Recently, a video uploaded by comedian Nicole Arbour, titled “Dear Fat People” went viral on the internet for all the wrong reasons, mostly because there were no right ones. In the video, which clocks over six minutes, the Canadian YouTuber rants about things she feels everyone wants to say to fat people. The result is an appallingly ignorant and hateful video which might even be triggering for people with body image issues. What makes it worse is that Arbour presents herself as someone who is “concerned” about the health of heavier folks.
The video starts off with her claiming, “Fatshaming is not real. Fat people made that up.” Several studies and the experiences of countless people who were discriminated against at their workplaces or elsewhere would disagree. The clearly misguided YouTuber believes that if people feel bad enough about their weight because of the hateful things that are levelled at them, then it’s not a negative result at all. What she fails to grasp is that people cannot be shamed into doing something positive. Shame is not a platform on which change builds well. In fact, studies claim that people who were made conscious of the fact that they were overweight lost less weight than the ones who weren’t. That’s because shame is not “Oh, I can do better than that”, it’s more “I am worthless and will never be able to achieve anything”. Shame is not motivation.
According to Arbour, “Just stop eating” seems to be a good enough solution to the problem. It’s apparent that she has never struggled through trying to lose weight, because not eating would result in eating disorders and a toxic relationship with food- none of which are actually healthy, since that is what Arbour claims is her primary concern. As a person who spent months trying to survive 10-12 hours a day on just a fruit in a bid to lose weight, I cannot emphasise on how wrong she is. Weightloss is not the simple arithmetic of burning more than you’re consuming. Fat people are hated and considered inefficient and sloths because most people see weight as something that can be easily controlled. This is increasingly being proved to be a misconception as scientists are discovering that there are a lot of factors that come into play when talking about obesity, including gut bacteria, genetics and environment. Again, as someone who’s been battling her own body since I was 10 years old, it’s not as easy as being active and reducing what you’re eating, but because we’re made to believe that it is that simple, not being able to lose weight results in feeling out of control and helpless about your own body.
The furore over the video resulted in several other videos in response. Whitney Thore of TLC’s “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” accurately noted, like many others, that you cannot possibly judge the health of a person through their weight. Often, people who are skinny have similar or worse health issues but they escape being stigmatised because their body doesn’t translate it into fat.
While not denying the benefits of a weight loss- if healthily achieved- this stigma tied to being fat needs to be broken down. Weight is not a measure of health and people should not be made to believe that it is a measure of their worth. More than losing weight, people should be motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes and have a positive relationship with food and their bodies. As for Nicole Arbour, I am not sure if she’s been through the struggle of weight loss or knows someone who has, but I hope they’ve never resorted to taking her advice or been subjected to her ignorance about fat people.