Ragen Chastain

@ragenchastain | contributor
Super Contributor
I speak and write full-time about fat civil rights, body image, weight stigma, and weight-neutral wellness, with a particular personal interest and expertise in the intersections of weight stigma and eating disorders, fitness, and the practice of medicine, and I often examine the connections between weight stigma with other oppressions including racism, ableism, and healthism. I write a monthly series for US News & World Report and have written for publications including espnW, Glamour, Ravishly and Jezebel. I’m the author of the blog DanceswithFat, the book Fat: The Owner's Manual, editor of the Praeger Anthology "The Politics of Size," and co-founder of the Fit Fatties Forum. You can see me in the documentaries Fattitude, America the Beautiful 2, A Stage for Size, and the PBS Independent Lens piece Ragen’s More Cabaret. I’m an official ambassador for NEDA (the National Eating Disorders Association,) an ACE Certified Health Coach and functional fitness specialist, three-time National champion dancer, and two-time marathoner who holds the Guinness World Record for Heaviest Woman to Complete a Marathon. I live in Los Angeles with my partner Julianne and our two adorable dogs. she/her/hers Black Lives Matter
Ragen Chastain

'It's Bigger Than Me' Campaign Harms Fat People for Profit

A new campaign called “It’s Bigger Than Me” has launched worldwide. The campaign purports to be about “destigmatizing ob*sity” but is, in fact, funded by Novo Nordisk as part of what they have promised will be “one of the fastest Novo Nordisk launches after approval ever” of their new weight loss drug Wegovy. Per their Chief Financial Officer, Karsten Knudsen, they hope to more than double their “ob*sity sales” by 2025 versus their 2019 baseline. Novo Nordisk has explained to the press that one of the barriers to this massive profit play is insurance coverage (including Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA), and so they are using campaigns like this to try to turn fat people, desperate to escape the weight stigma that the diet industry perpetuates, into an unpaid marketing force to do their dirty work for them. At the time of writing this article, partners in this effort include the Obesity Action Coalition , the Media Empathy Foundation , and The Mighty. This part of their massive, profit-driven rollout is the kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing campaign that the “Obesity Action Coalition” was purpose-built to launch and run. The OAC bills itself as an advocacy group for fat people but is, in fact, fully funded by (and operates as a lobbying arm of) powerful pharmaceutical interests that seek to sell progressively more dangerous and expensive weight loss treatments. As you can see on their website , their “Chairman’s Council” (aka group of funders) is made up of weight loss drug and surgery companies, with Novo Nordisk at the top, as their sole “Platinum” member with a minimum funding commitment of $100,000. The Media Empathy Foundation appears to be a legitimate organization with the noble and critical goal of destigmatizing illness. They should, but apparently don’t, understand the difference between their actual mission and this co-option of anti-stigma language for money. So instead of undoing harm they are perpetuating it. They are responsible for the harm that they are causing here and they should address it and do whatever they can to repair that harm. As for The Mighty, it was heartbreaking to see their logo on the site as a named partner. In response to my pitch, editorial director Ben Berkley shared with me that The Mighty has a business relationship with Novo Nordisk and through that affiliation, the editorial team supported the initial launch of the “It’s Bigger Than Me” campaign with a social media post. (Editor note: The Mighty was not paid to promote the “It’s Bigger Than Me” campaign.) Berkley said the editorial team looks to fulfill these partner requests as a way of navigating the balance between editorial independence and the funding The Mighty receives through pharmaceutical sponsorships, which allow The Mighty to continue operating. At the time, Berkley told me he was “foolishly unaware” of the harmful nature of the campaign and, while he shared that he didn’t know if The Mighty’s larger business relationship with Novo Nordisk would continue, he assured me The Mighty’s editorial team would no longer be promoting or supporting the campaign. He promised to invite this article’s submission ( and others like it ) that are critical of the “It’s Bigger Than Me” campaign, wanting to stand “as a force for good in combating fatphobia and any other instance of body biases.” I appreciate the candid response and the opportunity to use The Mighty’s platform to speak out about the harm that is being done, and I hope to see them publicly withdrawal their support from the project, acknowledge the harm and actively work to repair it, including insisting that their logo and information be removed from the campaign page. The weight loss industry has been working hard to co-opt the idea of ending weight stigma and transform it into a marketing tool, and they have deep pockets to hire the best people to do it, so it can be difficult to tell what’s going on. Here are some of the ways you can tell this campaign is about weight loss propaganda and not about ending weight stigma or supporting fat liberation: The group can’t bring itself to use the word fat, choosing instead words like “ob*se” and “overw*ight,” terms that were literally created to pathologize fat bodies with a basis in racism and specifically anti-Blackness. (Please read Sabrina Strings’ Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia and Da’Shaun Harrison’s Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness and Anti-Blackness to learn more about this critical area of intersectional oppression.) They called their campaign “It’s Bigger Than Me.” Get it? Bigger than me because… fat people…are big… If the campaign sounds like it was named by a schoolyard bully trying to make a fat joke, it’s probably not actually helping end weight stigma. The campaign is also replete with its own hashtag and celebrity spokespeople. The campaign claims to be about ending weight stigma but when you start clicking the links, it’s all about eradicating fat people through the sale of weight loss drugs. At best, their message boils down to “we don’t want to stigmatize fat people, we just want to make billions of dollars marketing a strategy that risks their lives and quality of life with the goal of eradicating them from the earth.” This may be a profitable message, but it is not, in fact, an anti-stigma message. One of the side effects of Wegovy is “suicidal ideation and behaviors.” So they are claiming to be about destigmatizing fatness while pushing a drug that causes fat people to want to engage in self-harm and suicide . OK, this program obviously isn’t actually about ending weight stigma, so what is it about? It’s about selling Wegovy, which is just a higher dose of a medication (Semaglutide) currently marketed as diabetes medication Ozempic. This marketing plan is riding the wave of a long-term campaign by weight loss drug companies to classify simply living in a fat body as a “chronic lifelong health condition.” This allows them to expand their market, push for insurance coverage, and sidestep the fact that all the weight is regained as soon as people go off the drugs, by suggesting people take the drugs for the rest of their lives. Let’s talk about the possible side effects : Risk of thyroid c-cell tumors. Acute pancreatitis . Acute gallbladder disease . Hypoglycemia . Acute kidney injury. Hypersensitivity. Diabetic retinopathy complications. Heart rate increase. Suicidal ideation and behaviors. Then there is the delightful collection of “most common side effects”: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, stomach (abdomen) pain, headache , tiredness (fatigue), upset stomach, dizziness, feeling bloated, belching, gas, stomach flu, and heartburn. You cannot destigmatize fatness while suggesting that it is reasonable to risk damage to multiple organs as well as self-harm in order to be a little less fat. And just how much weight are we talking about? Wegovy was approved based on a trial in which 33% of patients lost more than 20% of their body weight over a 68-week clinical trial period. I imagine they are listing their trial period in weeks because it sounds longer than 1.3 years and helps avoid the obvious issue that most intentional weight loss methods show weight loss in the first year, with people gaining back all of their weight (and often more than they lost) in years two to five . Even their own graph suggests that is what is going to happen to their test subjects. The reality, then, is that we are risking multiple organ issues and self-harm for a chance of losing less than 20 pounds for a year, with a high probability of total weight regain, which will happen even faster if someone has to go off the medication because of the many, many side effects. A recent study by Gaesser and Andari found that the evidence overwhelmingly shows that weight-neutral interventions have similar or greater health benefits than intentional weight loss attempts without these risks. That should be a good reminder that weight loss drug companies (and the “advocacy organizations” that do their dirty work) are not here to end the weight stigma, or to support fat people’s health. They are here to get our money. This kind of bait-and-switch campaign does serious harm because it co-opts that language of fat liberation, while being completely out of alignment with actual fat liberation principles, instead utilizing the cover of “destigmatizing” fatness to sell fat eugenics. Weight stigma is real, and it impacts fat people in every area of our lives. Shame on Novo Nordisk, the OAC, and anyone else who suggests (for profit) that the solution to weight stigma is for fat people to risk their lives and quality of life trying to change themselves to appease their oppressors. I spent years doing the diet industry’s bidding – fighting my body on behalf of weight stigma. No more. Now I fight weight stigma on behalf of my body. We don’t have to buy into the weight loss industry’s con. We don’t have to shrink ourselves. We can be bigger than this.

