Sizeism: Hate and Ignorance, On Both Sides?


In this industry, you wouldn’t believe the jerks I come across. Real jerks (male or female) who love to sit on their superior high horse and lecture us all on the virtues of their amazing selves. Jerks who must be dealing with shoulder impingements because of their self-promoting glorification. Forget basic narcissism and delusions of grandeur, we move into the true illness of self-obsessive compulsive disorder (SOCD). Don’t get me wrong, I know the importance of self-promotion, but there is a fine line between having pride in your work and just being a tool. My point is, it’s easy to be high and mighty about your own anecdotal experiences. It is easy when you have never walked in difficult shoes.

“I can find a job, why can’t they?”
“I can make money, why can’t they?”
“I can lose weight, why can’t they?”
“I can train everyday, why can’t they?”

America is big on the, “If I can do it, you can do it!” motto. This is great when we are looking through rose colored glasses and transformation photos. This is great when we are watching a documentary of the outlier making a life for themselves. It’s not so great when it is coming from people who look down on you—be it from someone with rippling abs or a congressperson. Being in the position of defending your thoughts and opinions is hard.


There was a gigantic stir caused by a writer for Marie Claire a little while ago because of her article discussing the role of obese characters on television. She, for lack of a better term, f**ked up royally, and insulted so many people, I am surprised she isn’t getting pelted with croissants on a daily basis.

She wrote:

…anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

Damn! Don’t hold back your feelings. With 4,000+ comments on the article, I don’t think anyone is holding back their feelings.

This isn’t the only time this type of conversation has taken place. Study after study shows that weight bias and negative opinions are real things. How you are hired, the friends you have, and your dating life are all affected by how you look. To say otherwise is living in a world I call “unreality.”

Education Isn’t a Right. And Even If It Was…

A common critical thinking error is the idea that if you can learn something, so can someone else. “Fat people are lazy and uneducated!”

As a teacher in my community, I have had to learn that people learn at different paces. Just because I understand something and teach it, doesn’t mean they are going to understand it. When you are learning something it isn’t just what you are taking in, it’s what was already there in the first place. Educational and life breeding are real things. I don’t want to get too deep into politics, but what a lot of people (of all parties and affiliations) don’t understand about lower education is where you begin absolutely helps to define what you have to work with. Conditioning and environment breed how you take in knowledge, what you believe, and how easy things are to understand.

Those who live in middle class areas, might not realize how upper class your life is compared to those who aren’t experiencing it. The use of everyday terms, words, and social interactions shape who you are in tremendous ways.

What Does This Have to Do with Hating Fat People or Yourself?

I believe, wholeheartedly, that it isn’t our fault for being confused. It’s hard to know who to trust and where to go for information. In this industry, we can’t even agree on basic physics anymore. It blows my mind what those who stir the media can do to turn people against basic science. To the uninformed, trying to become informed is met with more confusion than ever.

Those of you who find yourselves in the high and mighty arena, can you imagine for a moment finding yourself at 300 pounds, sitting in a dark place, and not knowing who you can trust? Knowing you want to change, but not having a clue what to do? After all, one week you can eat carbs and the next you can’t. One person says calories count and another says they don’t. All you know is that the hunger, depression, and judgment you feel is enough to not only leave you demotivated but practically suicidal on a weekly basis. This is what people have to look forward to.

It’s easy to say, “Get over yourself, just do it!”

It doesn’t matter if you did it yourself, you aren’t them and this isn’t your life. Maybe they never had athletics, maybe they were obsessed with activities that required stillness, maybe they have never had a true friend in their entire life. You never know where someone is on their path. There before the grace…go you or I.

Do You Hate Yourself?

People who are overweight (and we aren’t just talking about morbid obesity anymore) are dealing with serious issues of shame and judgement. But this judgement often comes more from your internal dialogue than it does from external forces. You should know better right? You have more pride than this; you are an educated individual. How could it possibility have gotten to this point?

I could babble on and on about self-acceptance and studies about the turning points of realization, and at some point I will. But the brilliant truth is in this one quote and it is all anyone needs to know.

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. – Emerson

Your education and change can start right here, right now. Your future is whatever you want it to be.

Here Is Where I Surprise You

To make it clear, I don’t think being obese is healthy. To be more detailed, there is a degree of being moderately overweight that can be unhealthy. For those pro-fat writers out there who like to glorify unhealthiness because they have given up, lack education, or for plain ole personal preference—I don’t agree with you. Not only do I not agree with you, I think you are just as bad as the people who are pointing the finger of blame. It’s time you own up to your choice for what it is—a choice.

Understand, I agree with embracing your body, and I know we all come in different shapes and sizes. I am not saying everyone needs to be athletic or fit into some stereotype of beautiful, whatever that is in the world in which you live. I don’t think every female needs to be a size 2, have a bra size of 36C, and have legs for days. I don’t think every man needs to be at 6% body fat and ready at a moments notice for a superhero film. Some people really just don’t give a damn and there are more important things on their plate than perceived perfection. But, there is a difference between airbrushed expectations and throwing in the towel on your health and longevity which I personally feel is a waste.

Get busy living or else you aren’t going to like me very much.

The End of Fat Judgment of Ourselves and Others

We have got to put aside our preconceived notions about ourselves and other people. This doesn’t begin or end here, but sometimes people understanding and relating to one issue on a deeper level can lead to understanding other issues. If you are having a hard time understanding why you can’t lose weight and find yourself confused by a mess of information, maybe you can relate to someone who is struggling at something else. It doesn’t matter where the issue is, frustration breeds an unfavorable reality for all.

