Tuesday, 24 January 2017

When We Talk About Weight Loss Research

credible hulkOne of the reasons that I’m no longer interested in attempting weight loss is that my review of the literature informs me that it simply has no basis in evidence as being an effective way to either lose weight or become more healthy (which are two separate things).  When I say that, people often object insisting that there are studies where people have lost weight.

The problem is that any old research where a couple of people lost weight won’t do (go ahead, review the literature.  I think you’ll be shocked to find how often the average participant lost a few pounds, gained back half of it before they stopped tracking, and then the authors declare the study a success.)

The research we would need for weight loss to meet the criteria of an evidence-based medical intervention is twofold.  First, we would need a study where the majority of the participants lost the amount of weight that we are told we need to lose to change our health and maintain that weight loss long term (over 5 years).  If we had those studies – and we don’t –  we would then need some proof that weight loss actually caused health improvements – and this study already brings that into question.

This rules out the National Weight Control Registry because they’ve chosen to study 10,000 people who experienced weight loss while completely ignoring the up to 800,000,000 failed attempts that happened in the same time frame.  Then they just look for things that the 10,000 have in common. So when they say things like “eating breakfast contributes to weight loss” what they actually mean is that they asked the 10,000 people who succeeded what they did, and a majority of them said that they ate breakfast.  Note that they didn’t ask how many of the up to 800,000,000 people who did not lose weight also ate breakfast – that would be important information to have since if a majority of the people who didn’t lose weight also ate breakfast then breakfast may have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Imagine if I got together everyone who had survived a skydiving accident when their parachute didn’t open and started looking for things they have in common.  Even if every single one of them wore a green shirt and had oatmeal for breakfast, I cannot say that wearing a green shirt and eating oatmeal will allow you to survive a skydiving accident, nor can I ethically start Ragen’s School of No Parachute Skydiving “free green shirt and oatmeal with every jump!”  When your entire sample is a statistical anomaly, your research is useless. When all you’re looking for is random coincidence among a select group of outliers, you’d be better off using your research money on lottery tickets.

Other times, people bring up studies where phase 1 was weight loss and phase 2 was maintenance, the study lost between 40% and 70%  of participants during or after phase one, and then the researchers continued on as if the remaining people were the complete study group.  Not ok. Why did all of those people quit?  How will their experience be accounted for? Often the remaining subjects start gaining back the weight they lost so that at the end of phase 2 the average participant has gained back half of their weight with a net loss of less than 10 pounds.  Or they only follow up for a year or two when we know that most people gain their weight back by year 5.

People list study after study and all of them have one or more of the above problems, which I or someone else in the discussion points out.  At that point, the person listing the studies often gets frustrated and says something like “Why don’t you like my studies?” or “You just don’t want to believe.”   If they examined it, I think they’d find that their frustration isn’t with me, it’s with the fact that they’ve been sold a lie and they bought it at full retail price.

I certainly know that frustration, when I did my first literature review of weight loss research I expected to find that all diets worked – I was just looking for the “best” one, the one that had the most solid success.  I was so shocked at what I found that I read through all of the literature again.  I simply couldn’t believe that this thing – weight loss – that had been marketed to me more aggressively than anything else in my life had no basis in evidence.  I couldn’t believe that doctors had been giving me an intervention which had been shown repeatedly to almost always end in failure, and the majority of time had the exact opposite of the intended result.  When I found out that there weren’t even any studies that showed that weight loss caused changes in health I was just stunned.

It took me a lot of time and a lot of work to accept the truth.  It was hard to find out that I’d been lied to (on purpose and inadvertently), it was hard to find out that the thing that I’d been promised would solve all of my problems was never going to happen.  In many ways, at least for me, Health at Every Size was about giving up, but that’s what I do when I find out that I’ve been harboring a mistaken belief.  That’s what scientists (well, good scientists) do when their research does not support their hypothesis (however strongly held or widely believed it might be.)  They don’t suspend the rules or research and logic and argue for a belief that they can’t support with evidence.

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Monday, 23 January 2017

Cheap Fat Jokes Are Not Political Commentary

Talking NonsenseOn Saturday millions of people around the world marched in solidarity for progressive, feminist goals*. Enter Mike from Mike’s corner who decided that the best thing that he could contribute was a crappy fat joke:

march-meme

Facebook post from “Mike’s Corner” It’s a picture of a protest march that says “IN ONE DAY, TRUMP GOT MORE FAT WOMEN OUT WALKING, THAN MICHELLE OBAMA DID IN 8 YEARS

This is obviously crap, and I’ve been asked to talk about why so that we can decide how best to respond.  There are several things happening here.

First it’s an attempt at humor based on stereotypes “ha ha fat women don’t usually walk ha ha” Just like people of all sizes, there are fat women who walk (and roll) and fat women who don’t but people who would make this joke are not likely to let the facts get in the way of their bigoted humor. There’s not much to unpack here other than to say that if someone thinks this is funny, they could maybe try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

There’s the issue of this being factually incorrect. Michelle Obama focused on kids (sometimes in ways that were horribly ill-advised) and didn’t have any programs about women walking.  I guess Mike is a fan of “alternative facts?”

