Study: Diet Culture is Screwing Up Five Year Old Girls

grade on curveIf you were looking for proof that our culture is unbelievably messed up around dieting, you need look no farther than the fact that a study has come out called “Dietary restraint of 5-year-old girls: Associations with internalization of the thin ideal and maternal, media, and peer influences.”

Yes, we have reached a point where we are studying dieting and thin obsession in kindergarten girls.  So what did the study find?

RESULTS:

Thirty-four percent of girls reported at least a moderate level of dietary restraint. While most girls were satisfied with their body size, half showed some internalization of the thin ideal. Girls’ dietary restraint was correlated with weight bias favoring thinner bodies, and greater internalization of the thin ideal, media exposure, and appearance conversations with peers. Media exposure and appearance conversations were the strongest predictors of dietary restraint.

That is straight up horrifying, but sadly not even a little bit surprising. We put fetuses on restriction diets, and then give babies low calorie formula, schools grade kids on their weight, people who claim to be experts on kids’ health don’t feel the need to have any evidence before implementing interventions on fat kids, the First Lady fat shames her own daughters on National television and then holds up those who emotionally and physically abuse fat people as role models, we perform medical experiments on fat kids without informed consent or permission. So it’s not exactly shocking that by the time they are five girls understand and internalize the idea that a thin body is a good body, that food restriction is a good idea, and that all of this is a dandy topic of conversation among their peers.

We can make this stop. I think the solution is to talk about the health of all children, instead of the size of some children.  I think it’s helping kids develop a strong relationship and sense of trust with their bodies, it’s helping them understand their bodies’ needs instead of being terrified of being or becoming “fat.” I think it’s helping them try out lots of types of movement and giving them a chance to find something they enjoy instead of insisting that if they don’t like getting dodge balls hurled at them, or playing organized sports, or being judged on their ability to do a random group of exercises once a year (for which they get no training the rest of the year) then they deserve to be ridiculed.  There are lots of things that we could do if we really cared about kids’ health, and talking about their weight isn’t even close.

The piece talks about needing further research to determine if this will lead to higher incidences of eating disorders, and that’s important to discuss (in a decade we’ve seen a 119% increase in eating disorder hospitalizations in kids UNDER TWELVE.) But it’s not the only issue.  What happens to gender equality when 5 year old boys are exploring the world, learning body confidence, and talking about their thoughts and dreams and ideas, and 5 year old girls are hating their bodies, dieting, and talking about the thin ideal?

As a society we are fucking up five year old girls, and they deserve better,and there are simple things we can do that will give them better, and we should get on that right fucking now.

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive so that nobody gets left behind.

Get all the details here!

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Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

Published in: on September 2, 2015 at 8:46 am  Comments (1)  

Sophie Simmons Mystical Magical Weight Loss

You Forgot Your Bullshit Let’s play a little game.  If someone said:

“Now that I’ve lost all that weight, I’m being hit on…”

“When I was bigger I was invisible.”

“I used to think people were intimidated by me, but the truth is they were just uncomfortable being around me because I was overweight.”

How much weight would you think this woman lost?

And before you answer, realize that the quotes came from Sophie Simmons (daughter of rock legend Gene Simmons) who less than a year ago was telling the New York Daily News “I grew up as a chubby kid and into a curvy girl. I have cellulite, stretch marks and freckles — and that’s fine with me.” and talking about how she “refused to refuses to have her images digitally manipulated.”

Oh how times have changed.

Now, nine months later, she is talking to the Daily Mail about the absolute life-changing magic of losing…wait for it…10 pounds.  That was not a typo, she says all those changes in her life are because she is 10 pounds lighter.

You might think it ridiculous that she believes that 10 pounds would make that much difference, especially considering that some women’s weight fluctuates that much with bloating every month. You might wonder how it is remotely possible that a 10 pound weight loss is news.   I think the secret is in this line

the 22-year-old – who is promoting her first single…

And there it is.  She joins the club of celebrity women who promote body positivity when it gets them some press, then use weight loss to get themselves back on the front pages when they’ve got something new to promote, and, in most cases, come back to body positivity when they gain the weight back, only to start the cycle over.

