Thursday, 23 March 2017

the HAES® files: A Fat Runner’s Path to Intuitive Exercise

by Lindsey Schuhmacher, MA

I like to run. I like the sharp, morning air in my lungs. I like when my breath finds its rhythm and all of a sudden it doesn’t feel like work anymore. I like how alive I feel afterwards, with fresh ideas swarming in my head and optimism lightening my step. It hasn’t always been this way. Like many people with disordered eating and exercise backgrounds, my relationship with running wasn’t always so simple.

I am fat. I have always been or identified as some form of fat. Even during the times when my weight dipped low enough to be at the high end of the “normal” range of the BMI, I felt fat. That is because I have grown up in a culture with an “ideal” image of health and beauty that I can never attain. The strange part is that I was at my least healthy, physically and psychologically, when I approached the ideal most closely and would regularly receive compliments about my looks and health. I was also repeatedly asked for advice about how other people could get to where I was. Looking back, I feel sad for myself and for those who wanted to emulate my negative behaviors.

In the beginning, I saw running as a way to lose weight. I thought if I just ran far enough, fast enough, often enough, that I would eventually become thin. It started in the seventh grade, when my family was struggling with poverty and substance abuse issues. I would go for long runs with my Walkman, blasting Janis Joplin’s “Another Piece of My Heart.” I was running away from my circumstances and myself.

As things got worse around me, and my family was living in a shelter, I joined the track team at my Junior High School. Every day I would run and run around the track, and walk several miles back to the shelter. It kept me away from a place I associated with shame and failure, and it began to shrink my body. It gave me a feeling of control when everything else felt like chaos. I didn’t know that I was setting myself up for a future of feeling more out of control than ever. Even worse, our culture values weight loss to such an extent that no one around me questioned my rapid weight loss or thought to check that everything was okay at home.

By the time I started college, I had already been through a few rounds of weight cycling – losing weight only to regain it and then double my efforts to lose it again. As a first generation college student entering a small, private, liberal arts college, my self-esteem was already in peril. Add to that having to eat every meal in a public space, where I felt that my body and food choices were a spectacle, and it didn’t take long before I embarked on another “body project.”

My college was tucked in the mountains, with a dirt track adjacent to the property. Running on that track every day was invigorating. It provided a break from feeling overly visible and different.  Unfortunately, it also enabled me to fall back into tired, old habits that felt new and healthy because once again, my body began to shrink. People began to notice how “good” I looked. I was asked for diet and exercise advice. I felt qualified to dole it out, too. After all, I had “achieved” a physique closer to the “ideal.” I did not consider how unhealthy the habits needed to acquire it were, and I did not imagine that others who embarked on the same regimen might not lose any weight. I certainly never imagined a future where I would enjoy running even if it didn’t lead to a single pound of weight loss.

But here I am. In the years since losing weight in college, I have gained, lost, gained, lost, and gained weight again. Each time I attempted to lose weight, it became harder and harder. Eventually, I stopped losing weight no matter what I did, including running. What had been my go-to method of shrinking had stopped working. At first I thought something was wrong with me, but then I discovered Linda Bacon’s Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight, and began my journey down the long, twisting road to body positivity. It turns out that there was nothing wrong with me. There was something wrong with the idea that my body wasn’t okay to begin with.

These days I run because it feels good. I don’t worry if I have to miss a day because of weather, a sick kid, or if I just don’t feel like going. Occasionally, I wonder what the other runners think of me. Once I was running with my son in a jogging stroller, and a thin woman called out to me, “You’re awesome!”

“Thanks! You’re awesome, too!” I replied.

I don’t know if she thought I was awesome because I was out there trying to lose the baby weight (I sure hope not, because I wasn’t), or if she thought I was awesome because I was out there modeling the joy of moving my body, even if it doesn’t fit the conventional ideal, for my son. I sure hope so, because I was.

My life has changed in many ways since those first experiences running in junior high. Today, I am privileged to live across the street from a track. I am healed enough to continue to run, knowing that it won’t change the way my body looks, but that it increases my health and happiness. My two kids will grow up knowing what it means that mom has gone out to “exercise.” They will see my fat body as capable, strong, and resilient. That, to me, is awesome.

 


Lindsey Schuhmacher is an aspiring writer and an English and Humanities Instructor. She teaches the Portland State University capstone “Every Body Matters: Embracing Size Diversity,” a service learning course that looks closely at size discrimination and public health issues surrounding fat phobia. She is passionate about promoting body positivity and the principles of the Health at Every Size™ (HAES) paradigm. Lindsey also teaches English at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. Her academic interests involve writing, children’s literature, science fiction, rhetoric, philosophy, food studies, and fat studies. Lindsey has a B.S. in Philosophy, an M.A. in English, and is completing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a Health Studies Focus Award.



