Friday, 30 September 2016

Does Fat Shaming Make People Fat?

ShamelessIn the past week I’ve received questions from several readers asking about articles they had seen that said research shows that fat shaming is linked to increased weight and asking me if I think it’s true, and what I think of it as an argument against fat shaming.

As far as veracity, there are some studies that show a correlation between body shaming and becoming larger.  (You can find one here, but content warning for all the things I’m about to talk about, as well as the utterly ridiculous, profit-driven notion of using person first language and calling fat people “people with obesity.”) Remember also that this is correlation, with all of its inherent limitations, and not causation.

The larger problem with this can be clearly seen in what I encountered when I started researching for this blog post.  I found tons of articles with titles like “Fat Shaming Just Increases Obesity” or “Fat Shaming Makes the Problem Worse!”

The idea here is that fat shaming is bad because fat people are bad, and fat shaming makes people fat/fatter. This information might be used to convince a weight bigot to stop fat shaming (or not, the comment sections of these articles feature weight bigots doing Cirque du Soleil level contortion to justify their past and future fat shaming.)  Still, it may work, and getting that bigot to keep their BS to themselves may be your goal.  Just be aware that you are making a major trade-off, especially if you are making this argument publicly rather than in a one-on-one situation.

You see, the message that something is bad because it may create more fat people or fatter fat people is, in and of itself, a fat shaming message. Calling fat people a “problem”  and suggesting that more fat people existing “makes the problem worse” is fat shaming. Saying that we want to prevent fat people from existing  is fat shaming.  The message “I don’t want you to be stigmatized, I just want a world where no one who looks like you exists” is absolutely stigmatizing, and adds to the waging of the War on Obesity in which they want fat people to be thin or dead and they don’t really seem to care which.

At the end of the day, I think the fact that some studies suggest that fat shaming may be linked to people becoming larger is not actually a good reason to suggest that people shouldn’t engage in fat shaming – since the idea that fat people should be prevented from existing is fat shaming in and of itself. People (including, and perhaps especially, Presidential candidates) shouldn’t engage in size-based shaming, bullying, stereotyping, stigmatizing, and oppression because it’s wrong, period. It has actually nothing to do with the current or potential future size of their victims.

Did you miss the
Fat Activism Conference?
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You can still register to get access to all the recordings, transcripts, speaker handouts, and the conference goody bag! Get recordings of all 30 speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and more. The pay what you can option is still available so that money is not a barrier.

Click Here to Register!

Registration closes October 9th (though of course you’ll have time after that to listen and download.)

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, 29 September 2016

the HAES® files: How to Host a Body Positive Event

by Nicole Geurin, MPH, RD

Earlier this year, I helped to plan and host an event: Health at Every Size®: LIVE!  A morning of joyful movement and interactive presentations.  The goals of the event were to spread awareness of the HAES approach and to raise money for the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH).  The event planning was demanding, but at the same time, it was a tremendously rewarding experience.  In this step-by-step guide, I share my personal experiences in planning a body positive event.  I hope that readers can benefit from my lessons learned and perhaps be inspired to host their own events.

Step 1: Assemble an All-Star Team

Having a great team is the key to hosting a great event.  Recruiting a diverse team with a variety of experiences and perspectives is essential.  Ideally, the team will include people of different sizes, abilities, ages, races/ethnicities, professional backgrounds, gender identities, socio-economic status, and sexual orientations.  I discovered many of our team members online: Facebook, MeetUp.com and the HAES Community website.

Our team included:

  • Nicole Geurin, HAES dietitian
  • Meg White, HAES fitness expert
  • Emily Ireland Cox, body positive event planner
  • Iolande Argent, size positive coach and BBW socialites leader
  • Susan Faitos, licensed marriage and family therapist and IT extraordinaire
  • Keynote speaker Connie Sobczak, cofounder of The Body Positive and author of Embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and Quiet that Critical Inner Voice)
  • Student volunteers
  • Body positive fitness instructors

Step 2: Plan the Details

You know: the who, what, when, where, why and how.

