I got a press release today telling me that self-described “weight loss expert” Steven Miller (in reality a lifestyle coach with a degree from the London College of Clinical Hypnosis) is proposing that today be “Warn a Friend They’re Fat Day” in the UK and, the press release assures me, he wants to bring it to the US as well. According to Steven it
is not about being cruel. In fact it is the complete opposite. It is about sensitively and tactfully talking to overweight friends and family members about our concerns for their health. In fact it is a day that could potentially save thousands of lives and at the same time heighten our friends and families confidence as they are encouraged to take action to lose weight so that they feel better and more confident about themselves.
And he goes on to list recommendations that thin people should give to their fat friends on how to lose weight (recommendations which every fat person has heard hundreds, if not thousands, if not tens of thousands of times.) How is this completely and totally messed up? Let me count the ways:
1. Our health isn’t anybody else’s business unless WE make it their business. Other people’s health isn’t our business unless THEY make it our business. It’s bad enough when we have to deal with concern trolling strangers, but concern trolling family and friends are a whole other thing, in large part because of the social pressure to compromise our boundaries because of their assumed good intentions.
2. It rests on the ridiculous impression that thin people have some right and standing to confront fat people about “our health.” Health is not an obligation, it’s not a barometer of worthiness, it’s never completely within our control or guaranteed under any circumstances. There are people of all sizes at every point of the health continuum, for lots of different reasons. There are people of the same size who engage in very different behaviors, and people of very different sizes who engage in the exact same behaviors.
The fact that someone is thin does not imbue them with some special knowledge or right to give fat people unsolicited advice about our health or body size. The fact that someone is fat is not a signal that we require advice from thin people. If Steve thinks that it does, then we need to stop the logic train because we had a passenger fall right the hell off. Fat people are not in need of a stern talking to from some self-righteous thin person.
This is just entirely inappropriate, and it would be inappropriate even if it wasn’t completely credibility shattering to suggest that fat people need someone to tell us that we’re fat.
3. His assertion that this could “heighten our friends and families confidence as they are encouraged to take action to lose weight so that they feel better and more confident about themselves.” is a laughable justification for perpetuating widespread bullying. Since when does having your friends confront you with wild, baseless, unsolicited judgments about your health create confidence?
Whether or not someone believes that weight loss is possible or will lead to better health, the suggestion that someone should base the way that they feel about themselves and their confidence on their body size is very seriously messed up. People don’t take care of things that they hate and that includes their bodies. People who promote this kind of drivel are the true health threat.
4. It’s not based on any evidence. Even if the evidence didn’t show that long term weight loss almost never works, there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that “warning” your family and friends that they’re “fat” will make them any thinner or healthier (which are, by the way, two different things.) In fact, based on the research that does exist, what Steve is suggesting may actually lead to weight gain That doesn’t factor into my objection to his idea, other than the fact that it’s deeply problematic that he is promoting an “intervention” that the research shows is likely to have the opposite of his intended effect.
We have got to stop acting like any weight loss idea promoted by a thin person is the the equivalent of a research-based health intervention that should be immediately implemented. This leads to fat people being subjected to experimental medicine without our consent and that is not ok. Public health should, at its best, be about making options and information accessible to the public, not about making the individual’s health the public’s business. But at a bare minimum, it should take care not to subject members of the public to “interventions” that are in direct contradiction to the existing evidence.
I was going to try to get January 7th declared “Warn your friends they are a size-prejudiced, body shaming, sheeple who need to start exercising some common sense” day, but Rivkie Baum, the editor of Slink magazine, had a much more productive idea. She launched a counter campaign called called “Tell A Friend They’re Fab” and encouraging people to use #youarefab on social media.
Steve responded thusly:
Let me be the first to say that if Steve was suggesting that we have a day against people eating their own graves I would be totally behind that. There is lots of conflicting information about health, but I’m feeling pretty certain that eating that much dirt (not to mention the grave stone – ouch!) does not support good health. In reality, I think that this Tweet is likely a good representation of how much Steve actually understands about the Fat Acceptance Movement.
In the meantime, let me offer some possible responses if a friend or family member is inappropriate enough to take part in this:
I’m sure that your intentions are good and I appreciate that, but your actions are completely inappropriate – neither my weight nor my health are open for discussion.
You are out of line, I’m perfectly capable of making decisions about my own health, and if you’re not able to keep your concern to yourself I’m going to [choose a consequence that you can follow through with – leave the conversation, leave the room, end this relationship etc.]
If you think that Steven Miller is qualified to give health advice then you’re welcome to follow it, I think he’s a quack and bully and I’m done talking about this.
*Laugh out loud* Wow, I’m sure that you’re embarrassed to have taken part in something so ridiculous, for your sake I’m willing to end the conversation and pretend this never happened.
If you’re thinking about “warning” me let me save you some time- I’m fat, and that’s fine.
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