The War on a Fat Surgeon General

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Regina Benjamin

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama nominated Alabama physician Regina Benjamin as the next Surgeon General. In that capacity, Dr. Benjamin will oversee the 6,000 member public health corps and function as America's chief health nanny, ah, health educator. Past Surgeons General included the luxuriantly-bearded Dr. C. Everett Koop who campaigned relentlessly against smoking and Dr. Jocelyn Elders who, in response to a question, suggested that teaching masturbation might be a way to prevent young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity.

Despite Dr. Benjamin's distinguished record as a physician, some blogospherean health nannies are objecting to her appointment on the grounds that she is fat. In a nice column on this "controversy," University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan quotes a couple of self-appointed anti-fat crusaders: 

"I refuse to let fat be socially acceptable …  The President should have known better and picked a doctor who could kick start the debate on fat not perpetuate it," commented one reader on a national news site.

Another has some mighty specific requirements for the post:  "Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less."

Caplan goes on to ask:

And who said the surgeon general or doctors in general or anyone working in health care must be paragons of health and risk avoidance?

A better question is why does anyone have to be a paragon of health and risk avoidance, but we'll leave that one for now. 

Caplan does suggest that Dr. Benjamin might serve as an example for us all (especially those of us with BMI's over 25): 

But people need to relate to the surgeon general, and if she can battle her weight on the job, she will do more to curb obesity then all the salads added to the menus of burger joints everywhere.

This is very unlikely. If Oprah Winfrey's gigantic audience is unaffected by the daytime star's very public efforts to keep her weight down, I doubt that whatever the new Surgeon General does or does not do about her avoirdupois will have much effect. 

Ultimately, the right question is the one my colleauge Jacob Sullum asked in his splendid article "The War On Fat"—Is the size of your butt the government's business?  The answer is, no. Here's hoping that the new Surgeon General thinks so too. 

NEXT: Health Care Competition

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  1. I’d hit it.

  2. “I refuse to let fat be socially acceptable ? The President should have known better and picked a doctor who could kick start the debate on fat not perpetuate it,” commented one reader on a national news site.”

    Black people have a much higher rate of obesity and diabetes than whites. They also have different social standards about female beauty than white people. A rule that said no fat people can participate in public life would have a hugely disparate impact on minorities. I think if this jerk were ever to be in charge of hiring for anything short of life guard or chimney sweep where size really did matter, he would be tied up for a huge discrimination suit. I wonder if Nanny State “I hate fat people” liberals know how racist they are being.

  3. Koop was at his best dealing with the AIDS epidemic. He also looked snazzy in the Surgeon General’s uniform.

    Dr. Benjamin sounds like a great choice for the job. I look forward to seeing her in the uniform. Will she still get epaulets?

  4. A better question is why does anyone have to be a paragon of health and risk avoidance

    Fuck risk avoidance.

  5. Michelle won’t let him nominate a hot black woman…or a hot white woman…or a hot latina woman….

  6. Damn Jaybird! I mean … just…Damn!

  7. A better question is why does anyone have to be a paragon of health and risk avoidance, but we’ll leave that one for now.

    Because if you aren’t, the state will have to pick up the bill, that’s why.

    Obama really telegraphed his punches on Big Nanny in one of his health care interviews:

    So, self-responsibility is going to be critical. This is probably not going to be something that’s legislated. But I tell you what, every business out there is going to be looking at their health care bottom line. And increasingly what you’re going to see is that businesses are going to incentivize their employees to stop smoking, lose weight, get exercise, get regular checkups.

    What we can do is we can encourage those companies that have those sorts of wellness-prevention programs.

    Gotta love that “probably”. And the promise of federal incentives to lose weight, etc.

    Costa Rica is looking better all the time.

  8. So, self-responsibility is going to be critical. This is probably not going to be something that’s legislated. But I tell you what, every business out there is going to be looking at their health care bottom line. And increasingly what you’re going to see is that businesses are going to incentivize their employees to stop smoking, lose weight, get exercise, get regular checkups.

    What we can do is we can encourage those companies that have those sorts of wellness-prevention programs.

    Gotta love that “probably”. And the promise of federal incentives to lose weight, etc.

    Costa Rica is looking better all the time.

    Goddammit.

  9. Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less.

    Condoleeza Rice?

