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What Is Bullying?

Being a health care provider and educator, I've met all sorts of people who are passionate about healthy eating. My experience has been that most people looking to improve and maintain their health through optimal food choices and a balanced lifestyle have good intentions and seek to be healthy so that they can enjoy being alive.

Sadly, I've also known some people who have gone into an emotional death spiral of sorts, where the desire for better health transforms into something quite dark, a mindset that seems to rate people's worth by what they eat and how thin or fit they appear.

Many years ago when I was living in California and deeply immersed in learning about the health benefits of water fasting, I followed a strict vegan diet, choosing to eat mostly raw foods with small servings of cooked vegetables, legumes, and some gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice. At that time, I became good friends with a fellow who was a true champion of the raw food diet. He had serious dental problems that he couldn't afford to have treated, but he was close to all-raw, an exercise enthusiast, and overall, an inspiration to those looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

After I returned to Canada, got married, and started my own fasting clinic, my friend came for a visit one winter. I wondered what he would think about me marrying someone who wasn't a strict vegan - Margaret had long followed a healthy lifestyle, but never to any extreme. And since getting married, though I was still a vegetarian, I didn't get too crazy about avoiding the occasional processed treat like non-dairy ice cream or tortilla chips with salsa.

Well, as soon as Margaret offered my friend some tostitos with salsa after our huge salad dinner, I saw something flicker in my friend's face. He was still pleasant, but I sensed that he was dismayed over us having such foods in our home.

Though he never specifically condemned my shift away from the diet that I faithfully followed while I was in California, over the next few months, our friendship fizzled away. In one e-mail, he mentioned that he was as determined as ever not to lower his standards, which I guess was his way of gently letting me know that he couldn't be friends with someone who wasn't committed to the same way of eating.

Here's the thing: though it hurt a bit to feel rejected based on my food choices, I think my friend was quite civil about expressing his values. Sadly, I have found that some people with my friend's mindset on diet can get downright elitist and mean when they interact with people who don't live up to their ideas on what a healthy diet and lifestyle look like.

Take, for example, a message that one viewer sent to a Wisconsin news anchor named Jennifer Livingston:

"Hi Jennifer, It's unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn't improved for many years. Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular."

"Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle."

Jennifer responded to this message, saying

"Now those of us in the media, we get a healthy dose of critiques from our viewers throughout the year, and we realize that it comes with having a job in the public eye.

"But this email was more than that.

"The truth is, I am overweight. You could call me fat, and yes, even obese, on a doctor’s chart. But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that, that your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see?

"You don't know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family. And you have admitted that you don't watch this show.

"So you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on the scale.

"That man's words mean nothing to me, but what really angers me about this is there are children who don't know better, who get e-mails as critical as the one I received, or in may cases even worse, each and every day. The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground and this behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail.

"If you were at home and you were talking about the fat news lady, guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat.

"To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, you sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now: do not let your self worth be defined by bullies."

Here is Jennifer's full response via video:

My feeling is that most people would agree that the message sent to Jennifer was unkind and unnecessary. But there are those who don't feel this way at all. Take, for example, the following comment from the news station's facebook page:

"When did opinions and observations put in a clear message become bullying? He saw a woman that could take better care of herself and said as much. I could lose a few pounds myself and don't mind hearing it from those around me. I contend that Jennifer, in fact, is the bully. She used her position of influence to ostracize a man who pointed out her flaw. Jennifer might take this opportunity to evaluate her life choices and make some changes to her diet for the love of her family and loved ones. Eating disorders are serious as they are often how we are hard-wired. To those that rally around the overweight to spare their feelings, use that energy to encourage better diet choices. In the same way we might not want to see a friend drinking beer every day, we should suggest better eating options to those who need upbeat advice. So many would rather pat the shoulders of those whose feelings have been hurt. I don't feel that shaming is the answer, nor is coddling."

I, for one, am with those who feel that the message sent to Jennifer was an act of bullying. I imagine that Jennifer, like most of us, has enough challenges in her everyday life - making a living, taking care of loved ones, caring for herself, looking to be of service to others - that it's not helpful in the slightest to have someone tell her that she is setting a bad example for children.

I've long believed that a healthy body without a thoughtful spirit that is sensitive to other people's feelings is somewhat of a wasted existence. Who cares if we're healthy if we're going to walk through this world making others feel bad? If people don't sparkle in our presence, we are not nourishing them, we are not nurturing, regardless of our intentions.

