Weighing in on Body Stereotypes

I am fat. There – I said it. Every time I enter a clothing store, I ask for the largest size. I pass by slim mannequins and posters of models who are half my size. Walking by, I hear quiet snickers from other shoppers as they comment on my physique. These snide remarks replay in my head when I lay in bed at night. When I look at myself in the mirror, I have to conceal my large body under a large shirt to believe – for even a moment – that my body is “normal.” I have always rejected myself for my physical appearance, internalizing the malicious stereotypes that the media continuously perpetuates about fat people. Again and again, I am defined and dismissed based on my weight.

My shame and embarrassment surrounding my body image is with me always, but last week, while watching the television show, “The Biggest Loser,” I was utterly mortified to see overweight people so blatantly ridiculed before a national audience. As I watched, I was reminded of my own bulging stomach.

“The Biggest Loser” is a weight-loss competition show in which overweight contestants compete to lose the most weight from their baseline measurements. They barely eat anything and exercise beyond their physical capacities. In the process of the competitors’ body transformations, television producers tempt them with junk food to test their ability to withstand sudden indulgences.

This show is incredibly disrespectful to overweight people in America. It is immensely degrading to fat people; it mocks their challenges with food-related impulses and mocks their inability to control them. The title itself slaps a demeaning label on overweight people as “losers.”

The stereotype that fat people are incapable, inferior, foolish, unattractive, and that they are “losers,” pervades media of all kinds. Fat characters in television, literature, and cinema are often made fun of for their weight. Sometimes portrayed as lazy, gluttonous, or simply ugly, fat characters are defined by and mocked for the shapes of their bodies. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” make me fear that when others look at me, they see only my body shape.

I may be bigger in size, but I am not a stereotype. Being fat should not be the defining characteristic of any member of any community, especially a high school like Andover. Just as Andover attempts to treat students of various genders, races, and religions with kindness and courtesy, we must respect students of all sizes as well.

It is completely unacceptable that shows like “The Biggest Loser” are on air. If you must watch the show, I urge each and every one of you to be cognizant of how offensive and degrading it is. Only when we, the viewers, are aware of how the media perpetuates negative stereotypes, can we begin to stop seeing each other as only a clothing size.

Sparky Yoo is a new Lower from Newton Highlands, Mass.