It wouldn't have taken a fortune-teller to figure that the new hit
movie, Shallow Hal, would be stirring up controversy in our overly
sensitive society. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance
(NAAFA)-no joke-is protesting the film's use of fat jokes in a romantic
comedy. Never mind that the movie has a redeeming message that beauty
is on the inside, regardless of the fat on the outside.
I don't necessarily quibble with the assertion that fat jokes can be
cruel-heaven knows I've had thousands hurled at me, but the mindset of
the advocacy group is troubling. Fat acceptance, which is the
ostensible goal of the NAAFA, should never happen in the minds of people
who need to keep off or lose weight. "Accepting" fat (and by fat, I
mean significantly overweight) would be devastating-to fat people. Am I
advocating the ridicule of obese people? Of course not; such behavior
is reprehensible. But it's wrong to say, "Being fat is okay," because
it's not okay. Just as Hal tells us, each person should be loved for
his or her inner beauty, but that's a whole different animal than "fat
Obesity is a severe health problem in America, and "accepting" it is
akin to accepting high rates of heart disease and diabetes. With the
relatively rare exception of people with chemical or biological
disorders, obesity is an affliction that is both beatable and entirely
avoidable. To deny that is to throw in the towel and abdicate
responsibility for our own general welfare.
Before anyone gets fuming mad at my supposed ignorance and
intolerance, keep in mind that I have had a lifelong struggle with
weight. Not until I committed my heart and soul did I lose 80 pounds.
It is precisely because I don't want anyone to go through what I did
that I write this. As a nation, we have watched our girth grow
substantially, from our chubby children to our beer-bellied baby
The real danger is people who think like NAAFA that obesity should
just be accepted, as if gluttony were an immutable trait like race or
gender. But it's not. (Again, people with legitimate glandular or
other problems are excluded.) Weight is completely within our own
control, and the first step in losing weight is recognizing that simple,
yet profound, fact. For some people, losing weight is no doubt more
difficult than for others, but that just means more labor to achieve the
desired goal. It should not be the excuse to waive the white flag.
The cultural meltdown caused by the abandonment of personal
responsibility has contributed to our current mess. In a world where no
one is responsible for his or her actions, why should weight be any
Being fat is not just another lifestyle choice. It is one with severe
consequences, all of which can be mitigated or prevented with effort.
But with the high failure rate of most diets, it's a lot easier for
someone to just give up than keep trying. And the more "accepted"
obesity becomes, the more reassured one feels in accepting his or her
Skeptics will point to either the feminist squeals about waif
supermodels or to the plethora of "diet" foods in grocery stores. Of
course impossibly thin girls grace the covers of fashion magazines, and
there are millions of girls and women who idolize them. But outside the
minority who strive for that extreme, many overweight people are content
to either make continually meager efforts or do nothing at all.
Look at how we "diet." We want weight loss in a pill or in
pre-packaged foods designed to eliminate sacrifice. Dieting is chic so
long as it still includes low-fat cookies and potato chips. No wonder
we're an increasingly corpulent country.
I speak from experience that eating low-fat snacks and drinking Diet
Coke does little more than soothe the conscience. Our instant
gratification society has eschewed the time-honored tradition of hard
work yielding tangible results. We still want the bigger, better,
faster, more-we just want it without sacrifice. This is the eminently
foreseeable consequence of the 60's mindset, which divorced freedom from
responsibility: a world where you can have your cake without baking it
or putting on weight.
The new attitudes about weight are merely one indicator of larger
cultural shifts over the last 30 years. The emphasis on self-esteem and
loving one's self has actually eroded self-confidence. Rather than
believing in one's ability to lose weight, or do any other tough task,
someone clinging to the feel-good mantra can now embrace the cop-out, "I
like who I am." We should all love ourselves, but not at the expense of
self-improvement. To borrow a phrase: hate the fat, but love yourself.
Dreams of weight loss cannot become reality until one truly believes in
the amazing capacity that lies within.
Let's hope that for the sake of those with weight problems like mine
that "fat acceptance" never happens.