Dear Fat Shamers: Dispelling obesity myths

WATCH ABOVE: A comedian is coming under fire for her controversial YouTube video called “Dear Fat People.” Su-Ling Goh sits down with an obesity expert to discuss the issue of fat shaming.

EDMONTON — Canadian comedian Nicole Arbour has never struggled with her weight, or at least she’s never mentioned it. But she has plenty of advice for “fat people,” as she calls them, in her new YouTube video, Dear Fat People.

With millions of views, the controversial video is being blasted for spreading “fat-shaming” messages.

READ MORE: Canadian YouTube comedian Nicole Arbour under fire for fat-shaming video

So it’s no surprise that one of Canada’s leading obesity experts is, pardon the pun, weighing in on the issue.

Dr. Arya Sharma is the chair of obesity research at the University of Alberta. He founded the Canadian Obesity Network. Sharma works with obese patients every day in Alberta Health Services’ Weight Wise Clinic.

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He feels Arbour’s video perpetuates a number of common, harmful stereotypes about overweight people.

MYTH #1: “Fat people” eat too much and don’t exercise.

According to Arbour, “fat people” should “stop eating.” She offers this tip: “If you want to be positive to your body, work out and eat well. That’s being body positive to your body!”

Sharma says the solution isn’t so simple.

“Telling someone with obesity to simply eat less and move more is like telling someone with depression: ‘You just need to cheer up.'”

Weight gain can be related to many factors, including medication, mobility issues, mental health problems, sleep deprivation, socio-economic status, and of course, genetics. We all know skinny couch potatoes.

“Genetics is huge in this. If you don’t have the right genes to become obese, you’re probably never going to get obese,” said Sharma.

MYTH #2: “Fat people” are sick.

Arbour tells her overweight viewers: “They forgot to tell you that ‘plus size’ stands for ‘plus heart disease,’ ‘plus knee problems,’ ‘plus diabetes!'”

“There are lots of skinny people who have high blood pressure,” countered Sharma. “Lots of skinny people who get heart disease.”

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Yes, being overweight increases a person’s risk of serious health problems, but it doesn’t equal health problems.

READ MORE: Don’t use scale to measure health: experts

MYTH #3: Making people realize they’re “fat” will motivate them to change.

Arbour suggests this: “Shame people who have bad habits until they f***ing stop,” adding, “If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m OK with that. You are killing yourself.”

“I’m not saying this to be an a**hole. I’m saying this because your friend should be saying it to you.”

Not in that way, explains Sharma.

“Unfortunately, this kind of approach — where you try to use fat-shaming… a blame-and-shame approach — has actually been shown in research to make the problem worse,” he said.

“If you’re a stress eater… you’re someone who eats because of emotional issues… those emotional issues are going to get worse when you’re exposed to these kinds of messages.”

READ MORE: Is obesity an illness? US medical association recognizes condition as official disease

In 2013, the American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease.

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Sharma explains once you have this disease, it becomes a lifelong disorder: the weight can be lost, but it will creep back. And no amount of dieting, working out — or fat-shaming — will help.

“If that was the actual solution we would not have an obesity epidemic, I can tell you that.”

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