Monday, 20 February 2017

You Are Not Subtle With Your Hate

Inspired my my dear friend Ali over at Mean Fat Girl, I want to expand upon her post That Thing Thin People Do.  The thing is, we see you, thin people.  You think you’re being OH SO SUBTLE in your little judgements and smirks and insincerity towards us, but there’s one thing I can promise you – you’re not subtle.  You’re not even original.  Because when I sit down and talk to other fat people, particularly fat women, I hear the same things over, and over, and over again.  So perhaps if I lay them out in a nice, easy to read list, you can all see just how blatantly obvious you are with your cruddy behaviour, and maybe you’ll understand why so many of us simply don’t trust you, or even like you.

Oh you might not do all of these things, nobody is saying that.  But I’m quite sure you do some of them, because I and other fat people have seen you do it.  Time and time and time again.  And if you are one of the few who DON’T do these things, then this is not about you.   Don’t get all “not all thin people” at me – it’s no different to #NotAllMen or #NotAllWhitePeople

Things Thin People Do

  • Expect their fat friends to hang out with them for hours on end while they try on clothes that are not available to them, without ever returning the favour, or being cognizant of how fat people are excluded from clothing
  • Scowl at fat people in public
  • Laugh at the idea of fat people dating, being in love, having sex.
  • Laugh at fat people in public
  • Assume that fat people are all lazy gluttons
  • Decide how much and what fat people should eat.  Those “Are you sure you want that?” comments.
  • Nudge their partners, friends, family and point out fat people in public
  • Take photographs of fat people on their mobile phones
  • Talk about our bodies to other thin people, particularly about whether you think we are lazy or gluttonous.
  • Say things like “If I ever get like that, kill me.” In reference to our bodies
  • Inspect our shopping carts and baskets
  • Watch us eating, staring, following every morsel of food from our plate to our mouths.
  • “Compliment” us only when we wear dark colours, or clothes that hide our bodies, but if we wear anything colourful or that shows skin, you’re suddenly silent.
  • Talk about how fat you are, in front of us, like being fat is the worst, most disgusting thing you could be.
  • Use us to make yourself feel better about yourself – “at least I’m hotter/better/thinner than her.”
  • Speak to us as if you’re our intellectual superiors.
  • Assume we’re exaggerating or over-sensitive when we talk about how rude and hurtful people are to us.
  • Talk over us about fatness, bodies and eating disorders, as if you have more expertise on our bodies than we do.
  • Tell your children “You wouldn’t want to get fat now.” Right in our hearing, again, as though that’s the worst thing that a human being could be.
  • Laugh when your children parrot the hateful things to us that you have taught them.  As if saying something mean to a fat people is funny or cute.
  • Do absolutely nothing when someone says something hurtful or hateful about fat people in front of you.

And most tellingly;

  •  Get offended when fat people point out the many ways that you behave rudely or hurtfully towards us.
  • Make excuses for all of the above.

That’s right.  Ask yourself right now – has the list above pissed you off, or offended you?  If the answer is yes, then I’m talking about you.  If you’re bothered that I and others are pointing out all of these appalling behaviours, then perhaps ask yourself why you’re so invested in being “allowed” to treat fat people with such disrespect and hate.  What kind of person are you that you think any of the above behaviours are acceptable towards another human being?  Would you accept people behaving like that towards you?  Would you respect, trust or want to be around people who exhibited those behaviours towards you?

As I said at the beginning of this piece – fat people see you doing this stuff.  It’s not subtle at all, you’re not sneakily engaging in something that nobody will notice.  We see you.  And instead of internalising your disrespect and hatred of us, we’re learning to shine a spotlight on it for what it is.  That might make you feel uncomfortable, or ashamed.  Good – that’s how you’ve been making us feel about our own bodies for so long.  The difference is, our bodies are not harming you, they are just that – OUR bodies.  None of your business.


