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October 13, 2008

Scale of “Bullying Britain” revealed as obese targeted

Nine out of 10 overweight Britons have been called a derogatory name about their weight, and yet many who insult others are overweight or obese themselves.

The survey of 1000 adults, conducted for weight loss specialist LighterLife, reveals the shocking scale of abuse faced by overweight Britons, including:

· Weight-related name-calling is endemic in today’s Britain, with 90 per cent of overweight saying they have been victims. The top four most hateful names are “fatty”, “fat”, “lard arse”, and “fat b*****d”. Others include “fat slag”, “porker”, “thunder thighs”, “Mr Blobby” and “Ten Ton Tess”

· Forty six per cent of people admit to having called, referred to, or thought of an overweight person by a derogatory name because of their weight

· Yet the percentage of bullies who are themselves overweight is surprisingly high - 33 per cent of obese or very obese respondents admitted to this

Name-calling is a generational problem – the numbers calling names decrease on a sliding scale from 16-24-year-olds (56 per cent) through 25-34-year-olds (54 per cent), 35-44-year-olds (44 per cent), and 45-54-year-olds (41 per cent), to 55-64-year-olds (35 per cent).

When it comes to insulting friends and relatives, men are the most cruel, at 28 per cent – nearly a third – whereas many more women are restrained, at just 11 per cent. Again, the problem reduces with age – 29 per cent of 16-24-year-olds will call a friend or relative a derogatory name, whereas only 12 per cent of 55-64-year-olds will do this.

Where you live is likely to determine how much abuse you get – for example, twice as many Londoners would call a friend or relative a derogatory name, compared with Scots (30 per cent, compared with 15 per cent).

So when people do abuse their friends and relatives, who comes off worse?

Friends receive the brunt – overall, 68 per cent reserved abuse for their friends, but brothers or sisters still total 15 per cent; and partners and parents equal, at 10 per cent each.

Mandy Cassidy, a psychotherapist with LighterLife, said: “It’s sad that adults now find such behaviour acceptable, and particularly so among the younger age groups, as they could well carry through these views as they get older, thus increasing the problem even further.

People can appear to shrug off comments, she added, but inside, they can be devastated: “Often it is only through counselling that the full impact become clear - many of our clients have resorted to avoiding social occasions and decline invitations.

“Even some people who appear totally confident say that they become ‘really good liars’ and concoct a range of excuses for not attending events – which can drive them indoors, to eat as a way of dealing with their hurt and anger, which compounds the problem.

“Just because someone is overweight, it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to insult them. This type of prejudice isn’t tolerated in any other walk of life – so we shouldn’t allow it here?”

Dr Ian W Campbell. Hon Medical Director of charity Weight Concern, said: “These findings are very concerning. People who have a weight problem need support and encouragement, not ridicule.

“Many already have underlying psychological and self-esteem issues and this type of behaviour can only serve to make matters worse and cause a great deal of distress.

“Few people want to be very overweight and would love to be able to change. That process needs support, not criticism; it needs incentive, not punishment.”

Coping with verbal abuse

LighterLife has produced an online guide on how to cope with abuse, prepared by Mandy Cassidy, at

Mandy has a masters degree in psychotherapy with expertise in eating disorders. She said:

Respond, don’t react - When you react by becoming sarcastic, tearful or emotional, you feed into that type of bullying behaviour. Take a moment and pause. Stay calm and come back to the bully with an assertive response, but not in an aggressive or sarcastic manner. Let them know how you feel about their remark. Ask them assertively, not to repeat it again. Alternatively you can respond with ‘yes, I am overweight. I’m wondering why you are coming back to me on that?’

Keep an eye on your body language and facial expressions. Avoid scowling, finger-pointing or defensive gestures. Angry gestures can make the situation worse, even if you speak calmly.

Respond in a respectful way. Many people use hurtful words because they don't know how else to express themselves, so it won't help to act the way they do. Instead, set a good example by treating them with the respect you'd like them to give you.

Be positive - Continue to talk to yourself in a positive way. Tell yourself, ‘I am a valuable person’. Training yourself to understand and believing this will give you confidence. Affirmations of this kind are the method of simply repeating a positive phrase in front of the mirror, in the car, or writing it on paper. Whenever you catch myself thinking something negative, try to "change that thought" to a new more affirming one.

Imagine yourself at your most confident and notice how you’re standing, talking, your posture and your manner. Then, bring that image to mind when you’re faced with a difficult situation in which you feel compromised by someone who behaves in a bullying way. Feeling confident and adopting that confidence will help to ensure that you do not ‘give your power away’ to the other person.


Note to editors:

The nationally representative survey, conducted by BMRB, polled 1000 adults, and calculated the Body Mass Index (BMI) of each.

For further media information, interviews or case studies contact:

Matt Steele / Alan Murray – Murray PR for LighterLife
0207 544 0016 / 07887 877077–

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Murray PR in the following categories: Health, for more information visit