Congress Trying to Suspend Civil Rights Protections at the Workplace

DefendReader Ali let me know about some dangerous legislation that is on the table right now that would nullify important worker protections on the basis of genetics and disability of workers and their families.

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, the Affordable Care Act (which, full disclosure, gave me the opportunity to have insurance by insisting that insurance companies stop denying me coverage based on my BMI) also had some problematic things, including Workplace “Wellness” Program provisions that allow workplaces to penalize workers for not submitting to invasive blood tests and mental health questions and/or not participating in “wellness” programs regardless of whether or not there was proof of efficacy.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a series of lawsuits claiming that these screenings and their associated penalties are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

Enter Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and co-sponsors including Orrin Hatch of “dazzling display of hypocrisy” fame.  These wellness programs are supported by companies that give Lamar money (like Blue Cross Blue Shield for example, one of his second largest contributors and the insurer involved in the EEOC lawsuit.)  Now, Lamar can’t argue that these wellness programs aren’t in violation of the ADA and GINA, so he doesn’t try. Instead, he’s filed legislation to essentially stop these Acts from applying to workplaces. Because when civil rights protections may not be the best for corporate bottom lines, then the obvious solution is to suspend civil rights protections.  Or wait, no… it should be the opposite of that, right?  RIGHT?

His Senate Bill 620 is called the “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. ”  Apparently “Preserving Employee Bottom Lines Over the Civil Rights of Employees Act” just didn’t have the same ring to it. Basically, he is seeking to (retroactively) exempt workplace “wellness” programs from the protections of the ADA and GINA and thus stop the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from being able to enforce these provision and protect workers civil rights.

So why is this a problem?

First of all, these screening programs are supposed to be voluntary, but the cost of not “volunteering” can be thousands of dollars (in the Honeywell Case about which the EEOC lawsuit was filed, it was around $4,000) So it’s only really voluntary for those who can afford $4,000 a year to take a stand for their own civil rights (at my house we call this getting “volun-told”) once again the poor are hit the hardest.

These programs measure things that are not completely within  – and sometimes not at all within – people’s control, and in some cases require people to enter into programs on their own time (Weight Watchers meeting at lunch anyone?) that not only don’t have a track record of efficacy, but may not be in keeping with the person’s health philosophies or the plan that they and their doctor created. If they refuse, they can face monetary penalties.

These programs typically use BMI, a ratio of weight and height that isn’t a poor indicator of health so much as it its not in any way an indicator of health.

When we start messing with the acts that protect people from workplace discrimination on the basis of dis/ability and/or genetics we are at the top of a very steep slippery slope.

Not for nothing, but these programs don’t actually save any money (let alone make anybody any healthier.)

In the randomized controlled trials(RCTs) — the Gold Standard for research trials and the one exclusively used by the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate new drug applications — ROIs for the interventions studies had an overall mean value of -0.22. This means that for every dollar invested in these programs, 78 cents was returned. In other words, the programs did not pay for themselves.”

There is not one shred of evidence that a corporate wellness program can reduce the costs of your health benefit at all, let alone by more than the cost of the program.”

And the research itself is super sketchy for a lot of reasons.

The argument is that employees who lead “healthy lifestyles” shouldn’t have to subsidize those who don’t.  Setting aside the fact that neither body size nor metabolic numbers can tell you someone’s lifestyle, I note that these programs don’t do anything about employees who participate in sports – including particularly dangerous sports – and are thus much more likely to cost the company money due to sports injuries. Apparently employees who don’t participate in sports are expected to subsidize those who do.

It seems to me that businesses aren’t necessarily looking at cost savings through employee “wellness” programs, but rather are looking at the fact that they’ll save thousands of dollars every time an employee stands up for their right to not literally turn their blood (and the blood of their spouses and children) over to their employer, not to mention making it easier to penalize employees for not meeting “wellness standards” that they cannot meet due to disability or genetics.

These protections were put in place on purpose, to avoid exactly the kind of discrimination that Senator Alexander and his buddies are trying to help businesses engage with this legislation.

So what can you do?

Ali’s created a petition that you can sign. (And thanks to Ali for her help with the research for this piece!)

You can also always write your congress people.

You can tell other people what is happening and encourage them to take action.

