Is it Okay to Be Fat? My Review of the NIGHTLINE Debate

Is it Okay to Be Fat? My Review of the NIGHTLINE Debate

On Friday, February 5th I met with PLUS Model Magazine Creative Editor at Large, Mia Amber and our Industry Liason, Sharon Quinn,  for ABC’s NIGHTLINE debate “Is it ok to be fat?” held at The Cooper Union’s Great Hall in NYC.

As we gathered for an exciting evening; other well known faces came ready to watch what would transpire between those that do and those that do not believe “it’s ok to be fat”. In the audience with us was former Mode Editor, Michele Weston, Plus community leader and stylista Catherine Schueller, Holistic health counselor Golda Poretsky, blogger Melissa Davis, plus model Jeannie Ferguson, Editors for Glamour, People Magazine and Hearst.

Moderating the debate was Juju Chang, a beautifully articulate anchor who admittedly told us, after the show, that after going to a doctor she was told she was overweight.

On the panel was, Meme Roth who is also the President and Founder of NAAO (National Action Against Obesity), Crystal Renn, plus size model and author of “Hungry”, Kim Benson who lost over 200 pounds and is now an activist and writer of “Finally Thin!” and Marianne Kirby leader of the Fat Acceptance Movement.

The debate stems from reports that Obesity cost American’s 75 billion dollars last year and could be up to 147 billion dollars in the coming year. Obese America’s are being asked to leave airplane’s because they are too big and the over all treatment and respect is very poor.

For those that did not watch the debate here is a summary of the evenings events. Meme, whose family is morbidly obese, explains how she follows a 1300 calorie diet when she is not going to run 4 miles a day and 1800 calories on a more regular basis. She believes that our unhealthy behaviors are being passed down to our children and that our bodies “scream to the world” what we are putting in it. Meme believes that if you require two of something, you should pay for two and feels that fat people are NOT discriminated against but that thin people who follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly are being discriminated against because they are subsidizing an obese culture. Yes, you read this correctly. Thin people being discriminated against.

Crystal, who suffered with Anorexia as a straight size model and lost her menstrual cycle for 3 years, believes that people are born with a body set point (give or take 10 to 20 pounds) and that may not always be on the THIN side of the scale. Genetics, as Crystal explained, plays a huge part in how her body has finally reached its healthy weight. One of the highlight’s of the evening was when she called Meme “Fat-phobic”. Go Crystal!

Marianne was engaging, funny and very relaxed even as Meme and Kim continued to act as if she was about to spontaneously combust and they were the Fire Department. She was eloquent and very matter a fact as she explained how her years of yo-yo dieting brought her to a very unhealthy way of life and self loathing. Once she stopped obsessing over the number on the scale her weight remained steady and she is currently healthy and was able to find a doctor that she feels comfortable with and visits for regular check ups. Representing an entire community of people is not an easy task and Marianne took her knowledge and more importantly her own life experiences to explain what life is like as an overweight person in America.

Kim Benson was a morbidly obese woman who took it upon herself to lose weight and change her lifestyle despite the fact that her husband loved every pound of her. Kim was not healthy, happy or living her life to its fullest. She claims that people thank her via email for sharing her life story because their lives were changed and they are no longer eating themselves to death. My personal view over the debate is this. I watched the NIGHTLINE debate on TV and thought it was very well edited. I wish the show was an hour long because there were some “zingers” in there that I thought the viewers would have enjoyed but I’m happy that Juju was impartial and was an ideal moderator.

As a niche magazine who celebrates the plus size industry it would be a misconception to say that we are not activist in some sort of way. Maybe we are not picketing at Meme’s office but we certainly are stating what we believe in by coming together as a group of people who believe that we are just as smart, sexy and beautiful as our thinner counterparts. To me, health is like religion. It’s a very personal topic and commitment that we have with our mind, body and soul. My father and his side of the family has been plagued with members who suffer from auto immune diseases for many years and when I was old enough I asked my primary care physician to do a genetic test to see if they could uncover if I was going to suffer the same fate. Indeed they were able to find the trait in my body but did not know how it would manifest. When I was diagnosed with MS in 2007 it was not because I was fat. It was because I was genetically predisposed to this gene.

The misconception is that over weight people are sitting at home eating brownies and drinking soda all day long. Yes, some may indeed live like this but guess what? There are some skinny people  that also follow unhealthy diets and their bodies are not confessing it Meme! It’s ridiculous to think that you can tell anything from anyone’s outer appearance. For that matter, what does a rapist look like, what does a thief look like or a murderer? If we stopped obsessing over numbers and concentrated on health and treating our bodies with the love and care it deserves I think many of us would stop the yo yo dieting, self loathing and hating on others who are happy with you they are.

I believe that you can be healthy at any size because only YOU know what your medical test say. If you are over weight and suffer from it, then your body DOES need to experience change in the way you take care of it. I don’t believe that you should blindly live life without a care for your medical well being. Instead we should love our curves, celebrate them and be proud of the unique person that we are.

My congratulations to the panel, to ABC and to the audience who spoke on behalf of equality in the US for us all. Let’s focus on the healthy behaviors and making people active instead of hating and criticizing  what clearly cannot intelligently be judged.

To watch the show in its entirety the ABC website.