More Evidence that Fat Stigma is Killing Us

Today, I got an email pointing me towards some new research on fat stigma.  There has been an ever increasing pile of evidence indicating that weight stigma is making us miserable and sick.  We know that weight stigma makes us fatter,  increases inflammation, increases disease burden and decreases quality of life, increases the chances that we will engage in risky behaviors and may contribute significantly to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. We know that weight-based discrimination increases blood pressure and reduces our ability to think clearly. Now we have further proof that weight stigma is shortening our lives.

It has always been supremely frustrating to me that concern trolls are so ready to tell us that they beat us up about our weight because they are concerned for our health.  But as a person who has been on the end of concern trolling, I can tell  you that it doesn’t feel anything at all like genuine concern.  It feels like people relishing the fact they have an excuse to be a bully.  It feels like having a license that allows some people to spew hate under the micron-thick veneer of caring.  It feels like complete B.S.

And this new study indicates that the results of this hate can be profound and life-threatening.  The study states:

The ultimate cumulative effect of these hostile social interactions may be lower life expectancy. The present research examined whether the harmful effect of weight discrimination reached beyond morbidity to mortality and whether common comorbidities and health-risk behaviors accounted for this association. We also compared weight discrimination with other forms of discrimination (e.g., age, race, sex) to examine whether they share weight discrimination’s association with mortality risk. Finally, we examined whether the association between discrimination and mortality varied by sex, ethnicity, age, or body mass index (BMI). We tested these associations using data from two large longitudinal studies, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and Midlife in the United States (MIDUS).

After reviewing the data from both the HRS and the MIDUS, the study group came to some rather startling conclusions.  It appears that weight stigma can increase risk of mortality by a significant amount:

Weight discrimination was associated with an increase in mortality risk of nearly 60% in both HRS participants (hazard ratio = 1.57, 95% confidence interval = [1.34, 1.84]) and MIDUS participants (hazard ratio = 1.59, 95% confidence interval = [1.09, 2.31]). This increased risk was not accounted for by common physical and psychological risk factors. The association between mortality and weight discrimination was generally stronger than that between mortality and other attributions for discrimination. In addition to its association with poor health outcomes, weight discrimination may shorten life expectancy.

If people are truly worried about the health of fat people, they are going to have to give up on concern trolling.  Outside of the fact that you can’t hate someone for their own good (thank you Marilyn Wann), there is hard statistical evidence that it just may be your hate that is making fat people sick and giving them a shorter life.  Not to mention the horrible effect you have on their quality of life.  The study goes so far as to suggest that the harm of weight discrimination may be more harmful than any other effects of being overweight:

The present findings indicate that the harmful effect of unfair treatment that is attributable to body weight is not limited to psychological distress and morbidity: It also extends to risk of mortality. This association was apparent in two independent samples that covered different periods of the life span, and the association persisted after we accounted for behavioral and clinical risk factors. The effect of weight discrimination on mortality was generally stronger than that of other forms of discrimination but was comparable with that of other established risk factors, such as smoking history and disease burden. Moreover, the association between weight discrimination and mortality risk was in sharp contrast to the protective relation between some of the BMI categories and mortality risk. These findings suggest the possibility that the stigma associated with being overweight is more harmful than actually being overweight.

This type of research can have a profound effect on the lives of fat people around the world.  But just because it can doesn’t mean in necessarily will.  The media doesn’t jump to report these stories.  For many reasons, these articles aren’t popular with media outlets and are especially unpopular with advertisers.  If we want these studies to have an impact, we have to make sure that people in the world at large know about them.  We need activists.

That’s why I’m so excited that the Fat Activism Conference is starting tomorrow.  It’s not too late to get your tickets.  We have dozens of amazing speakers lined up ready to share ways that you can be an activist and an advocate for people of all sizes.  We’ve got speakers talking about activism and medicine and activism and art and activism and sex and many other topics.  I hope you’ll consider joining us for the conference.  This study indicates that activism against weight stigma may do more than just make us feel better and feel better about ourselves.  It just might help to save our lives.


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

New Study Suggests Obesity Doesn’t Make Joint Surgery Less Safe


Another media appearance for the bad knees.