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 20, 2015 at 9:59 am  Comments (10)  

Say Something Sunday – Politics Edition

Say Something SundayIt’s “Say Something Sunday,” a day dedicated, at least on this blog, to personal Size Diversity activism. I’ve got some suggestions below and/or of course you can do your own thing and feel free to leave a comment about it.  If you have ideas of things to do for Say Something Sunday I’d also love for you to share those.

I did the math and if everyone who views the blog each week did one piece of Size Diversity Activism a week, it would add up to over 1.5 million body positive messages put out into the world this year.  Multiply that times the number of people who might see each of those messages and things start to increase exponentially. To be very clear, nobody is obligated to do activism so if this doesn’t appeal to you that’s totally cool, I’ll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled blog post!

The theme this week is politics.  As various politicians are announcing their bid for the Presidency here in the US, Facebook memes are being created and discussions are being had.  Unfortunately, a number of these memes and discussions attack candidates for the way they look rather than for their politics.  So this week I suggest that if you see a politician being attacked for their appearance (for example, if that politician is fat and people are suggesting that based on that you can tell something other than – as the brilliant Marilyn Wann says- 1. what size their body is and 2.  your personal prejudices and preconceived notions about their body size, or if people are suggesting that the candidate is not attractive enough to be President) you speak up. You can say how disappointed you are that people are focusing on appearances rather than the person’s actual qualifications. You can say that you hate the person’s politics but that doesn’t excuse fat bashing or appearance-based bullying.  You can say something on Facebook, on Twitter, in conversations with family and friends.  You can say something.

If you want to do more of this kind of thing, consider joining the Rolls Not Trolls group on Facebook, it’s a group created for the specific purpose of putting body positive things in body negative spaces on the internet and supporting each other while we do that.  It’s a secret group so if you want to join just message me on facebook (I’m Ragen Chastain on FB – I know, super creative!)

Have a great Say Something Sunday!

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 19, 2015 at 11:39 am  Comments (4)  

Why Do You Call Yourself Fat?

my name is

This name courtesy of hatemail from someone who clearly missed the mark since I’m thinking about changing my name to this and buying a castle.

Today I want to talk about a question that I get asked a lot in many forms.  From “Why would you call yourself fat?” to “how can fat be a good thing?”  to “Do you have to call yourself fat?”  The word “fat” can definitely stir a lot of emotions which is one of the reasons that I use it.

I consider fat to be a reclaiming word.  It’s been used by people whose goal was to bully, intimidate, and stigmatize me through its use.  My use of it is one of the ways that I tell the bullies they can’t have my lunch money anymore. This reflects my belief that I can shift power around the words that are used to oppress me by reclaiming them and using them as my own. I resent the fact that people have heaped a ton of negativity and shame onto word that accurately describes me and I refuse to participate in that. Of course that’s my belief, others may choose something else and, as always, your mileage may vary.

I also use fat as a tacit rejection of euphemisms. For me, calling me anything but fat makes it seem that my size is something that requires “dancing around” – like a fat body is Lord Voldemort – that which must not be named.  I would rather be called fat than fluffy (though to be honest I’d rather be called almost anything than fluffy.) There are plenty of people who love being called “fluffy” or prefer to use any term besides fat and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Similarly, I reject that idea that “I’m not fat, I have fat” there’s a more complete explanation here, but basically my problem with this is illustrated by considering some other examples: When is the last you heard someone say “I’m not brunette, I have brown hair”  or “I’m not tall, I have above-average height.” When I’m flying in for a speaking gig I typically tell the person who is responsible for picking up that I’ll be the short, fat, brunette in the blue dress or whatever.  People often respond by telling me not to call myself fat, nobody in my life has ever told me not to call myself brunette.  Therein lies my problem with this – it seems to me that the reason to draw a distinction between being fat and having fat is that we are considering fat to be a negative thing from which we want to disassociate, and/or we want to see it as so temporary that we don’t want to be identified as fat.

Finally, I use the word “fat” as a rejection of the medicalization/pathologizing of fat bodies – terms like “obese” and “overweight” suggest that body size should be the same as a diagnosis and I strongly disagree with that.  Over what weight?  I’m over some weights and under others.  People come in different sizes, this is the size I come in.  As I once heard The Fat Chick say, I’m fat – not overweight, in the same way that I’m also short- I’m not medically undertall.

