Huffington post ran an article by Sue Thomason called “We’ll Look Back and Laugh That We Went On Diets to Try to Lose Weight.” You can read the original here (Trigger warning: possible conflation of fat and health, Eating Disorder talk, comments that defy logic – though the Rolls Not Trolls community has done some good Ninja fat bombing.)
One of the really interesting things that I notice in the comments here and elsewhere is that when someone simply points out the research – that diets fail 95% of the time, that healthy habits have been shown in studies to have a much high chance of creating healthy bodies than dieting, people respond by saying that what we are saying is “dangerous”. And it’s that specific world “dangerous”. As in “You need to stop spreading these dangerous lies.”
I always want to say: Well, I’m talking about research and you’re talking out of your ass so remind me again which one of us is telling dangerous lies?
I often notice that that word “dangerous” is used to try to shout down ideas that are progressive. Letting gay people get married is “dangerous”, people questioning the banks is “dangerous”. This has happened before – suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun was “dangerous”, women’s suffrage was “dangerous”.
Of course the idea is to use fear to interrupt logical, intelligent discussion and progress. Historically it works for a while but the thing about evidence and science is that it doesn’t matter if people call them dangerous or ridiculous or stick their fingers in their ears and scream la la la la la or whatever, at the end of the day the truth is still the truth.
Considering how many people have been hurt mentally and physically by dieting and our obsession with thinness (let’s not forget that this war on obesity has casualties including fatalities) I’m not so sure that we’ll laugh about it in the future, any more than we’ll laugh about doctors giving pregnant women thalidomide, or prescribing heroin as a cough suppressant or using lysol as a douche (trust me, nobody is laughing about that one).
What astounds me is that this has happened repeatedly in our history. Scientists have made myriad discoveries that disproved what “everybody knew”, doctors have prescribed things that ended up not working or causing heinous side effects, yet somehow there is a vocal group of people who seem to think it’s not possible for that to have happened again. And so instead of learning from the past, noticing the mistakes faster and changing course with more agility and speed, they cling to a purported “solution” that is not defensible based on the evidence and call those who disagree with them dangerous.
One of my favorite quotes is from Marie Osmond who said “if you’re going to look back on this and laugh, you might as well laugh now. ” Since without a stage I’m just kind of an awkward klutz, that advice has served me well in many situations, and I think that it can serve in the battle for Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size. Please note, this isn’t for everyone or for every situation – it’s just another arrow for your SA/HAES quiver if you want it.
The first use is when someone suggests that you should go on a diet. Try giving them a look of disbelief, a quick snort of a laugh and saying “Are people still peddling that? I thought everybody knew that weight loss doesn’t work.” Or shake your head disapprovingly and say “Wow, the computer era makes the evidence so accessible and people still don’t bother to read it!”
Or someone says “You need to weight loss script blah blah blah”. Laugh and shake my head with a little eye roll or a look of disbelief. (That typically gets them to stop mid-sentence.) Then I ask “So, how do you reconcile your pro-diet views with the findings of Matheson et.al,?” That gets a confused look. So give a confused, slightly disbelieving look back and say “Wei et. al.?” Another confused look. Say, with a decent amount of surprise “Really?” (as if you were certain they’d know about that one,) then continue “Bacon and Aphramor, Mann and Tomiyama, the Cooper Institute studies?” Be prepared to have conversations about these but so far in my experience the people I’ve spoken to, including doctors, haven’t heard of them so then I just say “I’m sorry but it sounds like you haven’t done enough research to be qualified to give me advice on this. I’ll be happy to have a conversation about it though.”
I’ve found this to be effective with doctors. If you want to know more about the research just scroll to the bottom of this post.
I don’t think that a multi-billion industry built on lies, stigma, bullying, repeated failure and physical harm is particularly funny, but having the ability to laugh in the face of all that crap makes can be a way to move the goalpost a little and declare another small victory. Those small victories add up to bigger victories and before you know it we’ve made major progress (and I guess that makes us very “dangerous” people – I feel like we should have jackets and re-write the “When You’re a Jet” song to be “When you’re a Fat” or something.)
So anyway, we’re probably not going to look back at this and laugh – but we can go ahead and laugh now.
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