I recently came across a recently published study that was published in The Journal of Arthroplasty regarding overweight and obese patients and joint surgery.  In particular, the study evaluates data from 900 hip surgeries and over 1,500 knee surgeries.  The data was evaluated in terms of weight, BMI, how often blood transfusions were necessary, complications from infections, and time spent under the knife (how long the surgeries took).

The study results were “counterintuitive” to many–meaning it failed to confirm some of their deeply held biases about hip and knee surgery and people who are fat.  The concern was that surgery on fat people would take longer than surgery conducted on thin people, and thus would increase the probability that a blood transfusion would be required.  This is of deep concern to doctors because blood transfusions can cause serious complications–with as many as 1 in 5 causing some sort of negative effect.

However, this assumption was not borne out by the research.  In fact, overweight and obese patients were less likely to require a transfusion than their thinner counterparts.  During hip surgery, on average 35 percent of the “normal weight’ patients required a transfusion compared to 28 percent of the “overweight”  patients and 22 percent of the “obese” patients.  During knee surgery, 17 percent of the “normal weight” patients needed transfusions compared to 11 percent of the “overweight” patients and 8 percent of the “obese” patients.

Furthermore, the study indicates that their research turned up no evidence that overweight or obese patients spend any more time under the knife than their thinner counterparts.  However, a slight uptick in complications from infection was noted for those in the overweight and obese categories.

A recent article in HealthDay turns to a surgeon from Los Angeles for a quote.  Dr. Alex Miric, an orthopaedic surgeon with Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles stated:

“I agree that the results are counterintuitive,” Miric said. But he also agreed that conclusions “would need to be replicated with more surgeons and a larger and more current patient population before such a finding would gain traction in the orthopaedic community.”

Hmmm.  While surgeries for fat people might not take longer or be more dangerous than those for thin people, it seems pretty clear that surgeon bias against fat people is alive and well.  I have read many anecdotal accounts from people denied surgery–especially hip or knee replacement surgery because they were too fat.  People with diminished mobility and often severe pain are sent home to “lose enough weight” to be a candidate.  Those fat people determined to receive surgical relief often find themselves wandering a desert of medical red tape looking for a surgeon willing to take on their case.  And they suffer needlessly while they do.

The question of whether the mobility and pain outcomes are as successful for fat people as thin people is a topic for another post.  But in the meantime, I wonder how many studies will have to be done and how many cases will need to be reviewed before the “counterinituitive” nature (read physician weight-based bias) will be reversed.  And how many fat people will have to suffer for how long while we wait for that to happen.

Fired up?  Want to fight stigma and bias?  I’d love to recommend that you join Ragen Chastain, a huge group of additional talented speakers and I for the Fat Activism Conference THIS WEEKEND.  We start on Friday night, so if you don’t want to miss it, I suggest you register now!


Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

On the Power of Sisterhood


I went to an event called TEDx Pasadena Women last night and it was amazing.  I don’t know why I am still sometimes surprised after all these years about the power of women and the power of sisterhood.  I’ve had decades of experience that tell me that when I a group of women get together, something powerful happens.  There are rare exceptions.  Events that don’t have the amazing zap and snap of the one I went to last night.  But honestly, those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

I had an amazing time meeting women of all types last night who do all different things.  From powerful television producers with Emmy-winning hit shows to women helping other young women build self-esteem to real estate moguls who also help victims of domestic violence, these formidable females get stuff done.

But they are also deeply interested in what stuff OTHER women are getting done.  And that is a key to their power.  They are deeply accomplished, but still want to hear what other women have to say.  And then they take a moment, and thoughtfully consider who else you should connect with, and walk you over there and introduce you.  It’s freaking amazing.

That’s not to say that male-dominated events don’t have good things about them.  There’s good (and bad) things about virtually every event.  But I’m telling you, events dominated by men are different.  And I meet more people and get more business done and connect more and make more happen in events dominated by women.  Especially, ESPECIALLY if those women’s events are diverse in other ways like race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, religion and background.

So if you are a woman (as I know many of you my dear readers are) I can’t recommend highly enough that you find a moment to inject some sisterhood into your life.  Find some time on the regular to meet and connect with more women.  It will do you good.

