Originally posted 2010-10-26 10:28:13.
No, really. I’m very confused. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, Marie Claire published this very damning article about health bloggers (many of whom are marathon runners) who inadvertently encourage unhealthy behavior and even – gasp! – eating disorders. The irony of this is that the cover of the particular issue that carried this article featured none other than Victoria Beckham who, while I won’t assume she has an eating disorder herself, most likely serves as “thinspiration” for a lot of eating disorder sufferers who’d literally die to look like her.
So… needless to say, I pretty easily decided that Marie Claire, complete with their “Get Sexy For Your Man!!!!111!1!”/”Lose That Last 5 lbs!!!!!11!1!1!”/”Lose 7lbs In 7 Days!1!!!!!” articles, is pretty darn out of touch with health and wellness. In fact, I never really cared about Marie Claire simply because they’re one of the perpetuants of that “something is wrong with you, buy my product to fix it!” mentality that kills the self-esteem of young girls and women everywhere. It sucks. They suck.
I just… I didn’t expect them to go out of their way to prove me right… and I didn’t expect them to do it not even a month after their last total bomb on those health/wellness bloggers. They just… they stay losing.
In the article titled, “Should Fatties Get A Room? Even On TV?“, the reading audience gets the honor of sitting in on the thought process of a total fat-o-phobe who tries to rationalize her fatophobia:
The other day, my editor asked me, “Think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?”
Because I can be kind of clueless — I’m not much of a TV person — I had no idea what she was talking about, so she steered me to this CNN article, about the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly. As CNN explains, “the show centers around a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group [and] has drawn complaints for its abundance of fat jokes [as well as] cries from some viewers who aren’t comfortable watching intimacy between two plus-sized actors.”
My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese! And while I think our country’s obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it’s at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.
So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
Now, don’t go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk. And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down. (For instance, the overweight maintenance guy at my gym has talked to me a little bit about how it seems worthless for him to even try working out, because he’s been heavy for as long as he can remember.)
But … I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.
(I’m happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them — but long story short, eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, read labels and avoid foods with any kind of processed sweetener in them whether it’s cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, increase the amount of fiber you’re getting, get some kind of exercise for 30 minutes at least five times a week, and do everything you can to stand up more — even while using your computer — and walk more. I admit that there’s plenty that makes slimming down tough, but YOU CAN DO IT! Trust me. It will take some time, but you’ll also feel so good, physically and emotionally. A nutritionist or personal trainer will help — and if you can’t afford one, visit your local YMCA for some advice.)
Then again, I guess these characters are in Overeaters Anonymous. So … points for trying?
Then again, I tend to think most television shows are a kind of junk food for the mind and body. The boob tube gives us an excuse to turn off both our brains and our bodies and probably does a helluva lot to contribute to the obesity problem, over all. So … I don’t know.
What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV — are you cool with it? Do you think I’m being an insensitive jerk?
I have several thoughts as I read this.
1. Mike & Molly, a show that I don’t watch (because, quite frankly, it’s not SVU) about a topic that I’m not interested in (even though I do watch a show about a milkshake, a meatball and a container of fries that all talk.) I don’t watch it because I don’t do sitcoms… and considering the way this society tends to treat fat people, I’m concerned about a TV show with overweight characters making self-degrading fat jokes. I don’t personally like the tone that sets for people who are overweight, and I don’t like that the only way a TV show can have overweight leads is if the topic of the show is that they’re trying to NO LONGER be overweight… as if weight is all that fat people think about. They don’t work, raise families or any of that other cute stuff that thin people do… and even if they do, apparently, people like the author don’t want to see it. For those reasons, the show is not something I’m willing to support.
2. I don’t understand how having overweight TV characters “implicitly promotes obesity.” At all. Letting TV characters reflect the population that’ll actually be watching them is a promotion of obesity? So… is the current lack of overweight TV characters supposed to serve as some element of shaming fat people for, well… being fat? “You aren’t allowed to relate to the TV characters until you lose that weight, fatty!” C’mon, son. TV, and its celebrities… should not mean nor matter this much.
3. “Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny.” Hold this thought. I’m going to come back to this. “Yes, anorexia is sick, but…” is all you need to remember.
4. “And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.” I need people to be clear. Can I get people-who-write-for-big-publications-and-like-to-call-themselves-journalists-but-might-not-be-one-so-much to DEFINE obesity for me? Obesity is defined as “a term used to describe body weight that is much greater than what is considered healthy.” And… what health problems are related to that? The same ones that you can get at ANY weight… the same health problems you WILL get at any weight if you eat like crap. See, thin mints of America, thinking like this is what has y’all thinking you’re ok to “eat ice cream when you feel like it because you won’t gain weight.” It’s not the weight that’s the problem.. its the habits and the consequences of said habits… and one of those consequences happens to be obesity. Attaching the problems to the weight is why America is so health-stupid now, anyway.
5. “So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”
…is then followed up by…
“Now, don’t go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I’m not some size-ist jerk.”
Because we’re all familiar with the “I’m not racist – I have Black friends! My Nanny was Black!” mantra. Do her friends know what she truly thinks of them and how “aesthetically displeasing” they are to her while they’re so busy existing?
