Clarity and Direction

About a month ago I found myself asking what my end game was. I’m an activist, sure. But so what? What does that mean for me? I felt like I needed a clearer picture in my head of what I really wanted. I took time to meditate on this question and the answers really gave me clarity and direction. Here is the list I came up with:

1. I want everyone to know that their bodies are worthy of respect, love, affection and nourishment.

2. I want to teach parents about the effects of body shaming on kids and give them tools for raising body positive children!

3. I want to expose the motivations of the diet industry & the tools they use to rob us of our self esteem so they can sell it back to us for a profit.

4.I want to lead by example! I will wear what I want, eat what I want, rest when I need and NEVER APOLOGIZE for being me. I will be fat and awesome at the same time.

5. I want to respect other people’s decisions regarding their body as I expect them to respect mine (underpants rule!).

6. I want to be transparent with my struggles to love my body because I know others have the same struggles. We can help each other through!

7. I want to do all of the above from a place of compassion, patience, understanding and love (and forgive myself when I fall short of this goal).

After writing this list I realized how much it really means to me! I want to do more than blog and use my outside voice on social media. I want to share it with you to remind me to be transparent and accountable. I want these things to continue to be my foundation, motivation and compass.

When I thought about HOW I might accomplish this I realized that I had been unknowingly developing the tools I need for the past year! Hooping has been so essential to the process of healing my relationship to my body! It has taught me that I am beautiful, graceful, capable and confident! It transcends size, age, gender, race, ability and religion! What a beautiful and fun way to open doors to this conversation! I feel like God has been guiding me down this path for this very reason.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook or follow my business page know that I have been working furiously to get my business off the ground. This list was the spark behind it all! I taught my first class in May, I hoop fairied a day away at the Central Alberta Children’s Festival, and I even managed to sell a few hoops! I even started a GoFundMe page to help me earn my way to becoming a Punk Rock Hoops certified teacher! I really believe that this can open to door to reintroducing people to their bodies in a positive way.

Over the next little while I will be developing workshops with various focuses like body positivity, Health at Every Size, Mental Health Awareness and Anti-Bullying. I am building lesson plans and learning lots about making hoops! I want to eventually develop a line of plus size flow wear because it is so difficult to find and I want everyone to extra lovely in their hoops! I have so much to learn!

So far this journey has taught me how supported I am by the wonderful people around me. It has helped me deepen my gratitude and connection to my friends and family. I am so excited to continue to grow!

Right now all proceeds from my hoops and class fees go towards my teacher training tuition and travel costs. If you feel called to support me or want to see what all this hooping thing is all about I’ll be over here in my hoop!

-Amy out

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Body Mass Index? More like Barely Meaningful Integer…amIright?!

What’s this? A Blog post from the other side? No! I am, in fact, still alive. I have been taking time to learn more about the Size Acceptance movement and Health At Every Size as well as the important differences between the two. I’ve decided to dig even deeper (and blog about it along the way). This month I am learning about BMI and the results aren’t pretty.

IMPORTANT NOTE: TRIGGER WARNING: In this post I will be using terms like ‘obese’ as it is a term associated with BMI labeling. I will also be discussing metabolic health. It is important to note that health is not an obligation nor a ‘barometer of worthiness’ (as the lovely Ragen would say), nor is it always within your control. This blog is only meant to discuss the short comings of the BMI system and the effects it has on society and policy. Also, this is a really long blog post. Read it anyway.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a mathematical formula used to generate a number based on the height and weight of an individual. This magical number is then supposed to determine things like health and longevity but instead determines things like whether or not you will qualify for health care, whether or not you will receive an evidence-based diagnosis and treatment from your doctor (read this! And this!), how much weight-based social stigmatization you will face, etc. Why is it so ineffective? Let me count the ways!

The ways:

  1. It’s the wrong tool for the job

The BMI system was never intended to measure individual health but was meant to measure and predict trends in large populations. Its inventor, was statistician/sociologist (read: not a medical doctor) and wouldn’t have been considered an expert in the medical field 200 years ago let alone today. Even the dude responsible for making BMI popular in medicine today explicitly stated that it was not appropriate for individual evaluation.

We have the ability to measure the metabolic health of an individual without profiling them by their appearance. If fitness level and behaviors are measured, a much more accurate and individualized picture can be established independent from weight and height. Why is the BMI system still used over other more accurate methods? Answer: it’s cheap, easy and profitable. Our fear and misconceptions about our health are making a lot of people very rich.

