No matter what your size, gender, or age, you can play a part in stopping fat shaming—whether it’s done privately by someone you know or publicly by someone like Donald Trump shaming a former Miss Universe contestant’s weight gain and opining that a recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee could have been done by “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” (“The shame of fat shaming,” by Gina Kolata,10/1/16, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/sunday-review/the-shame-of-fat-shaming.html?_r=0) Science writer Gina Kolata describes studies on the impact of weight stigma on children and adults. The effects are real, harmful, and they’re lasting.
Finally, fighting discrimination against higher weight people is becoming a major issue in this country and the movement behind it is growing stronger. It’s taking its rightful place next to movements to end prejudice against people of color, women, gays, lesbians, transgendered people, and the physically challenged.
What are you—yes, you in particular—doing about fat shaming? Here are five ways to take action. Pick one or do them all, but for goodness sake, do something.
- Stop self-talk that puts down your body. I know that you rationalize that it’s going on in your own head and don’t think it hurts anyone else, but that’s not true. If you allow this kind of thinking internally, you’re likely to express it externally or at least to avoid challenging it. Make your mind a fat-shaming free zone.
- Comment upon self-talk you hear from friends, family and co-workers. There’s nothing wrong and everything right in hearing a fat phobic remark and gently saying, “That is totally untrue and really hurtful against fat people.” If you’re of a high weight, speak up about how it feels to be shamed. If you’re not, ask people to imagine what it would feel like to hear others constantly putting down their body.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper if someone nationally or locally says something unkind (and untrue) about folks of higher weight. If you read an article about how those of higher weight need to just “stop eating so much” and “exercise more” and they’d lose weight, challenge this false assumption with facts or your own experience.
- Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the complex issue of weight, weight loss, and weight regain. It’s ironic how so many people—thin, fat, or in between—spend many hours a day thinking (or obsessing) about food and weight, yet don’t understand a thing about the subject from a mental or physiological standpoint. Educate yourself so that you can educate others.
- Learn more about how fat stigma can hurt you and others. Use the search component on this site to read more blogs on the subject. See what I and other bloggers have to say about it. Google “fat shaming” and see what comes up. Make it your business to understand the damage that fat shaming does to individuals and to our society.
If you let slamming fat people happen without confronting its perpetrators, you’re giving tacit agreement for them to do it. Standing up to fat-shaming is useful both to the creation of a more civil and just society and also is immensely helpful to your own emotional growth and self-efficacy. By deciding right now that you won’t let fat-shaming happen on your watch, you’ll be more likely to challenge it whenever it occurs.