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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sometimes, a facepalm just isn't enough

I've long said that logic is what people use to justify their emotional responses.

Sometimes, they don't even bother with logic.

Take this article someone shared recently.  Body scan of a 250 lbs woman vs a 120 lbs woman.

 It's an older article, but it just got passed around today by someone I really expected better from.  My surprise is not that she believes losing weight, in and of itself, is a worthy goal.  I knew that part already.  Rather it was that she apparently read this piece and didn't see the blatant ignorance of it from a mile away.

note: when I saw this post earlier today, the image was there, but as I opened it again while writing this post, the image in question was broken.  I don't know if it'll be fixed by the time you're reading this, but if not, I'll give some description.  There are two full body scan images, side by side, of two women.  The woman on the left is the 250 lb woman.  There is nothing to say what height either woman is, but in the images they appear as if they are exactly the same height.

The author of this snippet of a piece makes very sure you know this image is incentive to lose weight because she underlines that statement and uses triple exclamation points!!!

Now, keep in mind that one of these women is more than twice the weight of the other.  So what does the writer think is so shocking, she repeats it several times in different ways?

The 250 lb woman is *gasp* LARGER than the 120 lb woman.

Amazing, isn't it?  She has a bigger stomach (actually, I'm not entirely sure what in the image is clearly identifiable as a stomach).  Even her head is bigger!  And her shoulders are really wide and, wouldn't you know it, a woman who weighs more than twice that of another woman is... wait for it... "essentially twice the size..."

Okay, so that all had me eye rolling, but it was the the rest that brought out the facepalming idiocy.  Here are her statements, with my reactions.

Her hips are much wider apart (which explains why overweight women have a lot of difficulty walking)
"Overweight" women have a lot of difficulty walking?  Really?  Funny, most "overweight" women have no problem walking at all.  Of course, the woman in the image isn't "overweight."  We don't know how tall she is, so what her BMI would be is just a guess, but she would probably fall into the "morbidly obese" category.  Clearly, when the writer says "overweight" the woman in the image is what she thinks of, not the average sized woman (statistically, the average sized woman is "overweight").

Now, the writer doesn't say "some" overweight women have troubles walking.  By her statement, she's saying that all "overweight" (never mind "obese" or "morbidly obese") women have "a lot" of difficulty walking.  Their troubles are because of their hips, and the troubles with their hips are because of their fat.

That's a lot of assumptions to make in a single bullet point.

Just so you know, I weigh more than 250 pounds.  I do sometimes have troubles walking.  That's because, long before I gained the weight, I overdid things and caused damage to my feet and knees.  That damage eventually developed into post traumatic osteoarthritis and a tendency for my metatarsals to dislocate unexpectedly, my patellas to pop out of place, and my knees to sometimes bend sideways or backwards.  Despite the pain involved, however, the only difficulty I typically have walking is going down stairs.  My hips, however, are fine.  I've had the Xrays to prove it - much to the surprise of the doctor, who seemed to think I *must* have arthritis in my lower back and hips because I'm... well... you know.  Fat.

Of course, the other aspect of her assumption is that thin women don't have difficulty walking.  Which is also completely false.  Plenty of people of all sizes and shapes have difficulty walking, for a wide variety of reasons.  Meanwhile, this writer is not only assuming that fat people have "a lot" of trouble walking, and that it's because of their fat, but she is assuming that the fat woman in the image has problems walking, while the thin woman doesn't.  We, of course, have no idea if either woman has troubles walking or not.

Look at the spine at the back of her head!
 With the image broken at the time of this writing, I'll have to describe it a bit.  On the thin woman, you can clearly see the bones of her neck.  With the larger woman, however, you don't.  In fact, what you do see is muscle tissue.  The reason should be obvious; their body positions in relation to the scanned area are different.  For the larger woman, this means you're going to see more tissue than bone.  So I don't know what the writer is going on about.  She does, however, seem to have difficulty understanding basic anatomy.  The spine is under the head, not at the back of it.

Look at how far apart her feet are due to the weight around her tights and knees.
This one is a serious facepalm moment.  Never mind the declaration that they are far apart because of how fat her "tights" are.  These women are being scanned.  This means they are lying down.  If her feet are wide apart, it's because she's LYING DOWN WITH HER FEET APART.  To quote my daughter, "Do you really think she stands with her knees bucked together like an anime schoolgirl?"