  10. A wise latina woman would not be fat…

  11. Yeah RC,

    I posted that same quote on the health care thread. Obama is a scary dude these days.

  12. “I refuse to let fat be socially acceptable . . . . “

    I have a 2 by 4 with an instruction manual that says “Apply directly to forehead . . . “.

  13. If you’re going to stand before me as an authority on a subject and then pass laws telling me what to do you damn well better be able to prove it.

    If you can’t keep the twinky in the wrapper don’t tell me to.

    Do I care if she is fat? Nope. Do I care if she is fat and uses her authority to mandate that I shouldn’t be? Yup with a side of fuck you cooked in transfats. It’s all about context.

    How about we get rid of the position and go for a beer, burger, and fries cooked in transfats.

  14. I wonder about her position on masturbation.

    Standing? Leaning against the stall? Prone? Back? Stomach? Is she a vibrator or pillow-humping kind of gal? Does she do the couch-arm slide? How many attachments does her shower head have? Does she like the realistic, veiny dildos or the smooth kind? Balls or no? Silicone or glass? Does she stimulate the G-spot? Ass play? Is she a squirter?

    I’d go on, but there’s no call to be gross about it.

  15. A better question is why does anyone have to be a paragon of health and risk avoidance, but we’ll leave that one for now.

    A better question is “Do we really need to fill this useless position any longer?”

  16. Michelle won’t let him nominate a hot black woman…or a hot white woman…or a hot latina woman….

    Lack of hotness never stopped Cliniton.

  17. “Do I care if she is fat? Nope. Do I care if she is fat and uses her authority to mandate that I shouldn’t be? Yup with a side of fuck you cooked in transfats. It’s all about context. ”

    Would it make you feel any better if some reformed fatty fit freak told you those things? It wouldn’t make me feel any better. Any government official telling me how to live gets a big side of fuck you. If anything denying her the position because he is fat legitimizes telling people how to live.

  18. I would feel better, but still hate it. At least there would be one less degree of hypocrisy. Then again after one turd in the wine barrel you have shit pot anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

    How about we get rid of the position and go for a beer, burger, and fries cooked in transfats.

  19. I have a 2 by 4 with an instruction manual that says “Apply directly to forehead . . . “.

    HAHAHAH! Tubby Tubby 2X4! Tubby Tubby 2×4!

    Ahem, yeah, fuck the nanny state and all that. When did it become so damn acceptable for the government to tell us how to live anyway?

  20. She does have more chins than a Chinese phone book.

  21. I used to scoff at fat people who complained about body prejudice.

    I don’t anymore. These health nazis can kiss my ass.
    There may be on small upside to all of this crap,after she reads this shit, Ms. Benjamin may be a bit more tolerant towards tobacco users.

    Nah, won’t happen.

  22. Somebody who takes the BMI seriously has no room critizing someone elses Surgeon General credentials.

  23. Since no one else is stepping up, let me just quote a great 20th century figure:

    I wannem real thick and juicy
    So find that juicy double

    Surgeon General got back and that’s a problem? There’s just no pleasing some people.

  24. Warmth in the winter and shade in the summer. What more could a man ask for.

  25. “I used to scoff at fat people who complained about body prejudice.”

    My dad worked in management for decades. The hardest time he ever had getting someone promoted was with a very desreving fat person. Talk to a reformed fatty sometime. They will tell you people treated them completely differently when they lost the weight. There is a hillarious interview with CC Deville the guatarist for Poison. He quit using drugs in the 90s and turned to food and got fat. He says with a completely straight face that there was less social stigma being a junkie than there was being fat.

  26. any better if some reformed fatty fit freak told you those things?

    “Reformed” fatties/smokers/etc are the worst ones of all. I know for a fact that Obama is still smoking; otherwise the War on Tobacco would be in full swing already.

  27. “Does she do the couch-arm slide? ”

    Suddenly the couch seems less attractive for my naps. Goddammit Suge.

  28. I refuse to let fat be socially acceptable

    But your cool with eating disorders being socially acceptable? If Dr. Benjamin is getting on the stairmaster three times a week. She should be in good shape. She is not carrying an unhealthy amount of fat.

  29. Suddenly the couch seems less attractive for my naps.

    If it’s any consolation, they are usually performed non-nude due to friction issues.

