Say Something Sunday – Fat Joke 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 fat jokes. Often people couch fatphobia in so-called humor and jokes, and then defend saying cruel and disrespectful things because “it’s just a joke” and try to make the issue that we aren’t willing to laugh at a joke that stigmatizes us, rather than that they are actively stigmatizing us.  Nobody is obligated to celebrate jokes made at their expense and making stigmatizing and bullying sentiments into a “joke” is not a get-out-of-jackass-free card. (More full explanation of this can be found here) Suggestions of what to do with this:

When you see or hear a fat joke/meme etc. say something.  You can say something direct like “fat shaming isn’t funny” or something softer like “I wish we lived in a world where people didn’t try to be funny at other’s expense.”

Another option if you want something that works in a professional situation, if there is an in-balance of power, or if you just want to be more subtle, is fighting this kind of bigotry with confusion , for example smiling sincerely and saying “I’m sorry, I don’t get it – can you explain?” because nothing makes it clear that a joke is stigmatizing faster than someone having to explain it.

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 15, 2015 at 8:14 pm  Comments (9)  

Body Shaming Baby Onesies

Source - Facebook/Wry Baby

Source – Facebook/Wry Baby

Baby clothing company Wry Baby has found itself in some hot water about a baby onesie that they manufactured that says “I hate my thighs.”  They were immediately taken to task by Ms. Magazine and, not one to let an opportunity to profit off body shaming pass them by, they brought another onesie that says “Love me for my leg rolls” out of retirement (because that’s not a joke based on body shaming at all!) and suggested that people should buy the one they like best to “vote” for which one they should keep.  Because maybe a contest will make me forget that both of these reinforce a dangerous message and that this is a company that I would never in a million years support financially.

This is one of those blog posts where people will be like “why are you so uptight about everything, can’t you take a joke?!”  I’ve already discussed the answer to that question in depth here but the short answers are: Can I take a joke?  Yes. Do people sometimes couch shitty oppressive ideas as “humor”?  Yes. Do I have to stay silent about that?  No.  Am I going to?  Not today.

The only reason this is “funny” is because a girl baby wearing this doesn’t yet know that she was born into a culture that will teach her to hate her body for not meeting some ridiculous stereotype of beauty.  This will become less funny 8 years later when this same little girl is dieting, setting herself up for a life of dysfunctional relationships with food, exercise, and her body and making her an excellent customer for the diet and beauty industries. It will be dramatically less funny if she becomes part of the 119% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in kids under 12 that happened in the last decade.

The ability to get the “joke” of this onesie is predicated on people knowing that this is the reality for this girl, and laughing at the idea that she would be worried about the size of her thighs as an infant instead of waiting a couple of years to start hating her body. This is “funny” because of the juxtaposition of the truth that this baby couldn’t even fathom hating her thighs, with the reality of how society will do basically everything in its power to make her hate them in just a few short years. (Not to mention that it enforces negative body messages to the people who see the baby wearing it.)

Hating our bodies for their shape and size is a learned behavior and that lesson is taught to us by industries that profit from them (like the diet and beauty industry) that make billions of dollars by teaching us that our bodies will never be good enough, that we should be ashamed of the ways in which we deviate from a photo shopped version of a stereotype of beauty, and that we should spend a lifetime buying their products trying to hate ourselves just a tiny bit less.

It’s also taught to us by a society made up of people who are products of the lessons of these industries (which often includes our parents.) People who internalize the idea that women should be judged on our appearance, that some bodies are good and some bodies are bad, and then enforce it on others, including and especially on those who speak out against it.

That is, I think, what is often happening when somebody says “Putting a baby in a body shaming outfit is a bad idea” and others insist that it’s not – it’s just funny because of the society we live in.  If we find ourselves defending the hilarity of body shaming baby clothes then I think that the joke, unfortunately, is on us.

Activism Opportunity:

Tell Wry Baby what you think:

On their Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/wrybaby

On Twitter:  @wrybaby

E-mail their customer service department:  onlinesales@wrybaby.com

Give them a call:  888-909-9048

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

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

 

Published in: on March 14, 2015 at 8:02 pm  Comments (8)  

Lose Weight by Watching Horror Movies?

