Talking about obesity and fat people in America can be like walking a tightrope without a net while carrying samurai swords and poison arrows, as we've seen this week by the reaction to Maura Kelly's Marie Claire article. Even I was surprised by some of the venom-laced comments I received on my post Dear Maura Kelly: Stop Being Mean to Fat People! I wrote here the other day.
Clearly, we all have our opinions about health and obesity in this country, and how to talk about it, and how to treat the overweight and obese. You gotta know when to hold the arrows and when to shoot them.
Being mean and nasty may get you attention, but it doesn't do much to solve the problem. So when my editor asked me to comment on this article "Many Obese People See No Reason to Lose Weight," I had to, uh, weigh in.
The study "points to really a lack of understanding about the effects of obesity," Powell [ Dr. Tiffany M. Powell of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas] told Reuters Health. At the same time, she added, "you walk a fine line, because you don't want people to necessarily have an unhealthy body image, but you also want people to understand that they need to lose weight."
This trend is disturbing. I don't think you have to be thin to be healthy, but obesity is a national health problem of epic proportions. We can kill ourselves early with too much food and not enough exercise, and many of us are. We have to take this problem seriously, people.
Our nation's children are getting fatter and fatter. As their caretakers, it's our job to teach them how to get healthy, stay healthy, and control their weight. Organizations like the First Lady's Let's Move! are working hard to fight childhood obesity by educating schools, families, and communities on how to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.
While I don't think it's okay to be mean and derogatory to anyone based on how they look, I am not a pro-fat advocate. Far from it. I am a pro-"love yourself" advocate. I'm also a pro-"take care of yourself" advocate.
I'm glad that some of the obese people out there are confident and happy with how they look, but I hope they are not ignoring their health. Pretending obesity isn't a real threat to your medical health is a dangerous game to play.
As I mentioned in my letter to Maura Kelly post, I've been fat and thin and in between, but I've always exercised, worked on eating right, ever since I was a kid, and I've been fortunate to stay in good health, even when I was on the fatter side of chubby.
But this doesn't mean I was happy being fat or am advocating obesity as a lifestyle choice. I was happy with my life, fat or thin, but for a long time I wasn't happy with my body, fat or thin, especially as a teenager and a young woman. This is why I know first hand that ridiculing and shaming fat people doesn't help anyone. It's only recently, at age 44, after being married for 17 years, that I've decided to stop obsessing about my body and appreciate it for being healthy.
Sometimes it takes a village to help get the rest of the village healthy and happy. I'm active in the fitness blogging community, where hundreds of great independent writers encourage people to get up and get going, alone or with a group of people who help them feel good about who they are on the inside as they take care of the outside.
There are oodles of places on the web to find positive help and encouragement with your health and fitness if you're looking for it. Check out these sites:
Need a kick in the butt to get motivated, an inspirational story, or just a good laugh? Here are just a few of the smart and fun bloggers I like to read to keep me in line:
Lisa Johnson is a real life trainer who also plays one in magazines and on TV! She writes Lisa Johnson Fitness: Everything for a Healthy Body and knows what the heck she's talking about. She's also nice and not too bossy.
Kara Richardson Whitely, who writes Fat Woman on the Mountain, wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro back when she weighed 360 pounds. She's lost 120 so far, climbed that mountain and many more, and now helps other people achieve their goals and raises money for charity at the same time.
Shauna Reid, author of the book and blog Adventures of Diet Girl, writes funny stories about her journey through losing "half herself" and learning to be happy from the outside in.
Jacqueline Carly, a friend of mine who writes the popular Fitarella blog, struggled with an eating disorder for years. She finally conquered it and is passionate about educating and helping people feel good about their own health and fitness. Her video audition for Oprah's OWN network pitching a show that will focus on positivity got over 9 million votes. Full disclosure: I did a video audition too, but I got 2,500 votes. So, um, thanks for reminding me she's way cooler than me! But it's not her fault. You can't help but like the woman. She's a health and lifestyle cheerleader and a real person all rolled into one.
Josie Maurer of Yum Yucky is just plain hilarious. She's balancing fitness with her greedy side by becoming "best friends with Moderation, Discipline, Portion Control, and Commitment," as she says. Her honest taste-tests of all kinds of foods are a crack-up.
As a parting thought, I hope we can stop bashing each other over fitness, fatness, and misconceptions and reality, and start working on solving the real problem of obesity in America. If you're struggling with obesity, do whatever it takes to be happy with the body you've got, but please take care of it, for your own sake. You're worth it.