Ragen Chastain

Why Fat People Shouldn't Feel Guilty About COVID Vaccine Priority

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been stories all over the media about higher weight people being at higher risk for COVID-related complications. Now vaccine rollout plans are being created and in many places in the U.S., including New York and California, higher weight people are being prioritized along with other high-risk groups for vaccination. Of course there’s an outcry amongst fatphobes, but setting aside their predictable, bigotry-based whining, this is causing a lot of mixed feelings amongst fat people themselves. Activists and experts, myself included, have been discussing the problems with the claim that having a fat body causes higher risk for COVID. This, and the incessant yammering of fatphobes, is making some fat people question whether or not it is fair for them to be prioritized. I want to urge fat people to get the vaccine as soon as they are eligible without a drop of guilt. Here’s why: When it comes to whether a fat body actually causes higher COVID-19 risk; we definitely don’t know, and there are serious questions at the most basic levels of the science. One of the first things any research methods student learns is that “correlations never, ever implies causation.” Which is to say that no matter how often Thing A and Thing B happen at the same time (are correlated), we can never conclude that Thing A causes Thing B to happen. That’s because it’s possible that B causes A, or that a third factor (Thing C) causes both A and B. So while there may be a correlation between larger bodies and COVID-19 risk, there are many other potential Thing Cs at play. Chief among them is healthcare inequality — fat people face massive inequalities in the U.S. healthcare system that can seriously impact their risk of negative outcomes. A clear example of this issue happened during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. During the outbreak there was a very high correlation between higher weight and severe symptoms and death. Plenty of so-called “ob*sity experts” jumped in to offer their guess as to what about fat bodies was causing this increased risk. But a study afterward found that the difference was actually that thin people were given antiviral treatment earlier than fat people and that “after adjustment for early antiviral treatment, relationship between ob*sity and poor outcomes disappeared.” To put it clearly, it wasn’t their bodies at all — healthcare inequality in the form of delayed care harmed and killed those fat people while medical “experts” rushed to blame their bodies for their own harm and deaths. As I’ve written here before, weight stigma at literally every level of medical care negatively impacts fat people. A fat person who gets COVID faces any number of barriers to care due to weight stigma. Just a few examples include delayed treatment as we saw in the H1N1 outbreak, the lack of even basic equipment that accommodates larger bodies including everything from blood pressure cuffs to beds to surgical tools and more. Then there is the fact that often when “best practices” for equipment use and treatment are developed (say, for example, ventilators), they are only developed for thin people, with fat people subsequently blamed if practices that weren’t created for them don’t work as well for them. By blaming fat bodies instead of weight stigma, those who are actually causing these issue evade responsibility for creating them, and for fixing them. Also, in many places healthcare rationing protocols that are triggered by shortages of equipment and staff specifically discriminate against fat people in ways that objectively devalue their lives. The truth is that weight stigma in healthcare harms and kills fat people in any number of ways, and COVID-19 is far from an exception to this rule. It shouldn’t happen, but it does, and because it does we deserve any kind of protection that we can get, including vaccine priority (especially since they actually included fat people in the vaccine trials which so often doesn’t occur). Writer Reina Sultan tweeted about it here: So, I'm getting the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday because I'm fat. I'm saying this because I think a lot of people are ashamed that they are qualified bc of this and a lot of other people are judging those who get a vaccine bc of this. 1/4— Reina Sultan (@SultanReina) February 23, 2021 And I’ll add that my tweet on the subject is the closest I’ve ever come to going viral on Twitter. Fat people face staggering inequalities in healthcare that put us at high risk for severe symptoms and death from Covid. The vaccine will help protect us from Covid and medical fatphobia – don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for getting vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible.— Ragen Chastain (@danceswithfat) February 24, 2021 So if you are fat and want the vaccine, you should not feel even a tiny bit guilty for getting it as soon as you are eligible. Weight stigma in medical care puts us at higher risk, and higher risk should mean higher priority for vaccination. To learn more about this, I recommend looking at the work of Nobody Is Disposable and the FLARE Project.

