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Why Strong4Life is bad for fat kids

I'm guessing that most people who read BFB are aware of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's crap anti-childhood obesity ad campaign, ironically called "Strong4Life." There's been a lot of talk and a lot of action going on in the fatophere and in the social media opposing this campaign. Regan of Dances with Fat is creating an ad counter-campaign. Marilyn Wann has made it possible to Stand visibly against the campaign and for more positive values, and Atchka of Fierce, Freethinking Fatties has been opposing the campaign on the ground, with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and its donors. There's also a central site with up to date information called It is really been an incredible show of community power and cooperation.

However, the majority of people still don't seem to get it. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, when challenged, keeps citing undisclosed market research which they claim proves that only a small percentage of people find the Strong4Life campaign offensive. In a recent poll, 80% of respondents seemed to think that Disney's "Habit Heroes" exhibit at Epcot, which depicted fat people as embodiments of bad habits, was just hunky-dorey.

So, as a former fat kid, I'm going to talk about the specific reactions I think this type of campaign will trigger in fat kids and the communities surrounding them.

Fat children will respond to these ads in two ways, and it won't be either/or. They will disassociate, but they will not be able to avoid feelings of shame and lowered self worth. Additionally, the campaign will affect their peers and the adults in their lives, encouraging bullying and lowering expectations.

  1. Disassociation

    If they know deep down that they are healthy - they are strong and active and the doctor tells them all their numbers are fine except their BMI - fat children will think that they're exceptions to the rules. They'll think (and this is one place my mind went as a kid), "None of the things they say about fat kids seem to apply to me. I don't get winded easily. I'm not sweaty. I don't eat a lot of junk food. I can keep up with my thin friends. The doctor must be wrong. I must not really be a fat kid, or being fat is not the same for me as it is for other kids."

    The thing is, I wasn't an exception. The vast majority of fat kids are healthy and have normal lives; the vast majority are exceptions to the stereotypes in these ads*. Notably, the child actors in the ads are all healthy, normal kids who happen to be larger than average. I suspect that most fat kids won't be able to relate to the ads and will disassociate themselves as much as possible. However, they won't be able to escape the fact that the ads are about them; that they are being singled out.

  2. Shame and lowered self worth

    If you tell children that they're unhealthy, they won't think of themselves as healthy. They won't play as hard. They won't push their limits. They'll start to avoid physical activity. Believing that you're unhealthy is not neutral. Just as there's a clinically significant placebo effect that kicks in when people are given an ineffective treatment that they believe is real, there is a "nocebo effect." If healthy people are made to believe they're sick, then they tend to get sick.

    This works psychologically as well. If you tell kids that they're pathetic, then they may start to believe it. They may pull away from their friends. They may get depressed. With their self respect and their support systems under attack, they will get bullied.

Teachers and thinner children will be looking at these ads too, and the fat kids will get bullied more than ever and will have to deal with increased prejudice and lowered expectations. As the expectations of their peers and teachers increasingly match the stereotypes in the ads, how many fat kids will be able to maintain the feelings of competence and social normalcy they need to be successful in their lives? Even if they're able to maintain equilibrium in their own minds, they are going to be treated like damaged goods. Prejudice toward fat children has existed for a long time; at least since the fifties. But never has a respected organization so clearly told fat kids, their peers, and their mentors "Fat children are pathetic and diseased. They bring shame on their families. Fat kids: your bodies are unacceptable."

It will become clear to these children what others - even adults - think of their bodies. They will start wondering if it might not be worth it to starve themselves so that their bodies won't cause others to make negative assumptions about them and their parents. Alternatively, they may rebel or stonewall. Healthier habits are frankly the least likely thing to result from this.

*Oh, and fat kids who actually do have health problems associated with their size? They deserve respect and privacy, not public humiliation and condescending pity.

