Fat-Shaming by Proxy

Made Me Reconsider

Even worse than a bigot is a bigot who goads, persuades, or shames others into bigotry. Fat-shaming by proxy, or second-hand fat-shaming, occurs when a nosy friend or relative tries to force-feed someone with their own personal preferences.

For instance, a boy likes a hefty girl and wants to ask her out – but his family objects. He is being fat-shamed, and he’s not even plump! If the prospective girlfriend had facial piercings, he might say “Go ahead, disown me,” and some friends would no doubt view him as a hero. But a fat girl? Not worth fighting for. He bows to the elders’ superior wisdom, and forgets the whole thing.

Angel or Devil?

Are such family members dictatorial or caring? That young man’s mother might say, “Don’t get me wrong, I myself have nothing against the obese. But you know how cruel people can be. If they see him with such an overweight girl, they won’t respect him. He’ll be a laughingstock. He’s my son, I don’t want him to get hurt. And who needs tubby grandchildren? For heaven’s sake, it’s just as easy to fall in love with a girl who has a nice figure.”

To members of other excluded groups, the justifications are old news. They have heard all the excuses from families that closed ranks and rejected an outsider who was “wrong” because of race, age, religion, economic status, previous divorce, etc. Too many people grant themselves veto power in the lives of friends and family members. Consequently, the characters in that scenario are typical of the unnumbered casualties, the collateral damage from the war on obesity.

Anecdotal Evidence

It is obvious, and scientifically provable, that individuals often reject potential partners who are overweight. However unfortunate this may be, it is a personal preference, and people are allowed to have those. But what about when other voices chime in? The social environment will always contain busybodies who appoint themselves Defenders of Correctness.

This facet of fat-shaming is hard to measure with surveys or studies, which is why we hear about these situations in online forums and discussion groups, where issues can be unpacked and examined in a much more nuanced way.

The Paradox

What turns people into fat-shamers? Here is one answer from a Reddit commenter:

It’s sad to watch someone eat themselves to death but my pity runs dry when they have access to all the information they need and refuse to listen to reason.

That judgmental critic assumes a lot, especially the part about refusing to listen to reason. If, as Dr. Pretlow believes, food can be addictive and people can be addicted to food, then reason is totally irrelevant. Drug addicts are notorious for being unable to think sensibly about the monkeys on their backs.

Also, returning to the quotation, it depends on what is meant by “all the information they need.” As Dr. Pretlow learned from asking his Weigh2Rock website participants, it is true that young people claim to have all the information they need – about diet and exercise, at any rate.

What they do not receive, in school or anywhere, is information about how to stop wanting to eat the harmful, nutrition-void substances they know darn well they should leave alone. How do we eliminate cravings?  How do we even resist them? Those are the questions kids ask, and that is the education they need.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Dismantling fat logic makes me an “ignorant prick”,” Reddit.com, 09/23/14
Image by Tony Alter



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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources