Thursday, 27 April 2017

Weight Loss – The Credit Thief

Success and Diets

In our weight-obsessed culture there is a tendency to tell fat people that we should blame our body size for everything that is wrong in our lives, and that the only way to succeed is to lose weight. This is a damaging lie, and today I wanted to look at three ways that it plays out.

This is a re-work of a past post in response to a number of conversations I’ve been having lately.

Health Improvements

Let’s say that someone adds some behaviors that are known to perhaps support health to their life, they experience some health improvements, and they lose weight.

The story we get is the weight loss leads to greater health, but back it up a minute.

Why do we rule out behavior changes as the reason for health improvements? It seems much more likely that the health improvements and the body size change are both results of the behavior change. Especially since there is good research that shows that behavior changes often lead to health improvements regardless of body size, or change in body size. On the flip side, research shows that weight loss without behavior change (for example liposuction) does not show health improvements.

Athletic and Mobility Improvements

Someone starts a program to increase strength, stamina flexibility, and/or mobility. They increase strength, stamina, flexibility, and/or mobility, and their body weight goes down.

The story we get told is that weight loss is responsible for these results. But thin people begin programs like this all the time, and everyone is clear that it’s the program that causes their athletic and mobility improvements. But in a fat person we’re told that it’s the change in body weight? Not to mention that there are definitely limitations on what our bodies can do and so the idea that we are completely in control of these things/ obligated to control them quickly becomes ableist and healthist.

Confidence

Someone’s body weight changes and they become more confident.

The story we get told is that weight loss increases confidence with no examination of the fact that a society rife with sizeism is what prevented the person from being confident in the first place.  There is no reason for someone not to be confident at a higher weight -and even living in a society that gives us near constant negative messages about our bodies, there are still plenty of confident fat people.

On the surface there is a frustrating lack of logic here, but this problem goes way deeper than that.  The truth is that all of the incidents of weight loss that I described above are likely to be temporary.  The truth about weight loss is that most people can lose some weight for a short amount of time, but almost everyone gains it back and many gain back more than they lost. The constant lie that fat people are told is that our fat is to blame for anything and everything we’re not happy about in our lives, and that the “solution” to all of that is weight loss.

These lies convince fat people to put our goals and lives on hold and put all of our eggs in the weight loss basket, despite a mountain of evidence that suggests it will never happen, and a complete lack of evidence that it will actually help us achieve any of our goals. It means that when fat people give up on weight loss (wisely, since it almost never works) many of us also give up on all the goals that lies told us required weight loss to achieve.

It’s important to remember that health, athletic ability, confidence and all of the other things that supposedly come with weight loss are never obligations, barometers of worthiness, or entirely within our control, and we might do well to think twice before we buy the party line that they are body size dependent – because when weight loss gets the credit, nobody gets the truth.

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

People Get to Do Things They Might Regret

The Guardian is apparently a font of anti-trans articles and articles that can be used that way, between the mom insisting that her kid is a tomboy and is not trans (despite a previous article where the kid states that he’s a boy), the really harsh letter to a trans ex, and this article detailing the experience of a woman who started a transition to male and regretted it. The article in and of itself wasn’t anti-trans, but it was thrown at me as a supposed example of “children being sterilized because they’re confused about their gender.” (It’s not—she was 18 when she had surgery and while testosterone can affect fertility, she still has a chance to get pregnant.)

Before sharing my take on this article, I want to give some background from actual trans organizations on the subject of detransition and amplify the voices of trans people who have been there*:
http://ift.tt/2oAHfEk – An explanation from Trans Advocate about reasons people detransition, as well as statistics
http://ift.tt/2ojIfAP – The author of Transgender Explained for Those Who Are Not, a trans woman, writes about why people regret sex-reassignment surgery
http://ift.tt/2inaM5B – An interview with two trans women who were widely reported as detransitioning. (One had only paused; the other had decided to detransition due to social pressures but changed her mind again.)

As far as the author’s experience itself, she was dealt a really crappy hand, and I have an awful lot of sympathy. She transitioned very quickly after being suicidal as a teenager. She had no counseling at all and started hormones and had chest surgery at the age of 18. Her chest surgery was botched, leaving her with major scarring. So, that’s two huge instances of extremely poor medical treatment. The usual standard of care involves not only counseling, but a whole year of Real-Life Experience (RLE) living openly as their gender prior to any surgery. (Some doctors even require it before hormones.)

She’s also completely right that oppressive sexism makes women and girls feel broken when it’s society, not us, that has something wrong with it. And it’s much easier to try to change yourself than to fight against the forces of society that try to force you into compliance.

I think hers is a story that’s worth telling, because it underscores the importance of good counselling before making a life-altering medical decision, as well as the damaging effects of misogyny. Also, it’s a true story, and everybody deserves to have their experience heard and respected.

But. (There’s always a but.) The way I’ve seen it used is really harmful. This author’s experience is *not* the norm for trans people who undergo surgical transition. There’s usually tons of counseling and a requirement that the person live as their gender prior to surgery. If you want to use this article to say, “Some counseling should exist,” great, most trans people would agree with you. But if you want to use it to expand gatekeeping that already makes trans people’s life more difficult, or to argue that we shouldn’t acknowledge people’s gender when they tell us they’re trans, then not so much.

The idea that adult people need to be protected, at all costs, from doing anything they might regret is pretty infantilizing. People particularly freak out about sterilization, whether directly through surgery or indirectly in the cases where hormones make someone infertile. (They also tend to assume that the second is an automatic guarantee, which it is not.) And yet, a lot of those people, certainly the ones who consider themselves feminists, wouldn’t question a cis woman’s right to have her tubes tied if she doesn’t want children or doesn’t want more children. To expect a trans person to undergo more strenuous gatekeeping than a cis woman for a similar choice indicates that you don’t view them as adults who can make their own decisions. (That’s not to diminish the amount of gatekeeping women who want permanent sterilization *do* face, especially if they haven’t had kids at all.)

Everyone will make dozens of choices in their lives that they might regret. Medical ones tend to have the most gatekeeping, with consent forms and counseling, but everything from your choice of a college major to your choice of a spouse can change your life. And that’s just the decisions that you know are life-altering at the time. It’s pretty obvious when you’re standing up in church or the courthouse to say “I do” that this is a life-altering moment, but asking that person for their number or sitting down next to them in chem lab probably didn’t seem like a turning point. It’s hard to imagine a life where you can never make a choice you regret. Your choices would have to be so constrained by other people as to be completely meaningless.

