Last Tuesday, I mentioned what I did like about the body positivity and fat acceptance movement.
Today, I’m going to talk about what I do not like, and really, it’s just one thing.
First of all, Health at Every Size (HAES) very often goes hand-in-hand with Body Positivity but not always. Also, the things I am going to talk about today are things that I have read and witnessed, but that does not obviously mean that all fat acceptance or body positive individuals feel this way.
I have seen SO many people (and I used to be one of them, sadly) who would claim starvation mode. “I eat less than 1000 calories a day, and I have for months, but I’m not losing weight!”
No. That’s literally impossible. Starvation Mode is a thing… and it does not occur in obese people. Ever. It stemmed from the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, which occurred in the 1940s at the University of Minnesota. Basically, what the researchers found was that in a pool of 36 men, when they underwent extreme calorie restriction, they rapidly lost weight and eventually entered a period where the calorie restriction did not quite coincide with the amount of weight lost. These men were drastically underweight. In other words, starvation mode only happens when someone is dramatically underweight. It simply will not occur in someone who is at a normal (or higher) weight.
Again, I used to believe this. I honestly thought that some weeks, I wasn’t losing weight because I wasn’t eating enough.
If you really stop to think about this for a minute, that seems ridiculous. If people could gain (or even maintain) weight by not eating enough, then how in the world are there starving people?
People have been shown to be wildly inaccurate at calorie estimation. I would surmise that both for myself and others who believe they are/were in starvation mode, they were likely consuming a lot more calories than they suspected. (And of course, I suspect some people just lie, but I know there are some people truly flummoxed by their results. The likely culprit – too many calories.)
This isn’t the only science denialism that HAES and their ilk come up with.
Some HAES and fat activists claim is it healthier to be obese. I can’t even argue with this one, because it would be like arguing that the sun is purple. As this 2009 article (found on PubMed) clearly states, “obesity is strongly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality as well as cardiovascular and cancer mortality.” Better yet, “weight loss can result in a significant reduction in risk for the majority of these comorbid conditions.” So… there are HAES advocates out there who are actively discouraging people from losing weight, despite the fact that it can and does save people’s lives.
Some claim that it is impossible to lose weight. Some cite a 95% figure for diets that fail.
Well… if 95% of all diets fail, then maybe do one of the 5% that work. And this figure, in particular, is one that I do not doubt is true. Most diets do fail, because most people won’t stick to them. So really, it isn’t the diet that fails; it is the dieter that fails. Stopping smoking has a success rate of only four to seven percent, according to the American Cancer Society. By following HAES logic, then people should just keep smoking because the vast majority won’t be successful at quitting anyway.
I will not be part of the 95%; I am going to be a five percenter, and some activists – (one even calls herself a “trained researcher,” despite having no college degree – no kidding) – with internet connections and the ability to (poorly) Google will not dissuade me.
But again, I’m not worried about me. I’m worried about people who are struggling to lose weight, come across these echo chambers of people denying the very real science of weight loss, and then they just give up. And it happens, all the time.
Dieting is hard; I get it. I struggle with it, too. But quitting and being fat are even harder. So… pick your hard. And the hard I pick is to lose weight.