FA Missionary Revisted

A week or so ago I got an email from a woman who said she represented a group that was developing some kind of online health education program. The email had the words “weight management” in it, and enough about my blog to let me know it wasn’t spam. I wrote the woman back and said that I thought she’d maybe misread my blog, because I’m definitely not interested in a weight loss program.

She wrote back and eventually it became clear that the program was in development, not something already running, and the people producing it are attempting to make it HAES-friendly but don’t know how. It was her job to do market research by talking to bloggers and mine was the one of the few she found that talked about HAES (!!!) and that her bosses liked especially that I talk about exercise. (I think what happened was, she was looking at weight loss blogs and some how came across mine in the mix. She said the self-loathing on the other blogs was spectacular, which tells me they were not part of the Fatosphere.)

I sent her some resources and she wrote again asking if we could talk on the phone.

Remember when I wrote a few days ago about about being an FA Missionary?

This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Is it comfortable to talk to someone who you think might possibly be involved in some intricate plan to lure you into yet one more diet? Not so much. It would be much, much easier to burrow in here on my little blog where I’m not very widely noticed and talk to people who agree with me.

But what if this program might end up being one more diet tool, one more way that will lure dozens or hundreds or thousands of women in–if no one explains to these people what they’re doing wrong? What if I have the chance to say something or do something to make just that little bit of difference? Is it worth it?

I did talk to her, yesterday. She was a nice woman. She asked questions, listened to my answers. Our half-hour appointment went more than an hour. She tried to explain the program to me. I still don’t entirely understand it. Something about 12 life areas such as stress, nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. and each week you get a lesson regarding that area and set a goal for improvement of it in you life (sleep 8 hours a day this week, go to a dance class three times, etc.)

A couple of interesting things happened during the conversation:

1. The woman used don’t skip breakfast and don’t eat after 8 p.m. as examples of their innovative education plan. *sigh.* I informed her that there was no chance they’d find even one fat person who hadn’t heard those tips ad nauseum since Weight Watchers was born. This is not innovation. I asked her what someone was supposed to do if they were hungry at night, but not in the morning? Then gave her a little primer about hunger levels and she listened and asked questions. In other words, her tips taught me nothing. I had to teach her mine. Ahhh….see what I did there? If you want to sell someone an education program, you better have something to teach them.

2. She asked me what would make me buy a program like this. I told her nothing. Not even if I was dieting. If I was going to spend money, I’d go to Weight Watchers. If I didn’t want to spend money, I’d go to Spark People. In other words there are about eleventy-billion programs just like the one she was talking about already on the market. Not only that, but they are like some kind of virus spreading all kinds of nasty things where ever they went. But a program that educated people about HAES and exercising for reasons other than weight loss? That might be something. I’m not aware of any program that’s doing that.

3.  At one point I said that if the company was so interested in making the program HAES-friendly, they had to get rid of all weight loss language. I also mentioned that it’s really irritating when there is a resource that might be awesome, except that every now and then they throw in “and you’ll lose weight!” because they’re afraid if they don’t no one will listen. She said that was exactly what was going on. Her bosses are having a hard time believing that a health program that doesn’t claim weight loss will be successful, even though they don’t want that component to be part of whatever this is they’re trying to do. I did my best to convince her that this is super derogatory to their target market. They’re assuming that fat women are too stupid to distinguish health from fat and that “hey…hey, fat lady…weight loss over here” is the only way to catch our attention.

I left her with the little nugget that she could trust that whatever her company had to say about weight loss, fat people had already heard before. Literally everything. They’d be just another whisper in the noise. But if they took the big leap and designed a program that let people know that their bodies are already okay, that they can move for joy and fitness and athleticism that has nothing to do with weight loss, that food is their friend and not their enemy, and that the space they take up is something they deserve–that might be revolutionary.

After I hung up, I wasn’t sure. I’m so new to Fat Acceptance. Sometimes I have these moments of crisis where I’m like–holy shit, what am I doing here? Did I do something wrong by talking to her? Did I break some kind of FA code?

Yes. Yes, I did turn into an insecure seventh grader in the course of an hour.

My gut tells me that if someone from a company that wants to develop a weight loss program is willing to listen to me tell them why it’s a crap plan, but here is how you can make it better–then I should take the opportunity.

My head is worried that even talking to someone like that makes me some kind of sell out and now no one is going to come play with me ever again! (See? Seventh grader.)