  30. The size of one’s ass should not be the government’s business. But should we get taxpayer-paid universal healthcare it should be. If fat folks think they’ve got it rough now, just wait until those who exercise and eat right start paying the bill for those who do not…

  31. thenewlibertarian, have you looked at the folks with the medicaid and food stamp cards? If that duo isn’t a match made in heaven for the government to regulate diet due to health care costs, I don’t know what is. It hasn’t happened for decades. I don’t see it changing.

  32. Is the size of your butt the government’s business? The answer is, no. Here’s hoping that the new Surgeon General thinks so too.

    Fat chance. Her response to criticisms will probably be along the lines of a shrill “I have a glandular disorder!!” and then she’ll proceed to ban fast food or something.

  33. If it’s any consolation, they are usually performed non-nude due to friction issues.

    Leather couch. Astroglide. No friction issues, although staining will occur.

  34. And that eliminates the labia lint build-up issue as well. Interesting.

  35. *fingers in my ears* LaLaLaLaLaLaLa I can’t hear you.

  36. If that duo isn’t a match made in heaven for the government to regulate diet due to health care costs, I don’t know what is. It hasn’t happened for decades. I don’t see it changing.

    Obama does. He said so. And it’ll be a lot more palatable to his Dem majority if it isn’t directed exclusively at po’ folk.

  37. Her response to criticisms will probably be along the lines of a shrill “I have a glandular disorder!!” and then she’ll proceed

    to binge eat the entire contents of your average McDonald’s franchise. You haven’t dealt with enough fat chicks to know how that dynamic works. After the screaming about glands and medical disorders and insensitivity and you don’t understand comes the snarfing of a half-gallon of Blue Bell with a box of oreos on the side. Then comes the resultant self-loathing and desperate attempts to make up because she’s afraid no one will ever love her because she’s fat.

  38. bb,

    Shouldn’t your fingers be in your eyes?

  39. Will she have epaulets?
    Sure, and with four stars just like every chief or sheriff in a two stoplight town does.

  40. Will she have epaulets?

    OH MY GOD! OF COURSE SHE WILL HAVE EPAULETS!

    YOUR RACIST NOTIONS ABOUT THE ANATOMY OF BLACK WOMEN ARE SICKENING!!!

  41. Military uniforms make anyone who is not very fit, look like a cow. I really don’t want to have see this woman in her surgeon general’s uniform on TV.

  42. I really don’t want to have see this woman in her surgeon general’s uniform on TV.

    All the more reason to quit watching TV.

  43. “Oprah Winfrey’s gigantic audience…”

    heh, got it.

  44. Her response to criticisms will probably be along the lines of a shrill “I have a glandular disorder!!” and then she’ll proceed

    to binge eat the entire contents of your average McDonald’s franchise. You haven’t dealt with enough fat chicks to know how that dynamic works. After the screaming about glands and medical disorders and insensitivity and you don’t understand comes the snarfing of a half-gallon of Blue Bell with a box of oreos on the side. Then comes the resultant self-loathing and desperate attempts to make up because she’s afraid no one will ever love her because she’s fat.

    I use to work in a restaurant where the fatties wouls ALWAYS order a diet coke to wash down their food orgies. Made them feel like they had some self-control.

  45. A fat surgeon general ? What about fat cops?

    I see chubby police officers all the time. Doesn’t this affect their job performance ? Like when the have to chase a purse snatcher or a kid on a skate board ?

    And since they all have government funded health insurance, their fat asses drive up heath care costs which are passed on to the taxpayer.

    Where is the outrage????????

    1. i hear that brother, ken. a chubby policeman once commandeered my very own skateboard whilst i was escaping with a fat lady’s purse!

  46. I use to work in a restaurant where the fatties wouls ALWAYS order a diet coke to wash down their food orgies. Made them feel like they had some self-control.

    Our standard joke about that was “One of everything, with cheese. And a diet coke.”

  47. A fat surgeon general ? What about fat cops?

    I see chubby police officers all the time. Doesn’t this affect their job performance ? Like when the have to chase a purse snatcher or a kid on a skate board ?

    Try drawing their weapon. I used to give one of the officers at the city I worked a hard time about me being able to round the block on foot before he could get his service weapon out of the holster.

    I know at least on department in the area has fired officers for not being able to complete PT requirements.

  48. Is the size of your butt the government’s business?

    Good god man, don’t you know there’s a Drug War on? The size of your butt, vis. what you eat and put into your body, vis. stuff that’s bad for you, vis. drugs will always be the government’s bidness.

