I am a fan of Linda Bacon. her work introduced me to Health at Every Size. The first time she commented on my blog I called my best friend and my mother. I have met her in person and she was just as awesome in person as online. Recently at the American Dietetic Association’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo, Dr. Bacon debated John Foreyt, PhD an obesity researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine.
Sadly I was not at the debate. Janet Helm, a registered dietician, was kind enough to blog about it and it’s her interpretation that I want to discuss today, because what she wrote is the type of problematic thing that I hear from a lot of people:
Round 1 Winner: John Foreyt
I don’t think it serves Linda Bacon’s position well to deny the health consequences of obesity. She spent so much of her time sharing data that the obese live just as long as normal weight individuals and downplaying the health risks of being obese. Why go there? I think that’s why some people just shut down and never hear what this movement is all about.
I don’t think it serves Copernicus well to deny that the sun revolves around the Earth. He spent so much time explaining the evidence that shows that the Earth revolves around the sun. Why go there? I think that’s why some people just shut down and never hear what this movement is about…
This is the main issue – there is a lot of evidence that goes against the traditional thinking about obesity, and it gets suppressed by “everybody knows” arguments (and you know how I feel about those). If someone who has earned her doctorate in physiology, specializing in weight regulation, holds graduate degrees in psychology, specializing in eating disorders and body image; and kinesiology, specializing in exercise metabolism, and has professional experience as a professor, researcher, psychotherapist, exercise physiologist, and consultant starts talking about evidence – you should maybe listen instead of discounting her because what she is saying goes against traditional thinking.
You’re right, Linda, perhaps this shouldn’t be “war,” but I don’t see how you can dismiss the health risks associated with obesity. And there are certainly quality of life issues (not being able to play with your kids, ride a bike, etc.). I just don’t think this is the question we should be asking. Our priority should be discussing what we do about obesity — not debating if there’s even a problem
Allow me to try to paraphrase: I prefer to think of fat people as miserable people who need me to fix them- I don’t like it when you challenge that view. Why can’t we confine our “debate” to things that don’t make me uncomfortable?
There are people of all sizes who have issues playing with grandchildren and riding a bike. There are people of all sizes who DON’T have trouble playing with grandchildren and riding a bike. Seriously, enough with the Save the Fatties Campaign.
I fully agree with the woman in the audience who asked the last question during the session. She ended with “why can’t you both kiss and make up?” Good question.
No, it’s really not a good question. The only way that it’s a good question is if our goal is to make everyone comfortable and avoid the conflict that is inevitable between two diametrically opposed views to an issue that affects millions of people. Linda’s comment on the blog really summed it up for me. It reads, in part:
There’s no question of “making up,” really, because there’s no “fight.” What there is is a vast and unbridgeable difference in opinion and outlook. It’s not just desirable but required of us — as professionals and thinking people — to tolerate such differences, weigh the evidence and reach our own opinions.
We don’t ask climate change researchers to “make up” with global warming deniers, do we? … This is where the broad acceptance of the obesity paradigm proves so pernicious: How can we consider evidence that counters what we “know” to be true? (Copernicus’s opponents “knew” that the sun that the sun revolved around the Earth.) It seems to take time, as evidence builds and sinks in, for most paradigm shifts to happen. For the sake of the majority of Americans who struggle with weight, it can’t happen soon enough.
Amen to that Dr. Bacon.
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