Fat Shaming vs Body Acceptance: Is it okay to be fat?

measuring tape

Love who you are! But don’t settle!

That person must be vain. They’re way too in shape.

Get that girl a burger! She’s too skinny!

I’m full-figured and proud of it! Strong is the new skinny!

You can’t go five minutes these days without everybody chiming in on body acceptance, fat-shaming, or just expressing their opinion about what a human body should look like. (Not to mention the recent controversy surrounding /r/fatpeoplehate on Reddit.)

Today, we’re gonna dig into some of the tension between those supporting body acceptance, those actively engaged in fat shaming, and those looking to simply improve their health and the health of their loved ones.

Regardless of your current physique and situation, I bet you’ve contributed to this problem without even noticing it.

Let’s get after it.

You should look like this


Regardless of what you look like currently, or how you want to look, there will always be detractors everywhere, letting you know you should look different.

Ultimately, they’re saying one of two things:

  1. I am interested in this type of person, and you look different; therefore, you should change.
  2. I look a certain way and you look different, thus I need to challenge your look to feel better about my look. (Sometimes this is also, “I want to look like you do, but I don’t, so I’m going to challenge it to feel better.)

About a week ago, Nerd Fitness was featured in an Imgur article that made it to #1. In it, they referenced the before and after photos of Team NF member Staci and her incredible transformation.

A quick trip to the comments reveals plenty of dudes who decided it was their place to let Staci know they liked her better in the before picture.


Staci gets this quite frequently (thank you Internet), and her response is always the best:

“Why do I care what they think? I was unhealthy, my doctor told me I was unhealthy, and I was miserable. Now I’m happy and healthy. Thanks for the input though.”

I’m sure this isn’t the first you’ve seen of this. People want to let others know they liked them better when they were bigger, or smaller, or whatever. It will come from random internet trolls, or even from our own family and friends!

Throw in this “Dad bod” nonsense (I weep for the future of humanity that I even have to acknowledge this) and you got yourself plenty of situations where we have a group of people who are unhealthy justifying their unhealthy lifestyles by putting down people who choose to live healthy.

It’s ridiculous, and it needs to stop.

Things we need to stop saying

words dictionary

Be honest, I bet you’ve said one of the following phrases or saw somebody else saying it and agreed. If we’re gonna elevate ourselves above all of this, the following phrases should be put out to pasture:

“Strong is the new skinny!” This phrase is often accompanied by a picture of a smokin’ hot woman in minimal clothing who is thin and (maybe) strong. You now have two things to feel bad about: you’re neither strong nor skinny! Not only that, but there are a ton of skinny folks trying their hardest to gain weight. Which brings us to…

“That person needs to eat.” This is essentially “skinny-shaming.” Many people have no problem saying “that girl should eat something!” when the same person would probably never say “that girl should eat less!” about someone who is overweight. We all have different body types, and yes, some people are naturally very thin. Guys or girls!

“Real women have curves.” Real women have a heartbeat. If you qualify, then you’re in! Real women have curves, or they’re skinny, or they’re big, or they’re tall, or they’re short. Just because you don’t look like the woman next to you doesn’t mean she’s not a real woman.

“That person is WAY too fit. Soooo vain.” It’s easy to make fun of the really really big guy at the gym, or the “too strong” girl, and make fun of them for being really vain or “scary” for having a bodybuilder body. We don’t make fun of people for being great at football, drawing, or cooking – fitness is a hobby, too (and weightlifting / powerlifting is a SPORT just like football).

Apparently the world has determined it’s okay to get in shape, but not too in shape. If you’re a dude, you can get big… but not too big. If you’re a woman getting strong is cool, until you’re too strong and then it’s “manly” and you need to stop because it’s gross.

As the comedian Jim Gaffigan quipped in a way that’s all too real: 

Jim Gaffigan

We all want to feel good about ourselves, and it’s easier to indirectly put down others who don’t look like us instead of taking a look in the mirror and asking ourselves “am I healthy, happy, and comfortable and confident in my skin? Cool, I’ll do me, and you do you.”

After all, who gets to determine what somebody should look like? And whether he or she should gain weight or lose weight, get bigger or get smaller? Only THAT PERSON!

Body acceptance vs shaming

measuring tape bellyNow, we’re all created differently. 

Where do we draw the line between telling people “love who you are, no matter what” and “you are killing yourself with your lifestyle choices, and you need to change?”

It’s certainly not always tied to our physical appearance. Some women have a gap between their thighs, while some men can put on muscle quickly and easily. Some women are naturally more big boned, and some men are super skinny. Regardless of where we are: big or small, thick or thin, we can all work towards a healthier existence.

