An Open Letter to Brené Brown

Dear Brené,

I was at your Braving the Wilderness book event in Portland, Oregon earlier this fall. I have purchased and devoured almost every book you have written. I have had in-depth conversations about shame resiliency with my community and friends. I have read quotes from your book to my yoga students (I’m a yoga teacher). I strive to live my life wholeheartedly and I believe showing up and being vulnerable is the most courageous and powerful way to create real connection. You taught me the true meaning of empathy.

I would like to share a little bit about my experience at your Portland event, in the name of truly braving the wilderness, as you invited all of us to do.

I arrived at the event, eager and full of joy to get to see you live and in person for the first time. My best friend was with me and we were overjoyed! I got to my seat and realized it was really uncomfortable, my hips didn’t fit, and my knees were jammed into the person’s seat in front of me. I am 6’3 and fat (I prefer this term to “overweight” or “obese” as these terms are used to pathologize my body and dehumanize me). As I sat there perched and uncomfortable I thought, “Oh my god! Of course, I’m gonna go ask for a different seat because I’m here at this amazing event and Brené would totally encourage me to dare greatly, be vulnerable, and care for myself.” 

I’m not sure if you have ever had to ask for a different seat in a public space, but it usually goes one of two ways for me. Either the people at the venue are kind and help me figure out a solution and I can talk myself off the ledge of a shame spiral, or they insist there is nothing they can do, so I shove myself in the seat that I barely fit in and stew in shame soup, later finding bruises on my hips from the arms of the chair and bruises on my heart from feeling, again, that I don’t belong or fit in a space that is designated for “everyone”. But that night felt different, I felt empowered and I felt brave.

I asked someone at the door to help me out, and they sent me to the box office where two really kind men helped me sort out a new solution. As I was standing there I noticed a gap in the curtain where the backstage area was, and I saw YOU! I even had a little thought that perhaps you have a brave-o-meter and can sense when an act of courage is happening within a 50-meter radius and wondered if you could tell that I was, in fact, standing there—courageous as fuck— and beaming because I participated in my life and I asked for what I needed. 

Once settled in my new seat, I was comfortable and ready for the show. You came on and immediately had the crowd rolling and smiling and I felt a sense of connection with everyone. As you got into your groove, I was feeling it and then you started talking about loneliness. As you were talking about loneliness you quoted a study or fact that people are more likely to die from the effects of loneliness than smoking and obesity…I looked around when you included this word and I didn’t see shock, I didn’t see dismay, I just saw a bunch of people nodding and smiling.

But I felt confused, and I felt hurt, so let me tell you why…

My body has been pathologized my whole life by doctors, and healthcare professionals, and I always thought my size was my fault. I also thought that if I just found the right diet or the right amount of exercise, I could cure myself of the unbearable burden of living in a larger body.

I’m not sure if you know, but the guiding force behind the dieting industry is shame. And do you know the guiding force behind the so-called “obesity epidemic” is the diet industry? And the guiding force behind the diet industry is capitalism, not healthcare? Did you also know that the western medical system prescribes diets for weight loss as the “cure” for obesity when there is no scientific data that shows diets equate to lasting weight loss? There is actually more data that shows dieting leads many into a lifetime of disordered eating, which often results in a higher set point weight—the weight the body feels comfortable and stable at. 

So as I’m sitting in my comfortable, arm-free chair that I had to advocate for myself to get, and I hear the word obesity coming from the woman who is supposed to be an expert on shame, I feel my heart sink. I did not choose to be fat. In fact, I’ve cycled between starving and gorging my body almost my whole life because of my fear of fatness. I am a lot fatter now because I tried to tamper with my body’s hunger system rather than allowing this amazing body of mine to be trusted to sort itself out.

Now you may be thinking, “wow this person who I don’t know, is sharing a ton of information with me, all because I used the word obesity?” 

Yes, because using the word obesity is a micro-aggression and every time I hear it, I feel a little paper cut on my heart—a little reminder of what the world thinks of my body and me. Every time I hear the word obesity, I know someone around me is sitting in shame because someone else has just pathologized their body and dehumanized them. Fat people are dehumanized daily by society.  Your talk was about how we dehumanize people. Do you not see the connection? People should not be dehumanized by the queen of shame resilience.

Over time, these little cuts on my heart become big gaping wounds and I know that you are in the business of healing shame and not fueling it.

So when I heard you use obesity in a context that could have been swapped out for any REAL disease or ailment without taking away from the point you were making, I had to say something. Because I love you Brené, and I love the work you do. But you spoke to a room full of people about how we have to stop dehumanizing our fellow brothers and sisters, and then you dehumanized every fat person in the audience. So please, please, please stop using the word obesity.

One of the greatest tools we have in the fat acceptance and body positive movement is your brilliant work on shame resiliency. It has helped so many beautiful, sad, confused, and self-blaming fat people find the bravery to live their lives. Day in and day out I have to navigate the world knowing that I might be dehumanized.

I might be referred to as an animal.

I might get called a fat bitch.

I might have to ask for another seat.

I might be refused a seat on an airplane. 

This letter is not meant to shame you because I truly believe you don’t know about the experience of a fat person who is trying to reclaim their body and has decided that they will not be blamed for the cultural oppression and stigma of weight bias and fat-phobia. You, yourself, might be deathly afraid of being fat. I know that fear so deeply. And that’s why I feel it is my duty to share with you my experience. Because if we are truly going to make the world a better place then we have to do it together.

This world has a whole lot of amazing changemakers who happen to be fat. I think it’s time we invite sizeism into the diversity conversation to make space for healing. I’m in the wilderness with you Brené, let’s widen the lens together.

Anna Louise Eileen Chapman
Be Nourished Business Manager

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  1. Jacoby Ballard on April 12, 2018 at 5:08 am

    Anna, this is great and I hope she responds to your invitation to love deeper, in the form of examining her language and how she furthers the very body shaming her work intervenes in. I’m particularly noting here how in the intentional writing of every word, you are not shaming Brene, but calling her in, calling her up to a deeper, vaster wisdom. I am a yoga teacher too, doing work at the intersection of embodied practice and social justice, and I’m wondering if you know about the Yoga and Body Image Coalition (and the 3 anthologies they’ve compiled)? Or the work of my fat colleagues Amber Karnes, Katie Beane, RW Alves, Dianne Bondy? I’d love to be in touch! Kudos on your depth of practice, so evident in your writing.

    • anna on April 12, 2018 at 10:43 am

      I would love to hear more about the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, email me! (

  2. DLS on April 2, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    I have friends who talks about micro aggression and the effects it has. Until now I viewed the term as academic which didn’t really resonate with me. The detail you offer on how you are affected and injured has opened my eyes to micro aggression. I do appreciate academia work on Micro aggression but there is nothing more powerful when someone can articulate the damage it causes, like you have in your letter.

    I’m going to be more aware of the terms I choose to use and others in my surroundings use. Thank you for sharing your pain. It has changed me forever.

  3. AMT on March 12, 2018 at 10:35 am

    I am enjoying this supportive discussion. However, I am wondering if we can focus on the content of the letter and avoid making judgments, either positive or negative, about the author’s writing? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m guessing she prefers us to focus on her message rather than critique her writing.

  4. Kris Beagle on February 21, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    Anna- I was looking through some Brené Brown stuff online and came across this beautiful picture of you. I always feel you beam with such brightness!
    But the best part was reading your letter. WOW! What an eloquent masterpiece. You really hit home not just for your own feelings but the feelings of many. Why do we need labels at all? Great job on standing in your truth and speaking what your heart urged you to do… YOU ARE BADASS BRAVE!

