Obese individuals are not helped by fat-shaming, a new UCL study shows. Fat-shaming, or the disrespect, “poor service,” and harassment of the overweight and obese, is more likely to actually cause these individuals to put on the pounds, not take them off. Dr. Sarah Jackson reported, “There is no justification for” fat-shaming. Other studies have produced similar results regarding obesity and shaming.
In her article Are You a Fat-Shamer? Jamie Long, Psy.D, says the practice of fat-shaming the obese comes from an “individual bias” that is performed under the umbrella of helping the over-wight or obese person. Some individuals who fat-shame use harsh tactics to compel the over-weight in the right direction. The shamer asserts that the over-weight are responsible for how they look and how they affect their health. However, the shamer makes value judgments against the overweight, and instead focuses on his or her own thin body, beauty, or even superiority. Weight gain or loss is seen as a sign of self-control with no other contributing factors. Humor is derived from seeing fat people and making fun of them, or allowing friends or family to do so. Shamers believe that a person’s weight is strictly a choice of lifestyle.
Effective ways to encourage weight loss, says Long, include physical exercise but with reasonable limits, allowing for television or similar sedentary pleasures; planning out meals; going in for health screenings; and living a balanced lifestyle. Long also asserts that obesity does not automatically signify unhealthiness, and informs that weight gain has many possible contributors besides just food. These include medical conditions and emotional conditions, some of which cannot be fixed strictly through diet and exercise.
For people whose bodyweight reaches what is considered to be within the obese range for their height, it can be difficult for them to lose weight again. If these individuals do engage in exercise, such as running or going to the gym, they can find themselves being ridiculed by others who regard their attempts to become healthier with amusement. This can deter overweight individuals from exercising, and participating in activities which are vital if they are to reach their goal of bodyweight reduction. Not only does fat-shaming not encourage overweight individuals to lose weight, but the practice has been “shown to make people feel less confident” when it comes to exercise, Jackson said.
This brings the subject back to the real reason for fat-shaming the obese and the over-weight. If fat-shaming is not helpful and is actually quite harmful in fighting obesity, then there must be some other reason why shamers continue to indulge in it. Long names several signs of what is actually going on: a sense of superiority over obese people, the assumption that thinness will lead to a happy life, critical and judgmental attitudes, and making value judgments on others for their appearance or regarding their character. The shamer lacks compassion or insight into the life of the person they are harassing or making fun of.
Obesity is not helped by the practice of fat-shaming. To cultivate healthier bodies and also healthier attitudes, studies have shown that kindness, not shaming, is more likely to help and support individuals who are struggling with weight issues.
Opinion by Jillian Moyet