It’s a Shame

I don’t know if you caught the piece that Bill Maher did on the need to “bring bacK’ fat shaming as a tool to get people to lose weight, or James Corden’s brilliant response. If you didn’t, do yourself a favor and check it out on whatever social media outlet you use for that sort of thing. For my part, it brought back the feelings that I had when I was morbidly obese, from the age of 13 through 24, which, BTW, are some really sucky ages to be fat. Adolescence, discovering the opposite sex, first dates, high school gym classes. It was a barrel of “ anything but laughs” and has affected my personality to this day. I’ve been able to change my lifestyle and maintain those changes long term, but to many people it’s not just a matter of changing habits. There are many causes of obesity, and not all of them are controllable. But all people who appear obese are subject to pervasive prejudice. For example;

Research indicates that self-reported incidents of weight-based discrimination has increased in the last few decades. In one study, preschool -aged children reported a preference for average-sized children over overweight children as friends.  A national survey found that obese individuals were 26% more likely not to be hired, not receive a promotion, or to be fired compared to average weight persons.  A number of studies have found that health care providers frequently have explicit and/or implicit biases against overweight people, and it has been found that overweight patients may receive lower quality care as a result of their weight.

The media is often blamed for the strong negative associations that society has toward overweight individuals. There is a great deal of research to support the idea that the media tends to glorify and focus on thin actors and actresses, models, and other public figures while avoiding the use of overweight individuals. They are more commonly seen eating and are less likely to be involved in a romantic relationship compared to the average weight television character.

And the obesity epidemic is growing.  Almost 2/3 of adults in England are overweight or obese. The NHS recorded 10,660 hospital admissions in 2017/18 where obesity was the primary diagnosis. In the US, the situation is starker still. More than 70% of adults over 20 are overweight or obese, according to the Nation Center for Health statistics.

So, does fat shaming help?

On Twitter, the former professional baseball player, Kevin Youkilis, claimed he owed his “whole entire career” to fat shaming, having initially been overlooked by scouts because of his weight.

That experience, though, is atypical, says Jane Ogden, a professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey. All of the evidence is that fat shaming just makes people feel worse. It lowers their self-esteem. It makes them feel depressed and anxious and as a result of that what they then do is self-destructive.” A study by scientists at University College, London found rather than encouraging people to lose weight, fat shaming led people to put on more weight.

Or as James Corden said;

“It’s proven that fat shaming only does one thing,” he said. “It makes people feel ashamed and shame leads to depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior – self-destructive behavior like overeating.”

And “If making fun of fat people made them lose weight, there’d be no fat kids in schools.”

Well said James. Well said.

My thoughts?

First, most people who are heavy know the health implications. I don’t know if we are more saturated with information about obesity or smoking, but it’s close. Can you have a ‘heart to heart” with a loved one about it? Sure. But odds are that they are aware. If a person isn’t ready to make changes, you’re probably not going to change their mind. And making fun of or shaming them is possibly the worst way to try to get that message across.

Here’s another hard fact. Some people don’t want to change. They would sincerely prefer to eat all the food and drink all the booze/wine/beer. I’ve mentioned my friend in these blogs before. While he was alive he constantly let me know what he was eating, drinking & smoking. Try to shame him and he’d probably buy you a dozen doughnuts. And, to his credit in my book, when the health problems started multiplying, he did not recant one bit. He knew that he had bought that ticket and now he had to ride the ride.

So. What CAN you do?

You can model healthy habits.

You can make yourself available to give advice and encouragement.

You can invite them to active or healthy events.

One more quote from Professor Ogden;

“Shaming anybody for anything doesn’t help you – whatever the thing is that is being shamed.”

Think of it this way, Bill.

If we continue fat-shaming, one day we make be shaming people for other traits they may or may be able to control.

Like being smug & unfunny.

But I digress…

Talk later!


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