Ragen Chastain

5 Ways Weight Stigma Harms Fat People's Health

There are a lot of articles and studies that try to compare health conditions and outcomes for fat people with those of thinner people, claiming that if fat people have a higher condition incidence or worse outcomes then it’s clear that fat bodies the issue. They are all, to a one, complete bunk. That’s because you can’t blame body size for health outcomes if access to healthcare is wildly unequal for those in larger bodies. Here are five ways that weight stigma harms fat people’s health, with more harm being done to those in fatter bodies and those who deal with multiple marginalizations including racism, ableism, transphobia et. al. Lack of Equipment/Accommodation Often healthcare facilities fail to have even the most basic equipment to work with fat people. Everything from a lack of accessible seating in the waiting room, to a lack of properly sized blood pressure cuffs, gowns, knee braces, crutches, etc. And many diagnostic technologies don’t work for fat people including MRIs and CT scans, ultrasound and more. These are major discrepancies in care that can lead to misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses. Take blood pressure for example. Blood pressure cuffs have specific tolerances (it’s not just about whether or not the velcro will fasten.) An adult large typically fits an arm with a circumference of 13.8 – 17.3 inches. If the arm is larger than that, the cuff may still go around, but it will give a reading that is too high. Often even if we know our arm measurements and push back, the person taking our BP will try to push ahead, I once had a nurse say to me “let’s just try this.” Um, no. This isn’t broccoli, it’s a piece of health information, we’re not going to “just try” to do what is clearly wrong. This alone calls into question the number of fat people who are diagnosed with high blood pressure, and that doesn’t even take into account “white coat hypertension” which is raised blood pressure that is due to the completely valid fear of mistreatment from fatphobic healthcare workers. And that’s just one example. I’ve heard of one woman who went to the ER with a knee injury. The doctor was visibly disgusted by her, refused to touch her, refused any diagnostics or treatment and told her that she should go home and make an appointment with her primary care physician. In the meantime, she was told, she absolutely shouldn’t put any weight on the leg and doing so could result in permanent damage. That’s when they explained that they didn’t have a knee brace that fit her, or crutches that were rated for her weight. Some volunteer firemen who happened to be there used quick drying plaster to create a mold to the back of her knee and affixed it by wrapping an ace bandage around it. It fell off as soon as she sat up and put her legs over the side of the bed (which was too small for her.) They had a wheelchair to take her to the front door but from there she was on her own to somehow get home and up the flight of stairs that were waiting for her, only using one leg. A thin person likely would have been able to get diagnosed and treated but even if they didn’t they would at least be sent home with crutches and a proper knee brace. This is unconscionable, unforgivable and unjustifiable. They knew fat people existed when they created these diagnostic tools, when they ordered the gowns, and the blood pressure cuffs, the braces etc. The choice to allow fat people to suffer is blatant discrimination for which fat people’s bodies then get blamed. Research Issues with research fall into two categories: poor research and a lack of research. Let’s start with poor research. Much of the so-called research around weight and health that gets published in peer reviewed journals would get a freshman failed in their research methods class. Because of rampant weight stigma, these studies are allowed to commit basic research fallacies with no pushback from the journals in which they are published. Lucy Aphramor wrote an excellent journal article outlining many of these issues. Her conclusion was: “Dietetic literature on weight management fails to meet the standards of evidence based medicine. Research in the field is characterised by speculative claims that fail to accurately represent the available data. There is a corresponding lack of debate on the ethical implications of continuing to promote ineffective treatment regimes and little research into alternative non-weight centred approaches. An alternative health at every size approach is recommended.” The second issue is lack of research. More often than not, fat people are left completely out of research for interventions or pharmaceuticals (unless those interventions and drugs are trying to manipulate our body size). We’re seeing this now with the COVID vaccine. Experts are pointing out that it’s long been known that flu vaccines don’t work as well for fat people. (It should be noted that they also don’t work as well for older folks, but they developed a “super shot” vaccine to mitigate that issue, while deciding that it was fine that fat people be more at risk.) Now the race to develop a COVID vaccine is on and despite already being clear about this issue, trials are still leaving out fat people. Major news outlets are reporting on it but they are not, as they should be, outraged at the prospect that fat people may be left unprotected even with a vaccine. They are upset that fat people’s lack of protection puts thin people at risk, and they are blaming fat people for creating the problem… by existing. Lack of Training The vast majority of training that healthcare professionals receive about working with fat patients is about how to medicalize and pathologize fat bodies. Medical schools are literally teaching weight stigma to students and many don’t even have fat cadavers, meaning that students are not learning about fat bodies like they could and should. This myopic focus on making fat patients thin instead of helping fat patients be healthy leads to a pervasive attitude that fat people don’t deserve the kind of competent, evidence-based care that thin people get unless and until they become thin themselves. This despite there not being a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at significant long-term weight loss, but a number of studies which demonstrate that (understanding that health, by any definition, is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, or entirely within our control) behaviors are a far better predictor of future health than is body size. (Bacon and Aphramor have provided us with an incredibly thoroughly cited literature review explaining this.) Practitioner Bias Often practitioners are so laser focused on weight loss that they utterly fail to give fat patients ethical, evidence-based care. Many times this shows up as stereotyping — practitioners making assumptions and recommendations based completely on their stereotypes. (I once had a doctor “challenge” me to start walking 10 minutes a day. I was in the middle of training for a marathon at the time and had done an 18 miler the night before.) If they do ask questions, they often simply refuse to believe the answers if those answers don’t align with their their stereotypes and bigotry. It can also be seen in doctors blaming almost anything on body size — I had a friend who was moving and she lifted a heavy box and had sudden, debilitating back pain and leg pain. She went to the doctor and, without ever touching her, he told her that it was because of her weight and that she should diet and exercise. This is someone who had been hauling boxes around the day before and today couldn’t stand up straight and could barely move because of the pain. She had to go to another doctor to get treatment for her herniated disc. My friend dealt with a lot of pain but others, like Ellen Maud Bennett, have paid for doctor’s fatphobia with their lives. Treating Fat People’s Lives As Inherently Less Valuable/More Risk-able Let’s say a thin person presents with high blood sugar and gets diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. They will typically be prescribed evidence-based interventions to help control their blood sugar. However a fat person with the exact same symptoms may be prescribed weight loss surgery, which mutilates a health organ in order to create what would be considered a disease state in a thin person, in order to force behaviors that mimic an eating disorder. This surgery often has terrible outcomes including horrific lifelong side effects and, for some, death. Thin people are not asked to risk their lives and quality of life just to control their blood sugar but fat people often are, and can be labeled “non-compliant” if they ask for the same intervention that a thin person would get. Fat people are often encouraged to have this surgery as an alternative to taking a single pill. The brilliant Deb Burgard has pointed out that fat patients are rarely asked “would you like to have this dangerous surgery that could kill you, or would you prefer to take two pills instead of one?” This is also an incredibly profitable surgery that is aggressively marketed, with testimonials from people who are happy, but not a word from those who have horrific lifelong side effects and would do anything to take the surgery back, or from the friends and family of those who just wanted to be around to see their kids grow up (which was incredibly likely to happen statistically without the surgery), but instead died on the table. Often fat people, with or without a health issue, are prescribed dangerous diet drugs with very little proven benefit. It’s a clear sign that the medical community views fat people as less valuable and more risk-able than thin people, there’s actually an entire Board-Certified Specialty that is completely based on the idea that it’s absolutely worth risking fat people’s lives for the slightest chance that they might get even a little bit thinner. Not to mention that the vast majority of weight loss attempts result in weight regain, with many gaining back more than they lost. After which their healthcare provider will likely… prescribe another diet. Which will have the same abysmal chance of success. This results in weight cycling (sometimes called yo-yo dieting) which has been independently correlated with health issues, which will most likely be blamed on the fat person’s body rather than the dieting. Patient Disengagement Let’s bring it all together, shall we? We have a situation in which even if a fat person can jump through all the hoops to be able to go to the doctor (they can afford it, get time off work, get childcare if necessary and get transportation there etc.,) they may not be able to sit down in the waiting room, or get their correct blood pressure taken. When they finally see the doctor they know, typically from experience, that the doctor is likely to ignore their actual health issues and just prescribe weight loss. And even if they find a doctor who is willing to treat their health issue, they may not have access to the necessary diagnostic tools (for which they will likely be blamed) and even if they can get the diagnostics, the treatment was probably not tested on people their size and so may be completely ineffective. And at every stage of this process they are highly likely to interact with healthcare providers operating from a place of deep weight bigotry. So it’s no surprise that fat patients often disengage from their own healthcare and/or wait until things are truly terrible before seeking medical care, and then they get blamed for that as well. So the next time you see an article talking about the health impacts of fat people, or the cost of healthcare for fat people, understand that they are actually measuring the health impacts and costs of medical weight stigma.