  5. Sharyn Holmes on January 31, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    Dear Anna, I came across your post while researching the cavernous gap between Brene’s shame work and racism. I’ve long recognised the gap between self-help and personal development and the acknowledgment of diversity in all its forms. I’m grateful to you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

    Thank you so much for writing your letter. I know it will help many people. I am putting together a resource list and will include a link to this letter.
    wishes, Sharyn

  6. Marius D on December 4, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    If you’d only been equally offended at the shaming of smokers.

    • Kelly P on January 11, 2018 at 12:30 am

      She likely isn’t one. That would be a letter for a smoker to write.

  7. Leah on November 27, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    I was at that same event but I did not have the courage to ask for another seat. I was in excruciating pain in that seat the entire event and since I came one I was so grateful the people around me were kind and I did not feel ashamed for encroaching on their space. I will definitely be brave the next time and ask for a different seat.

  8. Katie on November 27, 2017 at 11:47 am

    That is a lovely letter. These are my initial thoughts. I don’t think it’s fair to ask Brene to not speak about something that is important to her. I personally want to be in harmony with my body. I do think it’s important to have words such as obesity as markers. The studies are clear, at a certain level, extra weight does increase risk of diseases. My asthma is so much worse when I’m over my personal ideal, which still is considers overweight, but it works for me. Asthma isn’t a respector of my feelings. I’ve also watched my hospice patients come in younger and younger, dying of lifestyle related diseases. This is just reality. Will everyone die young? No.
    The importance is in making sure a medical term is not what we mark our self worth on. Those are separate conversations. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m at my healthiest when I’m happiest. I go to the gym out of love for my body, but hate.
    I’m not saying you are wrong. This is how I feel at the moment, but I will consider your words more in depth. Thank you.

  9. Sawyer on November 22, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Hey there. Thank you for your emotional labor and vulnerability in writing this. I am curious. Did Brene ever respond to you? And if so. Where can we read that?

    • anna on November 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      Hi There,

      Brené has not responded, we will post something if she does write back.


      • Vianne on November 23, 2017 at 10:33 pm

        Hi Anna, I so admire your courage and bravery! Thank you for opening my eyes and heart to a new understanding. I have not been very good at speaking my truth and am open to learning how.
        I have read through all the comments and I saw you said that Brene had not responded. I just wanted to make sure you have seen this response and maybe followed up with her suggestion. I also believe Brene will honestly look at this. I am So thankful for you! Blessed BE – Vianne

        Roxanne Erdahl
        November 9, 2017
        Dear Anna,
        First I want to disclose that I am a Daring Way Facilitator. That means I am certified to facilitate the curriculum and teachings of Brené Brown. I have been a facilitator since 2014. I actually just got back from Courage Camp in Houston, where I joined 150 facilitators to discuss how we can bring this work more effectively in to the world.
        I am also a Life Coach and coach individuals, couples and families.
        I so appreciate you writing your feelings about Brené using the word obesity. I have dealt with my own body image issues over the years and understand how this word triggers shame in many. Our self worth in this country is so tied in to how we look. Your courage to speak your truth is so powerful and needed.
        I would encourage you to send your thoughts directly to The Daring Way office. You will find the email on under the Contact Us. They want to know how their community feels. There is no one I have ever met more open to feedback then Brené. We need to remember that she is a warrior out there is a world that can not always be open to her way of thinking and being. She needs to know how much she is supported. With that said we will not grow our own authenticity as a community if we do not have these types of conversations. Again my thanks for showing up, being seen and living brave. Always in gratitude. A fellow traveler. Roxanne

  10. Cathy M on November 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Thank you!

  11. Avery Ray Colter on November 14, 2017 at 10:13 am

    I know firsthand that thin and neutral size people don’t know the real deal unless they have deep and direct experience. For myself, it was because from an early age my own internal signaling directly and vehemently contradicted the ugly tropes which I was hearing applied to fat bodies. But that is ancillary to what I mean to pose. If you have someone you know really cares and wants to be constructive, your voice to them is always needed.

    Indeed the word in question here translates by its etymology to something like “runaway eater”, and thus even as a clinical term should only be applied to the starkly discrete number of people who live with genetic conditions which involve severely muted or outright lacking satiety signals. And there is another clinical term, adiposity, which to me is a less cause-assuming and more directly descriptive term, as it refers to a physical element of the body, just as describing someone as muscular or bony or nervous.

    I can pretty much guess that Brene may have just pulled what she was saying from the headlines, that the effects of loneliness and isolation make for a public health issue all its own. I just watched a NIH discussion about stress as a public health issue. The juxtaposition of this with fatness, to me, really opens up the opportunity to pose what many in the HAES community, whether explicitly or not, have been for some time: that stress, loneliness, and isolation, shame-mongering, bullying, lack of proper seating and medical equipment, and the like, are either in whole or in part the REAL reason for fat people showing up in health statistics of concern! There are indications that directing care at healing the wound of the mind is more effective at supporting bodily vitality than hammering on adiposity; only when the social weaponization is at least markedly reduced can there be any pretense of ruling out its power of mind-borne and body-borne devastation.

  12. Robin Massey on November 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for this post, and thank you to those who have so thoughtfully commented. I’ve used “obesity” and “obese” and never really thought about the words, and this is opening my eyes, heart, and mind in new directions and to different perspectives. Thank you!

  13. Leora Fulvio on November 12, 2017 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you for this. Ever since I saw her post on the Whole 30 I’ve been crafting a letter to send her. I don’t think she knows/understands much about the Eating Disorder community and I am sure that she would love to learn more about us and what we’re about and why we don’t use specific wording/phrases. The ED Recovery/HAES community is small and the “Anti-Obesity” movement is pervasive and insidious and it’s important to get our message out to those who would both understand it and have influence. Bravo for this amazeballs letter.

  14. Jacqui Gibson-Clark on November 12, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I loved this letter and love you. Thanks for this. I just now remembered her reference to obesity in the book and can remember flinching and rolling by it as I am so well trained to do. I appreciate you bringing this up for all of us. I have practiced stifling my outrage, accepting slights and internalizing blame for so long, it is standard practice for me to not notice when people make mistakes in my direction. This is especially hard when someone you love or admire makes a mistake.

    xoxo Jacqui

    PS – I too am a fat yoga teacher!

  15. Amy on November 11, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    YES YES YES. I felt the exact same way when I read that in her book. I am sure Brene isn’t aware of this and by you writing this I hope this opens the door for her to delve into this topic a little more deeply and learn a bit more about this community. I recently reached out regarding the sizing on her website – I was ready to buy ALLl the T-shirts on the site until I realized none of them would fit me. It made me feel invisible for a second. And I, doing the BRAVE thing, reached out. They said others had voiced the same thing and were looking into other options. We just continue speaking up and standing up, stepping into the arena. Again, thanks for your work!

  16. LaJean on November 11, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I very much applaud the bold and courageous feelings in this post. However, as a physiologist and health/wellness coach, I am challenged in knowing how to resolve my awareness of the rather negative and sobering medical consequences of high body fat levels with my sincere supportiveness of body positivity. Does abandoning guilt and shame and growing positivity around whatever body size I am mean dropping awareness and respect for how I should nurture it physically? Or does body positivity in its purest form mean treating my body with tenderness, spiritual/emotional growth daily, optimal nourishment, and life-enhancing exercise? I would truly appreciate any insights, as I struggle with a wise understanding of this.

