‘Fat-shaming’ apps slammed for harming kids


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Apps like Fatify are drawing fire for making light of the obesity epidemic. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

While overweight kids have long been prime targets for bullies, activists are calling out smartphone apps that make anyone look fat.

“Applications such as “Fatify,” “Fatbooth,” “Fat You” and others greatly perpetuate fat-shaming and weight bias in today’s society,” said Joe Nadglowski, president and CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition, in a press release about his organizations campaign against these apps. “Children are the primary users of these types of apps, and the apps are teaching children that the disease of obesity is a funny cosmetic issue, which we know is not true.”

The apps in question, most available for free with in-app purchases, take your picture and pack on the pounds. The “fat version” of your pic — adding double chins and chipmunklike chubby cheeks — can then be shared and posted online.

All of these iOS apps are approved in iTunes for use by minors. While competing app stores are like the Wild West – with little policing or curating of the content – Apple’s iTunes Store has long billed itself as a clean, appropriate place for the whole family. Since the great porn purge of 2010, Apple’s walled garden has blocked most of the sleaze, leaving a well-manicured lawn of Flappy Bird clones and productivity apps as far as the eye can see. Yet there’s a dark side to the App Store — sex apps, drinking games and other questionable divertissements that are easily accessible to minors age 17 and under. Apple did not comment when asked how hundreds of these apps are still in the store.

To combat these “fattening” apps The Obesity Action Coalition, a national organization with nearly 50,000 members, wrote letters to the leaders of Apple, Amazon.com, Google and Microsoft urging them to shed these apps from their stores. We have reached out to developers of the apps named in the press release but at this writing haven’t heard back.

This isn’t the first time that innocent-seeming apps have been called out. Even health apps like calorie counters and body mass index calculators have come under fire as aggravating eating disorders. Would the OAC have all of these apps removed, too?

“The OAC sees something like a BMI calculator, when used correctly, as a helpful tool for those wanting to keep track of their weight or weight-loss,” James Zervios, director of communications at Obesity Action Coalition, told Cult of Mac. “We’re targeting these [Fatify-type] apps because they have no educational value.”

The group escalated things with the app stores and added an online petition after a developer defended one app as intended for entertainment purposes only.

“We would never see an app like this approved for any other disease, so why is targeting obesity OK?” asked Zervios, an iPhone user who said his most-used apps include Fooducate. “We know children are the primary users of these apps, which also makes the need for removing them even greater.”

  • br

    Obseity is not a disease. Not even close. This so-called “organization” of obese adults should be wanting to promote health and fitness instead of trying to make obesity acceptable. Obesity is NOT a disease, say that to someone with MS, Cancer, or Parkinson’s and see what kind of response you get. America needs to calm down…

    • Jim

      Disease: “A particular quality or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.”

      By the very definition of disease, obesity is a disease. It’s a disease caused by policy and a lack of education. It isn’t caused by greediness like most of us believe. It’s caused by parents passing unhealthy habits onto their children because of their own lack of education and children then growing up with a nearly impossible to kick dependency. All of this is then perpetuated by government policy which means that agricultural goods that make candy are susidised to become cheaper to produce than healthy fruits and vegetables so that the problem disproportionately affects the poor and uneducated.

      The only way we’re ever going to fix the issue of obesity is if we treat it like a disease and approach it the same way we would any other public health problem. Sure there’s a lot of personal responsibility there too but has society ever done better when it’s judging others? No. Society does better when we come together, realise that a problem that affects some of us really affects us all and then finds a solution.

      The knee-jerk anti political correctness response rarely produces solutions, only judgment and ignorance. These organisations do promote healthy eating and exercise, as well as policy change but de-stigmatising fat people so that they at least have the self esteem to make a positive change is always going to be part of their mission.

  • Chris BSomething

    Hang on, aren’t the people complaining about these apps the real problem? After all, they are assuming that making you look fat is somehow bad. Maybe these apps actually make you look fat and beautiful? No? If that’s objectively not true, then maybe these apps are actually benefiting people’s perceptions.

  • Prestachuck

    Most, in fact nearly all obese people are fat simply because they eat too much, and do not exercise. Eating low quality foods does not help, but obesity is the result of the choices people make for themselves. Sooner or later you have to stop blaming your parents, put on your big boy pants, and accept responsibility for your physical condition. Very few people are obese due to conditions that are beyond their own control. Most are just too lazy to make the right choices and put in the time. Put down the fried chicken, stop drinking empty calories, and go ride your bike for at least an hour. Then repeat daily. Easy.