There’s no way to stop people from making decisions they may later regret, nor should we try. The best we can do is make sure they have good options available to them and have the time and information to make the choice that’s right for them. It may turn out that what they thought was right for them at the time wasn’t, but they’re still the only person who can make that choice.

With kids, of course the ideal is that they never have to face major decisions they aren’t ready for, because they have loving parents and a network of school and community to shield them from that. Reality, of course, is not that simple. A pregnant fourteen-year-old can either give birth or have an abortion. If she gives birth, she can raise the baby herself or put them up for adoption. All of those are life-altering choices, and there’s no neutral option.

I don’t want to equate being a trans teen with being a pregnant teen because they’re very different life experiences (and some teens experience both), but in both cases, there are no neutral options. There’s a cost for a kid to live as their assigned at birth gender, and a cost for them to transition. Current medical best practices include puberty blockers, giving the kid time to think about the decision and keep all their options open. Then, if they decide to transition, there’s more counseling at each step. The intent is already to protect kids from having to make life-altering decisions before they’re ready, and to make sure that they and their parents have the necessary information and fully consider all medical decisions.

The one place where I truly disagree with the author of the Guardian piece is where she says transitioning “should be seen as the last resort.” I think the idea of transition as a last resort is harmful because it adds onto the standard of informed consent. It’s not enough that the patient be aware of all their options and have thoroughly considered their choice. Instead, they have to somehow prove that they’ve suffered “enough” or are at “enough” risk to be allowed to transition. Considering that the author herself was suicidal when she transitioned, the bar for “last resort” would have to be extraordinarily high to have prevented the transition that she came to regret. So how many suicidal trans people would be denied care and would die as a result? Obviously, she didn’t get appropriate medical care. She had no counseling, and her surgery was botched. So of course she wants stricter standards. But “last resort” swings too far in the other direction, and it doesn’t treat trans people as adults who get to make their own life decisions.

*Referring to gender gets a little messy when people detransition, but the basic principle is to respect how someone refers to themselves. The author of the Guardian piece is “she” because she states that she’s a woman, not a trans man. Likewise, the two women interviewed in the Vice article paused their transitions but identify themselves as women. (This would be the case regardless of what surgeries they have or don’t have, or what meds they take or don’t take.)




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Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Little Black Yippy Dog Does Not Want a Hug

Let me add my voice to the “No! Don’t do that!” chorus, because that’s not just the opposite of help, but actively dangerous and skeevy as all hell.

First, let me introduce you to my imaginary dog Yippy, who is my metaphor for anxiety. The world is a terrifying place when you’re a nervous little black dog, so he barks at everything all the time.

This metaphor works particularly well for this trash advice, because dogs in general really don’t like hugs. A dog might accept a hug from a loved and trusted human, but a random acquaintance who picks Yippy up and gives him a hug is likely to get bitten. If he’s scared or agitated enough, and you ignore the warning signs, you might get bitten even if he knows and likes you.

Likewise, if you randomly grab me against my will while I’m having a panic attack, and continue to hang on while I’m struggling to get away, I make no promises that I won’t deck you. I’ll probably be with it enough to realize that this is a misguided attempt to help, and try to fake calm long enough to get your grabby hands off me, but that’s not a guarantee.  And if you try that with someone who has PTSD and is in the middle of a flashback? Bad call.

Panic attacks are different for everyone, but when I have one, I often feel trapped and warm, like the room is closing in on me and I can’t get enough air. Putting your warm body up against me and closing me in is going to make both of those things worse, and be the exact opposite of help.

One thing that strikes me about this advice is the many ways in which it’s dehumanizing. First and most obvious is the hostility to consent and the assumption that you can restrain someone “for their own good” as a random bystander. It also treats people having panic attacks as a problem with a single solution. Dude, if it was that easy, everybody with anxiety disorder or PTSD would pass this sheet out to everyone we know, and all our panic attacks would be instantly fixed. Humming or whispering might help some people in some situations, but I’d just find it irritating. And there are few things *less* helpful to say to me during panic or anxiety than “It’s going to be okay.” Especially since November, because it may very well not be.

I can picture a couple situations in which it would be reasonable to grab someone who’s having a panic attack. (This is as a friend, acquaintance, or other random bystander. If you’re an actual medical professional, I won’t presume to tell you how to do your job, but I certainly hope you have more training on the subject than a random Tumblr post.)

The first is if they’re in imminent physical danger that they seem to be ignoring or unaware of. If I’m too busy hyperventilating to leave a burning building, and don’t respond to “Hey, Kel, we need to get the hell out of here,” yes, please, drag me out physically.

The second is if they, specifically, have told you, specifically, that this is how they want you to help them handle their panic attacks. People vary wildly, so it’s entirely possible that this is helpful for some people, especially from someone they trust. I do find hugs helpful when Yippy is losing his shit, but offered, not forced, and from my husband, not anybody and everybody.

If you want to help a friend or loved one who has panic attacks, *ask them* what would be helpful. If you want to be a generally useful good Samaritan to anyone who might have a panic attack or other mental health problem in your general vicinity, mental health first aid classes are a thing.




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Friday, 21 April 2017

100 Fat Activists #25: Judy's Stuff

Judy Freespirit's t-shirt
Regular readers of this blog will know that I hold Judy Freespirit's activism in high esteem. In 2010 I met her and visited her archives at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, pivotal experiences in my own thinking about fat activism. I then went on to explore this in my most recent book.

I just wanted to give these holdings some space in their own right and encourage anyone who has the means to go and check them out. So here is the GLBT Historical Society's Finding Aid of the Judy Freespirit Papers 1971–2010, basically a list of all the things they have. It runs to 25 pages and is compelling as an object in its own right.

I bang on about fat activism and archiving quite a bit. Freespirit's archive shows that saving and donating ephemeral material can create an amazingly rich resource for researchers, activists, or anyone really. If you are the kind of person who does stuff, think seriously about leaving a trail behind you, like Judy, for people of the future to use and enjoy.

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Rethinking fitness and leisure centres

A foggy winter day at the lido
This week was the first since the cold war that I thought getting nuked was a possibility. "How does one cope with radiation sickness?" I thought to myself. Things are very bad. I believe that it is my adult duty to stare into the abyss and do what I can to stop anyone pushing the button, but I also need respite. I have been relishing mornings at a lido in south London where the water is heated and the surrounding trees in full blossom. There aren't many places in the city where you can immerse yourself in soothing water and stare at the clouds.

On Wednesday my peace was shattered by an outdoor spin class, surely one of the most miserable things you can do in the name of leisure, which led me to wonder why sports facilities and centres in the UK are a pile of cak, and needlessly so. I will share these thoughts with you.

