| 21.1°C Dublin

Dr Ciara Kelly: Make no mistake, some people despise fat people and are vocal and cruel about it

Close

"What happened when [some children] were shown the picture of the fat kid and asked if they would invite them to their party? Children said 'no'."

"What happened when [some children] were shown the picture of the fat kid and asked if they would invite them to their party? Children said 'no'."

'Fat people are one of the last groups that people are okay with ridiculing'

'Fat people are one of the last groups that people are okay with ridiculing'

/

"What happened when [some children] were shown the picture of the fat kid and asked if they would invite them to their party? Children said 'no'."

This week Cosmopolitan magazine put a plus-sized model on its front cover and the world couldn't cope. Tess Holliday, who's beautiful and size 24, appeared in a green satin swim suit and the amount of criticism hurled at her and the magazine defied belief.

This is normalising, no, GLORIFYING obesity, people raged. This is a terrible example to young girls! Obesity is unhealthy and no one should be celebrating it! It got far more attention than any magazine cover I can recall.

I see it differently. Obesity is indeed unhealthy. But I don't buy that's the reason why people objected to Tess being there. For years, magazines have had grossly unhealthy stick thin models on their front covers with little or no negativity. Models, so skinny their periods stop and they render themselves infertile. Young women with eating disorders, maintaining a painfully underweight size by chain smoking and eating wet cotton wool. Girls cultivating osteoporosis and whose mental health would clearly be affected by them constantly starving themselves.

These women aren't healthier than Tess Holliday. They're not better role models - indeed, it's arguable that people who harm themselves by starving, in order to gain approval and who have likely helped fuel eating disorders in many thousands of other women actually do far more harm on the cover of magazines than Tess Holliday ever could.

I don't for a moment think people's main concern with Tess's cover shot is health - there are loads of unhealthy things we do - smoking, drinking to excess, taking drugs, not getting enough sleep. No I think health's merely a stick we beat fat people with as part of society's great love of fat shaming. Fat people are one of the last groups that people are okay with ridiculing, insulting, criticising and, yes, shaming. In a recent booklet aimed at children that tried to identify prejudice, kids were asked: "Who would you invite to your birthday party?" Children thankfully had no difficulty inviting kids wearing glasses, kids in wheelchairs, kids from different ethnicities - most people teach their kids not to be mean to those children - but what happened when they were shown the picture of the fat kid and asked if they would invite them? Children said 'no'.

Prof Donal O'Shea told me recently that he was accompanying some very obese patients through an airport and was shocked by the abuse hurled at them by random strangers - who felt no compunction about insulting people they didn't know simply because they are fat.

Being overweight doesn't make you a bad person. Yes, statistically you're more likely to be unhealthy - however, many thin people also become unwell. And having increased risk of illness, is hardly a reason for people to look down on you. But make no mistake, some people despise fat people and are vocal and cruel about it.

Normalising obesity is a problem for public health and also for health budgets. But the truth is so many people are overweight - how can we not show them on TV and magazines and in all aspects of life? Should we pretend they're invisible?

Most people who're overweight already feel crap about it. They already avoid social situations where they feel self-conscious, and want to be invisible half the time. They wake up in the morning and feel bad because of a number on a scales. That doesn't define their worth but they're made to feel it does. And the truth is, the worse you feel about yourself, the less confidence or motivation you have to make any change.

Many people who're overweight will tell you when they feel at their lowest - that's when they over-eat. So if you actually want to support people who are fat to get healthy, insulting them is no way to go about it.

Home & Property Newsletter

Get the best home, property and gardening stories straight to your inbox every Saturday

This field is required

Tess Holliday looked beautiful on the cover. And if she can make up for one moment, for the amount of negative feedback fat people get, then she's done something good. And done something that all the other magazine covers put together have never done: make people feel better - not worse - about themselves.

@ciarakellydoc Ciara presents 'Lunchtime Live' on Newstalk weekdays 12-2


Most Watched





Privacy