Fat shaming under neoliberalism and COVID-19: Examining the UK’s Tackling Obesity campaign

Tanisha Spratt, Luna Dolezal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the dynamics between fat shaming, neoliberalism, ideological constructions of health and the ‘obesity epidemic’ within the UK, using the UK Government’s recent Tackling Obesity campaign in response to Covid-19 as an illustration. We draw attention to how fat shaming as a practice that encourages open disdain for those living with excess weight operates as a moralising tool to regulate and manage those who are viewed as ‘bad’ citizens. In doing so, we begin by outlining how the ideological underpinnings of ‘health’ have been transformed under neoliberalism. We then consider the problematic use of fat shaming discourses that are often used as tools to promote ‘healthy’ lifestyle choices by those who view it as not only an acceptable way of communicating the health risks associated with obesity but also a productive way of motivating people with obesity to lose weight. Drawing on Graham Scambler’s theoretical framework regarding shame and blame (2020), we discuss how ‘heaping blame on shame’ has become a ‘wilful political strategy’ under neoliberalism, particularly as it relates to individuals with obesity, and how the Tackling Obesity campaign leverages concerns around ‘choices’ and ‘costs’ as a means through which to encourage normative models of self-care and self-discipline.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022


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