Tag Archives: activism

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.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Half in the Data Dark, We’ve More Work to Do!

Today, I read a horrifying statistic about the state of statistics.  A group called All Trials has flatly stated that of all the clinical trials, encompassing hundreds of thousands of patients, 50% have never reported the results.  They state this, and offer this research to back it up.

One can speculate many reasons why various research results have not been reported.  But I keep coming back to one, solitary reason, which I suspect is the main reason, why results weren’t reported.  They probably weren’t reported because the results were either contrary to previous results in a way that was uncomfortable or the results were likely to be unpopular with whoever asked for the study, financed the study or might be interested in reporting on the study.

If, to take a fictitious example, the green been growers association finances a study on the health effects of green beans, and the study fails to show any positive effect, it is  unlikely that those results will ever see the light of day.

One wonders what effect this data dumping has on the massive amounts of research funded by or managed by either organizations pledged to fight obesity or companies that offer products and services to “cure” obesity or both.  I, for one, would love to know what’s in that data dump.

If you are also interested in getting those results and fighting for greater transparency in clinical research, you can engage in a little very easy activism by going to the AllTrials website and clicking to join the petition.

And if you’re interested in doing even more to help fight bad research, stigmatizing policies and outright abuse of people of size, I am so very excited to announce our 2nd Annual Fat Activism Conference!  We have such an amazing roster of speakers lined up.  Once again, we have 2.5 days of online speeches and panels with loads of opportunities for you to ask questions, share your thoughts and get involved!  And this year we will also be offering access to our brand new Fat Activism E-Book!

And in the name of full transparency, I want to let you know that everybody who is involved in putting on the conference will share in the profits.  The conference organizers (me and Ragen Chastain), the organizing committee, all the speakers and all the sales affiliates will share in the profits of the conference.  So not only will you be learning from and reading about some amazing fat activists, you will be helping to support those who do this important work.  The conference runs October 9-11 and we are looking forward to seeing you there!  Click here to get your tickets at the super early bird price!

I can’t wait to see you there!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Speaking With My Sisters

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of speaking as a panelist at Digital Hollywood on a panel hosted by the Alliance for Women in Media.  It was a part of a track of women’s programming hosted by the Alliance along with Women In Film, Women Network, and Girls In Tech Los Angeles.  Throughout the day there were panels and screenings and networking events presented by women for women, and it was glorious.

There is nothing quite like hanging out in a room with several hundred powerful women who are following their path and living in their power.  There was a lot of discussion of lifting one another up.  We talked about the new economy approach of focusing less on competition and a whole lot more on collaboration.  We talked about our dreams and inspired one another.

The evening ended with a powerful (and wildly entertaining speech) by Michelle Patterson, President of the California Women’s Conference & Women Network.  The speech touched me in a number of ways, but one thing stood out in particular.  Michelle reminds us, that if we are to succeed, we must learn to ask for help and also learn to receive that help.  I think for many of us, this is a particularly difficult lesson.  We aren’t comfortable asking.  We think we shouldn’t need help or that we don’t deserve help.  Or we just can’t imagine how someone might help us.  But all of us need help from time to time.  And this was a really important reminder for me–that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness.  If you are convinced you can accomplish all your dreams without help, you are either naive or simply not dreaming big enough.  Because big dreams require big, beautiful, powerful teams to accomplish them.

But throughout this day, I learned another equally important lesson.  Don’t assume you don’t have the ability to help.  I went to many panels.  And like many people around me, I rushed up to the podium afterwards to speak with the panelists with whom I resonated.  I connected with panelists that I thought might be able to help me.  And I asked for help.  I also wanted to offer help.  But initially, I was hampered by the belief that I wouldn’t be able to help.  Some of these women were CEO’s of very large companies.  Some of them were successful screen writers or famous actresses or technology mavens.  I wondered what I could possibly offer.  But then I decided to take a different tack.  I chose not to believe there was nothing for me to give and I simply asked.  What is the one problem you are trying to solve right now?  What do you need?  Can  I connect you with somebody?  How can I help?  And it was magic.  Many of the panelists were taken aback when I asked.  They stopped, and thanked me for asking.  And then they told me what they needed.  And you know what was amazing.  In many cases I WAS able to help.  I couldn’t necessarily do the things myself, but I knew somebody who could.  I gave out names and offered to make introductions.  And I felt powerful.  It was good.

So that was my lesson from yesterday.  Never assume you are not worthy of help.  Believe in your self and your passion enough to dare to simply ask for what you need.  Be direct.  You’ll be surprised how often people will give you what you ask.  And never assume you are not worthy to give help.  You never know what you have to offer someone or how you can connect with others if you don’t ask them what they need.  Even if you can’t help, asking someone what they need is a profound way to honor them.

