Saturday, February 02, 2008

And now, a word from NAAFA

Oakland, CA – The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a civil rights organization fighting discrimination against people of
size strongly opposes the Mississippi House Bill 282. This bill
introduced by Representative W.T. Mayhall, Jr., a retired
pharmaceutical salesman with DuPont-Merk, and co-authored by Bobby
Shows, a businessman, and John Read, a pharmacist, would prohibit
restaurants with more than 5 seats from serving people who are
determined to be obese by standards set forth by the Department of
Health. Said restaurant owners who choose to ignore this bill if
passed into law would be subject to fines and/or closure. NAAFA calls upon the union leaders of the food service and hospitality industries to use your influence to stop this bill before it or others like it take your businesses down. If in fact
two-thirds of Mississippians are obese, such a bill could potentially eliminate two-thirds of your customer base, bankrupting an untold number of businesses and potentially impacting a high percentage of your union members/food service employees. NAAFA calls upon the restaurant lobby, gaming lobby and tourism lobby to
exercise your influence in stopping this disastrous bill.

NAAFA calls upon the people of Mississippi to stand up and make your voice heard. This is a clear and shameless violation of your human and civil rights. Flood your governor's office with letters, faxes and phone calls demanding that this bill be stopped in its tracks: Haley Barbour - Governor of MS - 1-877-405-0733 or 601.359.3150, or by mail at: P.O. Box 139, Jackson, Mississippi 39205.

Citizens of Mississippi, these state representatives are supported by your tax dollars. The 2000 Census says 16.2% of your state's residents make under $10,000 a year. The state poverty rate is around 20%. Wouldn't your tax dollars be better spent on representatives who are working to improve the income level of Mississippians? Your state consistently ranks in the bottom three in terms of public school successes. Wouldn't your tax dollars be better spent on representatives who are working to improve the educational system in Mississippi? Who do you think would have to pay for the enforcement of this bill if ratified? The very people who are no longer allowed to eat in restaurants! These men are wasting their time which is your money and could potentially bankrupt your state. Are these the kind of men you want to continue
to represent you?

Our own federal government recognizes that 95% - 98% of diets fail. Weight loss surgeons have admitted that only 5% of people undergoing weight loss surgery ever reach and maintain their weight loss goals. Depriving people of food does not cause them to lose weight in the long term and only increases the risk of ill health. Is our end goal good health and increased longevity or superficial appearance?

NAAFA calls upon every Mississippi citizen above the age of 18 to register to vote and remove these officials from office. Take a lesson from your own state's history. Demonstrate your distaste for prejudice and your disgust with discrimination by denouncing this bill.

Founded in 1969, NAAFA is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for fat people. NAAFA works to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through public education, advocacy, and member support.

For more information:

It's not how fat you are--it's how thin you think you should be

At least that's the gist of an interesting new study that's just out in the American Journal of Public Health.

Lead researcher Peter Muennig, of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, set out to examine the relationship between stress over being fat and physical and mental health, and found that

the difference between actual and desired body weight was a stronger predictor than was body mass index (BMI) of mental and physical health.

He and his team concluded that

some of the health effects of the obesity epidemic are related to way we see our bodies.

I'll forgo commenting on the assumption that obesity = unhealthiness and will instead applaud Dr. Muennig and his team for at least asking the question.

And I'll pose them another question: What if it's not just internal stress, but external stress? What if judgment and discrimination from the rest of the world affects the health of people who are fat?

We already know that it does, of course, judging by these firsthand accounts.

Might make a good next study for someone. I hope.

Meanwhile, here's more from the Conclusions section of the paper:

If our findings are correct, the policy implications may be counterintuitive. Foremost, if more of the association between BMI is perceptual, some public health messages that advocate idealized body types may be harming their target audience.

Ya got that right.

Concerted efforts to disassociate health messages, such as encouragement of exercise, from obesity stigmatization may circumvent the paradox.

Tell it to Rep. W.T. Mayhall, Jr., who introduced this lovely bill to the Mississippi legislature this week.

I wonder why fat people might feel stressed?

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Dressing Room Project

Thanks to Beth Kanell for tuning me in to this fabulous project, which describes itself as "a girl-powered rebellion to free girls & women
from the bonds of media-imposed standards of beauty."

My favorite one of their quotes, distributed on postcards and buttons:

Worry about the size of your heart, not the size of your body.

It's a little bit of guerilla grrls action. Check it out.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fat and the law

Clearly I'm naive. I had no idea that it is legal in most places in the U.S. to discriminate against people because of their size or weight.

One reader kindly sent me the text of Wisconsin's discrimination law, as an example:

Prohibited bases of discrimination. Subject to ss. 111.33 to 111.36, no employer, labor organization, employment agency, licensing agency or other person may engage in any act of employment discrimination as specified in s. 111.322 against any individual on the basis of age, race, creed, color, disability, marital status, sex, national origin, ancestry, arrest record, conviction record, membership in the national guard, state defense force or any reserve component of the military forces of the United States or this state or use or nonuse of lawful products off the employer's premises during nonworking hours.

Nothing in there about size or weight, which makes it one of those little discriminatory loopholes we'd love to close up.

As a child of the 1960s, my first impulse is to stage a sit-in. Luckily, there are already folks working on this in much more sophisticated ways. Paul over at Big Fat Blog reminds me about COFRA's Fat Fifty project, which will aim, once it's up and running, to put every state's discrimination statutes, fat-related court cases, and other info on record as a first step toward changing them.

What a great project. And it means I don't have to reinvent the wheel or picket the Wisconson state capitol. Yet.