These women are, of course allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, [Edit: and it’s entirely possible that as a tabloid the Daily mail made this whole thing up.] I remain frustrated that so many celebrities aren’t willing to take a real stand against weight loss culture, I’m tired of seeing celebrities use the principles of my communities as a way to generate press between diets, I’m sad that these celebrities face this kind of pressure about their body size. I’m mostly angry with a culture that creates a world where women’s talent is a distant second to their ability to uphold some ridiculous photoshop-driven stereotype of beauty, where someone can get national press for becoming 10 pounds smaller; where the narrative, however ridiculous it may be, that people are uncomfortable around us because of 10 “extra” pounds, is something that is plausible enough to be put in print, even by a tabloid like The Daily Mail.

And just for the record, anyone who would be uncomfortable around me now, but wouldn’t be if I lost 10 pounds, or who wouldn’t be interested in me romantically now, but would if I lost 10 pounds, or really any amount of weight, can bite me. Finally, thanks to reader Elizabeth for pointing this story out to me!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 31, 2015 at 12:10 pm  Comments (12)  

Telling Truth to Power

It’s “Say Something Sunday,” a day dedicated, at least on this blog, to personal Size Diversity activism. 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!

Today’s theme is Telling Truth to Power.  Yesterday I blogged about yet another incident of George Takei fat shaming on his Facebook page.  It was hard for me to do because I’m a fan of George Takei and he is a civil rights hero to me, but he has shown a consistent pattern of posting fat shaming things and, when called on it doubling down (which yesterday actually included the “I have fat friends” defense.)

When making the choice about whether or not to speak truth to power (and make no mistake, you are under no obligation to do so and there’s nothing wrong with weighing the pros and cons) it’s important to keep in mind that there can consequences.  People came out of everywhere yesterday to defend George Takei – not making an argument that what he did was ok, but rather that I shouldn’t have called him out on it.  I received the following comments:

Takei didn’t write the article he was just sharing it and, while I would have preferred that he include a disclaimer about using the word “fattest” and its implications, that is not his job. Cut him some slack.

No, it totally is his job because he is sharing a fat shaming meme in his space.  He is responsible for that, it’s not my job to cut him some slack.  People not engaging in fat-shaming is not a “preference” for me, it’s a demand.

This man is only human and has done so much to help others, I honestly don’t think that he meant anything by it.

Maybe he didn’t mean anything by it.  I’ve certainly made the mistake of not realizing that my actions were hurtful. But when people tell you “Hey, this thing that you are doing is hurtful to me please stop” the thing to do is to stop, and apologize, and do better in the future, not double down and tell them that they should toughen up because you want to make fun of them with impunity.

Doing “so much to help others” does not get you off the hook for doing fucked up things. His description on Facebook says “I hope all know me as a believer in, and a fighter for, the equality & dignity of all human beings.”  Unless he wants to add “Except fat people, fuck those guys” to the end of that then he needs to do way, way better.

He has people who run these pages for him, it’s not like he’s posting it.

He has his name on it, he has his picture on it, he promotes his projects on it. He is responsible for it.

You shouldn’t have said this, by talking badly about him you could hurt his reputation.

Noooooo, no no no.  He hurt his reputation when he posted something fat shaming.  My pointing it out is not the issue, if he wants a reputation fighting for all human beings, then he needs to include the fat people.

Then I got this beautiful comment from Dana:

Just as I was overwhelmed with disappointment at George Takei’s post and its comments, Facebook’s ever-disturbing manipulation of my feed suggested this blog post for me to read. I was then overwhelmed by gratitude, and rather than despairing at the magnitude of microaggressions perpetuated by a leader in civil rights activism, I’m grateful to find (just as visible, to me, at least) that someone else has already so eloquently made a public statement.

And I remembered why it’s important to speak truth to power.  I have around 5,000 Facebook friends, George Takei has almost 9 million, I may well have lost friends, fans, and followers because I spoke up, but right is right, and fat shaming is fat shaming and I want to be someone who stands up when it’s time to stand up because it’s the right thing to do.

So for Say something Sunday this week I suggest taking an opportunity to speak truth to power! If you have examples of times when you’ve done so I definitely welcome you to post them in the comments!