The word fat is just a physical descriptor on which people have been allowed to heap negative beliefs. From my perspective, the problem isn’t the word fat, it’s the way that people have tacked on their negative notions onto the word fat, and the way that they’ve used it to oppress those of us who fit the description.  They way I see it, we’re fat whether we call ourselves fat or not.  What we do once we realize that is up to each of us.

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 17, 2015 at 8:33 am  Comments (26)  

P!nk and Janelle Monáe Show Us How It’s Done

NO Negative Body TalkThis week two stars gave us glowing examples of how to deal with the bullshit that many people think they deserve for doing their jobs well.  Let’s start with P!nk.  She went to a benefit to raise money for literally curing cancer.  As usual people were not able to keep their eye on the ball and had a go at her for her weight.  P!nk was not having it, tweeting:

I can see that some of you are concerned about me from your comments about my weight,” You’re referring to the pictures of me from last night’s cancer benefit that I attended to support my dear friend Dr. Maggie DiNome. She was given the Duke Award for her tireless efforts and stellar contributions to the eradication of cancer. But unfortunately, my weight seems much more important to some of you. While I admit that the dress didn’t photograph as well as it did in my kitchen, I will also admit that I felt very pretty. In fact, I feel beautiful.

She went on to tweet

Willow said to me the other day whilst grabbing my belly-“mama-why r u so squishy?”And I said..”b/cuz I’m happy baby”

and

and my hubby says “it’s just more to love baby” (and then I smack his hand off my booty cause we’re in a supermarket)

A number of people in the comments went to the highly problematic She’s not fat defense“, but I appreciate that P!nk didn’t do that, but did point out how messed up this kind of body shaming is.

Janelle Monáe was even more succinct.  When some dude tweeted

“girl stop being so soulful and be sexy..tired of those dumbass suits..you fine but u too damn soulful man.”

Monáe shot back

sit down. I’m not for male consumption.

And that’s the truth of it. Can we please stop pretending that it’s perfectly acceptable to pick apart someone’s appearance just because of the job they happen to have, or that all women – and especially women in the public eye – have some obligation to be attractive to any man who happens to look at them, and that if they aren’t it warrants some kind of public comment? Could we all please consider taking a pass on contributing to a world where women are told early and often that our appearance, as judged by anyone who can manage to create a Twitter account, is more important than anything we could ever accomplish.

While we’re at it, consider this – it is never necessary to comment negatively on another person’s appearance.  Ever.  IT IS NEVER NECESSARY. Imagine a world where someone supporting the eradication of a deadly disease doesn’t get reported as “She gained weight!”  Imagine a world where nobody comments negative on anybody else’s appearance. That world starts with a life where we choose not to say anything negative about anyone else’s appearance. We can literally change the world just by changing the conversation, starting with our own talking and typing. What if you decided that you were done talking negatively about other people’s bodies and appearances? What if you started right now…

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 15, 2015 at 10:39 am  Comments (23)  

Obesity, Dementia, and Some Seriously Shady Reporting

Bad DoctorAn article on BBC.com stirred up controversy this week, publishing the finding that:

…those who were overweight had an 18% reduction in dementia – and the figure was 24% for the obese.

“Yes, it is a surprise,” said lead researcher Dr Nawab Qizilbash.

He told the BBC News website: “The controversial side is the observation that overweight and obese people have a lower risk of dementia than people with a normal, healthy body mass index.

“That’s contrary to most if not all studies that have been done, but if you collect them all together our study overwhelms them in terms of size and precision.”

As you might imagine I’ve received a number of requests for comment (we’re way over The 100 Rule)  and I’m glad that people are asking because there is a lot of questionable stuff here.  According to the study’s authors, they undertook the study because  “Obesity in middle age has been proposed to lead to dementia in old age. We investigated the association between BMI and risk of dementia.”  I’m aware of this belief because it is often quoted at me as if 1.  it were truth and 2.  the natural conclusion is that fat people should lose weight to reduce dementia risk,  but we’ll get back to that in a minute.  The authors concluded that:

Being underweight in middle age and old age carries an increased risk of dementia over two decades. Our results contradict the hypothesis that obesity in middle age could increase the risk of dementia in old age. The reasons for and public health consequences of these findings need further investigation.