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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

100 Fat Activists #24: Fat Lip Reader's Theater

Still from Throwing Our Weight Around
When I started writing this post I was annoyed with myself for not knowing more about Fat Lip than I do. I found out about Fat Lip through Radiance magazine, more about that later. I rationalised that this group was active largely pre-internet, that knowing more about them at the time would have meant sending off for a video from the US and having the equipment to view it in the UK. At the time these resources were beyond me.

Then I found some notes for my PhD, later my book, hidden in a folder on my computer. Apparently I know more than I think I do! This knowledge came from a series of visits to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco in 2010, where I sifted through Judy Freespirit's collection, which is held there. During these visits I also sat and watched the Fat Lip video, Throwing Our Weight Around, a series of skits, monologues and poems.

A Reader's Theatre is a means of making theatre with few resources. Fat Lip Readers Theater was a theatre by and for fat women that used fat feminism to discuss everyday joys and hassles. Fat Lip is important because it shows how culture-building is essential to political activism, it is activism.

As I understand it, Fat Lip Reader's Theater had a relationship to a show or a dance group called Fat Chance, made or performed by Judy Freespirit, perhaps others too. Yes, my details are sketchy. They were active in Oakland around 1981 or 85, had a ten year anniversary show in 1991, and reformed in 2004 for a reunion show "after a seven year hiatus", according to Big Moves, with additional performances by some Big Moves dancers. Freespirit's papers state that Fat Lip was part of the Mothertongue Feminist Theater Collective based at The San Francisco Women's Building. As well as Throwing Our Weight Around, they also released Nothing To Lose through Wolfe Video in 1989.
"Our 30 minute video includes the words and experiences of 16 fat, feisty women, speaking, acting and singing about being fat in America in the 80s. Scenes, dialogues, snappy answers to street taunts, poetry, song and more will provoke you to laughter, tears, and anger. Our message is fat positive and challenges the diet-obsessed, fat-hating culture we live in. We present it as an entertaining antidote to everyday life in America."

An early-internet listserv from 1995 describes Fat Lip as a group that toured the US and performed at lesbian and feminist gatherings. By this time they had a mission statement:

Questions from Fat Lip Workshop 1987
"Our mission is to end fat oppression and promote size acceptance through education and theatrical performance. We are a collective of fat women who present exciting, dynamic, theatrical performances about what it's really like to be a fat woman in today's society. We also offer educational workshops and in-service trainings for organization and community groups."

Other flyers and papers stated:

Fat Lip is "a collective of fourteen fat feisty women from the San Francisco Bay Area. We come together from varied backgrounds and are not afraid or ashamed of the way that we look or what we need to say."

"Our task is to say: 'Here we are. Deal with us. We are not going to hate ourselves if we get bigger and we're not going to like ourselves more if we get smaller. We like ourselves now. We are not going to put our lives on hold one minute longer.'"

The most significant documentation of Fat Lip in Freespirit's collection relates to Still Fat After All These Years!, their tenth anniversary show, performed at the Women's Building on 18 May 1991. A flyer gives some idea of what the night was like: there was non-alcoholic bar to benefit Making Waves (the fat swim); a dance after show; you could buy Fat Lip t-shirts; child care was available and the event was sign language interpreted, wheelchair accessible, with no scents or perfumes. There was a sliding scale for entrance and no one was turned away for lack of funds. The programme notes attest to a marathon evening of 54 acts and skits with an intermission and an MC! Nancy Thomas wrote this for the event:

F is For... by Nancy Thomas

F is for the fine, fat friends it gave me
A is for the audience applause
T is for the theatres we've played in
L is for loving women, which we are
I is for the images we're changing
P is for the politics we hold
Put them all together they spell FAT LIP
A group that's worth its weight in gold
And this year we are ten years old

Sadly Freespirit could not attend, she sent love and support in a note and added that because the Women's Building had been recently repainted "Some of us with environmental sensitivities will be here tonight in spirit only."

Photo by Cathy Cade
I don't know what happened to Fat Lip. There were attempts to expand and recruit new members, they were looking for "women who are somewhat familiar with the fat liberation concept, have a bit of ham in you, or want to develop new skills and confidence". They worked with a collective structure and decision-making by consensus. But the last paper in the box is a call for donations: "To put it bluntly, it has been a hand to mouth proposition". I suspect that behind the applause was a lot of hard graft and that as lives carried on something had to give. But the shows and videos were only part of what the group achieved, the women met without fail every week for over a decade, which suggests that Fat Lip was critical in establishing a fat feminist community and developing feminist analyses of fat oppression.

