5 Really Bad Arguments Against Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size

As I give talks with Q&A  and read e-mails and blog comments that are trying to convince me that my choices around Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are wrong, there are some arguments that just keep coming up, so I thought I would tackle them together today.

5.  The fat person who tells me “I don’t think it’s right that you say  Weight Watchers (or Jenny Craig, or Nutrisystem or whatever) doesn’t work.  I’ve done it 6 times and it worked every time.”

Um… yeah…Ok – let’s talk about the definition of “worked”.  One of the main reasons I think the diet industry continues to be so successful is that most people lose weight in the short term but gain it back in the long term. The diet companies they have found a way to take credit for the short term results of dieting, but blame the client for the  long term results. They know that almost everyone can lose some weight in the short term on almost any diet.  They also know that their 5 year success rate is less than 5% but somehow they managed to convince people that the other 95% just didn’t doing it right, and should buy their product again.  And we do!  If 50 years of studies showed that Viagra only worked 5% of the time and that it had the OPPOSITE effect more than two-thirds of the time, would be be telling guys to keep taking it but try harder?

What if your birth control worked for the first year but then you had an almost 100% chance of getting pregnant in years 2-5 even if you keep taking it correctly?

If I paid Weight Watchers six times and I’m still fat, then unless my goal was to lose weight for a year and then gain it back (possibly plus more) six times, Weight Watchers didn’t work at all. Of course that’s exactly what the evidence told me would happen so I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

4.  You’re only doing this to justify your fatness.

Ok, dude – my body needs no justification.  It is amazing and that’s not contingent upon anybody or anything else.  How over-exaggerated must these people’s sense of self-importance be to think that we need to justify ourselves to them? That is some ego run amok right there.  We aren’t seeking the approval of anyone  – we are giving them the opportunity to see that they are operating under prejudice, bigotry and stereotypes, and to stop doing that. They have so thoroughly missed the point that I’m worried about their reasoning abilities. If you are one of these people and you are reading this, let me break it down:  We are saying “I Stand for the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for myself and others” not “I kneel for your approval”.  Where you got the idea that anybody needs to justify anything to you I don’t know, but wow are you barking up the wrong fat girl.

3.  Your body is my business because you cost me tax and healthcare dollars.

I’m not trying to justify my fatness, but it seems like these people are trying to justify their fat bigotry. As far as taxes go, unless you can whip out your itemized list of everything your tax dollars pay for, broken down into what you do and do not want to pay for,  including a list of the interventions that you are involved in for every single item that you’re not happy about, then let’s just call this what it is:  weight bullying and stereotyping plain and simple.

Healthcare is even more ridiculous since everyone from economists to the Congressional Budget Office has made it clear that fat people are barely a blip on the healthcare expense radar. Here’s a handy graph to clear things up.  Every disease that is correlated with obesity is included in the blue section.  For more details head to this post.

2.  I know eat less/exercise more works because my sister’s cousin’s babysitter’s friend’s aunt’s co-worker’s daughter’s school bus driver lost 20 pounds and kept it off for 5 years.

When his parachute refused to open and his reserve parachute got tangled, Michael Holmes fell 12,000 feet and lived.  So does that mean that anyone who tries hard enough can fall 12,000 feet and live?  Are you going to go jump out of a plane?  “Anecdotal evidence” is mostly anecdote, very little evidence. There is a vast difference between 20 pounds and 200.  There is a vast difference between a statistical anomaly and proof of concept. That’s why we have studies.  Which lead us to…

1.  I get that weight loss fails almost all of the time, but that’s no reason not to try!

That’s only if we assume that there are no negative consequences to a failed attempt. To fully evaluate the decision intelligently we need to factor in downside risk. The worst case scenario for weight loss is that it I fail, I end up heavier than I started and subject to the dangers of weight cycling (aka yo-yo dieting) which include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression and cardiovascular disease.  I am a fan of evidence and math, so my decision not to diet is based both on an analysis of the likelihood of success (taking into account that there isn’t a single study in which “success” in terms of weight loss was causally linked to better health) and an analysis of the risk of failure of which there is an almost 100% chance.  Yoda tells us “Do or do not, there is no try.”  When it comes to dieting, I think it’s a Do Not situation.

I hope that clears some things up.  For the record, I truly don’t mind when people legitimately ask questions about these or anything else, I do mind when people use them as if they are legitimate arguments.

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19 thoughts on “5 Really Bad Arguments Against Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size

  1. 1. When I was a kid, my mom once tried, “If you lose weight, you’ll look smarter.” At that age,those words scared me to death. I was the fat girl whose classmates called her stupid, among other equally terrible things (and worse–if you don’t want to be bullied, don’t go to Christian school, those kids are demons). Of course, the irony is that I was probably the most intelligent person in the school, adults included. Unfortunately, I stutter and slur when tired or stressed, when outraged I sound downright Appalachian, and did I mention I’m fat? Also, I don’t think in straight lines, and at the time, an Asperger’s diagnosis was not clinically possible. So, yeah. Mom stung me hard.

    2. Ugh, that fucking tax money one. I’m atheist, and if the person saying it is clearly religious, I respond with, “I pay for your faith initiative program, and it’s outright in violation of the Constitution.” Then when they swell up like a puffer fish, I walk away.

    (I actually have no problem with faith. It’s the individual’s private business, and I’m happy for people who’ve found what’s right for them. Hell, when I flew home from Cleveland last week, I sat next to a woman who tried to get me on the path towards conversion, and I thanked her because she embraces love rather than hatred. She even cheerfully asked about my girlfriend while I introduced her to the Peshitta (the version of the Bible used to the east, in Asia). 😀 What I have a problem with is people who speak one way and act another, or who use religion–not faith–as a battering ram to do whatever they want.)

    1. A little off topic, but I’m SO happy you had a positive experience with a religious person. I’m one of those, as you might figure from my name, but far too often people who try to “convert” other people do it with either hatred or fear, which rarely has the effect they desire except in the very young. (Ugh, that’s another rant for another day!) So good for her, and good for you for reacting in kind!

      1. I’ve had negative experiences with religion, mostly Christianity (because I live in Oklahoma), that make forced laying on hands look like a gentle pat on the shoulder. Hence, I’ve really come to appreciate people who take away positive messages. I don’t share any beliefs, my brain simply isn’t built that way, but I’m happy to chat, talk history (OMG THE FLIGHT FROM UR), pass tips back and forth, whatever. 🙂

        The Bible’s actually one of my favorite books because it’s a good historical text, and also because it’s full of booze, sex, and blood. XD If I get to go back to school, I wouldn’t mind majoring in Mesopotamian history; I’ve got some suspicions about the Exodus I’d like to research properly.

    2. Are you a Syriac Christian? I too have a Peshitta, from the UBS. I’m learning Syriac by myself, since there is only one place in Canada to formally learn it, and that place is a den of anti-Semitism, so they don’t get my money.

      Your mom sounds like you had an awful experience.

      1. Nah, I’m atheist. Biblical history fascinates me, though, both what’s in the Bible, and what didn’t make it. That includes Mesopotamia before the Flight from Ur, and the history surrounding the formation of the renegade Jewish school of thought that became Christianity–never mind the political significance of Constantine’s conversion and his order that the entire empire do the same. I suspect the actual history is more sinister than it appears.

        Ugh, Mom put me on every diet known, and got angry at me when I just got fatter. Made my life hell starting at age seven, almost eight, when I caught Epstein-Barr and gained from there. I even got to spend several months as a human guinea pig, testing out a kiddie diet plan for a study. I think I was eight. Would have been ’85-ish. Not the last time I became a child test subject, but at least I don’t have a three-year gap in my memory from that one.

        Turned out, years later, that not only had my immune system never really got off the ground, but that EB can cause further damage, and I’d had fibromyalgia since forever. Whoops, guess I wasn’t just hungry and lazy.

    3. As long as people follow the Underpants Rule and don’t push *any* of their shit onto me, I’m good 🙂

    4. Nicely said.

      I always try to be polite to the neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they’ve always been polite with me. Last month, I even gave one JW a plant division of a perennial that she’d admired on my street corner. (It was already potted and bagged.)

      I save my moments of assholery for the real assholes out there. Otherwise I’d just plain get burned out. 😉

  2. What really gets me is the “lifestyle change” argument. “I’m not on a diet, it’s a lifestyle change, I’m just trying to get healthier and therefore I”ll get thinner!”

    I think at that point I just have to bow out and wish them well. Remembering the underpants rule is hard sometimes 🙂

    1. The theory that your life changes if you get thinner is a trap that too many people fall into.
      I believe a lifestyle change is a valid argument. There’s nothing wrong with a lifestyle change.

  3. The tax money one really gripes my wagger! One of my brightest days was when Ragen pointed out how people participating in extreme sports, sometimes even sponsored by our tax dollars, are lionized for toughing it out after multiple knee, shoulder, or spine surgeries. How much does THAT cost, I wonder? And those are verifiable costs, not just fairy dust pulled out of someone’s nether regions to make their stupid, bigoted point.

    1. And then throw in the Captain Obvious observation that fat people pay taxes, too, and that distinct nether regions bouquet becomes all the more apparent.

  4. Ragen, thank you for making this wisdom available to me. I have to tell you that every time I share one of these on Facebook, it takes an act of courage because I’m so bound up in the dominant culture (as many of us are, I’m sure) that I’m terrified of the reaction I might get. But you make it easier and easier to be brave. Thanks!

    1. I’m always nervous to share, too, and rarely do any of my friends “like” it when I do. But in offline conversations, I’ve had several friends tell me that they appreciate reading these things! I guess they are afraid to click “like”. :-/ Sad how the culture dominates us!

  5. BRB, emailing this to… well, to a whole bunch of people who say all of these things and more, and then tell me I can’t be upset with them because they only have my best interests in mind. Bollocks.

  6. I think that if someone wants to try weight loss, that’s their right. that right ends, however, when they decide to dictate that everyone else should too.people try to lose weight for a variety of reasons, & I think we should respect that. But we should also respect that other people choose not to, for a variety of reasons.

  7. I found your site by running across your picture of the badly thrown eggs from your August 2013 post while conducting a near random image search by using the keywords “a-hole pics with captions”. Really. I am deeply saddened they threw the eggs, however I am OVERJOYED to have found your site!!! You are awesome!!!

    1. Hi Kendra,

      Welcome and thank you so much!  This may be my favorite search phrase ever to lead someone to the blog 🙂



  8. “You’re only doing this to justify your fatness.”

    In my experience, nobody spends more time making excuses and justifying themselves than a fatphobe.

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