Fat shaming continues to be all around us, however it seems that Victoria is beginning to develop a particularly bad profile in this regard- here fat shaming seems to be systematically endorsed by people in government positions. Last week we were horrified to discover thata Melbourne Council is now banning junk food in play grounds.
This follows a number of disturbing measures that have occurred in Victoria recently that perpetuate fat shaming and vilify eating “bad food”, such as their toxic fat advertisements. With this most recent example, it seems that policing eating behaviour in play grounds is justified under the guise of public health. Ultimately these measures indicate that societal prejudice around fatness and eating behaviour remain prevalent.
It is clear from reading magazines or watching television that public derision and condemnation of fat people is one of the few remaining sanctioned social prejudices in this nation freely allowed against any group based soley on appearance – Faith Fitgerald, MD, “The Problem of Obesity”, Annual Review of Medicine, 1981
After all, most arguments for any sort of prohibition by the Australian government are usually dismissed because prohibition is consistently known to increase “social problems” rather than reduce them. So why is banning food the exception, particularly when it is well documented that prohibiting “junk food” and sending the message it is “bad” is likely to increase it’s desirability, including binge eating? Surely, if eating behaviour in play grounds is problematic, a far more helpful measure would be to educate children and their families about healthy eating (comprising of every day, sometimes and occasional food) and to ensure healthy food is accessible and desirable? However this is assuming their diet is “unhealthy”, which we certainly can’t know from observing what they eat in the play ground. And surely this should occur in conjunction with systemic public health initiatives to make healthy eating easier, rather than pointing the finger at the individual and shaming them, once again?
We have, in effect, an Eleventh Commandment. We have come to believe thinner is healthier, happier, and more beautiful as though it were handed down on Mount Sinai. But these are not divine truths- they are prejudices with a complex history. They have led to a false religion that does not deliver what it promises. Roberta Pollack Seid, Never Too Thin: Why Women Are At War With Their Bodies
It has been said that this “evil view of obesity has come from four places: the insurance industry, the medical moralizers (usually themselves thin), the drug industry & the docile, unquestioning nutritionists who are too often dupes of the faddists and husker” (George V Mann, MD, “Obesity, the Nutritional Spook”, American Journal of Public Health, 1977). We would add to this list, uneducated public health initiatives by the Australian (and other) governments! Lydia has written about this many times before. In a previous blog she states:
We have been at war with obesity for more than 40 years, and so far, it isn’t looking good. An increasingly hostile environment that continually bullies and discriminates against fat people is never going to lead to a healthy outcome. Despite all the shame and hate obesity rates continue to increase – shouting louder is not the solution. The Australian government needs to tighten regulations on the weight loss industry, so that ordinary citizens are not beguiled into attempting diets that only lead to increased health risks and significantly increased weight gain in the long term. Promoting health as a multi-dimensional, ongoing process where fitness is valued regardless of BMI, will liberate us from our culture of disordered eating and weight-based prejudice.
It wouldnt be fair to finish this article without acknowledging some of the great work being done in Victoria to prevent and manage body image and eating issues. In particular, Rick Kausman, Body Positive Australia, Beautiful You, Eat Love Live, Julie Gale, Eating Disorders Victoria and of course The Butterfly Foundation (which started in Victoria) to name but a few.
Over to you, we are interested in some of your horror stories! What shocking examples of fat shaming, particularly government sanctioned, have you come across?