Judging people as unhealthy based on fatness, is simply misguided.

2nd March, 2016

If you judge people who are fat to be unhealthy, to eat too much or to be unfit, then your weight bias is adding to our culture’s weight stigma and may serve to hinder a person’s ability to take care of their health.

What do I mean by this? If an unfit person deemed a healthy weight decides to start exercising to get fit, no one judges them on looks, level of unfitness or what they eat. When an unfit person deemed to be overweight decides to start exercising, they face our culture’s weight stigma. They will be judged for their size and many people will assume they are fat because they haven’t exercised before and/or they eat too much. Remember, the thinner person does not receive this same judgment even though they may have never exercised and may eat poorly. This judgement, whether explicit or implicit, can be enough to prevent people from participating in exercise.

With regard to diet, you cannot tell what a person eats, or how they eat, simply based on body size. Many people in larger bodies eat well and are not over-eating. In addition, if a fat person is made to feel badly about their body through judgement, this can trigger emotional hunger (comfort eating) and/or a food binge and can damage eating behaviours.

Having a food binge because you feel badly about your body is very different to binging on food with no regard for your health. When you judge a fat person on their diet, you have the potential to exacerbate problematic eating behaviours. How do I know this? I’ve heard it time and time again from my clients. When they feel shamed about their eating, this can lead to emotional eating or a food binge. It is important to recognise that thin people who feel badly about their bodies, also experience emotional eating and food binges, however they generally don’t receive the same judgement about their eating that a fat person would.

Binge eating behaviours can certainly be harmful to both physical and mental health regardless of a person’s body weight. The sad truth is that while a thin person who has poor eating habits, or binge eats, may not receive any judgement on their eating behaviour and may even receive praise for staying thin, a fat person who is in tune with their appetite and nourishing their body well, will still receive judgement and be shamed for how they eat. Again, this judgement and shame can result in problems with eating in some individuals which can get in the way of their ability to look after their health.

As a culture, we must start acknowledging that a person’s overall health is more important than how much they weigh. Being thin doesn’t guarantee health and being fat doesn’t guarantee ill-health. Judging fat people as unhealthy is simply misguided. There are many healthy people who are fat.

Yes there are fat people with poor diets who don’t move enough, but there are also thin people with poor diets who don’t move enough. If you don’t believe it’s possible to be fat and healthy, have a look at the research.

Thanks for reading…