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Is Fat Shaming Ever OK? 10 Dietitians Weigh In

A video called “Dear Fat People” posted on YouTube by comedian and vlogger Nicole Arbour has gotten tons of attention. Called an “open letter of sorts” by, the video slams the very idea of #fatshaming. Arbour says fat shaming “is not a thing.” She also says being big boned “is not a thing.”



In between expletives (and there are many, so parents beware), Arbour says she’s not trying to be mean – but she is trying to urge people with obese friends to tell them they’re obese because they are basically killing themselves.

I have many thoughts about this video. I know it’s supposed to be comedy, and I know not everyone will take offense to it. Some may even laugh with it. But as a registered dietitian nutritionist who was once overweight and who grew up with an overweight mother, the video hit me hard. I have no idea what went on in the comedienne’s head, or why she thought this video was OK to do. To me, it’s bullying. To me, it crosses the line between being funny and being hurtful. 

I know we all have freedom of speech, but I found the video to be obnoxious and offensive. I don’t know Arbour nor do I care to know her after seeing her video. If her mission was to inspire by offending, she missed the mark. And if she thinks she’s going to help create a less obese and more healthful world with her rant, I suggest she think again.

Obesity is not a problem that’s easy to tackle. But I know the subject should be tackled with sensitivity, positivity and real-world science-based solutions, especially with children and teens who are still growing and evolving both physically and mentally. I do my best to support and accept others no matter what their body shape or size, judge others and myself less and to look for the positive in one another rather than harp on anything that makes us less than ‘perfect.’ I also teach this to my children. I know that discussing the problem blanketed with cruelty and ignorance as Arbour’s video does is not the answer when it comes to curtailing obesity in America and to raising healthier kids.

Because my opinion is only my own, I asked several registered dietitian nutritionist friends to weigh in about the video and the idea of fat shaming. Here’s what ten of them had to say:

“If a child makes a derogatory comment about another child’s appearance on the playground, it’s called bullying. Fat shaming is a form of bullying. Unfortunately, the Internet is a playground for some adults.” 

~Joan Salge Blake, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, Clinical Associate Professor/Boston University

“Fat shaming is a terrible way to get people to try and lose weight, especially for children who are most sensitive. People—including overweight folks—should embrace who they are and attempt to make changes such as losing weight from a place of positive energy as opposed to a place of fear and negative energy.”

~Lisa R Young, PhD, RD, Author, The Portion Teller Plan

“As a society it is unfortunate that we judge people by how they look versus who they are. As an RD with 2 young granddaughters I hope we can teach them, and all young people, to love themselves and value others for who they are, not what their bodies look like. Healthy bodies are bodies that are well-fueled, move often and care for the world around them.”

~Connie Diekman, MEd., RD, CSSD, Director of University Nutrition, Washington University in St Louis

“Regardless of intent, the fat shaming video by Nicole Arbour can simply be reduced down to one word – “Bullying.” Speaking as one of many who has struggled with weight all of his life, being told you are fat or even being offered unsolicited advice does not result in lasting, positive changes. What does work is first loving and accepting yourself for who you are and then, if and when you are ready to make lifestyle changes with the primary goal of making yourself happy, seek advice from a qualified health professional who can help you reach your goals.”

~David W. Grotto, MS, RDN, LDN, Author, 101 Foods That Can Save Your Life

“Watching this video made me so sad that anybody would be so cruel. I think it’s fair to say that many people who are overweight or obese are often already struggling both emotionally, physically or both because of issues with their weight. Often being overweight has nothing to do with self-control. Sadly, Arbour doesn’t even seem to be aware of or acknowledge that many factors can contribute to people’s weight struggles such as anxiety, depression, certain health conditions and lack of access to healthy food—and that’s just for starters.  

For anyone who is struggling with their weight who saw this video I’d tell them that it’s the work of somebody who is trying very hard to get attention and not worth their time.”

~Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, Contributing Editor, Woman’s Day

“Arbour’s comments are narrow-minded and nothing less than discriminatory. She appears to have no understanding of the many factors that contribute to obesity, such as obesigenic environments in which people live, work and play. We have an overweight and obesity problem in this country that we are struggling to solve. This kind of appalling commentary does more to contribute to the problem than to solve it.”

~Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, Freelance health and nutrition writer

“As a formerly obese child, watching this video was painful. I’ve been a registered dietitian for 20 years and I have yet to meet an obese person who didn’t wish he/she was thinner. There are so many facets that complicate this difficult to manage disease, both emotional and physical. It doesn’t help that a tiny fraction of restaurant offerings and prepared foods contain an apporpriate amount of calories per serving. It takes a village, and we all need to play a part in demanding healthier food for everyone to help prevent obesity in the first place. Belittling those who need to lose weight is counterproductive. I conquered obesity –it can be done—but it takes a whole life approach, not a diet pill or cleanse.” 

~Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, Owner, Nutrition Starring You, LLC

“Shaming someone and making them feel like less of a person because of how they look versus who they are is wrong and mean spirited. I was appalled watching Nicole Arbour’s video and my heart broke for all of those people who are trying their hardest to live their healthiest life. To those people, I say, don’t waste your time or give her the social media view to watch this horrifying video. Keep being proud of who you are and what you contribute to society.”

~Holley Grainger, MS, RDN, Nutrition and lifestyle expert

“No one has the right to degrade another. We’ve seen so many negative consequences as it’s hard to predict just how much words will hurt.

Here are a few first thoughts I’d offer to anyone adversely affected by the video.

Bullying, finger pointing and ridicule don’t help. You are more than any number on the scale. Focus on your health and happiness no matter your size.”

~Marisa Moore, RDN, Contributing Editor, Food and Nutrition Magazine

“There is tough love and then there is mean. This is mean and condescending. No inspirational value here.” 

~Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, Owner, Nutritious LifeTM

If you would like to watch the video, you can access it via BuzzFeed

Did you watch the video? Thoughts?


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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books and is currently working on her first novel. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

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