And don’t (as I often do) forget to stop talking once in a while and start listening.  I think you’ll find your sisters have some pretty amazing things to share.


Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Speaking of sharing.  I hope you’ve gone over and registered for The Fat Activism Conference.  We have dozens of amazing women ready to share their stuff for your open ears.  Prices will go up again soon, so click on over HERE.

P.A.D.S. Saturday–Dance to your own beat

Hey kids!  My birthday falls on a Saturday this year so here we go.  A special birthday edition P.A.D.S. Saturday submission.

What is P.A.D.S. Saturday you ask?

It’s Public Acts of Dancing Spontaneously.  I know this isn’t entirely spontaneous.  This kid has done a bunch of these Apple store dance recordings.  He’s famous for them.  But I posted it because, check it.  Kid’s wearing aqua blue glasses and is rocking in a public place.  Those girls behind him look all weirded out by it.  But honestly I think they are jealous.  I’m jealous.  Kid’s clearly FEARLESS!  This is my wish for the new year.  I was like that once.  I was fearless.  Here’s to a year of finding my way back to it again.

Hoping you have a week that’s both FEARLESS and FULL OF DANCING!


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)


Bullying is Ugly, But we Need to Look at it with “A Brave Heart”

schoolHallwayThis ugly, UGLY picture was taken today of a poster that was taped to a wall at Northern High School in Calvert County, MD.  There’s a lot of argument about the poster–which we will get to in a minute.  But in the meantime, let me tell you just what interesting timing this poster has for me personally.

As I sat in the audience last night at a Producers Guild Pre-release screening of “A Brave Heart–The Lizzie Velasquez story” I heard the people around me gasp.  We had reached the part of Lizzie’s story where she recalled at age 17 finding an unauthorized video of herself posted on YouTube.  The video was captioned “The Ugliest Woman in the World” and had been seen over  4 million times.  And the comments–oh the comments.  People said things like , “Why didn’t her parents abort her?” and “Kill it with fire!!!” I heard people whisper things like, “oh my God!” and “I can’t believe it.”

I could believe it.  I haven’t lived Lizzie’s Velasquez’ story.  Nobody but Lizzie has lived that amazing life.  But I’ve lived with the hate.  I’ve read comments like that on my own blog and twitter feed and especially my YouTube account.  I’ve swapped stories with other fat activists about the death threats and the rape threats and the doxxing and all other forms of online harassment that so many of us experience on a daily basis.  And I thought how privileged some of the people in that audience were–that they didn’t really know that sort of online hate existed.  That they found it difficult to believe.

I was so proud of my husband, who stood up during the Q&A to relate that he had been completely ignorant of how bad the online climate was, of how unbelievably ugly it could be, until he started reading some of the comments that people have directed at his own wife.  He reiterated how important this movie was–how relevant it was–because adults need to understand just how bad it is out there.

The movie, directed by Sara Bordo also talked about how dire the consequences of bullying can be.  Lizzie arose triumphantly out of her bullying experience.  But Tina Meier’s daughter didn’t arise from the bullying at all.  After some particularly bad cyberbullying by her peers, Meier’s daughter committed suicide.  Tina and Lizzie have teamed up–working to get new federal antibullying legislation passed in the US.

Again, as the audience came to this point in the story, many gasped or covered their mouths in shock.  I simply nodded my head and cried.  Because I already knew Megan’s story.  I knew what had happened to her.  And I knew, just a little of what she felt.  Because as I told Lizzie and Sara after the screening and the Q&A, I could have been one of those kids.  I might have not made it out.  I was bullied relentlessly as a teenager.   I came home sobbing, vomiting and covered with hives from the stress of it.  At times I felt I could no longer take it.  But I got relief.  I didn’t have email or a Facebook account.  At the end of the day, I could escape at home to my loving family.  I had two whole days per week free of it.  Today’s kids do not.  Because of social media, these kids have to deal with this 24 hours per day and seven days a week.  Given that situation, I honestly don’t know if I would have made it.

Lizzie and Sara at the PGA screening.

Lizzie and Sara at the PGA screening.

