Monday, 29 January 2018

“Success” and Stomach Amputation

fat people have the right to existA popular online publication recently published a piece that purported to talk about the pros and cons of stomach amputation and stomach binding (also known as “bariatric” or “weight loss” surgery.)

There’s no way I’m giving it traffic, so there won’t be a link. And while people are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including amputate or bind their stomachs (though that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to discuss in every space,) it’s important that we talk about the realities of these surgeries. The story mentioned a failure rate of 1 in 10, which seems low based on the research, but perhaps that’s explained at least a little bit by what people consider a “success.”

One woman who says she’s “very happy” and has “no regrets” has had three of these surgeries. A lap band that had to be removed when “For five days, I wasn’t able to keep food down. At the hospital, I found out the lower portion of my stomach protruded through the band to the top, so I was basically choking on my stomach.” Next a gastric sleeve that caused “a lot of acid reflux” and “stopped losing weight around 220 pounds.” Then she went to Mexico and payed “$5,800 to $6,000” out of pocket (she notes that it’s half the price as the surgery in the US) because her insurance wouldn’t cover a third surgery. She currently weighs 180 pounds, has low iron and notes “I can’t eat really dry chicken. Certain textures are uncomfortable. Sometimes I get woozy from sugar.”

Another “success” story had to have her lap band removed and “The tubing on the band kinked, so the fluid in my stomach got in my lungs in the surgery.” Then she got gastric bypass, followed by eight plastic surgeries due to the discomfort her loose skin created.

Yet another chased her stomach amputation with two surgeries – hernia repair and emergency gallbladder removal.

Some people called their surgery successful because they don’t feel like they “take up too much space” anymore, their Tinder success increased, they are no longer interested in eating food, and that “unhealthy” food gives them “overwhelming nausea, ”that pizza would cause them to “throw up immediately and start getting cold sweats,” that they now have a single cookie for lunch. Others mention health improvements that many people have made without these surgeries.

Remember, those are the “successes.” The failures include a woman whose constant vomiting from her lap band triggered bulimia. Another had bulimia triggered by gastric bypass and still has to “puree a lot of my food to keep it down.” Others mention that they developed alcohol addiction.

The first thing I want to point out is who is missing in this article – the many people who gain all of their weight back, and the people who were killed by the surgery (even the Canadian Obesity Network admits that they kill more than 14 out of every 1,000 people – and that’s only the people who die quickly. When people die later due to complications, get blamed for their own deaths.

.I also have to point out that any of the people interviewed – whether they consider themselves successes or not – could have been killed by the surgery. While I’m glad that they survived it, the surgery is – at best – a crap shoot in which a very few don’t experience horrible side effects, some people are happy despite pretty horrible side effects, some people are unhappy about the horrible lifelong side effects, and some people die, and there’s no way to know which group you’ll be in until you are in it.

So let’s talk about all this “success.” Can you imagine the reaction people would have if after they got their tonsils out they had to eat pureed food and throw up all the time for the rest of their life? Or if they were likely to have to have 8 plastic surgeries (that their insurance may not pay for) after having their appendix removed? What about if their bunion surgery was considered a success even if it meant that they threw up immediately after eating pizza and got woozy after eating sugar for the rest of their lives, and  they got blamed if their bunion grew back worse than before in a few years? Or, imagine there was a surgery that actually did improve the health of fat people with absolutely no negative side effects, but didn’t lead to any weight loss – would they call that a success?

The fact that horrific lifelong side effects and possible death are considered to be perfectly reasonable outcomes of so-called weight loss surgery is an admission that healthcare professionals believe it’s completely ok to kill, or severely harm, fat people under the guise of “healthcare” as long as there is a chance we might end up thin.

And that’s not the only way that fatphobia plays into this. Notice how many of the things that are considered “pros” of the surgery would not be pros at all if we didn’t live in a fatphobic society. Is there any other surgery that doctors claim is about health, but sell using “more right swipes on Tinder” as a benefit? Have you ever heard a doctor try to talk a patient into surgery they don’t want by claiming that they’ll get more dates? It happened to one of my blog readers.  The problem is fatphobia and the solution is to end fatphobia, not to pressure fat people to risk their lives in an attempt to satisfy their bullies.

Far too often the medical centers and device manufacturers that profit handsomely from these procedures don’t give potential victims the complete picture – they trot out the few and far between “success” stories, downplay the risks, and somehow fail to mention the distinct possibility that you’ll die – or that the side effects will make you wish you were dead. They even lie about whether or not the surgery is reversible.

Christine had lap band surgery about 7 years ago. Her weight didn’t change but her health did, she says “I refer to my band as medically – induced bulimia.” She vomits every time she eats. She wants it removed, but the company that made it was sued and went out of business. Surgeons refuse to remove it because they claim that, since the vomiting is coming from the top of her pouch (and so doesn’t contain stomach acid,) it’s not a complication and thus doesn’t justify removal. She says “There was absolutely no problem whatsoever operating on a perfectly healthy fat person to make them smaller – but Oh hell no! we can’t fix the problem we created with our fat-biased, completely unnecessary procedure!!!”

Even worse – there are some doctors who are insisting the fat patients get this surgery before they will give them the same healthcare that a thin person would receive immediately. Thin people are not required to get a surgery that risks their lives and forces them to engage in behaviors that approximate an eating disorder just to get basic healthcare. Fat people shouldn’t either. (One of the most craven examples occurs when doctors refuse to give higher weight Trans people the gender confirmation surgeries they want, claiming it’s too dangerous at their weight, then suggest that those same people get…wait for it…stomach amputation surgery.  It’s disgusting.)

And as one of the comments in a Facebook thread about the original article said “Wow. I knew the risks with this surgery but it’s awfully sobering to read a giant thread of people who have died from it. So sad that as fat people it’s better for us to die skinny than live fat in this world”

You see, when you’re a fat person, you can’t trust doctors to see you as a human being worthy of care. We always have to remember that our doctor may be perfectly comfortable risking our life  in order to make us into a thin person who they would, only then, view as a person worthy of evidence-based non-lethal healthcare options. If we just want to get appropriate, evidence-based treatment (which is to say, the same treatment that a thin person would receive) in the body we have now, we have to do a ton of extra work, and even then it’s definitely not guaranteed.

People are allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, including binding or amputating their stomachs. But nobody should be required to bind or amputate our stomachs just to be treated with basic human respect, or to get decent healthcare. And for those who have the surgery, whatever they are hoping to gain had better be worth dying for, because they very well might.

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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Sunday, 28 January 2018

Buy My Fatshions!

