Tag Archives: bullying

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

P.S. Want to learn about a body positive approach to health and wellness?  How about checking out my book or my DVD?

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The Courage to Try

dance_pictureIn putting together my new college “Love Your Body” speech and in reading Ragen Chastain’s awesome blog post, one thing has been coming up over and over again.  That thing is how being uncomfortable with our bodies tends to rob us of our ability to reach our full potential.  Ragen talks at length about how many people in our society react with genuine surprise when they encounter a fat person with talent.  I have to admit, it’s really got me thinking.

I think any time a person performs in public or even simply raises their hand in class or is willing to take a definite side in a public debate, it takes a lot of courage.  Anyone putting themselves out in this way is open to somebody calling them out, calling them names or simply laughing at them.  As a fat person, simply walking down the street can be enough to fuel criticism, catcalling or cruelty.  Is it any wonder then, that many fat people don’t want to call additional attention to themselves by raising their hand, taking part in a debate or getting up in front of an audience to dance, recite poetry, act or sing?

Lately it seems everywhere we turn we see talented people being publicly ridiculed for their weight.  Recently, star actress Melissa McCarthy was skewered by film critic Rex Reed, not for her performance, but rather for being a “cacophonous, tractor-sized, female hippo…who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success…”  This woman, with her “short acting career” spanning a mere 17 years, currently stars in a hit prime-time network television show and a movie that opened number one at the box office, has been nominated for over 15 major awards including an Oscar and boasts a Prime Time Emmy on her mantle.  Apparently that’s considered a short, gimmicky career if you happen to be fat.

And regardless of how you might feel about Governor Chris Christie’s politics, here’s a guy who’s had a hard time in the public eye.  Apparently being a governor who has done yeoman’s work in helping rebuild New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not enough to quiet the noise about his weight.  Christie faced criticism from Former White House physician Connie Mariano who recently told  CNN that she’s worried Christie might die in office were he elected president.  When Christie pointed out that Mariano has never examined him or his medical records and therefore has nothing upon which to base this prediction, a wave of sympathy was unleashed–towards the doctor.  Mariano responded to Christie’s criticism asking whether he is acting presidential.  However, it doesn’t look like anybody is asking whether Mariano is acting like a real doctor by diagnosing a person based on the way he looks in a suit on TV.

So what happens when you are a talented fat person, taking those first tentative steps towards sharing your gifts with the world and you are confronted with these stories?  Does it help you feel more courageous?  Are you eager to be creative and make yourself vulnerable in a world like this?

I have no doubt that there are millions and millions of deeply creative people in the world who happen to be fat.  But in this climate, in this environment, I think it’s a wonder any of us step out into the light.  Even those of us who have had tremendous success face constant criticism for our size. We are constantly dismissed because we don’t fit an exceptionally narrow standard of beauty.  And so we learn, at a very young age to keep our talents to ourselves, to hide our light under a bushel basket, to be quiet, to be small.  And many of us, for fear of being laughed at, may not even try.  We may not dance.  We may not sing.  We may not even speak.

I wonder what we can do to help encourage the young people around us.  It’s a tough world out there filled will bullies.  Are there kids around us that we can nurture?  Can we help the kids around us learn to reach deep inside in this world filled with hate and give it all they’ve got? Can we encourage them to lift their lights out of the bushel baskets and let them shine?  We can, if we only have the courage to try.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

Buyer Beware: When the Trainers at the Gym are Big Stupid Bullies

dumbellsWhat happens when you sign one of those one-sided, draconian gym contracts and then find yourself verbally and emotionally abused by the trainers in that gym?  Think you’ll get out of the contract?  Maybe, maybe not.  In the ever growing pile of “stuff on my facebook feed that makes me totally aggro” was this story on a site called Consumerist.  This site shares stories of people who feel they have been ripped off.  I am disappointed that the Consumerist felt the need to redact the name of the gym, although they are happy to name other companies (Kohl’s, Michaels) in other stories.  Maybe they felt that the gym was so small it might be a little too easy to figure out who the bad guys are and where they park their cars.

Anywho, the story’s victims, Shayla and Mr. Shayla joined a gym.  They took the first of their two “free personal training” sessions with a trainer who “pressured them” to sign up for personal training services.  (*Note this happens very often in some gyms.) When the couple (both plus-sized) mentioned that they were going to try on their own for a while, the trainer looks at their bellies and says, “Obviously what you’re doing so far, isn’t working.”  So Shayla and Mr. Shayla tell the manager they want a different trainer for their second (and final) free training session.  But now the first trainer is harassing Shayla and Mr. Shayla at every opportunity.  The wronged couple jumps through many hoops to try to talk to a manager.  When they finally get through, they ask to be let out of their contract.  They are denied at every level.  As Shayla says, “I am forced to watch them deduct money from my credit card each month (a portion of which, naturally, goes to my abuser), with no recourse until my contract expires.”

