Over the past two weeks, the Internet has been reacting to a video created by Canadian YouTuber Nicole Arbour entitled “Dear Fat People.” I’m still unclear about Arbour’s reasons for creating the video in the first place, but at the very least it seems that she has a vendetta against fat people and wanted to share her views with the world. The reactions to it have ranged from sadness, with heartfelt responses from Meghan Tonjes and Grace Helbig to incredulity that anyone would still feel the need to push out a message that is old, tired, and pedestrian.
To get a proper take on the video, I decided to view it myself. It begins with Arbour joking that if fat people get angry with her for this message, they can try to chase her but will obviously fail because of course, fat people are incapable of movement. It then devolves into a story about how a family of fat people cut her in line at the airport and were able to ride in a cart to their gate while she had to use her legs and walk. Apparently this is the kind of behaviour that can enrage Arbour to the point that she has to make a six-minute video about how terrible fat people are. But the most confusing part of Arbour’s video is when she claims that she is actually saying all of these things because she cares about fat people and wants us to stick around longer. Because in Arbour’s mind, it’s only fat people who face issues like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. That’s where I begin to take issue with her.
First off, while obesity can increase your chances of getting these diseases, Arbour seems to think that staying thin will make her immune to these health problems. The fact is they can hit anyone at any weight. My own family has a history of type 2 diabetes, on both my parents’ sides. Of those family members, half of them are overweight while the other half are average or underweight. So how would Arbour respond to that? Was it only the fatties that “deserved” to get type 2 diabetes while the others were medical anomalies? Or could she maybe try to understand that eating habits and genes hit everyone differently?
What is even more confusing is that Arbour seems to think this video will actually inspire some fat people to lose weight. While she denies that fat shaming exists, this video is the very definition of fat shaming. And if shaming people for being fat actually worked, then no one on the planet would be overweight. I refuse to believe that Nicole Arbour gives a damn about any fat person she doesn’t personally know. We disgust her and she wanted to make that disgust known to the world. Here’s the thing, if you have a friend or family member and you are genuinely concerned about their health because of their weight, you will sit them down and have a heartfelt talk. It will be difficult. There might be tears. The fat person still might be resistant to what you’re saying even if they know it comes from a place of love. But what you won’t do is make a six-minute video talking about how fat people are disgusting, slow moving, and smell like sausages.
And even though Arbour claims that this video was only directed at people who are “TLC-level” fat and not those with a few extra pounds, I can almost guarantee that somewhere a young pudgy girl will see this video and feel horrible about herself, because she’ll think that she’s fatter than she really is. She’ll lump her body in with the people she sees on TLC. And no matter what her actual weight is, she’ll see a skinny blonde person telling her that she is disgusting and should “stop eating.”
The one thing I wish the Nicole Arbours of the world knew is that weight loss never comes from self hate. Sure, some fat person may starve themselves for a few days only to hit up their favourite comfort food harder than ever before, but real sustained weight loss has to come from a place of love and support. And it will still be hard as hell. In a world where food has become far more than sustenance and can take on an identity of comfort, familiarity, and even love, it can be hard to reject the dishes that have been a part of your life for so long.
All I know for sure is that life is better when you feel good about yourself. So I’m going to do what I can to keep putting out positive messages and make sure that people of all sizes know that they are loved and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter how big or how small.