    • Danielle on November 13, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Here’s my two cents on that. In my therapy training, I have been led to believe that there are people who just need to be informed and supported to do the right thing with their health and body. I suppose those people exist, but in my experience they are merely mythological creatures. Every single client I have dealt with who wanted to make positive changes in their health and well-being have already been so far on the shame and guilt and shoulds spectrum that any type of support or information about ‘doing the right thing for your body’ is not only not constructive but detrimental. So it’s not about abandoning self-care. It’s about recognizing the psychological and emotional shifts that need to happen. And, as I said, for every client I’ve seen this has been about letting go of shoulds and fear and just being overall easier, much easier, on themselves. Yes, there are health risks associated with certain body types but there is no good evidence I’ve seen that trying to change your body type leads to better outcomes. I think of it like how there are health risks associated with being super tall. But trying to become less tall is not the way to address those risks. So if your self nurturing is coming from a place of respect and love, great, but if it is coming from a place of fear and shoulds, then it might not be helpful.

      • LaJean on November 14, 2017 at 11:34 am

        Thank you so much, Danielle. I have a long ways to go in my own understanding, growth, and development of more compassion and empathy around this topic, and this is a very helpful first step.

  17. FatHeffalump on November 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you.

  18. Julie on November 11, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    Point of clarification – in this context, smoking is a risk factor for death, causing death indirectly, for some, but certainly not all people who smoke. Loneliness and shame are also risk factors for death, causing death indirectly. Obesity can be looked at the same way, although the data on causation is less conclusive than for smoking, and the benefits of reversing obesity are (A) not proven, and (B) often temporary at best, and (C) can do more harm than good. That’s why it’s not scientifically valid to compare obesity to smoking and — in this case — loneliness and shame. As a data-driven scientist, Brene Brown should know better! As an expert on shame, she should do better. She needs to examine her language and realize that “obesity” is not a neutral term for fat people who have been fat-shamed and abused by the medical community, and by the rest of the world.

  19. Susan on November 11, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Wow! Thanks for being such a bright light and your courage to shine it to illuminate such wisdom.

  20. Melissa Parks on November 11, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Anna, thank you so much for writing this letter and for sharing it here on your website! I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found such joy from Brene’s work as I have too and I recommend her books, videos, articles, etc. all the time to my therapy clients. Your letter gave me a great deal to think about as I consider myself a practitioner who follows a HAES approach, but this was a good reminder that I too have a lot of room to learn and grow with this approach. I hope that your letter reaches Brene and helps her to improve her message and ensure it reaches as many people as possible. Take care!

  21. Charlotte Bradley on November 11, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Thank you for sharing this, and for the thoughtful dialogue it has inspired. For me what got triggered was not so much the word “obesity” but rather the implication that “if you are larger than average, you are sick and killing yourself”. So when we dig deeper, the message is fat = bad, fat = ill, fat = death. Others pointed out, use the names of actual things that kill people like COPD (vs smoking which probably felt pretty darn shaming to any smokers who might have been in the room), heart disease, cancer, etc. I have been fat/obese my whole life…but that does not necessarily make me ill or “killing myself”. I can love my larger body, feed it well, give it regular exercise and feel strong and empowered in it. Most days I genuinely feel great, strong and beautiful in my skin (after years of therapy and working as a therapist myself). Should I be diagnosed with an actual disease or issue, carrying extra weight may or may not be a factor. Anyway, the point is let’s be aware of the underlying, shaming assumption that fat = bad = it’s so fucking bad to be fat that it’ll kill you. If I allowed that toxic message to really sink in, I’d probably never emerge from the shame cycle.

  22. JD Ouellette on November 11, 2017 at 6:43 am

    This seems to me to be more of the idea that of course fat people are unhealthy and miserable. No questioning of that core assumption.

    My BMI is probably in the low 30s (haven’t been weighed in 5 years). I would put my health and energy levels up against any 53 year old woman – though I am still getting back to full fitness after a hiking accident. The ER doc said “Bad news is your leg is broken. Good news is ‘I hiked 2.5 miles out of Hellhole Canyon with a broken leg is a badass story’”. It is and I am. I also have an important and fulfilling career and amazing husband, children, and a grandson. Today I will be riding my bike at the beach with him on the back.

    This letter matters so much. You cannot support our right to live our best lives and pity us at the same time and that’s what this reads like to me.

  23. Patti Kennedy on November 11, 2017 at 6:35 am

    Anna Louise Eileen Chapman you ROCK!

  24. Andy Gish on November 11, 2017 at 6:07 am

    I applaud you for asking for a new chair (crazy brave!!). I’m also a memeber of the Church of Brene Brown and also fat! But I’m also a nurse and former researcher and I just want to offer a different perspective. Dr. Brown is a researcher. Obesity is a medical term. It’s not a pretty one but it is a proper medical term and you probably know they have lovely medical terms like “grossly obsess” – yea, for that one! I don’t think the fault lays with Dr. Brown using the word I think it’s the medical world equating obesity itself with death. Yes, being fat can cause medical problems but it doesn’t always and it surely doesn’t always lead to death! I think she was using a proper medical term and I do think she would be enthralled by your bravery that day!

  25. Lisa DuBreuil, LICSW on November 11, 2017 at 5:30 am

    Anna – you are a rock star, and it was such a pleasure to meet you last week and hang out at BEDA!

    There are three other people I know of (all mental health clinicians) who have spoken to Brene Brown at some point in the past few years about her use of obesity rhetoric and her use of fat people’s bodies as examples of our culture’s problems. I hope she is able to hear you and shift both her language and thinking. Whether or not she does so, I thank you SO SO MUCH Anna for being brave and showing up.

  26. Shelby Leigh on November 11, 2017 at 2:57 am

    Anna, i could feel the heart paper cute as you spoke about them with tears in my eyes. Thank you so much for authentically speaking your truth and bringing light to Brené and so many other people. ❤️

  27. Emily Mercer on November 10, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    I’m jumping up and down selfishly saying “THATS MY FRIEND!!! YES YES I KNOW HER.” To say I’m proud is an understatement. I love you.

  28. Tracey on November 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    you have inspired me to tell me own story of public shaming by someone at the front of the room
    i think i shall
    thank you for your bravery

  29. Michelle Forrest on November 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Dear Anna,

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for taking the time and having the courage to write and send this letter to Brene Brown. I was at her Braving the Wilderness book event in Seattle in September, seeing her in person for the first time. What a joy! And I cringed when she mentioned that study or fact about loneliness killing more people than smoking or “obesity”…yet, I didn’t say anything. THANK YOU for being brave enough to do so. Thank you for speaking your truth! I greatly appreciate it!

  30. Chris Mack on November 10, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Wow! Very powerful words and extremely enlightening. I always thought the word “obesity” was being politically correct and using the word “fat” was disrespectful. I learned something today. I will remember this because I never want to make anyone feel judged simply because I didn’t know the proper words to use. Thanks Anna.

  31. Danielle on November 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Bravo! Brave-o-meter is going wild! I really hope this makes it to Brene Brown’s inbox. I would love to be able to feel good about recommending her books and talks to my clients. I appreciate Brene Brown’s work a great deal but I don’t recommend it for my clients because she pathologizes using food for emotional reasons such as numbing out.
    I have never, in 15+ years as a therapist, seen any of my clients benefit from calling emotional eating dysfunctional and trying to eat less/differently based on that. I am sorry to say that I used that framework when I started my practice since that was what I was taught – emotional eating is pathological. But when I realized that no one was improving in terms of mental health by using that paradigm, I began to rethink things and have now for many years promoted only one way of looking at eating – have no shame about eating, eat when you want, what you want and accept your body knows what size and shape it needs to be. This has been a hard sell to clients and to my colleagues but I am seeing a shift over time as my clients start getting stronger, healthier and moving beyond the shackles of eating disorders and internalized body hate. Obesity is not a disease, dieting doesn’t work and eating food for any reason is healthy. What’s unhealthy is fear, guilt and shame.
    Sorry for the rant! I get passionate about this. It’s so encouraging to see I’m not alone.

