The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

Tell a lie, get fans. Expose a lie, people hate you. That’s the way it works on the internet. If you read my blog regularly or follow me on social media, you may have noticed that I enjoy debunking popular diet ideas. Typically, only a few people come after me for it, trying to defend the ideas I criticize or attack the facts I present. However, when my female friends who exceed me in intellect and writing skill do the same, a virtual wolf pack of predators come out to attack them.  This is an interesting example of gender relations and bias, that more people (men and women) feel justified in attacking a female writer for making bold, unapologetic, critical observations about cherished diet ideas. When you discard unnecessary diet rules and grow personally, some people will hate you.  They don’t want you to change because it threatens their sense of self, their security.  They don’t want you to express views that challenge their beliefs, and most especially they don’t want you to be eloquent or make sense while you’re doing it.  It’s not necessary to be rude or confrontational in order to make enemies.  It’s really quite easy.  You can even do it while being articulate and gentle.  Just speak your mind, point out the obvious, state the truth.  Done – enemies made. There’s a version of this phenomenon that’s unique to those writing about health, fitness or diet.  People who have a broad perspective on health notice something that others don’t, especially those who are fixated on good/bad foods or a particular diet philosophy.  It’s this:  Health is more than food.  It’s more than your body.  One often overlooked aspect of health is self care and compassion (for others for self).  Compassion for self means not beating yourself up, and ditching any shame or guilt associated with food.  Self-care is overlooked in our pursuit of the perfect body.  Self care means respecting yourself enough to walk away from ideas or people that no longer support your well being. Sometimes, self-care means not giving a f**k when others talk smack about you or what you say.  Being anti-fragile ( can be hard, but it’s liberating, because when you have it, you don’t let the uninformed or mean-spirited words of others get you down or destroy your objectivity. So What Meme 300x120 The Gentle Art of Making Enemies It is possible to disagree with someone without being rude.  Unfortunately, many people go right to being nasty and dismissive, mocking and shaming, when they feel threatened by someone else’s growth, self-assurance or when confronted by hard facts.  Typically, the person being attacked isn’t trying to make enemies, the enemies make themselves by taking the ugly road.  But you don’t have to let it shake your confidence.  By managing your expectations and practicing an attitude of anti-fragile, you can remain detached from the criticism.  You can be open to any value in it, but not let it determine the direction of your ethical compass.  Anti-fragile doesn’t mean cold and callous either, it means being centered in your convictions and resilient in your thought processes.  It means when someone does attack you, your emotions don’t control you and you grow stronger from the experience. Compassion for self is one part of health, while compassion for others, is another part. Apparently, being concerned for others well being is also implicated in the gentle art of making enemies. Compassion for Others Will Make You Enemies. Have you seen what happens when some dumbass makes bigoted comments about overweight people?  It’s called fat shaming (  I’ll typically offer an explanation as to why that doesn’t help them, and how it is in fact, harmful.  The troglodytes intent on shaming people (for their body, race, gender) will hate you when you call them out.  In my opinion, it is worth it, in these circumstances, to take on new enemies. The diet culture is rife with disordered habits being promoted as ‘healthy’.  It is part of my (and some of my friends) professional responsibility to call it out, or hold others accountable, especially if they are in a position of authority wielding influence on others.  Of course, people will hate you for it.  Especially the gurus that are actively promoting the ideas. Certain Paleo organizations have strangely enough elected a clearly unhealthy person as their official dietitian.  Anyone familiar with eating disorders knows how people with ED (similar to alcoholics) can vehemently deny and expertly manipulate their peer group. Out of compassion for this person and others who may follow ill fated advice, myself and others brought this ‘open secret’ to the surface.  I’m sure you can guess what happened, or if you have experience working with ED, then you know what happened.  Instead of addressing the topic, people hated rather than taking ownership, enemies were made.  For the record, not calling this out is unprofessional.  Holding someone accountable can be a sign of compassion and you bet it will make you enemies. Similarly, last week, a popular paleo website (MDA) showcased an eating-disordered person who went from healthy to anorectic skinny.  The entire article was full of red flags.  Unfortunately, due to the popularity of disordered eating and the lack of education on this topic within the diet culture, most comments were fully supportive of this person’s disordered habits. This is extremely dangerous and thoroughly unprofessional.  