  • Who is your target audience? Our target audience was pretty broad: anyone interested in learning about HAES.
  • What activities will you offer to engage this group? We had guest speakers, movement breaks, information tables, tasty snacks and raffle prizes.
  • Where will you hold the event? Consider location, space requirements, equipment needs, and accommodations for all sizes and abilities.  We rented a room at a centrally located park.  It had space to comfortably seat 50 people, plus room for movement breaks and the information tables.
  • Why are you hosting this event? We wanted to spread awareness of the HAES approach and raise money for ASDAH.
  • How are you going to pull it off? Consider budget and funding sources.  We used YouCaring.com to raise donations for ASDAH.  I also created a WordPress website as a hub to share event information and updates.

Step 3: Market Like Wild

Okay, so it’s probably better to have a more strategic marketing plan.  We marketed the event in every possible way we could imagine.  Here were the most successful routes:

  • Word of mouth – Tell your friends, family, clients, and colleagues. And your friends’ families, clients’ colleagues, and any other network variation you can devise.  Marketing success relies on having a diverse team who can tap into different populations.
  • Facebook – Ah, the power of social media. Facebook events are easy to create and share with others.

We also created event flyers, posted on Instagram, recorded two local news segments, and developed a press release for various news outlets.  Even if these marketing tactics didn’t increase participation, we felt good knowing we were spreading awareness about the HAES concepts.

Step 4: Enjoy the Ride

The day of the event goes by quickly.  You’ve already done all the hard work, so now it’s time to relax.  Remember to take a deep, mindful breath, and enjoy the ride.

nicole1Here is my recount of the event:

It was a drizzly Saturday in May.  What had started as an idea to host an all-bodies yoga class had morphed into a half-day event.  I was glad we decided to host it indoors.  I packed my car the night before with supplies – a Yay! Scale™ for our arts and crafts table, a stack of research articles for our research table, and an entire suitcase full of books for our book display table.  I arrived onsite and we started setting up.  Emily brought signs with body-positive quotes to hang all over the room.  Meg single-handedly prepared snacks for the entire group and printed posters for our talk.  The student volunteers were each in charge of their own information table.  It was fun to finally meet the nutrition students I had mentored for the past two months over the phone and online.  Even more thrilling was getting to meet Connie Sobczak, a leader in the HAES movement who I greatly admire.

Our guests started arriving around 10:00 am.  They mingled and browsed the information tables.  We got started around 10:30 am – a half-hour past schedule.  Whoops! Setting up took longer than expected.  We kicked things off with an introduction, followed by an energizing tai chi warm up.  Meg and I challenged the myths perpetuated by the current weight-based paradigm in our talk, Big, Fat Lies. I was encouraged by audience members who audibly expressed their encouragement—they got it; this was their lived experience.  Next, everyone joined in a lively Zumba® break.  The karaoke party speaker Meg purchased worked great—much better than I had anticipated.  The light show feature was a nice touch, too. The walls danced with color as we moved to the beat.

We took the next ten minutes to hear personal stories from our guest speakers.  They shared their real, raw, personal journeys towards body acceptance and self-love.  It was incredibly moving.  Part two of our talk was titled Health at Every Size: Putting the Approach Into Practice.  Meg and I encouraged the audience to redefine health and to practice compassionate self-care.  We shared our ideas and received lots of input from the audience, too.

Connie Sobczak focused her talk on Cultivating Self-Love and Declaring Your Own Authentic Beauty, two competencies of the Be Body Positive Model.  I was captivated by her beautiful storytelling.  At one point, I looked over and noticed another member of the audience had tears in her eyes.  Everyone was deeply moved.

At the end of the day, we had raised money for ASDAH, sold over a dozen books, and, hopefully, planted a few ideas that will grow into meaningful change.  The entire event was captured by a videographer.  To learn more about Health at Every Size®: LIVE! and watch the event video, visit https://haeslive.com.

 


Nicole Geurin, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor with a master’s degree in public health nutrition.  She works as a corporate nutrition consultant in Sacramento, California.  She is also the author of a new e-book, titled 5-Minute Meals: It’s Not Fast Food, It’s Real Food…Fast!  Visit Nicole’s website and nutrition blog at http://ift.tt/2cDZbrb.  Contact Nicole at ngeurin@yahoo.com.

 



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Kirstie Allsopp Can Eat Me

WTF are you doingKirstie Allsopp hosts a British Television show about real estate. Apparently she’s looking for a second job as an officer with the food police.

