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What is Thin Privilege?

Since society discriminates against people in larger bodies, people who are in smaller bodies benefit from thin privilege. Thin privilege refers to the way in which people in thin bodies are systematically treated better than people in fat bodies.

While all people can struggle to love and accept their bodies, society is rooted in fatphobia and diet culture which oppress fat people. This discrimination does not only manifest itself in harmful comments and snide remarks about the physical appearance of fat people, but it also shows up in the way fat people are cared for. For example, people in fat bodies typically receive worse medical care than people in thin bodies. Weight stigma affects the way medical professionals assess their needs and doctors often can’t see past the number on the scale. If someone with thin privilege went to a doctor for knee pain, the doctor may look into the issue more to see if something was seriously wrong. On the other hand, if a fat person went to the doctor with knee pain the doctor may simply tell them to lose weight and be turned away from further examination. This weight stigma could result in a misdiagnosis for people in fat bodies. It could also result in fat people choosing not to go to the doctor when other issues arise, out of fear that their symptoms will be written off and they’ll be told to “lose weight.”

Weight stigma ultimately results in negative health outcomes for fat people (although fat people are told their weight is to blame).

Weight stigma ultimately results in negative health outcomes for fat people (although fat people are told their weight is to blame). Meanwhile, people in thin bodies benefit from the privilege of knowing their weight will not be blamed for their health outcomes and their symptoms will be taken seriously.

People in larger bodies not only face discrimination from healthcare workers, but they also face it from friends, employers and the media. People in larger bodies are more likely to experience negative health outcomes (especially related to mental health) due to this weight stigma. Meanwhile, people in thin bodies benefit from thin privilege that allows them to:

  • Go to a doctor and know that their symptoms will be treated, without the doctor assuming their weight is to blame

  • Eat what they want without people making judgements or comments

  • Fit into clothing from mainstream stores

  • Fit comfortably in public spaces such as busses, chairs, and planes

  • See their body type represented in a positive light by the media

  • Know that if they didn’t get a job or position it did not have to do with their body size

  • Go to public spaces and not worry about being body shamed

These examples of thin privilege clearly identify the systems of oppression that discriminate against fat people and leave people in thin bodies to benefit.

Weight stigma is another form of discrimination like racism or sexism, but people typically write it off because they continue to put blame on fat people, furthering the false narrative that fat people are lazy and make unhealthy choices. In reality, doctors will tell fat people to go on a diet even though we know that intentional weight loss does not work, and these failed attempts at losing weight (aka yo-yo dieting) are linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and other negative health outcomes. We cannot know if someone is healthy just by looking at them. People can be healthy at all different sizes and the link of higher weight to negative health outcomes can largely be explained by the negative effects of weight stigma.

We must fight against the discrimination and fatphobia that is actively harming people. We must know the importance of the body positive movement that stands for the acceptance and respect of all people regardless of body shape, size, color, identity, or ability. For a body positive outlet that preaches body love and acceptance, listen to the Ignited by Inner Beauty podcast.


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