But this is not a fun or easy or comfortable subject.  Many people who don’t have to deal with this sort of bullying would rather imagine that “it’s not really that bad” or “it’s not that big of a deal.”  Which leads me to the picture posted above.  A student took a photo of that poster.  The picture was posted online and has gone viral.  The original poster stated that the photographer believed that the poster had been taped up with the at least tacit permission of at least one teacher.  And the feathers are flying.  Many people are demanding answers.  Did a teacher know about this poster?  Did a teacher give permission or at least know it was being posted?  Who is the kid responsible for this thing?  And are they being disciplined?

Naturally the social media frenzy puts the school in a bad light.  But in a classic case of spin cycle, the Superintendent stated:

We are aware that a photo is being circulated on social media of a poster from NHS that makes a mean and inappropriate reference to obese students. That poster was not approved by any teacher or staff member and was up no longer than five minutes. The matter is being appropriately handled by the administration.

This is a good example to all of how a 5 minute bad idea can live forever on social media and be distributed with inaccurate references to good people. Rather than having a lifespan of 5 minutes, this poster (with the help of many well-meaning people) was effectively copied and posted in every hallway, classroom, and home. You can help put an end to the unfair reference to NHS staff and the continued distribution of this inappropriate message by deleting or, at the very least, refusing to pass it along. Thank you.

There is a certain amount of sense in choosing not to spread hate with wild abandon.  That’s why I didn’t link to Ms. Arbour’s nonsense and don’t give clicks to a lot of other ugly things out there.  But there are some problems with this response.  First of all 5 seconds in the eyes of a particularly vulnerable person are enough to do irrevocable harm.  5 minutes, in a high school hallway, is an eternity.  And while I respect the school’s right to deal with this problem according to its own policies, I have to vehemently disagree with the idea that simply not sharing this photo will make the problem go away.  (It won’t.) And I think that people need to be confronted with the level of nasty that truly exists before they are tempted to say they don’t have time to be “P.C.” that fat people are just whining and that fat shaming is an imaginary concept.  It is so very, very, very real.

That’s why I applaud Sara Bordo and Lizzie Velasquez for having the courage to show the bullying it all its true ugliness.  Refusing to censor Lizzie’s hate messages along with refusing to drop Megan’s suicide story resulted in the movie receiving a controversial PG13 rating.  This means that most schools won’t be able to screen the film because of the rating.  I find it fascinating that any kid old enough to move a mouse can be exposed to this online without warning and without context or support.  But a movie that explains how bad it is and gives kids and adults tools to discuss it is rated PG 13.


With Lizzie at the screening.

I really want to recommend that you and yours find a way to see this amazing film.  It is a stark look at the brutality of bullying.  It is also a warm, ultimately uplifting story about how bullying can be (sometimes) overcome.  It’s a great starting point for the deep conversations we need to be having about this topic–however more comfortable it might seem to simply walk (or run) away from it.


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. I’d like to remind you that the Fat Activism conference is just a few short weeks away.  Ragen and the organizing committee and I have put together an absolutely amazing lineup of speakers who can help you figure out just exactly what can be done.
Register for the Fat Activism Conferenece!

Not Jolly and Not Sorry (Letting go my need to make everybody laugh…)


I recently spoke at the Environmental Awards in Irwindale.  My speech was called No BODY Left Behind–Workplace Wellness for All. I talked about workplace wellness in terms of four “i-opening” words–information, incentive, invitation and inspiration.  I must give credit where it is due.  Jon Robison and Rosie Ward and their fabulous new book “How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work” helped to transform my thinking.

I shared a lot about what I thought was working and wasn’t working in workplace wellness.  I talked about how many wellness programs feel unfair because they ARE unfair.  They reward the already privileged in a way that is subsidized by the less privileged.  They only accommodate the needs of the folks that are in least need of the program.  They use shame and peer pressure to try to shove employees into a single vision of “health” which is largely driven by media-fueled unrealistic expectations and the personal bias of the program creators and managers.  They could be inviting.  They could be inclusive.  They could make every BODY feel welcome.  But they usually don’t.  And they often end up causing more problems than they solve.

