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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8 thoughts on “Debating Dieting – You Go First

  1. Way. These people will never listen to us anyway, let them scrape the insides of their brains to find the non-existent proof. Besides, the longer you talk with them the more it gives them the idea you give a shit what they say. “I disagree with you and do not care to dis cuss this issue further.” Talk to the butt! Or go get a sandwich while they try to “find the facts” they are imagining. Check out a movie, do some window shopping, take a vacay to Tahiti. By the time you get back, they might have something…

  2. Exactly. If someone insists that something is true, the burden of proof lies with them, not with you to disprove it.

  3. I’d like them to explain how my weight stabilized once I got wise and put a stop to 33 years of yo-yo dieting but during the years when I was yo-yo dieting, any weight I lost always came back with friends. My weight has been fairly stable for the past 9 years (since I stopped dieting.)

  4. This is so timely I may have pancreatitis; my pcp advised weightless and a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. I am contemplating the kindest way to ask her for a peer reviewed, scientifically stringent way to achieve the weight loss. I like her and she is very supportive of my mental illnesses, but tis has got to stop. I want to be the person to put a bee in her bonnet

    1. I would ask her to be more specific about type of foods since that is a really broad definition. I’m not sure about pancreatitis but a good friend of mine was getting bad gallbladder attacks and learned any type of food that contained ANY fat would cause an attack, even things like nuts and dairy. She ended up just eating plain baked chicken breast and brown rice. Her diet was so restricted; it was either eat like that or end up in agony for hours on end. Even now, years after her gallbladder has been removed, eating certain foods can still cause her some pain.

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