NOTE: My work uses the term “fat” the way the Fat Liberation movement uses it. “Fat” is used in a non-pejorative sense, to describe corpulent people rather than a negatively connoted terms such as “obese” or worse yet, “morbidly obese,” or even “overweight.” It is an effort to reclaim and de-demonize “fat” as African-Americans have reclaimed what was a previously insulting use of the terms Black or African to describe us. It is also an attempt to reform the language to separate the possibly positive descriptor “fat” from other negative descriptors often coupled with the term fat when it is spat, such as “and ugly,” “and sloppy,” “and lazy” which readily apply to people of any size. When the biased terms of “obese and overweight” are used they are the terms of others, not this author.
Why Weight Bias is Bigotry
Weight bias is the notion that a person is fat because, she must be eating too much “bad” (but delicious!) food, as well as not exercising and thus by definition is undisciplined, lazy, (the cause and) worthy of all manner of viciousness. It is also assumed that the fat person is a liar if she claims otherwise. One of patriarchy’s worst nightmares is a woman not in patriarchal control…not behaving well according to patriarchal standards…Thus a fat woman is considered a villainous beast, not a woman at all. Fat men are treated better but not much and it’s getting worse for both genders. In fact media mogul Oprah Winfrey’s favorite go-to-guy on health and weight loss – “Dr. Oz” (Much like the fearsome Wizard of Oz, Dr. Oz really is, in my professional opinion, a skinny fat-bigot, wizard breathing fire and smoke) while discussing hormonal causes for erectile dysfunction – says with a sneer on a program about sexuality, that fat men were castrating themselves, “literally making women out of themselves” because the fat men don’t become thin.
Everyone’s body is NOT the same. A weight loss diet that works wonders for one or some can cause others who faithfully follow it, to gain weight. A grossly incomplete list of the many interacting multiple reasons most fat people are fat includes[ii]: 1. genetic factors – by far the biggest group of complex causes including the way our bodies process carbohydrates, the number of fat cells we are born with, how and when our bodies physically signal hunger and satiation, metabolic factors, how sensitive one’s nervous system is, 2. repeated weight loss dieting, 3. fasting, 4. food pesticides, 5. other pollution and toxins, 6. depression, 7. sleep deprivation, 8. availability of “good” food (the jury is still out on what exactly that may be, 9. biologically driven food preferences, 10. non-biological family heritage regarding food and exercise, 11. lack of time for “sufficient” exercise, 12. lack of safe and pleasurable exercise options, 13. when one eats what, 14. poor available food quality, 15. other food industry practices, 16. increasingly required time sitting at a computer just to survive in most work and even home environments as employers, organizations and businesses force us into more online tasks to save their businesses money, 17. hydration, 18. alkalinity, 19. stress (including crime and all types of abuse) and the list goes on.
Weight Anti-Discrimination leaders urge us to emphasize health rather than weight loss. To experience good health, virtually all of us should make lifelong efforts to exercise half an hour or more at least five times a week and enjoy organic foods that include large portions of fresh, high quality vegetables, fruits, the right amount of complete proteins and sleep in a dark, quiet well-ventilated room for 7 – 9 hours every night.
That’s hard enough even for high income working people, nearly impossible for most of the rest. What is tragic is that even doing all of that and more will never make most of those considered fat – thin enough to escape weight bias. In fact media weight bias actually contributes to making people fatter and/or sicker in the effort to prove ourselves as worthy of being treated humanely and judged on the content of our character rather than the calibrations of a cruel scale.
Citing thousands of current studies, Australian researchers Michael Gard and Jan Wright say that the “obesity epidemic” and its resulting hysteria is the result of cultural ideology, rather than science or medicine.[iii] In her book Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss – and the Myths and Realities of Dieting, New York Times reporter Gina Kolata takes a historical survey of the diet industry and body ideals and dispels the assumption that the lack of will power is at the root of all fat people’s weight issues.[iv]
The Media -- Project, Perpetuate and Create --Weight Bias
in Form and Content
This is the second in a series of posts from a paper I presented at the AEJMC Annual Conference 8/9/09.
[i] Roberta R. Friedman, ScM, , “Weight Bias: The Need for Public Policy,” (
Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity: ) 2008, 11 pages. New Haven Connecticut
[ii] Various works including: Lisa Sanders, M.D., The Perfect Fit Diet: Combine What Science Knows About Weight Loss With What You Know About Yourself, (Rodale Inc.:
) 2004, 358 pages. United States
[iii] Citation for Michael Gard and Jan Wright The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology
[iv] Citation for Gina Kolata, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss – and the Myths and Realities of Dieting,