Workplace Wellness – An Exercise in Frustration

that's not how this worksIf you are a regular reader of this blog or follower on social media, you’ve probably seen me discuss Al Lewis. Al is a wellness expert who often calls out the wellness industry on their fatphobia. Recently he took wellness companies to task saying, in part, “Attention, outcomes-based wellness vendors: can you please please stop harassing employees because of their weight…You are doing incalculable harm.”

I’m against compulsory workplace wellness plans entirely – I believe that the only facet of employees’ lives that employers should be involved in is compensating employees with a thriving wage in return for employees doing their jobs. Under the current US model compensation should include wages and benefits including health insurance. It would be my preference that health insurance not be attached to one’s job, but as long as it is, it should be looked at simply as another form of compensation. One’s employer should no more be allowed to get involved in how someone uses their health insurance than they should be allowed to get involved in how employees use their salaries.

But that, as Al pointed out, is not what’s happening. And reading through the comments as workplace wellness providers try to justify singling out fat employees for useless weight-loss “interventions” (instead of, much more sensibly, giving us ponies) was an exercise in frustration.

If you’re stuck in one of these workplace wellness nightmares, it’s important to remember that – thought it is becoming your problem, it is not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you, or your body. There is plenty wrong with workplace wellness culture.

Activism Opportunity: Add your voice to the comments on Al’s post! 

My work is paid for by the people who get value from it (and not companies that are harm fat people for profit!) If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Funding Fatphobia With Kombucha?

fat shaming naturalNora Haefele was downing a bottle of The Bu Kombucha when she saw it — the message on the bottle.

“Health is our priority. The Bu supports and donates to organizations that fight obesity.”

At that moment Nora realized that, as a fat woman, she had inadvertently funded the oppression of fat people with her drink purchase.

After some quick research, I learned that it’s not just on the bottles. The Bu proudly discusses their fatphobia on the front page of their website:

“Health is our priority. We, at The Bu Kombucha, are passionate about doing our part to curb the unhealthy American addiction to sugar. The Bu is a low sugar, low-calorie beverage alternative that is delicious to drink any time of day.  No one should have to choose between good health and good taste! Sugar-sweetened beverages significantly influence obesity rates.Obesity is a risk factor for the development of diabetes and heart disease. The American Cancer Society says obesity is ‘clearly linked’ with breast, prostate and several other cancers.The Bu supports and donates to organizations that fight obesity.”

Let’s break this bullshit down.

You can read the rest of this piece here! 

My work is paid for by the people who get value from it (and not companies that are harm fat people for profit!) If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The State of Things – Weight and Health

Talking NonsenseIt’s been a rough couple months y’all. Several family members and friends (in several different states) ended up in the hospital and between that, other work, training, blogging, special projects, and regular life, something had to give, and it was blogging. I’ll put links to some of the stuff I’ve been up to at the bottom of this post, but I’ve been meaning to tell you about an interview I did on the show The State of Things North Carolina Public Radio.

I was asked to be on the show to discuss size-based oppression. They told me that there would be a researcher coming from a similar perspective, and that they would like me to share my personal stories, especially as they related to me being a fat athlete. No problem, as long as there is someone doing the science I’m happy to tell stories about discrimination with humor that helps bring people’s defenses down – funny fat activist coming right up!

It turns out the “researcher” was Penny Gordon-Larson. She is employed as a “professor and associate chair for research in nutrition” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and the only thing that I think she did in the interview was show how embarrassingly poor the state of “research” on weight and health is.

Penny, it turns out, is a past president of the “Obesity Society” which is another one of these so-called advocacy organizations that tries to normalize dangerous – even deadly – “treatments” for “obesity” (while perpetuating weight stigma,) all the while profiting from those same “treatments.” Just check out this year’s disclosures – you’ll find people who make money from Nutrisystem, Medifast,  a device where you pump food you just ate directly out of your stomach and into a bucket, the manufacturers of dangerous drugs that put fat people’s health and lives at risk, and more.

