Friday, February 14, 2014

The Stigma of Being Fat, by Emily Dick

Let’s face it, if you aren’t “skinny”...life can be really tough for you. “Fat” isn’t just a term that is associated with body size, it is a term that is loaded with other implications such as being lazy, sloppy and ugly. The way society views “skinny” is very different....skinny is associated with being beautiful, successful, confident and motivated.

Not only do “fat” people have to deal with the pressures from society and the media they also are faced with real life bullies who reinforce the thin ideal.

Recently, movie actress Jennifer Lawrence spoke out about how the media bullies celebrities and how this translates to young viewers in their own lives. She explained that “when it comes to the media, the media needs to take responsibility for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls who are watching these television shows, and picking up how to talk and how to be cool, so then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl who's wearing an ugly dress.” The same way a young girl might make fun of an outfit, they learn to make fun of other girls’ size. Lawrence also stated that “I think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on tv...because why is humiliating people funny.”

While I doubt the word fat will be banned on television any time soon, I think the point Lawrence was making is very important. The term fat has become associated with an insult and insults and mean. Insults lead to bullying and bullying can actually influence unhealthy eating which can develop into eating disorders.

It’s a common misconception that eating disorders are only for skinny people. There are many girls that have eating disorders and are still considered fat. The biggest misconception is that individuals choose to be fat because all they do is eat and don’t care about their bodies. This is so wrong. First of all, being fat can be result of several reasons, including genes and metabolism. Regardless of what the media tells us, being fat does not necessarily mean a person is unhealthy. Some people who are fat DO eat healthy and DO exercise. Many of the girls I work with at Danielle’s Place Eating Disorder Support Centre have told me that their eating disorders were not taken seriously because of the way they looked. Many of their doctors would not diagnose them with an eating disorder because they weren’t “skinny” enough. Even some in the medical field are dismissing disordered eating problems because typically you have to be in a certain weight category to have a problem. This is incorrect.

We need to stop judging people based on the way their bodies look and ensure that every girl is instilled with the skills or help that is needed to combat negative body image, disordered eating and other body image issues.

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