I’ve just listed some treasured fatshions for sale on eBay!
These items are new with tags, ModCloth and Eshakti
Just trying to get some grocery money.
Check out my items here:
http://ift.tt/2DRVAXY
(Please forgive the username, I’ve had it since the 90’s, it’s the title of a fave punk song.)

Feel free to ask me questions here. The gown I have listed I have two of, identical.

 

 

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,

<3
S

P.S. Check out and use the hashtag: #FatAndFree on Insta & FB!
And my hashtag #DateMyDamnSelf on Instagram if you feel so inclined

Donate to this blog here: http://ift.tt/2zKvPnQ

My blog’s Facebook page for things I share that aren’t on this blog (and updated daily): http://on.fb.me/1A18fAS 

Or get the same “shared” content on Twitter: @NotBlueAtAll

I also have an Instagram I’ve finally started to actually use: http://ift.tt/1NpWevR

And as always, please feel free to drop me a line in comments here or write me an email, I love hearing from readers. (Tell me your troubles, I don’t judge.): notblueatall@notblueatall.com



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Friday, 26 January 2018

Distraction in Action

The last few weeks I have been busy as a bee interviewing for all the jobs! I have also been spending a lot of time in my head, for better or worse. Mostly just processing things and supporting friends and doing my best to be better support to myself. I am in a good place, mentally and emotionally, even physically I feel pretty great lately. I have also gone on a few dates, even got stood up once. While I’m perfectly good with being single, and have immediate hopes or plans for changing that, it’s been a nice distraction from the day to day.

Because I don’t have a daily routine as a job would require, I haven’t been wearing makeup except for interviews and dates. I enjoy the process of putting on makeup. I like the time and attention of just focusing on one thing, and the end result is FABULOUS! I also enjoy the process of getting to know folks through dating apps. I know it’s not for everyone, but I find people interesting, for the most part.

I’m just me, interview or date or not. I don’t get nervous about such things anymore. I just show up open to whatever happens. I have my own set of personal rules in any scenario and they keep me safe and sane. I’ve enjoyed some great conversations and have learned a lot. Even when things don’t work out, I don’t take it personally. This is a huge step for me! Ha-ha!

I had been forgetting to take pics of my outfits before interviews and dates. Last night I had a 4 hour interview, followed by what turned in to a 4 hour date. One of my rules is to end a date on the 3 hour mark even if things are great. It keeps things exciting but not exhausting, often I don’t have to check the time and things wind down naturally. Last night that was not the case and I broke two more of my personal rules and I am glad that I did! (I don’t give out my number until the second date and I don’t get into someone else’s car until I know them and am comfortable with them.)

This time I remembered to snap a few selfies in between interview and date since I was keeping the same outfit on and my makeup didn’t require a touch up. I’m glad that I did! I might be in love with my double chin as a result! Ha-ha! This dress is my interview staple. It’s whimsical, professional, colorful and genuinely makes people happy when they see it. It’s from Eshakti and was my birthday gift to myself this past year. I get stopped on the street by strangers when I wear this dress, so it feels lucky. I had never worn it on a date until last night, though. It worked out great!

We met up at a loca museum and as we were winding down our art perusal, I asked my great date to snap a pic of me in front of The Gates of Hell, by Rodin. I LOVE THIS PIC!!! And I may now be a fan of Rodin. We found a bust he created that looked as if Patrick Stewart and Putin had a love child. Ha-ha! Also found a small but full body sculpture of Balzac that looked exactly like one of my all time favorite british actors, Matt Berry. It was a great date!

So great that neither of us really wanted it to end when the museum closed, so we headed to the cheesecake factory nearby for drinks…but then they insisted I eat and that they pay. I was very upfront about my feelings and situation (financially and being a feminist), but they instantly understood and genuinely wanted to just continue chatting. It was a blast! I’d never had someone open up to me so quickly! We talked about some heavy stuff, but we just clicked and that’s rad. I told them about my 3 hour rule and we both laughed when we realized it had already been 4. Rules are made to be broken, I suppose. We have another date next week to check out the second building of the museum we didn’t get to catch this time.

My interview yesterday also went really well. It’s hard to tell with these things, but I was able to offer some specific suggestions on how they might improve and streamline some of their current software and processes. They seemed impressed, but I no longer get any hopes up for jobs or dates. Ha! I loved seeing the office, though. They had this gorgeous saltwater aquarium in their waiting area I could have watched for hours. The culture there seemed like a great fit for me, but again, who knows?!

I don’t really have a point to this post, but just wanted to share what I’ve been up to and the ridiculousness of life and my adorbz double chin and that I’m still here. Thank you so much for reading. I had hoped to get some content suggestions through a survey but didn’t get but one response. So please comment! And as always…

Rad Fatty Love to ALL,

<3
S

P.S. Check out and use the hashtag: #FatAndFree on Insta & FB!
And my hashtag #DateMyDamnSelf on Instagram if you feel so inclined

Donate to this blog here: http://ift.tt/2zKvPnQ

My blog’s Facebook page for things I share that aren’t on this blog (and updated daily): http://on.fb.me/1A18fAS 

Or get the same “shared” content on Twitter: @NotBlueAtAll

I also have an Instagram I’ve finally started to actually use: http://ift.tt/1NpWevR

And as always, please feel free to drop me a line in comments here or write me an email, I love hearing from readers. (Tell me your troubles, I don’t judge.): notblueatall@notblueatall.com



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Thursday, 25 January 2018

On joining #FatStudyGroup

Breastfeeding Reduces Long-Term Risk for Diabetes


Here is yet another study showing that breastfeeding long-term decreases the risk for developing diabetes.

In this latest study, breastfeeding for a total of 12 months or more cut the risk for diabetes by about HALF.

That's a pretty significant decrease. It's not an absolute guarantee against diabetes, of course, but there is excellent evidence that breastfeeding strongly reduces the risk for diabetes or delays its presentation. This has obvious benefits for heart health.

This latest study just adds to the accumulating evidence of the importance of breastfeeding for a woman's long-term health. Pregnancy alters the metabolism significantly, increasing insulin resistance and blood sugar in order to divert more energy to the developing baby. This is good in the short term, but bad for the mother long term.

Biologically speaking, lactation was meant to "re-set" the mother's metabolism back to normal after pregnancy. When this doesn't happen, the mother's metabolism remains altered to some extent and more prone to health issues like diabetes and heart problems.

Sometimes breastfeeding doesn't work out, and that's okay. But new mothers should know that biologically, their bodies were meant to lactate, and the longer the better. Moms who do nurse should be encouraged to nurse as long as possible, and given every support to do so. Moms who don't nurse or who stop within a few weeks or months should be alerted to be even more proactive about avoiding/watching for diabetes.


