Friday, March 19, 2010

Focus on the Family Leaves The Tough Questions Unanswered

For several days now, I have been mildly irritated with the new tone of interviews airing on Focus on the Family. I've listened for as long as I can remember and have been so blessed by the content of broadcasts under the former leadership of Dr. James Dobson. My husband and I support the ministry financially, as we are able. Now it's just different.
Now that Dr. Dobson is off-the-air, I am really struggling with getting used to Dr. Juli Slattery as a host. Her training is in psychology--not communications. I have no doubt she is a brilliant psychologist, and I have enjoyed listening to her as a guest, but why she was chosen as a daily host is beyond me.

Interview questions for on-air broadcasts are much different than the kind of questions you ask a patient sitting in a chair in your office for a session. You only get so much time in a broadcast. The questions have to be relevant to what the majority of the audience wonders, you have to make the guest sound like the expert (not yourself), and you have to move. You need to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.

All that aside, I am shocked at irresponsible interviewing of late. You may have heard the interviews with Chantel Hobbs, author of Never Say Diet: Make Five Decisions and Break the Fat Habit for Goodand the new release The One-Day Way: Today Is All the Time You Need to Lose All the Weight You Want.

Apparently, her broadcasts were the most popular of 2009. I listened to all four of them the other day. Never once did I hear anyone ask her about her choice to undergo a "breast lift and augmentation." She writes about it in her book, Never Say Diet. (She also writes about liposuction and body sculpting, and when she believes they can be appropriate).

Here's what she wrote:

"I honestly did not consider any surgery until I had my last child, more than three years into my transformation. Once I had maintained my weight loss and continued to get even more fit, I realized I had excess skin that had lost its elasticity and wasn't going back, and there was nothing I could do myself to change that. I decided to have a breast lift and augmentation, and this was a difficult decision. I understand that we need to accept our bodies as God created them, but God did not intend for me to balloon up to 350 pounds. There were ramifications from this that I knew could be fixed. I fixed everything I could through clean eating and exercise, then got help from experts for what I couldn't do on my own...

Yes, I discussed it with my husband first and then my mom and daughters. I wanted them to understand the frustration of losing a lot of weight, becoming superfit, and then being disappointed with my body as a result. They...understood this was not simply vanity. But as I moved forward with this decision, I wanted to consider the message I was sending my children. I wanted my girls to know their mom was fixing a problem that she had created herself, that this was not simply a matter of wanting bigger breasts.

My problem is not that she underwent plastic surgery (although I personally don't agree with it), but that Focus on the Family failed to tell its audience this key piece of information while touting her story and books. In my old news days, if I left out such a huge key to someone's story in an interview, I would be hauled into my news director's office for irresponsible journalism. And I would deserve the chastisement. I would have failed to have done my job.

So if you listened to the Focus broadcasts and heard Chantel's story and were inspired to eat better and exercise more, remember--as you look at pictures of her, you will not have identical results...unless you, too, "get help from experts," in Chantel's words, for what you can't do on your own. I think Focus on the Family owed it to its listeners to tell us all this key piece of information. Either somebody didn't do decent research, or Focus just chose not to bring it up. But what message does this really send to young women and moms who are working on losing baby weight--all women, really? "Time to get some plastic surgery, honey, because this belly just ain't going back."

I will be writing a letter to Focus, and I encourage you to as well.
Now back to regularly scheduled posting... :)


  1. Great point! I'm all for full disclosure and I think that as a Christian organization, they are held to an even higher standard. Personally, I don't support touting books that are titled, "Never Say Diet: Make Five Decisions and Break the Fat Habit for Good" and "The One-Day Way: Today Is All the Time You Need to Lose All the Weight You Want." It's too good to be true, because even though she followed the programs, she needed help from "experts." The photo on the cover is extremely misleading.

    As the mother of 2 girls (ages 6 and 2 1/2), I've already found it hard to build their self-esteem and not buy into our culture's version of beautiful. These books do NOT help or make it easier to do that. Ok, now I'm riled up enough to write a letter, too.