This study has all the same limitations of any study that produces results based on correlation.  Basically, it’s just finding how often that things happen at the same time, not what, if anything, causes them to happen at the same time.  Hence the researchers correctly explaining that these findings need further investigation.

What I do think is interesting is the way that the media is treating this study – that shows health benefits correlated with being fat – as opposed to how it treats studies that show health benefits correlated with being thin. To demonstrate,  I thought that we might compare and contrast this article with one the BBC.com published in 2013 about some studies that showed that obesity might increase the risk of dementia.

Let’s start with the titles:

2015:  Being overweight ‘reduces dementia risk’  which I’ll call RDR for short

vs

2013:  Rise in obesity poses ‘dementia time bomb’ which I’ll call DTB for short (trigger warning, obviously.)

Hmmm… “reduces demetia risk” vs “poses demtia time bomb” I would call that, at least, an interesting difference in word choice. Moving on…

Mentions of the purported cost to society of people who are at a higher risk of contracting dementia based on their size:

DTB: 3 mentions, including a large font section header

RDR:  0 mentions.  Also, no mentions that they may have been wrong when they blamed fat people for costing the world 1.4 billion dollars

Mentions of the lack of a causal relationship/limitations of the studies

DTB:  None.  Instead: “This study highlights the impact obesity will have on the numbers of people with the condition in the future.” (emphasis mine)

RDR: One:  “Any explanation for the protective effect is distinctly lacking” (also see below re:  “Analysis” section

Mentions of other health issues correlated with being the size that has a higher correlation to contracting dementia:

DTB:  6 mentions

RDR: 0 mentions (though they do mention 5 times that being in the lower risk group for dementia is correlated to higher risk for other diseases)

Mentions of changing body size as a way  to reduce dementia risk

DTB: “maintaining a health weight [is] hugely important in reducing your risk”

RDR:  “not an excuse to pile on the pounds” (points for alliteration if not for content)

RDR also contains an additional component – an “Analysis” section wherein the BBC Health Editor discusses, including quotes from other scientists,  the limitation of the study and also says “These results do not seem to be an excuse to eye up an evening on the couch with an extra slice of cake.”  I guess I must have missed the class that explained that “analysis” means “conflate body size with behaviors in the most unscientific way possible.”  Although the exact same limitations (and some additional limitations because of size and scope) exist for the studies discussed in DTB, absolutely no analysis is given to clarify that.

When you read a lot of articles like this it becomes very difficult not to notice that any report that suggests that there are correlations between being healthy and being fat contain admonishments that it’s not a good reason to stay or become fat, but any reports that suggest that there are correlations between being healthy and being thin insist that it’s an excellent reason to stay or try to become thin.

The thing about correlations is that one thing might cause the other, or it could simply be coincidence, or they could be caused by a third unknown factor.  When we look at correlations between larger body size and health issues it’s important to realize that negative health issues could be caused by a third factor – whether that’s the psychological stress of constant stigma and oppression (the kind that reporting like DTB contributes to), the physical realities of living in a world (including a healthcare system) this is not built to accommodate you, the physical stress of going on repeated diets and spending a good part of your life feeding your body less food than it needs to survive in the hopes that it will consume itself and become smaller, or something else.  Especially in the case of dementia, where nutritional deficiencies are one of the possible causes being investigated, it is does not exactly smack of rigorous science to not consider and study the  affects of intentional weight loss attempts, or purposeful under-eating to maintain a body with a certain height/weight ratio.

Another dangerous incidence of poor reporting is the constant conflation of body size with habits:

There is no cure or treatment, and the mainstay of advice has been to reduce risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Yet it might be misguided.

WT actual F?  You cannot substitute “maintain a healthy lifestyle” for a body size.  You just can’t, at least not while calling yourself a scientist or a science writer. First of all, because what actually constitute a “healthy lifestyle” is widely debated, and even if it wasn’t there are thin and fat people who maintain the exact same behaviors around their health and have vastly different body sizes.  NONE of the studies that are being talked about in these articles took lifestyle into account – they just look at body size which is not the same thing as behavior. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that if being fat reduces the risk of dementia, that means that advice to maintain a healthy lifestyle is misguided.

