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The Minister of Health does not say the word "fat"

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In a new episode of “Bad News,” Alice Sneden talks to the Minister of Health of Aotearoa about obesity, but he doesn’t seem to utter a word.

Language evolves and terms that were previously accepted can suddenly be understood as offensive. At the same time, words that have long been considered offensive due to a learned aversion to their meaning and their precise use can be restored. In a new episode of “Bad News” titled “FAT,” host Alice Sneden talks about obesity and obesity in Aotearoa. During the episode, I sat down with Health Secretary Andrew Little to discuss the country’s high rates of obesity and whether obese people were people who made poor choices or just products from their environment and genetics. It’s a great topic but one that Little can’t call himself. Here’s how it went with the visual aid:

“Are you comfortable with the term obese people?”

Little’s interview begins with Snedden asking how he feels about “society’s attitude toward fat people”. Little hesitated. “I’m not,” he stammered, before Sneden intervened. “Are you comfortable with the term obese people?” She asks.

He responds by saying that we are now more likely to stigmatize people through ratings and “I take people for who they are and who they are… I don’t care what people look like or anything else.”


When Sneden goes on to ask if Little thinks there is a stigma around fat, Little takes his time to think.

“Who over my head?” asks himself. “Ah, I can’t, look, I can’t, I can’t say,” he shrugged. “I don’t know.”

People of all shapes and sizes

Sneden and Little discuss a little about how much a person weighs as a result of environmental versus personal choice factors. Sneden suggests that the fear of speaking out about issues like this “or even using terms like obesity” is slowing environmental changes from government about things like the cost of food and socioeconomic factors that affect neighborhood food choices. Little replies that he goes mountain biking on the weekends and sees “people of all kinds of shapes and sizes.”

“People who I would describe as having a high BMI, I have to be polite about it”

This is as close as it gets to saying the word. When clarifying who the “people of all kinds and sizes” are who ride his bike, Little adds, “People who I might describe as, you know, have a high BMI, they should be polite about that.”

The whole episode centers around the stigma of obesity and the assumption that obesity equals harm. Few attempts to “be polite about it” by referring to obese people as “having a high BMI”. He had previously stated that he did not know if there was a stigma around obesity in New Zealand.

Throughout the episode, Snedden talked about obesity and obesity, with only part of the episode featuring Little. But a cursory look at the full text of Little’s interview shows that he avoided using the word “fat” all the time except once when referring to “fats and sugars.” Just something to think about, really.

Tfw is being polite about it (Image: The Bad News)

Season 3 of Alice Snedden’s Bad News is now out weekly. Watch here.