So, I’m asking.  Right now, I particularly need to find speaking gigs.  I am working on an important speaking certification and need to get 20 more speeches in before the end of the year.  With that in mind, I’m offering a special “gotta get 20 speeches” discount.  There will never be a better time to book me to speak with your group.  Don’t assume you can’t afford me, because I gotta do 20 speeches.  Can  you book me?  Or do you know somebody who can book me?  Just send me an email at jeanette at the fat chick dot com and let me know what you’re thinking.

And I’m asking.  What do you need right now?  Can I connect you with somebody to help you with a particular thing?  What is standing in your way of reaching your goal?  How can I help?  Again, feel free to comment or send me an email.

What can I say?  Yesterday was a very good day.  And I believe today can truly be phenomenal for all of us.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Why self esteem isn’t just about you.

I talk a lot about self esteem and self efficacy in this blog, because I think both of those things are very, very important. I think the way we see ourselves and the way we approach the world helps to shape our world.  On the other hand, I think it’s important to recognize that the world we live in shapes us in turn.  Both self esteem and self efficacy involve more than just self.  Because as John Donne said all those years ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main…

John Donne

We all function as part of the world.  Our self esteem is deeply influenced by the opinions of those around us.  And frankly, right now, the world is none too kind to people of size.  Feeling good about yourself is really tough in an world containing people who after one look at you consider themselves justified in considering you less than human.  Even when you approach the world in your best dress and your prettiest smile and your very most positive of positive thoughts, it’s tough going when what the world reflects back to you is pity, disgust, shame, disdain and yes, even fear.

And it’s also important to recognize that the tremendous amount of prejudice experienced by people of size in our culture is constantly reenforced by various factors.  The diet and weight loss industry is worth more than 60 Billion dollars in the U.S. alone.  And desire for a piece of the grant/research money pie has fueled a desperate fight against fat people also known as the “War on Obesity”.  A need to find a scapegoat in our difficult economic times and even more difficult health care landscape has led to the fat person as social pariah–blamed for everything from the high costs of health insurance to global warming.

I’m not telling you this because I want you to be depressed.  Far from it.  But I also want to pay homage to the fact that feeling good as a less than skinny person in our culture can be really, really difficult.  This is reality.  And any work that we try to do to feel good about ourselves needs to be seen in the context of this reality.

This is why I think it is so very important to build community to support one another.  I am by no means perfect in my self esteem.  But a great deal of any of the strength I do possess in this regard comes directly from my participation in the size acceptance community.  I am deeply indebted to those who have come before.  That’s why I think it is so important to honor others who are building a better and safer world for people of all sizes.  This year, we honored some of those trail blazers this year in the Shadow on a Tightrope anniversary.  And my dear friend and business collaborator Ragen Chastain is doing very important work in her documentary film project honoring the history of the heroes and heroines of the size acceptance movement.

And beyond just recognizing those who have gone before, there is a veritable army of people out there right now, working to make the world better for people of all shapes and sizes.  People like Marilyn Wann and Ragen Chastain.  Organizations like the Size Diversity Task Force and ASDAH and NAAFA.

So in your look to bolster your self-esteem, I’d like to encourage you to think beyond yourself.  First, I’d like to suggest that you take a look at some of the forces outside of yourself that may be dragging on you.  Learning to recognize these voices that send you negative and shaming messages is an important first step towards choosing what to take on board and what to throw away.

Next, I’d like to suggest that you find community.  Get together in the real world or the virtual one, with like-minded people who allow you to feel supported and safe at any size.  I can’t emphasize enough how much community has helped me and supported me and strengthened me.

Finally, I’d like to ask you to consider how you might help others feel good about themselves.  It’s not enough to simply take.  Community implies a sharing of talents and resources and our very selves.  That’s not to say that we all need to help in the same way.  Some of us will march in protests.  Some of us will send scathing letters.  Some of us will simply support one another with a quick hug or a kind word in the comments section.

None of us is an island.  We are all a piece of the continent, a citizen of the world, a member of the universe.  It’s up to all of us to make that universe a better place for ALL of us.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

Up Hill Both Ways: 30th Anniversary of Shadow on a Tightrope

A new generation is introduced to Shadow on a Tightrope.  Photo Credit: Substantia Jones

A new generation is introduced to Shadow on a Tightrope. Photo Credit: Substantia Jones

I have to confess.  I recently re-read Shadow on a Tightrope in honor of this blog carnival.  I tore through the book at warp speed, reveling in the sheer, unadulterated, radical awesomeness of it.  I was moved by the rawness and honesty found in so much of the writing.  And I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the women who came before me in this amazing movement of size acceptance.