References

JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Jan 16. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.7978. [Epub ahead of print] Lactation Duration and Progression to Diabetes in Women Across the Childbearing Years: The 30-Year CARDIA Study. Gunderson EP, Lewis CE, Lin Y, Sorel M, Gross M, Sidney S, Jacobs DR Jr, Shikany JM, Quesenberry CP Jr. PMID: 29340577
...OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the association between lactation and progression to diabetes using biochemical testing both before and after pregnancy and accounting for prepregnancy cardiometabolic measures, gestational diabetes (GD), and lifestyle behaviors. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: For this US multicenter, community-based 30-year prospective cohort study, there were 1238 women from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study of young black and white women ages 18 to 30 years without diabetes at baseline (1985-1986) who had 1 or more live births after baseline, reported lactation duration, and were screened for diabetes up to 7 times during 30 years after baseline (1986-2016)...RESULTS: Overall 1238 women were included in this analysis (mean [SD] age, 24.2 [3.7] years; 615 black women). There were 182 incident diabetes cases during 27 598 person-years for an overall incidence rate of 6.6 cases per 1000 person-years (95% CI, 5.6-7.6); and rates for women with GD and without GD were 18.0 (95% CI, 13.3-22.8) and 5.1 (95% CI, 4.2-6.0), respectively (P for difference < .001). Lactation duration showed a strong, graded inverse association with diabetes incidence: adjusted RH [relative hazard] for more than 0 to 6 months, 0.75 (95% CI, 0.51-1.09); more than 6 months to less than 12 months, 0.52 (95% CI, 0.31-0.87), and 12 months or more 0.53 (0.29-0.98) vs none (0 days) (P for trend = .01). There was no evidence of effect modification by race, GD, or parity. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: This study provides longitudinal biochemical evidence that lactation duration is independently associated with lower incidence of diabetes....
Other Breastfeeding and Diabetes Research

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017 Mar 1;312(3):E215-E223. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00403.2016. Epub 2016 Dec 13. Prior lactation reduces future diabetic risk through sustained postweaning effects on insulin sensitivity. Bajaj H, Ye C, Hanley AJ, Connelly PW, Sermer M, Zinman B, Retnakaran R. PMID: 27965206
...in this study, we evaluated the relationships between duration of lactation [≤3 mo (n = 70), 3-12 mo (n = 140), and ≥12 mo (n = 120)] and trajectories of insulin sensitivity/resistance, β-cell function, and glycemia over the first 3 yr postpartum in a cohort of 330 women comprising the full spectrum of glucose tolerance in pregnancy, who underwent serial metabolic characterization, including oral glucose tolerance tests, at 3 mo, 1 yr, and 3 yr postpartum. The prevalence of dysglycemia (pre-diabetes/diabetes) at 3 yr postpartum was lower in women who breastfed for ≥12 mo (12.5%) than in those who breastfed for ≤3 mo (21.4%) or for 3-12 mo (25.7%)(overall P = 0.028). On logistic regression analysis, lactation for ≥12 mo independently predicted a lower likelihood of prediabetes/diabetes at 3 yr postpartum (OR = 0.37, 95% CI 0.18-0.78, P = 0.009). Notably, lactation for ≥12 mo predicted lesser worsening of insulin sensitivity/resistance (P < 0.0001), fasting glucose (P < 0.0001), and 2-h glucose (P = 0.011) over 3 yr compared with lactation ≤3 mo but no differences in β-cell function (P ≥ 0.37)....
Diabetes Care. 2010 Jun;33(6):1239-41. doi: 10.2337/dc10-0347. Epub 2010 Mar 23.Parity, breastfeeding, and the subsequent risk of maternal type 2 diabetes. Liu B, Jorm L, Banks E. PMID: 20332359
...Using information on parity, breastfeeding, and diabetes collected from 52,731 women recruited into a cohort study, we estimated the risk of type 2 diabetes using multivariate logistic regression... Among parous women, there was a 14% (95% CI 10-18%, P < 0.001) reduced likelihood of diabetes per year of breastfeeding... CONCLUSIONS: Compared with nulliparous women, childbearing women who do not breastfeed have about a 50% increased risk of type 2 diabetes in later life. Breastfeeding substantially reduces this excess risk.
JAMA. 2005 Nov 23;294(20):2601-10. Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. Stuebe AM, Rich-Edwards JW, Willett WC, Manson JE, Michels KB. PMID: 16304074
...Prospective observational cohort study of 83,585 parous women in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and retrospective observational cohort study of 73,418 parous women in the Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II)...RESULTS: ...Among parous women, increasing duration of lactation was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. For each additional year of lactation, women with a birth in the prior 15 years had a decrease in the risk of diabetes of 15% (95% confidence interval, 1%-27%) among NHS participants and of 14% (95% confidence interval, 7%-21%) among NHS II participants, controlling for current body mass index and other relevant risk factors for type 2 diabetes. CONCLUSIONS: Longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes in 2 large US cohorts of women....
Breastfeeding and Cardiovascular Health/Mortality

Annu Rev Nutr. 2016 Jul 17;36:627-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071715-051213. Epub 2016 May 4. Lactation and Maternal Cardio-Metabolic Health. Perrine CG, Nelson JM, Corbelli J, Scanlon KS. PMID: 27146017
Researchers hypothesize that pregnancy and lactation are part of a continuum, with lactation meant to "reset" the adverse metabolic profile that develops as a part of normal pregnancy, and that when lactation does not occur, women maintain an elevated risk of cardio-metabolic diseases. Several large prospective and retrospective studies, mostly from the United States and other industrialized countries, have examined the associations between lactation and cardio-metabolic outcomes. Less evidence exists regarding an association of lactation with maternal postpartum weight status and dyslipidemia, whereas more evidence exists for an association with diabetes, hypertension, and subclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease.
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Feb;200(2):138.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.10.001. Epub 2008 Dec 25. Duration of lactation and incidence of myocardial infarction in middle to late adulthood. Stuebe AM, Michels KB, Willett WC, Manson JE, Rexrode K, Rich-Edwards JW. PMID: 19110223
We assessed the relation between duration of lactation and maternal incident myocardial infarction. STUDY DESIGN: This was a prospective cohort study of 89,326 parous women in the Nurses' Health Study. RESULTS:... Compared with parous women who had never breastfed, women who had breastfed for a lifetime total of 2 years or longer had 37% lower risk of coronary heart disease (95% confidence interval, 23-49%; P for trend < .001), adjusting for age, parity, and stillbirth history. With additional adjustment for early-adult adiposity, parental history, and lifestyle factors, women who had breastfed for a lifetime total of 2 years or longer had a 23% lower risk of coronary heart disease (95% confidence interval, 6-38%; P for trend = .02) than women who had never breastfed. CONCLUSION: In a large, prospective cohort, long duration of lactation was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
BMC Public Health. 2013 Nov 13;13:1070. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-1070. A prospective population-based cohort study of lactation and cardiovascular disease mortality: the HUNT study. Natland Fagerhaug T, Forsmo S, Jacobsen GW, Midthjell K, Andersen LF, Ivar Lund Nilsen T. PMID: 24219620
...In a Norwegian population-based prospective cohort study, we studied the association of lifetime duration of lactation with cardiovascular mortality in 21,889 women aged 30 to 85 years who attended the second Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey (HUNT2) in 1995-1997. The cohort was followed for mortality through 2010 by a linkage with the Cause of Death Registry...RESULTS:...Parous women younger than 65 years who had never lactated had a higher cardiovascular mortality than the reference group of women who had lactated 24 months or more (HR 2.77, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.28, 5.99)...CONCLUSIONS: Excess cardiovascular mortality rates were observed among parous women younger than 65 years who had never lactated. These findings support the hypothesis that lactation may have long-term influences on maternal cardiovascular health.