Leisure centres in the UK are run by jocks with no sense of aesthetics. I plan holidays around pools I would like to visit on the continent. Müller'sches Volksbad in Munich, Therme Vals in Switzerland, Holthusenbad in Hamburg and pretty much all the pools in Budapest have found me padding around in my swimmers. They boast stunning architecture, they have a sense of place about them, they're unique and lovely to visit, usually the highlight of a trip. They often have a groovy café attached, where you can get well-made food, even a glass of wine or a brandy. At central European pools you can have a dip and a game of chess. But in the UK the architecture is usually so-so at best, older pools are rarely maintained and usually close in a state of disrepair, there seems to be no incentive to build or preserve something remarkable. Inside it might be a bit dirty and smelly, the changing area is uncomfortable, it's expensive and penalises the casual user because the place is run on a business model of hard-selling memberships, the atmosphere is banal. My local Morrisons can get it together to play Joy Division as I wander the aisles, yet a typical leisure centre soundtrack consists of bleak high BPM generic M People-sounding remixes.

At many pools your swimming choices are limited to lanes or family sessions. The lanes are about training to win, sport and its attendant nationalism and citizenship, or increasing one's athleticism. The family sessions are alienating to those of us who are not a family with kids. If you are an adult by yourself there is little space for social swimming, swimming expressively, mucking about, exploring, playing, bobbing or doing any kind of unorthodox movement that being in water enables you to do. You'll find that you're subject to the lifeguard's angry whistle if you try.

The focus is on athleticism not wellness, fun or sensuality. I don't care about swimming a fast length, I just want to feel good in my body. At Bartholomäus-Therme in Hamburg I went to a candlelight session with classical music and pool noodles. Underwater jets were switched on that swirled the group of mostly old people (they'd just had a water aerobics session) round and round, so peaceful, watching our reflections in the high mirrored ceiling for an hour or so. But in the UK shit like this is not allowed, to the extent that people can't handle it when it is allowed. I went to Thermae Bath Spa last week and was amazed by the awkward, stiff people horrified by their own public near-nakedness, unable to relax in the warm water, behaving as though they were at a suburban cocktail party with strangers.

Sports and leisure centres in the UK remain places where compulsive exercising and body dysmorphia thrive. It's back to the jock quotient again, these people can get your heart rate up on a treadmill but they are not equipped to deal with those who hate and punish their own bodies through exercise. Sports and leisure centres in the UK are like a haven for misery with a grinning-winning Go For It! face plastered on top. It's not uncommon to find services advertised on the back of body shaming whereas such places could be at the forefront of breaking it down.

Which brings me to access. Being able to winch someone into a pool is all very well, but you don't see it in use very often. If you don't have a certain kind of body, if you are vulnerable within a culture that values those certain kinds of bodies, you will likely stay away. Why would you go to a place where you might get stared at or treated as inferior? This is not just about body types but also about making places accessible to people who are "unfit," a term I hate. I would never take the spin class I saw this week because I know I would be subtly sanctioned if I couldn't keep up or needed to stop. Could I even fit on one of those bikes? Session leaders say that it's fine to take a breather but no one ever takes them up on it. This keeps away people like me and the kind of people I like or consider community.

There is no political impetus to make anything different. Policymakers can chug on about "tackling the obesity epidemic" but it's all hot air or sanctioning. I dream of public services and centres that are open to all, prioritise wellness and joyful embodiment, collective feelings, imaginative possibilities. You can see fragments of this in projects like Open Barbers, a not for profit hair salon that welcomes people of all genders and sexualities. Why couldn't this community sensibility be extended further? What if a leisure centre was an arts project? Or run like a really fab nightclub? An autonomous centre for intergenerational oddballs? A political meeting place? What an experiment that would be! And likely profitable/self-sustaining. You could cordon off an area for the jocks, the wannabe Olympians, the normals and all that family-friendly stuff, they could still come too.

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Thursday, 20 April 2017

Doctor Kills Fat Person, Gets Slap On The Wrist

Bad DoctorReader Amy passed on the article “Weight loss clinic doctor suspended; Slimband Substandard care of gastric banding patients” which was sent to her news package at work, where she receives any and all health and mental health-related articles.  I thought I would translate it from sizeist bullshit to English.  The article’s actual text is indented and may be triggering for all the reasons you might think, you can skip those parts and still get the gist of the post.

As I’ve written about before, at best weight loss surgery is a crap shoot that might kill you. This clinic’s assembly line approach, and its medical director’s negligent views toward it, are perfect examples of that:

The medical director of Canada’s busiest private weight−loss surgery clinic has been suspended three months for substandard care of patients, including one who died in a Calgary hotel room a day and a half after his operation. Dr. Patrick Yau has said he conducted 6,000 gastric banding surgeries at the Slimband clinic in downtown Toronto whose colourful advertising was once widespread.

A doctor, who chose to advertise a dangerous surgery as if it were a hot new movie, was suspended for three months because he did a shitty job – including killing a patient.

His discipline related to two specific cases, including one where he gave weightloss surgery to a 61−year−old woman who had a normal BMI. Experts say such treatment, which can have complex physical and emotional side effects, should only be for the morbidly obese.

In the first case, the issue was that he gave a life-threatening surgery to a thin person, and people are only comfortable with fat people’s lives being put at risk in that way.

The other case involved a 38−year−old obese man from High Prairie, Alta., with type 1 diabetes, who was released a day after his operation without any testing of blood sugar. He flew back to Alberta that day and was found dead in a hotel room the next morning, the hearing heard. The Alberta coroner said he died from bacterial meningitis and complications of his diabetes. The College discipline committee chastised Yau for not having proper procedures in place before patients are discharged.

In the second case they were ok with the risking the patient’s life because he was fat, but the doctor didn’t bother to test the blood sugar after his operation despite the fact that the patient was a type 1 diabetic – maybe the doctor was late for his tee time, maybe he just didn’t care that much about a fat patient, maybe he’s just wildly incompetent. Regardless, this led to the patient’s tragic death.

He pleaded “no contest” to charges of failing to meet standards of the profession, and in exchange the College withdrew a charge of incompetence. It was not his first run−in with the regulator. The hearing heard he had been cautioned − a lower form of censure − three times before for similar issues. And he was twice ordered to undergo remedial education, including having a personal “coach” in 2015.

Even though he killed someone, and he had a history of incompetence (with three prior censures for “similar issues,” twice being required to undergo remedial education courses, and being required to have a personal “coach,”) they let him take him plea that he failed to “meet the standards of the profession” and withdrew the incompetence charge.  I mean, the person he killed was fat so it barely counts, right? In three months he can be back to putting fat people’s lives at risk, but not thin people since we consider it criminal to give thin people a surgery that is recommended for fat people – even if they have the exact same actual health issues.

