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Edited by: Tanmaya Ramprasad

Trigger Warning: topics of fatphobia and associated triggers

Fatphobia has been and likely will continue to be a prevalent issue impacting individuals across all demographics in today’s society, most notably affecting young women, whose beauty standards have been more unrealistic than ever in recent years. Fatphobia can be described as the “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against obesity or people with obesity,” as defined by Collins Dictionary. The social stigma surrounding obesity is undeniable, with those who are victims of such hatred based on their size being at risk of harmful effects such as depression, eating disorders, mental health struggles, self-esteem issues, body negativity, and so on. Fat is not a dirty word nor shameful type of body; it is only harshly stigmatized so.

Considering how internalized and subconsciously ingrained fatphobia can be, sometimes it can be challenging to recognize fatphobic indicators, especially when they come from trusted loved ones who may not even mean you any harm. However, it is important, both as an obese or overweight individual and as an ally, to be able to recognize such indicators and know how to respond and cope with them. Here are some direct, indirect, systemic, and institutional examples that you or someone you know may have experienced:

  1. Judgement of what you are eating – This may include comments such as “are you really going to eat all of that?”, or “wow, if I ate that I’d be so fat!” Remember that food is fuel, and that you deserve, not only to eat, but to enjoy what you are eating or have been craving! It’s nobody else’s business what you eat and feel free to let them know that.
  2. Clothing being seen as inappropriate – Clothing such as crop tops, shorts, tight shirts and pants, and other items that show off your body can be seen as not being appropriate or flattering for obese or overweight people to wear; this fatphobic misconception can cause weird looks and disrespectful comments from others. Just remember that your body is perfect, and that you should flaunt it in all of its glory if that’s what empowers you; others can deal with it!
  3. Assumptions that your lifestyle is unhealthy – Fatness can come from an array of sources, from medical problems to mental health issues, and is not always a product of simple “unhealthiness” or laziness, as many believe. Even if one’s lifestyle does not align with another’s vision of health, each person’s life and choices are their own to make.
  4. Weight-loss suggestions – Comments such as “this [weight-loss product] could really help you” or “this tip really worked for me if you want to use it” can be damaging to overweight or obese individuals. These comments suggest that people believe that fat bodies need changing; let people know that if you didn’t ask, you don’t need any advice!
  5. Restrictive size options – This includes a limited range of clothing sizes in stores, public seating (movie theatres, buses, etc.), and so on. As an ally, it is important to keep in mind accessibility and inclusivity if you are involved in sizing. To not consider fat people, or even spitefully ignore their needs, is anti-fat.
  6. Not wanting to be seen with fat people – Examples of this can be not including fat friends, family, or significant others in pictures, not posting them on social media, and not inviting them to social events. If you are an ally, ask yourself that if the same fat person you’re associating with was skinny, would you want to be seen with them more? If you are overweight or obese yourself, consider asking your loved ones that question; if they really care about you, they won’t want to hide you on the basis of your body.

I would like to mention that I am not a professional or expert on fatphobia nor on mental and physical health. I am simply a young woman who has been both overweight and obese over the course of her life and who was not always able to recognize anti-fat behaviours and practices. I grew up in a family and society that supposes and judges based on one’s size, which was challenging both my mental health and my conception of myself and others.

In order to grasp and eventually confront fatphobia, it is first important to recognize indicators of fatphobia; hopefully, this article helps you and others in taking this first step. If you have experienced any of the instances above or similar fatphobic barriers, please remember that you are not alone and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your body. It is the rest of the world that simply can’t handle your perfection in the shape it happens to come in!

If you are experiencing mental distress or crises, here are a few mental health support hotlines you can call:

  • Good2Talk Helpline (Ontario’s 24/7 helpline for postsecondary students): 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON to 686868
  • Crisis Services Canada (Suicide prevention and support): 1-833-456-456
  • Toronto Distress Centres: 416 408-4357 or text 408-HELP

Taylor Stolfi

U Toronto '23

Taylor Stolfi is a part-time writer with Her Campus. She is in her third year at the University of Toronto for Criminology, Sociology, and English, pursuing a future career in law. In her free time she enjoys reading, biking, finishing a good puzzle, and spending money she doesn’t have on mugs and candles.
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