Tag Archives: Health at Every Size

Do We Have Secret Fat Envy?

Envy

Rebecca DiLiberto (producer/executive editor of The Ricki Lake Show, which my inner ’90s child is randomly a bit excited about although I usually consider myself strictly an Ellen girl) has a post up over on Huffington Post called Why You Can Have Everything You Want (Even Though You’re Fat). 

And at first, I though it was going to be the usual “I finally realized that there’s nothing wrong with being a size 14″ coming of age/finding love tale, which I’m all for (there is nothing wrong with being a size 14) but I get a lot of, if you know what I mean.

Read more...

Filed under Beauty Standards

Tagged as , , , , , , ,

11 Comments

Why I Quit Dieting

iVillage Why I Quit Dieting by Ragen Chastein with Virginia Sole-Smith

I’m so thrilled to be participating in my girl Ragen’s iVillage slideshow of Diet Quitters. 

A) Because it’s really fun to be back over in iVillage Never Say Diet land for a visit.

B) Because I’ll be so stoked if we inspire even one woman to break up with an unhealthy diet/weight cycling pattern. And with 33 awesome women featured, I think those odds are good.

Read more...

Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Standards, Health, Never Say Diet, Press

Tagged as , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Michelle Obama’s Biggest Mistake

Michelle Obama on The Biggest Loser

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am usually a pretty big Michelle Obama fan. I’ve defended her right to wear un-American fashion designers, because she’s the First Lady, not First Barbie Doll. I had a whole lot of feelings when Rush Limbaugh called her fat. And there is a lot about her MyPlate program and the whole Let’s Move campaign that is just great. 

But then, last month, Michelle Obama went on The Biggest Loser. And that’s where she lost me.

Because TBL is a show that glorifies pretty much everything we’re doing wrong about obesity in this country. It’s about getting thin at any cost. It’s about no pain, no gain. It’s about public humiliation. It’s definitely not about health, no matter what the coaches scream as “motivation.” 

My friend Ragen Chastain, the amazing fat dancer and activist, has written a wonderful piece explaining exactly why Obama’s decision to appear on TBL was a mistake. I’m reprinting it here with her permission because she’s had trouble getting traditional media outlets to publish it (they’re afraid of pissing off the White House — really, guys? First Amendment, anyone?) and we need to get the word out. Just because a show glorifies weight loss doesn’t mean it’s good for your health. 

Here’s Ragen: 

When I heard that Michelle Obama was going on The Biggest Loser to congratulate the participants on being role models I knew that I had to do something.  So I e-mailed my friend Darryl Roberts, filmmaker of America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments. We wrote a well-researched article pointing out the problems with Mrs. Obama endorsing the contestants as role models.  That article is below.

It wasn’t meant for this blog, but it’s now been turned down by three major media outlets.  Not because they disagreed with us, in fact all three said that they agreed with the article.  It was denied in all three cases because the White House wouldn’t like, they were worried about damaging their working relationship with the White House, and it it made the First Lady look bad and out of touch.  That confused me since I think the problem is that the First Lady IS out of touch, not that I’m pointing it out. And why does the media believe that, in America, we should be scared to question our government?

So I’m using my little forum here to get this out.  But before I do, I want to make an invitation:

Michelle Obama – have lunch with me.  I believe that you are a good person and that your intentions to improve kids’ health are good, and I don’t believe that you intend for the media to be too scared to publish pieces that are critical of you.  I’m a champion athlete, a trained researcher, and a real live obese woman and I think that a good place to start is for us to have a conversation.  Tell me where and when you’d like to have lunch and I’m buying.

In the meantime, here’s the piece that the media was too scared to publish:

Michelle Obama’s “Biggest” Mistake

By Darryl Roberts and Ragen Chastain

DARRYL: I have had the opportunity to get to know Health at Every Size proponent Ragen Chastain after interviewing her for my documentary America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments.  I was coming home from a screening of the movie when I received an email from Ragen alerting me to the fact that our first lady Michelle Obama was going on The Biggest Loser to proclaim the contestants as role models.

I will admit that initially I didn’t quite believe this. The Biggest Loser is a show that’s exploits a very dangerous aspect of American life, the unhealthy ways in which we attempt to lose weight. Surely the First Lady had to know this. But it turned out to be true and, knowing what we know about health and weight, Ragen and I decided that we had to respond.

Mrs. Obama, we know you love our youth as much as we all do and that you want to see them healthy, but we would ask you why you chose a game show like The Biggest Loser as a platform to promote “getting healthy,” and why you continue to push weight loss even though it doesn’t meet the criteria of evidence based medicine.

Have you vetted what happens to some the contestants one of two years after the show?

The New York Times did some digging and this is what they found:

“The Biggest Loser has produced some amazing results for its obese contestants, but at what cost? Many see the pounds come right back, and it’s likely because they engage in dangerous, damaging behavior in the first place in order to win the weight-loss reality show, the New York Times has learned. Season one’s winner, who’s almost back to his original weight of 330 pounds, dehydrated himself to the point of urinating blood. “I’m just waiting for the first person to have a heart attack,” says a doctor.

