Do You Know What Fatphobia Is? If Not, I'm Here to Tell You


How you feel about your body does not happen in a vacuum. Society has an effect on your relationship with your body.

Of course it does.

From the moment you're born, you receive messages about your body from the people around you, the society in which you live, and the culture that surrounds you.

You learn what's acceptable and what's not. You learn what bodies are punished, ridiculed, and rejected. You learn which bodies are praised, admired, and sought-after.⁣⁣

Some of this is explicit: e.g. your mom telling you to keep your weight down to be better-received by the world. Some of this is implicit: e.g. the exclusion of fat bodies in media.

There’s a term for all this messaging about bodies that the West (and increasingly, the world) receives. We call it fatphobia.

Fatphobia is a form of bigotry that positions fat people as inferior and as objects of hatred and derision.
— Virgie Tovar

Fatphobia is so pervasive that it is, as Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN puts it, “downloaded into pretty much everyone's brain in a Western society” (Food Psych episode 115).

Do you know what fatphobia is? If not, I’m here to tell you.

"Fatphobia is a form of bigotry that positions fat people as inferior and as objects of hatred and derision" (from Virgie Tovar’s seminal You Have the Right to Remain Fat, pp. 16-17).

Photo by  Shamia Casiano  from  Pexels

Photo by Shamia Casiano from Pexels

Fatphobia affects us all, not just fat people. We have all received (and many of us, especially those of us who have fraught, if not downright hateful relationships with our bodies, have internalized) its message. Tovar continues:

"Fatphobia targets and scapegoats fat people, but it ends up harming all people. Everyone ends up in one of two camps: they are either living the pointed reality of fatphobic bigotry or they are living in fear of becoming subject to it. So, fatphobia uses the treatment of fat people as a means of controlling the body size of all people" (p. 17).

“[Fatphobia] affects our relationships with our bodies” (Christy Harrison, Food Psych episode 115).


And your relationship to your body, in turn, affects a lot: how you relate to food and how you eat; the likelihood you’ll get an eating disorder; your sexuality; your attitude toward and engagement with movement and exercise; how you move in the world, how you engage with the world, what you do in life…

That's why it matters so much what society thinks. ⁣⁣

Your food and body image issues are not your fault. They’re society’s fault. They’re fatphobia’s fault.

Addressing food and body image issues is not only an individual endeavor. It is one that must be addressed systemically.

Eradicate your fatphobia, and most of your food and body image issues disappear.

Eradicate society’s fatphobia, and most food and body image issues will disappear across the board.


About Holland Hettinger

Image description: Portrait of Holland Hettinger, food & body image coach, smiling and looking into the camera, in a white and blue striped shirt, in front of a light gray background

Hi, I’m Holland Hettinger, and I help women stop binge-eating. I believe your life doesn’t have to revolve around food. Your mind can think about something other than what you eat. You don’t have to shrink yourself and hide your body. There is an alternative to food guilt and body shame. And none of it includes dieting, meal prepping, weighing yourself, or forcing yourself not to binge-eat for just one—more—day. (Insert sigh of relief here.) Through training videos, coaching emails, and one-on-one work, I teach women to stop binge-eating for good.

Holland Hettinger