Of Tongs and Truths

When I was in 6th grade I did a science fair project to simulate nuclear fission.  It involved a plexi-glass box,  100 mousetraps, ping pong balls with holes drilled in them, and  bbs of different colors.  Setting 100 moustraps and “baiting them” with bb-filled ping pong balls was becoming hard on my poor sixth grade fingers, so I devised a method that used my mother’s kitchen tongs.  As I took my project and her tongs off to the science fair she said “Don’t lose my tongs!”  I don’t remember exactly what I said but I’m sure it was something like “mooooooom, why don’t you trust me to be responsible, I’ll bring back your tongs!”  The project was a big hit and won the the science fair (although the second place kid had set fire to bits of hair to test the flammability of various hair sprays so I didn’t so much have to clear the bar as just trip and fall over it.  Also, you probably shouldn’t light a match while wearing Aquanet but that’s a different story.)

I lost the tongs.

I don’t know how I did it or where they went.  I know that my mom freaked out.  She was so angry. Even when the anger died down I heard about it until I left for college.  And when I went to college I started shopping for myself.  And I found out that tongs cost $2.  And I called my mom and she laughed and laughed.  Based on her reaction I thought that tongs must be incredibly expensive, that I had caused my family financial hardship by losing them.  I didn’t do my own research and so I walked around for a long time under a very misinformed assumption.

That whole story is very similar to the current obesity hysteria. It started with the idea that fat is bad, and the finding that therefore making people thin could be profitable.  Then it got all blown out of proportion because people accepted the premise without really looking into it and then set forth to “prove” it with healthy doses of confirmation bias, guesses, confusing weight and health, and confusing correlation and causation, all driven by a diet industry that makes 60 Billion Dollars a year.  If we don’t do our own research its easy to believe that hype, but the truth is that tongs cost $2, and there are healthy and unhealthy people of all sizes and no amount of hysteria will change either of those facts.

Healthy habits give us our best chance for health, although not a guaranteed chance since health is multi-dimensional and not entirely within our control, and not an obligation under any circumstances. I think that one of the most damaging things about the obesity hysteria is that fat people are told that healthy habits don’t “work” unless they make us thin so when people start healthy habits and don’t lose weight they quit doing things that could very well make them healthier because they don’t make them thin.  It also gives thin people the dangerous misinformation that their weight makes them healthy no matter what their habit are. We can pick ourselves up out of the pile BS that the diet industry and the obesity hysteria have created and make informed choices for ourselves.

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8 thoughts on “Of Tongs and Truths

  1. I found this article the other night, I’m not sure where from and I apologise if it’s from YOU. But I found it VERY helpful – good links and information about why weight loss makes things WORSE and how our bodies fight against it.

    Confirmation bias – that’s exactly right. People don’t WANT to believe that fat people can be healthy. They will even go as far as manufacture ‘facts’ if it will support their erroneous beliefs. Very sad and frustrating.

  2. So excited to see how the billboard drive goes. I was trying to explain it to someone to other day that just didn’t get why it was bad, so I explained that it is bullying a kid for a condition of their physical self and will lower their self esteem in an unneeded fashion. I turned it into something they could sort of equate it to, but really it could be any childhood state that led to ridicule in school…

    “Think of this…when you were in school, you, like me, were cursed with those big, ugly eighties glasses because our eyesight wasn’t perfect. I know I caught some wisecracks for that. It hurt. Now imagine if instead of obesity we were given the eyesight scare. Having imperfect eyesight is dangerous! You can bump into things, or eat something dangeorus without knowing it, or step out in front of a bus. Bad eyesight leads to death! Furhermore, corrective lenses aren’t enough of an intervention because if you leave them at home or they get dirty, you still can’t see and WILL be hit by a bus! Thus, we feel it is IMPERATIVE that you get laser corrective surgery. Yes, it does have it’s possible negative outcomes. You can even end up worse off and have permanent blurry or even double vision the rest of your life, but that risk is small in comparison to the probability that you are going to be hit by a bus!!! But some people aren’t getting the surgery. Some parents think it’s okay for their kids to wear glasses and encourage their kids to be who they are. So then some genius decides to put up billboards of kids wearing glasses just like ours with slogans saying our glasses are going to kill us via bus, or bump, or fall, or poison, or drowning if we walk into the ocean unaware, etc, etc, and our eyes aren’t so little anymore due to the magnification effect of said glasses, etc, etc and we had to see that every single day. How would that have helped your already negative feelings about your glasses? Would that encourage you to go get a dangerous surgery and/or go make the pain stop, be it food, drugs, or worst of all suicide?

    I really, really am afraid that this is the next suicide bomb just waiting to go off like the cyberbully disaster because there are kids out there who are already miserable, Who are already on the brink and this might be that last painful dig that pushes them over the edge. Only this time it won’t be some kids that just don’t know any better, it will be their own government. I SINCERELY hope I’m wrong!!! I hope you guys rock the socks off of Georgia! I can’t wait to see it!

    1. Seconded. You’ve said this extremely well – it sounds silly when you use “glasses” and yet the same exact thing has been said about size and we’ve all bought into it!

  3. Long time reader, first time poster. Your blog is giving my mom and I much needed inspiration. (We especially love the “Occupy your Underpants” movement!)

    I’d like to bring this line to your attention: “We can pick ourselves up out of the pile BS what that the diet industry and the obesity hysteria have created. It sounds a bit garbled and though I got the general idea, I wasn’t precisely sure what you meant.

    Thank you for your writing. Look forward to reading more. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m glad that you and your mom are enjoying the blog (and the Occupy Your Underpants movement). I did fix that line, it should have said “pile of BS that the”. Thanks for the proofreading, I can definitely always use the help 🙂


  4. Thank you, Fiona,

    for the excellent New York Times article link. That sounds so very… well… sound!

    It’s a relief to read real information from real research – thank you, Ragen and you others who give us the way to find it.


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