Why Facebook changed the 'feeling fat' emoji

After over 16,000 people signed a petition to remove the 'feeling fat' emoji on the grounds that fat is not an emotion, Facebook changed the name to 'feeling stuffed.'

Albert Gea/Reuters
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg arrives for a keynote presentation event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona March 2, 2015. Ninety thousand executives, marketers and reporters gather in Barcelona this week for the telecom operators Mobile World Congress, the largest annual trade show for the global wireless industry.

“Fat is not a feeling.” That was the rallying cry of the 16,771 people who signed Endangered Bodies’ petition for Facebook to remove the “feeling fat” emoji from its collection. Today, after some negotiation with the non-profit, Facebook replaced the emoji. The chubby faced, double chinned yellow smile is now “feeling stuffed” instead of fat.

"We've heard from our community that listing 'feeling fat' as an option for status updates could reinforce negative body image, particularly for people struggling with eating disorders. So we're going to remove 'feeling fat' from the list of options," MoMo Zhou, a spokeswoman for Facebook said in a statement.

Endangered Bodies, the non-profit that started the petition, is an international organization that challenges how popular culture promotes negative body image. The organization chose seven people around the world to be ambassadors for the Change.org petition to get the emoji removed.

One of the ambassadors was Catherine Weingarten, a graduate student at Ohio University who struggled with an eating disorder when she was younger and got involved with the petition because of how harmful the term “I feel fat” can be.

“I always had this idea of ‘I’m fat,’ ‘I feel fat,’ but when I was saying that, that wasn’t actually how I was feeling,” Weingarten told PEOPLE. “I was feeling angry at myself and like I wasn’t good enough, but I simplified it to ‘I feel fat.’ Through therapy, I was able to work through it, and now I feel like, ‘Wow I never felt fat. I felt like I wasn’t good enough.'”

While some people use the word fat playfully, for others it is really damaging, particularly on Facebook where it is so easy for people to compare themselves to others. 

“It’s really normalizing the idea of negative body image and making it part of the vernacular which is a piece of some of the factors that drive eating disorders,” Samantha DeCaro, assistant director of the Renfrew Center of Philadelphia, which specializes treating eating disorders, told CBS.

Facebook works with the National Eating Disorders Association to provide resources for people whose posts indicate that they may have an eating disorder, but the social network did not immediately agree to remove the emoji.

Initially, Facebook defended the inclusion of the emoji, but after talks with Endangered Bodies agreed to change the name.

“For me, when I see the words ‘I feel fat,’ it takes me back to when I was struggling, and I don’t want people to not take it seriously,” Weingarten said. “When people see that on Facebook, I want them to realize that it’s not just a light, cute sort of thing for everyone.”

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