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?
A desire to de-sexualize herself?
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.
thank you so much for posting about this!
I’ve struggled with my weight my ENTIRE life. When some ill-advised doctor put my still growing 14 year-old body (flat abs/small waist/big butt people didn’t know how to deal with that body) on prescription diet pills, it “confirmed” in my poor little pre-pubescent head that something was drastically wrong with me. Fast forward 35 years of yo-yo dieting, compulsive overeating and the vicious cycle of gain and loss and the intelligent adult in me still struggles daily to tell that little 14 year old girl that she was ok the way she was.
“Articles” and I use the term loosely, like the dribble in Marie Claire are written by people who live in a world they’ve constructed where everyone thinks, behaves and acts like them. They are incapable of empathy – even in cases like this where the “writer” has her own history with eating disorders. This is the fat bias I deal with everyday. A fat bias that makes the biggest person in the room absolutely invisible.
The antidote for people like this clueless writer is people like you. People who have struggled, come out on the other side healthy, vibrant and want to help the rest of us who are still struggling get over there too. No condescension, no arrogance, just understanding. After I’m done with this long-a** comment, I’m done with her and the article. No more wasted energy on her or Marie Claire – you’ve got way too much helpful stuff on your site I’d rather focus on.
I agree with you on the incapability to have empathy, but the fact that this was written by someone who wrote a book about suffering from an eating disorder?
I mean, c’mon – the reason people suffer with eating disorders is because of the way they’ve villainized fat. This post SCREAMED “I have an eating disorder” to me, and for Marie Claire to post it was just dishonest and irresponsible journalism to me… especially since they feigned so much concern and interest in those six bloggers who they publicly “outed” for allegedly having eating disorders. Extremely irresponsible to me.
that is all…i have nothing else to add lol
Thank you. 🙂
I find this article sad and mean. I am irked whenever people start bashing others because of something — usually weight. My family did it to me all the time, and gee, I am maybe 10 lbs heavier and an inch taller than them? Yeah, sorry, but I want to eat and not feel bad about it. Thanks for making me feel like I’m a whale. Fortunately, I am older and wiser now (and also a marathoner) and have a man who appreciates me exactly as I am.
As long as YOU appreciate you exactly as you are, it doesn’t (nor should it) matter what anyone else thinks. 🙂
You went off! And, I loved it. 🙂
LOL I definitely had to for a minute. I just became enraged when she admitted to having an eating disorder. The whole thing is just gross.
… and the church says AMEN!!! Great post.
Sidenote: I love Aquateen too 🙂
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! LOL I just KNEW no one would get that reference. LOL
BRAVO!!! Thank you so much for voicing your concern and objection in such an even-keeled and clear-minded way since I am simply flabbergasting upon reading the MC article. At first I thought it was a spoof, you know, like from The Onion. Her side bar “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” also gets me because, as a woman of color, it reminds me of the prefaces or footnotes to many racist remarks. Reading your article, I feel better now. Thank you!
Thank you! I thought it was a joke when I read it the first time… but the second time? I was DONE for. LOL
Marie Claire has offended me as someone who was once overweight and as a weight loss blogger, recently. I’m convinced that the magazine is on a mission to aggrieve anyone it takes, to get noticed. An interestingly-edgy marketing angle, that’s only going to work, momentarily. The massive backlash (read: attention) they received over the ‘Hunger Diaries’, only seems to have sparked a flame – to make way for this size-ist ridiculousness.
Now, I’m all for freedom of speech and thought and I understand these are legitimate feelings to some, but for MC to PUBLISH such tactless and insensitive works … is disgusting and further damaging to their brand.
Agreed – I was OK with bypassing the first go-round, but this was doing WAY too much.
Articles like that KILL me even though I know it’s just her opinion. But I also know that that are many people out there that feel the same way she does. I’ve struggled all my life with “I’m ugly, I’m disgusting, no one wants me…” and all that BS. I’m 27 freaking years old, no longer in school getting teased and there are days I STILL feel this way. When I leave the house I am acutely aware that there is someone disgusted by me. That someone is nauseated from my looks. I workout every. Freaking.Day and I still LOOK unhealthy. Reading articles like that just…I do all this work and I am healthy and though I KNOW I shouldn’t care, I know how they see me and it gets to me sometimes.