Or how about this gem:

But Dr Qizilbash said the findings were not an excuse to pile on the pounds or binge on Easter eggs. “You can’t walk away and think it’s OK to be overweight or obese. Even if there is a protective effect, you may not live long enough to get the benefits,” he added.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening here.  Dr. Qizilbash, whose study just showed why we should be careful when we make assumptions based on correlational findings about body size and health, is now making declarations based on correlational findings about body size and health. Also fat is not the same as “binges on Easter eggs” (and “binge” has a real definition when it comes to eating disorders) so, while I understand that the media can be problematic when it comes to reporting science,  can actual scientists please, for fuck’s sake, refrain from spouting bullshit stereotypes to science reporters or, you know, at all.

I think that a big part of the problem is that the media is either ignorant to the basic tenets of research, or they just don’t care as long as they get eyeballs, and so they report these things in ways that are massively misleading.  That gives people misinformation about their own health and health risks, it also serves to fuel the fire of the anti-fat-people mob.

This type of reporting also contributes to healthism,  ableism, and the misconception that health is completely understood, an obligation, barometer of worthiness and within our control, as well as the misconception that public health is about making the individual’s body the public’s business rather than about giving good information (including talking about the limitations of that information) and reducing barriers to accessing the food people want to eat, the activities in which they might want to participate, a world in which they do not face stigmatizing, bullying, or oppression, and appropriate evidence-based healthcare. At worst the so-called science and health reporting that we get  is grossly misleading and at best it’s reader beware.

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 14, 2015 at 10:36 am  Comments (17)  

How to Help a Fat-Shamed Kid

The world is messed up you are fineI got the following question from a reader:

Do you know of any reading or articles around what can be done to help reverse or heal a fat shamed child? My niece Leila has had several bad experience with her doctor. As a fat woman, and a formerly “fat-shamed-for-my-own-good” child myself, my heart breaks for her. At nearly fifty, this issue has been with me all my life. I have asked my sister to please find a kinder, more compassionate doctor for her daughter. But as an aunty, how can I help? I have done some power googling but am struggling to find some ways I can have conversations with Leila that can help reverse the emotional damage already likely done. Do you have any suggestions?

This is a really tough situation. The plain fact is that the War on Obesity has casualties and those casualties include parents and kids. There are several tactics that I might use in this situation,

First, which the reader tried, is talking to the parent(s)/guardians.  You can tell them your personal story if you think that will help, you can try to help them see that logically kids who hate their bodies are much less likely to see those bodies as worthy of care.  You can also give them statistics and research. whatever you think will help them see the problem and support their kid.  If you actually witness the fat shaming, here are some options to try.

You can model Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size talk about how much you love your own body, appreciate the beauty of bodies of all sizes if beauty is your thing, compliment the kid on things other than just appearance – how strong they are, graceful, creative, funny etc.

I have a talk called “The World is Messed Up, You Are Fine” that I’ve given to people from third graders to adults and  I think it’s a really important message for kids to hear – that a lot of times adults, including adults we’re supposed to trust, do super messed up things, often meaning well. When it comes to body size and health right now the world is pretty messed up -people insist that bodies are good or bad depending on what size they are and there’s a lot of prejudice, negative body talk, and bullying that happens around size.  There are even some doctors who believe this, and even think that they can make guesses about how healthy someone is by what they look like.  The truth is that people come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and all bodies are good bodies.

Help the kid explore different activities that they might like, help them try a variety of foods, explain that neither our health nor our size is completely within our control,  and that people should never be bullied about either.  Explain that our bodies are wonderful and they deserve to be taken care of just like anything important that is ours, explain that taking care of our bodies can be fun,and that it includes listening to our bodies and appreciating them.

Give them books like Amanda’s Big Dream by Judith Matz and Elizabeth Patch (you can check out the book and the conversation guide at www.amandasbigdream.com, and the Girls Are Not Chicks Coloring Book.  Buy them some cool body positive art for gifts.

Point the kid in the direction of role models of lots of different sizes, colors, dis/abilities, ages etc. who do lots of cool things – singing, dancing, acting, sports, writing, crafting, activism and more.

Talk to the kid and let them know that you are there for them and that they can always talk to you about anything.

If you have other suggestions, by all means leave them in the comments.  We can do better by our kids than body shaming them, and we should.