Thanks, Jennifer, for reminding us to be mindful of everything we say, especially in front of our children.


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I thought Jennifer speaking up and letting that person know that was a bunch of crap was great, she was right she knows how she looks. Also this person doesnt even watch the show and how dare he comment on her weight I mean seriously like she said this is a taught and learned behaviour, how rude. I know when I was a little girl I didnt want the news or weather or any TV thinking Oh she is fat or oh she is skinny I want to be like her and for this ignorant ass to comment on her weight he is a jerk that has no clue. What happened to kids just watching things and thinking Oh I want to do weather like her, its rude ignorant people like this that teach this behaviour to their children and should be slapped. Why are you even commenting if you dont watch and you dont like her or how she looks, turn the channel but all these rude people that comment on weight have no idea a persons story on what is going on in their life so get a clue you jerks

The was a time in America when civilized people were taught to ignore comments from rude or ignorant people because they did not deserve acknowledgment. I was taught, "sticks and stone may break my bones, names can never hurt me."
Now America is at a crossroad. In the mime of preventing bullying, people/media are promoting censorship.
Did he cause physical nor economic harm? Is anyone in danger?
I hope for liberty and America.

I too have been on the receiving end of at least 'looks' of surprise when people meet me. I am overweight. It's not until I see a picture of myself, that I see it. I love myself and my life. I have been with my amazing husband 25+ years and we have 2 great kids. I eat healthfully and exercise regularly. I have a ton of friend and I laugh, A LOT! I have a very rich and full life.

As a registered nurse and wellness educator myself, I absolutely know the health risks of not being at an ideal weight, but what is that? Is someone who is an 'ideal' weight, but eats food that does not nourish their body or soul, is that healthy? What about someone who is and ideal weight, eats well and exercises, but is still unhappy and lonely?

I think when it really hit home for me was finally being diagnosed with thyroid and adrenal issues. Again, I am a nurse, and I have 'doctor hopped' trying to find one who will listen to me and see beyond a few lab results. Which I finally did. For 10 years I have struggled with a variety of vague symptoms and I've just been ignored or even told it was all in my head. I now know that my undiagnosed health issues (which actually I've been borderline hypothyroid for years but not bad enough for anyone to do anything about) have played a MAJOR role in my inability to keep weight off. I guess the good news is that even though I may be overweight by some standards, I've been the same weight for at least those 10 years.

I certainly can't speak for Jennifer and none of us know what she has been through. But to look at someone and judge them on the basis of their looks is shameful.

I'm of the older generation and couldn't help but remember what I was told many times growing up, "If you can't say something good, don't say anything".

Whomever this person was that sent the nasty note must be a self centered, spoiled individual. To say something so unkind to person you do not even know. We all have a hard time nowadays and we sure do not need this. I cannot imagine what kind of parent this person must be? Not all of us can be Victoria's Secret models, nor would we want to be. Who knows the struggles Jennifer has? It is a strong person who gets up and does a job, and does it well. I myself am a little over weight. this does not mean I have an eating disorder. I have a thyroid problem that caused this. So give Jennifer the benefit of being who she is. Look aroudn you there are NO perfect people.
I admire her for standing up to that bully. I hope she can and does press charges against the small minded person.
I hope the person that wrote the letter to her gets help.

I'm not really sure the individual who wrote the anchor woman could be considered a bully. I do believe he had any evil intention with his message. I did not sense as "attack mode" with him.

That said, his words were inappropriate, however, on other levels. But I believe in his heart he had only the best of intentions. He was trying to help her.

I've been bullied...I know. I've experienced it all my life. But again, his words did not seem of that nature.

It's just that he picked the wrong forum to offer what he believed was good advice...and sometimes, with emails, text messages, and even commentaries like this...that I'm writing right now...the core message of intent (and vice versa) gets lost in the translation.

The bottom line is this: the woman is overweight. She knows it's not healthy...and she also knows she has to change. But it was not the writer's place to tell her those things...unless he was asked and/or if he knew her.

But again, his intentions, in my opinion, were not to hurt her...but to help her. His words were simply misinterpretted...and ultimately, the anchor woman bullied HIM.

Here's a definition of a bully: "a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people".
"to act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer".

