Tag Archives: bias

Fit Mom Vs. The Fat Chick, The Cage Match Edition

MamaCatThe online world is absolutely full of people arguing with Maria Kang alternatively known as “fit mom” or “what’s your excuse mom”.  She stirred up a whole lot of controversy with her picture showing her teeny tiny sports shorts and perfectly toned abs next to her three children along with the headline, “What’s Your Excuse?”  Naturally this photo infuriated a lot of women who didn’t feel they should need an excuse to not look like Maria Kang looks.  And there were plenty of women ready to point out that Maria has no right to make assumptions about their lives and their priorities and their choices, based on the fact that they fail to look like fitness magazine cover models.

She stirred up a whole other hornet’s nest of controversy recently by speaking out against a Curvy Lingerie company.  Curvy Girl chose to help boost women’s self esteem by asking their customers to post pictures of themselves on their Curvy Girl facebook page.  Curvy Girls touted this as an opportunity for average women who have NOT been airbrushed or spray tanned, surgically altered or photoshopped to show off their sexy selves including stretch marks, bumps, scars and rolls.  Naturally, Maria couldn’t stay out of the fray and just had to say something about how some of those women (based on some criteria known only to her) should not feel good about themselves because they just can’t be healthy looking that way.  The owner of Curvy Girl then got Maria kicked off facebook, at least temporarily for engaging in hate speech against those who submitted pictures to the Curvy Girl site.

And of course, I can’t sit just idly by.  Oh, honey, no.  I have to jump in here and say, that this is an absolutely perfect, text book demonstration of why I choose to call myself “The Fat Chick”.  Maria describes herself as a fitness trainer.  Maria even looks like our American stereotypical ideal of how a trainer should look.  She also conforms to many stereotypes regarding what a fitness trainer should think.  But I think many of the notions that she has tried (in her not particularly clear way) to articulate during the many multitudes of media interviews are not only flawed but dangerous to her clients and to the world at large.  So, if y’all will bear with me, I’d like to take a quick look at some of them right here and right now.

1.  Everyone, if they tried hard enough, could look like Maria Kang.  Um, no.  There are many, many factors that go into how a person looks including age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, genetics, fitness level and so on.  The vast majority of people in the world could do situps until the end of time and squats until their bums fall off and they will never, ever look like Maria Kang.  I’m not saying that Maria doesn’t work very hard to look the way she does.  I’m sure she spends an enormous amount of time, energy and money making that happen.  I am saying that she is coming from a different starting place from many of us,  I think this may be a case of “born on third and thinks she hit a triple”.  I have participated in many running races and track events in my life despite the fact that I am not naturally gifted with any athletic talent for running.  Despite a serious training regimen and a lot of determination I think Usain Bolt’s record is safe from me.  That said, he probably can’t hit a high “C” or sing the soprano role in a French Opera like I can.  I think that’s true even if Mr. Bolt really wanted it and trained for it.   He just doesn’t have the right kind of body to accomplish that.  And that is OKAY.

2.  Well at least all fitness teachers should look like Maria Kang.  Again, no.  A thousand times no.  Fitness teachers work with all different kinds of people.  Therefore, fitness teachers should look like lots of different kinds of people.  Some students will be extremely motivated working with a teacher like Maria.  Some would be put off or even terrified in working with somebody who looks like her.  One very important reason I call myself “The Fat Chick” is to get across the notion that while some fit people look like Maria, plenty of others look more like me.  In fact, on the Fit Fatties Forum, there are THOUSANDS OF THEM who look more like me.  There is not just one way to be fit.  There is not just one way to look.  Maria looks like a fitness teacher, but SO. DO. I.

