Ragen Chastain is a former national dance champion and choreographer. She is also fat. And she’s got a lot to say about fat acceptance and the Health at Every Size movement.
I’ve read a few books about how to live your life as a fat person and was not impressed. Ragen’s book, “Fat: The Owner’s Manual,” was different. Ragen takes the science behind why dieting doesn’t work and really breaks it down for n0n-scientific people, like you and me. She also explains why behavior-centered practices are the way to achieve health.
It’s hard to be a fat girl in a world that thinks that there is an epidemic of obese people taking over the population. We are bombarded with messages from misled or uneducated healthcare providers, the 90 billion dollar diet industry, and the media — who continually fuel the misconception that being fat = disgusting and early death.
Ragen talks a lot of about VFHT: The Vague Future Health Threat. Often, fat people receive shameful threats that their body size will lead to death. The fact is that 100 percent of us will die. However, there are very few actual studies that show any type of causation factors related to weight. There are no fat diseases, meaning people of all sizes get disease, not just fat people. Thin people get diabetes and fat people get diabetes. In fact, a new study suggests fat people with type 2 diabetes may actually live longer than their thinner counterparts with the same disease.
She uses this helpful illustration: We can’t determine how hard someone works based on their bank account, just like nobody can determine someone’s health based upon their body size.
I really loved the section of the book where she talked about health-focused practices. Weight loss does not bring about better health. Our behaviors, such as eating and moving in ways that feel good in our bodies, do. It’s clear that exercise does not always lead to weight loss, however, it almost always leads to better health, as long as it is done is a safe way. If you are interested in making this more of a priority in your life, Ragen and I both recommend “The Fat Chick Works Out,” by Jeanette DePatie.
Being a fat person in a diet-focused world requires a lot of emotional and mental strength. This book really gives you the facts and argues against practices that don’t lead you to weight loss, but lead you to hating your body. We really need to focus on “hate loss” and accepting who we are as people. I’ve been working on that through meditation, mindfulness, and sitting with my feelings, though they can be uncomfortable.
I think Ragen’s purpose is clear: “My work is for the people who are looking for an oasis of body love in a barren desert of body hate. We are bombarded with the idea that being fat is synonymous with being in poor health. We know that’s untrue, and I think it’s important to stand up to that stereotype.”
What stereotypes about fat people do you find to be most untrue?
Jill C blogs about eating mindfully and living intuitively at Eating as A Path to Yoga.