Remember how I always say that if someone is trying to convince you to feel guilt, fear, or shame, you should immediately ask yourself “What are they trying to sell me?”
Well, meet Steve Siebold.
This morning I got an e-mail from Virginia who writes Beauty Schooled – one of my favorite blogs. If you’re not aware, we are in the midst of Fat Talk Free Week, a project started by Delta Delta Delta and now on at least 35 college campuses to just say no or ‘no comment’ to any mention of weight, size, shape, or any other kind of Fat Talk.
Virginia received a press release from Bruce Serbin about Steve Siebold’s personal mission AGAINST fat talk free week. I am not kidding. Because “he’s out to save as many people as he can from an early grave, but not talking about the problem is not the solution.”
Who the hell is Steve Siebold you ask? He is a self-proclaimed “Mental Toughness Expert”. His website lists him as a “CSP” but never explains what that means. I found 55 meanings for those initials, none of which pertain to health. But Steve lost some weight himself and then wrote a book called “Die Fat or Get Tough”. (I’m still not sure if he is saying that mental toughness will make me immortal or just that I should prefer to have a thin corpse, but the fact that Steve has apparently never heard of a false dichotomy is the least of my problems with this.).
I don’t care whether or not Steve lost weight, I respect whatever anyone decides to do with their body. I have many problems with the campaign.
On the web page he says “If you’re FAT [Steve likes to put FAT in all caps], this book is going to rattle your cage and make your blood boil. And it should. Get ready for a 2,000 volt cattle prod to your consciousness.” Steve seriously thinks that large people have some how missed the scientifically unproven opinion that they are unhealthy and, further, that metaphorically electrocuting them is the answer. He apparently believes that large people just need to feel horribly enough about themselves, and then they’ll be able to beat science – right after paying him $16 for his book.
He doesn’t claim to have any health or fitness credentials, and he is pushing a method that has been proven scientifically invalid in study after study, with an extra dose of abuse and shame which has been proven psychologically detrimental. Just another example of someone’s ego and greed running amok all over big people – ‘It’s ok that I’m abusing you because I’m ‘saving your life’. Now, please ignore the fact that I can’t prove any of this and fork over your $16.” I just went over this!
My main issue with Steve’s Anti-Fat-Talk-Free-Week marketing campaign is that he’s on a mission to make sure that college students receive dangerous and harmful messages about body hatred unabated, and that people of size are constantly reminded about the opinion (which has never been proven scientifically, and is beginning to be DISPROVEN scientifically) that fat causes health problems; and that they are bad, lazy, lack mental toughness etc.
I get about 386,170 negative messages about my body a year but Heaven Forbid that I have one week where I can actually appreciate my body or have a break from the incessant messages about body hate because then I would miss 7,406 of those messages - and then I might not hate myself enough to buy Steve’s book despite the fact that it’s not based on a shred of science and he is totally unqualified to write it. He has to convince me to let my “mental toughness” supersede my mental reasoning enough to not think this decision through, or Steve won’t get my $16.00.
I think that this campaign is a huge problem for people who have or could develop eating disorders – which his publicist has admitted. If you scroll down through four pages of crap on his website, you’ll find a PS . No, literally, after his signature it says “PS: This book is NOT for people with eating disorders or any other physical or psychological disorder. If you think you may fall into this category, DO NOT buy this book. Instead, contact your physician and get help.” Because people with eating disorders are always able to discern that they have a problem and jump on the phone to call for help, and people whose weight is affected by a physical or psychological problem are always treated really well by doctors. How irresponsible can you be? Could you have at least have opened the website with that instead of “Do you think like a fat person? If so there’s a good chance you’ll DIE FAT”. Clearly he is aware of the issues that his work might cause for people dealing with Eating Disorders, he just doesn’t care enough to allow it to interrupt the flow of his marketing message, because Steve really needs your $16.
To prove that he doesn’t care, he is spreading this hateful, dangerous, scientifically erroneous message on college campuses. College campuses where 35% of female chronic dieters will progress to eating disorders or pathological dieting and which will afford those who develop anorexia or bulimia a mortality rate that is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death. I hope that Steve is comfortable with being part of this deadly crisis when he cashes all of those $16 checks.
Let’s get real. Most of Steve’s work is as a marketing and sales coach. So I think that Steve saw that the diet industry makes $60 BILLION dollars a year and wanted a piece of that, so he wrote a book and started his sales and marketing machine. I don’t think Steve knows what he’s talking about and I think he knows that. I don’t think Steve gives a crap about our health – I think he wants our $16 and figures we can clean up the mess later.
But let’s pretend that he really does sincerely believe what he preaches. Well, in that case Steve has missed the point of Fat Talk Free Week by ab0ut 60 billion miles. That’s probably because Fat Talk Free Week is based on actual science, and Steve doesn’t seem to be a big fan of that. The program’s philosophy is based on research conducted by Eric Stice, a clinical psychologist at the Oregon Research Institute. Stice applied the principals of cognitive dissonance to young people. He hypothesized that over time, a young woman who speaks and acts in a way that is contrary to the thin ideal of popular culture will eventually stop believing in it–and thus have less likelihood of developing an eating disorder. Stice reported a 60 percent reduction in eating disorders for high school and college students who were part of a program that critiqued the thin ideal and encouraged positive self-images. His study is not statistically significant, but it is statistically interesting and much more proof than Steve has that shaming people will make them lose weight.
We KNOW that shaming people about their bodies and telling them to diet is NOT WORKING. I don’t care if it helps Steve get rich $16 at a time. It. Does. Not. Work. Steve is right about one thing – personal responsibility. We are responsible for verifying what people say and making choices about our bodies and our health. I did the research and it will be a cold, cold day in hell before Steve gets my $16. I will continue to espouse the theory that healthy behaviors have a much higher likelihood of leading to a healthy body than emotional abuse, physical abuse, or some crazy diet. Health at Every Size is working for me- I’m happy and healthy, just like I like it. I will exercise mental toughness in concert with mental acuity and tell Steve that he can keep his emotional abuse and I’ll keep my $16.