3.  But some of those women just don’t look healthy.  Um, how the heck do YOU know Maria.  You absolutely, positively, truly cannot look at a person and determine if they are healthy.  You cannot look at a person and determine if they have healthy habits.  You.  Can. Not.  As my dear friend Ragen Chastain says, the only thing you can know for sure when you look at a fat person is your own bias towards fat people.  This notion that you can tell that fat people are unhealthy by looking at them has caused untold harm to people of size in this world.  Because it’s not just attention-seeking personal trainers who harbor these biases.  It’s also doctors and nurses and college admission officials and tenured professors and office health care managers.  It’s our mothers and fathers and second cousins who all feel that our size should generate concern which in turn generates the need to generate unsolicited advice.

4.  But saying that fat people are unattractive and unhealthy doesn’t mean I’m a bully.  I hate to burst your bubble Maria, but that’s EXACTLY what that means.  You are taking a stigmatized group and you are using faulty logic to justify your attempts to further stigmatize them.  Yup.  That makes you a bully.   Even if you don’t believe you are being a bully, and even if you take care to point out to anyone that will listen that you are not a bully, you are still being a bully.

5.  But Maria is just trying to help.  The question I have here is, “Help who?”  Clearly Maria is trying to help herself.  No doubt that she will enjoy a certain notoriety for her part in this whole brouhaha and her facebook and YouTube hits are no doubt off the charts.  But if you are going to help people, if you are going to help normal, everyday people get fit, it’s important to do your homework.  You should know as a fitness instructor what is likely to hurt (shaming your clients) and what is likely to help (encouraging and empathizing  with your clients).  When you are responsible for teaching others, it’s so important to read the research and really understand what is happening rather than simply repeating something you heard from somebody somewhere.

In a way, I am extremely grateful to Maria.  She’s made the dialog come to light, she’s made the bias come out in the open, and she’s contrasted my own approach to fitness in such a clear way that my role as “The Fat Chick” has never been clearer.  As a fitness teacher or trainer you could always take the tack of asking people, “What’s your excuse?”  But I’ve always found it quite a lot more effective to ask, “What do you need?” or “How can I help?”

Love,

Jeanette DePatie

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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Dear Dr. Terrible Your Bigotry is Showing…

professorterribleRan across this in my facebook feed today and almost wanted to cry.  This tweet from Evolutionary Psychology Professor at NYU & U. New Mexico Dr. Geoffrey Miller is really special.  It states:

Dear obese PhD applicants: if you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth

Here’s somebody who is at least in theory, well educated and yet he felt that he needed to tweet that absolute garbage.  Since the tweet has gone viral, he has taken it down and apologized.  But in my opinion, that is way too little and way too late.  Plus, I have to say, I find the apology a little bit suspect.  Here, let me interpret for you.

Dr. Miller states:

My sincere apologies to all for that idiotic, impulsive, and badly judged tweet. It does not reflect my true views, values, or standards.

Which means, “Oh crap, I could possibly get fired for this.  I’d better retract my statement ASAP.  I’ll just say I didn’t really mean it.  That will work, right?”

Dr. Miller goes on to state:

Obviously my previous tweet does not represent the selection policies of any university, or my own selection criteria.

Which means, “Upon further reflection (or after some very tense phone calls) I realize that some of the folks who were rejected for anything by me or any of the universities at which I teach may be somewhat upset.  In fact, they may just sue us into financial oblivion.”

So hey Dr. Miller, here’s my tweet to you:

Nobody believes your stupid and transparently self serving apology. #Find a good lawyer

I can find no excuse for this sort of behavior.  None. This guy is supposed to be a teacher.  This guy is supposed to be a scientist.  And he’s drawing this conclusion based on what evidence?  None.  He doesn’t like fat people, therefore they are lazy and incapable of doctoral level work.  Oh except, not really.  He didn’t really mean it.

The fact that this guy clearly gets to make decisions about who gets to apply for a PhD is utterly terrifying to me.  And speaking of terrified, I hope that both Professor Prejudice and his university are currently shaking in their shoes.  Even if an actual lawsuit from a student who was turned away from the  university is not forthcoming, I think might just be the opening breezes of a PR poopmageddon about to go down.  In fact, I think there needs to be a social media storm of biblical proportions over this tweet.  Do you hear that my dear readers?  Let’s start twittering and peeping and let our voices be heard!  This is a rare opportunity to talk about bias at the highest levels of our learning institutions.  This is an opportunity for us to educate the educators.  Let’s get the conversation started and keep it rolling!

