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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.

The Weight of Relationships: Losing and Gaining After Weight Loss

It’s nearly five o’clock in the morning and I should be sleeping. I’m not though. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. It’s been awhile since I actually shared what’s been going in my journey through written word. When I started my blog that’s what it was about, sharing my journey so that other people out there that might be experiencing the same sorts of things didn’t feel so alone.

That was easy when my journey included everything about food, exercise, reconstructive plastic surgery, running half marathons and following my dreams in a pursuit of a new career. It was even relatively easy when my journey got dark and included my battle with body image issues.

The point when it started getting hard was when I began to be afraid of getting judged for where my journey was taking me.

But once again I find myself in a situation where I am experiencing an issue I think many in the weight loss surgery community face – and yet we rarely talk about it.

As I lay sleepless in bed tonight, tossing and turning I’ve decided that maybe what I really need to do is stop being scared of judgment and start being brave enough to be one of the voices that speaks out and says “If this is where you are in the journey it’s okay, you’re not alone.”

Relationships after weight loss can be confusing. Let me start there. 

A few weeks ago I had to write one of the hardest letters of my life. I had to write to the man I have been married to for nearly thirteen years and explain to him that I wasn’t happy in our marriage anymore. Anyone that’s only known me since I lost my weight might be shocked to hear that I’m still married. We definitely haven’t acted like we we’re married for the better part of the last seven years. We don’t even live together anymore. 

It’s been a very long time since I went through a breakup. The last time I actually voluntarily ended a relationship with someone I was nineteen years old and it wasn’t one of my prouder moments in life. I’ve been on the other side of the equation several times though, and usually when it happens, the reason that someone is ending the relationship is because of all the things the other person did or didn’t do. 

A strange thing happened when I sat down to write that letter though. I figured out that the end of our marriage had less to do with what he had or had not done and a lot more to do with the changes that had taken place in me since I had lost weight.

As someone who has battled obesity since childhood, my experience with relationships hasn’t been easy. I’ve felt the sting of a lot of rejection because of my weight. Most the men I was attracted to didn’t reciprocate those feelings and for the better part of my life I felt unworthy of a man’s attention.

In my early twenties that constant rejection and feelings of unworthiness drew me to a lifestyle I thought would make me feel better. I got involved in relationships with men that wanted to dominate me. I thought that by being submissive to a man and by living and breathing to make him happy and being willing to do absolutely anything he wanted me to do sexually that someone would love me in the way I was longing for. It’s easy to get involved in a relationship where you are considered property when you have no self-worth. Being “owned” by someone actually gave me a sense of value that I had never felt before.

Living my life with the purpose of making someone else happy, with someone else calling the shots and making the rules was easy for me in the beginning, our relationship was full of crazy sexual escapades and to me, at the time, sex equated love. We went to parties where despite my weight or size I’d dress up in fetish wear, be put on display and the sexual encounters we had as a result made me feel wanted.

I think most of us want to feel loved and wanted, but for me it went deeper than that. As a little girl I felt unwanted, unloved and abandoned by my family. That’s the effect that finding out I was adopted had on me. That’s the feeling that finding out that my entire family knew that there was a pedophile in their midst and yet allowed a little girl in their care to be exposed to him evoked in me. That’s the impact that a life of teenage obesity where every boy who liked me or fooled around with me wanted to keep it a secret from his friends had on me. 

All I ever wanted was for someone to love me and want me. I dreamed of romance experiences like you see in movies and read in books. I never felt like I deserved them though. When was the last time you saw a movie or read a book where the leading female role was a woman affected by morbid obesity?

When I started focusing on losing weight I didn’t really think it had anything to do with wanting a different relationship. I wanted the happy and healthy life that my Father wanted for me and in the beginning of this journey I was much more focused on the healthy part than I was the happy part.

Something strange happened though. Once I got the weight off, once I started reconstructive plastic surgery and started battling my body image issues, something changed. Without me even realizing it I started to gain back some of my self-worth, some of my self-confidence and before I knew it I actually started to feel like I deserved to be happy again.

When I look back at my marriage and the relationship that my husband and I had, I can’t really say that he has changed all that much. I was the one who had changed. For a very long time I had been settling for less than what would make me completely happy because I was afraid that nobody would ever love me again.