  32. Simone Shah on November 10, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. As someone who has used the term, it was very eye opening for me.

  33. Ellen Pierce on November 10, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Brene tells a story about how she used the word, “gyped” in a presentation and someone kindly explained to her the meaning of that word. She immediately stopped using it. I suspect this would be the case here too, although I don’t know.

    She tells a story about a man who called his neighbor a “chink” and his son calls him racist. The next time that the father and son talk the father is driving his neighbor to hospital. They are good friends, and it’s a mistake of languaging, not the goodness of the person’s heart. Shaming drives a deeper wedge. Clarifying can clear up the language to be of benefit to more people. Thanks for writing.

  34. Cara on November 10, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    I know this is a bit tangential, but: what would you say to the smoker in the audience who felt ashamed by that statement?

    • Charlotte Bradley on November 11, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Exactly!! I’ve never been a smoker but I felt triggered by that too, Say lung cancer, or COPD, the actual diseases that cause death.

  35. Emily Workman on November 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    As someone who is relatively new to the body positive movement, I find this issue super confusing to navigate and am so lot on what the ‘correct’ term is that we should be using. And, I see based on comments on here from large bodied women, that not everyone agrees with your sentiments about the word ‘obesity,’ So, I’m just curious how you would suggest society navigate this issue given that, outside of the body positive movement, the word ‘fat’ has a wildly degrading and disrespectful connotation (thanks, diet culture, for that one!). In public, if I abandoned the term ‘obesity’ and instead used ‘fat’ as a descriptor, I am certain that I would face an enormous amount of backlash and a lot of anger. In fact, until I was introduced to this movement just 4 months ago, I didn’t allow the word ‘fat’ to be uttered in my household and I still cringe every time I hear it because I have spent 25+ years of my life being called fat as a way to hurt me.

  36. Alex van Frank on November 10, 2017 at 11:53 am

    That was absolutely beautiful, brilliant, and well written. Thank you. ??

  37. Kelly on November 10, 2017 at 11:37 am

    I appreciate this, as someone who was horrified the first time a medical professional referred to me as morbidly obese in my younger life. I’ve never been thin. I have been fat shamed and denied dignity my entire life because of my body. That said, I believe because Brene is a social worker and PhD, who studies humans and their behaviors through her research, she was simply using the clinical term for being over weight or fat or whatever we want to call it. I don’t take offense at her using the word. I know she means no insult or harm. I know that the diet industry profits from shaming us, as do medical professionals. It’s been one of the most hateful and negatively impactful forces in my life, starting with my pediatrician. Again, I know Brene is using the word obesity in the same manner she would use the words alcoholism, anxiety, or even sociopath – as a clinical term. Had she lumped us all into the category of food addiction, I would have taken more offense, since some of us are just not born thin. Many of us go on to develop a food addiction to soothe ourselves after being called fat and shamed, but that’s another story. I’m not saying this discussion doesn’t need to happen, but we also need to realize this is a woman who measures things for a living and uses clinical words in her work. She isn’t a life coach, but rather a serious researcher. That’s why I am not shocked or upset by her choice of word. There is a middle ground of understanding that should take place on both sides. It also is shaming to take her use of the word as insensitive without discussion about her intent. Had it been a racial or homophobic slur, there would be no excuse, but that’s not the case here. The AMA has a word for being fat or over the average range of weight for our height, and it’s obese. What we as a society assign to that term is another thing. I have spent 50 years overcoming the stigma society, my mother, and medical professionals have traumatized me with. I get it, and appreciate you writing this. It’s important. I just wanted to present my viewpoint as a fat woman who is seeing this as clinical, versus fat shaming behavior. I also don’t want to direct our anger over fat shaming towards someone who followed medical guidelines in relaying her research findings as a PhD, versus the industries that destroy us and shame us every day. I hope you’re able to have this discussion with Brené.
    Kelly ?

    • Cynthia Newcomer on November 10, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      The word “obese” pathologizes fat, turns it into a disease. And it is not, it is a human condition, just as being short, tall or thin is. That’s why so many of us have an issue with the word. It’s what’s behind it.

    • JD Ouellette on November 11, 2017 at 6:34 am

      If she’s a serious researcher, she should know that underweight is more dangerous than overweight, that there are no health risks (as a class) until obesity classes 2 & 3 (morbid obesity) and that a huge piece of weight-related health risk is due to the stigma she is adding to.

  38. Marta on November 10, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Thank you so much for writing this letter. I saw brene live four years ago and was impacted similarly. Shock is the right word for what I felt. The use of the word suggests to me that brene still has shame to unpack and awareness of self and others to develop, as well all do. The way you’ve written this letter is such a beautiful, clear, and non accusatory way of dealing with this situation. Massive kudos and thanks to you.

  39. Maura on November 10, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I can sadly empathize with the micro-level thoughts and anxiety that you experienced but I wanted to thank you for validating something I had been trying to connect in my discomfort for a popular author- i felt a microaggression I think, and I just thought I was irrational for being so annoyed that it discolored my feelings for her (she’s a “hey we’re all broken- let’s feel better” kind of writer).
    Thank you for writing this. You are beautiful.

    • Rachel Asbury on November 10, 2017 at 10:47 am

      I am a Certified Daring Way Facilitator and am in a group of close friends who are also CDWFs. I just wanted to share that we have been in discussion about your letter and the comments it has sparked. I am touched and inspired by your compassionate courage. Your words have rung unexpectedly true for me. I am also so aware that courage extends beyond speaking up, it is also includes having the courage to continue to look at how our own hidden shame tapes shape our perception of ourselves and our world. Thank you for sparking growth and introspection in me, and doing it in a way that was so compassionate and with such generosity that I could easily hear it.

  40. Nicole Marshall Concha on November 10, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Thank you for your candor and powerful words, Anna. I felt the same way when I saw Brené talk on Super Soul TV, Oprah’s station (I have similar issues with Oprah as well, obviously) and she deprecated her own body on stage. I share a lot of her work with clients (I’m a therapist) but this type of thing forces me to tread lightly. I hope she reads your letter and hears our marginalized voices. It was great meeting you at the BEDA/NEDA conference last week! See you on Instagram ☺️

  41. Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés on November 10, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Dear Anna Louise Eileen Chapman
    As a lifelong ‘woman of size’ [as I call myself,] now in my seventies, yes, I encourage you to send a note to whomever is on ‘the speaking circuit’ to gently tell them/ ask them to take another look.

    We were all raised in a cage in some ways, cramped down in our talents often, as well as our precious bodies… and now that we are more free, we see the incredible dissonance between our beautiful truths, and the lies imbedded and rarely questioned in society at large. You see the truths now, with such clarity… even when painful, as you detailed here.

    Just to say, hang in there. You are definitely setting a reasoned example for others, and for certain– all of our daughters, sons, parents, grandparents, siblings, grandchildren benefit when any one person says ‘I am a human being and deserve parity. ‘

    Stay wise and wild.

    Kind regards,
    Dr. E.

    • Stacey Cox on November 11, 2017 at 7:41 am

      “Lifelong woman of size” feels better to me than anything I’ve ever come across. I struggle with the right words that honor who I am and who others are so much.

      Thank you for your ability to speak truth Anna and to help us all think, feel and learn.

      (PS – a comment from Clarissa Pinkola Estes! I’d frame it!)

    • anna on November 12, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      Your words mean more than you know Dr. E. May we stay in the wilderness together.


  42. Lanna on November 10, 2017 at 6:02 am

    Curious as to what language would have been better. How would you have preferred Brené to speak to the issue? I’m betting a lot of people would have been equally offended if she had substituted “fat” also.

  43. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg on November 10, 2017 at 5:26 am

    Wow. You’re amazing.

