What is Fatphobia and why should we be concerned about it?
Awareness Health

What is Fatphobia and why should we be concerned about it?


Growing awareness and complications of obesity have led young people to become more concerned with their diet. Fatphobia, which is harmful to health, has rapidly emerged globally, especially among young people. It is different from fat-shaming as criticism is generally appraised towards a particular person which involves mockery or negative written comments. Fatphobia is not only directed to the person having irrational beliefs about being fat but also applies to people being phobic about being friendly with a fat person. The psychological term for fatphobia is Cacamorphobia.

Studies suggest that fatphobia can be the result of an early traumatic childhood experience with a fat person (sexual or physical abuse by a fat person) or who faced bullying because of being fat. People hold preconceived notions about obese people that they will be “lethargic”, “ugly”, “ “slow”, and “excessive eaters”, (Hyran,2014) which has led to discrimination in the workplace and professional world as fat or obese individuals are less likely to be hired than people with slimmer bodies. If a girl gains weight due to any medical condition such as thyroid, PCOD/PCOS, or other conditions, people stigmatize slim bodies as a predictor of marriage and a financially stable career hence doubting them on the basis of their body types to have significant others or to live independently.

Read More: Get to know Why Obesity Is becoming a Global Concern

Psychologist William Sheldon with his type personality theory gave three kinds of body types and defined their traits namely: Endomorphs (body type: Round, Traits: happy and genial person), Ectomorph (body type: Skinny, traits: fragile and shy), Mesomorph ( body type: muscular, trait: outgoing and strong). This theory clearly revealed and advocated the positive side of the round-shaped body rather than mocking them.

University students most often engage in believing the stereotypical attitudes of others associated with a fat person as being true and also engage in fat-shaming others. (Hyran, 2013). Though not many pieces of research are dedicated in this area some studies also suggest that some counselors also hold biases towards fat or obese individuals. (Amici, 2002;

McCardle, 2008; Puhl et al., 2014; Pratt et al., 2016). Hence, it is not only limited to the general population but healthcare workers such as nurses, doctors, psychologist and others in the field also have negative biases for fat or obese patients (Poon & Tarrant, 2009; Puhl, Luedicke, &Grilo, 2014; Swift, Hanlon, El-Redy, Puhl, &Glazebrook, 2013; Waller, Lampman, &Lupfer-Johnson, 2012). Individuals who have been victims of fat-shaming or discrimination have internalized these negative evaluations which result in psychological disorders like anorexia nervosa, depression, appearance anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder. (Pokrajac-Bulian, &Ambrosi-Randić, 2007).

The COVID-19 pandemic has also been one of the predictors of fatphobia as people are at home and had been bingeing up on snacks and other foods. There has been a lifestyle change (not going out for walks, change in routine work) which has resulted in weight gain and an increase in fatphobia.

It is important to understand that fatphobia impacts mental as well as physical health and should be considered as a concern. Being healthy should not be associated with slimmer or muscular bodies but with eating healthy, absence of physical or psychological illness and proper sleep should be considered. A person can be healthy irrespective of the body type or structure.

A study on health concern comparison among fat and non-fat individuals suggests that unhealthy people with slimmer bodies were more prone to diabetes than healthy fat individuals. (Guo-et-al,2016). Not only in real life but people are critical of social influences who promote body positivity, by commenting and negatively evaluating them on their choice of clothing and lifestyle which has resulted in suicide attempts. It is an alarming situation and should be considered a serious problem across the globe irrespective of age, caste, gender, or religion.

Read More: Suicide Awareness: Unveiling the Truth

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