What’s so wrong with the F word?

KAWANA Anytime Fitness, hats off to you. Your ' Are you fat and ugly? Just be ugly !' sign made me belly laugh this morning.

Not only did you find a funny way to make the salient point that unlike our faces, weight is something we can actually work on, you also got us talking. Talking about something that has become such a taboo its reached peak 'do not mention the war' territory.

Fat. It's just a word. But it's become the catchcry for those who will be offended and I believe that's unfortunate, because in the face of offence, people tend to clam up out of politeness and that's just counter-productive.

Like the woman who brought the Kawana fat sign to our attention. Debbie Peut said she was

'horrified beyond explanation' by the sign and asked 'why is humiliating people funny?'

Well Debbie, I'd hazard a guess that the aim was not to humiliate, but to get to the point.

I can't imagine a gym, whose entire business model centres on supporting people in their journey toward wellbeing, would seek to humiliate potential customers.

On the contrary, it seems to me they were bold enough to tackle a taboo head on.

They weren't fat shaming anyone, simply suggesting that if you are overweight there are ways to address that. They were saying you do not have to stay overweight forever. If you have an unfortunately shaped nose however, you are either stuck with it or might find yourself seeking expensive surgery.

Making those facts plain on a sign is clever and funny and hopefully might capture the attention of some people seeking help with their weight.

It's also not bad marketing. Being bold can pay off.

As someone who has been overweight, thin and everything in between since my teens I am the first to acknowledge that weight is an intensely personal and sensitive issue. Weight is inexorably linked to our self esteem and emotional wellbeing. It can also be associated with genetics, biology and mental health which adds still more complexity. But that's why we need to talk about it more, not less.

Excess weight is a huge problem in Australia. It's a killer and its getting worse.

Accusing anyone who brings that up of fat shaming is not helping anyone. Celebrating those who 'embrace their curves', even when said curves veer into unhealthy territory is dangerous.

Saying, as Ms Peut did, that people can be 'healthy and fit' at any weight is misleading.

And, conversely, shaming anyone who dares express pride in a slim physique smacks not only of nastiness, but denial.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, overweight and obesity are major public health issues associated with significant risk for chronic disease and large costs for the health system.

Yet instead of talking about it rationally, we bury our heads in the sand or get affronted by anyone who dares broach the subject.

To those who are happy with their weight, whatever it is, more power to you. To those who are not and are struggling to find a solution that works for them, perhaps drop the defence mechanism and talk to someone who can help.

You never know, it might just be that Kawana gym who so bluntly drew reality to your attention.



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