When I think of a bully, I think of someone picking on another person that is weaker than the bully. Clearly, Jennifer Livingston is not a weak person ...she has a lot of influence and position in her community. While what that person said about Jennifer was quite rude, I think bully is the wrong word to use. He sounds more like a coward, hiding behind his computer and email to say things in a non-productive manner.

He is correct in saying that obesity is becoming an epidemic, especially in young children. It is up to the parent to instill exercise and proper eating as a healthy life style for their children.

Thank-you Ellen...i totally agree with you..that person was unkind, nasty, vicious and hurtful but he was not bullying...

You are correct, Ellen: the anonymous viewer may be many things, but he was not engaging in "bullying" behaviour. This word has been overused in recent years. A part of the whole political correctness scene that has overtaken our culture.

I also agree that "bully" or "bullying" is the wrong word to use in this case.

Terms are very important, and unless we use the same definitions for the same terms, we are simply not even talking about the same things. So I also looked up some definitions of "bullying."

According to OJJDP Fact Sheet, bullying "encompasses a variety of negative acts carried out repeatedly over time. It involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more powerful child or group attacking those who are less powerful. Bullying can take three forms: physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, taking personal belongings); verbal [taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, making threats); and psychological (spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, or engaging in social exclusion, extortion or intimidation)."

The email to Jennifer, though definitely critical of her personally, was not (1) repeated over time, and (2) was not done by a person who had real or perceived power over her. Though it was certainly a criticism, and would therefore most conform to a "verbal" form, it was not taunting, was not malicious teasing, there was no name calling employed at all, and there were no threats whatsoever.

Wikipedia's definition of bullying is the following: "Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability" and I would also add "physical appearance."

Again, under this definition, the email to Jennifer, though definitely critical of her personally, was not "the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate" her.

Certainly, these comments were "criticism." And criticism can certainly be unpleasant and can often be used in a cruel way. We all have our flaws. And any time someone tries to draw attention to one or more of our flaws, even if it is to try to help us, it is usually painful.

But to call this email bullying is clearly wrong.

This article says this was an email to her, and as such I assume that it was not readable by any other persons, but only to her, so it was not a public issue until she made it a public issue. It was not true bullying, and therefore had no place as an example of bullying.

I feel that to call any unpleasant comments or criticism "bullying" dilutes the meaning of the term. Bullying is becoming illegal, punishable behavior in our society and rightly so. But criticism is not in the same league.

Additionally, in the fight against bullying, calling criticism bullying can have an effect kind of like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."

I also feel that by calling this action "bullying" on the air, it diluted the definition of bullying to a larger segment of the population, and created confusion on the issue.

But I am sorry she was hurt by the comments.

Other people's weight is of no relevance. Neither is anyone's height, color, political party, ethnicity, hair, clothing, house, car, etc. Other people are us. We are all part of the same life.

And all of us, just like the viewer who commented, have many things in our own lives to face if the world is going to be peaceful - our own actions day to day, disconnects in our own family, our anger or fear or depression or despair, our words to those around us, our history.

When we see past the surface of others' lives to their hearts and value them, we generate happiness and health in ourselves and in others. These are not just nice words but supported by scientific work showing how powerfully our thoughts alter water which makes us most of our bodies and others'.

Only one thing matters and it is very simple - whether we are creating happiness or suffering in the world. As we appreciate all around us, we deeply alter ourselves and everything around us, toward health.

This Oprah program gives some idea how powerful it is when we look at ourselves, not others, and how wonderful it becomes for the world.

I agree with the comments that Jennifer's weight is her own problem and should not be relevant to others unless it affects another person. I have been irritated many times when an obese person is seated next to me on an airplane and expects to have the right to take over half my seat without asking or an apology. I spent good money on my seat and honestly don't want to share it for several hours with a complete stranger who is much too close for comfort. Have I ever verbally insulted that person? No. If available, I'll ask for another seat. The obese person won and will on the next flight make another person suffer.

I believe the airlines should install several over sized seats and add a surcharge, after all they are charging nowadays extra for everything.

I feel what was said about Jennifer was uncalled for.In order for a person to criticize others,that person has very low self esteem ,low self worth.low self confidence is some way.Why else would that person go out of the way to say negative things?