    Where’s Matt Yglesias on this?

  49. django,

    The best kind of woman to marry is one that was somewhat over weight but reformed. Being fat scares a woman for life. The ones that reform stay thing no matter what because they are terrified of facing the hell of being fat again. It eliminates the danger of marrying a woman who has always been thin only to have her get fat after marriage and kids figuring that she has served her purpose in life. A reformed fatty never goes back.

  50. John, I find your advice to be horrifically offensive … yet spot on.

  51. John: “A reformed fatty never goes back.”

    …unless psychoactive medications, usually SSRI’s are involved.

  52. Ultimately, the right question has nothing to do with the size of anyone’s butt, but why we even HAVE a Surgeon General in the first place. What the hell does this person do, other than nag people?

    The S.G. represents the very essence of wasteful, unnecessary government agencies.

  53. Rather than select a fat Black woman Obama should have chose a Black woman with a body mass index of 25 or less.

    Yo! The brother likes big but women!

  54. Ultimately, the right question has nothing to do with the size of anyone’s butt, but why we even HAVE a Surgeon General in the first place. What the hell does this person do, other than nag people?

    The Surgeon General of the United States is the operational head of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

    It was at one time, I believe, a legitimate Civil Service administrative post. Unfortunately since the fifties or so it has evolved into “Busybody-in-Chief”.

  55. Usually I’d be down on anybody Obama nominates,
    but this one seems to have some actual courage and initiative. She rebuilt a ruined clinic after Katrina, and when she needed Vietnamese interpreters, went to a pool hall to find ’em, ’cause that’s what it took.

    As to her being fat: If she can stand it,
    I reckon I can.

  56. If we’re going to have to have paternalistic laws, can one of them be that no one who puts any stock into BMI as a valid indicator of health or fitness gets to share their opinions on either topic?

    I have a nearly “ideal” BMI of 22.9. I had to have about 43 showers when I got home from work today, after walking from the parking lot to the elevator.

  57. My bmi is near 39. My cholesterol is in the normal range. Blood pressure is always low. Stress test/ ekg is great. Sugar is normal. All the indicators are good. I am 6’3″ and about 310 lbs. Other than my back being worse than a yugo with 300,000 miles (which I suppose losing 125 pounds might help) I am healthy as a horse. Before my back took control, I could still walk at 3+ mph for hours even though I was, and am still, a fat ass. BMI isn’t a real accurate gauge of health, IMO.

  58. “Ultimately, the right question is the one my colleauge Jacob Sullum asked in his splendid article “The War On Fat” — Is the size of your butt the government’s business?”

    No, no it’s not. The size of my butt, or anyone’s butt, is none of the government’s business. I’m terrified that I’m going to wake up one day and find out that junk food has been made illegal and that anyone overweight gets sent off to a fat camp.

  59. anyone thats watched Penn & Teller’s episode on obesity knows the BMI is BS.

  60. also what is her position on medical marijuana. when Gupta was a possible candidate for Surgeon General it was reported he was against it. in a recent interview with Gupta on medical marijuana he didn’t come off as someone who was anti-medical marijuana.

  61. nice post..
    ___________________
    Britney
    The best place for the best ENTERTAINMENT

  62. And who said the surgeon general or doctors in general or anyone working in health care must be paragons of health and risk avoidance?

    Not the dozens of doctors, nurses and techs I see smoking under the overpasses here at the medical center.

    Definitely not the pregnant nurse whose cigarette smoke I carefully avoided when approaching Kosair Children’s Hospital.

  63. 22.9 BMI, here.

    5’2″, 125 lbs. After two babies. I bet 10 of those pounds are in my boobs and thighs. Tyson and Borden would love me.

  64. And I meant to ask, is anyone buying Britney’s “entertainment”?

  65. I wonder what her take on the legalization of cannabis is. After all, her risk of death from obesity is far higher than anyones risk of cannabis overconsumption.

  66. First the morality and sexuality police. Now,the proper body shape nannies.What’s next,the government-approved proper way to dress and talk police?

  67. As they say, fat is the new black.

    Just look at the douchbag Fox trotted out as their health & fitness expert.

    And the commercials he filmed for his gym….classy

    link to douchebag commercials

  68. Thanks for the fat info. I often read here… also, you can read Best Fat Burner Reviews here.

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