Ragen Chastain

What Kaiser Permanente Got Wrong About Intuitive Eating

In a recent newsletter, Kaiser Permanente promoted a page on their website about “Intuitive Eating” as part of their Thrive Program. The page has caused an uproar within the Intuitive Eating communities, so I reached out to Evelyn Tribole, who wrote (well, co-wrote) the book on Intuitive Eating, to get her reaction. “They botched our model,” she said. “When they get it that wrong, honestly it makes me not want to read the rest of the article, but I did for my due diligence!” Unfortunately, Kaiser doesn’t appear to have done the same. “My first thought was that if they were going to do this and they’re not willing to read the book, at least they could have read the website.” She continued, “Why couldn’t they talk to Elyse [the book’s co-author] or me, or at least someone who was trained in the model? (There are over 1,100 Certified Intuitive Eating Counselors in 29 countries.) Not to mention, there are 125 studies on this! It’s disappointing that they didn’t do their research, especially when they position themselves as healthcare leaders?” This is, Tribole points out, a textbook example of companies coopting Intuitive Eating principles and trying to twist them into the exact diet culture mentality that the Intuitive Eating model seeks to end. “What they really missed is that this is a model about self-agency and unconditional positive regard,” she explains. “The idea of not exploring your cravings or needs goesagainst the Intuitive Eating model. In fact, the very act of denying your food cravings in conjunction with caloric restriction increases cravings.” She adds “They got that really wrong.” She also vehemently disagrees with Kaiser’s repeated positioning of Intuitive Eating as being focused on never eating “too much.” Instead, she wants people to know that “Intuitive Eating is a dynamic interplay of instinct, thought, and emotion.” In other words, she says “we have a wise mind, and a wise body, and we get to use them.” She describes many points in the Kaiser article as “entirely misleading,” elaborating, “It’s based on diet culture, which is antithetical to our model. Not honoring cravings, pathologizing emotional eating, eating to less than fullness, all of these fly in the face of the Intuitive Eating Model.” Throughout the interview it’s clear that Tribole’s concern isn’t that Kaiser is stealing and distorting the model that she co-created (though, to be clear they are.) Her concern is for the people Kaiser is going to harm by perpetuating misinformation as a supposedly trustworthy source of healthcare information. After years of study, as an expert in the field, and the literal co-creator of Intuitive Eating, Tribole wants us all to know that “Kaiser is creating doubt and confusion in a person’s ability to trust themselves around food. People need to be empowered to be the experts on their own bodies. That’s what the true Intuitive Eating model facilitates. Kaiser is doing is the opposite — villainizing the eating process and removing the pleasure from eating. Their advice is potentially harmful.” If you want to learn about Intuitive Eating, Tribole suggests checking out these free resources: www.IntuitiveEating.org and for free peer-to-peer support there is the IntuitiveEatingCommunity.org with over 20,000 members.

Ragen Chastain

Fat Liberation Needs to be Centered in the Body Positivity Movement

The body positive movement began as a social justice movement, part of the fat activism movement. I started writing about these issues in 2009 and I’m just one in a long line of people (that starts before I was born) who have been fighting not just to have the freedom to love our bodies, but to be liberated from cultural weight stigma. So, how did body positivity become something that predominantly centers (and profits) thin, white women in their own personal journeys of body love? The issues with the centering of whiteness, and not giving credit to people of color for their contributions and leadership, have been present since the beginning of body positivity. But, the centering of thinness has happened over time, courtesy of thin privilege. That is how a thin woman learning to love the stomach roll that appears when she sits a certain way becomes something to be celebrated (and followed and paid) as a victory of “body positivity,” while a fat woman demanding that she receive ethical evidence-based healthcare in a chair that she can fit in becomes a cautionary tale of “glorifying ob*sity.” I wrote about the issues with this type of thin-centric body positivity here . What I want to talk about today is why it needs to return to being a movement that prioritizes fat people’s liberation over thin people’s insecurities. It’s absolutely true that a fatphobic society (and a beauty ideal based on thin, white, cis, abled bodies) affects people of all sizes, including our relationships with food, movement and our bodies. The negative feelings that thinner people have about their bodies (often driven by the fear of being/becoming fat) due to fatphobia are real, as is the personal work they have to do in order to deal with the consequences. However, it’s not true that it affects us in the same way (as in “skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming.”) While all of us may be dealing with the ways in which a fatphobic society affects our feelings about ourselves, only some of us are also dealing with structural oppression based on our body size– the ways in which a fatphobic society negatively impacts fat people’s everyday lives (with the fattest people and those with multiple marginalizations experiencing the greatest oppression.) A thin woman may have serious body image issues, but she’s not going to deal with entire restaurants that don’t have a chair that is big enough for her, airlines attempting to charge her twice as much for the same service or harmful (sometimes lethal) medical weight stigma .  These are issues that fat people do experience, and no amount of loving our bodies can solve them. That’s why body positivity needs to be a movement about fat liberation– until the world views our bodies as positive we will never have equality, no matter how much we love our bodies. Body positivity that centers thin people overcoming their insecurities actually makes the world worse for fat people. Re-casting the “problematic” body as the one that doesn’t quite meet an impossible beauty ideal (rather than one which experiences oppression and inequality at nearly every turn) further others fatter bodies. And the thin people who are centered can (and often do) choose to be “body image warriors” only in so much as their personal needs are met, keeping their fatphobic views for all of those fatter than themselves. And, all-too-often, voicing them from the huge platforms that this thin-washed body positivity has afforded them. Then, when they’re called out on it by fat people, they depend on fatphobia (and its enforcers) to privilege their position and point of view by quashing the dissent. However, there is good news. Solving the issue of weight stigma for the fattest people solves it for everyone. Once we have true body positivity, when society accepts and affirms the full diversity of body sizes, the issues of fatphobia that harm thin people will be gone. When society realizes that there is nothing wrong with being fat, then it naturally follows that there is nothing wrong with having a little fat roll when you bring your knees to your chest. When our culture accepts that being fat isn’t something to be feared, then thin people no longer have to spend their time, energy and money (and harm their relationships with food, movement, and their bodies) in an attempt to avoid being fat. Fighting for a world that accommodates the fattest people helps everyone be accommodated. Eliminating weight stigma liberates people of all sizes, and that’s why body positivity must return to its roots as a social justice movement that centers the liberation of fat people, including those who live at the intersections of fat and other marginalizations, and those in the fattest bodies. For everyone’s sake. So what can be done? Well, those with more thin (and other) privilege can talk about their own journeys within the context of the larger issue. They can work to dismantle weight stigma (including using their privilege wherever possible) and they can center the voices of fat people and, in particular, fat people who live with multiple marginalized intersections. It might look like, “Because of cultural fatphobia I even had a difficult time loving my relatively thin body. Here’s my journey, but understand that these issues hit those who are larger than I am much harder, including through structural oppression that people my size don’t experience. We all need to be committed to fat liberation– here are some resources to learn more/here are some fat activists to follow…” Privileged people can never liberate those who are more oppressed by centering themselves in the discussion, so do your own work to dismantle your internalized fatphobia and act in solidarity with fat activists to dismantle cultural weight stigma.

