When my friend Reagan sent me Nicole Arbour’s YouTube video last night, the first thing I thought was, “Oh, shit, here’s someone complaining about how awful fat people are. AGAIN.” I didn’t want to listen to it at first. In fact, I made the all-too-common mistake of reading the comments first. I was shocked to see the number of people who agreed with her that “fat-shaming” is a good thing because obese people should be shamed into losing weight. This is the crux of Arbour’s argument, that she’s doing this out of concern, and therefore it’s OK for her to make fun of heavy people.
First, please don’t watch her video and give her more views (that’s why I’m not linking to it here). Instead, I want to share the response from Whitney Way Thore of My Big Fat Fab Life on TLC, which is simply brilliant. In Whitney’s video you’ll see enough snippets of Arbour’s to understand why I was so enraged I had to interrupt my football watching to write this.
Second, I’m going to pause this post for a second and admit something: I just erased an entire paragraph that asks who, exactly, this woman thinks she is, poking fun at her for ripping off Jenna Marbles’ style of YouTube videos … but I had to stop myself from stooping to her level.
Instead of questioning who she is and what qualifies her to state that fat-shaming is a good thing, I’m instead going to state my opinion on the matter. As someone who has been fat-shamed many times in her life, I’m going to say that it undoubtedly DOES NOT WORK. In other words, it does not make me want to run out and lose weight.
I’m a big believer in YOU DO YOU, and I’ll take care of myself. As in, if you like your body the way it is — more power to you! That to me is what the Body Positive movement is about. It’s not condoning any particular body type and it shouldn’t poke fun at skinny girls. The Body Positive message should be about everyone learning to be comfortable in their own skin and accepting everyone else for who they are.
I, personally, don’t like the weight I am at right now. I am actively trying to eat healthfully and exercise more. But fat-shaming didn’t push me to want this. I wanted to lose weight and be more active BECAUSE I WAS LEARNING TO LOVE MYSELF. When I finally got to a place where I felt more confident, more happy with myself, that’s when I started making healthier choices.
One of the most aggravating things that people like Arbour and commenters on her post don’t seem to grasp is this: Most people who struggle with food have real issues with food addiction or disordered eating, or even thyroid and genetic issues, that make losing weight extremely difficult. It is NOT as simple as move more, eat less. It is mental, emotional, psychological. Issues with depression and the environment they live in can all contribute.
What I would ask is, instead of fat-shaming, couldn’t she go about this in a positive way? I know many inspiring women who offer real advice on eating healthfully and working out, and they do it for every type of body, regardless of size. I have friends and family members who can have conversations with me about health and food and exercise without making me feel bad about my body.
But the way she degrades an entire sect of people so insensitively — that’s the real shame here.
If you are friends with a heavier person, or you have a family member who is obese, I beg you to be supportive, but don’t shame them. Ask them to go for a walk, but don’t make them feel bad. Yes, we should all encourage healthy lifestyles, but know that even thin people can be unhealthy. Some of the healthiest, most active people I know may not technically be “skinny.”
All I’m asking is to have a heart. You have no idea what lead to a person gaining weight, whether he or she is perfectly happy at the size he or she is at, or if they’re actively trying to lose weight and your negative comments are knocking them down while they’re giving it their all.
Think before you speak.