I felt all of these things, but more than any of these things, I felt a sense of awe.  These women blazed a trail across this far-flung land.  They build a bridge to one another through their written words.  And they did it with pencils and typewriters.

Now I understand that there’s a real danger here that I will tell the activism equivalent of walking to school and back, in the snow, and that it was uphill both ways.  But isn’t that sort of what we are talking about here?

In reading these stories, I was struck by how hard it was for size activists simply to find one another.  I was fascinated by the level of manual work they did, collecting checks to cover the costs of photocopying medical journal articles and studies, copying them and mailing them out to one another.

I was also struck by how often a writer in the anthology refers to years or even decades in isolation–believing they were the only one to feel the way they did.  And I was moved by the joy expressed in finding even one like-minded soul with whom to have dinner, swap letters or share late-night phone calls.

It’s hard to speak of size acceptance today, even with the myriad of online research resources and the powerful forums and channels that bring like minded activists to the distance of just one click from one another.  While it’s true that modern life brings a different set of headaches (like moderating yet another absolutely vile YouTube comment) it also brings us comfort and tremendous support.  Often, within seconds of writing a blog post or sharing a thought on Facebook, I’ll have a word or two of support or encouragement.  I can debate difficult questions about the nature of size acceptance in real time, with scholars throughout the world.  But even so, it can be hard to stand aside from the mainstream on notions of weight, weight loss, fat acceptance, and Health At Every Size.

But how much more difficult was it back in 1983 or even earlier? Shadow on a Tightrope, was created in a time when writers put their stake in the sand, said their piece and then waited weeks or months or even years to see what the world had to say about it.  Yet it’s astonishing, how many stakes were planted, and just how much ground was covered by this early work.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these early pioneers.   That’s why I am so excited to see projects like this one, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of a seminal work in the Size Acceptance cannon, or the history project initiated by Barbara Altman Bruno on behalf of ASDAH, and the tremendous work being done by Ragen Chastain to document the stories of the founders of this movement in their own wordsl

I am proud and honored to share in some small way, my heartfelt thanks to those who not only added to the scholarship side of the size acceptance movement, but also paved the way for me to step off the diet/body hatred merry-go-round and learn to love my body far, far earlier than I would have done without their guidance.  For helping me reclaim weeks, months, years and even decades for body love, self acceptance and even joy, I’m very, very grateful.

Perhaps 30 years from now, the young upstarts will be rolling their eyes and wondering how we old farts ever built a movement without transporter beams and holographic recording.  If at that point we are able to leave behind even a small fraction of work on par with that found in Shadow on a Tightrope, I will count us successful indeed!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

AKA The Fat Chick

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Thanking Those Who Fight for Rights

I love labor day.  It’s a last breath at the end of summer.  It’s the break that makes the beginning of the school year a tiny bit more bearable for the kids who are regretfully leaving summer break behind them.  It’s a time when Americans gather and drink beer and eat barbeque and enjoy a 3-day weekend.  It’s the morning after the glorious Sunday night, I don’t have to get up in the morning revelry.

But I also think it’s important to remember what labor day is really about.  Labor Day was developed by the American Labor Movement as a day to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.  Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City  in 1882 with local parades and speeches.  Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887.   Following the deaths of several workers at the hands of US military and US Marshals during the Pullman strike, legislation was rushed through and Congress unanimously voted to make Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.

The same labor organizations and activists who organized and pushed for Labor Day also fought for important rights for American workers.  Before the efforts of these labor groups, the typical American work week was 60 hours spread over about 6 days.  And while one might argue that in many ways the American work week is once again headed  in that direction, it’s clear that our current situation would be much different if it hadn’t been for those dedicating and sometimes even sacrificing their lives to make things better for American workers.

