TV anchor Jennifer Livingston made quite a stir when she attacked a viewer who dared email her requesting that she examine her health, lose weight, and use her built-in-pulpit to inspire her community to do the same.
According to Livingston, and legions of supporters, this made the man a bully, a meanie, an uncaring cad, you name it.
While, arguably, he is the winner of poorest word choice in recent memory, many of us are not buying that he is the anti-Christ. Perhaps he could have said something like, “Jennifer, you are so beautiful, talented and a terrific pillar of this community. I think that you have the potential to really help people lose weight and get healthy. I personally struggled with obesity as a child, and I know that watching you lose weight would have inspired me to do the same. Losing weight is very hard, but you have what it takes to lose it and motivate the community that adores you so much.”
Sadly, the cynic in me doubts that even a positively worded email would have made a difference.
The woman that I saw on that newscast was defensive and clear that she did not want to talk about her weight or face facts on the health risks associated with obesity. And, what was so disturbing was the level of denial about weight that she uncovered in comments from around the country.
People lit up cyberspace with supposed support that was jaw dropping in its desperation to discredit our national battle with weight. There were various themes that all amounted to denial and rationalization, not at all unlike an addict rationalizes his habit:
Theme 1: IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE OVERWEIGHT AND HEALTHY
Justifications along these lines ranged from our ancestors' need to store fat to survive disease and famine, to the danger trying to lose weight poses to health, to numbers on a scale being meaningless in determining health. WOW. The risk of famine? Really?
There IS a small percentage of people that are healthy and overweight, and that small percentage IN NO WAY accounts for the amount of people in this country that are overweight. And, NO ONE that is obese is healthy. But, there is a simple way to know: yearly complete physicals performed by a licensed physician. And, in the meantime, here is an easy litmus test:
- What is your total calorie (including beverage) intake on a typical day?
- What is your level of physical activity each day, and can you be active without easily losing your breath? Can you walk or run at a pace that elevates your heart rate for 7 minutes?
- What are your blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels?
- Do you have any trouble sleeping that is attributable to snoring or interrupted breathing?
- Do you eat processed food?
- How is your sex life? Does your weight make it embarrassing or physically limited (more of a problem when both you and your partner are obese)?
Here is a quick link to incredibly well researched and documented studies on obesity, the effects of obesity, and the increased risks associated with obesity. They are scarier than any horror film you will ever see, and anyone that has spent any time reading them should be snapped back to reality:
- F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012
- The Weight of The Nation
- Effects of Being Overweight
Theme 2: Thyroid, Medications or Other Genetic Problems
Anyone that is struggling with any kind of metabolic disorder should be under the guidance of a doctor, who can properly treat whatever condition that left untreated might cause weight gain. Medical conditions are a reason to be MORE diligent about what you eat and put into your body, not an excuse to disregard weight management. Your thyroid, genetics and medications do not get you out of the litmus test mentioned above. You undoubtedly have to work harder to get your health right, and you and your doctor should be satisfied with a weight that is slightly higher than average, but under no circumstances do medical conditions account for more than 30 pounds of fat.
Theme 3: I Would Rather Be Overweight than a Size 0 Botoxed Barbie
Who said you had to be a botoxed Barbie? There is a happy, healthy medium between size 0 obsession and size-20 apathy. Or, better yet, don’t make it about looks at all, make it about health, as determined by you and your doctor.
Theme 4: Kids Need Role Models to Stand Up to Bullies
Kids need to lose weight. The scariest part of all of the studies cited above is the children. Our obesity epidemic is their obesity pandemic. Pediatricians now are screening for high blood pressure and high cholesterol because some of their kids have heart disease. Children with heart disease! This is the first generation of children not expected to outlive their parents, and that is much more tragic and pressing than bullying. Get them healthy, watch Dwight Clark’s suggestions for Childhood Obesity.
Theme 5: If This Had Been A Child With a Disability, The Effects of Such a Taunt Would Be Devastating
NO. Do not compare overweight and obese individuals to those who are disabled. There is no comparison. Unless your doctor diagnoses you, you are not disabled because you are overweight or obese. You are the opposite of disabled, you are able and capable of changing your condition. People who are born disabled and have special needs work every day to achieve even minor success at higher levels of functioning. If their disability could be cured by hard work, commitment, tenacity, will and triumph of human spirit, it would be cured. See More blogs about kids with disabilities here.
Theme 6: My Weight Affects No One, It Is None of Your Business
Your weight affects us all on many levels. It affects us when you are spilling over into our seat on a crowded airplane. It affects us when you clip the back of our knees with your motorized scooter in the mall or amusement park. It affects us when we share a room and you keep us up with snoring that sounds like you are suffocating. It affects us when our kids want to know why your kids get to drink all that soda every day. It affects us when the conditions associated with obesity drive up the costs of health care and rates of health insurance.
But, mostly it affects us because we are sad for you. We are not fooled by your false bravado. We see the look in your eyes. We see right through your defense and we know that you have given food too much power. You have given up for nothing. We know that losing weight is hard, so is maintaining weight, but it can be done, you can do it and the rewards of weight management are many, by far the biggest being your health. At the end of the day, your health is all you have got. We know this, and we know that we can help, we want to help, but you don’t want to talk about it, and we don’t want to offend you, or be called a bully, so we just watch in sadness and frustration.