Is an Outrageous Jerk Good or Bad for Us?

Fung TweetAt ObesityWeek in New Orleans plenty of good research and insight could be found on the subject of weight bias. As we reported earlier, public attitudes seem to be shifting. For the first time, U.S. adults are accepting the idea that obesity is a medical condition that requires care, not blame. And multiple indicators of blame directed at people with obesity are declining.

But then came an outrageous tweet that captured everyone’s attention.

A nephrologist, Jason Fung, who claims to be “unlocking the secrets of weight loss,” took a swipe at two distinguished scholars in obesity research based on their weight. Naturally, he is selling diet and weight loss books. He has not passed the American Board of Obesity Medicine certification exam.

Nonetheless, he defended his ignorant comments thusly: “Would you take financial advice from a homeless man?”

People at the conference and literally all over the world responded with outrage. Yoni Freedhoff blasted out a tweet storm. Julia Belluz at Vox quickly published a thoughtful analysis, dissecting Fung’s outrageous words. From Italy, Daniele Di Pauli wrote:

Questo tweet è una sintesi di una delle più grandi bugie che ruotano attorno all’obesità.

This tweet is a summary of one of the biggest lies that revolve around the obesity.

But most thoughtful were the words of Nanette Adams. She is a licensed professional counsellor and an active advocate for the Obesity Action Coalition who presented at ObesityWeek. She reflected on the experience, saying:

Kind eyes. As this, my second ObesityWeek has ended, I am reminded of the looks received by those of us who don’t quite fit unrealistic ideals for body weight in a sea of obesity experts. Even in the presence of doctors and surgeons who treat obesity, many do not look with kind eyes upon those who carry more weight. The look is a condescending, dismissive attitude of non-verbal behaviors that I’m sure your patients feel. You may speak the words of wisdom but if your facial expressions and body language are not in congruence with your words, your patients are noticing. Those of you who don’t do this know who you are and I love you for your commitment to treating your patients with compassion each day.

Sometimes, an outrageous jerk can summon our better selves to reject the outrage. Sometimes a jerk inadvertently creates a teachable moment. Weight bias causes terrible harm, whether it is explicit (as expressed by Fung) or implicit. Human compassion and respect can overcome it.

Click here to read more from Vox.

Knee Jerk, photograph © Marco Monetti / flickr

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November 6, 2016

9 Responses to “Is an Outrageous Jerk Good or Bad for Us?”

  1. November 06, 2016 at 6:19 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Would it be worth commenting that we have no shortage of outrageous jerks in the public sphere across most fields? So many learning opportunities!

    Thanks, Ted.


    • November 06, 2016 at 7:42 am, Ted said:

      I can think of some who are in the news. Apparently we’re talking about sexual assault more these days.

  2. November 06, 2016 at 9:28 am, Michelle Vicari said:

    The silver lining? When weight bias happens at #OW2016 ‘professional’ to professionals it was a hands-on demo of what those affected by obesity face in the real world. Those that shared their outrage online gave me hope that we are moving the needle and perhaps this caused some to check themselves for their own biases (always a good thing.) I do hope Dr. Fung took my advice to read some of the Obesity Action Coalition’s educational resources on weight bias and its effects on the plane ride home… and hopefully when he knows better, he will do better.

    • November 06, 2016 at 9:57 am, Ted said:

      I hope so, too, Shelly.

  3. November 06, 2016 at 11:55 pm, Pat said:

    Jason Fung has helped thousands of people lose weight and reverse diabetes. Meanwhile the ADA has caused obesity and diabetes. People get offended so easily nowadays. He speaks out against the people paid for by the food industry yet he get attacked and mauled.

    • November 07, 2016 at 4:46 am, Ted said:

      Pat, thanks for sharing your view. You are right. People do get offended when attacked based upon their body shape.

  4. November 07, 2016 at 3:49 pm, Allen Browne said:


    Very good response. Hang in there.


  5. November 18, 2016 at 8:24 am, Eric Lengvenis said:

    There is a big difference between a person who made a jerk move and someone who is an outrageous jerk. Fung has helped a lot of people and has shown a lot of compassion for obese people. What he did in that tweet and his ‘apology’ was not a good example of his overall character and painting him as an overall outrageous jerk is just as unfair as judging someone’s total worth by their weight. This article ought to have been headlined “Otherwise good man does stupid thing”

    • November 18, 2016 at 10:19 am, Ted said:

      Good point, Eric. For many people, Fung’s disparaging tweet about two wonderful human beings are the only thing they will ever know about Fung. A person can privately help many people. But when that person puts a nasty message out for many thousands or millions of people to read, that is all they will know about them. Twitter is a blunt instrument that can have far-reaching impact.