New Horrifying Medical Device for Weight Loss – The Full Sense Device

Gastro DeviceThe always brilliant Marilynn Wann posted on Facebook about a piece on Buzzfeed today that discusses a surgical implant created for the purpose of manipulating body size (I would recommend avoiding the comments unless you want to read internet armchair psychiatrists waxing poetic about why people are fat.)  I was going to just blog about it but it is so representative of so many things that I think are wrong with the medical view of weight and health that I decided to break it down including the original article. I want to be clear that I have no desire to stigmatize people who have chosen weight loss surgery (underpants rule!), but I have a strong desire to examine whether or not the type of surgery should actually be offered under the guidelines of ethical, evidence-based medicine and informed consent.  The original article is indented, it may be triggering, you can skip it and still understand the point of my post.

Bonnie Lauria was miserable. She was subsisting on liquids and a handful of foods her stomach could handle. Ever since she’d undergone gastric bypass surgery in the ’80s, foods like meat and bread that went down her throat in a lump would come right back up. “I knew where every bathroom was in every restaurant in the state,” Lauria says from her home in West Branch, Michigan. “It was horrendous.”

So if you partially amputate someone’s stomach and reroute their digestive system bad things can happen? I am Ragen’s complete lack of surprise.

During gastric bypass surgery, the stomach is reduced to about the size of a walnut and attached to the middle of the small intestine. Lauria’s complications from the surgery weren’t normal, so she went under the knife a second time. Still, her condition didn’t change. She switched doctors several times, but no one could help. Eventually, someone recommended bariatric surgeon Dr. Randy Baker in Grand Rapids in 2004.

When he says that the complications “weren’t normal” he means that they wouldn’t happen in doctor dreamland.  In reality this, and other “complications”  including death, are well known side effects of the surgery.

Baker ran some tests and saw that the spot where Lauria’s walnut-size pouch met her small bowel was tightening. Previous doctors had tried to widen the passage so that food could pass through, but the stricture had returned. Complicating Lauria’s condition were those multiple surgeries, which left so much scar tissue that operating again would be too difficult and too dangerous.

Well done y’all, that’s some good doctoring.

Baker was at a loss. Then he started thinking about esophageal stents. Just like a coronary stent keeps an artery open, an esophageal stent holds the esophagus open and is often used in patients who have difficulty swallowing. What if one of those could prop open the small bowel too?

Nothing drives innovation like mutilating fat people to make them thin and leaving them with horrible side effects!

As far as Baker knew, no one had ever attempted a procedure like that before. But Lauria was out of options, so Baker told her his strategy. She agreed; he inserted the stent and hoped for the best.

Let’s be clear that Lauria was “out of options” because doctors cut the options out of her.

“She came back to my office two weeks later and said, ‘Dr. Baker, I’m feeling great. I can eat sloppy Joes!’” Baker says. “Here’s a lady who could only do liquids, and now she can eat solids. And she’s losing weight.”

I’m horrified to think what they would have done to her if she could eat solids but wasn’t losing weight.

Lauria didn’t have an explanation; she told Baker she simply wasn’t hungry anymore. Baker wondered if he and other bariatric surgeons had been going at it all wrong. The stent, he theorized, was putting pressure at the top of Lauria’s pouch and sending signals to her brain saying, “I’m full.” It was doing what food does, but without actual food.

Food…Pfft, who needs it!

Which raised some questions: What if we don’t need invasive surgeries that cut away portions of the stomach and rearrange the digestive tract and intestines? What if all we need is a device that puts pressure near the top of the stomach?

Oooh ooh, pick me, I know the answer – We don’t need either of these.

Baker set out to test his hypothesis, teaming up with a former product specialist from W.L. Gore (creators of Gore-Tex) and two surgeons at his Grand Rapids practice to create the Full Sense Device — a nitinol wire-mesh funnel coated in silicone that can be inserted through the mouth and placed in less than 10 minutes. Current plans would allow the device to remain for up to six months before removal, though in the future that time may be longer. In the company’s trials, every patient implanted with the device lost weight and continued to lose weight until the device was removed. Baker calls the phenomenon “implied satiety.” At six months, average patients lost 75% of their excess body weight — significantly more and at a faster rate than any bariatric procedure, and all, Baker says, with no “severe adverse side effects.”

Let’s look at some keywords in this paragraph:

Severe Adverse Side Effects:  Here is a list of what constitutes a severe adverse side effect. There are plenty of life-alteringly horrible side effects that would not make this list.

