Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2002/ 24 Shevat, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Consumer Reports

Fat fault -- I KEEP an enormous file, as it were, called "fat," with column fodder. There has been no column on the overweight because I fear poundage activists as much as I do the animal rights crowd. If these two groups ever combine forces, elk the size of Harrier jets will be riding ubiquitous mass transit powered by clean natural gas.

Fat liberation activists, as they call themselves, have landed ordinances in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and D.C. that prohibit discrimination against the fat in housing and employment. Michigan has added "weight" as a protected category to its statutes.

Fat discrimination books abound: Marilyn Wann's "Fat! So? Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size," and Sondra Solovay's "Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination." Fat liberation activists are heavy on the puns.

"Shallow Hal," a movie in which Gwyneth Paltrow wore a fat suit to play an obese character with inner beauty was met with protests from the portly. Miriam Berg, president of the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination complained, "It's making horrible fun of fat people, and that is still acceptable in our culture. If Gwyneth Paltrow had decided to make a movie about the African-American experience, and she portrayed herself in blackface makeup, and yet her quote unquote inner beauty was perceived as white, I don't think people would put up with that." Ms. Paltrow confirmed "obscene discrimination" against the overweight, even as she and her nude, bony arse were featured in Harper's Bizarre.

Fat demands abound. Elizabeth Fisher, 5'6" and 350 pounds, whose Honda minivan seat belt will not cover her girth, began a campaign to require U.S. auto manufacturers to provide seat belt extenders on all cars. The finest part of this story is her 140-pound friend's quote, "If they're in a car unbelted and people are careening around, it's dangerous not only for the people without seat belts but for all the occupants of the vehicle." Translation: "Laws of physics being what they are, you don't have a prayer if you are a passenger in a car with 350 unbelted pounds on the loose."

There are tons of overweight people in the U.S. The December 2001 U.S. Surgeon General's Report concludes that 61 percent of adults and13% of children are overweight. There are "oversize" models, clothing lines and a "Big and proud of it!" mentality.

I don't want to see Aunt Bea in lingerie. I also don't want new laws, new seat belts or lectures from Carnie Wilson on fat jokes. Kate Smith or Kate Moss - it makes no difference to me. It's the mind, not cellulite, that interests me. Weight is not a discrimination category because, unlike race, it can change. With very limited exceptions, fat is not an illness, a disability, a medical condition, or another one of society's "it's not my fault" maladies. The weight thing is simple: too much food + too little exercise = fat. Reduced, as it were, in simplest terms, to self-discipline.

Weight loss and weight management are tall orders. I want no mail, dear readers, demanding compassion. Lacking metabolism, I've been on a diet since 1970. Losing the 35 pounds from each of 4 pregnancies was an experience the Supreme Court should ban as cruel and unusual punishment.

Left to my desires, I'd be with Ms. Fisher, seatbeltless, hoping for the best as we sojourned. I am stunned at how little one can eat in middle age just to maintain the same weight. I haven't had a potato chip since 1982 and French fries have been out of my life since 1990. My treadmill is worn treadless. If I'd had the discipline I have now at age 20, I could have put Ally McBeal to shame.

Weight is a daily, no, hourly battle, and I am not alone. Dolly Parton, who loves Velveeta, confessed that she tried every diet under the sun, including the alleged Dolly Parton diet from National Enquirer. She lost weight and keeps it off by controlling portions. John Travolta dropped 40 pounds by eating half of his usual meals. Sylvester Stallone ate only steak and watermelon to lose weight for Rocky II. Ironically, Jared, the Subway guy, lost about 1,000 pounds eating foot long sandwiches.

America, get some discipline. Overweight is your fault. Waiting in the wings are trial lawyers poised to blackmail McDonald's and Hostess. Marion Nestle of NYU, author of "Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health," called last week for pursuing the makers of M & Ms and Slushies as we did tobacco companies. Activists dog Medicare, Medicaid and health insurers to pick up the tab for weight loss.

Somewhere there is a weight loss formula for everyone. Nutrisystem, fen-Phen, lipo suction, and health club contracts used for about a month are evidence that no one is alone in the battle of the bulge. Fergie and Monica Lewinsky aren't paid the big bucks by Weight Watchers for walks in the park, although such an exercise regimen is helpful.

Miserable, constant and uphill self-discipline brings downward trends on scales. Trial lawyers, government regulations, and insurers can't change that harsh reality. Please, just give up food, or portions thereof, per Dolly.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


01/24/02: Tolerance does not mean stupidity
01/17/02: Too old too soon
01/10/02: Ethically challenged firms
01/03/02: The year that was
12/27/01: The Twelve Days of inconsistency
12/20/01: Free Speech and the political spectrum
12/13/01: Curbing brats
12/06/01: Power to influence
11/29/01: The disappearing art of grading
11/21/01: The Big Two-Five
11/13/01: You can never find a lib when you need one
11/01/01: Unlucky in sports
10/26/01: An epidemic of counselitis
10/16/01: A touch of class
10/12/01: Of human nature and monsters
10/05/01: Sensitive man
10/01/01: Post-September 11 security
09/20/01: No tinhorn terrorists can frighten us
09/06/01: If there is no honor in youth sports, it is because of the adults
08/27/01: The draw of Condit
08/23/01: Lowering expectations and flying high
08/17/01: Thoreau, Walden and stems cells
08/13/01: Our masters: The animals
07/30/01: When principle hits too close to home
07/13/01: Rage born of sublimation
07/06/01: Patient's rights and the Valley of Death
06/29/01: There is no excuse
06/21/01: I want an eternal soulmate, but the marriage thing is another issue
06/14/01: Which way maverick McCain? An Arizonan's perspective
06/07/01: No stroke of genius
05/30/01: The lesson of the Mr. Green Jeans senator: 'Moderate' is a classy term for wishy-washy
05/25/01: Baseball has not been so good to me
05/18/01: Clothes make the woman
05/11/01: Selective precaution
05/04/01: Grades: Equality of students, by students, for the students
04/27/01: The Horowitz revelations as seen by a college professor
04/20/01: First, let's kill all the tests
04/13/01: The continuing mistake of underpricing electricity
04/06/01: That pill, Julia Roberts
03/29/01: If it weren't for the parents, we might accomplish something
03/23/01: The melt down of the academy
03/15/01: Columbine redux: Moral infants
03/09/01: The lessons of Tom and Nicole
03/01/01: Pardon the temporary outrage
02/23/01: In defense of homework
02/20/01: A Message for faith-based organizations: Don't take the money, just run
02/06/01: Enough already with the Clintoons
01/26/01: The challenge to be better than we have been
01/19/01: Where have you gone Frieda Pushnik?
12/29/00: The year that was
12/23/00: Litigation: It's the American way
12/15/00: In defense of rhetoric
12/06/00: The company we keep: Lawyers and elections
12/01/00: Liberals' art of trashing of women
11/20/00: Put me out of my misery
11/17/00: On being a statesman
11/13/00: When it's broke, fixing it wouldn't offend the Framers
11/08/00: ELECTION 2000: I SURRENDER
10/27/00: Al in the package? Memo to women: Choosing presidents and husbands
10/20/00: Ten things the gay community should understand
10/13/00: "You Have a Lump."
10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings