The Problem with Just

Success and DietsJust is a word that gets slung around by everyone from doctors who fail at practicing evidence-based medicine to the self-styled, self-declared (or is it self-deluded) internet health gurus in the comment sections who try to tell everyone how to live:

  • Just eat less and exercise more and you’ll get thin
  • Just send your kids out to play and they’ll be thin
  • Just lose [random number of pounds] and your [whatever health problem] will be solved

First of all, this is all about making assumptions. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been told to “eat less and exercise more” by someone who has literally no idea what I eat or how much I exercise.  It’s also condescending and insulting to be told to do these things after a lifetime of doing them and still being fat.

There’s also the problem that “just” connotes something that is both simple and guaranteed. But when it comes to the human body there is no such thing as simple and guaranteed.  There is so much that we don’t know and so much conflicting research.  When people say “you just have to eat less and exercise more” it’s because they erroneously believe that weight loss is simple.  The fact that almost nobody maintains long-term weight loss should very obviously call this into question.  Often it’s said by people who want to feel superior, or who haven’t done their research, or who haven’t thought things all the way through.  For example the idea that we can “just send our kids outside to play and they’ll be thin” ignores the fact that many children can’t do that safely and the fact that there is no guarantee that the activity will lead to weight loss. Saying “just eat less and exercise more” ignores the millions of people who have tried this advice and had short term weight loss and long term weight gain.

Whenever anyone says “Just…” and then tells you how they think that you should live, I would certainly suggest that you consider the source.

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27 thoughts on “The Problem with Just

  1. I have found that this kind of usage of the word “just” is a reliable signifier that the speaker has no idea what your reality is like and also has no desire to know. This applies to all struggles as far as I can tell–every axis of oppression, plus things like stress about work or school or caregiving to a child or elderly relative. “Can’t you just” is universally a preface to condescending bullshit masquerading as helpful advice.

    1. to which I reply… “can’t you just shut up”? Sorry, today is Snarky Tuesday due to excessive fatigue and lack of mental focus.

    2. I get told to “just” do things to fix problems in the classroom, too. In that context too it is an excellent indication that the person has no idea … however that person still wants to make me look like an idiot for not having already considered their suggestion. blecch.

  2. Not only is it condescending, it also blames you for whatever the perceived problem is.

    ‘Just stop eating so much, and you’ll lose weight.’
    ‘Just get another job and you’ll have plenty of money’
    ‘Just find a place to live and you won’t be homeless’
    ‘Just leave him and he can’t beat you up anymore.’

    It’s your fault you’re fat, it’s your fault you’re un (or under) employed, it’s you’re fault you’re homeless, it’s your fault the violence at home doesn’t stop.

    And of course, being fat is a Bad Thing, just like homelessness, unemployment, or a violently abusive spouse.

    1. Especially when it’s wrapped up with its asshole best friend, “I Never Said It Was Easy.” The word “just” implies the speaker DOES believe it is easy, so ending it with “I never said it was easy” is at best a Suspiciously Specific Denial, at worst more condescension – it would be easy for a Good Person, but not for us lazy, weak-willed, *inferior* creatures.

      1. The version I heard from some fat-hating fuck a couple of years ago is “It’s not that hard.” A mindset that’s as slippery as a banana peel and twice as treacherous. I don’t remember what I said to this buffoon, who I’d previously considered pretty cool (I was all right by him too until I “confessed” to being fat). All I remember now is the screeching-tire sounds my brain made as I backed the hell off his web page and sped off forever. :p

        1. Oh, great; fat-bashing Mad Libs. For when the outdated No Fear slogans just aren’t cutting it, I guess.

          1. Now that you mention it, this clown definitely had a strong “NO FEAR” dudebro vibe to him as well. But with a sugar-coating of intellectual pretensions, of course. It’s funny how fast that coating flakes off these specimens when it’s time to finger-wag at fat people, especially fat women.

  3. The one that really fires me up is “Just lose [random number of pounds] and your [whatever health problem] will be solved”.

    I got that one a lot from my previous internist, in relation to my blood pressure. I knew it was a load of crap, because just like my mother, I’ve had hypertension since I was 18 or so, when I weighed less (and my mother weighed maybe 110 pounds when hers was diagnosed). It’s genetic, period. But he kept insisting that if I “JUST lost ___ pounds” my blood pressure would improve significantly.