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 13, 2015 at 10:57 am  Comments (11)  

Say Something Sunday – Stop Lying About Us Edition

Say Something Sunday
It’s “Say Something Sunday,” a day dedicated, at least on this blog, to personal Size Diversity activism. I’ve got some suggestions below and/or of course you can do your own thing and feel free to leave a comment about it.  If you have ideas of things to do for Say Something Sunday I’d also love for you to share those.

I did the math and if everyone who views the blog each week did one piece of Size Diversity Activism a week, it would add up to over 1.5 million body positive messages put out into the world this year.  Multiply that times the number of people who might see each of those messages and things start to increase exponentially. To be very clear, nobody is obligated to do activism so if this doesn’t appeal to you that’s totally cool, I’ll be back tomorrow with your regularly scheduled blog post!

The theme this week is Coming Out (aka – Stop Lying About Us!). Earlier this week I blogged about the importance of “coming out” as fat and happy  because a lot of fat hate (whether it’s for sport or profit or from people who are honestly deluded into thinking that they are doing the right thing) starts with people stereotyping fat people, and replacing our actual experiences with their made-up stories about our experiences. When they do that, and we say nothing, our actual experiences, stories, lives, and desires get overshadowed by the stories that other people tell about us (again – often for massive profit.)  It’s important for people to know that there are fat people who aren’t miserable because of our body size (despite people working very hard to make that a reality.)

It’s important for people to know that there are fat people who don’t believe that we’re just a little bit of mental and physical abuse away from being happy (I’m looking at you Biggest Loser).  So this week/s theme is all about speaking up so that it’s much more difficult for people to speak for us.  Here are some ideas:

  • Tell your family, friends, Facebook etc. that you are a happy fat person, not interested in losing weight or perpetuating a culture where people are judged by their appearance, and that includes their size.  Talk about your Size Acceptance and/or HAES practice, talk about how you wish the world would embrace and respect all bodies.  Talk about how, though the world is trying to make you suffer and struggle because you are fat, and that you may be suffering from the effects of the stigma, bullying, and oppression that come from a sizeist culture, you are not suffering from or struggling with your weight.
  • Post comments on social media when you see fat people being stereotypes as miserable, or hating our bodies.
  • When you see “War on Obesity” articles, explain that you don’t consider the suggestion that you and everyone who looks like you  should be eradicated from the Earth to be an appropriate public health message.  Explain that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not size, health, or healthy habit dependent (by any definition of “health” or “healthy habits”) and that fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin.

Come out, come out wherever you are.  This isn’t just about speaking out against the industries that profit from the call for our eradication. It’s about the fact that there are fat people who hate their bodies because they literally don’t know that there is another option.  There are fat people dieting because they don’t believe there is any other way to try to support their health.  This is about letting other fat people who read what we write  know that they have options besides a life of self-loathing on the diet roller coaster.  They have the option to love and appreciate the bodies that they have now, they don’t have to participate in and perpetuate their own oppression, that there are fat and happy people who don’t go to weekly weigh-ins, that there are fat people who are standing up to fatphobia and sizeism and that they can join us.

If you want to do more of this kind of thing, consider joining the Rolls Not Trolls group on Facebook, it’s a group created for the specific purpose of putting body positive things in body negative spaces on the internet and supporting each other while we do that.  It’s a secret group so if you want to join just message me on facebook (I’m Ragen Chastain)

Have a great Say Something Sunday!

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 12, 2015 at 10:49 am  Comments (3)  

Coming Out as Fat

Burrage Library at Olivet

Hey, that’s me at beautiful Burrage Library at Olivet! Picture taken by the super fabulous Cea Noyes.

Greetings from Michigan!  I had such a cool day at Olivet College.  I gave a talk about Body Privilege to the Sociology/Anthropology students, then a talk about working with athletes, as well as general populations, of every size to the Health and Human Performance students.  Lunch was originally going to be with students, but ended up being with some of the coaching staff and Olivet faculty, and Cea Noyes who has been my completely fabulous guide through this trip.

Then I gave my Positive Body talk to students, faculty, staff, community members, and some amazing teen girls from a student group that works with at risk high school kids at a nearby juvenile home.