Her ankles are bent (which could be due to the extra weight)
Again, the woman is lying down.  We have no way of knowing if she normally stands with her ankles bent, and judging from how much one is bent, I find it highly unlikely.  Chances are that's how her legs and feet were positioned when she went into the machine.  I've been in those machines. Once you're in, they make a big deal about not moving.  They don't even want you to breath, never mind straighten out limbs and joints.

If you’re looking for motivation to lose weight … I’d say this is a really good reason to start taking healthy eating and adopting a healthy lifestyle (aka exercise regularly) VERY seriously!
I see.  So seeing the scanned body of a fat woman next to a thin woman (who, at 120 lbs, may actually be "overweight" - we don't know how tall either woman is) is supposed to make me want to get out there and take eating "healthy" and exercising VERY seriously.  The assumption, of course, is that the fat woman doesn't eat healthy and doesn't exercise, or she wouldn't be fat, right?  It attests to the usual magical thinking of dieting - that if we just do the right things, our bodies will miraculously change their sizes and shapes to fit some cultural ideal.

Otherwise we're just not, you know, taking our health VERY seriously!

By the way, this story is running wild on the net and it’s another reminder that being overweight is not that healthy!
 Well, I don't know about this "running wild" thing, since the piece was written 7 months ago, and this is the first I've seen it.  What I'm wondering about is, looking at these body scans, on what basis does the writer claims that "being overweight is not that healthy!"  There is nothing in the scans at all to show unhealthiness.  There are no tumors.  No weird growths or distortions.  No damage visible to the joints.  Nothing at all.  Just a large woman next to a smaller woman.  We know nothing about the actual health of either of them.  The fact that one of them has more adipose tissue than the other and is SHOCK AND HORROR larger than the other is all we can see.

So why would the writer make all these assumptions?  Who is she, anyways?

Oh, look.  She has a website called "Eat Smart Age Smart."  No, I haven't clicked on the link to look at it.  I don't want to give her the clicks.  According to her bio, however, she ...

Oh dear.

She's into "detoxification" and "cell rejuvenation."

Funny.  Sounds like some of the spam I get.

She's also a chef who specializes in French cooking and eats a "French culinary lifestyle" inspired by her now-husband who "never ate preserved or fast food."

Really?  A former Parisian who has never eaten Crème fraiche?  He's never eaten cheese?  Jam or jelly?  Dried fruit?  Smoked meats?  Refrigerated or frozen food?  Pasteurized milk?  Pickles?  These are all preserved foods or methods of preservation.  Even cooking is a method of preservation.  Without preserved foods, humanity would be living like animals, scrounging our food from day to day.  So what does she really mean by "preserved foods?"

Then there's fast food.  How, exactly, does she define fast food?  And why does she seem to assume that all fast food is unhealthy or bad somehow?  Many times in history, in many cultures, people lived on what we would now call "fast food."  People bought prepared foods from street sellers to take home or eat on route to their livelihoods.  Even today, street food is the norm in come cultures.  In some eras, only the wealthy even had homes with kitchens in them (and slaves to cook their meals) at all.  "Fast food" was what everyone ate.

Of course, she is talking about "modern" fast food.  Again; how is that defined, and what makes it bad?  A quick look at the food court of any North American mall will find a huge variety of "fast foods" from around the world.  Let me see how many I can remember from one nearby mall.  There's a dim sum place, two Japanese places (one specializing in sushi), a Thai place, a Korean BBQ place, a newly opened Indian place, an Italian and a Greek place.  That's what I can remember of the ethnic foods off hand.  Then there's the usual New York Fries, Orange Julius, another juice place I can't remember the name of that specializes in "healthy" juice based drinks and more.  I think there's an A&W and a KFC.  Fresh green salads, soups, naan, pastas (rice or wheat) and so on, all for the choosing, and it's all fast food.

Okay, I could go on, but I think that's enough.

Going back to the post at hand.

What galls me is that we have this short little post that is so utterly devoid of facts, yet filled with assumptions.  That someone who shills for diet fads should write it doesn't surprise me.  That otherwise intelligent people would read this and not notice the intellectual vapidness and pass it on, however, does.

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