Yesterday I was attempting to support a friend on Facebook when I came upon this: “Whether you love your fat or hate it, it’s not the best thing for you”. To be clear, this wasn’t directed at any one person, it was intended to be a global statement.
At almost the same time I got an e-mail from a blog reader that said “Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your opinion and writing style. Never once have I felt like you were secretly judging me (or any of your readers) for not sharing any of your choices.”
The e-mail made my day and it also illustrated to me what made me so angry about the Facebook comment: one of my core values is that I respect other people’s choices just like I want mine respected. I think that the difference between that Facebook poster and me is intellectual humility. I am aware that what I talk about is the best of the information that I have at the time, but that I could be wrong (and I have made peace with that). But there are a whole lot of people running around who lack that sense of self-awareness and so they state their opinions as fact. Earlier this week we talked about how to be part of these discussions while staying in integrity.
Today I want to talk about how to deal with this emotionally. I don’t know about you but I find it exhausting to be constantly assaulted by sweeping, generalized opinions that are being stated as fact. The diet industry has done a really good job of turning people into walking commercials for the message that makes them 60 Billion dollars a year. I think that people end up being in this position for all kinds of reasons including:
- They honestly (but mistakenly) believe that what they are saying is proven fact
- It makes them feel better about themselves to speak as in absolutes as if they know for sure what is true for everyone
- They lack the intellectual humility to be aware that they could be wrong
- They know that they could be wrong but they lack the emotional intelligence to admit it
In any event, dealing with the constant barrage of this can be anything from frustrating to maddening.
It’s times like these that I reflect on Galileo. At the core, he was a guy who was looking at the research and saying “I know that everyone believes this but the evidence doesn’t support it.” So of course the establishment said: “Wow, thank you for bringing this up, we need to look into this!”
Wait, no they didn’t. They put him under house arrest for life.
Obviously that put a damper on his social life but it didn’t make him any less correct – the Earth does in fact move around the sun.
Galileo is a reminder to me that just because the majority of people and those in power believe something and repeat it endlessly, that does not make it so. I think that I’m part of that tradition – I’m just a woman looking at the evidence and saying that I know that everyone believes that fat is bad, but the evidence just doesn’t support it.
Nobody can prove that fat actually causes all of the health issues that it gets blamed for. Nobody who says that fat is unhealthy can explain the 51% of overweight adults and 30% of obese adults who are metabolically healthy (based on studies from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York). Nobody can prove why we’re getting fatter (there’s even argument as to whether or not we are). Nobody knows for sure why obese people who live in cultures that don’t stigmatize them do not show negative health outcomes that those in stigmatizing societies do. Nobody knows for sure why all of the health problems that are correlated with being fat are also correlated with being under constant stress. Nobody knows for sure the long term health effects of living in a society that constantly stigmatizes you and tells you that you can’t possible be healthy.
That’s a lot of “nobody knows”. So the way that I deal with the constant barrage of BS is by reminding myself that people can say “everybody knows you just eat less and exercise more and you’ll lose weight” or “everybody knows that we’re fatter because of fast food/sedentary lifestyle/hormones in food/alien invasion” or “everybody knows that we would all be thin if we would just give up carbs/give up sugar/go vegarian/go vegan/go paleo/drink most of our meals/swallow a tape worm” but the evidence does not support their hypotheses and so the truth is that “everybody” knows nothing.
We all have opinions and we are entitled to base our choices on our opinions but that’s where it ends. Nobody has the right to tell me that personal responsibility means that I am personally responsible for making my choices based on their opinions, and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. So whenever I see one of these comments I picture them dressed up in 17th Century Garb writing with a quill “the sun revolves around the Earth” It puts it right back in perspective for me.