Commentary: Is "Big Sexy" Harmful or Helpful?

With studies showing that the larger we are, the more we are at risk for developing chronic health issues, cultural messages that celebrate obesity are somewhat problematic.

Posted: 09/27/2011 12:54 PM EDT
Filed Under obesity

Obesity leads to development of chronic health issues

Recently, as I was flipping through a slideshow of Hollywood starlets and reality show folks, I noticed something bothersome: Many of them were scary skinny. Bones protruding in places I know is not healthy, and the tiniest, thinnest thighs I have ever seen.

 

And this is the standard of beauty? I'll pass.

 

Now enter Big Sexy, TLC's new three-part series that chronicles five plus-size women trying to make their dreams of making it big (no pun intended) in a fashion industry that isn't very accommodating to anyone larger than a size 4. And many viewers like what they see. On The Today Show, one of the cast members, Leslie Medlik said, "... the responses that we've already gotten from people and from women, sending me emails and letting me know that we've really touched their lives and are making a difference and making them feel better about themselves and feel more empowered ... that is what we're all about."

 

I can't blame TLC for wanting to show something more than the emaciated bodies that rule network television, and it's so important for us to love ourselves no matter what size we are. But is celebrating obesity really empowering or just undermining our health?

 

And I say this to say, I am not a size 8. I've put on over 20 pounds due to lack of motivation to work out and working very long hours (see, even health writers have their moments.) I went from weighing 137 to weighing 160. And every time I have said I really need to lose weight, so many people have said, “Oh you look fine, you don't need to be skinny like those white people.”

 

Sigh.

 

Regardless of those silly comments, I have gotten back on the workout wagon, not to just fit back into my clothes or to make me feel better about myself (although that doesn't hurt either), but because I am clear that my health depends on it.

 

And that is what's missing from this growing “Obesity is OK” movement in our country. There is no real conversation about the connection between obesity/overweight and overall health outcomes. And that's irresponsible, especially given that study after study after study has found that the more you weigh, the more you put yourself at risk for developing chronic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.

 

And if the movement doesn't get it, we don't get it, either. Past literature shows that average Americans are not really aware that weight and health are linked. In a recent study about obesity and Black women, researchers from the Center for Wellness and Weight Loss Surgery at Howard University Health Center in Washington, DC found that, while only less than 10 percent of obese Black women were satisfied with how they looked physically, more than 80 percent of them were satisfied with their health knowledge, and half were satisfied with their health habits.

 

That's a huge disconnect.

 

So while the “Thin Is In” messages are dangerous to all women, so are the “Being Large is Fabulous” messages. At some point, we have to stop being on polar sides of the weight spectrum and somehow meet in the middle.  I bet our improved health will thank us.

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Gia Kornet/TLC)

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