I hate to get political but this is definitely something that needs to be talked about: public perception overweight people. New Jersey governor Chris Christie recently went on David Letterman to discuss his weight issues because rumor has it he’s contemplating a run for the White House in 2016! In the middle of his conversation with Mr. Letterman, he stopped to eat a donut to add a little humor to the interview. Shortly after his appearance, former White House physician, Connie Mariano, M.D, told the world she was worried Christie might have a heart attack or stroke while in office. But Gov. Christie claims he’s “basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen in your life.”
There were several questions came to mind after reading and watching this story and the commentary that came along with this story. Firstly, does his weight interfere with his job performance? Would we even be talking about this issue if he were stick thin? Overweight people get judged before a single word is said. There are so many stereotypes floating around like being sloppy, lazy, smelly, and out of control and it’s very hard to get people to look past these things. That DOES NOT mean an overweight person is not capable of being successful in life.
I have noticed the way people talk to me now versus when I was obese. The problem is overweight people make people uncomfortable. People can’t help but stare at you, place pity on you and talk really bad about you…and yes, some people actually do it to your face. These are the moments that overweight people try to shrug off. (FYI: I will always consider myself overweight because it was something I had to deal with for so long. Just like any other addiction, I did have an addiction to food and non-activity. This is a battle I continue to fight every day of my life.) I still remember the day I was walking to my car in graduate school and a bus full of children leaned out their windows and called me fatty. It was a humiliating experience but things like that do happen.
Gov. Christie also did something most overweight people do, he made a joke out of the situation. As an overweight person, there are so many things you try to justify to yourself. I can’t even count the times that I made a joke out of eating too much or picking on my weight before others could do it to lighten the mood. In this case, Gov. Christie ate a donut on national television started the joke so others would laugh along with him and not at him. Do I wish he would have done something different? Yes! The problem is most overweight are not in a position to have a voice and rarely ever speak their mind because they are ashamed and/or trying to shield themselves from some type of pain. Christie is in a unique situation where people are paying attention and our interested in what he has to say. This is his time to start something and I really feel like he missed his moment. Instead, he went for the joke, which is fine, but he could have used that joke in combination with some true words. And saying you’re basically the healthiest fat guy doesn’t really count. He could have taken a stand by saying he was competent to do any job just as well as anyone else or maybe brought light to how overweight people are treated.
Being overweight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not healthy. I use to think I was pretty healthy too because I did get out and do things. I didn’t consider myself the “typical” overweight person, but I got a huge wake up call when I actually started the journey. I may have been active but I was eating all the wrong foods and eating way too much of them at that! It’s not like skinny people aren’t prone to stroke, heart attacked, heart disease, diabetes or any other weight related disease. That’s the big thing people need to remember. I have skinny friends who were just blessed with a better body than I was and eat horrible foods every meal of the day and don’t gain a thing. That doesn’t mean their insides aren’t scream for help.
Willie and I talked about this Christie situation over breakfast this morning when I was preparing for this blog post. Willie brought up some very valid points. Gov. Christie shouldn’t be chastised for wanting to run for the White House because he is capable of doing the job. If Christie was running on a platform to end obesity in his state or in America and continued on his current path, then yes it would be a problem. America has an image problem and as a country, I don’t think people would be willing to embrace an overweight person as President because of the perception that would give to the rest of the world. Other countries already thing Americans eat too much junk and are overweight so having an overweight president would play right into that perception. Plus, we want our president to be superhuman. we want him to be cool, calm and collected but strong, fierce and in control. We really expect a lot out of our leader and we want him to look strong! Maybe being overweight is the strong look people want!
That being said, I the office of presidency is a stressful one! This is where Willie and I part ways this particular situation. Willie believes overweight people hold stressful jobs every day and still make it through without having heart attacks or strokes which is very true. But I believe this is the office of the presidency! Take a look at the presidents before they took office and four years later and then eight years after they took office. Being president of the United States has got to be the most stressful job out there and I think you have to be of sound body and mind to be able to endure the physical aspects of the job! I”m not saying Christie isn’t capable but I know when I was toting around all the weight I did CRAZY things in stressful situations that could have led to more serious health problems. Thankfully, I had none. So was I like the healthiest fat woman you know? (Just a little joke!)
The bottom line is overweight people are just that people. They feel, think and act just like any other person. We all have issues, struggles and feelings and just because you’re skinny doesn’t mean you should feel superior. I write this post so people can think about what they think and feel when they see someone overweight and how they respond to those people. Have you ever said anything judgmental or mean in your head? Have you treated them differently? Overweight or normal build, we are all people and we all deserve respect! Public perception is a horrible thing and changes the rules of the game, but this is your chance to make a small difference by not passing judgement. Will you take on the challenge?