Weighing the Verdict–Punished in the Courtroom for Being Fat

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Recently I ran across this article in Scientific American about how certain stigmatized groups are more likely to elicit harsher punishments than other groups.  In particular, the article talks about a study where participants were asked to read a paragraph about people committing acts that are commonly considered to be “impure” like watching pornography, being sloppy or cursing.  The participants were then told that the people committing these acts in the story had various characteristics.  The study found that when the fictional characters were described as hippies, trailer trash or obese, the judgements of the study participants were much harsher.

Now I gotta put a trigger warning here, and say that the author of the article described those three categories in a way that wasn’t particularly positive.  You can skip on down to the last paragraph if you don’t want to read this part.  But the study and the author suggested that those groups elicited harsher judgements because they were more likely to elicit “disgust” in the minds and bodies of the participants.  The study (as well as a series of follow up studies) indicate that the study participants were also more likely to praise members of these groups for doing stuff perceived as more “pure”.  For example, if a member of the stigmatized groups (fat people, trailer trash and hippies) were described as keeping a neat cubicle, they were more likely to receive a virtual “pat on the head” from the study participants.  And in the study, when the  person described was committing a heinous act not related to “purity” like illegally parking or not tipping a waiter, the stigma they faced was far less likely to affect the judgement of the study participants.

“The assumption people have is that we draw on values that are universal and important,” says social psychologist E. J. Masicampo of Wake Forest University, who led the study, “but something like mentioning that a person is overweight can really push that judgment around. It’s triggering these gut-level emotions.”

After the study, the researchers went on to check the results against real world situations.  And to nobody’s surprise, the scales of justice were not balanced in favor of fat folks.  They looked at the records of all Police Patrol stops by the NY Police between 2003 and 2014.  If the stops were for a crime against “purity” (drugs, lewdness, prostitution) fat people were a lot more likely to be arrested.  In fact, for every point of increase in BMI was equal to a one percent greater likelihood of arrest or summons.

None of this is news to those of us who study weight stigma.  In fact, Sondra Solovay’s excellent book “Tipping the Scales of Justice” was a key work in helping us understand how fat people are treated by our justice system both on the streets and in the courtroom.  And while I’m a little disturbed by some of the wording used by the researchers, I’m a lot more disturbed by the reality of this injustice.  And I’m glad that this work is being done.  I can only hope that this work, in conjunction with so much other work being done about the effect that all sorts of stigma have on policing, judging and jailing actually leads to real significant change in how our policemen, judges and juries are trained.  It’s a big dream, but I think it’s worth having and pursuing.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie, AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to come talk to your group about size discrimination?  You can learn more about my speaking engagements here.  And you can contact me here to schedule a date!

Listening to your body means listening.

There has been a lot written about the notion of listening to our bodies.  Many people (including me) have written volumes about how our bodies have wisdom that can answer questions like:

1.  What does my body need right now?

2.  What do I need to eat?

3.  What sounds delicious to me right now?

4.  How does my body need or want to move right now?

5.  Do I need to rest right now?

Our bodies do have wisdom.  And we can learn a lot by learning to ask our bodies what our bodies need.  But a lot of people that I work with say that they have a hard time hearing the answer.  And I invariably reply, “I’m not surprised.”  In my experience, we are taught from a young age how to talk.  We are taught to perform and demand and emote and share.  What we are not taught, is how to listen.  Sadly, our culture does not seem to place sufficient value on listening.  And I think a lot of the problems in our world stem from the lack of emphasis placed on this important skill.

One of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett, writes about this in one of his Discworld novels called Pyramids.  In this novel, our hero wanders off to Ephebe, where we find a whole lot of philosophers all talking at once.   Except for one character known as Endos.  You see, Endos is a professional listener.  His job is to sit quietly and absorb what other philosophers have to say.  From time to time he encourages them by saying things like “you don’t say” or “please, continue”.  For this service, Endos is paid handsomely.  Because you can’t toss a grape in Ephebe without hitting a philosopher, but a good listener is worth their weight in wine and gold.

So if we want to learn to listen to what our bodies have to say, it often helps to start by learning to listen, period.  As Endos would tell you, listening is a skill like any other.  It has specific techniques that can be  learned.  With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the listening techniques I’ve gathered and share with you how I feel they can be applied to listening to our bodies.

