Slow Knowing Deep Learning

for Health-Justice

Lesson 6: Using Analysis in Practice (Praxis)


Live zoom session

3.30pm – 5pm UK time Meeting ID: 864 1970 3983        Passcode: 113544

To join forum copy email
Email questions for live session:

Activity One


Praxis is the process of linking what we want to do, with what we in fact do. In other words, it helps us align theory and practice. As community development worker Margaret Ledwith quotes ‘it guards against thoughtless action and actionless thought’.

Praxis stops us rushing into something foolish, and it stops us from endlessly pontificating and never taking action. Hopefully it means our intent matches our impact.

This graphic illustrates how I imagine relevant processes fitting together.

As well as action and analysis (theory), I think it’s important  to add affect (body sensations) and agenda too. Sometimes our agendas conflict, for instance, we want to follow policy and we want to be ethical. Naming our intent helps us decide a way forward. 

        So I’m framing praxis as                                                  analysis ~ action ~ affect ~ agenda ~

Praxis helps us build rigorous scholarship and effective strategy. This prevents white duplicity. White duplicity is pretty much the same as doublethink. Doublethink is a term from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984  described as simultaneously holding two conflicting beliefs. Orwell says:

“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them….To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”
   — George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Orwell strongly believed that language could be used to control thought and limiting language leads to loss of imagination. Doublethink is a way of presenting a nonsensical belief system that seems coherent. People believe wildly contradictory ideas without being troubled by this.

I think doublethink is a great concept  – but that it falls down because it’s not engaged with as a real thing, more as a quaint bit of theory about other people. Whereas (speaking for myself) I think white duplicity is somehow more real and participatory and has an expectation of accountability. I also use white duplicity to incorporate white tears/white fragility. I think the duplicity here is that the tears and fragility contradict the realties of racialised power in white supremacy.

Activity: Can you think of times when you’ve used praxis to unpick what’s going on in a situation?

Is there anything where it might be useful to apply it at the moment?

Activity Two

Noticing Thin Privilege 

Used in this context, the word ‘privilege’ means ‘preferential treatment given to thin people on the basis of their size as compared to treatment given to fat people’.
If we are used to privilege in a particular area of our lives it doesn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary. So it probably doesn’t feel like ‘privilege’ to us at all, it feels normal. We might bristle when we first hear the term privilege because that seems to imply we’ve been given an extra, something above and beyond what anybody could reasonably expect. It feels wrong because as far as we know we just had standard treatment, not special attention. The hiddenness is sort of the point. Fat people aren’t treated reasonably, so what’s ordinary for thin people is systemically and routinely denied to fat folk.  This blog post lists some ways that thin privilege works. This won’t be news to you but it might be helpful for generating ideas about how to interrupt thin supremacy. 
girl wearing Future Leader t shir

Activity Three

Replacing the Binary

White supremacy needs us to buy in to binary thinking in order to exist.

Activity: Do you have practices (to share) that help you spot binary thinking and replace it? You might be doing this without having theorised that’s what you’re doing.

Here’s some that I use:

Well Now ABCD worksheet

Activity Four

Interrupting Fat Bias

Dealing with put downs when no-one else speaks up

What about at the doctors? What do you think of these, a doctor’s letter and summary statements? 

How can white, thin, people interrupt stigma with family and friends ?


Activity Five

Linking Praxis and Undoing Binary Thinking

The “ABCD” list reflects my ongoing project of training myself to relate to the world through inter-connectedness, or unified thinking, instead of the standard Anglo binary way of thinking.

Using praxis I came up with the 5 simple practices that support this. One I often use with clients struggling with eating is to add a third example.  

Another is avoiding the terms positive and negative and searching for a description instead, like beneficial or detrimental. Or I talk about emotions being more welcome or painful. I find that people are often keen to have the deep theory surfaced and linked to their struggle with eating.

A third practice is to use ‘non’ carefully. That’s because it sets up a binary.

Here’s a real-life example of how this ‘binary trap’ of ‘non’ kept me from developing my thinking and scholarship.

As a dietitian I knew of two main approaches, diet and non-diet. Within this framing, my work isn’t diet therefore it must be non-diet, which is sort of synonymous with ‘health at every size’ or HAES. I situated my work here for a long time and grappled with the flaws in the HAES paradigm. I even wrote a book, Body Respect, with a HAES leader (Lindo Bacon) where I imported lots of Well Now theories as if they were standard HAES ideas.

There were some theoretical gremlins to navigate as a result, which we smoothed out with omissions and re-definitions of HAES. These discrepancies between HAES and Well Now were nothing new, but I still didn’t realise their full significance.

But that niggling feeling of something not adding grew. I was definitely missing something – but what was it?! To get clarity, I disengaged from HAES. Taking space worked! It helped me identify the deep roots of the problem –  I was accepting the binary of diet and non-diet as a reality. But it’s not, it’s a construct. Once I’d grasped this I could replace the binary with plurality, and I positioned my work in a third category, health-justice. 

That felt better. And/because things now made more sense. Drawing this distinction between Well Now and HAES really helped free up my thinking. That’s the power of praxis!

One final practice to share that can help uncover binary thinking is to listen out for judgement in self-talk. This means words like should, have to, must, ought. When you notice them, can you rephrase what you were thinking to lose the judgement? And erm, if you notice that you judge yourself for thinking them in the first place, that’s something else to be curious and tender about!

Acceptance goes a long way to loosen the grip of judgement. We can replace the word fear in the image below with any other difficult emotion, like shame, self-righteousness, guilt. This is a route to sitting (companionably?) with all aspects of ourselves instead of trying to chase some parts away.

Maybe we can forgive ourselves everything.

Then what happens?

Activity Six

Deep Learning 

As I’ve said before, real, deep, learning has always been a letting go for me. It’s a process of “becoming” (healed? whole? aligned?) that often involves unbelonging and new belongings. 

It helps if I can remember to take myself lightly and the work seriously.

Levity and gravity.

Activity: What’s your experience of deep learning? 

What three factors support you in this?

It might be useful to revisit the aims you had for this learning, as invited in lesson 1.

Activity Seven

Noticing and Interrupting Privilege and Bias 

“This is not female privilege, this is survival of the prettiest” say the poet. How far do you dis/agree?


Activity: Can you come up with ideas for interrupting fat bias, classism, or racism? It would be good to share these in the chat when we meet.

Being a Good Bystander

Here’s a short video on being an active bystander in the context of ending violence against women.


Activity Eight


Heaps of links here for dismantling racism 

Understanding Hurt and Why I’m Committed to causing Offence ‘Hurt’ can mean ego discomfort and oppression from injury. It’s a useful distinction for making sense of what’s going on at a deep level.

Decolonising Science reading list 

For the Wild Podcast with Indian subsistence feminist Vandana Shiva that exemplifies praxis. She links colonialism, neoliberalism, tech industry, food justice, conditions for health etc etc