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More on Fat Shaming

If you are going to get past fat shaming—letting others do it to you and doing it to yourself—you will have to understand the dynamics of why and how it happens. If you are still allowing (yes, allowing!) fat shaming to happen, then you are part of the problem. Remember, it takes two not only to tango, but for shaming to take place.

An article in The Guardian online, “Fat-shaming: how the slim and sanctimonious help to cause our obesity crisis” by Gaby Hinsliff (9/11/14), provides an excellent discussion of the topic as it is experienced in the UK. Hinsliff explains why “sitting in judgment of fat people” has become so official and public: “Doctors are told not to be afraid of the word ‘fat,’ to stop muttering about body mass index and starting telling it like it is” and in tough economic times she reckons that employers think, “Why should they hire someone who’s vastly overweight, when he or she may need more time off sick?” Not that it helps weight loss for doctors to call people fat rather than having a high BMI or that fat people necessarily take more time off for medical reasons than their slimmer counterparts.

The most relevant aspect of Hinsliff’s explanation is why certain individuals shame fat people. For one thing, it’s become acceptable. If the media does it, it must be okay, so thinking goes. For another, so many overweight people feel so awful about themselves, their eating and their size, that they wrongly believe they have to put up with fat shaming. After all, they deserve it, don’t they? For if they confront the shamer, they’re denying the truth, being defensive, and failing to know how to take criticism or a joke.

According to Hinsliff, “the extra weight gain [the] researchers found among the fat-shamed wasn’t insignificant: nearly a kilo in four years.” Or a bit more than a half pound a year. If you think of all the years you’ve been putting on weight—five, ten, twenty, thirty—as a person ashamed by your size, you’ll see how quickly that adds up.

To stop feeling ongoing body shame which is damaging to your health, you’ll have to replace it with another feeling about your self. How about that you care too much about yourself to allow your health to be destroyed? And that you love yourself too much to permit anyone to speak to you disrespectfully, even if he or she means well. By being an agent of changing how you feel about your size and what you permit people to say to you about it, you are building a positive, empowered, self-nurturing, protective self. If you want to grow healthier physically and emotionally, start by banning fat-shaming, no matter who is doing it. You will feel less shame when you stand up for yourself.