  44. Emily Mitchell on November 10, 2017 at 2:27 am

    Thank you so much for this. It was just what i needed to read today. Loving my body is such a long and deep journey and this post resonates so deeply for me.

  45. ligia on November 9, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    I don’t understand the pain because I never was in your skin. And is a great think that you are able to speack out. But the word is the medical word for the type of body you have. And I think that blaming a person that is talking about a study (and probably she is using the word that the study uses) is really fair.
    I would like to see last labeals in general in the word, but sometimes speaking for larges audiences is not really a easy work and please everyone is a impossible task.
    Lots of love
    lots of love!

    • Cynthia Newcomer on November 10, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      The medical community pathologizes fat and puts the label “obese” on it. I don’t think quoting a study gets someone off the hook for promoting a harmful and dehumanizing perspective. By quoting it, she is buying into the framework that there is something wrong with being fat, that those of us who are fat have a disease. I expect more from someone whose focus is on shame and resilience. I really hope she sees this letter and stops promoting the concept that there is something wrong or unhealthy or dangerous or harmful with being fat. The only thing harmful about being fat is the stigma and oppression we face.

  46. Lynn Perry on November 9, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    I want to join your site, Anna Louise Eileen Chapman! If you have something separate. Like subscription. Or Patreon. That kind of thing. You’re amazing!

  47. Lynn Perry on November 9, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    This! Is! Awesome! Thank you!

  48. Molly on November 9, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Thank you so much. As many others have responded, I had a similar reaction hearing Brene talk about obesity and really appreciated what you have written. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  49. Robyn Wiltshire on November 9, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I’m so grateful to have read this perspective. I had no idea that word used in that context would trigger. I had never thought about the word as anything but clinical and in many ways neutral. This will help me navigate this topic with more respect and compassion. Thank you for speaking up about your feelings.

    • Cynthia Newcomer on November 10, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      The term obesity is not neutral. It came from the medical community’s pathologization of fat. It is a manufactured “disease” that the medical industry and others want to profit from. That is why so many fat activists reject the word.

    • Gina Senarighi on November 13, 2017 at 2:39 am

      Just a note that clinical does not mean neutral.

  50. Laurie Morse on November 9, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Courages as fuck you are. Thank you for being you. I have a poem I’d love to gift you (it’s in a pdf form on a piece of artwork I’ve done), if you read these comments and wish to accept my gift, e-mail me at:, refresh my memory about you @ Brene’s even etc. (I too, love her, have ready every word, etc. and your point is spot on), and I’ll send you the the poem. Warmly, Laurie

  51. Georgie Fear on November 9, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    What a beautiful and clear letter, you are inspiring! I would like to ask if you would chat a bit more with me about how this experience you had can be avoided, as I would never have known how hurtful Ms. Brown’s words could be and would like to better understand, since I myself write about health and nutrition and would not want my language to cause such distress. If you dont mind shooting me an email I would love to hear more. Thanks!

  52. Jennnifer on November 9, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you for your vulnerability and courage in writing this letter. I learned something new regarding the word obesity and will be much more mindful of how I use it in the future. I appreciate you and thank you for writing your truth!

  53. Alyssa on November 9, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    I love this post. I am a registered dietitian and one of the minority in my field that agrees with your viewpoint. I am appalled at my field for continuing to urge people to not be “obese,” yet we have no solid evidence for how to do that. Yet that is what we keep doing year after year.
    And you are so right: “obesity” is not a disease. Heart disease, yes. Diabetes, yes. Why can’t we put more emphasis on learning how to help people get more active and eat more fruits and vegetables (things that we know can reduce risk of these actual diseases) than losing weight? And at the same time, help people become accepting of their body weight and size?

  54. Gari-Ellen on November 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you thank you and thank you…when my GP referred to me as “obese” I fell into a pit of shame and defiance so dark and lonely. You nailed it my friend – I will follow you a lot closer than Ms Brown. I know she is tremendously helpful to many but her message has not found its way into my heart as yet – still prefer Pema Chodrin to them all! You are a beautiful human being and if you are fat it is a very small part of who you are – you have a gigantic brilliant kind spirit.

  55. Meghan on November 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    I’m in that wilderness too, heard the statement and thought about how it ‘should’ be addressed but…. And it ended with the but.

    YOU are awesome! thank YOU for speaking up and so eloquently sharing without demonizing her for something she likely doesn’t understand or know. Keep it up, we’re here with you.

  56. Roxanne Erdahl on November 9, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Dear Anna,
    First I want to disclose that I am a Daring Way Facilitator. That means I am certified to facilitate the curriculum and teachings of Brené Brown. I have been a facilitator since 2014. I actually just got back from Courage Camp in Houston, where I joined 150 facilitators to discuss how we can bring this work more effectively in to the world.
    I am also a Life Coach and coach individuals, couples and families.
    I so appreciate you writing your feelings about Brené using the word obesity. I have dealt with my own body image issues over the years and understand how this word triggers shame in many. Our self worth in this country is so tied in to how we look. Your courage to speak your truth is so powerful and needed.
    I would encourage you to send your thoughts directly to The Daring Way office. You will find the email on under the Contact Us. They want to know how their community feels. There is no one I have ever met more open to feedback then Brené. We need to remember that she is a warrior out there is a world that can not always be open to her way of thinking and being. She needs to know how much she is supported. With that said we will not grow our own authenticity as a community if we do not have these types of conversations. Again my thanks for showing up, being seen and living brave. Always in gratitude. A fellow traveler. Roxanne

  57. Kylie on November 9, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    Whoa. This is like an open letter about my life!
    Absolutely spot on, on so many levels.

  58. Miss Cotton on November 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    AMAZING! So beautifully articulated. I have had similar experiences when someone is so inspirational but then that moment happens when you realize they are not enlightened about the manufactured “obesity crisis” and are unaware that they are perpetuating a relatively unchecked cultural stigma that is based in misinformation and bigotry. My heart just sinks sometimes – but today I am feeling inspired and comforted by your brave act of self-love.

  59. Jimena Alvarado on November 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Amazing work, thank you so much for your courage and the energy it takes to educate

  60. Ruth/Amazonia on November 9, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I am an advocate and peer supporter of others who, like myself, have/had an eating disorder. And we – like other fat people – get bombarded with micro and macro aggressions about the necessary and healthful weight gain associated with recovery, gain that takes many of us into the territory of being truly fat, either after years of fitting in with (or trying to) the “thin ideal”, or getting even fatter, when already having been fat our whole lives. It is a minefield.

    The thing Brene fails to see, as yet, is the damage done to ANY body, of any size, when it is systematically assaulted with attempts at weight loss, while being bombarded with messages about how flawed and ugly the person is. Many “diet programs” take people into a state of clinical or sub-clinical starvation, which, when married with punitive exercise programs, create havoc in the mind, body and psyche. Married up with the taunts of a fat-phobic society, this pattern leads us into places of shame so deep that there is almost no way out without support.

    Add to that the health problems that stem, NOT from fatness itself, but from the continual onslaught of self imposed (or other imposed) starvation, and from being a member of one of the most hated and vilified sections of society. And when we add to that the layers of shame and abuse that come with intersectionality … it can be hell.

    Brene is perpetuating messages and implicit beliefs that create and perpetuate that shame cycle. And she is directly damaging people with her words. Being fat is a neutral state. Being shamed for that fatness is being assaulted on so many levels. I hope your words encourage her to interrogate and change her core beliefs.

    Being fat is not the issue. Being told, continually that you are flawed, and “the other”, is. Someone claiming to help others “love themselves” needs to first learn that this love is unconditional.

