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Episode 37: The Fatphobia Fallout: Confronting Beauty Standards in 2023

Updated: Feb 8

This is an edited version of a podcast episode. If you prefer to listen, click Make Me Whole Podcast to find this and all my other episodes.


Hello, and welcome to the Make Me Whole blog series! Today we are going to be talking about something that affects the daily lives of millions of people: fatphobia. Before I dive into the topic, I want to take a moment to just be transparent. I’ve always been healthy, but when I started feeling somewhat uncomfortable in my own skin, I began working with my medical team to do something different. We found out that I am actually insulin resistant, and that is part of the reason why I was having such a hard time with my weight. So, we've worked on that, and it's been such a successful journey. But, I had to take the steps in order to feel that I had control over the situation, and it's not always easy!


If we take a look at how obesity has functioned in our society, we see that we've been told that being thin is the only way to be attractive, successful, or even happy. It creates a culture that demonizes fatness and celebrates thinness, spreading the idea that those who are overweight deserve to be discriminated against. And this is not just limited to the United States. It's a global thing.


So, who is it that's most affected by the culture of fatphobia? Well, studies show that marginalized groups such as people of color, those with disabilities, and lgbtqia+ individuals experience more negative consequences. One of the most significant consequences of fatphobia, in my opinion, is the mental health crisis it creates. When society tells you that being a fat person is a type of failure and something to be ashamed of, it's going to lead to negative self-talk, body dysmorphia, and even eating disorders. According to a study by the National Eating Disorders Association, 65% of people with eating disorders say that bullying, teasing, or harassment contributed to their disorder. That’s terrible! It’s not just those who are overweight who suffer from the mental health consequences of fatphobia. Even those who are considered thin or normal weight can experience negative mental health effects from the enormous pressure to meet societal standards of beauty. The effects of fat phobia are hugely significant and cannot be overstated. When people are constantly bombarded with the messages that they're not good enough, attractive enough, or worthy because of their body size, it's going to have a huge impact on their self-esteem. The expectation that bodies should be a certain shape can be especially damaging for women because they are often held to a higher standard. And unfortunately, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, the pressure is unrelenting.


The good news is that there are ways to combat fatphobia and promote body positivity and self-love. Of course it starts with education and awareness, both on an individual and a societal level. We need to change harmful beliefs and attitudes and promote the acceptance of an inclusivity in all areas. We can also get support from others who are going through similar struggles. Online communities, support groups, and mental health professionals can all be valuable resources for any individual experiencing mental health consequences of fatphobia.


I also want to talk a bit about the controversy of the GLP-1 medications. These include medicines such as Wegovi, Ozempix, and Mounjaro. Recently these medications have been introduced to help with weight loss, although their primary function is to help those with type 2 diabetes. While some individuals have had success with them, the dissension has been focused around their widespread use. Those who criticize have argued that the medications aren’t addressing the root cause and that they are only a band aid solution for a much larger issue. Also, there are concerns about the potential side effects of these medications. But, it’s important to recognize that for some people, GLP-1 medications can be a helpful tool in the weight loss journey. It’s essential to have conversations with your healthcare provider about the best options for you and make informed decisions for your own health. Some people believe that taking medications for weight loss is like cheating and that it’s better to lose weight through diet and exercise alone. But the reality is that losing weight is incredibly difficult, and for many people medication can be a crucial element of a holistic approach. It is important to note that these medications are not a magic pill. They work by suppressing appetite and slowing down digestion, which can help people eat less and feel full longer. However, they are most effective when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise


Ok, so let’s talk about the remedies:inclusion, acceptance, and, of course, body positivity. What exactly can we do to combat fatphobia and create that kind of society? First is to recognize that being fat doesn’t make someone less worthy of respect or dignity. We need to challenge our own biases first and then the biases of others. Some celebrities have been vocal about their experience with discrimination and are working towards greater body positivity. One such celebrity (one of my all around favorites) is Lizzo. Her music often celebrates body diversity and encourages listeners to embrace their curves and love themselves just as they are. She is also known for her bold fashion choices, often wearing outfits that challenge tradition while celebrating her beautiful body. Another celebrity who has spoken out publicly against the tendency to assess women’s merit based on appearances is Jameela Jamil, who created the body positivity hashtag #iweigh. Through this trend, she encourages people to measure their worth based on their accomplishments and personal qualities rather than their physical appearance. Overall, Jamila Jamil’s and Lizzo’s work in fighting fatphobia has been incredibly important in promoting greater body inclusivity and love. Their activism has inspired countless people to embrace their bodies and celebrate their unique beauty, and it actually has helped shift some societal norms and challenge harmful stereotypes. By speaking out, we can help shift priorities from appearances to health. We must remember that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and that we should celebrate our bodies for what they are rather than try to change them to conform to narrow, toxic ideals. Fatphobia is a nasty and harmful issue that affects many aspects of life, but we can make a difference by challenging these ingrained beliefs, promoting loving acceptance, and supporting each other in our journeys towards health and happiness. Let's work together to create a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued, regardless of their size or shape. And if you’re struggling with feelings of inadequacy or shame related to your body size or shape, know that you’re not alone. Know that there are so many people who want to work with you, who support you, who are promoting body positivity. They are committed to creating a more inclusive and accepting world for all of us. You’re not alone in this struggle and I think that by coming together we can do great work.


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