The most dangerous takeaway that I’ve seen size bigots suggest is the idea that fat women delegitimize a protest simply by being there – as if the marches would have somehow been more legitimate had all the participants met Mike’s definition of “thin.” This isn’t original, the brain trust who created this meme was beaten to the punch by Ann Coulter (which is to say that this dude is getting his ass kicked by women from every direction.)

The size of the women (or people of any gender) who participated in the marches has nothing to do with anything, and yet fat phobia is so powerful in our culture that the first thing this guy decided to do was try to make a fat joke.  (I will say that I couldn’t find a single march whose platform included anything about size discrimination and so perhaps this will help us explain to organizers of future events why that’s important.)

When we respond to things like this, the most important thing is that we not reinforce the prejudices upon which they are built, or create more bigotry in the process. For this reason we want to avoid the mistake of responding about how fat the attendees were or weren’t, or using comebacks that are healthist and/or ableist.

If this appears in a space that you manage, I would suggest either simply deleting it or pointing out the issues as I have here. (If you’re interested in a discussion of moderating comments in personal online spaces as well as groups we manage online, I  recently wrote a piece for Ravishly about just that!)

If you see it in another space, you might leave a comment pointing out how widespread sizeism is, how messed up it is that women’s worth is judged by how closely we are able to approximate a stereotype of beauty, and how this meme proves the need for such marches.  You could also suggest that the person who posted it try to be less of a bigoted piece of shit moving forward.

If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

*They are many things to talk about when it comes to these marches and how we can do better moving forward including how they could have been more inclusive of groups like People of Color, Trans and Non-Binary people, Fat Acceptance as a platform and more. These are important discussions that are worth having – cheap fat jokes parading as political commentary are not.

If you enjoy this blog, consider becoming a member or making a contribution.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Women’s March on Washington

I attended the Women’s March yesterday with one of my friends, and it was absolutely amazing. We knew it was going to be big when we got to the New Carrollton Metro station and there were people *everywhere.*  Signs galore, pink pussy hats as far as the eye could see.  Our train was jam-packed with people headed to the march, and we had some chants going on the train.  The next few stations we passed were also filled with people.

Estimates I’ve heard put the march at 500,000 making it the largest protest ever held in DC. Including sister marches around the country and around the world, it numbered in the millions.

The mood was hopeful and determined. There was a lot of cheering, and a lot of laughter.

I have a lot more hope now than I had throughout November and December.  This can’t be a singular thing. It has to be a beginning. We have to yell and scream and fight as loud and as hard as we can, and not give up.




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Saturday, 21 January 2017

Still Here, Still Fat, Still Awesome

Hey y’all!

I’ve got a few lovely messages this week from people asking me if I’m OK, as I haven’t blogged in a while.  So first up, yeah I’m good, thank you to all who asked.  Nothing hugely dramatic from preventing me from blogging, just a bunch of little things that add up, you know?  I’m never very creative in the hot months, as hot weather just saps any creativity out of my brain.

Add to that a shoulder injury that I incurred back when I was in New Zealand in June/July – I took a spectacular stack on some mossy concrete and sprained my right ankle in a magnificent fashion (pics below) and made my whole body hurt.  Once the ankle healed (remarkably quickly, thanks to the hot thermal pools in Rotorua I believe!) and the residual soreness of the rest of my body eased, my shoulder has continued to be a problem.  Got it checked, ran it through some time to heal, no joy, so back to the doc I went this week.  I’m waiting for the results of my X-rays and ultrasounds to see if I’ve buggered the rotator cuff, or whether it’s just bursitis.  As unpleasant as bursitis sounds, it’s the lesser of the two evils, because a buggered rotator cuff may mean surgery.  GAH!

13528043_10153763160742404_985516206062962668_o-1

And generally I’ve just been really busy!  The Christmas/New Year season, work stuff, friends, life in general.

But I am still around and still fat (yes loser troll, I am still fat, and still more awesome than you!) and still pissed at the way fat people, particularly fat women, are treated like we are sub-human.  I still have a lot to write about, just not a lot of time to do that writing.

I’m really glad people care and check in with me, it’s lovely!


Filed under: Uncategorized

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Friday, 20 January 2017

Laughter is the only thing that’ll keep you sane

Laughter is the only thing that’ll keep you sane
In this world that’s crying more and more everyday
Don’t let evil get you down
In this madness spinning round and round

– “Live Forever” by Drew Holcomb


Filed under: Mental health, Music

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One Last Time

Today I’m taking a break from my usual Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size writing to say goodbye and give my respect to President Obama.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my usual fare.

I’ve certainly publicly disagreed with the way that his administration has talked about and treated fat people. He wasn’t perfect, nobody is. But for eight years I’ve had the opportunity to live in a country with a leader I could respect, who worked to move us forward, make progress in civil rights, and be a mature, level-headed leader in the face of horrific racism and obstructionism. Thank you President Obama, I’ll miss you.

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

Become a Member! For ten bucks a month you can support fat activism and get deals from size positive businesses as a thank you.  Click here for details

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

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

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

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



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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Hatred in our Ranks: Why Lie About It?

Stream of consciousness ahead! I hope that all my readers can benefit from this post, but it is primarily geared towards conservatives and Trump supporters. Let’s open our eyes and be honest here. The left has its fair share of extremists, clowns, bigots, and violent and destructive folks. But I’m focusing on conservatives here because […]

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