It seems that someone had the gall to be in a cafe, eating a breakfast that Kirstie didn’t approve of.  So like any nosy, inappropriate busy body with an over-exaggerated sense of self importance and a cell phone, she memorized his meal and then Tweeted about it.

“Just saw a guy have a glass of coke, a cappuccino, a croissant and a ham & cheese sandwich for breakfast #OurNHSistoast  #worldgonemad

In addition to being ableist language, with everything going on in the world right now, the idea that some dude eating a big breakfast is an indication of the “world gone mad” seems to indicate that Kirstie may struggle to prioritize.

I have some hashtags of my own I’d like to add, including:

#WTFKirstie
#IfIWantTheFoodPoliceI’llCallPie11
#MindYourOwnPlate
#YourBeeswaxIsInAnotherCastle

Some people are even sending her descriptions of their meals on twitter – after all, she’s obviously in charge of judging all of our food and she can’t be in every cafe at the same time…

Luckily most people who responded to this had enough sense to know that this it is stunningly inappropriate. Happily Kirstie realized her mistake and apologized…

…Just Kidding! She doubled down with these gems:

My point is that if we all want a functioning NHS we all need to take a pull.

and

We judge that someone who doesn’t use a seatbelt is an idiot, yet decide to eat yourself to death and it’s all about not *judging*

Let’s dispense with the ridiculous comparison and move on to the actual situation (and not totally rando comparisons thereof) We don’t know the circumstances at all – various responses mentioned that he might have just finished a long workout, or a long overnight shift, or had to fast for a medical test and been starving, or he was just hungry.  To be clear, the guy had a sandwich, croissant, soda and coffee for one meal but Kirstie (psychically, I guess?) knows that he’s “eating [him]self to death?”???

It’s time to get real here – does anybody actually believe that Kirstie seriously thinks  foodshaming strangers on twitter is the key to healthcare?  Or maybe, just maybe, does she simply enjoy being cruel, and is willing to try to try to hide behind the hand-wringing “WON’T SOMEBODY PUHLEEEZE THINK OF THE NHS” drama as a way to mask the fact that she’s nothing more than your average, garden variety, internet troll.

I’m also curious who Kirstie thinks should get to shame and control her food choices for the good of the NHS?  Is she simultaneously a vegetarian, vegan, paleo, raw food,  and macrobiotic practitioner?  If not, then lots of people out there don’t think she’s doing everything that she could for the good of the NHS. Who gets to choose Kirstie’s food? Anytime we’re talking about these “I’m the boss of the personal decisions of other people because of my tax dollars” nonsense, we’re going down a bad, illogical, slippery slope of a  road.

The idea that we should judge people for their food choices, or impact on the healthcare system at all is crap (somebody remind me, what do you call it when someone suggests that people who are “expensive” for society shouldn’t be allowed to exist?)   But the idea that anyone can or should judge a total stranger’s impact on the healthcare system based on a single meal they see them eat as they walk past in a cafe is absolutely ludicrous . If you see food shaming happening, here are some ideas for what you might do.

As for Kirstie, hopefully she’ll find ways to occupy her time besides tweeting out random people’s breakfast orders and concern trolling. We can only hope.

Did you miss the
Fat Activism Conference?
It’s not too late!

You can still register to get access to all the recordings, transcripts, speaker handouts, and the conference goody bag! Get recordings of all 30 speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and more. The pay what you can option is still available so that money is not a barrier. Click Here to Register!  Hurry though, registration closes October 9th (though of course you’ll have time after that to listen and download.)

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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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Raising Body Positive Kids in a Body Negative World

The world is messed up you are fineI’m honored that this post is part of BEDA’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week, please check out all of the awesome work that they are doing.  

I was at an event recently where we were doing icebreakers. The “light hearted” question we were all supposed to answer was “what advice would you give your 10 year old self?” The other women said things like “you can be anything you want!” and “you’ll never use algebra so don’t worry about it so much!”  Everyone was smiling and laughing so when I said, completely seriously “Don’t diet.  Don’t ever, ever diet” it kind of stopped the show. But it started a conversation about the ways that a sizeist world had messed us all up around our relationship with our bodies.

