Fat-shaming culture must end as part of government's obesity strategy, says caller

27 July 2020, 13:03 | Updated: 27 July 2020, 13:35

By Seán Hickey

James O'Brien was hopeful that the government's obesity strategy can not only help people lose weight, but change the national conversation.

As the government announce a national strategy to tackle obesity, James O'Brien was speaking to Matthew, who began the call insistent on a person's willingness to fight obesity being more important than government intervention.

James was hopeful that the new strategy will "change the nature of the national conversation so that you don't feel hurt and bruised every time obesity is talked about," adding that the current stigma around obesity is anxiety inducing for people who are sensitive to their condition.

Matthew acknowledged James' argument, pointing out that "the amount of people that feel like it's their right to come and give you advice," is staggering.

"It's little things like going out with my friends to a restaurant," that spark anxiety in Matthew, and he told James that he often thinks when going out with friends "what kind of seating have they got? Am I going to fit in the seats," and explained the sheer embarrassment of having to explain the situation to staff.

He shed light on the judgement he feels when eating in public, telling James that "you've got people looking at you." "It might be the first burger I've eaten in months but people think 'why aren't you eating a salad?'"

This caller was hopeful that government intervention will help end stigma surrounding obesity
This caller was hopeful that government intervention will help end stigma surrounding obesity. Picture: PA

James compared people's openness in singling out obese people as the conversations you have "as a bloke when you start losing your hair." He clarified that "for me it's mostly funny, but for the fella across the road it might be mortifying, he's going to remortgage his house to get a hair transplant," and he could understand how the caller saw obesity in the same way.

"Fat people – people like me, probably know more about dieting than anyone else, because boy, have we tried it," Matthew said, exposing the pointlessness of people addressing his or other people's obesity.

James summarised the call with Matthew by stating that a person cannot fight obesity alone. "You do need help, it's not all down to you and that's why the phrase nanny state is so deeply evil," he said, backing up that the government's announcement is welcome, important and timely.

"We welcome the change in the tone of the conversation," James said.