Worth Your Weight

July 18, 2008

Spinning the Coke bottle

Filed under: fat acceptance — worthyourweight @ 9:43 pm


I once had a commenter attempt to dismiss the invaluable resource that is Junkfood Science by stating that Sourcewatch claims the author, Sandy Szwarc, is being paid by corporate interests. I finally got around to taking a look at Sourcewatch, and one potential bias they point out got my attention:

Another large sponsor of the CEI, the Coca-Cola company, which could benefit financially from easing the consumers’ fears of calorie intake, refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, Type II Diabetes, and the possible consequences of obesity.

Setting aside the “obesity” panic scare tactics, I find the site’s interpretation of a Coca-Cola company connection noteworthy. Why? Because, as I first learned in Laura Fraser’s Losing It, diet sodas are considered part of the diet industry. I was quite surprised by this. According to Coca-Cola’s website, Diet Coke is “the most popular sugar free soft drink in America!”

Diet Coke was the third best-seller of any soft drink in 2007 with 10 percent of the market share, according to Beverage Digest. It just made me laugh to see how Sourcewatch chose to spin this connection between JFS and the Coca-Cola Company. Of course, another way to spin it actually results in the exact opposite “potential bias.” Imagine, Junkfood Science is written by someone with a link to a weight loss diet company!

I’m not seriously claiming JFS is influenced by ties to companies like Coca-Cola in either direction. I try to be a discerning reader, and JFS has never given me cause not to take its content at face value. It’s very important and iconoclastic work Szwarc is doing, and I thank her for it.

[Edited for emphasis.]


  1. Yeah, that argument about Coke never made sense to me, either. It’s not like they’d have increased overall sales as a result of people spurning diet soda. Besides, I thought we were all hugely huge because of all those free refills, which Coke doesn’t make anything extra on.

    Also, if you probe Sourcewatch a little more it says Michael Fumento, the guy who spearheaded the “Sandy is a corporate-shilling fraud” movement, belonged to the exact same think tank. Eeeenteresting huh?

    Comment by Meowser — July 18, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

  2. Actually, on second thought, Coke does make money off free refills, somewhat. It’s the restaurants that don’t make anything extra. But it must be a fairly piddling amount of money for the extra syrup in order for restaurants to keep offering them.

    Comment by Meowser — July 18, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  3. Wow, that’s an odd one.
    I really value the work that JFS puts into highlighting and deconstructing ‘science’ — I think the site is a valuable resource for fat activism and fat studies.
    However, I do read the views presented on the site very critically. I am disturbed by the author’s frequent baseless bashing (it often goes beyond ‘critique’ ) of natural medicine, and her explicit support for allopathy, including vaccination. I would hope that someone with the knowledge and skills to expose ‘anti-obesity’ efforts as shams would use those same abilities to help topple the other sacred cows of the medical industrial complex.

    Comment by Vidya — July 18, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

  4. While I do think Szwarc’s blog provides a good breakdown of current research and does a great job of emphasizing the need to think critically about the rhetoric of science reporting, I’m still curious about her ties to corporate funding.

    Junkfood Science isn’t funded by corporations, but Sourcewatch notes that she has been a member of the Competitive Enterprise Think Tank, which writes skeptically of global warming’s negative effects while getting funding from corporations who have a vested interest in that position.

    But what concerns me more is an article she wrote called, “Best for Mothers, Best for Babies” at Tech Central Station which questions the WHO’s “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.” Reading it, I was really uncomfortable with the way that she failed to acknowledge the WHO’s concerns at all. At the heart of her criticism seemed to be a general libertarian dislike of any governmental regulation over corporate interests.

    So yeah, Szwarc’s gathering of information is great. But at times, I start to suspect that Szwarc wouldn’t be a FA at all if it weren’t for the way that “teh obesity epidemic” has caused governments to attempt to issue regulations left and right.

    That is to say that I’m not convinced that Szwarc’s interest in FA is based in ethics (that fat people deserve human rights) so much as it is in a general dislike of government regulation of *anything*. And if push comes to shove, I tend to think that Szwarc would be against governmental regulation to *protect* the rights of fat people in the workplace or anywhere else.

    Comment by Miriam Heddy — July 18, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

  5. I’ve had trolls do the same on my blog any time I quote Sandy at JFS. I think it’s just that they hate to see anyone looking at a study and giving the real low-down on it instead of the spin that the ones who put up the money for the study want pushed.
    I finally ended up moderating comments, with a note that anything slanderous/libelous would not be published, because that’s what I consider those accusations against Sandy to be, slander and/or libel.

    Comment by vesta44 — July 18, 2008 @ 11:33 pm

  6. Meowser,
    Good catch on Fumento. Furry eenteresting.

    I haven’t yet come across what you mention, but I’ll keep an eye out because I’m rather interested in natural medicine.

    I was surprised to see the Weather Channel cover the positive effects of global warming. Not that they mitigate the negative effects or make it any less important to examine and change the causes of global warming.

    I don’t get that much of a libertarian vibe from JFS. More of a rigorous scrutiny when it comes to data. But that could just be me.

