all over the country, with enough frequency to get “Fly By” (frequent flyer) status and have never had a single problem.  Meanwhile, Southwest just celebrated their 45th consecutive year of profitability so don’t tell me it’s impossible.

People come in lots of different sizes, and failing to recognize and accommodate that should be seen as a business mistake that must be corrected, not a reason to take pictures of fat people and post them to the internet.

Speaking of which, as I mentioned, I fly a lot. And on every single flight I see people with broad shoulders jutting over into the space of their seatmates, I see people with long legs splaying their knees and invading the seemingly sacred space of those seated next to them. But there’s no outcry, no videos telling us to complain to the airline and the world that we’ve been seated next to our long-legged or broad-shouldered brethren.

Because this isn’t just about, or even mainly about, space – it’s about fatphobia. Otherwise thin people would be working alongside fat people to make sure that we can all have the same experience – travel in a seat that accommodates us. Not insisting we be punished for existing through public shaming and double charging.

Instead, far too many people – both thin people invested in fatphobia and fat people struggling with internalized fatphobia – see fat people as the problem, and thin people as the only people whose feelings or comfort matter. The current situation on planes isn’t unfair to those who, by luck of the draw,  fit in the arbitrary amount of space that airlines have decided to call “one seat” (based on their profitability and not on the actual size of human asses.) The current situation is unfair to everyone, and the solution isn’t for fat people to stop existing, stop flying, pay twice as much for the same trip, or find themselves being “discreetly” photographed by the asshole seated beside them. The solution is for companies whose business is transporting humans to commit themselves to transporting humans – all humans.

Did you appreciate this post? If you like the work I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Portland Area Readers: I’m coming to Portland, OR! Join me for talks, dance, and yoga!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

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 (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com or on Instagram.

Fat People Are Not Potential Future Thin People

Potential Future Thin PersonReader Stephanie brought this up on Facebook and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. The idea that fat people are just potential future thin people is the basis of so much poor treatment and discrimination against us. Everyone from friends and family, to businesses, to healthcare facilities have made the decision that they don’t have to accommodate fat people since we could, in their estimation, someday be thin people.

This is a problem on more than one level. First, the idea that we can all be thin is a total myth based on all the research that exists. While most people can lose weight short term, almost everyone gains back their weight with the majority gaining back more than they lost within a few years. There isn’t a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have managed to maintain a significant amount of weight loss long term. Which is to say that, other than the possibility of short periods of being thinner, most fat people will always be fat. Fat people exist, have always existed, will always exist and so the world should accept this and accommodate us, rather than simply hoping that we will someday cease to exist.

But when we’re talking about accommodating fat people, whether or not we could be thin someday is irrelevant, because we are fat now.  Treating us as potential future thin people is nothing but an excuse for discrimination and poor treatment.

The people who manufacture planes know that fat people exist, and yet they continue to build planes as if only thin people will fly. The airlines know that fat people exist, and yet (with the exception of Southwest, which has an EXCELLENT customer of size policy) they continue to try to charge fat people twice as much for the exact same service.

People come in lots of sizes and ignoring that basic fact shouldn’t be a profit center, and isn’t a justification for discrimination. It literally doesn’t matter if we could be thin someday, there are fat people who need to fly today – for work, for weddings, for funerals, for all the same reasons that thin people fly, and we deserve to be accommodated in our actual bodies. Airlines should not be the arbiters of what size humans who travel are allowed to be in order to get the same service (in this case travel from point A to point B in a seat that accommodates us) for the same price.

Healthcare facilities know that fat people exist, and yet they continue to have lobbies with no armless chairs, equipment from blood pressure cuffs to beds to imaging technology that doesn’t accommodate us, and doctors who can’t accomplish the most basic functions of their jobs because they are so stunted by their fatphobia.  These healthcare providers and facilities are clearly letting us know that if we can’t be thin then they are perfectly happy giving us subpar healthcare, and that’s not just disgusting, it’s unethical. Rather than shrugging and telling us that we can have a blood pressure cuff, or chair, or bed that works for us if, and only if, we can look different than we do now, healthcare providers should be screaming bloody murder that they need the tools that are necessary to take care of patients of all sizes.

Even if we could become thin, it still doesn’t justify the way that fat people are treated. Fat people have the right to exist and be accommodated in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, harassment or oppression. It doesn’t matter why we are fat, what “the consequences” of being fat may or may not be, or if we could or want to become thin. I am not a thin woman covered in fat,  I am not a potential future thin person. I am a fat person who deserves to live in a world that acknowledges my existence and accommodates my body.

Did you appreciate this post? If you like the work I do, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight-neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members – register on the member page)

Non-Members click here for all the details and to register!

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 (still!) training for an IRONMAN! You can follow my journey at www.IronFat.com or on Instagram.

Handling the Holiday Food Police

Absolutely nobody asked you
Picture of three fawn pugs, two sitting upright and the middle pug slouching “Think we shouldn’t eat that? Think we don’t need seconds? Turn to page 9 in your hymnal and join us in a rousing chorus of “Absolutely Nobody Asked You.”