The blogger eventually turned off comments, because people reaching out to help this woman were perceived as criticism by ‘haters’. How do you identify a restrictive eating disorder? Eating disorders are very serious, they have the highest mortality rate of all mental illness and require professional counseling/therapy. Skepticism Will Make you Enemies. Many people don’t understand the purpose of skepticism, or even the meaning of it.  When I’m skeptical, it doesn’t mean I’m being negative, criticizing or envious.  People also mistake it for being cynical, which it isn’t. Skeptical  adj.  ‘Not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations; questioning.’ The purpose of skepticism in diet and fitness is so we can tell the difference between fact and fiction.  It helps you know which diet guru is taking you for a ride.  Health means not wanting to delude ourselves, or accept the delusions of others.  Many of your favorite diet and fitness gurus are banking on you believing their lies.  They don’t like skeptics. When someone makes a diet claim, 9 out of 10 times they don’t know the difference between their opinion and a fact.  My friend and favorite blogger, Amber ( asks for evidence when claims are made, sure enough, she gets called a bully for it. Evidence meme 300x201 The Gentle Art of Making Enemies Asking for evidence, so we can tell the difference between facts and ‘making shit up’, will make you enemies and get you called a bully.  Try it some time, it’s fun! Use Science, Make Enemies. Some people get hostile when their beliefs are challenged.  Friends of mine who are leading nutrition and fitness experts perfectly describe the importance of understanding the difference between science and ‘belief’ or reliance on anecdote: “Scientific research is never perfect or free of bugs & bias. However, the alternative (wallowing around in subjective hearsay, opinion, & imagination), is infinitely worse in terms of its ability pick away at the truth.” PS – The scientific method, from the standpoint of principle is actually “perfect.” It’s the attempt of the research process to carry out the scientific method that’s subject to all sorts of threats to both internal & external validity. Nevertheless, it still beats the shit out of anecdote & groundless speculation.” – Alan Aragon “When people start to become frustrated with science, it is because they hit a wall with understanding deduction of quality and critical thinking skills. People who say “Well, you can find a study that refutes anything” or “yeah, but who funded it!?” obviously have failed to understand the methods of reading and reviewing studies. By these arguments, any person in the world can merely go “that’s wrong!” to what it is you’re expressing and be taken as a serious contender. That isn’t science, that’s lack of education in the scientific method, deduction, and patience. Those who are good at what they do aren’t good because they can read statistics or collect research data. They are good because they use critical thinking and exercise patience and thoroughness in their work. They are good because when you hit the wall that shows you multiple points to the story, you then start to understand the flaws, variables, and details of those points. You do so again, and again, and with every bit of information you have available. Sometimes the answer after all that is one big shoulder shrug. Sometimes we actually learn something new or applicable. You can’t lose faith in science. You only lose faith in your ability to care to work through it.” – Leigh Peele Conclusion Above, I said manage your expectations: We’ll always have lovers and haters.  I’ve known this from experience my whole life, since I was a child.  It’s rather easy to make enemies, you don’t even have to try.  But you should expect it.  Don’t get emotional or defensive about it or ever give anyone the power to ruin your day. “A standard mistake is to do something to avoid criticism (as opposed to doing something because it is *right*), and, what’s worse, show it. This seems trivial but smart people make the mistake all the time, not realizing the hormetic effect: critics will now have the stimulating challenge to find something else. If you are ever told “your critics will attack you for this”, you should 1) answer: fuck them, 2) do more of it.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (from Facebook) “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” This quote is frequently misattributed to Aristotle, but actually comes from another man: Elbert Green Hubbard Actual quote: “Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing, and you’ll never be criticized.” Hubbard (1856-1915) was an American writer, publisher, artist, businessman, anarchist and libertarian socialist philosopher. He was an influential exponent of the Arts and Crafts movement. He and his wife Alice Moore Hubbard died in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. For a little more reading on the topic of haters and what they can do for you, check out this link, from what I consider an empowered, excellent women’s fitness blog: The title of this blog The Gentle Art of Making Enemies is a song from Faith No More on their 1995 album King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime.  Originally, it is a book by the painter James McNeill Whistler, published in 1890. faith no more 300x213 The Gentle Art of Making Enemies



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