Five Worst Arguments Against Size Acceptance/HAES

I hear these weak arguments over and over, here’s what I think:

5.  A fat person comes up to me and says “I don’t think it’s right that you say  Weight Watchers (or Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem or whatever) doesn’t work.  I’ve done it 6 times and it worked every time.”

Um… yeah…Ok – let’s talk about the definition of “worked”.  One of the main reasons I think the diet industry continues to be so successful is that they have found a way to take credit for the (typically successful) short term results of dieting, but blame the client for the  (typically unsuccessful) long term results. They know that almost everyone can lose some weight in the short term on almost any diet.  They also know that their 5 year success rate is less than 5% but somehow they managed to convince people that the other 95% just didn’t doing it right, and should buy their product again.  And we do!  If 50 years of studies showed that Viagra only worked 5% of the time and that it had the OPPOSITE effect more than two-thirds of the time, would be be telling guys to keep taking it but try harder?

What if your birth control worked for the first year but then you had a 95% chance of getting pregnant in years 2-5 even if you keep taking it correctly?

If I paid Weight Watchers six times and I’m still fat, then unless my goal was to lose weight for a year and then gain it back (possibly plus more) six times, Weight Watchers didn’t work at all. Of course that’s exactly what the evidence told me would happen so I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

4.  You’re only doing this to justify your fatness.

Ok, dude – my body needs no justification.  It is amazing and that’s not contingent upon anybody or anything else.  How over-exaggerated must these people’s sense of self-importance be to think that we need to justify ourselves to them? Bitch please, that is some ego run amok right there.  We aren’t seeking the approval of anyone  – we are giving them the opportunity to see that they are operating under prejudice, bigotry and stereotypes and to stop doing that. They have so thoroughly missed the point that I’m worried about their reasoning abilities. If you are one of these people and you are reading this, let me break it down:  We are saying “I Stand for the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for myself and others” not “I kneel for your approval”.  Where you got the idea that anybody needs to justify anything to you I don’t know, but boy are you barking up the wrong fat girl.

3.  Your body is my business because you cost me tax and healthcare dollars.

I’m not trying to justify my fatness, but it seems like these people are trying to justify their fat bigotry. As far as taxes go, unless you can whip out your itemized list of everything your tax dollars pay for, broken down into what you do and do not want to pay for,  including a list of the interventions that you are involved in for every single item that you’re not happy about, then let’s just call this what it is:  weight bullying and stereotyping plain and simple.

Healthcare is even more ridiculous since everyone from economists to the Congressional Budget Office has made it clear that fat people are barely a blip on the healthcare expense radar. Here’s a handy graph to clear things up.  Every disease that is correlated with obesity is included in the blue section.  For more details head to this post.

2.  I know eat less/exercise more works because my sister’s cousin’s babysitter’s friend’s aunt’s co-worker’s daughter’s school bus driver lost 20 pounds and kept it off for 5 years.

When his parachute refused to open and his reserve parachute got tangled, Michael Holmes fell 12,000 feet and lived.  Are you going to go jump out of a plane?  “Anecdotal evidence” is really mostly anecdote, very little evidence. There is a vast difference between 20 pounds and 200.  There is a vast difference between a statistical anomaly and proof of concept. That’s why we have studies.  Which lead us to…

1.  I get that weight loss fails 95% of the time, but that’s no reason not to try.

That’s only if we assume that there are no negative consequences to a failed attempt. To fully evaluate the decision intelligently we need to factor in downside risk. The worst case scenario for weight loss is that it I fail, I end up heavier than I started and subject to the dangers of weight cycling which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease.  I am a fan of evidence and math, so my decision not to diet is based both on an analysis of the likelihood of success (taking into account that “success” in terms of weight loss doesn’t always mean better health) and an analysis of the risk of failure of which there is a 95% chance.  Yoda tells us “Do or do not, there is no try.”  When it comes to dieting, I think it’s a Do Not situation.

I hope that clears things up.  For the record, I truly don’t mind when people ask questions about these or anything else, I do mind when people  throw these around as if they are legitimate arguments.

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Published in: on June 8, 2012 at 5:43 am  Comments (31)  

31 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Sadly it seems to me like 5% chance is more than enough. I recently heard someone say “5% or 1%, it’s a shot in hell and I am willing to take it.”

    • * I meant more than enough for the people who are dieting. It made me realize how important losing weight means to a lot of people, even if it’s just the hope they are hanging on to and they never even lose the weight. I personally will never understand it.

