Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action

A roundup of psychoanalytic points of view

Weight Bullying: Large Size People Are Often Targets

Weight Bullying: Large Size People Are Often Targets. We treat “fat” as a contagious and deadly virus. By Debra Farbman, Ph.D. Read More

Oh good, more fat advocacy,

Oh good, more fat advocacy, just what we need in an rapidly growing obese population.

Look people are fat because they eat too much. I was once fat, I fixed that with nutrition research (all very available online) and a desire to not be fat. Its been four years with no gains back so I think I got this one nailed.

People who eat too much will have a LOT of excuses, but for most it all comes down to will power. Yes we all have emotional issues and the like, but fat comes down to long term bad choices.

Right now I get insulted for being too thin! I'm 190 pounds but since I also work out its a lot of muscle and looks thinner. People are so used to "fat" that they many don't understand what healthy looks likes.

Honestly I'm sick of this psychobabble, poor fatties nonsense. Maybe a small minority have psychological problems which are somehow tied to eating too damn much, but a vast majority are simply lazy and unmotivated slobs. Now that we all get to pay for their healthcare, we need more fat shaming and bullying.

Put down the doughnuts.

Great comment

Thank you for commenting on this. To me fat sympathizing is like sympathizing with a smoker or jobless person. You choose to be fat. You choose to not improve your life.
I know, we're all born with a genetic makeup predisposing us to certain tendencies. No doubt. Thank the Lord I was born with a great metabolism and the neurochemistry and frugality to not be a food addict...I suppose. Or I suppose I also decide every day to go to the gym and not stop at KFC or taco bell, instead opting for homemade stir fry at home...far less calories.
Smokers are born with a predisposition to addiction or smoking.
Unproductive people are born with predisposition.
We're all born with certain predispositions. Now choose what to do about it.
And this isn't to say the losers in life, which we've all been at some point in some area, don't need some sympathy. I have soo much sympathy for someone going through failures or tough times. But...some of the best advice I've received when I'm down and out is the ol' kick in the pants advice.

Kick in the pants

Good. Then here is something I hope you can use and appreciate. Other people aren't you. Live with it, grow up and try to find some empathy in the process. You will never know why someone else is overweight, so just go cold turkey on the judgementalism and drop it. You lost weight. Great. Pin a rose on your nose. I know people in Pain rehab who live on around 500 cal. a day who don't.
Live with it, you can't gain much to fuel your superiority addiction off that.
Face it, anonymous #2, you've got a problem also. So stop knocking on other people who have them.

Be fat and happy if you like,

Be fat and happy if you like, but if you are fat and miserable change it, don't make excuses. This isn't about being fat, its about shifting blame.

Nah, it's about patting yourself on the back

Anonymous wrote:
Be fat and happy if you like, but if you are fat and miserable change it, don't make excuses. This isn't about being fat, its about shifting blame.

No problem. Normal weight and rather content. But I do work with people with all sorts of problems and it just amazes me how fast those who deem themselves as not having those problems attribute to themselves superior traits to those who do, regardless of what those who do have problems suffer from. Weight is just one issue. There are many, many others. Blanket recommendations are seldom wise or accurate.

Society suffers from compassion fatigue

As someone who became exceedingly overweight and unhealthy after graduating from college and working behind a desk, I never experienced direct criticism of my weight as did the people mentioned in this post, but I felt an overall sense of disdain from society in general (or maybe I was just projecting back on myself), and I'm sure that I was discriminated against for jobs or promotions or friendships.

In my mid-40's, I realized that my unhealthy lifestyle (overeating, smoking, sedentariness) was a manifestation of self-loathing and a form of suicide, as my lifestyle was going to prematurely end my life if not corrected. Once I made the decision to love myself and treat my body with kindness and respect, I experienced much more direct bullying than I ever did when I was overweight and out of shape. My so-called friends (who had unhealthy lifestyles) began to shun me. Not once did I ever criticize anyone's menu selection while socializing at a restaurant. Unless I was asked a direct question, I didn't talk about my gym workouts or new eating habits. In other words, I didn't proselytize or make any efforts to shame or convert anyone else. Yet, when I chose what my "friends" considered healthy (i.e., boring) menu items, they always made a negative comment, as if I was purposefully trying to shame them. They would say things like, "You're trying to make us look bad." Or "Look at you ordering salad while we order Fettucini Alfredo." I always assured them that I made no judgment about their choices. After awhile, however, I was no longer invited to social gatherings. Now that I'm height-to-weight proportionate and aerobically fit, I've had random people make rude comments about my weight and fitness.