1.  Be Quiet.  It’s kind of obvious, but if we want to listen to somebody talk, we first need to stop talking.  In the case of listening to our bodies, that means that we should sit quietly and without distraction from television or radios or computers.  And then we need to stop talking to our bodies.  We need to stop telling it what we think it SHOULD want or it SHOULD need.  This is step one, but it is often the very most difficult.

2.  Be Encouraging.  My body is not going to talk to me if my body is sure I am going to scoff or treat it with disdain for the things it has to say.  If my body says, “I’m hungry,” and then I tell it, “You can’t be hungry because it isn’t noon yet,” we’ve got a problem.  Next time I ask my body what’s up, will it answer?  If I want my body to tell me things, I need to take a cue from Endos and be encouraging. I need to say things like, “Fascinating!  Do continue.”

3.  Be Patient.  Our bodies are used to being ignored.  It might take a while for our bodies to communicate with us again.  We need to give it time and space.  We need to accept that we won’t always get answers the moment we ask for them.  We need to treat our bodies with respect and patience.

4. Be Impartial.  If our bodies are convinced that we will judge it and treat it harshly for letting us know what it needs, it will stop telling us.  We need to listen to our bodies without judging.

5.  Be Responsive.  If we constantly respond to our bodies needs by denying those needs, our bodies will stop talking.  If our bodies learn that they are rewarded for telling us what they need by GETTING WHAT THEY NEED they will become more communicative.

I have lots more I could say about this, but I’d like to practice some active listening with you right now.  Do you have some thoughts about your experiences in learning to listen to your body?  I’d love to hear them.  Please share in the comments section below.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to listen to me talk at YOUR group, classroom or organization?  Click HERE to learn more about my speaking programs.

Obesity Society Recommends Half of America Should Waste More Time and Money

This week, I came across this little gem from the Obesity Society.  And let me state for the record that while a society composed of rad fatties would be cool, this society is not it.  Nope this society is composed of a whole lot of people who think that fat people should not live on this planet.

In light of my recent posts about how intentional weight loss efforts don’t work, how intentional weight loss (when it does occur) tends to be temporary and fleeting, how there’s no real evidence that intentional weight loss in itself helps people be healthier (nor is there likely to be such a study anytime soon as you can’t get people to keep the weight off long enough to study it), and how behavior modification does make people healthier whether they lose weight or not, in light of all those things the Obesity Society press release title is at least good for a laugh:

Sixty-five Percent of American Adults are Recommended Behavioral Weight-Loss Treatment, Study Shows
Of those, 83% should be considered for pharmacotherapy, 23% could be candidates for bariatric surgery

Yep, weight loss efforts don’t work, so MORE people need to try them.  Yes!  Bariatric surgery has tons of sometimes irreversible side effects (including suicide and accidental death) and often doesn’t result in permanent weight loss or improved quality of life, so clearly THAT’S what we should do.  Yes, most of the weight loss drugs approved over the last 25 years were eventually pulled because they resulted in minimal up front weight loss, almost no permanent weight loss and caused little problems like heart defects, high blood pressure, heart attacks and death.  So OF COURSE we need more people to do that.

Honestly, I don’t even know what to type any more.  The evidence continues to pile up saying:

1.  We don’t know how to help people lose weight long term.

2.  We don’t know if that elusive long term weight loss will make people healthier.

3.  We do know that a lot of the stuff we try to help people lose weight makes them sicker and sometimes dead.

4.  We do know that modest behavior changes in eating well, stress management, getting good sleep, coping with stigma, and joyfully moving our bodies helps us be healthy without bad side effects whether or not people lose weight.

And we keep adding 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 and coming up with the answer:

We just need to keep doing that stuff that doesn’t work even harder with more people.  It takes a COMMITMENT people!

I think I need to recommend a little “Weight Loss Headline Bypass Surgery” so I can just look at the actual research.  Because these conclusions are making me feel a little bit crazy.

Yup, that’s my prescription.  And I think the prognosis is pretty good.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie, AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to  come speak at your  organization?  Click HERE to learn more.

