Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Body Love

I embrace Body Love because I have much better things to do than DIET and OBSESS!

I had a blast with this self portrait shoot with only 10 minutes of daylight in which to accomplish my contribution to Golda Poretsky's photo project for her upcoming TED talk. I couldn't decide between my two favorite shots.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Welfare drug testing wasteful

I was so ticked to read about Texas' drug testing for welfare plan that I looked up my representatives and shot off this angry email.

I am writing to express my disgust and opposition to the proposed measures for drug testing welfare recipients. A similar program introduced in the state of Florida was a proven failure and absolute waste of resources, namely tax dollars.

The program did not deter drug users from applying for aid, as there was no reported change in the numbers of applicants after the program was implemented. The drug testing disqualified a paltry 108 people, 2% of applicants, and primarily for marijuana, widely regarded as a low-risk drug that causes fewer deaths, disease, and overall damage than alcohol.

The state lost $45,780 on this program, counting attorneys and court fees and the thousands of hours of staff time it took to implement the policy. Considering the population of Florida is over 19 million people, $$45,780 can hardly be justified to deny benefits to a mere 100 people—people in such dismal living conditions that they need an escape more than anyone else.

Prohibition has only ever been a failure in the history of the United States, giving rise to more violent crime, and the War on Drugs is no exception. I find it absolutely unacceptable and morally reprehensible to waste constituents’ hard-earned dollars on programs destined and proven to fail.

Denying a handful of people welfare benefits is nothing compared to the citizens who need government programs most; consider the millions of uninsured women and children in Texas and the state’s abysmally low number of dollars spent per student in education. There are hundreds of other programs and millions of people who would benefit from judicious spending by our representatives. And wasting tens of thousands of dollars to exclude a hundred people is an irresponsible waste of resources designed specifically to target and criminalize the poor who are in the greatest need of assistance.

As a humanist and a skeptic born and raised in Texas, I hope you’ll keep your constituents’ desires and needs in mind when consideration of this issue comes to you.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No Benefits to Intentional Weight Loss

Here is a great interview with Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (HAES), about the dangers of intentional weight loss. Here is her peer-reviewed article that compiles information from numerous studies to support the claims that intentional weight loss is detrimental to health, as well as supporting the Health at Every Size approach It’s very long but very accessible and interesting, and I highly recommend reading it. Below are a few excerpts.

Concern has arisen that this weight focused paradigm is not only ineffective at producing thinner, healthier bodies, but also damaging, contributing to food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, distraction from other personal health goals and wider health determinants, reduced self-esteem, eating disorders, other health decrement, and weight stigmatization and discrimination.

Only studies with an explicit focus on size acceptance were included. Evidence from these six RCTs indicates that a HAES approach is associated with statistically and clinically relevant improvements in physiological measures (e.g. blood pressure, blood lipids), health behaviors (e.g. physical activity, eating disorder pathology) and psychosocial outcomes (e.g, mood, self-esteem, body image). All studies indicate significant improvements in psychological and behavioral outcomes; improvements in self-esteem and eating behaviors were particularly noteworthy.

Attempts to lose weight typically result in weight cycling, and such attempts are more common among obese individuals. Weight cycling results in increased inflammation, which in turn is known to increase risk for many obesity-associated diseases. Other potential mechanisms by which weight cycling contributes to morbidity include hypertension, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. Research also indicates that weight fluctuation is associated with poorer cardiovascular outcomes and increased mortality risk. Weight cycling can account for all of the excess mortality associated with obesity in both the Framingham Heart Study and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). It may be, therefore, that the association between weight and health risk can be better attributed to weight cycling than adiposity itself.

It is also notable that the prevalence of hypertension dropped by half between 1960 and 2000, a time when average weight sharply increased, declining much more steeply among those deemed overweight and obese than among thinner individuals. Incidence of cardiovascular disease also plummeted during this time period and many common diseases now emerge at older ages and are less severe. (The notable exception is diabetes, which showed a small, non-significant increase during this time period.) While the decreased morbidity can at least in part be attributed to improvements in medical care, the point remains that we are simply not seeing the catastrophic disease consequences predicted to result from the "obesity epidemic."

That weight loss will improve health over the long-term for obese people is, in fact, an untested hypothesis. One reason the hypothesis is untested is because no methods have proven to reduce weight long-term for a significant number of people.

Psychologist Deb Burgard examined the costs of overlooking the normal weight people who need treatment and over-treating the obese people who do not (personal communication, March 2010). She found that BMI profiling overlooks 16.3 million "normal weight" individuals who are not healthy and identifies 55.4 million overweight and obese people who are not ill as being in need of treatment.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why I talk about weight and health and Fat Acceptance so much

I’m privileged: I’m a 26-year-old, college-educated, middle class, straight-sized, cis-presenting, pretty, white woman. But I have been the victim of body shaming and mocking and direct insults from strangers and from family. I was told flat out last year by a brand new doctor who asked nothing of my food and exercise habits to lose weight. I had just run 3 miles that morning and was devastated and, of course, fired her.

