Tag Archives: ASDAH

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)

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Even more research on Fitness and Fatness

For the 1,000th time, fitness is more important than fatness when it comes to overall health outcomes.  In the midst of the holiday hubub, I came across yet another study regarding weight vs. exercise as a determinant of health.  This was actually a metastudy, which means the scientists gathered together a lot of other studies and used math and science to determine what most of those other studies said.  And it’s no surprise, at least to me, that fitness is much more important than body size in determining how long and how well people live.

This metastudy analyzed the results of 10 other studies.  And these studies in turn measured the results of tens of thousands of participants (the largest single study included 21,856 participant) and perhaps more importantly measured these people over a significant span of time (ranging from 7 to over 16 years).  It’s important to note that the studies analyzed included both enough participants to be statistically significant and were conducted over a long enough period to see what was actually happening in the lives of the participants.  Many of the studies cited regarding the effectiveness and efficacy of weight loss are conducted over a period of three years or less.  Given the fact that long term studies indicate that weight loss participants tend to regain all the weight that was lost and often a little more in the 3-5 year range, it’s clear that the duration of the study is an important factor in determining actual results.

And what were the actual results in this case?  I think they were pretty astounding.  The metastudy indicated that unfit people, no matter what they weighed, had twice the risk of dying during the study than fit people.  And the study showed that if you are fit and fat, your mortality risk is about the same as if you are fit and thin.  That means that all those thin and unfit folks had about a 50 percent greater chance of mortality than the fat and fit folks during the course of the study.

Whoa.

So here we are heading into the holidays.  This is a time when we have access to fabulous food and friends and fantastic food and family and well, FOOD.  This is a time when many of us feel more and more panic regarding weight and body size, culminating in a full blown panic that hits full force right around January 1st.  We live in a society where the commercials are full of food porn shots of holiday turkeys lovingly basted in butter and mountains of chocolate until December 25.  Only to be replaced on December 26 with shots of impossibly tanned and ripped bodies exhorting us to make 2014 the year where we too get to look like a movie star.

Bah Humbug!

The bad news is, no matter how many mashed potatoes we eat or avoid, and no matter how many crunches and squats we do, we are probably NOT going to look like the perky fitness models gracing those commercials on January 1.  The good news is, we don’t have to.  You don’t have to look like that to be a successful exerciser, and you don’t have to look like that to achieve massive health benefits from engaging in regular exercise.  And that regular exercise doesn’t have to include 2 hours per day at the gym or running marathons.  We’re talking about a cumulative total of 150 minutes per week here.  Eventually.  If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry.  You can get there!  Just start wherever you currently are with your fitness level and increase gradually, up to 10 percent per week until you get there.  Some studies show that even as little as 75 minutes per week of exercise can have a significant effect on health.

So, so what?

Why am I being such a Negative Nelly and bursting your exercise bubble?  Why am I not suggesting that you’ll look like that hateful woman with the three kids and the super flat abs and very tiny shorts who is all over the internet and your television asking you what is  your excuse?  (Because, of course, she says, if you do some exercise surely you’ll look a lot like she does!)  I’m telling you this because exercise is not only a wonderful way to improve health outcomes, but is also a wonderful tool to help you feel better, feel better about yourself, enjoy a better quality of life and have a darn good time.  And far too often, I’ve seen people approach exercise thinking it will make them look like a supermodel, only to give up a short time later when they find that they are not accosted by modeling agencies or Hollywood directors eager to make them millionaires or at least take them out to very expensive restaurants to tell them how pretty they are.

God, I’m GORGEOUS!

Exercise is wonderful.  I’ve seen exercise work magic in the lives of many, many people.  But it rarely works the sort of magic seen in “before and after” photo shoots.  The sad thing is, by looking exclusively for the “magic of exercise” as seen on TV, many people miss the magic that is right in front of them.

Here’s wishing you a calm, lovely, peaceful holiday.  And a 2014 that is full of all the magic that a moderately active lifestyle can bring to you!

Love,

Jeanette

AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. There is a lot of great advice about how to go from zero to moderately active in YOUR life in my book–The Fat Chick Works Out!  Now get both the book and DVD for only $25.

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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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Six Year Old Girl Dies–Diagnosed as Fat?

dibetesSlides.002-001Sorry to start your week out with such a sad story, but I think it needs to be told.  Late last week I became aware of the story of Claudialee, a six-year-old girl who passed away after being misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes, when she actually had type 1 diabetes.  There is a very detailed account of the story here.

I’m not going to go into every detail of this story, but I did want to point out a few things that stand out for me.  One is that Claudialee has a family history of diabetes.  Another is that the doctor diagnosed Claudialee as obese.  It is clear that the doctor was deeply concerned about the young child’s weight–prescribing diet and exercise in an effort to get her to lose weight.  It is also clear that the mother closely followed the doctor’s recommendations–carefully monitoring what Claudialee ate and making sure she got plenty of exercise.

