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Is it Okay to be Fat?
By Mimi Hecht
First Lady Michelle Obama has a strong stance on a weighty American issue.

 Last week, ABC’s Nightline “Face-Off” debate series aired its fifth installment which dealt with one simple and seemingly straightforward question: Is it okay to be fat?

  On one side was Crystal Renn, a plus-size model who once starved herself to be thin to meet industry standards; and Mirianne Kirby, self proclaimed “fat activist” who is outspoken against the stigma associated with being "fat.”  On the other side, Meme Roth, president of National Action Against Obesity and Kim Bensen, author of "Finally Thin,” who lost 200 pounds after years of struggling with obesity.  

I watched the show not because I was curious about the answer but because I was completely dumbfounded as to how there could possibly be a question. What were a bunch of mature adults doing taking up space on television to discuss whether it’s okay to be overweight? Obviously the question was rhetorical!  

The eye-opener came when Kirby explained that, though she is hundreds of pounds overweight, she considers herself healthy. “This is just the way my body settled,” she explained. With completely confidence she repeatedly announced, “You can absolutely be fat and healthy.” The other debaters didn’t bother to pry into the details of Kirby’s diet or health; they just argued in horror. But amazingly enough, Kirby’s sentiments found an overwhelming response of agreement on ABC’s site as well as various online blogs.  

While I thought the question was preposterous, it turns out that many Americans still think its “okay” to be fat. While anti-obesity activist Roth explained that people will justify anything to protect themselves, Kirby represented an enormous (pun intended) group of people that completely ignore the overwhelming evidence and warnings that being overweight is a surefire road to major physical and mental health issues.  

I myself can probably be considered overweight. Especially post-baby, I have some stubborn lingering pounds that I am completely willing to admit may have an adverse affect on my health. If you call me fat, I won’t say “okay.” I know the answer on the scale should call me into action. And I’m nowhere near obese! Why do my few pounds cause me concern and there are obese Americans who call themselves healthy?  

I can’t help but wonder, who will clear this up and make it known that being fat is most certainly and unequivocally a serious health concern? I worry, how will America ever tackle its obesity crisis…if we can’t agree it’s a crisis?  

Houston, We Have a Problem

Enter the Presidential Task Force. Just two short weeks ago, the First Lady Michelle Obama launched her “Let’s Move” campaign to strategically fight childhood obesity. The national goal to create a healthier America is founded on four pillars: to give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, encourage kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country. To aid in the ambitious mission, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum creating the first ever Task Force on Childhood Obesity.  

At first, people praised the First Lady for undertaking such a seemingly non-political cause and instead choosing to tackle an issue that could bring America together in the fight towards a healthier country. But when the details emerged, so did the critics. “Let’s Move” initiatives that include removing junk food from school vending machines and raising prices for fatty foods have people crying that, albeit with good intentions, the government intervention is overstepping boundaries.  

But with a national health crisis threatening future generations, do we really have time to debate? While many American’s justify a body that results from too much fast-food and too little exercise, the First Lady is exactly what we need – a high profile, influential leader (a mom!) to set the record straight. Michelle Obama is bold enough to label the problem and use the “F” word with honesty: fat is bad.  

While Nightline’s debate revealed a portion of society that thinks obesity and health can go together, the First Lady wants everyone to know it isnot okay to be fat. With “Let’s Move” garnering attention in schools everywhere, we can be sure that our children won’t grow up thinking being overweight is a non-issue. The First Lady’s explicit stance – and her stance alone - may just save us. We can argue the details of her plan, but Michelle Obama is taking the very vital first step in attacking obesity: knowing there is a problem.    


Posted on March 5, 2010
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