This season’s first episode resulted in two hospitalizations, which is scary given the content of a release form obtained by the Times. It reads: “No warranty, representation or guarantee has been made as to the qualifications or credentials of the medical professionals [on the show].”

Shockingly, contestants who talk about being completely inactive sometimes for years have to attest that they are “in excellent physical health”. And while the Times got some tidbits — contestants apparently work out in as much clothing as possible when the cameras are off — few were willing to talk. After the paper started digging around, former contestants were emailed a reminder of the serious consequences that come with unauthorized interviews: fines of $100,000 to $1 million.”

A lot of our youth actually start off exercising and eating better. But when they don’t see the “desired result” on the scale, they stop because they mistakenly think that if their healthy habits don’t lead to weight loss then they can’t lead to health.

From my travels with the film and Ragen’s work as an expert speaker on Health at Every Size, we can produce health professionals from Harvard, Princeton, Michigan State, the University of Denver, UCLA, who will tell you exactly what we’re telling you.

RAGEN:  This is an illustration of good intentions gone horribly awry. Calling these contestants good examples of health and fitness is deeply problematic. There are already firsthand accounts of Biggest Loser contestants being encouraged to engage in incredibly unhealthy behaviors, including working out against doctor’s orders, and manipulating their weight through dehydration.

According to Golda Poretsky’s interview with former contestant Kai Hibbard:

“They start teaching you that because you are overweight you are sub-human …There was a registered dietician that was supposed to be helping … but every time she tried to give us advice … the crew or production would step in and tell us that we were not to listen to anybody except our trainers.  The doctors had ordered us to take [a solution to re-balance our electrolytes] and the trainers were like, “Throw it out, right now.”  So I got to a point where I was only eating about 1,000 calories a day and I was working out between five and eight hours a day …   And my hair started to fall out.  I was covered in bruises.  I had dark circles under my eyes … My period stopped altogether and I was only sleeping three hours a night.  I tried to tell the TV show about it and I was told, “Save it for the camera.”

Exactly what’s wrong with the “lose weight” to be healthy approach?

RAGEN: Teaching kids about healthy eating and helping them develop a lifelong love of movement are excellent intentions.  Focusing on the weight of kids in order to do that is simply horrible execution.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated recently that a program that shames kids carries  “a great risk of increasing stigma for those children who are overweight or obese which, in turn, can reinforce unhealthy behaviors (e.g., overeating),” and also said:

“Studies suggest that overweight children who are teased about their appearance are more likely to binge-eat or use unhealthy weight-control practices, and weight-based victimization has been correlated with lower levels of physical activity. Not surprisingly, stigmatization of obese individuals, particularly adolescents, poses risks to their psychological health.”

Hospitalizations for eating disorders in children younger than 12 years old rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006 according to a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published in the journal Pediatrics.

It’s not just that focusing on kid’s weight might hurt them, it’s also that it doesn’t help.  According to research from the University of Minnesota “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain.”

Meanwhile there is not a single study that shows that weight loss works for more than a small fraction (about 5 percent) of people.  The cold hard truth is that there is absolutely no evidence that supports the idea that the majority of fat people can become thin through diet and exercise.

Is There a Solution?

RAGEN:  Absolutely.  The fact that I’m a healthy fat athlete isn’t a surprise or a paradox, there are lots of us.  A great deal of evidence (Matheson et. al., Wei et. althe Cooper Institute etc.) points to the conclusion that healthy habits make healthy bodies in a wide variety of sizes.

Read more...

Filed under Beauty Standards, Government Watch, Happenings, Health

Tagged as , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Human Bodies: Living Fabulous, Not One Size Fits All

Yes, chickens, today I am showing you a video of Shaquille O’Neal’s appearance on The Daily Show from Monday night. You don’t have to watch the whole thing. It’s funny because John Stewart interviewing weird celebrities is always better than John Stewart asking very thoughtful questions of smart celebrities (see: anyone remotely affiliated with any government or Bono). And because Shaq describes himself as “living fabulous” and is getting a PhD. Well, alrighty then!

Read more...

Filed under Beauty Standards, Glossed Over

Tagged as , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Support the Billboard Project with a Solidarity Dollar

Just a quick one to say that the STAND Campaign’s Billboard Project is thisclose to its fundraising goal — and y’all can totally help us get there by donating a buck. Yes, just a buck! Or more, of course. But they need 217 more donations to unlock a $5,000 matching grant, so right now, it’s all about the Solidarity Dollars.

Here’s the scoop from my girl Ragen Chastein of Dances With Fat fame, who is organizing this awesomeness:

Support All Kids Billboard Project Update

Read more...

Filed under Beauty Standards, Government Watch, Happenings, Health

Tagged as , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Awesome Doesn’t Have a Size.

