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On Hold with Atchka! and MeMe Roth

June 8, 2012

Warning: This is an interview with MeMe Roth. That should be warning enough.

This interview took place the very next day after I was kicked off the Fatosphere, and I was all kinds of angry. I was angry at the way I was excluded from the Fatosphere; I was angry at the factions within Fat Acceptance who I had fought tooth and nail almost from the beginning; and I was angry at the fat-hating bullshit that proliferated the media.

At the center of all that fat-hating bullshit stood MeMe Roth, who routinely took to the airwaves to wave the biggest pair of pants she could find in order to shame fatties for daring to exist. To me, MeMe symbolized everything that was wrong with the anti-obesity hysteria that has permeated our culture for decades, and has been worked into a rabid lather in the past decade or so.

This interview (which I included in the Skorch article I wrote) begins with MeMe suggesting that fat men are impotent, effeminate losers, so it quickly devolved into a heated debate. At one point in the interview, I pressed MeMe until she was too stunned to answer one of my questions. I consider MeMe’s rare moment of silence one of the Crown Jewels of my career, thus far.

This interview also served as the catalyst for launching Fierce, Freethinking Fatties. It set the tone for the work we would ultimately do on our blog, confronting fat hatred head on and questioning those whose “common sense” beliefs lack the evidence to back up their claims.

After nearly 45 minutes of a tense exchange, I ended our discussion rather abruptly when I’m finally get sick of her shit and told her what I really think of her. If you’ve ever wanted to hear MeMe get treated the way she treats those she debates, then this is the interview for you.

In a way, I feel like the end of this interview/debate was my way of saying what so many people would like to say to MeMe Roth: shut the fuck up. And while I realize that stooping to her level is not the best approach to take, it was quite the cathartic moment for me.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that if I ever debate MeMe again, I could do so without wallowing in the mud with her because, as I’ve said in my previous interview summaries, this interview took place back when my knowledge of the issue was still in its infancy.

Now that I’ve spent two years immersed in self-education on this issue, I know I could just as easily eviscerate MeMe’s opinions based on facts alone.

I’m looking forward to that day.

You can read the original introductory post here.

UPDATE: I forgot I had written this post after the MeMe Roth debate to fact check myself.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    June 8, 2012 12:02 pm

    Fuck MeMe Roth – I was 5′ 9″ and wore a size 14 and the Air Force said I was too fat to enlist (I weighed 175 lbs at the time). So I was 5″ taller than her average American woman (5′ 4″ 165 lbs) and weighed 10 lbs more (and that was 40 years ago, so a size 14 back then was smaller than a size 14 today). The USAF said I needed to weigh 135 lbs in order to enlist – if I had gotten down to 135 lbs, I would have been nothing but skin and bones.
    Oh, and if MeMe is honest about her height and weight (5′ 6″ and 125 lbs), her BMI is 20.2 (mine, when the USAF wouldn’t accept me, was 25.8, at 135 it would have been 19.9). And I thought I was fat back then.
    She can’t name anyone who has successfully addressed obesity and reversed it in their community because no one has. Other than the emaciated part, your “Fuck you” was deserved by her – she doesn’t respect fat people at all, and when she “debates” with them on programs, it’s not a debate, it’s Screaming MeMe talking over everyone to propagandize her agenda over anything anyone else has to say. I dislike that woman intensely.

  2. Rebecca Weinstein permalink
    June 8, 2012 12:18 pm

    I’ve never heard her speak for more than a few minutes on television. What I find most interesting about this interview is her mania. I happen to have a graduate degree in clinical therapy, but I am not sure that’s necessary to recognize the affect and behavior. I have never heard anyone without a mental illness speak the way she does, outside of stimulant abuse (which is essentially drug induced mania). I am not just dumping on her. That’s easy enough to do. She’s bright (objectively speaking), but she’s so scattered, agitated, and compulsive — manic. I wonder what would happen to her cause if she were properly medicated.

