During tonight’s episode of Australian Story on the ABC, Michelle Bridges, trainer on Australia’s Biggest Loser and new mum, says she’s never met a happy obese person.
Which is a pity, because there are lots of us out there.
She tells Australian Story, “It might be seen that I have this agenda on people who are overweight or people who are deemed fat,” she said.
“Honestly, if you are happy where you are, more power to you.
“But I can tell you, I’m yet to meet someone who is morbidly obese and happy.”
By every measure, I am morbidly obese. I weigh in excess of 100kg. I’m about 160cms tall. My BMI is 42.
But, am I happy or unhappy? That can be a little harder to quantify, but happily there is solid science to help us out.
Sonja Lyubomirsky is a professor at the University of California, and has dedicated her academic work to the study of happiness. She’s trying to figure out what makes people happy, whether or not happiness is a good and important thing and how we can create more happiness in people.
Lyubomirsky’s Subjective Happiness Scale sets out to measure a person’s happiness. I scored six and a half out of seven when I took the test earlier this morning.
In her book, The How of Happiness, Lyubomirsky defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
I experience joy. I have a healthy marriage, two beautiful children who surprise and delight me. I experience positive well-being. I have a great job that I enjoy. I have creative outlets and spend time with close friends. I have a sense that my life is good, and worthwhile. I try to create worthwhile stories at work, and I aim to be a good and caring friend.
Alys with her son Will. Image supplied
So, all we need to do is to stick me in a room with Michelle Bridges and then she will be able to say that she has met someone who is both fat and happy. And honestly, I'd be delighted to anytime.
If we do meet, I would try to explain to Bridges the really serious problems that sit underneath her comments.
Fatness is the final frontier, the last "acceptable" form of discrimination.
As a culture, we believe that fatness is evidence of a flawed person. We believe that fat people are lazy, unhealthy, unlovable, ill-disciplined, and unhappy.
We believe that fat people are fat because of some sort of moral failing. We believe that fat people must be stupid, don't they know that if they just went on a diet they would be slim.
The very idea that a fat person might be happy and even have a positive body image is so counter cultural that some find the idea inconceivable. Which is where I would suggest Bridges is coming from.
I don't really blame her for saying what she says. She is just voicing the thoughts of millions of others.
But here's the thing. If you replace the words "morbidly obese" with a particular ethnic group or sexual identity, the comment that you might be "yet to meet someone who is morbidly obese and happy" is shown in it's true light.
As part of her work, Lyubomirsky suggests a few ideas to encourage and help create more happiness in people: don't hold grudges, practice kindness, be thankful and build relationships, to name a few.
And it's in that light that instead of being angry about Bridges' comments, I really just want to offer to make her a cup of tea and have a chin wag. I'm sure I would have as much to learn from her as she might from me.
At least then she would be able to say she's met a happy fat person.
WATCH: An excerpt from Mia Freedman's recent "No Filter" interview with Michelle Bridges.