UNC Charlotte Professor Says Obesity Is ‘Fashionable and Fit’

Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte recently penned an academic paper that argues that obesity should be “fashionable and fit.”

University of North Carolina – Charlotte professor Jennifer B. Webb penned a journal article this month entitled “Fat is fashionable and fit: A comparative content analysis of Fatspiration and Health at Every Size Instagram images,” which analyzes Instagram photos under two fat acceptance hashtags for the trends they reveal about individuals focusing on radical body acceptance.

The paper has a central focus on the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement and its promotion of radical body acceptance. The HAES movement was started by Linda Bacon, who has a doctorate in physiology and argued that individuals should focus on happiness rather than size: “Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good.”

The journal article claims that HAES encourages individuals to adopt a “weight-neutral” approach to health and wellness. Under HAES principles, this allows morbidly obese individuals to consider themselves in excellent health, despite real concerns that medical professionals may have about their condition.

Specifically, HAES® holistic principles encourage adopting a weight-neutral approach to health that prioritizes wellness overweight loss by centering on: (a) appreciating the full range of body size diversity; (b) eliminating weight stigma; (c) reducing contextual and intrapersonal barriers that exacerbate health inequities; (d) cultivating an intuitively-based relationship with eating that advocates flexibly eating for well-being and vitality; and (e) nurturing engagement in pleasurable, life-enhancing forms of physical activity (Association for Size Diversity and Health, 2013). In doing so, the HAES® size-acceptance approach acknowledges the intrinsic synergy between psychological and physiological well-being (Tylka et al., 2014).

The underlying belief is that Western standards of beauty greatly exaggerate the importance of being physically fit. Fitness serves the purpose of satisfying the subjective beauty standards of this era, they argue.