[Beauty Overheard] Jennifer Aniston Hated The Rachel. (But That’s Not What This Post Is About.)

Regina Benjamin US Surgeon General

You might expect me to be weighing in on The Rachel Debate, because it’s all over the interweb that Jennifer Aniston told Allure, “How do I say this? I think it was the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen.”

Not so interested. I’ve always like Aniston, and I’m sympathetic (especially in the midst of my Six Items challenge) to how being restricted to One Key Look can get old, but she sounds a wee bit childish complaining about the hairstyle that made her an international celebrity. I think there are plenty of folks out there who would be willing to sport a trend-blazing, if awkwardly layered haircut in exchange for $1 million per week or whatever insane amount she was earning by the end of “Friends.”

So moving right along. Because the Beauty Overheard quote I really want to share with you today is FAR more awesome. It’s from Regina Benjamin, MD and Surgeon General of the United States, who is pictured above and also famous for founding a health clinic to serve uninsured, poor families in rural Louisiana. And I found it in one of those New York Times Magazine “Questions For…” columns where Deborah Solomon is always mean to everybody for no apparent reason.

When you were nominated for surgeon general, your critics tried to disqualify you on the basis of your weight, saying you were perpetuating obesity rather than battling it.
My thought is that people should be healthy and be fit at whatever size they are.

What sort of exercise do you recommend for people who don’t love it?
I want exercise to be fun; don’t want it to be work. I don’t want it to be so routine that you’re bored with it. We used to jump rope a lot and double Dutch and went to a disco to have fun and enjoy ourselves. We didn’t go to the disco because somebody said, Go dance for 30 minutes.

When was this? When did you go to a disco?
When I was younger. I want us to get back to doing things because they’re fun.

Maybe we need to dance more as a nation.
Yes, I love to dance, and whenever I’m at events and places with music, I will dance. That exercise is medicine. It’s better than most pills.

So there you have it. Straight from America’s Doctor. Focus on being healthy and fit at whatever size you are, and you won’t need to worry about losing weight for health reasons. You might still want to lose weight for aesthetic reasons, but that’s a whole separate debate.

I love this. Because size is not the best (or even always a particularly good) indicator of health. But we’ve got the horribly-named War on Obesity so tangled up with our cultural obsession that beauty = thin, that it’s easy to lose track of that fact. And if you’re not thin (especially if you’re a not-thin woman) it’s bad enough that you’re going to get judged like hell on the aesthetic front. You don’t also need the world assuming that you’re minutes away from cardiac arrest — and you don’t need to assume yourself that you’re beyond saving. Health is still an option that is available to you.

So exercise because it’s fun! Not because it will give you a Black Swan Body.

(For more on the Health At Every Size approach, check out today’s excellent Dances With Fat post. Ragen nails it, as per usual.)

PS. How much does Dr. Benjamin make you wish we still had discos?!

[Photo of Regina Benjamin via the Office of the Surgeon General]

Filed under Beauty Labor, Beauty Overheard, Beauty Standards

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4 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Posted January 19, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I love that she’s telling people to just do something fun rather than some sort of Surgeon General standard daily physical activity requirement. She’s not telling people to walk 30 minutes a day or lift weights twice a week, no, she’s telling us to go dance, jump rope, garden, play with our dogs, or do whatever it is that we love to do. It’s really inspiring.

  2. Posted January 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I think its awesome that she supports the health at every size ideal on health! I have always told people that exercise should be fun not, hey lets go to the gym everyday for an hour and run 5 miles to keep the weight off…. cause ummm that doesn’t sound fun to me! However disco dancing, swimming, simply taking a walk in the park all sound a lot more fun to me!

    Thanks for posting this! I am glad that she had the courage to not let others put her down! It really is inspiring!

  3. Posted January 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    The idea of “don’t work out; just have fun” is tied to the unrealistically thin body type in fashion pages (some magazines are good about using fitness models on their exercise pages who actually look fit and not merely slender; others have a lot of work to do there). You don’t have the energy to hit the disco, or walk in the park, or double Dutch* if you’re starved–not merely thin, but starved.

    I remember some major news outlet (I want to say Newsweek but a Google search is bringing up nothing) that featured photos of fat people working out–real live fat people! exercising! It was a part of the “health at any size” discussion that was big about a year ago. The hatred spewed in the subjects’ direction was incredible–the commenters didn’t see their own little catch-22 inherent in their attacks.

    *Forget disco; this is what I want to see come back.

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  1. [...] I’ve started writing Beauty Schooled and Never Say Diet, I’ve learned a lot about the Health at Every Size model and it just makes so much more sense. Not to mention that it’s gross and disrespectful to [...]

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