Until the device was removed:  So when you take away medically induced disordered eating, what happens?  There doesn’t seem to be any follow up analysis despite the fact that what we’ve learned from studies on surgical interventions like the lap band (which works through the same model of created a medically induced starvation situation) is that patients regain the weight.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that 160 million Americans — nearly half — are overweight as indicated by their body mass index, which is calculated from a person’s height and weight. (A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; 30-plus is obese.) Of those people, 24 million are estimated to be morbidly obese, meaning they have a BMI over 40 and are at higher risk for serious, life-threatening illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, degenerative arthritis, and cancer.

Estimated numbers and “higher risk” do not justify dangerous medical interventions.

Bariatric surgeries can and often do lead to impressive weight loss, yet only 1% of obese Americans opts for the invasive and costly procedure — usually $20,000 to $30,000. (Rex Ryan, Roseanne Barr, Carnie Wilson, Al Roker, Chris Christie, Randy Jackson, and Star Jones are reported to be among the 1%.)

The use of the word “yet” in the first paragraph tells you everything you need to know about how screwed up the world of bariatric surgery is.  This reporter has just told the story of a woman who had to have a completely experimental procedure because her weight loss surgery (and the two follow up surgeries it required) left her vomiting constantly and unable to eat solids, and she’s lucky since plenty of people die from the surgery, yet only 1% of people opt for the surgery.  My questions is, how can we get that number down?  Of course celebrities are choosing the surgery – they are under a magnifying glass with white hot fatphobia shining through it making their lives miserable and limiting their upward mobility in their careers, they can survive the surgery and based on what I’m hearing from people who’ve been pitched this surgery – and from the doctors who have pitched me – they are not that forthcoming with the details about the side effects.

“There are a bunch of things that contribute to that,” says Randy Seeley, an obesity researcher and professor of surgery at the University of Michigan. “One is the ick factor — ‘someone is going to chop up my GI tract.’ Some of it is cost — it’s still not universally covered. Third is stigma. The implication is that it’s the easy way out — you’re cheating somehow by taking that option — which goes to our societal biases about obesity.”

A doctor tells you that she actually thinks you are best served by the partial amputation of your perfectly healthy stomach in a way that will leave you in a perpetual state of malabsorption and starvation, with eating habits that, were you a thin person, would properly be diagnosed and treated as a problem.  But you’ll probably, at least for a while, be thin. Also you may vomit all the time, or die.

“Oh, ick” said nobody ever. Plenty of people have said  “Are you fucking kidding me with this?” but “ick” doesn’t begin to cut it. Also, I think it’s worth examining how the societal biases about obesity lead to a situation where doctors are chopping up people’s GI tracts.

Dr. Baker has come up with a nonsurgical device that he says will enable obese patients to lose substantial weight, and at a fraction of the cost of surgery — in the neighborhood of $5,000 at an outpatient center. A company claiming to have found a simple solution to drastic, easy weight loss is, of course, nothing new; in fact, it’s big business. (See: late-night infomercials.) Some surgeons and researchers are skeptical of Baker’s pressure theory, and at least one patient experienced chronic acid reflux after the device was inserted.

Pop Quiz, what is wrong with this statement:  “At least one patient” Answer:  How flimsy is the follow up that they don’t even know how many patients suffered side effects?

But more than 10 years after the eureka moment, Baker is hopeful that doctors in Europe could begin using the Full Sense Device this year and in Canada and Mexico soon after. Americans will have to wait longer; Food and Drug Administration approval is unpredictable and likely still years away.

We have a 6 month trial which wasn’t even able to accurately assess how many people suffered side effects while the device was implanted and absolutely no follow up after the device was removed, let’s get this baby on the shelves! This just smacks of good science and medical ethics doesn’t it? Though it’s nice to see the fact that the FDA is in the pocket of pharmaceutical companies has an upside.

Baker’s concern, though, is that the Full Sense Device might work too well. If it’s effective, easy, and cheap, what’s to stop people from abusing it? “When this hits the market, there’s not going to be just 10,000 to 15,000 people having it,” says Fred Walburn, president and sole employee of Full Sense Device’s parent company, BFKW. “There’s going to be hundreds of thousands. Millions per year.”

That’s a damn good question, though the idea that millions of people would be using it is completely horrifying since simply the implantation of a device meant to induce starvation could, and I think should, be considered abuse in and of itself.

I’m going to stop here because the rest of the article just belabors the points that I’ve already made.  The connection between body size and health issues has been massively overblown (a lot of it by companies that make tons of money doing so – bariatric surgery costs about $19,000 and takes about an hour.)  The prevailing belief becomes that life as a fat person is so absolutely horrible that it’s worth risking our lives, and our quality of lives, on the chance that we could become thin even if it means a life of constant starvation, vomiting and other gastrointestinal issues, even though after having our stomachs amputated there is a good chance that we’ll end up fat again, still suffering from malabsorption and other side effects.

