Curing The Obesity Epidemic One Beatdown At A Time

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

In a shocking display of honesty or hubris (both?), the immensely likable Robert Verdi recently said, "A lot of women say 'I should've been alive when Ruben was because I'm Rubenesque.' So times have changed. There are different cultural norms and values and beauty identities, and the fact that thin is in -- who cares? It's why I stopped eating. I think food is for fat people and poor people. Rich people don't eat. They get dressed up and go shopping." [Emphasis mine.]


Dear Robert,
I adored you on Trading Spaces. And The Fashion Police was a guilty pleasure of mine for quite a while. I've heard (though not seen as I have a policy of never watching the movie version of a book I have enjoyed) that you were utterly charming on The Devil Wears Prada. If there was ever a man I would want to give me a much-needed makeover, it would be you! You are the rare makeover artist who can transform a person -- or their personal space -- without making them feel bad about themselves. That's a gift, sir. But even all of that love for your spunky knits and weird headware cannot make me overlook this.

Because this is a serious problem. See: Food is for people people. All people. This attitude that eating represents a loss of self control and is only for the déclassé is abhorrent. With one fell swoop you hurt poor people, fat people, eating disordered people, normal-weight-but-afraid-of-becoming fat people and pretty much everyone else within the sound of your voice that isn't part of the pill-n-party LA culture. As a woman of normal -- sometimes even "low" -- weight, I must tell you that your statement makes me sick to my stomach. Not from revulsion. From fear. I live in constant terror that were I to gain weight, I would no longer be deserving of love. It's was a primary factor in my eating disorder and remains a great source of income for my therapist. (That's me, stimulating our economy one mental health professional at a time!)

You may think you are just stating the facts ma'am but the problem is that we have created a culture where people would rather die than be fat. Why? Because it has become acceptable, praiseworthy even, to abuse, belittle and humiliate people for their weight. Take the recent case of Marsha Coupe, a British woman who was beaten to a bloody pulp by another woman for the crime of taking up two seats on a train. There are so many horrible things about this incident: First, that the attacker was another woman; Second, that the train was practically empty; Third, that the motive for the attack was clearly and specifically targeted to the victim's weight as evidenced by the attacker screaming, "You big fat pig" before kicking Coupe in the face.

Coupe explains, "The government and the press have created an atmosphere where people think they have a legitimate right to go up to an overweight person and tell them how to live their lives. To them we are all the anonymous pictures of fat people they see in the papers and are the cause of all society's ills, as well as a drain on the NHS. We deserve what we get. We're not people with feelings."

So back to you Robert -- your statement that fat people are not deserving of one of the most basic human rights, food, is exactly how we get to thinking that overweight people deserve whatever abuse people see fit to heap upon them because in the end it's "for their own good." If only we all had the self control to just blithely give up food like you! Psychologist Ros Taylor takes on this sadly prevalent attitude saying, "There is true aggression towards overweight people and it comes down to fear and a complete lack of understanding of the issue. People think 'I can control what I put in my mouth so why can't they'. But we're not all the same, we don't all start from the same point."

I'd like to think you were just being glib and silly, in the way that you so often got people to laugh at the silly and unflattering clothing they were hanging on to. Except that your statement and the attack on Marsha Coupe are two sides of the same soul-destroying coin. This time people are getting hurt, really hurt and it's not entertainment anymore. So I say with love: Please shut up.