This is one of those cases.FearBlandness is a skeptic, an activist, feminist, and disabled with an illness that impacts her weight.
With the confluence of those factors, she should understand intimately, that the dominant paradigm is not always trustworthy, or respectful to marginalized groups, that weight is not always a choice, and that the evidence really needs to the the talking, not the culture… Yet somehow she overlooked these things with regards to fat activism.
So, I have left her a very long youtube comment, one that I am not confident she will ever read, with a multitude of citations to get her started looking at the evidence.
I felt, however, that what I wrote goes beyond her as an individual. Thus, I have decided to share it here.
My post itself should be stand alone as you can infer what you need to from context I mention.
I will link her video for those who want to watch it, however, *be forewarned* she believes being fat is unhealthy in and of itself, and the weight-shaming that goes along with believing that is throughout her video.
If speaking negatively about weight impacts you, then *you may be triggered* by this video . <– click there if you wish to see.
Note about the narrative style: The way I’ve written the response is directly to her, and thus is not my usual narrative style as it had a specific person I was directing it at. I’m sure nobody cares, but in case anyone thought it was weird I kept saying “you”, that’s why.
Without further adieu my response to her video, and my post full of citations to studies, attempting to show her what the evidence tells us, which is that lifestyle choices are far more important than weight, in determining health.
First, you seem to be confusing 3 movements to do with fat, but all not of which are fat activism or “fativism” as it’s sometimes called.
So, just like Feminism isn’t a monolith, neither is Fat activism–
Group one: fat activists who encourage exercise and healthy lifestyles and say that you should be active no matter your size.
Group two: there are also fat activists who are primarily concerned with acceptance and think people should mind their own business about their weight.
Group three: The people you really seem to dislike and want to call out…Aren’t specifically fat-activists at all.
That group are people who encourage weight gain, are called ‘fat enthusiasts’.
They may sometimes also be fat activists, but their activism isn’t directly related to their fat-enthusiasm.
An equivalent for example, would be conflating atheists who still believe in the super natural, and atheists who are skeptics. Related but not the same.
(Incidentally if you’d like to see a fat activist who speaks primarily from an evidence based perspective, I’d recommend Regan: http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/for-fat-patients-and-their-doctors/ )Okay, so now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to talk about fat and evidence myself.
You may feel like you already have a good grasp on the studies to do with weight, but I would like you to consider this topic again. This time with your skeptics hat, not accepting the dominant paradigms in our culture just because they are common.
Exercise has been established to have positive health benefits, even for people who are overweight/obese. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811477/ & http://www.escardio.org/about/press/press-releases/pr-12/Pages/fitnes-fatness-obese-people-different-prognosis.aspx )
In light of this, the question we need to be asking is:
“Do the other studies which associate weight with health-risks, check for activity level?” Because as we’ve just demonstrated it’s an important vector.
Not accounting for that is like trying to research sleep disorders and most of your participants drink coffee but you aren’t accounting for that.
The answer is, typically no, they don’t.
The studies that do separate overweight people who are inactive, from those which are active, have found that obese people who had healthy lifestyles did not have the added health risks. However, they were more prone to them when they had any added unhealthy habits, unlike their thin peers who could have a few unhealthy habits and still have a lower morbidity rate.
Here’s one of the most famous studies on the matter, which was conducted over the course of 14 years. ( http://www.jabfm.org/content/25/1/9.full )
We don’t know why that is, because very few studies have been done on the differences between overweight active people and overweight inactive people as of yet. As far as I know, just the one I linked up there, and it’s focus was very broad, just overall health.
These aren’t the things that dominate the conversation about health and weight though, the talk about exercise and lifestyle that is.
The dominant conversation about weight is instead: Fat=Unhealthy and this is not an evidence based opinion. Why? Because there’s no evidence that weight, in and of itself, causes health problems.
There is a correlation/causation fallacy which is generally accepted in conversations about weight, which is “obesity causes health risks” <– that statement needs to be supported by evidence, as yet it is not.
Correlation is not causation, and obesity has not been established as causal for any health problems. Lifestyle choices, some of which can potentially cause obesity, have.
Again back to exercise, which has excellent for all sorts of health benefits, but something important to understand is it’s not a guarantee of weight loss.
We also don’t actually know how many obese people have a healthy lifestyle or not, because there hasn’t been a study on that, yet.
Studies on benefits of weight loss that don’t mention how the weight is lost, do not paint a clear picture. Because we already know that exercise is it’s own health benefit, and it’s possible that the weight loss is a side effect, not a benefit in and of itself.
We know that diets on their own have been shown to be ineffective (They link the actual study, but I found the article itself informative: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/dieting-does-not-work-ucla-researchers-7832.aspx) and sometimes harmful.There is also a derth of evidence that everyone can simply lose weight.
Even calories aren’t the magic bullet, we know this from the study which found overweight teens were eating less than their peers.(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120910082135.htm)
And what causes weight gain is still a topic that is being explored too.
Eating extra calories certainly isn’t the only factor in being overweight.
As I’m sure you’ve read, sleep has an impact. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16914506?dopt=Citation)
You also asked ‘what’s the point of fat activism?’ The point is that encouraging people to not judge health by weight, and in the case of fat activists who support ‘health at every size’ narratives, the point is to encourage people to develop healthy habits without worrying about weight.
The focus is currently almost entirely on weight, and the conversation is hurting the health of fat people rather than helping it. (http://www.cbc.ca/whitecoat/2013/09/27/medicines-big-fat-bias/)
It’s also potentially also causing people to get fatter and more unhealthy.
(They link the study in the first couple paragraphs, but it’s another one where I liked the article: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/diet-fitness/fat-shaming-actually-increases-risk-becoming-or-staying-obese-new-f8C10751491)If instead we say “it’s okay to be fat, but you should be active” then we can encourage a health lifestyle, which all the evidence suggests is the most important vector with concerns to mortality rates. We put the focus where is should be.
On the evidence based health conversation and not on if someone is fat or not.
Honestly, I doubt that any person who is not already fat, or without a fat-oriented paraphilia is going to desire to be fat. Those people who are and can not lose weight, should not have to be inundated with messages that they are lazy cake eaters who just need to buck up go exercise…. Because that they may not be any of those things, and they may even be a “fathlete”.
I hope you understand, as a skeptic, why looking at the evidence is very important in this topic… and perhaps that you have a clearer understanding that very few people who consider themselves fat activists are actually advocating being fat.
And also that poor lifestyle choices, rather than the weight specifically are the best (read: most supported by the evidence) predictor of health.
Basically: Lazy=Unhealthy // Fat≠Lazy
In addition to this I want to say that I’ve never heard of a fat activist denying that there are correlations with health risks.
However, I’d like to repeat for good measure and emphasis, that correlation is not causation.
I think we need a social paradigm shift on the topic of weight and health, but the take home point is something everyone can benefit from, even if they aren’t overweight, and no matter what they think of weight in relation to health.
Certainly I do not have to be a fat activist to see it’s benefits. (Wait, does making this post mean I am one?… Maybe.)
That take home point: Try to live a healthy lifestyle. If you have to chose just one focus, then be active, to the best of your ability, no matter what size you are.
Now who could disagree with that sentiment? 😉