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New Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin Criticized For Being Overweight

New Surgeon General Criticized For Being Overweight

On Monday, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin was sworn in as our country's 18th surgeon general. She's now America's top doctor and the face of the country's public health policy. She's also one of a growing number of Americans considered overweight.

When the announcement of Obama's pick came in late July, it didn't take long for critics to question whether or not Dr. Benjamin was the right choice for the position. What was startling was that they weren't judging her based on her resume or merits but felt she should be disqualified from the position because of her weight. Having an overweight surgeon general, in critics' minds, was irresponsible when America is in the midst of a major obesity epidemic.

Dr. Benjamin took these criticisms gracefully, and in a recent interview with Good Morning America, she admitted that even though the comments hurt, her weight should be an "open dialogue." She went on to say that even though she is struggling with her weight, being fit is "more than just a dress size." Dr. Benjamin's plans are to fight obesity in this country both generally as well as personally alongside the 67 percent of overweight Americans: "So I understand [what it's like to be overweight]. And I want to have them help me, and I'll help them. And we'll work together to try to become a healthier nation."

Do you think Dr. Benjamin's credibility is undermined because she is overweight? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
weilert weilert 7 years
Men who were overweight have also held this position and as such I have mixed feelings about her being overweight (she could lose weight) and being the new surgeon general. I propose a rheticol scenario! For someone who has never dated and is new to the dating game; do you get dating advice from the person who has all of the education, but has never been on a date; or the person with experience! The best way to lose weight and to become healthier is to take responsibility for yourself! Our health is our most important asset. For many people, being overweight is associated with being uncomfortable in their own skin. To assist with weight control; keep a daily food journal and every time the urge to snack is felt, first drink a large glass of clear water. This simple act will help you to eat less. Water hydrates you, suppresses your appetite, helps you to feel full, and metabolizes fat cells. Water will soon become one of your best friends. The major reason so many people in America are overweight is because we eat too much for comfort! It does not hurt to treat ourselves with something special once in a while, what is necessary is that we limit our portions and do not overeat! It is also necessary to keep our body properly hydrated, so drink a full glass of water with each meal or snack. Being overweight ******, but after reading a book, I lost 85 pounds! Words can not express how good I feel! This is a comment which I recently received about the book Lose Weight Using Four Easy Steps
sourcherries sourcherries 7 years
Lot of good comments. Personally, my gut (pun unintended) reaction was that her weight undermined her ability. I've since re-evaluated and changed my stance. I think she could be inspirational if she committed to losing her weight in a healthy normal way, not exaggerated like on Biggest Loser and keep it off, unlike oprah. I do think there is a double standard being applied which I find highly unfair.
syako syako 7 years
(Thanks for changing that stat, Fit) :)
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I think half the problem is the cut of the suit. Some major underboob catching going on there. Makes her look heaps bigger than she is.
staple-salad staple-salad 7 years
@ 13: There aren't genetic precedents for smoking, ie: you aren't born with a disorder where if you don't inhale tobacco you'll die, or your body doesn't randomly produce cigarettes that are in your mouth. You have to physically put them there, make the conscious choice to use them. However, some people ARE born with disorders that make their body store excess fat more than it should, or are unable to burn fat, or have hormone imbalances that cause them to gain weight and be unable to take it off. Also, taking certain medicines will not make you start smoking, nor will you have to smoke tobacco in order to take them. However, some drugs, like hormonal birth control, can trigger rapid weight gain. So, basically, what I'm trying to say, is that smoking is a CHOICE to be unhealthy. However, obesity often isn't, especially when it comes to real disorders and certain medicines.
staple-salad staple-salad 7 years
If she's well qualified then she should do the job. It doesn't matter what her weight is. She may be perfectly healthy and it's obvious that she knows a lot about health and whatnot. I don't think her weight says anything about it. And would we be critical if she were a man? Probably not. Besides, you can be healthy and fat, or unhealthy and skinny. You can eat healthy food and still be fat. You can eat x amount of calories and still be fat. You can work out every day and still be fat. You can get enough sleep every night and still be fat. There are a lot of factors that people often over-look and thin people take for granted.