  3. Fab@54 permalink
    June 8, 2012 1:53 pm

    Christ… I’ve never heard Meme for more than a 2 minute sound bite… but Holy Cow!
    She is completely obnoxious.
    Completely obnoxious, and either she really IS totally manic (as per Rebecca said) or she is soooo well rehearsed, and absolutely fixated on not allowing any conflicting information or opinion to get ANY sort of foothold or consideration in the conversation.
    She is really nauseating.

    • Fab@54 permalink
      June 8, 2012 1:59 pm

      By the way, I’m just starting to listen to the second half. Even worse than the first!! She’s practically frothing at the mouth! LOL she’s gulping and slurping her spit back and speaking as fast as possible!!

  4. The Fat Aspie permalink
    June 8, 2012 7:08 pm

    Did she ever consider that the problems with 9 year olds having their periods is due to all the HORMONES we feed our food sources? HELLO!

    she’s making me very angry. I may need to turn this off. And i’m only like 10 minutes in.

  5. June 8, 2012 8:08 pm

    I agree with Rebecca about Meme’s mania. She has a tendency to go off on tangents (obviously). When she is asked about point A, she briefly talks about point A, then goes into B, C, and D and the whole debate starts turning into a poopoo platter. I’m not against 100% of the things she says and there are a few ideas she talks about that I am in agreement with her on, but she would be wise to keep on top of reading materials like Linda’s book, especially if she is going be debating them publicly in the mainstream media. She could also keep notes and bullet point to stay on topic and to answer the questions asked directly instead of hijacking the entire conversation. She needs to learn how to be a better interviewee and she needs to learn to work on her debate skills as well. I’m not perfect but there are several times when I wish I had a pause button for her mouth so I could jump in and say “Ok, here’s where you should be quiet right now.” She’s not doing any favors for her cause by being a terrible interviewee.

    I’m only half way through this so I will probably have more to add later.

    • Rebecca Weinstein permalink
      June 8, 2012 8:49 pm

      I don’t think she is capable of focusing. I agree with you that not everything she says is off the wall. But she’s so out of control she can’t follow a point to a logical conclusion or see where her ideas conflict. If she weren’t such a thorn in our collective sides I would feel badly for her. I know I am doing an armchair psych evaluation, which you have to take with a grain of salt. But in my estimation the woman is actually unable to read things she disagrees with because her mind goes flying off in a manic hysteria. She’s not stupid. I don’t even think she is inherently mean. Though she can be cruel. I think she’s ill. It’s unfortunate for all of us, including her, because they put her on TV like a side show character too. The woman’s lack of mental health treatment is a contagion. I might suggest that instead of us hating MeMe Roth, we express our concern for her psychiatric condition. Because of her manic irrationality, she can’t be trusted as an information source, and that pretty swiftly takes away her power.

      Get that woman on some Depakote and Risperdal and I think we would see a very different MeMe Roth. She would also put on weight, which would be interesting (and perhaps why she doesn’t get treated — just a thought).

  6. Mulberry permalink
    June 8, 2012 9:29 pm

    As long as we’re playing armchair psych, does anyone know if eating disorders are connected with manic behavior?
    Ashley, I somewhat disagree with you here – it’s Roth’s loose cannon behavior that gets her the publicity in the first place. The silly stunts, the wedding dress challenge, these keep people glued to the tv waiting to see what that crazy woman will do next. People are not so much looking for truths to drop from her lips, they are looking for vindication of what they are already sure is true.

    • June 8, 2012 9:38 pm

      Anorexia is associated with (pardon me if this is the wrong term) hyperactivity. I was just reading up on it the other day. Whether there’s related to the mania, I have no idea. But I think she’s too vested in blaming all fat people for their fatness, which reinforces her feelings of being “good” in the face of what she perceived as her imminent obesity. Because get grandma suffered from weight-related problems, I think she really believes she’s a cupcake away from the same issues. And she projects that fear onto society. In her mind, it’s as if nobody cared about cupcakes until the obesity epidemic.

