The Shame of Fat Shaming in Public Health: Moving Past Racism to Embrace Indigenous Solutions

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Indigenous peoples in developed nations are more likely to be overweight, obese, and disproportionately affected by the comorbidities and physical disorders associated with weight when compared with their counterparts. Beyond the physical ailments are a variety of psychological, emotional, and social issues which are associated with being ‘fat’ and/or overweight and/or from subsequent stigmatisation. Long before this world’s populations reached the current alarming level of obesity, Māori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) were stigmatised, like so many other colonised peoples, because of the colour of their skin, their beliefs, and their culture. Stigma is nothing new to Māori, and so when we are told that we are fat and less productive (or moral) because of our ‘fatness’, we are not surprised because we have been told the same thing (albeit for a different reason) for generations. Considering the relatively high proportion of Māori people who don’t fit the ‘recommended weight range’, the justification for racism is seemingly strengthened. In this paper, we explore i) Māori and white perceptions of weight, and ii) who benefits from racism and fat-shaming. We then iii) outline New Zealand policy and practice and iv) propose indigenous solutions and measures as pathways out of fat-shaming.

Indigenous; Stigma; Overweight; Racism; Health promotion; New Zealand
Public Health (2018),
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Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in (see Citation). Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. The definitive version was published in (see Citation). The original publication is available at (see Publisher's Version).