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Vicki Iovine Headshot

Girlfriends' Guide: FAT Is The New 'N' Word

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People used to be afraid to be fat; now they're afraid to say "fat." Oh, we can talk about diets and exercise and the paucity of plus-size fashions--CONSTANTLY--but we can't really use the word "fat" as an adjective anymore. Unless, of course, we're referring to ourselves and are comedic by nature, like Kevin Smith, the director of such inspired movies as "Clerks" and "Mallrats," who recently was removed from an airline flight because his girth made him a security risk.

His embarrassment became national because he tweeted obsessively about it and is still seeking his pound of flesh, so to speak, from Southwest Airlines. He may actually get it because he is rallying all people over 200 lbs. to join his boycott. With fat being our national condition, he might well militate enough people to affect the airline's bottom line, so to speak (again.)

This is why everyone in the media business is terrified of the "F" word. With a recent national study showing that over 72 percent of the US is either overweight or obese, to offend that group can have serious repercussions. The utter ridiculousness of this phobia was played out this week on ABC's "Nightline," where a panel of silly people debated whether being fat is, indeed, a bad thing.

One silly panelist was a fat young woman (there, I've said it!), another a former model who now wears a size 12 (the average 5'4" American woman wears a size 16. The model was about 5'10--you do the math), a former fatty who dieted about 100 pounds off her frame and a silly skinny extremist whose mission is to chastise fat people for costing not-fat people countless dollars in health care and accommodations.

Moderator, JuJu Chang, consulted this panel, pretending that she had a good representation of the population and that they had some expertise. Their expertise was simply that they wanted to be right and justify their own points of view. Even though "Nightline" airs at 11:30 p.m. and I watch in from bed as I drift off to sleep, I was so ticked off by its absurdity that I was out of bed and at my laptop within minutes.

Just because most people are fat doesn't mean that it's a good thing. Most of us lie, too, but it doesn't make it right. Type II diabetes isn't good for us, even if, in our democratic society, we would vote it so. Remember our mothers admonishing us, "If Johnny were to jump off a cliff, would that make it okay for you to do it, too?" Well, Mom's right--just 'cuz everybody's fat doesn't make it cool.

I'm not making a character judgment about fat people. My personal interpretation of the facts is that our DNA is undermining our best efforts--not personal slovenliness or lack of backbone. We were designed to be hunter/gatherers who did not eat regularly or with any predictability. When we got smart enough to master our environment by becoming an agricultural society who planted, harvested and collected livestock, our genes didn't keep up. We were still meant to be intermittent and light eaters. When we got really smart, we could process our foods to make them stretch even further and delight our taste buds.

Think about it, our ancestors wouldn't have known or cared about getting the seasonings just right in a meal; a meal might be a squirrel's backside and some barely-digestible root or grass. An appetizer, main course and dessert with a tasty Chianti may be divine, but we weren't designed to eat this way. It's a huge disappointment, that's for sure, but the facts remain the same.

Think of it this way: We developed to walk on two feet rather than four, but modern man is cursed by back ailments because our bone structure hasn't caught up with this wondrous accomplishment. Our tailbones turn in on themselves and our discs are herniating like suicide bombers. The greatest risk to old people is injury from falling. Old dogs don't break a hip climbing out of a tub because they still use all four limbs. Evolution is an imperfect journey, at best.

Everything we do to avoid the conclusion that we simply have to eat much less of everything is going to kill us. We can have tantrums and look for pills or gastric bypass or some other miracle to allow us to eat the same and weigh less, but the truth is that the only real solution is to push away from the dinner table about 20 minutes earlier than we want to. It stinks and makes us very cranky, but we can't change it.

Not talking about it is cowardly and patronizing and, ultimately cruel because behind almost every fat child is a fat parent who can't demonstrate the behavior necessary to rescue them from this life sentence. A recent European study said that a child who was fat by age three was overwhelmingly destined to be a fat adult. We can blame TV advertising and processed foods all we want, but a fat toddler is almost always created by a fat parent--and, no, it's not because of their genes or because they're "big boned." Why don't we ever see any "big boned" fatties holding on to their weight in starving populations or on the Bataan Death March? Because there is no such thing!

The more cowardly we become about fat and the longer we pretend that we can continue eating while our bodies revolt against us by getting sicker and sicker, the more we fail our children and their children. Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger just held a summit against childhood obesity in California and the former President said that we parents might be the last generation to live longer than our own parents. Our children are dying and we're trying to be politically correct. This can't be right. Let's call fat by its proper name: Murderer.

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