With extensive advertising on TV and the Internet, Slimband was the most visible of private clinics across the country that offer weight−loss surgery, and described itself the busiest. Yau said he has performed over 6,000 gastric−band surgeries, more than any other physician in the country, usually with “excellent results.”

The doctor claims that in his assembly-line style practice he has performed over 6,000 surgeries usually with “excellent results” – except when he kills the patient or does something that requires censure and remedial education of course.

A 2012 National Post report, however, quoted malpractice lawsuits and former Slimband employees who raised questions about whether patients who signed on following a persistent sales effort were adequately screened, sufficiently warned about possible complications or provided sufficient post−operative care.

Turns out that when the doctor said he usually had “excellent results” what he meant was that there are malpractice lawsuits and former employees who are concerned that in the company’s quest to profit off fatphobia, they failed to give patients true information about possible complications, or provide them with appropriate post-operative care.

The company said at the time that patients are fully informed of the risks and receive post−op service that is the best in the industry. It also cited customer surveys that showed the vast majority of patients were satisfied.

The company says that things are fine, because the “vast majority” of clients who filled out a survey said that they were satisfied.  Of course, the patients they killed would be less likely to fill out the survey, so…

Though its website is still live, Slimband closed on March 22, said Elisabeth Widner, the College’s prosecuting lawyer. She did not explain reasons for the shutdown.

In the only bit of good news, the clinic is now shut down and no longer mutilating fat people for profit.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Aspire to be More, Not Less

I dunno if y’all have seen the garbage fire that has been happening around Modcloth lately, but in case you haven’t, the bottom line is, Modcloth have been sold off to Jet.com, who are owned by Walmart. People are not happy, because Walmart have had some pretty serious question marks over their ethics and back in the day, Modcloth was known for being a progressive company whom a lot of women were happy to give their money to, knowing that it was a company that paid their staff well, actually catered to plus-sized customers beyond the same old drab tat many other retailers offered, and had some positive marketing strategies around women, trans folks and bodies in general. I’m not the only one who has noticed that sliding downwards over the past couple of years or so – the first death knell was their BIZARRE decision to remove the term “plus-size” from their online store and mix in the considerably smaller amount of plus-size stock in with the rest. Which for me, meant that I had to wade through endless garments that I was excluded from to find the small percentage that did come in my size. I’m sure I’m not the only one who found Modcloth much harder to shop with as a plus-size woman after that bizarre decision.

Since the sale of Modcloth to Jet.com, there have been allegations from former and current staff that the CEO, Matt Kaness, has had some concerning attitudes towards plus-size customers. The most telling of which is the disapproval of using plus-size models, either on their own or with straight sized ones, as plus-size models are not “aspirational”.

Can we please, PLEASE kill that belief right now? That plus-size models are not “aspirational”? And that “aspirational” means “thin”? Because I don’t know about you, but insisting that I would never inspire to be like any plus-size woman is complete and utter bullsh!t.

Aspirational does not equal thin. I know, I know, marketing executives and diet companies have been trying to force that on women for decades, but it’s not actually what the vast majority of women really aspire to. So much that it’s convinced both businesses and customers alike that there is nothing else that can be considered aspirational. But I’m here to say that really, most of us aspire to SO MUCH MORE than thinness. We aspire to happiness, success/talent (in many forms – career, education, creativity, family…), friendship, love, style, kindness, compassion, intelligence… I could go on and on. All of those things are achievable regardless of your size and/or weight, but because there is money to be made in peddling weight loss too, marketing executives have been feverishly working to convince us that the only thing we can aspire to as women is thinness.

But we are worth so much more. Women are worth so, so much more than that.

I do find fat women aspirational. Lots of them. So I thought I’d share some of them here, so that they as fat women can be celebrated and that all of you can see you can aspire to all kinds of things without having to reduce the size of your body. There are so many, but here are a few that currently hit my “aspirational” buttons.

Ashley Nell Tipton

I didn’t even watch Project Runway – I’ve followed Ashley Nell around the internet for ages now, read her blog, followed her on Instagram and seen her crop up in plus-size fashion articles being all fabulous all over the place. But I did follow the news about her on Project Runway and was SO PROUD of her for winning it and for all the things that she has achieved since. Not only is Ashley Nell living her dreams, but she’s one of the most stylish women on the planet. She has a style that is so unique to her, and she’s able to translate that into marketable ranges for JC Penney and Simplicity. Not to mention that she does all of this in a fat positive manner, every step of the way.

Beth Ditto

Beth has soared through the world of punk rock and straight into fashion. She has never apologised for her size – quite the opposite, she has flaunted her body proudly and created some really iconic imagery along the way. A talented singer and songwriter, and now fashion designer, she’s outspoken and bold. I read her book a while back and was really struck with how she had taken a tough background and turned it into art and style and followed her dreams.

Melissa McCarthy

This woman makes me laugh. I wish I was a fraction as funny as she is. If you haven’t seen Spy yet, you need to watch it, and I’m sure you’ll almost rupture something laughing like I did. Watch the out-takes too – I nearly threw up she made me laugh so hard. I love that it’s not funny at the expense of her fat body, but that she so perfectly inhabits her body and uses it and that wicked brain of hers to make people laugh.

Magda Szubanski

While we’re on funny women, Magda has been one of my favourite funny women for decades now. Her humour is something special, she brings such depth to her characters so that you feel like you know them, sometimes you feel like you might be one of them. Again, her body is not the punchline, but she is another fat woman who is filled with life and a wicked brain.  Her public campaigning for LGBTQI rights has been inspirational. I recently read her book too, and was deeply moved by her life and perspectives. She writes beautifully.

Naomi Watanabe

OK Naomi Watanabe is hilarious too, but for me, I am blown away by her style. I LOVE the way she dresses, her makeup, everything about her look. Her fashion label Punyus is ridiculously adorable.

Amina Mucciolo aka Tassel Fairy

Amina has actually modelled for Modcloth, and I LOVED seeing her on their site. Another plus-size woman with an amazing sense of style and a mastery of colour that fills me with glee.  I have been following her blog, shop and Instagram for some time too.

Kobi Jae of Horror Kitsch Bitch

I’m proud to call Kobi a friend of mine but I also adore her sense of style. If I could find a wardrobe a fraction as awesome as the one Kobi has, I’d be a happy, happy fatty.  Kobi blogs at Horror Kitsch Bitch and I believe there is a fashion range in the making!

