A regular fat guy on Southwest

I’m a fat guy but not supersized*. The same is true of movie director and podcaster Kevin Smith. On Valentine’s Day a few years ago, Smith was booted off a Southwest Airlines flight because it was full and he hadn’t reserved a second seat. Kevin cried foul, but despite his efforts, Southwest won that media battle. Even so, it (and other negative attention they got for being mean to passengers) might have gotten them to think about how they treat people, because a couple years after that incident they updated their fat passenger policy so that people who need two seats are encouraged to buy the second while reserving their flight, but if they don’t do so and still need an extra seat when they check in, they will get it for free. And based on reports from fatties in the field, including this one, Southwest really has gotten better.

I’m 6’0″, 260 pounds, and fit into a single airplane seat, so none of this should matter to me (except as it affects those I care about). But Kevin Smith also fit into a single seat, and Southwest decided to treat him as if he were committing fatty terrorism anyway. I don’t want to be fucked with the way Smith was.

So when I was making travel plans from San Jose to San Diego (on business), and found out that Southwest was basically the only choice, I got worried. I posted to the Fat Forward group on facebook to see what others’ experiences were, and was told that Southwest is now pretty good toward fat people, and I shouldn’t expect any problems. I took my flights in February, and all went well. One thing that helped was that I bought early-bird check-in, so I was in the first of the regular boarding groups, and was able to snag a nice window seat. It was even maybe a bit more civilized than most boarding experiences because of the way Southwest makes people line up.

The real test will be my next business trip, which will be to Seattle, and on which Tante Terri will be accompanying me. I will keep you guys posted.

*My doorway into fat acceptance was that I am attracted to fat women.

Skepchick and Two Forms of Weight Stigma

I know I’ve been linking to Skepchick a lot. That’s because, when it comes to size acceptance, they are not preaching to the choir as I am, but rather bringing size acceptance to an audience that is less aware of it. Today’s post is about weight stigma conversations, and it’s by Olivia, who is not fat. She categorizes weight stigma in an interesting and new way. I’ve long felt that thin allies were welcome in a conversation on weight stigma (except see below), and I’ve known that thin people were also harmed by weight stigma, but I’ve never formally split this stigma into two categories before, and I’m finding it helpful.

I will say, though, that if there are two kings of weight stigma, and the conversation at hand is about the kind that only fat people experience (fatphobia), then it’s probably not the best idea for a thin person to insert her/his opinion on it, or to steer the discussion to body dissatisfaction.


Quick Link: Depression, Side Effects, and Skepchick

In the interest of strengthening the links between fatties and skeptics, I am once again posting a link to a post on Skepchick. This one is by Elyse, is called Doctors vs Orgasms, and is about a series of discussions with her doctor about medications and their side effects. The reason I’m linking to it is that one of the side effects is weight gain, a possibility considered to horrifying to consider by the doctor, although not by Elyse. The lessons here are (a) anti-fat bias hurts thin people like Elyse as well, and (b) sometimes it’s best to stand up to one’s doctor.


Lots of Fatties

In fatness news, there’s been some talk about how there are now a lot fewer fat children ages 2 to 5, and how wonderful that is. Here’s the study: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1832542, and here’s a (mostly) glowing report on it: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/26/health/obesity-rate-for-young-children-plummets-43-in-a-decade.html. And, of course, anti-fat warriors have questioned the significance of the decrease: http://www.forbes.com/sites/geoffreykabat/2014/02/27/how-credible-is-cdcs-43-percent-decline-in-obesity-in-young-children/

In this case, I think the anti-fatties are right in that the decline is not important. And the prior increases in fatness are also not important, although the fat haters don’t agree with that. The really interesting outcome of this study to me is that the rate of fatness has been essentially constant for nearly all age groups over the past 10 years. That means that there’s no big fat crisis on the horizon; the “crisis” is here, and it turns out to be no big deal. (By the way, the billions of health care costs due to fatties? Most of that is really due to failed weight-loss attempts, and is therefore caused by hatred of fat rather than fatness itself.) The leveling off of this trend, which dates from just after World War II, means that we’ve already shown that we as a society can deal (however imperfectly) with the current level of fatness.

This post by Paul Campos puts this latest news into perspective: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116774/childhood-obesity-rate-declines-dont-give-michelle-obama-credit

Personally, I’m not concerned with the fatness rate because, as I said above, we already know that it’s no big deal. Also, keep in mind that many of the stated causes of the fatness trend, such as the green revolution in agriculture, television, and the ever-increasing array of electronic distractions, are for the most part good things that have made lives better.


I just want to ask people to think before they say something (whether you think it is helpful or not) to anyone else about size and/or weight – how would you feel if someone said that to or in front of the fat people in your family, at your workplace, among your friends?

Given the statistics about how many people are fat, it is hard to believe that there is anyone who does not have at least one fat person in their life whom they care about, on some level.  Whether it’s the fat nurse who helped when you or your mom was sick; the fat checkout person who always asks how you’re doing, your fat aunt who always remembered your birthday, your fat grandma who gives the best hugs in the world, your fat uncle or grandpa who always had time for you, the fat person at work who is willing to help you when you’re overloaded, the fat sister or brother who stood up for you when somebody was picking on you – there is someone in your life who is fat and who you would hate to see hurt, treated unfairly, or disrespected.

