An Open Letter to Christina Briggs

I would like to take a step back for a minute from what I typically post about on here. Lately I've been getting a lot of negative feedback from what I've been sharing on my Facebook page. I believe most of it started when I posted about Christina Briggs, the woman who came out in public saying she needs more government support if she's to lose weight and eat healthy. 

I want to be very clear about something.

I shared the picture of Christina from ANOTHER FACEBOOK PAGE. Their post said "I SPOTTED THIS STORY EARLIER TODAY.
"An obese mother-of-two who lives on benefits says she needs more of taxpayers' money to overhaul her unhealthy lifestyle.
Christina Briggs, 26, says she hates being 160 kilos but she can't do anything about it because she can only afford junk food. Meanwhile, exercise is out of the question because she doesn't have the funds to join a gym."
Does she have a fair point OR is she not taking responsibility?"

But for some reason from some computers it looked like I said the above. I didn't. All I said was, "I'm sure you all have thoughts... I'd love to hear them." Later, for some of the comments, I regretted saying I would love to hear them.... I didn't. Some of them were insightful and kind but some of them were rude, some of them were nasty, and some of them were out right awful. I was blown away. (I know I shouldn't expect anything better from the internet, right?) And I deleted about a third of them. I just couldn't stomach them being on my page!

This was me a couple months ago you guys! Remember? IF YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE PUBLICLY MOCKED for a choice you've made, to be made fun of, to be berated, to be called disgusting, a horrible mother, a person who doesn't deserve to live, and other nasty things, you obviously haven't followed my blog for very long. Remember the whole "no hair-washing" thing? I haven't forgotten. So if anyone thinks I shared that picture of Christina Briggs because I wanted to see her dragged through the mud, you obviously don't know me very well. 

So, why did I share that post?

I didn't share that post to mock a mother. I'm a mother, too. I didn't share that post to make fun of someone on welfare. I've been on welfare, too. I didn't share that post to FAT SHAME. I'm heavier than I'd like to be, too. 

shared Christina Briggs' story because I think she makes some valid points. What I was hoping would come out of my sharing that story was the fact that:

  • Obesity and poverty are inextricably linked in our "modern" Western society.
  • Healthy food IS expensive, especially if you don't know how to cook from scratch
  • Most people don't know how to cook from scratch 
  • Most kids won't eat home cooked meals if what they are used to is fast food 

Try and put yourself in Christina Brigg's shoes. As she explained in her original written and television interviews, she's been bullied her whole life because of her weight. She got pregnant from a one night stand and dropped out of high school. She has a young daughter with ADHD and liver problems, and a young son. She is a single stay-at-home mom. She's says she can't work because she needs to stay at home with her kids. And even if she felt like she could leave to work, it's quite likely she would have a hard time finding a job because of weight discrimination

And she's not alone. 

There are so many other families with similar stories. So many families that want to be healthier but don't know where to start. I want to take a minute to look at a few of the factors that might be going in to someone's thoughts like Christina Briggs. I'm not claiming I understand where she's coming from, but I am trying to put myself in her shoes. 

The Influence of Media

Have you read any celebrity magazines lately? Even seen any covers while at the check out stand at a grocery store? Watched any television commercials? 

If that was your main source of knowledge about what was "healthy" wouldn't you think you needed to buy more expensive "organic" pre-packaged products and go to the gym? That's what all those people in those magazines and TV commercials do. I'm not saying that this is exactly the case for Christina Briggs, but come on, people. She's not crazy. Heck, back when I watched TV I felt I needed a gym membership, too! 

Grocery Stores in Low-Income Neighborhoods

If she's on welfare, I'm guessing that she doesn't live in a wealthy neighborhood. In fact, it's not unlikely that she lives in an poor neighborhood. When was the last time you tried to go grocery shopping in a poor neighborhood? Have you looked at their selection of foods? Have you seen their produce aisle? Give me a break, those of you who suggested she shop at Whole Foods! When was the last time you saw a Whole Foods in a poor neighborhood? 

Recreation in a Low-Income Neighborhood

And while were on the subject, when was the last time you tried to take a walk in a poor neighborhood? Did you feel safe? Did you see many beautiful parks? Many play structures? Many trees even? 

This is the plight of low-income folks in our "developed", "modern", "Western"- whatever you want to call it- world. They are subjected to a bombardment of media telling them what to eat, think, wear, and do combined with little or no access to healthy food and little to no way to enjoy being outside to exercise, not to mention the fact that somehow you always find Fast Food chains in poorer neighborhoods...  

I'm not making this up. Low-Income and Food Insecure People are Vulnerable to Obesity for a lot of different reasons. 

I'm not saying that she Christina Briggs, or others like her, don't have options, I'm just acknowledging that fact that it has to be really, really difficult. Not just for her, but for so many people in her situation.