What a Load of CrapSeveral readers asked me to comment on articles that are making the rounds that suggest that watching horror movies helps people lose weight.  It’s actually a recycled story that comes around every year or two but I haven’t talked about it before so let’s have do it!

Having apparently answered all other movie-related questions, Amazon’s LOVEFiLM commissioned a study of the effects of various horror movies on heart rate, oxygen intake, carbon dioxide output, and calories burned.

According to this study, the movie with the highest calories burned was The Shining at 184 calories in 146 minutes.  That’s 75 calories an hour. If that’s something that interests you, you may also want to know that according to one of those annoying calorie burning charts, knitting burns 85 calories an hour.  Don’t get me wrong, your chances of long term weighloss are still abysmal, but at least you can get some mittens out of the deal and don’t have to sleep with the lights on.

But even if you love horror movies before you sign up to watch hours of them as your new diet, it might interest you to know that the fight or flight adrenal response that horror movies cause that it responsible for the calories burning has been shown, over the long term, to be linked to serious health consequences as well as creating…wait for it… weight gain! And this is where we shake our heads at all the sources that picked this up claimed that watching horror movies is “good for your health” based on the fact that they may burn a few calories.

What does all this mean?  I think it means that some places will publish literally anything that is purported to be about weight loss, which might be funnier if actual serious conversations about health weren’t getting constantly drowned out by ridiculous and pointless conversations about weight loss.  I think it also helps to illustrate the issues with confusing things that might burn calories or make someone’s body smaller (albeit, likely temporarily) with things that might support their health.

I look forward to the days when we can leave the weight loss talk behind and have some real conversations about health and our options  (including the fact that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, completely within our control or guaranteed under any circumstances).  As for the articles about this study, I’m trying to think of them as more dark comedy than horror.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

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

 

 

Published in: on March 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm  Comments (19)  

What Do We Mean By Fat Civil Rights?

Stand up speak up fight backI sometimes get asked what I mean by fat rights.  Here are what I consider to be the basic tenets (obviously, it gets much more complicated than than this and there’s lots more to talk about, these are just some of the basics.)

Fat people have a right to exist in our fat bodies.  We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and those rights are inalienable – they are not size, health, or healthy habit dependent.  Those rights include not living under ceaseless institutional stigma, bullying and oppression, or being made combatants in a war waged upon us by our government, which is also trying to recruit our friends, family, co-workers, companies and anyone else they can get to engage in combat against us for how we look.

You cannot have a war on obesity without having a war against obese people.  You cannot have a war on childhood obesity without having a war on fat kids.  Wars have casualties.  So when you use words like “war” and “eradicate”, when you say that you want to eliminate obesity and suggest that fat people should do extremely dangerous things like have our stomachs amputated, or eating 500 calories a day and getting injected with  urine, all in the pursuit of thinness, it starts to sound like “eliminate obesity” means that they want us either thin or dead, and they don’t much care which.

The research about weight and health upon which this goal of eradicating fat people for the good of society is built does not meet the basic criteria for competent research.

The methods used to calculate the “cost” of obese people are at best incredibly poorly done and, at worst  biased and profit driven,

Even if the studies did meet basic requirements for competent research, it is not ok to choose a group of people who are identifiable by a single visible physical characteristic, attempt to calculate their cost on society, and based on those numbers suggest that they should be eradicated to make things cheaper for everyone else.

If you are fat, you have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body you have now.  You have the right to stand up and say that the war being fought against you is not only based upon faulty intel, but is unjust in every way. You have the right to fight back, to say that if they want a war, you will damn well give them one. Those are basic fat civil rights.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on March 12, 2015 at 7:23 am  Comments (6)  

Laughing In the Face of Danger

One of the really interesting things that I notice whenever someone points out that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not size dependent (and so fat people should be able to exist in fat bodies without being stigmatized, bullies, shamed or oppressed,) or when someone points out the research about the failure rates of dieting, people respond by insisting that what we are saying is “dangerous”.  And it’s that specific world “dangerous”.  As in “You need to stop spreading these dangerous lies.”

