After reading an article in The Huffington Post comparing Darryl Roberts (who made the documentary America the Beautiful 2) and Paul Kramer (author of Maggie Goes on a Diet), I was surprised that the author Jean Fain, LICSW,MSW would think that these two individuals were anything alike in their views on body acceptance.
Now I must admit. I am writing this from a place of almost complete ignorance. I have not seen America the Beautiful 2 and I have not read Maggie Goes on a Diet (although, like Mr. Roberts, I have read excerpts that I found very disconcerting).
Ms. Fain interviewed both Mr. Roberts and Mr. Kramer, and the basic differences in their respective philosophies seems clear.
Look at these two excerpts from the interviews:
Mr. Roberts: “I wanted to help people develop more acceptance and self-love. Not to base their self-worth on conforming to what society says you should be.”
Mr. Kramer: “I don’t think thin kids are better [as Roberts has suggested]. My [16-year-old] son is perfectly sized, but if he were obese, I would love him just the same. I would try to help him understand how to get healthier, how not to be obese, but I wouldn’t love him less.”
Mr. Kramer obviously believes that fat means unhealthy and that if his son was fat, his son would no longer be “perfectly sized” (whatever that means).
In the interview, Mr. Kramer says he realizes “traditional” diets don’t work, and says he never went on a diet, but, at times, tried to eat very little or only non-caloric foods. Gee, that sounds like dieting to me which makes me wonder if Mr. Kramer does not understand what constitutes dieting.
Mr. Kramer also says he doesn’t understand why people don’t view his book from a positive outlook. Maggie loves soccer, works hard to run faster and faster (as she shed her pounds). He thinks she should be given credit for her accomplishments, that she lost weight on her own without being pushed or embarrassed.
Clearly, Mr. Kramer doesn’t get it. People are just fine with Maggie eating healthy foods and getting exercise. We just wish that Maggie would focus on her real accomplishments and not on her weight.
Ms. Fain claims both men are “…more committed than ever to eating healthier, exercising regularly and losing weight. They’re also both committed to doing their part in winning the war on childhood obesity.” That’s just not true. Mr. Roberts is not about losing weight, he is about taking charge of your health, and he is about understanding that you should become the best you can, and that can’t be measured by a number. Nowhere in the printed interview does he encourage weight loss for either himself or others.
So where is this coming from? Well, I missed it the first time (no excuse, it’s right there at the beginning and end of the article) – Ms. Fain wrote a diet book herself, The Self Compassion Diet. Talk about an oxymoron. She seems to confuse Mr. Roberts’ choice to eat more vegetables and ride his bike to mean that Mr. Roberts wanted to lose weight. He doesn’t say that. He says, he did it in response to a high blood pressure diagnosis.
Seems to me, in trying to tie the outcome of healthy food choices and exercise to weight loss, she is simply repeating the old mantra of fat = unhealthy. Mr. Roberts is making choices that he hopes will lead to better health not lower weight.
Mr. Roberts understands that you can have a good, healthy life and be fat; Mr. Kramer and Ms. Fain do not. And therein lies the difference.