That’s probably why you’re visiting a site called Nerd Fitness!

On top of that, you might look at somebody and say “that person is unhealthy,” not knowing that they are on their journey, down 100+ pounds already, and working daily to improve themselves. You never know.

In this game of life, it’s like somebody hit the random button when it came to our genetics and that’s the character we must play…but from there it’s 100% up to us to play the game however we want. Once you accept your starting point, you can also accept personal responsibility and start leveling up from there.

Regardless of what you look like, all I care about is the following:

  • Do you get a clean bill of health from your doctor? You can be “damn proud” of your body, but if you’re overweight and unhealthy, or skinny and unhealthy…something needs to change.
  • Are you working to get better? For some that might mean a bigger deadlift, or a slimmer waistline, or 10 lbs lost or gained. Again, the specific goal is less important than having one! What I care about is that you only compare yourself to you from the day before, and work on making improvements.

If we’re going to survive as a society, we need to stop putting down other people, fit or unfit, and realize its a waste of our time, energy, and effort. It’s never okay to shame or bully people.

Body acceptance and health

lego pullup

The truth can hurt sometimes, but we need to accept it: we are bigger as a nation than we’ve ever been. 

In fact, women’s clothing has had size inflation for the past 40 years. It’s clear that as a society, we might not be doing so well.

And yup, things need to change. 

I’m all for body acceptance, but if we are in an unhealthy place, it should be accompanied by a commitment to getting healthier. The truth is, many people are unhealthy and eating themselves to an early grave.

Insulting people who are unhealthy is certainly not helping; it’s cruel, unhelpful, and can make things worse.

We have a personal responsibility to ourselves to be happy. We have a responsibility to play the hand we’re dealt, challenge ourselves to be better and take action on improving our lives. Nowhere is there a place for insulting others.

My challenge to you today is to start thinking about a few key things:

1) Are you using any of the phrases that put down others to make yourself feel better?

2) Are you getting a clean bill of health from your doctor, or are you using the “I am proud of my body” as an excuse to live an unhealthy lifestyle?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this controversial subject: 

How should we navigate this space of not wanting to offend, but help the people in our lives get healthy? What about people who proudly don’t want to change?

Conversely, have you noticed yourself putting down others because they were simply different?

Let’s hear it in the comments!



photo source: Paul Boxley: Kirby, caleb roenigk: hostility, Koisny: Lego

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423 thoughts on “Fat Shaming vs Body Acceptance: Is it okay to be fat?

  1. u have low education I can see you’re not very smart at all. its spelled “THESE NUTS” you dumb pathetic moron. Grow a brain first then try again IDIOT what a stupid dumb fuck you are.

  2. Stop being around people that give a fuck. Also stop publicizing your body.
    Be around people who don’t care about what you look like, but are rather not afraid to let you know their concerns when you lead an unhealthy lifestyle. They (friends) should know since they actually see your actions rather than just your body. People who comment on your body without referencing it to a legitimate unhealthy cause are not people you should want to impress. Those types of people impress themselves by figuring out ways to make you feel crappy and more dependent upon their opinion. Kick those types to the curb. Don’t forget that you also have to be emotionally healthy and people who don’t support you are toxic to your health.
    Start getting confident with being unknown so you don’t feel inclined to throw yourself onto social media with an expectation to become more liked or more recognized. Be more confident with your ideas and talents (whatever they may be) and share those rather than pictures of you’re body. If you think your body is art, and it very well could be, then also consider making progress at something that doesn’t take months to see progress. Like painting, or writing, or reading a book, or analyzing a topic deeply and respectfully. There is no community out there that will accept you because of the way you look (At least none that are sustainable), but there is a community that will accept you for your abilities and thoughts. You’ll probably make more long lasting and meaningful relationships in the latter groups than the former.
    I believe a good portion of you’re problems and deliberations about what to do will go away if you follow my nerdfitness regiment described above.
    -A person who’s followed the above for 10 years.

  3. It’s not your job to police other people’s weight. And even if it were, posting comments on people’s pictures on Instagram or Facebook would probably not be the method you’d employ.