If You Are a Trainer/Educator/Enthusiast

Try not to be judgmental. Think about the impact you have and the strength of your words. Don’t talk down to people, but be open for education if it is requested. It may seem all in good fun to sport alpha dominate behavior, but the end result could mean turning off the people who’s purpose you are claiming to serve.

There is a word a lot of people need to learn—compassion. Not tolerance, because in all honestly I am not a fan of that term or the intent behind it. Compassion doesn’t come with pretension or thinking you are better than someone. Compassion is simply having empathy and care for an individual’s situation and guiding your actions accordingly. It doesn’t mean you have to treat people as if they’re stupid or with kid gloves. Not being dedicated or not caring comes in all shapes and sizes. But the intro course to someone should come with no preconceived negative judgement on your part, only compassion for their situation.

Help those who want to be helped.

If You Are Trying to Lose Fat

Ease up and try to be critical and selective of the resources and leaders you choose to believe. Look to textbooks over gimmicks and infomercials. Look to people who have passion and common sense over a hyperactive personality and “belief” system. Do not lay claim to the “I am helpless, it isn’t in my control” way of thinking. It is in your control; you can help it. You can change your life. It will not be easy, at all. It may not even be worth it to you. But you aren’t helpless.

Help yourself, if you want to be helped.


  1. karlita
    May 2, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Leigh, this is a very true article and i’m so with you on being compassionate for other people in understanding where they are in their journey. I also believe that the more compassion you can show for yourself, the easier it is to show the same compassion to others, if you know what i mean.

    • Leigh Peele
      May 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      I know this isn’t up their in the “need to know” information arena. Still, I think it is important because too many times I see people defeated by the very professionals who are supposed to help them.

  2. michwea
    May 2, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Leigh, what karlita said… no really, I honestly believe that a lack of compassion for our selves is at the root of our lack of compassion for others. It seems like we are born to judge and compare–and this breeds feelings of inadequacy and self loathing. From there it seems, it is all down hill. The key is to self accept but without settling. And when I get that one figured out, I’ll let you know. 😉

  3. Kim
    May 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I think this is a really important article, Leigh. I loved your writing on this one.

    I can’t believe that Marie Claire backed that woman in her statements!

    • Leigh Peele
      May 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm

      I think there is such a thing as bad publicity. For whatever reasons, they seem to be a fan.

  4. James Christensen
    May 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I loved every bit of this article. I agree through and through. All things have their context and I try to live my life by that principle. Yes, it’s not good to be over-weight but it does not mean that the person is bad by any means! Any problems any individual has does not define them!

    I’m grateful for people like you Leigh and others who follow you who strive to see the big picture of things. Who try to “get it.” It’s comforting to know that there are others out there who do strive to consider the context of everyone and their situation. Hence why you can understand that one diet be it: low-carb, Keto, Paleo, etc. does not fit all.

    Individualism can be a good thing but why can’t everyone as a whole not strive for a more unified purpose in aesthetics/athletics is beyond me.

  5. Kellie
    May 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Leigh, thank you so much for this. I struggle with these same thoughts everyday within my own family. My husband and I are avid athletes and eat very well. We work hard to educate our children about making sound health choices. We don’t police, but in the backs of our minds we fear our family history.

    My family has a strong history of depression, cancer, and heart disease. My husband’s family has a strong history of obesity.

    We know so much of it has to do with lifestyle choices, but genetics also plays a huge part being that a recurring history exists.

    I think our advocacy stems from a deep compassion. Nothing can ever prepare you for watching those you love struggle through preventable disease. It’s a rather humbling experience.

  6. Natalie
    May 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Word. Compassion.

  7. Sarah
    May 3, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    This is really refreshing and balanced. Thank you for taking the time to write this and post it. I had read that Marie Clare article when the whole debacle was going on, and I still have to hear my boss (who never read the article) talk about how disgusting she finds that show. But, as several other commenters have noted, the fact is that my boss really has no compassion for herself. She has said before that she wouldn’t hire someone who is overweight, and she devotes a large portion of her time to self-loathing. I’m getting a bit off-topic here, but I find it fascinating because her PhD is in cognitive psychology and she has a great deal of compassion for underprivileged communities; yet not an ounce of compassion for people who are overweight. Sizeism and weight bias really are two things that remain okay in a society where we claim to hold dear the notion that bigotry is not ‘cool’.

    This is a great reminder that we do not have to believe that obesity is healthy…we just need to believe in the value to treating overweight people as they are: real, live human beings with emotions and flaws. Just like the rest of us..

  8. […] Yesterday I read a blog post on Leigh Peele’s blog regarding ‘sizeism’. […]

  9. Fredrik Gyllensten
    May 9, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Great article with some great points, I will definitely try to keep this in mind when I write and talk with people 🙂

  10. […] recently put up this article and had a great conversation about the issue of weight basis, sizeism and more on the Fitcast […]

  11. shandor
    July 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    While the article is generally good, it is a mistake to say that the author of the Marie Claire article “fucked up” unless you consider having an opinion and being honest “fucking up”. People are way too afraid to voice opinions and take an unpopular stance (even if its a PC stance only supported in reality by a small minority of people). They called it like they saw it. And in a world where depravity and mediocrity is increasingly being marketed as the “thing to be” we are very much in need of people who tell it how they see it and refuse to back down because someone’s feelings get hurt over the ugly truth.

  12. Ubu Imperator
    December 19, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Your article should be taught in schools! Since I am mentioning school, may I point out that you should have written «whose purpose» instead of «who’s purpose», and «a hyperactive» rather than «an hyperactive». /*overweight grammar-Nazi rolls away*/

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