These are just a few of the fabulous fat women that I find incredibly inspirational. It’s not hard to find inspirational fat women, and actual plus-size models (who have fat bodies, not just ones that are a couple of sizes over the usual model measurements) are both beautiful AND they showcase clothes in a way that I aspire to own and wear them. It’s pointless for me to look at clothes that come in my size (26-28AU or a 4X) modelled by small bodies – those clothes aren’t going to look the same on my body as they would on some tiny model. When I look at a model wearing clothes, I don’t aspire to have their body, I aspire to have the clothes that they are wearing them, and wear them in a way that they are styled.

I don’t aspire to be less of myself – I aspire to be more.

It’s not a difficult concept, it’s about bloody time those in the business of providing and selling clothing to fat women bothered to understand it.


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Monday, 17 April 2017

Creating a Healthcare Advocacy Notebook

If you've ever taken care of someone with a chronic health condition -- or if you've ever had a chronic health condition yourself -- you know that it can be challenging to deal with all the information, test results, doctor contact info, etc.

One of the best things you can do in this situation is to create a Health Advocacy Notebook where everything is gathered in one place. I learned this when I took care of my mother in her final years and I've had occasion to use it since for other family members (including myself) as well.

Directions

1. Start by getting a really good-quality notebook. Too big and it will be too cumbersome, but too small and there's not enough room. About an inch and a quarter is a good size.

2. Get a bunch of dividers. Get some that are just plain dividers and some dividers with pockets in them for keeping looseleaf handouts. Trust me, you'll want these. Medical people are always handing you loose pieces of paper and expecting you to keep track of them.

3. Start organizing the notebook in a way that makes sense for your situation. This will look different for everyone. Here are some specifics you might want to consider.

a. Overall summary of the person's situation. Basically, it's a cheat sheet for the hospital to have all your information in one place in a hurry during an emergency. Keep multiple copies so you can quickly give the hospital a copy and still have others. Be sure to keep the medications updated as these can change quickly. Include things like:
  • name
  • date of birth
  • address, cell phone number, and other contact information
  • all health conditions
  • list of current medications, dosages, and how often taken
  • history of major surgeries
  • next of kin and their contact information
  • power of healthcare attorney/living will information
b. Calendar. Many people choose the make the second section of the notebook a calendar. That way you can keep all the appointments in one place and available at a quick glance.

c. Blank paper for taking notes. It's so hard to remember questions for appointments; this section can help you keep track of those. Or it can be a great way to take notes during appointments and writing down the answers to those questions. You can go back and organize them later and decide what to keep.

d. Latest labs, scans, and test results. It can save time if you already have a copy of your latest test results instead of having to wait to access doctor files. Some people keep the actual images of x-rays or CT scans in the notebook but this can get too crowded for some. Use your judgment.

e. Specific medications or conditions. If you have an unusual condition or there is something unique about a medication you are on, a section on this could be very useful for quick reference.

f. Treatment side effects, alternative medications, or complementary therapies. Many people find it useful to keep sections on side effects or alternative therapies etc., whatever is most useful to you.

g. A page or two of plastic business card or trading card holders. In an emergency, you are often asked for the contact information for various doctors or labs. You can grab a business card from every doctor or therapist, stick it in the plastic holder, and always have contact info for each in one easy location. You'd be surprised how often you might need to find the address or phone number for some obscure doctor from several years ago. Keeping a card file can save a lot of time and effort. (These tend to be slippery so I prefer to keep these in the back.)

h. Keep a pen or two always in the notebook. That way you are always ready to take notes or write down questions and observations.

Summary

Health Advocacy Notebooks can be a powerful tool to helping yourself or others when health challenges present themselves.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when a loved one becomes a "frequent flyer" at the local Emergency Room, or to forget vital information if you get called in the middle of the night. If you have a grab-and-go notebook you are less likely to be caught unprepared. Keep the notebook in a bag with a sweater, some easy snacks, a book, etc. so that all you have to do is grab the bag on your way out the door in an emergency. That way, you will have supplies in case you are needed at the hospital for a while.

No two Health Advocacy Notebooks will look alike; each is going to be unique to your situation. Customize it to your own needs and it will serve you well. 


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Avalanches of Life

I don’t even know how to start writing this post. I want to say so much and yet nothing feels right about saying anything at all. Definitely going through a major transitional phase right now. It’s another of my famous avalanches of life stuff all at once, ya know?! Breakup/s, financial fallout (thanks IRS), death in the family, illness for me…At least things at work are good. Ha-ha! It really has been a month of trying to laugh my way through the hard shit that keeps flying at me. *sigh*

