Category Freethinking Fatties

Turn Turn Turn

Turn Turn Turn

Stars, please shine the way for me
Show the one that I have followed
To see how far I’ve come.

~ Dawes, “How Far We’ve Come”

When I first started blogging, I had a great big bucket of fucks to give. About everything. Those of you I’ve known from the beginning have seen me spreading fucks around like I was Johnny Fucking Appleseed.

Feminism. Fashion. Politics. Race. You name it, I gave a fuck about it. Today, I still give a fuck, but my views have been shaped by conversations I’ve had with people I’ve disagreed with online.

I can be confrontational, stubborn, abrasive, rude, arrogant, and irritating, all in the span of a single paragraph. Although some may see my troll-like stance as a lack of empathy or compassion, I see my approach as forging my beliefs in the fire of confrontation. If my opinions can’t withstand the heat of dissent, then they probably aren’t right. I can’t exactly explain why, but I get a lot of psychological satisfaction from being right.

Now, I don’t just mean right, as in I can outargue you. In my experience, people very rarely “win” arguments. Two people come together, exchange beliefs, then go back home with pretty much the same belief system they brought  to the table. We live in a society where intransigent beliefs are a virtue. There’s nothing more righteous than accepting a belief as true and then never yielding your position.

I find intransigent beliefs to be a trap. Too much certainty in something that is nothing more than an opinion can lead to intellectual stagnation. But whether we’re talking about politics, religion, health — it doesn’t matter — there is always more we can learn and understand and incorporate into our worldview. To say, “I accept these truths and no more” is to say “I’m done learning.” And people who are done learning have stopped living.

To me, being right means that you are constantly in search of the most complete answer. This blog began as a search for the truth about weight and health, as viewed through the lens of Health at Every Size® (HAES).

Prior to blogging about HAES, I subscribed to the mainstream belief that bodies are pretty malleable through diet and exercise. The very genesis of this blog was due to an offhand comment that if I went on a heart-healthy diet that I would lose a lot of weight.

Due to its strict anti-diet talk policy, I was kicked off the Fatosphere feed, which compiled Fat Acceptance blog posts. I handled my expulsion with dignity and grace Snap Pops… just kidding, I dropped F-bombs like they were snap-pops and posted a photo of a Sumo wrestler’s ass, inviting people to kiss it in lieu of my own.

Fierce, Freethinking Fatties was the blog that rose from the ashes of my self-immolation. And in the Spirit of Not Getting It, I proudly began by published my confrontational interview with MeMe Roth, which ended with me saying “Fuck you” (Yay!) followed by some unnecessary body shaming (Boo!).

Five years later, I look at MeMe Roth and she makes me more sad than angry. Yeah, she was an insufferable hydrant of hatred who inexplicably earned a national platform to spew her toxic brand of intolerance. But that hatred was always a projection of her own fears of getting fat.

Look at her now. Go to the website of her National Action Against Obesity site and check out the “In the News…” section. The last article is from 2008. MeMe Roth Nutrition Help is DOA. The only peep there’s been from MeMe is on her Wedding Gown Challenge page, which has an entry from August 2014 that reads:

Okay, so this wasn’t easy this time. I really can’t put on another ounce if I expect to get the zipper up next year. I’ve had to watch my weight since I was about 12. And I see no signs that it will get easier. I run daily, eat right, and also eat oh so wrong..! I better cut back on that last category. Hope whatever you tried on today still fits. And if not, let’s go for next year..! All my best,  MeMe

Of all the projects MeMe worked on, the Wedding Gown Challenge seems the most important to her, as she’s kept it up for six years straight. And just look at the self-recrimination — if anyone needs the Health at Every Size® (HAES) approach to self-care, it’s MeMe Roth.

And I believe that because I’ve spent the past five years trying to figure out what the right answer is with regard to weight and health. I believe HAES is the right answer because virtually all the evidence says (as our readers are no doubt sick of hearing by now) that the vast majority of people who adopt healthy lifestyle changes will lose about 5-10% of their starting weight, which researchers define as “clinically significant weight loss.”

If you lose more, great. But most people find weight loss of 10% or more nearly impossible to sustain in the long term. That’s the reality that obesity researchers have come to accept, while the rest of world is gradually catching up.

I’ve played my part in spreading that message, but there’s only so many times you can say “most people who adopt healthy lifestyles lose about 5-10% of starting weight” before you start to feel like a verbal lawn sprinkler.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m burnt out.

I’ve been writing one thing or another my entire life. I love writing. It’s my original passion in life. And when I started blogging in 2009, I hadn’t planned on doing any of this. One of my favorite posts that I did back then was mocking a bunch of album covers from the Christian music I used to listen to as a geeky God-boy: Jars of Clay, DC Talk, Michael W. Smith. You know, the good shit.