Ragen Chastain

Tips for When People Comment on Food During the Holidays

Food policing happens whenever someone tries to insert themselves into the choices you are making around food. It can sound like, “Do you need to eat that?” or, “Are you sure you want seconds?” It can even be a backhanded and condescending, “ Good for you for making a healthy choice!” Is there anything more fun than being under surveillance by the Friends and Family Food Police? There are a few of things that come to mind immediately — root canal, shaving my head with a cheese grater, a fish hook in the eye… This happens to almost all of my fat friends, but to be clear it happens to thin people too — food judgment and shaming happens to people of all sizes. The way you know that a comment about your food choices is not OK is that you aren’t OK with it. That’s the entire test. People do not have a right to give you unsolicited comments/advice about your food choices. This is something that can happen anytime of the year, but it’s rampant at the holidays. (I’m already hearing about experiences people had at Thanksgiving while eating with their families over Zoom!) Prevention Through Boundary Setting You can choose to set clear boundaries about this either prior to the event or during it. Step 1: State the boundary. (ie: “It’s not OK to comment on my food choices.”) You can choose to explain a bit about why you are making the request, but you don’t have to. It doesn’t matter what other people think of the boundary or any reasons that you share, you get to set it. Step 2: State the consequence (ie: “If you talk about my food, I’m going to leave the room/house/Zoom call.”) The key here is that it has to be a consequence you are willing to follow through with. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be something big (though of course it can be). It can just be taking your plate to the living room, or turning off your video on Zoom. Step 3: Follow-through (ie: “I told you that if you talked about my food I would leave the Zoom call, you talked about my food so I’m leaving the Zoom call.”) If someone starts talking about your food choices you do what you said you were going to do, explaining it so that it’s very clear that they are experiencing the consequences of their own actions. Conversation You can also choose to engage in conversation in a way that keeps you feeling empowered. It can be helpful to try to ascertain where the “food policing” is coming from before formulating your response. Judgment: The person asking the question has decided that it is their place to comment on someone else’s food choices. This is one of those situations where they would probably claim to be mistreating you for your own good. First of all, you determine what is good for you. Beyond that, if the person asking this question truly cared about you and your health (however misguided they might be), they would talk to you about it in person, alone, at an appropriate time, and they would ask a question that invited dialogue, not try to embarrass you in front of people while you’re eating what is supposed to be a holiday celebration meal. That right there is some bullshit. Power/Superiority: Remember that some people’s bodies left junior high but their mentality was tragically left behind. For those in this situation, nothing makes them feel as powerful as judging someone else and then making them feel like crap. Maybe because they are drowning in… Insecurity: The person asking the question is perhaps struggles with weight stigma, their guilt about eating etc. and since they feel guilty for enjoying the food, they think that you should feel guilty about it too, or they want to deflect attention from their behavior to yours. The degree of difficulty on discerning someone’s intent in this sort of thing can range from “of course” to “who the hell knows” so just to reiterate, while it can be helpful for formulating a response, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter why they saying what they are saying, if you don’t think it’s OK then it’s not OK. Some examples of conversation starters: “I spent a lot of years duped by diet culture and in an unhealthy relationship with my food. I’ve been able to find my way out, but it sounds like you might still be struggling — I’m happy to send you some resources if you’d like?” “I used to think commenting on other people’s food was appropriate too, but it turns out that perpetuating relationships with food that are based on guilt and shame is really harmful to people, and it’s a habit that we should get out of.” “Help me understand, what made you think that I was looking for opinions about my food choices?” “Do You Need to Eat That?” This, or some form of it, is the most common food-shaming question that people tell me they have to deal with, so I put together some specific responses. As with so many situations where people lash out at you, remember that this is about their issues. If emotions well up, consider that you may be feeling embarrassed and/or sorry for them, and not ashamed of your own behavior and/or that it is absolutely reasonable to be emotional when you are being mistreated. Finally, I suggest you find your happy (or at least your non-homicidal) place, and try one of these as a response to, “Do you need to eat that?” Quick and Simple (said with finality) Yes (and then eat it) No (and then eat it) Answer With a Question (I find it really effective to ask these without malice, with a tone of pure curiosity. If you’re not in the mood to have a dialog about this, maybe skip these.) Why do you think that’s your business? What led you to believe that I want you to police my food intake? I thought you were an accountant, are you also a dietitian? Are you asking if my body at this moment requires the precise nutrients that are delivered by cornbread stuffing and gravy? Pointed Response (be ready with a consequence if the behavior continues) I find that inappropriate and offensive, please don’t comment on my food choices What I eat is none of your business, and your commenting on it is not OK I have absolutely no interest in discussing my food intake with you I’m not soliciting opinions about my food choices. Cathartic (but probably not that useful if you want to create an opportunity for honest dialogue. On the other hand, you are under no obligation to center the feelings of people who are doing you harm, nor is there any requirement that you open yourself up to more possible harm by creating a dialog. If you’re just over it and want that to be clear, these can be a good choice.) Yes, because dealing with your rudeness is depleting my glycogen stores at an alarming rate If I want to talk to the food police, I’ll call Pie-1-1 I’m sure you’re not proud of the completely inappropriate behavior you just exhibited, I’m willing to forget this ever happened Thanks for trying to give me your insecurities, but I was really hoping to get an InstantPot this year No, but using my fork to eat helps to keep me from stabbing you with it If it’s helpful I put together a video of these responses as part of my annual fat positive holiday video series! You can check that out here. Make Like Frozen And Let It Go There are times when speaking up is not an option — maybe there is a power differential and it’s not safe, or someone is dealing with chronic illness, or pain, or mental illness and are not in a place to address this, and sometimes we just don’t want to deal with it. That’s also a valid choice. If this is the case then I recommend acknowledging to silently to yourself “this is bullshit and it should not be happening.” You can create a phrase that sounds neutral but that has a… special… meaning to you like “Thanks for that,” or “Thanks for sharing,” or as those of us who have lived in the American South say, “Bless your heart.” For closure you can role play it later and say what you would have said. However you decide to deal with food policing, always know that it shouldn’t be happening and you shouldn’t have to be dealing with it so, while it becomes your problem, it’s never your fault.

