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Fat Shaming

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Nicole Arbour’s Perfect Example of Fat-Shaming

A new video entitled “Dear Fat People” hit YouTube a few days ago. This video features Nicole Arbour, a Canadian comedian, recording artist, actor, writer, choreographer and producer displaying very prominent views of weight bias and fat-shaming.

NicoleArbourDearFatPeople

Well Miss Arbour, you’re right about one thing, some people are already offended and I’m one of them.

Fat-Shaming is very much a thing. It’s an unproductive and emotionally damaging thing.

The saddest part of fat-shaming is that ridiculously cruel people like yourself think that it’s okay.

Your video makes it very clear that you believe that being affected by obesity simply means that you should eat less and move more. While taking in fewer calories and getting in more movement is definitely two of the key ingredients to weight loss, that formula doesn’t work for everyone.

I never sat in my doctor’s office and accused him of fat shaming when he told me that as a woman affected by morbid obesity I was at a higher risk of illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea, severe edema, chronic depression and some forms of cancer. I took those things pretty seriously actually. In fact since my struggle with obesity lead me to all of those conditions if anything I was scared to death that I was going to be dead before I turned forty.

Oh you’re not talking to me? That’s great. Thanks for excluding me from your negative body image campaign. But wait, you are talking to me because I too was once affected by the disease of obesity.

Let me define obesity for you. Obesity is a condition that is associated with having excess body fat, defined by genetic and environmental causes that are difficult to control while dieting. Individuals affected by obesity should not be defined as being their disease. You don’t tell someone with cancer that they are cancer. You don’t tell someone with depression that they are depression. You don’t tell someone with AIDS that they are AIDS. Miss Arbour, human beings are not defined by diseases and illnesses they suffer from diseases and illnesses and making light of people’s suffering is a really unkind and inhumane action.

People that suffer from obesity wear it externally. The can’t hide it.

You can tell by just looking at them that they suffer from the disease. Unfortunately for them people like you seem to think that because they wear their disease in a physical way that it’s alright to make fun of them, belittle them and sadly, try shame them into fighting their disease in the manner that you see fit.

The problem with that is that you can not tell by looking at someone what actions they are taking to fight their disease. You can not tell if they suffer from some other illness that caused them to gain weight. You can not distinguish whether they have been so emotionally and physically abused that they used food as a coping mechanism. You can not tell whether they went to the gym this morning. You can not tell whether they suffer from depression. You can not tell if they are eating 900 calories a day or eating 3500 calories a day. But because they wear their disease in a way you can see it you assume it’s okay to attack them and tell them that they should be making better choices.

Most people who suffer from obesity are not sitting there intentionally making choices that cause them to gain weight. As someone who once weighed over four hundred pounds I can honestly say that I never consciously sat there going “Oh let me see what I can do to gain more weight today.”  

Most people who suffer from obesity would love guidance and help with weight loss. That’s where the theory of eat less and move more fails. Because for most of us that have suffered from obesity the problems go much deeper than simple calories in and calories out. Most of us have tried that method to recovery from obesity and failed over and over again.

The comparison of being a shop-a-holic to obesity as a disease is asinine. While some people who suffer from obesity do in fact also suffer from food addictions comparing a disease to an addiction is like comparing people to dinosaurs. Some people who suffer from cancer do so because of an addiction to cigarettes and nicotine. Last time I checked though the only damage anyone has ever done through a shopping addiction was to their bank account and possibly their emotional well-being.

You’ve done a really good job at showing the world what fat-shaming, weight bias and weight discrimination is all about.

Your story about being at the airport and your experience with the “Fat Family” and “Jabba the Son” is classic example of these things. You assumed that because the boy you are talking about suffered from obesity that he wasn’t suffering from any other illness. You made this assumption based on his physical appearance and nothing more.  You decided that because “he was fine, he was just fat,”  it was alright to be rude, inconsiderate and mean. You decided that nothing else about that boy and his life mattered and that he should be making better choices based on absolutely nothing but his physical appearance.

What if that family’s son suffered from Prader-Willi syndrome? What if he suffered from Cushing’s syndrome? What if he suffered from a thyroid disorder? What if that family was on their way to a specialist to try to get their son help and treatment for his obesity? You have no clue what that family was going through or why that boy was considered disabled. But here you are showing your lack of education and empathy by expressing your disgust for the overweight boy sitting next to you on a plane and trying to brand it as caring.