Feeling Excluded

I have had an interesting convergence of experiences lately which has led me to thinking about exclusion. First off, a few things have happened which have me feeling a bit unwanted in Fat Acceptance. Secondly, I have been editing the section of my book on the conflict between death fat and in-betweenies and how both sides can feel left out. The Billboard Project has been bringing up memories of shaming and bullying from childhood. Then, in listening to Golda Poretsky’s Body Love Revolution Telesummit" – amazing stuff! – I heard Marilyn Wann talk about exclusion.

It finally dawned on me what I was feeling: that old fear of being excluded. Growing up as the fat nerd with no social skills, I felt left out so very often. Whether it was being picked last, not invited to the party or being bullied, I had so very many experiences of not being wanted as a child that I can be thin-skinned as an adult. In the Telesummit, Marilyn noted that many of us feel this way, so we can be sensitive to such experiences in the Fat Acceptance.

When I figuratively walked into the Fatosphere, I felt included. Here are my peeps! They understand me. They know what I have been through. Suddenly, I had a place where I belonged, and, feeling like I belong is such a wonderful sensation. No one was looking at my body and saying, “we don’t want you here.”

The Fatosphere and Fat Acceptance are loving communities. We accept anyone who is willing to honor the boundaries of the community (like no body snarking), even thin people. We build each other up. We support each other. We remind each other that we are worthy. And that is the kicker, because, as Marianne Williamson says, “love brings up everything unlike itself.” In other words, by loving and being loved, by accepting and being accepted, our fears and wounds will come up to be healed. And so, my fear of being unwanted has once again surfaced.

Now, I have a choice. I can run from this fear and let it fester inside me, trying to avoid having it triggered yet again. That running would mean me leaving FA and hoping to find another accepting community where, chances are, that fear will once again be triggered. Or, I can face it and work through it.

What does facing the fear of exclusion look like? I can only speak for myself, but for me it means making a choice. It means choosing to support Fat Acceptance and the Fatosphere even when I’m feeling outside the circle. It means slogging through the controversies, again, and sticking around any way. It means recognizing that I will not like everyone in the community, and they won’t all like me. It also means we can set aside those differences to work towards a common goal. It means doing my best to make sure others don’t feel excluded; yet allowing them to heal from their own wounds, even if I find watching that healing painful. As a child, I was powerless to do anything about feeling excluded. As an adult, I get to make choices.

When I made that choice to be part of this community whether I felt included or not, a sense of freedom overwhelmed me. Now, it will not matter what others do or say – I have made a choice to be included. Now, even if some people have issue with me, I can support the community. I can take part in Ragen Chastain’s Billboard project or Marilyn Wann’s STANDards. I can always choose to be supporting, whether I feel supported or not.

And the result – today I feel like a part of this community; I feel like I belong. Maybe, just maybe, inclusion comes from our own actions rather than others actions towards us. Maybe, just maybe, if we choose to act inclusively we will find inclusion for ourselves. And maybe, just maybe, that old fear doesn’t have to mess with my FA identity any more.

So, how do you deal with feeling excluded?

ASDAH Conference to Feature All-Star Lineup

ASDAH is hosting a HAES conference in San Francisco from Friday August 12 to Sunday August 14, 2011. Here's the press release. Looks like it's going to be a great conference!