And while were on the subject of solutions... 

Who Knows How to Cook Anymore?

I loved those of you who in the comment thread to the picture of her I shared talked about her needing to learn how to cook. That's wonderful! I fully agree. But let's think about that realistically, too. Who knows how to cook anymore? And to cook from scratch? It's not a skill that's passed down from generation to generation anymore. Chances are quite high that she doesn't know how to cook considering that most people don't. So if your view of "healthy" food means buying the organic TV dinner instead of the conventional, of course your going to think healthy food is more expensive. 

Who Wants to Eat Home Cooked Meals Anymore?

And than to top it all off, even if she did learn to cook, and even if SHE enjoyed her own food, children who have been raised with MSG-laden foods and takeouts will quite likely find home-cooking boring, bland or even gross. And any mother who has spent a long time in the kitchen preparing a meal only to have your toddler spit it out, knows how frustrating and discouraging it feels!

Now, all that to say, I THINK I UNDERSTAND A LITTLE BIT WHERE SHE'S COMING FROM. This has got to be hard. And it's going to be hard. So, so, so unbelievably hard. 

I hope that makes a little more sense of where I was coming from when I shared the post about Christina Briggs. Needless to say, I've been thinking about her a lot. And thinking about what I would say to her if I could get a hold of her or if I met her some day. So I thought I would just write her a letter. Because somehow, possibly in the crazy, insane, fast-paced, mulit-headed monster-way the internet world works... she'll see it. 

Dear Christina Briggs,   
I wanted to say that I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what you're probably having to deal with right now with your face being plastered all over the internet. I wanted to tell you that in some small way I understand what it feels like. And it feels awful.  
But, I also know that you are stronger than that. With your awesome orange hair, and your fierce momma gaze, I know you're a fighter. And I know you'll forget about all the mean things people are saying. 
So let's get past that and talk about what you said. What you want. What you need. You said you need help. You said you don't know how to eat healthy with the money you have. You said you don't know how to afford swimming or a gym membership with still being able to enjoy the foods you normally like.  
Let me tell you something straight. I don't think the government will be giving you anymore money. I just don't think that's going to happen. But, Christina, everything you want CAN happen. You can get healthy. You can eat healthy food. You can lose weight. You can get a prize for losing weight. But, the change needs to come from YOU. Not me, not your neighbors, not your family, not your case worker, from YOU. 
I'm not going to lie. It's going to be a lot of work. But, it's 100% possible. One of the most important thing about learning to be healthy, is learning to listen to your own body. And Christina, nobody can teach you that. And no amount of money handed to you can teach you that. 
If you were my friend, and we sat across the table together drinking tea, I would hand you this book. I would tell you to read it and than we can talk about it. And then when you'd finished reading it I would tell you to check out the Weston A. Price website and just read about what they have to say
And then, Christina, I would teach you how to cook. Not using a microwave. Not things that come in packages. Real food from real, simple ingredients. Simple recipes that are easy to make. Maybe you won't like the way it tastes at first, maybe your kids will hate it. It's quite possible. When we eat packaged food regularly, our tastebuds adjust. But guess what? They adjust back. Once you eat real food-food that's not packaged-- the packaged food will taste like what it really is: food-like products not even fit for compost. 
And then, Christina, once you'd fallen in love with cooking, I would teach you how to garden. And your kids would join in, too! Kids love watching the magic of seeds sprouting, and seeing their own labor produce delicious things like cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots. It's a magical world, gardening. 
But, Christina, as much as I can dream, I'm not your friend. I am your supporter, I am one of your champions, I am one of your cheerleaders, but I don't live anywhere near you. And I won't be traveling anywhere near you anytime soon. As much as I would like to.
So Christina, since I can't be there to make these things happen, I hope that you make these things happen. If you can take care of two kids on your own, you can make anything happen! So, please, for your health, for your kids' health, make it happen. I know you can do it. 
Your Friend,

Jacquelyn of LittleOwlCrunchyMomma 


  1. I thought that that picture of her was a joke, not something she actually said. Anyone can go outside and walk or exercise at home. No matter what you eat, it is eating beyond your actual hunger that makes you gain weight.

    1. Seriously, did you even read this post? Did you completely miss the mention of the lack of safety in poor neighborhoods? And no, it's not just "eating beyond your actual hunger" that can cause weight gain. Modern pre packaged foods are full of chemicals that contribute to weight gain. Hormonal imbalance is another.