I had people tell me that I helped them see themselves differently and improve their relationships with their bodies.  I had people tell me that I helped them see cultural bias and make the decision to change the way that they are going to treat fat people. I had people who plan to work in fitness tell me that I changed the way they are planning to work with fat people. In an incredibly touching moment, one of the teen girls used the Q&A to tell me that she loved me.  I love her right back!   It was the kind of day that makes me deeply grateful that I get to do this work and reminds me that it’s worth whatever nonsense I have to deal with.

After dinner with Cea and some students, I had the privilege of attending the LBGTQ students Coming Out Monologues.  It was incredibly touching, the students, faculty, and community members who spoke and put the event together were amazing. Several of the speakers tonight reminded me how important it is to come out and keep coming out, because the way that people treat queer people, and the way that they feel about our Civil Rights changes a lot when people know how many of their friends, family, co-workers, heroes etc. are Queer and Trans.  It also reminded me that this applies to being fat.

Obviously I don’t typically have to come out as fat, but coming out as a happy fat person, and a Size Diversity activist, as someone who is not trying to lose weight, is important.  Many cultures – often led by their respective governments – encourage people to make assumptions about fat people based entirely on our body size. Those assumptions include everything from the idea that we hate our bodies, to assuming that we are trying to lose weight, to assuming that we agree with a culture that suggests that fat people should be shamed and stigmatized “for our own good” and that the only “good” body is a thin body.

It’s easier for people to buy into this bullshit if they don’t know (or think they don’t know) any fat people who don’t feel this way about ourselves.  Nobody is obligated to talk about their relationship with their body of course what I’m saying is that every time we come out as fat and happy, as Size Acceptance activists, as unwilling to perpetuate and participate in our own oppression we help people see that what they are hearing about fat people isn’t necessarily what is true about fat people.

Every time we point out the issues with suggesting that fat people should feel obligated to solve social stigma by changing ourselves rather than by fighting social stigma, we give people the opportunity to see the situation with more clarity.  Every time we explain that we’re not “suffering from obesity”, but we are suffering from the way that people treat us for being fat we give people the chance to see the issues with our culture’s treatment of fat people, and become part of the solution.

Every time we tell the world that we love our bodies, that those bodies deserve our full-throated support, and that we refuse to participate in a culture that suggests that our bodies are anything less than the amazing bodies that they are, we make it more difficult for people to replace our actual experiences with their stereotypes and preconceived notions (or profit-creating stories) about what fat people are like and how we feel about ourselves. Of course we can never know how our actions will affect others, but I find that every time I “come out” I reaffirm my gratitude for my body and feel better about myself.

So come out, come out wherever you are!  Or don’t! It is, of course, entirely up to you. But know that you have every right to celebrate, and stand up for, your body!

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 9, 2015 at 5:16 am  Comments (8)  

Perpetual Potential Thin Person

Before AfterI am tired to death of the idea that I am not a fat person, but a perpetual potential future thin person.  A walking, talking “before” picture encouraged to put everything in the world on hold until I reach my “after” picture potential.

I remember when I believed this – when time slipped by as, diet by diet, I got closer, then farther, then less close, then more far, from the “after” version I was supposed to want to be.  All the while adding to my mile-long list of things I was going to do when I was thin and my life could officially start, and destroying my relationship with my body as we went from friends to barely acquaintances, to bitter enemies.

People told me “don’t think of yourself as fat, think of yourself as having fat.”   The idea being that I  was supposed to look at part of my body as temporary and, while I was at it, I should hate the fat, blame the fat for anything that went wrong in my life, and remember that until I lost the fat the only appropriate thing for me to spend my time, energy, and money on was getting rid of that fat.

Don’t worry, they told me, there will be plenty of time to do everything once you’re thin. But they had lied and the days, weeks, and months slipped by in a fog while I fed my body less than it needed to survive in the hopes that it would eat itself into a thin body, leaving fat in socially appropriate places and I could post my “after” picture and show everyone how big my old pants were on me now, and my body would finally deserve my appreciation.

That, for me, turned out to be no way to live. It was hard on me and the people who loved me. In fact the only people it was good for were those who run the diet industry, because if you can find something at which  almost nobody can succeed, but at which almost everyone is willing to spend a ton of money trying then you can make quite a profit.  If you can find something that almost everyone succeeds at in the short term but almost everyone fails at in the long term, and if you can find a way to live with yourself while you take credit for the first part and blame them for the second part so that they come back to you again and again in a vicious cycle of failure and blame, then you, too, can earn over sixty billion dollars a year and stunt the life progress of millions of people as the diet industry does.

