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New HAES Blog Posts in Psychology Today

The Psychology Today website has recently been providing a forum for a much-needed mainstream discussion of fat acceptance and HAES. They're featuring Harriet Brown's pro-HAES blog eating disorders blog, Brave Girl Eating and Pattie Thomas' fat acceptance Blog I Take up Space.

Harriet Brown's newest post, Health, not weight: On shifting the conversation, has generated a really interesting (and by "interesting" I mean "a debate between HAES proponents and people yelling 'but everyone knows fat is unhealthyyyyyyyy!'") discussion in the comments section.

Pattie Thomas has responded to some of the points about medical research in an excellent new post, A Lesson in Cause and Effect. Pattie starts with a discussion of confounding factors in the research on weight and heath:

A number of issues have been raised regarding existing obesity research. I'd like to raise three basic points that I think almost all critiques agree upon regarding the comorbidities and costs of obesity:

Ecological Fallacy: Many of the studies that have been done are population studies about adults at different weights and not following adults who gain or lose weight. Then it is assumed that if the health of the lower weight persons is better than the higher weight persons (or some other combination of lower, middle and higher weights), the loss (or gain) of weight will bring all people into the same state of health. This is a big assumption and is not supported by these studies. This is called an ecological fallacy. It is taking population data and applying it to individual members of the population. Many people would be surprised to find out how lacking the literature is when it comes to studying the effects of weight loss on individuals.

Confounding Data Interpretation: Many of the comorbidities correlated with weight can be explained by other factors and/or other factors have not been considered or ruled out in the studies. A lot of studies assume that all fat people do not exercise and all thin people do exercise. Thus, these factors are confounded with studies of weight making comments about activity levels and studies of activity levels making comments about weight control. Diet gets confounded in the same way. BMI has become a short-cut not only to assessing someone's health, but to assessing someone's health practices. But in studies where such factors as activity level, consumption of certain kinds of food, social factors such as socioeconomic levels and stress levels have been accounted for, weight becomes an almost non-existent factor.

Money sometimes tips the scale against truth.
Biased Funding: So, why in the face of the two above points, does the science get so misreported and misunderstood? Money. And that is the third contention. Much of what the media reports is not science at all, but is reported as if it is science. "Studies have shown..." are magic words in our public discourse. But much of what is reported comes from press releases by people with vested interests in the public believing certain things...

She goes on to discuss correlation and causation - how they can be confused and how to judge the nature of associations - in detail. The post is informative and the discussion is just starting to take off.

Marilyn Wann in SF Weekly | Set Point Theory Explained

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