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May 27, 2007

MeMe Roth: Paranoia is slimming

Self-styled anti-obesity crusader MeMe Roth told Neal Cavuto that 17-year-old Jordin Sparks didn't deserve to win American Idol because of her weight. [Watch.]

Who is this delusional scold, and how did she she get on TV?

Google tells me that MeMe Roth is the founder of a group called National Action Against Obesity.

She also has a blog called Wedding Gown Challenge on which she exhorts people to maintain their college weight throughout their lives. That's not necessarily such bad advice for people who a relatively healthy lifestyle in college. It seems more reasonable to use each individual's lowest stable adult weight to estimate that person's ideal weight, as opposed to some arbitrary height-weight ratio.

However, Roth doesn't seem prepared to apply that standard when she can elevate her public profile at the expense of a healthy-looking 17-year-old girl like Jordin.

According to NAAO's website, the group has trademarked the term "Secondhand Obesity™" to denote 'obesity handed down from one generation to the next, as well as from citizen to citizen.'

That's right: MeMe Roth's group asserts that obesity is a communicable condition. Hence Roth's willingness to berate Sparks, I suppose. According to Roth's crackpot theory, Jordin is a vector for fatness. A veritable typhoid Mary, scarcely afflicted herself, but suppressing national leptin levels over the airwaves.

Notice how this "Secondhand Obesity" metaphor frames weight as a matter of personal culpability. I agree that bad environments predispose people to be sedentary and badly nourished.

However, the NAAO's concept of secondhand obesity makes it sound like obese people themselves are endangering others, as opposed to the modern living conditions that make everyone less healthy and some people fat.

The NAAO is trying to make it sound like parenting or performing with a few extra pounds is akin to chain smoking in a daycare center.

Because nothing fights obesity like berating healthy people until they stay very quiet and still. Good thinking, MeMe!

Roth was nearly arrested for attempting to confiscate confiscate sprinkles and other goodies from a Pennsylvania YMCA. She decided that the folks at the fitness center were too fat:

Roth cites an overrepresentation of obesity among employees and volunteers, including the Philadelphia Area Spring Valley YMCA in Limerick, PA where she had come to exercise Tuesday. She assumes the membership falls closely in line to the U.S.'s national obesity figures: two-thirds of adults overweight -- one-third of children overweight. The YMCA recently completed its own version of The Biggest Loser. [PRnewsnow]

Roth also engineered a boycott of the women's magazine Redbook in retaliation for a March cover story entitled "We Love Your Body From Size 2 to 20."

What drives MeMe? She says that Eddie Van Halen made her promise never to get fat.

HT: Zuzu.

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Comments

Nobody knows if there's a David Lee Roth - MeMe Roth connection? If it's a coincidence, it's an amusing one.

The fact that this particular woman has a control-freaky and negative message doesn't change the fact that being overweight, while perhaps attractive to some, is in general a very unhealthy condition. Does anybody doubt the result of asking 10,000 doctors about the relative desirability of being overweight? How many do you think would say "don't worry about that extra 30 pounds, it's fine"? How about asking the AMA? http://tinyurl.com/3blwp6

What I'm saying is that the fact that anorexia is wrong doesn't mean that being overweight is right. And it's just a sad fact that not everybody is going to be able to maintain a healthy weight. That's life. But it shouldn't affect positive efforts to encourage kids to eat right and exercise.

Guest: Of course there's no reason folks shouldn't be encouraged to be healthy but my point wasn't that overweight folks are attractive because they're overweight or because that's a preference I have. My point was just that these people are perfectly fine enough exactly as they are today. Everybody has room for improvement.

My feelings are much the same as James Raven's, except that I worry about all the people who aren't as enlightened as James and I. To think that a couple of million people actually sat in front of the tube and watched this debate, and that some of them actually thought that the people were debating an important issue...(I just listened to the first minute or so from the clip, that was enough) (and I'm not saying that obesity isn't an important issue, just that who wins some craptastic phony competition is not an important issue).

Guest, I think we all agree there is a "weight crisis" in the US, and that obesity is killing people left and right. The question is, what's the most effective way of handling it. From personal experience, I'd argue that Roth's suggestion that showing size 10's on television encourages people to eat McDonald's is enormously stupid. It reinforces the idea that skinny people get to live public lives and everyone else should stay in hiding.

Fat people don't go to the gym not because they don't need to, but because they're everywhere hearing people complain about having to look at fat people. I'm not very big myself, but every time I think about going running in the park, I have to battle with a MeMe-Roth-ish voice in my head saying, "All those bone-thin runners will be tut-tutting about your flesh. No one wants to see that." And I hear the same from a lot of friends who are thinner than me.

Shame doesn't get people moving. Treating "weight" or "fat" as if it's separate from the rest of the body doesn't get people moving. Talking to people where they are, and telling them their bodies are capable, useful, potentially strong, and not disgusting is what gets them out moving.

Amen, White Bear.

Notice how this "Secondhand Obesity" metaphor frames weight as a matter of personal culpability.

While at the same time undermining that frame with the assertion that other people can make you fat. If Jordin Sparks' weight is somehow a contributing factor in the weight of other people, then those people aren't fully responsible for their own weight. Roth is trying to play both sides here.

I thought those young people on the video were repulsive.

By a funny coincidence, this is the new Bizarro cartoon for Wednesday. Do you think MeMe would enjoy having a pair of fat pants like that? It could give her a nice faux sense of accomplishment!

If this is the same person (and it likely is), I think we have an incorrigible narcissist without the least shred of empathy here!

