The One Where John Robbins Really Blows It

I found this article, written by John Robbins for Huffington Post, while doing research for my last post, and I couldn’t not write about it.

Robbins, in case you aren’t familiar with him, is the son of Mr. Robbins of Baskin Robbins fame. (He gave up his father’s fortune, then lost nearly all of his own money in the Bernie Madoff pyramid debacle.) He’s the author of Diet for a New America, which was the first book I ever read (in high school) that made me look at food as more than something good to eat. When he talks about food, people listen.


He starts out his Huffington Post article by saying:

We can, as a society, be astoundingly cruel to people who are obese. They might be creative, caring and hopeful people, but we don’t see that. Far too often, we see only their weight.

What does it say about us that we act as though you can take the measure of a person by the size bathing suit they wear?

And then he goes on (and on) to absolutely do everything he can to do exactly what he’s accusing other folks of.

He talks about Blair River, the 575 pound, 6’8″ spokesperson for The Heart Attack Grill in Arizona. River died recently. Not of a heart attack. Not of any kind of obesity-related disease. The man died of pneumonia. People of all ages and weights get pneumonia. My six-year-old was hospitalized for 2 weeks, part of her left lung died, and she had to have surgery due to pneumonia. The article I linked to about River even has experts saying that it “is impossible to say whether River’s weight was a factor in his death from pneumonia.” But then goes on to say it doesn’t matter–because the man was capital-F Fat. And being fat makes you die!

Robbins doesn’t even bother to try to relate River’s death to his fat in any meaningful way. He certainly doesn’t delve into the possibility that River died because fat people don’t get the kind of health care they should.

Robbins–this smart, smart man who changed the way so many people looked at food–goes on to say that “. . .we have become the most obese society in the history of the world? Two-thirds of the residents of the United States are now either overweight or obese.”

This, even though the CDC admitted four years ago that there is no obesity epidemic.

And this, even though there is evidence that correlating fat with being unhealthy is simplistic at best and dangerous at worst.

And never mind that a bunch of those people weren’t “overweight” until the BMI changed.

Finally, Robbins tells the story of Natala, a 400-pound woman who has been humiliated and tortured for her weight her whole life and how she went on a “joyful journey from obesity to health” (really) after being diagnosed with diabetes. Natala went on medication, a low-carb diet and started exercising 2 to 3 hours per day–and did not lose weight.

Do you think that Robbins pointed out the fact that using conventional weight-loss techniques, this woman did not lose weight? No? How smart you are!

He also had nothing to say about the extremity of Natala’s attempts to go on that joyful obesity-to-health journey.

What he does is point out that she got a severe infection in her leg and decided as a result to go on a “100-percent healthy plant-strong diet.” She became a vegan.

And thirty days later? She didn’t need insulin anymore.

Also, guess what–30 days later, I’m quite sure she still weighed something in the neighborhood of 400 pounds.

That’s something else Robbin’s doesn’t point out. But it’s a perfect example of Health at Every Size.  I’m not saying that being a vegan is essential to health. But Natala is a beautiful example of how you can improve your health, even dramatically, without much weight loss.

Today, Natala has lost “almost 200 pounds.” That means she still weighs over 200 pounds at 5’2″, according to Robbins. But she’s still managed to reverse a wide range of health problems from arthritis to eye nerve damage, without being thin.

The article doesn’t mention how much weight Natala had lost before she had her wonderful recovery. Did it all happen magically at the 200-pound mark? Is there some health issue holding on tight until she reaches the magic BMI normalcy? Or did she gain most of her health benefits when she was still a deathfat?

Robbins says that Natala’s husband also became vegan and somehow losing 90 pounds caused him to no longer be allergic to tomatoes. He doesn’t explain that logic any further.

This article just makes me sad. Robbins was revolutionary once, now he’s just jumped on the bully-the-fat-people wagon.

* * *

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4 responses to “The One Where John Robbins Really Blows It

  1. Kate

    I saw that article too but was too horrified by it to even comment.

    I didn’t know who Robbins was, I just figured he was another fat hater.

  2. scatteredmarbles

    Oh wow completely messed that up .. I meant to do this
    I love how he say’s
    “. . .we have become the most obese society in the history of the world? Two-thirds of the residents of the United States are now either overweight or obese.”
    when in reality we are not even in the top 10 as living400lbs reported, yet people keep spouting that as if it is bible truth.

    • I know. And his whole persona, I mean everything he stands for is compassion. It makes me wonder what it would be like to talk to him about this in person. I think some people get so invested in a thought pattern that it’s almost impossible to get out of it. He gave up his father’s mazillions when he was a teenager because he feels so strongly that fat=unhealthy. Would he even be capable of changing his mind 40 years later?

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