I agree that the comment was bullying. Who asked the bloke to comment on her? What does he know about whatever efforts she may bemaking to deal with her issues? Nothing at all. She may well have metabolic problems that are not particularly easy to deal with with the best will in the world.

A case for checking for beams in his own eye before tackling motes in the eyes of other people.

Great article and thank you for sharing.
I feel there can sometimes be a very fine line between what some would call bullying and others feeling it's not. In the last part of your article you said, "I've long believed that a healthy body without a thoughtful spirit that is sensitive to other people's feelings is somewhat of a wasted existence. Who cares if we're healthy if we're going to walk through this world making others feel bad? If people don't sparkle in our presence, we are not nourishing them, we are not nurturing, regardless of our intentions."
I think this sums it up very well. My mother used to always tell us, if you can't say something good or kind, then don't say anything at all. It took me a long time to actually learn this and put this into practice.
I have been over weight all my life and as a child I was teased by people I called friends and these are the things I remember most clearly on the playground! These were friends! My friends hurt me, and they often were not even aware! But they were my friends!
I have been living and working in China for the past 9 years and people here often approach me and tell me, in Chinese, that I am very fat! This brings back my childhood and although I also have "a thick skin" it sometimes angers me and I want to lash out by saying, "You think I don't know that?" These are not my friends. If they were family or friends it might be received differently.
Jennifer Livingston said it well when she stated that the man writing to her was not her friend, was not even a colleague and not her family. I feel this is where we need to draw the line.
If the person is not your friend, your family or someone who has a close relationship with you, then they shouldn't be telling you how to live or stating the obvious. Without my playground experience, I may not feel so strongly about this, as I am sure there are many who have had the same experience.
Once again, thank you Dr. Kim for sharing and giving us something to think about. We should be responsible for what we say to others and think about how it makes them feel.

God said that not one person is perfect, we have all fallen short. Everyone has faults. While one person may be fat, another might be an alcoholic, another person may be rude and obnoxious and so on and so forth. God says to love all people, while we may not like their sin we should still show everyone love. God says love is patient and kind, not rude, slow to anger, and keeps no records of wrong. As far as I'm concern the man who commented on Jennifers weight showed no love at all. He probably has many faults as well, several as we can see is being obnoxious, rude and unsympathetic. God grants grace to many sinners as he lovingly shows them correction. No one knows people's circumstances until they've lived in their shoes so they shouldn't pass judgement. Also maybe this fault of being overweight has taught Jennifer to be kind and more sympathetic to other people because of her situation of being bullied. I know I was bullied and because of it I learned to love all people despite their circumstances and situations.God loves all people and so should we and we should offer constructive criticism in gentleness and love.

If this topic is about self-righteousness, I see a whole bunch of that in the response to Jenn's hurt feelings, also.

(1) Viewer says something mean. (2) Jennifer is hurt. (3) Then many, many people are just as cruel to Viewer from Wisconsin in their kneejerk response. Not a whit of understanding from anyone.

Yes, fat people know they are fat! No, we should not mention it to them. It is just plain wrong. But the viewer spoke his piece politely and in a genuinely concerned manner - that's my interpretation.

In my opinion, Jennifer ought to have politely and privately thanked the viewer for his concern and gotten on with her day. It was incorrect for her to make a public issue over her hurt feelings and improper for her employer to permit her to use the airwaves to vent on the grounds that while she was thickskinned enough to handle the insult, young children would all run to school and start insulting fat kids. I mean, really.

Bullying victimology is the latest political correctness. Some of these victims wear their status like a cloak of rectitude.

i agree with what you say but i think there may be reason for such a response. when one is accustom to bullying/critical/thrown comments i guess all comments under that topic starts to sound the same - especially from a 'who the hell are you?'. you know: the tiresome fear of answering the phone to a another 'tele'someone - you start slamming the phone or just stop responding.

more communication is needed in today's accessible communication? - consideration, understanding, patience etc etc etc on and off the keyboard, that is of course if we care at all.

I am inclined to agree with you...It seemed to me that the expression of his opinion was NOT bullying... It seems politically correct to call any comment that is not a compliment, "bullying".He had observed a flaw and commented on it.That's all he did.He did not use language that was overly insulting or threatening and made a very good point about her influence and the power of her example.She could have chosen to take his comment as motivation for changing an unhealthy condition in her life....Her reaction undermines the entire conversation on the evils of true bullying.

