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Fat Shaming actually INCREASES the risk of becoming/staying obese

Posted by on Jul. 26, 2013 at 1:28 PM
  • 111 Replies

 It seems like I remember an article stating the exact opposite a few months ago . . . this one seems to make a lot more sense to me though.

 

'Fat shaming' actually increases risk of becoming or staying obese, new study says

Making overweight or obese people feel bad about their bodies doesn’t do anything to motivate them to lose weight – actually, a new study finds it does just the opposite.

People who felt discriminated against because of their weight were more likely to either become or stay obese, finds a new report published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

“Weight discrimination, in addition to being hurtful and demeaning, has real consequences for the individual’s physical health,” says study author Angelina Sutin, a psychologist and assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, Fla.

It’s a funny cultural paradox: Most American adults – around 70 percent -- are overweight, and more than a third are obese. And yet research – not to mention popular culture – shows that we perceive obese Americans to be lazy, unsuccessful schlubs with no will power.

In a real-life example, just last month, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller tweeted, “Dear obese PhD applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth.”

Part of the 2011
AP
One of the ads from the the 2011 "Stop Child Obesity" campaign in Georgia.

Miller, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, but many don’t feel they need to be sorry for saying cruel things to overweight people – they’re just concerned about the person’s health, that’s all! A 2011 public health campaign in Georgia used that idea in a series of ads designed to fight childhood obesity, featuring chubby, sad-looking kids with slogans like “Big bones didn’t make me this way. Big meals did.”

"It’s almost like obesity is the last of the acceptable groups to be teasing," says Madelyn Fernstrom, NBC News health and diet editor. Being biased about the overweight or obese, she says, is still very socially acceptable.

Research has already shown that stigmatizing overweight people leads to psychological factors that are likely to contribute to weight gain – things like depression or binge eating. This new paper takes that a step further, linking what the Internet likes to call “fat-shaming” to weight gain and suggesting that you can’t scare people skinny.

“Stigma and discrimination are really stressors, and, unfortunately, for many people, they’re chronic stressors,” says Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. Puhl has studied weight bias and discrimination for 13 years. “And we know that eating is a common reaction to stress and anxiety -- that people often engage in more food consumption or more binge eating in response to stressors, so there is a logical connection here in terms of some of the maladaptive coping strategies to try to deal with the stress of being stigmatized.”

Researchers assessed the body mass index (a way of measuring body fat based on height and weight) of 6,157 people, all Americans ages 50 and older, in 2006 and 2010. The people they studied were a mix of sizes -- normal weight, overweight and obese. But they found that the overweight people who reported experiencing weight discrimination were more than twice as likely to become obese by the next check-in in 2010. And people who were already obese in 2006 were three times more likely to remain obese by 2010 if they had experienced weight discrimination.

“Many people, from your sister-in-law to ethics professors, think that the road to weight control runs directly through shame and humiliation,” bioethicist Art Caplan, the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center and an NBC News contributor, said in an email. “Common sense says that this is not likely to be true. Now this important study demonstrates that discriminating and shunning those who are fat does nothing to help them lose weight.”

One of those ethics professors Caplan is talking about is Daniel Callahan, who in January wrote an editorial arguing that one way to fight obesity in America might be to increase social pressure on the very heavy. He says this new study adds to what is a “very confused situation.”

“I suspect that in our society people who are seriously overweight -- not mildly, but seriously -- do feel at a disadvantage, do feel that they’re open to discrimination, do feel that people look down on them,” Callahan says. He wonders if some obese people are internalizing those feelings, and then acting accordingly, making a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’m 83 years old, and I’ve heard for years (about) age discrimination and bias against aging. I haven’t seen that at all. But an awful lot of old people basically lose self-confidence, and it begins to interact with what they think the rest of the world is saying about them.”

If stigmatizing isn’t the way to fight obesity, what about the effect of naming obesity a “disease,” as the American Medical Association did last month? It’s too early to tell, Puhl says, but she has a good feeling about it. “I think time will tell. I think that there is reason to think it will be helpful -- that this could potentially reduce stigma because it may help remove blame that is so often put on people,” Puhl says. “But I think we need to observe this over time to see what happens.”

Moving forward, she hopes that research like this can help public health campaigns “shift focus from just a number on the scale” to a conversation focusing more on individual health. “We want people to engage healthy behaviors, regardless of their body size.”