This post is a danceswithfat tradition, offered for those who may have to deal with inappropriate friend and/or family behavior during this “holiday season” (whether they are celebrating any holidays or not.)

Ah, is there anything more fun than being under surveillance by the Friends and Family Food Police?  There are a few of things that come to mind immediately – root canal, shaving my head with a cheese grater, a fish hook in the eye…

This happens to almost all of my fat friends, but to be clear it happens to thin people too – food judgment and shaming happens to people of all sizes and it’s never ok.

First, I always suggest that you be prepared for boundary setting when you go into this type of situation.  Think about what your boundaries are, and what consequences you are willing to enforce.   So think about what you would be willing to do – Leave the event?  Stay at a hotel?  Cease conversation until the person can treat you appropriately?  Be sure that you know what you want and that you can follow through. Then follow three steps:

State the Boundary 

“It’s not ok to talk about what I eat.” or “It’s not ok to comment on my body” etc.

State the consequence you can follow through with

“I’ll head home” or “I’ll take my dinner into another room” or whatever makes sense for you.

Follow through

Someone starts talking about your food choices? You get up, pack up and say, “Looks like you’ve chosen not to respect my boundaries so, like I said, I’m going to head home. We’ll try again next year.”

You can also choose to engage in conversation. As an example, I’ll use that age-old shaming question “Do you need to eat that?”

This is such a loaded question. What do they mean by “need”? Are they asking if my glycogen stores are depleted? If I am near starvation?  If my body at this moment requires the precise nutrients that are delivered by cornbread stuffing and gravy? Or do they feel that fostering a relationship with food that is based on guilt and shame is in my best interest?

This question is custom-made to make someone feel ashamed.  I think it’s asked for one of about three reasons:

Judgment

The person asking the question has decided that it is their job to pass judgment on your activities.  Being too cowardly to directly state their opinion, they use this question as a mode of passive aggression to “make you admit it to yourself”.  This is one of those situations where they would probably claim to be mistreating you for your own good, also known around this blog as “Pulling a Jillian“.

If the person asking this question truly cared about you and your health (however misguided they might be), they would talk to you about it in person, alone, at an appropriate time, and they would ask a question that invited dialog, not try to embarrass you in front of people while you’re eating what is supposed to be a celebratory meal. That right there is some bullshit.

Power/Superiority

Remember that some people’s bodies left junior high but their mentality was, tragically, left behind. For those who never psychologically got past Junior High, nothing makes them feel so powerful as judging someone else and then making them feel like crap. Maybe because they are drowning in…

Insecurity

The person asking the question perhaps struggles with weight stigma, their guilt about eating etc. and since they feel guilty for enjoying the food, they think that you should feel guilty about it too, or they want to deflect attention from their behavior to yours.

The degree of difficulty on discerning someone’s intent in this sort of thing can range from “of course” to “who the hell knows”. Here’s the thing though, from my perspective it doesn’t matter why they are asking it:  I am not ok with being asked, and I get to make that decision.

So you’re at a holiday meal, you take seconds on mashed potatoes and someone asks the dreaded question:  “Do you need to eat that?” It seems like the table falls silent, waiting for your reply.  What do you say?

If it’s me, first I quell my rage and resist the urge to put them down (Yes, I do need these mashed potatoes.  Did you need to be a total freaking jerk?)

Second, as with so many situations where people lash out at you, remember that this is about their issues and has nothing to do with you.   If emotions well up, consider that you may be feeling embarrassed and/or sorry for them, and not ashamed of your own actions.

Finally, I suggest you find your happy (or at least your non-homicidal) place, and try one of these:

Quick and Simple (said with finality)

  • Yes (and then eat it)
  • No (and then eat it)

Answer with a Question (I find it really effective to ask these without malice, with a tone of pure curiosity.  If you’re not in the mood to have a dialog about this, maybe skip these.)

  • Why do you think that’s your business?
  • What led you to believe that I want you to police my food intake?
  • I thought that you were an accountant, are you also a dietitian?

Pointed Response (be ready with a consequence if the behavior continues)

  • I find that inappropriate and offensive, please don’t comment on my food choices
  • What I eat is none of your business, and your commenting on it is not ok
  • I have absolutely no interest in discussing my food intake with you
  • I’m not soliciting opinions about my food choices.

Cathartic (but probably not that useful if you want to create an opportunity for honest dialog, which you are under absolutely no obligation to do.)

  • Yes, because dealing with your rudeness is depleting my glycogen stores at an alarming rate
  • If I want to talk to the food police, I’ll call Pie-1-1
  • I’m sure you’re not proud of the completely inappropriate behavior you just exhibited, I’m willing to forget this ever happened
  • Thanks for trying to give me your insecurities, but I was really hoping to get an InstantPot this year
  • No, but using my fork to eat helps to keep me from stabbing you with it

I don’t believe that guilt is good for my health and I’m definitely resisting arrest by the Family and Friends Food Police.

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