Skip to content

Looking through HAES-colored glasses for Rosie

by Deb Lemire

As you have no doubt heard, earlier this month Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack. I am a big fan of Rosie’s, always have been. She is a big, powerful woman, compassionate and real in a Hollywood world where that is rare—even if it gets her in trouble sometimes. I have been compared to her when on stage, a great compliment to me. We are physically similar. I can be funny at times and it’s a no brainer if I pull out the Brooklyn dialect. Heck, we are even the same age.

(You be the judge…)

Up until the end of last year Rosie had a radio show on Satellite radio. I listened to it whenever I could. Her friend who co-hosted the show was always on a diet and weight loss was often a topic of conversation. Rosie would share her struggle with weight, dieting and food. I wrote in and called in several times and tried, without much luck, to introduce the Health At Every Size® model to the conversation.

Now Rosie has had a heart attack. Her left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery was 99% blocked. She was lucky. Blockage of this artery is often called the ‘widow maker’ because it is the primary feed of oxygen to the heart and if the heart doesn’t get oxygen, NO body part gets oxygen! So very often this blockage proves fatal even when help is sought immediately.

One of my fears that sneaks up on me when things like this hit the news is that I will become very ill, or have a cardiac event and everyone will KNOW that it was my own fault because I am fat and I should have known it was coming, should have taken better care of myself, I deserved it, etc. Then, in a panic, I think about jumping back into the diet cycling that likely contributed to my health crisis in the first place, because… am I nuts?! A Health At Every Size approach?!  Loving my body, intuitive eating, fun exercise?! What was I thinking?!

While I would love to think this is an unreasonable train of thought, the comments surrounding the story of Rosie’s health crisis only substantiate my fears.

Bysabniz posts: she’s overweight, which would be the main cause for heart problem. anyone who thinks weight is not a problem, should think twice.

Aries1979 charms us with: why don’t you try 30 minutes on a treadmill you fat bitch!

Arnie Buckethead has it all figured out: maybe it was her fat, gluttonous eating habits !!!! Idiots !!!

Sfd at least isn’t outright rude: I don’t want to be mean, but when you’re overweight, what do you expect?

And Muddbuddy1111 makes sure it is clear: obese is not cool, no matter how pc America becomes. her size is not to be accepted by anyone, including herself.

No doubt Rosie’s brush with death will cause her to do some serious rethinking of how she lives her life, as it would for any of us. Before she hops on that runaway train of self blame and recrimination, I would like to look at this through a Health At Every Size lens, for all of our sakes.

First of all Bysabniz, overweight is NOT the main cause for heart problems. Even according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a group firmly mired in the weight-based paradigm, the major risk factors for a heart attack are “smoking, overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity along with family history and increasing age.” Although the data suggests that each of these factors may be correlated with heart disease, no one risk factor causes heart disease in itself. People of all shapes and sizes, famous and not, deal with heart disease. The HAES® model recognizes our responsibility to take good care of ourselves; therefore, a HAES practitioner would look at all of these possible contributing factors and facilitate improvements in areas of self-care that are possible and appropriate.

Name calling, Aries1979 and Arnie? Nice. I will go out on a limb here and assume these two and Rosie are not pals, so really there is no way they have any idea what or how Rosie eats on a daily basis, or how much physical activity she gets. Research tells us that the average larger person doesn’t eat any more than the average smaller person and that physical activity improves health outcomes whether or not it results in weight loss. The HAES model encourages us to eat and move in a way that best serves our body; providing necessary nutrition and enjoyable physical activity. If you have specific needs because of allergies, sensitivities, disease, physical limitations or say you are recovering from a heart attack, then the HAES model expands to meet those needs.

And SFD…what should any one expect? Respect. That being said, larger people should not automatically expect to experience disease at a greater rate than smaller people. In fact, research sponsored by the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC found that the lowest mortality rate is found in the overweight BMI category. And in studies of those 55 and older, both overweight and obesity confer a significant decreased risk of mortality. The HAES model is an excellent tool for addressing wellness in people of all sizes by focusing on health rather than weight. Focusing on weight can lead to under treatment of those with a lower weights and over-treatment of those with higher weights (see the chart below prepared by Deb Burgard based on data from this article). This is not cost effective and it leaves a great many people receiving inadequate health care.

Source: Deb Burgard, “The War on Obesity: The Eating Disorders Community at a Crossroads.” Keynote at 2012 conference of Eating Disorder Recovery Support, Inc.

And Muddbuddy, Muddbuddy, Muddbuddy. Not to be accepted by anyone? Really? People don’t take care of things they hate. Our current cultural environment that condemns people for body size, whether deemed too fat or too thin, only supports the diet industry’s bottom line. Weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66% over the past decade, and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination, especially among women. Discrimination has never led to improvement in our society. A Health At Every Size approach teaches us to recognize and respect the diversity of bodies and emboldens us to take good care of ourselves and each other.

So Rosie, I wish you a speedy recovery my friend. And I hope you are able to love yourself enough to take good care and find health at your own size.

Accessibility Toolbar