Docs Admit Diet and Exercise Don’t Equal Weight Loss, Then Jump to Wrong Conclusion

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An article hit my feed from LA Times today and it seemed to offer some refreshing news.  It seems 4 doctors, weight-loss specialists set out to say what so many of us have been saying for so long now.  They admit that for the vast majority of obese children and adults in this country, telling them to eat less and move more is a prescription for failure.

They acknowledge that once a fat body begins to lose weight, a whole lot of processes, hormonal and otherwise kick in.  Hormones increase hunger signals.  Metabolisms slow down.  The body struggles to maintain the weight.

Furthermore, the 4 weight loss experts admit that a body that has lost weight are biologically quite different from bodies that have never been fat.  One states:

“Few individuals ever truly recover from obesity,” the authors wrote. Those that do, they add, “still have ‘obesity in remission,’ and are biologically very different from individuals of the same age, sex and body weight who never had obesity.” They are constantly at war with their bodies’ efforts to return to their highest sustained weight.

So far, so good.  Many of us have been pointing out the studies that show these results for years.  So after this, those docs recommend a behavior-based approach where we focus on exercising and eating well for their own sakes (as both have been demonstrated to improve health regardless of whether or not they are accompanied by weight loss), right?  Right?

Well, as it turns out, no not so much.  The docs are suggesting that we simply increase awareness of other tools for weight loss (pills, potions, surgeries and devices) and turn to them sooner.  They suggest we increase fear mongering in the overweight to help keep them from becoming obese.  They suggest a greater focus on weight maintenance for those who have lost weight in order to help them keep it off.  (They somehow neglect to tell us how this is going to work or how it will help.)

The funny thing is, that the doctors see the stigma.  They see how telling patients to just eat less and move more is cruel, since it for the most part doesn’t work.  They see how stigmatizing fat patients and simply labeling them as non-compliant isn’t the answer.

But they simply substitute in another bad answer.  And this bad answer is likely to drag along much more devastating side effects than the original bad answer.  At least suggesting people move their bodies more and eat more nutrient-dense foods is likely to improve health, regardless of whether or not it leads to the holy grail of weight loss.  While pills and potions and surgeries and devices are slightly less ineffective than diet and exercise alone for weight loss, these methods can also carry significant dangers like increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, heart defects, permanent disfigurement, malnutrition, depression, suicide and death from other causes.  And there is not much evidence that in the long run, the few people who do sustain weight loss from the pills and potions and surgeries and devices end up any healthier than the people who stayed fat.

Meanwhile, there is ample evidence that eating well and exercising have a positive impact on health regardless of whether they are accompanied by weight loss.

So why on earth are we not just focusing on healthy behaviors here?  Why do we insist on focusing on weight loss at all?  Well these docs do label themselves as weight loss specialists and that may have a lot to do with it.  And as a society, we do love to blame fat people for stuff.  So I guess they took a few steps out into the light and then fell into a deep, dark hole.

Oh well.

I for one am going to continue my focus on living the best life I can in the gloriously wondrous body I have now.  So if you’ll excuse me, I’mma gonna get on with it.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to talk about evidence-based medicine and wellness at your school or organization?  Learn more HERE.

A Joyous Sufficiency

I’ve been adding more meditation time to my life and this has been a wonderful decision.  I was deeply encouraged by a dear friend (Thanks Gina!) to pursue this and it has helped me in so many ways.  I am feeling less stressed.  I am feeling more grounded.  My dreams at night are rich and vivid!  There are so many good things.

In my work with a coach last year and in my meditation this year, I have come across many tools and phrases that I use to help keep me centered and feeling whole.  But in all those tools and phrases, for me one has stood head and shoulders above the rest.  I simply tell myself, “Jeanette, you are enough.”

I often need to tell myself this phrase over and over.  Because throughout my life, I have often felt I wasn’t enough.  I wasn’t tall enough or thin enough or smart enough or rich enough.  I wasn’t sexy enough or talented enough or kind enough or a good enough friend, daughter, sister or wife.

And in my life when I have felt the deepest despair, I wonder if I am even under there.  Under the awards and the press clippings and the degrees and the friends  list and the family ties and the wardrobe and the public smile.  Under the niceness and the smile I share even when I feel like crying am I under all that?  Is there a me there somewhere?

