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August 2018

Fat shaming and the normalisation of plus sized bodies

By | Food for thought | No Comments

This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. And before anyone reading this gets their back up, please read on first! I’ve been pondering on how I pitch it and what to say predominantly because it’s a sensitive subject. It would be hard not to upset anyone. But that’s the point right, someone will be upset because you can never please everyone. I get it. Fat shaming. Being fat phobic. And generally not appreciating those in bigger bodies is not right, it never was, and never will be. I’ve been a victim of it, my friends have and my family too. Diet culture is damaging to self esteem as well as our body in the physical form. But after all that I still feel we may be in danger of normalising plus sized bodies. I’m not talking about generally carrying a bit of excess fat, this is common and something that isn’t generally anything to be concerned about. I’m talking about being significantly overweight or obese. Are we in danger of making it so ok to be carrying large amounts of excess fat that we lose sight of the health implications. And those implications are that 63% of UK adults are either overweight or obese and with that comes metabolic disease, type II diabetes, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and back problems to name just a few. Let’s also not forget our NHS is in crisis. When is enough, enough and how do we make people understand that whilst there is no ideal body, no universal standard for anyone, carrying significant excess weight can reduce your quality and length of life. Yes, some people will naturally be bigger and some smaller, depending on their genetics and lifestyle.

The very recent study by Mattarak published in June this year (2018) does raise some alarm bells. Whilst it’s not overly new in terms of thinking the physical statistics on people underestimating their weight and therefore underestimating their risk of disease is staggering.

  • Underestimating body weight was more common in men and those (of both genders) in a lower socio-economic group.
  • Men were also less likely to be trying to lose weight
  • And those who did underestimate their overweight or obesity were 85% less likely to try and lose weight than those who accurately knew how much they weighed. 85%!!

We need to find a way for everyone to be comfortable talking about weight. No, it doesn’t define us, who we are or what we think. But it can impact how we live.

We need to not make weight the main driver. Of course, it will be part of many peoples journey, but there needs to be other goals, other priorities. Cooking, moving, improved mental health, learning to build new habits. In my private consultations I always encourage my clients to have other goals, than just being weight focussed.

Those promoting nutritional brands, supplements or methods offering a short term fix with no scientific backing need to continue to be called out. So, us as health professionals can keep promoting the right stuff whilst not being bogged down in one stop solutions that don’t work. It’s not ok.

People need to be patient, something we seemed to have lost since social media appeared and technology ruled our lives. Change takes time.

We as health professionals need to be honest with our patients and clients about a subject which is always the elephant in the room yet is causing so much pain to them and to others. We need to be compassionate and help them understand positive changes that can and will help them in the long term. And collectively we need to find a solution which can positively impact those in lower socio economic groups, these are the group of people who need this education the most. #foodforthought