Meet Your Leadership Team Series: Interim Projects & Operations Leader

By Brie Scrivner, PhD, Former Board Member-at-Large and ASDAH Education Blog Coordinator (2020-21)

Welcome to the third of this series where I sit down (have a Zoom call) with members of the ASDAH Leadership Team. We are moving forward and excited about the year ahead.

When I joined leadership as Board Member-at-Large, summer 2020, I was blown away by the people who have come together to form this team. Living in the Deep South, I often feel cut off from some of the cultural movements happening around the US. Having monthly meetings with individuals working to enact positive change in their communities has been inspiring- and not in the generic inspo way, in the (to modify a Madalyn Murray O’Hair quote) “two hands at work do more than a thousand inspirational social media posts ever could.” 

This time, I spoke with Ani Janzen, MPH, RD, who currently serves the board as Interim Projects & Operations Leader and is your former Secretary and former Interim President in 2020.

Note to reader: The following is a transcript of a Zoom interview I did with Ani Janzen on February 18, 2021. It has been edited for length.

SPEAKERS

Ani Janzen, Brie Scrivner

Brie  

Happy to be speaking with you. Clearly, I know your name is Ani and use she/they pronouns. I use they/them. So, let’s start at the very beginning. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? 

Ani  

Yeah, um, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. I spent some time in Kansas for school. And then I spent well actually before Kansas, I spent some time in Belgium as an exchange student. 

Brie  

That’s awesome. What part of Belgium?

Ani  

I was in Namur, which is the capital of the French side, Wallonia. Brussels is a trilingual city, and English is their third language. And since I was there to learn French, we knew that would probably be a hindrance to me. So, I was placed in Namur and actually lived on a houseboat for the first half of my exchange year, which was really cool. 

Brie  

Amazing. There’s their third languages, Flemish. 

Ani  

Yep. Flanders is the other side. And they speak Flemish and they created everything cool that comes out of Belgium. All the great artists and all the great chocolate.

Brie  

Fantastic. You live in Minneapolis now? What’s it like there? What do you love about it? What do you hate about it? 

Ani  

I love my city so much. It’s a small town-ish feel. Small city feel, I should say, it doesn’t feel like a small town. But it’s small enough that you can really get to know the communities that you’re in. And we have a great queer community. For a while in the late 90s, we were the third highest per capita, queer city, second to San Francisco and New York, of course, or third to those two. And then, you know, my big passion here is creating fat community. And, we have an awesome fat community. We’ve got lots of connections, we’ve got providers, but we’ve also just got cool stuff happening in the community, a very connected community, we all know each other. And we have a very, we have a strong Facebook group that connects local folks. And so my whole passion is all about working on the local level, and creating change in mostly in the Twin Cities. But Minnesota is my, you know, kind of my service area range, I guess you could say.

Brie  

That was great. Minnesota is one of the few places I’ve never been. A lot of my colleagues are from Minnesota. And I know a lot of people who go to the universities there. 

Ani  

Our universities can be a pretty big draw, especially in the health fields, public health or medical schools, etc…and Minnesota doesn’t have any huge tourist draws. So, I think that’s part of why the city feels so homey, is because when you’re here, everyone’s just local, I don’t ever see anybody that I can assume as a tourist, we just don’t have that kind of atmosphere here. So everywhere you go, it just feels like home. Which I really love. 

Brie  

I have never thought about it like that. Birmingham also isn’t a big tourist destination. I just assume anyone I meet has been here their entire life, except for of course, in the medical school or at the university, and then it’s different. 

So, tell me about your professional life. What are some things you have done? Want to do? Will do- all of it. 

Ani  

Yeah, I started my nonprofit, Radical Health Alliance, three years ago, while I was still in grad school, finishing my Master’s in Public Health. I became trained as a yoga teacher, which was my own pursuit. I wanted to take a yoga teacher training just for my own benefit to get deeper into what Yoga is. The big philosophy surrounding it so much more than just the Asana or the poses. I kind of fell in love with teaching and I fell in love with teaching fat folks, so pretty quickly after I finished my yoga teacher training, I started offering yoga classes. 

