September 24, 2020

BY SARAH VEENSTRA

Many are in agreement, including those at Conestoga College: those taking part in fat-shaming should be ashamed.

A YouTube video (youtube.com/watch?v=CXFgNhyP4-A)posted on Sept. 3 by Nicole Arbour, a Canadian online comedian, has caused extreme controversy in North America.

The video, entitled Dear Fat People, consists of Arbour discussing her distaste and lack of patience for those who are overweight.

Arbour claims her comments were not cruel but honest and that those who are “fat” should thank her for doing what their own friends and family can’t. “‘Fat-shaming,’ who came up with that?” said Arbour near the beginning of the over six-minute YouTube video. “That’s brilliant. Shame people who have bad habits until they stop. If I offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m OK with that.”

The video has since had 6.4 million views, sparked over 2,000 YouTube video responses and so many dislikes and negative comments that YouTube disabled the comments below the original video.

“She obviously knows she went too far,” said Margaret Tavares, a first-year information technology innovation and design student at Conestoga College. “In the video, she said she even was looking forward to people’s comments. She knows what she did was wrong and she should just apologize.”

Two days after the posting of Arbour’s original video, she posted a second video defending her remarks, accusing the public of lacking a sense of humour.

On Sept. 16, Arbour appeared on The View, where she defended herself once again, saying, “That video was made to offend people. Just like I do with all the other videos that have satire. That topic was voted in by my fans, some of who are fat.”

“I saw some of the reaction videos and the stories were so sad,” said Tavares. “I think all she did was make people who feel overweight, feel even worse after hearing that. I definitely agree that you’ll have health issues if you don’t take care of yourself but that’s not for her to decide.”

In 2014, a study of 2,944 participants from the United Kingdom was conducted by the University College London on the effects of fat-shaming. The study concluded that individuals suffering from weight discrimination actually gained more weight, an average of 0.95 kg, while those who weren’t subjected to discrimination lost an average of 0.71 kg.

“I would compare fat-shaming to bullying and would consider it to be verbal abuse,” said Deborah Moskal, a cognitive behavioural therapist in Kitchener. “It tends to feed into the person’s already low opinion of themselves, thereby causing them to emotionally eat to soothe themselves. There are many factors that contribute to obesity and it is seldom as simple as eating more calories than you expend.”

Moskal said two-thirds of her patients struggle with being overweight or obese and would either like to, or are working on losing weight, with positive reinforcement and helpful lifestyle changes.

“It is important to know that our thoughts produce our emotional consequences (how we feel and what we do),” said Moskal. “Therefore, in order to have neutral or positive emotional consequences, we create thoughts that will produce the emotions and behaviours that we want. The key is not to rely on willpower but by forming thought habits that we can repeat three to five times daily.”

While Moskal admits that good and open relationships can create a safe space for talking to loved ones about concern for their weight, she encourages to proceed with caution.

“It is important to remember that a person dealing with a weight issue is probably already dealing with so many negative and self-limiting thoughts,” said Moskal. “That could mean comments may seem more like a criticism or an attack on their character, increasing their feelings of worthlessness and decreasing their self-confidence.”

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