If you’re unaware, Prince Fielder, a Major League Baseball player for the Texas Rangers, posed for ESPN the Magazine’s Body issue this year.


Prince is a missed haircut away from six feet tall, and has been threatening 300 pounds for a while now. Compared to his fellow Body issue models Larry Fitzgerald and Serge Ibaka, Prince’s body type is…different. If Larry and Serge are, say, Ferrari 458 Italia’s, Prince would maybe be a Nissan Pathfinder. A Google image search will obviously tell you more.


Prince has taken his expected beating via social media after his nude photos (the pics of Body issue models are predominantly sans attire but PG) hit screens around the world. He’s soft and round. Most of the model’s bodies say “athlete.” Prince’s body says “light beer is for middle school girls.” This was never going to go well for him on Twitter. It’s too easy.


But this is only the latest example of how we, as a culture, consistently get this discussion wrong. After the predictable fat jokes, there will be the “as long as Prince loves himself” contingent riding to his rescue. Then bickering over what self image means and should mean and all of it, every word, a papier mache conversation.


Prince’s father is Cecil Fielder, himself once a MLB slugger. Again, I recommend a Google image search. You will quickly discover that genetics are not working in Prince’s favor. It does not bother me to look at Prince Fielder. I genuinely hope that Prince thinks well of himself. But the man is substantially overweight, as was his father. There is no debate as to the disastrous effects of obesity on the human body, over time. Your favorite buffet would be crushed by the weight of the research. Why, then, are we talking about the way Prince looks


It’s nuanced, that I will grant. But there is a word which rarely makes it into the tweets and blog rants and lunch table chats about weight. That word is “healthy.” That’s what matters. What some embittered desk jockey in Portland thinks about Prince’s spare tire, the flippant venom of some duck-faced chick in South Beach…noise. Static. The real conversation is this – negligent obesity puts undue strain on our healthcare system. The real conversation is this – Prince is at greater risk of sustaining an injury, or sustaining a more severe injury, due to his weight. The real conversation is this – Prince has a wife and two sons, and he should care that he is around for them as long as he possibly can be.


My brother was once obese. He will tell you, it was a choice. It happened because of decisions he made. It happened because of a lifestyle he chose. Then, he began to choose differently. Then, he was up riding a bike at 5:00AM in the January cold. Then, he was training for a 5K. Then, he was training for a 10K. Then he ran a half-marathon, and another, and he’ll run another this fall. He lost something in the neighborhood of 120 pounds by force of will, by a determination that he would be an example to his children, and by prayer.


He did not change because anyone shamed him. It never helped that anyone encouraged him to love the “me in the mirror.” He made the decision to become healthy. It was not an image-based decision. It was a quality of life decision, a longevity decision. It was a health decision.


Trouble is, I guess, that you don’t get a lot of “likes” for showing genuine concern for the health of a fellow human being. That’s a pretty boring thing to retweet. And the “love yourself” chorus will have long since moved on to sing under a new balcony when Prince hits second base wrong, tearing the ligaments in his ankle instead of merely straining them, DL for eight weeks instead of two.


I don’t want that to happen to Prince Fielder. Pose for a magazine, or don’t. Suck it in when you pass a mirror, or don’t. Just ask your doctor how much she would like you to lose, then devise a plan and do it. Don’t get skinny. Don’t get sexy. Get healthy.