To our valued Fat Liberation & HAES® Communities:
Six months ago, Dr. Lindo Bacon reached out to the ASDAH Leadership Team about their intent to write a revised Health at Every Size® Book. What transpired has caused a great deal of harm and a heavy burden of emotional labor for our team.
While we have grappled with the specifics of how to respond over the last few months, Marquisele Mercedes’ recent account of her experience with Lindo illuminated that Lindo’s harmful actions were a pattern in the greater community. This knowledge has catalyzed our response. We are in solidarity with Marquisele and others who have experienced harm caused by Lindo.
We want to provide transparency about the conversations and context around our decisions as the ASDAH Leadership Team.
In September of 2021, Lindo reached out to Veronica Garnett, ASDAH’s Vision & Strategy Leader, outlining their plan to revise their book titled Health at Every Size. Lindo asked if we had any concerns or feedback on this project. Below are the email exchanges between Lindo and the ASDAH Leadership team. Our summary, analysis, and next steps follow the email communications.
Lindo’s first email 9/16/2021
To the ASDAH Leadership:
Hi. As you know, its disturbing to me – and perhaps to you – that my book entitled HAES is sometimes people’s first introduction to HAES, though it introduces an antiquated version of HAES. As I wrote on my website: “As proud as I am of the book, I’m also aware of some of its shortcomings, including some of the ways in which it transmits my unexamined privilege and does damage.” I would like to write an updated (15th anniversary!) version, to be published in 2023, so that I don’t continue to do this damage and I’m able to put out a more modern perspective.
Before I dive into this project, I want to run it by you. I want to know if there are any concerns or anything you want to discuss. It’s important to me to include acknowledgement, as I did in my previous books, that it’s not a definitive version of HAES and that I’m not the founder of HAES. I think the earlier editions were quite successful at getting HAES on the map, and that this next edition would further that and also serve to bring attention to ASDAH and expand ASDAH’s reach. Perhaps ASDAH would consider writing a forward, though I don’t need a commitment at this point.
Here, for example, is what I did previously, and in this version I’d want to update these concepts to point people towards ASDAH as a defining organization.
From Body Respect: “HAES is an entirely hopeful, helpful doctrine. And it belongs not to a single author, but to a large and growing cohort of people, lay and professional, who are bound by their mutual desire for respect and equality and by their challenge of commonly held assumptions about fat.”
Or what I wrote in the original HAES book, in the section entitled “COMMUNITY ACKNOWLEDGMENT.”
The concept of Health at Every Size has a long history that predates me and includes many diverse viewpoints. I am grateful to the pioneers who helped us envision the possibilities of a paradigm shift and to the many other freedom fighters who continue to conceptualize and grow the movement to this day.
Choosing a book title was a conflicted process. As I intended to bring attention to the Health at Every Size movement and share my perspective on it, the main title “Health at Every Size” was a natural option. The first edition of the book has been out for a year now, and I’m thrilled to feel successful in both aspects. The downside to using the words in my title, however, is that it may give off the impression that this is THE treatise on Health at Every Size, and the only way to articulate the movement. It’s not. There are many divergent viewpoints within the Health at Every Size movement and this book represents my perspective.”
Do you have any thoughts about me going forward on this project? I’m happy to discuss anything, and available by email or zoom.
The publisher is looking for a commitment from me as soon as possible. I’m going to hold off until I hear from you.
Lindo follow up 9/21/2021
Sent to ani only (ani is white)
Hope you’re doing well. Things good here. I sent a couple emails to Veronica and never heard back. I asked her to confirm receipt and didn’t hear back on that either. About to forward them to you; I’m sure you can take care of them.
Sorry not more personal, I’m in total get things done mode right now. But I do hope things are good by you.
Veronica’s Response 9/28/2021
Thank you so much for your patience in awaiting a response. I’m only allotted a certain number of hours per week to work on ASDAH stuff and I’ve just not had the capacity to respond until now. Thank you so much for running this by me. I will make sure to share this with the rest of the team and discuss it at our next leadership meeting. I can give you my initial thoughts now.