In my work as a speaker, writer, and blogger I’m most often talking with adults who are trying to overcome a history of body image issues and chronic dieting that often goes all the way back to childhood and is perpetuated by our current thin-obsessed culture. When I do speak to and with girls, sometimes as young as third grade, I hear about the extreme pressure to be thin and the fat shaming (both often coming from adults) that is leading to a world where 1 out of 4 children had dieted prior to turning 7, and a staggering 80% of American girls aged 10 have been on diets. Also concerning was the finding that one-third of boys and the majority of girls ages 6 to 8 wish their bodies were thinner, and where the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years for eating disorders rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006. (Children UNDER 12)

One of the things that can help kids deal with this is adults who not only model healthy behavior, but who also point out what is happening and give kids some ammunition against a world where they will be encouraged to judge themselves and each other harshly, and where predatory industries see them as a target demographic.

Role modeling can be tough.  Often adults who have been raised and conditioned by society to have crappy self-esteem and body image are trying to raise kids with high self-esteem and body image, and that can be very difficult to do. I think that one of the best things that we can do for the kids in our lives is to work on ourselves, starting with the way that we talk about ourselves.  

Here are some things that I wish more adults had done when I was growing up:

  • Stop negative body talk, all of it, right now. Start with your own body. Kids believe what we do more than what we say, so if we talk badly about our own bodies, but then tell kids who look like us that they are beautiful, they are going to see right through that. Decide that you are going to talk about things you like about your body, celebrate exactly what you look like and what your body can do. Don’t say negative things about other people’s bodies.  When you watch the Oscar’s, encourage kids to focus on the performer’s accomplishments and not on how they look.
  • Have books and art around that highlight and celebrate a variety of bodies – people of different sizes, shapes, colors, dis/abilities, ages, and more.. http://ift.tt/1N08uMb
  • Talk about health in terms of health and never in terms of weight or body size.  Let kids know that bodies come in lots of sizes and all bodies are good bodies, and let them know that, while there are things that they can do to support their health, it is not a barometer of worthiness or entirely within our control.
  • Make health about fun, not about restriction and punishment.  Talk about what kids can DO to support their health instead of suggesting what they should restrict or not do.
  • I have a talk I give to all ages called “The World is Messed Up, You’re Fine” and I think that’s an important message to give kids.  Let them know that a lot of times adults, including adults we’re supposed to trust, do super messed up things, often meaning well but messed up nonetheless. When it comes to body size and health right now the world is pretty messed up -people insist that bodies are good or bad depending on what size they are and there’s a lot of prejudice, negative body talk, and bullying that happens around size.  There are even some doctors who believe this, and even think that they can make guesses about how healthy someone is by what they look like.  The truth is that people come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and all bodies are good bodies.
  • Be honest – explain the concepts of oppression, and privilege and activism in an age-appropriate way. Yes, in our society people who look a certain way may be treated better, and if you think that’s wrong you can fight to end it.  You can also talk about weight and health – explain that there are some people who may want the best for them, but they are unfortunately ill-informed about the truth about the diversity of body sizes that exist and how health works (maybe start with the story of Galileo.) You can also bridge this lesson to talk about other types of oppression – racism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, classism et al,  areas where they have privilege and how they can use that privilege to help (age-appropriate intersectionality FTW!)
  • Point out the ways that the industries profit from us hating our bodies and trying to achieve some stereotype of beauty that is unattainable and arbitrary.
  • Never encourage kids to diet. Nothing good comes of it.  Research from the University of Minnesota found that: “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors.”  Encourage kids of all sizes to appreciate their bodies and see them as amazing and worthy of care. Then work to make sure that they have the resources to take good care of 

Kids are living in a world where companies will try, at every opportunity, to (as my friend CJ Legare puts it) steal their self-esteem and sell it back to them at a profit.  If we can help those kids develop their self-esteem and then hang on to it when the beauty and diet industries are trying to tear it away from them, we’ll give them a fighting chance to make a real change in their own world, and in the whole world.

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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Monday, 26 September 2016

Diet Culture: E’s Story

Does diet culture kill?

My sister E was the oldest of five children; I was the youngest. Growing up in a house where our father was at work most of the time, and our mother was tired most of the time, E did a lot of the work of raising me.