What is not clear is why the doctor felt so strongly that this child had Type 2 Diabetes as opposed to Type 1.  According to a source cited in the article (The National Institute of Health) at that age group, Type 1 Diabetes has an incidence of about 20 in every 100,000 kids, whereas Type 2 Diabetes has an incidence of .4 in every 100,000 kids or 1 in every 250,000 kids.  What’s more, at that age, Type 1 Diabetes is a far more urgent problem than Type 2 Diabetes.  So what led to the doctor’s misdiagnosis?

We may never know for sure.  But it does invite one to speculate whether the child’s weight was a factor.  Clearly, getting Claudialee’s weight down was a prime part of the prescription to the parent.  And as the child’s weight went down, the doctor neglected to do some of the critical follow-up blood tests that would have indicated that something was drastically wrong.

The article states:

Because Mercado [the doctor] had locked in on type 2, she did not monitor her patient’s blood. She did not tell Irma [the child’s mother] to purchase a $20 blood sugar meter from the drugstore. She did not ask Irma about the frequency with which her daughter drank and urinated. And neither she nor Cabatic [another doctor] described to Irma the danger signs to look out for.

When asked in court, why the doctor seemed so certain that the child had type 2 diabetes when type 1 diabetes was so much more prevalent among children that age, she stood by her original diagnosis:

“How many type 2 infant diabetics have you treated?” a lawyer asked her.

“A lot,” she replied. “Maybe it’s geographical, because I work at Brooklyn as an assistant professor and also in wellness program where there are a lot of obese children, so we diagnose a lot of children with type 2 diabetes.”

Clearly there may have been other issues at play here.  Claudialee was on Medicaid and doctors are paid significantly less for treating patients on Medicaid than they are for those with private insurance.  The doctor was not board-certified, and the article points out that finding board certified physicians willing to work in clinics that take Medicaid can be difficult.  And this is a single case where a single doctor has been convicted of malpractice.  We will never know exactly what was in the doctor’s mind.

I but I personally found myself wondering if this doctor had ever previously considered that she may have a bias against fat patients–and maybe even fat children with low SES in particular.  I wonder, had this doctor considered the potential for her own bias in this arena, would that child still be alive?  Would Claudialee still be running around and playing today?

We certainly have plenty of evidence for a seeming “hysteria” around the issue of childhood Type 2 diabetes.    A simple google search of “childhood diabetes epidemic” yields hundreds and hundreds of articles.  This hysteria has spawned a number of shaming techniques aimed at children despite the fact that shame has been proven over and over again to be ineffective at treating obesity at any age, that shame is more likely to make kids engage in unhealthy behaviors, and that eating disorders are much, MUCH more prevalent among children than diabetes of any kind.

dibetesSlides.001-001All I know for sure, is that stories like that of Claudialee get me even more fired up to fight against weight stigma in medicine.  And that passion leads me to come to you with a plea.  The Association for Size Diversity And Health and the Size Diversity Task force have embarked on a documentary film project to help doctors see and understand weight stigma and weight bias in medicine.  This project is called the Resolved project.  But this project needs a little bit of help from you.  We are raising funds to finish the documentary on Go Fund Me here.  Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.  Even if  you can only give a few dollars, that will help.  And if  you don’t have a few dollars to spend, would you consider sharing this with your friends and asking them to help?  Let’s see if we can end weight stigma and weight bias in the healthcare industry for good.  And maybe, just maybe we won’t have stories like Claudialee’s any more.

Love,

Jeanette (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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Right Now Show 017: Setting Exercise Expectations

speaking1Hey everybody!  Here’s episode 17 of the Right Now Show.  This episode is drawn from a speech I gave at the Wellness Beyond Weight Seminar at the ASDAH conference.  It was a wonderful opportunity to teach people about exercise and expectations:

And this is also an opportunity to remind you that I love my work as a public speaker!  If you’d like me to come to your business, university, special event or town, please consider booking me or recommending me to speak.  You can learn more about my speaking HERE.

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!

Check out my Training Programs–both in person and via Skype (Starting at just $25!)

or

Book me to speak at your special event!

Should the Boy Scouts Add a “Weight Cycling” Badge?

