Column: Why we need body positivity

YouTube star Nicole Arbour during her video “Dear Fat People,” released on Sept. 4, 2015. The video has since received over 20 million views and 192,000 likes. (Screenshot/YouTube)

YouTube star Nicole Arbour is facing a lot of controversy after uploading a video titled “Dear Fat People” claiming that fat shaming does not exist and using satire to defend her offensive stance on obesity. Since being uploaded to Facebook on Sept. 4, 2015, the video has received over 20 million views and 192,000 likes.

In the beginning of the video, Arbour gives a quick disclaimer stating that she is not addressing those with health problems. That might be a valid disclaimer in theory, but it is completely useless in practice. It is impossible to see a person’s health, mentally or physically.

When criticizing a person, their private life is not available for careful consideration first. Medications that cause weight gain, hormone disorders, a person’s workout routine and diet as well sa other factors of their life are not visible. Appearances do not indicate a person’s health, and Arbour’s disclaimer completely disregards that fact. 

Moreover, Arbour compares overweight people to slow-moving zombies and jokes, “I can get away from you by walking at a reasonable pace.” This is not only a gross comparison and generalization, but it is simply untrue. A person can exercise on a daily basis, eat a healthy diet and still be overweight. Society’s standard image of a healthy body is not achievable for everyone. 

Arbour shields her bullying with feigned concern, claiming, “I’m saying it because your friends should be saying this to you.” A true friend would be supportive and want their friends healthy. Instead, at one point Arbour specifically told those who are overweight to “stop eating.” She claims that fat shaming is a concept created by overweight people complaining about nonexistant injustice, and she encourages viewers to shame overweight people until they fix themselves. 

Even though Arbour believes she has found a valid excuse to bully people, a study by the University College London has displayed that discrimination and negative interactions based on weight are more likely to exacerbate weight gain instead of encouraging weight loss. The stress created from experiencing fat shaming often causes comfort eating. The author of that study, Dr. Sarah Johnson, also reports that weight discrimination decreases confidence in physical ability, which leads to avoiding physical activity. 

Not only is Arbour’s tactic ineffective, but it also blatantly damaging to people’s mental health. An analysis by the Center for Advancing Health discovered that high school students who believed they were overweight were more likely to suffer from depression or attempt suicide. Psychology Today reports that eating disorders currently affect 5 percent of women (a gender-specific statistic was reported because there is a significant lack of information on males who suffer from this). Fat shaming, such as the content of Arbour’s video, can trigger people with eating disorders, or instigate people to resort to them. If she was really concerned for those who are overweight, she would have recognized that her video employs destructive tactics instead of supportive ones. 

Arbour calls out the body positivity movement claiming that people are using “#bodypositive” to make it okay to be fat. In reality, the body positivity movement is focused on self-love and being healthy at any size. Spawning from the prevalence of online body shaming, the popular movement has helped many people live happier lives. Body positivity is about rejecting the media imposed image of health, which is largely made up of skinny, Photoshopped models, and in its place, encouraging people to love themselves at any size. This movement supports leading a healthy life as a part of self-love and acceptance. In her video, Arbour insults a movement that is trying to help people lead healthy lives which is a goal she claims to share. 

Those who support Arbour and her video should realize that supporting this video is spreading prejudice. Thankfully, many people have rallied against Arbour and her fat shaming. It is important to use this video as a reminder to fight against fat shaming and cyberbullying and promote self-acceptance and a friendly community.


Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.