Surgery is considered a “last resort” but let’s look at the options that aren’t typically considered before it is suggested that a fat person undergo dangerous surgery:

Focusing on goals (including health goals) rather than weight loss:

Goals could focus on aspects of health like getting good sleep, decreasing stress.  They  could include improving strength, stamina, and flexibility – all of which can be done independent of a weight loss attempt.  Focus on the things that research has shown can support health in people of all sizes.

Fixing Social Stigma

So-called “benefits” of the surgery like improved self-esteem, “I like what I see in the mirror” etc. are not actually benefits of weight loss.  They are benefits of moving (at least temporarily) out of an oppressed class.  Fat people should not have to have dangerous surgery to improve our self-esteem.  While each individual is allowed to make choices for themselves, from a social perspective the cure for stigma is not for the stigmatized people to change themselves, it’s for people to stop stigmatizing them.

There are healthy and unhealthy people of all shapes and sizes and making one person look like another person will not guarantee the same health outcomes. Just like making bald men grow hair won’t prevent heart attacks, and removing ice cream from the shelves won’t bring down the murder rate in August. The Association for Size Diversity and Health has created a video to better explain this concept (Not to mention that health is not a barometer of worthiness, obligation, or entirely within our control at any size.)

I imagine they’ll keep developing these ridiculous and dangerous gadgets and surgeries (and diets etc.) as long as they are profitable.  We can fight to keep these things from getting approval, or having their current approval rescinded.  That’s a long fight and it’s worth fighting and in the meantime we can opt out.  If people stopped paying for this, it wouldn’t matter if the FDA approved it. We can demand that our doctors do their jobs, and their ethical duty, by providing us, evidence-based medicine, and interventions that will not kill us, and an opportunity to give proper informed consent.  And when they say “have you considered surgery” we can say “Yes, and it’s out of the question.”

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member Like my work?  Want to help me keep doing it?  For ten bucks a month you can support size diversity activism, help keep the blog going 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 March 2, 2015 at 11:36 am  Comments (18)  

Say Something Sunday – Healthism 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 Healthism.  I chose this in honor of Leonard Nimoy’s amazing Full Body Project and the ridiculous healthism with which it’s been met.  The notion that fat people are unhealthy and therefore shouldn’t be role models, or receive media representation or be famous in any way is seriously messed up. Not because we don’t know how healthy someone is based on their body size (although that’s completely true) but because people’s health should be between them and the people they choose to involve and not up for discussion or used as a barometer of worthiness or a gatekeeper used to prevent people from ever being seen in a positive light. So here are some suggestions for activism around this, feel free to modify to work for you or do your own thing!

  • When you see someone on social media speculating about the health of a fat person (or really any sized person!) speak up – you don’t have to get into a debate about size and health, you can just say that this person’s health is nobody else’s business.
  • When you see articles about fat people with comments about their health, leave a comment saying that people’s health, regardless of their size, are not anybody else’s business.
  • When you hear or see healthism, point out what is happening and that it’s wrong.

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:

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 March 1, 2015 at 10:55 am  Comments (1)  

Leonard Nimoy, Naked Fat Ladies, and Healthism

What Will you DefendLeonard Nimoy passed away today at the age of 83 after a long and successful career that included acting (of course, developing the role of Spock on Star Trek) and directing (including the box office smash Three Men and a Baby.)  He also sang, wrote poetry, and was a photographer.

One of his photography projects was called “The Full Body Project” (images NSFW) and was comprised of pictures – many of them nude – of fat women. And it is absolutely glorious.

According to a piece in Mashable (images NSFW) Nimoy told Natalie Angier, who wrote the introduction to The Full Body Project that:

“He was deeply troubled upon hearing that most women felt some degree of body shame.It really disturbed him that women who considered themselves overweight had this terrible feeling about themselves. He wanted to show the world that there’s beauty to be found in different body types.”

Many people are currently sharing the photo project and, sadly, getting ridiculous “But these women aren’t healthy!” comments in return. So I wanted to talk about this to honor and thank Leonard Nimoy for creating beautiful representations of fat women, to honor the women in the photographs, and in case those people sharing these would like some ammunition for dealing with the concern trolling that may come after.

First of all you cannot tell someone’s health based on their body size. If you think you can, then you are quite simply wrong.

But there’s no need to get into a conversation about this because the health status of these women has literally nothing to do with this. Health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, or a gatekeeper that determines who is or is not allowed to love their body, find themselves and be found beautiful, and be photographed naked, or represented in a positive way.