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Fat Bias at the Red Cross

Do Bettter Red CrossI received the following e-mail today:

I am so angry about this and I’m hoping you can get the word out and maybe stop this from happening to someone else.  Donating blood has always been a really big deal to me – I’m a “universal donor” and even though the homophobic rules about blood donation piss me off, this is a chance that I have to possibly save someone’s life (and I’ve researched and it seems like the Red Cross doesn’t make the rules and there isn’t anyone who takes blood that doesn’t have those rules.)

After exchanging several e-mails to make sure that they could accommodate me, I headed to the Red Cross today. I had chosen to donate platelets because they are always in need of them and people are less likely to donate them because it takes two hours, and they aren’t stable like blood so they are only good for five days.

As I went in the guy at the front desk showed me his Bandaids from where he had just donated and he told me how happy and appreciative they were that I was also donating platelets because they were so low that a few days ago they had to suspend surgeries because they literally ran out.

I had filled out their “fast pass” form so that they didn’t have to go through all the personal questions, they just needed to test my blood for iron deficiency  and then they could get to the donation.  I’ve donated platelets a lot of times so I know the drill, I just hadn’t been to this location before since I moved her pretty recently.

They took me back to the “intake rooms.” On the way we passed the place where I would donate and, as they had told me, the chairs had arms but they were able to swivel so the chairs would absolutely accommodate me.

Then I saw the intake rooms.  They were four VERY small rooms (the size of the bathroom in my apartment) and they included a big desk and chair for the Red Cross employee which took up most of the room. While there was an armless chair, it was wedged between the wall and the desk so that there was about the space of a plane seat left, and it was very obvious that there was no way I could fit.

I pointed out to the woman that I couldn’t fit in the room and she just said “we have to close the door for your privacy.”  I said that I was ok leaving the door open.  She said that she had to get her supervisor. As she went I looked around and the place was huge, there were lots of places that we could go that we would have been out of anyone else’s earshot, I figured this would be no problem.

The supervisor then came up and very curtly said “we can’t move the furniture.”  I blinked a couple of times, taken aback by how rude she was, and then said “Okay, can we just leave the door open?”  She said – again very curtly –  “No, you need your privacy.” They were both staring at me like I had two heads, mouths agape, looking very uncomfortable so I said “So do you just want me to leave?” and she said “We can’t move the furniture.”  So I just left and, sadly, took my literally life-saving platelets with me. It was so upsetting – they should have created spaces that accommodated fat people to begin with, but still this was a solve-able problem if they had just gotten over themselves.

There are so many things wrong with this, but I’ll try to narrow it down to the two most egregious.

First, they didn’t anticipate that larger people would want to donate blood?  If it was my job to convince people to let me take their blood to save the lives of others (especially when a quick google search finds all kinds of “emergency” requests for platelets), I would make sure that I was as accommodating as I could possibly be to as many people as possible.

Second, say it with me, fat people are more important than furniture.  Obviously the supervisor should have come out apologizing – maybe something like “I’m so sorry for all of this, we should have been more prepared.  Do you mind if we figure this out together ” rather than “We can’t move the furniture.”  But as long as she opened up with that – why can’t they move the furniture?  Maybe it’s bolted down, but if not then let’s move the damn furniture and accommodate the human being in front of us.

Fat people exist.  If you are involved in an organization like the Red Cross, you are going to interact with fat people and you owe it to them to, at the very least, learn to cover up your fat bias and, even better, address and overcome it. If you are responsible for a room/building that is used by the public consider taking some time today to look around and see if your space accommodates fat people – are there armless chairs and/or loveseats, benches and other accommodating seating? Do you have adequate space in rooms that fat people may be asked to use?  How could you be more welcoming and accommodating to fat people?

In the meantime, the e-mail’s author gave me the information about the Red Cross location she visited, so I’ll be contacting them tomorrow to offer to help them learn how to work appropriately and respectfully with fat people. If there’s something that you’d like them to hear please leave your thoughts in the comments and I’ll pass them along.

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

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Charging Fat Folks Extra for a Pedicure?

A nail salon is accused of trying to charge people more for a pedicure based on their weight:

Pedicure

Sign reads: “Sorry. but if you are overweight, pedicures will be $45 due to service fees for pedicurists Thank you!”

It’s the exclamation point after “Thank you” that really activates my throat punch reflex.