No Body Left Behind - The HAESSM Model: Ensuring an Inclusive Approach to Health and Wellness”
The Association for Size Diversity and Health will host its Fifth International Educational conference in August in San Francisco.  Entitled “No Body Left Behind - The HAESSM Model: Ensuring an Inclusive Approach to Health and Wellness,” the conference boasts an impressive list of speakers from a wide variety of disciplines.  Keynoting will be Linda Bacon, UC Davis and Lucy Aphramor, RD, Coventry University, UK discussing their recently published article in the Nutrition Journal which concluded that prescribing weight loss is ineffectual and unethical.
Additional speakers include Professor Amy Farrell, who recently appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss her book:  Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture, a study of the historical roots of fat denigration in the United States; Stephanie Brooks, RD, Fall Ferguson, JD, MA, Judith Matz, LCSW, Laura McKibbin, LICSW and Lenny Husen, MD—who will speak about the importance of promoting wellness as opposed to healthism.
Newly added participants also include international experts Amy Herskowitz, MSc, a senior program consultant for the Ontario provincial government in the Ministry of Health’s mental health program area; and Lydia Jade Turner, BA, PG Dip, Managing Director of BodyMatters Australasia, an Eating Disorder clinic pioneering the Health At Every Size® approach to treatment in Sydney Australia, will discuss how ED and HAESSM approaches can work collaboratively to promote self-care and client wellness.
A special highlight of the conference will be a showing of  the latest director’s cut of Darryl Roberts’ highly anticipated new film, America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments—A look at our unhealthy obsession with dieting and other weighty matters. Open to the public, the film will be shown Saturday, August 13 at 8 p.m. followed by a Q&A with the director and several participants in the film.  A virtual press conference with Darryl Roberts will be held Tuesday, August 2 at 5:00 PM EST.  Those interested in participating should email ASDAH at .
The conference is paying more than lip service to the concept of inclusion in health and wellness.  Attendees are invited to participate, both in the fitness demonstrations led by licensed fitness instructor, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick) and in live demonstrations depicting challenging health care situations and breakout groups on Sunday where attendees will work together to strategize practical solutions to ensure inclusiveness in modern health care.
“It’s one thing to talk about how a healthcare provider and patient should relate to one another in a clinical situation, and a very different thing to actually do it,” said conference co-chair, Dana Schuster.  “This conference will allow attendees to practice their skills, as well as draw on their experience, knowledge, and ideas to provide an opportunity for everyone present to work together to find common, real-world solutions.”
Tickets to the movie as well as a complete and final conference schedule can be found at the ASDAH website


Another Type of Love

So first from Lonie McMichael's post on Love:

In hooks’ ideals, everyone is understood, appreciated and valued. 'This vision of relationships,' hooks said, 'where everyone’s needs are respected, where everyone has rights, where no one need fear subordination or abuse.'

Lonie goes on to connect this type of love to self acceptance and the acceptance of fat people in general. However, what stuck me was that it applies on both larger and smaller scales as well: in individual relationships and in social justice as a whole.

The idea of intersectionlity has come up in the fatosphere before. One discussion that I particularly remember included interesting posts by Tara Shuai at Fatshionista, by Marinanne Kirby at The Rotund, and Fillyjonk at Shapey Prose.

Of course, it's striking how hook's definition is also the model for modern relationships. It's almost as if western society, at least since WWII, has been turning away from traditional power dynamics based on gender and social hierarchies and toward a more inclusive ideal, both in families and in the larger society.

But, can we do it, or are those power dynamics an inescapable part of human nature? When we suppress social power dynamics, do they just pop up in new places? Is that why the anti-fat thing has gone... yeah, viral? Because hate is more of an epidemic - a sickness - than a high weight/height ratio.

Oh, and I'd like to use this as an excuse to link to two of my favorite fatosphere blogs, both written by women of color: Red Vinyl Shoes and Nudiemuse. The topic of intersecting identities and social justice as a whole has come up more than once in their blogs - and they're just good in general. So, if you're not already reading them, check 'em out.

Harriet Brown's 'Project Body Talk'

The amazing Harriet Brown has started Project Body Talk, inspired by the StoryCorps oral history project. 
According to the website:

Project BodyTalk is a safe place where people can share how they feel about their bodies and body image, their relationship with food and eating, and the cultural pressures that are so much a part of American life today.

We invite you to send us your commentaries—and to listen to other people’s. Record your story and submit it here. Learn about efforts around the country to spread body-positive messages and awareness. Start coming to terms with your body, whatever its size and shape, and see how that simple act can change your life.

I love this idea! Awhile back I was going to do a roundup of fat-related StoryCorps submissions, few that there were, but Harriet has literally created a body hub for these stories.

You can submit your story through the Contact Page. Here's how it works:
1) Record your story!
2) Download the release form and sign it (I'm assuming you have to sign and scan it back in)
3) Fill in your information on the Contact Page and upload both the signed form and your story.
4) Ta-da!