I was mainly doing stream-of-conscious blather as my third attempt at blogging (the first two being on OpenDiary), when I happened upon some of Kate Harding’s posts on Shapely Prose and got inspired to write about Fat Acceptance.

The rest is a long and brutal history of me pissing people off left and right as I blustered my way through the unpacking of my privilege. If I had one wish with regards to this blog, it would be that I could go back to the beginning with all the experience and understanding I have now. Not to say I wouldn’t fuck up again, but it probably wouldn’t be so disastrous or so often.

The result of all that damage is that Fierce Fatties became a kind of island unto itself. We’ve always been a part of the Fat Acceptance discussion, but we were distinct from the real thought leaders of the movement. My temperament and attitude has probably done more damage to this blog than anything, and yet we have a wonderful group of faithful bloggers and readers who have stuck by me through the worst of it. For that, I’m eternally grateful.

But what really brought home the self-inflicted divide was the response to our fundraiser. It was a bittersweet victory. We raised just enough money to pay for the website to be upgraded, but only raised half of our goal, so our options are severely limited.

I didn’t know what to expect when we launched our fundraiser. We’ve been around a long time and have a lot of readers, but how many would invest money in its future is a totally different story. In the end, 17 people donated rewards, while 50 people donated a total of $1,026 because they believe in the mission of Fierce Fatties. I feel incredibly honored that all these people (some I know, some I don’t know, and nobody I’ve ever met) believed it was important enough that they donated money during the holiday season.

What hurt was when we asked for help, the broader Fat Acceptance community pretty much ignored us, including people I thought supported us. Quite frankly, I can’t blame them. I’ve long accepted where I stand. And thanks to my thoroughly Catholic upbringing, I feel tremendously guilty for inflicting the collateral damage of my ego on my co-bloggers. Although I’ve certainly had a prolific five years, I’ve also been a significant drag on the success of Fierce Fatties.

Although I know I’ve been a part of the Fat Acceptance journey for some readers, I can’t help but feel that my own contributions are largely unnecessary for the broader movement. Most recently, as I put together the HAES roundtables on the social determinants of health (SDH), I was put through the wringer just to publish what I did.

The final straw was when I was criticized by the person who recommended I put together the SDH impact roundtable for not paying the participants. Perhaps if I had ever made a single dime from this blog that criticism would make sense, but the implication is that if I can’t afford to pay people for their opinions, then it is wrong to ask their opinions in the first place.

I believe that above and beyond my own writing, this blog is my contribution to the movement, and perhaps without me at the helm it can become part of the larger conversations happening.

So, I have asked Jean Braithwaite, an incredibly skilled writer and editor whose views align much with my own, to be my successor as Chief Fatty. Even more important, she has the deeply-considered thoughtfulness needed to take Fierce Fatties to the next level.

She agreed, but due to a preexisting project, she can’t start just yet. She hopes to be able to take over Fierce Fatties this Summer.

We would also welcome a co-editor to divide up responsibilities. If anyone is interested in becoming co-editor with Jean, please feel free to email me at atchka at hotmail. Bloggers as well. Because even though I’ve exhausted my supply of fucks on this subject, you haven’t. It’s time for you all to step up and start giving fucks for the state of fatness today. You have a voice that needs to be heard, a viewpoint that needs to be shared. Everyone does.

In the meantime, we’re going to put the blog into a state of Hypno-Helio-Static-Stasis. If you’ve just started reading, we have a vast archive of content that can tide you over in the coming months.

As for me, I will continue to write and incorporate everything that I have learned into my work. I believe that perhaps I can still serve the movement through some other writing project.

For one, what I love writing most is fiction. It’s been my lifelong passion and the majority of my creative energy has been spent creating worlds for my own amusement. And when I invest my creative energy in a project, it’s difficult for me to divide my attention too much. This blog has occupied such a significant percentage of my creative energy and time that it’s been difficult to work on anything else.

So when I really listen to my heart, when I think about what I want to do, I’ve been more and more excited by the prospect of writing a novel for my daughters. In fact, about a week ago I read them the first chapter and I’m happy to report they enjoyed it.

I’m also starting a smaller blog that will be less labor intensive and less of a commitment. In fact, the week after I re-upped the domain for Fierce Fatties, I was playing around with available URLs when I found one that I really liked AND found a coupon that gave me a huge discount for a two-year subscription.

So, I’m now the proud owner of Divine Ground.

I’ve always loved theology and I’d like to do some exploring of different faith traditions and talk about my own belief in the Divine Ground (a term Aldous Huxley used to describe the higher power that most religions are trying to connect to). I don’t know if I’ll write weekly, but I will write when the mood strikes me.

