We haven’t talked about this on the blog recently, but it is something that happens all the time and is worth being aware of. It’s the VFHT: The Vague Future Health Threat. It sounds like this “Well, you may be healthy now, but it will catch up to you someday” (“it” here having the meaning of “being fat.”)
I find this to be paternalist, ignorant, unsupported, and annoying for the following reasons:
1. The psychic friends network went out of business for a reason. If we take a step back we soon realize that this whole mess is based on us believing that this person can predict the future.
2. This seems to be designed to make sure that fat people never ever believe they’ve done “enough” for their health or healthcare which is neither helpful, nor evidence-based.
3. Everyone is going to die. There is a 100% chance. I just happen to live in a culture where if I die because a runaway truck drops 30,000 pounds of bananas on me – someone will blame it on my fat. That doesn’t make it true.
4. What if I changed the rules of the lottery so that if you lost, you had to pay the lottery money as a penalty? Now not only is your chance of winning infintesimmally small, but there is a near 100% chance that you’ll end up with LESS money than you had after you bought the ticket. Would you play?
Now imagine that this isn’t your money we’re talking about – it’s your long term health. There is not a single study that shows that any weight loss method is effective long term, but there is some evidence that weight cycling (yo-yo dieting) may actually be dangerous to one’s health. Since diets have such an abysmal failure rate, if I go on just 2 diets where I lose weight and gain it back (and I have a very high chance of doing just that both times), then I’ve likely damaged my current health and endangered my future health on a roll of the dice that was obviously a losing bet from the beginning.
The person VFHTing me is asking that I do something they can’t prove is possible, for a reason they can’t prove is valid, with a very high percentage that I’ll end up less healthy at the end. I’ll pass. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that health isn’t an obligation, a barometer of worthiness,or entirely within our control regardless of our size.
So what do you say to the VFHT?
Here are some possible responses broken down by category.
Quick and simple:
- Please don’t make wild guesses about my health.
- My health is not your business. (If, at this point, they bring up tax payer dollars or health care costs, I ask them for an itemized list of things for which their local, state, and federal taxes pay, or health problems that people develop for which causation cannot be proven; broken down into categories of things they are happy to pay for, and things they don’t want to pay for. If they don’t happen to have that list on hand, I let them know that I’ll be happy to discuss it once they do.)
- I don’t know of a single statistically significant, properly controlled scientific study that supports that statement. So, either cite your research or I’m going to assume that I know more about this than you do and you are just talking without actually knowing what you’re talking about. (Or “talking out of your ass”, depending on my mood).
- You have no way to know that. Cite your research or I will assume that you are putting my health at risk by talking about things for which you have no actual knowledge or qualifications.
The pointed response (feel free to mix and match questions/responses with boundary statements)
- How dare you make assumptions about my health? You may not discuss my health with me.
- I find you completely unqualified to make that statement. Please keep your opinions about my health to yourself.
- My health is not your business and you are not allowed to comment on it.
- You will immediately stop making guesses and assumptions about my future health or this conversation is over.
The snarky responses (I don’t actually recommend these because I prefer some kind of productive conversation if possible, but it’s fun to think about)
- I had no idea you could predict the future! If you give me tomorrow’s lottery numbers ‘ll split the money with you.
- I totally forgot that being thin makes me immortal – thank god you told me or I might have died some day.
To put it quite simply, the VFHT is BS.
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