There are featured stories on the home page, but you can listen to them all right HERE.

I said it on Facebook, and I'll say it here: I <3 Harriet Brown. Srsly.

Call for Body Positive Artists, Speakers and Crafters!‏

Check this out, BFBers!!

What: BODYSLAM! Poetry Jam & Story Telling
Where: The Trumbullplex, 4210 Trumbull St., Detroit, MI, 48208
When: February 19th, 2011 6-11pm
Love Your Body Detroit will be holding its first ever fundraiser and we
need your help to make it a huge success! We are looking for speakers for
our main show a poetry jam and story telling session that will be happening
on the main stage.

Poetry / Stories can be related to but are not limited by,
• Fat phobia / hatred
• Ethnic or racial diversity
• Appearance based oppression
• Eating Disorders
• Body Image
Basically anything that will make us think critically about our bodies or
how it feels to live in yours! Submissions should be at a maximum 10
minutes in length and emailed in a word document to the address below.
Please also include your name, contact information, and a short personal

Artists or vendors:
We are also looking for body positive artists / craft vendors whose work
shows size, racial or ethnic diversity through any form of media.
Please send the following in a word document,
• Name / Business
• Contact Info
• Kind of Work / Products you sell
• Links to examples of your work
**Crafters who make clothing and wish to participate should make sure their
clothing sizes are just as diverse as the people in attendance. Also vendor
fees will be on a donation basis only, if you wish to give we will love you
for it!

Participant Submission Deadline: 1/20/11
Submit Application to:

I hope some of you can participate...what a cool idea!

Support Your Local Badass Fatass

If you're in the Bay Area and like to support businesses that promote fat liberation, hit up

Carrot's Coffee and Tea
in San Bruno.*

This cafe, run by the super-rad fatty Notblueatall, has organic and gluten-free offerings...and I hear she makes a mean panini.

Earlier this year, Notblueatall celebrated Love Your Body Day in her cafe, and from the beginning has made a conscious effort to encourage her customers to eat without guilt and body shame, and to educate themselves about food issues. She has even started a Fat Meetup at the cafe, bolstering fat community in the area.

Carrots, Coffee and Tea

So if you like supporting local businesses--all year long, but especially this time of year--and you support fat liberation....what are you waiting for!  Tell your friends! Like the cafe Facebook page! Repost!
Have a craft meetup or a fat meetup there! Or a fat craft meetup!

Carrot’s Coffee & Tea is located at:

440 San Mateo Ave

San Bruno, CA 94066

Phone: 650-871-2725

Mon: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Wed: Fri: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Sat:: 9:00 am - 2:00 am

*Bloggers get pummeled with e-mails from random people all the time who want their product promoted, just so they can get the webspace and advertisement. Notblueatall has never asked me to promote her cafe on BFB. I do it not only because I consider her a friend, but because she's a badass, a small business owner, and she's fighting the good fat fight every day.

BFB's Virtual Kiss-In!!!

Last updated November 3, 2010.

Kiss this, Marie Claire!!! 

Mmmm, Maura Kelly, fat kisses and love and existence!!!!

I present to you BFB's Virtual Kiss-In!!!!!!!!!  Thanks to everyone who has submitted photos!
Keep on sending them to withoutscene at gmail dot com, and I will keep on updating them! XOXO

Stef and Sarah

Awww, fat love!


Nichole and Roy

"Here's a picture of my husband and I kissing. That lady at M.C. would cringe to see us in person! I wish we could be in NYC - we'd be front and center!!"


SurferKM with her wife and son

"(fat! *gasp* lesbian! *faint*). We kissed before and after the shots, so I figure it counts."



Virtual kiss-it!

Gif Created on Make A Gif

withoutscene and Chris

Fat lovin!


Shannon Campos and Anthony M.

"I want it to be known that I am fat and I have no regrets and it should be shown that fat people live... and live happily."

