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Help Put an End to Fat-Shaming

By Beth Battaglino, RN-C, CEO of HealthyWomen, Women's Health Expert

Created: 08/18/2015
Last Updated: 08/18/2015

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How many times have you heard the "F word"?

How many times have you said the "F word"?

No, I'm not talking about that four-letter word that is used so often and makes some people cringe. I'm talking about that THREE-letter word that does the same thing:

FAT.

As in, "You're fat. You need to lose some weight," or "She's so fat it's a wonder she can fit through the door."

As in, "I'm so fat," "I hate feeling fat," "Does this make me look fat?"

While it's plenty descriptive and plenty common, the word also carries a lot of harmful weight (no pun intended).

Studies show that fat-shaming and weight bias are faced by both genders. But they also show that women are likely to face fat-shaming and bias more often—and at lower weights—than men.

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is looking to change that—and ban the F word.
Everyone deserves respect, they say. A word shouldn't define you, be what you are or be what you see. It's never acceptable.

It's been the OAC's mission for the past 10 years to end weight bias and discrimination. And now OAC is determined to put an end to fat-shaming once and for all.

The fact that obesity continues to be a very serious health condition comes as no surprise. It affects more than 93 million people nationwide and is responsible for a host of health problems and conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, joint problems and certain types of cancers.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated annual cost of obesity was $147 billion in 2008, with the annual medical costs for people who are obese being $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

And obesity is tied to socioeconomic status and certain groups:  higher-income women are less likely to have obesity than low-income women, while non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity.

Much can and is being done to fight this major public health problem. People are encouraged to be more physically active and, with that, focus on healthier food options. We must have more access to healthy and affordable food and educate more people about how to make healthier food choices.

As important as those initiatives are, we cannot ignore the social implications of obesity. Weight bias exists as one of the last socially accepted forms of discrimination, with fat-shaming being one of the most prevalent forms of fat bias today, says the OAC. "It's time to start seeing the person—not the word 'fat'," the organization says.

Fat bias includes overweight people being associated with undesirable traits like laziness. It even extends to the workplace. Studies show that obese people are seen as being less productive and having a bad work ethic. Young children who are overweight face bullying from their peers and lower expectations from their teachers. The bias extends to the media, the entertainment industry and just about everybody in the general public.

Fighting fat shaming begins with you. Be aware that people come in all shapes and sizes. Don't let how people look shape your impression of them.

Words and actions can hurt: what's funny or true to you might be hurtful and belittling to another. What's harmless to you might cause someone to feel secluded, ashamed and helpless.

But just as they can hurt, words and actions can also help. You can support the fight against fat-shaming and ending the stigma of overweight by clicking here, and signing the OAC's Petition to End Fat-Shaming.

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