Penny is also one of those people who (in what would be hilarious if it wasn’t so horrifying) claims that she is trying to decrease the stigma around being fat. As if the message “I want to rid the Earth of people who look like you, and prevent any others from existing” can be delivered in a way that is not stigmatizing. But I didn’t realize that was her point of view when I took the interview, my bad.

When she started out by calling fat people “obese” I knew that we were going downhill. When she started perpetuating misinformation and calling being fat a disease I took off my “personal story” hat and put on my “let’s talk about the research” hat (I’m not about  be the funny fat girl while some fatphobe yammers on.)  At one point when I was talking about the indisputable statistics around the almost certain failure of intentional body size manipulation (aka diets,) Penny actually tried to use the National Weight Control Registry claiming  – seriously and out-loud – that it shows there are “just so many successes.”

At that point I almost felt bad for her – anyone who reads my blog could have successfully debated her on this. Unfortunately, she did it right before the break, so I made it my new life goal to bring it back up and talk about how this illustrated exactly how poor the research around weight and health is, and exactly the kind of doomed-to-fail, worse than a crap-shoot “interventions” that so-called “experts” are trying to sell to fat people.

It took me a little while to work it into the conversation, but when I finally did I pointed out that 10,000 “successes” out of over one billion attempts is hardly proof of anything, and shows just how embarrassingly poor the research is around this. (I’ll point out here that it is especially true considering the first time I wrote about the NWCR in 2012 they claimed to have 10,000 successes and as of today they claim to have…wait for it…10,000 successes. The attempts go up by about 45,000,000 per year, but the successes stay the same.  I think it speaks volumes about the state of health research that someone with a PhD who is employed by a college as a research chair is claiming that 10,000 successes out of over a billion attempts, with no increase in the number of successful cases over 6 years, constitutes proof of a successful intervention. Really?)

Like any interview, there are plenty of things that I wish I had said, or wish I had said differently, but I was grateful to counter the weight-based oppression that Penny was spreading as if it was science.

You can listen to the interview here

If you want to look at what the evidence around weight and health, this is an excellent (and exhaustively cited!) place to start

Heres’ what I’ve been up to while I haven’t been blogging:

Writing:

Love It!: 234 Inspirations and Activities to Help You Love Your Body
I published a book with co-authors Jeanette DePatie and Pia Schiavo-Campo and illustrator Toni Tails and 13 other body love experts! It’s available in soft-cover and Kindle versions!

US News & World Report:

These Higher-Weight Female Athletes Are Shattering Myths About Fitness

Too Fat for Fitness? Lessons from a Plus-Size Athlete

Better Humans: 

The Complete Guide to Overcoming Gymtimidation

The Complete Guide to Becoming Your Own Medical Advocate

Ravishly:

Kombucha With A Side Of Fat Shaming

My work is paid for by the people who get value from it (and not companies that are willing to kill fat people for profit!) If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

This Is My “After” Body

Before AfterI’m in the gym on the spin bike doing pretty hardcore intervals. There’s a dude in the room who keeps waving at me and giving me thumbs ups. Whatever. He’s finished with his workout before me, he cleans his bike then walks over to me. I gird my loins (I’m honestly not even sure what that means, but I feel pretty sure it’s what I did.)

“I’m so proud of you!” he gushes. I roll my eyes, but he is undeterred. “We’ve all got to start somewhere right? You won’t be a before body forever, keep going like this and you’ll have that after body in no time!”

Insert record scratch noise.

The way he said it was so practiced that I immediately felt like this was not the first time a fat person had been subjected to this little diatribe. For that reason, I really felt like I needed to shut this all the way down in a way that would hopefully ensure that he never says it again.