As I’ve pointed out before, the truth is that this whole “It’s because of fat people’s health” thing is just a crappy justification for size-based discrimination, and it’s long past time to stop using healthism to justify sizeism, and to end both of them instead. To do anything else, especially as it pertains to these pictures, is disrespectful to the photographer and the subjects, and is complete bullshit.

LLAP Leonard Nimoy, thank you for everything.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

European Speaking Tour

I’ll be in Europe later this year.  I’m putting together a European speaking tour so if you’re in the area and interested in having me come speak shoot me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll work out the details!

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 

The Brave Body Love Summit is still going on, offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body.  Week one is over and the recordings are now available, week two is in full swing.  Check it out here!

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 February 28, 2015 at 9:47 am  Comments (25)  

Diet Ad Bingo

I have become incredibly annoyed with all of the diet ads that I get bombarded with every day (dude, magical weight loss tea is not a “movement’ that people can “join”, what the effing crap.)

Whenever they are online I mark them as “misleading” or, at least, “I don’t want to see this” and hide them.  Unfortunately plenty of the ads are not deletable – magazines at the grocery store, billboards, even diet ads at the movies now.  So I decided the next best thing to deleting them is making them into a game.

In that spirit, I offer the Diet Ad BINGO card below. You’ll note that “Disclaimer” is the free space because, since they don’t work, they all have some sort of disclaimer/fine print (like “results not even close to typical” or “this diet may kill you.“) As always, people are allowed to diet if they choose (underpants rule!), and people are allowed to poke fun at the diet industry which makes over $60 Billion a year selling a product that is such a failure that they are legally required to say that it doesn’t work every time they advertise it. Happy BINGO-ing:

Diet Ad Bingo

European Speaking Tour

I’ll be in Europe later this year.  I’m putting together a European speaking tour so if you’re in the area and interested in having me come speak shoot me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll work out the details!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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 

The Brave Body Love Summit is still going on, offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body.  Week one is over and the recordings are now available, week two is in full swing.  Check it out here!

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 February 26, 2015 at 8:59 am  Comments (21)  

4 Things Never To Say To An Activist

Bullshit FairyAnyone who spends any amount of time standing up to a screwed up world (aka engaging in activism) is bound to hear these, and could definitely live without them:

1.  “They are allowed to do that.”  or “What they are doing is legal.”

When someone points out discrimination, there’s always someone who wants to come along and point out reasons that the discrimination is legal.  These people are missing the point by so much that they can’t even see it from where they are.  Activism isn’t about whether or not discrimination/poor treatment is legal, it’s about whether or not we are are going to stand for it.  And if we’re doing activism then people can go ahead and assume that the answer to that question is no, we’re not.  There is always someone willing to justify discrimination – ask yourself if you really want to be that person and, if you do, consider being that person somewhere else.

2.  It probably won’t happen.

When I announced that I was going to do an IRONMAN triathlon, two people contacted me to tell me that they were going to register for the IM so that they could drown me during the swim. When I talked about it, people (many of them trolls from the same internet communities that the death threats came from)  told me that I shouldn’t worry about it (and some suggested that I shouldn’t talk about it) because they probably wouldn’t do it. I’ve noticed this happens basically any time an activist discusses the rape, violence, and death threats that we receive – often the message comes from the same communities that issued the threats in the first place. Let’s keep our eye on the ball people, threatening someone with physical violence is never ok, and it’s hardly justifiable because they probably won’t actually rape, hurt, or kill us.

Another iteration of this is when we point out dangerous discriminatory things that are being proposed – like legislation to fine the parents of fat kids – and people say “don’t worry, it probably won’t happen.” The fact that these things are proposed is a massive problem in and of itself (using our legislation example, if the world were not in such a ridiculous place around body size, that legislation would never be introduced in the first place) If you don’t think that something is worth talking about, then I would suggest that you to not talk about it, rather than spending time discouraging someone who clearly thinks that it is worth talking about.

3.  There are bigger problems. 

The thing about this is that if we all only ever worked on the biggest problem nothing would get done because we would spend all of our time arguing about what the biggest problem is.  Each of us gets to choose how, when, and why we do activism and if someone thinks there is a different issue that needs to be addressed, then I definitely encourage them to address it. (Note that this is not meant to discourage discussions about intersectionality, what I’m talking about here is someone saying that they want to do activism around what clothing sizes are available and someone suggesting that they shouldn’t because fat people’s access to medical care is a bigger problem.)

4“If you’re happy just live your life and don’t worry about what other people think!” Other phrasing includes “If you were really happy with yourself, you wouldn’t have to talk about it all the time” and “Don’t meet hate with anger just be nice and stay positive!”

