A tough but important truth: Trump – and everyone else – wouldn’t be a better leader (or person) if he were thinner. He wouldn’t be a kinder person if he were thinner. He wouldn’t make better political decisions. The American people would no longer interest him. You have the idea. Even more so, as much as we cover his Twitter rampage, Trump is unlikely to see the insults around his weight. Who is? The real people in your life. Your friends who follow you on Twitter. Your mom overhearing you pissing off a Trump supporter or Republican candidate by adding a zinger about her waist size. Your employee who really, really doesn’t want a diet discussion to break out in the middle of a meeting. And that’s exactly what bold comments hurt – real people.
Someone’s weight doesn’t tell you anything about them. You might think, well, it tells me something about your health. Well, unless you are their doctor, it actually doesn’t. Weight is one of many metrics that make up a person’s health and vitality. It is also something that really is none of your business. Weight can be related to a myriad of factors that we cannot see: medications, barriers to food access, pregnancy, chronic health problems, disability, emotional distress, and more. People can be at any stage of weight loss, weight gain, or stagnation. One thing is certain: shaming someone – even if it is not addressed to them personally – will not change a person’s body. But it will likely change how comfortable they feel around you.
Obese people are generally discriminated against because of their size. Studies prove this; People who are overweight have a harder time finding work and are more likely to find it difficult to get hired. One study suggests that many girls start dieting by the age of 8. Countless books and essays have gone viral that unpack the damage that fat phobia does. And yet, from comedians to TV shows to the internet, weight-related insults and jokes come first. But by literally changing our words, we can stop that.
Will fat phobia disappear from our cultural collective overnight? Probably not. But next time you want to piss someone off, take a second. Call out their guidelines, their choice of words, their actions. Be specific, knowledgeable, and clear. It’s not about being nice to Trump (or someone else who does harm). By leaving the fat phobia out of the dialogue, you can convey a much more powerful message – and save the people around you a world of tangential injury.