  61. Molly on November 9, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    I love everything about this. It’s beautiful and eloquent and honest and vulnerable and kind and clear. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  62. Sondra on November 9, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Thank you for your beautiful words and bravery. And I’m curious about something. Brene compared dying from the effects of loneliness to other factors. How would you suggest she talk about that without using the medicalized micro-aggression term of obesity? I can’t come up with an answer in my mind, but I wouldn’t want to derail her discussion of loneliness, either. Again, thanks for your courage in getting a seat that worked and sharing.

  63. Morgan Elizabeth Brown on November 9, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Oh Anna, you are such a beautiful person in every way. This is perfect. Thank you for your bravery.

  64. Donna on November 9, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    You did a wonderful job expressing your thought and feelings. As someone whose weight far exceeds what is considered “normal” I am all too familiar with body shame. But I don’t have the same reaction to the use of the word “obesity” that you do. To me it seems much more neutral – probably because no one ever used it as a slur against me. I suspect that if Brene had used the term “fat” that many people would be upset and there are likely people who might feel shame if she refers to people with a particular medical condition. Some terms are pretty much universally viewed as shaming and inappropriate such as racist slurs so it’s obvious not to use them. I personally don’t think obesity is one of those terms. This doesn’t mean that I’m saying that anyone should or should not view it as shaming. I am simply pointing out that it is not viewed the same by everyone.

    I try to be very careful in my language choices because I don’t want to offend people. I generally refer to myself as overweight – a term which you find shaming. It can be difficult for people to know what to say these days. We seem to be declaring so many words off limits. Some words were clearly chosen for the express purpose of shaming. Other words which seem to be merely descriptive by some are considered to be shaming by others.

    I know that I still have a great deal of body shame because I’m fat/overweight/obese (I don’t know which word to use that will not be considered offensive so I’ll use them all). But I don’t know that the solution is require that people never use those terms.

    Last year I learned something about releasing shame when I chose to publicly reveal incidents of sexual harassment & sexual assault when women were invited to do so after Trump’s statements about sexually assaulting women were made public. I hesitated to respond and noticed shame coming up (that I previously wasn’t aware of) when I thought about disclosing what had happened to me. Previously I had thought about sharing my experiences when the allegations against Bill Cosby came out but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When the Trump allegations came out though, I realized that the only way for me to let go of the shame was stop keeping the secrets. I cried as I wrote and hesitated before sharing but I felt an immediate release of the shame once I shared what had happened on my FB page. I didn’t even know I felt shame until I recognized how scary it was to consider sharing what had happened. I recognized that it was feeling that I needed to keep it secret that contributed to my shame. I also saw the ways in which society uses shame to control women and stop them from telling what happened. Now, after the Weinstein allegations were made public, we’re seeing a breakdown of the forces that kept women silent for so long and that always distrusted women when they tried to speak out.

    When it comes to body shame, obviously the condition of our body is not a secret. I don’t know the secret to releasing body shame (obviously — since I know that I still carry a lot of body shame). But my experience in releasing the shame I felt at being sexually assaulted and harassed suggests that releasing the shame will be an inside job and likely will not be the result of whether or not someone else uses terms that touch upon the shame I feel.

    I’m not writing this to suggest that your response is “right” or “wrong.” You bravely shared how you feel. I’m simply sharing tan alternative viewpoint to show that your views are not universally shared by people who are overweight/fat/obese.

    • Barbara Lamar on December 8, 2017 at 8:54 am

      I was thinking along the same lines as you, Donna. We can keep using different words for the same thing, and after a while each new word becomes tainted. The fact is that there is an optimal range of weights for each person. People with more sturdy bones can carry more weight than people with thinner bones. There is a point for each person at which they become overweight, meaning they have exceeded the carrying capacity of their bones, circulatory system, etc. I dropped over 10% of my body weight because carrying the excess weight was putting too much stress on my knees. It was hard to drop that weight, required limiting some of my favorite foods. I have found that having reached my target weight I can add back stuff such as pie and bread if I limit the quantity. By savoring each bite I can get the same enjoyment from eating pie and bread as I used to get from eating larger quantities more rapidly. If a person is overweight based on their own bone structure and circulatory system, pretending that everything is OK is not doing them a service. Rather than try to change the culture to accept carrying too mi h weight around I worked prefer to change the culture in the direction of taking the emphasis off food nd drink and focusing on interpersonal relationships, creativity, thinking, loving. Imagine for example if Thanksgiving more involved being truly thankful and sharing joy rather than eating until we’re sick..

  65. JoJo on November 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Thank you. That was eloquent and spot on.

  66. Kelly on November 9, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    I’m fat. (I like to use the F word too) I admit I felt no trigger of offense or betrayal in the remarks you’re quoting but wow oh wow do I love your story here. I know what it’s like to ask for a more comfortable seat and like you have grown to the point where I feel nothing but self-care and personal pride in standing up for my needs instead of any kind of shame for not being smaller sized. Good for you and thank you for sharing how this impacted you. It’s obvious a lot of people share your experience.

  67. Allison on November 9, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you for this. Truly.
    A few years ago an author I loved and admired that also calls herself a healer, used the words “grossly overweight” and “obese” in a few of her posts. It broke my heart. I wish I had been as brave then as you are now.

  68. Kirsten on November 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Such a powerful, kind letter. Thank you. I love Brene and don’t think it was intentional on her part. Unfortunately, I think she’s stuck in the cultural ‘norm’ like most everyone. I think she also has body acceptance issues based on comments and examples she uses in her books. I hope this creates a necessary shift.

    • Danielle on November 9, 2017 at 7:49 pm

      As both an “above average” (my preferred descriptor) woman and Brene Brown fan, this letter was very thought-provoking. Although I am sure Brene Brown does not need my defense and I do not want to take away from the conversation on body acceptance, I’d like to add a little thought.

      I was not in Portland. My copy of Braving the Wilderness is on my desk at work so I also cannot check the references at this moment. That said, based on the information in this letter, it reads like Dr. Brown was quoting research–other people’s research–when she made the statement loneliness kills more people than smoking or obesity. Certainly, I can put myself in the place of the letter writer and imagine the pain she felt when hearing the label obesity from the stage. From the other perspective, I have also considered the position Dr. Brown was in. I am very purposely using her title to highlight she is an academic and generally speaking, it is poor form to change the language of other’s research because–as the letter writer so eloquently articulated–language is important. The use of the word “obesity” gives us a hint about the context of that other author’s research which can guide our critical thinking about it. Heck, that is where this letter came from after all, isn’t it? So what I am saying is I see this language issue as being a double-bind for Dr. Brown–potentially offend fans or intentionally misquote another’s research?
      That said, she tell stories in her books about different perspectives that are brought to her after her talks and in all of the ones I can think of, she joins with the perspective bringer, then thinks very deeply about this new perspective. This leaves me very excited to see if the story of your letter appears in another book and the insights she will offer!

      • Charlotte on November 16, 2017 at 1:20 pm

        Thoughtful comment

  69. Nicole on November 9, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Thank you! I’ve never been able to figure out why exactly that word triggered my shame – you just helped me so much – thank you again.

  70. Martha on November 9, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I really appreciate your perspective. I also just finished reading Braving the Wilderness, and had a very different reaction to the comparison between obesity and loneliness. I work in healthcare and am really bothered by the way that weight is pathologized in my community. I’m always trying to collect reasons why we should be more weight neutral, so when I read that loneliness can actually be more deadly, I saw it as an important piece of ammunition that I can use when encouraging others to change how they talk to patients and what we view as important problems to address. I’m not trying to argue with you or minimize your experience in any way, especially since I can see that what I took from it wasn’t necessarily the intent with which it was written. I just wanted to bring it up as a point of discussion because it seems to me that since obesity is currently pathologized, we might sometimes have to talk about it in this way in order to show why it’s not the problem people seem to think it is. However, if people have ideas for how we could do that in a way that’s less harmful and dehumanizing, I’d love to hear them.