At the end of the article there’s an opinion poll asking:

Should the gym let Shayla out of her contract?

___No. If she doesn’t want people to point and laugh, she should lose more weight.

___No. She should wait and see whether her complaint does any good first.

___It’s her fault for not buying personal training sessions.

___Yes. Everyone should be able to find exercise that suits them in a respectful, jerk-free environment.

First of all, let me tell you that I was able to maintain the tiny thread of hope I hold out for humanity when I saw the responses–over 92 percent voted for the final “yes” response.  But I have to tell you, I thought of a few other options:

__Yes.  And if the company won’t do it, she should contact her local television station and share the story for a potential “expose” story.  Lots of stations love these stories and companies should expect public humiliation when they allow their employees to humiliate customers.

___Yes.  And Mr. and Mrs. Shayla should get x-large t-shirts printed that say, “I don’t train with [Name of personal trainer] cuz’ he’s a bully.” and hand them out in the gym parking lot.

___Yes.  And somebody should remind that gym about what happened when 24 Hour Fitness thought it was cool to put up billboards that were insulting to fat folks.

___Yes.  And redacted, my @ss.  I need the address, phone number and license plate number of that bozo that was doing the bullying!

But seriously folks, there are a few important lessons to be learned here.  One lesson is to be very, very careful when you join a gym–especially for a period of time of one year or longer.  There are many super-awesome completely reputable gyms that will give you a wonderful, safe, comfortable place to work out.  There are, unfortunately, also a number of gyms out there who just want to get you to sign a contract and  will never, ever, like for any reason, let you out of it.  They don’t care if you have a good experience.  In fact their idea of the perfect customer is the one who is a perpetual member who never, ever shows up at the gym.  Don’t believe me?  Go take a look at some of the complaints with your local Better Business Bureau.  I’ll bet at least one group is about a lousy gym with bad business practices.  Buyer beware, people.  Check out Yelp.  Google the name of the gym you are considering and the word “complaint”.  Ask around.  If you do get a contract, there should be a reasonable clause in it for both parties to opt out.  Don’t listen to any glib verbal assurances given by the salespeople.  Go with what’s written on the paper.  Consider trying the gym for a month or even three before signing up with a contract.  If there are no month to month or even 3-month options, consider this a red flag and check even closer into the gym’s practices.  Again many gyms are awesome, but some clearly are not.  Be careful.

And finally, yay for Shayla and Mr. Shayla for standing up for themselves.  There is no excuse for any fitness professional to treat you with anything other than courtesy and respect. EVER. None.  Zero.  Nada.  If this happens to you, call it out, complain about it, but don’t put up with it.  Because people of all sizes deserve courtesy and respect.

Love,
The Fat Chick

P.S.  Looking for a safe place to work out?  How about your living room?  You could always try my live streaming classes.  They are totally cost and contract FREE!

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching–Even at the Airport

DanceLikeNobodyWatchingOkay, first you gotta watch the video.  Grab a cup of coffee and click the arrow.  It will only take a minute.

Wow, how cool is that?  We’ve all had the experience  of standing in the bloody baggage claim area after a long flight, watching that little belt go around, straining hopelessly to catch a glimpse of our long lost underwear.  But not this girl. Oh no.  She just put on some tunes and rocked out!

When was the last time you did something like that?  I think maybe it has been years and years for me.  I used to regularly engage in PAI (Public Acts of I-don’t-care-what-you-think).  When I was a kid, I was an endless source of humiliation for my poor sister.  I wore crazy hats.  I was kicked out of grocery stores.  My cousin regularly reminds me of how we used to ride around town in her convertible with the top down and me singing opera at the top of my lungs.

What happened?

Is it just because I’m older?  Have I grown wary and frightened?  Or is it because I got bigger?  Were I to dance around at the airport like that today, would people around mostly ignore me or smile gently like they do at the girl in the video?  Or would they hurl insults at me and call me names like they did a few months back at the restaurant?

