“As far as 'Fattitude' is concerned, most people are walking around with some form of negative body image, and the reason that is is because we live in a culture that is so critical of bodies,” Averill said. “One of the things that 'Fattitude' is trying to do is change the national conversation about body image so that we don’t focus specifically on individuals and telling them that they need to build up more confidence about their body image.”
Over the span of five years, they interviewed over 50 individuals nationwide, ranging from plus size supermodels to feminist and fat activists. They compiled over 100 hours of footage and began to shape the story of “Fattitude.”
Averill said they approached the documentary like an academic paper, developing a thesis and formulating an argument. They chose to approach the negative portrayal of fat people by compiling an overwhelming amount of fat shaming evidence from pop culture.
“When you’re seeing one fat joke, it’s just one fat joke,” Averill said. “What’s the big deal? But when you start to realize that there’s this undercurrent of constant fat jokes, that’s a different story.”
But not everyone supported their mission to expose how our national culture treats fat people. Averill said they received backlash and even some death threats.
“It was horrible to be attacked, but we were able to use the attacks to show that fat hatred and fat prejudice is real,” Averill said.
The negative attention the film received ultimately put “Fattitude” in the national spotlight and gave it a large following on social media. On Facebook alone, “Fattitude” has over 55,000 "likes" and over 56,000 followers.
Averill and Lieberman premiered the 90-minute documentary in November 2017 at the National Eating Disorder Association conference in Brooklyn, N.Y.
For Anna Lutz, a certified eating disorders registered dietitian, the film captured everything her practice teaches its patients.
“Our primary mission is to provide one-on-one nutrition counseling and — no matter what we are seeing someone for — to provide a non-diet approach,” Lutz said. “We know that focusing on health behaviors is actually what has been shown to improve people’s health parameters, rather than focusing on weight.”
Lutz and her co-owner Shauna Alexander decided their nutrition practice, Lutz, Alexander and Associates, wanted to bring the documentary to North Carolina immediately after seeing the film at the conference.
Lutz said she was so impressed by how much research “Fattitude” includes in its argument about fat shaming and prejudice that the practice sponsored the Raleigh screening. She also appreciated that the film promotes accepting body diversity instead of pushing for obesity reform.
“As someone who is really passionate about preventing eating disorders, I think that one factor of why we have eating disorders is our culture,” Lutz said. “We tend to focus on weight and the thin ideal. Until that changes as a culture and until we all start to accept body diversity and start supporting people of all sizes, then we are going to continue to have an increased rate in eating disorders, which is upsetting to me.”
Lutz said that she hopes people who are skeptical about a nutrition practice sponsoring a film called “Fattitude” will attend the event with an open mind. She placed emphasis on the film’s approach of acceptance of all body types and sizes, regardless of the reasoning behind the body’s appearance.
Jillian Rigert, a former medical student and dental resident at UNC, says she plans to attend the Raleigh screening. She is being treated for anorexia and was a former patient of Lutz while she lived in Chapel Hill.
“As I approach (age) 30 this year, I am finally growing comfortable enough in my own journey to speak up and fight out,” Rigert said. “Bodies are so incredible and are miraculous vessels that should be celebrated, but society's fat-phobia has made people go to all-out war with their bodies or use others' body types as a target for bullying. It pains me so deeply to see how much these messages are ruining lives and failing to really see people for who they are.”
Charlotte Rogus, a junior majoring in animal science at N.C. State University, also plans to attend the event. She's currently in the process of recovering from an eating disorder, and she said she related to the film and its message.
“I think this documentary serves as a wake-up call because it demonstrates how ingrained weight and food are in our culture and the negative impact that has on the lives of many,” Rogus said. “As someone who has personally struggled with an eating disorder, it makes me angry and sad to think that young girls and boys are growing up in a culture where they think their size is an indicator of their worth. I believe that this documentary will help to disprove that.”