    Sorry about the trolls. What drives them crazy the most is ignoring them. They’re just hard up for attention, although I’m quite appalled at the lengths they’ll go to in order to get some.

    Comment by worthyourweight — July 19, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  7. Sandy, to me, is a skeptic. She questions everything, including “alternative” medicine. She is an asset to the FA community and somebody to be admired by those who question far-out solutions to “mainstream” medicine.

    Comment by Sarah — July 19, 2008 @ 3:00 am

  8. ONCE AGAIN….as a personal friend of Sandy’s, as well as someone who has learned a great deal about body acceptance & not fearing food or fat from her, I want to point out that Sandy IS NOT ON ANYONE’S PAYROLL! Because she tells the truth & exposes marketing & fraud & explodes myths, she is virtually unemployable & has been living on her savings & what she could earn by writing one article per month, recipes or whatever, for a small magazine in the state where she lives. She has quit jobs working for some of the major insurance companies because she would NOT sell out, because her bosses told her to promote their agendas by doing “what we always do…lie through our teeth” & she refused. This woman is virtually starving because it is vital to her that we have someone who will not compromise, someone who digs deep into studies & deconstructs them, someone who gives us the SCIENCE…not junk science or pseudoscience, but REAL science. As for vaccinations, it is hard to say how many lives have been saved because of vaccinations & there is no credible indication that vaccinations cause autism or anything else & any negative side effects are quite rare. Both my sons certainly had all their shots & are certainly alive, well, fully grown, & parents themselves of small ones who are getting their shots as well. I have no clear idea why anyone would think it would be a great idea to expose children to diptheria or tetanus or whooping cough…which all my siblings had many years ago, & while I myself survived both kinds of measles & the mumps, I am just as happy that my children & grandchildren do not have to do so.

    I get so sick of reading where Sandy has this tie or that tie, when, if she EVER did have ties to any of these people, they are in the past, she is not employed by anyone now, & she has never lied or misrepresented anything at any time. And how difficult is it for people to understand basics such as that sugar is sugar is sugar…whether it be table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, corn syrup, fruit sugar, high fructose corn syrup…it is sugar, it is part of our diet, not the whole, & it is not the devil? How difficult is it to understand that we are being constantly lied to & marketed to, that many Big Money interests know that they can play on people’s fears & that there is no money in telling people that they are okay as they are? And do people not realize that Sandy IS basically telling us that we are okay as we are, not trying to sell us a damn thing, but trying to reassure us, & help us to stop worrying & to live well & happily in our own bodies, to allow us to OWN our own bodies, & to remind us that, bullshit messages bombarding us notwithstanding, we are overall healthier & living longer than at any time in our history. She also tries to remind us that dieting itself is damaging to our health, &, particularly once one reaches my age (nearly 59) increases mortality risks, & that the fact is, contrary to all the scare tactics, the majority of FAT people will also live well into our 70’s, 80’s, & beyond & most likely will live longer & better & healthier if we ignore the ‘health messages’ we are being assaulted by. She is not trying to insult us or to make us despair when she tells us that, aside from not smoking,there is little we can DO to influence our health & longevity, she is trying to help us relax & enjoy life & not be constantly guilted by all these “personal responsibility/your lifestyle determines your health’ messages.

    I cannot make anyone believe her. Neither I nor Sandy can make anyone stop believing that SOMEHOW, if they just exercise enough (says the woman who herself exercises at least 60-90 minutes daily), eat enough organic produce, or eschew traditional medicine for some alternative, they can control their health & live longer. What she is doing is giving us the information, &, BELIEVE ME, at this point in her life, NO ONE is paying her to do so (& yes, all the soft drink makers are also part of the diet/healthy living marketing community too). If we choose to continue to believe that we are lazy, gluttonous, diseased fat slobs who are going to die any minute & deserve it because we are bad or that some of us are living ‘right’ & are ‘good’, or that if we micromanage every detail of our lives, somehow we will cheat disease & death, that is not Sandy’s death. Sooner or later, given the way the insanity in this world has taken control, we will all realize Sandy is right, but who knows how much it will cost us to learn it & how many of our rights & freedoms will be stripped in the meantime or how much misery we will put ourselves through trying to live ‘right’?

    Sorry about the rant, but it tears me apart to see all these criticisms & erroneous beliefs about a woman who gives her SOUL & goes without a decent standard of living for herself to help people. I for one will always appreciate what she is doing.

    Comment by Patsy Nevins — July 19, 2008 @ 6:19 am

  9. PS…Sandy definitely believes in fat rights & wants nothing more than for all of us, of all sizes & shapes, to have equal rights & freedoms under the law, for us to have equal access in all accomodations & opportunities. She is a great admirer of the original fat freedom fighers, the Fat Underground.

    Comment by Patsy Nevins — July 19, 2008 @ 6:23 am

  10. However, I do read the views presented on the site very critically. I am disturbed by the author’s frequent baseless bashing (it often goes beyond ‘critique’ ) of natural medicine, and her explicit support for allopathy, including vaccination. I would hope that someone with the knowledge and skills to expose ‘anti-obesity’ efforts as shams would use those same abilities to help topple the other sacred cows of the medical industrial complex.

