Ragen at Dances With Fat posted a piece on how we can practice some activism at home and take back some fat hating comment streams through Ninja Commenting. Please read the post, because it's excellent :-)
I want to expand on her idea and use it myself. The idea is to find mainstream news stories (not private threads or weight-loss sites; we're not trolls!) about weight. These stories inevitably spawn some gut-churning nastiness in the comment threads, which I usually avoid. No longer! I don't have to read them, but I can post a comment to help challenge the paradigm.
Step 1 is to create an e-mail account for the purpose. I don't want to sign up for spam, so I'll create an e-mail account specifically to use as my news commenting account. I will register it at most of the mainstream news sites I go to (cnn.com, Detroit News and Freepress, etc.) I'll register more as I need to to comment on individual articles.
Step 2 is to put together some stock responses. You will find that these articles and comment threads can be generally sorted into a very few themes:
1. Fat and diabetes (i.e. you got diabetes because you're fat, or if you're fat you'll get diabetes)
2. Weight loss (i.e. you'd be less fat if you just xyz)
3. Fat myths (i.e. fat people are lazy, stupid, underqualified for anything, never exercise)
There may be others, of course. But I can put together a few stock answers to general categories to simply cut and paste to comment threads without spending a lot of time typing.
Some definite necessities:
Ragen mentioned two very important follow-up steps. Don't check the box that notifies you of responses or follow-ups. Don't go back to the article to see if anyone has responded to your post.
Trust me, they've responded and you won't like it. We joke about "sanity watchers'" points in FA, which means you should limit the amount of negativity directed at you when you have the option. Mental health is still health. So post your ninja comment and never look back. It isn't for you; it's for that poor lurker who will come across it and have a seed planted in their heads that they might just be okay.
I'll keep this post updated with stock answers. Please feel free to use my stock answers, although they'd be much better in your own words (especially if more than one person is ninja commenting the same article!). Try to avoid putting links in comments, as they're sometimes rejected and sometimes require complicated formatting to work. Instead, cite sources and let the readers look them up.
Stock Answer 1: Fat and Diabetes
This is currently useful for the Paula Deen hate going around. I took the quote from the ADA from Ragen's post.
It's a common myth that weight can cause diabetes, but according to the
American Diabetes Association: "Most overweight people never develop type
2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or
only moderately overweight." This is backed up by a lot of research.
When they say weight is a risk factor for type II diabetes, they mean it
is correlated. When two things are correlated, it means that they don't
know which causes which. The type II diabetes could cause weight gain.
The two could also both be the result of similar biological (genetics) or
environmental (stress, toxins, etc.) causes. No long term study has shown
that reducing weight reduces diabetes risk, which would make sense if the
weight was a symptom, not a cause. Other major factors that are often
ignored include stress and inactivity. Rather than blaming fat people for
an illness that could affect anyone, maybe we should explore real ways to
improve health in our country? I would recommend looking up the HAES, or
"Health at Every Size" concept for thorough research and effective models
for public health programs.
Stock Answer Two: Childhood Obesity (or, "why don't the fat kids just put down the donuts")
No one has ever developed a way to make fat people thin. Really. Everyone thinks that it's a very simple thing, but if that were so, wouldn't everyone be thin? No empirical study of weight loss shows more than a 5% long-term success rate for any weight loss method. That means that in five years, 95% of people not only re-gain all the weight they have lost, but generally end up approximately 3-10% heavier. That includes weight loss surgery patients.
The good news is that there are several studies showing that fat and unhealthy are NOT the same thing. Studies show that a person's level of exercise, regardless of how much they weigh, is the primary determinant of health. Genetic factors play a very high role as well. Stress (like in stigma and shaming) is a very important factor in developing many illnesses normally attributed to weight, but for some reason we blame the weight alone.
Trust me, kids know when they're fat. If they ever interact with our culture in America, they're not allowed to forget it. Shaming, bullying, and weight stigma have shockingly bad effects on health. For instance, eating disorders amongst kids younger than 12 have shot up in the last decade. Think about 9 year olds being hospitalized for anorexia before you condone weight-shaming in children. Childhood depression and other mood disorders have increased dramatically. Children who aren't even overweight for their age are developing a poor body image that will haunt them throughout their lives.
If you're interested in an alternative model for health instead of a fruitless pursuit of weight loss and panicked screaming about epidemics, (see the recent news from the federal health agencies that Americans actually haven't been getting any fatter for the last decade. Weight has not increased in any age category), use your search engine to look for HAES (Health at Every Size). You'll notice that a lot of the health specialists involved with promoting HAES are those on the front lines of eating disorder reasearch. They know that the old system of shaming and blaming is only going to do more harm.