“Don’t make guesses about people based on how they look. I’ve been an athlete all my life, played sports all through school, and as an adult I’ve done competitive ballroom dancing, marathons, and a triathlon. This IS my after body. ”

He kind of stammered “I’m sorry, I just…” and then I put up my hand and used one of my favorite phrases in situations like this:

“I’m going to stop you there. I’m sure that you meant well, but that matters less than the fact that you are operating on stereotypes and commenting about my body without any kind of invitation. Don’t do that.”

He apologized and walked away.

As I continued my workout (which he had interrupted with his unwelcome wild guesses about my abilities and goals) I started thinking about how often fat people are only seen as “before” pictures, and I realized just how much this is my “after” body.

After all the failed diets (which, had I bothered to read them at that time, every study about diets would have predicted.)

After trying to end the fatphobia I experienced by trying to become thin (even though I know better – since I would never have tried to end the homophobia I experienced by trying to become straight)

After giving so much of my time, energy, and money to the diet companies who make more and more money every year selling a “solution” that is such a failure that they are legally required to tell us that it doesn’t work every time they advertise it.

After learning not to care about the opinions of people whose opinions don’t matter.

After hating and blaming my body for refusing to conform to some manufactured stereotype of beauty.

After discovering Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size.

After using them to heal my relationships with food, movement, and my body.

After shutting down some dudebro in the gym who thought he had any right to talk about my body.

This is my before body.

This is my after body.

This is my only body, and I will love it, care for it, give it my full-throated support, and wield it as a beautiful, unbreakable weapon against fatphobia.

If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

Fat Suits Aren’t Funny

facepalmInsatiable is the new Netflix show of questionable premise. A fat girl gets punched in the face, which somehow leads to her jaw being wired shut (I’d like to see the stats on how many face punches end in a wired jaw, but I digress).

The jaw wiring leads to her starving herself and losing a bunch of weight (because nobody told her about Ensure or Shake Shack?).

This leads to her become thin (temporarily, based on all the research,) which leads to her getting “revenge.” The character’s “transformation” is achieved by a thin actress wearing and then taking off a fat suit.

As has been said by many fat people in many ways: Fuck. This. Noise. The idea that responding to fatphobia by manipulating our bodies to conform to a stereotype of beauty is “revenge” is terrible on its face, more terrible when you dig deeper, and even if it was a good premise (and OMFG it’s not), it’s been played out already. Seriously — played all the way out.

In response to the massive blowback, Alyssa Milano decided that instead of addressing fat people’s concerns, she should instruct us about how to feel. She took to Twitter…

Read the rest of this piece here!

If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

Health at Every Size and Eating Disorders

IMG_1846[1]
My Best Friend Kelrick got this figurine for me in a little shop in Astoria, Queens. Sadly I don’t know the artist.
new study from the Department of Psychology at the University of California Los Angeles, tells us what we would already know if we believed fat people who talk about their lived experience. Fat shaming doesn’t have any positive outcomes, but it has plenty of negative ones. In this case, the study found that fat shaming girls, especially by family, does not lead to healthy behaviors but instead can lead to eating disorders.

Oh, look — a big bag full of obvious!

The authors looked at data from a large, long-term study that included 2,036 girls. The girls reported at age 14 if they had been called “too fat” by their parents, siblings, best friends, boys they liked, any other teenagers, or their teachers. At ages 14 and 19, the girls completed an assessment of unhealthy weight control behaviors, body dissatisfaction, tendency toward bulimia, and drive for thinness, as well as reporting if they had engaged in unhealthy behaviors to around their weight. Controlling for variables including body mass index, race, parental income and education, and a girl’s level of disordered eating behaviors at age 14, the girls who had reported being called “too fat” at 14 had higher scores on the eating disorder inventory at age 19. The lead author, psychologist Jeffrey Hunger, told Reuters, “Labeling young girls as ‘too fat’ will never spur positive health behaviors; it is simply going to result in poor body image, unhealthy weight control practices, and disordered eating.”

This is not the first study of its kind…

To read the rest of this piece, click here!

If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are Doctors Trying to Guess Fat Patients’ Weight?