I feel like people think it’s ok to talk and think this way because “They’re just fat people. Maybe it’ll compel them to lose weight.”
This kind of thinking is what we really need to change… because it simply isn’t that easy.
The greatest part about the piece published on the show, is that it doesn’t even discuss the show’s quality. For one, its CBS, so there aren’t that many buttons being pressed. Its really abt your run-of-the-mill couple dating and living life. This “writer” makes the show seem like the actors are just slobbing each other down and rolling all over the bed…
Which, never, EVER happens on TV.
Anyway, the show is cute, and though its only been on for a few episodes, really touched on issues everyone faces in dating: nervousness about being seen nekkid, being the less hot sister, asking someone out fearing rejection… If anything, this show is proof to “writers” like her that Look! Fat people have lives! They date like you, they kiss like you and they love like you too.
And that whole “hey I have fat friends too…” Schtick… Girl, bye.
I can’t really comment on the show itself or the quality beyond what I’ve already said… but from the commercials and write-ups I saw, it’s unsavory to me. I just… I’d rather watch SVU. LOL
Even though I feel like I shouldn’t be, I am a little surprised by the “article”. Didn’t expect the writer’s sentiments to be so obvious.
I was surprised, until The Today Show covered the story and neither the author NOR Marie Claire gave a comment. I do officially question their motives behind this.
Tap your neighbor on the shoulder and say “Neighbor, Erika’s done it again!” This was right on time. Amazingly, I still have people in my life who think just like this “journalist.” I’m pretty sure I’m their own token fat friend. This is going to be the post that starts a much needed conversation.
LOL! Thank you, but I just want people to be more cognizant of what’s REALLY wrong with this kind of thought process. The way this woman demonized fat – and you have to wonder, since she’s a former anorexic, exactly how much fat she finds acceptable – and the prevalence of this attitude just lets me know how much of society really suffers from this kind of problem. That kind of demonization, to me, originates from eating disorders – regardless of whether or not the person is fat or skinny.
If only Maura Kelly could write an article as sensitive, well reasoned and intelligent as your response to the article she actually did write.
Hell, if only her apology could read like something beyond boiler plate BS, even.
Thank you. 🙂
I do watch Mike and Molly and wanted to point out the theme of the show really had very little to do with them losing weight. granted there are tons of selfdegrading jokes. but the OA meetings are simply a setting in the show not the focus. the show is really about two people falling in love…but two REAL people who are not totally comfortable in their skin. who worry about what the look like naked and other things real people worry about. its ackward and uncomfortable, but in a lot of ways its real.
as for the thoughts on marie claire…100% agree. i wrote the editors an email and posted a copy on my blog
I get what you’re saying.. I still resent that being a part of the show at all. Roseanne, one of my fav shows, had two overweight leads and they lived their lives. Had nothing to do with weight or weight loss. They were two regular people, in love, who don’t have time to worry about outside societal BS because life kept them busy. I appreciate that. I’m not saying M&M can’t be good… it’s just a fail before it starts in my eyes.
Nice! on the letter!
I’m sure her “plump” friends know just how she feels.
I’d also like to think they aren’t friends anymore.
Bravo. I really hope that blog author reads this and realizes how offensive and hurtful her words and actions were.
After the bumrushing she’s received over the past few days, I can only presume so by this point. LOL
Can you say “publicity stunt?” Puh-lease. This is just another in a series of low-class attempts by former print media giants to try and reclaim their former glory through inflammatory “opinion” pieces. The author provided the mea culpa and the magazine editors have maintained radio silence right on cue.
I have not watched the show she (briefly) refers to, but I do like the fact that it’s not the standard overweight-average-looking-man-with-rail-thin-ridiculously-hot-wife sitcom.
