Years ago I was watching a documentary about a tribe in Africa when I saw something which stood out in my young imagination: here were people who thought that larger women were especially beautiful because they embodied fertility, success and wealth for their husbands and the tribe in general. For these people, being thin only reminded them of their occasional periods of hunger. Overweight people were valued and cherished. Alas, it seems even these examples of different cultures and their different ways of looking at larger sized people have been mown down by Western ‘ideals’, according to a new study.
Researchers from Arizona State University have found that attitudes towards overweight people around the world have deteriorated so rapidly that they are now worse than in the USA and UK. The researchers surveyed people from nine different locations, asking a variety of questions about their attitudes towards overweight people. While negative body image has been a big problem in the US for decades, it hasn’t always been the case with the rest of the world. Now – probably due to the efforts of mass media, television and the internet – those attitudes have crossed both national and cultural boundaries.
This research shows that people in these far-flung regions now believe that overweight people are lazy, ugly, have no self-respect or self-control. In some cases, according to the report, this is in direct opposition to traditional cultural beliefs. While evangelical fat-haters like to believe that insulting and hurting people will ‘shock’ them into making changes in their lives, there is absolutely no evidence that this has any beneficial effect on people with weight problems. In fact, research shows that bullying of this nature is actually more likely to make them turn to food for comfort.