“Obesity remains a complex problem—part choice and free will mixed in with a smidgen of genetics, sedentary lifestyles and a whole lot of promotion and advertising of fast food, sugary food, high-caloric food and junk food,” Caplan said via email. “It would be nice if guilt was the magic bullet to weight control. It isn't. Nothing is. It took a long time and a lot of bad habits to get the way we are in terms of size and, short of a pharmaceutical miracle, it will take public and heath policy attacking a lot of variables for a long time to slim us back down.”

by on Jul. 26, 2013 at 1:28 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Christa4924
by Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 1:42 PM
1 mom liked this

BUMP!

Christa4924
by Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 2:14 PM

BUMP!

TranquilMind
by Platinum Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 2:16 PM
1 mom liked this

 Well, duh.  People are fat because (in general, though the fake food does play a role)  they eat their feelings, unlike others who might exercise, clean incessantly, do drugs, or manage in other ways.  So obviously, hurting their feelings is just going to make them keep doing what they do. 

smalltowngal
by Platinum Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM
1 mom liked this
It is a hard balance to strike between trying to get people to get help and.change but not making them feel ashamed. I had a friend visit from India and was shocked with how big people are. I didn't realize how large Americans were until going to Europe. I was taken back by how thin even the men are. So many people walk everywhere. I feel large here at a size 8. I think Americans have a distorted view on what is a healthy size.
MeAndTommyLee
by Platinum Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 3:19 PM
2 moms liked this

Absolutely!  Food is an addiction for some people.  They become upset, discouraged and the very thing that is causing their pain is the only thing that soothes the pain.

Christa4924
by Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 4:48 PM

 True, when I visited China a few years ago they didn't even have clothes for sale in my size in the city that we were in! 

Quoting smalltowngal:

It is a hard balance to strike between trying to get people to get help and.change but not making them feel ashamed. I had a friend visit from India and was shocked with how big people are. I didn't realize how large Americans were until going to Europe. I was taken back by how thin even the men are. So many people walk everywhere. I feel large here at a size 8. I think Americans have a distorted view on what is a healthy size.

 

BuckeyezRule
by Bronze Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 5:00 PM

A good friend of mine was shamed about being larger. By her dad. It was awful to hear. She has now been anorexic for 16 years. We really haven't been as close as we were since then. Not on my end, on hers. Plus, I now live 1700 miles away. All she wants to do is exercise. When home, I hike with her. And, I was always skinny, so that didn't help. Not that I could help that either.

I'm not sure what the answer is. :(


muslimah
by on Jul. 26, 2013 at 5:23 PM

 I will agree that weight discrimination is hurtful and demeaning and there is not one good reason for demeaning someone over their weight. However I don't see how it can cause people to remain in the shape they are in if they are obese unless they have a medical problem that can't be helped. I know if I was over weight and some one even just so much as brought it to my attention I would do everything I could to get that weight off.

ReadWriteLuv
by Silver Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 5:32 PM
1 mom liked this
So, what's the answer here? Honestly? It's no benefit to anyone to smile and pat people on
the back and say its all ok, to make theatre seats and amusement park seats larger, or to move American sizes up two to four extra sizes from what they are in the rest of the world to make people feel better and think they are smaller.

I'll echo what an above poster said, when I lived in Singapore, a size 6 in their retail shops, and these are the same brands they sell here, is an American size 2. I was 5'9", 120 pounds, and I wore an Asian size 10, and an extra large top.
Christa4924
by Member on Jul. 26, 2013 at 6:06 PM
4 moms liked this

 "if" you were overweight - does that mean that you aren't and haven't been?  If that's the case it might be difficult to predict how you would react . . . . but the thing is, they don't need it "brought to their attention".  I don't know anyone who is overweight or obese that doesn't already know it on their own.  People who like to fat-shame seem to think that the obese have no clue and just need them to help them to "see the light". 

I think you're right though; it probably doesn't cause people to remain obese but it appears to at least increase the risk.  I just thought this was interesting since there are so many out there who think they're being soooooooooooooo helpful to their fat friend by making fun of them.

Quoting muslimah:

 I will agree that weight discrimination is hurtful and demeaning and there is not one good reason for demeaning someone over their weight. However I don't see how it can cause people to remain in the shape they are in if they are obese unless they have a medical problem that can't be helped. I know if I was over weight and some one even just so much as brought it to my attention I would do everything I could to get that weight off.

 

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