As always, people are allowed to deal with the oppression that they deal with any way that they want and I’m not suggesting that any of these are inappropriate reactions, I think it’s important to realize that they aren’t obligatory and it’s not ok to tell someone who is dealing with oppression how they should deal with it – especially if they didn’t ask for your opinion.

I think it’s important to talk about things that are oppressive, especially since it’s easy for those who aren’t part of a marginalized group to ignore them – not because they are necessarily trying to or because their intentions are bad, but because they don’t have to deal with them, so they don’t have to think about them. (And part of being a good activist is learning about and fighting oppression that other groups are facing.)

I also think that it’s important to look at the balance of power.  The suggestion that if I’m happy I should just live my life and not care about what others say is a nice one, but I don’t think it takes into account the stereotyping, stigma, bullying, marginalization and oppression that fat people face, and the impact that has on our lives.  The government is encouraging people to wage war on me because of my size. Doctors are allowed to refuse service to me based on my size, and it’s ok for them not to have equipment that will work for me – beds that won’t hold me, chairs the won’t fit me, instruments that are too small for me.  Medical practices, and other business, almost everywhere in the country are allowed  – and do –  refuse to hire fat people or fire us strictly because of how we look, and regardless of our actual skills or job performance.

People who are dealing with oppression are allowed to ignore it, meet it with constant positivity, and carve out a life around it – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those choices, sometimes that’s how I react as well, but in general it’s not my style. Engaging in activism – including calling out oppression – helps me to know that I am doing something about the bullshit I have to deal with, and that helps me deal with it. I think that ignoring bullies allows them to bully in silence without any push back, I want to end bullying and dismantle oppression and for me that starts with speaking up about it, and the last thing I need is someone, however well intentioned, telling me to quiet down.

Random Requests:

1.  I want to get in touch with Beth Ditto for a possible collaboration – if you know her, I would love an introduction you can e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org

2. It looks like I’ll be in Europe later this year.  I’m putting together a European speaking tour so if you’re in the area and interested in having me come speak shoot me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll work out the details!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

I’m speaking tonight at the Brave Body Love Summit tonight at 6pm PST 35+ speakers (including me) offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body.  Week one is over and the recordings are now available. Check it out here!

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 February 25, 2015 at 11:40 am  Comments (16)  

Dancers In Fat Suits

Leap

Ragen Chastain – Fat Dancer (no fat suit required) Photo by Richard Sabel

There’s a video making its way around Facebook with what appears to be two fat ballroom dancers doing a fabulous jive.  A number of people have sent this to me excited to see two fat ballroom dancers getting such great attention.  Except it’s not.  It’s two dancers who are dressed in fat suits and, while the dancing is good, there are also some of the tired fat jokes you might expect.

Once again I find that I’m typing something that should be so painfully obvious that it shouldn’t have to be said or typed ever:  It is not ok to dress up like a member of an oppressed group for “fun” or profit.  It’s especially not cool to dress up like a member of an oppressed group and act like a caricature of that group to get cheap laughs off of the stereotypes that get people in that community bullied, stigmatized, and oppressed. There is no justification for this behavior.

[Edit to address something that’s coming up in comments: I should have made this clear initially and I apologize for not doing so. Doing this is wrong regardless of the oppressed group someone is imitating, that said, the imitations are not the same and aren’t comparable.  Wearing a fat suit is not the same thing as “black face” because of the history behind it (Jenée Desmond-Harris wrote a great article about it for Vox this I highly recommend.)]

Sadly this is hardly the first time.  In a dance circuit in which I competed two World Champions in the highest professional division – Ronnie Debenedetta & Brandi Tobias – spent three long seasons wringing every cheap laugh out of the use of a fat suit in their Masters Showcase Routine.  Three.  Seasons.  And when confronted they said that it wasn’t a fat joke, it was a joke about internet dating (his horror at the fact that she showed up for their internet date and was fat, her getting stuck in dance moves in the fat suit, his relief and her dance improvement when she took off the fat suit.)  Just in case there are people who are so incredibly dense as to believe this BS, here’s an easy test – if it requires a fat suit, it’s a fat joke. And it’s bullshit, straight up.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that performers wearing fat suits often get far more attention than actual talented fat people (and they don’t have to deal with a bunch of bullshit concern trolling.)  It also adds to the difficulty that fat performers face since every time we step on stage we have to overcome people’s prejudices and preconceived notions before we even have a chance of them recognizing our talent.  When people throw on a fat suit and reinforce those prejudices and preconceived notions it makes it even harder for us.