ShannonCampos_Anthony H.




Michele and Chris






Jenna from AxisofFat with her little brother

"Am I too fat to kiss or be kissed in public? My bro didnt think so!"


Claudia and Shelley in San Francisco

Livin and public kissin!


G and J

"Two fatties, deeply in love, and sharing a chocolate shake! Not
kissing in this scene, but it happened right afterwards ;)"


nettaP and seanP

At NYC Big Fat Kiss-In! nettaP has a video on her blog which includes some footage of the kiss-in.

Beth and Luke

"We're newlyweds and we'll kiss and hug wherever we like, thank you very much."


Marilyn and her squeeze

Photo credit: Kathy Barron.


Regina and her partner

"I wanted to submit my own rolls and rolls of fat kissing picture for your blog!"


Jamie and Josh

"This was taken after we had spent the day snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking around the island. (Yes, Marie Claire- my fat ass did all these a swimsuit no less! You would have been super offended by my rolls that day!)"


Katie with Jordan and River

"This is me and my sister and her two foster daughters."


Tami and River

Look at that smile!


SunflowerP and JFPBookworm

So sweet!


Buttercup and her husband

"Here's my husband and I at our wedding, kissing and being fat, with cake, no less!"


"How could I resist a kiss for that cute face?"


Jeanette and her husband



Substantia Jones documented the NYC Big Fat Kiss In with her madd photo skills.

Lesley Kinzel is also turning the Museum of Fat Love into a Tumblr, so check it out and submit your love there too!

Stayin Strong on Saturday: Smart Things Friends Say

I thought I would share with you all some wise words our own CarrieP bestowed on me this week, which have really helped me as I've been struggling with the fat oppression in my life.

"You are neither responsible for or able to control how people in any circumstance will perceive you so you might as well be a badass."

Is that not the most simple and awesome advice? I will be carrying it with me.

Memories and Thoughts of Judy Freespirit

Max Airborne has been so kind as to set up a Memorial Website for Judy, so please also check it out!!
Such touching words and inspiring memories.

Judy Freespirit, fat warrior, passed away yesterday morning. Thoughts and memories were aflutter on Facebook yesterday, so I thought I would collect some and repost them here in her honor, and in the spirit of preserving our fat history...something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

 Carol Squires just posted that Judy Freespirit passed away. my first introduction to a different way to think about my fat body came when I read "The Fat Liberation Manifesto" in a women's studies class in 1994. Her work definitely changed my life for the better as it did countless others. I feel the loss and celebrate a life well lived. --Pattie Thomas

The Fat Liberation Manifesto, which Judy Freespirit wrote with Aldebaran in 1973, was by far the most posted link among my fat activist friends yesterday. This revolutionary manifesto is at the core of our fat lib history, and if you have not already read it, you really should.

Judy Freespirit was so great to me everytime I was around her. She wrote a beautiful poem about a peach that's stayed with me. She was one of my early models for a fat writer (wish I could still find that great picture of her dancing with her troupe in the seventies -- they had swings!). She made things happened. She gave speeches about fat to gatherings of dieticians. She showed up in FaT GiRL. She showed up. --Susan Stinson

In addition, you can go to Susan Stinson's blog and read her lovely and moving tribute to Judy.

Susan was also gracious to post a link to a photo of the Fat Chance Performance Group that Judy helped to found, which was published in "Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the women's liberation movement" along with the manifesto.

Judy Freespirit, a pioneer of fat activism, has died. I knew Judy in the mid-90s as the person who ran the Fat Feminist Caucus of NAAFA. The fat women's gathering she organized in fall of 1994 was my first experience of fat pride community. I respected and learned from her vision of feminism, disability rights, fat activism, and much more. --Marilyn Wann

Today it was my intention to dedicate my keynote [at the Fat Studies: A Critical Dialogue Conference in Australia] to Judy Freespirit. I wrote to her a few weeks ago to say as much. I just heard that she died. So so sorry that she's gone, and so so glad that I got a chance to meet her. I'm not a hero worshipper but she was my hero. Tears later, gotta hold it together now. Love to Judy and her people. --Charlotte Cooper

I hear that the Fat Liberation Manifesto was read yesterday at the conference in her memory.

