Fat is funny as a stroke

Elise T. Chisolm

February 26, 1991|By Elise T. Chisolm

BABES,'' A Fox Network (Channel 45) sitcom starring three very fat sisters, is not only poorly plotted and acted but it is inane and degrading to overweight people everywhere.

I think it means to send the message that you can be fat and love it, get dates, have relationships and enjoy a great life.

But it abounds with fat jokes and a forced merriment that is overplayed to the last pound.

If I were grossly overweight I would resent this television show.

Roseanne Barr and John Goodman in ''Roseanne'' try to legitimize being very overweight. But because of their on-screen lifestyle, they seem a more valid mirror on our obese society. They seem slightly more acceptable.

But when I watch ''Babes,'' I am uncomfortable for overweight people everywhere. When you are 30 to 50 pounds too heavy, seeing television stars wearing zany clothes and acting outlandishly does not make you feel more normal.

OK, so I've never been fat. But I come from a fat family. My mother was always overweight, and she hated it. My sister was always fat, and she died at 61 of a heart attack.

As you probably know, there are groups and clubs that support being fat.

One rational group is NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which has chapters all over the country.

NAAFA does not encourage overweight people to overlook their health problems. It is working to end discrimination in employment, education and access to public buildings. It is a health-support group, and this is good.

But the people and television shows that say fat is jolly are kind of whistling in the dark. Fat can be dangerous, and we are one of the fattest countries on Earth. Health professionals routinely bring out something scary about being overweight.

Louise L. Hay, in her best seller, ''You Can Heal Yourself,'' offers a kind of New Age approach even to losing weight. (She's the therapist who cured herself of terminal cancer.

She writes that fat people blame all their problems on being overweight, and that is ''only an outer effect of an inner problem.'' She recommends a mental diet: Love yourself first. She thinks there is something pent up within the overweight person -- anger, guilt, abuse or fear. She recommends ''trusting in the process of life and feeling safe, because you know the power of your own mind makes up the best diet.

''Go on a diet from negative thoughts, and your weight will take care of itself,'' she tells us.

I can agree with her thinking, as it is holistic and positive. But I have to say that most of the people I love who have been or are overweight eat too much.

I discussed ''Babes'' with Dr. Barbara Moore, an obesity and nutrition expert. She is general manager of program development for Weight Watchers International.

She believes that there are some people who are moderately overweight who do not view their condition as physiologically or metabolically threatening, and they feel acceptable. ''This is a choice,'' she says.

But Moore believes that real overweight people are subject to many diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, Type II diabetes, gall bladder problems and some kinds of cancer.

''What really worries me is that data obtained states that the prevalence of overweight in this country has increased each decade since 1960. Fat is not fun, but to get rid of it I believe requires a multi-disciplinary approach,'' she says.

I'll buy that too. But an evening with ''Babes'' or too much "Roseanne" just reinforces everything wrong about how we accept our bodies and our lives.

The media should and could do more positive reinforcing: ''Fat IS hazardous to your health.''

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