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Fattitude: What do we really know about fat?

By in Sports & Health

Fattitude is a bodypositivity documentary and activist movement that aims to expose the harsh reality of fat hatred within popular culture. A Fattitude film screening and discussion was hosted by Nourish YXE and Saskatoon Weight Attitudes and Disordered Eating on Jan. 31 at the Saskatoon Public Library.

The film sheds light on fat shaming and fat hatred throughout the media and within society. The goal of Fattitude is to change the way people think about fatness and encourage a world where all bodies are treated with respect.

Often, the message being spread through popular culture is that fat is bad, which in turn gives people permission to be unkind towards fat people. Fat bodies are rarely portrayed positively in the media and are often defined by their fatness.

Looking at animated children’s movies, there are many examples of the fat person always being the bad guy, the villain or the one you never want to interact with — for instance, Ursula in The Little Mermaid and Miss Trunchbull in Matilda.

We are teaching children before they can even make decisions for themselves that fat is monstrous — and we need to stop. Children as young as three years old are already ascribing negative stereotypes to peers who are larger. Children need to know they are good and whole people no matter what.

Fattitude exposes the lack of cultural diversity in characters and models in the media who are praised. The presence of thin white models in the media is not bad, but when children grow up without seeing anybody on TV who looks like them, they don’t have anybody to look up to.

We are teaching children before they can even make decisions for themselves that fat is monstrous — and we need to stop.

If you grow up never seeing anybody similar to you portrayed in a positive manner or portrayed at all, what message does that send to children? What does it tell these young children about their worth? This creates cultural, personal and emotional invisibility.

We look at futuristic TV shows and movies, and what do we see? Definitely not fat people. In Fattitude, they give the example of Star Trek — where all the characters in the future are thin and attractive. Fatness is so undesirable in our culture that, if it is shown in media at all, it’s characterized negatively.

The fat person is always the bad guy or the bully or the best friend to the thin white accomplished celebrity. If the fat person isn’t portrayed as the villain, they are the emotionally clueless funny friend because that’s all they’re ever allowed to be — the joke being that they’re fat, which really isn’t funny.

There are constant messages from news outlets and the like saying that there is an obesity epidemic as if the weight and physical structure of a person can tell you anything about the quality of their health. News flash — it doesn’t.

The truth is that the negative health impacts associated with obesity generally only occur at extreme levels. Mortality rate is not seen to increase for overweight or obese class I individuals. However, both underweight and obese class II populations are at higher risk of mortality, yet all we seem to focus on is fat.

The film divulges the harsh reality that obsessing about one’s weight is only considered a problem if you’re small bodied, but if you’re a larger bodied individual, then it is required of you. For a small-bodied person, this practice is characterized by disordered eating, but for a person with a larger body, it is what people want or even expect — and this is causing people harm.

A larger body is often equated with a poor diet, bad lifestyle choices, lack of physical activity, lack of discipline — you name it. But weight is so much more than that, and more importantly, health is so much more than that.

Shawna Langer

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