Part 1 of 2 on obesity, bullying and the lack of shame in America
Think just because there’s a presidential election there aren’t other "big" issues? Believe that, and pigs can fly.
In fact, there is a large — huge, even — discussion eating at many Americans, the girth of which we are still trying to get our arms around.
What is this weighty issue that once again has been feasted upon by both sides?
The massive rate of obesity in America, and whether publicly calling attention to it, as well as obese individuals themselves, should be on the table.
The obesity issue got cooking again after overweight news anchor Jennifer Livingston of WKBT in La Crosse, Wisconsin, received a private email from a viewer. Kenneth Krause called her weight into question, asking whether she considered herself "a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular," and adding, "Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain." He ended by hoping that she would, "reconsider (her) responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle."
Since Livingston’s skin was surprisingly thin for someone in the public eye, she responded with a four-minute on-air editorial rebuking Krause.
But rather than giving viewers food for thought regarding her perspective on obesity, she left everyone wondering "Where’s the beef?" by barely weighing in on the issue at all. Instead she had a cow, ranting incessantly about bullying. Yes— bullying. To the point where she even blubbered about how those struggling with sexual preference, skin color and even acne needed to stand up to bullying.
Bravo! And since anchors often sink, that classic bait-and-switch tactic ensures Ms. Livingston a long political career should her day job not pan out.
While many other media outlets are fawning over Livingston’s diatribe, Freindly Fire won’t serve up Grade A compliments so freely. This is far too much at steak — stake, sorry — to allow her to duck the meat of the issue.
First item on the menu are the facts:
1) Livingston received a private email, and chose to go public with it. Krause didn’t "bully" her, but offered his opinion to a public figure —which Livingston certainly is. She could have responded privately or simply ignored it. Getting nasty emails is part of the job. Hell, Yours Truly gets pummeled so often — including occasional death threats — that a "bullying" email like Krause’s would be a dream. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the…kitchen.
And would someone please explain how a non-vulgar, non-threatening email can be even remotely considered bullying?
2) Every single aspect of the obesity epidemic needs to be discussed in an open, straightforward and respectful manner, regardless of whether feelings are hurt. That’s not bullying. It’s constructive dialogue, something quickly disappearing from the American scene.
3) The vast, vast majority of obesity cases — which includes nearly 40 percent of the
American adult population — are due to lifestyle choices, namely, immense overeating and a lack of physical activity. Only an extremely small percentage is related to medical conditions.
4) Let’s put a fork in the myth — perpetuated by so many obese people — that thyroid conditions are more prevalent than the common cold. Not only are they rare, but there are numerous medications which treat that condition, combating weight gain. Interestingly, Livingston never mentioned during her editorial that she had a thyroid condition. That morsel only came out after the story — and Livingston herself — became an international headline.
In fairness to Livingston, it would seem that Krause formulated his opinion not knowing if she had a medical condition that contributed to her obesity. While the odds were certainly in his favor that she did not, it would have been prudent to have addressed that question in his correspondence.
That said, as big as Livingston has become, given her appearances on national television shows, she is not the issue. Nor is Krause.
But before we get to the skinny on obesity, it is equally important to understand what this issue isn’t about — namely bullying. Does it exist? Of course. Always has and always will. And reasonable efforts should be made to fight it. But "bullying" has become the catch-all phrase we use whenever someone feels jilted, offended, or bad about themselves. The truly tragic part is that combating real bullying has taken a backseat to an all-appeasing political correctness running rampant throughout America.
From social media to the schoolyard, we’ve reached the point where children are no longer permitted to fight their own battles, instead seeing the authorities swoop in at the first sign of conflict. Sounds nice, and sometimes intervention is necessary, but for the most part, that paternalism leaves children woefully unprepared for that pesky thing called The Real World. And now we are seeing the results of crib-to-college coddling: our businesses are sanitized risk-averse petri-dish experiments for social engineering, wars are fought so as to not offend the enemy, and scoreboards are often turned off in youth sports so a team down by 5 goals doesn’t cry and quit. But no worries! Everyone gets a trophy so all can feel good about themselves.
Maybe if America prioritized growing up and not out, we’d be a whole lot better off.
The real issue is how to gnaw away at the exploding obesity rate, an epidemic that is all-consuming. Obesity-related medical costs are soaring (over twenty percent of all health care spending) as cases of diabetes, heart disease and stroke meteorically rise. Health insurance premiums for everyone increase in order to subsidize the obese. Worker productivity is down. Even energy costs are up.
But perhaps most alarming, America’s young people are being de-sensitized to obesity and all its negative effects. In what is fast becoming a "do-whatever-makes-you-feel-good" society, that makes for an extremely dangerous recipe.
And the best way — maybe the only way — to change that fatitude is shame, a value in thin supply. Part Two will chew that fat on how shame, correctly utilized, can lighten the load on America’s youth.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television/radio commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com His self-syndicated model has earned him the largest cumulative media voice in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected]