Death Listens

“Don’t Listen to Those Influencers,” Cries an Influencer

Influencers are not doctors. They can’t understand the science issues with obesity drugs. That’s not what they do. With expressive skill, a leading influencer in the fat acceptance movement put her finger on an important issue in the Washington Post this week. On this, we totally agree. If we listen to many social media influencers, expecting an understanding of obesity science and medicine, we will be badly misinformed.

Of course, there is great irony in her advice. Because she and other influencers in the fat acceptance movement frequently offer skewed judgments about the scientific merit of obesity research. They declare loudly that it’s no good. Obesity is not a legitimate health problem, they say.

Abundant Misinformation

Misinformation about obesity from the fat acceptance community is hardly the only or even the biggest problem with public discourse about obesity. Certainly, the quality of discourse has improved dramatically in recent years. Advances in obesity care and obesity medicine has made it clear. Obesity is a problem of physiology, not bad behavior. We can point to many examples of fine reporting that makes this clear.

Yet implicit bias about this chronic disease – and the people who have it – persists all around us. As an article of faith, many people still insist that a “healthy lifestyle is the best way” to overcome obesity. That medical care for obesity is nothing but a “band-aid.” Often, they have a lifestyle program to sell you.

Most fundamentally, though, much of the public is still stuck on the false notion that overcoming obesity is a one-and-done proposition of weight loss. The implicit promise is losing weight is the cure. Fitspiration is a popular and often unhelpful meme. Even many physicians who should know better think of obesity treatment as nothing more than weight loss.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is here to stay – and in fact, it’s nothing new. Endorsements are as old as marketing itself. But a vibrant social media economy has led to the recognition that influencer marketing is a briskly growing, $24 billion industry. These folks are competitors in the marketplace of influence.

So we advise taking it all with a grain of salt. Influencers, if they have integrity, can offer personal perspective on their own lived experiences. Their experience might be a source of insight, but it is no substitute for facts and evidence.

Click here for the objections from fat acceptance influencers about influencers with different views. For a closer look at influencer marketing, click here and here.

Death Listens, painting by Hugo Simberg / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


February 16, 2024

One Response to ““Don’t Listen to Those Influencers,” Cries an Influencer”

  1. February 16, 2024 at 11:55 pm, Joe Sapone said:

    So well said. Thank you.