“I haven’t seen you in a long time. Geez! You are so fat.”
“Are you sure this is your size? It looks too small for you.”

These are harmful things to say to an overweight person. Fat shaming is everywhere, from family and friends to strangers in clothing stores.

What is fat shaming?

Fat shaming is the act of making negative comments about the size of an overweight person.

Overweight people feel fat shamed when you:
• Make fun of how much they weigh
• Assume they chose to be fat
• Write nasty comments about their body size on social media
• Tell them to ‘hit’ the gym
• Call them names such as Fatty and S’dudla

Many years ago, fatness was admired. It indicated one’s wealth and power. The connection between wealth and fatness was made due to the ability of a financially stable family to afford more food than the poor.
Nowadays, fat people are seen as lazy and/or poor since the poor are more likely to afford junk food. Organic foods are expensive and can be afforded by the wealthy, in turn making them healthier and slim.

The word ‘fat’ may only be a three-letter word but it can impact negatively on a person’s physical and mental health. We live in a time where social media has taken over our lives. Overweight people are often subjected to inappropriate comments about their weight when they share their photos on social media.

However, there’s a movement led by fat activists who want to reclaim their bodies. The fat activists believe that overweight people shouldn’t take offence to the word “fat” because it is not a bad word. It simply describes one’s body in the similar way as the word “thin” does. They believe that fat and body allowance allows overweight people to make peace with their bodies. Nevertheless, they acknowledge that recognising the risks of obesity is not “fatphobia” (pathological fear of fatness).

Why is fat shaming so harmful?

Some people fat shame overweight people because they believe that fat shaming motivates weight loss. There are adults who have been fat shamed since they were little but are still overweight.

Instead of motivating people to lose weight, fat shaming makes people ashamed of themselves. Overweight people may become depressed and anxious when they feel embarrassed about their body weight. These feelings may lead to potentially life-threatening disorders such as overeating and, in some cases, self-starvation.

Self-starvation, scientifically known as anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder in which a person suffering from it has a severe fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia nervosa weigh at least 15% less than their normal weight. Fat shaming is so bad and harmful that it can make those who are subjected to it refuse food in order to lose weight.

When they are fat shamed, some overweight people go to gyms and eat healthier in order to cut down weight. If their progress is not as quick as they would like it to be, they become frustrated and begin to eat excessively because they have lost faith in their ability to lose weight. This causes many overweight people to gain more weight (often leading to obesity) overtime instead of losing it.

If you fat-shame, you are a bully. However, some people fat shame unintentionally and when they say the things that they say, they have no idea how terrible the overweight person must be feeling. We cannot control the comments and actions of others but we can stop ourselves from joining them in fat shaming.

According to researchers in both the United States of America and Germany, an overweight person isn’t necessarily unhealthy. A person can be overweight and healthy at the same time. This research confirmed what most sports and wrestling fans have already known.

Our society needs to learn that a person’s body weight is no one’s business. Fat shaming has no positive impact on an overweight person. Ask your family or friends to stop, when they are fat shaming someone in your presence – don’t join in.

To an overweight person, there are times where everyone wishes they could change what they see in the mirror. No one has a perfect appearance and instead of feeling so bad about yourself, you should try to accept who you are. Avoid hanging around people who obsess about how they look. Do things that make you feel good about yourself with people that like you for who you are.

No one should be subjected to fat shaming. Your idea of fun must not be the reason for someone’s despair. If you have an eating disorder such as overeating or anorexia nervosa due to fat shaming, you can phone The South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG) here 0800 21 22 23 to find a support group in your area.


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Tell us: What do you think can be done to stop fat shaming in society?