Bullying cuts both ways. To me, those who feel compelled to make negative comments to others about anything are simply miserable people. They're miserable about themselves and project that misery onto others to make themselves feel better. Compassion fatigue seems to be overwhelming society, which makes me very, very sad.

EXACTLY. When I was fat, ONE


When I was fat, ONE family member who was very young made a slight joke about it, barely. I NEVER had a single person outside of that even mention it. No one. Being fat in todays obese society is "normal" and you are considered a jerk for bringing up anyone being overweight ever.

When I lost weight I had 4 people I only knew professionally tell me I needed to stop. Two were actually angry about it. No one likes self improvement in others they are unwilling to make themselves. One came right out and told me I looked unhealthy. No one ever said anything to me when I was fat and I was only 10 lbs away from being clinically obese.

That is in big part while all these excuses fall on my deaf ears. There is a certain schadenfreude to others being fat when you are fat. As long as they are as miserable as you are, its all good, and the more that stay miserable the more you can make your excuses about stress, or genetics or whatever forces you to get the large fries with extra cheese that day.

cultural bias

When I was in the middle east, my fat friends and their family used the word fat as a matter of fact. My brother/mother is fat, I am fat, etc... but there was no charge nor criticism behind it. It was like saying I am a blond, redhead, short, tall, etc... Just a description. These families all spoke very good english but I don't think that word was loaded for them as it is here.

On the other hand, our contemporary dialogue about obesity reminds me of the emperor is naked story. It is politically incorrect to state the obvious even with compassion.

Another aspect is that we often don't really want a physical match as a mate. So we want to be loved for who we are "fat" but when it comes to finding a mate, then generally we want "thin" partners. So even "fat" people have that bias.

So we have all our issues with this.

Lastly I am not sure how we stop training our kids to have that prejudice and judgement.

I don't like the word overweight because it implies a judgement but the word fat is also loaded. Any suggestions ?


Several of the comments here confirm the work needed around the way people think about weight in our society and how it is portrayed in the media, healthcare industry, etc that perpetrate the many myths of laziness, gluttony, etc. I once thought this way too, but decided to educate myself and moved to a greater understanding of the issues (both biological and environmental), the evidence-based science around weight loss and the complexities of the body, and the moral judgments that fuel the hatred of people living in higher weight bodies.

I feel empathy for those who do not understand and hopeful that most of those who chose to speak out here are NOT mental health providers. Its interesting, as reflected in the comments, that many times the individuals who live(d) at higher weights are the individuals who are the most vocal about their judgments around others' weight and body size. It is very similar to the bullied becoming the bully phenomena.

The research on this topic is greatly increasing with interesting results. A vast amount of this research was conducted by Rebecca Puhl and her colleagues at the RUDD Center at Yale University. It is rich in information and enlightening. It will open your eyes to why the author of this post is correct in her assessments of the issue. Also, please visit the web sites of any of the Obesity organizations (The Obesity Society -- research, the Obesity Action Coalition -- advocacy, and STOP Obesity -- public policy organization) and you will see that the leadership in all of these groups is working to end weight stigma and the resulting discrimination and negative effects on health. In fact, they have entire programs that address this issue because it is so vital to the experience of the obese population and their well being. These organizations, along with the eating disorders community, recognize the research that shows bullying and moral judgments, much like those made here, actually lead to an increase in weight and maladaptive eating for those who are the brunt of the comments, moral judgments, teasing, comments, discrimination, etc. An entire week is hosted by the Binge Eating Disorder Association in September to bring awareness to the problem of weight stigma because most of those with binge eating disorder can tie the experience of being bullied, teased, and continually judged based on size and weight to the entrenchment of their eating disorder (eating disorders are serious mental health issues that have the highest all mortality and suicide morality risk of any other mental health illness).