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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Totally not a Bible verse about the current President

Every Sunday, Fred Clark posts a Bible passage, usually pointedly relevant to world events.  Today’s was a beauty. Don’t tell Donald there are Bible verses that refer to him specifically, though. There’s not room in the White House for his ego as it is.




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Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Problem With Body Positivity

defendAfter performing her ass off at the half-time show of Super Bowl LI, Lady Gaga was body shamed by the kind of people who think their opinions about women’s bodies matter, and who want to attract other sexist misogynist assholes by taking to the internet to show off their bigotry. Though they are a plague worth ending, I’m not focusing on them today. What I want to talk about are the “Body Positive” responses, because the Body Positive community has some serious problems, and those problems tend to perpetuate exactly what we want to be fighting.

The Body Positive (BoPo) movement as it often appears today is a watered-down version of the much more radical Fat Acceptance movement. BoPo inherited problems that Fat Acceptance had and still has, including a lack of inclusion and centering of the voices of People of Color, disabled people/people with disabilities, and Trans and Non-Binary people. And in seeking to apply the concepts of Fat Acceptance to people of all sizes, BoPo created new problems as well as exacerbating old ones which tend to exclude those who are most oppressed because of their bodies.

You can read my full piece about it here!

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

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



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Monday, 13 February 2017

the HAES® files: Not On the Menu: Intuitive Eating and Autism

by David Preyde

The areas of diet and nutrition are a minefield. It’s almost impossible to reach a consensus, as there are so many different — and contradictory — theories, ideas, and values. If you are a healthcare professional, it can be hard to know how best to serve your clients.

One idea that’s gained a lot of traction recently is intuitive eating. It’s a pretty great concept: instead of worrying about the different components of food, how often to eat and how much, you simply pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If you eat when you’re hungry, it’s supposedly easier to maintain a healthy relationship with your body. In addition to being a great tool for clients, it also makes your job less complicated.

Allow me to ruin this for you.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and like so many people on the autism spectrum, my relationship with my body is — to use a clinical term — utterly bollocksed.  My sense of taste, texture, and smell are all much more sensitive than usual, which means there are a lot of things I can’t eat. And my sense of hunger and thirst are practically non-existent. I can’t reliably tell when I’m hungry.  A lot of people with autism share this experience. It’s a common problem, which can lead to both overeating and undereating.

When I lived with my parents, I didn’t recognize that I had this issue. I ate when my family members did, and — for the most part — ate the same things they did. However, when I moved out, my diet went haywire. Like many autistic people, I have the tendency to get lost in my own world. In the morning I’d wake up, check my e-mails, maybe do a bit of writing, and before I knew it I was feeling dizzy and having a hard time concentrating. I’d look at the clock and realize it was already 1 P.M. and that I hadn’t had a full meal in well over twelve hours.

Despite my tendency to accidentally starve myself, I gained fifteen pounds within a year of moving out of my parents’ house. This was because I often waited to eat until I was on the verge of collapsing from hunger, so I over-relied on fast food, candy, and other highly-processed foods that took little time to prepare.

I didn’t know about intuitive eating until I met my partner. She was appalled by how much fast food I was eating, and I shrugged and said, “Well, what’s the alternative?” She explained the principles of intuitive eating. I said, “But how am I supposed to know when I’m hungry?” She was confused by this question. I was confused as to why she was confused.

This happens a lot to autistic people. Our brains and bodies work differently, and it doesn’t automatically occur to us that we’re the deviation. Why would it? I can’t imagine being able to intuitively understand that I’m hungry, and I always assumed that other people were the same way.

So I’ve gone through life eating whatever, whenever, and — when left to my own devices — I don’t eat until I start feeling dizzy, because that’s the first indication I have that I’m hungry.

Miraculously, I’ve never had any health problems, and I’ve always maintained a weight that falls within the narrow perimeters of what’s considered “healthy”. A lot of people on the autism spectrum aren’t as lucky. Some get traumatized by well-meaning doctors who, instead of recognizing their patients’ challenges with appetite and food, push weight loss, restrict access to food, and just generally make things worse.

