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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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Besides the fact that MeMe Roth is welcome to STFU, Jordin is simply not an obese person. From the few clips of the show I've seen, she seems to have a large upper carriage, which is common in most singers. If we start singing young, our rib cages expand and make our upper bodies look larger. Full body shots of her show she actually has a narrow waist and hips compared to her singing-appropriate upper body. This is just like the crap Margaret Cho claims pushed her over the line into anorexia. A round face (the product of genetics) kept people from seeing that she was pretty thin already.

Besides, every study on earth shows that people who are a little overweight are significantly healthier than people who are a little underweight. Sure, there are plenty of people who are obese in the world, just as there are plenty of too-skinny people. When we yell and scream and shame about weight, those two groups don't veer inward toward healthy and normal; they seem to be diverging further all the time.

Agreed 100%. That girl isn't obese by any stretch of the imagination.

It's impossible to guess whether someone is healthy just by looking. Roth must have funhouse mirrors installed in her visual cortex to see Jordin as a symbol of ill-health.

Jordin is radiant, IMO.

I long to live in a world in which if a television personality said "Eddie Van Halen inspired my lifelong crusade," and the lifelong crusade didn't involve teaching kids the difference between good music and crap, the pundit would be held up for national ridicule for a couple of days and never heard from again.

She was upset that overweight people went to the gym?!?

Anyway, this is yet another attempt to convince us that good old-fashioned personal responsibility is the reason some people fall victim to intense marketing of tasty edible poison.

Incidentally, Lindsey, re: your comment, it seems to me you're missing her point, which you make nicely in your post. It's not about Jordin's health at all. "Point" is that Jordin could appear, to America's children, to be overweight (per MeMe's standards); whether or not she actually is, theoretically her coronation or whatever it's called will spread the idea to other kids that fatness (or let's say appearing heavier than MeMe) is acceptable, causing kids around the country to gorge and become obese.

Which really is quite a bit more astonishing than just making stupid comments about one kid. She's saying that there's an obesity epidemic, and that one of the factors in the epidemic is the lack of sufficient scorn for fat people (which, um...well, ok, she's on a roll). Therefore, anyone wou could be perceived by children as overweight should not be allowed to participate in public fora in any but unattractive positions--i.e. hold 'em up for ridicule, or ignore them entirely. And, incidentally, this is so important that game shows should be rigged to avoid the possibility of rewarding a fat person.

Because that is evidently less of a restriction on liberty than mandating P.E. in school or working to get people out of sedentary lifestyles or making healtier foods more widely available.

The more I think about this the more I wonder whether she isn't a performance artist of some sort.


1) I also long to live in a world where any adult who chose to be adressed as MeMe wouldn't have an opportunity to be a television personality in the first place,

2) you can't imagine how much fun it was to take a break from a Vonnegut novel and notice this post, and

3) I still think it's got to be harder to crack the Pentagon's network than to post two comments in a row on this blog.

(easier, dammit. Sorry. And that was supposed to be "who," not "wou," in my other comment. I'll stop spamming your board now. Assuming I can get this comment up at all.)

In the clip, Roth's kind of cagey/incoherent about her motives. At first she seems to be saying that Jordin is overweight, but she then she gets some pushback from her fellow guest. Then Roth shifts her emphasis slightly to suggest that even if Jordin isn't overweight she's contributing to the perception that being overweight is acceptable. So, in Roth's twisted worldview, overweight and average women should be sequestered from public life to forestall the inference that being overweight is okay. Because once the word gets out that it's okay to be healthy, the gig is up.

Okay, I'm obviously not the go-to guy on Van Halen trivia but surely someone here is: is MeMe somehow related to David Lee?

A White Bear -

There was a big study of nurses in the early 1990s which found that underweight nurses had greater longevity than nurses who were normal weight or overweight.

Thinner people live longer...a reduction in calories is related to longevity - the more so if the reduction in calories is severe...however, MS. Roth is either whack, or trying to cash in on the Supersize Me craze, or both.

MeMe Roth is whack. The problems of obesity, especially in the young, are too complex to be solved with the type of drive-by health evaluation that seems to be Roth's specialty. What can be completely guaranteed is that comments like hers are not going to make a single child healthier or start them on the path to a balanced diet.

I went to her blog. This is a person who claims that Bill O'Reilly called her a fascist.