I always think: Well, I’m talking about civil rights and  research and you’re talking out of your ass, so remind me again which one of us is telling dangerous lies?

I often notice that that word “dangerous” is used to try to shout down ideas that are progressive. Letting some consenting adults get married is “dangerous”, people questioning the banks is “dangerous”.  And it’s not a new thing – suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun was “dangerous”, women’s suffrage was “dangerous”.

Often the idea is to use fear to interrupt progress by those benefiting from the status quo.  Historically it works for a while but the thing about evidence and science and civil rights is that it doesn’t matter if people call them dangerous or ridiculous or stick their fingers in their ears and scream la la la la la or whatever, at the end of the day the truth is still the truth.

What astounds me is the people who aren’t using it as a tactic, but truly believe that “everybody knows” is the same thing as “right and true.” This has happened repeatedly in our history – doctors giving pregnant women thalidomide, or prescribing heroin as a cough suppressant or using lysol as a douche (I know, right!) Scientists have made myriad discoveries that disproved what “everybody knew”, doctors have prescribed things that ended up not working or causing heinous side effects, yet somehow there is a vocal group of people who seem to think  it’s not possible for that to have happened again.  And so instead of learning from the past, noticing the mistakes faster and changing course with more agility and speed, they cling to “Everybody knows” and call those who disagree with them “dangerous”.

One of the techniques that I use to help me deal with this kind of thing is laughing at how ridiculous it is.  Please note, this isn’t for everyone or for every situation – it’s just another arrow for your quiver if you want it to deal with the kind of BS that we (shouldn’t have to) face.

Let’s say that someone suggests I should go on a diet. I just give them a look of disbelief, a quick snort of a laugh and say “Are people still peddling that? I thought everybody knew that weight loss doesn’t work.”

Or someone says “You need to [insert weight loss script] blah blah blah”.  I laugh and shake my head. (That typically gets them to stop mid-sentence.)  Then I ask “So, how do you reconcile your pro-diet views with the findings of Matheson et.al,?”  That gets a confused look.  So I give a confused, slightly disbelieving look back and say “Wei et. al.?” Another confused look.  Then, with a decent amount of surprise “Really?”  (as if I was certain they’d know about that one,) then continue “Bacon and Aphramor, Mann and Tomiyama, the Cooper Institute studies?” I’m prepared to have conversations about all of these, but so far in my experience the people I’ve spoken to, including doctors, haven’t read them and can’t have such a discussion. So then I just say “I’m sorry but it sounds like you haven’t done enough research to be qualified to give me advice on this.  I’ll be happy to give you the links though.” If you want to know more about the research just scroll to the bottom of this post.

I don’t think that a multi-billion dollar industry built on lies, stigma, bullying, repeated failure and physical harm is particularly funny, nor do I think that people who shame, stigmatize, bully and oppress fat people are hilarious. But having the ability to laugh in the face of all that crap makes can be a way to declare another small victory. Those small victories add up to bigger victories and before you know it we’ve made major progress and I guess if you’re someone who enjoys bullying fat people, or profiting from selling weight loss, that does make us very “dangerous” people.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

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

 

Published in: on March 10, 2015 at 11:37 am  Comments (11)  

Underpants Rule Limitations

Underpants RuleRegular readers of this blog will be familiar with The Underpants Rule. The Underpants Rule states that you are the boss of your underpants, other people are the boss of their underpants, and nobody is the Underpants Overlord – a full description can be found here.  It’s a shorthand that I use to discuss that fact that our personal choices should not be up for public debate.

Sometimes people get confused or conflicted about the extent of the Underpants Rule.  Reader Becky sent me the following question:

“I work in a bookstore and I’m conflicted every time someone wants a weight loss book. On the one hand: underpants rule. On the other: I just want to go Mr. Rogers on them (“I like you just the way you are!”) but without sounding like a creepy stranger or sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong. What are your thoughts on the line between the underpants rule and say something Sunday style activism?”

The Underpants Rule (UR) is a way to describe how I think of interaction around personal decisions. It works exactly the same way that our civil rights are supposed to – our right to punch ends at the tip of someone else’s nose.   So while I’m allowed to enjoy choosing to run around, punching my arms out and flailing them around muppet-style, I’m not allowed to do so in a crowed room and claim that if people don’t like getting punched in the face then they shouldn’t come in that room.  I’m allowed to yell “Fire!” at home by myself, but not in a crowded theater.

