Taking on Fat Shaming
This week I learned about a blog that had taken up the mantle of “fat-shaming week.” For a week, this blog posted shaming and demeaning content about fat women. The stated reason behind fat-shaming week is that the fat-acceptance movement is attempting to change beauty standards, and that shouldn’t be allowed to happen. They believe that shame will get people to lose weight, and that will ultimately make people healthier and benefit society. Here are some titles of posts they published:
- 5 Reasons Fat Girls Don’t Deserve Love
- Always Take Photos of Fat Women
- 5 Ways to Bully Fat Sluts on a Date
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
Ordinarily, I would pass right by this kind of hate. However, the blog gained significant momentum, with over 10,000 Tweets exchanged celebrating fat-shaming week. That means that fat-shaming week wasn’t contained to just one misogynist, but that thousands of people took part.
In honor of myself this fat-shaming week, I am coming out as fat. You probably knew that if you’ve ever seen me in real life, but I’m naming it and owning it, and reclaiming the word. And I want to tell you why fat-shaming is despicable.
1. I wish this didn’t need to be said, but it does. I’m going to say it in as straight-forward a manner as I can: it is wrong to hate, bully, or shame anyone because of the way they look.
2. The premise that shaming people will make them lose weight is absolutely wrong. This study shows that weight discrimination actually causes people to gain weight, not lose it.
Participants who experienced weight discrimination were approximately 2.5 times more likely to become obese by follow-up … and participants who were obese at baseline were three times more likely to remain obese at follow up … than those who had not experienced such discrimination.”
This is especially true of kids and teens.
3. Let’s remove the shame element for a second and just imagine that the intentions of all these tweets and blog posts were aimed at helping people. Two problems with that:
a. Being fat does not equal being unhealthy. I know this is a radical idea, but neither the fat on my body nor my BMI are real indicators of my health. Yes, there are fat people who are unhealthy. But there are also thin people who are unhealthy. Weight itself is not a problem except at either extreme of the spectrum. There are even studies that show that fat patients have a lower risk of dying after treatment for cardiac events.
This study shows that people who maintain healthy habits, overweight or not, are actually more healthy than those who do not—that means poor nutrition and lack of exercise are detrimental to your health, thin and fat alike. Finally, studies show that dieting is more harmful than being fat. Speaking of BMI, this study shows that BMI (which is basically a ratio of height to weight) does not accurately predict cardiovascular disease. If you want to read more about fatness and health, check out this list of resources by the Fat Nutritionist.
b. One Twitter user posted: “do you know how easy it is for fat ppl to lose weight initially? stop drinking soda, and walk for 15 mins. bam, 10 lbs gone. #fatshamingweek.” Oh, really? It’s that easy? In fact, it is almost impossible for people to maintain significant weight loss or to change BMI categories; most people regain all the weight they lost in 5 years.
4. Being fat does not mean that I am lazy or greedy or ugly – and if you’re fat, it doesn’t mean that you are, either. So why do so many people think that? Maybe it’s because of our multi-billion dollar beauty industry. The weight loss industry alone is a $66 billion industry. Add in the pharmaceutical industry and agricultural lobbyists, and what you get is a culture that tells us to fear fat bodies. We buy into this messaging because we are constantly bombarded with images and “experts” telling us to - do some research on just which companies sponsor “studies” on the “obesity crisis,” and you may see some conflicts.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is respect, love, and care. Today is Love Your Body Day. In the face of all those who espouse hatred because of the way I look, because of my body fat, I have this to say to you: I love my body! I am proud of my body, what it can do, and the way it looks, and no amount of ridiculous shaming can change that.
How to cite this page
Pearlman, Hannah. "Taking on Fat Shaming ." 16 October 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 4, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/taking-on-fat-shaming>.
Sorry, but you're wrong. BMI and fat have a lot to do with poor health. Here's a list from the NIH of proven health risks from being overweight or obese:
300,000 people die each year from Obesity in the United States. The "Fat Acceptance" movement has no place in Judaism. Certainly we should treat all people with respect and kindness, but it is wrong and harmful to say "being fat is OK." It isn't. You're killing people by saying so.
Thank you so much for posting your response to that bigoted and shameful fat shaming blog. It was well-written, thoughtful, and well informed; it was a breath of fresh air in a sea of smog. I REALLY appreciate it.
I'm so moved by how brave you are- and so pissed that you have to be brave about this. Clearly, you are fantastic, and I don't even know you, Hannah! Thanks for bring fact and science to this- as well as insight and personal fortitude.
(And thanks to the editors of the JWA Blog for sharing such voices.)
I hope everyone that participated in #fatshamingweek is ashamed of themselves. Their words are heavier than the people they intended to berate. On the other hand, I'm fully aware of the extent to which many social media users are naive and moronic. I think the fact that "#fatshamingweek" was actually a thing is proof enough. Hannah, you keep being your beautiful self.
So true! Thank you, Hannah!
In reply to <p>So true! Thank you, Hannah by MG
Its such as you learn my thoughts! You appear to grasp so much about this, like you wrote
the book in it or something. I think that you just could do with some p.c.
to pressure the message home a bit, but instead of that, that is great blog.
A great read. I'll definitely be back.
Rock on, Hannah Pearlman!
Thanks for sharing this, Hannah. This is a brilliant reminder to us that health isn't as simple as "fat" or "not fat." The people behind this horrific campaign of fat-shaming are the ones that should be ashamed.