by Stacia Friedman
Fat is not a four-letter word. But, according to what I see on Facebook, women find it obscene. No one is going to tell them what to eat. Not the Surgeon General. Not the American Cancer Society. And certainly not a lettuce-loving First Lady who dares to wear a sleeveless, form-fitting dress in January to show off her buff biceps.
At my monthly Scrabble game, I recently made the mistake of commenting on Hillary Clinton’s weight. I suggested that her extra long jackets weren’t camouflaging all the cheeseburgers (with fries) that had gone to her hips. Inserting my foot deeper into my esophagus, I remarked that she isn’t projecting a healthy image, especially after all that Michelle Obama has done to fight childhood obesity. The women in my group pounced on me as if I had misspelled onomonopia.
“I don’t want to hear that!” said one, reaching for another slice of butter pecan coffee cake.
“Hillary looks good to me!” said another, passing around a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Oops. I had inadvertently committed that most grievous sin, known on Facebook as “fat shaming.” While medical research — and Oprah — try to encourage women to embrace a healthier, low-fat lifestyle, there’s a highly vocal movement that wants women to be “OK” with those 30 or more extra pounds. Even if it kills them. Forget the other issues — equal pay, reproductive rights and access to healthcare — what American women really want is for everyone to just shut up about their weight. Accept it. Love it.
Frankly, this confuses the hell out of me. I grew up with the feminist perspective on eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), as well as believing that models in magazines portrayed the wrong image. Being too thin was dangerous. I was fine with that.
But I don’t see how that translates into applauding women who have the opposite disorder. They eat more calories than their bodies can burn and, as a result, put themselves at high risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney failure. At best, they can look forward to knee replacement surgery. They might as well be smoking two packs a day, sleeping in tanning beds and shooting heroin.
Dog owners already know this. Fat dogs die early. Research has already shown that the best way to add years to a dog’s life is to feed it a low-calorie diet. But that’s not what female bloggers want to hear. They’d rather post a recipe for bacon cupcakes.
How far has it gone? Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves recently created a Facebook posting describing how a woman died of malignant melanoma, even though she had eaten a vegetarian diet, exercised regularly, avoided alcohol, never smoked and didn’t spend time in the sun. He openly encouraged everyone to “enjoy life” and eat whatever they want. Why would he do that? Well, for starters, he didn’t. Celebrities don’t actually post anything on Facebook. They have People who do that for them. Next, Reeves, who is 50, is desperate to reconnect with his fan base who first discovered him in “My Private Idaho” 25 years ago. That means they are middle-aged by now and, statistically, struggling with their body image. So what does lean, mean Reeves do? He gives them a reason to ignore their doctor’s warnings and have another slice of cheesecake. As long as it makes them “happy.” Ironically, you won’t find glorification of unhealthy eating on the Facebook pages of anyone under 30. They are busy going to the fitness center, doing Pilates and eating vegan. So I have to wonder. What is it about women over 50 that makes them reject everything they know to be true about diet and exercise?
Yes, I am aware that metabolism changes as we age. And we can’t eat like teenagers when we’re older. It’s much harder to walk off dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. I get that. But that still doesn’t explain why we have turned our national health crisis of obesity into a rallying cry for acceptance of “all body types.”
It isn’t that being fat is bad. Or shameful. It’s that it’s as dangerous as driving on Lincoln Drive with your eyes closed. Guess who’s paying for it? Not your insurance company. We all are. The CDC estimates that the medical care costs of obesity in America are between $147 and $210 billion per year.
President Obama just pledged to cure cancer. But he’s not going to get very far if women are in denial about the number one risk factor. It’s what they put in their mouths.
Stacia Friedman is a Mt. Airy author and satirist who has written for many major publications throughout the country.