And I knew that this was going to fit under what I wanted my nonprofit to be. My nonprofit, Radical Health Alliance, is improving the health of fat people. So, just kind of prompted me; my classes took off right away, they filled up, there is great demand. It’s been really, really exciting. Immediately, I was like, “Well, I don’t want this money to just sit and be unaccounted for.” So. I created the structure and from there, we built what we have today. We’ve added more programs, we have Fat Girls Hiking, we’re ambassadors for the Fat Girls Hiking organization. We started, right before the pandemic, Rad Fat Biking, which got put on hold. We run Rad Fat Adventure Camp- it’s supposed to be every year, it started in 2019. And of course, that canceled for 2020. And we will be holding off for sure until 2022. It will be an annual thing once COVID is a thing that we can live with safely in our world. So, that’s all the services we do for fat people. That sums up the typical experience of general people who want to come and have fat, fat positive environment, enjoy people who have similar experiences to them, know that there’s not gonna be any weight loss or diet talk and just like be uplifted by being in the presence of people who are in larger bodies and just like love their lives and aren’t disparaging of themselves. 

And on the other side of the organization, we offer trainings, workshops, classes for health professionals. So, part of our mission in improving health for fat people is improving the medical industrial complex of the area. We train providers, we just talked to the U of M med students this week. We do trainings at various organizations; we offer other trainings for anyone who wants to come outside of the organization. 

Our other goal is to really just spread the message of “what does Health at Every Size have to offer? Why is it different? Why might it be better?” We obviously believe those things, but trying to show people the research and ideas that underlie why Health at Every Size is a really great model to use in your healthcare system. So, that’s what we’ve done. 

As we move forward, one of our biggest goals is to create a local provider network so that the local HAES providers know who else is in the area and can offer guidance, and referrals to those folks and feel a little bit more confident and safe in that. We’d like to do some work on size discrimination law here in Minnesota, I’m still kind of seeing where some of the federal efforts are going. And it’s just not a high priority for our legislature right now. We do some workshops that are less movement based, more focused on learning about the Health at Every Size model and fat liberation, and how can you incorporate these ideas into your own ideas of health and wellness? So yeah, we have a lot of fun. 

Brie  

That’s incredible. I am super impressed. How did you find out about ASDAH? 

Ani  

I think my very first introduction to it was at the end of Lindo Bacon’s Health at Every Size book where they very clearly lay out like, Okay, you’ve read this book, you want to see what else is out there. Here’s NAAFA. Here’s other stuff that’s going on. So, I think that was my first introduction to the idea that there was an organization out there that had something to do with Health at Every Size. But when I first read the book, I was not a professional in my field yet. I was thinking about these ideas for my own health and well-being. Even though I was on the path to becoming a dietetic student, I knew that was where I wanted to be, but I wasn’t in dietetic courses yet. Then, I kind of followed what ASDAH was doing, and I became a member. I very quickly felt like there wasn’t a lot of fat representation, at least on the current board at that time. I can’t speak for the long history of the board. But at that time, there was almost everyone- eight out of nine folks were in smaller bodies. That really spurred me to say, “well, I really want to make sure that there are voices at this table”. And that’s what prompted me to run for member-at -large for the first time. 

Brie  

Okay, and how did you end up in your current role? 

Ani  

Yeah. So, I’m currently the secretary, and this is my sort of second and fourth role on the board. I got elected to Secretary right after my member-at-large term- which is only one year. It’s barely enough to get you going and ramping up in the organization. I felt like I had spent so much time learning and I wanted to use that knowledge to continue to help ASDAH. 