If you felt that your particular set of triggers and other assorted baggage made it safe for you to be involved in some way in trying to talk some corporation out of developing a program that would not only lie about what it can do for it’s potential victims clients (cause weight loss), but do damage to people in the process of trying to deliver, would you?

Would some kind of online education program developed in a body-positive, HAES-friendly way even be worth advocating for?

(The seventh grader is insisting that I make it perfectly clear that I’m not affiliated with the company at all. I’m not trying to sell anything. I’m not trying to recommend or tout any product or program. And I promise that there will never, ever, ever be any sort of endorsement from me for any program that remotely espouses weight loss–even if it has better tips that don’t skip breakfast. Okay, she’s going back to 1983 now.)

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “FA Missionary Revisted

  1. It sounds like you did a great job. And this?
    “hey…hey, fat lady…weight loss over here”
    cracked me right the hell up. 🙂

  2. I totally relate to the seventh grade flashback, but it sounds like you did great. Baby steps. You made at least one person think about it a little, and that’s something, even if she can’t convince her bosses that the “hey fat lady…weight loss over here” approach is really not the way to go.

    I would absolutely support an online education program with an HAES approach, but ONLY if it did not advocate food rules or reduction dieting or exercise with weight loss as the goal. I only have one copy of Linda Bacon’s book, after all, and every time I want to loan it to someone I first have to figure out who still has it!

  3. blessed

    I agree, it sounds like you did great! SOMEBODY has to do it–sounds like you might be in the position (right head space, right words) to do it! You GO girl! : )

    P.S. just today as I sat down to read my daily blogs, I came across one wonderful woman who was posting pics of herself and her husband and praising him for his weight loss, and complaining that she still had 10 lbs to go. In the photos she looks regular/thin. But the way she was writing about herself her self-loathing was so apparent–and she looked great! But it isn’t really about how we look, is it, but how we feel. She looks like she does not need to lose any weight at all. But she must feel inadequate. I really have the urge to say something in the comments to her post, if I knew something to say, to encourage her, to love on her, but to help her see the lies she is telling herself about her own value, her own beauty. But I don’t want to intrude into the space of her blog with confrontation, even if it meant in love, you know?

    This past summer I had to almost physically stop myself from going up to our server at a restaurant who was heavily mutilated (the most I have ever seen, and I live in CA!) and ask her if she knew she was precious to God. That she was beautiful. That she matters. I did not do it because I was so embarassed at the urge. Ever since I have been kicking myself that I did not heed that urge. I should have done it. Has anyone ever spoken that Truth to her?

    I feel the same way about this whole weight/health thing. I am myself learning to hear the truth about my looks, my body, and my healthy, and beauty. I am sensitive to other women being caught up in the same lies. I believe all truth comes from one source, and appreciate your clever and accurate FA “missionary” idea. So, you preach it, sister! So glad you had the opportunity to get the word out–who know what will come of it?

    Last thing:

    http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/2011/03/i-am-beautiful.html

  4. You are the stone that sets off the ripple in the pond..who knows where what you explained to this woman will end up? Who it could potentially help? And, by facing your fears to be helpful to another, you helped and grew yourself.

  5. (applauds)

    Your inner twelve-year-old may still be shaking, but what you did was abso-fracking-lutely beautiful.

    It’s not easy learning to be confident as an FA missionary. I’ve been doing it for about three years now and I still sometimes get butterflies in the stomach and an inner critic telling me I have no place or I’m doing it all wrong. Not a fun thing for someone who really, really hates confrontation. But every time I speak out, it gets a little easier. The inner critic has less leverage.

    And yes, you hit the nail on the head: everybody talks about weight loss. Every fat person has heard all the ‘tricks’ and rules that are gosh-darned guaranteed to work for every single person on the planet. I do think there’s a place for an HAES-based health program, because most people haven’t heard of it, don’t already have a long history of following and failing (read: being failed by) the program, and could use a hand getting to know their own bodies again as nature intended.

    If this program wants to reach out to people who are sick of ‘failing’ on one diet program after another and are ready to start loving their bodies, then they need to lose the weight loss rhetoric. They need to give people something they can’t find in thousands of programs already on the market. Everybody already preaches restriction and strict rules for allowing minimal food into your body.

    Will they follow your advice? I’d say there’s a good chance they won’t. But you certainly gave them some food for thought. That alone is a victory in this painfully fatphobic world.

    One step at a time, kiddo. One step at a time.

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