I received the following comment on my post “The Truth About Diabesity“:
Today my mom emailed me the link to that abc article because omgdeathfat is upon me (or some such nonsense) and in-turn I emailed her the link to this blog post. She responded with “well obviously this girl read the ada site wrong and is just tired of being picked on for being fat. If she would just try harder she wouldn’t have that problem.” My head met my desk briefly then I told her to read your “about” section which was met with the usual VFHT and the “fact” that all overweight people are unhealthy. How do you explain to someone so obviously thick-headded that they are wrong?!
It’s a really good question, and one I get asked a lot.
First let me clarify some stuff:
ADA quote: the quote that she is referring to is from the American Diabetes Association, “Myth: If you are overweight or obese, you will eventually develop type 2 diabetes… Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.” It’s directly from their website, you can find it here. You have to appreciate the dedication that would lead someone to suggest that I misread that. That’s a special kind of stubborn.
VFHT: Vague Future Health Threat. This is what happens when you say you are fat and healthy and people come back with some form of “you’re healthy now, but it will catch up with you”. It’s the idea that no amount of being fat and healthy is proof that you can be fat and healthy – because someday you will not be healthy and it will be because of your fat. I blogged about this one here.
Back to the question at hand “How do you explain to someone so obviously thick-headded that they are wrong?!”
The short answer for me is that you probably don’t. It can be extremely frustrating when other people don’t respect our decisions about our personal health.
Other people have a right to their opinions just as we have a right to ours. I like dialog, but it’s very difficult to have a discussion with someone who has stuck their fingers in their ears and is yelling LA LA LA LA LA. So I think that it comes down to our right to decide how people treat us. Choosing to opt out of the diet culture can illicit a strong reaction for one of several reasons:
Good Cop: People are genuinely concerned
We are exposed to thousands and thousands of thin=healthy messages everyday. Many of us, upon a thorough review of the evidence, have concluded that this information is erroneous. Other people haven’t done the research, or they looked at the evidence and drew a different conclusion.They are genuinely worried about our health.
Bad Cop: Jealousy/Envy/Threat/Immaturity
Unfortunately for some people, their bodies made it out of Junior High School but their brains were left behind. Some have bought into the diet culture wholesale, and the fact that you don’t bothers them. Some people need to convince other people that they are right in order to feel good about their own decisions. Some people feel the need to feel superior. Some people can only feel good about themselves when they are putting someone else down.
Regardless of why they are acting like this, you can choose how you are treated. I heard the lyric “way too up to back down” today and it captured exactly how I feel. When I was dieting, trying desperately to be thin so that I could be healthy, I ended up being anything but healthy – physically or mentally. Now I enjoy perfect health without obsessing about food and exercise. I’m way too up to back down on this issue. Unless someone has some serious evidence to present then I’m not interested. So what do you say to people who are giving you an “everybody knows…” answer:
If the person is important to you, then consider a conversation. Decide ahead of time what you want. Are you open to a discussion? If so what are the ground rules? You get to decide. Maybe this is something that you and this person just don’t talk about. If they’re unwilling to comply with your wishes, you need to know what you’re going to do. Are you prepared to walk away? Listen to these things in the future and take what they have with a grain of salt?
Typically I’m a fan of dialog but I’ve come to realize that sometimes the person in question just isn’t worth it. If that’s the case, then you might want to consider disconnecting from them and moving on. You can still be pleasant, just pull away quietly. Do it with class but consider the idea that you have a finite amount of time and attention to give, you get to choose who you give it to, and some people do not deserve your time and energy.
You can certainly go with the yelling, screaming approach. In my experience – and I don’t think this is fair, it’s just been my experience – becoming emotional often makes the argument seem week and makes me feel powerless in the situation. Your mileage may vary so if it feels good to get it out, then by all means do what you want.
Regardless of what you do, I highly recommend building a network of people who will support you. If you can’t do it in person, then start looking online but finding a group who you can trust and being there for each other is incredibly helpful.