Is encouraging someone you know to lose weight “fat shaming”?


Fact Box

  • Fat-shaming is the action or practice of humiliating someone judged to be fat or overweight by making mocking or critical comments about their size.
  • From 1999 through 2018, obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%, and severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.
  • According to the BMI scale, adults between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight, while adults at 30 or more are considered obese.
  • Being obese increases the risk of many diseases, including: high blood pressure; high cholesterol; type 2 diabetes; heart attack; stroke; gallbladder disease; arthritis; sleep apnea; and some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon). 

Jean Marie (No)

Fat-shaming is to ridicule or humiliate someone due to his or her weight. The body-positive movement emphasizes the acceptance of a variety of body types. People indeed come in different shapes and sizes. But, it should not be acceptable to normalize unhealthy habits. It is a disservice to people's lives. The misconception that encouraging someone to lose weight is to fat-shame is not true.

Research shows 100 million US adults over the age of 20 are obese. Many studies show how being overweight increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. The Western diet and sedated lifestyle are contributing to the obesity epidemic. As Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones points out, 'lifestyle and behavior choices can trump much of genetics.' To ignore the health risks an individual could experience by increasing their weight to unhealthy levels demonstrates dangerous indifference.

Though it can be awkward and uncomfortable to bring up weight, with the proper decorum, an individual can express their concerns without being cruel. They can find ways to encourage their friend or family member by offering support and resources. This doesn't mean the person becomes a food dictator or an advice guru. As the UMPC suggests, try to listen to the person's needs and struggles. Try removing obstacles they may encounter on their weight loss journey. Be an example by incorporating healthy eating and exercise habits. Do non-food-related things. It is important to be positive and supportive. By encouraging someone is to assist them in not becoming another statistic.

Jessica (Yes)

Bullying or even encouraging someone to lose weight without provocation is fat-shaming, even if unintentional. According to Dr. Jaime Long, 'Fat shaming is the unjust mistreatment of fat people which may manifest as acts of bullying, singling out, discriminating, disrespecting and/or making fun of a person in a larger body.' She adds how fat shamers often think they are acting helpfully or with care, but this is a form of bigotry that paints heavier-weighted people as somehow 'morally bad or wrong.'

According to a 2008 study by Andreyeva, Puhl, and Brownell, weightism in Western culture is still widely socially acceptable. It happens more frequently than sexism, gender, sexual orientation discrimination, ageism, and religious bigotry. Notably, the study claims weightism is now as prevalent as racism.

Recent CDC FastStats reports a whopping 73.6% of Americans were either overweight or obese, so it may come as a surprise that we are still fat-shaming each other, even though overweight people make up the majority of society.

Though researchers at Michigan Medicine have discovered poverty, access to health care, genetics, chronic diseases, and hormones all contribute to a person's weight, the study notes none of these factors are generally within the control of the individual. Therefore, stigmatizing obese or overweight people as lazy, lacking willpower, or being ethically deficient isn't a fair assessment of the problem, as discovered by Michigan Medicine researchers. Although laziness and willpower are seemingly within a person's control, genetics and hormones play an uncontrollable role in obesity. However, measures to improve social, educational, and economic equality to assist in a person's weight loss journey should be their choice and not brought about by shame. 

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