Anti-fat Bias Is Not A Phobia
Note: It was kindly and respectfully brought to our attention that our original post, entitled "Fat-phobia and the Benefits of Body Acceptance," fell short of addressing the topics at hand and included phrasing which could be harmful. After learning more from our team of phenomenal therapists and the resources linked below, we have made necessary revisions to this post and are ready to share it with you! At Tov Counseling, we agree that it is important to maintain a growth mindset - when we know better, we must do better.
Post: Anti-fat Bias or sizeism refers to negative attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors towards individuals who are living in larger bodies. This form of discrimination is based on the assumption that weight is a direct indicator of personal characteristics, such as laziness or lack of discipline, and is often tied to wider societal biases towards appearance and beauty standards.
Fat-phobia is a term which is often used to describe this mindset. The issue here is that while "phobia" may be a familiar word, it is certainly more harmful when used for this purpose. A phobia is an extreme and uncontrollable fear or aversion to something. Anti-fat bias is not a mental illness; it is a learned belief system which has helped form and support systemic and structural biases towards people living in larger bodies. It is important to use accurate terminology to describe the marginalizing behavior and view-points which arise from anti-fat stigma.
Anti-fat stigma can have serious, oppressive consequences for those who experience it, including decreased self-esteem, increased risk of depression, and reduced opportunities in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare. In fact more than 40% of U.S. adults, across a range of body sizes report experiencing weight stigma at some point in their life (American Psychological Association, 2022). This type of stigma can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to weight-based bullying, further exacerbating the issue. One of the most troubling facets of this issue is that discrimination based on body size is legal in almost every state unlike many other forms of bias - such as sexism, racism, and ageism.
Despite increasing awareness and activism against anti-fat stigma, it remains a widespread problem, affecting individuals across age, gender, race, and socio-economic status. It is important to recognize and challenge these harmful attitudes and, as the Association for Size Diversity and Health asserts, “accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.”
This blog post aims to raise awareness of anti-fat stigma and its wide-spread effects. Our goals are to provide resources for those who are looking to challenge these attitudes within themselves and the systems in which they participate and to promote body acceptance. By working together, we can create a world where people of all sizes and shapes are valued and respected.
In order to provide direct access to and emphasis on the thoughts and information created by activists and experts on this topic, we have provided a non-conclusive resource list below. Our invitation to you is to explore this information with a sense of openness and curiosity. We are more than happy to discuss your findings and questions in a session - please don’t hesitate to reach out!
Sonya Renee Taylor Performance and Spoken Word
The Burden of Weight Stigma - American Psychological Association
Sizeism is a Health Hazard - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society
The Impact of Weight Stigma on Mental Health - Center for Discovery
Sizeism: An Unrecognized Prejudice - Handbook of Multicultural Counseling Competencies
Fat’ Isn’t a Bad Word—It’s Just the Way I Describe My Body - blog post by Aubrey Gordon
7 Seemingly Empowering Body-Positive Phrases That Actually Reinforce Ableism - blog post by Aubrey Gordon
We Have to Stop Thinking of Being ‘Healthy’ as Being Morally Better - blog post by Aubrey Gordon
Excerpt from BELLY OF THE BEAST: THE POLITICS OF ANTI-FATNESS AS ANTI-BLACKNESS by DA’SHAUN HARRISON
To Love and Be Loved from the Fat Perspective by Da’Shaun Harrison
What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon
The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings
Belly of the Beast by Da’Shaun Harrison
Decolonizing Wellness by Dalia Kinsey.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker
Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
Why Do We All Want To Be Thin? The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia with Sabrina Strings, PhD
Fearing The Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia with with Dr. Arabia Mollette
The Feminist Guide to Escaping Diet Culture with Sabrina Strings, PhD