Fat shaming is nasty
Day after day I listen to the life stories of many clients who talk to me about various conditions related to their health. Some times their stories are ones of triumph, others just make me really mad. This week I was speaking with this one particular client who started crying during our conversation. She cried because she had made a huge effort with her diet and had exercised every day for the past month and her weight hadn’t budged. That wasn’t what brought her to tears though. What tipped her over the edge was a visit down to the grocery store. As she waited in line to purchase her weekly shopping, two mean people in the check-out line behind her muttered under their breath, just loud enough so she could hear, “ Hasn’t she heard of Jenny Craig?”.
Why on earth do people have to be so judgmental and nasty perplexes me. Little did these nasty people know, that she had been exercising and eating right, but due to medical conditions she couldn’t lose weight easily. Just goes to show you can’t judge some ones health or efforts on what they look like. Lesson number one in being a nice human.
I wish I could have been there to stick up for her, and tell her she was ok just the way she was. Being fat shouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to you. We have better things to worry about than being fat, like for example being happy, having loving relationships and a career. This client was not the only person to voice fears and insecurities to me, many do on a daily basis. Surprisingly, the fears and insecurities are very similar person to person; the fear of being ridiculed for being fat.The fear of being fat shamed.
Fat shaming, I hate it, in fact it disgusts me. It’s inhumane, rude and down right nasty. If you have nothing nice to say, maybe the best thing to do is shut your mouth.
How society views fatness
As a society we praise the skinny and the beautiful, fat people are made the brunt of jokes and portrayed as the “lazy slob”. When the media talk about a health crisis in the news or fast food, they often use pictures of large people eating donuts and drinking milkshakes. Like fat people are the only ones to indulge in junk food. Talk about a generalisation! Take note next time you walk past the donut shop or Boost juice bar- skinny people also drink milkshakes and eat donuts.
Although, this stereotype may be true for some, it’s not true for all. I am 100% certain there are skinny people who also eat junk food, have a high risk of poor health and have extremely bad diets.
Skinny shaming isn’t acceptable either
I would like to take a moment here to explain the context and use of the word “skinny”. I am talking about people out there who are society deems as an acceptable lean or thinness, which varies along a spectrum. The spectrum could range from a healthy weight range, to underweight (similar to cat walk models). I am not simultaneously writing this blog to skinny shame. No, people can be naturally lean and small, and thats ok. What I am against is pushing that ideal on to everyone else. People come in all shapes and sizes; big, small, tall, short, lean and fat, all natural body shapes. So why is it that we can accept people when they are very lean or “skinny”, but we can’t do the same for someone who is carrying extra weight?
This is where I hear the trolls ready to whip out their keyboards and go to town on me. I know what you’re going to say, so let me tell you what your thinking. You think fatness is the most terrible thing in the world because that means obesity. You have been told that obesity leads to bad health, which almost literally means you have diabetes or heart disease lurking, which is ultimately leads to death. Obesity = death.
Let me tell you why you’re very wrong.
Why fatness isn’t a death sentence
The obesity paradox
has been studied for many years now. Contrary to popular belief lifestyle related diseases affect everyone regardless of weight. I’ve had clients who were “skinny” and had Type 2 diabetes, and obese clients who’s health was text book perfect. So many things play a role in who gets heart disease, diabetes and any other health related condition. No one is immune. Your genetics, activity levels and dietary choices play a much bigger role than your body weight. Want some more info on this topic, click here
. Similarly, programs like Healthy at every size
, have clearly shown in the scientific papers that people can improve their health regardless of how much weight they hold. We really need to start thinking about fatness differently.
What could be the contributing factors to fatness?
People don’t get obese solely from eating junk food, people gain weight because many different reasons.
Medical conditions associated with gaining weight
Medical conditions such as; hypothyroidism, mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and associated medication, sleep apnea, insulin dependent diabetes, PCOS, insulin resistance, cancer and chronic pain, are all contributors to weight gain. With this group alone your looking at a huge percentage of the population over the age of 35 who have these particular medical conditions.
Social & cultural factors to fatness
Work stress, poor sleep, abuse, domestic violence, bulling, harassment, financial pressures, or the friends you hang out with, all can play a role in weight gain.
Stress & lack of sleep contribute to weight gain
These two factors affect your hormones in the most significant ways. Stress usually causes sugar cravings due to heighten adrenaline hormone and so does tiredness due to lack of sleep. One study found people who slept less than 6 hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. Everyone should work on getting better sleep.
Your environment & fatness
Lack of movement in the work place or around the home can contribute to weight gain. The driving culture we live in. Swapping manual labor for computer desk jobs, poor access to exercise facilities. Again these are just contributing societal factors off the top of my head and there are plenty more.
The mere fact you were born into a poor family makes you more likely to be obese, similarly the area in which you live is also a risk factor for fatness. The further out west of Sydney you get into ‘suburbia” the higher the rates of obesity and chronic disease.
There are many more factors, too many to list about why people are obese. Do you see now, whilst food choice – plays a role in obesity, so do many other larger things that are out of a persons control.
You shouldn’t shame people for being fat
You have no right to shame people for being fat. You can’t see whats happening on the inside, you can’t make a judgement call from just looking at someone. How do you know it’s the type of food they are eating? How can you tell if someone has a medical condition effecting their body weight? What about considering other social and environmental factors.
Our culture of fat shaming breeds into the next generation of young people who are intolerant to larger people. I once had another client tell me, that after the session with me she was so motivated to start exercising, she went outside and started walking around the neighbour. Halfway through her walk, a car full of young teenagers pulled up beside her to stopped to throw a milkshake at her and call her “fatty”. Thats what fat shaming does. Do you think this person will want to go out and walk again? – Probably not, fat shaming doesn’t work.
This culture of skinny beautiful people rule and fat people are unworthy has to stop. Many clients I know who are obese, do eat healthily, they have successful jobs, families and financial stability. They are not slobs throwing back burgers and guzzling milk shakes all day like many seem to think. They are humans going about their daily lives the best they can, like you and me.
Fat shaming hasn’t worked in the past to get people to lose weight, and it won’t work now. Obese people don’t need you or I to tell them how fat they are. My guess is they probably already realised. My job at least as a professional is to help support people be as healthy as they can be, regardless of body weight. No judgement, no shaming. Thats the stance everyone should take. Mind you own business unless it’s asked of you.
Whilst we love to believe that we have more willpower than a obese person eating a burger, it’s very likely that you could probably end up being that obese person some where down the line. Fat shaming is an ineffective way to get people to lose weight, not only that it’s inhumane and destroys a persons self worth and self esteem. Lets be game changers and start speaking out. No more fat shaming!