    • Emily on November 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Martha, I also work in healthcare and had a similar impression to you; like you I want to hear how we can best use what I also saw as ammunition to move the spotlight towards the health effects of loneliness without further pathologising with our word use.

  71. Jill on November 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel confused by Brene’s work, for this very reason. Thank you for this!

  72. Starr on November 9, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this brave and beautiful post from a brave and beautiful woman. It takes courage to call out those we admire when they’re out of alignment with their own message. Thank you for doing so in a way that models accountability vs. shame.

  73. Jackie Blackwell on November 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Thank you for this letter! I was completely unaware of the triggering nature of the term “obesity.” I try my best to not buy in myself or subject others to the ridiculously hurtful and shameful nature of our fat-obsessed culture. Thank you for educating me on this. I will be changing the way I communicate in the future.

  74. Yael Clark on November 9, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Thank you! Thank you so much for advocating for us all. I have shared Brene’s work with clients for years but have always had to put in a caveat about the fat shaming. And yes, it feels hurtful coming from the champion of vulnerability and compassion to be shamed and pathologised.

  75. J.G. on November 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

    What did Brene say in reply?

  76. Debra on November 9, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Thank you for your beautifully written letter. I feel like you spoke for me, too, far more eloquently than I could have done. I’m deeply appreciative.

  77. Rachel Kacenjar on November 9, 2017 at 11:12 am

    well said, Anna! Thank you for this!

  78. Karen Nyere on November 9, 2017 at 11:06 am

    What a gorgeously written letter. Bravo. It broke my heart when I found out Brene is doing the Whole 30 Diet- one of the most restrictive around. It seems she has issues herself when it comes to body acceptance.

    • Kelly on November 9, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Wanted to mention many of my friends have use Whole 30 to identify food sensitivities and learn what kinds of food their body thrives on. Only one of them had a particular goal to lose weight 🙂

      • JD Ouellette on November 11, 2017 at 6:30 am

        Mentioning a diet on this thread is stunningly tone deaf. We all know about Whole 30 and every other purportedly non-diet-diets.

    • Becky on November 9, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      Careful. You have no idea why someone would choose to do Whole 30 unless you do happen to know why she specifically is doing it. Restrictive eating can be very empowering. And even if not, it can be done for reasons not related to whether one does or does not accept their body – it can be done for health reasons, community reasons, etc.. I’m assuming (and I acknowledge that) that you have no idea the reasons she is doing that form of eating. Judgement of that choice seems counter to this whole concept.

    • Jenny on November 9, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      Just playing devil’s advocate- I am a heavy woman who has done whole 30- but not because of my weight. Sometimes it is necessary for health reasons- doing an elimination diet to find out what type of food you’re having a reaction to. There may be another reason she has decided to try it.

    • Samantha on November 12, 2017 at 10:33 am

      You’re adding to the judgment conversation if you assume that because someone chooses to do the whole-30 is because of body shame. <3 Sometimes food choices are about health not weight. And in some cases excess fat does impact health. It is possible to utterly love one's body, say 'fuck you' to the patriarchy's projection of what women should look like, and still want to decrease the amount body fat because we feel better physically with less fat, or because we have metabolic issues that are impacting our health.

      If you are happy with where your body is and you choose to not restrict anything in your diet, awesome! Shaming people who choose to eat more protein or avoid foods because they make them feel crappy (I am one of those people) harms the body positive movement. Just my two cents.

  79. Natalie on November 9, 2017 at 11:04 am

    So articulately written and powerful. Thank you!

  80. Amanda on November 9, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I commend the courage it took to write this letter. I have a question as a larger size woman who is self accepting and just navigating around the terms of body positive culture. Why is fat not dehumanizing? Out of curiosity. I know body image is still a shame trigger and I came be resilient to it but I am triggered whether people use the word fat or obese probably more fat because I know obese is a more clinical term. For me i actually it’s when people comment on size at all even when it is a positive comment. But I digress. I guess it’s the point that people don’t know what’s right or wrong or dehumanizing and it may be individual shame triggers.

    • Jen on November 9, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      I too am heavy, and obesity does not cause the same emotion for me. Which leads me to agree that this must be an individual shame trigger.

      • Nicole on November 11, 2017 at 5:38 am

        Perhaps it would be a personal shame trigger for you as well if you knew the root of the term “obese.” It is derived from the Latin “obesus” which translates as “having eaten until fat.”
        “Obesity” is thus a term that contains in its literal meaning a causal proclamation about fatness. It blames us directly for our size, attributes fat exclusively to voluntary “excessive” food consumption, and thus carries a negative moral condemnation of fat folx as well.
        It is not a neutral term, and it’s ability to induce ahame is not an individual experience. There isn’t a fat activist community I know of that will permit use of that term (in most it is a bannable offense). This word has immense power to harm.

      • Adrienne on November 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm

        I had similar thoughts as I read the article. The term “obese” is a clinical & medical term. It is a stab to see the diagnosis of “morbidly obese” on medical paperwork, and I get the same aspect. And, arguably, 2nd Brown’s phrasing is inaccurate because “smoking” and “obesity” are not causes of death. They are circumstances which increase risks of things like cancer, coronary disease, etc., and those are causes of death.
        So yes, while “obese” is a shame inducing word, I would like to draw attention to even describing yourself as fat is still shame inducing because you are marking it as a defining feature. In a blog, a mother described a conversation with her daughter about an incident in which name calling, including “fat” had been used. The point was that “fat” is not a defining characteristic. We do not say I am blue eyes, or I am brown hair, because these are features that are just a piece of us, not our existence. We are not fat. We have fat. Some of us have more than others and struggle to reduce it. Others have less and might struggle to increase their body fat. But, at whichever end, or anywhere in between, you find yourself, you are a person. You are a yoga teacher. You are a writer. You are an advocate.

      • Natalie W on November 12, 2017 at 12:28 am

        Can’t speak for the author, but for me, it is because “obese” implies a medical condition that needs curing or treating (i.e., the word pathologizes one’s weight), whereas “fat” is a descriptor like “tall” or “short.” Of course, the word fat is not neutral, either, for many who are used to hearing it as an insult, but if it can be reclaimed as a simple adjective, for me that’s still better than my body type being viewed as a medical condition just for existing.

      • Jen on August 6, 2018 at 11:36 am

        I appreciate that you posted this. Triggers are all individual, for me the term “fat” is the most triggering or dehumanizing. “Obese” or “overweight” is less triggering. And for me a descriptor such as “plus sized” or “large” is the least triggerig. I think Brene Brown and her work is amazing as it is.

    • Lisa DuBreuil, LICSW on November 11, 2017 at 5:21 am

      The words “obese”, “obesity” are, in fact, medical/clinical terms and literally mean “sick due to overeating”. It presumes and assumes that someone is diseased because of their body size. It’s unavoidably stigmatizing and creates shame. The word “fat” is a neutral descriptor. It carries with it no negative meaning inherently, although it’s used in our culture as a stand-in for insults like lazy, sloppy, stupid, unattractive, etc…

      For these reasons fat activists and fat acceptance folx embrace and use the word fat and are offended by obesity rhetoric. My body size does not mean I’m sick.