But realistically, how many autistic clients are you going to have? Is this a problem you’re going to have to deal with?

Yes, and more often than you might think.

Apparently, a disproportionate number of people on the autistic spectrum have eating disorders. This isn’t a well-known fact; I had no idea until my partner — a health psychologist — told me. But it didn’t come as a surprise.

In addition to being out of touch with our bodies, autistic people are often rigid, perfectionistic, and gravitate toward extremes. Because autism is a social disability, we’re often isolated or socially anxious. This can complicate mealtimes, which are often social activities. We’re also often sensitive to sound, touch, taste, smell, and visual stimuli. All these factors can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as a desire to tightly control the few things we’re capable of controlling.

I don’t mean to imply that all or even most autistic people have eating disorders, but we are at higher risk.  And unfortunately, intuitive eating — one of the best strategies for people with eating disorders — doesn’t work for many people with autism. If you treat your autistic clients the same way your treat your other clients — and especially if you present intuitive eating as the only option — you will likely exacerbate their health problems and potentially discourage them from seeking healthcare.

So what are you supposed to do? Honestly, I don’t think anyone has figured that out yet. There aren’t enough people who have done research on the links between autism and eating disorders, and everyone with autism is so different that it’s difficult to establish patterns of behaviour and predict what we’ll respond to.

But to some extent, you’re probably used to this. As I’ve said before, the areas of diet and nutrition are a minefield, and there’s no consensus on what works and what doesn’t. We’re all stumbling around a dark room looking for a light switch that might not even be there.

The difference between the rest of your clients and your autistic clients is that autism presents a different dark room and a differently placed light switch.

I simply encourage you to be open to the possibility that what works for some clients won’t work for others. In the end, your empathy, compassion, open-mindedness, and willingness to collaborate with your client will allow you both to find the solutions they need.

Even if the route you take is not intuitive.

 


David Preyde is a freelance writer who writes about the difficulties of being human. His pieces often explore topics related to disability justice, autism, relationships and sexuality. He has been published in Disability Horizons, peer-reviewed disability journals, and short-story anthologies. He is also an emerging playwright and produces plays that challenge notions of normality and convention. You can follow his blog at differentsortofsolitude@wordpress.com or contact him at david.preyde@outlook.com.



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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Hero Burlesque Dancer Names and Shames Her Trolls

trollsJessica Davey-Quantick, a Burlesque dancer, posted videos of a performance along with pictures of herself in costume to her social media.  A troll started leaving inappropriate comments. By the following morning more trolls had joined in.  According to Davey-Quantick the most prolific troll told her that she should “slit my own wrists and eat my own blubber.”

This is often the time when people chime in to tell the person being bullied that they should “turn the other cheek,” or to “just be positive,” or that they should not “feed the trolls” by talking about what’s happening to them. Each person who deals with trolls and bullies gets to choose how they want to deal with them, and these are completely valid choices.  But they’re not the only choices.

In my experience (which includes everything from the lazy “fatties gonna fat” style trolling, to having entire forums and websites dedicated to trolling me personally, to having people show up where I’m at to video and photograph me and my family) ignoring bullies allows them to bully in peace with no push-back. I’m pretty sure that the person who started telling people that “ignoring the bullies will make them go away” was, at best, never bullied and, at worst, a bully trying to pull one over on us.

Jessica took a different approach. She said “I am over the idea that we have to somehow protect the individuals [involved],” And to prove it, she found the first troll’s father and headmaster, and she let them know what was going.  The dad started off apologetic and then later claimed his son wasn’t involved, chided Jessica for calling him out, and said that if she didn’t want to be abused she should lock her Instagram account. Sooooo, lying and victim blaming…I guess the troll doesn’t fall far from the tree.