First off I am so appreciative of the work that you have done to put Health at Every Size® on the map. Your book, which I first learned about over a decade ago during grad school, was my first introduction to HAES®. Despite its limited perspective and shortcomings, your book had a profound impact on my personal and professional life. Since my first introduction to HAES, my own understanding, fat politic, and social justice praxis have grown and evolved immensely. I’m sure yours has too. And so my questions to you are, as an ally or accomplice of social justice movements, had you considered passing this opportunity along to any of the fat, BIPOC, disabled, lower socioeconomic status, etc folks who are doing this work and whose voices need to be centered and uplifted? Had you considered just letting that first HAES book go out of print/publication so that new voices who are deeply impacted by fat hatred could be ushered in? Had you considered other ways you could give up some of your privilege and power in order to create a more equitable and just movement?
If you write this book, regardless of updating it to a modern perspective, you will be perpetuating harm by centering the experience and perspective of a relatively affluent, thin/straight-sized, white person. Sharing this singular perspective of HAES at this moment in history will drown out the voices of those with lived experiences of being fat, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, disabled, etc. Their voices are the divergent viewpoints the world needs to hear. Additionally, if you write this book, it may bring attention to ASDAH, but I doubt it will expand the reach to the communities and people who we want at the center of our work. ASDAH and the larger Health at Every Size movement, historically has been and currently is overwhelmingly white, thin, affluent, and otherwise privileged. If ASDAH is to survive and thrive, to be a leader in this social justice movement, we cannot have more of the same.
With all of that said, I would like to give you a heads up if you will be in attendance at ASDAH’s annual meeting tomorrow. We have been visioning and planning different ways to not only take back the HAES narrative, but to place it in the hands of the most marginalized in our community. Prior to your email, there has been discussion amongst the team about publishing an official HAES by ASDAH book (we will be discussing this during the meeting and providing more context). Would you be willing to do an e-introduction between your publisher and the ASDAH leadership?
I look forward to getting the team’s feedback and discussing this with you further. Moving forward, please contact me at [email redacted], which I’ve cc’d.
ASDAH Leadership Team held our annual meeting on 9/29/2021, and Lindo attended the live session and had access to the recording as an ASDAH member. During the Annual Meeting, we outlined our vision for the coming years for ASDAH. Notably, we discussed our vision of revising the Health at Every Size® principles and writing a Health at Every Size® book authored by fat, Black, Brown, neurodiverse, disabled, transgender, and queer activists. We shared a list of people we hoped to work with for this endeavor which included Marquisele Mercedes, Da’Shaun Harrison, Hunter Shackelford, Imani Barbarin, Caleb Luna, Derrick Reyes, Saucye West, and Vanessa Rochelle Lewis. For transparency, we’ve made the recording of that meeting available publicly.
Lindo’s response 10/7/2021
Sorry it has taken so long to respond to your email.
I’m glad my first book was meaningful for you. The rest of your e-mail did not land well. I’m going to take a pass on responding to your questions or engaging.
I wrote my initial email to you to get more info so I can make the most responsible and respectful decision and I did get what I needed from your response. Thanks. I look forward to hearing opinion from the board as well
I can connect you with my publisher when you’re ready.
Lindo’s follow up response 10/20/2021
Hope your week is going well. Things are going well here. I’m really enjoying some writing I’m doing now – it’s great to wake up every morning wanting to jump out of bed so I can see what comes next in the research trail.
You had written: “I look forward to getting the team’s feedback and discussing this with you further.” Do you have a sense of when this might happen? I need to move forward in decision making – my publisher needs this too. It’s always surprising how long it takes to get things to press and there’s a bit of pressure for them to make it happen. This doesn’t have to be formal – I’m just looking to hear what people are thinking, to make sure I’ve considered this from all angles. Different perspectives are good, don’t need a consensus statement. It can also be verbal; perhaps you want to include me for a short time on one of your group calls.
By the way, if you or your team have any questions about publishing, as an insider whose been through it, I’m happy to help out. I think I can offer some insights that can be helpful to you. For example, you thought it was possible for me to give this opportunity to someone else. It’s not. In publishing, opportunities like this are meted out to specific people, not ideas. I don’t want to overstep here and offer unsolicited advice. But do let me know if its ever helpful for you to speak with me more about ASDAH publishing. I think it would be awesome if you could publish the book you want and I’m happy to support ASDAH. I know you think our books would be competitive. Seems like your team isn’t sure of what you want to do, but I can’t imagine any book ASDAH would write that would compete with mine – rather, I think they would be complementary. But I get that you don’t agree with this.
Thanks – I appreciate how much work your role must be. Thanks for your commitment to ASDAH.