If someone’s decisions are personal and don’t affect me, then the Underpants Rule applies:  they are the boss of their underpants and it’s not for me to interfere if they want to diet, or attempt to climb Everest, or take the cinnamon challenge.  If someone’s decisions do affect me directly, including and especially if they are attempting to infringe on my rights, then it’s a UR violation. Let’s look at some examples:

Someone thinks that dieting is the path to health so they choose to diet.

Underpants rule all the way, I don’t agree but those aren’t my underpants so I say nothing.

Someone thinks that dieting is the path to health so they try to pass a law that fat people need to diet, or limiting the rights of fat people who refuse to do so.

Noooo. World of no, Galaxy of no.  No. Obviously this is infringing on the rights of other people to make choices for their health so the Underpants Rule does not apply.

Someone thinks that same gender marriage is wrong so they marry someone of the opposite gender.

No problem, underpants rule – feel free to take a pass on marrying another dude.

Someone thinks that same gender marriage is wrong so they try to stop other people from having the ability to get married.

Nope, this infringes on other people’s rights so the UR does not apply.  (Sometimes people suggest that they are being oppressed if same-gender marriage is legal because they don’t believe it’s right for whatever very sincerely held reason.  Not so much.  That’s not oppression any more than stores selling bacon oppresses those who think that eating bacon is wrong. They would only be oppressed if they were forced into a same-gender marriage.)

Fat people’s decisions are my business because of my tax dollars.

Not a valid argument for all of these reasons.  Underpants rule violation.

Because I’m allowed to attempt weight loss, I should be allowed to talk about my weight loss attempt in every space in the world, including those that someone else created that they’ve designated as a Size Acceptance/No Weight Loss Talk space.

Nope, nope, nope-ity, nope.  The fact that people have the right to do what they want with their bodies does not mean that every space has to be available for them to talk about that.  It’s completely ok to create safe spaces, whether that’s a Size Acceptance space, a POC only space, a Queer positive space where they don’t allow posts encouraging people to become ex-gay, a weight loss space that doesn’t allow people to disparage weight loss attempts, etc.

I think that I should only wear clothes that are flattering/appropriate etc. by my definition of flattering/appropriate.

Of course, enjoy your clothes, if those clothes aren’t available to you I’ll be happy to fight for your right to be accommodated.

All fat people should wear clothes that meet my definition of flattering/appropriate or they deserve to be treated poorly for their choices.

Total bullshit.  UR violation. If you haven’t seen this article about this very thing, I think you’re missing out!

Becky’s question about someone wanting to buy a diet book from a bookstore where I’m the clerk.

Those are their underpants, so it’s not my place to say anything. (If I was buying Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor’s book and the person selling me the book tried to tell me that I should buy a diet book instead I would be so furious I would be blogging about it on my phone in my car in the parking lot.)

The UR says that I have to accept people’s mistreatment of me because they get to be the boss of their underpants.

This is perhaps the most dangerous misinterpretation of the UR, and shame on anyone who tries to use the UR to justify poor treatment of others.  Other people have a right to make choices for themselves, they don’t have a right to mistreat others, or infringe on the rights of others.  Ever.  You may not be able to control the behavior of others, and circumstances may dictate the way that you react, but nothing justifies your being mistreated, especially not the Underpants Rule.

The fact that the Underpants Rule exists also doesn’t mean that everyone has all of the choices that they would prefer to make accessible to them.  There are all kinds of things standing between people and the full expression of the underpants rule – lack of accessibility, socioeconomic disparity/poverty, racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, healthism, and sizeism, and that’s just a start.  Those who try to use the UR to erase those injustices or suggest that they shouldn’t be fought are seriously missing the point of the UR, or are purposefully abusing the concept.

Finally, sometimes people may make the conscious choice to break the UR because they feel that someone is doing themselves harm.  Different people have different ideas of when this is acceptable, this is a choice that we each have to make in our own lives.

