My friends tell me I should just leave it. Ignore Rush Limbaugh as I mostly do. I realize when you have that many hours of airtime per day to fill with vitriol, at a certain point, you are just going to start throwing shit at the walls. Best for the rest of us to walk away and hold our noses. But Rush has finally spewed out something that makes me so angry, I can’t ignore the brown stains. In case you didn’t hear, yesterday Rush Limbaugh said that Michelle Obama is a hypocrite for pushing her healthy eating and exercise suggestions for children. His “proof”? Well, he cited a meal of ribs she recently enjoyed, but worse yet, implied that she’s fat.
Yes, you read that right. Rush Limbaugh is implying that Michelle Obama is FAT! One would be tempted to assume there are not many shiny, reflective surfaces in Limbaugh’s world. Or perhaps his staff is periodically changing out the chair in his studio to a larger one so he’s never aware of his expanding girth. But I’ve had enough experience with college mixers to know that men who are Solid Twos (when their mothers dressed them and the sun was in your eyes) have no problem pointing out the body flaws in a woman who it would be easy to imagine would be the break-out star of the beach volleyball team and win all the cosmetics endorsements.
In that vein, here’s what Rush said:
“The problem is, and dare I say this, it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving…I’m trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you.”
As if a healthy athletic mother of two in her Forties has to fit into a supermodel’s bikini to be judged at a proper body weight. I’m pretty sure I can name some incredibly fit women — Gabrielle Reese, Serena Williams, Lindsey Vonn and Mia Hamm spring to mind — who wouldn’t fit those bikinis either. But they have strong athletic bodies that have won Olympics and excelled in the highest levels of professional sports. Which says something about our national body perception, especially when it comes to women. No matter her achievements or brainpower, a woman can always be slammed for her looks. Especially if her looks fall anywhere short of the Victoria’s Secret standard that, apparently, we are all to be held to. I know Rush Limbaugh doesn’t have daughters but what message does this send to our nation’s daughters? That no matter what they accomplish, they can always be diminished on this score?
To be fair, it’s not just Rush who buys into this, and it’s a problem that’s been going on for a long time. I grew up with a mother who constantly made negative comments about my weight — and this was when I was hovering at one hundred pounds and on the high school cross country running team! I thought I’d perfected that wonderful teenage defense mechanism of tuning out parental units, but apparently some of it sunk in. There’s always a moment of surprise when I stumble over a picture of myself in high school or college. I looked a lot more like Renee Zellweger (and I’m not talking the Bridget Jones version) than Jennifer Lopez (not that there is anything wrong with J-Lo), but my perception was always that I was “hippy” and “had big thighs.” At some point, I measured myself in high school and recently found those measurements: 34″/22″/33.5″. I don’t even think I had hips back then!
So somebody has to stand up and tell girls that healthy bodies come in all sizes and shapes and we should focus on the fuel we give those bodies and what those bodies can do, not on how well they fit some impossible standard. I guess today it’s going to be me. But lately these days, that person is Michelle Obama.
I know Rush hasn’t listened to a word of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program and campaign against childhood obesity. After all, this is a man who lost 90 pounds on the Oxycontin and Jello Diet, which landed him in the hospital. Worse yet, it seems to have kept the weight off for so short a time that I’m not able to find any pictures of “The Thin Rush.” So, it is worth recapping for him and other Right Wing blow-hards just exactly what the program is all about.
No Sarah Palin, it’s not about saying you can’t have dessert, mandating portion sizes or taxing food. It’s about helping kids make good choices, introducing them to healthy foods they may not be familiar with and making sure that they have access to those choices. When fast food outlets are allowed to operate in school lunchrooms and there are more deep fat fryers in the cafeteria than salad bars, kids don’t have a chance. When low-income urban areas don’t have a single grocery store but are littered with fast food outlets, people don’t have a choice.
What I love about Michelle’s approach is that it’s very European, in that there is no emphasis on low-fat, no-fat faux foods. Nothing is off limits as long as food is “real”, portions are appropriate, the diet is balanced, and lots of exercise is part of the equation. Some experts think Americans’ skewed and adversarial attitude toward our food is why we eat “low fat” and get hefty while Europeans eat foie gras and pasta and stay slim. So you could say, Michelle’s approach may be the one that will work for us.
It’s clearly working for her. No, she’s not a snake-hipped supermodel. She’s a strong healthy athletic woman. Not that Rush is probably aware of this, but you don’t get cut arms like hers — especially as a woman and certainly as a woman over forty — without sporting pretty impressively low body fat. Not that I think Michelle’s message would be diminished in any way if she were overweight. We all listened to Betty Ford tell us about sobriety. The fact that she’d battled painkiller addiction in no way made her campaign any less valuable or her leadership in any way suspect.
So Michelle eating ribs? Not a problem. Especially when Chef Kelly Liken who served that meal points out that the ribs were a 5 ounce portion (she estimated 600 calories) of lean beef, braised with most of the fat rendered off and served with a side of organic kale grown by local school children as part of a “healthy food” program. (You couldn’t improve on this stuff with fiction, unless you said the kale was raised by war orphans who are now nuns in Mother Teresa’s order.) Did I mention that this meal was eaten after Michelle had spent a day skiing — which surely burned off more calories than she consumed?
But getting back to Michelle’s European attitude. She’s clearly a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and, because she is healthy, happy with her size even if she will never be mistaken in silhouette for Calista Flockheart. Best yet, she always projects the ease, humor, grace and attitude of someone you’d want to hang out with. (Full disclosure — I’ve already offered to be her gardening buddy.)
Contrast that with Ann Coulter, who is probably Rush Limbaugh’s Dream Girl. Sure, she’s thin as a whippet, but she’s always snarling and I can’t imagine she’d be much fun to be around. But Ann Coulter brings me to the point where I have to think of a more constructive response to this situation than writing a blog post or calling Rush Limbaugh a Lard Ass on Twitter.
No, I’m not inviting Rush Limbaugh to Two Terrier Vineyards to learn the joys of organically raised produce. If he shows up within a mile of the ranch, he’ll be set upon by terriers.
But Ann Coulter? Despite her lucrative Agent Provacateur act, she strikes me as, underneath, an intelligent woman. I can work with that. But perhaps she’s a few artisanal Sonoma cheese plates and a couple bottles of Two Terrier Grenache away from being much happier and healthier.
So Ann, have your people call my terriers. I know you aren’t going to admit Michelle’s right, so let me act as intermediary. I’ll get some triple cream brie from humanely raised Sonoma goats, then I’ll drizzle it with organic lavender honey from bees that buzzed around our gardens. I’ll pair it with some crusty bread from the Basque Bakery down on the Square and serve us a salad from Flying Terrier Farms. Don’t worry about the calories. It’s a special treat and I’ll put you to work with John the Baptist digging irrigation trenches.
I aim to promote the First Lady’s Let’s Move Program one Right Wing pundit at a time.