  1. Metabolic health is complex

BMI makes no concession for things likes muscle mass, bone density, body fat percentage, fitness level, etc. The idea that it can predict health when it cannot even account for these things is ridiculous. Body builders often complain that according to their BMI they are classified as overweight or obese! This may seem like a superficial complaint, but when it begins to affect your ability to qualify for health insurance, it becomes a serious issue. Sounds a little cash grabby on the part of the health insurance industry, doesn’t it?

The truth is that health is a complicated and multifaceted issue and profiling someone’s health by their size is both foolish and damaging. Angela Meadows notes that “thin people are not treated for conditions that doctors think they can’t have, fat people are treated for conditions they don’t have, and eating disorders rise exponentially in ever younger children.” In fact, studies show that a substantial portion of the population is misidentified when using BMI as a valuation of health. This results in sicker people not being treated and additional cost burdens to health care for people who are being treated unnecessarily.

  1. Weight is not a measure of health.

Time to prepare your surprised face! Fat does not equal unhealthy. Crazy, right? So all you concern trolls going, “OMG, BUT WAT ABOUT UR HEALTHZ!” can just take a breather. Seriously, stop. Weight and health are two separate issues and BMI only very weakly correlates these two factors.

Studies show that BMI only weakly predicts longevity and most studies actually find that ‘overweight’ and moderately obese people live just as long, or longer than ‘normal weight’ people. Also, obese people with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and chronic kidney disease tend to fair better than thin people with the same conditions. So why do doctors prescribe weight loss as a cure for these diseases?

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The age old argument is that there is a higher correlation between obese people and certain diseases; but it is important to note the difference between correlation and causation (seriously, click that link; it’s hilarious). Did you know there’s also a correlation between reading ability and shoe size? Why is Michelle Obama not waging a war against illiteracy in the tiny footed?? Oh, wait, those are babies. We need to remember that when two things are correlated there is often a third factor at play. Dr. Linda Bacon notes that weight cycling and yo-yo dieting can increase risk for many obesity related diseases including hypertension, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia as well as poorer cardiovascular outcomes. She continues to note “that the association between weight and health risk can be better attributed to weight cycling than adiposity itself.” Other contributing factors to consider are socio-economic status, stress from size based discrimination and shaming, etc. Maybe it’s more complicated than fat=bad. Maybe there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. Maybe our solution to the ‘problem’ is actually the problem.

The absurdity of having such sharp lines drawn between healthy and obese was reinforced in 1998 when the CDC lowered the threshold for what is considered unhealthy causing 29 million Americans who were previously considered to be healthy to be reclassified as overweight from one day to the next. What’s interesting is the individuals responsible for this decision had direct financial ties to the diet industry. These people then advocated dieting for anyone who did not fit into the newly defined ‘ideal BMI’ category. I’m sure they just had our health in mind though, right?

  1. It feeds the hate fire!

BMI + Calories in/Calories Out myth + Ignorance = OMGDEATHFATZWTFBBQ!

I’ll break it down for those of us who had trouble with math. People believe that fat people are diseased (BMI) and that it’s a result of our own personal failings as humans (+ Calories In/Calories Out Myth) and that because they have been ordained the almighty rulers of your personal choices (+ Ignorance), we then get our so called ‘Obesity Epidemic’ (= OMGDEATHFATZWTFBBQ!).

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People like to justify their size based prejudice with the “science” behind BMI. When it doesn’t work people think they just have to hate a little harder. If they are able to muster enough self-righteousness they will be able to shame us into either changing to fit in, dying or disappearing from sight. This is often sometimes perhaps occasionally not done with malevolence; these attitudes are so ingrained in our culture that people do not even realize how rude and damaging their behavior is.

The negative view of fat people is not only ineffective in producing thin people but also contributes to rising numbers in eating disorders. It distracts people from larger health issues; it discourages fat people from visiting their doctor for fear they will be discriminated against, and it discourages fat people from participating in healthful habits (and life in general). It also contributes to depression, stress levels and poor self-esteem. Perhaps more importantly, it effects public, medical, professional and insurance policy. There are laws protecting against nearly every other form of discrimination, but none to protect against size based discrimination.

What should we do?

Our focus needs to change from size to behaviors. Evidence shows that people reap the benefits of healthy behaviors independent of size or any weight loss. People can engage in healthful habits at any size! This is not to say that it is ok to police other people’s behaviors, but only that size is not and should not be treated as a limiting factor.