 Also, from Marilyn Wann:

Here's a quote from Judy from a Radiance magazine article written by Sara Golda Bracha Fishman (who went by Aldebaran during Fat Underground days). She asks founding members of the Fat Underground, "What did we accomplish?" Judy said, "In the beginning, people giggled when we talked about Fat Liberation. Now . . . there are hundreds of thousands of fat activists and allies all over the world."

Judy stood in front a room full of women in 1978 and challenged us to see her as powerful and beautiful and broke open those stereotypes we had held moments before and my life was forever changed. --Lynn Ellen Marcus

Fat Studies Reader event in NYC!

Those of you in NYC, get in there! I wish I could go...

Published by NYU Press, The Fat Studies Reader is a milestone achievement,
bringing together fifty-three diverse voices to explore a wide range of
topics related to body weight. From the historical construction of fatness
to public health policy, from job discrimination to social class
disparities, from chick-lit to airline seats, this collection covers it

Edited by two leaders in the field, Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay,
foreword by Marilyn Wann, The Fat Studies Reader is an invaluable resource
that provides a historical overview of fat studies, an in-depth examination
of the movement’s fundamental concerns, and an up-to-date look at its
innovative research.

Our reading will include 4 essays from the reader.
There will be time for mingling, book signing and a Q & A.

Lara Frater - Fat Heroines in Chick-Lit: The Gateway to Acceptance in the
Kathleen LeBesco, PhD - Quest for a Cause: The Fat Gene, The Gay Gene and
the New Eugenics
Elena Andrea Escalera, PhD - Stigma Threat and the Fat Professor: Reducing
Student Prejudice in the Classroom
Heather MacAllister - Embodying Fat Liberation (read by Kelli Dunham)

We will have books on hand to purchase.
Hope to see you at this event celebrating this important contribution
to academia and the exploration of body liberation.

Date: Friday, December 4, 2009
Time: 8:00pm - 11:00pm
Location: Re/Dress NYC
Street: 109 Boerum Place
City/Town: Brooklyn, NY

Strike a blow for fat friendly fashion!

Fat Fancy, one of the most incredible fat clothing shops in the WORLD is up for a grant so they can finally open their own permanent store. Please go here, watch their video, and vote for them as inspiring, useful and funny! The videos with the most votes will be given seed money to get their businesses going.

We only have today and tomorrow before the end of the grant contest so help me get the word out! Please repost on your personal blogs and send to all of your fat friendly internet savvy friends. It's a simple way to DO SOMETHING about the lack of good fat fashion available today. Help empower your fat brothers and sisters in Portland, Oregon to look good and feel good about their bodies!

Also, the video is pretty awesome all by itself, so be sure to give it a look-see.

Update: Well, they didn't win this time, but your votes got Fat Fancy to 9th place out of 50 finalists! That's pretty impressive, no?

Fat Positive community help needed

Reposting from Shapely Prose:

Friend of the blog Heidi, who wrote one of our most memorable guest posts about a year and a half ago, could use some support from the SP community right now.

On Friday, her father committed suicide. (Her heartbreaking and potentially triggering first post about it is here.) He was the primary breadwinner for the family — Heidi and her mom both have chronic health problems that limit their ability to work. Now, with no insurance and no savings, they’re dealing with burial costs and will likely have to move in the near future. They don’t know how they’re going to manage, and they’re obviously both terribly traumatized right now.

I know money’s tight for everyone, but if you can spare anything, she’s accepting donations via PayPal here. There’s also a mailing address at that link if you’d like to send a card. (As she says, “Mail that isn’t bills would make me so super happy.”) Huge thanks to anyone who can help out. And huge love and sympathy to Heidi and her mom from all of us at SP.

And from all of us at BFB as well. Please help if you can.

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