If ever there was an example of America’s screwed-up relationship with food and physical appearance (a pathology shared by the skinny as well as the fat), it’s in the current web debate over whether Obama’s nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin, is too fat for the post of national health czar. My favorite quote came yesterday from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who declared in typically stentorian tones: “Some say she could be as much as 40 pounds overweight.” Are we vetting a surgeon general nominee here, or evaluating a piece of livestock?
This is another example of willfully confusing physical attractiveness — the pop ideal of it, that is — with health. My guess is that if Pres. Obama – tall, skinny, and photographed regularly jogging and playing basketball – hadn’t copped to sneaking the occasional cigarette, it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone to challenge the status of his health. And don’t give me that bunk about the surgeon general requiring extra scrutiny because of his/her position as a “health role model” — Dr. Benjamin could be “as much as 40 pounds overweight” and still exercise regularly and have normal blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. This is way more about appearance – the appearance of a professional woman who wants a job that will regularly put her before a national audience – than it is about health.