I completely agree w/ "Henriette's" views re - the alleged "bullying" of the newscaster, Jennifer, and would like to add some words of my own: J's very public and over-heated response to what should have remained a private issue tells me that she is fully aware of her own situation and didn't need an outsider's reminder, however well-intentioned. (She was NOT being "bullied"!)But, I do want to say that I for one am sick and tired of the many over-toned and over-tanned (mostly female) newscasters with their false eyelashes and gleaming over-whitened teeth! Is this any example to set for our less-than-perfect (female) children, that first and foremost one must become this Barbie-doll image in order to be taken seriously? Male anchors are allowed to age and wrinkle, but most women over thirty need not apply. I much prefer Jennifer's comfortably rounded, natural look: I want insight, intelligence and sensitivity from news people, NOT physical perfection.

Faye, I had been told that, in China, it is an insult to be told you are thin or skinny and complimentary to be told you have gained weight or are fat. Certainly, it would be unthinkably rude to tell someone that here. So, although it brings up bad memories, perhaps all those people are actually intending to be nice to you. "Fat" is not a bad thing in all cultures.
Have a beautiful day!

I agree in principle with the man who made the comment and the comment from the person who replied.
The color of your skin or a disability are not one's fault but obesity shows a marked lack of character and self control.
The days are gone when people could blame genes for their lack of control.
People who put themselves on public display should definitely set a good example.People who are that defensive know they have a problem.

consider the billions of dollars in obesity related health care expenses!! If you can't think with your head think with your pocket book!! It is the number 1 drain on an already strained health care system, not to mention the number of injuries to front line healthcare workers who have to try and look after obese patients.

The anchor and her husband (also a news anchor) have stated for the record that Jennifer has a thyroid disorder that makes it difficult for her to lose weight. She exercises on a regular basis and even runs races, but she is still overweight. She has also had 3 kids (one looks to be only about a year old) and those of us who've had kids know that the pounds don't always just come flying off.

You seem to have decided, as the commenter did, that she shows "a marked lack of character and self control" without knowing her medical history, exercise regimen, or dietary choices. I'm left wondering why you feel the need to be so judgmental.

This situation tells us a lot about the psychology of the man who wrote the letter.

What this man wrote to Jennifer shows that he is someone who uses shame to try to control/manipulate other people. (He might call it "helping" or "teaching".) He is trying to make her feel ashamed of her weight in order to "help" her to change, i.e. trying to manipulate her to change by making her feel bad about herself while appealing to her desire to be a good role model.

I think anyone who has been in a situation where somebody tried to control their behavior by making them feel ashamed of themselves would surely understand how how hurtful this must have been to Jennifer and also how ineffectual it is in bringing about any change in behavior!

He tries to mask the nastiness of his comments by feeling that he is somehow a spokesperson for the community and is writing the letter in the interests of impressionable young girls. This is what makes the letter so nasty: he has placed himself (in his mind) in a position of moral superiority in a way that one might when speaking out against racism/sexism/homophobia or some other genuine social injustice ... It is in my opinion ridiculous that he implies that her weight is hurting children!!!

He then, without knowing Jennifer personally or her medical history, suggests that she has full control over her weight and is consciously choosing to stay overweight: "the worst choice a person can make" and "a dangerous habit". There are many reasons why someone might be overweight, and although of course it does not help to see oneself as a victim, it is insensitive and unfair to assume that Jennifer is not aware of her weight and has done nothing about it.

To me, all of this just shows the way in which he has been controlled and taught in his life. To paraphrase Deepak Chopra, "people do the best they can at their level of consciousness"... 

A further thought:

This man seems to be someone who 
- sees obesity as a social problem
- believes obese/overweight people have the ability to control their behavior and can put a stop to it if they want to
- believes that obesity is something that has an impact on others not just the obese person
- believes that people in the public eye have a responsibility to be good role models to young people

My guess is that some of the people who are saying this is not a case of bullying, actually are just in agreement with the above points, rather than being in agreement with the way in which the letter communicates these points.  Just my guess though!

Well said, N! I think your opinion of the mindset of this man pretty well hit the mark. Also, manners in modern times are in pretty short supply.

COLOSSIANS 2:16 (and by the way it is a good book when not misused to distort the TRUTH).

