I have long since known that people commenting on my weight, or rather my excess weight, very often translates into a desire to eat. It sounds counter-intuitive. You would think that negative comments about your weight would create enough shame and guilt to produce the motivation to want to fix the problem. However, the shame, guilt, anger, and resentment associated with such comments actually have a tendency to drive me, and similar individuals, further into the dysfunctional eating.
A recent study done at the Florida State University College of Medicine actually supports the above phenomenon. Overweight people who face weight discrimination and fat-shaming are likely to eat more, exercise less, and have a higher chance of ending up obese. The study found that overweight individuals, not classified as obese, who were subjected to stigmatization because of their weight over a four year period were two and a half times more likely to end up obese than those individuals that were not fat-shamed or stigmatized about their weight. The study also revealed that those individuals who were obese at the beginning of the study were also three times more likely to still be obese after four years if they were faced with weight discrimination.
The researchers suggested, “There is robust evidence that internalizing weight-based stereotypes, teasing and stigmatizing experiences are associated with more frequent binge eating.” In light of this new evidence, I believe it is important to look at how some public health campaigns focused on battling the obesity epidemic can clearly be interpreted as fat-shaming. The billboards above are a prime example.
I believe that as a nation we need to start finding the compassion necessary to help people who struggle with their weight. Clearly no one sets out to purposively become obese. Why would anyone knowingly subject themselves to a life of teasing, shame, and suffering? The obese wear the results of an overwhelming compulsion on their body. Would we be so quick to make fun of a person grappling with OCD or the struggling alcoholic?
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