  4. Actually they aren’t, they are trying to give people the same respect as any other person. I find it funny that a lot of people of every size thinks that this making big girls beautiful is about health specifically when really its about mental health its about how society view overweight people like their body means they are ugly and stapled on their backs it says fat and unhealthy. But I think the only one that should want to change if they even want to should be one’s self not the world. I think what they are doing is great and im overweight which it only has a tiny role of importance to the movement, I seriously do not take this as hey im fat so guess what im going to ignore my health my life, it also does not mean I am unhealthy nor healthy it means im warm and ready for the winter. Seriously though what it means to me is I am beautiful I can admire myself I can move past my emotional distress of being criticized and never being loved because I am not a perfect image of beauty, it means what is in me matters because in the end what type of reflection am I going to leave behind if I do not fully express myself to the world and what I can give to it when I am only worried about my image and if I am perfect. No one is healthy in this world they are only healthy enough for the moment but in just a moment that big girl could either feel amazing changing her life as a confident person or ugly and unsure of her capabilities because in the end it only takes one second for death to knock on your door and it ain’t looking for how healthy I am it ask for nothing to take you away from your life. Please learn to respect others.

  5. 5 years ago when I was 16 a doctor told me I was over weight and needed to be at 120-130. I was 5’2 and 140 pounds. I had a six pack and never looked better in my life. That doctor mentally scarred me and made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough when I was only trying for fitness to be a trainer when I graduated. They do not know anything about young health.

  6. Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide.[32][33][34] A number of reviews have found that mortality risk is lowest at a BMI of 20–25 kg/m2[35][36][37] in non-smokers and at 24–27 kg/m2 in current smokers, with risk increasing along with changes in either direction.[38][39] This appears to apply in at least four continents.[37] In contrast, a 2013 review found that grade 1 obesity (BMI 30-35) was not associated with higher mortality than normal weight, and that overweight (BMI 25-30) was associated with “lower” mortality than was normal weight (BMI 18.5-25).[40] Other evidence suggests that the association of BMI and waist circumference with mortality is U- or J-shaped, while the association between waist-to-hip ratio and waist-to-height ratio with mortality is more positive.[41] In Asians the risk of negative health effects begins to increase between 22–25 kg/m2.[42] A BMI above 32 kg/m2 has been associated with a doubled mortality rate among women over a 16-year period.[43] In the United States, obesity is estimated to cause 111,909 to 365,000 deaths per year,[2][34] while 1 million (7.7%) of deaths in Europe are attributed to excess weight.[44][45] On average, obesity reduces life expectancy by six to seven years,[2][46] a BMI of 30–35 kg/m2 reduces life expectancy by two to four years,[36] while severe obesity (BMI > 40 kg/m2) reduces life expectancy by ten years.[36]

    So, the reason that females are doing this is a feeling of not fitting in. And this lets them think they fit in because males want them! But not in the way they think. They want a booty call, or a GF that lets them do whatever they want. And they are now left as a scrap to use as ever they want! Not so empowered anymore, right?

  7. So, the reason that females are doing this is a feeling of not fitting in. And this lets them think they fit in because males want them! But not in the way they think. They want a booty call, or a GF that lets them do whatever they want. And they are now left as a scrap to use as ever they want! Not so empowered anymore, right?

  8. Steve… you write like your some grand arbiter of justice crusading for equality but you’re not. You’re a phoney. Sure, you talk about fat people in a positive light in a few moments in your piece, but you end up showing a massive favoritism towards skinny, in-shape gym rats. You demand that people making jokes about their perfectly toned bodies must stop. That’s laughable, man. Seriously. The entire global popular culture idolizes men with Adonis bodies and women with Giselle frames. Everyone worships chiseled abs. So, with the entire weight of the popular culture behind you, your rhetoric suggests that somehow hefty people are in the wrong for cutting a few jokes against the gym people? Ok… here’s what’s f’d about your logic.

    #1…fat people are the underclass in this scenario. Clothing process are HORRIBLY biased. Therefore, people of size are financially punished for being heavy whether or not anyone knows the reason behind why they are large.

    #2… life isn’t fair. People get to crack jokes. Don’t tell me you’re one of those “safe space” people. Was there a “safe space” for Las Vegas shooting victims? How about black footballers who kneeled? How about the entire world? Do we all have a safe space from a lunatic President who wants to unleash the full fury of our nuclear arsenal on a bunch of oppressed, brainwashed peasants ruled by a despot not much worse than him?

    #3… you cloak your real intention which is to keep skinny people’s bony asses protected from all those mean fatties out there. Waaaahhh. Cry as you eat gluten-free kale while doing push-ups.

    See, I don’t give a rat’s ass who insults who. Life isn’t about holding hands and singing kumbaya. We meet all manner of folk on this journey. Some are fans of ours. Some arent… which leads me to #4 (the final point, although I could tear what you wrote apart all day long Just for shits and giggles…)

    #4… you don’t get to make the blanket statement that heavy people are in some superior position than skinny, fit, 6pack bas gym people. You don’t get away with it because you can’t escape the truth…. namely that heavy people are discriminated against the same way as people of color, religions other than Christian, etc. The degree might not be as bad, but the themes are the same.

