Fat Shaming: It’s Not A Matter Of Health, It’s A Matter Of Appearances

October 8, 2012  |  

Source: Thinkstock.com

From Gawker:

In a special four-minute comment that aired during this morning’s news broadcast on La Crosse, Wisconsin’s CBS affiliate WKBT, news anchor/reporter Jennifer Livingston responded to a viewer who wrote in to the station to chide Livingston for not providing “a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular,” by appearing on television despite being overweight.

And last Friday on MN:

If you needed another reason to be a fan of Gabourey Sidibe, the words she spoke at a recent Women’s Inspiration and Enterprise conference in NYC last week just might give you what you’re looking for. The actress, who receives a lot of rude remarks and inquiries about her weight, touched on people’s obsession with her size, and the struggle she dealt with to feel confident about who she was as a young woman. And she also touched on how even with the confidence she gained, she still gets her feelings hurt by how cruel Hollywood and the media can be.

What do these two stories have in common? Well they are both about to plus size women proudly declaring their sense of worth in the face of people, who think they should feel otherwise. Let’s be frank here: despite all the “concern” about role models and their health, these ladies physical condition and mentor status is the less of people’s real uneasiness.  People do unhealthy stuff every day. Heck if you are right now sitting at your computer for eight hours a day, like many of you are, you probably are at risk from a number of ailments including carpal tunnel syndrome, cancer and stroke. Yet there is no national campaign to rid the nation of office chairs and cubicles. So the least we can do is be honest about the root of our angst: this is not about health. It’s about appearance. And the whole, “you know…for your health” thing is just a way to be a passively aggressive mean girl/guy to someone you are repulsed by.

Repulsion may be a strong word however there is one study, which has proven that at least the word “disgust” was the strongest predictor of negative attitudes toward obese people. Moreover, obese people were considered less favorably, as well as more disgusting, than almost all socially defined groups. The reason being that fat people are believed to be more lazy and lacking of self-control than the rest of us smokers, reckless drivers, texting while walkers and fans of “Basketball Wives.” Therefore it is okay to publicly shame fat people because there is no greater form of deflecting your own internal fear of not measuring up than “hey fatty, get off your lazy bum and go work out.”

However, contrary to popular belief, you can’t always tell a person’s health just by looking at them. I know, shocking, right? In fact if we were looking at a side by side picture of fat person a double cheeseburger supersized meal and one of a skinny person eating the same meal, guess who has the unhealthy diet? Here’s a hint: it is likely both of them. There are fat people, who live for a very long time. There are also fat people that are vegans (which mean they are likely to eat fruits and vegetables), exercise regularly, even running marathons. Likewise, there are fat people, who actually really truly do have health conditions, which prohibit them from maintaining a healthy weight.

But let’s say that there are folks (because there are) out there that are gluttonous lazy pigs, who are really eating themselves to death. What business is it of yours? No seriously, how does another person’s health really affect you personally? Before you open your mouth to dish out some weak argument about your health insurance co-pays, consider the fact that there is more and more evidence, which suggest that your personal health decisions/ailments have less of an effect on the rising cost of health insurance premiums in America than the health insurance companies themselves. And since we don’t blast granny about her over-reliance on prescription pills, which killed about 41,000 Americans in 2008 alone; or prohibit children from swimming, since drowning kills more children than any cause except birth defects; or chastise people, who choose to drive, because car accidents still remain one of the leading cause of accidental deaths in America, then there is really no need to remind a tubby what having all that extra weight on their bones might be doing to their health. Plus odds are, they already know.

B-b-but I eat fruits, lean meats and green veggies with every main meal and I run five times a week and can do 5 reps of 10 on a 200 pound bench press. If I can do it, than that fatty over there can do it too. Cool story Bro, but I care as much about your personal diet and exercise regiment as I do about how many times a day you went to the bathroom. In other words, I don’t give a shat. However, I do care about people dying from famine and poverty around the globe while the most prosperous people seem to horde all the resources. I also care why it is that more than one-third of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year were obese, while only 25 percent who earn more than $50,000 a year were classified the same. And I care about the reasons behind why the cost of an apple is three times as much as the price of a Twinkie. So if we really were concerned about the health of nation, then that’s where all of our “caring” needs to be directed. But if not, then do us a favor and properly label your “concern” for the fatties for what it really is: the shallow ravings of an insecure, overcompensating, mean-spirited butthole.

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  • when people get fat there intestine get big even if they follow a specail diet after they go to there normal life they get big again my cousin try to do surgery to los weight he died it is in the jeans if your family big u bcome big big people have bigger heart

  • I found this article by searching Google for the meaning of Fat Shamming. I recently read a post by Cassie Ho, the Blogilates instructor YouTube, about honey Boo Boo. I read a good many posts that Cassie was fat shamming the family. Well, now I know what it means I enjoyed reading this article.

  • Sara Alice

    I agree

  • Sara Alice

    Eating healthy is subjective. Not because some one thinks they eat healthy means they are.
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  • gmarie

    This article is so on point. So many people out here who don’t fit into the classification of overweight by the charts yet could drop dead at any minute due to chain smoking, binge drinking, and existing on processed foods yet don’t get any of the negative treatment outwardly overweight people do. I actually remember Monica’s reality show where she was dealing with hypertension due to her outrageous eating habits..but because she looks visually appealing to the masses she isn’t taken to task the way say…Raven Symone was for many years throughout her career. It’s just interesting to me..

  • CarlaKah

    Great artivle. However it is a fact: You cannot be healthy and (morbidly) obese. It is not bullying if you point that out in the media.