She found greater success with the Headmaster.  It turns out that, as is so often the case, the trolls were children – which doesn’t make their behavior any less harmful, but does help to explain the mentality of doing it in the first place.  Several of them attend Westminster School, an exclusive private school that was “appalled” to find out that their students behaved this way.  So appalled that they suspended the three boys and they’ll be reviewing the boys hand-written apology notes before they are sent to Jessica.

The main troll had already reached out to let Jessica know that they had been suspended, and lost their phone privileges. According to Jessica:

“More importantly, he was so apologetic. And I got this email from him basically telling me he is so ashamed of himself. He is so ashamed that he has done this to his parents, to his friends, that he doesn’t do this normally, and that he’s learned his lesson.”

This is the best possible outcome.  Unfortunately we can’t force internet trolls to grow a conscience, or behave with basic human respect.  One thing we can do, if we choose, is to help them experience the consequences of their actions, thus giving them the opportunity to make better choices moving forward.

For her part, Jessica is committed to helping trolls experience “the army of feminist flying monkeys who descended upon him like a glittery wave of retribution.” She says:

We have to start opening up, because these people who do it generally have private pages and you can’t imagine them sitting down at dinner with their parents and their spouses or their girlfriends and saying, ‘Well, what did you do today honey?’ ‘Well, today I told someone to kill themselves on the internet. Pass the peas, please.’ So we need to take it to their world. We need to make it something they have to own. Not just us.

“I’m probably going to keep getting [abusive messages], and I’m probably going to keep posting and I’m probably going to keep finding their mothers.

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

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



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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Diet culture and immortality.

I know it’s been quiet (TOO quiet) around here lately. What can I say? I’ve been working my face off.

I did write something for The Atlantic, though, after a good long period of grumpy hermiting. Here’s a good chunk, in case you want a sample before committing to a click:

The act of ingestion is embroidered with so much cultural meaning that, for most people, its roots in spare, brutal survival are entirely hidden. Even for people in extreme poverty, for whom survival is a more immediate concern, the cultural meanings of food remain critical. Wealthy or poor, we eat to celebrate, we eat to mourn, we eat because it’s mealtime, we eat as a way to bond with others, we eat for entertainment and pleasure. It is not a coincidence that the survival function of food is buried beneath all of this—who wants to think about staving off death each time they tuck into a bowl of cereal? Forgetting about death is the entire point of food culture.

When it comes to food, Becker said that humans “quickly saw beyond mere physical nourishment,” and that the desire for more life—not just delaying death today, but clearing the bar of mortality entirely—grew into an obsession with transforming the self into a perfected object that might achieve a sort of immorality. Diet culture and its variations, such as clean eating, are cultural structures we have built to attempt to transcend our animality.

By creating and following diets, humans not only eat to stay alive, but they fit themselves into a cultural edifice that is larger, and more permanent, than their bodies. It is a sort of immortality ritual, and rituals must be performed socially. Clean eating rarely, if ever, occurs in secret. If you haven’t evangelized about it, joined a movement around it, or been praised publicly for it, have you truly cleansed?

I’m going back to grumpy hermiting for a while. I’ll send up another flare if anything exciting happens.



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Dr. Platkin of Hunter College Issues Embarrassing Media Alert

diet-companiesWhen I got an e-mail with the subject line “Media Alert: “Super Bowl” Calorie Costs—in Exercise” I rolled my eyes so hard that I saw my brain. It did not get better in the introductory paragraph (content warning for discussion of trading activity for food, and also terrible staff work.)

Dr. Charles Platkin, executive director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and editor of [ridiculous website I’m not publicizing] demonstrates how much you would need to do to burn off typical “Big Game” snacks. For instance, you would have to run 49 football fields to burn off just two handfuls of potato chips or do “the wave” 6480 times to burn off 6 Buffalo Wild Wings Dipped In Ranch Dressing. Please see below news release.