I just keep on keepin’ on, always have and probably always will. My bff J said to me last week, “You’re like a dung beetle. It doesn’t know it’s dealing with shit, it just gets shit done!” it was a compliment, but also a bit of a wake up call for me. I wasn’t allowing myself the space to breathe let alone rest and so my illness was more severe and long lasting, and, well, I’m still recovering.
I started this year off with the resignation of pushing myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible and that’s been working well…for the most part. It was kind of amazing to see my awkwardness reach it’s pinnacle at a recent modeling audition. So, a great friend talked me into going to a modeling audition, which was interesting,but fun! Until the very last part…we were supposed to line up and each do a serious runway walk in front of the designers and then the same but a freestyle walk to show off your personality/moves/etc. I did the serious walk fine but then as one person was ahead of me for the very last one I got a fucking nosebleed and had to run to the bathroom! Like of course! No one else would have that shit happen! It was almost over and I just couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. So embarrassing, but also hilarious! I swear my life is a sitcom!
Tigress took this pic of me right after the audition ended. Post bloody nose! 
Yeah, you read that right, I went through a breakup (technically two a month apart). Not much to say about it other than it was time and it was mutual. Dipping my toe back into the single life was exciting at first, but then I was very suddenly struck down with a nasty virus that had me bed ridden for 7 days solid. I’m still sort of dumbstruck by how hard that was and still is, to be honest. Nothing permanent, just a really nasty virus and a cough that won’t quit. It’s going around. What really sucks is being in a good place with myself while trying to meet like minded folks, but finding that is a taller order than I realized. People just can’t be real and my bullshit meter goes off and I…just…cannot! UGH!
Being so sick has forced me to rest, to give myself space, and to be patient with recovery. Yesterday was really the first time I’ve been out of the house and not at work since that modeling audition! I met up with the bffs for Drunch and revelry and had a blast! Finally got to see Trainspotting 2 and it did not disappoint! I’m still processing all the feels that washed over me during the entire film! Ahhh! So good! So necessary! So glad I got to see it with my two favorite people, too! By the time I got home last night my voice was shot from laughing and coughing all damned day! ha-ha!
This is my “I’m sick and everything is terrible” selfie. Ha!
So yeah, I’m single again! Watch out world! Ha-ha! I’m definitely taking a new approach to this whole dating thing. Especially now that I’m working and meeting folks in San Francisco. It’s very different than silicon valley was, for sure! Mostly I’m just enjoying meeting people of all walks of life. My second favorite drug has always been great conversation! I have a couple of bars close to work I like, too. Never thought I’d be able to say that! Now I’m just waiting for my energy to return because this is creeping into it’s third week and I’m still so exhausted and struggling to sleep.
I’m so grateful to have the friends that I do and to have such great people at work, too. I may be broke, but at least I’m (mostly) happy! I still wish I had friends in the town I lived in or at least nearby. 25 miles in any direction and I got great people in my life, but where I live is kind of a dead zone. Not that I mind flying solo these days. Not one bit! Just, sometimes, it would be nice to have someone to go to coffee with or a movie or just chill out with some Mario Kart or Netflix, ya know? Ah well. Whatever will be, will be!
Gosh! So much going on! Tigress and I will have our FIFTH dance show performing together coming up in early July! I cannot even believe it, but it’s true! This will be the first year we’re both gainfully employed during rehearsals, too! Ha-ha! No idea what we’re going to do for song or costumes yet, but that always is the fun part! If you think you’ll be in the SF/Oakland area check us out! It’s a guaranteed great time!
Big Dance, Big Dreams
Saturday July 8th, 2017: doors at 6:30, show at 7:00pm
Sunday July 9th, 2017: doors at 1:30, show at 2:00pm
Laney College Theater900 Fallon St, Oakland, CA $15 advance/$20 door
Tickets available NOW at:http://ift.tt/2puTwLD
I don’t know what or when I’ll write again, but I wanted to let y’all know I’m alive at least! Maybe I’ll have some funny dating stories to share! Ha-ha! Who knows?! If I’ve learned anything it’s that life will always keep you on your toes! Never a dull moment! Ha! I’ve been thinking a lot about the early days of this blog and my activism and how long ago that all seems now. I feel like I’ve lived an entire lifetime since then. So who knows what tomorrow will bring for any of us. I hope you’re all well and loved and happy. But you know, hit me up! Let me know how you’re doing and what’s on your mind these days!

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,
<3
S

P.S. Check out the hashtag: #FatAndFree on Insta & FB!

My blog’s Facebook page for things I share that aren’t on this blog (body positive always, funny sometimes):
http://on.fb.me/1A18fAS  Or get the same “shared” content on twitter: @NotBlueAtAll
I also have an Instagram, I rarely use it but would like to more…encourage me to?:
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And as always, feel free to drop me a line in comments here or write me an email, I love hearing from readers:
notblueatall@notblueatall.com
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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Love for the Real Person

Ragen Chastain has a fantastic post called Hate the Fat, Not the Fatty about how you can’t claim to like or respect someone while not treating them as a credible witness to their own experience.

While I appreciate someone treating me well, what I truly value is people respecting that I am the best witness to my experience. So when I say that my body is fine, that I’m happy with the path to health I’ve chosen, the proper response is “awesome”, not “Well, I don’t think you should be treated badly, but I do want to eradicate everyone who looks like you from the Earth and make sure that there are no more.”

When you try to separate people from parts of their identity, to love the fat person but not the body that they live in, or to love the gay person, but not their sexuality, you’re not really loving them. You’re loving a pretend version of them who only exists in your head. Actual, real love accepts the other person as they are. You don’t have to like or understand everything about them, but you can’t pretend that you know them better than they know themselves, and you can’t try to make them into something that they’re not.

Something I see a lot aimed at both fat and LGBTQ people is tolerance without acceptance. “Oh, I don’t think you should be bullied or discriminated against. I just think your lifestyle is sinful/unhealthy.” What irritates me is that the people spouting this always act like they’re doing us a favor. Oh, wow, you don’t actually want me to be thrown in jail for my sexuality or be mooed at on the street. You’re such a paragon of love and acceptance. Do you want a cookie?

I mean, yeah, sure, I’d rather have grudging, “But I still think you’re wrong,” acceptance than to have someone actively fighting against my right to exist. But it’s the bottom of the barrel baseline of being a decent person, not some extra special compassion for which you deserve an award. Especially not if you cry that you’re being branded as a bigot for telling people they’re going to hell and/or driving up insurance costs and going to die horribly.

But not actively harming people isn’t love. It isn’t even like. It’s just not actively being a jerk. It doesn’t merit any special praise.  Acting like it does just reinforces the idea that the people you disapprove of are broken—look what a good person you are, letting them exist in your space and breathe your air, how hard it is to accept their existence.

To really love someone is to see them and appreciate them exactly as they are.




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Nothin’ To See Here Folks

Apparently a nest of you has been stirred up again, and y’all think turning up here and yelling “TRIGGERED!!” is some kind of ace slapdown that showcases the best of your wit and intellect.

Yawn.

Look, I know you probably feel WAY AWESOME COOL coming over here to leave some sad little hate masturbation on my page.  But not one of you is original, nor are you even entertaining.

I have heard it all before.  No seriously, I have.  Look…. Frequently Heard Asshattery.

Get a hobby.  Meet some people.  Perhaps try some therapy.  Life is so much more interesting and fulfilling than spending your day masturbating over your keyboard.

 


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Tell The Food Police To Take A Holiday with the Help of My Dogs

As some people are celebrating holidays that include things like chocolate, candy, and feasts, I am seeing a ton of food shaming, food policing, and food moralizing.  All of this is crap for the reasons I explain here, but I thought what I would do today is give you some options for response. Note, today’s responses are in pictures (mostly starring our adorable dogs – you can click on them to enlarge them) If you are looking for verbal responses, head over here.

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

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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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

 



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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Double Chin? Have You Tried Injecting Acid?

Doug 10

Me and my glorious double chin in stage make-up.  Photo by Doug Spearman

Chins, like human bodies, come in lots of different shapes and sizes.  But, as they do with human bodies, our society’s screwed up stereotypes of beauty try to tell us that there are only certain chins that are acceptable.  And then the medical industry steps in to make money from this ridiculous notion. Enter Kybella.

 

Kybella is and Allergan product.  If that company sounds familiar it’s because they also sell Latisse (it will grow your eyelashes and don’t worry, that eye discoloration is probably temporary,) and the lap band device that tries to use stomach binding to force body size manipulation. This is a company that has committed atrocities of research, and once ran a contest where the prize was a dangerous abdominal surgery that you could “gift” to a friend or family member.