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Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Struggling

I can’t say it any better than Caitlin Stout does.

If I’m being honest, I have been struggling quite a bit lately. This past year has been marked by a depression diagnosis, lots of sleepless nights, a new patch of gray hair, and a noticeable dip in my academic performance. I am weary, in the most profound sense of the word. And I am so scared to admit that, because I know that people like my professor will hear it and say to themselves, “Well, that’s just what happens when you give in to sin.”

I think he might be right.

I think maybe depression is what happens when you are constantly told that you are inherently broken. Maybe anxiety is a natural response to multiple anti-gay harassment incidents. Maybe stress takes its toll when the responsibility of speaking on behalf of an entire community is placed on your shoulders. Maybe joy feels elusive when you spend your evenings comforting friends who have been rejected by their families. Maybe it’s difficult to concentrate on homework when you’re busy meeting with school administrators to ask them for equal rights. Maybe it’s fair to be tired when you’re constantly made to fight.

Maybe this is just what happens when the Church gives in to the sin of homophobia.

“Maybe this is just what happens when the Church gives in to the sin of homophobia.” A-freaking-men.



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Friday, 19 January 2018

Last post...for now

I am a Psychotherapist and Cultural Worker. I am Fat.

I started this blog in 2008, around the time that I started working on a PhD. I wanted a place where I could work out ideas and talk things through in a community setting. I knew that I couldn't rely on academia to provide me with that space. As an activist I was more interested in what was happening at grassroots level than what was fashionable in the ivory tower.

I am writing this in 2018, nearly ten years later, as I make preparations to take an indefinite pause. I am stopping because I need more breathing space in my life and, over the last six months, I've noticed I have less energy for blogging. Other people can take up the work if they wish, and can do it better than me. Like many people ten years ago, I was naïve about blogging on a corporate platform, and my feelings about internet surveillance, trolling and the institutional and professionalised appropriation of marginal voices online have since sharpened. I no longer want to provide content to Google or to make something that someone can cut and paste, make palatable, and pass off as their own.

Of continuing concern, too, is the shifting nature of what was once known as the Fatosphere, a network of blogs and fat activists. It is now harder to find radical voices talking online about fat than it ever was, despite a roar of background noise and what is called 'body positivity'. I am not alone in being very worried about a creeping conservatism in radical politics. Speaking publicly about complicated subjects can leave you open to terrible attacks. These things have affected what I have published here enormously and have influenced my decision to stop blogging so that I can have these conversations elsewhere.

Sometimes I have made mistakes with this blog. Some of my peers excelled in branding, monetising and generating social capital online through their blogging. I have failed at all of that. This blog has opened no doors for me, but it has given me a space to think and share thoughts publicly. I don't know what people have done with those thoughts but the pleasure for me is working out an idea and developing this over time.

Longevity in the movement is a rare and lovely thing. I can see how my thinking about fat has changed. I'm no longer a compliant student! An important turning point came in 2011 when I started to think seriously about what fat activism could look like, how it didn't have to replicate the mainstream, how it could be a lot weirder and freer. At the same time, I became a lot more engaged in research ethics and their application within activism. Since graduating, I have been less preoccupied with the debates of the day and more orientated towards fat activism as a product of cultural work, and lately what it has felt like to turn my doctoral thesis into a book and to become a dancer. Wave upon wave of interests, all being worked out here, diversions, tangents, space for everything.

There are over 350 posts on this blog which, for now, will exist as an archive suspended in a particular time and place. Have a poke around, I hope you enjoy what you find.

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

Your Justification For Fat Shaming donald Is Bullshit – Here’s Why

No Fat ShamingNot Even OnceNo Even donaldAfter donald’s recent physical and his physician’s questionable press conference, the internet exploded with all manner of fat shaming of donald, followed by people being called out for, and subsequently attempting to justify, their fat shaming. Y’all, I have seen some nonsense today.

Sadder still, a lot of it came from people who normally get it when it comes to fat activism.  If you’re wondering what constitutes a bullshit justification of fat shaming donald, I’m here to help:

It’s not fat shaming because he is a horror of a human being!

It’s totally fat shaming, even when you fat shame a horrible human being. If you argue that it’s ok to fat shame someone you don’t like, your fat friends and loved ones (and everyone who interacts with you, including co-workers) know what you really think of us – and what you’ll start saying about us if you don’t like what we do.

If you are saying something about donald that you wouldn’t want said about you, or about a fat loved one, you are fucking up. We all fuck up, but there’s no need to get defensive, try justify it, and make it into a permanent state. Admit your mistake, examine your own fatphobia (and remember that we fat people are not immune – we need to examine our internalized fatphobia,) and do better moving forward.

It’s not fat shaming because he (and his doctor) lied about his weight!

Online trolls speculate about the weight of fat people all the time. I know because it happens to me. Do you really want to engage in the same behavior as a reddit troll? You can’t say “it’s not about his weight” if you are talking about his weight. And you can’t call the doctor a liar unless you have proof, or you’re some kind of licensed weight psychic.

More to the point, if you’re angry because you believe that he/his doctor is lying about his weight, you are lending credence to the idea that his weight matters at all. It does not. It has literally nothing to do with anything. I actually saw a fat person claim that while they are fat, they can deal with some fat shaming if it helps bring him down.  Pro tip – he bragged about sexual assault and called nazis “some very fine people.” Claiming that he lied about his weight is not going to be the straw that broke the despot’s back. You’re not hurting donald – you’re just hurting other fat people.