But I often wonder if this is one of the most insidious repercussions for those of us who have been bullied.  How many insults can we endure before we shut down?  How many of us have had our bright, bright lights muted under bushel baskets for years and years because we have been traumatized, battered, and bruised by very public opinions about our bodies?  I continue to wonder about the squandering of those most precious resources.  Resources we desperately need in our society like energy, inspiration, spontaneity, creativity, courage and joy.  Can our world afford to throw these precious gifts away in order to sell more diet pills and gain more research funding for take home bulimia kits?  I don’t think it can.

So my friends, let’s see if we can’t find a way to get our collective mojo back.  I think exploring our inner child is a good start.  And so is collecting for radically awesome events like A Fatty Affair.  And joining fantastic groups like The Size Diversity Task Force can’t hurt either.  After being part of the SDTF, inspired me to shoot this video on a busy weekday at my local thrift store. I’m committed to doing whatever it takes.  Because hiding our light under a bushel basket doesn’t just diminish us personally, it deprives the world of our fantastic, glorious, gorgeous light, which is a crime against humanity.  So let’s see if we can’t find even more ways to pull those bushel baskets off and dance like nobody’s watching.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Ellen and the Biggest Bully

I love the Ellen show.  I love the sweet, silly nature of it.  I  love the dance breaks.  I love Ellen’s work to end bullying.  So I was so very sad when one of my readers gave me a heads up that Jillian Michaels was going to be interviewed on the Ellen show.  Sure enough, the show aired yesterday, and I am so very disappointed.  I am so sad that Ellen had professional bully Jillian Michaels on her show for a super soft interview.  First, she let Jillian go on and on about how she’s helping people with The Biggest Loser.  Please. Who exactly is Jillian helping with that show? Scientific studies have been conducted.  One of those studies indicates that people are less likely to exercise after watching The Biggest Loser.  So the show discourages exercise.  What about weight loss?  According to Yoni Freedhoff in his excellent article “When Science Met the Biggest Loser” even former contestants of the show are unlikely to keep the weight off.  There are a few, who have since made their body size into a career with lucrative speaking engagements and product endorsements who manage to stay thin.  A group of researchers including the show’s own Robert Huizenga have determined that those participating in shows like The Biggest Loser face an extremely significant metabolic slowdown after their weight loss, making it very difficulty and extremely unlikely that participants will maintain their weight loss.  Another study cited in Freedhoff’s excellent article indicates that people who watched even a single episode of The Biggest Loser led viewers to “dramatically increase their own hateful and negative biases towards those with obesity”.

So who is Jillian helping?  She’s making millions of dollars participating in a show that increases stigma against people of size, makes people less likely to exercise and espouses a weight loss method almost guaranteed to leave participants even larger in the long run.

Next, Jillian went on to complain that her role on the show is taken out of context and that people see her as a “cartoon caricature”.  Yet, in this same episode of Ellen, Jillian participates in a segment where she “yells at Ellen” and is in turn yelled at by Sean Hays for not, yelling at Ellen well enough.  The clip concludes with Ellen and Sean making sure Jillian is gone and then stuffing popcorn and donuts into their face as quickly as they can.  So if Jillian  worried about her image as the woman who yells at people a lot, she sure has a funny way of dispelling that image.  I think it important to mention the one thing in this clip that is accurate.  There are studies that indicate that shaming and bullying people is more likely to produce binge eating and other negative health habits than to encourage healthy habits.  So score one for accuracy there.  But I don’t think Jillian is misunderstood.  She is a professional bully.  She makes her living by finding new ways to humiliate and shame fat people.  She makes MILLIONS of dollars at it.  Misunderstood?  I think she’s understood only too well.  If by chance there is some shred of decency in her, if she really doesn’t believe in behaving like a cartoon villain, guess what?  All she had to do was walk away from the show and not come back.  All she had to do was turn down those big fat paychecks.  She didn’t.  She may use that “I’m helping people” line to make herself feel better, but she isn’t making people feel better.  She isn’t making people healthier.  What she’s making is money and LOTS of it.  What’s not to understand?

Then Jillian went on to a section where she busted some exercise myths.  Please.  As if Jillian Michaels is somebody we should trust to fill us in on health and fitness.  The Biggest Loser is one of the greatest perpetrators of exercise myths on the planet.  As I pointed out in two previous posts, just about everything they do on The Biggest Loser goes against solid exercise science.  And as was stated previously in this post, science indicates that The Biggest Loser does more harm than good.  Either Jillian is in agreement with what happens on The Biggest Loser which demonstrates poor analytical skills, or she’s in disagreement with what happens on The Biggest Loser and participates merely to make a buck.  Either way, this is not a person I’m going to turn to for solid advice about health and fitness.