Y'all get involved now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Thanks to everyone who posted advice for our anonymous reader. I got this email from her today, and post it here with her permission:

I have great news! I went into the meeting today with my girlfriend (not having the opportunity to have read any of the blogs on your site yet) and the rehab counselor was so sweet. She really focused on making up for the past Counselor's actions. Which was awesome for me. I didn't want to revisit that traumatic day at all.

My girlfriend and I felt no homophobia at all. I went in as my confident self and it seems like she approved me for their services. Because from how she was talking, she talked about the future. Not using the word "if," she used the word "when" repeatedly: When we work down the line together, or when you receive future correspondence, do this and do that. She's mailing me my plan. Wheeeeeee!

I am so so so happy. I can get past all of it and not have to deal with the trauma so much. No lawyer would take it because it's not illegal to deny based on size or weight. Which really is wrong because it's my disability that took away my active life and the weight poured on. I felt I had to fight and fight and that's something I can't do now, I'm fighting three other discrimination situations. I am a bubbly person, I am a fighter, but a person can only handle so much in life before you lose the happiness or time for family. I feel like my own Erin Brockovich. It's hard to encounter so much daily hatred for being fat, lesbian and in a wheelchair. I can handle hatred, it took me from being bitter, to making me stronger, it isn't right or humane, but it is what it is. I can only pray to God for strength and remember The Serenity Prayer everyday.

My goal in life is to help people. I am not in it for me, I want to do social work. Well, I guess feeling great about helping others is in it for me. I did on my own get my local post office to widen their doors and they did a whole reconstruct for disabled people. It took me half a year, but the disabled can feel like everyone else and buy stamps or conduct business. Woohooo!

I really love people and I try daily to be kind, generous and loving to people and that teenager or that old person who looks at me and laughs, snickers, or rolls their eyes, I thank God for, because it makes me thankful to be alive! To feel. To appreciate the people who do love me and accept me. Thank you, bless all of you, and I will keep you posted.

A happy ending, at least for now.

But tell me, the lawyers among us, is it truly legal to discriminate based on size and weight?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Advice for a reader? Please weigh in

I got the following email from one of my readers. Names have been changed or omitted to protect her privacy. Any advice for her?

I live in [state name removed]. I am fat and lesbian. I am disabled and use a power wheelchair for assisted mobility for my daily needs. I have been able to get myself enough courage to apply for city college courses, but I didn't get enough funding from financial aid, so I was directed to go to the Deptartment of Rehab by my local Center for Independent Living Advocate.

I called Rehab and made the appointment. I met with the counselor last October. My girlfriend was with me and from the moment the counselor laid eyes upon me, he gave me this disgusted look. He made his decision to deny me services in his mind but invited me into the office. He took five minutes interrogating me, belittling me and then said you're too fat, too disabled and no one will ever hire you in a wheelchair. He said the only way I could get help from Rehab was to get gastric bypass surgery and lose the weight first. He continued to cut me down by saying I was no better than a criminal who gets out of prison and asks him to buy his clothes, shoes and socks.

My girlfriend was there to get help too, but he scared her so badly she was afraid to say one word to this militant gatekeeper. I am so traumatized still by how he was to me. I immediately complained to The Center for Independent Living and I was told to complain to their CAP Advocate. I complained to him and he has yet to help me. I feel discriminated against because of being fat and lesbian. Since October the CAP Advocate has been playing games with me; I went to his supervisor and he too won't call me back or do anything.

I called Rehab, complained, and got a new counselor, a woman. I am supposed to meet up with her tomorrow and I don't know what to expect. That denial of services in Oct. 07 caused me not to be able to start school Jan. 08. Now, I want to start college in the Fall 2008 and this replacement Counselor can do the same and ruin my chances based on my weight, disability and sexual orientation.

I refuse to get down and depressed. I am going to stand up for what I know is right. I've worked all my life being fat, it never affected my work. I excelled at anything I did. Just because I'm in a wheelchair shouldn't matter with non manual labor.

What do you think I should do?

--Worried and Upset

Anyone out there know the law on discrimination or have any practical advice for this reader?

Monday, January 28, 2008

And while we're on the subject of mixed messages . . .

Read this story from a news station in Tennessee.

They can't quite get the story straight, can they? Is it the scary overweight teens, or is it the scary eating-disordered teens?

Oh, and P.S.: By the time you notice changes to someone's hair, nails, and teeth, they're deep in an eating disorder. If you want to be helpful to parents, give them some earlier warning signs to look for, like preoccupation with cooking, excuses for not eating, cutting out whole categories of food, using the bathroom after every meal, etc.

Miss America

Kirsten Haglund, just crowned the new Miss America, talks movingly about her recovery from anorexia at age 16 here.

She doesn't talk about how much she weighs, to avoid triggering other teens. She does talk about having curves, and liking them. She alludes to the horror of anorexia without going into other details.

I'm no fan of the whole Miss America pageant thing. Still, I'm with her right up until the line where she's quoted as saying that while she isn't about to "let myself go," she won't be skipping any meals.

Kirsten, you have the chance to do a lot of good as an emissary from the hellish lands of eating disorders. Please, next time, skip judgments like this. Remember that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that many of the young women you'll come into contact with this year will never, can never look like you. And that that doesn't mean they've "let themselves go."

Use your powers for good.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An incredibly sad story

This interview with a nun who's been anorexic for 50 years is one of the saddest things I've ever read. Sad because of Sister Marie Therese's childhood experiences, which no one's child should ever have to go through. Sad because of her tormented young adulthood.

Most of all, sad because of these lines:

Anorexia has been a part of my life for more than 50 of my 61 years. It has been a friend really. Having it is like being with somebody who takes away your feelings.

For parents whose children are struggling with anorexia right now, this is what's at stake. This is the reason to tackle the demon of an eating disorder head-on, right now, while your child is still in his/her teens, while s/he can still recover and go on with a normal life.

This is what no parent wants for their child.