Proposed (by me) "Weight Cycling" patch

Proposed (by me) “Weight Cycling” patch

In the wake of my previous blog post about BMI and the Boy Scouts of America (BSOA), I’ve been reading some responses.  And the responses I’ve been reading by various members and officials within the BSOA are troubling to say the very least.  Let me give you some examples:

1.  We haven’t turned anybody away because of BMI.  In an article found in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Adult leader Ron Blasak states, “there was no one in the Greater Cleveland Council who was turned away because of a BMI issue.”  However, Blasak also admits that it’s possible “that someone read the requirements and shied away.”  To which I reply, hmmm.  Do you think so?  Do you think that plastering BMI requirements all over the marketing materials and saying they will be strictly enforced just might make a kid fear that he will be shamed and ridiculed at this shindig?  Do you find it surprising that your average 13-year-old might choose not to trap himself miles away from civilization with people who are convinced he can’t do anything?

2. We’re turning away kids with high BMI for their own good.  In that same article, Blasak also states, “Overweight boys would have a tough time getting around and probably wouldn’t have much fun.”  I have to wonder what evidence he is using to form this conclusion.  BMI is a simple calculation based on height and weight.  It doesn’t tell you anything about the fitness level of a potential participant.  A Scout with a BMI in the “ideal” range may be very unfit and may be at greater risk than a stouter scout who exercises more and has greater functional fitness.  Assuming that all the overweight kids will be miserable is just that, an assumption.  And we all know what happens when you ASSuME.

We’ve given the scouts plenty of time to get thin.  In many of the articles I’ve read, BSOA spokespeople are quick to  point out that they released these health requirements two years in advance of the Jamboree, which should give the scouts plenty of time to get fit and achieve an acceptable BMI.  In an article published by Fox News, BSOA spokesperson Deron Smith states:

“We published our height-weight requirements years in advance and many individuals began a health regimen to lose weight and attend the jamboree.  But, for those who couldn’t, most self-selected and chose not to apply.”

To which I say, “You got it half right, but 50 percent is still a failing grade.”  Over a two year period, it may be reasonable for a young person to make significant changes to their overall conditioning and fitness level.  We know how to do that.  What we don’t know how to do is make a fat kid into a thin kid–at least over the long term.  We can make a fat kid into a thin kid temporarily.  We might even get the timing right and make that fat kid thin at just the right moment to pass his physical and enjoy the Jamboree.  But when we look at the statistics for that kid staying thin over the long haul, the success rates are dismal.  So instead of teaching fat Scouts how to become thin scouts, we are teaching them the amazing, adult-level skill of weight cycling.  This is the process of losing weight, gaining it all back plus a little more, losing weight, gaining it all back plus a little more and so on and so on.  In fact, this process of BMI busting in order to make Jamboree weight seems ideally suited to the process of weight cycling.  That’s what led me to suggest that maybe the BSOA should just make a “weight cycling” badge and be done with it.  (Please see proposed badge design above.)

And what can I say about “self-selected and chose not to apply” other than “see point 1 of this blog”?  Yup, if you tell pudgy kids and chubby kids and fat kids that they are not welcome in enough ways, with enough 14 point bold print on your website, they will ultimately get the message, “Don’t bother to apply, because we don’t want you.”

But the real story is not in the rhetoric that is flying back and forth on the airwaves and in cyberspace.  The real story is the way that this policy will affect the lives of real kids.  Kids like the one referenced in this recent NAAFA press release:

One mother reported to NAAFA in 2009 that her son was having issues attending Philmont High Adventure Boy Scout Camp in Cimmaron, NM.  “Philmont has a weight standard and anyone over this standard is labeled unhealthy and cannot participate.  I tried to explain to them that my son plays football, wrestles and runs relays, shot put, discus thrower, in track & field and a weight lifter.  During the summer he swims, weightlifts and conditions for football. He has been conditioning for Philmont by hiking for 2-3 hours with a 50 pound pack on his back for the last 2 months.  He weighs 261 lbs. and has been eating a 1200 – 1400 calorie diet trying to lose weight.  Unfortunately he only lost 3 pounds… According to Philmont medical staff if he doesn’t weigh below 246, he will be sent home.  It didn’t matter to them if he is active, only his weight number.  I have watched my son condition for football and he can run circles around other players that are what society deems healthy.”

This is why this is such a big deal.  We have kids who really want to go, who have put in the long hours of training required to be physically prepared for the challenge, who are probably in far better physical condition than many of their younger counterparts who are told, “go home fatty.”  Given the rise in eating disorders among young men, I have a hard time understanding not only how this is considered reasonable, but also, how it can be considered responsible.

Maybe we need to help the BSOA along a little and propose some new HAES-friendly, body-positive awards.  Got any ideas?  I’d love to hear your proposals for new BSOA awards patches that are more likely to help young men accept and care for the bodies they already have and learn to feel comfortable in the skin they are in.  Feel free to post your ideas in the comments below!

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!

Check out my Training Programs–both in person and via Skype (Starting at just $25!)

or

Book me to speak at your special event!