MeMe Roth has made her name "calling people fat" (example: Jordin Sparks) and throwing away ice cream toppings at her kid's YMCA. But that name is in fact "a brand extension." Her real name is Meredith Clements, but she uses MeMe, her great-grandmother's name, because it expresses her goal to "change the cultural MeMes that have ushered in this era of obesity." MeMe is a pretty strange name for someone who thinks our culture is self-absorbed, but, as the Guardian's admirably hard-hitting Gaby Wood reveals, Roth isn't too good at analysis, of herself or anyone else.
When Wood asks Roth whether government food subsidies play a role in rising obesity rates, Roth replies that "high fructose corn syrup" is the real enemy here — which is sort of like believing that the evil oil creature in FernGully is responsible for global warming. Even more wacked-out — and downright offensive — is this statement:
The defence has been made in the case of sex criminals that there is pleasure on the part of the victim. The same is true with what we're doing with food. We may abuse our bodies with food, but it's incredibly pleasurable. From a food marketer's point of view, when your quote unquote victim is so willing and enjoying of the process, who's fighting back?
Anyone who thinks eating is like being raped probably has some serious food issues. Although Roth swears she's never been anorexic, or even been on a diet, her relationship to food and body image is clearly a pretty diseased one. She talks about being ashamed of her "fat" mother when she was in kindergarten, as though this shame were normal and appropriate. She also insists that Wood meet her "after lunch" at one p.m. When Wood asks what she actually ate for lunch, this exchange ensues:
She squirms visibly. "You're taking me where I don't want to go ... What works for me doesn't work for a lot of people."
Well, you've said that, I insist, so taking that into account: lunch? Roth hesitates. "I discovered when I was in college that I work best when I get a workout in and eat after that. Sometimes I'll delay when I eat until I get a workout in. But I don't let a whole day go by without running four miles."
OK, I go on, but supposing you couldn't work out until four o'clock in the afternoon - would you not eat until after that?
I look at my watch. It's 3.30pm. Alarm bells start to ring in my head. How about today, I ask. Have you eaten at all today?
Roth is a little quiet.
"No," she says.
There is a pause.
"But I feel great!"
Roth may not be anorexic, and she may not think of what she does as dieting, but if "what works for her" is not eating anything until after 3:30, she's right that it's not going to work for most people. Nor should it. To liken the pleasure one gets from food to something as toxic as sexual assault isn't just illogical and insensitive — it also demonizes something that nourishes, brings people together, and produces some of the greatest and most uncomplicated joy in life. Rather than accept food for what it is — something that, like many good things, is wonderful in moderation and problematic in excess — Roth wants people to think of it as some kind of evil rapist who will make us fat and therefore shameful. It's a judgmental, unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable way to live.
The Woman Who Hates Food [Guardian]