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Sunny Gold

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Between Body Image and Health: Having a Conversation About Fat

Posted: 08/17/10 08:00 AM ET

American Public Media--the folks who bring us such well-loved public radio shows as Marketplace and Speaking of Faith--have begun a national reporting project on the state of weight in this country. In true public radio form, APM is going far beyond the plain old stats and health info we all already know. The facts they're highlighting--at least the ones in an email the group sent around inviting participation in their survey--are more about how our growing waistlines are affecting business, industry, and perhaps the culture as a whole:

• The home furnishings market now offers specially designed toilets, bathtubs and all sorts of products to accommodate larger people.

• The Honda Accord sold in the United States is two inches wider than the similar model that Honda sells in Europe and Japan. (Source: American Public Media)

Reading these stats, I'm torn. As a generally compassionate person--and someone who used to have a significant weight problem--part of me thinks, Good! Finally! Large people should never have to suffer the indignity of feeling too big for cars, for planes, for life, for the world. I sort of equate it with the fabulously cute "plus size" clothing designs at Lane Bryant and Torrid--it's about time larger people had the same comfort and choices that smaller ones do.

Another part of me--the recovered binge eater who knows that for some people the reasons behind obesity are often deep, hidden, scary and very emotional--is wary: Wait! We're normalizing obesity! Without these societal and physical cues, will people be less likely to want to investigate the reasons behind their body size, this part of me wonders? Less likely to discover possible eating disorders like the one I had? Less likely to delve into their feelings and do the important work of healing themselves from the inside out?

But here's where my two minds come together about this: Conversation. The APM survey goes on to ask "What conversations do you have--or avoid having--about weight?" I believe there is no conversation we shouldn't be having about weight. We should be able to talk about the fact that for most people, obesity isn't healthy. We should also be able to talk about the fact that the vitriol and bigotry some people harbor against the obese is toxic, too. We should be able to talk about how we can support people's desire to become stronger and healthier in body and mind--but also about how no one should never feel pressured to conform to a societal ideal of thinness.

There's a group of people who are speaking about all of this, all at once. And, surprise, surprise, it's on network TV! I'm talking about the creators of--and the actors in--ABC Family's new show, Huge. After overcoming my initial resistance to the idea of watching a show about teens at--shudder--a fat camp, I've been incredibly impressed. The show really isn't about weight loss at all. It's about everything I've spoken about here. It's about everything the APM's survey is going to dig up. It's about fatism and prejuidice, it's about self-love and health, it's about self-hate and jealousy--but it's got just enough sexual tension and puppy love to make watching it a real joy.

The latest episode is available on Hulu, and the next one episode airs on Monday, I hope you watch. But for now, I'd like to ask you: Are there conversations about weight you've been afraid to have, with family, your kids, the blogosphere? Are there things you do or don't do because of weight? The convo starts now!

 

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