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For Some, Weight Is a Qualification For Surgeon General

This week President Obama appointed Dr. Regina Benjamin to be the US Surgeon General. Dr. Benjamin is a family physician from Alabama who arrived on the national scene thanks to her public efforts to rebuild her rural clinic after Hurricane Katrina. She also was the first African-American to head Alabama's Medical Association and served as an associate dean for rural health.

In addition to her resume, Benjamin also understands the importance of health as a result of tragedies in her own family. Sadly, her mother died of lung cancer, her father died with diabetes and high blood pressure, and her brother and only sibling died of an HIV/AIDS-related illness.

Despite these experiences and qualifications, some people think that Benjamin's weight is problematic. Considering that obesity is one of the most serious health problems facing the US, critics would rather see a fit-looking person as the face of health policy. (Judging from the picture, she may not be thin, but how do we know she's not fit?)

Do you think Benjamin's weight is irrelevant?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
MeiGaku MeiGaku 7 years
i've been in japan for the past four months or so, and based on just this ONE picture, she looks unhealthy to me. i'm not saying she has to be a size two, but as the surgeon general, the one telling me to exercise everyday and eat a healthy diet, she has to look healthy, plain and simple. i mean, would you listen to someone telling you smoking is bad when they're puffing two packs a day? and i know people's body sizes are different, but if you ate a healthy diet and exercised regularly, you're not going to be a size 14. you just aren't. but that's just my opinion and i'm dealing with my own weight issues, so >shrug<
Talldiva45 Talldiva45 7 years
Health matters first - not appearance. If everyone understood that many weight issues would be solved.
Talldiva45 Talldiva45 7 years
Umm this is just ridiculous as far as I'm concerned. Talk about judgemental! Just bc you are not what society considers "SKINNY" does NOT mean that you are in any way unhealthy. Your lifestlye belongs to YOU! That makes me angry...
Zivanod Zivanod 7 years
She looks like a completely healthy average-sized woman. How is her "fit" level important? You don't know what she does/doesn't do to maintain herself. I would be considered overweight yet I walk vigorously an hour a day, have four flights of stairs in my home and swim on a regular basis. When my thinner (and supposedly more fit) friends are with me, they cannot keep up. As the adage goes "You can't judge a book by the cover."
SeaAre86 SeaAre86 7 years
I didn't think she was all that large...
jessy777 jessy777 7 years
I agree about the fat congressman comment. Let's prevent them from having jobs and see how well that goes over. Or congressman that smoke, or drink, or skydive, or drive fast cars. This is getting real close to government intervention in my private life and that is not ok with me.
jessy777 jessy777 7 years
It is discrimination, plain and simple. Unless you have seen her medical records you have no way of knowing how healthy she is. Some people are larger than others and she is far from obese. Obesity is a serious issue that should be addressed for health reason but size-acceptance is another serious issue. If young woman who look like Dr. Benjamin hear these comments that can lead to anexoria and bulimia. This is a double-edged sword and while people can be healthy a little overweight it is almost impossible to survive when you starve yourself to death. Size-acceptance is a real movement and a necessary one to see real change in this health epidemic.
smaine07 smaine07 7 years
Dr. Benjamin is a local doctor in a nearby community and I have a family member that is the manager of a McDonald's in that community. He knows her pretty well- said she eats there daily. Does that mean that she can't do the job? Nope. Just sayin-she doesn't have the healthiest diet. Congrats to her on the nomination!
lilkimbo lilkimbo 7 years
I'd like to see it turned around on fat congressman, as well, although I don't see why you two included white in that. :shrug:
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 7 years
spacekatgal, I TOTALLY agree with this: I'd love to see this turned around on fat, white congressmen. I'd like to see them bared from health subcommitees. however, I had two health teachers in elementary school and high school and each of them were extremely obese. I sat through the classes thinking to myself "this is a joke." practice what you preach.
mistwolf mistwolf 7 years
If she were a man, it would never even be mentioned as an issue. Also, it's discrimination, pure and simple, and the first step down a very bad road. Once you start rejecting people for high offices based on weight, what stops that from tricling down, and employers being able to use 'Well, they're fat!' as an excuse?
peptor85 peptor85 7 years
I think her weight is ultimately not relevant to whether or not she will be an effective Surgeon General. On the surface, it may appear that if she is overweight, she will not be a strong advocate for healthy lifestyles. Many people see an overweight or plump person and assume they are lazy and eat unhealthy foods. But who is to say what her lifestyle is like? For all we know she is probably a moderately healthy person who for whatever reason happens to carry some extra weight. No one knows her exact BMI, or medical history, so we should reserve our judgement for how she actually performs her duties. In the end all that matters is her ability to implement effective health public policy and influence change in our country's health habits. A thin person is not necessarily more likely to be able to do that.
nicky360 nicky360 7 years
She will be a role model and so her weight may be relevant, but we do not know if she is healthy or not just by looking at her. She could run 5 miles a day and still not be a size two. She could be muscular and just LOOK bulky. On the same point, just because you are thin does not mean you are healthy. I know plenty of size two and five women who cannot do even one push-up; who smoke, drink and are basically in horrible health. Looks are deceiving.
bchicgrl bchicgrl 7 years
This is retarded that people are obsessed with her weight. Like you said, we don't know what her daily routine is and just how healthy she is. Her background and achievements should be the reason she got the job nothing else.
amelioratelj amelioratelj 7 years
It's definitely relevant, although I don't think she looks obese.
scorpstar77 scorpstar77 7 years
It is relevant. BUT. I agree that while she does not appear to be a "perfect" size six, there is no way to tell that she is not fit or is unhealthy in anyway. Body type is genetic, and some people are going to be a size 14 even when they eat a 1700 calorie diet of mostly vegetables and exercise for 60 minutes a day. That's just how it is. Dr. Benjamin may live a completely healthy lifestyle for all we know - it's not like she's 400 lbs or something.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
Sorry, I think it's relevant, too. Obesity runs in my family. I know intimately the medical conditions excess weight can bring (high blood pressure, kidney damage, diabetes, heart attack, sleep apnea, etc. The list goes on!). This is part of the reason I'm committed to my lifestyle of exercise and fitness. I want to stave off the medical conditions my family members have. Our family doctor is really proud of me. As much as I admire Dr. Benjamin, I do have some reservations about her weight. Sorry.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
I think it's absolutely relevant. I don't think that she's more than just plump (not obese or anything), but if the Surgeon General pick were obese, I couldn't take anything he/she said very seriously, considering what a huge health risk you put on yourself by carrying around all that extra weight.
margokhal margokhal 7 years
This is so dumb. The critics can only guess as to what clothes size she wears, which is inaccurate based on various brands and cuts, etc. They also can only guess her BMI, which isn't a very good standard to use. They haven't seen her medical records, they don't know how she's built. Also, yes, obesity is a big problem. But having a "fit"/thinner person as a role model/standard is NOT going to change that. All the other surgeon generals, as far as I know, have been fairly thin - and yet the rate of obesity has gone up. It really doesn't matter. Maybe some of the ridiculous standards the health department has to define what is "healthy" will change if they see someone who doesn't fit their physical standards but is still healthy.
culinarygirl culinarygirl 7 years
This makes me so angry! Everyone is not a toothpick!
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