Now, I say that they are “accused” because even though Deshania Ferguson was at Rose Nails in the Frayser Plaza Shopping Center in Memphis, Tennessee and took the picture, and even though background in pictures of the sign perfectly match the floors, walls, and chairs in the salon, the owner swears that the sign wasn’t put up at his shop and he says that “There are the same walls and floors everywhere, it could be anywhere.”  He did say that he had thought about it because fat people are difficult for the nail techs and he had two $2,500 chairs break.  But, he definitely didn’t put up the sign.  Right, sure,  so let’s just deal with this hypothetically.

A salon that did this wouldn’t be the first, in fact I’ve blogged about this before, but let’s go through it again. As the 300-ish pound recipient of many a pedicure, who has gotten pedicures with people heavier than I, neither I nor my friends have ever had a problem with techs or chairs, but I did some research just to be sure that mine was not an outlier experience.

According to several sources the average weight limit is 300lbs but that is a low number in the owner’s manual meant to decrease liability exposure for the chair manufacturer, and the chair will actually hold much more weight.  (There are some who claim that the chairs in the salon in question are more than 10 years old and that’s why they broke but, again, there’s no proof.)  But if, hypothetically, a salon was charging fat people $15 more for a pedicure for chair breakage, and the chairs are $2,500, then they betting the the chair will only break with every 166.6th customer over 300 pounds which doesn’t really make sense – either they think fatties will break the chair or not.  And if they are charging the fee to those under 300 pounds then that’s indefensible since the chairs were designed to accommodate them.

But wait, despite the owner bringing up broken chairs, the sign doesn’t say anything about the chairs – it just says that it’s for “service fees for pedicurists.”  Alright – the idea that fat people feet somehow warrant an extra $15 charge is bullshit, including and especially when the sign makes absolutely no designation of what they are defining as “overweight.” Do you have to go in and get eyeballed by an employee?  When you walk in do they tell you to pick a color and step on the scale? This is seriously screwed up.

Obviously, fat people who want to engage in activism (and avoid over-priced pedicures) will avoid this place a salon that would do this.  But this is where the thin allies can shine. Maybe these places can survive without fat customers – but they can’t survive without any customers.  A big part of ally work is refusing to give our money to companies that don’t give other people the same experience that we get.  So I’d like to see my not-fat pedicure procuring friends head to salons that don’t charge a fat fee.

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

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 



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I have such exciting news to share – I am going to Europe! That’s right, from July 2017- Jan 218, I will be based at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit├Ąt in Munich, Germany.

I am so very excited about this opportunity to work with Fat Studies scholars and fat activists across Europe; it’s like a dream come true.

I’m also hoping I’ll be invited to do seminars, like “Not your good fatty” and “Fat pedagogies in practice”, and workshops, like “Body politics, ethics, and you” and “Using social media to promote your research”, across Europe.

You can find out more about my work and the kinds of seminars and workshops on offer in this document: Paus├ęC Flyer 2017

If you’re located in Europe – and want to get together to collaborate on research, run a day long Fat Studies symposium, host a one-off fat activism event, or just share a good meal, please get in contact with me and let me know! You can find me on Twitter at @FOMNZ, Facebook at Friend of Marilyn, or you can email me at friendofmarilyn@aol.com



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Monday, 20 March 2017

When someone says, “I can’t eat that,” believe them.

This thread on the ridiculous harmfulness of moralizing about food is a good read. It starts with the ludicrousness of mocking Trump for ordering his steak well-done and branches out into how harmful it is to be that rigid about the “right” way to prepare a certain food, other people’s allergies or intolerances be damned.

This needs to be shouted from the rooftops, because way too many people apparently think it’s okay to ignore allergies or intolerances, or give people grief about having them.

Just today, I heard yet another story that proves the same point.  Kid is lactose intolerant, and has gotten soy formula all through infancy.  Grandmother, who occasionally watches Kid, does not believe this, and gives Kid cheese, milk, and pudding.  As a result, Kid has lots of diarrhea.  Because Kid is a toddler who wears diapers, said diarrhea causes two urinary tract infections.

Not only are urinary tract infections miserable in and of themselves, but having two urinary tract infections so close together made doctors suspect kidney issues, so the kid had to have testing done to rule that out.

Hearing this made me pretty angry, because the idea of a little kid suffering because someone could not be bothered to take their food issues seriously just bothers me on a fundamental level.

So, let me amplify this yet again, because it apparently cannot be said enough. If someone tells you they cannot eat a food, do not serve them that food.  If they tell you their kid cannot eat a food, do not serve the kid that food. Period. Whether you believe them or not, whether you like their reasons or not.