[Side note: Ironically, I recently learned that our blog has an entry in the thoroughly-enlightening Conservapedia which reads: “Fierce, Freethinking Fatties is an atheist fat acceptance movement website.” For the record, we have no official stance on God … but we are comprised of at least one lapsed Roman Catholic, a pagan or two, and the rest I don’t know off-hand because it’s not really a topic we discuss at length here.]

Anyway, that’s the long and short of it. After five years of searching and probing and questioning and doubting and deconstructing and rabble-rousing, my entire philosophy on weight and health can be summed up as follows:

If you want to be healthy, know thyself: who you are, what you need and what you can achieve. Also, know what the science says. Use that knowledge as a kind of guidepost for your journey. Perfection is not the goal, self-actualization is. And if you’re as encouraging and compassionate with yourself as you are with your friends and family, then you’ll have no problem building and sustaining good metabolic health. You got this.

Guerrilla activism

Guerrilla activism

I’m not good with the taking down bullies kind of activism. But I’ve been drafting up this list of different ways that someone can be a fat activist… and, for myself, I really like the idea of indirect guerrilla warfare.

Like over at pluseyes tumblr there was a post about stickering. “…print a whole ton of stickers to easily peel off and slam onto an offending billboard/poster/etc…”

Or NAAFA LA is doing a “Bookmark Project: Print and put size-positive bookmarks in diet and/or self-help books, fashion or fit magazines and anywhere else!”  (When I contacted the LA branch of NAAFA, they awesomely gave me a copy of the PDF for their Bookmark Project so that I can share it with any of you that want to participate in their project.)

Or Operation Beautiful: “The goal of the Operation Beautiful website is to end negative self-talk or ‘Fat Talk’”… by positing body positive notes in public.  An example would be a post-it that says “Your beautiful at any size” posted in a bathroom or changing room or any other place a stranger might stumble across it.

With the advent of social media, letter writing campaigns seem kinda out of date.  But I still think pamphlets that we can pass out to friends/family or mail to doctors and legislators would be useful.  One of my many side projects is trying to write such pamphlets… but it’s a work in progress.

I am of the opinion that there are MANY ways to be an activist and small impacts have a cumulative affect.  We’re chipping away at a China-sized wall.  Every voice makes us louder and every project makes us stronger.

Fair and Balanced

Fair and Balanced

This post includes discussions of research surrounding weight and health.

Over the past few weeks there have been a flurry of articles on the death of “healthy obesity,” also known as fat and fit. For example, in early November Time published the results of a Danish study that that analyzed the data of over 77,000 individuals who took part in the Copenhagen General Population Study. Between 2003 and 2011, subjects were examined and researchers collected detailed information about BMI, waist measurement, blood pressure and whether the subject had metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that indicates the presence of insulin resistance (for more information, check out this post on the man who discovered metabolic syndrome). Since first coming across the study I’ve been planning to comment on it.

Then, two days ago I received an email from a local television reporter who had previously interviewed me about Health at Every Size®  (HAES) asking my opinion on the research disproving fat and fit. I assumed he was referring to the Danish study, but when I clicked the link to the NBC News story I was caught off guard when I saw he was referring to a new study coming out of Canada.

Suddenly, I’m seeing articles everywhere declaring HAES dead and “proving” that fat people can’t be fit, no matter what the fatties say. Those articles spread like wildfire on reddit: there’s the /r/science subreddit post that took off with “told ya so” glee, seven links to a BBC article, three links to an article in the Toronto Star, two links to the CBC, and two links to a new Time article about this latest study titled “You Can’t Be Fat and Fit.” I could only find two links that actually direct readers to an actual study.

I decided to jump in the fray over at the /r/science subreddit by responding to this comment and explaining that his explanation of HAES was flawed. You can follow the thread I started here (as I was downvoted out of existence from the comment). Now, something interesting happened at this same time as I began responding to the Danish study on reddit: I got shadow-banned.

[NOTE: The following section is tangential to my analysis of this research. If you’d like to skip to the meat and potatoes of the research, skip down to the bold header that reads “Digging Deeper.”]

Silent Treatment

I’ve been on reddit for four years now, although I’ve only been actively posting links for the past year. I had never heard of the shadow-ban and only learned about it from two redditors who pointed it out to me privately. In essence, a shadow-ban is when a forum “bans” you from participating in conversations by preventing your comments or profile from showing up for other readers, but the shadow-banned user isn’t informed, while the user is still able to see his own comments and profile. So, unless someone points out that you’ve been shadow-banned, you don’t know.