At four hundred and twenty pounds I was so terrified of this that I was willing to participate in a relationship that was emotionally unhealthy. I was willing to tolerate the fact that he lied to me constantly. I was willing to accept that our relationship had become completely non-physical. I could hardly stand looking at myself naked in the mirror, why on earth would I expect someone else to want to look at me naked? I was willing to accept that we hardly ever did anything together anymore. I was quite certain he was as embarrassed as I was to be out with me in public. 

I felt like people looked at us and wondered why he was with me. I grew accustomed to the fact that we rarely if ever even slept in the same bed next to each other. I resolved to be okay with the fact that he never took my hand in his, that we didn’t cuddle on the couch together anymore and that the most physical attention I received was a hug or kiss in the kitchen or hallway when our paths crossed in the house.

It is astounding to me as I read my own words how much obesity held me back. It is amazing just how emotionally debilitating that disease was for me.

But as I started losing the weight I realized that I wasn’t willing to accept a relationship that didn’t make me happy anymore and once that happened, I started longing and yearning for the things that had been missing in my life for so long.

I was ready to be loved again. I wanted to be wanted again. 

Once I started losing my weight I started having relationships outside of my already estranged marriage. I started to get little glimpses of the things that I had been missing and started realizing that I missed them even more than I had realized.

One might ask why I didn’t ask for a divorce then. The answer is simple. I was terrified.

I had a history of regain. I had weighed over four hundred pounds when I met my husband. The first time I told him I was in love with him I bawled my eyes out when he told me that though he loved me dearly as a friend he just wasn’t physically attracted to me. In a desperate effort to win the heart of the man I wanted I started dieting and exercising. Atkins and exercise got me down to an all-time lowest adult weight of two hundred and twenty-five pounds and earned me my wedding day.

Those first several years of our marriage things were different. But that didn’t last long. When I gained all that weight back and the scale was showing four hundred and twenty pounds again the relationship had changed completely and in my mind the only person I had to blame for it was myself. It was my food addiction and my inability to control my weight that had caused it. But even though I weighed over four hundred pounds again he stayed with me. I still got hugs and kisses in the kitchen and I wasn’t alone.

I was petrified of regain. But more than anything I was paralyzed with the fear of being alone. 

I began seeing patterns in the relationships I was having outside of my marriage. The moment the physical attention and affection started to dwindle I started to panic. I started to wonder what was wrong with me and why they didn’t want me anymore. I started standing in front of the mirror scrutinizing my body from every angle. I started tearing myself apart emotionally in the pursuit of being perfect.

The fear I had of relapsing into obesity made it impossible for me to find the emotional courage to end any relationship. It didn’t matter whether or not I was happy. I wasn’t even really sure I deserved to be happy.

There is a lot of emotional work involved in life after weight loss.

It’s taken a very long time for me to get to a place where I could begin to move forward. It’s taken a lot of courage and a lot of emotional work for me to get to a place where I could look in the mirror and tell myself with conviction that I am not defined by how much someone else loves me but by how much I love myself and how loving I am with others.

It’s been a long uphill battle for me emotionally to get to a place where I can say that though I want to feel wanted and I want to have hot and steamy romantic experiences like we read about in guilty pleasure novels, that won’t happen  as a result of staying in unrewarding relationships and settling for less than what I truly want.  

It’s taken a lot of soul-searching to recognize that I struggle to communicate what I want and need from others without feeling insecure and uncertain about whether or not I am worthy or deserving of it.

It’s taken a lot of working on my own emotional fortitude to realize that I need to stop blaming what has transpired in my relationships on my body and what might be wrong with it.

It’s been a rough journey to a place of understanding that unless I stand for something I will fall for anything – even things hurt me and don’t give me the happiness that I want.

But I am standing at the top of that emotional mountain right now and I’ve gotten to a place where I have the emotional determination and self-respect to start fighting for the things I really want out of life.

The struggle against obesity doesn’t end when you lose the weight. In many ways, it’s really just the beginning. 

I’ve talked to so many people lately who are struggling with ending unhappy relationships as they progress in their weight loss journey. It’s not an easy phase of life after weight loss by any means. It’s impossible to give someone advice at that phase of their journey because you don’t want to give them the wrong advice or lead them to make a decision they will regret later.

The one thing I can do though is share my own story and my own experience and a promise with you. If my story resonates with you and if you are finding yourself stuck somewhere in this dark part of your journey, wondering where life takes you when you finally start finding yourself again, you are not alone. There are other people who have found themselves standing exactly where you are, walking the same path and battling the same demons.

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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.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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