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The claim that high weight has no relevance to health is an exaggeration. It’s only about 97 percent true. A good analogy would be, “How true is the statement ‘Marijuana is a dangerous drug’?” It’s not a completely false statement. It’s just a mostly false statement. But the very same people who would scoff about White House policy when they put out some kind of hysterical nonsense about marijuana just swallow this hysterical nonsense being put out by the weight-loss industry whole because it fits with their particular cultural prejudices. So they have absolutely no skepticism about it. They just don’t ever really look at the data.
I got an email from a woman a couple of days ago, and it was just heart-rending. This was a very successful academic. She wrote this great Ph.D. dissertation that has just been published as a book. She has very successful career. She’s in her early 30s. She’s married. Everything’s going great for her. But she’s a size 14. She wrote me this email that says she feels like a failure all the time, and the only thing that would make her stop feeling that way is if she were an average-weight person.
And the other wonderful, ironic aspect of all this is that as the average American is getting heavier, we’re making the definition of an acceptable body ever thinner! So it’s like a machine to make human beings miserable. And then people get together in Aspen and ask, “Ooo. What can we do about this?” I have an idea: stop talking that way!
What happens is, what we have right now in this culture are people who are literally anorexic telling people how to have a healthy attitude towards weight. You had an anorexic person come up to you and say, “If you follow this routine, you can become anorexic to. You’ll be able to be a size 0 without trying to be hospitalized.
I don’t know if you’ve seen any of these pro-ana sites. It’s where teenage girls come together and basically support each other in being anorexic. One thing that they do is they post photographs of themselves so they can get encouragement from the other girls that they really are thin. They call it “thinspiration.” People are totally horrified by this, naturally, and they see it as a terrible thing. But on the other hand, I have tremendous empathy for these girls. These girls are following the rules. They’re doing what everyone is telling them to do. I don’t blame them for being enraged at a mainstream culture that is giving them these messages that are totally conflictual.