The Confusing World of Fat Shame


In “Shaming Fat-Shaming,” Childhood Obesity News observed that vocabulary is a big problem in many areas of contemporary life, to the point where people become frustrated with what they consider to be excessive “political correctness.” We looked at how misunderstandings about terminology by well-meaning people have drawn fire.

Female physicians don’t particularly wish to be known as lady doctors, and plus-size models would rather be just plain models. To Ashley Graham, of Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover fame, the “plus-size” description is isolating.

However, the rest of the world insists upon its right to differentiate between rail-thin models and, you know, the other kind. Apparently there is, within the profession, controversy over what descriptive term would be acceptable.

One problem with the culture’s insistence on fat-shaming is that it encourages a certain type of man to feel entitled to judge and comment on every female figure in sight. Scuzzy dudes boldly rank women by a numerical score, which used to be a habit they kept to themselves. Now, all ids are unleashed and a lot of males are perfectly comfortable making loud proclamations like, “She may be a Minnesota 9, but she’s only a Hollywood 5.”


Liz Dwyer opined to that the media’s ubiquitous body-shaming contributes to the misbehavior of men in New York City. Unpleasant encounters are difficult to avoid in the metropolis where very few residents have their own cars, and must endure the vulnerability of walking on streets and using public transportation. For many women, catcalling and more intrusive forms of harassment are everyday occurrences.

The body type favored by fashion magazine editors, and every advertiser in the world, is of a slimness that only 5% of women naturally possess, the writer explains. This is bad news for the vast majority of girls who are at a healthy weight, but grow up expecting to be held to the unrealistic skinny-minnie standard. Of course they stress out about it, and in the years that should be devoted to preparation for self-sufficient adulthood, they are distracted by thoughts of diet products, liposuction and bariatric surgery.

Two summers ago, when a rash of what Dwyer calls “body-shaming promotions” showed up in New York City’s buses and subway cars, two groups, National Women’s Liberation and Redstockings of the Women’s Liberation Movement, made their displeasure known.

In the grand old tradition of “billboard correction” committees, the groups resurrected a slogan first used in 1969 and had stickers printed up emblazoned with the words “This Oppresses Women.” These stickers were liberally applied to the offending posters, and their reach was multiplied by social media photo sharing. New York was not the only locus of activity.

Dwyer wrote about the beach-body promotions:

In April in the United Kingdom, the ads sparked a protest in London’s Hyde Park and led to commuters’ defacing them across the city’s subway system. After receiving more than 350 complaints, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority said in a statement that it was yanking the ads from London Underground trains and stations “due to our concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims made in the ad.”

But, really, chalk it up to the angry women.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Clever Way Women Are Striking Back Against Body-Shaming Ads,”, 06/25/15
Image by @AnnieTummino

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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.

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