Saturday, September 3, 2011

Leave Them Alone

I don't read many fat acceptance blogs these days, nor do I read many weight loss ones. There are a few I follow as long as they don't get me too emotionally invested. As time goes by, both sides display such disordered and irrational thinking at times that it starts to feel more like I'm watching contestants in a bizarre reality show rather than witnessing real people operating in real life.

One thing which I know from long experience is that fat advocates hate it when diet zealots and gurus post comments to their blogs trying to "save" them. When the free-thinking fatties don't appreciate this type of intervention, the dietarians (my term) get increasingly hostile with them for not subscribing to their dogma. The fatties just want to be left alone in most cases and spread their message to those who need it. They want to support those who have done nothing but suffer in their attempts to lose weight and need to find a path to acceptance and self-love. All they wish for dietarians to do is to leave them alone and I think this is an eminently reasonable request.

That being said, I think that the door has to swing both ways on this issue and recently I read a blog post by a HAES advocate which shows that is not necessarily so. This person joined an organization for people who wish to lose weight and part of her purpose was to spread her gospel to women who she felt needed it. She described how most of them had been in the group for years and had been unsuccessful. This information is meant to illustrate that they needed what she was going to sneak in and attempt to sell them. She may be right. However, what she is planning to do is wrong.

There is no difference between what the HAES advocate is attempting to do in a well-meaning effort to quiet the psychological suffering of people who have tried to lose weight and failed but continue to try and what diet and weight loss advocates attempt to do to fat advocates. Both sides are convinced they are "right" and that the other side "needs" their message. Both sides are attempting to shoehorn their way into another person's chosen lifestyle in an egotistical attempt to "save them" from themselves. Both are prioritizing their viewpoints and agendas over that of others.

This sort of behavior on either side shows that people need desperately to be right and to coerce, cajole, persuade, or bully others into adopting their lifestyle. Dietarians have been doing it for a long time because they have societal approval at their backs and their sense of righteousness is generally more intense. As the oppressed minority, fatties have been generally more reserved about preaching to a choir that has attended their church voluntarily rather than going out and proselytizing to those who are clearly uninterested in their message.

My advice to both groups, and to everyone in general, is to offer your message to parties who are seeking it. Once you start going around trying to "convert" people who hold opposing views and goals, you have become "the enemy" and lose all credibility.*

*Note that I do not include things like commenting on blogs in opposition to what people are doing or saying in general. There is a difference between disagreeing on method, attitude, and details of what a person is doing and subscribing to an entirely different worldview/lifestyle. For example, telling someone that drinking 6 gallons of water per day when on a diet may not be the best option when you are also interested in losing weight is not the same as saying you shouldn't lose weight and love yourself as you are. I feel compelled to say this because I don't want people setting up a strawman to knock down as an absurdist argument against what I have just said. I'm not saying, "never post a dissenting opinion."

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