September NAAFA Newsletter

I forgot to post the link to this month’s NAAFA newsletter last week; sorry about that. But here it is, and I’ve pre-clicked for you so that the link below takes you straight to the fat news. Enjoy!

Fat news through July 27, 2016

We’re back, and talking about fatties again!

July 20, 2016: Emily Baines discusses a run-in between Whitney Way Thore (star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life) and comedian Kerryn Feehan (first link), when Feehan made some fat-phobic remarks during a guest appearance on a radio show where Thore interned. Thore continues to be an activist for positive body image and has a TedX talk on the subject (second link).

July 22, 2016: People with lipodystrophy, a rare genetic disorder, are thin but suffer from the same conditions that are associated with being fat such as high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and type 2 diabetes. Scientists have found a clue into why some fat people are metabolically healthy and how this knowledge could help everyone be healthier.

July 24, 2016: Laura Bogart is fat, and she is okay with that. She shares her journey to fat acceptance and the lessons learned along the way. (Comments on this page are the usual sort of fat shaming, though.)

July 27, 2016: Ka Leo O Hawai’i, the campus newspaper of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, explains that the body positive movement is not the promotion of fatness, but rather a “feel-good cause” for people who don’t fit society’s ideal.

Fat news through July 15, 2016

Here’s the latest in our (roughly) weekly series, bringing you the latest news and research that affects us fatties.

July 8, 2016: A study finds that increased BMI is not associated with higher morbidity or mortality for hospitalized patients, whereas being underweight is an independent predictor for hospital complications.

July 10, 2016: A market research firm claims that Americans are shifting their focus from weight loss and dieting to health, which is hurting the diet industry. One can only hope.

July 12, 2016: Several past studies have shown a link between artificial sweeteners and increased appetite. Now, researchers in Australia show that these sweeteners trigger a neuronal fasting response, explaining the increased motivation to eat.

July 13, 2016: A meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies on four continents shows increased mortality among overweight and obese people. Although people with chronic disease, smokers, and those who died in the first five years of the study were filtered out, there was no correction for other confounding variables such as socioeconomic status or ethnicity.

July 14, 2016: A recent study finds that one in five “healthy” weight Americans has prediabetes, a sharp increase from 20 years prior. Although abdominal fat has also increased, it does not appear to be the primary cause of this.

July 15, 2016: Diet firm Herbalife gets hit with a $200 million fine for unfair and deceptive practices, and is told it needs to restructure its business. The fine is due to Herbalife operating like a pyramid scheme.

Fat news through July 5, 2016

Sorry, folks; we missed a couple of weeks. But it’s OK, we’re getting caught up right now. Also, just to let you know, we pull story links from Facebook, Tumblr, Yahoo Groups, and other places, but to be honest it’s mostly Facebook these days as there has grown a wonderful network of fat positive people who are finding great stories and studies for us.

Some more honesty: I don’t recall where I got the link about Lizzo, probably from a Facebook friend, but I was really pleased to see Tante Terri take it and run in her recent blog post. Yay, Terri!

So, off we go!

November 26, 2015: Rapper and singer Lizzo’s song “My Skin” celebrates living in your own skin with a music video featuring fat women (first link). As part of the Underneath video project (second link), Lizzo talks about being a fat woman as she removes clothing, wig and makeup showing the beautiful woman underneath.

June 19, 2016: Kath Read gives JC Penney’s video for its new plus-size clothing a rave review, urging other companies to learn from what Penney is doing right in its marketing to the fat community.

June 22, 2016: Substantia Jones and her various projects are highlighted in an article about her current adventure, traveling through the Southern Hemisphere photographing fat people in the nude.

June 24, 2016: Charlotte Cooper provides a basic do and don’t list for healthcare practitioners when dealing with a fat patient, as well as some suggestions on how the fat person can recover after a bad run-in with the healthcare profession. Also, check out NAAFA’s guidelines on the same subject (2nd link) and Stef’s list of fat friendly healthcare professionals (3rd link).

June 27, 2016: A Swedish study find that irrespective of access to health care, socioeconomic status is a predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality among people with type 2 diabetes (first link). A related commentary (second link) states that addressing socioeconomic disadvantage may help us better treat type 2 diabetes.

June 29, 2016: An analysis of multiple data sets finds that eating butter has little or no effect on mortality, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. An inverse (protective) effect may exist in relation to diabetes and thus more research is urged to explore the health effects of butter and dairy fat.