6. “And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down…But … I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.”
Check this out. “I know how hard it is… but its really easy! Just put your minds to it!” I’m just… I just.. I don’t understand this mentality. She complains about the cost of obesity-related illness in America, but then minimizes that entire issue to fat people just “not putting their minds to it?”
As someone who’s lost over 150lbs, let me tell you something. It’s not “really easy.” It’s not something that can be solved by just “putting your mind to it,” especially when you have no idea what you need to “put your mind to” in the first place. Especially when you don’t have access to the tools necessary to help you in your journey. I’ve done everything from lifting water jugs to jogging with my daughter on my back to help me reclaim my health. I’ve battled, struggled and cried trying to uncover the mental and emotional barriers that have kept me from losing weight. To minimize everything I’ve done, everything I’ve endured and the physical and emotional struggles I’ve had to overcome down to me being able to “put my mind to it” not only insults every fat person in America… but it insults me. It doesn’t give me credit for all the shit I had to conquer in order to be who I wanted to be, and that is a fit person who doesn’t suffer from or struggle with the mental strain of society’s moronic weight stigma… as reflected in this article.
Society perpetuates the very same notion that, later on, winds up being used against itself. “We hate fat people, even though 70% of us are overweight. Yay.” Bizarre. And moronic.
7. Here comes the obligatory weight loss advice. It’s not even terrible advice.. it’s just so… predictible. And while it’s still un-all-emcompassing, it’s “the cure to your fat woes that you’ve been looking for.” I’m glad she’s smarter than 70% of America.
8. We’re not even talking about overweight TV characters at this point. We stopped talking about Mike & Molly after the first paragraph. This entire post was an excuse to rail against those of us who are not the Victoria Beckhams of the world and remind us that our presence is undesirable on the TV screen because we are, well.. who we are. It was her excuse to air out her thoughts of fat people and how they’re just “lazy” because “it’s so easy,” and all they really need to do is just “put their minds to it…” and since they haven’t done that and seen results yet (no signs of whether or not a 300lb person has already lost 150 thus far and is still losing.. all that matters is that person is still fat and should go back into their cave until they’ve lost the other 150), they’re still lazy.
9. I wanted you to remember the “Yes, anorexia is sick, but…” comment because of the following:
PS: As for near-death, I think it’s fair to say I came fairly close to dying from my own eating disorder. (cf. here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/21/books/chapter-going-hungry.html) And while it took me a very LONG hard time to overcome what I had (anorexia that landed me, at 69 pounds, in the hospital for four months, and eventually turned into bulimia) I worked at overcoming it a long hard time. I think part of the reason I was so strident in my post is because I’ve had an eating problem with psychological and behavioral components that involved a lot of shame and body hatred (and a desire to de-sexualize myself). And–as someone who was a compulsive overeater for a time–I think there are a lot of similarities between overeaters and anorexics, which is perhaps why I was being (admittedly) rather self-righteous. I really do apologize, again, for my insensitivity.
You know who wrote that? The author of this article. She dropped this in the comments. Her earlier “weight loss advice” didn’t even work for her… but it’s the answer to you fat people’s woes.
Someone who overcame an eating disorder dropped this steaming pile of garbage on an editor’s desk as a proposed article? Someone who was anorexic and “eventually” bulimic felt it was appropriate – and indicative of her recovery- to write an entire post railing fat people for being to lazy to “just put their minds to it,” when she admits her own psychological and behavioral components that involved a lot of shame and body hatred?
Are you freaking kidding me?
WTF IS THIS? Are the overweight not allowed to struggle with psychological and behavioral issues? Habituation? Issues with sexuality? Are fat people only fat because they’re fat, but those thinmints with eating disorders, ohhhhh they’ve got emotional struggles that have to be respected and considered? Do we even make allowances for, get this – overweight people with eating disorders? Or do they not exist because “obviously the disorder isn’t working?”
She apologizes, but I don’t care. My ability to pity her for her struggles is hindered by her inability to acknowledge her own struggles, herself. My ability to empathize with her on her compulsion is hindered by her inability to empathize with me and people like me – regardless of whether they look like me or not – on our compulsions. We have the same freaking problems, she just had the “luck” (luck, as society would call it, not me) of still managing to be thin in the end. I was fat. Poor me, lucky her. I suppose if it were fat that was prized, I’d have the illustrious honor of talking about how disgusting it is to see skinny people even existing. I’d like to think I’d have enough class to keep my thoughts to myself, though.
Marie Claire, you’re killing me right now. First, you go out of your way to publish an article that alludes to marathon running health bloggers as having eating disorders (and even triggering disordered eating behavior in their readers) for being so health-focused… then you follow that up with a post that, if I were a different woman, might’ve shamed me into feeling like I’d need an eating disorder. Y’know, especially since I would’ve tried the article’s “weight loss advice” and it would’ve failed… since it certainly didn’t address emotional eating, lack of access to healthy food, lack of resources to prepare said food or anything else that isn’t so glaringly obvious and “easy.” Perhaps if your readers spent their money buying carrots instead of your mag, and walking instead of visiting your site… they’d all lose weight?
Aw, if only it were that easy.
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