Kybella involves a series of injections of deoxycholic acid into the chin to destroy the fat cells. According to their website:

KYBELLA® is a prescription medicine used in adults to improve the appearance and profile of moderate to severe fat below the chin (submental fat), also called “double chin.”

Moderate to sever fat below the chin?  Seriously.  We’re talking about a double chin like it’s a medical problem? Also, if you have only “mild” fat below the chin apparently you’re shit out of luck. These people will stoop to literally any low to make money.  As my friend CJ Legare says – this is about stealing our self-esteem, cheapening it, and selling it back to us at a profit.

So what are we risking to have a differently shaped chin?

KYBELLA® can cause serious side effects, including trouble swallowing and nerve injury in the jaw that can temporarily cause an uneven smile or facial muscle weakness. In clinical studies, nerve injury in the jaw resolved on its own in a median of 44 days (range of 1 to 298 days), and trouble swallowing resolved on its own in a median of 3 days (range of 1 to 81 days).

The most common side effects are swelling, bruising, pain, numbness, redness and areas of hardness around the treatment area. These are not all of the possible side effects of KYBELLA®. Call your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects.

And for what are we risking a possible 298 days (that’s almost 10 months!) of nerve damage and 81 days of trouble swallowing? Here are some “before and after” pictures from their own website (you can click on the images to enlarge them:)

Lucky that they labeled them “before” and “after,” otherwise it would be hard to tell which is which.

And how much are we paying for these chin transformations? According to Glamour.com, around $5,400.  For some perspective, I could choose to have a slightly different looking chin or I could pay for 2,168 school lunches for kids who need some help.

I think that this passage from their website captures the full on ridiculousness of this entire situation:

Do you have some extra fullness beneath your chin? Maybe it’s something you’ve had your whole life, something that developed over the years, or something you noticed recently. This is a condition called submental fullness, which some people refer to as “double chin.”

People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, regardless of the reason or risk.  I just want people to be aware that there’s a lot of money being made by companies who are convincing us that normal things (like double chins, fat bodies, any and all signs of aging) are somehow “problems” requiring dangerous and expensive medical interventions. I also want people to be aware that we don’t have to buy into that. We have the option to opt-out of, of finding love for our double (or triple, or quadruple) chins, our fat bodies, our grey hair and wrinkles, and we can use our time, energy, and money for other pursuits.

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

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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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



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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

When You Don’t Want To Hear About Someone’s Diet

Cuddlebug McnopeGetting a filling at the dentist last Friday certainly wasn’t comfortable, but it was checking out that really got uncomfortable. I was being checked out by an employee who has worked with both me and my partner Julianne and has always been super nice and truly helpful.

They asked me what I was doing tomorrow and I said going on a run (Saturday is long run day, it dominates literally my entire day.)  They immediately responded “my stomach used to go out too much  too, but I found this great diet” then stood up and pulled their shirt back to show me how flat their stomach is. The numbing agent had me numb from my chin to the top of my forehead so my WTF? expression game wasn’t where I wanted it to be, plus I was focused on trying to keep from drooling out of one side of my mouth so I was going to just let it go.

Then they sat down and started to go into exactly what the diet entails (“First, I bought a big bag of tomatoes…”)  I interrupted and said in what I was hoping was a friendly but firm tone that conveyed finality (and didn’t involve drooling) “Yeah, I don’t want to hear about your diet.”  They said “ok” and then moved on to non-diet discussions.

Why am I telling you this story?  Of late, there has been a lot of discussion of whether people have the right to talk about their diet/weight loss in various situations, regardless of how it might affect folks practicing Size Acceptance, Health at Every Size, or dealing with eating disorders.  Regardless of the context of a sizeist world where those with large bodies face shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression and where weight loss talk is deeply tied not just to sizeism, but also to healthism, ableism, “goody fatty” tropes, and privilege. So, knowing that, the question seems to be: Is it ok for people to talk about their diets?

The answer depends on context. So we’ll look at this in various situations.

First, if it’s a space where the rule is no diet or weight loss talk, then it’s simply not ok to talk about diets or weight loss. Fat people live in a world where we get ceaseless messages conflating weight and health, that giveweight loss the credit for health improvements in highly dubious ways, suggesting that becoming thinner is – in basically every way – synonymous with becoming “better.”

It is vital that fat people who want to opt out of a weight loss paradigm and a thin-obsessed culture have the ability to create non-oppressive spaces that center their needs and feelings, and that means spaces without diet or weight loss talk. People dealing with eating disorders need to have spaces where they aren’t triggered by diet talk.  Put simply – our spaces, our rules.

Next, let’s look at general conversation.  Of course in these situations people are allowed to talk about their diet/weight loss.  We don’t have the option to control what other people talk about, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have options.

We can choose to talk about our Size Acceptance and/or Health at Every Size practice in the same way that people talk about their diets. Or we can just remove ourselves either without comment, or by saying something like “Oh, I don’t do weight loss talk.  I’m happy to talk about something else, or to go over there if you’d rather continue to talk about your diet.”

Which brings us to the clerk at my dentist’s office. This interaction shows exactly how screwed up our society is around weight loss talk.  I say I’m going for a run and the person responds “my stomach used to stick out too much too.”  WT actual F? There’s nothing wrong with my stomach – it sticks out just the right about (and if it changes, it will stick out just the right amount then too.)

The fact that me saying I run was enough for someone to think they “know” that I think there’s something wrong with my body tells you all you need to know about the prevalence of diet and weight loss talk in our culture. If I’m a paying customer somewhere, then I’m not about to listen to diet talk. I’m not necessarily going to be unfriendly, but I’m going to be firm and clear that I’m not there to buy a diet, so I’m not interested in hearing diet and weight loss talk.

People are allowed to attempt – and believe whatever they want to about – weight loss. We are allowed to create rules for our own spaces, and we are allowed to create boundaries in our own lives.  It’s perfectly ok to opt out of diet culture, and it’s perfectly ok to choose to avoid talk that suggests that fat bodies will be somehow “better” if they are a different size.

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

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!

In training for an IRONMAN triathlon.  If you’re interested, you can find my training blog here

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



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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Self-Compassion is NOT a Diet

Talking NonsenseI saw an article posted on Facebook called “The Big Problem With Oprah And Other Celebs Who Tout Diets”  I started reading the piece and it was pretty good. The author, Jean Fain, who identified herself as “a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders” was doing a decent take-down of the celebrity diet culture including the quote:

From where I sit, clean eating, lifestyle plans, weight management programs, juice cleanses, support systems… they’re all diets, and they’re all bound to fail. But with their intoxicating blend of impossible expectations, misguided authority and restrictive guidelines, celebrity diets are predestined to fail spectacularly.