June 29, 2016: Brynne Huffman’s Facebook response to a woman who dissed Brynne for wearing shorts goes viral. Here’s hoping that the woman has read it and has learned a lesson about acceptance.

July 5, 2016: Katie Clark explains what it means to be a fat person living in a fatphobic society and why body-shaming is not about health concerns but about buy-in to stereotypes and body policing.

July 5, 2016: Lindy West, author of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, came out as a fat woman to friends and co-workers, confronting her boss on his derogatory comments about fat people. Talking about the discrimination faced at the workplace by fat people, she urges that employers embrace a “no body talk” policy.

Fat news through June 14, 2016

Courtesy of me and Tante Terri . . .

May 25, 2016: Artist and activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater presents a talk on the word “fat” and how existing in a fat body can be a radical political statement.

June 2016: A letter to the editor published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings takes the publication to task for categorizing body fat percentage as a healthy lifestyle behavior in a previous article. Unfortunately, the letter continues with hand-wringing about the “war on obesity”.

June 8, 2016: A small study comparing weight loss intervention and weight-neutral health intervention finds that a weight-neutral intervention can yield many health benefits without weight loss, and those benefits are sustainable over a 2 year follow-up period.

June 13, 2016: Katherine DM Clover shares her struggle upon losing thin privilege and relearning to love her body when she became a fat person.

June 14, 2016: London mayor Sadiq Khan bans ads that feature or promote unhealthy body images or are fat-shaming from the London public transportation system.

June 14, 2016: The Aspire Assist device, a tube to the exterior of the body through which one can remove up to a third of the stomach’s contents, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The second link is for a petition demanding the FDA withdraw its approval for this device.

June 14, 2016: Researchers look at five weight-loss medications approved by the FDA and find that none of them are particularly effective.

Fat news through June 7, 2016

Hey, friends! Whaliam here, along with Tante Terri, bringing you this week’s fat news, with a couple of very cool items this time. Enjoy! (or not, as applicable)

May 23, 2016: More survivors from The Biggest Loser talk about what was going on behind the scenes while they were on the show and the long term damage to their lives.

June 2016: The Berkeley Public Library presents Fat Positive Summer Festival, a series of events starting June 22 featuring lecturer and fat activist Virgie Tovar, as well as a group of short films and readings.

June 3, 2016: Doctors’ bias towards fat people can be deadly. When a doctor blames all health issues on excess weight, real health problems go untreated and fat patients wait for treatment until small problems become serious health issues.

June 5, 2016: Curvy Girl Lingerie owner Chrystal believes women of all sizes have the right to feel sexy and have hot sex, and we agree!

June 7, 2016: The latest CDC survey shows a slight upswing in obesity rates, particularly for women. An accompanying editorial published in JAMA wants to blame the food and restaurant industry and believes focus on prevention is the best way to move forward, despite the failure of most interventions used to date.

June 7, 2016: Lina Cohen lets the readers of Teen Vogue know what it is like going to the doctor’s office when you are fat teen. She advocates finding doctors who respect you and treat you with dignity and preferably are onboard with HAES principles.

Fat news through May 29, 2016

News flashes to inspire flashes of anger and (alternatively) joy, as appropriate, from Tante Terri and me.

May 8, 2016: Lindy West talks about her life starting as a baby with an “off-the-charts” large head, growing up as a fat child, and finding herself as a fat adult, as she promotes her book Shrill.

May 18, 2016: The Succulent Six, a fabulous group of fat women from Toronto, did a photo shoot to celebrate International No Diet Day and create a visual message on fat acceptance and fighting food shaming.

May 19, 2016: Buzzfeed asks members why they stopped dieting, and here are some of the answers.

May 20, 2016: Some viewers of UK TV show This Morning complain that the show is promoting obesity after an interview with Tess Holliday. (Tess was actually promoting body positivity, which we support.)

May 23, 2016: Facebook apologizes for banning an advertisement by Cherchez la Femme featuring a photo of Tess Holliday in a bikini because it depicts “body parts in an undesirable manner”.

May 23, 2016: Various scientists, doctors, and professors criticize a (non-peer reviewed) report by the National Obesity Forum that claims that adding more fat to one’s diet could cut obesity and type 2 diabetes.