I can’t say I’m disappointed in Jillian.  She delivered exactly the kind of nonsense I thought she would.  But I am disappointed that Ellen caved to whatever pressure was brought to bear and allowed someone like Jillian Michaels on her show.  I’m so sad that Ellen offered yet another media platform to a person who makes her living hurting and humiliating fat people.

By the way, the petition to keep kids off The Biggest Loser is still live.  If you haven’t signed yet, you still can.  Why not do it Right Now?

Love,

The Fat Chick

Biggest Loser: Part Two Corrective Guide Based on Exercise Science

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If you are doing as the advertising suggests and watching the latest season of The Biggest Loser with your family, you may have seen some stuff that is pretty disturbing.  In the first episode, we’ve got folks falling off treadmills, needing emergency medical attention and the usual Biggest Loser Barf Fest.  We’ve also got trainers yelling, screaming, insulting and bullying contestants in the hopes of helping them get in shape.  But as I suggested yesterday, this is “reality” television.  And a lot of the techniques you see on this show are the exact opposite of what we are taught as fitness professionals.   A lot of that stuff is just plain wrong.  And some of it is downright dangerous.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is just so much misinformation about health and fitness on this season of The Biggest Loser, I just can’t fit it all into one blog post.  So here on Thursday Theater day, I bring you part two.  (Click on the photo above to see a short YouTube clip for this week’s Thursday Theater).  Let’s talk just a little bit more about what you and your kids might have “learned” on the show and why it’s a really bad idea to make it part of your fitness practice.

4.  The best way to motivate somebody to get fit is to yell, scream, curse at them, and bully them.

There’s an awful lot of evidence out there that bullying, yelling, screaming, shaming, cursing at and frightening people is a terrible long term strategy for motivating them to get and stay in shape.   People tend to be drawn to things that give them pleasure and shy away from things that cause them pain.  Being publicly shamed is extremely painful for most people.  In addition, there is ample evidence that people stick to exercise longer if they are intrinsically (internally) motivated rather than those who are extrinsically (outwardly) motivated.  So a person who identifies herself as an exerciser and works out because of the benefits she sees for herself (and also happens to enjoy the workout) is far more likely stick to exercise than someone who is motivated by shame and fear, especially if that shame and fear is applied by someone outside of themselves.  After all, what are you going to do when there isn’t a crazy mean lady who gets paid millions of dollars to scream at you every day.  Eventually you have to do it by yourself.  And you’ll have a much better chance of doing it yourself if you’ve built up the inner strength and self-esteem to be your own cheerleader.

And lest you be tempted to bully your kids into losing weight, let me tell you right now that this is likely to backfire.  Recent evidence indicates that kids being bullied from any source, be it school playgrounds, teachers, coaches and parents is likely to make kids engage in healthy behaviors and may make them gain more weight in the long run.  Not to mention the fact that kids who are bullied tend to have lower grades and poorer school attendance.  Being bullied frankly messes kids up, sometimes permanently.  If your kid is being bullied at school because he is fat, the last thing you should do is be another bully in his life.

5.  It is normal, feasible and desirable for a person to lose 10, 15 or over 20 pounds in one week.

When I was studying to be a personal trainer, I learned that there are two ways to lose 20 pounds in one week–dehydration and decapitation.  The weight loss levels on the Biggest Loser are not reasonable or sustainable by most people.  Furthermore there have been some suggestions that the length of a “week” (as long as 15 days) as well as hydration levels (including dehydrating contestants to the point of urinating blood) are manipulated to make it look like contestants are losing more weight.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, suggests losing no more than 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. They suggest you may lose a few more pounds in the first 3 weeks of a program, but should not try to sustain weight losses at that level for more than two or three weeks without serious medical supervision.

Rapid weight loss can lead to a variety of health problems including gallstones, dehydration, dizziness, depression, and loss of lean muscle including heart muscle.  If you goal is health, the last thing in the world you want to do is lose lean muscle mass.  And losing muscle mass in your heart can be seriously dangerous.

Long story short, it’s not really safe or sustainable to lose more than two pounds per week at home.

To sum up, The Biggest Loser is a commercial television show on a for-profit network.  Press releases, promotional video and pompous rhetoric aside, their main goal is to make money.  Television shows make money by having better ratings.  Losing 1/2 pound per week in a rational sustainable way may be the healthiest option, but it makes for lousy TV.  Please take these facts into consideration as you watch the show, and decide whether or not to use anything on that show as a guide for your own health practice.  Because what makes for good TV may not make for a healthy body.  Please let common sense be your guide.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S.  If you are upset that The Biggest Loser has chosen to take on “childhood obesity” this season, consider signing our petition here.