The Underpants Rule is something that helps me remember that other people’s personal choices aren’t my business if they don’t affect me, and that my choices aren’t other people’s business if they don’t affect them.  Our underpants are, in fact, our own.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

A movie about my time as a dancer is in active development (casting, finding investors etc.).  Follow the progress on Facebook!

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

Published in: on March 9, 2015 at 10:38 am  Comments (61)  

Say Something Sunday – Good Fatty 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 the Good Fatty/Bad Fatty Dichotomy.  This is the idea that fat people who do the “right” things according to those who think that they have the right to judge us deserve to be treated better than those who don’t do the “right” things.  This can also be perpetrated by fat people who suggest that they should be treated with respect because of how they eat or the exercise that they do, or that they are better than “those other fat people”. This is bullshit and it needs to die. (for a longer explanation, check here.) There is absolutely no justification for treating fat people badly. So when you see this, whether it’s in an article, comment second, social media, or in conversation, you can point out that all people deserve respect regardless of body size or personal choices.

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 8, 2015 at 11:49 am  Comments (8)  

Fat and Fingernails

my name isI got a question today from reader Diane asking how I feel about an internet meme that says: “You are not fat.  You have fat.  You also have fingernails.  But you are not fingernails.”  I’ve seen this in plenty of versions and I think it’s problematic on a lot of levels. I blogged about it before,  but it’s so ubiquitous I thought I would repost this:

First of all, as regular readers have probably already sussed out, I would be much more comfortable if this was written from the perspective of how someone feels about/for themselves instead of dictating to others how we should feel (ie: “I’m not fat, I have fat” instead of “You are not fat, you have fat”.)  People are allowed to look at their bodies this way because, hey, underpants rule.  That said, I think it’s an idea worth some exploring.

First of all, let’s consider some other examples: You are not brunette, you have brown hair.  You are not tall, you have above-average height. When I’m flying in for a speaking gig I often tell the person who is responsible for picking up that I’ll be the short, fat, brunette -in the blue dress or whatever.  People often respond by telling me not to call myself fat, nobody in my life has ever told me not to call myself brunette.  Therein lies my problem with this – it seems to me that the reason to draw a distinction between being fat and having fat is that we are considering fat to be a negative thing from which we want to disassociate, and or we want to see it as so temporary that we don’t want to be identified as fat.

I don’t think the research suggests that many fat people will remove our fat.  Regardless, knowing that it’s possible that time and circumstance might change the size of my body, I don’t think that’s a reason to not identify the way that it looks now. I call myself a brunette even though it’s basically a certainty that I will someday have hair that is gray and not brown. So even though there’s the possibility that my body may someday not be fat (through illness etc. – it’s certainly not a goal of mine) I’m still fat right now. So why do I want to find a semantic way out of it?

The problem is the way that people with fat bodies are stigmatized, stereotyped, bullied, marginalized, and oppressed. I’m just not sure this can be solved by “having” instead of “being” fat. To me the fact that identifying a body as fat is considered an insult is a symptom of a problem, not the actual problem – so this can’t be solved through wordplay.  If brunettes are being oppressed I don’t think there is much to be gained by saying that I’m not a brunette, I just have brown hair.

Similarly, since fat people are being oppressed, I don’t think there is much to be gained by saying that I’m not fat, I just have fat.  Mostly because no matter how I describe myself, people can still see me and these oppressions are based on how I look to others, not on how I describe myself.  I also understand that the word “fat” has been used as derisive and I understand that not everyone is into using it as a reclaiming term and everybody gets to decide that for themselves.  For me, using the word fat to describe myself without apology tells my bullies that they can’t have my lunch money any more, and avoids pathologizing my body in the way that terms like “overweight” and “obese” do.

It’s possible that people would give me slightly better treatment (however begrudgingly) if I said that I’m not fat – I have fat, or if I characterized myself as being overweight in a way that indicates that I believe there’s a problem with my body.  I’m ok with passing on that “approval”, because  I am far more interested in fighting stereotyping, stigma, bullying and oppression, than I am in trying to avoid it through wordplay or concessions that I can make to my oppressors.  Other people may see this differently and/or make other choices than I do and, of course, that’s completely fine. But as for me, I am fat because I have fat and I’m fine with that.

