Debating Dieting – You Go First

Research - you go firstMy path into Health at Every Size started with a review of all the diet literature that I could get my hands on. That’s how I first learned that there’s not a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people succeed at significant, long-term weight loss. (I also learned that the state of the research around weight loss and weight and health goes beyond shoddy to being negligent.)

Because of that research, and because of the speaking I do – which includes speaking to healthcare practitioners who are looking for an in-depth discussion of data and research – I have a lot of research and statistics on the tip of my tongue. My natural reaction when I’m in a situation where someone is perpetuating weight loss and diet culture in a way that affects me – whether it’s an internet debate, or a fatphobic doctor’s office – is to start quoting the research.

A while ago I realized that this wasn’t necessarily the best approach. It leaves me open to all kinds of logical fallacy from the person arguing with me – including their insistence that “everybody knows” statement are equal to all of the research I’m quoting, not to mention sealioning which is an annoying waste of my time, and people who think they are clever saying “prove that there are no studies.”

So I started a new policy – if someone wants to tell me that dieting is likely to make me thinner and/or healthier, including and especially a health care provider, then when it comes to research, they can go first. They are the ones who are hawking dieting, they can start by providing me the research that they believe backs up their point of view.

To be clear, we are all allowed to make choices for our bodies for whatever our reasons, and we don’t owe an explanation or debate to anyone. “This is none of your business” and “I have no interest in talking about this with you,” are complete answers to someone who wants to challenge our choices around our food, health, and bodies.

Further, there is absolutely no debate when it comes to Size Acceptance, ever. Fat people have the right to live and thrive in fat bodies and it doesn’t matter why we are fat, what the “consequences” of being fat might be, or if we could or want to become thin. Size Acceptance doesn’t say that people aren’t allowed to try to manipulate their bodies (however futile those attempts may be,) it simply says that nobody has to become (or attempt to become) thin to deserve equal rights and basic human respect. There’s no debate here – you either agree with Size Acceptance, or you are wrong.

What I’m talking about here is that if and when we decide we want to respond to someone who asks for a debate, or to a healthcare provider who is suggesting that we attempt to manipulate our body size, we don’t have to come to the table with all the evidence first. We can engage in debate on our terms – which includes insisting that if someone is telling us that diets and weight loss are safe and effective, they can pony up the proof.

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