Kiwi researchers want fat-shaming made illegal

Kiwi researchers are calling for an end to "fat-shaming", pushing for discrimination against fat people to be illegal. 

Thursday marks World Obesity Day, and Otago, Victoria and Massey University health and education researchers have joined forces saying the Government should pass legislation to make it illegal to discriminate against fat people. 

"Fat discrimination is pervasive across media, employment, health and school environments. We must each play our part to call out discrimination and bias," Otago University Senior Lecturer Lesley Gray says. 

"A lot of people who live day-to-day as fat people actually live healthy lives," Ms Gray says. 

The researchers believe teachers need to ensure that stigma against fat people is not reinforced by course materials and lessons.

They also believe the media also has an important role to play to tell positive stories of successful fat people.  

"Being fat doesn't automatically mean you fit with those statistics of being unhealthy. We can't make an assumption that they do no exercise and eat bad food," Ms Gray says. 

"The image of the headless fatty, a fat person without a head, that often accompanies stories related to fatness, reproduces fat stigma. It allows the reader to consider fat people to be less than human."

The "fat stigma" contributes to decreased physical and mental well-being and creates a barrier for fat people to have access to bias-free healthcare,  Massey University senior lecturer Dr Cat Paus√© says. 

In April, researchers held a seminar to educate health and social care professionals on the stigma that fat people face.

World Obesity Day was launched in 2015 to support practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight and to reverse the obesity crisis. 

This year's theme is dedicated to raising awareness of the weight stigma. 


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