      But if you think MeMe is bad, wait till you hear Monday’s interview with the anti-gym douche. But those are my only “ugly” interviews. After that are some of my favorites.


      • Rebecca Weinstein permalink
        June 8, 2012 10:46 pm

        Anorexia and mania are not connected. Theoretically a person could develop an eating disorder as a result of another psychiatric illness. And if a person is malnourished enough for long enough it can affect the brain. But it wouldn’t cause mania. I think she is compulsive about her weight and exercise (from what she has said in past interviews), but I have no idea if she has an eating disorder. I am basing my estimation that she has manic features on her manic behavior. Whether she is bipolar or has a personality disorder, some psychosis, or her obsession with this issue and OCD tendencies just makes her irrational, I don’t know. She could be on uppers too. It wouldn’t be shocking. But the manner in which she speaks seems fairly obviously manic. There are clearly underlying emotional issues as well, but mental illness is often a combination of chemistry and life experience. If she has a mental health condition, it explains her behavior, it doesn’t justify it. But really, I don’t get the sense she is taken very seriously when she is booked on TV. She is used to stir trouble. I only saw a clip, but when she was on Dr. Drew recently, within seconds he deflected her obsessive rating and asked her what happened to her as a child.

        • Fab@54 permalink
          June 9, 2012 6:03 am

          I’ll tell you what happened when she was a ‘child’ – she had a grandmother, who happened to be [gasp!] fat, who happened to shit in her bed – once? twice? every day for a year? who knows! But that could have happened for any number of reasons; physical illness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, severe depression, drug or alcohol abuse, etc., and Meme has forever connected this bed-shitting with fatness – and ONLY fatness.
          For all we know, her Gran’ma was 92 when that happened.
          But Meme– she just can’t get over it!

          Kind of reminds me of my eldest daughter who ate some pizza one day when she was about 5 yrs old. An hour later she threw up. She associated eating that pizza with throwing up and for the next 3-4 years she was convinced that “Pizza makes me sick- I’m allergic!” and wouldn’t eat it.
          No matter how many times I reminded her that she had come down with the flu, she was sure it was that damn pizza. This is Meme Roth and her fat granny who shit her bed.

          And by the way, from the height and weight description Meme provided about her Grandmother, I’m about her granny’s size…. I have no problem getting in and out of bed, making it to the bathroom, showering, swimming, walking to my car, the mailbox, etc. If I didn’t have arthritis in my knees I’d be doing a lot more than that, believe me — even at my weight!

        • June 9, 2012 9:45 pm

          I’m going to start a new comment to respond to this to avoid that fucking noodling text.


    • June 10, 2012 12:52 am

      I didn’t think of it that way but you are probably right.

  7. June 9, 2012 7:36 pm

    I thought you did an amazing job, the woman just will not let anyone speak besides herself! I would like to take the faux concern route with Meme if I were to have a discussion with her, so she understands how it feels to have someone constantly telling them the way they take care of themselves is right.

    “Meme I know you think fat people can’t be healthy,and therefore healthy. Did you know happiness is not a measure of health or wellness? That you exhibit several signs of Anorexia, including a fear of gaining weight, and agitation? No, no, I’m not attacking you Meme, I’m just concerned about your health. Yes fat be can be unhealthy, but it seems you are failing to realize your obsession with obesity, is strongly associated with your Anorexic behavior, like not eating until you exercise first. There are several studies that show an obsession with weight is psychologically unhealthy. Meme, seems you’re a victim of our weight related culture. It’s wrong for people to exploit you and your mental illness, to justify our country’s mentally ill thinking regarding weight.