To this day many people perceive me as a “before”  – if I’m at the gym people assume that I’m not accomplishing fitness goals, I’m trying to reach body size goals – as a fat woman I’m told that there is no reason to move my body other than to change it’s size and shape.  If I eat a salad then they think I’m “being good” in the quest to change the size and shape of my body.  If I eat a burger and fries then they think I’ve “lost focus” and should try to “get back on track” as soon as possible.  Every action is viewed as taking me closer to, or farther from, my ultimate goal of being thin.

Except that I have no such goal.  I am no longer waiting for my thin life to start, my body has graciously forgiven me and I’m living a fat life that, even with all the shame, stigma, bullying, prejudice, and oppression I face, even with all the ridiculous hate mail I get, makes me infinitely happier than I was during my “waiting to be thin” phase. I’m no longer sitting around waiting for another body to show up, I’m taking the body I have -potential, limitations and all, out for a spin. I no longer try to solve social stigma by changing myself – I now know that the solution to social stigma is ending social stigma and, unlike weight loss, that’s a worthy use of my time.

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 7, 2015 at 7:51 am  Comments (21)  

How Far Does Health at Every Size Go?

Ask QuestionsI got a question today from reader Nalla that is a common question that I get about Health at Every Size (HAES)

Hey Ragen,
your blog seems really well developed and neat! One thing I’m curious is, are your thoughts on how far the “health at every size” goes. Obviously its completely normal for someone with a bigger BMI to be healthy, and I think it’s so inspiring you focus on bigger people being healthy, but what are your thoughts on thinner people? Some just are genetically small or skinny, and while it doesn’t make them necessarily healthy (TOFI), is it unhealthy? I’m sure there are people who are tiny and are shamed too (My friend was one of them in high school) Does healthy at EVERY size include those like her? I don’t know as much as you but at least my idea is just how it’s okay to be fat it is okay to be thin. I guess my question is does “healthy at every size” mean healthy is size blind or is being genetical skinny bad?  Thanks for your awesome blog and hopefully response! keep rocking!

The first thing that I want to do is separate out how people are treated based on their body size from people’s health and their choices around it, because they should be, in my view, kept separate.

The first is about Size Acceptance – the fact that people of all sizes should be able to exist in their bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression.  It doesn’t matter why they are that size, what being that size means, or if they could be some other size.  Fat people have the right to exist in fat bodies. Period. Thin people have the right to exist in thin bodies.  Period.  People of every size have the right to exist. Period.

Health at Every Size is something else. I see Health at Every Size as a framework that someone may choose for personal health, as well as a paradigm for public health and medical care. Understanding that health is not an obligation, barometer or worthiness, completely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances, HAES is based on the research that shows that our best chance to increase our odds of good health are through behaviors that we can control, rather than attempting to manipulate our body size into some pre-determined height/weight ratio.

HAES also recognizes that things outside of our own behaviors have tremendous impact on our health and as such can encompass activism around elimination of oppression and stigma (racism, transsphobio, homophobia, sizeism, ageism, ableism etc.), and for everyone to have the options for food and movement that they would choose be accessible to them, and that their choice about prioritization and path to health be respected.

So, to more directly answer your question:

People come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and every body is a good body, and nobody should be shamed, bullied, stigmatized or oppressed for the size of their body,their health status (real or perceived), or their behaviors around health (real or perceived).

As a practice that puts the focus on behaviors and away from manipulating body size as a path to health, Health at Every Size can be used as an approach to personal health by people of any size. As a paradigm for public health and medical care, HAES encompasses people of all sizes since the focus is placed on actual health and wellness, and evidence-based interventions, rather than on diagnosing people based on their body size, and prescribing a change in body size as if it’s an evidence-based intervention.

Thanks for asking Nalla!

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

Buy the book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! 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!

Dance Classes:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs or download individual classes – Every Body Dance Now! Click here for details 

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 (casting, finding investors etc.).  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 April 6, 2015 at 10:48 am  Comments (2)