Man eating pizza
our growing waistlines, our 'food toxic' environment...can one be fat and fit?


Even thought at 18 my doctor wrote obese on my chart because I was 145, my weight was really a problem until my thirties. At 240 and 41 years I find myself where my mother was. I also noticed the my I weight the more invisible I have become. No one looks me in the eye anymore unless I force them by making them laugh or by getting mad. Thanks for bring up the issues in an intelligent informed way.

Wanda Figueroa
san jose, ca


I found your program "FAT" an eye-opener. Although not obese myself, I am interested in the fact that so many women today feel that the ideal of beauty is to look like fashion models - who smoke, drink and lead most unhealthy lives. While I agree it is healthier to keep fit by exercising, a thought struck me. Because I am so concerned about young girls becoming anorexic since they think they must look like a scarecrow to be "beautiful", I started thinking about the fashion industry. Who designs the clothes? Who clothes the models? In the majority of cases, homosexual men are the designers. Does this say something? Why I saw those big and beautiful women walk across the catwalk, I almost cried. They looked so beautiful, so womanly and what femininity is all about. I think we need to take the power away from the gay designers and put it back into those of real women - who know how real women should look. Curvy, glowing, fit and healthy

manhattan beach, ca


I was contemplating the fact that 25 percent of American children are overweight and that the top cause of death is heart disease. Result: a little song called "The End of Evolution"

Oh, some say our ancestors came from apes And our longfathers swung from jungle trees Or ran from lions. Now we sit in chairs To eat; we sit in chairs to watch TVs The killer we must flee is heart disease.

The fat that gave us life is now our bane Instincts betray us to prosperity Which by our instincts kills us. Our weight gain From sugars, fats, comes necessarily Our love for sweets was practicality.

Ah, evolution, that near-sighted fool Reckoned without America. Our land Is bending evolution's strictest rule. The weak survive and breed regardless. And Our evolution dies by its own hand.

Katherine Nehring
berlin, ct


It has been my belief that there is a double standard in this society regarding the acceptance of fat people and skinny peolpe. Your show has further supported my belief. I at first found myself applauding the show for dispelling the popular opinion that fat equals lazy and that 'overweight' equals unhealthy. I cheered the woman who said she liked her large breasts and her big hips. This healthy self image is rare. But while this show tried to increase acceptance of fat people it did so by making thiness all the more disgusting. The woman on the show asked why any man would want to go to bed with a skeleton, a coat hanger. While this is offensive, it is also counter -productive. No one would dare say "Why would any man want to go to bed with an oversized, fleshy pig." This is offensive! So, I hope you see my point. There is a double standard and it is unfortunate. Acceptance only comes when all weights are regarded equally. Either make fun of them all, or accept them both. Please choose.

Erynn Wheatley
columbus, ohio


I am a BIG & BEAUTIFUL "Rubinesque" Woman who is 44 years young, who has been "battling the bulge" all of my life. I was very impressed by your Frontline piece on "FAT" and how society continues to sterotype big women. Thank you so much for your sensitive piece. Although I am considered "morbidly obese" I engage in LOTS of exercise and hard work, that still continues to confuse and mystify people who do not or refuse to understand that you can be FAT AND BE HEALTHY!!!

Power to all you "fatties" out there!

Meredith Spicer
eugene, oregon


I am reading with great interest your website. I am a teacher of infants and toddlers and hear parents and strangers remark on children's weight regularly. Many people seem to feel they can predict a child's adult weight by looking at his/her cheeks at the age of three months. I see families worry about appropriate lunch portions in fear of creating overweight children. There are too many experts and not enough people telling families to trust their children and themselves. As long as healthy choices are offered and modeled infants and toddlers will get what they need nutritionally.

watertown, ma


Dear Frontline, I appreciated your throughful program about "Fat." We live in culture obsessed with the perfect body. Not only are people willing to have their stomachs altered, but elective surgeries for cosmetic purposes are rising for men and women. One element that I would have liked explored further was the emotional aspect of eating. We all know about good food and exercise. The diet industry makes billions of dollars but often we are stuffing ourselves or starving ourselves. Becoming healthy is a life-long process for most of us, including me.