WTF are you doingI refuse to be weighed in at the doctor’s office.  There is no medical reason to weigh me in – I haven’t had unexplained weight changes, I don’t need medicine that is prescribed per body weight, so I don’t need to be weighed.

While I don’t think that weighing people is a medical intervention, the doctor does and therefore, like any medical intervention, I’m well within my right to refuse. If they had a good reason (ie: we have to dose this medication by weight) I would consider it. But since they just want to weigh me so that the can suggest that I try to change my weight – which is asking me to do something that nobody can prove is possible, for a reason that nobody can prove is valid, I’m out. For years this has been no problem, they say “step on the scale” and I, politely and firmly, say “no thank you” while I keep walking, slowing slightly to let them catch up after I pass them so that they can lead me to the exam room.

But recently something weird has started happening. When I refuse to be weighed the person asks me something like “do my mind if I make my best guess.” The first time it happened I was so surprised that I said the first thing that came into my head which was “This is not the State Fair…no you may not guess my weight.” She was taken aback and she immediately dropped it.

It was so weird that I did some digging. It turns out that insurance companies and Medicare have started to pay for something called “Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity” In order to charge you, you must have a BMI over 30. BMI (Body Mass Index) is nothing more than a ratio of weight and height. Though it’s become misused as one, it’s not – and never has been –  a health measurement of any kind. It’s just your weight in pounds, times 703, divided by your height in inches squared.

Here’s where the guessing comes in. In order for doctors to get paid for “obesity counseling” they have to have your BMI on file. So if you refuse to be weighed, they simply guess the weight that they need to get paid.

Obviously this is crap, and not just because guessing people’s weight like you’re guessing  the number of jelly beans in a jar is exactly as medically relevant as it sounds. But more to the point, these doctors don’t have any idea how to create long-term weight loss. There isn’t a single study of any intervention that they could prescribe, that has been shown to lead to long-term weight loss for more than a tiny fraction of participants, and that weight loss is often less than 10 pounds. Once again, they would be better off just giving all fat people ponies (with the possible exception of those who are allergic.)

So what do we do? Every fat person gets to decide how to deal with this each time it happens. We shouldn’t have to deal with it at all, and we get to do whatever we have to do to get the medical care we need. That may include educating our doctors, lying to them, or placating them by letting them make up a weight to make a bullshit math calculation that they will use to get paid for giving us information that is useless at best, and most likely harmful.

Here’s some scripting that you might use. By way of a disclaimer, we have the right to refuse treatment, but doctors in most cases have the right to refuse us as patients. Unfortunately, there can definitely be consequences to fighting for our rights to be treated without weight stigma, so we have to take that into account when we decide how to respond.

Here are some options:

Per my rights to refuse a medical intervention, I refuse to be weighed, I refuse to allow you to guess my weight, I refuse to have a BMI calculation made, and I refuse any type of obesity counseling. Let’s focus on what I came in here for.

No, you may not guess my weight. Please just write “patient refused to be weighed and refused to allow me to guess their weight.” I’m happy to sign something if you need me to.

You can try asking them “why do you want to weight me?” or “Is this so you can bill my insurance for obesity counseling?” if they say yes, consider saying something like “I’ll submit to this if you can show me a study where this counseling has led to significant long-term weight loss for a majority of participants.” (Remember, no such study exists, so this might take awhile.)

Just continue to say “No thank you,” while walking past the scale.

If you decline, or don’t receive, “obesity counseling” it might be interesting to check and see if your doctor charged your insurance for it, and if they do then promptly report them.

Again, this shouldn’t be happening. People of all sizes should be able to receive competent, unbiased medical care. Nobody should have to prep for a doctor’s appointment like they are memorizing lines for a (literally life or death) audition. Unfortunately, that’s not something that fat people can always access, so we have to do way more to get even close to the same level of care. Fatphobia kills, fat activism is the cure for fatphobia.

If you value my work, you can support my ability to do more of it with a one-time contribution or by becoming a member.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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