It does take a lot of work to understand the intricacies and nuances of what’s happening in this organization. Not to mention, just like the community at large, we are an international community. So, to really start to understand what all is happening all over the place: it’s a big learning curve. I knew I wanted to continue on the board. I love the secretary position, because it doesn’t have a lot of official duties. Your time is basically accounted for in some of the other positions, because they’re quite intense, how much work they have to do. Secretary isn’t like that. I picked that because I love to do projects. I was a project manager in a former lifetime. I knew I wanted to have flexible time where I could just pick up projects to help ASDAH move forward. That’s why I went for the secretary position and got elected into that one. Then, I served as interim president for four months. It feels like both a very long time and a very small amount of time. That was mid 2020. I’ve transitioned out of that—we don’t use presidents anymore—and I am back at my secretary role for the remainder of this year. 

Brie  

And we are very glad you are here. I’m always impressed with what you bring to the table. 

If you had access to unlimited resources meaning unlimited money time people, what would you have asked to do? 

Ani  

Oh my gosh. This is such a huge question. Because I feel like my immediate answers are so small, because they’re more in the realm of possibility. I would have to think, like truly, with all the unlimited resources… 

Brie  

I mean, we can flip it because my next question is what are three things you’d love for ASDAH in 2021 and so you can start reasonably and then jump off and maybe dream up? 

Ani  

Okay, yeah. What do I want for ASDAH in 2021? The HAES provider listing is really top of mind. I think it’s top of mind for a lot of our members. 

I would love to see the HAES provider member listing get revamped and relaunched to be better than ever. I want great search functions with a nice look and that are attractive for the people who are using it. I want them to be intuitive so that people can really dig down and search for exactly what they want and need; whether that’s a kind of provider, a US area, a specialty, whatever it might be. I want to create a robust search function that allows users in the general public to find what they need to find. At the same time, serve the folks that are on the listing by making sure that the things that are key to what they provide—whatever that is—whether that’s health care, activism, etc, that they can communicate exactly what they’re doing so that folks can connect to the right people. 

That’s top of mind, I’m excited for strategic planning. I think that while the planning stuff can be really frustrating for some folks, I’ve seen the power of taking a breath, thinking stuff through and really coming up with a strategic plan for how we’re going to move forward. This is my third year on the board and it’s something that I have not seen our board get to do yet. We’ve really had to be in a reactionary mode for a lot of real reasons. And we’ve just kind of had to be like, “Okay, this issue came up, we got to deal with it, this issue” and so on. I think we’re getting to a place where we truly can breathe, look at the big picture, and recalibrate, strategize where we want to go. So, I’m very excited to formulate our next strategic plan. My third thing….I’m excited to see more of the diversity and inclusion trainings that I know are coming out. I’m not directly involved with them. But our diversity and equity director and our education folks are scheming and planning some really cool stuff. So, I’m really excited to see that stuff come out for all of our members and the general public. 

Brie  

Fantastic. Now that you’ve had very reasonable actionable ideas, do you have any, like reach for the stars ideas?

Ani  

I think probably one of my, my biggest dreams that is pretty like far off, if we ever go that direction would be to have a real advocacy force in our federal legislature. So, to have a team, essentially, that is creating connections with various positions, legislators in Washington, DC, creating those connections and starting to really make ASDAH a voice in healthcare, legislature, and human rights legislation. I think that would be just so cool. It’s very, very far away off….but putting us on the same level as, like, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or the American Medical Association, getting us to a place where, like, our voice is at that table would be phenomenal. 

Brie  

That’s a great answer. Ok, so some fun questions. So, what’s a typical day like for you? 

Ani  

Hmm, there is no typical day for me. Radical Health Alliance is kind of like my main thing, but it still only takes up about half my time. I do have a dietetic private practice in addition to Radical Health Alliance. So, some days I see clients and some days I don’t. Some days I have lots of classes, and sometimes I don’t. So sometimes I’m teaching yoga, sometimes I’m leading a training for health professionals, sometimes I’m leading a workshop for fat folks just interested in these topics. 

Then, probably the most disheartening to my little activist heart, is that I have to spend a lot of time on email, connecting with people. I came from a community college, before I started this work, and I always thought, “Oh, yeah, like, of course, I’m on email all the time. In that system, there’s 600 employees and when I get into my work where I am the only employee, I’m never gonna have to do email.”

