Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On 'Health'

In going along with my new theme of 'compassion' (see this post for more), I really really want to address the comments that Rush Limbaugh made on Monday about Michelle Obama. I just heard about this-- and am thankful for an opportunity to work on being compassionate:-). For those of you who haven't heard (I almost hate to tell you), but on his radio show on February 21st, Limbaugh made some pretty inflammatory comments about the First Lady. As you may know, she has worked very hard on initiating a campaign to fight childhood obesity. There have certainly been mixed feelings from the eating disorder community concerning her approach, but nonetheless, she ended up adding eating disorders under the campaign's umbrella and is (hopefully) working to address eating disorders as well.

Anyways, from what I understand, Michelle O. was vacationing at a ski resort recently with her family, and it was made known that she enjoyed a nice dinner while she was there, which included ribs. Limbaugh's comments: "The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn't look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. We hear that she's out eating ribs at XXXX calories a serving with XXX grams of fat per serving. I'm trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you." He went on to say, "She's a hypocrite. Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we're supposed to eat roots and berries and tree bark, show us how." Yikes!!!

While I am really sad that he made these comments, and would like to respond with some choice words, I think this is a great opportunity to address an important issue! Perhaps this whole exchange once again highlights the fact that we really struggle with extremes in our society. Black and white thinking, the 'diet mentality' .... call it what you want. But seriously-- who decided that you can't be healthy and eat ribs at dinner when you're on vacation (or not on vacation)? Being truly healthy requires moderation and balance. Simply eating "roots, berries and tree bark" would be just as much of a problem as if we all ate ribs for every meal.

Another thing I want to challenge is the assumption that looking like a swimsuit model is the picture of health. I could be wrong here, but it sounds like Limbaugh is saying that Mrs. Obama should look like a model. You cannot tell how healthy someone is simply by looking at them. Of course in extreme cases, yes- you can see with your eyes when someone might be ill (very underweight or very overweight). But people who may look fit, toned or 'in shape', thin, those who look average and healthy, ... they may have heart problems, blood pressure problems, bone density issues, etc due to unhealthy behaviors (diet pills, over exercise, steroids, purging, etc)... You never know how someone is treating their body and you never really know how healthy someone is just by looking at them. To infer that Michelle Obama needs to look like a swimsuit model in order to prove that she is following her own dietary advice is almost kind of funny because it is just so not true. The suggestion that swimsuit models or girls that A-Rod dates are the barometer of health is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why women in our culture struggle so much with knowing what it is to be truly healthy, not to mention why they have a tough time believing that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Most people (95% of the population in fact) could be healthy, balanced eaters and no matter what, will not ever have bodies that look like models. 5% of the population has a body type in nature that resembles that of a model.  And then there is airbrushing...  many of the models and images that we see are not even real. The point is- we aren't all made the same and we all have different body types, bone structures, etc. It is irresponsible to perpetuate the myth that 'health' looks one way, but it is also irresponsible for us to buy into it.

This post is getting lengthy- so I will conclude by encouraging you to think about what true health is and where you came up with your beliefs about what it is to be healthy. 'Health' is a loaded word. Limbaugh's assertions about health are clearly skewed, but remind all of us that we need to take a step back and consider what true health really looks like. Are extremes a measure of health?? How do you know if you are being truly balanced in your approach with food? These are important questions to consider.

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