I think I did a good job at the talk.  But it was weird.  As a speaker, I mostly give upbeat, Rah-Rah, body positive and funny speeches.  And this kind of speech is instantly rewarded.  People watching and hearing the speech cheer and laugh and clap.  People smile and have a good time.  It’s a pretty strong, emotionally positive feedback loop.  And I usually leave the stage feeling awesome.

This talk was different.  People were paying attention.  But people were thoughtful.  Listening carefully.  Letting my words sink in.  This talk was serious.  I had a positive takeaway.  There are ways we can do this better.  But this speech was not fun and it was not funny.

And as I walked off the stage, I wondered.  “Did I do okay?  Did I get through.  Did people hate it.  Did they learn something?”  I felt very insecure.  Sure, there was applause at the end, but no positive, laughing, feel-good feedback loop.

I always feel a little unsure when I release my need to entertain–to be funny–to be jolly.  But I’m always kind of amazed at the response when I do.  As I sat back at my table a woman immediately asked for my card.  Not because she wanted me to do a fun and jolly speech at her workplace (a local college).  But because her school has implemented a wellness program modeled after The Biggest Loser television show.  And my talk made her think that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.  I’m hoping to speak with her soon.  So I could see a very positive result from straying outside of my comfort zone.

And this was a good reminder.  Being upbeat and positive and funny are great tools.  They are some of the colors with which I can paint.  But when communicating with others about size acceptance and body positivity and social justice for people of all sizes, it behooves me to use ALL the tools at my disposal and all the crayons in the box–even those that aren’t my normal favorites or the most comfortable ones to use.

Which leads me to this point.  I’d like to straight up invite you to attend the Fat Activism Conference.  Some of the people there will be taking a “fun and funny” approach to fat activism.  Some will be serious.  Some of the testimony may be full of pain and not so much fun to hear.  Some of it will be LOLROTF funny.  But what the conference allows you to do is hear a variety of voices coming from a wide range of perspectives all speaking on the topic of making the world better, safer and more inclusive for people of all sizes.  And frankly, today is the last day you’ll be able to get the lowest possible price to attend the conference.  Our super earlybird pricing ends tonight.  So if you’re up for hearing all different kinds of voices sharing using all the tools at their disposal and all the crayons in the box, while sharing ways to make the world better for Every BODY why not register now?


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
Register for the Fat Activism Conferenece!

In a World of “Click Bait Hate” Let’s Share a Little Love

On Saturday’s post, I hinted about certain people that serve as a proxy for hate.  They say the things that people no longer may wish to say for fear of reprisal.  They serve as a lightning rod for gleeful malevolence.  They act ugly to win clicks.  And by Jiminy, it certainly works.  I referred to a certain person who posted an extremely hateful video online.  (You can look up her name in my previous post, but I don’t recommend it.)  Now the video is down.  She’s all up and down twitter and other social media feeds saying the big fat bullies got her video taken down.  She’s crying about her right to free speech.  Meanwhile, all the evidence points to the fact that she took the video down herself to get, you guessed it, more publicity.

So what are we to do?  I talked about this with a few of my other size acceptance colleagues and we agreed that continuing to draw attention to her is giving her exactly what she wants.  She’s sowing click-bait hate and is reaping results.  And in this case, I think the answer is to sow a little love.  So throughout the day, I plan to share body loving pieces from people who are doing awesome work.  I’m going to share this love in my blog, in all my social media feeds and to everybody I know.  I’m going to do my little bit to drown out that hateful attention seeking behavior with a little bit of positive good work.  And here’s my first entry.  My dear friend Marlene sent me a link to this one.  (It’s not perfect but it’s mostly awesome…)

So now it’s your turn.  How can we drown out some of that ugly hater stuff? Let’s link to love! I challenge you to post 3 pieces of body love in your social media feed. Let’s share the awesome!  And while we’re talking about awesome, let me remind you:

The Fat Activism Conference Is Back!  

This is a virtual conference so you can listen to the talks by phone and/or computer wherever you are. Whether you are looking for support in your personal life with family, friends, healthcare providers etc. or you’re interested in being more public with your activism with blogging, petitions, protest, projects, online activism, or something else, this conference will give you tools and perspectives to support you  and your work, and to help you make that work intentionally intersectional and inclusive, so that nobody gets left behind. Get the info and register here!


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)