  2. I wondered about that when I first heard her - I know from other's experiences that it's not possible to look like her after losing that much weight unless a person has some skin removed since it's been so stretched out. (sorry for the run-on sentence!)

  3. Gross. Just plain gross. And shame on Focus on the Family. I didn't realize the change had happened.

    You said, "But what message does this really send to young women and moms who are working on losing baby weight--all women, really? "Time to get some plastic surgery, honey, because this belly just ain't going back."

    Exactly, Cheryl. And by looking at her picture and pose, it's all about the physical body, not modesty to glotify Christ. When is the church going to stop copying the world's ways???

    Thanks for being bold and writing a letter to FOTF.

    BTW I am looking for a blog that someone listed in one of your comments about a mother to a daughter about being happy. It was so good but now I cannot locate it.

  4. I agree with Jodi, the church does need to stop trying to be like the world in so many ways. I have struggled with an eating disorder for 15 years and do not want the same for my daughters. It is hard to keep them from seeing the magazine covers at the grocery stores and being bombarded with the world's view of beauty. It is really sad, however, to have to shield them in the church. I would love to see women come together to support each other instead of comparing one another. Thank you for this post and for this information.

  5. Hi guys, thanks for your comments. I am just totally appalled. I didn't include this part in the post:
    Q: "What is the message you most want to send about plastic surgery?"
    "That it is important to be realistic. Plastic surgery does not make you lean, give you a new body shape, or cause you to drop two sizes. It does not give you life-long good health. On the other hand, it has helped give many people the life they wanted. Plastic surgery should be viewed as a personal choice and an OPTION TO ENHANCE THE WORK YOU HAVE ALREADY DONE." (Caps mine).

    Her position aside, I am just so disgusted that no one is presenting this side to her story. She has been on the 700 Club, Fox News, Focus on the Family, and other places. No one brings it up. They even promote her story, saying her weight loss was "without surgery or diet pills." This is just not completely true.

    I am also left wondering--is her face natural, or did she have a face lift?
    About body sculpting, she writes, "Body sculpting combines lipo with skin excision to tighten the skin against the body and restore its tone. Again, IT ONLY MAKES SENSE AFTER YOU'VE LOST WEIGHT ON YOUR OWN."
    So, are her legs "sculpted?" What about her arms? We already know about her bust. Why is no one asking her about this element of her weight loss success story???

  6. Women need to accept themselves for who they are and how God made them... Good for Chantel Hobbs in losing hundreds of pounds. But if she needs to go for plastic surgery, she isn't content with her new slimmer body... it is looking for "perfection"...

    How a partner reacts to your body is, in my experience, a gauge to how comfortable you are. My first husband used to tell me to lose weight, he wasn't attracted to me etc. etc. It didn't help my self-esteem (or my marriage). My new husband (of a little over a year) says he just wants me to be "happy" and it is okay if I am not a size 10 model... he loves me the way I am.... and coming from him, I believe it, I feel more comfortable with my body and consequently feel better about myself.

    I can fully understand getting the excess skin removed after her weight loss, but I can't understand the breast augmentation and lipo suction. I have always felt lipo was dangerous as I have seen documentaries doing the procedure on tv and heard of people who died from it -- all for a bit of vanity!

    Real women aren't 100 pounds with washboard flat stomachs. So, lets have a realistic "ideal" to work towards....

  7. GREAT POINT! It is so refreshing to see a fan of Focus on the Family who is willing to question some of its stances. Like any other human beings, they get some things right and other things wrong.

  8. I've read Chantel Hobbs' books and have found each to be straight-forward and encouraging. Her number one goal is to help others to be the best they can be and to give God the glory. I count her a blessing!

  9. Thank you so much for this information! The issue is not just whether or not her books are good or not, but is she (and others) being honest as she proclaims we need to be.