Gasp: making a living out of being fat.
Just a week ago, I was posting about a relatively new professional “sport”, Major League Eating. I thought that was plenty grotesque enough. And then I came across an article on AOL about a 700 pound New Jersey woman (in AOL’s jobs section, no less) who supports herself by being fat. (This in the same week that a report on the increase in obesity in the U.S. came out. Massachusetts, by the way, is the fourth least obese state, after Colorado, Connecticut, and District of Columbia, which for purposes of the report counts as a state.)
Ms. Simpson maintains a website (which I’m not about to link to), charging members a fat $19.95 fee for a month of watching her eat, viewing videos, and looking at still shots. She claims that she has 7,000 subscribers, and earns $100K from her enterprise. On one hand, good on her that she can make a six-figure income from her website subscribers. Would that Pink Slip could figure out a way to do the same…
But there is, of course, something deeply disturbing about the pornographification of obesity. All this weirdness is just another part of the soft under-belly (sorry, I couldn’t resist) of the Internet.
I have a lot of sympathy for those who struggle with their weight.
My mother (six-babies later) fought with 15-20 pounds extra for much of her post-having-kids life. She was by no means obese, just marginally overweight (and as sedentary as anyone with a bunch of kids can be). But when I recall the perpetual diets she was on when I was a kid, you’d have thought she was in the running for the fat lady in the circus. Iceberg lettuce. Roman Meal bread. Grapefruit. Black coffee.
I remember her coming home from Confession one time during Lent, after she had told the priest she really couldn’t do any more fasting, as she was already on a 1,000 calories a daydiet. He te absolvo’d her and told her she didn’t need to do any more fasting.
It must have driven her crazy that my father was one of those hollow-leg guys. Within a couple of hours after dinner, he could tuck into a sleeve of Saltine’s loaded with peanut butter, and follow it up with a bowl of ice cream. And not gain an ounce.
Until pre-pubescence, I also enjoyed the hollow-leg, and often joined my father for the peanut-butter-on-Saltine’s snack.
“Enjoy it while you’re young, Moe,” he’d tell me, apparently intuiting that my hollow leg would eventually fill up. (Hey, Dad: I did.)
My mother, on the other hand, couldn’t look cross-eyed at a potato without packing on a couple of ounces.
While my mother’s overweight wasn’t of the anywhere near grotesque or even all that noticeable variety, it didn’t help her health out any. She had high blood pressure and adult-onset Type 2 diabetes, and died at 81 of heart disease.
I’m not exactly a sylph, myself, and should probably shed that spare 5 pounds that glommed on this winter. Like a lot of woman, I gained weight in my 40’s. Nothing dramatic, on a yearly basis, but a couple of pounds on year, a couple of pounds the next. And after a decade of this, you wake up to the fact that you’ve added a few pounds and it ain’t going to come off all that easily.
But I’m reasonably fit, eat reasonably healthfully, get a reasonable amount of exercise (cardio and strength), and am extraordinarily healthy (knock on the elliptical).
But I am one of those folks who enjoys eating, and have no desire to wear a size 2.
I also have no desire to wear a size 22.
So, while I may never be thin, I’ll never be fat, either.
Ms. Simpson, on the other hand, is not content with her current 700 pound weight.
She’s looking to pack on an additional 300 pounds, and claim the Guinness record as the World’s Most Obese Woman. She already holds the record for the fattest woman to give birth (a feat that required the involvement of 30 medical personnel).
The record-breaking child is now an adorable 4 year old, who plays Mother’s Helper with the shopping and food preparation, as Ms. Simpson strives to meet her goal. This requires ingesting 15,000 calories each day. Which is about 7.5 times the calorie intake for a normal woman.
This is costly in many ways.
Ms. Simpson spends upwards of $750 each week on food.
She suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, plus it's very difficult for her to go anywhere. And then there's the example she might be setting for her daughter, Jacqueline, who Simpson claims prefers healthy foods, like salad, and is active in sports.
Yet here is a very small child being force-fed into the position as enabler of her mother’s disorder. Sad.
Ms. Simpson is hoping to free her daughter up from her feeding responsibilities, and is seeking a partner to bear some of the shopping and food preparation burden.
Okay, I’m contributing to the end of the world by writing about it, but what does it say about contemporary culture that there are 7,000 people out there willing to watch some poor woman eat herself to death, for surely achieving that 1,000 pound goal will hasten her end.
Ms. Simpson claims that she is doing no harm to any one else.
Like the not-wearing-a-helmet-while-riding-a-motorcycle argument, there is some validity to this argument (although this can’t be good for her children – she has another – no matter how much she may indeed love them).
But the validity, of course, ends with the enormous cost to society for her health care.
Who paid for those 30 medical professionals required to ensure that she survived childbirth?
I would hope that this woman gets some help – and not the gain-weight help she’s looking for.
I don’t worship at the altar of thin.
I’d rather stay five pounds on the zaftig side than never eat another chocolate chip cookie.
I don’t think that having a BMI of 30 makes you a bad person, or that having a BMI of 20 makes you a good one.
I feel bad for those who struggle with their weight. And I especially feel bad for those who are poor and don’t have the Whole Food access to fresh fruits and vegetables that I enjoy.
But for someone to willfully set out to gain an extra 300 pounds on an already unhealthy and morbidly obese body, well…
As I said, I hope she gets the help she needs, and that’s not someone to load up the grocery cart or pop a couple of Hungry Man’s in the microwave for her.