Ragen Chastain

How We're All Being Gaslit About COVID-19

Today a friend posted on Facebook, “Don’t leave your house unless you absolutely have to. And if you absolutely have to wear a mask and social distance.” I fully agree with this sentiment. The thing is, a couple months ago this person was posting on that same Facebook about the cross-country road trip they were on, including pictures of the restaurants they were going into to get takeout, video of the hotels they were staying, and they were sad-reacting to all of my Facebook posts at the time saying then exactly what they are now saying now. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. My partner is high risk because of respiratory issues. We both know that if we were to need treatment it would likely be compromised by medical fatphobia, and we also decided very early on that we would do anything we could to keep from giving COVID to anyone else and having their blood on our hands. So, we’ve been fully quarantined for nine months. For us that’s meant nobody coming to our home, and not going anywhere except absolutely necessary medical appointments during which we limit contact, social distance and never ever remove our masks. Before I get too far into this I want to acknowledge our privilege here. My partner, Julianne, is a virtual executive assistant and so she already worked from home. While her work slowed down a lot it didn’t stop. I’m a speaker and writer, I experienced a near complete loss of that income for the first few months, but now I’m doing more virtual speaking and paid writing. By seriously tightening our budget (including cooking literally everything we ate) we’ve been able to get by. I absolutely understand that some people have to go to work because our government has done an utterly unacceptable job of supporting people and businesses in doing what they need to do to be safe, and others are in dire financial straights because of this. We also have each other, and this would be much more difficult if we were alone. And, as always, white privilege underlies everything in our lives. That said, while some people may have no choice but to work, or need to create a quarantine bubble in order to have human contact, there is a lot going on that absolutely doesn’t need to be happening, and that’s where the gaslighting comes in. It’s difficult to sacrifice for the greater good, but what’s even more difficult is making those sacrifices when others work hard to make it seem like what you are doing is ridiculous in order to justify and excuse their own risky behavior. Let’s start with some quick facts. The World Health Organization declared theCOVID-19 outbreak to be a global health emergency on January 30, 2020, the U.S. reported its first COVID death on Feb 29 and declared a state ofemergency on March 13. By March 26, the U.S. led the world in confirmed cases. Absent federal leadership, states began to put travel and gathering restrictions in place in March. On April 17, Donald Trump began encouraging his followers to not just ignore, but protest, these life-saving restrictions. And that has created a group of the worst gaslighters in the U.S. Led by the current occupant of the White House, they are committed to risking their lives, and the lives of everyone they come in contact with, using “rationale” that is anything but rational. The people who, despite millions being sick and suffering and hundreds of thousands dying, continue to regurgitate talking points about how this is just like the flu, or that we have to choose between sacrificing the lives of those who are at risk or keeping the economy strong. (In fact, that’s not the case and even if it was, a society with any amount of compassion doesn’t choose making sure that the rich stay rich over making sure that others stay alive.) While I am deeply angry at these people’s despicable selfishness, it’s easier to deal with the of gaslighting aspect because it’s so clear what is happening. Someone who brings a gun (and no mask) to protest restrictions that exist to keep people from suffering and dying isn’t someone whose opinion of my choices I was ever that interested in. To me it much more difficult to deal with gaslighting from people from who I expected better. Now, this is a new illness and information has been developing and so, especially in the beginning, people’s different reactionscould be understandable. There was confusion in the beginning even about mask wearing. But let’s be honest, we’re long past that now. It has been clear for months that mask wearing, avoiding contact and social distancing when we need to be out, staying outdoors and hand washing are our best defenses, saying that you went to a “socially distanced” holiday dinner and then sending pictures of eight people around a table with no masks on isn’t fooling anyone, but it’s putting a lot of people in danger. Throughout this crisis, businesses have continued to attempt to gaslight, enabled by a combination of profit motive and loose restrictions created to appease a federal government and local terrorists who showed up at state capitals with guns to insist that “personal freedom” includes the right to harm and kill others rather than wearing a piece of cloth over their face. (One wonders if they were previous protesting no shirt, no shoes, no service requirements, but that’s a question for another day.) Restaurants are a good example of this. “Complying” with outdoor dieting restrictions by putting up tents or building structures to enclose diners (by their definition everything is “outside” since it used to be, before they enclosed it) and indoor dining restrictions that are absolutely non-sensical, like being allowed to take off your mask once you’re at the table, have created opportunities for people to do the wrong thing with impunity. Sure, some people may legitimately believe that they are magically immune from coronavirus as long as they are seated at a table eating a meal, but for too many others “following the rules” just gives justification for risky behavior. And this is where my personal frustration comes in. It’s been obvious for a long time that those who control our government cannot be trusted to help us through this crisis. The cavalry is not coming, at least for a while, and whether it’s because they are incompetent or because this virus targets the same people they do doesn’t matter. We need to take responsibility for protecting each other. That means all of us taking every precaution that we possibly can. When people don’t do this and then try to justify it to those of us who do, it’s important to acknowledge that we are being actively gaslit. So let’s do some translating so that we can be clear about what’s happening: When people justify their decisions to put themselves at more risk for coronavirus than necessary because they are low-risk, what they are actually saying to those forced to either quarantine or risk their lives because they can’t is: “I’m happy to prolong your suffering so that I can do what I want because I think I’ll be fine.” When people tell you that they aren’t going to live in fear, what they are actually saying is that they are going to risk other people’s lives. When people post maskless pictures to social media (you know that ones: “Had a socially distanced gathering, we just stood shoulder to shoulderand took our masks off for this picture!”) they are not just flaunting the fact that they are risking the lives and safety of everyone in the picture, they are trying to model that behavior to everyone they can reach online. As I write this, there were 223,570 new cases of coronavirus and 2,923 deaths — yesterday. The fact that we wish something wasn’t happening, or that we wish it didn’t require sacrifices, will never change the fact that it is happening and it does require sacrifices. If you’re continuing to make those sacrifices, you can rest easy knowing that you aren’t selfishly risking the lives of others. The people in your life who aren’t doing everything they possibly can to keep others safe and end this pandemic have no right to criticize your choices. Take every precaution you can and stay grounded in reality. It’s not outside if it’s enclosed, it’s not safe to take your mask off for any reason (no, not even to eat or drink, not to take a picture or because it’s your family etc.,) it’s not a “quarantine bubble” if people have contact outside of it. These are the realities of our current world, gaslighting be damned.