Wearing a fat suit as an online dating experiment is questionable, wearing it to see what it’s like to be fat is also questionable when there are completely credible accounts from real live actual fat people about what it’s like to be a real live actual fat person (and is especially questionable when your grip on science and logic is as tenuous as that of Dr. Oz.)  But wearing a fat suit to get cheap laughs because we live in a society where somehow it’s funny that fat people exist in the world and do stuff is completely deplorable. Just stop.  Instead share a video of an actual fat performer and help us give people the opportunity to overcome their prejudices and preconceived notions and see that talent isn’t a size.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

There’s still a chance to get into the Brave Body Love Summit. Week one is over and the recordings are available, week two is in full swing.  I did my talk tonight and it was a blast.  Huge thanks to Michelle Hell for putting this one.   Check it out here!

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 February 24, 2015 at 11:06 am  Comments (10)  

Lucky Pierre’s Club Is Proud to Discriminate

Dance is for EVERY BODY.  More Cabaret takes our final bow at the Burlypicks competition.

Dance is for EVERY BODY. More Cabaret walks up for our bow at the Burlypicks competition.

After a year of working at The Blue Book Cabaret show at New Orleans club Lucky Pierre’s, Ruby Rage found herself off the schedule. Thinking it was a computer error, she called the show’s producer. Turns out there was no mistake, just blatant discrimination. She was told that the upper management of Lucky Pierre’s didn’t think her body was right for burlesque. When people went off on Lucky Pierre’s for blatant discrimination and giving Burlesque a bad name, LP doubled down with a Facebook response:

We would like to thank everyone for their opinion on Burlesque. Let’s face the facts, in the long history of the art there is an expected image. Josephine Backer, Gypsy Rose Lee, Bettie Page, Blaze Starr, Dita Von Teese, and Mae West. This image was carried to main stream by movies like Burlesque and Cabaret.

If this leaves any doubt of the worlds expectation of Burlesque let’s take a minute to look at the photos by Stephen Le Marche who says, “I love the old world charm of burlesque” and “Burlesque shows off the dancer’s amazing physique.”

This concept is carried through the many burlesque clubs around the world. The Crazy Horse Paris, X Burlesque, Volupte’, Club Noir, Hubba Hubba Revue, Jumbo Clown room and Moulin Rouge.

The world has a standard for burlesque and our dramatically comical musical show will achieve that standard.

Please also take a moment to help clear any more confusion on what is burlesque and watch the video from the burlesque hall of fame 2014 Miss Exotic World champion LouLou D’Vil. As well as this clip from Carson Daily show.

Thank you for the continued support as we create the greatest show in America.”

Many of those mentioned in the statement, along with other big names in Burlesque, spoke out against the statement in seriously strong language.  As they should, because this is bullshit.

Even if the statement wasn’t just chock full o’ lies, using past discrimination to justify current and future discrimination is an age old tool that must be recognized and called out (and not in a “but she’s not even that fat” defense.)  If you’re planning on making a “they are allowed to choose who performs in their show” argument, save yourself the effort.  The question here isn’t whether or not this particular type of discrimination is legal, it’s whether or not we’re going to stand for it.

I cannot wait to live in a world where we chose our performers based on their ability to perform and not based on some stereotype of beauty, and where people fight discrimination instead of arguing that it’s not technically against the law, and I’m going to actively work to create that world.  How about you? Nobody is obligated to do activism but if you get the urge, here are some things that you can do:

Head over to Lucky Pierre’s Facebook page and let them know what you think.

Let Yelp know what you think of Lucky Pierre’s policy of blatant discrimination.

Write a review of Lucky Pierre’s for Google.

Show Ruby some love on Facebook.

Get the word out – share this blog or other articles about this on your social media.

Random Requests:

1.  I’m want to get in touch with Beth Ditto for a possible collaboration – if you know her, I would love an introduction you can e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org

2. It looks like I’ll be in Europe later this year.  I’m putting together a European speaking tour so if you’re in the area and interested in having me come speak shoot me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll work out the details!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

I’m speaking tonight at the Brave Body Love Summit tonight at 6pm PST 35+ speakers (including me) offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body.  Week one is over and the recordings are now available. Check it out here!

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 February 23, 2015 at 10:26 am  Comments (13)  

Say Something Sunday – Academy Awards 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 want to read an awesome Say Something Sunday Success Story scroll down! 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 The Academy Awards.  Now that I live in LA, the Oscars have a special personal meaning – that I should avoid downtown because of the traffic.  But of course the Oscars mean more than that – it’s a night where performers get to see if they have won one of their industry’s top honors, which – especially for the women – will be immediately and completely overshadowed by people’s opinions of their dresses, hair, make-up, and bodies.  Once again, women will be given the message loud and clear that how we look is far more important than what we have achieved.  I’ve discussed this before (including the ridiculousness that fat stars like Melissa McCarthy and Gabourey Sidibe have had to suffer through.) There is a ton of activism that can be done around this.  As always these are just suggestions, feel free to modify to work for you or do your own thing!