She was one of the most independent minded people I knew. She had friends and liked doing things with them, but she made her own decisions and they weren’t always what her friends would do.

She worked hard, but always on her own terms. She would use up all her vacation, and all her sick days, and she felt no guilt about it. She felt that there was no point working if you didn’t also have fun.

She’d say what was on her mind, pretty much unfiltered. Of course, she came of age in the 1970s, when “tell it like it is” was everyone’s motto. But she also knew how to sweet talk, and she could get me to do chores like no one else could.

But for all this independence, she had one weak point: she was a fat person. She was one of the most beautiful women I knew, but because she was fat, society put her in the “such a pretty face” category. She’s been on and off diets for as long as I’ve known her. They never worked long term, until about 11 years ago.

That’s when she had weight-loss surgery. I tried as best as I could to talk her out of it, but it didn’t work. She had so much self hatred because of her fatness that she wanted more than anything to lose weight and keep it off. She felt that she’d never have a husband unless she was thin, or at least thinner than she was. She knew that I was and am attracted to fat women, and was and am married to a woman much fatter than her. That didn’t matter. She just couldn’t imagine that there were others like me out there. Or maybe it didn’t matter what others thought: it was what she thought, and she thought the worst of herself simply because of her fatness.

I saw her a few years after the surgery at our father’s burial. She was a lot thinner than she had been, although not thin at that point. But she kept on saying how bad a person she was because she still ate more than she should, in her opinion.

At that time she was living near where my dad had lived, where it’s very cold in the winter, and she didn’t spend much time with other people. She talked about being depressed, and going for days without showering or bathing.

A little bit after that, she moved back to New Jersey, where we’re from. She was able to find a fairly nice place to live within her budget, and it seem like she had gotten her life in order. But she was still talking about not bathing or showering, and being sad. Another sister, C, lived nearby, and E had friends nearby as well. But she was still lonely.

C had been sick for decades, and last year, 2015, she died. After that, phone calls from E got fewer. In November 2015, E went into the hospital. She was diagnosed with an iron deficiency, got a blood transfusion, and was sent home with supplements.

She was back in the hospital in December, this time with a gallstone that had migrated to her colon. They wound up removing her gallbladder. In January 2016, she was back in the hospital again, then again in March, and again in April. Since then she’s been in an infinite loop, going from the hospital to a rehab center and then to home, but never home more than a few days until she’s back in the hospital.

Her ailments, according to the hospital doctor who has seen her the most, come down to her not eating enough. Somehow last year, through a combination of her weight-loss surgery, depression, and drugs, she had attained the ability to starve herself. Put another way, she developed an eating disorder.

I went to visit her earlier this summer on our way to a family reunion, and at that point she was in a rehab facility. The problem was, though, she wasn’t getting better. She didn’t like any of the food offered to her, and wanted special food brought in like chocolate flavored Ensure. And sometimes she didn’t like that either.

Her mental confusion increased over that period. She could never understand why she was sick, why she kept going into the hospital, why she was losing her ability to walk and do things for herself.

Eventually E went back home, but this time she had an in-home aide to help her. And for a couple of weeks, it seemed like she was actually getting better.

But she wasn’t. She wasn’t doing the physical therapy, she still wasn’t eating enough, and she wasn’t on a path to independence. A family member decided that the in-home aide was too soft on E, and so she went back east herself to nurse E back to health.

Things didn’t go as hoped. E went back into the hospital a few days later, then to rehab, then back in the hospital. We still have hope, but she’s been in decline for a long time, and it doesn’t look good.

Is diet culture killing my sister? E was an independent woman, but she could never reconcile herself to being fat. When she found a way to starve herself, there was no turning back.




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Mutiny On Lesbo Island

Originally posted on Saye Bennett:
Note: This post is my long-overdue (sorry! ugh!) response to joannadeadwinter in our on-going conversation  about bisexuality. Specifically, this post is in response to her post, “Shipwreck on Lesbo Island.” Joannadeadwinter made so many excellent points in her most recent post in our discussion of bisexuality that I found myself nodding…

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Easy Vegetarian Enchiladas Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CambialoConQS #CollectiveBias Hi friends! I am sharing a recipe passed down through my family...

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