    Conclusion: you’re not a terrible writer. Certainly not the worst on the interwebs. I give you a 79 for effort. C+. Just above average. You would have had an 85 if you had just been honest with your talking points.

    Fat people can, in my mind, joke all they want about skinny gym people. Skinny gym people can joke about the fatties. Speaking as a guy who’s been both, being fat had its upsides as does skinny-hood. My main point is you can’t be the arbiter of reality and command people how to think. You ain’t the judge, jury, and executioner my friend. That job belongs to some people waaaaaayyyyy above your pay grade.

  9. thank you very much after reading this I am a much more confident woman
    I feel way better about myself

  10. I had an angry fat acceptance former co-worker call me “skinny” —
    and some other choice words — when I declined to write a positive review for her book on the topic. I told her I was a triathlete who tries to eat a plant-based diet (with treats thrown in from time to time). I’m far from skinny, btw. I am tone but not a stick; 5’8″ and a size 8).

    Bottom line: I see more hate towards people who try to stay in shape and want to speak out about our need, as a nation, to become more active and educate ourselves more about the food we eat.

    If I had called this woman “fat” (I never use the word because society has made it so evil!) she would have had me fired (actually, she basically did. She told the entire office, people stopped speaking to me and I eventually left to find a better workplace).

  11. Hello. I was one who got tried of trying to make myself fit in a certain shape or body weight. Love the way God made me. Have try to learn to take good care of my body and all. Not so easy sometimes. There’s sure a lot thight that can do a lot of demagogues to the human body. As like a car or such… You have to learn and know how to take care of them and what is bad for it; if something gets broken you try to fix it. Most don’t throw out a nice car just because it has some dents and rust. Each person is unique, and has difference. Something I wanted to say.

  12. Hello, there I been one who’s had trouble trying to sit a certain shape or size and weight. I have learn to love myself the way God Made Me. I have also learned to take care of myself the way that is right and good. As say; a car some are different, each different shapes and all but, you learn to take care of them; what you should and shouldn’t do. I’ve learned though there are a lot of dangerous things that could do harm to the human body and a lot of good thing’s that can do a lot of good to human body.

  13. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter how u look as long as you’re confident in yourself. I don’t care if you’re a little overweight or even a little underweight as long as you have no health effects. But there is a point where someone not only looks fat, but is very obviously suffering the consequences of being very over weight and in my opinion if you are a friend or a family member and you aren’t concerned that a certain person is putting their lives at risk and you pretend like their obesity is normal, then you don’t genuinely care about them. We shouldn’t ignore clinically obese people and let them kill themselves the same way we shouldn’t neglect clinically anorexic people and let them kill themselves. Obese people do get offended if you call them fat and the biggest reason is because they are in denial about the way they look and the weight that they are. I was once clinically obese and after my family approached me about it and helped me face my denial i realized that i truly was harming myself with the way i ate. i wasn’t even considered to be morbidly obese but when i went to the doctor i found out that i had extremely high cholesterol levels and i was borderline diabetic at only 16. If my family didn’t “fat shame” me and help me face my reality i would be leading a completely different lifestyle right now and wouldn’t be as happy and satisfied with my life as i am today. im now 50 pounds lighter & a billion times healthier and happier.

  14. Is this really an argument? If you’re overweight, and that extra weight doesn’t come from pure muscle, then you need to change yourself. If you’re only 10 lbs over, then it’s not a big deal, but being about 50+ lbs over and calling it “body acceptance” will only make you die faster. You’re just hurting yourself by putting yourself in denial.

  15. The problem is the impact that other people’s comments have. It is easier to be unhealthy in the modern world than it is to be healthy. When we start to accept and incorporate unhealthy things into our shared society we put our future at risk. Pushing back against social media posts which support unhealthy traits is one important way to at the very least show that there is a debate.

  16. I think personally that we have adopted as a people an acceptance of stagnation. That we cannot be perfect so we might as well not try. But there is so much to be gained from just trying. Even when you think you’ve made it you can always push yourself further and it feels good to try. And most importantly it feels good to fail and then stand back up and try again. Resolution is far more empowering than resignation.

  17. Sure there is. My hand is the same size as my 6’7″ husband and I’m a 5’8″ female with a size 12 shoe. I know plenty of women of my height whose hands are half the size of mine and wear a size 8 shoe. I wouldn’t say my bones are heavier than the norm, but they’re definitely longer than the norm, which one could potentially say means they’re “bigger.”

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