Willful Suspension of Disbelief

What a Load of CrapSuspension of disbelief is the idea that you ignore the implausibilities of a story so that you can enjoy the greater themes.  I’m not against the concept on its face – it’s why I can love the A-Team Movie and the final choreography from Center Stage.

I am not willing to run my life with suspension of disbelief at the center, but that’s what the diet industry and plenty of doctors seem to think I should do.  Over half a century of research has failed to produce a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people lose weight long term.  There is not a single study showing that long term weight loss leads to better health.  When I point this out to doctors they typically agree with the numbers, then suggest that I still try to lose weight:

Weight Watchers own numbers show that the average client loses 5 pounds in two years (paying $254 PER POUND in meeting fees alone for the privilege.) but people are still on my television gushing that this time it’s going to work.

Ads for weight loss products are legally required to have a disclaimer because they sell a scenario that almost never happens, but I’m supposed keep trying.

Thin people are told that the healthiest thing they can do is eat a variety of foods in moderation, locally sourced etc.  As a fat woman I’m told that the healthiest thing I can do is

  • Drink two thin chocolate beverages that contain laxatives, eat one meal a day that is low fat and low carb
  • Eat reconstituted soy protein shakes five times a day and one meal of low fat protein and green vegetables
  • Eat a bacon double cheeseburger but hold the tomato and the bun
  • Take pills whose label suggests that I “wear dark pants and bring an extra pair to work” because of uncontrolled anal seepage”
  • Eat an extremely limited low calorie diet 6 days a week, binge eat on the 7th day
  • Eat breakfast cereal 4 times a day, eat a meal of lean proteins and low carbs for dinner
  • Eat a ton of cabbage soup and on Tuesday eat as many bananas as I want but nothing else

I’m often met with incredulity by those who tout weight loss when I discuss my choice to focus on behaviors rather than body size manipulation to support my health (knowing that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, completely within my control, or guaranteed.)  The reason is pretty simple – when it comes to the concepts of weight loss, especially as a path to health, I just can’t muster this kind of suspension of disbelief necessary to go down the weight loss path (and that’s saying something because I love the Iron Man movies.) I have a right to make choices that make sense and that I believe have some basis in reality and, for me, dieting simply doesn’t qualify.

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Published in: on March 19, 2015 at 9:54 am  Comments (12)  

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I, too, am willing to suspend disbelief for the Iron Man movies. I will also merrily suspend disbelief for: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek, anything written by PG Wodehouse, Errol Flynn swashbucklers, the Twilight Zone, Third Rock from the Sun, Good Morning Vietnam (which is merely sporadically accurate historically, but a mighty entertaining film, nonetheless).

    Things I am unwilling to suspend disbelief for: my health.

    My body follows the laws of biology like a good girl. And just like most laws, ignorance of them does not change them.

  2. I am all for suspension of disbelief — for when I’m looking at fiction.

    But when I’m looking at something “scientific”? Nah, not so much. I tend to start asking the pesky questions immediately. Specifically, the starve-6-days/binge-eat-1 plan has always bothered me because it sounds so much like paying someone to teach you how to suffer from an ED.

    And honestly, I’m 150% in agreement with the underpants rule, but I’m still willing to go out on a limb and say that if the “treatment” for your “medical condition” requires wearing brown pants every day, you’re doing it wrong.

  3. I want everyone in the world to read this. That bulleted list really brings the ridiculousness into focus. Thanks for nailing it yet again, Ragen.

    Oh, and three cheers for The A-Team movie!

  4. I struggle with this as well, having Hypothyroidism, and telling people that no matter how “Good” or “Presumedly healthy” I eat, I don’t loose weight. In fact, if I am not actively attempting to exercise regularly, I gain, slowly but surely. People can tell me to lose weight all they want, but I have been playing this game for my entire life, and I realized that I am much happier not caring what people think, and coming to my own conclusions about my health. I don’t think health should have anything to do with weight, it should have to do with your organs, and your mental well being. Eat veggies to keep your heart strong, not to lose a pant size. Because there are those of us that can eat as many veggies as the world can provide, and we still won’t lose weight.

    • I’m with you on that one. PCOS and Hypothyroidism and even the friggin’ doctors I see give me trite advice about eating less and exercise more. I eat between 1200 and 1500 calories a day of non-processed whole foods and virtually no processed/simple carbs and yet I gain weight. My new endocrinologist (who I immediately dropped) suggested an Optifast 800 calorie a day diet of gross shakes and powdered soup. I’m willing to do a lot but I can’t be naive enough to go in for that sh*t.

      • That is ridiculous, how depressing would that be? I vote we all just be fat and happy🙂

  5. Haha, I have been slowly realizing how silly I think all diets are, even the ones that appear to be supported. This is my first time reading your blog, I appreciate you pointing this stuff out in a simple and funny way.

  6. Gotta love Iron Man. Slim Fast (or the like)? Not so much.

    The thing that really boggles my mind is how often we, as fat patients, are sold behaviors that, in a thin patient, would trigger a reaction of, oh, shit does my patient have an eating disorder? This includes, but is not limited to, many of the things you mentioned.

  7. I love Center Stage.

    I don’t love dieting.

  8. Suspension of disbelief for entertainment is fine. How often have you seen a “fortune teller,” with a sign out that says, “For entertainment purposes, only.” In other words, have fun, but don’t take it literally, and don’t sue me when you don’t meet a tall dark stranger.

    Suspension of disbelief when it comes to real health issues and MY BODY? Nope.

  9. There is a follow-up to the title phrase which I love (and which I didn’t create, but I can’t figure out any more where I got it). I use it primarily in response to “Why are you being so picky? It’s just fiction. You accepted warp drive/vampires/superheroes, what’s the big deal about $problem?” But it’s absolutely applicable, arguably even more so, here.

    It goes like this:
    “Willing suspension of disbelief does not mean ‘…by the neck, until dead'”


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