By Jenny Hills
(Knight-Rider) Arlington, Va. — Ethel Coker was calmly strolling down the cookie aisle of her local supermarket. Her favorite brand of powdered donuts was on sale. But when she reached for a package, a man dressed in black and sporting a badge took the sweets out of her hand. Ethel Coker had been caught by the food police.
Fat Fighters, a local Arlington organization, is determined to win the war on obesity, at any costs, even if it means placing shoppers under “arrest.” However, not all Arlington residents are pleased with the Fat Fighters’ tactics. Coker is one of them.
According to her, a man wearing a uniform who identified himself as a Fat Fighter officer, not only snatched the donuts out of her hand and proceeded to stomp on the package, he pulled out a scale from his backpack and forced Coker onto it while he measured her waist. The man then slapped a sticker on her blouse which said, “Donut Feed the Animals,” before he fled the store.
Humiliated and in tears, Coker called the police. The next day, she contacted an attorney and filed a lawsuit against Fat Fighters, LLC. “Not only is the Constitution being trampled upon, so is this poor woman and her right to eat cookies,” says Nelson Merriweather, lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Wyatt Duvall, Fat Fighter’s founder, doesn’t see it that way. Duvall believes the group’s tactics are necessary to break the cycle of addiction.
He has witnessed the horrors of obesity first-hand. According to Duvall, his own sister once weighed 420 pounds, and he wishes that an organization like Fat Fighters was there for her.
“For Sally, the cookie aisle was a place of darkness and despair,” Duvall says. “My sister was murdering herself, and she deserved to be arrested and thrown into jail for her crimes, for murdering her own body. If Fat Fighters existed then, I don’t think my beloved Sally would be dead today. She probably would have been arrested dozens of times, but I know that she would still be alive.”
Duvall continues, “What we do is just another form of tough-love, and sometimes love hurts.”
Arlington resident Ansel Kovacs, who proudly weighs 325 pounds, vehemently disagrees with Duvall. He doesn’t want the Fat Fighters meddling in any part of his life: “What right do those jack booters have to tell me what I can or cannot do? It isn’t any of their business what I eat. My body is my temple.”
Doris Ivester agrees with the Fat Fighters and their tactics. In fact, she credits Wyatt Duvall with saving her life. “I was reaching for a half-gallon of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey at Publix, and this man in black came up to me and knocked the container out of my hand with a billy club,” Ivester says. “Then he got in my face and started mooing.” The taunting went on for five minutes. Ivester was too shaken to move.
She continues, “I was ashamed. I bowed my head and started to cry. I watched my tears fall into a puddle of melting ice cream. That’s when I realized I had to stop eating or else I’d end up cold and dead on the kitchen floor with my dear husband standing over me.”
Though Ivester is part of a growing movement supporting Fat Fighters’ aggressive tactics, there are plenty who feel differently. Harold Woodell is one.
Last month, Fat Fighters set a trap for unsuspecting individuals across the street from a local supermarket. As Woodell was about to enter the store, he noticed what he thought was a carnival on the other side of the road. The smell of hot dogs, cotton candy, and funnel cakes wafting across the road enticed him to take a closer look.
When Woodell crossed the street, he discovered that the all-you-can-eat treats were free. However, he soon found out that gorging himself came at a heavy price. “I was licking the powdered sugar off of my fingers from the funnel cake,” Woodell says, “when, all of a sudden, I noticed that I’d been surrounded by these guys in uniforms. The next thing I know, they were squirting me with vegetable oil, hitting me with spatulas, and shouting, ‘Here piggy, piggy. Here piggy, piggy.’ I was so humiliated that I grabbed two hot dogs and a two-liter and ran back across the street.”
While this sort of behavior would appear cruel and unusual to most, Duvall and his loyal troops say it’s the only way they feel they can win the war against obesity. Duvall says. “If we can confront the morbidly obese on the candy aisles of life and make them see that sweets and snacks are the direct cause of humiliation and horror, then we’re just one step closer to shutting their mouths and saving their lives.”