Trained Researcher Ragen Chastain at the Weight Stigma Conference

On September 18, Ragen will be a keynote speaker at the 3rd annual Weight Stigma Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland. Checking the programme, the list of speakers is impressive. It includes at least 25 PhDs, 10 PhD and master’s candidates, and a large number of MAs, MScs, etc. Psychology and sociology are the most represented areas of study. All but a couple speakers currently hold or are pursuing advanced degrees, and most are employed in academia. Harriet Brown, journalist and author of Brave Girl Eating will also be giving a speech (for anyone who is curious, she holds a BA in English and MFA).

And then there is Ragen Chastain… Activist.

College dropout.

Trained researcher.

Token fat person.

Ragen’s lack of meaningful credentials becomes glaringly obvious when you stick her in a conference hall of academics. Seven years of college and nothing to show for it but a fake title she created for herself. Instead of being on an equal footing with the rest of the conference speakers, she is a professional fat blogger playing the part of the token superficially impressive fat person.

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Any time you’re fat in public it’s activism.

Ragen Chastain, April 2015

19 thoughts on “Trained Researcher Ragen Chastain at the Weight Stigma Conference

  1. Well there is nothing wrong in general with an “Activist” speaking among academics, it can be enriching in fact – BUT it should be a person of integrity, and Ragen is clearly just a bad hoax….

    • There’s certainly nothing wrong with activists speaking at academic conferences. Ragen isn’t just an “activist”; she considers herself an expert on the science of body weight whose opinion overrides the scientific consensus and all public health policies. She doesn’t call herself a layperson, she calls herself a ” trained researcher” and implies she has a degree while citing lazy cherry picked science to back up her claims. She absolutely considers herself on an equal footing with the rest of the conference speakers.

  2. Things that jumped out to me:

    – It terrifies me they need to debate the question of “Why are fat people the focus of medical attention?”

    -A lot of academics need to get proper jobs.

    -The timetable is very eager to outline all times where food is to be served. Refreshments, lunch, cheese and wine receptions, you name it – they’ll make sure it’s on.

    • ? I just looked. They list refreshments or lunch six times. These are simply notations on the schedule, nothing fantastic. Most conferences that go all or most of the day list something similar. There are far, far more references to non food in the form of speakers and workshops and symposiums.

    • It terrifies me they need to debate the question of “Why are fat people the focus of medical attention?”

      It’s not a debate. It’s a presentation. The closest thing to “debate” is going to be the Q&A section after the doctor’s talk. I wouldn’t judge the talk by its name, either; I’ve sat through many engaging presentations that had horrible, misleading names.

      The timetable is very eager to outline all times where food is to be served. Refreshments, lunch, cheese and wine receptions, you name it – they’ll make sure it’s on.

      Ever been to an academic meeting? This is actually pretty standard for a multi-day conference.

      The idea behind the conference is just fine. We know that shame is a piss poor motivation tool for most individuals to lose weight (give me an anecdote, I’ll give you 3-5 peer reviewed studies; I know it works for some people), and it’s not a useless question to ask how to minimize it, since the research indicates while it does nothing for most obese, and is actually associated with weight gain in overweight-but-not-obese individuals.

      • Except given the history of what HAES has become, I would pretty much assume the worst in terms of content when it comes to discussing “medical treatment of fat people”. As in: “We don’t need it for any weight related reason and if they bring it up, it’s fat shaming”. Because that is pretty much their mantra.

      • What does “Why are fat people the focus of medical attention?” have to do with “shaming” unless you accept the idea that all medicine wants to do is fatshame them and any question of their weight by doctors is “fatshaming”, regardless of their condition. Because that is the consensus among many, many “fat activists”.

      • What does “Why are fat people the focus of medical attention?” have to do with “shaming” unless you accept the idea that all medicine wants to do is fatshame them and any question of their weight by doctors is “fatshaming”, regardless of their condition.

        Nonsense. It’s easy to envision a presentation about unintentional shaming, since doctors, being humans who aren’t perfect communicators, make mistakes in wording or attitude, especially with patients who are more sensitive to those issues. You could justifiably call them hypersensitive, but when you’re a doctor who isn’t a psychologist, it’s not really your job to deal with the hypersensitivity; it’s worth thinking about methods to work around that hair trigger mentality. It’s also possible that the person running the website managed to colossally fuck up by making the name imply something completely unrelated to the talk; I’ve seen it happen on conference programs more than once.

        That said, there’s a very good chance (I’d say easily more than 50%, based on their inviting Ragen; at this point, that takes either the HAES delusion, or a weapons grade devotion to not vetting your invitees at all) that this talk is exactly as bad as the name makes it sound. I just meant to point out that you can’t always judge a talk by its name, especially at a conference.

  3. First of all, it is very important to discuss the medical treatment of obese people. More and more patients that enter the hospital are obese, and even super obese. Obese patients have different volumes of distribution, which affects drug levels. However, it is not proportional to the increase in weight. That makes dosing of some medications more difficult.