Ragen Chastain

How We're All Being Gaslit About COVID-19

Today a friend posted on Facebook, “Don’t leave your house unless you absolutely have to. And if you absolutely have to wear a mask and social distance.” I fully agree with this sentiment. The thing is, a couple months ago this person was posting on that same Facebook about the cross-country road trip they were on, including pictures of the restaurants they were going into to get takeout, video of the hotels they were staying, and they were sad-reacting to all of my Facebook posts at the time saying then exactly what they are now saying now. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. My partner is high risk because of respiratory issues. We both know that if we were to need treatment it would likely be compromised by medical fatphobia, and we also decided very early on that we would do anything we could to keep from giving COVID to anyone else and having their blood on our hands. So, we’ve been fully quarantined for nine months. For us that’s meant nobody coming to our home, and not going anywhere except absolutely necessary medical appointments during which we limit contact, social distance and never ever remove our masks. Before I get too far into this I want to acknowledge our privilege here. My partner, Julianne, is a virtual executive assistant and so she already worked from home. While her work slowed down a lot it didn’t stop. I’m a speaker and writer, I experienced a near complete loss of that income for the first few months, but now I’m doing more virtual speaking and paid writing. By seriously tightening our budget (including cooking literally everything we ate) we’ve been able to get by. I absolutely understand that some people have to go to work because our government has done an utterly unacceptable job of supporting people and businesses in doing what they need to do to be safe, and others are in dire financial straights because of this. We also have each other, and this would be much more difficult if we were alone. And, as always, white privilege underlies everything in our lives. That said, while some people may have no choice but to work, or need to create a quarantine bubble in order to have human contact, there is a lot going on that absolutely doesn’t need to be happening, and that’s where the gaslighting comes in. It’s difficult to sacrifice for the greater good, but what’s even more difficult is making those sacrifices when others work hard to make it seem like what you are doing is ridiculous in order to justify and excuse their own risky behavior. Let’s start with some quick facts. The World Health Organization declared theCOVID-19 outbreak to be a global health emergency on January 30, 2020, the U.S. reported its first COVID death on Feb 29 and declared a state ofemergency on March 13. By March 26, the U.S. led the world in confirmed cases. Absent federal leadership, states began to put travel and gathering restrictions in place in March. On April 17, Donald Trump began encouraging his followers to not just ignore, but protest, these life-saving restrictions. And that has created a group of the worst gaslighters in the U.S. Led by the current occupant of the White House, they are committed to risking their lives, and the lives of everyone they come in contact with, using “rationale” that is anything but rational. The people who, despite millions being sick and suffering and hundreds of thousands dying, continue to regurgitate talking points about how this is just like the flu, or that we have to choose between sacrificing the lives of those who are at risk or keeping the economy strong. (In fact, that’s not the case and even if it was, a society with any amount of compassion doesn’t choose making sure that the rich stay rich over making sure that others stay alive.) While I am deeply angry at these people’s despicable selfishness, it’s easier to deal with the of gaslighting aspect because it’s so clear what is happening. Someone who brings a gun (and no mask) to protest restrictions that exist to keep people from suffering and dying isn’t someone whose opinion of my choices I was ever that interested in. To me it much more difficult to deal with gaslighting from people from who I expected better. Now, this is a new illness and information has been developing and so, especially in the beginning, people’s different reactionscould be understandable. There was confusion in the beginning even about mask wearing. But let’s be honest, we’re long past that now. It has been clear for months that mask wearing, avoiding contact and social distancing when we need to be out, staying outdoors and hand washing are our best defenses, saying that you went to a “socially distanced” holiday dinner and then sending pictures of eight people around a table with no masks on isn’t fooling anyone, but it’s putting a lot of people in danger. Throughout this crisis, businesses have continued to attempt to gaslight, enabled by a combination of profit motive and loose restrictions created to appease a federal government and local terrorists who showed up at state capitals with guns to insist that “personal freedom” includes the right to harm and kill others rather than wearing a piece of cloth over their face. (One wonders if they were previous protesting no shirt, no shoes, no service requirements, but that’s a question for another day.) Restaurants are a good example of this. “Complying” with outdoor dieting restrictions by putting up tents or building structures to enclose diners (by their definition everything is “outside” since it used to be, before they enclosed it) and indoor dining restrictions that are absolutely non-sensical, like being allowed to take off your mask once you’re at the table, have created opportunities for people to do the wrong thing with impunity. Sure, some people may legitimately believe that they are magically immune from coronavirus as long as they are seated at a table eating a meal, but for too many others “following the rules” just gives justification for risky behavior. And this is where my personal frustration comes in. It’s been obvious for a long time that those who control our government cannot be trusted to help us through this crisis. The cavalry is not coming, at least for a while, and whether it’s because they are incompetent or because this virus targets the same people they do doesn’t matter. We need to take responsibility for protecting each other. That means all of us taking every precaution that we possibly can. When people don’t do this and then try to justify it to those of us who do, it’s important to acknowledge that we are being actively gaslit. So let’s do some translating so that we can be clear about what’s happening: When people justify their decisions to put themselves at more risk for coronavirus than necessary because they are low-risk, what they are actually saying to those forced to either quarantine or risk their lives because they can’t is: “I’m happy to prolong your suffering so that I can do what I want because I think I’ll be fine.” When people tell you that they aren’t going to live in fear, what they are actually saying is that they are going to risk other people’s lives. When people post maskless pictures to social media (you know that ones: “Had a socially distanced gathering, we just stood shoulder to shoulderand took our masks off for this picture!”) they are not just flaunting the fact that they are risking the lives and safety of everyone in the picture, they are trying to model that behavior to everyone they can reach online. As I write this, there were 223,570 new cases of coronavirus and 2,923 deaths — yesterday. The fact that we wish something wasn’t happening, or that we wish it didn’t require sacrifices, will never change the fact that it is happening and it does require sacrifices. If you’re continuing to make those sacrifices, you can rest easy knowing that you aren’t selfishly risking the lives of others. The people in your life who aren’t doing everything they possibly can to keep others safe and end this pandemic have no right to criticize your choices. Take every precaution you can and stay grounded in reality. It’s not outside if it’s enclosed, it’s not safe to take your mask off for any reason (no, not even to eat or drink, not to take a picture or because it’s your family etc.,) it’s not a “quarantine bubble” if people have contact outside of it. These are the realities of our current world, gaslighting be damned.

