04/23/2013 12:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2013

Brooke Elliott: Promoting Positive Body Image in a Weight-Obsessed World

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I love Brooke Elliott; I'd love to have her as my best friend. She exudes energy, happiness and a positive attitude. The fact that her show, "Drop Dead Diva," has been renewed for a new season makes me happy. Brooke Elliott and her character, Jane Bingum, are the best thing that can happen to those of us who have suffered or are still suffering from poor body image. She's not a size zero or even a ten; she's a healthy, beautiful woman who gives all of us who have been told we don't fit the 'size norm' a reason to love our bodies.

I love the fact that Brooke Elliott dresses beautifully and looks sexy. I remember too many times when shopping for a "something elegant, something sexy" outfit was made into pure torture by sales clerks who seemed to have it in for anyone over what they considered to be a "normal" size.

"That won't look good on you, dear," I was told when I was looking at an elegant evening dress for a college formal. "That's for slender girls." With that statement, she proceeded to show me a section for matronly dresses that my own grandmother wouldn't want to wear.

Weight can dominate many aspects of a woman's life, impacting everything from hairstyles ("Your face is too chubby for long hair"), to the color of the clothes we wear ("Black will make you look thinner"), to the way we are positioned in a picture ("Stand sideways; you'll look skinnier"). A "little something extra" is considered to be a horrible thing!

Weight discrimination never really goes away. We like to think it has, but it's just gone underground for awhile and its actions are creeping up in unexpected places. Samoa Air, for example, announced last month that they will begin charging their customers by the pound -- and we're not talking overweight luggage. They even have science to back them up. Bharat Bhatta, a Norwegian economist, believes that a policy of "pay as you weigh" pricing would bring health, financial and environmental dividends. People are being financially punished for their weight, and that is discrimination in a not-so-subtle form.

Insurance companies are trying a form of weight discrimination. Recently, I had two experiences where I was told to get on a scale, both of them at doctor's offices. Having been weighed just a week before at my Ob/Gyn's office, I felt it was unnecessary to be weighed again at my allergist's office. I figured that I could just tell them what last week's weight was, no big deal. I doubted very much that my weight had seriously fluctuated in six days. But I was told I couldn't refuse to get on the scale. "We have to weigh you Kristen; the insurance companies are insisting on it."

Really? Why? Unless there's a medical reason for it, it is just like any other medical test or procedure that you have the right to refuse. Now, seriously, we don't think of being weighed as a medical test, but it is certainly a type of one. As a patient, you have the right to decline any medical test or procedure at any time. It's your body, and you have the final say.

Celebrity weight, diets and fat-shaming are never far from news headlines. Now there is the infamous article by British journalist Samantha Brick making the erroneous statement that "being fat signifies failure." A failure at what? Life? Career? Love? How unbelievably discriminatory and damaging to women everywhere! Shame on you, Samantha Brick.

Discrimination will, unfortunately, always be present, no matter what we'd like to believe. But most discrimination -- racism, sexism -- can be successfully prosecuted. Weight discrimination seems to be the one area that is not taken seriously by the law. Yes, you can file a suit if you think you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your weight, but winning the suit is another matter. Truthfully, many people are embarrassed to fight for their rights simply because of the social stigma concerning weight. That needs to change, and perhaps if enough people refuse to be ridiculed because of their weight and fight back legally, it will change.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I totally love Brooke Elliott. She is perfect just the way she is and she makes me feel comfortable in my own body and with my own weight.

© 2013 copyright Kristen Houghton

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