(thanks to the spam bot choking to death, you will have to do your own google for "meredith roth tantrum" and click the Parents magazine "field report" link)

The money bit:

Roth tried to tell the stranger that she was handling the tantrum, but the woman kept on criticizing — as she followed Roth around the store.

"I wanted to go to my car and cry," says Roth. "I felt like a failure, a public embarrassment."

And how, exactly, is anybody heading into the YMCA for a swim supposed to feel with this moral scold going all Carrie Nation all over the place? How is a very successful 17-year-old supposed to accept her "help"?

I'm sorry, but as schlocky as Richard Simmons is, he's done a HELL of a lot about the obesity epidemic in this country with his glurchily supportive love of people sweating out of every one of his pores than Me!(heylookit)ME! will EVER do for ANYBODY including her narcissistic self!

Jordin is a size 10? TEN???? At SIX flipping FEET TALL????

Putting aside for a moment the concept of camera lens distortion (which makes me fear for Me!Me!Me! Roth's health -- I work in communications and most actresses and dancers are bite size people) -- is THAT what constitutes being "fat" now in middle-to-upper-class white female American society?

GaAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

http://everywomanhasaneatingdisorder.blogspot.com/

everywomanhas

Meme Roth clearly has some type of psychological disorder. She is an outright bigot. How can you issue an opinion on a person’s medical condition by looking at them. Resist the Cult of the emaciated!

The Angry Belly, TheAngryBelly.com

I suppose I'd want to know several things about MeMe Roth.

1) What are her medical or other expert qualifications?
2) Why aren't there actual names on her website, but only initials (as per infomercials)?
3) Why should I pay any more attention to her than anyone else holding an opinion in this area?

How is MeMe Roth the expert on who is "obese"? She is only contributing to the problem of already prevalent problem of eating disorders among young women

my letter to Ms. Roth's organization

I don’t watch American Idol unless I’m being held captive at an airline gate or waiting in a long line at the grocery store (where I of course will have avoided the central aisles and shopped only along the vegetable, fruit and whole grain laden periphery). But I couldn’t avoid this latest tempest in the teapot of American pop culture involving your founder Ms. Roth and the recent winner of American Idol, Jordin Sparks.

Meme Roth is of course correct in her estimation that Americans eat too much, surround themselves with easily accessible empty calories and are sedentary. But her vicious sand bagging of a young women of color, has done your organization’s efforts to raise awareness of these problems and to correct them more harm than good, especially among communities of color where the hectoring attack on national television of a 17 year old talented girl of color by a skinny, white, mean spirited, blond, suburban drone named “Meme” will be dismissed as the delusional rant of an unfulfilled scold – to put not too fine a point on it. I don’t necessarily agree with every aspect of this assessment, but as someone who shares your concern about obesity and about the junk food industry’s stalking of young children, I assure you that is how she came off. By any reasonable, informed estimation unbiased by prejudice for bone thinness as the feminine ideal, Jordin Sparks is not obese or fat as Ms. Roth clearly implied. As a self appointed nutrition expert --forgive me but I’m unaware of any academic or professional credentials that vouch for Ms. Roth’s expertise -- she should be familiar with the developing consensus that some people will never drop below a certain weight unless they starve themselves.

One is left to wonder whether Ms. Roth is completely unaware of the other food-related epidemic that grips American culture, as thousands of once happy, assertive girls grow into neurotic, anorexic and bulimic young women starving themselves to perfection and causing their families anguish and panic. One is also left to wonder whether Ms. Roth has chosen to exorcise her own food demons not just on the backs of the dangerously obese, but on the lives of healthy women and girls who have chosen to eschew the obsessive pursuit of rail thin waifishness and compulsive exercise that perhaps Ms. Roth has adopted in favor of the normal development of breasts, hips, thighs and buttocks. Perhaps she is resentful of women who have, despite the best efforts of fashion advertising, managed to avoid an aversion to their own bodies. And if Ms. Roth finds my speculation, and, no doubt, the unkind speculation that countless other people are making about her, about her personal life and her mental health (or lack thereof) intrusive or offensive, perhaps she will come to understand the limits of her armchair medical practice, will give us a break from her self aggrandizing tedium, and return to doing something that has even a meager chance of convincing people to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and exercise regularly. We can only hope.

Hampton Smith

We need to have Eddie Van Halen talk to her. No one else will do. ;-)

The fact that this particular woman has a control-freaky and negative message doesn't change the fact that being overweight, while perhaps attractive to some, is in general a very unhealthy condition. Does anybody doubt the result of asking 10,000 doctors about the relative desirability of being overweight? How many do you think would say "don't worry about that extra 30 pounds, it's fine"? How about asking the AMA? http://tinyurl.com/3blwp6

What I'm saying is that the fact that anorexia is wrong doesn't mean that being overweight is right. And it's just a sad fact that not everybody is going to be able to maintain a healthy weight. That's life. But it shouldn't affect positive efforts to encourage kids to eat right and exercise.


Actually, DJA, if you read The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos, you'll see that being overweight doesn't mean being unhealthy. BEING SEDENTARY AND EATING FAST-FOOD, REGARDLESS OF SIZE, is what causes unhealthiness. I'm a size 22, which was the size that I was in college but I don't think that's what Look-at-Me-Me Roth is advocating. Me, I tell people get healthy and not superthin, it lasts longer!

Also, another great book I recommend is Real Women Don't Diet by Ken Mayer.
I've heard great things about the Gina Kolata book too.

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