Fatphobia: The stigma of being overweight.
Comments you might be saying that are fatphobic.
Today, I want to write about a controversial topic, fatphobia. I was not aware there was a term for it, until I read this Zikoko article, which took me down memory lane of personal experiences and experiences shared by loved ones.
Growing up I was conscious of my weight, as I was surrounded with women who today will be considered thick, but back then were simply categorized as fat.
I guess we have to thank the likes of Kim Kardashian and other celebrities who made been a size 8 and above acceptable.
I was very conscious about my weight early due to two reasons. Firstly I knew that based on the women I saw around me, I understood I was not going to be a size 6. I did try mind you, exercised like my life depended on it, went on diets which led to an eating disorder and sent prayers to God every night for a perfect body when I wake up.
As at the time of writing this post, none of those things worked.
The second reason, which honestly was my main concern and fear, was to be tagged as fat. You see in the society I’m from, been a particular size gets you criticism from family, friends and especially from total strangers.
The constant barge of jabs concealed as concerns for your health, made checking the weight scale a moment of fear and an obsession for me and a lot of young women.
An example to buttress this happens constantly when trying to make use of the public transport system.
A typical public bus in Nigeria is over cramped and very expensive. The owners of these vehicles care little about your comfort, so long as they get their fare. This means that anyone who changes their pre arranged seating plan will be trolled massively.
It is funny how these transport system cater to people with a size 6, yet majority of the population are not, well again these transporters care little about your comfort.
So if you are a size 12 and above, you are going to get assailed with comments like
“madam hope say you no dey enter there o”
“You go pay for two sits o”, in extreme situations, you are told to not enter as there is no space.
These comments sadly are not restricted to just the transport owners, other passengers make similar comments as well. Passengers who are not bold enough to voice out their thoughts, show their opinions through their actions and body language. From making sounds of disgust to opting to come down, claiming “space no dey“.
Thankfully, we now live in a society with so much awareness of the actions we do, so I was able to find a term for this behavior, and it is called Fatphobia.
Fatphobia is the dislike or fear of obese people. This is categorized by seeing people who are bigger than the societally accepted size in a negative light, with some even categorized as “ugly”.
Fatphobia is the dislike or fear of obese people.
Now that there is an established definition, it can be seen that a lot of people are fatphobic just with varying degrees.
So to help, I will be sharing 4 different yet widely used comments that are fatphobic, which you may not realize.
”You have not lost weight o”
Comments like these are straight up rude and fatphobic, for it emphases the individuals weight and not in a positive light. This gives the view that something wrong with the person and this problem is tied to their weight.
A person last week on twitter shared how a friend she had not seen in 6 years, saw her and after exchanging pleasantries immediately made mention of her weight but, not positively.
That is sadly what happens. From family members eluding that certain things are not happening to you (such as getting married, getting a job) due to your weight, to the average clothes seller saying harshly he/she does not sell your clothing size.
Comments like these are everywhere, veiled as comments showing concerns, but which end up hurting the person it was directed to.
‘‘I like big women/men, but I don’t want to be seen with them”.
The fear of the perception of others about your partner has led to people dating, in fact marrying people they are not attracted to, all in the bid to satisfy what is expected.
Here you see men and women marry a partner of a particular size and then proceed to have extra-marital affairs with people who are of a completely different size. It is justified by different reasons, but one reason given is the fear of having to defend (or getting shamed) for the size of the partners they are attracted to.
One of the guys in the zikoko article I had mentioned, shared how he had been overlooked by potential partners solely due to his size, this changed when he began to hit the gym and lost the weight.
”Your health problem is due to you been overweight”.
A quick search about the medical concerns for overweight people will bring up constant articles on the dangers of been over weight, from being more prone to diabetes, to heart diseases and so much more. One begins to wonder if simply been overweight is a death sentence.
I am not contesting the fact that there are dangers from being overweight, more so than most, but it should not be a generalized. Most medical practitioners give the perspective through their well meaning advise, that simply being overweight is the reason for any and every health challenge faced.
Could your difficulties in breathing be due to your weight? Yes.
Could it be solely due to your weight? No.
However, no one waits to find out, you are overweight, hence that could be the problem.
A study carried out by Harvard health medical school and the Journal of the American Medical Association found that, weight bias happens in medicine, an aspect most of doctors are not aware they have.
This can and has led to a lot of negative consequences for the patient who has been diagnosed as overweight.
‘‘Are you going to finish all these”
I wonder why a slim person never gets questioned when they order an extra piece of cake, but an over weight person is persuaded to order for salads instead of an extra slice of pizza. This advice is accompanied with suggestions to try a special diet to help with the weight management.
There is the assumption (a very wrong one) that weight gain is solely based on an excessively consumption of food hence not only should you not indulge in certain meals, give explanations on why you did.
The conversation about weight is always going to be controversial with different people at opposing end of the argument. One as one begins to wonder where the line of showing genuine concerns becomes just too much.
However, the aim of this post is to create a honest reflection on the words and actions used and to serve as a reminder that, been over weight is due to a number of reasons and all that is required is little bit of kindness, while sharing well meaning health concerns.
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