So remember, that the fat kid you want to tease, the fat lady at the beach, the fat man at the restaurant – these are people, people who deserve kindness and respect, just like the fat people you know and care about.

Just saying.


Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are linked with fat people and thin people, and the general belief that you can tell by looking at someone if that person has an eating disorder. So better understanding of such disorders leads to better understanding of their relationship (or lack thereof) with fatness and thinness.

On a related note, I keep getting surprised by how much Skepchick overlaps with size acceptance and related stuff like eating disorders, and it happened again today. So rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s a great post by Olivia for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: http://skepchick.org/2014/02/national-eating-disorder-awareness-week-myths/


I could scream.

A study to validate a protocol meant to calculate population-level estimated energy requirements and physical activity is now being touted by its lead researcher (Edward Archer – zooming to the top of my “You’ve got to be kidding” list) as revealing that fat women get only 1 hour of “vigorous” exercise a year (fat men get 3.6 hours per year).




Archer’s comments include:

“They’re living their lives from one chair to another.”

“We didn’t realize we were that sedentary. There are some people who are vigorously active, but it’s offset by the huge number of individuals who are inactive.”

“… some are moving probably a fair amount. But the vast majority [of people] are not moving at all.”

“I think they’re living the typical life. They drive their children to school, they sit at a desk all day long, they may play some video games and they go to sleep.”

Biased, much?

The definition of “vigorous” exercise was very limited in the study. The researchers themselves admitted that the device used to track activity did not measure some beneficial activities swimming or biking very well.  Nor did the study take into consideration fitness levels.

As John Jakicic, chair of the department of health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh, points out, for some very obese people, for instance, just general walking could be considered vigorous.

Archer also says, “People don’t understand that [you] don’t have to go to the gym and lift weights and run marathons to have dramatic impacts on your body. Standing rather than sitting, walking rather than taking your car, they have huge impacts on your health over time.”

Of course, these are all activities that Archer’s own study would not be able to measure.  Hmmm.

Fuck you very much, Edward Archer.

Skepchick, Teen Skepchick, and Fat Positivity

Here’s another great fat-positive post on Skepchick, cross-posted from Teen Skepchick. Since Skepchick is not a fat acceptance blog as such, I’m always pleased when they venture into that realm, and to me they have the right attitude about it, unlike some in the skeptical community. This post captures the moment when the writer looked at a photo “of myself trying to look as defiantly fat and righteously angry and confident as I could, and for the first time in my life I felt legitimate pride in my body.” It’s a big step on the road to self acceptance. Read more here: http://skepchick.org/2014/02/cross-post-modesty-fat-shaming-and-me-in-a-bikini/

Skepchick on Weight Stigma

    We’ve talked before in this space about skepticism, here and here. Fat activists need to be skeptics when it comes to media reports about the science of fatness as it relates to health. That sort of science requires statistics.

    But statistics aren’t needed to prove the existence of something; just some reliable, first-hand accounts. Case in point: A couple of months back, Skepchick, a blog that looks at the intersection of feminism and skepticism, had a post on weight stigma, mostly to show that it simply exists. (The skepticism in this case is toward the received wisdom that fatties arent stigmatized, or if they are that they deserve it.) It links to other blog posts, as well as studies, to prove its point. The post does good work by getting the idea of fat acceptance as a good thing into the minds of a new audience. It’s weird to me that people deny the existence of fat stigma, but hopefully that post and others posted during Weight Stigma Awareness Week (which I totally missed; sorry) will turn people around. (Usual cautions apply regarding the comments, although they seem less hateful than usual.)


Here’s a study where they

1.         Overfed some sheep for 3 or 4 months, making them fat

2.         Put some of the fat sheep on a diet shortly before getting all of the sheep pregnant

3.         Studied the fetuses and lambs.



Can you guess what they claim this research shows?

It supposedly shows us negative effects on a baby who has a naturally fat mother; and how even if the naturally fat mother loses weight before conception, there will still be negative effects on the baby being born to a woman who used to be fatter.

Never mind that none of the sheep were naturally fat; never mind that all but the control sheep underwent overfeeding for months before breeding; never mind that some of the sheep were put on diets shortly before breeding.  Never mind that overfeeding and/or underfeeding the sheep is going to create unnatural stresses on the sheep’s body.

The only thing they learned with this research is:  Don’t overfeed sheep shortly before breeding them or the lambs may have slightly wonky insulin signaling, even if you put your sheep on a diet shortly before breeding.

But their conclusion is

Our findings highlight the sensitivity of the epigenome to maternal nutrition around conception and the need for dietary interventions that maximize metabolic benefits and minimize metabolic costs for the next generation.

So according to these yahoos – if fat women insist on having babies, they still need to lose weight but the dietary intervention has to not fuck up her metabolism (which, of course, we know diets do) which might fuck up the baby’s metabolism (which, of course, nobody wants) – and, of course, nobody really knows how to do that, so in the meantime we’ll just fuck up some sheep and lamb metabolism for shits and giggles, because as long as we keep saying fat is bad somebody will pay us to do it.

And that’s how our fucked up society leads to some fucked up research.