    • Sophie on November 11, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      While not all of us have shame triggers associated with the term obesity – I usually just roll my eyes and try to ignore it – the use of this term is harmful regardless of personal feelings. I completely understand if you don’t feel comfortable labeling yourself as fat, but many people have reclaimed this word as a simple descriptor of size, rather than a judgmental label. There can be no such reclaiming of “obesity” because it pathologizes a certain body size. Being fat is not a disease. And there is no scientific evidence that being fat *causes* disease either. Using this term perpetuates the idea that fat people are inherently unhealthy and diseased. It allows for mistreatment by health professionals that has caused significant harm and even death to far too many fat people. It allows the diet industry to continue to rake in billions of dollars by making people hate themselves and claim that it’s for their own good. There is so much hatred and discrimination perpetuated in our culture based on this idea that fat is a disease. This goes so far beyond personal feelings of shame.

  81. Kody on November 9, 2017 at 10:38 am

    This is beautiful.

    In the same spirit, I invite you to recognize that “brothers and sisters” as a description of humanity has a similar impact on non-binary people. It reminds us constantly that most people don’t see us as part of the human family.

    • anna on November 9, 2017 at 10:41 am

      Thank you for calling that out. I was using the words Brené shared in her presentation, but you are very correct and I do not want to exclude non-binary people in this conversation.

      With Love,

  82. JJ on November 9, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Thank you so much for writing this. I hope she reads it and takes it to heart.

  83. Polly on November 9, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Preach on my sister!!

  84. Laura Simmons on November 9, 2017 at 9:30 am

    This is absolutely beautiful. I love Brené’s work too but I have noticed how fat-phobic it is. I hope she reads this and takes responsibility for her words

  85. Christine Ashworth on November 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Beautifully said. I hope she sees this and responds to you. Sending love and hugs.

  86. Carol Sandberg on November 9, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Your words are so powerful. As a large woman, I have faced the bias for most of my adult life. Thank you for putting my feelings into words so eloquently.

  87. Kathy on November 9, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Beautiful. Courageous. Clear.

  88. Kathy @ SMART Living on November 9, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Dear Anna! Thank you so much for not only speaking out with your heart so bravely but for also helping to educate so many of us. Like so many things we aren’t even aware that we aren’t aware of, it takes someone with your experience who so clearly explains the impact for us to realize something we advertently or inadvertently might do that harms others. Ever since I turned 60 a couple of years ago I have grown more aware of how “ageist” our country is and how we also tend to automatically make it a negative that people grow older. I’m doing my best to reverse that trend by writing about ageism and how prevalent it is. It sounds to me that you are a powerful voice for reversing the trend for fat people. Hopefully, the more of us that understand the challenges and prejudices you face on a regular basis will help teach us to be more open, understanding and compassionate to you and others regardless of their weight. ~Kathy

  89. Done Dennison on November 9, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I also love Brene Brown (gotta love my fellow accent named ladies!) and I’ve seen the use of the O word come from her and others. She often partners with Oprah Winfrey to do programs and sadly, the love your body movement never took root in O’s heart. I’m so proud of you for advocating for the chair, writing this letter and daring greatly. Thank you.

    • Michelle Fields on November 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      The likely reason Oprah’s heart is not encumbered by concern for the body positive movement is because she is more businesswoman than researcher. It takes some real digging to discover the truth about what yo-yo dieting does to your health, even if you’ve lived through it, as she obviously has. This undoubtedly explains why she has taken the opposite tack, purchasing a 10% stake in Weight Watchers – a move which has paid off handsomely for her.

      I really wish someone could help her see the error of her ways, because she could be such a force for good. Alas, I suspect that’s highly unlikely, given how much cognitive dissonance it would likely cause someone so deeply invested in diet culture.

  90. Chrystal Bougon on November 9, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Powerful letter. We have so few safe places to exist exactly as we are. I hope she pays attention to your letter. Thank you for advocating for all of us. We all deserve dignity and respect….and to be heard.

  91. Camerin Ross on November 9, 2017 at 8:43 am

    What a wonderful description of the alienation and betrayal I’ve felt listening to Brene at times too. It’s a deeply painful experience to feel marginalized by someone you hold out as a mentor and/or admire. Thank you for writing what many of us feel. I hope it inspires others, as it does me, to write their own experiences with Brene and send them to her. Ironically, the fact that Brene’s work has directly helped me heal so much of my shame is directly correlated to my ability to speak up and tell her how she perpetuates shaming bodies!

    • Andrea Bates on November 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

      Camerin Ross – THIS. This sentence right here: “What a wonderful description of the alienation and betrayal I’ve felt listening to Brene at times too.” – for me is reading, but omgosh. This is why I have not found myself falling head over heels, though I currently own two of her books. Not trying to bash her, I know she is phenomenal, but your words literally just cut to the core of what I’ve experienced. Thank you.

  92. Jaime Boswell on November 9, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Thank you for your courage to share your experience and to share from your heart. It is a helpful and powerful message ❤️

  93. Linda Glass on November 9, 2017 at 8:20 am

    thank-you so much for sharing!! YES, yes, yes to every thing you have written! I, too, love Brene and all her work but cringe every time she uses the word obesity in her writing or her live presentations (I heard her speak in Evanston, Illinois). I dearly hope this reaches her, and would love to know the response. Keep daring greatly, and know we stand together in Braving the Wilderness!❤️

  94. Jennifer on November 9, 2017 at 8:20 am

    THANK YOU for speaking the truth. ❤️

  95. Kira Ross on November 9, 2017 at 8:17 am

    Thank you for this powerful, necessary message. I hope it travels far and reaches many, many people.

  96. Barbara Brown on November 9, 2017 at 8:16 am

    This is beautiful. Articulate. Compassionate. Fierce. Wow! Thank you.
    Did Brene reply?

  97. Elizabeth Hall on November 9, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Beautiful post by Anna! So well written and articulate. I can’t wait to share it.

  98. Robin Schwoyer on November 9, 2017 at 8:12 am

    You are an incredible communicator Anna Lousie! thank you.

  99. Margie Unger on November 9, 2017 at 7:54 am

    I am in love with your letter to Brene and your graceful, beautiful and on point courage to say it. I truly admire Brene and now I admire you too. I thank you for addressing this. It moved me deeply and it is needed.

  100. Beth Rosen, MS, RD, CDN on November 9, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Woot woot!!! Anna, this was brave and vulnerable and honest. I commend you for putting it out there, despite how people respond when fat people want to live at peace in their bodies. I am going to share it in the hopes that others will open their eyes to the possibility that EVERYONE deserves to be respected and EVERYONE is worthy of love in the body they have right now.

  101. Harry Minot on November 9, 2017 at 7:41 am

    Reading this stirred up my own memories of having been categorized and set apart, humiliated for my fatness. And I have been called all of those animal names.
    Thanks for setting this forth with such precision and elegance!

  102. Alison Hilber on November 9, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Brilliant! I had a similar response to Brene using the term obesity when I read the book, but I didn’t do anything about it. Brava for your courage and unending dedication to your truth and well-being. Thank you for being there for all of us.
    Alison Hilber
    Author: “I Am Who I Am: Sacredly Accepting My Body Temple”

  103. Erin Beckwell on November 9, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Brilliantly, powerfully written!

  104. Sue Clarahan on November 9, 2017 at 6:30 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This was spot on! I hope you get a response from her.

  105. Ali on November 9, 2017 at 5:54 am

    Anna, Thank you for writing this. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude and joy because of your bravery and vulnerability. It was such a pleasure to meet you at the BEDA/NEDA conference last week.

  106. Kym Goins on November 9, 2017 at 5:53 am

    This is brilliant. And I felt the same way at her engagement in NC when she said the same thing. I was shocked and hurt and ashamed and shocked again. Thank you for writing such a gorgeous response. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for charging into the wilderness one more time 🙂 Kym

    • Ailene on November 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      You captured my comment exactly. “ditto”

  107. Minna Scholten on November 9, 2017 at 5:45 am

    This is such an incredible and important letter. How can we best amplify?