    You have a problem with HAES? I’m sure that’s because the thought of being fat so horrifies you, that the thought fat people can be healthy is a threat to your view of the world. I’m sorry about your grandma, but instead of shaming people just like her. Don’t you want them to be healthy? Do you think your grandma would be in the position she’s in, if she didn’t live in a anti-fat society? Meme, if you really loved your grandmother, you would want to help other people like her with HAES. Instead you want to sentence those like her, to living a life of fearing fat. You, Meme Roth want to sentence people to being just as sick as you are. Why? I heard OCD is common in people with starvation eating disorders.

    You cannot control fat people Meme, you cannot keep them from existing in the same world you do, you act as if fat people are the boogeyman you’ve been afraid of since you were a little girl. Grow up, stop trying to control everyone, realize that the problem isn’t people being fat, it’s your skewed view and obsession with it. That no amount of bullying, shaming, and condemnation will make fat people go away. That the media is absolutely wrong in giving you a platform, because they are indulging you in your illness.

    No, it is not the same as fat people overeating, fat people don’t eat differently than thin people, there are studies that prove this. There is something wrong with promoting your Anorexia tainted worldview as healthy to people. There is something wrong with promoting a disease as healthy. Being fat is no more a diseased state than being thin. I’m sure you’d be able to correlate the same health conditions among the majority of thin people, because correlation is not causation, it’s taking a small group of people and basing an assumption off how they’re affected by being fat. Your worried about junk food marketing, I’m worried about diet ads being allowed to be run, because dieting is restricting food the same way a Anorexic person does. Anorexia is not a cure for fatness, it makes things worse as the body adds morefat thinking it’s going through a starvation period, thinking it will not be able to find food.

    In fact Meme, inviting you to a debate about “obesity” and “overfat”, is like Jerry Springer inviting the KKK on his show for a debate about racism. What’s that Meme, you don’t like my tone? You are not deserving of respect, your whole career is based on being born in the right time, where your brand of hate is accepted. That will change, nobody will want you. Nobody will care you can run 4 miles, fueled by Anorexic hyperactivity. The shows won’t ask you to do interviews, people will realize you have been nothing but a schoolyard bully this whole time. What then Meme, are you going to go home, and indulge yourself by starving because the only way you know how to cope is through fat hate, and self-starvation? People already are tired of your whiny brat act, “WAHHH! I HAVE TO SIT ON A PLANE NEXT TO A FAT PERSON!” You’re over, no one cares what you have to say anymore, except fellow fat haters.

    There are things worse than death, and one of them will be your realization that you’ve wasted a large part of your life attacking fat people, because you refused to realize you are the one who is sick. I don’t envy you one bit, you are an example of how one can be thin, but it means nothing because they are an ugly person on the inside. I’d rather be fat, than be you.”

    You think I should e-mail her this? I would, but I doubt it would lead to anything worthwhile. Just more of Meme’s desperation to convince herself she’s not the sick one.

    • June 9, 2012 10:43 pm

      Thanks Jackie.

      MeMe Roth is just the female version of Fat Bastard. She’s just not worth it. It’s worth it to make an example of her ignorance, but not to humiliate or insult her any more. I really do regret insulting her personally. I think that interview would have stood better without stooping to her level. On the other hand, it was extremely cathartic and, in my opinion at the time, deserved. There’s nothing anyone can say that will change her mind, so the best we can do is make lemonade from this sour, bitter lemon lady.


  8. June 9, 2012 10:39 pm

    Okay, so get this: anorexia and leptin are tied together, as you can imagine, leptin plays a bigger role in anorexia than previously known (especially since leptin was only discovered in 2004). Oh, and it is anorexia and hyperactivity, by the way.

    Then, leptin also plays a role in amenorrhoea (the period stopping for those, like me, who weren’t aware of that term), both due to anorexia and in some cases of general infertility. Leptin replacement therapy is proving to be an effective treatment for some cases of infertility due to low leptin levels.

    But leptin is an amazing hormone and because it controls energy storage, its effects are seen in some pretty surprising areas, including psychological. Leptin eases anxiety in obese mice. Early on, they linked leptin to cortisol, when researchers found that adding cortisol to cultured fat cells increased leptin production.

