The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 19, 2010. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's blog at The Huffington Post website.
Howard Stern's Right About Gabourey Sidibe
Not as well known for his health recommendations as for offending people, Howard Stern actually is a keen student of health behavior. In his own life, he significantly modified his diet, exercise, and substance use patterns. Stern's recommendations tend to be moderate (he doesn't abstain from alcohol, for instance), common-sensical, and self-initiated -- as the changes (including overcoming OCD) were in his own life.
From this perspective, Stern observed that Gabourey Sidibe is deluding herself if she thinks her Academy Award will lead her to a career as an actress. There are simply not enough roles for a woman her size. But Stern's advice goes deeper. Sidibe won't be around that long if she weighs 300 pounds at 26. While she can be active and healthy through her 20s and perhaps her mid-30s, she can't handle that weight into her 40s -- particularly if she gains more.
A discussion of Sidibe's weight inevitably calls forth all kinds of reactions -- including claims of prejudice against heavy people, women, and African Americans -- all of which she is. She is also bound to be unhealthy. Sidibe and her mother, Alice Tan Ridley, seem to recognize this, sort of:
The truth is Gabourey would like to lose some weight but the reality is that she would not have gotten the role of Precious if she had not been heavy. As her mum I would like to see my daughter healthy but if she didn't lose weight that's not a problem either -- it runs in our family. We have relatives that are 80 who are too heavy.
The last part of her statement is the wishful thinking of the addict -- "I know a smoker in his 80s." Yes, but you sure reduce your odds of reaching 80 if you smoke. And you will most likely create subsidiary health issues that will increasingly dog you through life (trouble breathing and sleeping, poor circulation, lingering colds and coughs). There is no free lunch.
I have a rehab treatment center, one where we address both substance abuse and health behavior. We don't tell people they have a problem -- they're aware of that when they arrive at St. Gregory. Obviously, we don't belittle them or put them down. Instead, we simply remind them and ask them to reflect on what we both know to be true -- that they need to change. We work with them to convert that motivation into reality. And we are there to point out the life benefits they experience as they make such changes.
Hollywood types are notable for their refusal to make judgments of others, and so you won't find any show business personalities taking on Sidibe's weight. When Sidibe started salivating over male hunk Gerard Butler at the Oscars, no one -- least of all Butler, who politely played along -- told Sidibe she isn't going to get a hit of that, or much else. Only Howard Stern is willing to pass along that news.
And, oh, perhaps Michelle Obama, if she's serious about confronting youthful obesity no matter what that requires. While people ARE willing to take on Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears for providing bad role models for young women around substance use, and people are always criticizing models for being dangerously thin, what about Sidibe and the rampant obesity among children, especially African American children? Is that worth pricking a few balloons over?