The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Molly Birch
Molly Birch

My name is Molly, and I am in my second year at NMU. I come from Midland, MI, probably one of the most boring places on earth. However, we do have the only Tridge in the world, so that’s pretty nifty...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

Attractiveness, fitness not synonymous

The impetus for this essay is the recent exchange between Governor Christie, R-N.J., and Dr. Connie Mariano (former White House physician) regarding her prediction that he will die in office because he is too fat.

When I developed NMU’s first course on obesity almost four decades ago, my views on the subject as well as the available material usually used for this subject were radically different. When I worked with NMU’s dietetics majors to launch the Students’ Dietetic Association (SDA) a few years later, I had become a changed man with a changed paradigm vis-à-vis body weight and what exactly it means and does not mean.

How changed? The motto for SDA was “Good Health for All Sizes.” More than 30 years later, I still find it essential to provide a most needed challenge to the traditional view regarding body weight and how it relates to overall health.

I owe my evolution and paradigm shift to Dr. Susan Woolly (the University of Cincinnati), Dr. David Garner (Michigan State University) and the movement they began (now known as HAES, Health at Every Size).

Story continues below advertisement

Sadly, I must say many health professionals (including educators) continue to be locked in a weight-focused matrix (a world other than the real world) with many whom cannot see and cannot accept that body weight/size is an impotent measurement of health if used alone. Its simplicity is, literally, a health hazard. I consider such blindness to be a form of bigotry that conveniently ignores all we know about human diversity.

Everyone can sing, with the greatest of ease, “obesity is bad for you” without caring to take into consideration the level of metabolic fitness of individuals before condemning them. Concomitant with this foolish paradigm is the notion that everyone can be svelte if they just eat well and be active.

The need for us all is to eat well and be active is paramount, and the apparent need some have to deny those who are normally large an entrance to the world of the healthy is too. It is an intelligent guess that we are stuck to a visual of what “healthy” looks like which is the antithesis of “healthy.” We are stuck because we continue to confuse our feelings about what is healthy and what is not (with respect to body weight and size) to what is culturally considered attractive and what is not.

Yes, it is normal for any culture to have a visual of what attractive is, which is almost always confined to sexual attractiveness. And, yes, everyone wants to look attractive. What is harmful and abnormal is to idolize that which is unattainable for most and to evaluate a person’s totality based on how they fit the selected visual for attractiveness.

Having the audacity to claim that our quest for thinness is only about health is rather rampant. It was Jodi Hollis who said “show me a woman who wants to lose weight for health and I will show you a man who reads Hustler for the quality of the interviews.”

It is true that Governor Christie’s looks can accurately lead to the conclusion that he is not fit to finish the Tour De France in a record time, but what does his weight have to do with his fitness for office?

Is it not wise to respond with “fit for what” when asked “are you fit?” Not long ago when president Obama nominated Dr. Regina Benjamin for the Surgeon General post (the Nation’s doctor), her nomination (along with her humanity) was viciously attacked because of her body weight, as her entire record of great accomplishments was summarily dismissed because she was deemed “unfit as a role model.”

Role model? Wouldn’t the critics have been more morally fit if they had deleted the word “role” from their argument? Only in weight-focused matrix can we have such distortions.

I think it a good start to follow the wisdom of the Chinese proverb “the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name” if we are to liberate ourselves from one of the most heinously racist attitudes of judging the entirety of a human by merely looking at him/her.

More to Discover