We are talking about a “president” who is a proud racist, misogynist, xenophobe, sexual predator, and white supremacist who lies about nearly everything – including matters of national security. Who gives a shit about his weight or height? Or his doctor for that matter? I certainly wouldn’t put it past him to threaten/pay off/blackmail the doctor, I just think it’s the least of our problems. He’s got republican congresspeople, cabinet members, and the press secretary lying for him about things that affect many people’s  life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, his weight and height don’t affect anyone.

The good news is, by not talking about his weight we can avoid engaging in fat shaming, and stay focused on things that matter.

It’s not fat shaming because it’s about his health!

Not if you’re talking about weight it’s not. Weight and health are two separate things, neither is an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control. Also, this justification moves us from just fat shaming into fat shaming and healthism – not a good look. Again, let’s use our energy to point out the ways at which he is utterly failing and terrifyingly dangerous as “president,” getting him the hell out of the office he stole, and finding ways to negate the dangerous things he’s trying to do until then. Let’s not waste our time and energy talking about his weight and height. There are specific policies in place to deal with a President whose develops a health problem. There are not specific plans in place to deal with a “president” who might get us all killed with a tweet. Again, let’s keep our eyes on the ball (and off donald’s ass.)

It’s not fat shaming because he is a fat shamer himself!

I very seriously doubt that the path to liberation is paved with hypocrisy. Fat shaming is fat shaming no matter who the victim is. If you mention Donald’s weight as part of your criticism of him, you are engaging in fat shaming.

And make no mistake, when you engage in fat shaming, your victim is every single fat person. So don’t fat shame. Ever.

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

NEW!!! Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!

Over the course of eighteen self-paced, content-packed, quick videos you’ll get the tools you need to create healthy relationships with food, movement, and your body, and you’ll map out a path to health that makes sense for you, in an easily digestible format. Built-in tools allow you to track your progress and keep notes individually or as a group.
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members)
Click here for all the details and to register!

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!

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



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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Social Cleansing and the End of the Obesity Epidemic

I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time with Cat Pausé recently whilst she was in London. She is one of the few fat activists currently engaged with building global networks and understanding what local fat activisms look like around the world.

During our conversation I made the naïve assumption that a developing international discourse around fat activism was the result of the powerful movements of fat feminist discourse. Well, isn't that a fanciful idea! The reality is more depressing. More people are getting into fat activism because it is a necessary survival tactic in the face of global obesity epidemicTM rhetoric established in 2000 by the World Health Organization.

As well as massively exacerbating pre-existing fatphobia, the WHO's take on obesity has been a Western diet industry sponsored project of market expansion and colonisation of places where fat was not regarded as much of a problem until the turn of the millennium. There is evidence aplenty to show that, although viewed as common sense, weight loss brings with it a plethora of health problems. The key word is iatrogenisis: illness caused by treatment. In this respect, the WHO has underwritten a worldwide public health calamity.

This week I had the pleasure of another conversation, this time with Laura Thomas. She told me that the WHO had published a report about 'Weight Bias' and we talked extensively about the gentrification of professional language around fat.

Now, I have been working on other things and have not been keeping on top of fat in the news as I may have done in the past. I may be a little bit late to the party, but I have some things to say.

The WHO has published a paper suggesting that resilience is the appropriate response for fat people suffering from the hatred engendered by the massive political problem created by the WHO themselves. Resilience, now there's a neoliberal buzzword. Let's translate, it means: too bad, suck it up.

I'm assuming that I am supposed to be pleased and grateful that the WHO recognises that fat people are often treated poorly. There is a crumb of comfort that this paper could lead to policy change, it would be nice not to be discriminated against when I am trying to access basic health services. It shows that the WHO obesity policy is in crisis and could herald the end of fat panic, they have published a paper that seems to contradict their earlier position. But where is the apology? Where is the restitution and accountability? It also reads very much like business as usual.

Weight Bias typifies the process in the world of fat where oppressors become pseudo-helpers. They do this through appropriation of fat activist concepts and language, and of renaming ideas so that they are tidier, less raw (an example of this is the pressure from thin academics to rename Fat Studies 'Critical Weight Studies' which has led to academic research that has no connection with canonical Fat Studies literature). This has the effect of making the originators of those concepts invisible, it is an act of social cleansing. Indeed, I'm not surprised to see Rebecca Puhl of Yale's Rudd Center in the WHO report, longstanding readers of this blog will remember this nonsense she pulled back in 2011.

The act of appropriating fat activism is a denial of the essential maxim for the liberation of all beings: nothing about us without us. The WHO has failed to recognise and respect fat expertise. It reproduces the idea that fat people can only ever be passive and grateful service users, not in the driving seat of our own lives. It is patronising, arrogant, about maintaining thin privilege, power and status.

Weight bias and obesity stigma: considerations for the WHO European Region (2017)



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Rest in Power, Blunderwoman

Bella Emberg's death last week gave me pause to think about Blunderwoman, one of the few fat characters I encountered on TV when I was growing up in the UK in the 1980s.

Blunderwoman was the sidekick to Russ Abbott's Cooperman. Abbott, terminally unfunny and over-exposed, created an absurd superhero based on actual comic genius Tommy Cooper. Abbott wrote Blunderwoman for Emberg and she upstaged him every time. One of the most important laws of the universe is that an older fat woman in a sequinned superhero outfit will always outshine anything within a significant radius. The comedy was crude and crass, he gave her an insulting character and she made it her own through sheer force of performance talent and charisma.

Blunderwoman is ridiculous, stupid, clumsy and can't do anything right. As a young fat woman I cringed my way through it, dreading the inevitable playground names that followed each broadcast. Back then, Blunderwoman was my nemesis. I wanted to be treated as fully human and the stereotyping she represented made that impossible.

But something has happened in the intervening years because today I think of Blunderwoman fondly. She is an icon in a cultural desert when it comes to depicting fat women, especially those of us who are older. Yes, she follows the tradition of fat people as butts of the joke, but her wrongness is what makes her so right. There are disappointingly predictable comments about political correctness in this hack piece from last year cashing-in on the release of the Wonder Woman reboot, 'The first time I put the costume on my boobs fell out!' Bella Emberg relives her days as comedy superhero Blunderwoman. But let her cheek and irreverence be a lesson for us all. Blunderwoman, there she is, a far superior role model to Wonder Woman herself.