  • When talking about the Academy Awards, don’t discuss clothing or looks at all, make all of your conversations about what the nominees and winners achieved – actually discuss their work.
  • Don’t click on “best and worst dressed” lists
  • Speak out against body shaming that you see on your friends’ Social Media, in the comments sections of articles about the Oscars, etc.

Here is this week’s Say Something Sunday Success Story (shared with permission, of course)!

Hi, Ragen! It took me a few weeks of building up the courage, but thanks to your tireless inspiration, I finally started to Say Something Sunday, beginning a few weeks ago. First I quoted your “health is not a barometer of worthiness and nobody owes anyone else their health” stance in my column (I write for a weekly paper in San Diego), and then, which was far more frightening, I shared a story about Tess the model right here on FB, in which the writer explained why Tess was not promoting unhealthy behavior. And WOW. Such backlash. I blocked someone who has been my fan for years because of her bullshit generalities. I responded to comments, and though it was nerve-wracking to confront the stigma, once I did, I felt more empowered than ever. I found myself going to other comment threads (one in particular on an article in a San Diego Magazine about taxing soda) and pointing out the fat-hate, stigma, and BS where I saw it in other comments. Rather than feeling terrible reading all those comments above, I felt like I’d done something. Again, empowering. I live my life in the public eye, but up until now, publicly, I’ve been a “good fatty.” Now I’m ready to demonstrate that (and this is because of you, I can’t thank you enough), I love myself at any size, and I don’t care if other people know that.
In another example of saying something, I had a woman in real life try to pass me a discount card for some body wrap thing that would help me look smaller and I handed it back to her and said, I’m not interested in looking smaller. She tried to push by saying it would smooth me out, and I said, what makes you think I’m interested in that? My body is perfect just the way it is. The situation then became super awkward, because she clearly had never encountered such a response, but I was glowing afterward. Because I had said, out loud, to a person, to her face, ENOUGH. Again, thank you. Because I know I could never have gotten there without reading your writing daily.

All the best,
Barbarella

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:

Join the The Brave Body Love Summit  – 35+ speakers (including me) offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body Check it out here!

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 February 22, 2015 at 4:25 pm  Comments (18)  

And The “Does Not Get It Award” Goes To…

Does not Get it awardI get a lot of hatemail, but sometimes I get something that I would call more…patheti-mail.  People who perhaps think that they are being clever but are, in fact, simultaneously completely missing and illustrating my point.  Today the “Does Not Get it” Award was won by Chris S. Chris decided to spend time emailing me this gem:

In your blog you wrote that losing 5 pounds in two years is not a success and that you could easily do it.  So if its [sic] so easy to lose that weight why don’t you prove it?

Chris has missed the point in a way that I can only describe as epic. If you’re interested in what I actually say about this, you are welcome to read this post. But I do appreciate Chris perfectly illustrating for us the kind of ridiculous thinking that leads to the continued recommendation of weight loss as a way for people to get thinner and/or healthier (two different things) despite the mountain of evidence that makes it clear that it is terrible at both of these things.

First of all, a quick review about how weight loss works or, y’know, doesn’t.  Almost everyone can lose weight short term, almost everyone gains it all back within 5 years, a majority of people gain back more than they lost.  (Diet companies have figured out how to successfully take credit for the weight loss, blame the client for the weight gain, and make a ton of money on repeat business.)

This leads to people pointing to short term weight loss as proof of the possibility of long term weight loss.  I think that’s very much like suggesting that the time I spend in the air after I jump off the roof is proof that I could fly to avoid hitting the ground if I really tried hard enough.  Both the time in the air, and the impact with the ground are inevitable from the time I jump off the roof as, for almost everyone, are the short term weight loss and long term weight regain inevitable from the time they start the intentional weight loss attempt (whether they call it a diet, lifestyle change, eating plan or something else.)

This has also led to the claim that [ever decreasing x amount] of weight loss has a positive effect on health – the number that constituted x pounds started out as a specific weight based on height, but doctors weren’t able to get people to lose weight to that amount, so they started saying “20% of body weight” but they couldn’t get people to lose that so they started saying “10% of body weight” but they couldn’t get people to lose that so they started saying “just 5%” and when that didn’t work for Weight Watchers, they claimed that 5 pounds in two years (regardless of your starting weight) is a good result.

Just to make it crystal clear, the amount of weight one “needed to lose” to have “health benefits” started as an arbitrary number and actually got less research-based from there. It also leads to the ridiculous ideas that weight loss by any means is somehow a good thing which in turns leads to doctors prescribing things to fat people that they would diagnose as problems in thin people.