Yes!  This all day! The article was going great until it hit this:

Self-compassion also means never going on a diet. When you’re self-compassionate, there’s no need to count points or calories or carbs. That’s because you generally appreciate your body and the food you feed it. You naturally eat less and weigh less without dieting.

What? I couldn’t believe it (that’s not true – I could believe it because we live in such a screwed up diet culture, I just didn’t want to believe it.)  It turns out that the author of the article is also the author of the book called “The Self-Compassion Diet.” The irony of her claiming that diets don’t work – except her diet – and that “Self-compassion means never going on a diet…you naturally eat less and weight loss without dieting” while marketing her book “The Self-Compassion Diet” was not lost on me.

I left a comment in the Facebook discussion:

I think that this is seriously problematic, especially in an eating disorder context. She conflates weight and health, and then she says “When you’re self-compassionate, there’s no need to count points or calories or carbs. That’s because you generally appreciate your body and the food you feed it. You naturally eat less and weigh less without dieting.” While I’m sure saying that helps her sell her diet book, it is completely unsupported by evidence.

She replied:

Ragen, there actually is a study that says just that. I don’t have the citation handy, but if you email me I’m happy to send it to you after vacation.

 

So she sent me the study that, remember, she claimed showed that “When you’re self-compassionate… You naturally eat less and weigh less without dieting.” Let’s take a look, shall we:

  • The entire sample was 159 college students from 18-25 years old (9 were omitted from the final results by the study authors for being “outliers”) so the sample is not exactly robust.
  • 74% of the subjects were “normal weight” to start with so, even using their own messed up ideas about weight and weight loss, we’re down to 39 of the participants having “weight to lose”
  • BMI was only taken only once, by self-report. They did not track a change in BMI or a change in weight at all in the study, so the data are silent on whether self-compassion leads to weight loss.
  • In fact, it’s a study of “associations.” That means that the study is completely correlational, and causality cannot be drawn at all. That’s why the word “may” occurs 53 times in 10 pages.
  • There seems to be quite the hurry to suggest, based on correlation, that having self-compassion leads to a lower BMI.  But it’s just as (if not, perhaps, more?) likely that having a lower BMI in a thoroughly sizeist society may lead to greater self-compassion, since a person with a lower BMI will likely have less experience being ceaselessly barraged with an epic ton of sizeist shame, stigma, bullying, and oppression, while living in a world that isn’t built to accommodate them, all of which gives fat people the message that we aren’t worthy of any compassion – self or otherwise. But sure, it could be that having higher self-compassion causes a lower BMI….  Regardless, that conclusion is beyond the scope of this study.

I asked Deb Burgard, a PhD, eating disorders specialist, and psychologist to check my work just to be sure, and she generously agreed and provided this excellent analysis as well:

The actual hypotheses come back as:

Self-compassion will be positively related to mindful eating      

Yes (college students who are exposed to one are probably more likely to be exposed to the other)

Self-compassion will be inversely related to eating disorder symptomatology

Nope (only dieting)

Self-compassion will be inversely related to BMI  

Yes  (but we don’t know if thin privilege makes it easier to have self- compassion or if dieting is actually the moderator here since the process of dieting is a mindfu*ck that creates a barrier to self-compassion, or if weight stigma creates the barrier, or something else)

Mindful eating will be negatively related to eating disorder syptomatology

Yes   (This is pretty much a tautology since the operational definition of one is the opposite of the other)

Mindful eating will be negatively related to BMI                                            

Nope

Mindful eating will moderate the relationship between self-compassion and eating disorder symptomatology

Nope

Mindful eating will moderate the relationship between self-compassion and BMI

Nope

Here is what I find most interesting:  (From the discussion:) “This study found that self-compassion negatively predicted eating disorder symptomatology and dieting-related eating disorder symptomatology specifically . . .” (p 234).     Actually, self-compassion was unrelated to actual ED symptoms (bulimia, food preoccupation, oral control) and only to the dieting subscale (which was not one of the hypotheses).

So you can imagine that people who are thinner are less likely to diet and also less likely to be exposed to cultural expectations that one is a loser if one can’t “successfully” diet/be thin.

The fact that these researchers are touting mindfulness or intutive eating or self-compassion as a way to be thin is an expression itself of weight stigma.

There are numerous examples in the text of the assumption that higher BMI people must eat more, eat in a more disordered way, etc. but their own finding is that mindful eating is unrelated to BMI!

In any case, this research says exactly zero about the idea that if a higher-weight person has self-compassion, they will lose weight. In fact, that idea may itself be an example of how stigma and oppression make it harder for people to feel supported in practicing self-compassion, since the fact that their bodies don’t stay thin must mean they do not really deserve self-compassion, or they must not be doing it right, or whatever specific f*ckery is on today’s menu.

I think it’s worth delving deeper into that last bit, because it’s easy to think “Hey, even if the weight loss doesn’t happen, the person still ends up with more self-compassion right? So isn’t that a good thing?”

The problem is that’s there’s every chance that when you tell fat people to believe that self-compassion will lead to weight loss, then those people are likely to end up believing that they are not doing self-compassion “correctly” and/or that they don’t deserve self-compassion if they aren’t simultaneously becoming thinner (which they are unlikely to do, especially in the long-term.)

At the same time, you suggest that other people can judge by someone’s body size whether or not they have self-compassion, which just adds to the tremendous stigma and stereotyping that fat people deal with.  And that’s oppressive.

 

So I think that, however well-intentioned she may be, Jean is harming people. From my perspective, she is co-opting the idea of self-compassion in order to make a profit by misleading fat people into buying a big book of magical weight loss beans. Regardless of her intentions – which, again, may well be good – I think that the impact of her work is harmful, and her belief that this study supports her claims is nothing short of disturbing, as is the idea of someone who conflates self-compassion with body size (and markets the diet book she wrote) identifying as a specialist in working with people who have eating disorders.

To be clear, what she is doing is legal – people are (for now) allowed to try to sell promises of weight loss, however unlikely they are to be successful. But we don’t have to buy what they are selling – and we have every right to expect that they will be able to provide evidence that actually backs up their claims.

Regardless, the bottom line here is that we are all worthy of compassion, including self-compassion, at any weight. The only outcome we can currently prove about developing more self-compassion is that it will increase the amount of compassion we have for ourselves (and I’m a fan of that.) I think that self-compassion is not a diet; and anyone who says it is, is trying to sell something.

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