    In fully differentiated human fat cells, insulin provoked a dose-dependent rise in leptin protein. Cortisol at a near physiological concentration of 10−8 mol/l was found to potentiate this insulin effect by almost threefold.

    A year later, another team found evidence that leptin inhibits cortisol release directly.

    A team of Swedish researchers have even suggested (in Swedish, unfortunately) the modern society is more stressful than previous generations, which increases cortisol production, signalling a release of leptin, which may, in turn, ease cortisol. There’s some evidence thatcortisol increases with mania, but it’s a mixed bag.

    So, here’s where it gets interesting (TOO LATE!), during acute mania, a recently released study of 33 women found that two markers for insulin rose significantly. C-reactive protein plays a role in leptin resistance (which leads to weight gain), and that C-reactive protein was increased in these 33 women during the acute stages of mania, and persisted into remission. The other marker that increased during acute mania is called interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, and
    leptin activates its production.

    Therefore, it seems that leptin increases during acute mania, triggering the release of the second marker, while the first marker increases in the likelihood of insulin resistance which leads to weight gain.

    However, we don’t know what would happen if the manic person with low leptin levels, which occurs due to caloric restriction and training levels of exercise. The fact that we’ve only known about leptin for going-on-20 years means that there’s a lot of information yet to discover about this hormone, and it’s cousin ghrelin. I found this interesting post in the International Journal of Medical Sciences (an open source journal) on a unified perspective on anorexia, which discusses the role of hormones on anorexia.

    But to know that there’s a connection between leptin and mania, it will be interesting to see what comes out in the future.


  9. June 10, 2012 12:50 am

    I just want to say that you held it together pretty well up until the emaciated part. You hung in there longer than a lot of people would. It was a pretty interesting interview and there were a few things I could agree with her on, but still she is not the best representative for her cause. You did well in presenting good questions to her and defending your cause and you made valid points. I think it’s good that you made an apology about your comment. I think you had a bit of word vomit which is understandable, I think we have all blurted out something we didn’t really mean just to piss the other person off. I do want to say though that it’s possible for people to appear emaciated and be healthy and eating well but just not be able to put weight on, including those who look like Victoria Beckham, Nicole Richie, etc. I’m not an advocate for pin pointing a specific level of thinness to say “Ok they must be anorexic.” just as I wouldn’t say about an obese person “There’s no way she doesn’t binge eat constantly.” Eating disorders are no joke and I do think there is an obsession with thinness and it needs to stop, but I don’t think blaming certain body types are the solution. I think promoting variety of bodies as healthy and beautiful in the media and in every day life is the best way to reverse the obsession.

  10. Apophis61 permalink
    June 14, 2012 12:31 pm

    This is why I don’t like elitist liberals, they are not satisfied to live their lives how they want. No, they insist on running everybodies lives as well. You know, I don’t like skinny, elitist, fugly, f’ tards! but that doesn’t give me the right to tell them what to do!

    • June 14, 2012 1:01 pm

      Hello Apophis61,
      Welcome to Fierce Fatties.

      Just for the record, I have not heard MeMe Roth express any particular political affiliation, so I’m not sure we can definitively peg her as a “liberal.” Elitist? Absolutely. But I think for MeMe, this is more about battling personal demons and projecting her fears onto society than imposing a left-wing nanny state.

      Also, as the person who conducted the interview with Ms. Roth, you should know that I am a staunch Democrat and unabashed liberal. Contrary to popular belief, I have no interest in running anyone’s life.

      Finally, paternalism is not strictly the domain of liberals. One need only observe conservative efforts to restrict abortion and limit access to contraception to see that both sides have a stake in dictating morality for the country. But whatever side preaches it, it’s wrong.


