We are more gullible and superstitious today than we were in the Middle Ages, and an example of modern credulity is the widespread belief that the Earth is round. The average man can advance not a single reason for thinking that the Earth is round. He merely swallows this theory because there is something about it that appeals to the twentieth century mentality. – George Bernard Shaw
It seems like every day an article or blog is published that talks about obesity, its causes, and what people can or can’t do about it. I try to monitor as many as possible, and pay particular attention to the ones that are truly focused on sound scientific studies.
This past week, a writer by the name of Daniel Munoz published an article called “Fat Acceptance Movement Utilizes PseudoScience” for the Daily Targum, which I believe is the school newspaper for Rutgers University. I was particularly interested in reading this article, as the title contradicted most every study I’d read about fat acceptance. From the beginning of his article, it seemed to me that all the research he’d done on his topic was to read another article titled “6 Things I Don’t Understand About The Fat Acceptance Movement”, which is also full of assumptions and false information.
Of particular concern to me is the point he made about Health At Every Size (HAES), where he accuses HAES of using pseudo science to promote its cause.
So, let’s take a look at what pseudoscience actually is (though Mr. Munoz may want to refute this definition as well). From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
“A system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific”
Another definition, from Wikipedia:
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status
So, Mr. Munoz is saying that HAES and the fat acceptance movement is essentially lying to its followers & the general public by using studies that are either invalid or lacking evidence. I will give him credit, at least he appears to understand the difference between HAES and fat acceptance, and sounds like he could actually crusade for FA. His own words:
I will admit that the fat acceptance movement raises several good points. Media culture promotes unattainable body types for both men and women, such as the hourglass shape for women and the muscle-y V-shape for men. Movies and television shows depict the obese character as bad-mannered, unintelligent and an overall buffoon. Diet pills and “quick fix” workout routines provide an incomplete picture of the amount of work necessary to lose weight and maintain said body weight. Bullying and discrimination against the overweight are widespread in our schools.
And………………………it’s all downhill from there.
Using arguments from personal experience (which aren’t always invalid, though certain conclusions from life experience can certainly be off base) seem more like pseudoscience. He says that weight-related illnesses claimed three family members. Two of them passed from diabetes, and the third from heart related issues. Before we go further, I will remind Mr. Munoz that average and thin people also get & die from diabetes (I have onset diabetes, and I’m not fat, though I did gain some weight before the doctors made that diagnosis). Also, let me quote the pseudoscience about Diabetes right from the American Diabetes Assn’s website:
Being overweight is a risk factor for developing this disease, but other risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age also play a role. Unfortunately, too many people disregard the other risk factors for diabetes and think that weight is the only risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes, and many people with type 2 diabetes are at a normal weight or only moderately overweight.
Also, Munoz claims to have and continue to struggle with obesity and have dealt with several of its negative side effects. Let’s examine some of those side effects:
1. Plus sized clothing tends to cost more than “regular” sized clothing
2. It may cost more to fly on planes
3. Because of weight bias, health & life insurance can cost more
4. People stigmatize fat people
5. People think all fat people are unhealthy
Mr. Munoz, I used to be fat as well. While I was fat, I had no side effects. Of course I grew up in a time where there was less of a fat stigma than there is today. While fat, I participated in sports in high school & college, achieved Life Scout status in Boy Scouts (many of my merit badges involved fitness, which were required), and traveled extensively. I’m sorry, but your personal experience with pbesity had negative side effects. Mine did not.
That isn’t the point, however. I contacted Mr. Munoz via Twitter, to advise that I’d taken exception to his article, and to advise him that if he’d taken the time to talk with medical professionals that work in HAES, he’d see that much of it is based on sound medical & scientific research. I told him that I could point him to countless studies that would refute his claims of pseudoscience, and asked if he’d really read them. I also requested that if after reading some of the various studies, that he’d retract his article if he agreed that they were “good science”.
Mr. Munoz responded with the following:
So it seems all you want to do is tell me I am wrong. I will look at the studies if you want to, as you claim, enlighten me.
Though I will not be retracting my statements because I was asked to do so by a stranger on the internet.
My response to him is that I wouldn’t waste my time trying to “win over” someone who wouldn’t retract their story if shown they were wrong. Quite honestly, it isn’t worth my time. SO, the purpose of the blog today is to show you readers that in fact, much of HAES is based on sound medical research & science. All I need to do is point you to my “Education/Edification” portion of my blog page, and you’ll see some studies from several parts of the medical community, some from science, and even one or two from the sociological studies. Let me give you an important one right now as a start. This one essentially debunks the use of BMI as a reliable measure of mortality or health. http://www.aahs.org/medstaff/wp-content/uploads/ObesityMortalityNEJM20131.pdf
At this point, I have no interest in debating someone whose close mindedness won’t allow him to reconsider his preconceived ideas concerning weight and health, at least from a scienctific standpoint. I simply promised him a response via my blog, and here it is. For those of you reading this that remain “on the bubble”, I welcome you to contact me privately via this blog, and we can talk about some of the studies that I’ve cited in my blogs. I feel that Mr. Munoz is on an unfortunate journey, one that will have him believing that every pound that increases his BMI will lead to a quicker death. There’s still hope for you, young man, but it’s also been said that ignorance has been known to end lives prematurely as well. I urge you to read the differences between science & pseudoscience. Seems to me you may fall more on the pseudo side, dontcha think?
Hey, how about all those scientists centuries ago who insisted the earth was flat, despite the pseudoscience of the “lunatics” who proposed it was round?