  2. Also, too — “There are no fat people who eat healthy and exercise regularly.”

    I know you get much worse messages all the time, but — largely due to me calling out fat-hating BS, I admit — I’ve had way too many emails and private messages today telling me pretty much (and in a couple of cases, exactly and explicitly) this same thing.

    Not only is it hurtful and mean for someone to deny my existence like that, but it’s also a piss poor argument. Because, you know, I exist. And I’m not the only one. And I refuse to be rendered invisible by people’s prejudices.

    • Yes, this one is my favorite.I get told this all the time. Apparently if you eat healthy and exercise, the pounds will magically fall off. If you don’t, it’s because you’re lying to yourself about how much you eat, and you should stop eating so much.

      • Or lying to myself about the amount I exercise. I know, I know. I probably just imagined driving myself to yoga class, paying money, and doing yoga for an hour in a room full of other people — who certainly did not act as if I was not there or not practicing. ;)

    • I can at least see people’s minds changing, slowly, but I see evidence of it. The elevator at my fat husband’s parking garage has an unpleasant smell at least to him, so he takes the stairs up and down, at least 4 flights of stairs, sometimes 5 flights. At first he really struggled, but now he can do it pretty easily and he frequently can beat the elevator up and his co-workers acknowledge that they couldn’t walk up that many flight of stairs. He says since the first time that’s happened, they treat him differently.

  3. This makes perfect sense to me. I wish it made sense to others.

  4. Got a doozie for you from a psychotherapist: when I get a morbidly obese kid in my office with diabetes desperate to lose weight for his health and begging me for help, I’ve got to do SOMETHING…. Uh yes, lady, but therapising him into weight loss isn’t it! (I know that’s not a word, but it so should be.)

    • The very best thing to do for diabetes is to manage the disease- losing weight has nothing to do with it. No wonder so many people with Type 2 Diabetes are hanging their heads with shame, conflating their weight with their health and becoming “desperate” to lose weight instead of focusing on their blood sugar and controlling the symptoms of the condition!!

      *sigh* No wonder depression has been rising in diabetic patients. Not only are they told they’re going to die because of their condition, but they’re being told that unless they lose a ton of weight (basically impossible) they’re ACTIVELY KILLING THEMSELVES.

      This bullshit in the name of “thin” makes me sick.

  5. Searching for information on Hilary Clinton for yesterday’s post I came across the story of David Smith in the side bar. Seems he lost a huge amount of weight and has now regained a great deal of it. And the news is that people are surprised. Poor man. Flung onto the media circus stage he was pounded and pulled and pummelled into shape with a trainer but no one bothered to help him deal with the problems he had in his head. Now he’s beating himself up for letting others down!!

    I hope one day we can live in a world where we don’t all have to look the same. It’s embarrassing not to be able to accept difference and embrace it’s positivity. He’s probably not healthy now, and wasn’t before he began because he was too big to be able to exercise properly and he binged on the wrong foods (or so the media chooses to tell us!), but his real health issue isn’t his weight, it’s his mental state, and now it sounds like he also has to contend with the loss of “friendship” from the trainer who couldn’t cope when David started to regain weight. I really hope someone is helping him grow to accept and love himself now instead of just hounding him to exercise all the time.

  6. Also, for #1 – This implies that dieting (regardless of its results) has no downside. You know what – if I diet, I get really tired. I obsess about food all the time. My time and energy, which could be devoted to my family, my job, my community, the presidential election, saving the whales, practicing the bassoon, whatever, are diverted to this. Are you [hypothetical person] saying there is seriously no better use for my time and energy than doing something massively likely to fail?

    • Unfortunately there are plenty of people out there who think fatties should just not eat. At all. Of course I use the word ‘think’ rather loosely.

  7. I have had someone try to convince me that I should go get the cut-your-stomach-out surgery more than once. It worked for her. Awesome. I also saw a woman one week and the next week she was dead because of complications from the surgery. I know other people who have awful heath issues because of the surgery. The surgery has a higher mortality rate than open heart surgery.
    No. I am not risking a higher mortality rate than open heart surgery, risking leaving my son and family, when I have perfect blood pressure, no signs of heart disease, a 114 cholesterol, and no sign of diabetes just because someone doesn’t find me aesthetically pleasing. Eff that.

    • I also know of someone who died after weight loss surgery. They could not say for sure that it was the surgery that caused her death. But she had the surgery and a month later died in her sleep and no one can say why. But the speculation is that it was some complication from the surgery. She left behind a husband and son. For what?

  8. I wish I remembered who said this, because it’s golden:

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    Are there individual instances of people who lost 30 lbs and never put them back on, and their health improved and it was awesome and good and ponies and rainbows came out of the sky?


