A friend sent me a link to the video of Jennifer Livingston addressing an e-mail she received from a viewer. This text was included in the description of the YouTube video:
WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston took a moment during Tuesday’s morning newscast (Oct. 2, 2012) to directly address a recent email she received from a viewer complaining about her weight.
“To the person who wrote me that letter — do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see?” Livingston asked in response. “You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family. And you have admitted that you don’t watch this show. So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on the scale.”
When the issue of weight comes up and it sparks a huge public debate, I end up with mixed feelings.
Two things came to mind when I watched the video:
Jennifer said she’s not defined by a number on a scale and how there’s so much more to her than her weight. I can relate. I’ve talked about this within my videos. When I interact with people, I feel myself silently pleading that they can see beyond my weight and give me the chance to show them I’m so much more than just someone carrying a lot of excess weight. Not only that, but if they took that chance, they’d be rewarded for it by having my loyalty and experiencing my generosity and acceptance of them.
Come to think of it, that’s something I’ve been doing all my life. Before my weight became the focal point of my identity, I was shunned because I was born with Nystagmus. When I was a teenager, I was thought of as being the trouble maker. Certain jobs I’ve had lead to people defining me in a narrow and negative way. Then, eventually, it became about my weight.
Is it just me this has happened to? Are we all misunderstood to one degree or another and have that yearning for someone to see us for who we really are?
The second thing that came to mind was a memoir I read a few years ago called Designated Fat Girl: A Memoir by Jennifer Joyner. Within the book, the author talks about having the dream of being a news anchor but, because of her weight, never realized that dream. She did radio. She worked in the newsroom. However, her weight kept her from what she wanted most.
Seeing Jennifer Livingston being overweight and having a career as an anchor reminded me of all the things (and there are a lot of things) I haven’t allowed myself to do because of my weight. I respect her for getting in front of the camera every day knowing full well she doesn’t fit the mold of what we’ve come to believe female TV personalities should look like. I think it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there rather than hiding (as I do) and constantly bargaining with yourself that you’ll finally fulfill your dreams and potential once you lose the weight…only to end up ordering a pizza a few hours later (as I have done).
So, while I applaud Jennifer for the choices she made and the things she said in the video, there’s also a part of me that wishes this wasn’t an issue that got so much attention and so much backlash.
I watched another video (which I can’t embed) entitled New study suggests being overweight is the new normal.
When I saw the headline, I sighed deeply. While I don’t myself, nor anyone else who is carrying extra weight, to be treated badly, I don’t want being overweight to be thought of as “the new normal”. I don’t want to be shamed into losing weight, but I don’t want the world to adapt so much that we focus more on “fat acceptance” and less on getting physically and emotionally healthy.
Then I watched the video. Within it, there’s two women–the news anchor and a researcher who was part of a study on childhood obesity–talking about the rise of weight gain. The anchor is clearly disgusted and appalled by the idea of a growing overweight population being thought of as “normal”. She can’t hold back her disdain and can’t fathom why more people are becoming overweight when we should all know by now it’s unhealthy.
And it’s that kind of reaction that agitates me.
It’s not like overweight people are trying to convince anyone being fat is alright or somehow justifiable. Of course we know it’s unhealthy. How is being disapproving going to help things?
To summarize my confusion: It’s like I don’t want people to be fully accepting, but I don’t want them to be disgusted either. I guess the thing I hope for is that people begin to realize that obese people aren’t out of control, lazy, stupid, horrid people whose lifestyle choices are offensive. I’d like them to realize there’s a whole lot more going on under the surface and to have some compassion for that.