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Understanding and Dealing with Online Harassment

Haters Walk on Water“Fatties Gonna Fat.”

That’s the first message I ever received from an internet troll. I had two immediate thoughts: What does this even mean, and who has enough free time to send this kind of nonsense to strangers?

Now, over six years later, I’ve become an expert in online harassment the hard way. There are forums devoted specifically to hating me, and the largest has over 4,000 members. Websites exist with the sole purpose of ruining my reputation, and there are coordinated efforts to convince people to cancel bookings and abandon partnerships with me. Map routes from my home to the places I work out have been published online, along with my home address and telephone number. Trolls have shown up at events I attend, including at speaking engagements and triathlons. They’ve taken pictures and videos and harassed me, the event organizers, and other participants. Once they even tripped the fire alarm during a speaking gig.

It’s one thing to have to deal with the trolls who inevitably show up in every comment section and social media platform, but the stakes are raised even higher when you become personally targeted for harassment. Here is what I’ve learned about trolls and harassers, and how to deal with them.

Click here to read my full piece about this over at Better Humans!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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Over the course of eighteen self-paced, content-packed, quick videos you’ll get the tools you need to create healthy relationships with food, movement, and your body, and you’ll map out a path to health that makes sense for you, in an easily digestible format. Built-in tools allow you to track your progress and keep notes individually or as a group.
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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!

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



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Monday, 15 January 2018

Roxane Gay, Midwest Writer’s Workshop, and Breaking the Silence of Fatphobia

No Fat ShamingRoxane Gay recently outed the Midwest Writer’s Workshop board for committing blatant fatphobia against Sarah Hollowell:

Roxanne Gay

Image shows a series of tweets from Roxane Gay, @rgay, text as follows:

I am going to call out the Midwest Writers workshop for fatphobia.

Sarah Hollowell, who I met through MWW has worked with them for five years. She was voted to be on the organizational committee.

But then someone said “do we really want someone like her representing us?” That person elaborated “someone so fat. It’s disgusting.” Only two people in that room spoke up for Sarah

They committee decided to NOT bring Sarah on board. Because of her body. But because she is “so talented” they are willing to hire her for less public things.

This is unacceptable. And cruel. And cowardly, Midwest Writers Workshop. And you thought you could get away with it. You very nearly did.

I guess I too am too fat and disgusting for your workshop. Which is fine. But Sarah was a tireless worker on your behalf. She is intelligent, passionate, and brave. You would be LUCKY to have her.

You owe Sarah a public and genuine apology. And then those of you who objected to her fatness or were silent in the face of this fat phobia need to really take yourselves to task. It’s horrifying what you’ve done.

Also, Midwest Writers Workshop, never use my name as a past faculty member in your promotional materials, ever again. I’m too fat and disgusting to be associated with you.

First of all, it’s important to note that – once again, it’s a Black woman leading the way. There were plenty of people with much more privilege in that room who either committed the fatphobia, agreed with the fatphobia, or stayed silent. So thanks to Roxane Gay for taking this risk.

MWW issued an apology that seemed pretty suspicious to me even before I read Sarah’s own Tweets about it.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident – fatphobia goes on in corporations, non-profits, and all types of organizations, way too often, and we cannot let it go unchecked. Here are some options for calling out fatphobia when you see it in a work environment. As always the people with the most privilege should be taking the lead, if you are a fat person dealing with fat phobia, know that it’s reasonable to decide to take care of yourself first, and to not confront this.  Here are options for these situations:

Say Something Right Away

If you can address fatphobia without causing the victim(s) more damage, do it in the moment. If you want to be really direct you could say something like: “Are we a company that discriminates based on size? If so I think we should make that public so that people are aware.” Or you can say “I’m not comfortable with weight-based bigotry, can we please focus on the candidates actual qualifications?” One way to call out fatphobia without being as accusatory is to do it in Jeopardy style – in the form of a question: “Does anybody know if our state/city/company has a non-discrimination policy that includes weight-based discrimination – I think we may be violating the law/company policy.” If someone pipes up that there’s no law, you can ask if size discrimination is company policy. If confronting fatphobia in the moment will harm fat people who are in the room, then have these conversations as soon as you can after the fact. You know your organization best, so choose what will work best.

Move it up the Chain

Contact HR, talk to folks higher up to find other allies (notice who in the room is also speaks up, who looks uncomfortable, who doesn’t say anything.) Don’t assume that fat people will get on board – they shouldn’t have to take on the additional burden of dealing with fatphobia, and they may well be affected by internalized fatphobia. If your company doesn’t have a policy against size discrimination, look into what it would take to create one. Keep pushing.

Take it to the Tweets

Consider going public with it (with the permission of the victim, if there is a specific one.) Visibility is the first step to change.

When it comes to fatphobia, as with so much other bigotry, sunlight is the best disinfectant, so before we can end fatphobia, we have to drag it – and those who perpetuate it, out into the open.

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

NEW!!! Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!

Over the course of eighteen self-paced, content-packed, quick videos you’ll get the tools you need to create healthy relationships with food, movement, and your body, and you’ll map out a path to health that makes sense for you, in an easily digestible format. Built-in tools allow you to track your progress and keep notes individually or as a group.
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members)
Click here for all the details and to register!

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!

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



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Friday, 12 January 2018

Fatphobia At The Spa

A number of blog readers let me know about an incident at a nail salon where they hung a sign saying “Sorry, but if you are overweight, pedicures will be $45 due to service fees for pedicurists. Thank you!”

I’m not sure if I’m more insulted about “Sorry” (are you, really?) or “Thank you!” (Um, you’re welcome? You sizeist ass). I blogged about this specific incident here, but it’s part of a much larger issue of fatphobia that affects fat people’s every day lives. A “fat tax” is an additional fee that is charged to fat patrons by services like pedicurists, spas, even massage therapists. Sometimes it even goes beyond a tax to complete exclusion. I asked some fat folks to share their stories.

One of the most common forms of exclusion is to simply create an environment that doesn’t accommodate fat people.

MH faced this as a massage therapist: “When I was a new massage therapist, I worked at a spa that did not have tables large enough to accommodate people of all sizes. It was really frustrating for me as well as my clients. When I was able to outfit my own studio, I splurged on the largest/highest weight capacity portable table on the market. It was expensive but worth the relief on my clients’ faces.”

LSK faced this issue from the client side of the table: “I’ve had a few massages here and there and feel like I’m going to fall off of the table because there wasn’t enough room for my arms. I could never relax into the experience because one arm or the other would pop off of the table and I would be laying there embarrassed as all hell and wondering what to do with my arms. Don’t get me started on the teeny-tiny robes!”

And robes aren’t the only thing that people had trouble fitting into; MK was one of many folks who faced this issue at the salon. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve not fit into chairs when I go to get my hair done. They almost never had capes to fit me. Last year I went to go get waxed and they expected me to jump on to a table that looked so flimsy I actually laughed out loud while shaking my head.”

AC has had some luck with insisting on what she needs: “I go to Spas as often as I can, and always ask for a robe that will fit me (as I am unapologetically fat). It sometimes takes them a REALLY long time to dig one up. The places where they give you a little scrubs like outfit to wear (mostly Korean style spas) often have to give me the mens one, which is awkward when you are a cis-female trying to use the single sex areas of the spa. The best service I ever had was at the Madonna Inn. They asked my size before I arrived, did not balk at my 3X/24, and had a robe that fit me in the locker for me upon arrival. Really appreciated that.”

Asking for accommodation is definitely an option – but taking your time and energy to remind a place that serves people that people of all sizes exist can be difficult, stressful, and the exact opposite of the relaxing experience that someone might be looking for when they head to the spa.

The responsibility shouldn’t fall on a fat person who is just trying to get the exact same experience other people are already given.

Read the rest of this piece here!

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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NEW!!! Wellness for All Bodies ProgramA simple, step-by-step, super efficient guide to setting and reaching your health goals from a weight neutral perspective.  This program can be used by individuals, or by groups, including as a workplace wellness program!

Over the course of eighteen self-paced, content-packed, quick videos you’ll get the tools you need to create healthy relationships with food, movement, and your body, and you’ll map out a path to health that makes sense for you, in an easily digestible format. Built-in tools allow you to track your progress and keep notes individually or as a group.
Price: $25.00 ($10 for DancesWithFat members)
Click here for all the details and to register!

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!

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



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Thursday, 11 January 2018

Famous Fat Celebrities -- Sharon Jones: "Too Fat, Too Black"


I just came across the biographic details of an amazing entertainer with whom I was unfamiliar. Her name was Sharon Jones. She was a soul and funk singer so full of energy and fierceness on stage that she was sometimes called "the female James Brown."

She led a fascinating and inspiring life, full of hardships overcome through sheer guts and hard work. Against all odds, she achieved fame and renown in middle age. And when she was handed a difficult diagnosis of terminal cancer at far too young an age, she persevered with her life's work and continued breaking barriers for women and people of color for as long as she could. She died a peaceful death, full of music and grace, surrounded by her family and her band. Hers was a life well-lived.

Childhood


Sharon Lafaye Jones was born May 4, 1956 in Augusta Georgia. She was born to Ella Mae Price Jones and Charlie Jones. She was the youngest of six children. After Ella Mae's sister died, she raised her sister's four children as well, so Sharon grew up as one of ten children.

Sharon's father was abusive and home life was chaotic at times. According to one source, she had a brother who went crazy after a brush with LSD, and her mother shot at her husband when he was unfaithful during her pregnancy.

In time, her mother moved the children away to New York and raised them by herself. Sharon grew up in Brooklyn. She would sometimes return to Georgia during her summers, but it was New York that she considered her home and that strongly flavors her work.

Musical Style and Influences



It was in Brooklyn that Jones began singing in church with her sister and absorbing the gospel style. This deeply-felt, soulful, and energetic music fused with the urban styles she heard all around her in New York and became the backbone of her style.

Another primary influence was James Brown. Her mother knew James Brown and Sharon grew up listening to his music, but she never tried to imitate him. You can see his highly-charged soul style in her performances, but she had her own twist on the music that made her truly unique. She was a fiery and truly commanding presence on stage. 

Other early influences included Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Thom Bell, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Marva Whitney and the entire Motown stable of artists.


Jones described her style as soul and funk music. She lamented the fact that music awards put soul and funk into the R&B category because there supposedly weren't enough soul and funk performers for separate recognition. The industry believed that soul music was an outdated relic of a bygone era, but she set out to prove them wrong.

Her band's music typically had a strongly driving beat with a hook of horns and saxes. The band had a baritone sax, alto sax, and trumpet propelling its funk, underlaid by more typical instruments like electric guitar, drums, and bass guitar.

Too Fat, Too Black

Despite her talent and unique style, Jones had a hard time getting signed by a major record label. Record executives told her she was "Too fat, too black, too short, and too old" to make it in the business.

Ironically, her weight was barely mid-sized by community standards. Furthermore, there is a strong precedent for famous fat black women singers in African-American music (Bessie Smith, Ma Rainy, Big Mama Thornton, Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Jill Scott, Queen Latifah, and many others). Still, those are the exceptions. Most record executives of that time placed a strong emphasis on conventional physical beauty for new singers trying to break into the business. In that recording industry in that time, she was seen as too heavy for a non-established singer and not worth taking a chance on.

"I looked at myself and saw ugliness," she said.

But she wouldn't let that keep her music down. Although she had to resort to other jobs to support herself, she kept singing and plugging away. She reminded herself that when she was a teenager, she saw a psychic who predicted a number of things that later came true. The psychic supposedly told her that she would receive recognition only late in her life, but would travel and have music and fame.

She cites this as helping her through the lean years when she had to live with her mother and work varied jobs like wedding singer, armored-car guard, and corrections officer at Ryker's Island. She had faith that in time, her ship would come in.

Eventually, it did─but not until she was over 40 years old. This is an almost unheard-of age for finally achieving success in the youth-oriented recording business, but she did it, against all odds.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Jones' first big break came in 1996 when she answered a call for a back-up singer for a recording. Musician and producer Gabriel Roth was so impressed by her talent that he had her record a single of her own. Through several record label ownership switches, that recording managed to survive and attract attention.

In the late 90s, she joined a small independent record label with Roth called Desco which began promoting her. Her fame began to grow.

That record label eventually folded too, but then Roth formed Daptone Records in 2001 and this one succeeded. Musicians from various bands joined with Jones and Roth and formed Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. They sought to play classic Soul music with their own unique twist. They became the leading act for Daptone Records.

The company got a run-down house in Brooklyn and remodeled it from the studs up. Sharon Jones helped with the remodeling, doing much of the electrical work herself. The building contained the offices and recording studios of the company. They made a conscious decision to only use analog equipment for their recordings, forgoing digital tools in order to make their music more authentic. They began gaining success with the college radio crowd and online via the internet.

Photo: Fred Tanneau, Getty Images
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings put out a number of albums over the years. The first one that really attracted attention was Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, which received strong notices from fans, DJs and collectors in 2002.

