Wednesday, July 29, 2009

False dilemmas and snake oil, from Greta Christina?

Greta Christina, your Fat-Positive Diet post was almost perfect. Seriously, as both a skeptic and a FA advocate, I enjoyed both of your posts.

But when I read this, I knew I needed to say something:
And when I start thinking that this weight loss thing isn't that big a deal and I can have that ice cream if I want it, it helps to imagine my old age, and to think about whether I want to be spending it dancing, walking in the woods, exploring new cities, on my knees committing unspeakable sexual acts... or sitting on a sofa watching TV and waiting to die.
Lovely, lovely Greta. Firstly, that's the False Dilemma fallacy, and you should know better. I know that framing it that way might help sustain you in achieving your goals, but that doesn't make it something you should necessarily promote on your blag.

Most importantly, though... look, I know that in this case, you're talking about your knee, and how much better your knee feels since you've lost weight, and all the awesome things you'll be able to continue doing with your knee... but this paragraph still echoes the Fantasy of Being Thin. Strongly.

I know that you haven't let your fatness stop you from doing any of those above-mentioned actions, and you don't think they're reserved only for those Good Moral Skinny People. But you do basically state that you need to be thin(ner) to continue doing those things.

Yes, yes, because of your knee! Your bad knee, which will only get worse if you don't stop being fat on it! But you don't acknowledge that losing weight is only a temporary measure. Not because I think you'll gain the weight back, but because weight is not the only thing that causes bad knees to get worse. Age, everyday wear-and-tear, accidents... look, I don't know your medical history, but I'm betting with all that dancing and walking and kneeling for unspeakable acts, your knee's going to get worn on regardless. Losing weight now will reduce the rate of that wear, fer sure, but it won't cure your bad knee.

I get the impression that you think that losing weight is a permanent, life-long cure, because that's how you're framing it. Lighter me = active self into my old age. Heavy me = sitting on couch waiting to die. And that's how your readers are reading it. Us fatties have been told that shit - "Just lose some weight, and [complicated, multi-faceted problem] will be ALL BETTER, FOREVAR!" - over and over AND OVER again, and it's always an exaggeration.*

I understand you have your theory in the right place both with FA and skepticism, and that writing about dieting sucks when you're on a diet (for the same reason that writing about quitting smoking sucks when you're quitting smoking - it reminds you of That Thing You Want To Do But Aren't Supposed To Be Doing), and that it's easy for you to let an irrational-but-motivating thought pattern slide.

But.. gah. You're just wrong here. And it's making this reader cringe.


*Progressively angry aside:

This is, of course, not to say that losing weight won't ever help a bad knee at all and so you shouldn't even try losing weight. I'm not a fucking moron, and I'm willing to bet that most in the fatosphere aren't either, so your other post claiming just that is even more cringeworthy. In terms of putting weight on a bad knee, I'm fairly certain that reasonable FA peeps would agree that simply in terms of physics, it's better to put 140 lbs on it than 200, and if you're willing and able to give it an attempt, then good luck! All the best! Hope it works!

In terms of diet and activity level, even as a scientist and a skeptic, I've seen no good reason to believe that one person can't be just as healthy at 200 lbs as another person is at 140, but I do have a hard time believing that any one person could be practicing equally healthy habits at 200 lbs and 140 lbs.

In addition, the implication that fat people are fat because they are eating quadruple- patty hamburgers and chocolate chip pancakes and sausage on a stick and candy bars is a little unnecessary from someone who calls herself a fat-acceptance advocate, especially when that person acknowledges 1) that you can eat healthily and still be fat and 2) it's still important to plan in some non-weight-loss-y foods while dieting because total deprivation would be, in your own god-damned words, "intolerable".

Oh, and for fuck's sake, comparing eating to drug use?! Christ, Greta. I still love you, but... fuck.

1 comment:

  1. For something that Greta Christina wrote that is actually 100% spot-on, through and through, about this same subject, go here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/10/obesity_primary_vs_secondary_p.php#comment-598026

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