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Weight Problem:

Cultural Narratives of Fat and “Obesity”

Watch the updated version of this documentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb_1OKCsb50&t=4s

To pose a question, to offer a response, and/or to inquire about a facilitated screening, training/workshop, or public address, contact Dr. Lisa Tillmann at: Ltillmann@rollins.edu

At Rollins College, I (Dr. Lisa Tillmann) teach a course called The Political Economy of Body and Food. My student collaborators and I cover a lot of ground: from eating disorders and steroid abuse to food insecurity and farmworker justice. When I asked the collaborators featured in this film on what topic they wanted to center our work, they overwhelmingly chose cultural narratives of weight, fat, and “obesity.” In other words: what stories circulate in our culture about fat, and how do those stories impact our bodies, lives, relationships, and public policy?

Weight Problem addresses stereotypes that circulate in our homes, with our peers, at primary and secondary schools, on college campuses, in the dating arena, and in mass media. The film directly challenges the rhetoric of the “obesity epidemic,” which serves the $50-60 billion-per-year Diet Industrial Complex more than it improves public health.

What you can do to help redress the issues raised in this film:

  1. Recognize that you have a stake in ending anti-fat prejudice—regardless of your current body shape or size. Exposure to cultural ideals for body shape and size lowers everyone’s self-esteem; undermines our relationships with others; and drains energy and time from civic and community engagement. 
  2. Eat a nutrient-dense diet and engage in regular physical activity for their own sake – not for weight loss.
  3. Vote with your wallet. Support companies and organizations that promote health for everyone, regardless of shape or size; withhold support from companies and organizations that sell products and services via anti-fat prejudice.
  4. Support anti-bullying policies inclusive of body shape and size, and interrupt harassment and bullying on these bases. Those classified as “overweight” and “obese” are more likely to be bullied than their so-called “normal”-weight peers, and people who have been bullied consider, attempt, and commit suicide at rates higher than those who have not.
  5. Support anti-discrimination protections based on body shape and size. In the overwhelming majority of organizations, municipalities, and states, a person can be refused service in a shop or restaurant; denied a hotel room, house, or apartment; and even fired – on no other basis than body shape or size.
  6. Support public policies that facilitate everyone’s access to nutrient-dense food and to safe environments conducive to activity and play. Such policies include a living wage and nutrition support programs such as WIC and food stamps.
  7. Seek out sources of information independent of the Diet Industrial Complex.

    Powerful forces wage the war on obesity, and they have a lot to lose if we decide to pursue peace instead of war with our bodies. My collaborators and I stand on the side of peace, health, equity, and justice. Learn more for yourself, then decide where you stand.