Carol Merrick
tigard, oregon


I am an exercise physiology graduate student. I also work with individuals developing sound exercise programs to, most often, lose weight. To answer your question, "can you be fat and fit?" Yes. Researchers at the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research have performed longitudinal studies that indicate that being physically active reduces risk of death regardless of body size. Over the time frame of their study (25,000 men followed over 8 years), those who were physically fit and active had much lower risk of death due to cardivascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, among others, than those who were less fit regardless of weight. They found that those who had a BMI less than 27 and were sedentary had a higher risk of death than those with a BMI over 30 and were active. I am not proclaiming exercise is the cure-all, but it is a very important aspect of a well LIFESTYLE. Also important are a proper nutrional/eating plan, stress management skills, and just being happy with yourself and your life. I put lifestyle in all caps in the previous paragraph for those who seem to "yo-yo" with their weight. To lose weight effectively and to keep it off, you need to understand that living well is a life time commitment you need to make.

Paul Chase
bowling green, ohio


I have been teaching aerobics (high intensity, advanced choreography step classes included) for about 10 years. For three years I taught 10 classes a week at my full-time fitness center job. Guess what? I have NEVER been thin! I probably average about 30 pounds overweight, but through years of body/mind work to promote health, I have been injury and illness free for a decade, with very healthy numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugar. When I say I teach aerobics, people always give me the up-and-down look, checking out my body, looking skeptical. But now I am an in-demand teacher in the DC metro area circuit, not because of how I look in a leotard, but because of how I teach, how hard the workout is, and how much energy I have. I would love to fit into a smaller size, but I also realize I have more going for me than most people do! As long as I am fit, I can deal with a little fat.

Diane Wurdeman
rockville, maryland


Dear Frontline, I found your show on obesity very interesing. As a registered nurse I deal with peoploe everyday who are trying to loose weight. They all try fad diets, that don't work. People need to understand that proper nutrition and exercise are the key to feeling well and looking decent. I am a 35 year old mother of 2, work full time, go to school part time and run a house with my husband. I am tired of hearing people say they have no time for exercise. I make the time 5 days per week for 30 minutes. It is not only important for your appearance but for your overall cardiovascular health and prevention of osteoporosis and mental well being. It takes dedication and committment to exercise regularly but it is well worth it. Thanks.

Rosanne Ilardo
so. plainfield, nj


Dear Frontline: I am a fat woman. I have been fat all my life. I also have been very active, not a big eater (unless it was after one of the many two week fasts that I used to do...one gets very hungry after not eating for two weeks).

I lack the words to describe how much hurt has been inflicted on me as a fat person, both by society, and myself. It truly is a living nightmare, one I feel unable to wake up from at times.

I exercise everyday. I eat a very balanced diet. I don't even know what a bon bon or a little susy is, yet most folks assume that I eat them all day. Hell, I don't even own a couch.

We all are born with drive inside. This drive of mine helped me get through an absolutely horrific childhood. This drive helped me support myself through high school while working full time. This drive helped me obtain the grades at community college to get into UC Berkeley and graduate with honors. This drive helps me do all that I do everyday, with sensitivity, and care for a world that thinks that I am a monster. A world that I can't find many clothes to wear in. A world that puts me at great disadvantage for employment, and even housing. A world that puts me at the bottom of the attractive chart, and number #1 on the loser chart. A world in which doctors tell me to lose weight, even if my blood pressure, heart rate, and other real risk factors are perfect, and even if I tell them I eat very well and very little and exercise already. A world that says it honors diversity of skin color and culture, as long as you aren't fat. A world that goes as far as to protect its diversity, but blames me for mine. A world that makes every assumption about how I live my life, and shudders at the fact that someone who has lived a life like mine might just be trying to accept herself and be happy as I am, because as any smart person would do, I have finally accepted the difference between what I can and can't accept, and *REFUSE* to spend any more energy trying to make one the other. In the past, this drive was so diminished by the abuse I have suffered, at moments I would have gladly sold my very soul to the devil to be thin.