I think they intended the post to be inflammatory, but the use of the word “fatties” in the TITLE, to me, by a former anorexic, no less, speaks to so much more than an attempt to reclaim a “former glory.” I think a room full of editors actually thought it was okay to use even in an intentionally salacious fashion.
I’m glad you wrote this post. Now I know why I don’t read Marie Claire.
Girl, you and me both. LOL
Ah. Glad to see you covered this (with your own inimitable spin, too).
Re: #7 – actually, I thought her “obligatory weight loss advice” was terrible advice. “I know it’s hard … but it’s really easy!”
Um … okay?
I’d like to also shout a big ol’ WORD to Grace for her commentary here:
“Articles” and I use the term loosely, like the dribble in Marie Claire are written by people who live in a world they’ve constructed where everyone thinks, behaves and acts like them.
I see where you’re coming from, but let me be clearer. Her initial advice wasn’t terrible, IMO, because it parallels a lot of what I say, here – “limit processed foods, avoid sugars, get your fiber.” As foundational information, that’s not terrible. However, it’s only the foundation. Building from there is far more complicated, and to ignore that makes you not only ineffective, but useless. I can give you land all day. If you don’t know how to build your house… you still… have no house. Feel me? That’s why I defined her “advice” as “not terrible.” That’s all. LOL
Well Said hon, well said! I felt the neck roll on #6! LOL (Sending a high-five to Erika all the way from DC) 🙂
When she rolled up with the weight loss “advice,” I couldn’t help but to slap my forehead and say, “Why didn’t *I* think of that?” #endsarcasm Seriously, after berated for more than three-fourths of the article, the last thing any overweight person wanted or needed was ANY type of advice from the likes of her. Additionally, anyone that has seriously attempted weight loss before knows all of these little golden nuggets of information. That was her way of “helping,” just so she could feel a little bit better about herself after her diatribe.
Oh, but let’s not forget that this wasn’t about the pleasantly plump population. She was very specific about only referring to the “morbidly obese” members of society. She didn’t mean to offend everyone. Just those disgusting enough to have the nerve to be obese AND participate in regular human activities, like talking, walking, breathing… Chile, boo. She can miss me with that raggedy apology in which she attempted to make HERSELF look like a victim and STILL tried to find a way to belittle overweight people again. Good job, Marie Claire.
Woot Woot for Aquateen Hunger Force, I love shake he is such an asshole lol..in a funny way. This article is just wow, in a way that a person says wow, when something is so offensive that you can’t get mad right away, you actually have to process what just been said, type of wow. The point that really sticks out to me, that you made Ms. Erika, is the double standard of empathy towards overweight, fat, obese, versus empathy towards eating disorders. (sarcasm) Because Lord knows “the fatties” don’t have emotional and psychological issues, oh no who would think that! This article made me think how some people can empathize with the holocaust recognizing how the impact of such an event can effect a group of people. Yet somehow can’t empathize how enslavement can have an impacting effect on another group of people, because of the “it happen hundreds of years ago, it has no impact on today!” mantra. This article just left a very foul and rotten taste in my mouth, but luckily for me, the “fattie” and the rest of us so called “fatties” or “plump” as Marie Claire put it; have an intelligent and good hearted spirit like you Ms. Erika, to scrub away at this trash. Because this indeed trash.
I wish I had read this earlier. You are a wonderful writer and a great role model. Thank you for your insight and strength, and for saying lots of things that needed to be said.
You know I increasingly think the dynamic that lets “thinner” people use the language “all you have to do is put your mind to it” is the value that our society places on control. If you just control what you eat then it will all get better. Overweight and Obese people symbolize a lack of control so all you need is willpower to become “one of us”. Very few people ask the deeper questions– that food and eating behavior that is “bad for you” serves something in our lives. Whether food is something we use so we do not feel pain or it means something else in our lives, I feel that the willpower rhetoric aka “just put your mind to it”, has not gotten us anything but more people who are classified as overweight or obese. Though disappointed in this article I am unfortunately not surprised.
Like many other media outlets, Marie Claire is yet another example of the slow takeover of stupid people. Slowly but surely there is an idiot uprising.
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