Quebec Health Minister Dr. Gaetan Barrette says a petition calling on him to lose weight is bullying, while the man who wrote the petition says it is being misunderstood.

Barrette said he wasn't elected to be a fashion model.

"If I were a regular citizen yes that would be bullying,” he said.

The newly-appointed provincial health minister had barely been sworn into office when Pierre-Etienne Vachon launched a petition on his website.

Vachon wrote that "the image he presents is far from representing his mandate: health," while recognizing that Dr. Barrette, the former head of the Medical Specialists Association of Quebec, "probably has the necessary administrative skills to fulfil his mandate."

It’s not the first time Barrette has been attacked about his weight – during the 2012 election campaign, when he ran for the CAQ, then-PQ leader Pauline Marois said a health minister should lead by example.

Dr. Barrette said he has a thick skin, but still believes the petition is not being done in good faith.

"This is something that happens in politics. It happens all the time, I can live with that. I don't have that much problem with that, although I don't find it that elegant the way it's been done," said Barrette.

Fat-shaming ineffective: expert

For many, the petition and the motivation behind it are a form of fat-shaming.

And those who make statements like the ones directed at Barrette fail to realize it's not easy for clinically obese people to lose weight.

Studies show the 95 per cent who do succeed end up eventually regaining all the weight and often even more in a five-year period.

“If somehow stigmatizing fat people led to weight loss, trust me there would be a lot of people who would have lost weight because they deal with a lot of prejudice in their lives,” said William Bogart, a professor at the University of Windsor.

Petition being yanked

The day after launching the petition, Vachon announced he would remove it because of the nasty comments.

"I find it deplorable that people are interpreting my initiative as a personal attack against Minister Barrette," wrote Vachon.

"Maybe I was a little clumsy in my wording. I apologize to everyone who was offended by my proposal or my attitude."

He said his petition would be closed by 5 p.m. Thursday.

But in an interview, Vachon said he's proud that he’s succeeded at getting people to talk about healthy living.

“I mean, whether or not he's healthy, I'm asking him to be in shape, I'm not asking him to run a marathon,” he said.