But But But Syndrome

I was thinking today about situations in which people’s assumptions about fat people are directly contradicted with evidence, and so they try to discount the evidence.  I’ll call this “But But But syndrome”.  For example:

Kelly Gneiting is a 400 pound trained sumo wrestler who completed a marathon.  The responses included  “At 405 lbs he probably has a very difficult time just walking.”   Obviously not that difficult a time since he just jogged and walked a marathon in a respectable time.  But I don’t think this person even thought it through because they are too busy trying not to challenge their assumptions.  What they are really saying is “but but but I like to think of fat people as lazy and unathletic, and I want to keep it that way by sheer idiocy if necessary”

Talented Yoga teacher Anna Guest-Jelley writes a beautiful letter about yoga and Health at Every Size.  The responses include  “Too many people practicing now are overweight and not fit.justifying obesity is a disorder.”  “But but but, I like to feel superior and think that being thin gives me the right to dictate who is a “real” yogini, therefore I will say that any other way of thinking constitutes a disorder.”

This happens here when I post my health information and people call me a liar.  “But but but, I don’t want to be wrong so I’ll just try to discredit you and say that I’m a better witness to your experience than you are”.

Even doctors do it.  I and other people I know have had doctors try to prescribe blood pressure and cholesterol medicine BEFORE testing our blood pressure or cholesterol.  And upon finding out that they are normal they turn to the VFHT (Vague Future Health Threat).  “But but but I don’t want to look like an idiot so even though my laziness and lack of knowledge lead to me prescribing medicine that would have harmed you physically,  I’m going to try to convince you that even though I’m harmfully wrong today I’ll be right eventually so you are wrong and I am right and you need to believe me”.

It’s not just fit fat people and this isn’t a recent thing.  When Galileo looked at the research and agreed with Copernicus that the Earth revolved around the sun, he was sentenced to “formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition” which was commuted to house arrest and lasted for the rest of his life. Publishing of his current or future works was forbidden.  “But but but I don’t want to be wrong so shut that guy up.”

In my experience when you openly practice Health at Every Size, even if you specifically don’t try to impress your views on anyone else, it challenges people’s assumptions and stereotypes in a way that makes them uncomfortable.  So  you have to be aware of “But But But Syndrome” because some of those people are going to do everything that they can to hold onto their assumptions and stereotypes, even if it means attacking you.

For the record, I think that the best cure for “But But But Syndrome” is for these people to Butt Butt Butt Out.

Published in: on June 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm  Comments (10)  

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I get accuseed of being diabetic, by doctors, a lot. This interferes with my health care all the time. I wouldn’t say I’m the picture of health. I do have PCOS (which I have had since I was a thin teenager, if not earlier.) I take metformin, commonly used for diabetes, for the PCOS. Frequently when I go to the doctor with a specific complaint, I get “well, that’s fairly common in diabetics,” or “that’s related to your diabetes and there’s not much we can do about it.”

    I have lots of joint pain, numbness, and phantom pains that are always blamed on diabetic neuropothy. I also have gastroparesis, which my gastrointerologist insisted was caused by decades of uncontrolled blood sugar.

    FINALLY, I got tired of this and wanted to settle it once and for all. I told my PCP that I need to find out if I’m diabetic and if I am, I need to get a diagnosis so my insurance will pay for testing supplies, etc… Naturally, she did a lot of blood work.

    My A1C is awesome, my cholesterol is awesome, my triglicerides are awesome and my blood pressure is always normal. My insulin level was somewhat high, which is typical of PCOS with insulin resistance. But not as high as it has been in the past, because I’ve been taking metformin for years.

    So, at last I had a doctor look at my labwork and say, “You’re fine.” Well, I wouldn’t say that exactly. I still have gastroparesis, and unexplained pain. But at least I’m not diabetic. :p

  2. It doesn’t matter what facts you share with these people, be they about health, discrimination, quality of life, fashion… you name it. The “But, but, but” always creeps in.

    What it boils down to is that they feel they must be able to be “right” at any cost, even if it’s to ignore facts or to stigmatise another human being.

    Pretty sad if you ask me.

  3. This reminds me of the Just World Fallacy. Might interest you.

    http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/07/the-just-world-fallacy/

    First time commenting by the way. Just found your blog the other day. You’re amazingly articulate. I like it. Keep writing.

  4. I love love love your blog. I came across it this morning as a friend posted it on her facebook page. I am a Registered Dietitian. I previously worked in health care and now work in food regulation. The two most important lessons I remember from my education is 1. the word Diet comes from the greek word ” dieta” which means lifestyle, not a 6 week program, 2. Fit and fat- health comes at every size. There were 100 other people in the class with me that these lessons were taught in and I wonder how many of them absorbed them. Please keep up the blog, I think it is a fantastic ambasadorship for real life health. I will remain off my soap box about doctors and meds.

  5. On an old post of mine where I show a picture of my great-grandmother in her 20s or early 30s, a big, tall, fat lady like me, I got a comment: “Live to eat…not to live!” That is, “But but but I want to keep thinking all fat people are fat because they eat more than I think they should eat, rather than that they were born to be fat!”

    • That should be, rather, “Eat to live…not live to eat!”

  6. My bf ex wants to believe that he eats a lot because he’s fat. He eats rather small meals. He doesn’t believe in dieting, but eating healthy food. Food that he feels that his body wants. It’s intuitive eating although he wouldn’t call it that. He would call it eating naturally. You eat as much as you want, when you want and no more than you want. It’s rather simple. Fat people may eat less than thinner people, but no one want to admit it. They want to believe that they deserve to be fat.

  7. eeee I’m having so much fun reading your posts!!

  8. Ragen I read an article today in a newspaper supplement magazine here in Sydney today titled ‘size matters’ http://www.news.com.au/size-matters-when-fighting-fat/story-fn6c7l60-1226075810255

    For the first time ever I actually emailed this author and told her how disappointed I was in her perpetuating the myth of fat=death amongst other things. I also posted a link this this blog by you (hope you don’t mind) as you express yourself so succintly – I am also hoping it will make her think a bit more before she posts such drivel again!!!

    I just love, love , love your blog!

  9. I’m 200lbs and I just completed a half-marathon this spring. I am training for another one this winter. Do I wish I were lighter? Sometimes, because I might run a little faster, less weight to carry around, haha. But the point is, I am NOT unhealthy! I am so lucky to have found this blog. I can totally relate to people not believing you when you say you CAN do these sports and you may be heavy but you are NOT unhealthy!!

    Like the first poster, I have also had the experience of getting condescendingly lectured to by a doctor trying to convince me that despite my positive attitude, I WAS OBESE and needed to stop deluding myself by accepting my body because OMG DEAAATH! All my blood tests came back freakin’ stellar but I doubt he believes I really am healthy. But I don’t care what he thinks! Results speak for themselves, am I right, folks?


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