“Shame people who have bad habits until they fucking stop.”

“If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m okay with that.”

“I don’t feel bad for you because you’re taking your body for granted.”

These comments are not caring. These comments are cruel and malicious. But somehow you think these comments  are okay because you put a disclaimer on them.

“I’m not saying all of this to be an asshole. I’m saying this because your friends should be saying it to you.”

Nobody’s friends should be saying these things to them.

As someone who once suffered from obesity I can say that nobody belittling me, making fun of me, making jokes about me, expressing disgust about me or trying to shame me into losing weight ever helped me.

All those things ever did was make the situation worse for me. Those very things drove me deeper into depression. They made me feel unworthy. They made me feel hopeless. They made me feel like I didn’t matter. As someone who suffered from a food addiction and had a relationship with food to try to compensate for the relationships that I couldn’t have with people it drove me deeper into the darkness.

When people like you talked to me like this I turned to food to make me feel better. People like you making me feel like I was repulsive, implying that I smelled bad and making me feel like my mere presence was an intrusion in their world made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be a part of it.

That Miss Arbour is assisted suicide.

Let me tell you what DID help me…

Support helped me. Kindness helped me. Someone talking to me in a way that expressed care and concern without making me feel ashamed of myself helped me. Education helped me. Access to treatment for the disease of obesity helped me.

You end this video by trying to redeem yourself with “The Truth”

“The truth is I will actually love you no matter what, but I really really hope this bomb of truth exploding into your face will act as shrapnel that seeps into your soul, makes you want to be healthier so that we can enjoy you as human beings longer on this planet.”

Miss Arbour the truth is, I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you care one small iota about those that struggle in the battle against obesity. What I believe is that you just used your fame and celebrity status to attempt to send a message and thought that the tough love and humor approach you chose to take would convey that message. You failed. What you did was make fun of a group of individuals that are already highly stigmatized.  I think you sought a laugh at the expense of others because you like many others in the world today believe that weight bias and fat shaming is acceptable because it is a commonly tolerated form of discrimination and hate.

“Think of me as one of your ride or dies.”

To all of those out there that suffer from obesity please hear me when I say this. Weight Bias, Weight Discrimination and Fat-Shaming are NOT okay.

Luckily for us though, there are some true ride or dies out there trying to make the world a better place and trying to raise awareness of this sort of behavior. I’m one of them.

After overcoming my own battle with obesity I changed my entire career path and went on to become a professional weight loss and wellness coach. I went on to gain an education in how to help others through coaching healthy behaviors and helping others with behavior modifications that would arm them with the tools they need to achieve weight loss and live happier and healthier lives.

After losing over 250 lb. I went on to become a fitness instructor in order to help inspire and motivate others to find the fun in fitness. I went on to try to teach others to use exercise as an emotional outlet to battle the sort of emotions of unworthiness, shame and hopelessness that people like Miss Arbour perpetuate in the world.

OAC-Member-BadgeAfter receiving access to care and treatment for obesity I went on to become a proud member and supporter of the Obesity Action Coalition, an organization that is dedicated to giving a voice to individuals affected by the disease of obesity and helping them along their journey towards better health through education, advocacy and support.

There are people out there like myself and over 50,000 other members of the OAC who are determined to fight to eliminate weight bias and weight discrimination and offer a community of support for the those affected by obesity.

Miss Arbour’s method and message are all wrong. We will never win the fight against obesity through shaming or making fun of the people affected by it. Obesity is not a joke. It is not something to be ashamed of. Obesity is a disease that comes with very serious health ramifications and many of us need more than “eat less and move more,” as a method of treatment.

But thankfully, like many of my fellow members and supporters of the OAC I will stand up and fight for that treatment and stand up and fight for you when someone like Miss Arbour tries to minimize and depreciate the complexity of this disease.

For anyone out there that saw this video or heard this message and felt ashamed of where you are in your battle with obesity, I am here to tell you that you are not the one that should be ashamed of your behavior. Miss Arbour and the people who sign her paychecks are the ones that should be ashamed of their behavior right now, not you.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.

Self Advocacy; What You Allow in Your Emotional Headspace

Dear Slender Seekers,

I’ve received a few letters from some of the #SlenderSeekers out there that heard that I got up and left the room during the Lisa Lampanelli show at the WLSFA event the other night and wanted to know why, so I wanted to take a moment to explain.