Lindo’s email 10/28/2021
I am meeting with my publisher on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a new edition to my book. Please let the leadership team know that if anyone has any feedback that may be helpful for me to discuss with my team, I encourage them to get in touch. Thanks.
Lindo’s email 1/18/2022
No response necessary.
I get frequent requests for interviews and speaking gigs and often try to refer them out to others.
Today I got a request that I thought you might be a good match for – it’s a prominent podcast and might be good opp to get the word out about ASDAH and the work that you do. I just referred her to you, giving your email address because her request is time-sensitive (your ASDAH address, not your personal one). I’m not sure if she’ll follow through.
But it made me realize that I don’t have any info about you in my referral database. It’s helpful to have that info on hand because things are often time sensitive and I don’t like to give out people’s contact info without permission. I won’t do that again unless I hear from you that you’re interested.
If you are interested in referrals, it would be helpful for me to know the following:
Would you be interested in receiving referrals for any or all of the below:
Podcasts or Videos
If you want to limit them in any way, like only those that pay or are large audience, let me know that too.
What email address should I give?
If they are looking for a phone #, is it okay to give yours? If so, please let me know your #.
Thanks. Hope you are well.
Veronica’s response email 3/4/2022
Thank you for your patience in awaiting a response. I’m currently not taking personal business media requests, but I and other folks on the ASDAH team would be happy to speak on behalf of ASDAH in print interviews, podcasts, videos, and speaking gigs. The best way for folks to reach the team regarding media requests is via the contact form on our website ( https://asdah.org/contact/ ) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your consideration.
Leadership Team Letter re: HAES® Book 3/8/2022
Please find attached the ASDAH Leadership Team’s response regarding a revised Health at Every Size® book.
All future correspondence should be sent to me directly.
Attached letter reads:
March 8, 2022
Re: ASDAH Leadership Response to Republishing Health At Every Size® and Addressing Harm Done
In your initial email correspondence with Veronica, you wrote: “I would like to write an updated (15th anniversary!) version, to be published in 2023, so that I don’t continue to do this damage and I’m able to put out a more modern perspective.” The ASDAH Leadership Team stands behind Veronica’s thoughtful response that publishing an updated version would do harm and damage to the community by continuing to center white, thin voices in the movement. The ASDAH Leadership Team does not approve of or agree with you moving forward with this project.
We at ASDAH, the holder and protector of the Health at Every Size® and HAES® trademarks, are committed to promoting an inclusive vision of Health at Every Size® which centers those most marginalized and harmed by fatphobia and the healthcare system. Your authorship of a revised Health at Every Size® book will cause confusion with ASDAH’s work promoting Health at Every Size®. A Health at Every Size® book will be reasonably interpreted to be ASDAH’s opinions, violating our trademark.
In addition to the potential harm of publishing a HAES® book, we would like to address the harm that has already been done in your interactions with Veronica, the Leadership Team, and the ASDAH community at large. At ASDAH, among the Leadership Team, with our members, and the greater HAES® community, we’re interrogating how white supremacy culture shows up in our work, organizations, and community. In your interactions with Veronica you demonstrated white fragility, white supremacy culture, and performative allyship. We invite you to this brave space, and to recognize that while intentions may be good, harm can and did happen.
Actions That Caused Harm:
- Calling Veronica by the wrong name multiple times.
- White fragility. You have stated that you are committed to antiracism. Despite this, when provided with earnest feedback, you have been dismissive and defensive, and have refused to engage in generative discussion.
- Performative Allyship. By asking for input and then summarily dismissing it, your request for feedback was performative. When you didn’t get the response you wanted, expected, and believed you were owed, you went ahead as planned anyway.
- White Supremacy culture
- Sense of urgency – not giving your expected timeline then sending emails asking us to rush and adhere to your timeline.
- Power hoarding – Choosing to be complicit in the status quo of the publishing industry instead of bringing in and uplifting new voices.
- Fear of conflict – Dismissing the questions Veronica posed.
- Individualism – Taking action as if you alone have the power and responsibility to write a book on Health at Every Size®.
This Leadership Team has been generous with our time, talents, and knowledge in responding to your requests with little evidence that you are willing to engage in an accountability process. If you wish to continue to engage in further conversations, we will need to do so as consultants where we are paid for our time.
In closing, we are unequivocally unified in opposing a revised edition of Health at Every Size® written by you. It will do harm and will not uplift the nuanced and inclusive use of our trademark as we intend.
