What’s your first reaction when someone tells you you’re wrong? Feel a bit miffed? Hackles go up? Think of arguments to defend your position? All perfectly normal; none of us really likes being told we’re wrong and, worse, being proved wrong.
There was recently a case in point; Cancer Research UK (for whom I personally have massive respect) were caught up in a Twitter battle which was then picked up by the mainstream media. Why? They had the audacity to put out an advertisement which did nothing more than state facts:
It’s perfectly true, people who are obese are more likely to die from certain cancers than those who are a ‘healthy’ weight; it was a very bold ad and was, I’m sure, designed to attract attention. However, it also put out a more subtle message which is, effectively, ‘if you die from an obesity related cancer, it’s your fault’ or, to put it another way ‘the choices you make are wrong‘. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing as I’m sure that it put the fear of God into some people and made them think about a more healthy lifestyle but it can also put people’s backs up and make them defend their choices more rigorously however compelling the evidence against them may be. This is certainly true of Sofie Hagen who started the Twitter storm with comments like:
“So hey, hate fat people. But admit that you hate fat people. That whole ‘It is unhealthy’ speech is embarrassing and it’s getting old now. You don’t want us to be healthy, you want us to hate ourselves. Because you hate us. Own up to your bigotry.” and
“If you genuinely think you care about the health of fat people, fine. Has centuries of shaming, bullying and scaring fat people made us lose weight? Or are there more fat people than ever?”
When I read those comments my first thought was ‘wow this poor girl is really scared’ but the second was ‘she is completely delusional’. I’m sure that she knows, on some level, that being obese is not healthy but she’s never going to admit it all the time that people are telling her she’s made the wrong choices. I doubt very much if she will try to lose weight because, the more people attack her position, the more likely she is to defend it.
I some ways I absolutely applaud Cancer Research UK for their ad as I think that rising levels of obesity are a concern but I can’t help wondering if promoting all the positive aspects of a healthy diet would be more effective? In order to break an addiction people need one of two things: a massive negative from continuing with their addiction or a massive positive from stopping – which do you think is more productive? I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this….