We each have different paths and different journeys, we each arrive at different places at different times. For me personally my path and my personal mission is to help those that are affected by obesity to overcome some of the emotional challenges they face along the way and find a path to wellness through transformation of not just their bodies but their minds as well.

For those of you that know me well, I am an abuse survivor. Verbal and Emotional abuse was prevalent in my world through my childhood and teenage years. I was also affected by obesity at a very young age; I remember being that little “fat kid” that got picked on as early as first grade.

Each and every one of us has to be our own advocate for our own emotional wellness; we are the ones that are the most responsible for who and what we allow to reside in our emotional head space.  As such, when I find myself in a situation where something that is going on negatively impacts my emotions I have a personal responsibility to address the issue.

Likewise, I have a goal, a mission, and a path that I am currently on, and if my involvement with something goes against that path, I have a personal responsibility to decide whether or not I wish to be involved with it. I have stood up in this community and said repeatedly that I will not tolerate fat jokes, fat shaming, weight bias, weight stigma or bullying. I do not feel that there is ever a time, social environment or population in which those things are ever tolerable, justified or acceptable.

My job as a Wellness Coach is to help my clients, who are affected by obesity to recognize obstacles and barriers that are in their way and to find solutions to problematic behaviors that are hindering their endeavors in weight loss in order to help them achieve their goals. I use these same techniques in my own life when trying to achieve my goals and if my goal is to be a positive beacon of light against weight stigma, weight bias and bullying, it’s contrary for me to sit in a room where those affected by obesity are the punchline to the jokes being told.

I used to be that girl who kids walked up to and said “You’re so fat when you go to Kentucky Fried Chicken you order the size on the roof.” I used to be that woman who teenage boys rolled down the window and made animal noises at when I walked down the side-walk. These things were not funny to me then and they are not funny to me today.

I understand humor as a self-defense mechanism as well as the concept of laughing at yourself so that others can’t laugh with you. We all build walls and defend ourselves from the things that we fear and the things that hurt us. I also understand that stand-up comedy has a certain kind of “expected offensiveness” to it.

There are many of my friends, dear friends, who stayed in the room and said that by the end of the show the comedian had turned it around, brought it to a place that was personal and allowed you to understand how much she cared about and wanted to help those that struggle with her weight, and it makes my heart smile that they were able to take that positive message away from it. I’m glad that there was a positive message to be heard if you waited for it.

For me personally, jokes that target people of size are never okay. If someone posted any of those jokes singularly in the social media as a community we would be outraged and I believe that if we create this gray area where sometimes it’s okay and sometimes it’s not, we weaken our stance in the fight against weight stigma and weight bias. If we say “It’s okay in this situation, but not this one or than one, we open it up for debate, but for me there is no debate, it should never be okay.  That is why I had also left the room the night before when the MC made a joke that referenced the size of someone’s belt. For me personally, with where I am in my journey, I cannot sit and laugh while those affected by obesity are used as comedy content.  Obesity just isn’t a laughing matter to me.

I have stood up several times and told you that I believe if you silently sit by and allow an injustice to take place that you have aided that injustice. So to me, if I tolerate even ONE joke that is weight biased I have done a disservice to my mission.

But this is MY mission, my path, my journey, and nobody else has to walk it with me.  I am not upset, angry or against the WLSFA, the people in attendance or anyone involved with the event.  I found myself in a situation that made me emotionally uncomfortable, that made me feel like I was betraying who am what I am by being involved and so I did exactly what I would recommend anyone else do in that position, I removed myself from the situation and went back to doing what I had come there to do; meet and greet and socialize with my friends.

There will be a few people out there who are upset with the fact that I have chosen to write about this, but as someone very special to me reminded me before I left Tampa, I’m not the type of person that lets fear of what others think drive me; I am fearless in my fight against obesity and I will always stand up and fight for those that are affected by it. Desperately Seeking Slender has always been a “I’ll shoot straight and tell you the truth, even when the truth isn’t popular,” sort of venue. And this time, the truth is that I’m not out to be popular. I’m out to win the fight against a disease that robs people of the health, their lives and their mobility and that Slender Seekers, is no joke.

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About (Pandora) The Author

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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