Update: I didn’t use the correct title in the headline. The title came from Philly.com’s homepage to drive traffic to the article. Here’s a screen capture:
Philly.com has taken “fat shaming” to a whole new level today by telling fat people that it is your fault for being fat and overweight. The fat shaming article, which really does use that headline on the homepage, is a classist and elitist approach that attacks those who are poor and those who have mental illness and it is probably one of the reasons why we have eating disorders in this country.
I’m no thin person. I’m 5’8,”weigh around 235-240 lbs, and I have had weight issues since I was younger. Going into the 8th grade I was over 200lbs, over 260 going into my freshman year of college and had high blood pressure. During my freshman year, I dropped down to 200 lbs and have been between that 225 to 240 lbs range for the past couple of years. I’m the type of person who has to stay physically active to keep the weight off. Dieting alone won’t help me do that. I run between 9 and 15 miles a week and work at a beer distributor close to 40 hours a week. I will also acknowledge that Philly.com went way over the line with their fat shaming article.
This is the stock picture they used, and when downloaded it came up as “overweight woman eating hamburger”:
MmmmMmmmMmmmm look at that juciy hamburger. With a title like “Overweight? You Have Yourself to Blame,” you can see the disastrous path this article is going. The writer, Kimberly Garrison, starts off the story by recanting an event she recently went to. She writes:
AT A RECENT informal gathering of women, one outspoken lady loudly proclaimed:
“Look at you, you are digging your graves with your forks! The way you eat is killing you, and setting you up for debilitating and destructive diseases that erode the quality of your lives, even cutting your lives short.”
For a moment, everyone froze. She really hit a nerve! You could have heard a pin drop, but aside from a few inaudible grumbles, everyone just carried on.
Then she goes into full “I’m about to say something really stupid, but I don’t mean to be stupid mode,” and wants people to hear her out. She goes on with:
Haven’t we been too easy on ourselves? Aren’t we always pointing the finger of blame at someone else? It’s your mother, father, spouse, society or the food industry’s fault that we’re fat.
Does that sound familiar?
Maybe the bottom line is, we don’t want to face the music. Maybe it’s high time that we took the bitter pill of truth and stopped fooling ourselves.
She then goes on to rattle some statistics about obesity in Pennsylvania and what it can do to our economy and ends with:
How much longer can we continue to blame society, the fast-food industry, our families or spouses for overeating? Are we just living in the abyss of denial?
Sure, her article may not be provocative, but the the editorial staff at the newspaper went into full fat shaming mode.
This article is classist and it is aimed at middle and upper class whites who can afford gym memberships at these fancy spas and so on. Is it society’s fault? In some respect it is. People who are on food stamps – or receive benefits through SNAP – are incentivized to get the most calories out of their benefits program, and these calories aren’t the types of calories that college educated individuals can afford. The Huffington Post reports:
Several studies have found a correlation between SNAP participation and increased body mass among adult women, however. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2008 review of available research found that while use of food stamps didn’t increase obesity among children, adult men, or the elderly, studies showed adult women were 2 to 5 percent more likely to become obese if they received food stamps for more than a year.
The Food Research and Action Center has said those studies are flawed, pointing out, among other things, that food insecurity among women in general is particularly associated with obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, low-income women are more likely to be overweight than their higher-income counterparts, while the opposite is true for men. Obesity is less common among both men and women who have college degrees.
Depression, obesity, eating disorders and fat shaming are interconnected. Depression can lead to a cycle of obesity, where people who are depressed eat more and more to make themselves feel better. The Nation explains how fat shaming can lead to eating disorders:
That’s how you know that fat-shaming is real. It doesn’t matter how much you weigh, or how big you are (the two, though they’re correlated, are not interchangeable). Your body is being policed. Your body is being judged, and with it, your character and your intelligence. This is fat-shaming. Is it any wonder that millions of Americans are struggling with eating disorders and disordered eating?
Fat-shaming, like the myriad factors that contribute to obesity and to eating disorders in America, is systemic. When it comes to food (bearing in mind that, at the core, neither obesity nor an eating disorder is about food), it is imperative that consumers have all the information they need to make the best choices they can about what they eat. It’s crucial that we know more about where our food comes from: who picks it and under what conditions, what they’re paid for their hard work, what farming does to the land and the communities around it, what foods are subsidized by our government, what’s in our food and how it affects our bodies. There are so many things we need to know about what we eat, beyond the simple calorie count.
If there is one thing that is true, we can blame assholes like Kimberly Gathers and those at the editorial staff for their role in fat shaming, classism and contributing to people’s eating disorders and obesity. Sometimes I wonder if those at Philly.com are using these types of articles to drive web traffic and to bait their ever loving online commenting community into a thoughtful discussion.