That is just not reality. I do so much email, I get emails all the time, from people wanting to know about various things. Everyday it’s a different question. I think that suits me pretty well, because I really do like variety. I don’t think I could be a full time one-on-one client, dietitian. I think I would burn out fast on that and need something else. When we’re in non-pandemic times, I get to do things like go on hikes with fat folks, and go for bike rides. Once a year, I get to lead a camp, which is literally just the most incredible experience. My days are pretty varied, but usually pretty awesome. It’s great. 

Brie  

I love the idea of the fat camp. As I got more into like outdoorsy stuff, it’s been very isolating. At least around here, overwhelmingly, the people that you see in rugged outdoor activities are smaller bodied, able bodied, high SES folks. So, you have to really push through that compulsion to constantly self-monitor in order to enjoy it. Being around a bunch of cool, fat people would have just blown my mind. Don’t get me started on biking. Eesh.

Ani  

Exactly. I mean, these are the real barriers that fat people face is…if you can manage to find a bike that you feel comfortable on, if you can manage to find a trail that is going to meet your ability level, you still are faced with your vulnerability out in the open as a single fat person, an individual fat person doing an activity- even just to your own thoughts, which sucks. I’ve watched people come to our events and they just they open up, you know, they’re laughing, they’re enjoying themselves. They’ve lost that self-conscious rhetoric. It’s like that self-conscious, internal monologue has gone away. And they feel very empowered. Because they’re surrounded by other people who think and look like them. Which is pretty rad. 

Brie  

Okay, I don’t I don’t mean to turn this into a you know, Brie’s fat liberationist awakening time-

Ani  

-no, please do. 

Brie  

For so long. I wanted to canoe. My grandfather was a whitewater canoer and I didn’t even know that that was a thing. But I have pictures of my grandfather standing up in a canoe going through rapids. My older brother, who’s extremely fit and smaller bodied, is also into canoeing. But I always was worried I was too wide for a canoe and that would make me a threat to those around me. Then, a couple years ago, I finally got in one and realized that canoes suit me just fine. I had a blast. It was amazing. And so there I feel like there are so many things like that. That could be an enriching activity for people. How many people simply don’t because they have been told they can’t?

Ani  

Exactly. I think we’ve seen this, as a movement, on a really big level. We’ve watched yoga become the thing that is available to fat folks, and helps change their minds and change the way they think about their bodies. Now that I’ve gotten to experience it more directly, because kayaking is my favorite activity like in the world, and I never saw another fat kayaker. I was just kind of lucky in that my uncle loves to kayak, he had a really nice kayak with a high weight limit. So, from the time I was 10, I had access to a kayak and I knew what it was like. As my body changed and got bigger, I just kept doing it. I had this level of comfort with it and didn’t need to get over that activation barrier of like, “Well, can I do this? How hard is it going to be? Are there weight limits etc.” Now, I get to see what it’s like for other people to see me doing kayaking. I didn’t know any other fat kayakers before this. Now, in our tiny community, people all over the place are like, “Oh, I want to try kayaking, tell me about it” and because I can so easily tell them about what they should look for and what they should be concerned about ,as fat folks, and what they don’t need to worry about at all—because that is often what it is: they’re worried about something that doesn’t even matter for fat folks. To clear all those barriers out and just show how possible it is. Yeah, we now have like a community of fat kayakers. 

Brie  

Oh, my God. I can just imagine if I were at the river, and I saw this little flotilla of fat kayakers going by. I’d just fling myself into the river and want to be a part of it. 

Ani  

Yeah! Come to fat camp next time. We do kayaking and canoeing. 

Brie  

Oh, fantastic. So, you’re extremely busy. Obviously, you’re a busy person. But for your downtime, do you have a favorite show/movie/book?

