As I give talks with Q&A and read e-mails and blog comments that are trying to convince me that my choices around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are wrong, there are some arguments that just keep coming up, so I thought I would tackle them together today.
5. The fat person who tells me “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 most people lose weight in the short term but gain it back in the long term. The diet companies they have found a way to take credit for the short term results of dieting, but blame the client for the 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 an almost 100% 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? 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 wow 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. So does that mean that anyone who tries hard enough can fall 12,000 feet and live? Are you going to go jump out of a plane? “Anecdotal evidence” is 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 almost all 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 (aka yo-yo dieting) 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 there isn’t a single study in which “success” in terms of weight loss was causally linked to better health) and an analysis of the risk of failure of which there is an almost 100% 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 some things up. For the record, I truly don’t mind when people legitimately ask questions about these or anything else, I do mind when people use them as if they are legitimate arguments.
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