    2. Leanne, you can make as many excuses for someone as you want. But I know what it's like. I spent the last year and a half living in a tiny hotel room in a poor area with four other people, two of them being my young children. And you know what? I still walked everyday. Yes, on the side of the highway, yes, around the hotel and fast food parking lots. Up and down the stairs. Yea, it's not easy living in a poor area, not easy being poor. But we need to take responsibility for our own lives. Also, I like the point the author of this makes about cooking not being passed from generation to generation. You know, nobody taught me to cook, but I cook food from scratch anyways. I read cook books. Started by walking an hour to the closest library, checking out free books, and then TRYING. My kids say they don't like what I make? Guess what I tell them. Tough titty, eat it or starve, and then they eat it. Let's all take a long look in the mirror and see where the problem really lies. Let's stop enabling people and making excuses for them. Yes, we can be kind, but making excuses for them is NOT being kind at all.

  2. Previous poster, please read this essay before commenting. I do, however, hope this woman can get substantial support to help her make huge life changes. Cheering is a start but she needs an intervention.

  3. Thank you for this! The internet is such a mean place. a wonderful tool for connecting us but also a tool for bullies to hide behind. I love to cook and I was lucky enough to learn from my grand parents. But it's a rare skill in our generation. I love that my town has a community garden that donates all their fresh produce and non profits/churches ready and willing to help people make better health choices.

  4. A really well written article and letter Jacquelyn. I saw your original link on FB and it was clear that you had not made the above comments. For a human being, who deserves to have a nourished, healthy body to feel so stuck and believe she has no other options is extremely heartbreaking. Unfortunately fast food is cheaper than whole food and that's a tragedy. Your advice in your open letter is spot on! Thank you for having the courage to put this out there.

  5. I really appreciate you taking the time to try and sort out this complex issue. I think people have a hard time understanding that there are a LOT of factors going into what someone weighs. This is the internet, so we want to jump on the bandwagon either saying "OMG, I could do it, so she must be lazy/entitled/etc not to" or to understand that what she's going through is difficult...and jump to the conclusion that it's impossible.

    It's not impossible, but it can be surprising the number of obstacles you have to overcome, depending not just on your income, but where you are. I have a low-income family living in a high-income area in New York (we're here for school). You know the thing that shocked me when we moved here from Oregon? There are hardly any sidewalks in our area. The streets that do have them are usually the ones that have LESS traffic, and you have to go down busy streets to access them. Have you ever tried to walk down a busy street with no sidewalk, no shoulder, people double-parked so that a whole lane is blocked, and aggressive New york drivers whipping around you? Now, have you tried doing that with a stroller, or two kids walking?

    The good news is, I have managed to find a couple places where it's safe to walk, but only with help from some fellow moms who I've gotten to know since moving here. It wasn't impossible. But it was a heck of a lot more trouble than just going outside and walking.

  6. thank you for this! It's so easy to judge someone based on how we think they should live their lives, but until we've walked a mile in their shoes, there is no way to know the whole story. I sincerely hope she gets support that she wants and needs to make changes for her future health. Not just to lose weight, but to be there in the long run for her children and to be able to enjoy full health.

  7. Great post :) I didn't see your original Facebook post but I have seen the same image be linked over and over again, with a lot of heated discussion going on. Love your open letter and your insight on the topic and found myself agreeing with most, if not all, of your points of discussion.

  8. I love your heart Jackie! I hope many people will read your letter and see how truly kind you are. Proud of you!!

  9. i have no sympathy for this woman. if she didnt want people shaming her online than she shouldnt have told anyone what she was doing. im in her shoes. im overweight. and i live on a fixed income. and im a single parent. but i have much healthier food choices in my pantry than she has in her cupboards and ordering out is a special treat. its a bull crap excuse for her to be lazy. cant cook. 36 k a year she can afford a computer and internet and cable. watch some food network shows. it isnt hard to learn how to cook. she's just lazy is all it is....i make 20 k less a year than her and we dont starve and i dont order out and i do pay rent. if i had what she had id be thin as a post. id be able to afford the buspass to get to the pool as well as the membership, and the diet i need to lose weight. i think this is utterly rediculous...

  10. You dont need a gym membership, you are what you eat. If you can afford hair dyes, tattoos, and complain about it on the internet I'm sure fresh produce can be affordable, as long as it doesnt rot in the fridge. The Internet is full of food recipes that are healthy and good tasting. Youtube it!

  11. Very well written and compassionate. I saw your original post and there was no judgement there. Sorry you experienced a backlash.

  12. Well-written Jacqueline. I've never had to live in poverty. We've had very tough times while my husband went through college, but we made it through with brighter times ahead of us. I've seen some poor/rough neighborhoods, where the grocery shopping availabilities are little more than a convenience store. People are able to pull themselves up, I know. But it's a tough road. Especially with kids.
    Thanks for your insights.

  13. You have some great points here. You never really know what it is like until you've lived in someone shoes.


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