  11. June 15, 2012 9:34 pm

    I’ve only listened to the first half, but I think MeMe made excellent points. I don’t understand why you kept pressuring her to say she agreed with HAES. From my understanding, HAES says that it’s possible to BE healthy at any size. MeMe says that it’s good to eat healthy and exercise at every size, but that’s different from saying that you are healthy.

    • June 15, 2012 10:34 pm

      Welcome to Fierce Fatties, prettynothealthy.

      Here’s the difference: HAES says that eating healthy and exercising will improve your metabolic health, while MeMe says that eating healthy and exercising will make you thin, which in turn improves your health. For MeMe, the “proof” of a healthy lifestyle is that you are thin, and if you are fat, then you it is your fault and you deserve to be publicly humiliated for your weight.

      HAES says that there are three things you need if you want to be healthy: good food (a healthy balanced diet without restriction), movement (finding an activity you love to do, rather than exercising as punishment), and self-love (because if you don’t love yourself, you’re not going to take care of yourself).

      MeMe Roth is the antithesis of this philosophy. She says that there is only one thing you need to be healthy: a healthy BMI. And caloric restriction and exercise are the tools to achieve that goal, and self-love is doing whatever it takes to get to a healthy BMI.

      Those are two very distinct messages, and MeMe said she couldn’t accept HAES simply because of the name of it. There’s something very odd about that.

      In any case, I hope you listen to the whole thing, but bear in the mind the end is rather rough.

      I hope you stick around.


      • Patti permalink
        June 17, 2012 1:27 pm

        Well stated Shannon

      • Marilyn permalink
        June 17, 2012 7:59 pm

        I thought she seemed to be answering the questions fairly intelligently at first, but as the conversation went on, she seemed to be losing her cool. She was shouting over Shannon. I was glad that you cursed her out at the end. She couldn’t accept that there is no way to reverse obesity. Earlier in the conversation, she admitted that it’s nearly impossible to lose weight and maintain it. I could almost understand why she didn’t agree with the wording of Health at Every Size, as you pointed out there are problems for people at the extra ends.

        As someone who is overweight, but not obese, I’m furious at her. Ideas like hers caused me the abuse I had as a youth. I remember thinking about the way she held up those size 14 pants to make them look large. It’s a matter of perception. I think they look big only because she is small. If you held up the same pants, they would look tiny. It’s not the size of the pants, but the size of the person holding them. I felt I needed to say that.

  12. June 19, 2012 9:16 am

    You do realize figures like MeMe Roth are what are called ‘change agents”

    You know a “social engineer” type, who influences for the status quo?

    You think the sheer numbers of these folks are an accident they are not. And they are like cartoon characters. Well they are, because they follow a SCRIPT.

    To be frank, I wouldn’t give someone like that 2 minutes of my time except to expose them. It’s not arguing with a “real person” but a character and this character is “FAT HATER” keep the status quo lies going about obesity. Maybe she has corporate sponsership? I wonder who finances groups like hers? That would be interesting to know.

    What do I mean by that. Certain types who are almost like cartoon characters are chosen to get most of the attention out there in the social sphere. It’s predictive programming for the news set.

    Ah how do I get people to think outside the box, and get them to know how our news is “owned” and the deceivers with an agenda proliferate?

    I know someone like me they’d never allow on Dr. Phil, I got censored on there for questioning Dr. Phil’s approach to the severely obese. I know in other circles because I do not adhere to the ideology perfectly I am on my own. That’s ok with me.

    With MeMeRoth, its more of the same…..focus on the hyperresponsiblity angle of obesity, help keep the engines humming for the obesity/diet industrial complex.

  13. June 19, 2012 9:17 am

    correction to above, the FALSE hyperresponsiblity aspect of obesity.

  14. March 4, 2015 4:00 pm

    I know I am way, way late here. But in “The Gospel of Food,” Barry Glassner blasts the hell out of Walter Willet and the nurses study – they used a sample size that is too small to be even statistically meaningful.

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