Being overweight is not healthy. It’s not something we should aim for, it’s not something to glorify, and it’s not something we should ignore the health risks of. OK. That’s pretty much all common ground which Nicole Arbour covered. Yet sadly, this hasn’t always been the case. I’m ashamed to admit it, but backtrack a few years and I thought the only thing holding obese people back was laziness. They just weren’t trying hard enough.
I’D ARGUE THE VAST MAJORITY OF OBESE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THEIR LIFESTYLE IS UNHEALTHY
And then aged 16, I decided to try and lose some weight. Dropping a stone in a couple of months just confirmed my beliefs. This was easy. All you had to do was say no to yourself. You can probably guess where this ended. But, in what seems like an enormous paradox, struggling against anorexia changed my mind about this whole obesity business. My eating became an emotional crutch. They were soon habits, and I clung to them. I knew they weren’t healthy, but at the same time I couldn’t imagine a life without them. And you know what? Something similar can often be said for those struggling to lose weight. The difference being, of course, that here the crutch isn’t restriction but over-eating.
Picture someone who struggles to maintain a healthy weight, who has developed an unhealthy relationship with food, and is now trapped by a cycle of mental and physical habits – compulsions, even – that they can’t break free of. Someone who knows their physical wellbeing is at risk but has reached a place where logical reason no longer gets a say. We should “shame people who have bad habits until they fucking stop,” Nicole Arbour says.
Now, if the person I described above were struggling with anorexia, chances are Arbour’s statement would spark outrage. Because anorexia is linked with vulnerability and helplessness. When confronted with it, our instinct is to support and protect, because these people are ill. But, now what if I said that the original person was obese? Perhaps they use food as an emotional support and have reached a point where they can no longer break free. But what is Arbour’s reaction to these people? To ridicule and condemn. Because they’ve done this to themselves.
Society has come a long way in understanding eating disorders such as anorexia – and realising it’s not simply a case of bullying someone into eating. Yet with obesity there’s still an ever-present undercurrent of: “if they really wanted to, they could help themselves.” Nicole Arbour argues that obesity is a choice. “Make better choices,” she demands of overweight people. And fine: to someone happily piling on the pounds, her advice might work wonders. “Shit… you mean being obese actually isn’t good for my health?” People might gasp. But I’d argue the vast majority of obese people understand their lifestyle is unhealthy.
If the problem facing our society were that overweight people didn’t know they were unhealthy, Arbour’s video would be a worldwide awakening, but it’s not. The hurdle is trying to understand why people continue to over-eat even though they know it’s unhealthy. Treating obesity not as a choice – because really, who would choose to live at a weight that’s harmful to their health? But, as a dangerous set of habits and compulsions
which need to be properly understood, acknowledged and overcome.
This video is just a publicity stunt really, isn’t it? And one that’s unlikely to actually help anyone. Gosh, how selfish.
Fat-shaming has become a hot topic in recent times, and Nicole Arbour’s ‘Dear Fat People’ video only fanned the flames. This issue has been raised before, but because an attractive white female was talking about it the internet finally paid attention.
Fat-shaming is without doubt an issue, and nobody should be publically or personally shamed for any reason (although for some reason smokers are left out of this equation), but the problem of obesity is very real, and playing the ‘I’m offended card’ will not solve it.
Western culture is facing a serious issue of overeating and general excess in our diet, which is making us fatter
Released to widespread criticism and disdain, Arbour’s video discusses the widespread concern over obesity in western culture. She starts off with a joke about angry fat people being unable to catch her because they’re fat. Though the joke is fairly tame, her annoying editing style and general demeanor only serve to make the delivery even more painful.
As a man who whole-heartedly believes that everything has a right to be satirised (with a time and place of course), the majority of her video is hard to stomach. However, we can extricate elements of truth from within the cesspool of ignorance and misunderstanding, and discuss some very important issues.
The first is obesity, defined as a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it impacts health and reduced life expectancy. It affects one in every four adults and one in every five children aged ten to 11 in the UK. The term itself isn’t offensive, unless used in an inappropriate context or in a derogatory manner (like other descriptive words ‘fat’ and ‘black’). The difference between being obese and being fat is that one has a serious affect on health, while one does not.
The former can cause numerous life-threatening conditions like type two diabetes, coronary heart disease and some types of cancer. The main cause of such a condition is eating too many fatty foods, which Arbour argues. Though it is perhaps unpopular to say so, Western culture is facing a serious issue of overeating and general excess in our diet, which is making us fatter and more prone to health risks. In this way, the video does highlight an important social issue, buried beneath terrible jokes and painful jump cuts.
Interestingly, Arbour actually gives obese people the best advice available: to eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly. Once dissected, I think it’s clear there are tidbits of truth in what she’s saying, which need to be applied in society, but her delivery and style cloud people’s perception of the issue at hand.
Being obese is not a ‘normal’ weight or healthy in any way, and it should be discouraged, but in a compassionate way, and not with inflammatory jabs.
And, as for those saying she’s arguing that fat people aren’t beautiful. She isn’t. Beauty is a construct, a fabrication of the human mind that differs depending on who you talk to, so as long as you think you’re beautiful, you are.
Akash Beri, Screen Editor