Petition Urges Facebook to Remove Feeling 'Fat' From Status Update Options

Facebook Fat Status Update Option
Catherine Weingarten/Change.org
Courtesy Catherine Weingarten

03/07/2015 AT 10:35 AM EST

"Fat is not a feeling."

That's the idea behind Endangered Bodies's petition asking Facebook to remove "fat" as an feeling option for the site's status updates.

The non-profit has gathered seven young activists from around the world to serve as ambassadors for the Change.org petition, including Ohio-based graduate student and playwright Catherine Weingarten.

"This issue is so important because being a young person, Facebook is kind of the way we live," Weingarten tells PEOPLE.



Having struggled with an eating disorder when she was younger, Weingarten explains why the phrase "I feel fat" can be so harmful.

"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," she says. "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.'"

She believes that the emoticon endorses self-destructive thoughts.

"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," she says. "When people see that on Facebook, I want them to realize that it's not just a light, cute sort of thing for everyone."

Her petition on Change.org already has the signatures of over 13,000 people. Facebook has taken notice, and representatives from the site have been engaging in an open dialogue with Endangered Bodies.

However, Facebook has defended the inclusion of this emoticon in a statement received by PEOPLE.

"People use Facebook to share their feelings with friends and support each other," the statement reads. "One option we give people to express themselves is to add a feeling to their posts. You can choose from over 100 feelings we offer based on people’s input or create your own."

The social network encourages people to seek help for a friend that may have posted something indicated they may have an eating disorder.

"Facebook is working with the National Eating Disorders Association to provide resources to those struggling with eating disorders," the social media site posted in its Help Center.

While there are no immediate plans to remove the "fat" emoticon from Facebook, it's not outside the realm of possibility.

"I'm optimistic," says Weingarten. "Just the fact that people have been talking about this so much, it's clear that it's struck a chord with a lot of people."

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