I gotta tell you… it was kind of magical.
Not just because I lowkey stan for Melissa Harris-Perry – especially after this glorious, glorious event – but because… well, let me explain.
When I sit at my desk/table/couch/bed/wherever-I-deign-to-write-that-day, I kind of write into the ether, right? The only time I write, thinking about someone in particular, it’s because it’s Q&A Wednesday and even then, I broaden out the topic so as to not give away a person’s identity. I never think about identifying who’s on the other end of the screen reading all these words.
When I was invited to participate on a segment discussing the American Medical Association’s decision to consider obesity a disease, I was elated, but also scared. That’s live, unscripted TV at it’s finest, y’all – you don’t entirely know how or where the conversation is going to flow, you just better be so thoroughly knowledgeable about your topic that you can handle the conversation wherever it goes. The producers of these types of shows know that. So, to invite me – a mere blogger, if you will, and said with all the dismissive snideness I can muster – to contribute to the panel alongside a surgeon and an AMA board member, another doctor, (and a professor!) was a compliment.
This wasn’t my first go-round at NBC Studios – Dr. Oz tapes there – so I sort of knew where I was going, but not entirely. Everyone was totally friendly, which really helped to keep me at ease, but considering the nerves I had the last time I was at NBC Studios preparing to tape something – something, mind you, that was not airing live – I could feel them starting up again. I was damn near afraid to pick up my coffee mug because I just knew I’d be the first one to knock my drink over and have it spill all over the lovely desk.
Things just started going differently, though, and in a positive way.
My experience with the hair team was totally different. Instead of me getting three tiny women – and, by tiny, I mean short – trying to squash my ‘fro down with their full forearms, I had this tall blond who thought my hair was perfect. Literally, only sprayed a sheen or two to it. I was amazed, especially since I was preparing myself to hear, “So, that’s not going to fit on camera…”
Things moved pretty quickly. I’d jumped into the green room, rushed off to hair and makeup, ran back to get mic’d, then been carted off to set in what felt like a matter of minutes.
…and “set” was awesome. We all stood and watched as MHP delivered her speech, mentioning the deliberateness of Fat Albert (something that, though I grew up with Fat Albert, I’d never legitimately considered as an adult), prior to our segment… and I just felt like I was in awe. Literally… in awe. To feel that passionately about something, to be able to publicly take a stand and share that stand with the country at large is a pretty awesome thing to do for a living. Being able to be in the presence of that feels like you’re in front of a living, breathing vision board. It’s inspiring.
When we finally sat down at the booth, I’d been feeling pretty awkward about being present at the table next to doctors and a professor, and expected to be quiet for most of the panel. I mean, I’m carrying my tea mug to the table with the water shaking in the cup, all nerves everything. That is, until the first words out of MHP’s mouth to greet us were, “So, I’m so glad you’re here… I love your blog, and my best friend loves you.”
Who thinks about the fact that people you admire – celebrities or not – reading what you write on any kind of regular basis? It immediately calmed me down. I felt so much better. I may not be an AMA rep, I may not be a bariatric surgeon – you can tell I was truly experiencing an inferiority complex – but I connect with people on an intimate and personal level every day and, from learning their stories and understanding their experiences in conjunction with my own, it helps me understand these issues on a more human level. It’s really foolish of me to discount that, even in the faces of doctors.
Did you catch that? “I find your blog to be more helpful than any conversation I’ve ever had with a physician.” Word?
Having your praises sung by people you admire, and having those people use their ability to share you with the world… I said it before, I’ll say it again – that is an honor. People are resource hoarders – they’ll use you up, but they’ll keep you to themselves. Not only that, but this is, effectively, a weight loss blog – people often don’t admit to reading me here because they don’t want anyone knowing they’re reading a weight loss blog, or they don’t want it to open up any dialogue about their own personal weight loss goals. I’ve had people who’ve commented on the FB feed on something I’ve written, and their family or loved ones will come to my page just to admonish them for being there. “Why are you on a weight loss page? YOU DONT NEED TO LOSE WEIGHT!” It’s just easier to keep that to yourself and not deal with the backlash. I get it.
But sharing that with so many others… it felt awesome.
So, of course I asked for the photo snapshot to send to Mom, right? Because, c’mon.
When my Mom experienced her health scare earlier this year, I felt immense guilt in leaving her and coming back to New York. It literally took months for me to get over it, but I promised her that if I were going to stay in New York, I’d be making the most of it. No more BS’ing. Being able to send her this picture felt like I was living up to my word.
So, I came totally armed to talk about how I expected the AMA’s decision to play out in the lives of the public. Since doctors are so woefully unprepared to administer scientific weight management advice, I expected the both the AMA and many large universities to begin investing in weight management research, since it’s clear that the largest medical association in the country would now be lobbying for obesity to be regarded as an illness just like any other. I expect this to educate doctors – new and old – about how weight loss is far more detailed than “eat less, move more,” and maybe this can affect those brilliant doctors who continuously misdiagnose everything as being weight-related or those who see an inability to lose weight as being a moral failing. They have no choice but to see the facts. I even came prepared to talk about the fact that we, as a public, should start feeling encouraged to shop around for doctors who don’t lazily bias themselves against fat people instead of doing the hard work, the research and the follow ups. (I recognize the challenges, both economically and time wise, that this presents.) The fact that more research would have to be done, instead of the health care industry being full of a bunch of people who just chant “eat less, move more” at you… it would improve things. Greatly.
I did receive an e-mail from someone who was surprised that I didn’t push back on the idea that fat equals unhealthy automatically, but that’s because I believe that MHP did that pretty well, herself. If anything, I felt like I’d addressed that by bringing up the fact that we don’t know what all contributes to any individual’s thinness – see: eating disorders – much like we don’t know what contributes to a person’s fatness. And, when it comes to the idea that people need to lose weight, again, I think it would bear itself out in the research that there’s a breaking point for size that is far higher than what the BMI allots for in its charts. None of that changes the fact that every person doesn’t deliberately gain weight, every person doesn’t want to keep any weight they’ve gained, and all of this will be frustrating for that person when they approach their doctor about it because their doctor is so incapable of administering adequate advice.
I had a blast, the show’s team was awesome, I got to meet someone I adore – and take a photo with them in front of BriWi – and I got to share my thoughts with the world…
…on a different platform, of course. What more could I ask for?
(Perhaps, to stop feeling like what we do here isn’t just as valuable and meaningful as what others do?)
And, for those of you who’ll get this reference… that food plate in the green room remained untouched. Smile.