What We Mean by “Thin Privilege”

thin woman
An example of thin privilege: only images of thin women appeared when I searched “attractive woman”

I rarely bring up the concept of thin privilege with thin people unless the situation warrants it (like when they are tsk tsking about fat people). My goal is always to try to bring people into the HAES fold with kindness and compassion, and I find bringing up something like thin privilege gets them on the defensive fast and shuts everything down and my seed planting goes to waste. Some might disagree with this philosophy and that’s okay.

I do talk about this quite a bit, however, with my clients in larger bodies because it provides a framework and understanding for why they experience weight stigma, and for why they long to be in thinner bodies. Who doesn’t want privilege?? We all want that.

At the same time, I strongly feel that dietitians and dietitians-to-be —  thin or not –absolutely must understand this concept if they want to practice compassionate care. At some point, dietitians will treat people in fat bodies, and it is imperative that they understand how people suffer so under such an unfair system of privilege. (It’s also important to understand that we need to change the unfair system and not the body size)

So when Aaron and I gave an introductory talk on Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating to a large group of dietetic interns, we were a little surprised at the “feedback” (more like vitriolic criticism) we got from several attendees for mentioning thin privilege (an example of the aforementioned shutting down). They felt they had been attacked personally by even the mention of thin privilege, even though no person in the room had actually been identified by us as having it — we were simply bring it up as a concept to consider when treating people in larger bodies.

Since we consider all life experiences fodder for a podcast,  this was our effort to process the whole experience and talk about why acknowledging thin privilege exists is so important (I had it once and can tell you it exists). If you are in a smaller body, I hope you’ll listen to this podcast with an open heart and mind, because no matter what, all bodies are good bodies, and we always appreciate our thin allies.

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