    Secondly, ADA requirements have changed due to the large increase in size of patients. Doors to rooms and bathrooms have to be bigger to accommodate the bigger wheelchairs. Lifting and moving of these patients puts nurses and aides at a risk of injury. They would need to learn more about the new lift equipment available.

    Being obese is technically a medical condition. It leads to diabetes in a large percentage of patients, and generally heart disease and diabetes go hand in hand. Although she may feel that they are trying to “shame” her by discussing these issues that is simply her perspective, not the actuality.

  4. In May of 2014 I threw my back out. I spent 4-6 weeks on narcotics, steroids and on and off bed rest. I gained about 25-35 pounds. At 5’3″ I was, at my heaviest, 165. My BMI was 29.2…borderline obese. I felt terrible. I felt like a stranger in my own skin.

    About 10 months later, the back problem had been resolved, but I was struggling to lose the weight. I had lost about 10 pounds, but I was in a Nursing program now, and there was no way I could be a Nurse while being overweight myself. Not only that, but my cholesterol and glucose levels were slowly creeping up. So, I joined a gym and went 5 days a week most weeks, strength training and cardio, and changed my diet a bit.

    Guess what happened?? 6 months later (As of this morning) I’m down another 15 pounds. Did it take a while? Yes. Was it a pain? Sure. Was I miserable? Not at all. I didn’t starve, I still ate donuts and coffee and ice cream. The kids and I still went to the movies and I enjoyed my life. I don’t have a 6 pack. But, I feel comfortable in my skin again, and my numbers are going down. Losing weight is not IMPOSSIBLE but it is HARD and it takes TIME. 2 things that a lot of people do not like.

    So no, she should not be telling anyone, ever that some people just CANNOT lose weight. Everyone can lose weight. Even if you have to take medication or have surgery, there is an option. And I’d have to imagine that in more cases than not, it is more dangerous to carry around the extra weight than to explore the alternative options.

    • The original point of fat acceptance is to say that nobody is under any obligation to change their body if they don’t want to or aren’t ready. It’s been perverted into whatever the hell Tumblr is on about today, but even HAES was, at one point, the title of an interesting book that helped some people lose weight.

      As a nursing student, you must know that there is not yet a magic pill that makes people un-obese. The pharmaceutical industry would like nothing more than to come up with one, and I think even Ragen would take one if it existed. There are pills that make people lose and keep off maybe ten pounds and cost hundreds of dollars per month. Surgery is expensive and difficult for the patient and a waste of the surgeon’s time when someone isn’t ready to make the psychological commitment to make it work.

      Losing 15 excess pounds is nothing like losing 150. It’s like if Ragen said that anyone can ride 50 miles because she can do a couple of figure eights on her bike in the parking lot.

      • But that’s the point. Anyone CAN do these things. Its the first step that is the hardest (not to sound cliche). And to be honest, if you’re 400 pounds trying to get to 150, losing 100 is a lot easier than being 165 and trying to get to 150. If you have never rode a bike before and you work at it and can do a few figure 8s in a parking lot, well, you’ve done that much. You’ve started. Keep going. In a few months, you probably CAN do 50 miles. We all start somewhere. But she’s doing the opposite. She’s telling people they CAN’T lose weight. That they CAN’T change. And even worse, she’s telling people that they don’t HAVE to because they’re just as healthy at 400 pounds as they would be at 150.

        Yes, as a Nursing student, I know there is no magic anything. But I also know the dangers of being obese, just as there are dangers of being underweight. Or being a ‘normal’ weight with excess body fat, or too little body fat, or a list of other combination of things. Overeating is as much of an eating disorder as anorexia and deserves as much medical attention. There is no Healthy at Every Size….this is the biggest load of crap ever. If an obese person wants to accept themselves as they are, so be it, and good for them. But they cannot force me to accept their size/lifestyle choices/fill in the blank. I’m still going to explain to my daughter that that person is over weight because they eat too much and move too little. Because they make poor choices. That they are slowly killing themselves. That their heart and lungs and bones and joints have to work overtime just to carry them up that flight of stairs.

        And you’re right. No one has to do anything they don’t want to. And that includes me. I don’t want my kids attending a school where 2/3 of the staff and students are overweight. I don’t want my kids to be in the minority of a healthy weight, so much to the point where I get called in for a conference with the Nurse because she’s concerned that they’re underweight. The same nurse who is at lease 200 pounds. I don’t want them growing up in a world where obesity is accepted and glorified. This is not normal and not healthy and should not be happening. And women like this lady should be stopped.

  5. Don’t get too excited over Harriet Brown. She’s a massive nut job in her own right, and attempts to shroud her absolute lunacy in pseudo-academics. (Her MFA is in creative writing, not in any of the medical fields in which she claims to have expertise).

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