The skinny on fat shaming
People are often cruel to fat people, and fat people too often just accept it. But shaming one’s self for being overweight is entirely unnecessary. It’s counterproductive and sets a bad example for others—especially children, who observe and internalize it in relation to themselves or others.
That’s not to say that taking care of one’s health isn’t an admirable goal. And during the holidays and New Year season, sharing goals in conversations and on social media is a pretty common thing—but there’s no reason for the number of these types of conversations and posts that are couched in self-deprecation.
The vessels that carry us are just that—and nothing more. Being differently-abled or too thin or too fat doesn’t speak to our value as people. People who are cruel to and dismissive of people who carry extra weight are the ones with the problem. Their behavior is not any more justifiable than that of people who discriminate against others on the basis of religion or race or gender. And no other group of people who are discriminated against is likely to place the blame on themselves. Nor should they.
And to those who would say that fat shaming may be an effective tool to motivate others to lose weight for the benefit of their own health, that’s nonsense. Scientists and researchers have known for years that fat shaming isn’t a good idea. Take for example research published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2010 in which researchers proposed “that weight stigma is not a beneficial public health tool for reducing obesity. Rather, stigmatization of obese individuals threatens health, generates health disparities, and interferes with effective obesity intervention efforts.”
Studies like this one have found that fat shaming can increase people’s likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors and can even lead to stress-related health issues for people who go through every day worried about when they may be mistreated or shamed. The findings of this type of research, said the 2010 article, “highlights weight stigma as both a social justice issue and a priority for public health.” As for children, a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology revealed that kids as young as 3 regularly exhibit anti-fat attitudes and tendencies to stigmatize fat people. They’re not born with these beliefs and tendencies, of course. They’re taught them.
If people want to lose weight for themselves, that’s excellent. If you’re one of them, that’s great. In the meantime, though, don’t be down on yourself. And remember that worthwhile people will no more care about your weight than they would any other aspect of your physical person from your hair color or skin to the straightness of your teeth. People are always saying the world needs more love, so start with showing yourself some.