It has been a year since I revealed my weight and it is time to take some stock.
Broadcaster Jennifer Livingston’s response to a listener went viral the past couple of weeks when she considered it “bullying” that a viewer wrote her saying she should think of the children and stop being so fat on the air. I think the viewer was wrong and in later developments exposed himself as even more self-righteous than his original letter revealed, but I don’t think it was the same as bullying. Livingston’s 4 minute, 21 second response was about 4 minutes too long. I don’t necessarily agree with anyone who says she should have just hit the “Delete” key, though that would have been fine, too. I just think if she was going to respond, a brief recognition of the problem and a quick dismissal of the observation would have been in order.
Here is how I would have responded:
“Dear viewer. Yes, I realize I’m fat. I recognize the message that people, children in particular, could get from that message. I also recognize that there would be a different, though less obvious, message if I were to not be on the air because I am fat. That message would be that being fat is the one personal weakness that requires the cessation of every other activity until the fat is gone. I could be a drunk, a sex addict or a chain smoker and all of that would be fine as long as I kept it private. But my weakness for food shows up in obvious ways, therefore I should stay out of the public light. Believe me, I’ve been depressed enough to want to quit, but instead I have decided I’m going to do what I believe I was born to do while continuing to fight the fight against fat. And for anyone who smokes, drinks too much or is bad at relationships, but wants to be better, I’m here to support you, too.”
OK, so that response would take about a minute to read on air. It makes my point. Over the past year I’ve had ups and downs, literal and figurative. I’ve lost lots of weight quickly and put some back on. I’ve been excited and depressed. Some good news is that I weigh less than I did a year ago. I’m not sure how much. The better news is that I have not, and will not, quit.
At times it is easy, but most times it is not. I know in my head that it’s a choice I make, but sometimes that choice doesn’t seem as easy as my head knows it is.
As for Livingston’s contention that the viewer was a bully, the bullying she speaks of does exist. I felt it several weeks ago as I was walking in downtown Bremerton near a Navy shipyard parking garage. Someone within the garage yelled “in a van down by the river.” That’s a line from Chris Farley’s Saturday Night Live Matt Foley motivational speaker character. Farley, you may recall, was fat. I didn’t immediately take it personally when I heard the yell. I can’t even be sure it was aimed at me. But in my most depressed moments I get to thinking it probably was, and that it was shouted by some coward who knew I couldn’t see him in the shadows of the multi-level parking garage. I’ll be honest, sometimes that kind of insult gets to me.
At the same time, I won’t let it stop me. I have a job and a new book, which I’ll announce in a few days. Life goes on in spite of the fact that I’m fat. I can’t hide. And in my best moments I don’t want to.
Thank you all for the support you have offered this year. And here’s to another year of fighting the fight, of making progress, of not defining myself by the number while working to lower it.
When I reach that next new low, I’ll let you know.