Usually, I try to spread the advocacy posts out a bit, so as to not burn you guys out — standing up for things is hard work after all. But this is a blog first and foremost about body politics — and this week, a lot of our core issues hit a boiling point. So we’ve been standing up for salon workers’ health, and for Planned Parenthood and women’s health in general. 

And today we’re taking a stand for children’s health. Which really blows my mind because, really? We have to have a debate about that? 

Virginia & Kate Stand for Healthy Kids

Read more...

Filed under Beauty Standards, Government Watch, Happenings, Health

Tagged as , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

[Never Say Diet] Thoughts on the Fat Trap

Human Trap by Memkaos

Apologies to the friends who were sharing the New York Times around my breakfast table over the weekend and thus, have already heard all of my rantings on the subject of Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Fat Trap.

But for those of you who missed that diatribe — or perhaps, just want to digest the more articulate I’ve-had-my-coffee-now version — here’s my Never Say Diet take on the weird left turn she makes in that piece. Which is mostly, so excellent. I just read her “Behind The Cover Story” Q&A with the Times6th Floor Blog and it makes me like the first three-quarters of the article all the more. It’s the first time I can recall a major media outlet taking on a story like this. And we really do need to be talking about all of the research that shows, over and over, why permanent weight loss is such a moving target for most people: Because “a number of biological factors that have nothing to do with character or willpower can make it extraordinarily difficult,” as Parker-Pope explains.

Where Parker-Pope and I part ways is in what we want to do with this information. She views obesity “as a medical condition” and thinks the kind of all-consuming, food gram-counting measures adopted by the people she profiles are inspiring, if exhausting, preventive health strategies. So she wants to use this new scientific understanding of why weight loss attempts almost always fail… to keep on trying to lose weight. Even though it will be really difficult and ineffective for the majority of people.

In contrast, I think* the jury is still out on whether obesity itself is a medical issue (at least 20 percent of obese people have no health issues at all, and there are studies show that overweight women actually live longer than normal or underweight women) or whether it tends simply to correlate with lifestyle habits that are bad for our health in other ways. And since we don’t know for sure, but we do know for sure that diets don’t work and the war on obesity has mostly just led to a war on obese people, why don’t we stop chasing the weight loss dragon once and for all, and instead focus on the specific lifestyle habits that definitely do impact our health’s bottom line? Read more…

Filed under Beauty Standards, Never Say Diet

Tagged as , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 Comments

[Never Say Diet] Yes, You Can Be Fat and Healthy

Today’s Never Say Diet post is about a really exciting new study which finds that about 20 percent of obese people are perfectly healthy — as in, no clogged arteries, no OMIGODDeathFat (as Ragen likes to call it). Which is a big enough percentage in my book to end the debate and officially say no, you cannot diagnose someone’s health based on their size, Body Mass Index, or number on a scale.

Well you can. But you have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong.

Which means we need to continue the discussion that we have on here all the time about how we can separate weight from our understanding of health so that when we talk about wanting to be healthy, we mean sustaining healthy lifestyle habits (eating well, exercising more, getting enough sleep, managing stress). And when we talk about wanting to lose weight, we’re talking about aesthetics and changing our bodies to meet a beauty standard.

Read more...

Filed under Never Say Diet

Tagged as , , , , , ,

16 Comments

Check Your Own Pretty Price. (Here is the Fun New Thing!)

So as you know by now, I was so into the awesome sharing that went on when we talked about our weight the other week. And thus, I’ve been brainstorming ways we can have more great conversations like that here on the blog. Because I really like talking to you. You’re so interesting and smart and pretty!

Shameless flattery accomplished, here is the plan: Every week (or thereabouts/when I can be asked), I’m going to pose a Check Your Own Pretty Price Question, hopefully inspired by some newsy price check bizness or maybe just my own internal musings. And you are going to answer and we are going to discuss!

So here we go: Read more…

Filed under Pretty Price Check

Tagged as , , , , , , ,

5 Comments

[Beauty Overheard] Jennifer Aniston Hated The Rachel. (But That’s Not What This Post Is About.)

Regina Benjamin US Surgeon General

You might expect me to be weighing in on The Rachel Debate, because it’s all over the interweb that Jennifer Aniston told Allure, “How do I say this? I think it was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.”

Not so interested. I’ve always like Aniston, and I’m sympathetic (especially in the midst of my Six Items challenge) to how being restricted to One Key Look can get old, but she sounds a wee bit childish complaining about the hairstyle that made her an international celebrity. I think there are plenty of folks out there who would be willing to sport a trend-blazing, if awkwardly layered haircut in exchange for $1 million per week or whatever insane amount she was earning by the end of “Friends.”

So moving right along. Because the Beauty Overheard quote I really want to share with you today is FAR more awesome. It’s from Regina Benjamin, MD and Surgeon General of the United States, who is pictured above and also famous for founding a health clinic to serve uninsured, poor families in rural Louisiana. And I found it in one of those New York Times Magazine “Questions For…” columns where Deborah Solomon is always mean to everybody for no apparent reason. Read more…

Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Overheard, Beauty Standards

Tagged as , , , , ,

4 Comments