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Anti-Science Fatphobia and ProteinWorld

Last month, I wrote about some of the severe anti-science rhetoric I’ve seen coming out of the Health at Every Size camp, particularly from Ragen Chastain and the people who believe what she says without verifying it.

It’s only fair, then, that I call out the idiocy of the opposing side: in this case, those who are supporting ProteinWorld against people who complain that the company’s recent ad plays on women’s body insecurity to sell a product.

This issue has snowballed thanks to ProteinWorld’s leadership sniping back at anyone who complained about their ad, most recently labeling feminists as “terrorists,” because apparently ISIS is now relegated to criticizing people on Twitter, starting petitions on Change.org, and vandalizing billboards. World peace can’t be far behind.

There are many people, like British famous-for-being-famous celebrity Katie Hopkins and a large chunk of Reddit, who have decided to side with ProteinWorld in this fight.

While many of these people are happy to call out “fat logic” when they see it (i.e., a poor understanding of science that leads people to not understand that eating more leads to weight gain), this makes it crystal clear that far too many of them will jump onto the Pseudoscience Train if it happens to seem like it’s going in their direction.

As a few Redditors try to point out in that r/fatlogic thread, ProteinWorld is the very definition of “fat logic”: their “weight loss collection” is a collection of bullshit in capsule form, containing caffeine and green tea extracts that they claim will “raise your metabolism” and melt fat.

Trying to raise your metabolism through diet is, according to research, a fool’s errand at best. The best way to raise your metabolism is to build more muscle, which requires actual exercise, particularly strength training. Or you could just become morbidly obese, since studies suggest that obese people tend to have faster metabolisms, but I’m guessing that’s not really your goal if you’re buying this “bespoke” skinny-making magic bean package.

As for their fat-burning pills, those are guarana extract and green tea – this is exactly the sort of nonsense that Dr. Oz promotes, for which he got chastised by Claire McCaskill before a Congressional panel on consumer scams.

If you don’t believe that images of scantily clad women selling pseudoscientific weight loss pills are bad for society, then say so and try to back it up with facts. But arguing that ProteinWorld is in any way the good guy here requires a willful rejection of reality that betrays the fact that for many people, hating fat women is more important than actually solving the problematic obesity epidemic.

Featured image via @Laura_Stevens1 on Twitter

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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8 Comments

  1. April 28, 2015 at 11:35 am —

    I agree with you: hating fat women is more important to these assholes than understanding the science of weight loss/gain. And some people actually admit this about themselves, which makes them honest bigots at least. But the dishonest bigots who tie thinness with morality regardless of evidence are nauseating.

    However, this could probably be better worded in your article:

    “a poor understanding of science that leads people to not understand that eating more leads to weight gain”

    The way it’s phrased makes it sound like you think there’s a simple correlation between how much people eat and how fat they are. An average teenaged boy eating twice what an average middle-aged woman eats is probably going to be a lot skinnier than she. To use one obvious example, though there are others.

    • April 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm —

      There is a relatively simple correlation between eating and weight gain, if a person’s body absorbs more calories than it burns, it will store that excess energy and gain weight. If they absorb fewer calories than they burn, then their body will consume stored energy to compensate, and lose weight.

      The complexity comes from knowing (and then controlling) how many calories are absorbed and how many calories are burned. Your example compares two very different individuals whose bodies are consuming calories at very different rates.

      • April 29, 2015 at 9:28 am —

        Exactly. Two very different individuals whose bodies are consuming calories at very different rates. But you sound like you thought I was saying something different than that?

  2. April 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm —

    If you spent more time at /r/fatlogic you’d understand that most of Protein World’s products would be mocked in any other context as you suggest. The thread you linked was specifically about their response to the over the top protests of the FA/HAES camp to their “beach body” ad, not their products. The “endorsement” of their protein powder is a mocking response to Ragen Chastain writing that Protein World wants to be “the official supplement company of Reddit and 4chan”.

    See the follow-up discussion here:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/fatlogic/comments/342qw6/we_got_a_nod_in_this_article_debating_the_protein/

    • April 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm —

      And if you were smart enough to have read the link I posted before you commented, you would have seen a whole lot of r/fatlogic posters tripping over themselves to say that ProteinWorld’s products were science-based.

      • April 28, 2015 at 2:54 pm —

        I did actually read the whole thing very carefully before my first reply. There are 197 comments on the post, and the vast majority of them have nothing to do with Protein World’s products. A few posters commented about minor effects of specific classes of weight loss and energy supplements (mostly just caffeine). One poster “tripped over themselves” to reply with a few links to several journal papers whose validity another poster immediately questioned. The highest upvoted comments at the top of the chain of replies are all calling out Protein World for promoting fatlogic with their products, as are most of the replies to the previously mentioned comments. That is the nature of any popular post on Reddit.

        You’re claiming a group of over 76,000 people will “jump onto the Pseudoscience Train” whenever it suits them based on 3-4 comments that make no major claims about weight loss and received a few upvotes in a post with hundreds of replies. I understand you may have skimmed the post comments and seen a couple that vaguely support your position; it’s exceedingly obvious that most /r/fatlogic posters think weight loss supplements are fatlogic and that the post you linked had nothing to do with Protein World’s products and everything to do with the over the top criticism of the message and model in their ad.

  3. April 29, 2015 at 12:12 am —

    Rebecca Watson,

    This reminds me of this

    https://twitter.com/innosflew/status/592751043538223104

    For anyone who doesn’t know, this is “Creationist Cat”

    https://twitter.com/creationistcat

  4. April 29, 2015 at 7:33 am —

    Also, let’s face it, that add is not directed at obese women. Obese women know pretty well that the body depicted is completely unachievable for them. Especially until summer.
    It’s directed at your non-obese, probably not even overweight woman who thinks that not having a thigh gap now makes her fat and she mustn’t show herself like this at the beach. So while it plays at fatphobia, its target are non-obese women.

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