Coronavirus Chronicles — The Approach of Fear

A very substantial article by Virginia Sole-Smith, titled “How Fatphobia Is Leading to Poor Care in the Pandemic,” brings up a number of issues that are not sufficiently considered by the general public. Like everyone else, overweight and obese people are dealing with the ugly possibility of falling ill with coronavirus. They also have concerns that people whose weight is within normal limits do not have to worry about.

The rumblings of discontent have been gathering over time. Sole-Smith relates how in July of 2020, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service put out the word that citizens should try to lose weight to avoid becoming virus victims.

When interviewed, Sarah Nutter, Ph.D., who specializes in weight stigma and body image, pointed to a 2007 study from the British health authorities, which found that “body weight is informed by over 100 different factors and over 300 connections between those factors.” Dr. Nutter said,

It’s not as simple as calories in, calories out, or how much you move and eat. But that’s the stereotype and the belief that we live by.

The writer consulted various other academics and experts, like social psychologist Jeffrey Hunger, Ph.D., who specializes in the health of stigmatized groups. A quotation from his thoughts is,

Nobody faults your adorable grandmother for getting Covid, but everybody faults a person at a higher body weight. It breaks on whether you are to blame or not for getting yourself into that high-risk category.

In various social media, mean-spirited people were starting to realize that there was another way to make obese people feel bad about themselves. In California, the health bureaucracy composed guidelines that suggested how doctors might take into consideration several factors, including weight, before allocating such resources as ventilators.

In other words, it became clear that a patient’s odds of living or dying might depend not only on their weight but on how the medical establishment reacted to their weight. As news articles began to paint a picture that frightened people with large bodies, awareness increasingly focused on the T-word, triage.

Sole-Smith in her very comprehensive article quotes an author familiar to readers of Childhood Obesity News, Aubrey Gordon, who wrote for many years under the pseudonym Your Fat Friend:

There has been an open debate about whether fat people are worth giving ventilators to, and I don’t think we think enough about the impact of hearing the worth of your life debated in public.

The publication of the California guidelines triggered activists from the obese and disabled communities to form the #NoBodyIsDisposable campaign, which sticks up for the idea that neither physical nor mental ability, nor weight, should be a factor when resources and services need to be prioritized. Spokesperson Brandie Sendziak says,

Comorbidities, especially those that have a disproportionate impact on people based on race, gender, or size, should never form the basis of medical rationing. These are not acceptable losses.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How Fatphobia Is Leading to Poor Care in the Pandemic,”, 01/10/21
Image by Stefan Rheone/CC BY 2.0

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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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