“Fat Shaming”: Enough.

by Kim on December 14, 2012

I’m sure you guys have heard about this. Three women in Cali were horrified to see the words “fat girls” on their restaurant bill, and the bartender, who’d typed the words into the system to help him keep track of their order, didn’t act very sorry about it.

Less recently, there was the Wisconsin news anchor who responded on air to a viewer’s attack of her “physical condition,” arguing that she wasn’t the one setting the bad example for kids by being overweight-he was setting a much, much worse example by bullying.

Before that, there were the fat shaming billboards in Georgia.

fat shaming

I’m sickened by how often the word “fat” is front and center in our national news these days. It’s embarrassing, in a number of different ways, that this is one of our country’s top problems. And I’d like to say that all the emphasis on the problem is just intensifying the problem, and we’d all be better off just keeping our noses out of everyone’s body-business, but I don’t think that’s true anymore.

Yesterday, CNN published a report indicating that obesity is now a bigger global health crisis than hunger.

Global. It’s not just the Fat Americans club anymore. Our “Western lifestyle” is spreading, the world is getting bigger, and we’re seeing the impacts of it. People are living longer, but their quality of life in the last 10-20 years is much lower thanks to illness and pain. (And then there’s all the money being poured into costly healthcare, but we’re fresh out of an election and you don’t want to hear more about that!)

According to the CNN article, the UN held a two-day meeting to tackle the issue of “noncommunicable diseases” (many of which are considered preventable or linked to certain lifestyles). The meeting’s being called historical because they haven’t discussed a health issue like this since they tackled AIDS a decade ago (and that was the first time they discussed a health issue as a General Assembly).

obesity imageThis was the image CNN used for the article-what?? I don’t see obesity represented here at all.
The poor guy in the center has to be like “what?? Me??”

So, as much as I’d like to say that this conversation doesn’t belong in the news, we obviously can’t ignore it as a society either.

But I don’t think “fat shaming” is the way to go, either. Like the news anchor said in her rebuttal, did people think she didn’t know she was heavy?

Piling shame on shame just leads to more shame, not motivation. Reminding people that they’re fat doesn’t encourage them to change, it encourages them to label themselves. And labeling allows us to free ourselves from blame and replace it with self-pity. “Well, I’m just a fat person. I was born this way. it’s harder for me to lose weight because my whole family is like this, I have XYZ circumstances to deal with…” etc.

I know this dialogue because I used to think it, too. I loved blaming my genes, my upbringing, my mom’s amazing cooking skills, whatever.

Along with the fat shaming, our society tries to solve the obesity epidemic with information overload. 10 easy ways to lose 10 pounds fast, 8 tips for battling holiday weight gain, 5 steps to a healthier you…tips, tips, tips, I’m starting to hate the word tips!

I don’t think a lack of information is the problem. People aren’t walking into McDonalds to buy their kids Happy Meals everyday and thinking, “this is super good for you!” They know about apple slices and carrot sticks and string cheese. They. Know.

The problem is that the amount of information out there about healthy living is exhausting, even for those who are actively following it. Every other day, a new report comes out about how a food you thought was healthy is, in fact, NOT HEALTHY AT ALL. It’s enough to make anyone throw up their hands and say, “Screw this. It’s way too complicated, and everything I try to do ends up being wrong.”

We need to back off the advice and amp up the encouragement and community. Healthy living blogs changed my life, and have changed the lives of so many others, because of the community. Bloggers don’t wag their fingers (ideally), they lead by example. Even when I get bored reading about what everyone had for lunch today, I’ll find myself later remembering that meal and thinking “oh, I should make that–so-and-so had it, so it must be healthy.”

Case in point: this brown rice pudding from the Fitnessista, which I’m totally making soon.

brown rice puddingYum.

I don’t have everything figured out. Obviously. This is a complex issue and if a simple solution existed, it would have been implemented by now. But I am pretty confident that fat shaming and information overload aren’t the answers.

What’s your take on the solution to the obesity epidemic?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda June 22, 2013 at 7:45 am

New reader here. Loving your blog so far. :)

I agree with you so much! Fat shaming is not the way to go at all. We don’t take underweight people and single them out and shame them although they are unhealthy as well. Only the bigger people. And those pics of children on billboards is horrifying. If you shame children like that, it will only make their relationship with food that much worse. Either they’ll get even bigger or they will develop an eating disorder. Both not ideal outcomes. I think we do need to address the issue and do something about it but shaming is definitely not the way. Thank you for addressing this!

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jenna December 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm

girl, you’re amazing!!! amen! i wish more people thought like you and this could be shared with the world! i couldnt agree with you more!! <3 spa love!

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Kim December 15, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Spread the word! :) I really don’t think people mean to approach this issue the wrong way. They’re honestly trying to help–they just don’t know how.

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Jenny December 14, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Excellent post. As a former fat girl, I can tell you that I was shamed..a lot. All it did was make me feel worse about myself and eat more. Now that I have lost 212 pounds I would like to think that my journey can help to motivate and ENCOURAGE other obese people that really WANT to change to accept responsibility for their past, and embrace their future.
Jenny recently posted…5 Steps to Motivation-Come to Jesus FridayMy Profile

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Kim December 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Well said, Jenny! Congrats on your success–love your blog! :)

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Jenny December 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Bravo, my friend. Very true words.

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Kim December 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Thanks, friend!

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