Ajh Ajh 7 years
I don't think it should be a consideration for her credibility on her job. But does she practice healthy eating and exercise habits? This nation is obsessed with numbers on a scale when we should be obsessed with our overall health. She said she wants to help the nation while she helps herself, which is all fine and good, but what message will she send to the people? I'll wait and see what she does.
Spectra Spectra 7 years
Discriminating against her based on her weight is really unfair. Being fat doesn't make her a worse doctor than someone thinner. Like a previous poster said, there are plenty of thin people with unhealthy eating habits and lifestyles, so weight is not the be-all-end-all criterion for a good Surgeon General. And I think it's awesome that she wants to embrace a healthier lifestyle...maybe she can share her story with America and help other people lose THEIR extra pounds.
imLissy imLissy 7 years
I agree with benheld. Your weight is only a part of what effects your health and we all have unhealthy habits. No one's perfect.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
I don't think it undermines her credibility. Nutrition and weight, while very important, are only a portion of the medical field. Maybe she doesn't have the best nutrition and fitness in her personal life, but that doesn't mean that she can't be well-educated on the topic.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
BTW, my family member who suffered from the heart attack never fully recovered, even though his life was saved. During his heart attack, a considerable amount of his heart muscle died. Heart muscle doesn't regenerate. Right now, his heart is only 40% as efficient as it used to be. His heart is a weakened pump. Sorry, I have a lot to say about this.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
I must confess I think her being overweight does undermine her credibility as a doctor, especially as the Surgeon General. I can say with certainty that she knows better than anybody else the health risks of being overweight, and she is setting a poor example. I come from a family with obese members. I witnessed firsthand how being overweight led to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney damage, heart attacks, diabetes (and it's complications), osteoarthritis, fatty (failing) liver, and the list goes on. I had an obese family member (in his early 50's) had a heart attack right in front of me, and I drove him to the emergency room, and a stent was installed in his artery. From my personal experience, being overweight (especially obese) is seriously unhealthy. In my experience, it's right up there with smoking.
clearskies clearskies 7 years
Those who can not do, teach! lol ..... I'm sure she's KNOWS what you need to do to maintain a healthy weight, I guess that's all that matters, not true application of the advice.
syako syako 7 years
It's not 67% obese. It's 67% obese or overweight. That stat is wildly misleading the way it's posted.
Susmita Susmita 7 years
I think this is discrimination based on weight. She is a medical doctor, and well-qualified for the job. I think it was David Kessler (former FDA head, who wrote a recent best-seller on the food industry's quest to develop high-sodium, high-sugar foods that we won't be able to get enough of) who said that only a small portion of the population never has to worry about their weight. For the rest of us, at least we have a Surgeon General who understands the science and also understands the personal and emotional issues surrounding weight -- in other words, someone who is sympathetic to what a lot of people in this country are going through, rather than someone who will just write off overweight people as weak and lazy. Good for her for handling the criticism gracefully!
benheld benheld 7 years
There are plenty of people out there who are thin, but who have VERY unhealthy eating/exercise habits. We honestly don't know how healthy a person is just by looking at their weight--although it's a good indicator. This might be just the person to carry us through the obesity crisis. It sounds like she's interested in adopting a healthier lifestyle, and dropping a few pounds. If she does it right, she could be a much better role model for weight loss than something like "The Biggest Loser". I wish her all the best in inspiring us to lead healthier lives.
kristints kristints 7 years
I have mixed feelings over whether the surgeon general should be overweight but as far as Dr. Benjamin specifically, I think it's completely unfair for people to be criticizing her. There have been many male surgeon generals who were overweight and yet when it's a woman, people flip out. Double standards aside, I think it would be really cool if Dr. Benjamin set out to lose weight and get healthier because she could be a great role model for the country.
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