"To the fatty on the track" – This is still weight shaming. It needs to stop.

I work as a pediatric exercise specialist in a weight management clinic at major children’s hospital. I work on an amazing interdisciplinary team. We KNOW (because the research supports it) that health can occur at a range of body sizes.  You can be obese and unhealthy, but you can certainly be obese and healthy.  We CANNOT know someone’s level of health by looking at them or even by weighing them.  We simply cannot.  

The other thing we can’t do is look at someone and know, without asking them, how they feel about themselves, what their level of physical activity is or what their eating habits are. And yet everyday, people look at someone who is obese and thinks, “Wow, they obviously eat too much” or “That poor person, they must feel so horrible about their body”.  How do you know that?  Are you sure you’re not projecting your own biases on them?

This is why this “letter” that has gone viral is so very wrong.  People are sharing it on facebook and saying, “This is beautiful!”. What is so beautiful about it?  The author is assuming that this person is new to exercise and must hate their body – that it’s a burden to “look like that” – and they are “battling” or “struggling” with their weight.  This letter is incredibly insulting and what’s perhaps the worst of all, the author (and all the people who are happily sharing it on social media) think that it’s a step in the right direction, that it’s supportive and motivating for people who are “struggling” with their weight.  It’s not, it’s just more weight shaming.  And it needs to stop.

I work with families to help them accept their bodies, love their bodies, and want to take care of their bodies – regardless of its size.  We support them in making healthy behaviour changes – and ones they can do for the rest of their lives (e.g. don’t cut out a food that you love, if you can’t cut it out happily for the rest of your life. You’re setting yourself up for failure).  This doesn’t mean that you ARE healthy at every size – but it’s not your weight that will tell you if you’re healthy nor can it be your weight that you focus on modifying to change your health status –  we don’t have control over our weight. Focusing on behaviours that you do have control over (the way you eat, the way you move and the way you cope) will allow your body to find the weight that it functions best at – and that can fall into a wide range of sizes.

What do other people think about this letter?
Have any of you experience personal weight biases?

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