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12 Mar, 2020 13:29

Is calling someone fat really akin to racism? We won’t solve the obesity crisis if we can’t say some people are grossly overweight

Is calling someone fat really akin to racism? We won’t solve the obesity crisis if we can’t say some people are grossly overweight

Just like many other things, fat shaming is now deemed racist and sexist. But with an obesity epidemic looming which will cost us all, tip-toeing around the issue won't help.

More than 100 groups, including the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes UK, the NHS, European Association for the Study of Obesity and the World Obesity Federation, this month endorsed a statement published in nature.com calling for an “end to the negative stigma associated with obesity.”

“People with obesity commonly face a pervasive, resilient form of social stigma,” the joint international consensus statement read. “Weight stigma damages health, undermines human and social rights, and is unacceptable in modern societies.” 

The lead author of the statement, professor and chair of metabolic surgery at King's College in London, Francesco Rubino asked the public to “join the pledge” on his Twitter page. 

This includes refraining from “using stereotypical language, images, and narratives that unfairly and inaccurately depict individuals with overweight and obesity as lazy, gluttonous, and lacking willpower or self-discipline.”

UK Baroness Deborah Bull said body-shaming should be treated like “racism and sexism” and regulated by new laws on online harms. In an interview with The Telegraph, she said “teasing and harassing fat or obese people led them to put on more weight and increased their risk of eating disorders.” 

The race card is getting pulled for so many different scenarios, it's been worn to a mere thread.  

Obviously teasing people for how they look is despicable, but in these PC times, what constitutes teasing? Will tiptoeing around the issue of obesity do anyone any favours? 

Also on rt.com Billie Eilish strips down for cheap ‘body positivity’ points she doesn’t even need

Obesity ‘epidemic’ will bankrupt health services

On March 4 - World Obesity Day - findings confirmed that if current trends continue, one in five adults around the world will be obese in the next five years. 

The cost of treating ill health caused by obesity around the world will top $1.2tn every year from 2025. The World Obesity Federation is calling it an ‘epidemic,’ which will bankrupt health services. According to a Milken Institute report in 2018, in the US $480.7 billion is spent in direct health-care costs relating to obesity.

The coronavirus, which is spreading across the globe is picking on those with underlying conditions like diabetes. Yet modern narrative bans us from saying anything that could be ‘perceived’ as causing stigma.

So what do we do? We can treat smokers, who pay far higher taxes like the dirt at bottom of our shoe, even suggesting to ban them from surgery because they cost too much and when they die, say ‘well I’m not surprised.’ We hide thin people for fear they may influence young people to be anorexic, yet magazines, bloggers and celebrities perpetuating a fat acceptance movement that aims to normalise obesity is fine. Big is beautiful after all.

In a TV show that aired on the BBC this week, called Miriam's Big Fat Adventure, the very overweight actress Miriam Margolyes said:  “If you’re mean about fat people, I hate you. I hope you wither on the vine.” Imagine a show called, “Barbara’s Big Slim Adventure...if you're mean about slim people...” 

Last year, US TV show host Bill Maher got in big trouble for saying: "In August, 53 Americans died from mass shootings. Terrible, right? Do you know how many died from obesity? Forty thousand. Fat shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism. Shame is the first step in reform.”

No one wants to be a bully, but treating overweight people like victims isn’t helpful. 

We need to address our addictions as a society head on. Calling someone fat isn’t fair, but expecting everyone else to pay for obesity-related illnesses isn’t fair either. 

More than ever, there needs to be an open and robust conversation about obesity, just like there is about sexism and racism.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.