But through my meditation work, I am starting to understand that I am a joyous sufficiency.  I am enough.  Not my money or my work or my friends lists or my accomplishments.  Not my friends lists or my awards or my photographs or my resume or my portfolio.  I am enough.  Just me.  Whatever I bring, or do, or desire or act upon. I AM just fine.  I AM.

I share this because I hear you.  I hear you when you are frustrated and sad and feel like you will never live up to what you think the world wants you to be.  I hear you when you fail yet again to capture the perfect selfie that will convince you that you have convinced the entire world you are okay.  And for those moments, whenever they come up, I want to say something.

Breathe.  You are okay.  You are enough.  You ARE.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come talk to your group about the importance of understanding “joyous sufficiency”?  Email me at jeanette at the fat chick dot com.  Learn more here.

When Docs don’t listen…

I have to thank my colleague Michelle May, M.D., CSP for recently posting links to two articles that I had missed in the past.  Both were very interesting.  But what I found really fascinating was the way they worked together.

The first article she posted was in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).  It was an editorial article written by Emma Lewis entitled “Why there’s not point in telling me to lose weight”.  In this poignant piece, Emma talks about how no matter what she goes to the doctor for, she’s told she needs to lose weight.  She talks about the fact that her health markers are good and how she exercises regularly and strenuously.  She talks about the fact that doctors often tell her to start exercising, without even asking if she is exercising already.

Emma also talks about how her doctor’s “one-size-fits-all-fatties” approach to wellness makes her feel alienated, unheard, and shamed.  And she talks about how it keeps her away from doctors–how she hasn’t been to see her GP in a while, how she’s not doing routine diagnostic stuff.

This article is in a section of the BMJ called “Practice: What Your Patient is Thinking”.  I applaud BMJ for running this piece.  But I have to fight despair when I read the comments.

The comments are not uniformly bad.  There are a few doctors that get it.  But lordy, lordy, LORD there are quite a few that don’t.  I’ll summarize some of it so you don’t have to waste the sanity points reading the comments yourself.  But most of them go something like this:

1.  The Super Snarker:  Well if the fatties don’t WANT to change, then she’s right–there’s no point telling them to lose weight.

2.  The Concern-Trolling Hand Wringer:  But it would be irresponsible for me as a DOCTOR to not bring it up.  Maybe they don’t know they are fat.  Maybe they don’t think fat is bad.

3.  The Food Policer: Well yeah, she exercises.  But exercise doesn’t make people lose weight.  She just has too much hunger.

4.  The Math Guy:  Well of course she can lose weight.  Energy in vs. energy out!  Look it worked in concentration camps and lands with famine so it’s just math.

5.  The Apocalypser:  Obesity is bad.  Everybody Panic!  Cuz’ FAT!

Like I said, there are some that point out that Emma has a point.  There are some that get the fact that she feels unheard and disrespected and that this is a problem.  But virtually everybody who commented seems to believe that Emma’s main problem with weight loss is a problem of will.  If she wanted to, she could be skinny.

Except the evidence is not in favor of this hypothesis.

We simply don’t know any way of helping any but a very small percentage of people to lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off.  We just don’t.  And for any weight loss intervention we undertake, a very small percentage of people lose some weight and keep it off, the vast majority of the people gain all the weight back and a significant percentage of those people end up bigger than when they started.  And a whole lot of people end up facing serious negative financial, social, medical and psychological side effects from the whole process.

And we simply don’t have enough evidence from the very small percentage of people who lost the weight and kept it off to determine, if even that tiny percentage of people end up healthier because they lost weight.  We know that most people who exercise and eat better experience health benefits regardless of whether or not they lose weight.  But we don’t know if fat people who become skinnier are healthier in the long run.

So all five of the commenter types above are missing a few very important points:

1.  There is no intervention that you can offer Emma that offers her any kind of reasonable chance for significant, long-term weight loss.  In fact, statistically, just about any kind of intervention you offer is statistically more likely to make Emma bigger in the long run than to make her smaller.

2.  Any intervention that you offer Emma is likely to have negative side effects.  These negative side effects include physical, social, financial, emotional, relational, and physical problems.

