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New Study: Diet Culture Dominates News About Larger Bodied People

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NAAFA.org
As we enter New Year's diet coverage season, evidence that news is almost 120 times more likely to focus on weight loss than equal rights for fat people

LAS VEGAS - EntSun -- New research out today from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA), the organization at the forefront of the fight for fat rights for over fifty years, reveals that diet and weight loss are still the major themes of the vast majority of media reports that include coverage of larger bodied people. The survey reveals that despite the success of the multi-talented global phenomenon Lizzo, and a rehash of the discussion of whether fat suits are fatphobic with every new movie using them, news coverage of the injustices fat people face and our efforts to eliminate discrimination without changing our bodies is extremely rare.

A quantitative review of one year of national news coverage (Dec. 1, 2021 - Nov. 30, 2022) showed that stories about weight loss still dominate the news media, with nearly 18,000 stories showing up in our search. There were more than 1,000 references to body positivity, a very popular online movement. Only 127 articles discussed weight stigma, bias or discrimination, and more than half of those were press releases. In the 12-month period, a mere 48 articles about anti-fatness were written or published by traditional news sources, and only 24 spoke about fat liberation or justice in any way.

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Pamela Mejia, Head of Research and Principle Investigator for the Berkeley Media Studies Group, conducted this first of its kind research. "I've been following fat rights and body positivity for years, and as a media researcher, I was curious to see if the movements had made an impact on the news. I have to admit, I was surprised to see how little coverage there actually was about fat civil rights and liberation."

"January can be a very hard month to be a fat person," explains NAAFA Chair Tigress Osborn. "The onslaught of New Years' resolutions and diet stories portray our bodies as a problem to be solved. Though 40% of Americans are fat, if we don't want to talk about weight loss, our stories are largely ignored."

Osborn adds, "As we have been expanding the call for anti-discriminaton laws to protect fat people, we find over and over again that most people are surprised to learn that fat people have little to no legal protection against size discrimination in 48 states. Seeing this data has helped us understand why–no one is covering fat civil rights at all. With pending legislation in 3 states and New York City, we have reason to hope that 2023 can be the year where fat rights makes the media agenda."

Recognizing that members of the media are often looking for ways to better represent their audiences and our world, the report offers a set of recommendations for how journalists can expand their coverage of fat people, include more voices and offer new narratives.

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"Recently, global companies like Google have been coming to us to ask how to improve their marketing and communications to better reflect the diversity of our bodies. We want to give reporters and journalists access to the same kind of opportunity to learn from people with lived experience," explains Osborn.

"Our research shows that there's definitely room for improvement in mainstream news coverage," says Mejia, "but the good news is that our findings point to many ways that journalists and editors can tell more complete and authentic stories about fat people."

For more information, to dive deeper in the data, or to learn more about NAAFA's work, contact Public Relations Director Amanda Cooper at pr@naafa.org.

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Founded in 1969, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is recognized as the world's first documented fat acceptance organization. We envision a culture where all fat people are free, celebrated, and liberated from every form of oppression. Through education, advocacy and support, NAAFA embodies effective change for individuals, communities and the world. NAAFA uses its influence and reputation to demand strategic improvements in policies and practices that impact fat people.

Berkeley Media Studies Group is a  nationally recognized leader in public health and media advocacy. Our work is dedicated to expanding advocates' ability to improve the systems and structures that determine health. A project of the Public Health Institute, we analyze the news to learn how the media characterize health issues, and we harness lessons from our research to help advocates become strong voices in national conversations about health.


Contact
Amanda Cooper
***@naafa.org


Source: NAAFA
Filed Under: Media

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