June 8, 2023

Alice Snedden’s Bad News looks at the stigmatisation of fat people in Aotearoa. 
If you put aside the fact that BMI is a racist and outdated metric, Aotearoa has the highest obesity rates in the world. In the new episode of Alice Snedden’s Bad News, the comedian weighs in on the ongoing stigma faced by fat people living in Aotearoa. Why do so many people still struggle with the word “fat”? Why is being fat still seen as a personal failing? Could it possibly be result of environment and genetics, rather than just poor life choices?

Joined by minister of health Andrew Little, former endocrinologist Robyn Toomath and academic Ashlea Gillon (Ngāti Awa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāiterangi), Snedden begins by examining our attitudes towards fat people. Has society reached a place of neutrality with fat people? “Fuck no” says Gillon. “It’s the worst thing you can possibly be, it is kind of the only acceptable system of oppression to perpetuate, because it is seen as a moral failing on you.” 
“The stigma is pervasive and it influences everything” says Toomath, who says that advice to simply “lose weight” fast became a mantra throughout the medical field. But when she noticed that patients with all the right food, exercise plans and lifestyle were still not losing weight after six months or a year, she realised things might not be so simple. “This was just prescribing bad medicine,” she says “Not only was it totally ineffectual but it also did harm.” 
Before colonisation, Māori didn’t even have a concept of obesity, says Gillon. “A lot of the te reo Māori kupu for fat also mean nourishment, plentiful, fertile.” Once European ways took hold, she says there was a reclassification of fat, brown bodies as “bad” bodies and thin white bodies as “good” bodies. But, as Toomath reveals, none of it is in our control at all. “We are as our genes determine, and so our environment enables us to reach our genetic potential.”
So if fatness isn’t the individual’s fault, what can we blame? Accessibility? Poverty? Housing? Fast food? $7 cabbage? What if… we didn’t need to blame anyone at all?
Watch more episodes of Alice Snedden’s Bad News here. Made with support from NZ On Air. 
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