If you’re looking for sensible and rational assistance for your exercise efforts, consider joining The Fat Chick’s Personal Training Programs.  If you sign up before January 14, you can try any of my training programs for just $25.  We’re also offering special training groups on the Fit Fatties Forum starting at just $10 per month!

There is a lot of very detailed and specific information about how to build a safe and pleasurable exercise regime found in my book The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of all Ages, Shapes, Sizes and Abilities).  You can pick up an autographed copy for just $16.95 (plus S+H) on my website.

Also remember that a little exercise adds up to a lot over time.  And exercise is more fun when you do it together.  So you might want to consider adding your exercise totals to our Fit Fatties Across America program.  We’re pooling all of our exercise minutes and miles as we make our way across the country.  We went 167 miles in the first few days of the program, and we’re hoping to reach St. Louis this week!  Make sure to enter your exercise data by noon on Friday to count towards this week’s totals!

Sit Down Piggy

Look, I captured a (feline) bully.

“Sit down piggy.  You just sit yourself down you fat b@#$ch!”  My mouth hung open as I heard these words leveled at me at a local restaurant. I asked, “Excuse me?  What did you say?” and the tirade went on and on.  Seriously.  They called me piggy and fat b!@#ch over and over again. Apparently these two young mothers (apparently sisters) didn’t have a whole lot of interesting things to say.  (Frankly, I’ve faced more creative bullying from 8-year-old kids.)  So, not knowing anything about me, they grasped at the one insult they felt sure would leave me dejected and destroyed.  But it didn’t quite work.  Neither dejected nor destroyed, I simply stood my ground, and looked at them and asked, “What is the matter with you people?”
I could go into a long drawn out story about how we got to this moment.  Two birthday parties right next to one another in a very crowded restaurant.  We could hash out details about  who gave whom a dirty look and which children were running amok.  And so on.  And so on.  But I can tell you that after everyone else in their party had left, and on their way out the door these two women, walked by our table and said, “I hope you enjoy your party, you b$#ches!”  Which led me to walk up to them and say, “Excuse me?”.  Thus launching them into the tiresome and oh so repetitive “fat piggy” tirade.

Like so many of us, I had a severe attack of staircase wit afterwards.  I thought of 1,000 things I wish I had said about the wonderful example they were setting for their darling children, the fact that they were willing to go to unbelievable lengths to avoid taking any personal responsibility for anything, and their astonishing lack of creativity in the playground taunting department.  But you know what I really wish?  I wish I had recorded them on my camera phone.  I wish I could save that moment and share it with the world.  I wish I could show others exactly what people of size put up with every day.  Because I know this happens every day.

In this particular situation, I knew I was headed into a minefield.  I was confronting someone who had bullied me.  But so often, while minding our own business, walking down the street, shopping at a grocery store or riding a bike, we face bullying and teasing and harsh words for no reason at all.  We are mooed at.  We have people comment about the contents of our plates or our shopping carts.  We have insults hurled at us from speeding cars.  And I could go on and on about the unspeakably horrible things people leave in the comments sections of our pages and blogs and online profiles.  Those of us who are fat, know this.  We know that abuse happens all the time.  And it happens to nearly all of us at one time or another.

But many folks who are average sized or thin, do not know about this abuse.  They have no idea what fat people go through.  I suspect many of them would be horrified if they saw this behavior.  And I think if they saw this with their own eyes on a blog or on YouTube, some of them just might choose to rally behind us fatties.

So the next time this happens, I hope I have the presence of mind to channel my inner documentary filmmaker, pull out my cell phone and record that nonsense for posterity.  I’ll let the world see the ugliness these bullies throw down.  Future bullies had just better watch out.  They may become an unwitting star in my big fat reality show.

And if you just happen to capture on your cell phone some video of the bullies being nasty, closed minded and possibly not very creative towards you, could you send me a link the video?  Just send the link to jeanette@thefatchick.com and put “I captured a bully” in the subject line.  I’m putting together a little project called “capture the bullies” to shine a light on this ongoing hateful nonsense.

In any case, it’s important to keep in mind that no matter what, we don’t have to let the bullies rule our lives and we don’t have to let them win.  Because as I along with several others have pointed out via Ragen Chastain’s amazing project, we are better than the bullies.

Stay strong my friends.

Love,

The Fat Chick