By Jean Bentley
May 08, 2009 at 10:01 PM EDT
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Kirstie Alley appeared on Oprah last week discussing her weight gain, and this week she’s opened up to People about putting on 83 pounds in two years. Lynette Rice already covered the fact that the actress shouldn’t have to apologize (especially publicly) for this. But maybe she should apologize for something else: About realizing she had hit 228 pounds, she said to People, ”I was so much more disgusting than I thought!”

Let me get this straight: Extra weight makes you disgusting? Before we continue, let me offer you a few definitions of the word ”disgusting”: highly offensive; repugnant; to excite nausea or loathing in; sicken; to offend the taste or moral sense of; repel. Now, it’s not the sight of the extra weight, or the thought that she let herself regress so far, or the fact that she gained so much in such a short time that’s disgusting — she wasn’t disgusted by what happened; she actually found that she had become “disgusting.”

It’s not just Alley. On this week’s Biggest Loser, one of the contestants told his trainer that his brother was “disgusting” for being so apathetic toward losing weight. On a show so inspirational, it was jarring to hear Mike hurl such a pointed, critical word at his little brother, a person who, until last October, he had been exactly like. Listen, Mike, just because someone hasn’t (yet) had the same life-changing revelation as you doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy of your respect. The Biggest Loser doesn’t demean people for their weight, it educates them and helps them become healthier. The contestants look back on their old selves as clueless, not worthless, sickening, or offensive.

There are plenty of things that are disgusting: maggots, the sticky floor at the movie theater, brussels sprouts. But fat people are not disgusting. What is disgusting is that someone’s entire worth as a person can be assessed by a number on a scale, and that that idea is being promoted by people who have struggled with weight themselves. The word ”disgusting” in relation to someone’s validity as a human being (even your own) just doesn’t sit well with me, and I’m somewhat disgusted to hear it being thrown around that way in popular media.

Were you uncomfortable with Alley’s and Mike’s word choice? Is the use of the word ”disgusting” indicative of a larger prejudice? Or am I just overreacting to passing statements?

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