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Miriam Berg, director of The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination, received this letter, with no return address shortly after May 6th, International No Diet Day:
Dear International No Diet Coalition,
We heard about your No Diet Day, and I thought you might like to know how we celebrated it.
We are a group of fat activists called the Fat Guerrillas. We hate what the diet industry does to women in the country. We decided we wanted to do something that would have an impact on would-be dieters, but we didn't want to have to work with the media, because they usually get stuff wrong.
For this operation, we chose code names of beloved fat animals, either real or cartoon. We were Garfield, Miss Piggy, Babar, Dumbo, Porky Pig, Winnie the Pooh, and myself Shamu. We took on the names of oppression—names many of us had actually been called—in order to rob those names of their power to hurt us.
We reconnoitered to form our battle plan, and to gather supplies. We took diet warning labels, the ones that list all the health problems associated with dieting. The full text of the labels, if you haven't seen them, is: "Warning! Dieting has been shown to lead to anxiety, depression, lethargy, lowered self -esteem, decreased attention span, weakness, high blood pressure, hair loss, gall-bladder disease, gallstones, heart disease, ulcers, constipation, anemia, dry skin, skin rashes, dizziness, reduced sex drive, menstrual irregularities, amenorrhea, gout, infertility, kidney stones, numbness in the legs, weight gain, compulsive eating, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, reduced resistance to infection, lowered exercise tolerance, electrolyte imbalance, bone loss, osteoporosis, and death."
Our other main supply was a bookmark which reads: "Stop! Diets don't work. Dieting can harm your health. It's time to stop hating our bodies. Try a different a approach: Health Problems? Insist on good, respectful medical advice, and do what will improve your health other than losing weight. Feel unattractive? Get yourself a consultation, from a friend or a professional, and make yourself over in the image you want to project. Embarrassed by jokes at your expense? Fight back! Let the bullies know that body bigotry is unacceptable. Wish you could move more easily? Find a form of physical activity that really feels good, and give yourself the gift of making it part of your life. Can't stop eating compulsively? Get help from a professional who uses the non-dieting approach. Skeptical? Think about the billions of dollars the diet industry would lose if people decided to start liking themselves just the way they are. Never heard of this stuff before? Read more about it in the books and magazines listed on the other side." And the other side has a little bibliography of important books and magazines.
So we loaded up on bookmarks and labels, and set off in two cars. We had CB radios, and made sure to speak only in code:
"Porky, come in Porky, this is Dumbo."
"We are approaching target number one, will meet you there. Dumbo out."
"Right. Porky out."
Target number one was our local library. We parked outside and sent in two Fat Guerrillas. They found the weight-loss section and placed a bookmark in every diet book in the library.
Target two was a bookstore, but parking was difficult, so we decided to split up and let mobile unit two take the target while mobile unit one handled the health food store and drug store in the shopping plaza.
"Dumbo, this is Porky. Mission accomplished at target two, meet you outside your target."
"Dumbo is on a mission. This is Shamu. Your message received, Porky, and good work. Rendezvous outside our target. Shamu out."
"Roger, Shamu, Pork out, Pig out." (Porky and Miss Piggy used that as their sign-off from then on!).
We were pleased to find out that the health food store no longer carried Dick Gregory's Bahamian Diet Powder®, even though Dumbo had been looking forward to getting the chance to place warning labels on those canisters. Anyway, we were able to send a serious warning to anyone who goes to Fay's Drugstore intending to buy Ultra Slim-Fast™ or Dexatrim™, and the health food store's bookshelves were appropriately enhanced with bookmarks in all the diet books.
Next, we traveled along the local roads, seeking out posters for the "Magic Diet." These posters, laminated in plastic to make them last longer, have been stapled to utility poles all around our region. They gave a local phone number, belonging to someone known to the group to be a sleazy character who preys on innocent, desperate fat women. He sells a diet powder—the kind of product that is responsible for most of those health problems listed on the warning labels—and tries to get his customers to become distributors of the stuff, so he can make commission. These diet pyramid scams can be found all over the country. Since the FTC has not yet moved to stop them we decided it was up to us.
We knew that he had no legal right to post "Magic Diet" signs on public utility poles, poles which carry our electric and telephones lines. So as we found each sign, we would stop and park and Garfield, our valiant warrior, would get out and unceremoniously rip it down. We call this the highway beautification program, and later decided that we had an obligation to adopt these local highways, and that if this litter should ever reappear, we would plan forays to once again re-beautify the region.
We covered a lot of territory that day. We went into the nearest city and hit a large department store and several stores in the mall. Porky almost got caught labeling Slim Fast at a large department store, but all the clerks could figure was that we were trying to shoplift, and they couldn't see any place for us to hide those big cans. We put a bookmark in every Susan Powter book (and many others) in our local mall. We cleaned up the entire highway, removing "Magic Diet" posters all along the commercial strip.
When our missions had all been successfully accomplished, we went to the soft ice cream drive-in, and celebrated with cones and shakes as we sat around the statue of a nice, plump cow that adorns the drive-in. On our way back to Fat Guerrilla base, we hit a supermarket we had missed before (Miss Piggy needed to buy food for her dog anyway).
A week has gone by, and we have heard no repercussion of our actions. Perhaps we will never know. But we can imagine someone, feeling terrible about her life because she thinks she's the fattest person in the world, picking up a book in the library, finding the bookmark, and reading about the anti-diet movement for the first time. Maybe it will get her thinking—maybe she'll decide to learn to love herself just the way she is. And maybe someone will buy a can of Nestle's Sweet Success™, hoping to lose weight quickly so she can feel less self-conscious in a bathing suit, and before she uses it, she will read about what diets can do to you health. Maybe she'll change her mind, and decide to go out in the suit just the way she is now, and hold her head up proudly, knowing that her smile and self-confidence can't harm her, and will probably make her more attractive than any weight loss.
And maybe someone who had decided—in desperation—to call that Magic Diet guy, won't be able to find the number, even though she was sure it was on the pole down the road. Maybe instead she'll decide to go to the library and get a book on dieting…
The Fat Guerrillas will continue to plan and execute direct action hits like this one. We will keep you informed. We invite our fat activist sisters and brothers to form groups like ours and take a stand against the oppressors.
Yours in struggle,