My head hurts.

Actually, the data aren't all that conclusive on the thinner people live longer thing -- at least not in the cause & effect sense. Plus there is some evidence that trying such a thing (severe calorie restriction, prolonged dieting, etc.) is harmful to people who aren't thin to begin with. Check out Gina Kolata's new book for cites.

Of course, I'm fat, so don't listen to me. Even though my bad cholesterol is low, good cholesterol is high, blood pressure is low, and I'm not even remotely diabetic, nor is anyone in my fat family. And I exercise daily and eat pretty well. Must be all those fat little old ladies in my family, hanging around well into their nineties messing with my head, making me think it's morally acceptable somehow to be so hideous.

I come from a long line of chunky women and I'm hypotensive so a little weight actually helps keep me from being at risk of going into shock from a papercut. My husband is a stick figure from a long line of stick figures with my son following in his father's genetic footsteps. Both of us, two radically different body types, come from long lived families. Surprise, surprise there is more to health than is found in MeMe's philosophy.

Lindsay, couldn't find documentation about MeMe (a.k.a. Meredith) Roth's relationship, if any, to David Lee Roth, and I'm just not going to spend any more time looking -- but check out the gal in the pic on his official website. Can't tell if it's her on account of the makeup and light, but the jawline? The hair?

Are you sure that isn't the National Anorexic Association? Because she certainly sounds a lot like that evil little voice that can never be satisfied.

Since I don't watch television, I have no idea who or what the fuck you're talking about. Since I don't watch television, I can notice that y'all are talking about something someone on television said about someone else on television. Since I don't watch television I know that the simple act of watching creates the physical addiction to it, no matter what you watch.

The most healthy thing anyone can do for themselves is to turn off the fucking television. Permanently.

It's okay. I know. I've heard what's in your heads right now from drug addicts in denial; all you have to do is switch "meth" or "crack" with television.

Read books. Surf the web learning stuff you will never hear about, much less learn about, on television. Stop thinking that what you've got going on here is intelligent conversation by enlightened people.

It ain't.

I read somewhere, but unfortunately can't remember where, that earlier in the contest it was suggested that LaKisha and Melinda wouldn't win because they were "too fat." This suggests that the punitive and mean-spirited MeMe (or is it "Meme"?) principle seems already to be in operation...

Surf the web

Is that an advice about how not to be stupid?

Eddie Van Halen inspired my lifelong crusade," and the lifelong crusade didn't involve teaching kids the difference between good music and crap, the pundit would be held up for national ridicule for a couple of days and never heard from again.

The hell does wanking guitar solos, plodding rhythm sections, and three, count 'em, three of the most lifeless vocalists in rock music have to do with know what "good music" is? You ever heard that Van Halen 3 the band put out in the '90s with Gary Cherone in the lead singer sport? Good God, that was horrible. And sad. Horribly sad.

Yeah, well, Eddie had to deal with the shattering trauma of having a wife who (in the course of raising his child while he shuttled in and out of rehab) lost her figure. She's the new spokespenitent for a weight loss product now.

Yes, when faced with a train ride without reading matter, I will in fact read People.

Since I don't watch television, I can notice that y'all are talking about something someone on television said about someone else on television. Since I don't watch television I know that the simple act of watching creates the physical addiction to it, no matter what you watch. [...] Stop thinking that what you've got going on here is intelligent conversation by enlightened people. It ain't.

The real problem is that we've got it all backwards. It is the plain-bellied Sneetches who are awesome, and the star-bellied Sneetches who suck!

Fortunately, my moral superiority licenses me to dispense arbitrary abuse.

Everything worth knowing I learned from Dr. Suess. And why is it always about the bellies?

One of the things I liked best about this last season of Idol was that women like Jordin Sparks and Melinda Doolittle proved that women who don't fit the Spears/Simpson/bonerack stereotype are still beautiful, talented and healthy.

MeMe Roth oughta examine why her self-esteem is centered on her desire to control how other people look and behave.

Oh...on Eddie's ex-wife. Valerie Bertinelli is just plain gorgeous as she is. If she wants to slim down that's OK by me (why not), but it's criminal if she's somehow got some message that says she isn't a worthwhile individual just as she is or that her gaining weight is a sign of some moral or other personal failing.

People find enough reasons to beat themselves up without judgmental appearance-fascists adding to the damage.

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