3.  You can offer no reliable evidence that, should Emma be one of the very few people to achieve long-term, significant weight loss, she will experience health benefits from the weight loss that she would not achieve from far less invasive wellness efforts with far fewer side effects.

Cue the second blog  post shared by Michelle May.

This post called “Let’s Talk About Intentional Weight Loss and Evidence-Based Medicine” is found in the blog entitled Worse for the Fishes by Anna G. Mirer, M.P.H.  In this wonderful post, she talks about all of those wonderful interventions available to the five classes of point-missing commenters above.  She talks about how they don’t work.  She talks about how they cause more problems than they solve.  She talks about how there’s no real evidence that they help anybody.  And she provides lots of links to back this up.

I’m sure that this will all be refuted by another special kind of commenter:

The Research Refuter: Despite the fact that there is massive amounts of evidence supporting what you say–amounting to hundreds of peer-reviewed studies in reputable journals, I don’t like your evidence.  Therefore I will accuse you of cherry-picking your articles.

Again, I have to thank Michelle for bringing these two articles together in my world at the same time.  It so perfectly illustrates how we as a society are perceiving the wrong things as the problem and thus suggesting the wrong solution.

To me the solution is simple:

1.  Everybody benefits from eating well and exercising, along with managing stress, sleeping well, and having strong social relationships.

2.  So medical  professionals just ask if people need any support with eating well, exercising, managing stress, sleeping well and having strong social relationships.

3.  If people say no, then stop.  If people ask for help on any of those specific behaviors, offer help with those behaviors.

The End.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to come and talk to your group about evidence-based medicine and wellness?  Send me an email at jeanette at the fat chick dot com.

P.S.S. You can learn more HERE.

Quis traversum elit? Is your fitness tracker running your life?

Click to check out an interesting article about the “quantified self”.

Quis traversum elit?  Who is tracking the trackers?  I feel compelled to write about this as I’ve run across so many people on our Fit Fatties Forum and on Facebook who are sharing the fact that they have become a slave to their fitness tracking devices.  Don’t get me wrong.  Fitness trackers can be wonderful!  For many people those gorgeous, full-color interactive graphs are just the thing to get them up and moving  in the morning.  But I feel like I need to address the fact that interest in these things can and does sometimes tip a bit towards obsession in some people.

I have experienced this myself in the past.  I was wearing one of those trackers that shared your steps and speed and cadence with a group of friends online.  I distinctly remember almost missing a plane because I was obsessively walking the terminals to “get in my daily steps” before midnight.  Every day I would pull up those stats.  If the stats were good, I had a good day.  If the stats were bad I was despondent.  Sound familiar?  If  you think this sounds a little like an obsession with numbers on a scale, I would say you’re right!

I think another dangerous aspect of this is that we are encouraged to hit these goals regardless of how our bodies feel on any given day.  Just like the body signals when it is full or hungry or needs cheese, the body signals when it needs rest.  If we continually ignore our body’s signals in order to maintain an appropriate slope on a pretty digital graph, things can get kinda dicey.  We’re risking chronic physical exhaustion which can lead to overuse injuries and even chronic illness.

So what’s a person to do?  Here’s a few tips:

1.  If the graph feature of the tracker is making you feel a little bit obsessive, turn that part off or ignore it.

2.  Try to build rest days into your schedule.  Instead of insisting that you work out every day, how about 5 or 6 days a week?  Then take a break when your body says you need to.

3.  How about keeping a journal where you map how your body is feeling on any given day.  Then maybe you can identify that Thursdays are tough and plan a yoga session or a meditation session for that day.

4.  Remember that cardiovascular fitness is only one part of wellness.  Maybe schedule in some other forms of wellness work like stretching or weight training or breathing exercises.

5.  If you are truly becoming obsessed with your tracker, maybe you need a trial separation.  This is true even if you spent a metric butt-ton of money on it.  Try taking it off for 2 weeks and see if the effect on your OVERALL well being is positive or negative.

Hope this helps you in all your wellness endeavors.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want me to speak to your group about fitness trackers and all kinds of other wellness stuff?  Send me an email at: jeanette at thefatchick dot com.  You can learn more right here.