So speak up! Tell your doctor to give you evidence based medical care next time they tell you your BMI isn’t ‘ideal’! Post articles about Health at Every Size and Size Diversity Acceptance on social media! Think critically and do your research! Call people on their discriminatory behavior! Challenge people’s attitudes and assumptions! Let’s make this world a safe place for people of all sizes! RIOTS NOT DIETS!

-Amy out!

3 Things I want my Friends and Family to Know About Body Love

Aside

Recently an article has been floating around the interwebz called ‘6 Things I Don’t Understand About the Fat Acceptance Movement’. Most of the Fat Activist bloggers I follow had some amazing responses that say it all. I felt like I didn’t really need to respond because who could ever top The Militant Baker?? But I am slowly coming to the realization that this ‘lack of understanding’ is something that needs to be addressed with my family and friends (who are pretty much my only readers). So here it is. This is 3 things I want you to understand about Body Love. This is where I am at and what is in my heart.

1. I value my health very much, thank you!

I am learning about something called Health at Every Size (HAES). There is a book by Dr. Linda Bacon called Health At Every Size that focuses on being healthy as opposed to being skinny and presents research to show that fat and healthy are not mutually exclusive. Dr. Bacon has a Masters Degree in Psychotherapy with a specialty in eating disorders and body image, a Masters Degree in Exercise Science specializing in metabolism and a Doctorate in Physiology with a focus on nutrition and weight regulation. She has dedicated her life to understanding why we struggle so much with weight regulation when it’s supposed to be as simple as diet and exercise.

“Every discipline I studied revealed the same disconnect: The science of weight regulation directly contradicts cultural assumptions as well as those promoted by ‘experts’.” -Dr. Linda Bacon

This book is teaching me about the amazing things my body goes through to regulate my weight. It’s teaching me about how all my crazy diets and unhealthy habits have hurt my body’s ability to regulate itself. I’m learning about how to reconnect with my body so that it can do the job it was created to do. I am learning that everyone’s body has it’s own natural set point weight wise and not all set points result in a size 2. I am learning that you cannot know a persons habits or lifestyle by their weight alone.

I am very much focused on learning to be healthy but I no longer believe that healthy and skinny are synonymous. Watch this video to learn about why I think it’s ok to be fat.

2. I need your support!

Learning to love myself is hard. We live in a society that has turned weight into a moral issue. Foods have come to be known as ‘guilt free’ or ‘sinfully delicious’. Fat people are judged as being lazy and gluttonous at a single glance. Not a day goes by that I am not bombarded with diet ads and images of ‘ideal beauty’ that tell me that this is what beauty is supposed to look like and that I will never look that way. I am fighting an uphill battle and I cannot do it alone. These are the things that I need from you that will help me learn to love myself.

  • My health is my concern. Please know that while comments of concern may be well meaning, they are unfounded and they trigger old feelings of shame that I am working to overcome.
  • While I am happy that you are enjoying success from your new diet, I have a hard time hearing about it. The diet mentality is something that I am working very hard to overcome and often diet talk can trigger feelings of shame. Please know that I am not judging your choice to diet or lose weight, I just need extra support while I work on changing my thought habits.
  • No more negative body talk! If you are unhappy with the way your thighs rub together or with the number of chins you have in the pic you were tagged in, I don’t want to hear about it. Negativity feeds off negativity and I am trying to starve mine out. I don’t need you to feed it for me.
  • I would be over the freaking moon if any of you were to read the book (or at least research Health at Every Size) so that I can discuss it with you.

3. Why should you care? Body love affects us all!

For me, learning about body love has included learning about fat acceptance but that is not the case for everyone. Sadly, I don’t believe I’ve ever met a person (male, female, short, tall, skinny or fat) who could truly say that they loved their body. Body love isn’t just for ‘fat chicks with self esteem issues’, it addresses a problem that has real and measurable effects not just on individuals but on society as a whole.

When you learn to love and accept yourself the world opens up for you in ways you never imagined. You stop holding yourself back from doing the things that you have always wanted to do but felt unworthy of or uncomfortable doing. Instead of trying to shrink and disappear you grow and flourish. You learn to let go of the judgements you have towards other people and by extension give them permission to love themselves. The ideas and principles I am learning about are all things that I would wish for you in your lives as well as my own. So give yourself permission to start loving your body, I’ll be here to help you!

As always, thank you for reading. I want to especially thank my family and friends for being so loving and supportive. You are all the coolest of the cool cats.