Tag Archives: NAAFA

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)

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.


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 Episode 16: The Fat and Proud Project

fatandproudJLDIn episode 16 of the Right Now Show we discuss the Size Diversity Task Force’s New “Fat and Proud” project.  We also talk about why The Fat Chick has chosen to reclaim the word “fat” and how we can use that word to describe but not to define us as people.  Enjoy!

You can learn more about why Jeanette calls herself The Fat Chick on her website here:

You can learn more about the Fat and Proud project and download the page templates on the Size Diversity Task Force Web page here:

Learn more about the Size Diversity Task Force here:

Read a fascinating discussion about how one organization is coping with the word “fat” on Ragen Chastain’s awesome blog right here:

Subscribe to the Right Now Show here:

Become my friend on facebook here:

And join my mailing list here:


The Fat Chick

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!


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!)


Book me to speak at your special event!

Taking Back the Beach

Well kids, it’s been a video kinda week. But I wanted to share this amazing skit I created with my LA Rad Fatty Friends. It was super fun! Here’s the text in case you have trouble making out even one word of the awesomeness!

East of the ocean and south of the bay
Lies the land where NAAFALANs frolic and play
On playgrounds and beaches and all public spaces
With joy in their hearts and smiles on their faces.

Today, the NAAFALAns swarmed on the beach
With a spring in their hair and a song in their speech.
They gathered with skips, with giggles, with squeals.
Our own gnomie even sped on four wheels.

In swimsuits, trunks, muumuus, bikinis:
They gathered around to swim and roast weenies.
Finally came the fat rainbows twins —
Indistinguishable to all but very close friends.

Every NAFFALAN creature liked swimming a lot
But Sue, not a NAFFALAN, felt she could not.
Sure, Sue loved swimming: the splashing, the hats.
But didn’t, for the MeMes had called her too fat.

It could be the MeMes were hungry and dizzy
And that’s why they spouted such hate on the TVs.
No matter the reason, no MeMe would rest
Till all fatty bodies stayed inside and dressed.

With all of her belly, our girl loved to swim,
She wanted to splash with the hers and the hims.
Watching the NAAFALANS, she wanted to play
But the MeMes on TVs said, “Nay! Nay! And NAY!”

“You’re much too big, too threatening, too gaudy.
Please spare us the sight of your fat, happy body!
If you’re looking for fun, just do what I do:
Wear a super tight girdle and chug low-carb goo.”

Our girl sat back down, convinced to stay put
When suddenly, something rolled onto her foot.
The NAAFALANS had lost their big round beach ball.
It was curvy and bouncy and fun like them all.

“Hey,” said one NAAFALAN, who’d come for the toy,
“Wanna play at the beach with us fat girls and boys?
We’ve munchies and swimming and games that we play.
We’re a size-diverse group we call NAAFA-LA.”

Well, Sue stood up cautiously, looking around,
Then the MeMes on TVs yelled, “Sit yourself down!
Can you bear all the staring, the whispers, the looks?
Better stay in your parlor and just read a good book.”

All of the NAAFALANS sat there and happily giggled.
They patted their tummies and watched while they jiggled.
“If you want to go swimming,” they said with a smile.
“Fight and unite with us, do it with style.

“Your body’s a temple, deserving of praise.
Feed it and move it in all kinds of fun ways.
Show off its beauty, adorn it with pride.
This is no time to cower or shiver or hide!

They skipped to the beach, hand in plump hand,
To nibble and frolic and play on the sand.
Sue took a deep breath and, taking a chance,
Joined with the NAAFALANS in a beach party dance.

[Dance break]

The Memes went crazy and just kept on screaming
“After all that we’ve told you, the nagging and scheming,
You choose to defy us and put on display
Your tummies, and thighs and arms as you play?

“You bet!” all the NAAFALANS shouted with glee
“Your words no longer have power over me.
We’ll laugh as you yell and smile while you preach,
Because the NAAFALANS, my dear, just took back the beach!”

The Fat Chick

The National Weight Control Registry: Oh look, a Unicorn

Results not typical…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard several people advance the National Weight Control Registry as evidence that people can permanently lose weight.  To take just two cases, It is currently prominently featured on the Weight of the Nation website and it was thrown at Julianne Wotasik and I during our interview on Dr. Drew’s show earlier this week.  Add to that, my new friend Angela sending her amazing slides for a new UK lecture on the NWCR and a blog post seemed kind of inevitable…

The National Weight Control Registry is a list of about 10,000 people who are at or above age eighteen who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year.  There are follow up studies done on subsets of the group over time.  But in order to initially qualify for this group you must only meet three criteria: be 18 or older, show an initial weight loss of over 30 pounds, and maintain at least 30 lbs of your initial weight loss for one year.  As I mentioned on Dr. Drew’s show, I would have qualified for the NWCR at least two different times in my life.  But alas, after the one or two year point, I regained my weight plus a little.  (It was only when I stopped weight cycling that I have been able to maintain a steady, albeit higher weight.)