Love,

The Fat Chick

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Paging Doctor Good…

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Sometimes fat chicks have to shop a little harder to find a good doctor…

 

Well, yet another study has come out indicating that fat stigma is alive and well among medical students.  Even NPR (with it’s RWJ-fueled, anti-fat slant) released a story about this study conducted among medical students in South Carolina.  Over one third of the students tested, demonstrated moderate to strong bias against obese people.  What’s more two thirds of those students who demonstrated fat bias were even aware that they had any bias against overweight and obese subjects.  And while the study only checked bias among students in one school, it is clearly in line with other studies that demonstrate fat bias among doctors and med students.

None of this comes as much of a surprise to overweight and obese people seeking health care in this country.  Many of us have experienced not only a flat refusal to treat the illness or injury for which we are seeking care, but also outright and overt disdain from our doctors.  I have spoken extensively about my own story in the past.  And as I have reviewed the videos that have been submitted for the Resolved Project created by the Size Diversity Task Force and ASDAH, I’ve cataloged so many distressing stories.  We are compiling a veritable library of cases of little kids put on speed, doctors refusing care and medically supervised fat shaming.

It’s so hard to find a good doctor that will treat us with respect.  It can be a long and arduous search.  So it’s probably not a shock that another report was released last week that shows that overweight and obese patients are more likely to engage in “doctor shopping”.  If one in three doctors coming out of medical school are displaying recognized or unrecognized bias against people of size, it makes sense that we have to look a little harder.  What I find interesting about the study however is the way it connects doctor shopping with quality of care.  One of the lead doctors from the Johns Hopkins study, Dr. Kimberly A. Gudzune, stated:

“There’s something going wrong in these doctor-patient relationships that make these switches so frequent for this group of people… The real problem here is that the health of overweight and obese patients who doctor shop is being compromised. Because they do not remain with their doctors for very long, they are ending up in the emergency room, likely for things that could have been taken care of in a primary care office.”

I wonder, does this point to yet another reason why fat stigma may be causing health problems that are currently blamed on fat?  I’ve stated before, and I’ll state again, there is no proof that weight loss improves health.  (For one thing, we can’t get enough people to keep enough weight off for long enough to do a real test.)  We also know that people who engage in healthy behavior live longer, regardless of body size.  What would be very interesting to me would be to see what impact medical training to reduce weight stigma would have on the health of fat patients.  That’s the study I would like to see.

In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to keep searching for Doctor Good…

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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For the 100th Time, Shaming People Doesn’t Help!

chalkboard.001This week I ran across even more research that indicates that shaming fat people does not turn them into thin people.  This is hardly the first time this sort of research has surfaced.  I’ve talked about this many, many, many times.  But somehow, it seems nearly impossible to get public policy people and health people to get it through their heads.  They still advocate BMI report cards and singling kids out for special “health interventions” and still do not think they need to add “body size” to any of their legislation about bullying.  And meanwhile, bullying against fat kids is getting worse.

Maybe we should make them all stay after class and write 100 times on the blackboard, “Shaming people does not make them happy, healthy or thin.”  It doesn’t save our country money.  It doesn’t save our children.  Shaming people about their weight does not do anything positive at all.  Shaming or bullying people about their weight:

  1. Makes them more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior.
  2. Makes them less likely to seek medical help.
  3. Makes them miss more school and get lower grades.
  4. Makes them sicker.
  5. Makes them heavier and puts them at greater risk for eating disorders.

Despite a mountain of evidence that dieting and shaming don’t work, and a mountain of evidence that dieting and shaming cause harm, we still have public policy and health experts suggesting that we help kids by shaming them and teaching them to diet.  I think we just might have to give them all a piece of chalk and make them stay after school.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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