For those of you that hate fat people, I shudder at your ignorance, yet feel empathy for the parts of yourself that you must hate so desperately that it is easier to hate others than look at yourself.

For those of you that simply make assumptions about fat people, I urge you to look beyond the obvious. Look around you. Fat people aren't the only ones eating junk food. Look on the streets...there are plenty of fat folks getting exercise. Look at the studies that show we eat no more than you, often less, and how exercise makes our longevity equal to yours. But more than anything, try to accept the shell that your soul resides in, and realize that your real worth is so much more than your wrapping.

And to my fat brothers and sisters, I know your pain. I see how you hold your head up when I walk by, yet drop it down when a thin person crosses your path. I believe your pain, I believe your story, your despair. I refuse to believe that the world wants us to feel this badly, if they knew the truth. The path to self aceeptance begins inside, not in the eyes of others. Stop looking. Join the fat acceptance newsgroup, start or continue to exercise, begin to question all the bigoted crap that has been shoved at us. It is time to make our own movement, and it already has begun. REFUSE to accept anything less that a HUMAN BEING deserves.

Ruby Fleur
olympia, wa


I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Bowen. While appearing to be a comprehensive review, your FAT episode completely overlooked the thousands of us who've learned, from pioneers like Dr. Atkins and from personal experience, that the real villain is carbohydrate foods, especially the refined sugars and starches that make up the great majority of our modern choices. The unsubstantiated knee-jerk reaction that says eating fat makes you fat has biased most of our U.S. medical community to be blind to what many studies here and abroad have shown: the metabolic cycle that relates blood sugar, insulin and fat storage/retrieval to intake of carbohydrates is responsible for obesity. This is especially so among those who are genetically predisposed to trigger that cycle easily. The evidence is clear when seen objectively. Comparisons, such as the one you presented between groups of Pima, would likely reveal more cause-and-effect data if seen from this perspective, rather than merely lumping all diet and exercise together and assuming that fat intake is the major player. Your documentary should at the very least have paid some attention to this widely-known, but unfortunately "alternative" explanation of a 20th Century epidemic. As has been mentioned, our food industry is diametrically opposed to low carb solutions to obesity, and millions have been invested in the myth of low fat dieting along with the billions invested in refined carb production. This alone should have triggered Frontline's normally aggressive instincts for investigation. Let's hear the REAL story.

Hank Lay
huntsville, al


Dear Fronline, Thank you for finally showing the world what we face each day. This show was the first media shot in the arm that I have seen and I appreciated your honesty. With the population becoming heavier I am sure there is a market for honest information instead of the diet/be thin mentality. I would love to see more current research on genetics as it becomes available. Thank you for being a positive voice for those of who are fat.

Maureen Hamilton
postfalls, id


DAdd my "Thank you" to the many I read here. I am 4'11" tall, weigh 165 pounds and am a personal trainer . I am very good at what I do and proud to be able to help others feel good about themselves. Right now I am out of the business because I am caring for a grandson while my daughter finishes school, in addition to a full-time job as a medical transcriptionist. Still, I have the skills and knowledge and use them as much as I possibly can within my time restraints. Please continue to present programs that bring out the best in ALL of us, not just those who are believed to be the right size, age, or other possible segregating definition.

Marilyn Reynolds
oklahoma city, ok


Windsor, CT had it right. This past year, because of life style changes (less active work), I joined a gym for the first time. One of the first things out of the trainer's mouth was how much weight I would loose through exercise...even after I had explained to HIM that I was there to improve strength and fitness--not to loose weight. I am 48 yrs old & have been 150 to 220 lbs since I was 18 yrs old. My weight changes depended on unbalanced diets or whether I was working construction or behind a desk. (I gave up diets in 1979.) When my activity level decreased last year & I decided to join a gym to increase my activity with artificial work, I felt insulted and hurt when all any one talked about was WEIGHT not strength or fitness. I am a strong women in a non-traditional trade & I am changing my carreer path for a desk job. All I want to do is retain my strength and fitness...no become a size 10, not be constantly reminded I am NOT a size 10. Where do I turn now....?

Lynn C
vallejo, ca

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