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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