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Published in: on March 6, 2015 at 2:23 pm  Comments (24)  

Why Do Dieters Gain Their Weight Back?

Success and DietsBefore we get into this I want to be clear that even if there were research showing that sustained weight loss is possible for most people (and there’s not) and even if there were research showing that weight loss (and not simply behavior changes regardless of weight change) increases the odds for health (and there’s not) fat people would still not have any obligation to attempt to be thin.  I also don’t want to oversimplify – people are lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and our body size is nobody else’s business unless we ask them to make it their business.

The reason I want to talk about this is because I think that one of the persistent myths that allows the diet industry to increase their profits every year with a product that doesn’t work is the idea that  “well, people gain the weight back because they just go back to their old habits!” (Of course in this case “their old habits” means not putting their body into a state of starvation so that it will consume itself and become smaller, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

The thing about intentional weight loss is that research shows that almost everyone can lose weight short term, but then almost everyone gains it back – with the majority of people gaining back more than they lost. Weight loss companies make money by taking credit for the first part and blaming the client for the second part. When I was in school they taught us that if most of the kids failed the test, then the problem was probably the teacher and not the students.  So if only a tiny fraction of people are able to maintain weight loss, is it really believable that the product works but almost everybody is just too weak-willed to do it? Or is it more likely that the product doesn’t work and the very few people who are able to be “successful” are held up (wrongly) as proof of efficacy rather than (correctly) as exceptions? Consider this:

Your body doesn’t understand that there is a certain size and shape that brings with it an increased social capital.  Your body can’t imagine a situation in which it is hungry and there is food, but you won’t feed it. And so when your body is hungry but you ignore it, it assumes that there is no food available. Your body is like “No problem, I’ve evolved to survive famine let me just get those systems online. I’ll just get started lowering our metabolism.” (In my mind your body talks like JARVIS from the Ironman movies, but that’s neither here nor there I suppose.)

In the meantime, you go run on a treadmill. Your body now thinks that there is a famine and you have to run from bears. But your body is like “No problem, I’ve got this.” So it lowers your metabolism even more, drops calorically expensive “extra” muscle, floods the body with hunger hormones (since, what with the famine and the running from bears, it wants to make sure that you don’t forget to eat) and it holds back hormones that tell you that you are full. Basically, your body is hard at work doing everything it can to lower the amount of food that you need to live and store as much food as it can.

At the end of this process your body is biologically different than it was when you started. Your body has now turned into a weight gaining, fat storing, weight maintaining machine, biologically different than a body that has never dieted, and likely with a new set point weight – higher than your original weight – that your body is trying to maintain because it now is worried that there will be another famine and bear situation. Bodies are still biologically different even a year or more after someone stops dieting.

So it might be less about people “just going back to their old habits” and have more to do with the idea that keeping yourself in a state of starvation (dieting requires that you eat less fuel than you need so that your body will consume itself and become smaller) is unsustainable, especially when the body reacts by working as hard as it can to get you to eat more and to store all the food it can.

For whatever reason, at the end of the day, nobody can produce research for any intentional weight loss method (call it a diet, call it a lifestyle change, call it whatever) that succeeds in the long term for more than a tiny fraction of people, meaning that even if a doctor thinks it will make us healthier it still does not meet the requirement of ethical, evidence-based medicine (since it has, you know, the exact opposite of the intended effect almost all of the time.)

Of course people are allowed to try to intentionally manipulate their body size if they want, but I think people deserve to know that the most likely outcome of intentional weight loss is weight gain, and not necessarily for the reasons we’ve been told. “Just don’t go back to your old habits!” seems like something we can control.  “Just change your body biologically back to how it was before you dieted!” not so much.

If we are looking to increase our odds for health (knowing that health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances) there is no evidence to suggest that intentional weight loss will help with that, and there are evidence-based ways to support our health that don’t involve self-created famine or bear attack scenarios.  We each get to make choices but it would be nice if we weren’t bombarded with so much bad “information” along the way.

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I hope to see you there!!!!!

Published in: on March 5, 2015 at 11:02 am  Comments (28)  

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 creating 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 (53)