    But that doesn’t suddenly make it true for everyone.

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    • Oh my goodness I LOVE THIS comment.
      The plural of anecdote is not data. Love it. Using it. Permanent part of my phrases frequently used file.

    • In my travels about the net I encountered a group who use a word. “Anecdata”. They use it in a derogatory fashion. As in, “Thank you for that lovely bit of anecdata. We’re going to go do actual science, now, with scientific sample sizes. But thanks.”

    • Wonderful – going to use this!!!

  9. Number one drives me INSANE. My aunt was arguing that Weight Watchers is a good program (because when she’s “on it”, it always works). I told her the long term rates of success were very low and she said yes she knows that, but “people have to try. It might be possible to be bigger than a BMI of 30 and be healthy, but most people are just not being healthy and not eating the right things and exercising.” Really? Who is most people? Where is your data coming from? Why is that other people can pull out Magic Everybody Knows Data out from their behind whenever they want but if you start talking about actual research that contradicts what they say they look at you like you have 5 heads!?

    • Okay, I am definitely in agreement with a lot of this however, an observation I can’t overlook (and a minor detail in the grand scheme of the article, I realize) is that, while nutrisystem and that medi-diet crap is prepackaged nonsense that REQUIRES you continue to buy, it appears to me that weight watchers is more about portion control and teaching appropriate eating habits vs insta-slim, freeze dried scams. The only ‘on’ you do paying attention to what you are putting in your body and how much, so being ‘off’ is…not paying attention? An unaccounted for buffet is just as bad for my obesity as it is for my crazy in shape, vein popping, bicep curling, best friend….
      I’ve never done it, but if I understand correctly it is misleading to lump it in with the prepackaged ridiculousness of Jenny Craig or the fad diets of Atkins or Stillman. I think everyone’s goal is the slowest rate in which you die, right? I’ll take healthy over slim any day, which seems like what they promote. I have no personal interest in weight watchers, but am interested why this is treated the same or if I am totally off their concept all together. I would love some feedback! Thanks!

  10. My boyfriend’s sister is drives me nuts with her insane diet of the week. She’ll lose weight on crazy diets, then gain it all back. But it’s never the diet’s fault, it’s hers. The latest is that HCG diet, which drives me bonkers that she’s only doing the caloric equivalent of one small meal a day (FOR the WHOLE DAY), no exercise and taking these HCG liquid drops. I said to her “Your cousin is 110 lbs. If she did this diet, they’d be taking her into the doctor for an eating disorder.” She replied “Well, I have a ton of weight to lose…” Yes she is fat (most everybody in his immediate family is), but I hate that she thinks that if you are fat, anorexia is ok. :( I keep worrying that she’s gonna pass out while she’s driving or something…

    • By the way, when I said “it’s never the diet’s fault, it’s hers”, I meant that in the eye-rolling sarcastic sense, as this is what she believes.

  11. Wow, I’m so glad I came on this post. I would consider myself a fairly smart person, but man have I fallen HARD into the “The diet works, I just failed” excuse time and time again. I knew that beating myself up was a poisonous thing to do, but I never actually came to the realization that line of thinking is actually completely fallacious…

    I’m seriously in kind of shock right now. I don’t even know how to reorient my paradigm to deal with this. This is weird.

  12. The eat less exercise more thing really frustrates me. There was a point in my life when my eating was very disordered and when I reached out for help I was told by the people around me that I was “too fat to have an eating disorder.”

    • I hear you. I’ve had something similar happen. Or the assumption that if a fat person has disordered eating patterns, it must be on the binge end of things only. :/

      • yeah, I got a lot of that too. I’ve never been a really big eater. Even now I’m 8 months pregnant and my boyfriend eats 3 or 4 times what I eat lol. It seems impossible to most people that a fat person can have disordered eating that isn’t of the overeating or binging variety, and when it comes down to it those types of disordered eating can be and often are just as dangerous.

  13. The one that really angers me is people who think that because I have big thighs and soft looking arms, I’m not strong.

    I can bench press a hundred and fifty pounds (which isn’t much compared to my boyfriend, but for a little lady like me it’s pretty darn good) and leg press four hundred and forty pounds.

    Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I don’t exercise/am not strong. I wish people could be clear on this.

    • Oh I totally can relate to this! I can bench around 150 and with my legs I can do like 570, the assumption is that I’m weak because I’m jiggly.

    • I definitely hear you on that one. Since the end of May, my schedule has changed, and I’ve been going to different yoga classes: different teacher, different students. Now, they’ve all actually been really awesome — but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the worry (and then surprise) on their faces when I enter a pose that requires a lot of strength.

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