All of this has made me think how important it is to remember and thank all people everywhere who fight for our rights.  And I’d like to expand that thinking towards those who have fought for our rights to exist, work, get decent medical care, equal pay and be treated with dignity in bodies of all sizes.  I can’t begin to claim that I know who all of the important players are.  But I can name a few that I have known personally.  Marilyn Wann has spoken and shimmied and marched and chanted at so many amazing, ground-breaking fat positive events.  And her amazing book “Fat, So?” was important for so many of us tentatively beginning to move towards body acceptance.  Lynn Macafee is a fierce freedom fighter who has worked tirelessly with so many size acceptance organizations to get rid of prescription diet drugs that have unpublished and deadly side effects, fight for the rights of fat parents and so much more.  Bill Fabray who founded NAAFA in response to the horrible experience faced by his wife simply because of her size.  Katherine Flegal who’s work with the CDC debunked a lot of the common thinking about the health effects of obesity and faced intense scrutiny and harassment by many of her colleagues.  Other important writers and researchers on the connection between obesity and health include Glen Gasser, Paul Ernsberger and the Cooper Institute.  There are the lawyers, Paul Campos and especially Sandra Solovay who have written and spoken in so many important forums about the rights of fat people.  There are so many of brothers and sisters  in NAAFA and ASDAH and so many other important size acceptance organizations who have done so much to make things better.

While I’m pretty none of us feel that we are truly where we need to be in terms of universal size acceptance, it’s important to remember that so many of us have done so much to make life better for everybody.  That’s why I think it’s important to look at histories like the one created by Barbara Altman Bruno for the ASDAH blog.

And that is why I am so very excited about the project my good friend and colleague Ragen Chastain is working on called In Our Own Words: A Fat Activist History.  Ragen is  recording interviews with many of these people who have been so important to the movement.  She’s funding the project herself, so don’t be afraid to throw a few dollars and send a little love her way!

So by all means, enjoy your day off (if you have today off).  Eat hot dogs.  Go to the beach.  Play all day on your Xbox.   Whatever makes you happy.  But remember to take just a few seconds to send a little thanks to those who have worked so hard to make your life just a little bit better.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

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Once upon a body…Comparing Ourselves to Pretend People

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie "The Heat".

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie “The Heat”.

In popular culture it can be pretty difficult to find examples of bodies that represent how most people in our world actually appear.  While the average American woman is a US size 12 on the top and a US size 14 on the bottom, the average American actress, pop music icon or model is closer to a size 0 or even a size 00.  Both of these sizes are quite a distance from what most of us see in the mirror every day.  But even these sizes often prove too large for film studios and record labels and fashion magazines.  Even the size zero girls are likely to be “shopped”.

By “shopped” of course I mean digitally retouched in an image editing software package like Adobe Photoshop(R).  And sometimes this digital retouching is done without the will of the original actress, model or performer.

Just today, I’ve run across two amazing examples of Photoshop culture.  Apparently, one of the few plus-sized actresses in Hollywood, Melissa McCarthy was significantly “shopped” in both the American and UK version of the movie posters for her upcoming movie The Heat.  In the American version her image is seriously washed out, and this over exposure seems to make both her signature dimples and her double chin disappear.  The UK version is even more noticeably retouched.  In fact the slimmed down face, redrawn chin and tiny head in relation to the body not only render her as unrecognizable, but also, not necessarily human.  She just looks weird.

beyonce_shopped

In other news, Beyonce was severely Photoshopped into a “model artists rendering” of herself in order to display a Roberto Cavalli dress.  Not only does she not look like herself, but she also doesn’t look quite human with those impossible, stick-thin arms and legs and ludicrously elongated body.  Which seems especially ludicrous when you compare these images with real images showing just how gorgeous she looks in this dress in real life.

beyonce2Even Minnie Mouse is not immune to being “shopped” to sell a dress.

Check HERE for more Photoshop fun (and make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom…)

More and more often, stars are speaking out about the process of being digitally retouched against their will.  They understand the impact that these impossible images are having on  the way women, and especially young girls feel about themselves.

It’s no longer enough to compare ourselves against the very small, and elite number of actors and performers who happen to wear a size 0 or a size 00.  Now we are expected to compare ourselves to artist renderings of impossible people.

Until we say “Basta!” or “That’s enough!”  The only way for us to move beyond the tyranny of these images is to identify them as fictional constructs, and then refuse to buy products from companies that feel the need to display their wares on pretend people.

In other words, it is in our power to decide, “If it ain’t real, it don’t appeal”.

So what do you think?  How do you feel when you see Photoshopped images?  Are there any examples you’ve run across that are particularly misleading and damaging?  Can  you share them with us and let us know how you felt?  Can you share stories about how you presented these images to your friends, your students and your kids?  Or have you noted any amazingly and refreshingly honest images about how real people look?  Please feel free to share those examples with us.

And in the meantime, you can resolve to stop comparing yourself to pretend people once and for all!

Love,

The Fat Chick

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

Buy my DVD: The Fat Chick Works Out! (A Safe, Easy and Fun Workout for Klutzes, Wimps and Absolute Beginners!)

Buy a book or a DVD for a friend and save $5!  Just enter FRIENDBLFT in the discount code box!

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or

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