So the answer to Chris’s inquiry is that, while Chris may well be the kind of person who would do something poorly advised because of a dare from a stranger on the internet, I am not nearly so foolish. I have already done my time on the diet roller coaster and, having done the research and knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, entirely within my control, or guaranteed under any circumstances I am very comfortable that my decision to focus on behaviors (rather than trying to manipulate my body size) is best for both my mental and physical health.

Random Request:

1.  I’m trying to meet Beth Ditto for a possible collaboration – if you know her, I would love an introduction you can e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org

2. It looks like I’ll be in Europe later this year.  I’m putting together a European speaking tour so if you’re in the area and interested in having me come speak shoot me an e-mail at ragen at danceswithfat dot org and we’ll work out the details!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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!

Join the The Brave Body Love Summit: 35+ speakers (including me) offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body.  Week one is over and the recordings are now available.  Week 2 is getting ready to start.  Check it out here!

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 February 21, 2015 at 11:27 am  Comments (24)  

Fining the Parents of Fat Kids

Think of the childrenIn yet another stunningly horrific example of what can happen when the government involves itself in the weight of children, Gilberto Rodriguez, a member of the Puerto Rico Senate, is one of the sponsors of a bill that he claims will “improve children’s wellbeing and help parents make healthier choices” by fining parents for their kid’s body size.

“If, after six months, education officials determine that the child’s condition has not improved, a staffer can refer the case to child-family services authorities as one involving abuse or mistreatment.

“If after another six months the situation persists, the parents can be assessed up to $500 in fines.

“Six months after that, if the problem continues, the parents can be fined an additional $800.”

Even with all of the anti-fat BS that I’ve covered in this blog, there are still some things that I can’t believe I have to type, but here goes:

Fining parents for their kid’s body size is a terrible idea.

Let me count the ways:

1.  Even if being an “education official” qualified people to be involved in this mess, body size does not constitute abuse and it’s incredibly dangerous to suggest that it does. We end up with cases like that of Anamarie Regino who was torn from her home at 3 years old but failed to lose weight in foster care  She was returned to her family and it was determined that a genetic disorder that caused the weight gain.  Oddly, parents seem to find “We’re sorry, our bad” to be cold comfort for the pain and loss caused by having their kids ripped out of their home because of the way they look.

2.  As we discussed a couple of days ago, the research doesn’t support a focus on the weight of children and, in fact, the research shows that it is dangerous.

3.  What constitutes a fat kid?  Are we using BMI?  Percentile-based charts (in which case no matter what kids weight 5% of them will be in the top 5% by definition). Are “education officials” just eye-balling it? What about muscular kids? What about kids who are genetically bigger? What about kids who are getting ready for a growth spurt? Kids come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and fining parents for that does not have the ring of responsible governing.

4.  It’s massively regressive – the less money a family has the more this will hurt their ability to take good care of their family.  In what world does having $1,300 less in the budget “improve children’s wellbeing and help parents make healthier choices”? Also, if parents have more than 1 fat kids are they fined for each one?

5.  While this is unlikely to make kids healthier, it is pretty much guaranteed to fuck up the relationship between parents and kids.  I remember getting yelled at for losing a $2 pair of tongs imagine if a kid is costing their parents $1,300 just for existing.  What kind of horror will be foisted upon kids by well meaning parents misled by the government? What would  desperate parents who can’t spare $1,300 put their kids through so that they can “make weight”?  What kind of unhealthy things will a kid who feels responsible for costing their parents $1,300 turn to?  How many relationships between parents and kids will be damaged by this?  How many will be irreparably damaged?  How will this affect families with a thin kid and a fat kid?  This bill is seems to be custom- designed to create dissonance in families and there is no “increased wellbeing” in that.

6.  What happens if stealing $1,300 from a family doesn’t magically make their kid thin? I think this is especially important since it’s the most likely outcome. Do we just keep fining them?  Are they going to put kids into foster care based on a ratio of weight and height?

This proposal is completely indefensible and I can only hope that it helps people see exactly how ridiculous the obesity hysteria OMGDEATFATZ epi-panic has become, and how much we need to change the way that we look at body size, health, and the government’s involvement in either, including and especially when it comes to kids.

Random Request:

1.  I’m trying to meet Beth Ditto for a possible collaboration – if you know her, I would love an introduction!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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!

Join the The Brave Body Love Summit: 35+ speakers (including me) offering tools to support and improve your relationship with your body.  Week one is over and the recordings are now available.  Week 2 is getting ready to start.  Check it out here!

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 February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am  Comments (22)