The South isn’t known as being the most tolerant region of the world. But after moving back to the Alabama several months ago I’ve found myself surrounded by people and a culture that accepts, and even celebrates body types that may be upbraided in other areas.
Growing up I was a pretty skinny girl, and I was constantly told by family members that I needed to “put some meat on my bones.” I’ve mentioned before that when I left Alabama for California in 2003 I wore a size 4. I could even get into a 2 depending on the designer. Nowadays, I can wear an 8, but my body is most comfortable in a size 10. My family thinks my new curvy body is beautiful. Some days I agree with them. Some days, I don’t. The question is, however, does size really matter?
Last night ABC’s “Nightline” aired a very interesting debate on the issue of “Is It OK to Be Fat?” and touched on the issue of whether or not size determines health.
The debate featured Marianne Kirby, a leader of the Fat Acceptance Movement and author of “Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere,” a book in which she argues that fat can be beautiful and healthy.
Crystal Renn, the world’s highest-paid plus-size model, and author of “Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves” was also a part of the forum. As revealed in her memoir, when Renn started modeling she was a size zero, and she dieted her way to an eating disorder and a slew of health problems.
“I actually suffered from an eating disorder, anorexia, for three years, and it nearly took my life,” Renn told ABC reporters. “And today, I can speak about health at any size because I really lived it through life experience.”
On the other side of the debate were Kim Benson and MeMe Roth. Benson, a former obese woman who spent a lifetime yo-yo dieting and finally dropped the weight after tipping the scales at 347 pounds, is author of the book “Finally Thin!: How I Lost More Than 200 Pounds and Kept Them Off — And How You Can, Too.”
Roth is one of the most outspoken members of the ant-obesity movement and the head of National Action Against Obesity (NAAO). Roth does not believe that a person can be fat and healthy. She also believes that obesity bears a major financial burden to taxpayers.
The debate got pretty heated (Renn even called Roth “fat-phobic”) and raised very important questions such as Can you be overweight and healthy? and Is dieting worth the trouble?
Benson shared the story of how even breathing was difficult for her when she was obese. She believes that dieting saved her life. Kirby, however, believes that dieting for a decade and not accepting her body as is actually damaged her health.
Renn pointed out our tendency to judge people based on their weight and noted that the assumptions we make about an overweight person’s diet and exercise habits can be wrong. Just because a woman is a size 18, 20, or 22, she said, doesn’t mean she’s not working out regularly and eating a balanced diet. Meanwhile, a woman who is thin could very well be eating fast food three times a day.
Roth maintained, however, that your size is a true testament to how you’re treating your body.
What do you think?
If you missed last night’s special check out this clip and click here to watch the full debate.