Great that Jennifer replied the way she did. Needless to say that the note written to her is disgusting. It is a person's own dicision whether he or she is slim or fat. Let's be honest it makes no difference what a person looks like. It's the way they are that appeals to us. If you know a person, it's the personality you like and love. If you know someone well, you forget all about her/his looks, but you enjoy being with this person. It's so simple: It's truely the "inner value" that counts. Let's teach our children to think that way!!!


This story brings up many issues in many ways. First of all
the mans comments were not kind but were probably stated to help her with his observations. I do not see it as bullying.
The man was obviously judgemental and considered her weight to be a problem for her and society as a whole.
Women as a whole are judged by our looks including our
bodies. Take a look at the media where when as (usually white) men get older, grayer, balder, heftier, they still have jobs as anchors on tv news stations or starring roles in movies where they are portrayed as virile and have wives or girlfriends 20-40 years younger. In the media women must be incredibly attractive including having a near perfect body no matter how old we get. After an actress (yet they are called "actors") gets over a certain age (?30, ?35) there are few available roles and lots of competition. In addition in the majority of movies women are relegated to being someone's girlfriend, spouse, or whore...we are rarely given the starring or main role. Movies that DO have women as the lead(s) are labeled "womens movies"; does that mean that the rest (so often filled with misogyny, violence and crashing cars), 96%, are "mens movies" but are not labeled as such?.
There are a large number of women who are bulimic or have some type of plastic surgery to change our appearance. I find that while men seem to appreciate a "large or big man"
a similar weight woman is called and labeled 'fat'. Women are definitely judged on our looks much more than men are.
People who are fat or heavy are the people most discriminated against all over the world. Its is obvious, wheras the rest of us have our 'flaws' or however you call them are more hidden. People who are heavy tend to be seen as
'lazy' or gluttons. I am not overweight and am actually thin but I did have a friend who was 125 pounds overweight and she had a hard time getting around. Her weight over the years, her acidic pH, and her diet, created problems and resulted in her needing both hips an both knees replaced, how sad. Everything is a choice.
I remember over the years seeing several tv weathermen who were heavy but i doubt this man would ever write to them telling them they were fat. namaste', rachel

(in my opinion) freedom of speech is amazing. responsibility for speech - not so. we all have - something to say/ an opinion/ feelings to express wether we are bold enough to do so or not. with more and convenient accessibilities to do so - fingers can go wild. in most cases (i hope ) we don't mean to do harm but because of difference in opinions, lack of knowledge, love or allegiance to a thing or person we get carried away sometimes, and without thinking start throwing darts at a target without good aim. in the case of a conversation between face to face we may be more conscious as we are witnessing reactions.

maybe, the comment was meant to hurt, maybe not, but because of how it presented itself the response was typical - 'big up' to thick skins and to freedom of speech.

as Faye said - "We should be responsible for what we say to others and think about how it makes them feel"

Difficult one this. It can’t be wise to pass judgement on the overweight of people you don’t know in case it is due to a glandular deficiency beyond their control, in which case it becomes akin to judging them for their height or the colour of their skin and therefore totally wrong.

Having said that, it seems to me the guy’s letter was very polite, more like a gentle nudge in the right direction and certainly could not be labelled as bullying. Why does she associate it with hate emails to children and setting a bad example to them when it was a private email between him and her and it was Jennifer who chose to broadcast it, presumably in retaliation for all the genuine bullying she has encountered in the past? No doubt she was hoping to invoke sympathy for her case.

The letter did not even have the flavour of him spreading hate by making injudicious remarks in front of his children. Quite the reverse, he seems genuinely concerned about the negative influences young people can encounter, in this case the ones people in the public eye can generate. Such influences are everyone’s business and you don’t have to watch a show regularly to be aware of them. How often do you need to watch a show that has foul language before you are entitled to make a comment?

Obesity is an epidemic, detrimental to health and a huge burden on medical services. Social pressure is one of the forces that can help keep it under control. A great many fat people are fat as a result of eating too much and exercising too little. If they were always told “Hey there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re beautiful. It’s what is on the inside that counts.” and other such comforting platitudes, what incentive would they have to change? Well-meaning advice from family and friends are seen as ‘lecturing’ and have little effect. And advice from strangers spurs them to retaliation.

So what’s the answer? Should concern for a person’s feelings take priority over concerns for their health and the wellbeing of one’s society? Like I said, it’s a dilemma!