[Leadership Team Signatures followed]
Summary & Analysis
In the exchange above, in Lindo’s engagement with the ASDAH Listserv, and evident through Marquisele Mercedes’ account, Lindo has harmed the community repeatedly, and continues their harmful actions even after multiple fat, Black activists have provided (uncompensated) labor to educate and ask them to do better. Some of the ways Lindo has and continues to harm the HAES® community, especially our fat, Black, and Brown members:
- Lindo refers frequently to their contribution to the success of HAES® and ASDAH without equal and adequate acknowledgement of the success their book had because of the already existing work of HAES® advocates and fat liberationists.
- Lindo does not gather community input or help shape the discourse of the future of HAES®. They run their business as an individual for their benefit.
- Lindo continues to run HAEScommunity.com which supports their hoarding of power in HAES® spaces. This keeps resources in Lindo’s hands and diverts resources away from ASDAH and fat, Black, and Brown advocates.
- Health at Every Size®, before the trademark and before Lindo wrote a book which appropriated the term for its title, was a community movement, heavily influenced by the 1960’s group called The Fat Underground, other organizations, and more importantly, the many fat, Black women whose ideas were appropriated by white people and ‘formalized’ in white supremecist ways (such as through the written word and founding of “official” organizations which replicate white supremacy and made access impossible by people of color.)
- When discussions of trademarking HAES® and Health at Every Size® came up as a way to protect the movement from being co-opted by weight loss companies and obesity researchers, the community was vocal about making sure the trademark did not belong to an individual and recommended that ASDAH hold the trademarks to keep the movement community-led.
- Lindo expressed no intention of including others in authoring the book when they contacted us. Veronica’s first point in her response was whether Lindo had considered including other voices. Lindo dismissed Veronica’s feedback, yet still used her labor to further their individual goals.
- Lindo’s email initially did not include the elements of our goals for ASDAH presented at the annual meeting. These goals were then reflected in the communications with Marquisele Mercedes, co-opting the vision and leadership of a fat, Black leader and diverse leadership team.
- Though Lindo knew ASDAH’s goals for Health at Every Size®, they continued to move forward on their book instead of using their resources to support and follow the lead of fat, Black, Brown, disabled, transgender, and queer leaders of ASDAH.
- Lindo reframed Veronica’s ask for them to step back as “competitive,” a term and concept Veronica did not use in her initial response. Yet, Lindo takes action as if they do see it as a competition, including the many ASDAH resources they are duplicating, including hosting their own HAES® registry and writing their own response to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as if they are the authority on HAES®. Competition shows up as a form of white supremacy in the belief that “if it’s going to be done right, I must do it” and binary thinking.
- Lindo has not supported ASDAH materially besides the base annual membership fee in recent years.
- 9/16/21: First email from Lindo
- 9/28/21: First reply from Veronica
- 9/29/21: Annual meeting where we shared our goals for ASDAH (Lindo attended the live session):
- Revising the HAES® Principles
- Writing a co-authored book by people oppressed and exploited by the HAES® movement and shared our ‘dream team’ including Marquisele Mercedes
- 10/7/21: Lindo replied dismissing Veronica’s feedback
- 10/20/21: Lindo’s follow up email
- 10/28/21: Lindo’s ‘rush’ email
- November 2021: Lindo reached out to Mikey with revised goals seemingly reflective of Veronica’s feedback (which was dismissed by Lindo) and ASDAH Leadership’s goals for HAES®
- 1/26/22: ASDAH’s survey to develop the revised HAES® listing went out
- Early Feb. 2022: ASDAH Leadership drafted letter to Lindo and gathered signatures
- 2/18/22: Lindo posted on the ASDAH listserv they plan to revamp their listing on HAEScommunity.com
- 2/22/22 ASDAH wrote a response to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
- 3/7/22 Lindo wrote a response to AND and asked ASDAH Leadership Team to post it on our blog
- 3/8/22 Mikey shared her experience with Lindo publicly
- 3/8/22 ASDAH sent Lindo and their publishers a letter stating their disapproval with Lindo pursuing a HAES® book revision
ASDAH has taken action to center Black, fat, and transgender community members in the last two years. We have revised our leadership structure to be less hierarchical. We have allocated funds and committed to paying people for their labor so that people with identities that are exploited could be supported in leading the organization. We have prioritized fat, Black, transgender, queer, and disabled speakers for all educational events and the 2022 conference. We have paid all speakers for their time and expertise. Throughout this, Lindo has been mostly absent besides paying the base membership dues. They have not reached out to the leadership team to offer support, but instead to ask for uncompensated labor, which has diverted resources (time, money, and energy) away from ASDAH’s work.
