Encore de Soapbox, Part Deux

There was a video clip circulating recently about a news anchor, Jennifer Livingston, from Wisconsin addressing someone who had written a not-very-nice letter to her. A letter about her weight.

The letter said, “Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Jennifer’s response, and the response of others, was very interesting. Some said to ‘ignore those people with no tact or diplomacy’. Some called the man who wrote the letter a bully. Some said he’s right and that no one in the public eye should be anything less than perfect.

Excuse me, but I call shenanigans on all of them, or ‘bullshit’, if you will. Here’s why.

About the first shenanigan: to say the letter writer didn’t use tact or diplomacy implies he needed to use those things, because being overweight should not be talked about in civilized company. I call bullshit. He can talk about body size all he wants. I’m betting Jennifer knows exactly what her size is. This is not a newsflash. Neither is her eye color or skin color. The only diplomacy needed is the ability to NOT MAKE GENERALIZATIONS BASED ON APPEARANCES.

Second shenanigan: the letter writer was a bully. At first glance, I’m on the fence on this one. He’s stupid, I’ll grant you that. Because obesity is not a choice. Obesity does encourage certain health issues, for the most part, but to imply someone is not living a healthy lifestyle just because they aren’t a size ten is ridiculous. It is very possible to be larger than the norm and be healthy. You can eat well, exercise, and still be overweight. But is this dork a bully? Yes, I guess he is, in that he’s trying to make Jennifer feel badly enough about herself to change her behavior, or what he perceives as her behavior.  Which makes him an asshat. I rescind my shenanigan. Y’all are right.

Third shenanigan: people in the public eye have a responsibility to look the way we think they should. I don’t think I even need to glorify this with a ‘bullshit’, do I?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know obesity and people of size are the last allowed prejudice in our country. People say, “Think of all the health problems brought on by obesity. Think of what it costs our country.” Yep. Or you could think of what drug and alcohol addiction cost us. And tobacco. And drunk driving. And cancer. And the freaking zombie apocalypse.  Does that make it okay to judge the person by the size of their pants? Are YOU your penis size? Or your bra size? Really??

I’ve never been skinny and now as I approach my *mumble-mumble* birthday, I am probably categorized as obese. To live in my shoes, I want you to imagine taking your kids to the pediatrician. This doctor looks you up and down, then snaps his head around to ask the kids how many times a day they are served soda and junk food. (My sprogs were so confused by that question. ‘There are kids who get soda every day? And junk food, too? No broccoli? I wanna live there.’) Imagine people looking at every bite you take in public, at every item you put in your shopping cart. Your clothes selection is restricted to Portland Tent and Awning. The number one thing people say to you? “You’d be so pretty if you only lost weight.”

I can’t stop eating. If I do, I will die. I can’t go cold turkey. There’s no methadone. It’s up to me to have some will-power, some self-control. ‘Cause that’s what you say to a drug addict or alcoholic, right? “You can have the vodka, but not the beer. You can have the cocaine, but not the oxycodone.” So I can have anything I want as long as it’s a fresh organic vegetable or protein source. And my budget is fourteen cents.

Sigh.

Here’s the truth: I eat too much. I don’t stop when I’m full. Heck, I didn’t know stopping before the food was gone was even an option. I love food. I love to cook. I love to cook for my family. I love veggies. I love fruit. I love most protein sources. Food is good. Food is comfort and delicious and wonderful and a never-ending surprise and joy.

Here’s another truth: fat people know they’re fat. Some of them might not care. Some may eat nothing but a diet of sugar-covered bacon and butter-coated Cheetos. Some of them may eat salads and broccoli. Some may exercise, some may not. Some may have chemical imbalances. Some may adore toast and Rocky Road ice cream. But I will bet you every last tiny carb in my house that all fat people know what they look like. No one needs to be reminded; the same way you don’t have to tell an amputee “Hey, did you notice your arm fell off?”

My recommendation? Stop the war on obesity, and start a dialogue about accepting all body sizes and emphasizing healthy choices for everything. Choose good food. Try to move every day. Encourage your kids to do the same. If short people and tall people can exist without everyone pointing at them, we should be able to do the same for skinny people and round people.

Don’t judge others, and be the healthiest person you can be. Stop this last prejudice. That’s our true responsibility to our communities and families.

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3 Responses

  1. ::applause applause applause::

  2. I’m not sure how I possibly missed this post of yours but I’ll join Jen in applause!! You know I blogged about the reporter too and I appreciated your perspective in the comments. There needs to be a shift (dare I suggest a cosmic one) where we focus on HEALTH — yes through fitness and nutrition (movement and healthy choices) and quit focusing on freaking size and weight, because those DO NOT MATTER. Erp, I’ll stop yelling, sorry.

    Take a bow, Jules! You nailed it.

    • Thanks, Ginger. I really was kind of ranty here, wasn’t I? It just pissed me off. *harrumph* Now, back to calling Rex Reed names… 🙂

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