    There are things Sandy says on some subjects that are, to me, extremely eyebrow-raising. (Her reaction to the handgun ban overturn was, imo, disingenuous at best. Not because I object to her view, but because I object to the way she spun it.)

    However, aren’t alternative medicines generally not validated by that which she considers proper research? Aren’t vaccinations generally validated by that which she considers proper research? If so, why would she try to topple them? That would be hypocritical.

    She definitely can be harsh on the alternative meds, sometimes more so than necessary (which is usually the case with anti-quack people). The thing both sides of the issue often forget is that wacky alternatives often fall into a MAYBE category. Sometimes a procedure is unverifiable by its very nature. That doesn’t mean it has zero value. But it also means that it shouldn’t be prescribed by someone who is supposed to be dealing solely with verifiables.

    Take, for example, the power of faith/prayer. There’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that some people are helped by it if they believe in it. There’s NO WAY you can do a proper experiment on it because, well, how on earth do you measure the strength of someone’s faith? So – a doctor has no business prescribing prayer for your illness, but that doesn’t mean that you’re a bad or stupid person if you choose to have people pray over you in addition to medicine.

    Comment by em — July 19, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  11. WYW,

    I’m sorry you had to beat this dead horse about Sandy. I don’t know what you were trying to achieve by posting this, but I hope you realize all it does is make Sandy’s appear as if she might have questionable motives, and open the “debate” on whether or not she does, which is some dumb conspiracy-theory crap that’s been hashed and re-hashed by a thousand trolls since forever.

    So although your post appears to support Sandy, by bringing this up all it does is re-light the conspiracy theory chatter. The post seems very trollish, and I don’t get why you’d post it in the first place…if you think Sandy’s on the level, why even bring up this stupid Coke thing again? And then talk about SourceWatch and all that?

    I’m sorry to say it, but you’re off the FL feed. This is just ridiculous. And, thanks to you, Sandy wants to be off the feed too, so there you have it.

    Comment by BigLiberty — July 19, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  12. Yikes. OMG, my intention was solely to support Sandy’s work and point out how ridiculous the attempts to discredit her are. I was really just trying to demonstrate how anything can be have a spin put on it to suit a troll’s agenda. I’m very sorry that my intentions were not clear.

    Comment by worthyourweight — July 19, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  13. Patsy,

    Thank you so much for your comments. Sandy’s work has only ever helped me, and I’m beyond sad my post — that was an attempt to support her in the face of trolls coming to my blog and trying to discredit her — has upset her.

    Comment by worthyourweight — July 19, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

  14. PS to BL: I never would have wanted to be on the FL feed if I had known it was a reward/punishment sort of thing where if you disliked a post I made, you’d boot me. You know I’m not a troll. You know I’m 100 percent in Sandy’s corner. Yet, in posting your comment the way you did and kicking me off the feed, you ignore all of my history WRT to the Fatosphere.

    And perhaps you can explain how it’s my fault Sandy wants JFS off of the FL feed. I’ve been trying to figure out what that has to do with me, especially since I’m no longer on the feed, but I haven’t been able to come to an answer that makes sense.

    Comment by worthyourweight — July 19, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  15. This is a bit late, but to get on to the vaccination thing…

    I really wish there was more public discussion of the moderate position on vaccines. It seems the debate is either “vaccines are the devil and will make your kids autistic and kill them!!” or “doctors are gods, of course vaccines are great, here shove 20 needles in my newborn at a time!!” Obviously, I’m exaggerating, but I don’t think that much.

    I’ve seen a lot of negative effects from vaccines. My stepsister developed recurrent grand mal seizures from the DPT vax, my husband developed seizures shortly after being vaxxed at age 2, etc. etc. etc. And then there’s the fact that doctors are literally trying to upsell vaccines (you know, the technique used in restaurants to get people to add on alcohol or an appetizer), and that they’re trying to make chicken pox, of all diseases, into some horrible terrible thing that will kill your children.

    Personally, I’m an advocate of selective and delayed vaccines. I plan to vaccinate my child on a slower schedule, no more than one shot at a time, and unless they’re immuno-compromised never give them a flu or chicken pox shot.

    Why don’t people talk about that? There are problems with vaccines outside of the de-bunked autism link. They’ve done a lot of good, but they’re hardly perfect, and criticising that is a good idea.

    Comment by Ashley — July 27, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

  16. I’m late to the party, but seeing as this post has caused so much distress, I would like to mention that I’m glad you made it. I had been actively looking for something like this, ever since I saw that troll’s comment. You did a good job pointing out the ridiculousness of it and if the person who says she’s her friend isn’t lying, I guess we don’t have any reason to doubt Sandy anymore. Unless she starts using evidence that doesn’t make sense … but there’s no need for that right? The diet industry has already taken the job. ;)

    I’m sorry you were removed from the feed for this, of all things possible. :(

    Comment by Tiana — July 28, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  17. Thanks, Tiana. Very much appreciated :)

    Comment by worthyourweight — July 28, 2008 @ 7:40 pm

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