On Which Side Do You Weigh In?


No, I’m not asking if you stand on your left or right foot when you weigh yourself.

I’m asking whether you think it’s a problem that Regina Benjamin, President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, wears a size 18.   As Emerald Catron points out on AOL, “instead of people being totally psyched about her MacArthur genius award, her impressive charitable works, or her down-to-earth working-class background, everybody is trying to guess her BMI. Some people think a country plagued with obesity should not have an obese person representing our nation’s health care.”

Nevermind that no one would ask the question if the nominee were male.  Catron points to C. Everett Koop to support that statement.

Would you be inspired by a woman who faces similar challenges in the world of weight as many other Americans?  Or do you think our health care leaders should model our ideals? Are the two mutually exclusive?  What ideals are most important to model — an “ideal” weight or healthy living?

Regular readers of this blog probably already know where I weigh in.  AOL has a poll going. On last check, it was neck-and-neck between those who say Benjamin’s BMI should be considered and those who say it’s “not a weigh-in.”

What do you say?


9 responses to “On Which Side Do You Weigh In?”

  1. Michelle says:

    I have to say I have very mixed feelings about it. I think it’s important not to discriminate based on size, and it’s thrilling that she has this opportunity. It could be inspiring for others who are overweight and have no self confidence to see someone like her in such a highly respected position. But she will have to work harder to get the message out about eating healthfully and exercising. And if she doesn’t live by those rules herself, then her message will fall flat. You can bet with today’s media, she will be scrutinized in looking for those behaviors (or the lack of them). God forbid she ever gets caught eating a Big Mac. It could mean the end of her career!

  2. Lori says:

    I think more people can relate to someone who is larger than a tiny person saying “Do this, do that”. Having someone who can walk the talk with the rest of America can do more to motivate (IMHO).

    However – her credentials really should outweigh what she looks like. Why do we have to have a Hollywood version of what we need to look like?

  3. Gina says:

    Well considering America’s “ideals” currently stand as being a size zero, I think a size 18 is much more realistic. I think the most important thing is knowing that she can do the job, and do it effectively. I think it’s ludicrous to expect the Surgeon General to be a perfect size and to fit the mold of perfect health, it’s just unrealistic and those who expect it are rediculous.

  4. Sagan says:

    I think that a healthy person should represent the nations health care. Weight isn’t as important as how healthy she is. And clearly she knows her stuff! As long as her body is healthy, then I see no reason why she shouldn’t represent health care. If, on the other hand, the weight is causing her to have medical issues, then I think I’d be a bit more questionable about it, because we DO need someone in that position to be a role model for good health.

    Sagan’s last blog post..When nutrition gets neglected

  5. etinca says:

    At size 18 she’s only 2 sizes larger than the ‘average’ american female, from what I’ve read. That’s what, 16-20 lbs? As you said, if it was a male, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. And, anyway, isn’t discriminating based on weight against the law? For some people I think this particular instance is a way of hiding their lack of trust in female doctors. If a doctor is capable & qualified, the rest is just details.

  6. ellie says:

    I’m fine with it. I think that lots of people who are overweight or even obese by BMI charts DO exercise and eat well. These people could lose weight, but they would have to make themselves miserable to do so, because their genetics make it difficult.

    Also, there are many factors in health, and weight is only one of them, and perhaps not the most important for everybody.

    And, even if you buy the theory that being “overweight” is universally bad for you, everybody has health and behavior challenges.

  7. Sue says:

    I have always been willing to blame myself alone for my weight issues — and blamed others for theirs. But after spending time in Europe (where food is not so modified) and reading “The End of Overeating” by the former head of the FDA, I now see how much the food industry has done to addict consumers to high sugar, fat and salt foods. IT’S NOT JUST OUR OWN FAULT. Foods are modified to increase addiction — and it is virtually impossible to purchase whole, healthful foods anywhere but at a farmer’s market or from those small number of companies who promise whole ingredients from organic sources.

    Our food industry has spent years developing and producing high- volume, low-cost, long-lasting products that people will consume in mass quantities. Their effects on the brain are unquestioned. Instead of fostering good nutrition and saiety, they produce want and desire for more. We have to look at the actions of the food industry as we have now come to regard the tobacco industry — they are selling many products that disable and kill, and if they can’t be stopped, or held accountable, consumers need to have ALL the facts to make better choices. Food labeling still lacks transparency and there is almost no way a consumer can make good, wise choices based on labeling alone. The true amount of sugars, fats and salts are hidden. And we know very little about the chemical experiments that have replaced whole foods in their recipes.

    So I WANT someone in the job who has suffered what TONS of Americans have suffered. Maybe something can finally be done.

  8. In the perfect world we’d all look “perfect.” Whatever that is! I think the main thing is her qualifications for the job. I experienced firsthand what it feels like to have people judge your competency on your weight. (I used to weigh 300 pounds)

    After I lost 150 lbs, people in all walks of life treated me a lot differently. She should get the job if she is the right person for the job!

  9. Marsha says:

    Just checked the AOL poll. Don’t know if it’s still open for voting because numbers look similar to what they did this morning. But if you combine those who say her BMI shouldn’t be considered with those who say it’s an issue just b/c she’s a woman, it’s a slam dunk for folks who say to judge her based on her credentials. Whew!

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Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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