Why didn’t ASDAH respond sooner to Lindo’s request for a Leadership Team decision?
If you are asking yourself this, take a moment first to consider the white supremacy thinking that leads you to question the timeline of the events over the substance of the interactions. We will, however, provide context for those who are actively unlearning white supremacy and grappling with this.
Lindo did not provide a timeline in which to make this decision. This sense of urgency, not providing concrete information on their desired timeline, and not explaining why rushing was important to them, is a tool of white supremacy culture to force an answer quickly before the responding party has time to fully reflect. While the decision was relatively straightforward for the team, we took time to consider how to communicate this to Lindo, a person we perceived as having power, privilege, and clout that far outweighed the collective power of those on the Leadership Team. After Lindo’s dismissal of Veronica’s thoughtful and gracious feedback, we put the healing and support of Veronica and the team first. During this time period, the majority of the leadership team was uncompensated for their time working on all ASDAH matters including this one. Ensuring survival in our racist, capitalist system and caring for our own families and communities came first.
During this time period, we also took time to meet with our legal team, consider the consequences of our response and actions, and write a thoughtful letter addressing the harm done.
In our last communication with Lindo, the ASDAH Leadership Team invited Lindo to a community accountability process. We asked Lindo to cover the financial costs of the labor of a facilitator and the team to engage in this process. Lindo has already cost ASDAH considerably financially and emotionally, taking resources away from our advocacy work in the community and causing harm to the team.
Community accountability processes require many things. The first is an existing relationship. Lindo does not have a strong relationship with any individual on the current ASDAH Leadership Team, nor has Lindo supported or participated in ASDAH’s work materially or meaningfully in the recent past. “It can also be dangerous to attempt a process if the people involved do not know each other well or do not know you well.” (Fumbling Towards Repair by Mariame Kaba & Shira Hassan) Engaging in community accountability with Lindo is a risk for our leadership team, which is another reason we’re asking Lindo to financially support this process.
Another requirement of community accountability is that all parties must be willing to engage in the process. “You can’t shame or coerce people into accountability. It doesn’t work. You can invite people to participate in an accountability process. You should not coerce them. You cannot force them.” (Fumbling Towards Repair by Mariame Kaba & Shira Hassan). It is not within the control of ASDAH or the individuals on the leadership team to force a community accountability process with Lindo. We ask our community to avoid demanding or forcing Lindo into an accountability process.
Creating Safety in ASDAH
In order to keep our community safer for fat, Black, and Brown folks in ASDAH spaces, we are setting boundaries as the natural consequence for causing repeated harm. We are revoking Lindo’s membership with ASDAH and disallowing Lindo from attending ASDAH events. We are setting these boundaries knowing that there is always a possibility of restoration and transformation.
It is evident that many if not the majority of people first associate Health at Every Size® with Lindo, and not as an evolving, community-led movement. To allow those most affected by fat hatred to lead HAES® into its next evolution, we ask that Lindo take down the HAES® Pledge Registry and HAEScommunity.com.
ASDAH is committed to the on-going work of eradicating white supremacy in our work and communities. In addition to continuing our education on community safety and accountability, we will continue to hold space for social justice development moments. We ask of ourselves and our community to continue to call each other in when we see white supremacy in action.
We are committed to centering and uplifting the most marginalized people in our communities. We invite Black, Brown, fat (especially superfat and larger folks), transgender, and disabled community members to let us know how we can continue making ASDAH a safer place by submitting your feedback to the Leadership Team.
We know that this conversation will bring up past trauma whether directly or indirectly related to Lindo and Health at Every Size®. We invite you to take care of yourself and each other through social media breaks, getting support from loved ones, and engaging in your favorite restorative activities.
Behind ASDAH are eight humans who care deeply for this community and the work of fat liberation. We ask everyone to honor each other’s collective humanity by showing compassion and grace as our community grieves and heals. Though confronting the patterns of harm in our community is difficult, we grow and strengthen because of it. We have great hope for the future of HAES® and ASDAH and that is because of our incredible community.
The ASDAH Leadership Team