TV anchor responds to viewer who criticized her for her weight (must see)

The below video comes from the Wisconsin, which I found via the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.  News anchor Jennifer Livingston received an email from a viewer who criticized her body weight, saying that she was not a “suitable example for this community’s young people” and made the absurd argument that “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain” (my emphasis).

This is hopefully obvious to our regular readers, but it’s always worth repeating.  Like any health condition, obesity is an outcome.  Obesity is not a habit or a lifestyle choice.  As Dr Sharma has pointed out on many occasions, people don’t wake up one morning and “choose” to be obese.  Also worth repeating: weight ≠ health.  Much of Peter’s PhD thesis centered on this issue, and he has written about metabolically healthy obesity at length both here and elsewhere.  By the same token, not all lean people are healthy.

Jennifer’s video below is absolutely amazing.  She eloquently explains how hurtful and senseless these attacks can be, and asks that her viewers reconsider before they casually criticize “the fat news lady” at home, perpetuating the negative views of obesity among their children. Sadly, the man who wrote the initial letter has responded by saying that he “would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept”.  I’m sure that’s just what she’s looking for.

Enjoy the video.

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8 Responses to TV anchor responds to viewer who criticized her for her weight (must see)

  1. cass_m says:

    You forgot the best part. The viewer has nothing to do with health or nutrition counseling (he’s a lawyer) so basically he’s offering to be a personal bully.

  2. Kea says:

    I was in great shape at 5’6″, 172 lbs, running 5K’s, working out 8hrs/week, but then had back problems to the point that I was using a walker, and I gained 30 pounds between that and recovering from back surgery. Every time I think someone is judging me because I am overweight I want to tell them my back surgery story. BTW – with weight gain comes a kind of segregation: the “women’s” section [aka, clothes for “larger” women] of Macy’s is across the store from the rest of the clothes, and in my local Penney’s, the section is even up on a different floor!

  3. Constance Reader says:

    I’d be tempted to respond to the non-viewer (who admits he doesn’t even watch the show) “I may be fat but you’re an asshole and there’s no diet or surgery in the world that will change that.”

  4. Sal says:

    One graduate student in my department (BME, I think he does cellular biomechanics research) who is a weightlifting enthusiast, regularly posts disparaging remarks on facebook about overweight people. He always claims that obesity is a choice, which to me seems like missing so many other important factors (psychological, physiological, etc.). Can you or Peter write a little more about this please?

  5. Todd says:

    I think this is a good cautionary tale. I know I’m tempted to think similarly to this bully sometimes when I see someone with a large visible surplus of belly fat. It’s a little like the automatic resentment experienced by ex-smokers when they see someone else smoking. I think, “I put all this effort for years into reversing all that fat accumulation, and you can do it too if you try! Don’t you care enough?”

    That’s my first reflex, but stories like this remind me that it really isn’t fair. Yes it can easily lead to bulling if we actually express such feelings, and I suspect that often they are largely a matter of our own feeling about ourself and a generallization from our own experience and struggles.

    I’m trying to prevent myself from going back to a state where I was very unhappy with myself and also very unhealthy. I need to remind myself not to automatically generallize that to other people in different situations. I am very reticent to try to advise anyone on anything, and my experience with anorexia in people close to me taught me not to bring up something related to someone’s body image without a great deal of care.

    But I have to admit that I do have that initial feeling of resentment when I see extreme obesity and I deliberately suppress it because I know a lot of it must come from my feelings about myself.

    • WRG says:


      The big problem is that we cannot deduce anything by simply looking at someone. Genetics, heredity, gender, medication status, violence and abuse, disability (yes, there are many disabilities that you can’t necessarily see)–all these things and more may have an influence our body shape and size.

      Unfortunately, when it comes to weight, we have a tendency to apply both our own experience (n=1) AND societal stereotyping to fat people. As you say yourself, “I suspect that often they are largely a matter of our own feeling about ourself and a generallization from our own experience and struggles.” Some of the meanest, most prejudiced people are themselves struggling mightily with their weight. These are the people who often jump to the erroneous conclusion that the fat person in front of them is simply a gluttonous, lazy slob. And shows like the Biggest Loser, X-Weighted and the like remind us constantly that if we all just ate less and moved more, we’d all be paragons of slim, beautiful health. We are constantly and overwhelmingly barraged with the message that being fat is a moral failing, and due to wholly personal choices. Sadly, this is far from the truth.

      Bravo for being self-aware enough to see how deeply anchored these prejudices are in your own life and for having the decency to admit it publicly.