One of the most frustrating things to me is when I’m discussing Health at Every Size and I bring up a ton of research and someone answers with “everybody knows [insert unproved/disproved assumption here]” I don’t know about you but I find it exhausting to be constantly assaulted by sweeping, generalized opinions that are being stated as fact by ill-informed people unwavering in the face of facts and evidence contrary to their opinions. The diet industry has done a really good job of turning people into walking commercials for the message that makes them 60 Billion dollars a year.
Before we get too far, remember that Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size are two different things (the former is a civil rights movement, the latter a paradigm for health) and that being treated with basic human respect should not be contingent upon “health” or “healthy behaviors” by any definition. What I’m talking about here are discussion of the evidence around HAES by those who are interested in discussing it. I think that people end up being in this position of defending what “everybody knows” for all kinds of reasons including:
- They honestly (but mistakenly) believe that what they are saying is proven fact
- It makes them feel better about themselves to speak as in absolutes as if they know for sure what is true for everyone
- They lack the intellectual humility to be aware that they could be wrong
- They had an experience and they mistakenly believe that their experience will/should be everyone’s experience
- They know that they could be wrong but they lack the emotional intelligence to admit it
In any event, dealing with the constant barrage of this can be incredibly frustrating. It’s times like these that I reflect on Galileo. At the core, he was a guy who was looking at the research and saying “I know that everyone believes this but the evidence doesn’t support it.” So of course the establishment said: “Wow, thank you for bringing this up, we need to look into this!”
Wait, no they didn’t. They told him to sit down and shut up and put him under house arrest for life.
Obviously that put a damper on his social life but it didn’t make him any less correct – the Earth does in fact move around the sun.
Galileo is a reminder to me that just because the majority of people and those in power believe something and repeat it endlessly. defend it viciously, and consider it heresy to disagree with them, that does not make it so.
Nobody can prove that fat causes the health issues that it gets blamed for. Nobody knows for sure why nearly every health problem that is correlated with being fat is also correlated with being under constant stress. Nobody knows for sure the long term health effects of living in a society that constantly stigmatizes you and tells you that you can’t possible be healthy. Nobody knows what would happen to fat people’s health if they didn’t live in a society that constantly stigmatizes them. Nobody knows of a single study in which more than a tiny fraction of people have maintained long-term weight loss, and nobody knows what that weight loss means for people’s health since it has not been studied.
That’s a lot of “nobody knows”. So the way that I deal with the constant barrage of BS is by reminding myself that people can say “everybody knows you just eat less and exercise more and you’ll lose weight” or “everybody knows that we’re fatter because of fast food/sedentary lifestyle/hormones in food/alien invasion” or “everybody knows that we would all be thin if we would just give up carbs/give up sugar/go vegetarian/go vegan/go gluten free/drink most of your meals/swallow a tape worm” but the evidence does not support their hypotheses and so the truth is that “everybody” knows nothing – “everybody” is talking out of their ass.
We all have opinions and we are entitled to base our choices on our opinions but that’s where it ends. Nobody has the right to tell me that personal responsibility means that I am personally responsible for making my choices based on their opinions, and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. So whenever I see one of these comments I picture them dressed up in 17th Century Garb writing with a quill “the sun revolves around the Earth” It puts it right back in perspective for me.
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