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Issue 17 Out Now

The Disease Of Fatphobia


I recently saw on the cover of a newspaper one of the most ridiculous headlines ever. The headline read: This Year’s 50 Best & Worst Beach Bodies: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. I do not blame anyone if they find that heading problematic as it implies that there are best and worst bodies in the world, which is wrong on many levels. One, it is not beneficial to assess, compare, or rate someone else’s body. Two, such ratings are grounded in fatphobia and inexplicable anxieties people have towards weight. Fatphobia, the fear of fatness and fat people, has been an exaggerated factor in the ways people perceive bodies and has influenced a lot of what society calls a “healthy body.”


The body and beauty standards set by society favor specific people with specific bodies and work against others. It is unfair how closed-minded individuals become health experts when they see a “fat” body. To equate fatness to poor health and bad eating habits is to reinvent the notion that thinness is the equivalent of a good eating habit and evidence of health. In most cases, such comparisons benefit neither thin nor fat people but favor asserting that fatness does not belong in society. The rise in movements that preach body positivity and acceptance still garners skepticism about what looks acceptable in social matters. In which case, the ignorance towards larger-sized individuals and calling them “fat people” is appalling and still does not reflect a society that values, accepts, and sees all types of bodies.


Every part of the world has some standards on which they constitute their concept of beauty.

Interestingly, such standards keep changing over time. The fact that body and beauty standards change with time shows the extent to which influences society. For example, according to The Science of People, in Ancient Greece (c. 500–300 B.C.) the ideal feminine body type was plump, full-bodied, and light skin.

As time progressed to the roaring twenties (c.1920s) the standards became flat chest, downplayed waist, short bob hairstyle, and a boyish figure. Let’s take a time jump into the 2000s(our time) — today, the ideal body and beauty standards are flat stomach, “healthy skin,” large breasts and butts, and several others. Society deems the “ideal” body is almost unattainable as it is constantly changing. The standards are not only ridiculous, but they also paint a picture of specific women we see in the public eye. These women are between thin and medium-sized, white (mostly), and rich enough to afford cosmetic surgeries. The sad reality is that today’s standards abandon fat people from the circle of “beauty.”

Even movements established for fat people are co-opted by and benefit thin people more, but it should not be that way. Yes, smaller-sized people face their share of unfairness from society. No, no one is saying that is okay. However, even though some struggles of small and large-sized people can intersect. For example, fat and thin people can suffer from eating disorders that might affect them and their bodies. Body positivity was created by fat people for fat people as it was meant to redefine the standards of beauty. The goal was to become more inclusive to uplift individuals seen as conventionally unattractive and undesirable, which can be felt by anybody regardless of their size.


Far from dismissing the concerns of thin people who have been verbally abused or ridiculed, the body positivity movement acknowledges the struggles of thin people and even fights for them, but it is not a movement meant to center thin people. Not especially when western society sees thinness as something that could be solved by just eating more while fatness could be solved by eating less, staying “healthy,” among several others. Society sees fatness as a disease and the absence of beauty, which is barely the case for the other types of bodies, so no, body positivity cannot center on thin people. The truth of the matter is that the movement already includes thin and average people as already made clear. It is necessary to accept and understand that not being invited to participate in conversations ABOUT fat people does not mean one is excluded from the movement. At the end of the day, it is fat people who keep getting comments about how unhealthy they are and how they have to lose weight. It is fat people who receive backhanded compliments just for existing. When fat people show content and happiness, society calls them “confident” for being fat and happy as though the two are antagonistic when it comes to fat people. When they comment on their bodies, their comments are met with remarks that dismiss their point because they “are beautiful” as if they meant they were not.

The last comment especially is typical proof that society sees fatness as the absence of beauty. Why can’t people be fat AND beautiful? Why should that be an issue? The reason goes back to fatphobia. So, back to the point, why is fatphobia a disease?

Fatphobia is a tool used by society to police the confidence of people and create for them a view that distorts the beauty of their natural bodies. External fatphobia triggers an internalized dreaming for bodies perceived to lie inside an apparent standard set by a toxic society. But that is not the only issue with fatphobia: fatphobia also excludes fat people from other aspects of life apart from beauty. Studies have shown that fat people are less likely to be hired than non-fat people. They are also less likely to be promoted.

This week I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a budding model. When I asked him what his experiences have been regarding who gets to wear what on the runway, Pius Dapper posited that some fashion designers mostly say thin and slender models like himself bring out the message they want to communicate through the outfit more than people with bigger bodies. According to him, in some shows he was in, some outfits were taken back from plus-sized models because the designers and runners of the show thought the outfit became “too sexually suggestive” due to the bigger body parts the plus-sized models have. Pius also indicated that this preference from designers and showrunners has done a lot of harm to people with plus-sized bodies who try to lose weight but just can’t because they were born that way.

It is sad that the harm does not stop there because society turns around to blame fat people for being too lazy or too unhealthy to work when in reality employers overlook them when hiring.

The argument by fatphobic people that they are “just concerned about the health” of fat people is simply not true. Studies have shown that health and body size does not have a positive correlation as one can be healthy regardless of body size and shape. A Research study from 2012 shows that “obese” people according to BMI (body mass index) that are healthy and fit metabolically have no greater risk of getting cardiovascular diseases or cancer. In addition to that, this 2016 study shows that skinny people who are unfit are twice as likely to get diseases like diabetes as fit people. There are several other studies and researches that speak to the fact that being fat is in fact, not the problem. The problem is the stigma and phobia attached to fatness. Fatphobia has the tendency to develop into something more harmful to the individual. The stigmatization fat people face can lead to chronic and severe health issues like increased levels of cortisol and high blood pressure according to studies. Researchers have also found that weight stigma is one of the leading causes of poorer health care and treatment of people who are fat by medical professionals.

via the A Magazine

Again, being fat is not the problem. The problem is how society sees and reacts to fatness that leads to other severe problems. Sure, one could argue that fat people should be confident in themselves and hold their heads up high. That they should not give in to the pressures of society and whatnot, but the fact remains that the problem is with society. From the language used around fatness to making unwelcomed recommendations to people about their bodies, society becomes complicit in institutionalizing fatness as something unwanted and not okay. From making comments like “I feel fat,” “you are not fat – you are pretty,” “you need to lose some of that weight,” etc, we take part in building a society that conventionalizes beauty and health and makes them trends.

Fat people are not being lazy just because they are not doing what you want them to do. Fat people do not owe you any explanation for their health, their lifestyle, and their existence. If one claims to be concerned about the health of fat people, they should direct their enthusiasm towards advocating for proper health care and equal opportunities for fat people. Better yet, they should make it a habit to mind their own business. That works too!

Works Cited/referenced:

  1. Edwards, V. V. (2020, April 21). Beauty standards: See how body types change through history. Retrieved August 04, 2021, from

  2. Fabello, M. (2020, August 13). Back off, thin people — here’s why body positivity wasn’t made for you. Retrieved August 04, 2021.

  3. Flint, S., Čadek, M., Codreanu, S., Ivić, V., Zomer, C., & Gomoiu, A. (2016, May 3). Obesity discrimination in the recruitment process: “you’re not hired!” Retrieved August 04, 2021, from

  4. Rey-López JP;de Rezende LF;Pastor-Valero M;Tess BH;. (n.d.). The prevalence of metabolically healthy obesity: A systematic review and critical evaluation of the definitions used. Retrieved August 04, 2021, from

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