May 25, 2016: A recent study finds that fat flyers are bothered more by the stigma they suffer when flying than by actual discomfort of small seats and seatbelts.

May 25, 2016: Based on self-reported data, a new report by the CDC estimates that 30.4% of the population (20 and over) are classified as obese, up slightly from 2014 (29.9%).

May 25, 2016: Skeptic Rebecca Watson misses the point on the news regarding The Biggest Loser, in stating that the research claimed that significant weight loss is impossible, rather than very rare. She also claims the study involves too small of a group, while ignoring that this study only adds to previous research on the subject of long term weight loss.

May 29, 2016: Writing for The Irish Times, Muiris Houston calls into question the wisdom of using BMI as a measure of health, since the overweight classification is associated with a lower mortality rate than any other classification.

Flying Fatties, or My Response to Responses to the Fat Flying Issue

I know, I know: this is SO last week. However, I couldn’t resist adding my own interpretation of HOW people have been responding to the Kevin Smith incident. In case you’ve been spending all your spare time in Farmville, here’s a brief recap: Kevin Smith, famed director of such gems as Chasing Amy and Dogma, was recently tossed off a Southwest flight for being too fat. Happily for us fatties, a media storm ensued and many fat activists got to share our perspectives in the public sphere. Of course, many other people chimed in as well. Below is my response to one person’s compassionate, but thin-centric, article on the subject.
I’ve been thinking about this article and how to best respond to it. Most of me thinks I should just give the author the thumbs up and move on, since ultimately, he came from a place of compassion and should be commended for that. I always honor people who want to learn more about their own privileges and about the groups who suffer as a result of that privilege. However, if he or others are interested in hearing what a fat advocate (read: me) says about this issue, I am happy to oblige.
The author, like most liberal/progressive peeps who have publicly discussed this issue and achieved some kind of recognition (the fatties tend to get swept under the carpet, not shockingly), comes from a self-aware position of compassion and generosity. Yes, the thinking goes, we thin progressives are inconvenienced, BUT fatties are ever-present in our ever-expanding U.S.; therefore, we need to start thinking about how this social problem will affect us. More specifically, the question about making fatties pay more in retaliation for infringeing on the rights of the thin folks (and it all boils down to that, no matter how kindly it’s stated) becomes the chief point of contention.
In short, this is what most people seem to be debating: How much are thin people willing to put up with before they agree to make fatties pay?
In my world, the question of whether to charge fatties more misses the point(s) entirely. It’s letting the privileged peeps control the tone and content of the discussion, and it always leaves the ones most affected, the fat folks, on the defensive. (This is inevitable, of course, when privileged folks focus, as they too often do, on how others’ rights infringe on their own.)
I have a couple of really basic points:
1. Discussions of this issue tend to center around the rights of thin peeps not to be touched/infringed on by fatties. Wouldn’t it be a lovely thing if the core of our discussions could instead address how everyone could achieve maximum comfort? How is it okay for people to talk about flyers’ rights of comfort and EXCLUDE the comforts and rights of the very group we’re addressing as “the problem”? When did our rights to comfort get dropped from the conversation?
2. Fat people make convenient scapegoats. It’s easier to lash out at a fatty for supposedly eating wrong, not exercising, being unhealthy, driving up healthcare costs, taking up too much public space, and so on, than to demand that institutions accommodate everyone’s rights. The fact is, airline seats have been getting progressively smaller while our Americans butts stay the same or slightly expand. How is it we’re not rioting against these greedy, capitalist a-holes? I guess because these greedy a-holes have done such a grand job of pinning this entire topic — the whole issue of  airplane comfort — onto the hips, thighs, and butts of fatties!
Here’s a very brief and faboo discussion of this issue by fat rights super-shero Marilyn Wann:
And in case anyone is listening, or cares, fat people don’t like to be pressed up against thin people, either. I don’t care if their hygiene is great or not, they’re chatty or not, or they have a child or not; I deserve the right to space and comfort, especially when I’m paying so much money (and earning less money than my thinner counterparts, but that’s another topic). It’s a shame no one ever thinks to ask fat people about our comfort and experiences.

I don’t want to spank those progressives, especially those not affiliated with the fat rights movement, who have come to the defense of fatties. For the most part, those folks have done us a great service. However, I also think it’s important to keep fat folks — our voices, our experiences, and our rights — in the center, or at least in the midst, of this discussion. After all, my butt craves comfort, too, and I refuse to say that in an embarrassed or apologetic tone.