Health at Every Size (HAES) and FA are important to me because every female member of my family (and most of the men, too) is obese and has been for the vast majority of their adult lives, excepting only me and my sister, probably because we’re the youngest and in our mid-twenties. I spent 25 years swallowing and dwelling on and obsessing over the message that I will spend the entirety of my life—DECADES—battling my weight, battling my genetics, waging war against my weak and traitorous body, and spent too much time blaming my family for their weight and my inevitable fate, before finding HAES.

I gave up calorie counting after college because it made me neurotic and obsessive and cranky and a miserable person and it probably qualified as disordered eating. And I was one of the “lucky” few who could easily manipulate my weight through exercise alone and enjoyed doing it. Weight loss has always come easily for me; maintenance has not. Since college, I’ve been bouncing back and forth within a 20 pound range and thinking that was normal. It’s not. It’s normal in that it aligns with most (95%) people’s  experiences with weight loss and gain, but it is not healthy or natural. Weight cycling does one more harm than being heavy.

I gave up restricted eating last year after reading a blog post from The Fat Nutritionist that outlined the exact cycle of just thinking about restricting a food triggering a binge response. The concepts of permission and intuitive eating allow me to eat better overall and enjoy every minute of it. Would you believe that I quickly dropped 5 or 6 pounds going into the holidays when I quit working out and began eating all the goodies I wanted after having maintained a steady weight for a few months? Having a healthy relationship with food means appreciating not only its nutritional value, but its emotional, social, cultural, and comfort values too and trusting your body to normalize fluctuations, such as partaking wholly of a holiday feast with people you love.

There is no science—NONE—to support intentional weight loss as a healthy behavior. It is NOT evidence-based medicine. And it IS, in fact, harmful. As a feminist, humanist, and skeptic, I am appalled at the cultural myths about thinness, the conflation of weight with health, and the rampant casual concern-trolling and discrimination against fat people.

And I am sick and tired of hearing everyone, especially people I care for, hate on their bodies and their weight, and of seeing their submission to the LIE that thin = happy/healthy/good/worthy.

Fuck You.
You’re wonderful.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tell Me

A poem I wrote in summer 2012. Trigger warning: sexual assault, victim blaming.

Tell me

You tell me what I should’ve done, could’ve done,
What you would’ve done, had you been there,
Been in my shoes, been me. Had. You. Been.
But you weren’t, aren’t, and will never be me,
Never be a woman, never will be.
And so you’ll never see.
You see, I was caught off-guard.
Because I wasn’t on guard;
No one warns you, “En garde!”
In a public place, in a safe space, in my personal space.
When we’ve met face to face
And it’s exhausting to always be on guard,
To always be told to always be on guard,
To always be told, always, “You should’ve.”
Always, “You could’ve.”
Always, “Well, I would’ve.”
But you didn't and you couldn't
Have been me, been in my shoes.
Never will be, and so you can't see.
You see, I was knocked off guard
And thrust into an unfamiliar place,
Suddenly not a safe space,
I was knocked off guard and put in my place.
And there was no more ‘my personal space.’
He thrust his face into my space, stole my space,
Wrapped his arms, iron bars, around my waist
And didn't even notice how I struggled to escape
Because he knew a woman's place.
And then you tell me,
“Well, it’s not like he raped you. So what?”
Or, “So you were in the past and you panicked.”
“So what?”
People have actually said these things to me.
So what?
So what it is is I’ve come to understand I
Do not deserve respect as a person
Because I’m not huMAN; I’m a woman.
I understand that.
I understand that I
Do not deserve respect for my body
Because my body does not belong to me.
But to politicians and their missions
To legislate ‘Christianity’
“All women under Man as God decreed.”
Because if you’ve got the equipment, then you’ve got the right
To me and me and mine and my body,
To take as you please.
To grab, to kiss, to touch, to hurt, to hate,
To own. As you please.
"You're such a tease."
I’ve heard that, too. Accusingly. Vitriol bitterly accusing me.
And I’ve heard, too, That a woman can only be
A Slut, a Bitch, or a Prude.
A bitch is a slut who won’t sleep with you.
Because she’s a bitch.
Not because there's anything wrong with you,
Because no, that can’t be true.
And even if I were a Slut (and maybe I am, so what?),
I’m not for you, Any Random Man,
Man I’ve Met, Or not.

So what if I am prude?
Well, I should know that’s really very rude,
Not to sleep with you.
And so, probably, I deserve to be cussed out,
To be harassed. To hear you to yell and shout.
To be grabbed. To be trapped.
(And now tell me what I should've done, what you would've done.)
Because that’ll learn me for being a tease.
So go on and tell me, please,
What to do. Tell me what I can do,
What I should do, what you would do.
For me? Nuh-uh.
For you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bad feminist

I wonder a little if having so much fun at Ulta this weekend, buying and loving two new eyeliners*, painting my nails, buying and loving a new hair product** this morning, coloring my hair and putting a bright purple flower in it kinda makes me a bad feminist. I don’t want to support the beauty/fashion industries, but I like being pretty and girly. A lot. Maybe it balances out because I refuse to buy beauty/”health”/fashion magazines and stopped shaving my underarms and wearing bras. #firstworldproblems

(The answer is that feminism means having the choice, free of outside pressure, to express yourself as you please.)

*my first gel-type liner (black) and liquid purple sparklies!
**coconut hydrating mist to combat frizz