Fat phobia is defined as the pathological fear of fatness. Examining this definition might lead you to believe that there’s absolutely no way you might have internalized feelings of fat phobia, right? Well…hold that thought for a second.
I’d like you to consider if you have ever thought or said aloud any of the following statements:
If you can identify with anything on this list, chances are you have some internalized fat phobia. But listen, it’s okay. It’s nearly impossible to live in a world like ours without being impacted by diet culture and the resulting fat phobia.
Sadly, weight stigma is a real thing and people in large bodies or who identify as fat, know it firsthand. Larger bodied people are discriminated against in the workplace, educational environments and even in the medical setting. So, it makes sense that the vast majority of us see fatness (or the appearance thereof) as something to be avoided at all costs.
By maintaining these internalized feelings, we are perpetuating the harm done to people in larger bodies and ultimately, to everyone. The longer we maintain these unreasonable fears, the longer we uphold the oppression and discrimination of large bodies and that is not okay.
So, what can we do about it?
The more skilled we become at recognizing fat phobia in our daily lives, the more thorough we can be in lessening its presence and eventually, its impact. Whether you happen to be in a large body or not, the words that you speak and the thoughts that you think about your body and others’ can wreak havoc on body image, self-esteem, confidence and overall quality of life.
Here is an unpopular fact: Being fat or in a large body is not a bad thing. It does not automatically deem a person unhealthy, undesirable, lazy, unattractive or less motivated, disciplined, athletic, smart or fit. As a matter of fact, in reality, absolutely nothing can be assumed by a person’s weight or size. There will always be people who happen to exist in larger bodies because the biggest contributor to our weight are factors completely outside of our control (like genetics). Therefore, because we need to hold space for people of varying races, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, sizes and more, we will do the world a great service by dismantling fat phobia from the inside out. If we do the work the right way and it catches on, then who knows, maybe one day our grandchildren can live in a world with one less stigma, bias or ‘-ism.’ And I don’t know about you, but that brings me great joy.
Dr. Lisa N. Folden is a licensed physical therapist and mom-focused lifestyle coach. As a movement expert and women’s health advocate, Dr. Lisa works to help busy moms find their ‘healthy.’ The owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants in Charlotte, NC, Dr. Folden works with clients recovering from orthopedic and neurological injuries. Additionally, she assists busy moms seeking a healthier lifestyle by guiding their food, exercise and wellness choices through optimal organization, planning strategies and holistic goal setting.
A regular contributor to online and print articles on topics related to health, wellness, self-care, motherhood, pregnancy and pain, Dr. Lisa has had the distinct honor of being featured in Oprah Magazine, Shape Magazine, Livestrong, Bustle and several others.
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