Fat Shaming or Fact?

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Recently Cancer Research UK released this campaign, identifying the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

CRUK said that being obese or overweight has correlations with 13 different types of cancer, but over 75% of people in the UK are unaware of this connection.

Award-winning comedian Sofie Hagen took to Twitter to condemn the advert, with others agreeing that Cancer Research UK were “fat shaming”. Others on Twitter disagreed, saying that the campaign was completely acceptable and people were taking it the wrong way. The only thing that was clear was that social media was divided by this provocative campaign.

This posed the question to me; is this a serious marketing error? Is this fat shaming? Or is it just fact?

The easiest starting point to answer this question is that there clearly is a connection with being overweight or obese to cancer.  Cancer Research UK’s sole purpose is to research cancer and provide us with their findings; it is their duty to warn the general public about factors that increase our chances of cancer – smoking and obesity included. I am sure the aim of Cancer Research’s campaign was not necessarily to fat shame.

Professor Linda Bauld, CRUK’s prevention expert said “The aim of the charity’s campaign is to raise awareness of the fact that obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. This is not about fat shaming. It is based on scientific evidence and designed to give important information to the public. Only 15% of people are aware that obesity is a cause of cancer. Cancer Research UK has a duty to put that message in the public domain. In addition to raising awareness, the campaign aims to help stem the rising tide of obesity by urging the government to create a climate that makes healthier food choices easier for everyone.”

The @CR_UK Twitter account also responded to Sofie in a 2-part reply, saying “(1/2) Hi Sofie, our campaign isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad about their weight or make anyone think negatively about people who are overweight or obese. Our aim is to raise awareness of the link between cancer and obesity” “(2/2) … as after smoking, obesity is the second biggest cause. It is our duty to inform people about this and lobby the government on policies which will help us all to keep a healthy weight. For more info, head to our website: http://po.st/J5kOFP

The fact is that it’s common knowledge that Britain is not as healthy as it should be, with BBC reporting that “Britain needs to go on a diet” ( http://bbc.in/2oQSlqg). 24.9% of our population are obese compared to 15.6% in France, and we are the top of the “Europe obesity league” as reported by the NHS.

Our government does need to act on this and we do need to be made aware of the risks – but for those who do struggle with obesity, it is not just as simple as “getting healthy”.

Many feel that overweight people are routinely discriminated against in schools, workplaces, the media and sometimes even healthcare professionals. This stigma can be detrimental to them becoming healthier.

This suggests that although these are facts, the way they speak about them needs to change as to not push back somebody’s ability to feel AND be healthier and happier.

Many people’s issue with the CRUK campaign was that some felt that they were being blamed for being obese, and therefore were to blame if they were to get cancer.

Ultimately, Cancer Research UK do have a duty to inform the public on what the risks are to them. However, it should not be done in a way that could have implications to somebody, anybody’s mental or physical health. Obesity is a problem that needs to be tackled in the right way – with over 61.7% of adults in England being either overweight or obese (http://bit.ly/2B9ZiYH) this is not something that can be ignored, but it is not something that can solely be blamed on individuals and be deemed as easy to solve.

Written by Jessica Grubb

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