They added three more albums, including Naturally (2005), 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007), and I Learned the Hard Way (2010). As a result, they began to be seen by many as "the spearhead of a revival of soul and funk."

To increase their visibility, they toured relentlessly and performed with such diverse performers as Phish, Lou Reed, Hall & Oates, Michael Bublé, and Prince. Jones  appeared in the 2007 film The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Amy Winehouse took inspiration from Jones, and the Dap-Kings played back-up for some of Winehouse's recordings. Later, she and the band played in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and did the closing song for the TV series, Luke Cage.

Through the internet, she and the band were able to cross over and appeal to a multi-racial audience. She had a fiery presence onstage that left a strong impression. The New York Times said, "With her high-power vocals growling over the Dap-Kings’ caffeinated soul, Ms. Jones channels the power of James Brown in his prime."

She began receiving more fame for her work, despite loyally staying with the small, independent record label. However, it wasn't until near the end of her life, in her late 50s, that the band and Jones really gained the recognition they deserved. Unfortunately, it was then that illness struck.

"I Have Cancer; Cancer Don't Have Me"

Photo: Jesse Dittmar, New York Magazine
In 2012, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings began recording the album, Give the People What They Want. This is the work that would eventually earn them the recognition they so richly deserved, but it wasn't achieved without difficulty.

In 2013, Jones was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and then pancreatic cancer, stage II. Doctors removed her gallbladder, part of her pancreas, and 18 inches of her intestines. She then  underwent difficult chemotherapy treatments.

She asserted, "I have cancer; cancer don't have me." Although she did no music for about eight months during treatment, she and the band eventually went back to the studio and worked on material for the album on the days when she felt strong enough. Sometimes she was so fatigued she could hardly manage. She feared that she would not live to see the album released. Eventually, she rallied and they were able to finish it. The album was released two weeks after her final chemo treatments.

Give the People What They Want garnered a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album in 2015, despite being from a small, independent, and relatively unknown label. Jones was disappointed that there wasn't a separate category for Soul, but was still glad to finally receive recognition for their work. She told Rolling Stone Magazine, "The only thing I wanted to accomplish was to finally get recognized by the music industry."

For a while, her cancer went into remission and she continued with her career. She and the band toured and she performed as energetically as ever despite hip pain and neuropathy in her hands and feet that made it hard to dance. The band recorded a holiday-themed album called It's a Holiday Soul Party and released it in November 2015. Jones and the band continued to influence other artists such as Adele and her fame continued to grow. Talk shows like The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, and Conan O'Brien had them performing for wide audiences.



Filmmaker Barbara Kopple made a documentary about Jones' life and music called "Miss Sharon Jones!" (available on Netflix and Amazon) which did a great deal to cement recognition of her talent. It wasn't intended to be about her cancer, but in the end it gave a gripping and unsparing look at her life during cancer, chemo, and rehabilitation to get in shape to perform again. The film documented the whole journey and ended with her triumphant return to the stage and the finishing of their watershed album. Jones said:
The movie wasn’t done because I got cancer; that movie is about part of my life, and cancer is going to be with me for the rest of my life...Do I lie down? Do I give up my career in music, in singing, because of chemo? Or do I go out and live my life?...To me, life is about how well you take it.
During her remission and comeback, the band enjoyed widespread acclaim as they toured, but it wasn't to last. Sadly, at the 2015 premiere of the documentary, she had to announce that the cancer had returned and she would be returning to chemotherapy that week. She stated that it wouldn't stop her from continuing to make music, saying, "I'm going to do what I have to do. I'm going to sing."

She toured while taking chemotherapy treatments. She was still touring until a few months before her death in 2016, though she did have to cancel a concert for President Obama at the last minute when she developed pneumonia. Sadly, she never got to reschedule it. She died a month later.

The following is a music video she made while first ill called "Stranger To My Happiness." She said it was a tremendous struggle to finish the video at times, but then she just decided to double down and gut it out. A casual observer would never know she was sick from her performance. The only clue is her bald head and the chemo port visible on her chest.



It's really great that in such an incredibly looks-focused industry, she did not hide her hair loss but went proudly onstage bald and still sexy as hell. She said:
I'm not a hair person. My hair on my head is my hair and I'll connect some braids onto it. But now to go out there without it, it's a new Sharon. Plus, I want my fans to go through what I'm going through. If they see this maybe they'll understand. And maybe my story will get across to someone else with cancer. Maybe they'll say, “Keep moving!” But basically it was to inspire myself. But you know, whenever you do something for yourself, you're doing something for someone else too.
Performing energized her and gave her life meaning, even as she struggled with her health. In the documentary, she notes how performing was incredibly therapeutic for her:
"When I walk out [onstage], whatever pain is gone," Jones says. "You forget about everything. There is no cancer. There is no sickness. You're just floating, looking in their faces and hearing them scream. That's all that is to me." 

In 2017, her bandmates put out another record, posthumously, called "Soul of a Woman," full of tracks she had made towards a new album. On the band's website, they write:
Sharon used to say ‘What comes from the heart reaches the heart,’ and I think everybody had that sense of pouring their heart into this record.” 
“Every time she took the stage, it always felt like Sharon was leaving it all out there. So maybe it was more intense for the band towards the end, knowing what was coming, but that's the only way she knew how to sing her whole life—like it was her last day on earth.”
Death


Sharon suffered two strokes in November 2016 and died a few days later. Her bandmates and family gathered around her for her final days and played music for her.

At first she could sing along, but after her second stroke she could no longer sing words. However, bandmate Gabriel Roth says that she often "moaned" along in tune with the music and eventually hummed along with it, especially the old gospel standards she loved so well. Even when she could no longer speak or answer questions, she could hum along and make 3-part harmony with her back-up singers, which greatly moved those present. Roth recounted:
She would smile and she would laugh at jokes and she'd look around and she seemed really happy to have everybody around her.

She didn't seem anxious or scared or anything. She just wanted to sing, you know, and every time there was a lull in the room she would start moaning some kind of gospel song or something and we'd very quietly come in behind her and play guitar. Or Saundra and Starr were singing harmonies with her.

And it was crazy. Even in that state -- if you asked her if she was in pain, she couldn't respond. She couldn't say one word, or say somebody's name or anything.

But she could find harmony notes with Saun and Starr, and sing three-part harmony and improvise these gospel moans. It was really remarkable, and it was beautiful. I've never seen anything like it.
Rest in peace, Sharon Jones. What a wonderful musical contribution you made to the world.




References


via The Well-Rounded Mama http://wellroundedmama.blogspot.com/2018/01/famous-fat-celebrities-sharon-jones-too.html