Ani  

Yeah I’ve been reading a lot. I started reading right before the pandemic. I actually read my favorite book ever and it kind of helped me really fall in love with books again. I’ve chased the high of that book, you know, like, when you read something like so good? And then you’re like, I need that again! So, I’ve been reading a lot. I still haven’t found anything quite comparable to this book that I love, which is called Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. It’s a fantasy book about a chosen one who has a vampire roommate. I don’t want to spoil anything, because that’s really the best part about it. There’s a queer love. There’s great diversity and representation amongst the characters. And they kind of flip the chosen one trope on its head. There’s Carry On and then there’s Wayward Son. They actually address a lot of the trauma that happens when you are a chosen one character or would happen to a chosen one character because he’s an 11-year-old who’s thrown into battles with dragons and other various things. The big bad is like The Insidious Humdrum, is what they call it. He has to battle and fight these things from the time he’s 11 to the time he’s 18 and it really traumatizes him and in Wayward Son, they’ve actually dig into mental health and trauma, but it’s all set in this wonderful fantasy world with dragons and vampires and other magical creatures. So yeah, that’s my absolute favorite book. 

Brie  

I love it. I am a big fantasy nerd. There’s a reason my bookcase is behind me for Zoom calls. So, people see it’s mostly research and reference books. But then, over here [gestures off-screen], is my fiction bookcase. This is an excellent book [holding up Crooked Kingdom].

Ani  

I’m reading that right now! I just read Six of Crows and like I’m a third of the way through- you will love Carry On! You will love Carry On if you like Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom!

Brie  

Yeah. Awesome! I could talk about this all day. I so rarely get to nerd out about fantasy books. I get way too excited.

Anyway, what is your 2021 theme song? Or, just what kind of music are you into?

Ani  

I like a lot of folk music. I’m obsessed with ukuleles and banjos and I just found out that there’s a thing called a banjolele, which is a hybrid between a ukulele and a banjo- which I plan to purchase for myself soon. I like Rufus Wainwright. He just continues to put out really great stuff, and I think I think he released it last year. My theme song for 2021 is “Trouble in Paradise.” It’s just a really, really pretty song. 

Brie  

Right on. I like to know what kind of music people are into because I’ve met some people for whom music just isn’t a part of their life. It’s just…not a thing. My partner and I are All The Time music people- there’s always music going on. Have to set the soundtrack to your life. 

Well, that brings us to a close. Thank you for giving me your time to get this done. I’m really excited about membership getting to know you all there.


You can find more about Ani’s work at radicalhealthalliance.org and you can find them via social media @radicalhealthalliance on Instagram and @radicalhealthallianceMN on Facebook

You can find Brie on twitter @bnscrivnerphd and on Instagram @bnscrivner_phd and check out their latest work now available online: Brie Scrivner (2021) Counter hegemonic discourse in a body-inclusive space, Fat Studies, DOI: 10.1080/21604851.2021.1970377  

If you’re interested in submitting a blog post for publication, contact the Education Director at education@asdah.org 


Ani Janzen, MPH, RD, is a fat activist and Health at Every Size® advocate in Minneapolis, MN. She is the proud co-founder and co-admin of the fat liberation group, Twin Cities Fat Community, which works to connect fat people through community and activism. She recently founded the Radical Health Alliance, a nonprofit with the mission of championing the multidimensional and weight-inclusive health of fat people in Minnesota. Through education, support, and advocacy, we strive to eliminate weight bias, increase access to health services, and protect people from weight discrimination. Ani has a BS in Dietetics and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and her Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credentials. As a fat person and health professional, Ani is most passionate about the intersection of access to healthcare and fat rights. She believes that fat liberation and HAES, though they are different perspectives that aren’t always used in conjunction, are both necessary to effectively create equitable healthcare for fat people. Ani is also currently serving as the Operations and Projects Leader for ASDAH.


Brie Scrivner headshot.Brie Scrivner, PhD is a medical sociologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Their research focuses on anti-fat bias, embodiment, community health, HIV/AIDS, and LGBTQ+ adolescents.