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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Not So Much “Bitchy” As Fat Shaming

facepalmReader Natasha let me know about a post from “The Bitchy Pundit” on Facebook that talked about a donald supporter who thinks that the Republican Insurance Plan (RIP) is what lowered her insurance premiums -despite the fact that it hasn’t been passed yet. The woman is massively misinformed. She is also fat and that’s where our problem begins.

“The Bitchy Pundit” published the following commentary:

Let me just share a short list of the stupid that this woman has demonstrated, in expressing her belief that Trumpcare lowered her health care costs.

-There’s the obvious stupidity of not knowing that Trumpcare isn’t a thing yet, and her lack of interest in keeping herself up to speed on these things, while still maintaining her desire to have opinions.

– There’s the fact that she’s a VERY religious woman who voted for a pussy grabbing adulterer who has fathered children by 3 different women (just like Jesus would have done). 

– And then there’s her weight. Lord knows I’m not one to fat shame (I’ve been in and out of “fat” my whole life), but this stupid twit voted for someone on the basis of the fact that he was going to get rid of the eye-legals who were taking stuff from HER, but she’s happy to let other people pay for her lack of desire to get on a treadmill 4- 5 days a week.

Is there anything about this woman that isn’t hypocritical or downright embarrassing?

People were on top of this immediately.  Pointing out that saying you’re not a fat shamer doesn’t mean anything if the next thing you do is fat shame. Pointing out that the idea that “fat” = “doesn’t exercise” = “costs other people money” is a tired mix of stereotypes, bad math, sizeism and healthism. Pointing out that using “stupid” is ableist, and making fun of people’s accents is classist, and that this is a hot mess that completely undermines any legitimate point that her post was making.

So she admitted that she had been wrong, changed the post to remove the ableist, sizeist, and classist elements, and thanked everyone for taking the time to educate her.

JUST KIDDING!  She doubled down:

You missed the point entirely: The point is that these people who spend all of their time thinking about how OTHERS impact THEM, spend NO time thinking about how they impact others.

Yeah, re-engaging in stereotypes doesn’t really strengthen your point.

Then she pivoted to this:

Did I say lazy? The fact of the matter is, that when I spend time exercising, I lose weight and avoid being fat. When I don’t, I get fat. That’s just a fact of life. The point is that these people who spend all of their time thinking about how OTHERS impact THEM, spend NO time thinking about how they impact others

Ugh.  While weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting) is a fact of dieting, the idea that people can control their size is not a fact of life. It’s a myth, the repeating of which makes her look just as ignorant as the woman she is criticizing.  People are lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons. There are fat people who exercise a lot and thin people who don’t exercise at all, and as long as they are exercising as much as they want to (rather than being forced to exercise, or exercising because they have been lied to and believe it will make them thin ) then that’s just fine.  Nobody owes anybody else “health” or “healthy habits” by any definition.   This is cheap stereotyping combined with sizeism and healthism, and a lack of understanding of the extrapolability of an n-1 experiment, and nothing more.

People hopped on with similar justifications but this one stood out to me as particularly harmful:

She is called the BITCHY pundit. Normally I’d agree, but that’s a part of the persona.

So if I call myself “bitchy” that’s a free pass to engage in stereotyping and oppression? I think not. This is the same bullshit that people try to use when they throw the term “politically correct” around as if couching treating people with basic human respect as being “politically correct” magically makes it ok to treat people like shit.  No.  Just no.

So you know that I wasn’t going to let this go by, I left the following comment:

I’m sure you like to think of yourself as “bitchy” but what you actually are here is just another shitty sizeist – stigmatizing, stereotyping, and engaging in appearance-based bullying. If you aren’t able to make a cogent argument without engaging in oppressive behavior and/or if you’re not able to see your mistakes and learn from them, then I’m sure there’s a place for you in donald’s White House, but I think you can – and should – do much better than this.

So get your shit together and just apologize for fat shaming (Pro-tip – if you have to say you’re not fat shaming right before you do it, you’re probably fat shaming. And if the Lord thinks you’re not one to fat shame, then they haven’t read this yet.) Stop fat-shaming immediately (which will keep you from having to make all those pesky declarations about how you’re not doing it) and while you’re at it stop using ableist terms (like stupid”)

It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s the right thing to do. It differentiates you from the horror of a human being in the presidency who acts exactly like you’re acting right now. So just do it. Messing up sucks, we’ve all done it, saying you were wrong is difficult but I believe that you can rise to the occasion.

Stigmatizing, stereotyping and oppression by any other name would still be bullshit, so call yourself “bitchy” or “politically incorrect,” call yourself whatever you want – it does not and will never justify oppression.

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

Like this blog?  Here’s more cool stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 



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