There’s lots of argument back and forth about the level of regain among participants.  One follow up study from 2003 indicated that among the subset self selected for the review, over 70 percent had regained some weight over the two years of the study.  Granted, most of them had retained a significant percentage of their weight loss at this point, but “recovery from even minor weight gain was uncommon”.

But here’s the main thing folks.  The National Weight Control Registry is a study of a very, very small, self-selected sample of people who have lost some weight and kept some of it off.  The study was never designed to apply to a general population– “Because this is not a random sample of those who attempt weight loss, the results have limited generalizability to the entire population of overweight and obese individuals.”  So this is a study of what a very small percentage of people in the United States did in order to lose weight (lots of different things) and keep some of it off.  Sure there have been glowing reports of what these folks have in common in maintaining some weight loss.  Most severely restrict calories, exercise daily and weigh weekly.  And many media outlets have shouted about the fact that most of these folks eat breakfast every day!  (Since I’ve eaten breakfast every day for my entire life, and I’m still waiting for the magic weight loss to appear, I kinda wonder if this breakfast thing has a causal relationship with weight loss.  But I digress…)

When I say the NWCR is a small sample, I mean it.  At any given time, over 70 million Americans are trying to lose weight for good.  The NWCR lists 10,000 who have managed to log some success in that regard.  We’re talking about a .00014 percent success rate here.  As a point of comparison, over 500,000 people completed a marathon last year.  And when it comes to an Ironman race (that’s a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run all completed in less than 17 hours with no break) estimates run as high as 25,000 projected participants for this year.  So why aren’t we suggesting that all Americans compete in marathons or even Ironman competitions to be healthy?  After all, our sample sizes for successful people are 2.5 to 50 TIMES HIGHER than those listed in the NWCR.  And since 25,000 people have managed to complete an Ironman, it’s clearly possible, right?  Maybe those half million marathoners need to learn from the techniques of the Ironmen and just suck it up and do it.  Anybody who doesn’t want to exercise for 17 hours straight is clearly a slacker.

We don’t suggest everyone compete in marathons and triathlons and Ironmans because it’s ridiculous.  We know that not everyone has the time, health, money or inclination to train the average 40 miles per week clocked by mere marathoners not to mention the hundreds of miles clocked by Ironmen.  While I adored my marathon training and am extremely glad I did it, I just don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to marathon training on top of all of the other fitness classes I’m teaching right now.  And with plenty of research indicating that a mere 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is all that is necessary to achieve extremely significant health goals, I’m happy too treasure my medals and move on.  And since there is also plenty of research indicating that I can be happy and healthy by engaging in moderate healthy behaviors without significant weight loss, I’m happy to do that too and just get on with my life.

So my dear little chicklettes, I no longer qualify for the NWCR.  Maybe you don’t qualify either, but that’s okay.  Why not join my extremely exclusive Fat Chick Clique instead?  It’s totally free, you get to get free stuff, and you can live your life however you want.  Cuz’ that’s just how I roll.


The Fat Chick

What we Said BEFORE Meme came on…

Hi everybody.  There’s been a lot of talk about Meme’s hate speech approach to people of size on Dr. Drew’s show yesterday.  And I want to especially thank Ragen for standing up for Julianne and I.  I DO think it represents a minimal step forward that hosts feel the need to have people like Ms. Roth on the show.  In the past, the host would have simply belittled and mocked us directly.  So I think the fact that hosts are bringing in a proxy to do the fat bashing represents a small but significant shift in public opinion. (YAY!)   But before the clip that’s currently highlighted on the HLN site, Julianne and I did get to say quite a lot and I want to share it here.

Thanks so much to everybody for all your support and cheering. It’s hard to be up there in the lights being attacked. But I know we can bear it because we have such a strong, POSITIVE, SUPPORTIVE community behind us.

Now it’s time to share a little of that love. I suspect that HLN chose that clip to highlight on their site because they thought it was the most outrageous and would solicit the most comments. So I’d like to ask you to go to that comments page and share some positive thoughts about size acceptance and HAES. Here’s the link. I think saying negative things about Ms. Roth will only encourage them to have her on again as she “solicits a strong response”. So I’m going to suggest that you refrain from bashing her in the comments. If you need moral support, please see Ragen’s excellent and wonderful post here.

I think it would be more helpful to shift the focus somewhat and say something positive about size acceptance or how something said about size acceptance resonated with you or was helpful to you.  Sorry to give you MORE HOMEWORK, my little chicklettes but we still got a long row to hoe.  But before you leave here’s how Julianne most beautifully and eloquently got in the last word:


The Fat Chick