    Having lost about eight times that amount without any change in my blood pressure, I’m still considering writing him an “I told you so — suck it!!!” letter. But since I’m still fat, I’m sure it would still be all my fault anyway.

  4. I get a lot of the “just” do X, Y and Z and you will be whatever.

    They normally get the “Just shut up and we won’t have a problem because you JUST don’t know your facts.”

  5. Speaking of “just”, did anyone see the stupid article about how all America’s health and economic issues would be solved if everyone in the country “just” lost 20 pounds? I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag.

    1. Oh my word, that’s going from Panaceaville into the wilds of Reality-challenged Land. I know a woman with a congenital malformation of the spine. If she lost 20 pounds, would her bones change shape? Would the corporations that get all their stuff made overseas now come swarming back if the factory towns they shafted took group photos of the workers that were laid off 15 years ago, all 20 pounds thinner?

      1. Sure! And along with your friend’s bones miraculously changing shape, my cousin and I–who share the same type of congestive heart failure due to a genetic defect that runs in our family (our grandmother had it too)–would both find our hearts completely cured if we each “just” lost twenty pounds!!! [Forehead smack]–Why didn’t we think of that before now????

        1. And as I’ve heard mentioned on here before, if it would miraculously cure each and every one of us, just think what it would do for thin people, who are already of superior health?

          Heck, they might not have to even lose the full 20 to experience better health. Not that they need better health. We all know no thin person ever died of any disease, right?

      2. Well, if your friend lost 20 pounds, then her healthcare costs would go down overall (presumably those related to her spine, too, naturally.). I have no idea if she’s working (and neither does this writer), but she’d suddenly get paid a lot more. She would then be motivated to go out and buy lots of faaaabbbullllouuus new clothes that will be made in America for all of our new skinny citizens.

        (We seriously need a sarcasm font for the comments.)

    2. There was something similar posted in Canada only change 20 to 15. I gagged because I am so tired of the “OMGDEATHFATZ is costing me monies!?!” the funny thing is our government spends more on flights then it does health care.

      Mind explaining that one “OMGDEATHFATZ!” people?

  6. And if we ‘all’ ‘just lost 20 pounds’, that would include those who are naturally very thin or who are anorexic, who do not have access to sufficient food for their needs, etc. So, OF COURSE, we would ALL be healthier. Oh, & that of course includes all of us my age & older for whom weight loss, regardless of our starting weight, increases the risk of early mortality by several hundred percent. Save us from the jackasses who know everything!!

  7. I see this kind of thing every time I venture into the comments section of an article (aside from this blog, obviously). I really need to “just” stop reading the comments.

  8. Yes, this! I talk (and write) about the problem with “just” all the time. If I would just eat less and move more… oh, wait, I did that, so why am I still fat? Must be I didn’t “just” enough!

  9. I once had a doctor tell me that I ‘just’ needed to exercise my arms and push myself away from the table. She outweighed ME by about 75 pounds….I wanted to ‘just’ slap her.

    1. Even if she looked like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, unless she was giving you a prescription for arm rehab, she had no business saying that.

      I had a doctor tell me to “just walk 15 minutes a day” when I visited him for my gym-class-induced asthma. Weirdest thing, he was right. If I had not moved beyond 15 minutes of leisurely walking a day, and stayed warm and dry, it would have done my lungs a world of good.

  10. This reminds me of a surprisingly clever and accurate post I saw on Cosmopolitan’s website, of all places, about “things to never say to a fat girl” ( My favorite is number 7:

    “7. Have you ever tried INSERT EXERCISE HERE? Have you ever heard of exercise at all? Do you come from this planet?

    Yes, I know how to walk—that’s where you lie on the couch and eat pizza and watch Scandal, right? JK YES I KNOW WHAT EXERCISE IS. I practice yoga, I swim, I love Zumba, and yes, I do know what a gym is. (It’s that place you buy donuts, correct? JK GOT YOU AGAIN!)”

  11. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    When my son was 11, he was on a youth soccer team. One of his teammates was a plump lad, who was a very good player. On one occasion, my mother came along with my father to watch the match. She couldn’t stop asking how it was possible that “such a fat boy” could even play soccer. I finally said to her “obviously he’s playing just fine. Why not stop obsessing on his body? He has the right to enjoy the game just as much as anyone else does.” Ugh.
    This same mother loves to ask me how I could have gotten fat when I’ve always eaten reasonably healthy foods.
    I have a tendency to answer sarcastically with such statements as “it was probably all those barrels of lard that I consumed on the sly.”

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