Over the years, through being both right and wrong on key issues, it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who seize my weight as an opportunity to discredit my ideas. Some of the most vicious and cruel responses to my speeches and writings have come from always anonymous lowlifes who taunt that I shouldn't be heard because I am a 'disgusting fat pig' or 'obese political whore' or 'horrendously ugly fat pig.' One would like to think that those words have no power over you but the fact of the matter is they always do. Bigotry of any sort, always cuts right to the bone.
Now, in writing this column, some of my friends urged me not to broach this topic. "Why draw attention to your weight and away from your ideas?" Well, has anyone seen a picture of me? I am fat. I am also attractive and proud. There is no question that losing weight would be helpful for my health. None of the surgeries and intensive care visits were a result of my weight, but it is true that my recovery time was prolonged from these last three years of health hell.
Amazingly, total strangers feel they have the right to pass judgment on a personal health issue. They have no qualms about saying "You ought to lose weight." People would be appalled if I walked up to an amputee and said, "Do you know you are missing a leg?" Honestly, I am quite aware of my weight and have put on significant amounts during these three years of health crisis. Right now, I am in the process of losing that additional weight.
Even if I get down to a more reasonable size, I am never going to have Paul Newman's eyes, Hugh Jackmans body nor the endowment of a famous porn star. I am what I am. A person with solid principles, values and beliefs. A kind person who loves unconditionally and has helped, I think, an enormous number of people over the years. The weight has not affected my brain nor any of my principles. I don't think with my tummy. Oh yes, I do have a 'handsome face' and 'beautiful eyes' which I have heard over and over again.
In tandem with nutritional habits learned in childhood or from personal traumas over one's life, I firmly believe some people have a genetic marker determining the ability to gain or lose weight Coming from a somewhat poor family, my mother was a miracle worker in preparing meals that made us feel full, think we were getting great cuisines and stop us from going hungry. Often it would be cooked dough with chicken broth and creamy gravy poured over buttered white bread as our main course. That would be considered a special treat in my family. Lately I have realized how wonderful my mother was in making ends meet and at the same time make us feel we were getting special dishes. God bless her - she did really well given what was available.
Celebrations in childhood were always surrounded by food. The worst thing possible was to have someone at your table and not have enough food; the second worst thing was to leave any food uneaten. Food was a reward for getting older, longevity in marriage or getting an "A" on your report card.
What drove me to write today was not the ugly and cruel comments both privately and publicly about my weight. I like who I am. Also am working hard after the last three years to get into better health. Anyone who chooses to judge me on my weight loses out on a pretty incredible person here. Because I have been given so much including the ability to put those comments in the proper place, it isn't me I worry about. What bothers me are the millions and millions of increasingly obese young people who are the subjects of bullying, assault, discrimination, anger and cruelty. Society totally supports these actions directed at people who are overweight. Kids lose the ability to have a childhood, go to dances, to be popular and to contribute their gifts and talents because of their struggle with weight, despite the fact that near a third of Americans are overweight. It is all about appearance, not substance.
So for them, I speak out today.
Zip the lip the next time you are about to pass judgment on someone's weight. Trust me, they don't need you to point it out - they know about their struggle. If you see someone be cruel, speak out. What was amazing to me when those comments appeared in web sites, no one took them on for being insensitive bigots. Instead, there was amazing silence. Maybe by speaking openly with my weight struggle I can inspire some young person battling with their weight to not give up on life as they deal with that issue. Perhaps they can be made to realize that a person can be successful and powerful and still have health issues.
For those who can't resist judgment of me and my appearance, I can only say what they say in the south, "Well, bless your heart."