Later on it uses the reflux-causing phrase “Is it splurge-worthy?” I don’t know why they would spam a fat activism blogger who has written several posts about the ridiculous things that diet companies say in media alerts just like this, but as long as they asked me to write about it, I decided I would.

I’m going to go into the snake oil salesman that I think Charles Platkin is in a moment, but let’s be clear that his credibility was shot the moment he started listing generalities about calories burned.  In truth age, gender, body size, and body composition are a few of the things that effect how many calories one burns during exercise. So if Kacy Catanzaro, Meb Keflezighi, and Shaq all ran 49 football fields, the calories they burned would be quite different. (Not to mention “two handfuls of potato chips?”  Whose hands – The Rock’s or mine?) Charles’ devil-may-care attitude toward accuracy is just the tip of the BS iceburg.

Just so we’re clear, Chuck is NOT a medical doctor.  He received a Ph.D. in Public Health from Florida International University.  He’s also an ACE certified personal trainer, so it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t understand the basics of how calories work. but I’m forced to assume that either he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he’s betting that we don’t. Regardless, it is unacceptable for him to spread misinformation for profit, though it seems like that may be his specialty.

His website is chock full of cheesy fad diet books (and, oddly, two screenplays) with absolutely no evidence to suggest that they have any better success than any other body size manipulation technique (which is to say, basically none.)

41x-7ivlchl-_sx373_bo1204203200_-225x300 51nnldvthrl-_sx322_bo1204203200_ 9780452285347_p0_v2_s192x300 auto-diet cal-bargain-bible download

The tips from the media alert are equally ridiculous but this one is far and away my favorite:

FOUR SAMUEL ADAMS BOSTON LAGER BEERS = 68 MINUTES OF PLAYING PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL
The only problem is that, according to The Wall Street Journal, there are only about 11 minutes of actual ball playing in a football game.  That means you need to play more than six games of professional football to burn off 4 Samuel Adams Boston Lager beers at 180 calories per 12 ounces.

Fit Tip: There are some great light beers out there. Do a taste test before the game and see if you can make the event more special with some fancy low calorie beers. Miller 64: 64 calories; Bud Select 55: 55 calories; Michelob Ultra: 95 calories; Natural Light: 95 calories; Miller Lite: 96 calories.

I mean – what the hell? The media alert says “the idea is to use exercise equivalents to provide a frame of reference that is familiar and meaningful… ” Playing professional football is what he considers “familiar and meaningful?”

Even if playing professional football was an option for more than .08% of people who played in high school, there are still problems here. Is he talking about “playing professional football” as a running back? A kicker?  A long snapper? (As a band geek I feel compelled to mention that another tip includes “Performing in a marching band” with no suggestion as to whether he means playing in the pit, or marching with a piccolo – or a sousaphone.  Familiar and meaningful?)

Apparently he knows as much about how calories work as he does about beer since he considers Bud Select, Michelob Ultra, Natty Light, and Miller Lite to be “fancy low calorie beers?” Really? I’ll bet the folks at Stella Artois Light are pretty pissed.

I’m not going to go through all of the “tips”, but suffice it to say that nowhere does he take into account that people actually need food and that the food they eat on Superbowl Sunday might maybe, just maybe, be part of that need. Which leads us to the far more serious point:

On the surface it’s funny that a snake oil selling PhD (and would-be screenwriter?) had this media alert sent to a fat activist blogger. But below the surface it’s less about hilarity and more about gross incompetence.  This guy is the Executive Director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and he is selling books that are no better than a bag of magic weight loss beans, and issuing media alerts that are based on inaccurate information, for which there is no evidence to suggest that they will create health or thinness (which are two separate things.)

Worse – this idea of “trading exercise for food”, or the belief that one must “earn” food, can trigger and perpetuate disordered eating and eating disorders. You can read a heartbreaking first person thread out it here, a piece by an expert from PsychCentral  and another first person piece here. (trigger warning for eating disorder talk.) His website claims : “This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information.”

Let’s just say, I’m far less convinced.

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

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

 



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