Is It Wrong To Fat Shame?
This was a question that was posed by a popular Sydney based personal trainer who influences the fitness industry by providing ready made boot camp plans. He made these remarks in relation to an article published titled “Mum refuses to send child to daycare with overweight staff.” I will not bother to name them (and have blacked out their name)… but this question prefaced a tirade that finished with “Keep kids away from fat people.”
At first I thought it was a publicity stunt… and it worked… hundreds of people viewed and as many made comment that this sort of opinion expressed did more harm than good (A social media win). And certainly if people followed through on their threats, his subscribed followers will have decreased significantly.
But who would make such comments that are, in essence, career hara kiri?
Someone who undeniable thinks that they 100% justified in their opinions. That’s who!
Just in case you ever feel tempted to make uninformed blanket statements as this Fitness Professional, I ask you to consider the following:
1. Never ASSUME – it just makes an ASS out of U and ME
We all do a lot of assuming. Some conscious and some unconscious.
- All fat people are unhealthy
- All skinny people are healthy
- All fat people are unhappy
- All skinny people are happy
- All fat people deserve it because they are essentially lazy
- All skinny people are harder working
- Clothes never look good on fat people
- Clothes always look better on thin people
- Being thin is the goal
- Being fat is failure
Weird reading this in black and white isn’t it?
Because even if you don’t identify with the comments made by the Personal Trainer above – these statements will have flitted across your unconscious mind and have been subtly reinforced by our media and by your social media feed. Yet most of us possess a rational mind that will challenge these assumptions and be able to find an exception for each and every assumption.
Never stop challenging yourself and others about these assumptions.
2. Fashion is Finicky and Fat is the Same
Currently the fashion is thin. And it has been all the rage while food is plentiful. But history, has shows us that the opposite has been true. When people have been known to starve to death, wealth is exhibited with the plump unashamed rolls on the body.
During the 15th and 16th century it was quite the common cause to die of famine in Europe. And of course many paintings depict this history. But for the wealthy, well they were painted in a way that that glorified their “fatness.” As did their costumes. With bustles and padding, both men and women where made to look bigger than they often were.
This happened again in the post-war era, when numerous products were touted to help women stop looking skinny!
Even my grandfather who lived through the 1920’s depression in New Zealand would always tell us how lucky he was. His family had no money, no one did. But they lived on the farm and they had food. When many more did not. He would tut tut at my various teenage diets, telling me it was always good to have a little extra meat on my bones. Having watched people beg for food to stay alive built his belief that carrying a little extra weight, rather than too little, was excellent health insurance.
Though there are some notable exceptions today challenging the single view of beauty, let’s not forget that what is currently deemed as beautiful, is manipulated by our current popular culture.
3. The Cost of Real Food
Recently my stepson, Ethan returned from six months studying in Geneva. He has always been health conscious and would always choose to cook for himself a meal packed with protein and vegetables. And he can. I keep a frig always stocked with both. Our fruit bowl is always replenished and the only biscuits and muffins to be had are those made by myself and often using the fruit that everyone has passed over. (I hate wasting food and here is an excellent blog on how I make one high quality organic chicken do three meals for a big family of six).
Our food bill is, apart from our mortgage, by far the largest outgoing expense. I tell my kids that I am gifting them good health, rather than the latest fashion fad that they are wanting.
While studying abroad and subsequent travels, Ethan found it difficult time-wise to shop and cook as much as he would have liked. It was also difficult to store food, both prepared and in the raw form. All of this meant that he ate out much more than his allocated budget afforded and so had to make many compromising food decisions.
Eating cheaply, more often than not means eating food that is compromised in the fresh department and was loaded with unnecessary calories. We know it is cheaper to feed a large family at McDonalds than it is to cook at home, which takes much more time, effort and thought. With household debt soaring, it is not uncommon for families to make exchanges that make a household budget work and fresh food becomes more of a sometimes food.
This is an issue that needs to be addressed by governments and fast food taxes.
4. Aging and Changing
Very few people remain the same weight and shape all the way through their life. We are designed to change shape, especially as women and the hormone oestrogen diminishes. Oestrogen is made and stored in fat. The body is not silly. It is designed to protect us. Which means that along with excepting other signs of aging, such as wrinkles, we can minimise, but no one can 100% opt out.
Remember maintaining a very low body weight, can be as problematic as being overweight, with issues such as osteoporosis. Making a fall much more dangerous that what it needs to be. But this issue never receives the same amount of publicity as the health risks of being at the other end of the body size scale.
I wrote another blog here about another fitness professional and social media queen who felt it was completely OK to shame another woman for her body. This image below was taken from that blog… and if you want to have a read, the message is still very valid.
5. The Real Face of Diversity
Look around now. Right now. You might be at the beach (like me right now) or about to head off to some activity or on the tram.
Stop right now and notice the diversity.
I am reminded about this every time I attend anything in the fitness industry. The fitness industry might like everyone to believe that everyone is Instagram-worthy with their often one-size advertisements. But the reality is actually very different. We are all sizes, shapes, colours and contours. Because that is reality.
How boring the world would be if we all looked the same. Some verify their fat-shaming statements with a higher calling of “Stopping the War on Obesity.” What if I thought you were contributing to the obesity epidemic by being such a judgemental wanker?
Thankfully, words such as Body Diversity, Health At Any Size, Body Positive have arrived in our language to combat this diatribe.
Even when we try through fat-shaming, like the PT above to “force” people to confirm to a specific size, it will never work.
It never has and never will.
So is it wrong to fat shame?
Yes, it bloody is.
And it serves no purpose than to make you look like a knob.
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