Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Songs Have It Wrong: Big Girls Do Cry

I know that obesity is an epidemic in this country. I know that children aren't as active as they used to be. And I'm aware that being overweight may pose all sorts of physical and psychological threats.

Despite all that, they way to deal with these issues is not to outcast overweight members of society or call them names. That's not going for anyone good.

Following in the tradition of insensitively-titled TV programs such as Big People, Little World and Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss, TLC's rolling out a new TV show called Big Sexy. The show trails five full-figured models trying to break into the mainstream modeling world.

What does Big Sexy even mean? First of all, it's not a good title. Maybe there should be a comma in between to signify "and": Big, Sexy. That would imply that women can be big and sexy at the same time. That's more than obvious. Listen, I'm not saying that people should be applauded for being obese. But I'm not saying it's bad to be overweight either, unless you're morbidly obese and unable to function in daily life. If you're a model, that's obviously not the case. So to imply that a woman can be plus size and sexy too - that's just condescending.

Big girls, they're just the same as every other girl: maybe physically attractive to some and not to others. We don't need to call them "diva" or "mama" to make them feel better about themselves.

Why does society always equate waist size with self-esteem? I might seem like a hypocrite, given that my BMI indicates that I'm slightly overweight and that I recently celebrated my satisfaction at reducing my waist size. It's not that I feel my worth is tied up in my appearance; I just feel healthier and am proud to have accomplished a goal.

Because obesity is on the rise among the younger generation, we need to be teaching kids that while it is good to eat healthy and to get exercise, being overweight is not something to feel shamed about. That's why this new children's book, Maggie Goes on a Diet is so disturbing. Suggested for 4-8 year-olds, the book tells the story of "chubby" Maggie, a 14-year-old who gets teased at school because of her appearance. Maggie goes on a diet, loses weight and becomes popular. Cuz that's how easy it is to achieve popularity in middle school - if only!

Let's not teach kids that the only way to be accepted by their peers is to conform to a societal construct that few kids may fit these days. No matter how much you drill good habits into them, some kids are just big boned, have hormonal imbalances or just can't lose weight easily. Don't make them feel less than. Don't push them to become neurotic diet-obsessed preschoolers. Or worse yet, start on the path to an ED. "Big" kids, they're just the same as every other kid, give or take a few pounds.

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