Be Gracious in Victory, Not Vindictive

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may be familiar with a post I did (The Speck in Your Sister’s Eye) regarding comedian Kerryn Feehan and Whitney Thore of My Big Fat Fabulous Life (MBFFL).  Kerryn appeared on the show and she and Whitney disagreed- loudly- over Whitney’s approach to her weight and lifestyle and fat shaming in general.

Recently on part two of MBFFL’s season finale, Kerryn made another appearance.  The season finale (entitled “The Skinny”) was a round table type wrap up where they had the cast and host Shaun Robinson review certain moments from the season and offer their thoughts looking back at the various incidents.  Personally, I think Kerryn is to be applauded for walking into what was so obviously a lion’s den of disapproval straight from the get-go.  It was soon apparent that no one wanted to listen to her point of view on Whitney’s attitude and/ or approach to her weight and, although she frankly has a tendency to express herself crudely and hurtfully (maybe it’s the ‘comedic’ approach?), it was also very apparent that she genuinely felt she had come to have a frank and open discussion about the state of Whitney’s health.

When Kerryn brought up the fact that Whitney is “struggling” with her health and weight, she was attacked.  When she defended herself by bringing up the funeral intervention thrown by her friends and family members, she was attacked again.  Whitney took offense to a response Kerryn made to her parents, saying it was disrespectful (I don’t think it was, but it’s purely subjective) and walked off the set.  (Kerryn also left.) Later, after everyone returned, Kerryn apologized to Whitney, telling her she believed she was clearly a beautiful, intelligent and charismatic person.  Whitney responded by saying since Kerryn did not include respect in her list of attributes, Kerryn obviously did not respect her and made a derogatory remark about Kerryn, who was then abruptly asked to leave by the host.

I have to say I was not impressed by Whitney’s behavior (or her friend Buddy’s for that matter).  Upon her return to the set after the blow up, Kerryn flat out stated that she believed she had been brought there to have a frank discussion about Whitney’s weight and that clearly was not going to happen. I think Kerryn began badly by saying that she believes Whitney’s friends are enabling her when it is quite obvious she is struggling with her weight (the words Kerryn used were she “waddles” when she walks).  I think this is part of Kerryn’s “bullying for positive change” philosophy which I don’t agree with but I don’t deny that Whitney does tend to waddle when she walks.  (I used to waddle myself when I weighed that much! It’s because moving 370+ lbs can be a bit of an effort!)

Kerryn’s abrasive personality aside, it was painfully clear that she was hurt by the multiple attacks on the set and it was also quite clear that although Whitney had the opportunity to handle the situation with grace and aplomb, she chose not to do so.  Instead, she threw Kerryn’s words back in her face and childishly decided to have a tantrum by leaving the set rather than using her alleged charisma and articulate manner to discuss the matter with Kerryn.  Loathe though I am to side with Kerryn, I do not think she was wrong when she said that Whitney’s friends and family are not helping her.  While I don’t think they coddle her (as Kerryn stated in the first episode), I think they do enable her.  Kerryn brought up the funeral intervention thrown by her friends and family after Whitney passed out at the dance-a-thon she put on.  She ended up at a cardiologist, who of course told her to lose weight, although he also told her she was physically fine.  Her friends and family were quite obviously scared for her and did the intervention hoping it would bring about positive change.  Whitney’s response was to walk out after the funeral without speaking to them and on the season finale, her comment to them was “Y’all are lucky I don’t hold a grudge!”  Frankly, it’s clear that she does hold grudges (don’t get me started about Caitie and the whole Big Girl Dance class debacle!) and again she missed the opportunity to express her gratitude that they cared so much to do that, even if she felt it was not the appropriate way to show their concern (I think she was much ruder to her dad in this instance than Kerryn ever was!)

For someone who is supposed to be charming and articulate, Whitney can be rudely defensive about her weight, and it is to be expected.  As she pointed out, she gets attacked  daily about her weight, mainly because she is putting herself out in the media. She read aloud some of the Twitter feed about her and it was beyond disgusting, although there were some positive comments.  She is to be congratulated for standing up for what she believes in despite the ugly remarks (I think they scared her mom and brought a few of them to tears they were so bad!) It’s easier (though not at all easy) to ignore comments from ignorant meatheads who don’t know you, but when your friends and family and your own body are telling you that you need to make some positive changes, those need to be acknowledged.  When asked about how she intended to handle her fainting spell, Whitney defensively replied that she intended to sleep better, exercise better and get better nutrition rather than lose weight.  I think she was trying to save face.  I’ve been down that road myself.  It’s easier to say things like that rather than admit you don’t know how to lose weight and keep it off.  Another of Whitney’s defensive remarks was that she’d lost 100 lbs before and of course gained back more, and she said she was not going to put herself through it again.  She shouldn’t because yo-yo dieting can wreck havoc on your metabolism, but making sustained long term changes to your lifestyle can help you lose weight, get better nutrition feel better and sleep better. But it means having to change how you are living, and sometimes that is a bigger impediment than most people want to admit.

I’m not going to sit here and tell Whitney how she should live her life.  She’s an intelligent adult who is more than capable of making her own decisions.  I like her and I think she would be someone I could have as a friend, but my point here is that she had the opportunity to show the world how really lovely and intelligent and gracious she can be and she opted not to do it.  One of my favorite people, Elizabeth Benton (Primal Potential), shared a book on a podcast not long ago entitled The Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday.  EB is a big fan of Stoic philosophy and, while I am not, one of the quotes she shared from the book stayed with me: be gracious in your victories and humble in your defeats.  It was so clear that Kerryn was humble in her flat-out annihilation on that episode and so clear that Whitney was anything but gracious.  I am so disappointed, not only that she came off as petty and vindictive, but that she missed the opportunity for real discussion of her no body shame message. She had the opportunity to discuss why one’s weight is not always a good indicator of health and how being confident in yourself does not depend on what you weigh or how many miles you can run.  Health and beauty and fitness are not about body size.  She would have been much better served if she had chosen to focus more on her physical and personal achievements and less on being defensive over her eating and her weight.  I’m looking forward to seeing more of her next season and hopefully she will learn from this unfortunate incident.  Again, kudos to Kerryn for putting herself in that minefield and showing what true grace looks like!

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