The Good Fattie

This is a post from my other blog, Unapologetically Fat, which I’ve been asked to cross-post here.

This post was inspired by MezzoShiri’s post “Addicted to Life

She brings up a theme that I’ve been struggling with myself, and have seen throughout the fatosphere as of late: The Myth of the Good Fattie.

One of these days someone will come up with a comprehensive “stages” list for Fat Acceptance, which a significant number of people pass through at some point or another on their path to body acceptance, although not everyone or in the same order.

One stage would be “ok for other people.” This means that you accept that other people could be happy with their bodies, but there’s something somehow radically unique about your own that makes it not an option for you.

Another would be the “Good Fattie” stage.

There is an idea that often crops up, if subconsciously, that somehow you have to “earn” fat acceptance by being as healthy as possible. If you exercise regularly and eat healthy and somehow escape disease or disability but remain fat, you are then relieved of an obligation to prove to people that it can be done. You can say, both to yourself and to others, “look, I do everything I’m supposed to. I’m fat and healthy. You can’t blame my lifestyle for my weight.”

But working hard, restricting your food and exercising while fat to justify your right to exist isn’t all that much different than doing all that to lose weight and justify your right to exist. They both start with the premise that you have to somehow earn your right to be a human being.

Don’t get me wrong here…if you’re active because you like to be active, or eat a certain way because that’s the food you like (or have religious or medical restrictions) then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact there’s everything right about that because you’re doing it for yourself. But if you can’t afford fresh produce every day, or you work two jobs (yes parenting counts as at least one full time job) and literally have no energy for anything but a microwave dinner and sleep, or you damn well don’t like vegetables, hate to exercise, are physically unable to exercise, etc……there’s nothing wrong with that either. The life you live as a fat person does not somehow disqualify you from deserving to be happy.

To the point, a quote from MezzoShiri’s post:

“But as I’m trying to find my own voice in FA circles, I can feel the weight of internal pressure about how I’m not being a “good example” of Fat Acceptance, and I’m not being any sort of example for the idea of Health at Every Size. Talk about cognitive dissonance.”

The Good Fattie kind of thinking does create a division in FA. I’ve seen questions from the beginning of my involvement about how the “Death Fat” (i.e. “morbidly obese”) or fat and sick feel they’re marginalized. There’s this fear that sick fatties especially serve as an example that contradicts the message of FA. So in-between, currently abled fatties serve as “poster children” for the movement, while the rest wonder how they fit in.

Is there hidden vestiges of fat prejudice behind this? Maybe there’s a part of me that I haven’t managed to excise yet which still contains the internalized message that I have to toe a certain line in order to deserve to be accepted as a fat person. Maybe I’ve transformed that message into the idea that I would be somehow “letting down the team” if I didn’t exercise and eat a balanced diet whenever I could afford to do so; That I have some kind of responsibility to the FA movement to be as perfect a representative as possible.

Or is it simply anticipating the fat prejudice of others? It could be that I’m afraid of being diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease (I expect both will show up in my life like genetic clockwork) because if I am fat and have one of the stigmatized “fat diseases” it will somehow take away the authority of my message. After all, wouldn’t I then be walking justification for all the “booga-booga-obesity!” hysteria? How can I say fat doesn’t cause diabetes if I’m fat and have diabetes?

No, what I think is more likely is that the real issue is self-confidence. Despite all my efforts towards banishing the self-hate and accepting my body in its natural state, there is still a part of me that feels I somehow have to earn the right to be treated as a human being. I still have that small lurking voice that tells me that I can only afford to be fat if I am Acceptable Fat, and toe the line of an acceptable lifestyle.

Now the first problem with that is that it hurts me personally. It attaches my self-image to the judgment of others, which is never healthy. I have made a point this summer of working on banishing the Acceptable Fat dependency in myself. Maybe peeling away those layers is what let me recognize this particular thought nugget.

The other problem is that no matter what my motivation, the myth of the good fattie lets itself out. By asserting my right to exist based on the premise that I exercise and eat healthy, I marginalize those who cannot or choose to not do those things. They, and I, have an inherent right to exist that has nothing to do with lifestyle or privilege. By hanging my lifestyle choices out like a flag of defiance I accomplish nothing but alienation. So I absolutely apologize if the unconscious belief in the Good Fattie has coloured my voice and opinions.