Ragen Chastain

5 Things To Keep In Mind When Your Fave Goes on a Detox

There has been a lot of buzz about Lizzo’s latest Instagram story discussing her choice to do a “detox” cleanse. In the post, Lizzo never mentions weight loss. She points out she is working with a nutritionist and that people should do their own research. In response to the conversation happening around her, Lizzo responded on social media. She reminded viewers that she, like people of any body size, has every right to make personal decisions about her body. She did what worked for her. “I detoxed my body and I’m still fat. I love my body and I’m still fat. I’m beautiful and I’m still fat. These things are not mutually exclusive,” Lizzo wrote on Instagram, adding: I did not starve myself. I fed myself greens and water and fruit and protein and sunlight. You don’t have to do that to be beautiful or healthy. That was my way. You can do life your way. Remember, despite anything anyone says or does. DO WHAT YOU WANT WITH YOUR BODY.   View this post on Instagram  A post shared by Lizzo (@lizzobeeating) Still, her initial post stirred up a lot of people’s feelings. Some viewed it as a “betrayal” that their body-positive favorite was engaging in what they view as diet culture. We saw similar conversations spark around Adele’s recent weight loss, and years ago when Demi Lovato, who’s openly in eating disorder recovery, posted on Instagram promoting a 30-day detox tea challenge. So, setting Lizzo’s specific case aside, here are five things to keep in mind when one of your body-positive heroes engages with diet culture. 1. Check Your Privilege It’s not our place to comment on what other people do with their bodies. Period. White fat activists especially need to be conscious of how race plays into matters of body politics. For example, as a white woman I don’t comment on the choices Black women make for their bodies. (To be clear, it’s a mistake I made in the past until people generously educated me.) Clarkeisha KENT Is right. Ppl congratulated Adèle on her weight loss journey but trashing Lizzo. The anti-blackness of it all.— Valerie Complex (@ValerieComplex) December 15, 2020 2. Feeling Disappointed Is Valid When you’re a fan of someone based on your understanding of their beliefs, you have an investment in what they do and share publicly. When that person takes an action promoting something seemingly against those beliefs — even though they have a right to do that — it can still feel like a betrayal. That’s a completely valid feeling. You don’t get to control other people’s behavior, but you do get to have feelings about it. 3. It’s Good to Be Skeptical When Celebrities Engage in Diet Culture Even stars get duped by diet culture. Lord knows there is enough pressure to cave and enough people ready to sell it to them the minute they do. Even though Lizzo was not paid to post what she did, from the Kardashians and their appetite suppressant lollipops, to the various celebrities who attach themselves to weight loss plans like Jenny Craig, we’re used to seeing celebrities help sell diet culture. Because of this, it’s good to be skeptical whenever we see any celebrity engaging in diet culture. People can do whatever they want with their bodies, yes, but it is fair to point out when their behaviors perpetuate fatphobia. If they do, then they are responsible for the harm they cause, regardless of their personal reasons for trying to change their body size. 4. If You’re Working to Resist Diet Culture, Stay Strong No matter how much we understand that detoxes don’t do what they advertise, and almost every weight loss attempt ends with full weight regain (and a majority end with people regaining more than they lost), seeing people we admire engage in any type of diet or detox can make us think: maybe we should diet just one more time. Resist that urge. Dieting and weight cycling harm us physically and emotionally. It’s unfortunate when celebrities look like they are engaging in diet culture, but we don’t have to. We worked hard to get off the diet roller coaster and we can stay off if that’s the best thing for us. Stick to what you need and what works for you. 5. Center and Protect Marginalized Voices There are fat people, including fat people with multiple marginalized identities, who have chosen to do the difficult and painful work of liberating themselves from diet culture. Those people have chosen not to risk their lives and quality of life with dangerous surgeries and diets, even though it might bring more money or fame. The Size Acceptance community is a social justice community with limited resources to fight the crushing oppression of global weight stigma and so, while people are allowed to do what they want with their bodies, we are not obligated to support those still perpetuating diet culture. We can help the world by centering those voices and by creating spaces that support them.

Ragen Chastain

How Dieting Harms Our Mental Health

We know that the vast majority of people who attempt weight loss have the same experience, they lose weight short term, then gain it all back within a few years, with many gaining back more than they lost. Those who try again are nearly certain to repeat this experience. When people do this repeatedly it is referred to as “weight cycling” (or colloquially as yo-yo dieting). We know that weight cycling is linked to negative health outcomes. As Bacon and Aphramor point out: Attempts to lose weight typically result in weight cycling, and such attempts are more common among ob*se individuals [62]. Weight cycling results in increased inflammation, which in turn is known to increase risk for many ob*sity-associated diseases [63]. Other potential mechanisms by which weight cycling contributes to morbidity include hypertension, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia [64]. Research also indicates that weight fluctuation is associated with poorer cardiovascular outcomes and increased mortality risk [64–68]. Weight cycling can account for all of the excess mortality associated with ob*sity in both the Framingham Heart Study [69] and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) [70]. It may be, therefore, that the association between weight and health risk can be better attributed to weight cycling than adiposity itself [63]. For some, of course, dieting moves from disordered eating into an eating disorder and can become life-threatening But it’s not just health impacts, weight cycling can also take a serious emotional toll and we tend to talk much less about that. The diet industry is horrible at creating long-term weight loss. What they are good at is taking credit for the first part of the biological response to dieting (the short-term weight loss) and blaming people (and getting them to blame themselves) for the second part of the biological response (the weight regain). They have worked hard to perpetuate a narrative — with absolutely no research basis — that anyone can be thin if they try hard enough. This means that when people follow the diet industry script, they blame themselves for failing, despite the fact that they are having the same experience as almost everyone who diets. The more times we diet, the harder the diet industry works to convince us that we are weak-willed failures who just need to try (and pay them!) one… more… time. Perhaps worse than that are the brief times when the weight loss is happening. Suddenly we are getting the approval of everyone — friends, family, doctors, strangers. We are (however briefly) moving ourselves out of an oppressed group and so we face less weight stigma — we may fit into more chairs, more stores may have our size, etc. Because we’ve been trained to see body size manipulation as an accomplishment, we bask in all of this — often beginning to perpetuate the same weight stigma that previously harmed us by posting “before” and “after” pictures, celebrating all the ways we are now accommodated by a fatphobic world, disparaging our previous fat bodies and toeing the line with anti-fat diet culture talk. Then it all comes crashing down. We find that (as the research told us it would) feeding our body less food than it needs to survive in the hopes that it consumes itself and becomes smaller is unsustainable. Our bodies are physiologically changed by the trauma we’ve put them through into weight regaining, weight maintaining machines. We blame ourselves for being “failures.” We blame ourselves for the weight stigma that we are again experiencing. Often, instead of fighting for a world where all bodies are respected and accommodated, by dieting we temporarily appeased our bullies by changing ourselves and, in doing so, gave those who oppress us even more power (and, in many cases, even joined the oppressors while we could). Then there are all of those compliments. Every single compliment for weight loss is now an insult. We know for sure that friends, family, doctors and strangers think we are better when we are thinner because they enthusiastically told us so. This is part of what lures people back into diet culture — even when we’ve failed over and over, even when we know that there is basically no chance that we will succeed. We just keep seeking the validation we got for the brief period of time when we were smaller than we are now. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can decide to get off the diet roller coaster. We can acknowledge that many of the people around us have also been duped by diet culture into believing that bodies are healthier/more attractive/better if they are thinner. We can also stop being part of this cycle for other people in our lives. We can respond to weight loss by saying something like, “You look amazing in both pictures!” or “I celebrate you at all sizes” or “Even if you’re among the vast majority of people who regain their weight, please know that you are valid and worthy at every size.” This might not be well received when it happens (as the person basks in their temporary body change and expects the world to join in on that fatphobia) but when they are looking back, they’ll have the memory of at least one person who didn’t tie their beauty, health and worth to their body size. Diet culture is harmful to our bodies, minds and spirits. The only way to win is not to play.