This is an easy and vulnerable population to point to and criticize and blame. If only the solutions to the very complicated issues around obesity, eating disorders, addiction, etc were as easy as indicated by others who posted their thoughts here.

The psychology of the hatred toward those living in bodies of higher weights is interesting too. I'm fascinated by the comments here and on other web sites that are so hateful and simplistic in their attempts to describe their own beliefs and what "fat" people should do to lose weight. So, so, so interesting.

Will any of this help them

Will any of this help them loose weight? No, not really. Psychobabble nonsense. Just another form of victim mentality. Its always the fault of someone else. If only we were compassionate and understanding of why they were 300 pounds, then none of this would happen! If we could only see their inner beauty!

Listen, when I was fat there was one person to blame, me, and me alone. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted and how much I wanted without any thought to calories.

I'm fascinated by people don't see a simple problem for what it is. In the 1970's the average American ate 2000 calories a day, today its 2500 (mind you averages, many are MUCH higher). That extra 500 calories a day would be 52 pounds a year (it doesn't quite work that way but I'm not going to write a essay on it). The fact that people ignore this is so, so so interesting.

Will this help them?

And I am equally fascinated by people who see this as so simple when even the people who are obesity experts and researchers (those trying to figure out the biology of the human body around obesity and how to help people stop gaining or to lose) do not have the answers because it is so complicated with so many genetic and epi-genetic variables.

According to the National Weight Registry that has followed tens of thousands of people who have lost weight throughout the past 2 decades, only 7% of them lose weight and keep it off for more than 5 years. For the 93% who gain the weight back, they gain an average of an additional 20%. So each time they diet, lose weight, and regain they end up at a higher weight. I'm sure everyone here lost and kept their weight off with pure will-power, which is the common rebuttal. That's great and I am happy for you.

This is a multi-faceted problem that has nothing to do with will-power. Yes, some people can engage in dieting and keep it off. The data is pretty clear that this is not the norm and there are physiological reasons. We are harming ourselves by yo-yo dieting. The body resists weight loss because it is hard wired to protect us from famine and to the body, there is no difference between famine and dieting. Obviously, starvation for most people in the first world is not an issue these days, but the body does not recognize this.

The best help we can provide is to allow a person to find the best path for them and for many that will mean weight stabilization, not weight loss for long-term health. Long term health includes being free from assaults against one's self that induces depression and other mental health diseases that harm the brain and result in neurobiological changes that are sometimes irreversible.

Anyone can take a stance that this is psychobabble nonsense. I'm fine with that. I know that posting here is not going to change anyone's mind for many reasons, but for those who are suffering I am hopeful that this will allow them to understand that they are not alone and despite the comments here there are many of us who "get it."

Thank you

It's nice knowing someone else who works with people realizes that things can be more complex.

Its a lifestyle not a diet,

Its a lifestyle not a diet, which is the problem most people get into. The other problem is motivation long term. Most people have no reason to be thin or healthy beyond the long term and people are REALLY bad at long term thinking (look a credit card debt for an example).

For example a receptionist at an office I go to recently lost a LOT of weight for her wedding. She was eating right, going to a personal trainer, all that stuff. It worked and she looked very good. Shes got married in October. Now shes gained I'd guess 30 lbs back, why? Her motivation is gone "look good for wedding". Obviously "look good for spouse" isn't important enough for her to not be eating the usual office donuts.

Its still quite EASY to lose the weight, the issue is the immediate gratification of food is stronger than the long term of health, being that she has no immediate need to look good.

The BEST weight loss plan in America is divorce. Guess why? If you can't you don't understand what the issue is here :)

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Action, edited by Susan Kolod, Ph.D., and Melissa Ritter, Ph.D, is under the auspices of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, the journal of the William Alanson White Institute.


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