A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Weight Loss Wednesday: Tough Love or Fat Shaming

on December 4, 2013

The idea of fat shaming is in the news yet again in the last week thanks to some bloggers (whose need for attention I won’t really feed by linking it here). Depending on who you ask, “fat shaming” is bullying or it is tough love. Even when you look up the term in Urban Dictionary, the definitions reflect this controversy: *Direct quotes, including the misspellings

  • Definition 1: A term made by obese people to avoid the responsibility to actually take proper care of their body and instead victimize themself by pretending they’re discriminated like an ethnic group. When confronted with someone like that they will ignore all the facts about obesity being unhealthy and pretend it’s some sort of evil socially constructed conspiracy by teh patriarchy
  • Definition 2: A bullying tactic, singling out, or making fun of a fat person, under the guise of helping them realise they need to lose 50 pounds pronto or they’re going to become ill, die prematurely, or be a major burden on the health system, when in actual fact it’s an individual’s bias against people they consider to be unattractive in their immediate social or professional circle.

As a former fat girl, I must admit I definitely lean toward the second definition. I try to assume the best – that most people who engage in behaviors that get labeled as “fat shaming” really do think they’re doing a tough love kind of motivation with a sprinkling of vocal bullies (there was a really depressing series of tweets labeled “fat shaming week” a while back). The problem with this, aside from my general moral opposition to bullying (no matter how well-intentioned the bullying may be), is that research shows that this does more harm than good.  Multiple studies have shown that people who feel that they are being discriminated against because of their weight actually avoid physical activity and are more likely to engage in binge-eating behaviors. Earlier this year a really interesting study was published that for the first time showed that not only did this perceived bias lead people to behaviors that could lead to weight gain, it actually increased their risk of obesity (definitely check out that link – It links to the actual research paper and it is very readable for a scientific study). They are also more likely to avoid health care and to have lower academic and job performance. The poor self esteem and depression that complicates obesity in so many women are even greater if those women feel discriminated against or shamed for their weight.

While everyone seems to know of one person who responded to “tough love”, I think it is important to remember that this isn’t true for most people. Not only is it unlikely to help, it can actually be counterproductive and worsen the problem! It makes me think of all of the things I read in parenting books and articles, about how much more effective it is “catch them doing good” than to punish kids. The same is true in adults – we are likely to make much more long-lasting gains if we encourage the small steps people are taking to change their health, even when that small step is learning to love the body they have so that they are emotionally stronger.

And now, off my small soap box to share a gratuitous cute kid pic. If we all remembered how fun it was to move and do new things when we were two, we’d probably be a lot healthier as a society. 🙂

imageWhile out shopping on Thanksgiving weekend, he ran up and down the sidewalks of the shopping center (which was not crowded) and even busted out some yoga moves. He loves doing “bridges” – aka downward dog, complete with a leg lift thrown in.



4 responses to “Weight Loss Wednesday: Tough Love or Fat Shaming

  1. Thanks for linking to that study! I hadn’t seen that one yet. Just last night I wrote a post on this very topic. Based on the research I did, it really looks like boosting an individual’s self-esteem is the best start to helping them lose weight. You’re absolutely right — shaming them usually does more harm than good, and will typically backfire. Thanks for posting this. 🙂

  2. […] stuffers and stocking stuffers for runners) because it was like virtually shopping for myself; and Tough Love or Fat-shaming, because it is something I still get so fired up about. I have a feeling this month’s posts […]

  3. […] and the things people are saying about how she looks now is bullying and hurtful in the same way fat shaming her would be at her starting point. None of us have the right to judge her physical or mental health […]

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