Dr. Kim, Thank you so much for your comments. The fact is we need to encourage
people in this world not tear them down. There are so many things that pull people
down especially children, but if each of us will make an effort to not criticize but build
people up children will see those actions and be better for it. Thanks again, J.M.F.

Society today tries to make obesity attractive. It is not healthy to be heavy and we should encourage children to eat correctly. We should have healthy looking people on TV. Fat is fat. Doctors cannot tell patients that they are fat. I've seen huge people in an Endocrinologist's office. Are they told to lose weight????

Hi Jennifer.

Fat is most likely a symptom of ill health, not the other way round. A person is fat because they are unhealthy. They eat too much sugar (for example), this causes the bodies systems to not function properly and fat follows. Especially as one gets older or has other physical stressors, it becomes harder and harder for the body to compensate with the bad habits we have acquired.

Also bear in mind that plenty of thin people are not actually very healthy. I used to think, when I was younger that if I just kept moving, you know, never quit sitting on the floor, and did youthful activities that I would be able to do so into old age. I wanted to push myself and stay fit. Working in the yard pulling weeds and hauling compost is my favorite thing to do. Then I developed fibromyalgia (a meaningless phrase for random chronic debilitating pain.) The pain came first, and then I stopped moving as much. Not the other way round.

I have found out the hard way that much of my thinking is backwards. Remember, nobody (well hardly anybody I guess) sets out in life to be sedentary, obese and on lots of medication. :) Even people who have excepted their "fate" and are trying to make the best of it.

Character doesn't make you thin. Good genes help, and good food options, good food choices and good food upbringing (or food culture/values) cause good health that includes thinness.

Good luck to you. -Lisa

This article was very interesting to me and everyone's comments are fun to read - In my opinion the proper reaction would have been to ignore any mail that is not appreciated. Acknowledging the guy's letter only let him know that he was heard and that he was able to impact someone's life and emotions in a negative way. I believe that was his intent.

@Shirley, I think that it’s a bit harsh to say that Jennifer’s obesity shows a <strong>marked lack of character</strong>. What does her weight have to do with having integrity, being honest, loyal, etc…? There’re people of <ul>all shapes and sizes</ul>, who are void of this attribute.

Hi Jennifer,

There's far too much emphasis on women's size in the West. Quite frankly I find it rude and intrusive for someone to comment on anyones size. There are more important things to consider in the world than what size anyone is!

Although I'm slim,I get negative comments on that too! However, I am happy with my size and ignore them. As a child I was happy with my size although considered big at the time.I certainly got plenty of negative undermining comments about it and was bullied at school. People need to be mindful of the damage done with words.

anonymous said on Oct 9 that she is slim still she gets negative comments on her size. I am less than slim - at 84 lb. I am downright skinny and no dr. can find out why - 'maybe poor digestion or assimilation or both.' I can't tell you the number of hurtful comments I've gotten - "I'm going to have to have you over and cook you something that'll put some weight on you", "We're going to have to have your husband get on you and make you gain some weight" etc. Apparently the assumption is, as one said, "Maybe you think you look cute" and that I'm trying to stay this thin. People get in an uproar when someone makes a negative comment to a person who weighs too much (and well they should) but it seems to be socially acceptable to make negative comments to a thin person.

If a person really cared about Jennifer, they might have written a letter such as this:

"Hi Jennifer, I love your show and the way you represent our city. We are all so blessed to have you on our local news station. I do not know if you struggle with weight issues like I do, but in case you do, I have found "xyz" approach really worked for me lately and I lost 15 pounds. I was so happy about it that I wanted to share it with you. I hope I have not offended you in any way, because you are beautiful girl and you look great just the way you are, but I was so excited about my own weight loss and consider you to be a friend simply because you are on the screen in my living room each evening. God bless you and again, thank you for your wonderful broadcasts. I look forward to seeing your beautiful smile each night. Thanks for doing such an awesome job!"

Okay, maybe the wording is a little hokey, but do you see the difference? I know that one cannot judge another person's motives; however, what comes through in the real letter is condemnation disguised as politeness.

Does a message of encouragement or discouragement come through? I want you to understand what bullying can look like, and the real letter crosses a fine line. It "looks" like the man has her best interest in mind, but really he is self-serving and has his own best interest in mind.