If I do believe that fat is not the cause of a person’s state of health, and if I do believe that everyone has the right to dignity and respect as a human being regardless of size, then it should naturally extend that they have that right regardless of health as well. Health issues are stigmatized in this country because we somehow still hold onto the Calvinistic belief that health is earned or forfeit through good behaviour. Supporting human rights for people of all sizes and states of health is accepting the idea that my own state of health is a combination of genetics and luck. It’s a heady thing to give up that illusion of control, but perhaps if health issues weren’t as stigmatized as they are, the superstitious need to blame something (previously sin, currently fatness) would also diminish. Or vice-versa.

All I know is that I really do believe that size acceptance applies at every point of the spectrum of body size. Healthy choices are possible at every point as well, but health is not a reflection of morality, any more than thinness or wealth.

Aren’t humans animals, too, PETA?

By now, most of the fatosphere has heard about PETA’s “Save the Whale” Campaign, which features a cartoon of a headless, female fatty, seen from behind, standing arms akimbo in a bikini at some generic beach. My first response upon seeing the ad was how smokin’ the fat, White woman looked in her swimwear, but this isn’t exactly the reaction PETA hoped to evoke. How do I know this? The knee-slapping slogan on the pictures reads: “Save a whale. Lose the blubber: Go vegetarian.”

O PETA, thy name is predictable. As anyone who’s ever followed their ad campaigns can tell you, targeting oppressed groups is all in a day’s work for this well-known animal rights org. From using women’s sexualized bodies to promote vegetarianism to calling animal-eaters and –wearers “Nazis,” PETA has never shied from treading upon the rights of oppressed humans to further their animal-cruelty-free goal.

The thing is, I share PETA’s goals. I’m a vegetarian (well, mostly – I do eat the occasional poultry), I’m a responsible consumer of cruelty-free items, I spend most of my spare time rescuing shelter animals. Let’s cut to the quick: I’m a Crazy Cat Lady who would rather spend her time with her (mumble through the number) actual and foster kitties than attend any kind of human shindig. But, and here’s the difference, I try never to trade in on the discrimination of others in order to further my goal of animal equality.

But perhaps I say this better in my letter, below, to PETA. If their ad campaign challenges your sense of social justice, or if my letter inspires an answering spark of righteous anger, I encourage you to write PETA as well:

Dear PETA:

I am a vegetarian. I am also an animal rights activist and a member of a small animal rescue in Los Angeles. In the past, I enthusiastically championed your organization. Once I began paying attention to your advertising campaigns, however, I found my support turning sour.

Ironically, your campaigns consistently support an unequal status quo; you are willing to sacrifice the rights of oppressed others in order to promote the rights of animals. You feature naked women, promoting the sexist objectification of women, to support animal rights. You are uncritical of “health” and therefore unfairly target peoples who are scapegoated by the medical industry. You promote stereotypes of Asians as ravenous eaters of pets. You use whatever tools are necessary to advance the cause of animal rights, even if those tools infringe on the rights of others. Your approaches are not only harmful to others but counterproductive for you, since you’re, to cop a quote from Audre Lorde, employing the tools of the oppressors. By supporting cultural inequalities, you’re also relying on and feeding the same hierarchies that keep animals objectified and marginalized.  More tangibly, by doing this, you choose to isolate other progressive groups from your cause. For example I, as a fat, White, feminist vegetarian, no longer support you. I am not the only progressive that has fled your organization.

Your latest campaign, “Save the Whales,” is an example of such an offensive and short-sighted approach. This knee-slapping ad campaign throws fat people — the current, fun pop cultural scapegoat — under the wheels in order to deliver a pithy, pro-animal punch. Whether you did this to garner attention or truly make a difference in the lives of animals, your delivery is stereotypical, hurtful, and unacceptable. It’s also not very funny. I am once again saddened to find that, in being the hero for one group, you’re willing to play villain to another.

But perhaps meanness and discrimination has worked for you. I wouldn’t doubt it; it’s also worked for a lot of other organizations, from the dairy industry to the don’t-ask-don’t-tell military policy. I’m just saddened that you’ve become a part of an oppressive cultural mechanism.

If you ever decide to try fairness and equality as a method for furthering your message, please consider reaching out to other progressive organizations. NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, might be a good place to start:

Lesleigh J. Owen, Ph.D.