  • PhD_Chick

    *applause* I love this article. I’m happy to see someone identify the “concern for the health” of obese people for what it is…..weight discrimination…and, frankly, bullying. It seems to be one of the few acceptable forms of discrimination; most people don’t even recognize that they are being discriminatory with these behaviors but will be “hot as fish grease” if someone made a derogatory comment about a race of people (or sexual orientation or gender, etc.). We really need to start doing better by learning to be encouraging and positive instead of negative and discouraging. FYI, positive reinforcement is the most effective method for changing behavior. Let’s be positive folks! And most importantly, focus on improving yourself!

  • IAJS

    The article has some very good points but I still think that we should promote healthy living for our children, and that includes healthy weight. I am not saying become a size 2 but get some daily physical activity, have a balanced diet and try to cook more instead of grabbing fast food. I see overweight children all the time and it makes me sad because the problem could (possibly) be avoided.

  • Candacey Doris

    Great article!

  • tbaby_8

    I am consider, by American standards, over weight. However, I just saw my doctor who has given me a clean bill of health. Yes, he stated that I need to lose the weight that I was carrying around before I got older because it could cause problems, but as of right now, my weight has not caused me to be unhealthy. Yes, I watch what I eat and I exercise too. Do I do it regularly? No. Do I need to? Yes. I am going to try and eat healthier and start exercising more, but just because I’m carrying around this extra weight doesn’t make me a lazy, ugly person that some people would like to think that fat people are. Just my opinion.

  • Charla

    Sorry but most fat people are not healthy. How many fat people do you see running marathons? Not many. And it is definitely a health concern. My best friend’s mom was 5’2″ and 260lbs when she needed an organ transplant that would have saved her life. She was denied because of her weight and died a few weeks later. That’s good that people are ok with being overweight but it taxes our health system and affects the American culture.

    • Miss.K

      It’s not that being being overweight or having excess fat is not a health concern, because it can be. The point is if that Sally Sue to the right is overweight it is not YOUR concern.

    • fitnessforlife

      some people figure that if they have no diagnosed conditions that they’re healthy…but traditional medicine misses a lot. they won’t tell you something is wrong if they can’t bank off of it.

  • Miss Anonymous

    I agree 100% that you cant tell a person’s health by looking at them. My mom was 90lbs before having me and was on high blood pressure medicine and my ex best friend she is 110 soaking wet at 5’8” and doesnt eat healthy at all when she do decide to eat. She is anemic and has to take iron pills but wont eat because “I dont want to get big and fat”.

    I think people are more concerned with how a person looks on the outside and not how their body and organs are on the inside. I know that I wasnt healthy on the inside because I use to drink 9 or 10 8oz pepsi’s a day and stayed slim, I tell people that and they are in alot of shock because now I drink nothing but water and 100% juice (the one where the label has about only 5 ingredients on it.

    • Treacle234

      Eating healthy is subjective. Not because some one thinks they eat healthy means they are. Most vegans believe they are healthy because they don’t eat animal products, which is toxic to the human body. Yet many are, esp those that do not supplement are anaemic, have low vita b12 levels, low Vit D levels and Low zinc levels amongst others. As I said eating healthy is subjective.

      • Miss Anonymous

        Yes but people feel that if you are thin/slim you are healthy when it isnt necessarily true. Your organs on the inside can be in the shape of a person 3x your age.

        I think me and you @Treacle234 are saying the same thing. Like in my above example said ex best friend she feels she is healthy because she is slim and others from looking would think the same. But she basically starves herself and when she does eat, only eats fast food or other prepared food, she doesnt cook at all. Even her young kids cal out a fast food place for a dinner or lunch meal. I think as long as you eat a variety of foods, limit junk foods, drink plenty of water and exercise you will be good.

  • Meyaka

    Excellent article.

  • Great post, but I counter that the acceptance of obesity as a part of the new normal in the USA is extremely dangerous. I love our first Lady for having the cohones to stand up and preaching food gospel herself, especially to the fat-loving GOP (Sarah Palin runs like a fiend and is ultra trim yet pushes sugar cookies as a political “no government” agenda)
    Everyone needs to be accountable for their health in this day and age of health care costs, and group insurance rates that takes averages of people’s vitals and weight.
    I would love to throw down a dozen donuts with a tall cappuccino, but I retrained myself to be happy with scrambled tofu and chinese ‘blue people’ tea in the AM. We do not tolerate public smokers anymore. It’s okay to say “no smokers allowed” for personals, rent ad etc. There’s more to this story. Most everyone has some extra weight they carry, but being obese/fat is not healthy.

    • no one is saying that fat is good, we are saying love yourself in spite of being fat. while most of is could stand to be healthier, don’t be the health police, try being the love police….

      • CarlaKah

        Loving yourself means getting yourself to a HEALTHY status

  • Coco Black

    Good read. There’s a woman I see every morning who is so large she can’t walk up the stairs to enter the train station…she takes the lift! When the lift isn’t working she has to walk up the slope…and you can see she’s in pain. She also has a small child!! So I do look at her and think!! “Your quality of life would be so much better if you lost a significant amount of weight!”. I hope that doesn’t make me a butthole!

    • CarlaKah

      It doesn’t 🙂

  • Angie

    Exactly! I am so tired of people hiding their need to control others and lower their self esteem through pretending to care about their health status etc. Its none of your concern. You do you and the rest of us will handle our own business.

  • Laneé


  • JoliPapillon

    Long time lurker, first time poster here. Thank you so much for posting this!!!