On Eagles lineman Max Jean-Gilles’s bariatric surgery

His public admission isn’t likely to change anything in America’s war on the obese. Too bad.

My dad used to tell a story about visiting a ritzy Atlantic City hotel with his mom, my grandmother, back in the day. Gran was in her 70s then, and hard of hearing. After a nice dinner together, Dad and Gran got into an elevator to go up to their rooms. Another woman was already in the car. Gran nudged my dad and hissed in her too-loud hard-of-hearing whisper: “Bill? Bill? Am I as fat as she is?”

It seems to be the question all of America is asking itself of late. Yesterday’s Inquirer ran a very touching article on Eagles offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles and his decision to undergo lap-band surgery to try to get his weight in check. The heroine of the piece is Max’s wife, Maggie, who bravely defied the “Don’t talk about it and it won’t exist” ban most fat people impose on the subject and repeatedly urged her husband to think about what his weight was doing to his life—and what his early death would mean to their two-year-old son.

I would kill my husband if he did that to me.

There’s a lot of self-deception involved in living large. From “Too Fat to Fly” actor/director Kevin Smith, who got kicked off an airline flight earlier this year to ensure the “safety and comfort of other customers,” to the contestants on The Biggest Loser, even the obese among us gawk at the more obese among us, consoling ourselves by thinking, “Well, at least I’m not as fat as that.” And the great thing about America is—there’s always someone fatter than you are! There’s Kirstie Alley! There’s William Shatner! Hell, there’s Andy Reid!

I sincerely hope Jean-Gilles isn’t reading the comments section on the article on his surgery, because it’s stuffed full of skinnier-than-thou readers saying he should have just shut his pie hole. Oh, there’s a smattering of attempted rebuffs from those sympathetic to his plight, along the lines of “Don’t judge unless you’ve walked a mile in his cleats.” But most of the comments are like this one:

“Jean-Giles [sic] is a highly paid athlete who gets paid millions to keep himself in top condition. Obviously he hasn’t done that. I realize linemen need the extra girth, but the Eagles provide trainers, an awesome weight room/facilities, and probably a nutritionist. So how & why is this guy a pro athlete? Sounds to me like he’s just incredibly lazy and is taking the easy way out.”

The fact is, if food has never controlled your life with its siren song, you’re lucky. Just … lucky, the way people are who have great smiles or gorgeous hair. And Max and I are incredibly jealous of you. Someday, I like to think, scientists will find a genetic cause of our inability to self-regulate—to experience satiety—that will relieve some of our shame and self-loathing. Meantime, you keep hating on us, hey? Yeah. I knew you would.