After doing some digging, I discovered I was shadow-banned because a member of the subreddit /r/FitnessCircleJerk (FCJ) reported me for spam. For those who aren’t familiar with FCJ, they’re fitness trolls who loathe fat people, but have a special place in their little black hearts for Fat Acceptance bloggers like me and Ragen at Dances with Fat. They’ve been hate-reading our blog since last November when they launched a vigorous assault in our comments ranging from respectful, intelligent disagreement to profane, barely-literate tirades. In the end, I had to change our long-standing comment policy and start approving each comment by hand to prevent further disruption.

Pissed that I won’t allow them to shit on our forum, FCJ took steps to ensure I could not have such a forum on reddit. I began my own subreddit last March called /r/AskHAES, where people could ask questions about HAES and we would provide the HAES perspective. There was an immediate influx of FCJers who downvoted every response from HAES advocates, upvoted their own comments, and lobbed a relentless parade of insults at fat people, which Kitsune documented thoroughly here. I began moderating with an iron fist, banning anyone with even a whiff of disrespect for dialogue or who appeared to be part of FCJ or the other fat-hating subreddits I’ve discovered since then. To participate, you have to be able to disagree respectfully, which is too much for most of these knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers.

I’ve written about my theory as to why fat haters seem so deeply invested in shaming and degrading and humiliating fat people. But when FCJers talk about their hatred for fat people, their far more circumspect. I’ve repeatedly been told that they don’t hate all fat people — if you want to be fat, be fat! — but that they hate a particular type of fat person who claims that fat people can be healthy and they especially hate a particular type of fat person who tries to provide a scientific basis for that belief (i.e., me, Ragen, HAES bloggers).

We’re lying, they say. We’re justifying the unhealthy lifestyles of fat people by claiming that you can achieve Health at Every Size. That seems to be the biggest hangup for many anti-HAESers. Case in point:

So the name of this movement is Healthy At Every Size. Of course we all know that is ridiculous. Morbidly obese and walking skeleton is not healthy for anybody… A hideously fat or skinny person living an unhealthy lifestyle with no intent of changing could read about this movement, read the title, and say “Yeah, fuck society. Just because I’m so skinny my bones rattle and my dick looks like a tootsie roll except with more wrinkles, i am healthy at any size!”

That’s it.

That’s the argument.

HAES is bad because some fat person might read the name and say “HOORAY! I’M HEALTHY!” and go about their business.

But here’s the thing: it’s Health at Every Size, not Health No Matter What.

Could someone read the title of the movement and assume it means ALL fat people are healthy? Of course. And clearly many FCJers are incapable of seeing anything else. But the whole point of HAES is that you actually have to make lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, to improve your health. If you don’t make healthy changes, then your health will not improve. End of story.

This is the message gets completely ignored by FCJ and anti-HAESers. More accurately, this is the message that gets downvoted on reddit and ignored by society in general. They don’t want to have a discussion, they want to shout us down and overwhelm us with enough anecdotal evidence that we just give up the fight and start obeying their particular guru or meal plan or example. Where it is possible for them to control the conversation, they will use whatever tactics they have to silence us, not because the studies are flawed or the evidence is weak, but because they hate the name and they hate fat people.

And for a while their silencing technique worked on /r/AskHAES. I pretty much gave up participating because I couldn’t even answer a basic question about HAES. Instead, I focused on providing content to /r/BodyAcceptance instead, since the moderators requested that I submit links from our blog. And all that was moving along swimmingly until I got shadow-banned, which was the most effective silencing technique to date.

After reading up on shadow-bans, I learned that it’s pretty difficult to get a shadow-ban lifted. So I emailed the reddit admins and explained that /r/BodyAcceptance requested my links and pointed to the FAQ on what constitutes spam:

To play it safe, write to the moderators of the community you’d like to submit to. They’ll probably appreciate the advance notice. They might also set community-specific rules that supersede the ones above. And that’s okay — that’s the whole point of letting people create their own reddit communities and define what’s on topic and what’s spam.

About three minutes after I sent it, the admins unbanned me and I was free to post once more.

Victorious, I decided to rub it in FCJ’s face with this post titled “MFW reddit overturns the shadowban you pathetic sacks of shit tried to impose” (MFW stands for “My Face When” which linked to this photo:

Johnny Cash Middle Finger

If you’ve ever wanted to see the trolls get trolled, this is the thread for you. FCJ proceeded to meltdown as they posted over 200 comments attempting to insult me. To compare, this is a screenshot of the most commented on posts from yesterday, a max of 68 comments. This kind of response is caused by what the kids these day refer to as “butthurt.”

And not only did they have a field day responding to my trolling, they began submitting their own posts to take me down a notch, mostly through the clever (for a homunculus) photos.