First, I am not fond of the term fat people for the most part. I think it can a very demeaning term that only serves to discriminate or humiliate. Instead of referring to the larger sized as fat people, I am sure that other terms can be better served, such as, well built or big-boned.
Do You Tell Someone They Are Fat?
Whether a person gains or loses weight, keep your mouth shut. Even if you think they’re fishing for compliments. In fact, maybe especially then because it shows they’re being fueled by that and when they regain weight (as some will), it only makes them feel even worse.
You don’t know if the person you think is getting fat is recovering from an eating disorder. In some cases, it’s desperately needed and in others, it’s just a normal part of healing one’s relationship with food. Either way, you do not want to risk putting someone right back into the worst of it.
Another person’s body size is NEVER your business unless that person is a minor in your care showing possible signs of disordered eating – and then it is not your business to shame or even comment on their body size. The only exception to that is extreme cases of anorexia where regaining weight is literally all that can save the person’s life. But even then, it’s about their life, not their body size directly.
The Stigmatization Of Fat People – A Study
In her doctoral thesis at Sweden’s Karlstad University, Susanne Brandheim shows that fat people are not more prone to be plagued by psychological problems than persons with normal weights, when controlling for age and gender variables.
“The research conducted earlier on the stigmatization of fat people has almost unilaterally focused on the negative feedback people receive about their bodies. But there is no automatic link between negative comments and psychological problems. Some people can take it and some can’t.”
She reminds us that people differ – fat people too.
A Matter Of Vulnerability
She finds that for some corpulent people a lack of positive responses from others can be just as harmful to their psychological health as condescending comments.
Life cannot consist solely of negative moments and events. Some are positive and some are negative. Psychological distress can result if the negative experiences take the upper hand. Individual vulnerability factors can determine which persons are impacted most.
Brandheim points out that these differences are extensive.
“Those who are worst off are the ones who already have negative self-images. They have open wounds for criticism because they are already hurting so badly.”
She points out that persons who only take in negative comments are the most disposed toward being hurt and self-judgmental.
Those who can also attest to receiving positive responses from others are obviously better off. The researcher points out a drawback in her study is that psychological distress can be self-sustaining, making some people experience nothing but negative comments.
Big Gender Differences
The Swedish sociologist found clear gender differences in the vulnerability of fat people to suffer from social stigmatization. Women generally react more strongly than men to the absence of positive comments and the presence of negative ones. This disparity is amplified among fat women.
Brandheim thinks this is because women – of all sizes – are more exposed to being visually appraised by others.