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 the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 30, 2015 at 8:03 am  Comments (12)  

George Takei and Why I Can’t Take a Joke

What a Load of CrapOnce again, George Takei has used his massive social medial platform to encourage fat shaming. (Scroll down for the update to this.) George has almost 9 million followers on Facebook, a massive platform, and today he chose to use it to post that ridiculous “Fattest Thing I’ve Ever Done” meme.  (Basically it’s story after story of people who ate a lot one time.) Then he encouraged people to post their own “fattest thing” in the comments. I’m a fan of George Takei and his civil rights work, and so it’s particularly upsetting to me that he keeps post stuff like this despite fat people asking him to please stop.

First of all, eating a lot one time is not “being fat” it’s just eating a lot one time, something this meme shows that people of every size do from time to time. Fat is a description of body size, not of behavior – it’s an adjective, not an adverb. The practice of judging other people’s eating, then associating that eating with a body size, then justifying stigmatizing people of that body size based on that platform of judgment is wrong from the beginning and, not to put too fine a point on it, some bullshit.

Despite his broad civil rights and anti-bullying work George cannot seem to work out that bullying and shaming fat people is a problem. The post today is unfortunately the latest in a history of cheap fat jokes that he has posted on his Facebook page.

Those of us who point out these issues are subjected to more fat shaming, the use of the term “Politically Correct” to minimize our request to be treated with basic human respect, as well as being told that we are oversensitive and can’t “take a joke.”

First, I can “take a joke”. His Facebook post did not affect my self esteem.  I know that fat shaming is the problem and I am not.  That doesn’t make it ok to stigmatize me or people who look like me. I think it’s a bigger problem that we as a society are comfortable telling groups of people that they need to “toughen up” and become better at being stigmatized and made fun of without complaint, so that other people can laugh at our expense without having to feel badly or have their bullying behavior pointed out.

When we suggest that some fat shaming is ok because some people think it’s funny, then we set ourselves up to constantly have to argue about where the line is between fat shaming that’s “hilarious” and fat shaming that is hurtful. The fact that something is not the most egregious type of fat shaming doesn’t mean that it doesn’t support a culture where fat shaming (including the most egregious kind) is ok. I think it’s far better to say that fat shaming is not ok in any guise and that people who want to be funny should have to do better than relying on cheap stereotypes, shaming, and bigotry. And that includes George Takei.

UPDATE:

Immediately after I commented on his Facebook that said:”Fat is an adjective, not an adverb, fat people are just as varied in our habits and behaviors as any group of people. You are a civil rights hero to me and I’m so disappointed that you would use your platform to encourage people to engage in stereotyping, bigotry, and body shaming. At the time I’m posting this over 7,000 people have shared it. That means that in addition to your own almost 9 million followers, the fat friends of 7.000 people got fat shamed courtesy of George Takei. It’s exponential online bullying. What a shame..”

George Posted:  “Friends, please keep it civil. We all have overindulged, and this isn’t an opportunity to lash out, nor pontificate. My own husband Brad, who once was a svelt marathoner, now struggles with his own weight. I just tell him there’s more of him to love. Carry on.”

So he posts something fat shaming, then asks people not to fat shame, then adds in the old “I have fat loved ones” defense.  Such a disappointment.

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm  Comments (26)  

What If I’m Not Happy With My Weight

Design by Kris Owen

Design by Kris Owen

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

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

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

For My Health

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

For Movement

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

For Better Treatment

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

To Better Fit in the World

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

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

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Your Concern to Yourself

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

Let’s start with my answers in order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

Published in: on August 27, 2015 at 6:44 am  Comments (11)  

Fat, Red Bull, and Unnecessary Middlemen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 6:47 am  Comments (22)  

Fat Ands Over Fat Buts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

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

That Sad Little Fat-Shaming Photoshop Project

Before After

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

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

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

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

troll planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons from a Salad Bar

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

Broccoli is corruptible apparently

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

naughty broccoli

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

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

They are confused about what processed means

never processed

A chalkboard drawing says “All natural and never processed”

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

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

People Can still Be Ridiculously Inappropriate

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

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

Me: Maybe, can I ask you something first?

Him:  I guess…

Me:  Why were you watching me eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like the blog?  More Cool Stuff!

Book and Dance Class Sale!  I’m on a journey to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, and I’m having a sale on all my books, DVDs, and digital downloads to help pay for it. You get books and dance classes, I get spandex clothes and bike parts. Everybody wins! If you want, you can check it out here!

Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it? Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog ad free, and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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

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